Enterprising Monasteries


‘This brings us back to Bury St Edmunds and its war between the monks and the townspeople. The town belonged to the abbey, which had benefited so much from various kings that it also owned the entire county of West Suffolk. The abbots built or expanded the town of Bury St Edmunds, and controlled its commercial life. Everyday business transaction involved a cut for the monks – whether a tradesman ran a barge on the river, a stall in the market, sold fish or supplied building materials. The abbey administered justice, and pocketed the fines it took. It ran the royal mint – being abbot of Bury St Edmunds was literally a licence to print money. The abbey even owned the horse droppings on the street – and of course the monks took their cut.
Whether it was collecting manure or grinding corn, every abbot guarded his monopoly jealously.’

- Jones. T., Ereira. A. 2004. Terry Jones’ Medieval Lives London, Great Britain: BBC Books (2005) p. 106

Amphiboly and Amphibology


Amphiboly or Amphibology is a form of syntactic ambiguity. That is to say, it describes a linguistic situation in which a sentence may be interpreted in more than one way due to an ambiguous sentence structure.

“John saw the man on the mountain with a telescope.”
“Flying planes can be dangerous.”

The duke yet lives that Henry shall depose.Henry VI (1.4.30), by William Shakespeare

Owing to the alteration of the natural order of words for metrical reasons, it is not uncommon to find amphiboly in poetic literature. This sentence could either be taken to mean that Henry will depose the duke, or that the duke will depose Henry.

“Thief gets nine months in violin case.”
“Prostitutes appeal to pope.”

I’m glad I’m a man, and so is Lola.Lola by Ray Davies

This sentence could mean “Lola and I are both glad I’m a man”, or “I’m glad Lola and I are both men”, or even “I’m glad I’m a man, and Lola is also glad to be a man”. Ray Davies deliberately wrote this ambiguity into the song Lola, referring to a cross-dresser.

“British left waffles on Falkland Islands.”
“Juvenile court will try shooting accused.”

Ibis redibis nunquam per bella peribis. — often attributed to the Oracle at Dodona

This Latin phrase could mean “you will go, you will return, never in war will you perish”; however, the other possibility is the exact opposite in meaning “you will go, you will never return, in (the) war you will perish”.

“Red tape holds up new bridge.”
“Sex education delayed, teachers request training.”

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A sequoia seed weighs less than 1/3000 of an ounce. The tree that develops from it may eventually weigh 65 billion times as much.

The Peruvian Uros people live on man-made islands on Lake Titicaca.

More than half of the coastline of the entire United States is in Alaska.

Attempting to swim to England from France has been illegal for 17 years.

On December 23, 1986, The Miami Herald reported the following: “The Herald erroneously reported that original Dolphin Johnny Holmes had been an insurance salesman in Raleigh, NC, that he had won the New York lottery in 1982 and lost the money in a land swindle, that he had been charged with vehicular homicide but acquitted because his mother said the drove the car, and that he stated that the funniest thing he ever saw was Flipper spouting water on George Wilson. Each of these items was erroneous material published inadvertently. He was not an insurance salesman in Raleigh, did not win the lottery, neither he nor his mother was charged or involved in any way with a vehicular homicide, and he made no comment about Flipper or George Wilson. The Herald regrets the errors.”

See other: Quite Interesting Facts

Professional


Positional, Solid, Calculating, Calm

Professionals are strategists who place a high value on the exactness of their game and rarely let their emotions get out of hand. Professionals like to keep things under control – they don’t like to take undue risks, either by attacking the opponent or allowing themselves to be attacked. Instead, Professionals like to exploit long-term weaknesses. While they deal with long-term strategic and positional factors, they don’t rely on vague, intuitive judgements – for the Professional, chess is an exact, calculated science.

“Yes, I have played a blitz game once. It was on a train, in 1929.” – Mikhail Botvinnik

Mikhail Botvinnik, the sixth world champion, was a clear example of the Professional. Botvinnik was the first top player to develop in the Soviet Union, and was thus considered to be the patriarch of Soviet chess. Botvinnik was one of the first to take a professional approach to preparing for competitions, which included a big emphasis on physical exercise, opening preparation, and deep analysis of his own and his opponent’s games. Botvinnik took chess very seriously, but ironically considered himself not to be a full chess professional and worked as an engineer as well.

