Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Earth Is Flat and Other Still-Held Absurd Notions.


Assumption: The Earth is flat. That is the position held by the members of The Flat Earth Society. The group which is also known as the International Flat Earth Society or the International Flat Earth Research Society is an organization founded in 1956 by Englishman, Samuel Shenton. The members of the society contend and push the belief that the Earth flat rather than an oblate spheroid. The formal society was inactive between 2001and 2004 but was resurrected in 2004 by its new president Daniel Shenton.

The belief that the Earth was flat was typical until about the 4th century BC, when the Ancient Greek philosophers proposed the idea that the Earth was a sphere or at least rounded in shape. Aristotle was one of the first thinkers to propose a spherical Earth in 330 BC. Also, the notion that the Earth is flat is the basic assumption in the creation story in the Book of Genesis in The Bible. But, by the early Middle Ages it was widespread knowledge throughout Europe that the Earth was a sphere.

Modern hypotheses supporting a flat Earth originated with English inventor Samuel Rowbotham (1816–1884). Based on his incorrect interpretation of experiments Rowbotham published a 16-page pamphlet which he later expanded into a 430-page book, Earth Not a Globe. According to Rowbotham, the Earth is a flat with the sun and moon 3000 miles (4800 km) and the "cosmos" 3100 miles (5000 km) above earth.

The Earth was proven to be round when it was observed from outer space by US astronauts. But, such scientific finding are dismissed by the flat-earthers as either an optical illusion or out-right fraud. Nothing will convince the flat-earthers that the Earth really is a sphere.

What is even worse is from time to time the media gives credibility to the flat-earthers by exploring their views and failing to debunk their position- thus proving that every belief no matter how flawed or ill-informed that it might be has merit and is justified.


People tend to believe what they want to believe or believe something that is in line with a personal ideology or world view.

Here are some other views that are as equally outlandish as those of the Flat Earth Society.



Who wrote the plays of William Shakespeare? The answer would seem as obvious as who is buried in Grant's Tomb. But, obvious truth can be clouded by contrived issues. Such is the case with the plays and poems attributed to The Bard of Avon. The Shakespeare authorship question is the argument over whether someone other than William Shakespeare wrote the works attributed to him. There are those who maintain that Shakespeare was a front to shield the true identity of the real author or authors of the works who for some reason did not want or could not accept public credit. Although the idea has attracted much public interest, all but a few Shakespeare scholars and literary historians consider it a false belief. But, that does not stop the speculation and the books on the subject.

Shakespeare's authorship was first questioned in the middle of the 19th century. Shakespeare's obscure life, his literary skill, the number of works he created, and his wide-ranging knowledge seemed to a few people at odds with his humble origins and aroused suspicions that Shakespeare might not have written the works attributed to him. The contrived controversy has since spawned a enormous body of literature and more than 70 people have been proposed as the true author's of Shakespeare works. among the people are Sir Francis Bacon, Christopher Marlow, and Queen Elisabeth I. However, no supporting evidence, historic or otherwise, exists for any other candidate, and Shakespeare's authorship was not questioned during his lifetime or for centuries after his death.



Conspiracy theories about the citizenship of President Barack Obama claim that Obama is not a natural-born citizen of the United States and is therefore ineligible to be President of the United States under Article Two of the U.S Constitution . The birthers as they are known allege that Obama was born in Kenya and not in Hawaii and others allege that Obama became a citizen of Indonesia and therefore lost his U.S. citizenship. When the White House produced Obama's Hawaiian birth certificate, the birthers called it a forgery. When investigators found people who knew him as a child in Hawaii or failed to find Indonesian citizenship papers, the reports were dismissed. Over one-third of those in the Republican Party in the U.S. believe that Obama was not born in the country. These theories have been characterized by some commentators as racist, or a racial reaction to the first black president of the United States. Nothing will satisfy the birthers. And the notion that Obama was not born in the U.S. is kept alive by the media, the Republican Party and celebrities like Donald Trump.



