Saturday, October 22, 2011

Bundle Up . . .

. . . Fall's coming.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Frank Zappa Friday

How about two versions of "How Could I Be Such A Fool?"

First from Freak Out:

And then the Ruben and the Jets variation:

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Don't Forget to Convert Your Historical Dates

Are you worried about observing your favorite historical anniversaries on the correct date?  The internet has the answer.

Let's say that you're obsessed with the Roman emperor Valens and want to celebrate or mourn his catastrophic defeat and death at the Battle of Adrianople on August 9, 378 AD.  But wait!  Something's bugging you.  August 9, 378 was the date of the battle according to the calendar of the time - the Julian Calendar.  To properly observe the event, you realize, you need to figure out what that date translates to on the Gregorian Calendar we now use.

It turns out there are multiple calendar converters on the web that will accomplish the task in just a few seconds.  Here's one of many that I found, which appears no better or worse than many others.  It turns out that Thursday August 9, 378 (Julian Calendar) would have been August 10 on the Gregorian Calendar.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

"What's for dinner, Hun?"

As I mentioned in the last post, the Roman historian Ammianus Marcellinus claimed that the Huns partially cooked their meat by warming it between their thighs and the backs of their horses:

[T]heir way of life is so rough that have no use for fire or seasoned food, but live on roots of wild plants and the half-raw flesh of any sort of animal, which they warm a little by placing it between their thighs and the backs of their horses.

To my surprise, in The End of Empire: Attila the Hun & the Fall of Rome, Christopher Kelly asserts that there may be a germ of truth to Ammianus's assertion:

Hans Schiltberger, a fourteenth-century mercenary and adventurer from Bavaria, claimed to have observed that among the Tatars, nomadic neighbors of the Mongols who captured Kiev in 1240, horsemen preparing to travel long distances placed raw meat under their saddles.  "I have also seen that when the Tatars are on a long journey they take a piece of raw meat, cut it into slices, place it under the saddle, ride on it, and eat it when they are hungry.  They salt it first and claim that it will not spoil because it is dried by the warmth of the horse and becomes tender under the saddle from riding, after the moisture has gone out of it."  Tenderized raw meat seems to have been something of a steppe signature dish.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Of Mice and Huns

Found on a classroom floor at a university that shall remain nameless:

 History 385/Mathematics 385
History of Mathematics and Science in the Ancient World
Professor Elektratig
Final Exam

This examination consists of two question, requiring both mathematical calculations and an essay discussing the historical reasoning behind those calculations.

1. In Book XXXI of his Res Gestae, Ammianus Marcellinus described the Huns as wearing "garments made of the skins of field-mice." Calculate the number of such skins it would take to clothe the average Hun warrior, using both Euclidian and non-Euclidian geometry. Explain the reasoning behind your calculations, including considerations such as (a) the size of the average Hun warrior (taking into account Ammianus's description of the Huns as "of great size, and bow-legged, so that you might fancy them two-legged beasts"), and (b) the types of garments that you believe the average Hun warrior wore, such as tunics, hats, leggings or trousers, shoes, etc., and which of those garments you believe would have been fashioned from the skins of field mice rather than from some other material. If you conclude Ammianus correctly described the Huns as covering their "shaggy legs" "with the skins of kids" rather than with the skins of field-mice, calculate the number of kids required.

2. Ammianus also observed that the Huns did not cook their meat using fire, but rather warmed "the half-raw flesh of any animal" "by placing it between their own thighs and the backs of their horses." Calculate the amount of riding time necessary to adequately warm to "half-raw" the flesh of a chicken, a boar, a stag, a bear and a trout. Explain the bases of your calculations, including the effect on warming time of (a) the speed and gait of the horse, (b) the amount of flesh being warmed, (c) the season, and (d) whether the warrior was wearing leggings, the material of the leggings, and, if leggings were worn, whether the half-raw flesh was placed inside or outside the leggings 

The exam will last one hour.
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