See other: Chess Personalities

Who Invented Pythagoras’ Theorem?


It is doubtful whether Pythagoras (c. 570-495BC) was really a mathematician as we understand the word. Schoolchildren still learn his so-called theorem about the square on the hypotenuse (a2+b2 =c2). But the Babylonians knew this equation centuries earlier, and there is no evidence that Pythagoras either discovered or proved it.

In fact, although genuine mathematical investigations were undertaken by later Pythagoreans, the evidence suggests that Pythagoras was a mystic who believed that numbers underlie everything. He worked out, for instance, that perfect musical intervals could be expressed by simple ratios.

See other: Which Greek Legends Were Really True?

Ontology [Noun.]


The branch of metaphysics that addresses the nature or essential characteristics of being and of things that exist; that is to say, it the study of being qua being.

It examines what can be asserted about anything that exists just because of its existence and not because of any special qualities it has.

On Nazi Sexism


“In the really good times of German life the German woman had no need to emancipate herself. She possessed exactly what nature had necessarily given her to administer and preserve; just as the man in his good times had no need to fear that he would be ousted from his position in relation to the woman. [...]

If the man’s world is said to be the State, his struggle, his readiness to devote his powers to the service of the community, then it may perhaps be said that the woman’s is a smaller world. For her world is her husband, her family, her children, and her home. [...]

We do not consider it correct for the woman to interfere in the world of the man, in his main sphere. We consider it natural if these two worlds remain distinct.”

- Adolf Hitler (speech to the Women’s League on September 8, 1934)

Harem (iv)


‘Capt. Burton, who travelled extensively in Mohammedan countries in the disguise of a native, and who in the character of a physician saw something of the interior of the harem, says that the oriental is “the only state of society in which jealousy and quarrels about the sex are the exception and not the rule of life.” [...]

The two ladies of W. H. Seward’s party, in his tour around the world, in May, 1871, visited the harem in the palace of the khedive’s mother (the princess valideh) at Cairo. After traversing a succession of saloons superbly furnished with velvet carpets, lace and damask curtains, satin-covered sofas and divans, large French mirrors, and crystal chandeliers, they were presented to the princess, who was surrounded by the ladies of the harem and Circassian slave girls. The princess wife of the khedive wore a green silk dress with lace, hat, gloves, boots, and fan, all from London or Paris, and her light brown hair was dressed in the latest Parisian style.

The ladies of the harem, many of them displaying diamond solitaires of immense size, confessed their partiality for European modes, all of them had ordered outfits from London, with the request that they might be counterparts of the trousseau of the princess Louise. The princess mother said that “since the ladies the harem were allowed to see the European opera and ballet at the theatre in Alexandria, they have become quite disgusted with the native performances of their own country.” She explained the condition of the slave women; they were brought from their native land when quite young, were provided with husbands and dowries, and were “very lucky.”

But the system as a domestic institution is summed up by Mr. Seward as follows: “The Mohammedan provision for woman is a prison in which her sufferings from jealousy are consoled by the indulgence of her vanity. She is allowed the society of her own sex with far less restraint than is ordinarily supposed, and she displays before her visiting friends with pride the wealth and ornaments which lighten her chains.” She goes abroad only in a carriage, and under strict surveillance; “she never reads, and, so far as possible, is required never to think.”’

- Ripley. G., Dana. C.A., Ed. (1879) The American Cyclopædia – A Popular Dictionary Of General Knowledge New York, United States: D. Appleton and Company (Entrance: “Harem” [between "Hare Lip" and "Harfleur"], written by Parke Godwin).

Deception is Truth, Truth Deception


‘The postmodernist critique of Plato was anticipated in classical times in a celebrated story told by the Roman scholar Pliny the Elder (23-79 AD) in his Natural History. Pliny described a competition between the painters Zeuxis and Parrhasios during the 5th century BC. Zeuxis painted a bunch of grapes so lifelike that they attracted the birds.

[Parrhasios]
“But I triumphed over him by painting a veil so deceptive that Zeuxis turned to me and said…”

[Zeuxis]
“Well, and now draw aside the veil and show what you have painted behind it.”