Fundamentalist Christians take everything in The Bible literally and as fact. That is in spite of the fact that The Bible is fully of inconstancies, contradictions. inaccuracies, and scientific impossibilities. For instance, there are two creation stories and the order of creation is reversed in each. The birth of Jesus according to the version by Matthew says that Jesus was born in a cave, but according to Luke, Jesus was born in a stable. The Bible account of the battle of Jericho says that the sun stood still until the Israelites won. That is a scientific impossibility, because if it did the cosmos would be in jeopardy and on Earth time on the entire planet would stand still. And the fundamentalists believe that this planet is approximately 3,000 years old in spite of the scientific evidence that it is billions years older. Once fundamentalist views were held by a small minority and were marginalized. The media gives credence to their views and has allowed them to become a political force in the U.S. It has gotten to a point were in the 2008 campaign for President, the Republican candidate of President, John McCain, advocated that in science classrooms, scientific accounts and Biblical stories concerning creation be taught side-by-side so that children could decide for themselves what is fact and what to believe as truth.



Racial Supremacism is the belief that a particular race is superior to others and entitles those who identify with it to dominate, control or rule over others whom they feel are different or inferior. Yet, everyone on this planet right now is racially the same because they are all Homo sapiens and DNA evidence indicates that everyone currently on this planet is a descendant of one central African tribe. Yet, many people believe that there are different "races" and persist in believing that there is a hierarchy of races. Centuries of European colonialism of the Americas, Africa, Australia, Oceania and Asia were justified by white supremacist attitudes. During the early 20th century until 1945, the propaganda of Japan and Nazi Germany used the concept of racial superiority. In South Africa, the white minority saw itself as racially superior to the majority black population often justifying their supremacist views by citing the end of the Biblical story of Noah. And, both the South Sudanese and Darfur wars are often described as examples of Arab racism. Racism is a political tool often used by the wealthy, politicians, and war lords to get people to fight and kill. And, no amount of logic and scientific data can seem to change the minds of people that whatever "racial" group of which they are a member is the best and all the others are inferior.


The Pope

Catholics believe that The Pope is God's representative on Earth and that he is infallible in matters of faith and morals. Where did these concepts come from? No, not from Jesus. They came from the Popes themselves. In other words, I am infallible because I am infallible. And, I am God's spokesman because I say so and I am infallible. The patent absurdity of this reasoning is clear, but to the Catholic faithful, it smacks of a lack of understanding and of "Catholic bashing". Consider this: If the Pope is infallible on matters of morality, why didn't Pope Pius XII speak out on the morality of the genocide of 8,000,000 Jews by predominately Catholic Germany and Austria? After all, Hitler was a Catholic. Or, was the selling of indulgencies in order to build up the coffers of the Vatican justified as a matter of faith? The ignorant masses were bilked out of money to get a piece of paper saying that their sins were forgiven because of their monetary contributions. Selling forgiveness of sins is not what Jesus had in mind, but the Popes did it and never repudiated what they did. In fact, when people saw through the scam, they were persecuted, excommunicated, or killed. In addition, The Bible says that no one speaks for God.


Trickle-Down Economics

Trickle-down Economics is a term used in United States politics to refer to the conservative idea that tax breaks by government to the wealthy and to businesses will benefit poorer members of society by improving the economy as a whole. The term has been attributed to humorist Will Roger (1879 -1935) who said during the Great Depression (1929 - early1940's) that "money was all appropriated for the top in hopes that it would trickle down to the needy. Proponents of these policies claim that if the top income earners are taxed less that they will invest more into business and it will in turn lead to more goods at lower prices, and create more jobs for middle and lower class individuals. Proponents argue that economic growth flows down from the top to the bottom, indirectly benefiting those who do not directly benefit from the policy changes. The problem is that in the entire economic history of the planet, trickle-down economic theory has never worked. That is because the wealthy and large corporations do not care about labor, the middle class or the poor. Instead, they either hoard their money or re-invest it to make even more money. The economist John Kenneth Galbraith said that "trickle-down economics" had been tried before in the United States in the 1890s under the name horse and sparrow theory ('If you feed the horse enough oats, some will pass through to the road for the sparrows') and was partly to blame for the Panic of 1896. Presidential candidate Ross Perot called trickle-down economics "political voodoo". Former President Lyndon B. Johnson said that Republicans "are so busy operating the trickle-down theory, giving the richest corporations the biggest break, that the whole thing goes to hell in a hand-basket." Nevertheless the wealthy, their political allies and millions of Americans insist that trickle-down economics does work and insist on calling the wealthy and big corporations "job creators".

