Dude, where’s our car?

Apollo 17 LRV

Apollo 17 Lunar Roving Vehicle abandoned on the Moon

On December 19th, 1972 the dream of exploring the solar system came to a crash landing when the Apollo 17 Command Module splashed down in the Pacific Ocean and the Astronauts were recovered to the USS Ticonderoga.

Since December 14th, 1972, no human has set foot on any body other than the Earth.  For 47 years we have been busily engaged in making our planet uninhabitable to humans.  On that front we have done an excellent job.

Anybody who tells you this is a normal climate cycle needs their head examined.  This planet is dying and we need to act now.  Make 1 Change in your life today.  Make another tomorrow.  Put the squeeze on your politicians.  Make corporations responsible.  Invest your pension in ethical funds.

Here is Lake Chad in 1973 and the same lake today:

Lake Chad Might Be Shrinking, But It Has Nothing To Do ...

And here is the Aral Sea over a similar period:

Aral sea – This, Not That

And in Palestine here is the Dead Sea:

What are some strange facts about dead sea? - Quora

And how about the Arctic Ice Sheet – Summertime cover – shorter timeframe:

Natural Cycles – Water | What's New in Eco-Materials

Battle of Trebia

Snow Storm: Hannibal and his Army Crossing the Alps exhibited 1812 by Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851

JMW Turner: Snow Storm

JMW Turner was a Romantic, part of the art movement that celebrated the magnificence of Nature.  So when he painted Hannibal and his Army crossing the Alps in 218 BC he confined the great army and those famous elephants, to a footnote.  The pride of place is given to Nature, the towering vortex of the Snow Storm.

On December 18th in 218 BC the Alpine weather was not a problem for the Romans.  That was the date when the Legions met the recently arrived Hannibal.  In the Battle of Trebbia he handed the Roman Republic the first of the three enormous defeats they suffered in the Italian Peninsula.

From a Roman Army of 40,000 only 10,000 survived.  Tiberius Sempronius Longus was able to save his core veteran heavy infantry by forming a hollow square and retreating from the battlefield in good order.  The Roman and Allied cavalry were routed by the Numidians.  The Roman light infantry and the Auxiliary forces of allied Celtic tribes were driven into the river and many drowned.  Any surviving Celts probably switched sides and the battle was a recruiting drive for Hannibal.  The fresco below is from the Hall of Hannibal in the Capitoline Museum in Rome.

Hannibal - HISTORY

A Christmas Wish

Family Stone

The Family Stone: A tale of Christmas Dysfunctionality

Everybody thinks they are right.  If you asked Hitler, Stalin, Ivan the Terrible or Robert Mugabe about their records they would explain to you why they were right and what they did was right and there is a good chance that after an hour with any of them you would begin to accept that they had a valid position.

Everybody thinks they are right.

Christmas is time for families.  If anyone knows how to push all your emotional trigger buttons it is your close family.  This makes Christmas a time of stress and tension for many.  Old arguments bubble to the surface.  Kind words and gestures are over-analysed and misinterpreted and rejected.

If you have stress in your relationships here is some sage advice from John Greenleaf Whittier.  Just forgive. Whittier is one of the “Fireside Poets” and born this day in 1807.  I like to think of the Fireside poets in terms of life before TV, when you might spend a cold winters evening by the fire sharing poetry and stories.  Time spent with family and friends, like Christmas.

Forgiveness is hard, because if you mean it then it must be unconditional.  You are not offering an olive branch to begin peace talks.  You are giving it away, opening your own heart with no expectation of any reciprocal action on the other side.  That is real forgiveness.

 

Forgiveness; by John Greenleaf Whittier

My heart was heavy, for its trust had been
abused, its kindness answered with foul wrong;
so, turning gloomily from my fellow-men,
one summer Sabbath day I strolled among
the green mounds of the village burial-place;
where, pondering how all human love and hate
find one sad level; and how, soon or late,
wronged and wrongdoer, each with meekened face,
and cold hands folded over a still heart,
pass the green threshold of our common grave,
whither all footsteps tend, whence none depart,
awed for myself, and pitying my race,
our common sorrow, like a mighty wave,
swept all my pride away, and trembling I forgave!

Depression is rage spread thin.

George Santayana Quotes - iPerceptive

George Santayana is a classic case of a man born before his time.  This is a man who was made for Twitter.  His philosophy is spelled out in aphorisms, short and very quotable statements.  They have been quoted but more often misattributed to other people.

Born in Madrid, Dec 16th, 1863 and raised in Ávila to the age of 8 when he emigrated to Boston, the home of the father of his older half siblings.  Yes even in the 19th Century American marriages appear to have been very complicated.

Educated in Harvard, Berlin and Cambridge, UK.  He resigned from a position in Harvard and returned to Spain.  After some travelling he settled into Rome for the last 40 years of his life.

If you are ever stuck for something witty to quote on Twitter just Google his name.  You will find all sorts of gems such as:

History is a pack of lies about events that never happened told by people who weren’t there.

Never build your emotional life on the weaknesses of others.

Habit is stronger than reason.

 

 

 

Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus

Roman Empire Gold Aureus Emperor Nero (54-68 AD) XF NGC ...

Born on this day, December 15th, 37 AD, the great, great grandson of Emperor Augustus, known popularly as Nero, he was the last emperor of the Julio-Claudian Dynasty.