[Pliny the Elder]
“Whereas Zeuxis fooled the birds, Parrhasios deceived his fellow human beings.”

Plato always maintained that truth and falsity are opposed. This idea is perpetuated in confusion arising from Zeuxis’ painting. But Parrhasios contradicts this notion by revealing that deception is the truth, and vice versa. The French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan was particularly fond of this story, and quoted it in his seminars during the 1960s and 70s.’

- Kul-Want. C. (2012) Aesthetics London, United Kingdom: Icon Books p. 15

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Earthworms turn over the earth’s top 6 inches of soil about every 20 years, maintaining the fertile humus that covers most land areas and supports agricultural production.

Lena Horne (1917-2010), the highest paid African American actor of her time, signed a contract guaranteeing she didn’t have to play cooks, maids, or other stereotypes.

One in four Canadians ate fast food in the past 24 hours.

Caribou make a clicking sound when they walk. This is caused by tendons slipping over bones in their feet.

Designed for efficiency of construction, the Empire State Building was erected in just 11 months from the setting of the first steel columns on April 7, 1930 to the fully enclosed structure on March 31, 1931. At the peak of construction the tower rose at the rate of a storey a day.

See other: Quite Interesting Facts

Wojtek The Bear


In the spring of 1942, a new Polish Army was being formed in the Middle East under the command of the British and on their way to the organization area, a group of Polish soldiers came across a little bear in the mountainous region of Persia.

The cub was an orphan following the death of his mother at the hands of hunters and he was traded to the soldiers by a shepherd boy who kept the bear in a sack.

Wojtek The Bear

Wojtek with a Polish soldier

Eventually, the bear was taken to the 22nd Transport Company, Artillery Division, Polish 2nd Corp where the men would become his companions for the next few years. He was given the name Wojtek.

In Palestine, Wojtek became a hero one night by capturing a thief who had broken into an ammunition compound where the bear was sleeping. The Arab was shocked to find himself confronted by the animal and the commotion that ensued resulted in his arrest. Wojtek was rewarded with a bottle of beer.

As the Polish Army prepared to enter the war zone in Italy during 1943,  the problem confronting the Polish soldiers was the question of Wojtek’s status. Animals were not permitted to accompany the army during the fighting. By giving the bear his own paybook, rank and serial number there would be no question that he was now officially a soldier.

In Italy, the Polish 2nd Corps prepared to break through the German defences at Monte Cassino where it successfully captured the stronghold after much bitter fighting.

Wojtek as mascot of the Polish 22nd Transport Company

During the conflict, Wojtek found himself at the artillery firing line where he was seen to move crates of ammunition close to a truck where he was chained. Always inquisitive and willing to copy what the soldiers were doing, he began picking up the crates and moving towards the cannons.

After the battle, the official badge of the 22nd Transport Company became a likeness of Wojtek holding a shell. This symbol appeared on vehicles, pennants and on the uniforms of the soldiers.

Wojtek survived the war and after the demobilisation process he found a home at Edinburgh Zoo.

Wojtek the bear died at Edinburgh in 1963. His death was mourned by many; numerous newspapers published an obituary to the beloved mascot. Today, statues of Wojtek have been erected both in Edinburgh, Scotland and Kraków, Poland.

“The assumption that animals are without rights and the illusion that our treatment of them has no moral significance is a positively outrageous example of Western crudity and barbarity. Universal compassion is the only guarantee of morality.” – Arthur Schopenhauer, The Basis of Morality

Palamedes and the Alphabet?


The date attributed to the writing down of the Homeric epics is connected to the earliest evidence for the existence of Greek script in the 8th Century BC.

The Greeks knew that their alphabet (later borrowed by the Romans to become the western alphabet) was adapted from that of the Phoenicians, a near-eastern nation whose letter-sequence began “aleph bet”.

The fact that the adaptation was uniform throughout Greece has suggested that there was a single adapter rather than many. Greek tradition named the adapter Palamedes, which may just mean “clever man of old”. Palamedes was also said to have invented counting, currency, and board games.

The Greek letter-shapes came to differ visually from their Phoenician progenitors – with the current geometrical letter-shapes credited to the 6th Century mathematician Pythagoras.

See other: Which Greek Legends Were Really True?