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Great Thinkers, Great Thoughts, No. 4

Great Thinkers, Great Thoughts, No. 4

1. A fanatic is one who cannot change his mind and won't change the subject. - Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill (aka: Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, 1874 -1965) was a British Conservative Party politician and statesman. He is recognized for his leadership of the United Kingdom during World War II and regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the 20th Century. Churchill was also an officer in the British Army, a historian, a writer, an orator and an artist. He also received the Nobel Prize for Literature and was the first person to be made an Honorary Citizen of the United States.


2. Man perfected by society is the best of all animals; he is the most terrible of all when he lives without law, without justice. - Aristotle

Aristotle (384 BC - 322 BC) was a Ancient Greek philosopher. He was the student of Plato and the teacher of Alexander, the Great. He wrote about physics, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government ethics, biology, poetry, theater, and music. Aristotle's writings were the first to create a comprehensive system of Western philosophy. His most famous still-surviving work is The Poetics.


3. In truth, there was only one Christian, and he died on the cross. -Friedrich Nietzsche

Friedrich Nietzsche (1841-1900) was a 19th-century German philosopher poet and composer who wrote on religion, morality, culture, philosophy and science. Nietzsche's influence remains substantial in the philosophies of existential and nihilism. He radically challenged the value and objectivity of "truth". His key ideas include the death of God, perspectivism, and the nature of power. Central to his philosophy was the idea of life-affirmation. That notion involved an honest questioning of all doctrines that drain life's expansive energies however socially prevalent those views might be


4. Do not be too moral. You may cheat yourself out of much of life. Aim above morality. Be not simply good; be good for something. -Henry David Thoreau

Henry David Thoreau (born: David Henry Thoreau;1817 -1862) was an American author, poet, philosopher, and historian. He was also an ardent abolitionist and a transcendentalist. Thoreau's books, articles, essays, journals, and poetry total over 20 volumes. He is best known for his book, Walden, a memoire of his simple living in natural surroundings at Walden Pond (Massachusetts), and his essay Civil Disobedience in which he advocates moral opposition and resistance to government when the government creates or permits policies which are unjust or immoral.


5. Almost everything--all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure--these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart. - Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs (1955-2011) was an American visionary and businessman who was a charismatic pioneer of the personal computer. He was the co-founder, chairman, and chief executive officer of Apple, Inc. Jobs was co-founder and previously served as chief executive of Pixar Animation Studios and became a member of the board of directors of The Walt Disney Company.


6. God is a comedian playing to an audience too afraid to laugh. -Voltaire

Voltaire (François-Marie Arouet; 1694 -1778), was a French Age of Enlightenment writer, historian, satirist and philosopher famous for his wit and for his advocacy of religious freedom, separation of church and state and free trade. Voltaire was a prolific writer, producing works in almost every literary form, including plays, poetry, novels, essays, and historical and scientific works. He wrote more than 20,000 letters and more than 2,000 books and pamphlets. He is most well-known for his satire, Candide.


7. A government that robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul.

- George Bernard Shaw

George Bernard Shaw (1856 -1950) was an Irish playwright who wrote more than 60 plays, a music and literary critic, and co-founder of The London School of Economics. Nearly all of his writings address social problems and he dealt with education, marriage, religion, government, health care, and class privilege. Shaw was angered by the exploitation of the working class and became a socialist. He was also active in causes which included gaining equal rights for men and women, alleviating abuses of the working class, rescinding private ownership of productive land, and promoting healthy lifestyles.


