Thursday, November 30, 2023
Wednesday, November 29, 2023
Tuesday, November 28, 2023
Financial Times showing the architectural side of China's crackdown on Islam. Above, the Weizhou grand mosque before and after its Sinocization.
According to the FT, this has been done to more than a thousand mosques; others have simply been destroyed:
The government says the changes are to modernise the mosques and “harmonise” them with Chinese culture.
The rebuilding has also included the installation of surveillance cameras.
Monday, November 27, 2023
Saturday, November 25, 2023
Then three weeks ago my middle son was driving through Pikesville, Maryland, an older inner-ring suburb of Baltimore, when he saw a puppy sitting forlornly by the side of a busy road. My son scooped the puppy up and brought him home. At that time he was about 3 1/2 months old and impossibly cute. He was wearing a collar but no tag. We had him scanned but he had no chip. We posted his picture on every lost-and-found dog board in Maryland, and on Pikesville Facebook groups, and made posters which we put up all over the neighborhood where he was found, but nobody ever called. So he seems to be ours.
So, by some combination of divine providence, dumb luck, and my son's determination, a very sweet dog has joined our family.
From Mary Beard's review of the memoirs of historian Peter Brown, in the September 22 TLS:
Brown has a sharp eye too for how the practical everyday details of academic life have changed over his career and with what result. One unexpected hero in the book is the humble photocopier, a novelty which landed in Oxford in the late 1960s. As Brown explains, it had a transforming impact on teaching and learning. Lengthy notes and bibliogrphies could now be distributed to large lecture audiences (this was the origin of the "handout"). But, more important, group discussions of a whole new range of texts became possible. Even if there was only one printed copy of some little-known saint's life in town (penned up in some remote corner of the Bodleian Library), you could for the first time discuss it, face to face, with colleagues and students in a seminar, wherever you wanted, simply by photocopying it. This was a new intellectual world. Like the internet later (or the printing press before), the photocopier was instrumental in expanding the historical agenda.
Friday, November 24, 2023
Triumphal article about the rise of mathematics in early modern Europe.
Dolphins stealing bait from crab traps.
Kevin Drum says anti-semitism is going mainstream on the American right, lots of talk about Jews conspiring to destroy the white race. I think this perfectly captures the irrationality of antisemitism; why, exactly, would Jews do this?
Artifacts melting from the Canadian ice; I always love seeing ancient bags, which remind us that being a hunter-gatherer involved carrying a lot of stuff around.
The latest version of America's determination to be miserable concerns economic rants on social media, especially TikTok, where people talk about a "silent depression." NY Times: "Never before was consumer sentiment this consistently depressed when joblessness was so consistently low." That isn't really true, but it does puzzle me to see so much negativity when inflation is coming down and employment remains robust. I think it ties back to something I have written about before, our utter lack of enthusiasm for the future.
Kevin Drum fills us in on the important details of OBM Circular A-4, which will change how government agencies do cost-benefit analysis.
What causes the red wine headache, a phenomenon people have talked about since the 4th century BC? A new study says an antioxidant found in grape skins messes with the way your body processes alcohol, creating toxic byproducts; sufferers have a genetic variant that damages their ability to handle those toxins. (NY Times, original study)
Pity the poor costume designer who had to create the uniforms and especially the hats for the new Napoleon movie, since star Joaquin Phoenix is a vegan who won't wear wool. (NY Times)
Tyler Cowen's list of the best nonfiction books of 2023.
Archaeologists delve into a nineteenth-century London workhouse.
Cool abstract sand art by Jim Denevan.
More on the galaxies spotted by the Webb Telescope that seem to be older than the universe: they also seem to have weird chemical compositions, with a lot of nickel, more than stars could have made in a few billion years by any mechanism we understand.
Promising new design for wind turbines.
College later in life: "From the 1930 birth cohort onwards around 20% of college graduates obtained their degree after age 30. . . . these so-called late bloomers have significantly contributed to the narrowing of gender and racial gaps in the college share." Via Marginal Revolution.
Clark Dunbar photographs American Indians in their powwow regalia.
Summary of the military situation in Ukraine as of November 21.
Reports that Russia is destroying and flooding coal mines in occupied eastern Ukraine.
RIP Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie; his Montaillou: The Promised Land of Error (1975), which used medieval inquisition records to explore rural life in southern France, had a huge influence on me and remains a classic of microhistory. (NY Times, The Guardian, wikipedia)
Thursday, November 23, 2023
Things I am thankful for this year:
That all five of my children will be here for Thanksgiving dinner.
That an independent Ukraine still stands.
The survival of stories from thousands of years ago: Gilgamesh, the Iliad, the Irish myths, the Vedas, and on and on. What a miracle that is.
Second Story Books.
That I live in a place that has four seasons, and leaves that turn color in the Fall.
The Webb Space Telescope.
The cycles of the moon, and a sky full of stars.
That I am able to work from home most of the time.
That everyone close to me survived the pandemic.
That I have access to so much information, online and off, that I continue to learn new things every day.
My readers and friends.
Tuesday, November 21, 2023
this account of the battle by a very Catholic, very nationalistic Frenchman, who says most of the damage was done by Germans firing incendiary shells, I suppose just out of malice.
In 1948, the French government decided that Saint-Malo would be rebuilt as close to its pre-war form as could be managed. (Note the numbered stones above, for dismantling and reconstruction.) I have not been able to find out anything about this decision. It seems like something De Gaulle would have been into, but all the sources I have found say that the inhabitants insisted on this approach:
The Malouis did not wish to feel lost in their new city; they wanted the new city to resemble the old as much as possible. The layout of streets, with their angles and their turns, should be conserved, since they protected against winds; above all, Saint-Malo should not become a car park.
Some sources say the reconstruction was completed by 1960, but on the other hand the cathedral spire was not rebuilt until 1972.