Nero was a populist.  He instigated broad improvement and reform programmes in his reign, and entertained the people with games, plays and music.  All of which was funded by taxing the rich.  As a result the wealthy Romans and Provincial magnates hated him and made numerous attempts to assassinate him.

The greatest damage to his name in posterity was his supposed persecution of Christians.  The great fire of Rome in 64 AD destroyed a quarter of the city.  Accounts of what happened vary, but the version handed down by the Medieval Christian Church is the one that stuck.  Nero fiddled while Rome burned (violins had not been invented).  He burned down the city himself to create space for his personal mansion.  He blamed the Christians and had them fed to the lions in the Colosseum (which had not yet been built).

When Rome was rebuilt after the fire the insulae were well spaced on broad boulevards and constructed of brick, greatly reducing the risk of future conflagrations.  At the heart of the rebuilding was the Domus Aurea, the Golden House of Nero, the palace that drew the wrath of the wealthy taxpayers.

In the vestibule of the Domus Nero erected a 100 foot bronze statue of himself, called the Colossus of Nero.  For reference it was about the same size as the Statue of Liberty in New York.  A generation later when the Flavians were building their amphitheatre they they modified the statue to convert it from Nero to a representation of Sol, the Roman Sun God.

In 128 AD Emperor Hadrian had the Colossus moved, a feat requiring the aid of 24 elephants and had it erected outside the Flavian amphitheatre.  The Romans nicknamed the Flavian the “Colosseum” because of the statue, and the name stuck.

Quandiu stabit coliseus, stabit et Roma;
quando cadit coliseus, cadet et Roma;
quando cadet Roma, cadet et mundus.

While the Colossus stands, Rome stands;
when the Colossus falls, Rome falls;
when Rome falls, the world falls.

Attributed to the Venerable Bede, the 8th Century monk, Father of English History.

 

 

Serendipity II

1287 – St. Lucia’s flood: The Zuiderzee sea wall in the ...

When is a disaster not a disaster?  When you are on the silver lining side of the cloud!

Back in 1287 Amsterdam was a backwater fishing village on the wrong end of the large freshwater lake called the Zuiderzee.  The prosperous towns in the Netherlands lay on the river Vlie where the lake discharged into the North Sea.  Out there they could trade with the Germans, the Danes, the English, the French, the Norwegians and the Swedes.

On the night of St Lucia Day a North Sea depression set up a storm surge on top of a high tide.  On the 14th of December 1287 the sea smashed through the dunes and the boulder clay, obliterating the river Vlie and the towns on its banks.  The sea then surged into the lake and converted it to a salt water lagoon.  Some 50,000 to 80,000 Dutch and Germans died in the floods.

Backwater Amsterdam woke up to find itself positioned perfectly on a huge natural harbour with access to the North Sea.  By 1303 the village on the Amstel river had become a City.  It is today the most populous City in the Netherlands.

The Flying Dutchman (First Verse); by John Boyle O’Reilly

Long time ago, from Amsterdam a vessel sailed away,
as fair a ship as ever flung aside the laughing spray.
Upon the shore were tearful eyes, and scarfs were in the air,
as to her, o’er the Zuyder Zee, went fond adieu and prayer;
and brave hearts, yearning shoreward from the outwardgoing ship,
felt lingering kisses clinging still to tear-wet cheek and lip.
She steered for some far eastern clime, and, as she skimmed the seas,
each taper mast was bending like a rod before the breeze.

Away on a Pelican, home on a Hind.

Golden Hinde (replica), ship of Sir Francis Drake ...

After an abortive November departure for the Pacific Sir Francis Drake left Plymouth aboard  the Pelican on December 13th, 1577.  He was to return three years later on the same ship, now renamed “The Golden Hind” sailing into history as the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe.

He carried a drum emblazoned with his coat of arms on the circumnavigation and on his other adventures as Captain, Privateer, Pirate, Explorer and Admiral of Queen Elizabeth’s fleet.  Legend holds that he sent the drum home to his family seat and asked that it be held there against the day England was again in danger.  In which case the drum should be beaten to summon past heroes to the defence of the realm.  A replica of the drum is on display at Buckland Abbey in Devon.

 

Drake’s Drum; by Sir Henry Newbolt

Drake he’s in his hammock an’ a thousand miles away,
(Capten, art tha sleepin’ there below?)
slung atween the round shot in Nombre Dios Bay,
an’ dreamin’ arl the time O’ Plymouth Hoe.
Yarnder lumes the Island, yarnder lie the ships,
wi’ sailor lads a-dancing’ heel-an’-toe,
an’ the shore-lights flashin’, an’ the night-tide dashin’,
he sees et arl so plainly as he saw et long ago.

Drake he was a Devon man, an’ ruled the Devon seas,
(Capten, art tha’ sleepin’ there below?)
roving’ tho’ his death fell, he went wi’ heart at ease,
a’ dreamin’ arl the time o’ Plymouth Hoe.
“Take my drum to England, hang et by the shore,
strike et when your powder’s runnin’ low;
if the Dons sight Devon, I’ll quit the port o’ Heaven,
an’ drum them up the Channel as we drumm’d them long ago.”

Drake he’s in his hammock till the great Armadas come,
(Capten, art tha sleepin’ there below?)
slung atween the round shot, listenin’ for the drum,
an’ dreamin arl the time o’ Plymouth Hoe.
Call him on the deep sea, call him up the Sound,
call him when ye sail to meet the foe;
where the old trade’s plyin’ an’ the old flag flyin’
they shall find him ware an’ wakin’, as they found him long ago!