8. I believe that the very purpose of life is to be happy. From the very core of our being, we desire contentment. In my own limited experience I have found that the more we care for the happiness of others, the greater is our own sense of well-being. Cultivating a close, warmhearted feeling for others automatically puts the mind at ease. It helps remove whatever fears or insecurities we may have and gives us the strength to cope with any obstacles we encounter. It is the principal source of success in life. Since we are not solely material creatures, it is a mistake to place all our hopes for happiness on external development alone. The key is to develop inner peace. - The Dali Lama

The current Dali Lama is Tenzin Gyatzo. He is the 14th Dali Lama, has been the Dali Lama since 1950, and is currently in exile. His full name is Jetsun Jamphel Ngawang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso and he was born in 1935. He is a respected international figure, a spokesman for human rights, an educator and author, and involved in interfaith dialogues. The Dali Lama is a high lama (teacher) in Tibetan Buddhism. According to the current Dalai Lama, the Tibetan word "lama" corresponds precisely to the better known Sanskrit word guru.


9. Life only demands from you the strength that you possess. Only one feat is possible; not to run away. - Dag Hammarskjold

Dag Hammarskjold (1905-1961) was a Swedish diplomat, economist, author and the second Secretary-General of the United Nations (1953-1961). He is the only person to have been awarded a posthumous Nobel Peace Prize and the only U.N. Secretary-General to die in office, his death occurring in a plane crash en route to cease-fire negotiations on the Congo. U. S. President John F. Kennedy called Dag Hammarskjöld “the greatest statesman of our century".


10. Glory is like a circle in the water,
Which never ceaseth to enlarge itself,
Till by broad spreading it disperses to naught.
-William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare (1564 -1616) was an English poet and playwright . He is often regarded to be the greatest writer in the English language and the world's greatest dramatist. His surviving works, including some collaborations, consist of about 38 plays, 152 sonnets, two long narrative poems and several other poems. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright. Among his greatest plays are Hamlet, Macbeth, Julius Caesar and Romeo and Juliet.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Knowledge Quiz, No. 28

I dislike the term trivia. No knowledge is trivial. All information contributes to the whole of an intelligent human being. And, it is an essential part of critical thinking. That is why I did not call this a Trivia Quiz. Instead, I am calling it a Knowledge Quiz.

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Knowledge Quiz, No. 28

The answers are at the bottom

1. What Emperor made Christianity the official religion of The Roman Empire?

2. From where did the slang term, The Big Apple, referring to New York City originate?

3. What are the phalanges?

4. What was the original Spanish name of the California city of Los Angeles?

5. Who painted the painting known as The Potato Eaters?

6. What is the oldest continually inhabited city in the world?

7. What is the capital of New Zealand?

8. What British monarch was also called the Empress of India?

9. Who are the Jesuits?

10. What is the Great Star of Africa?

11. What city was the first to reach a population of 1 million?

12. In what Shakespeare play do Moth, Peaseblossom, Cobweb and Mustardseed appear?

13. What is shoo-fly pie?

14. Where is the driest spot on Earth?

15. What is the deepest hole ever created on Earth?

16. Who was Gregor Mendel?

17. What was real name of Mother Teresa?

18. What is the essential ingredient of genuine root beer?

19. What is the source of the Nile River?

20. Who said, Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise?



1. The emperor who made Christianity the state religion of The Roman Empire was Constantine (Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus Augustus, 272- 337 AD). He was Emperor from 306 to 337. Well known for being the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity, he is sometimes called St. Constantine; however, there is a historical dispute over whether he ever actually became fully Christian himself. He declared himself to be Christian; however, he continued to be the head of the pagan priesthood and after his victory at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge (312 AD), a triumphal arch called the Arch of Constantine was decorated with images of sacrifices to the gods Apollo. Diana and Hercules but contains no Christian references, imagery or symbolism.

2. The term The Big Apple for New York City was coined by touring jazz musicians of the 1930's who used the slang expression apple for any town or city. Therefore, to play New York City is to play the big time, The Big Apple.

