May 28, 585 B.C.

ince it is May 28 and I happened to remember on the day, for a change, I thought it worth mentioning to both history and astronomy buffs, that at May 28, 585 B.C., the Battle of Halys took place. This battle is significant for two reasons. First, the battle stopped abruptly when ┬ásolar eclipse darkened […]

Leap day

Today is my ninth leap day (1972 was a leap year, but I was born after February 29 so I don’t count that one. Leap day always makes me think of the history of leap day, which in turn gets me thinking about the intricacies of calendars and of keeping time in general. Man, the […]

Thoughts on Our Oriental Heritage

I often wonder why I find history and science so fascinating. With science, it’s what Richard Feynman called “the pleasure of finding things out”. We learn how the universe around us evolved and how it all works. With history, I suppose, it’s similar, except instead of learning how the universe works, we learn how people […]


I left China behind this morning at around 5:30 AM and at once started on the last part of Our Oriental Heritage, Japan. Keeping in mind that this particular book was published in 1935 (and therefore written some years before), I found this passage particularly interesting: The third act is modern Japan, opened up in […]

Why is the quest for knowledge good?

Reading the chapter on Confucius, I came across the most remarkable passage, attributed to the sage. It is a passage that from the ground up, instructs a nation to be a nation of highest virtue. What it all seems to come down to, according to Confucius, is knowledge. Why is the question for knowledge so […]

12,000 wives!

How does one go about accumulating 12,000 wives, as did King Krishna Raya during India’s middle ages? (They are listed among his “modest” possessions.) I did the math. To sleep once with each wife, assuming a different wife every night would take more than 32 years!

And then there are the Hindu materialists…

In rather sharp contrast to the ancient Sumerians, Egyptians, Jews and Persians, this, which reminds me of something that several of us might have heard in Ray Linn’s 12th grade philosophy class: Out of the aphorisms of Brihaspati came a whole school of Hindu materialists, named after one of them, Charvakas. They laughed at the […]

From the pages of Our Oriental Heritage…

Another great Will Durant quote, this in the midst of a chapter on the mental elements of civilization (emphasis is mine): The Polynesians had a calendar of thirteen months, regulated by the moon; when their lunar year diverged too flagrantly from the procession of the seasons they dropped a moon, and the balance was restored. […]


So today is 9/11, six years later. The day has faded a great deal in my mind and if it weren’t for my diary, I probably wouldn’t remember any details. And sometimes, I think it’s better that way. Here in the office, it’s a poignant day for many people. The north side of our building […]

62nd anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima

Today, August 6, marks the 62nd anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. I have read 3 books on the history of the atomic bomb, those involved in building it, and those involved in trying to prevent its proliferation thereafter. It gives me a bit of hope that in the 62 years […]

It’s all Greek to me

I finished Barry Malzberg’s Breakfast in the Ruins on the train ride home this evening and it was absolutely terrific! While I don’t necessarily agree with his positions on science fiction, he is an amazing writer with incisive insights into all aspects of the genre. He writes with emotion and gravitas and I completely enjoyed […]

History in motion

I came across this cool kinetic map during lunch and thought it was worth mentioning. It illustrates thousands of years of the rise and fall of empires in the Middle East. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. It’s worth taking a look at. I’ve got to go interview someone now…