Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Mistaking Cuba For Japan

Continuing along with my reading of Admiral of the Ocean Sea: A Life of Christopher Columbus:

Columbus was not looking for India as most people think. He was looking for Japan and China.

The essence of Columbus' view of the world. "Cippangu" is Japan.
That map represents what Columbus derived from the stories of Marco Polo and others. The errors in distances came from two primary sources.
  • Columbus used too small a value for the number of miles in a degree of longitude, making his version of the globe too small.
  • Marco Polo overestimated the size of Asia, the Sea of Japan and Japan itself, effectively merging the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.
Note that the map above is more pessimistic than the one Columbus used. His distances were shorter because of the smaller value he had for the number of miles per longitudinal degree.

What's interesting is that Columbus reached the Caribbean near enough to where he thought Japan lay to reinforce his incorrect notions of geography.

Cuba and Haiti could easily have been mistaken for Japan at first.
It's worth remembering that everything Columbus saw was from the deck of a small ship. His horizon was on the order of 10 miles. A sailor of that time could miss something as large as China or Japan by 30 miles, a tiny distance in a vast ocean, and never even know it. Columbus was well aware of this and it gave him hope that Japan and China lay just out of sight even as he came up empty on one island after another.

More later. I've got some Linux to play with now, so I've run out of time here.

Monday, October 27, 2014

How Much Water Does A Shower Use?

... about 5 gallons in my case. I can do it in 4, but give me 5 and I'm happy.

This weekend, I managed to wreck my tankless hot water heater. I flushed it with vinegar as per the manufacturer's directions and managed to cause a leak. San Diego water is more like chunks of limestone than an actual fluid. It causes all kinds of corrosion and calcium buildups.

As far as I can tell, the pipes in the heat exchanger had corroded and sprung leaks. Water didn't leave because calcium deposits had plugged the holes. When I flushed the system with vinegar, I managed to unplug the holes. Turning the water back on led to drip-drip-drip-drip-drip. Since I did this exercise on the Saturday when plumbers were not available, we had nearly two full days without hot water.

I've now taken two showers by heating a large pot on the stove and using it to heat up a 5-gallon bucket of water. I then stand outside with my bathing suit on or stand in the shower and dump bowls of water over my head to shower.

It's like going back to the 1800s. We're very retro here in the Catican Compound.

In any case, the 5 gallon bucket was plenty of water for me. Now I know.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

One Of The Best Photos

... I've ever taken. I don't know why, but this one, a spur-of-the-moment hipshot taken this morning just to have something to post on the blog speaks to me. I left it really big and I think it's worth a click.


Saturday, October 25, 2014

Fetishizing Incompetence And Ignorance

These days, I'm making my way through Admiral of the Ocean Sea: A Life of Christopher Columbus. I'm listening to it rather than reading it and it's one of those books that I wish I could memorize. It's chock-full of wonderful anecdotes, analysis and captures the drama of Columbus' life.

I try not to read history books written after 1960. It's an arbitrary date, but it represents the transition from history books as history to social justice advocacy essays. Admiral of the Ocean Sea was written in the late 1930s and early 1940s by a fellow who sailed Columbus' route. He knows from whence he speaks and he works very hard to be as historically accurate as possible. In contrast, my daughter's high school history textbooks were practically free of information and instead focused on social justice narratives.

As I listen to this and after listening to others such as The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and Stanley's accounts of his travels in Africa, it struck me how very weird it is to have come up with the Europeans-as-oppressors narrative. The Africans were enslaving each other and fighting wars of conquest, the Aztecs were committing acts of sadism on an industrial scale and the German tribes were warlike and vicious. What differentiated them from their conquerors was their ignorance and incompetence. The worst you can say of the Europeans is that they were just better at behaving according to the standards of the time.

If the Africans, Aztecs and Germans had been as studious and industrious as the Europeans and Romans, they certainly would have been perpetrating precisely the crimes against humanity that we all love to blame on the Europeans. In fact, they probably would have been much, much worse.

I would argue that the assessments of the natives made at the time by the conquerors themselves were more accurate than the misty-eyed romantic ideals of them we embrace today. As Dennis Green might say, the Aztecs / Africans / Germans were who we thought they were and we've let them off the hook.

Update: Make no mistake, the author does not pull any punches about the behavior of the Spaniards and the Portuguese, but he doesn't turn the natives into the noble primitives, either.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Solar Power In Germany

... is succinctly summarized by this comment from this blog post.
Did you know that the most southerly point in Germany is at the same latitude as Bemidji, Minnesota? Right now the day is only about 10 hours long in Berlin. Two months from now it will be 7:40 long and the sun will not rise above 15° above the horizon. Not much solar energy, Klaus.
As the Germans and the rest of the morally preening, European, socialist greens struggle to find ways to keep from freezing to death this winter, they'll discover that solar power needs, you know, the sun.

Advantage: Putin.

Ach du lieber! Wo ist die Sonne?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Yes On 83!

I love election season. I love all of the ads that tell you absolutely nothing in a breathless, urgent tone. I never know what any of the initiatives are about, but I know that if I vote yes on 42, illegal alien children will be killed because they'll eat bread with gluten and if I vote no on 37, we'll continue to be bombarded by cosmic rays.

Or something like that.

I've always wanted to put a sign up in my yard, supporting a proposition that doesn't exist with a tagline that makes you go, "Huh?" I never find the time for it, so instead, I've created an image you can use to make your very own bumper stickers.

And please, if you value freedom for sparrows and other small birds, vote yes on 83.

Yes on 83. It's time for a change!
You're welcome.