3. The phalanges are the finger bones of the hand. They are fourteen in number, three for each finger and two for the thumbs.

4. The full name of Los Angeles is El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reina de Los Angeles de Porciuncula. The city's name can be abbreviated to 3.63% of its size, L.A.

5. The Potato Eaters was painted by Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh (1853 -1890). Known in Dutch as De Aardappeleters, it was painted in April 1885 in Nuenen, Netherlands. The painting depicts a group of ugly peasants eating their evening meal by a single ceiling light. It is on display in the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

6. Damascus in what is now Syria was founded in 753 BC making it the oldest continuously inhabited city in existence.

7. The capital of New Zealand is Christ Church.

8. It was Queen Victoria (1819 -1901) who was also called the Empress of India.

9. The Jesuits are more formally known as The Society of Jesus. It is a religious order of Catholic male priests. The group was founded in 1534 during the Catholic Counter-Reformation by the Spaniard (saint) Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556). The Jesuits today form the largest single order of priests and brothers in the Catholic Church and are engaged in evangelization in 112 nations. The greatest number of Jesuits are in The Philippines, India and the U.S. The Jesuits are known for their work in education (founding schools, colleges, universities and seminaries), intellectual research, and cultural pursuit. Jesuits also promote social justice and ecumenical dialogue.

10. Until 1985, the largest polished gem is named Cullinan I or the Great Star of Africa. It is 530.4 carats (106.1 g). The Cullinan II is known as the Lesser Star of Africa (317.4 carats ,63.5 g). Both are part of the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom.

11. The first city to reach a population of 1 million people was Rome, Italy, in 133 BC. At that time, it was the capital of The Roman Empire.

12. They are all fairies in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.

13. Shoo-fly pie (also known as shoo fly pie) is a traditional Pennsylvania Dutch (Amish) molasses pie. The pie gets its name because the sugary molasses attracts flies that must be "shooed" away. Shoo-fly pie's origins are unknown but may have its roots in treacle (golden syrup) pie.

14. Although the Sarah Desert town of Tidikelt in Algeria has not receive a drop of rain for ten years, the driest place on Earth is in the valleys of the Antarctic near Ross Island. There has been no rainfall there for two million years. Antarctica is essentially a desert. The average yearly total precipitation is about two inches. Although covered with ice (all but 0.4% of it, ice.), Antarctica is the driest place on the planet with an absolute humidity lower than the Gobi desert. Also, ninety percent of the world's ice covers Antarctica. The ice in Antarctica is seventy percent of all the fresh water in the world. Antarctica is the only land on our planet that is not owned by any country.

15. The deepest hole ever drilled by man is the Kola Superdeep Borehole in Siberia, Russia. It reached a depth of 12,261 meters (about 40,226 feet or 7.62 miles.) It was drilled for scientific research and produced some unexpected discoveries, one of which was a huge deposit of hydrogen that was so massive that the mud coming from the hole was boiling with it.

16. Gregor Mendel (1822 -1884) was an Austrian monk and scientist who was the founder of the science of genetics. Mendel demonstrated that the inheritance of certain genetic traits in pea plants followed patterns. These patterns are referred to now as Mendel's Law of Inheritance. The significance of Mendel's work was not recognized until the early 20th century.

17. Mother Teresa (1910 - 1997) actual name was Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu. She was born in Scopje, Albania, at that time part of the Ottoman Empire (now the Republic of Macedonia). At the age of 18, she joined the Sisters of Loreto and was given the name Teresa. For over 45 years, she ministered to the poor, sick, orphaned, and dying in Calcutta, India. She was a Catholic nun who founded the Missionaries of Charity and became an Indian citizen. Following her death, she was beatified by Pope John Paul II and was given the title Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.

18. Genuine root beer is made using the root of the sassafras plant or the bark of a sassafras tree. Root beer is a carbonated beverage and comes in two types, alcoholic and non-alcoholic. The alcoholic content of alcoholic root beer is very low. The non-alcoholic type of root beer is now considered a soft drink but was marketed as an alternative beverage to alcohol before and during prohibition in the U.S. Today, many companies create a pseudo-root beer using artificial ingredients. The name root beer is rarely used outside North America and the Philippines. Most other countries have their own types of root-based beverages.

19. The Nile has two major tributaries, The White Nile and the Blue Nile. The White Nile starts in the Great Lakes region of central Africa. The Blue Nile starts at Lake Tana in Ethiopia. The two rivers meet near the Sudanese capital of Khartoum.

20. Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise was said by Benjamin Franklin in his publication, Poor Richard's Almanack. (Yes, almanack is spelled correctly. That was the way it was spelled in the 18th Century when Franklin was alive.)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Chinese Calendar

The Chinese calendar is a lunar-solar calendar. It is not exclusive to China, but it is used in many other Asian cultures as well. In most of East Asia today, the Western or Gregorian calendar is used for commerce and for everyday activities, but the Chinese calendar is still used for marking traditional East Asian holidays. It is also used in astrology, such as in choosing the most auspicious date for a wedding. In China, the traditional calendar is known as the agricultural calendar and the Gregorian calendar is known as the common calendar. The traditional Chinese calendar is the oldest calendar still in common use in the world.

According to traditional beliefs, some form of the Chinese calendar has been in use for between three and half millennia and five millennia. The earliest evidence of the Chinese calendar is found on the oracle bones used in divination during the Shang Dynasty (1766- 1122 BC). Tradition holds that in that era the new year began on the first new moon after the winter solstice.

The Gregorian Calendar was adopted by the Chinese government on January 1, 1912, but only for use in official business. The Chinese people continued to use the traditional calendar. After the Kuomintang (Chinese Nationalist Party) established the Republic of China on October 10, 1928, the Gregorian calendar was officially adopted, effective January 1, 1929. The (Communist) Peoples Republic of China has continued to use the Gregorian calendar since 1949.

In the Chinese calendar, the Chinese zodiac sign which the sun enters during the month and the ecliptic longitude of that entry point usually determine the number of days in a regular month. Month number one of the Chinese calendar (zhēngyuè; in Western astrology, Pisces) literally translates as principal month. The beginning of each zodiac year should correspond to the first day of the lunar year.

The Gregorian calendar year of 2011 is reckoned in the seldom-used but continuously numbered system in the Chinese calendar as 4708 or 4648.

The Chinese calendar has followed certain rules since 104 BC. Some of them are:

· The months of the Chinese calendar are lunar months.

· The first day of each month begins at midnight on the day of the dark moon; however, the traditional Chinese day begins at 11 p.m.

· Each year has 12 months and they are referred to by the month number or by the name of the month.

· Every second or third year has an intercalary month (an insertion of a month into the calendar to make the calendar follow the seasons or moon phases). The intercalary month has the same number as the preceding regular month, but is also called "intercalary".

· Every other jieqi (a seasonal marker for farmers to know when they should plant) of the Chinese solar year is equivalent to an entry of the sun into a sign of the tropical zodiac (a cusp).

· The sun always passes the winter solstice (enters Capricorn) during month 11.

· If there are 12 months between two successive occurrences of month 11, not counting either month 11, at least one of these12 months must be a month during which the sun remains within the same zodiac sign. If only one such month occurs, it is designated intercalary, but if two such months occur, only the first is designated intercalary.

· The times of the new moons and the sun entering a zodiac sign are determined using the time in the Chinese Time Zone by the Purple Mountain Observatory near Nanjing.

Every year of the Chinese calendar is associated with one of twelve animals. Legend has it the Buddha summoned all the animals to appear before him before he departed from the earth. But, only 12 came to bid him farewell. As a reward to the 12, he named a year after each one of them in the order in which they arrived. The Chinese believe that the animal ruling the year in which the person is born has a profound effect on that person's personality. The animals in order are the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and boar.

2011 was the Year of the Rabbit; 2012 is the Year of the Dragon. The Chinese New Year in 2012 is on January 23, 2011.

Knowledge Quiz, No. 27

I dislike the term trivia. No knowledge is trivial. All information contributes to the whole of an intelligent human being. And, it is an essential part of critical thinking. That is why I did not call this a Trivia Quiz. Instead, I am calling it a Knowledge Quiz.

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Knowledge Quiz, No. 27

The answers are at the bottom.

1. What are the 7 deadly sins?

2. What does the name Lucifer mean?

3. What are the 6 verb tenses in English?

4. What is the capital of Paraguay?

5. What are The Four Noble Truths of Buddhism?

6. Who said that life is a tale told by an idiot signifying nothing?

7. According to the book of Exodus of The Bible, what were the 10 plagues of Egypt?

8. Who was Sisyphus?

9. What were the names of the 12 Tribes of Israel?

10. Who wrote the fable, The Tortoise and The Hare?

11. What are the 6 trigonometry function?

12. Who founded The Bank of America?

13. Who are the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse?

14. Who invented champagne?

15. What are the 9 systems of the human body?

16. What is the driest place on the planet?

17. What are the 5 sports of the modern pentathlon?

18. What nation has the largest number of lakes?

19. Who were the 6 wives of the English king, Henry VIII?

20. Where was the first paved road in the world?



1. The 7 Deadly Sins are vices. They have been recognized since the time of the Ancient Christians as responsible for humanity's tendency to sin. They are 1. pride, 2. envy, 3. wrath (anger), 4. sloth (laziness), 5. avarice (greed), 6. gluttony, and 7. lust.

2. Lucifer is a name that refers to the devil or Satan before the angel was cast out of Heaven. In Latin, Lucifer means light-bearer or bringer of light (from the words lucem ferre). It was the name given to the dawn appearance of the planet Venus. which was also called the Morning Star or Day Star. Use of the name "Lucifer" for the devil stems from applying to the devil what Isaiah 14: 3-20 says of a king of Babylon whom he calls the Shining One which in turn is a reference to the Morning Star. In Revelations 22:16, Jesus is also called the Morning Star, but not the Latin word Lucifer. Essentially, no one knows why, when or how, the name Lucifer came to be associated with the devil.

3. The 6 verb tenses in English are: 1. present, 2. past, 3.future, 4.present perfect, 5.past perfect, and 6. future perfect.

4. The capital of South American nation of Paraguay is Asuncion.

5. The 4 Noble Truths of Buddhism are: 1. Life is suffering. 2. Suffering is caused by the desire for personal fulfillment. Desire leads to rebirth or more suffering. 3. The way to extinguish suffering is to extinguish desire. 4. Following The Noble Eightfold Path eliminates suffering, which in turn ends the cycle of rebirth and leads to nirvana (or enlightenment). The Noble Eightfold Path involves right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration, right knowledge and right liberation.

6. William Shakespeare's character Macbeth says it as part of his soliloquy in the play Macbeth. (A soliloquy is a theatrical device whereby a character relates his or her inner thoughts and feelings to the audience. In essence, it is spoken thoughts.)

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more.
It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing
- (Macbeth: Act 5, scene 5, lines 19-28)

7. The 10 plagues of Egypt created by God as told in the Biblical book of Exodus were: 1. the turning of the Nile and other waters into blood, 2. frogs, 3. swarms of lice (or gnats), 4. swarms of flies, 5. a pestilence that killed all livestock, 6. boils that afflicted humans, animals and magicians, 7. A fierce hailstorm, 8. locusts, 9. darkness, and 10. the death of all firstborn males humans and animals.

8. In both Greek and Roman mythology, Sisyphus was a king who was punished by being forced to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down, and to repeat this effort for all eternityz. The word sisyphean means an endless and unproductive labor or task.

9. The twelve tribes of Israel were: 1. Reuben, 2. Simeon, 3. Levi, 4. Judah, 5. Zebulun, 6. Issachar, 7. Dan, 8. Gad, 9. Asher, 10. Naphali, 11. Joseph (later subdivided into Ephraim and Manasseh), and Benjamin.

10. The fable of The Tortoise and The Hare was created by Aesop (c.620-564BC). Although his existence remains uncertain and no writings by him survive, some details of Aesop's life can be found in the writings of Aristotle and Plutarch. And, in many of his stories animals have human characteristics. Among his most famous takes are The Fox and the Grapes, The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse, The Lion and the Mouse, and The Boy who Cried Wolf.

11. The 6 trigonometric functions are: 1. sine, 2. cosine, 3. tangent, 4. cotangent, 5. secant, and 6. cosecant.

12. What eventually became the Bank of America was founded as the Bank of Italy in San Francisco in 1904 by Amadeo Giannini. He established the bank in an effort to cater to immigrants denied service by other banks and was instrumental in rebuilding San Francisco after an earthquake destroyed the city in 1906. The name change took place in 1930. Today, Bank of America is the 4th largest bank in the U.S. and serves clients in about 150 countries.

13. According to the Book of Revelations of The Bible, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are: 1. War (or Conquest) riding a white horse, 2. Slaughter (or War) riding a red horse, 3. Famine (or Pestilence) riding a black horse, and Death riding a pale horse.

14. Champagne is a type of sparkling white wine. It is produced by creating an in-bottle secondary fermentation to create carbonation. The term Champagne is only used to refer to wine produced in the Champagne region of France. The oldest recorded sparkling wine is Blanquette de Limoux which was invented by Benedictine Monks in the Abbey of Saint Hilaire near Carcassonne, France, in 1531. Over a century later, the English scientist and physician Christopher Merret documented the addition of sugar to a finished wine to create a second fermentation. In 1662, Merret presented the Royal Society in London with a paper in which he detailed what is now called methode champenoise.

15. The 9 systems found in the human body are: 1. circulatory, 2. digestive, 3.edocrine, 4. muscular, 5. nervous, 6. reproductive, 7. respiratory, 8. skeletal, and 9. urinary.

16. The driest place on Earth is Antarctica. It is essentially a desert. The average yearly total precipitation is about two inches. Although all but 0.4% of it covered with ice, Antarctica is the driest place on the planet with an absolute humidity lower than the Gobi desert.

17. The 5 sports in the modern pentathlon are: 1. shooting, 2. fencing, 3. swimming, 4. riding (equestrian jumping), and 5. cross-country running.

18. Canada has more lakes than the rest of the world combined. Canada is an Indian word meaning Big Village.

19. The 6 wives of King Henry VIII were: 1. Catherine of Aragon (divorced), 2. Anne Boleyn (beheaded), 3. Jane Seymour (died in childbirth), 4. Anne of Cleves (annulled), 5. Catherine Howard (beheaded), and 6. Catherine Parr (the only wife to outlive him).

20. The first paved road in the world was Woodward Avenue in Detroit, Michigan, U.S.A. As a result, it carries the designation M-1.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

2012- Or Is It? Myths and Facts about Western Calendar

The common theme of calendar making is the desire to organize units of time to satisfy the needs of society. In addition to serving practical purposes, they serve as a source of social order and cultural identity. Calendars also provide the basis for planning agricultural, hunting, and migration cycles. They maintain cycles for personal, religious, cultural and civil events, and they indicate how long it has been since some important event took place..

The earliest calendars were strongly influenced by the geographical location of the people who created, made and used them. In colder countries, the concept of the year was determined by the seasons. But in warmer countries, the Moon was the basic unit for time reckoning because seasonal changes are less obvious.

Most of the oldest calendars were lunar calendars. They were based on the time interval from one new moon to the next, a cycle which is called a lunation. But, in a hotter climate there are annual events unrelated to the phases of the Moon. In some areas it is the rainy season. For instance, in Egypt it was the yearly flooding of the Nile River, and in India it was the annual monsoon season. A calendar is intended to predict these yearly events as well.

The starting date of all calendars are arbitrary and based on an important event in the cultural history of its people.

The Lunar Calendar

According to Genesis, the first book of The Bible, the moon was created on the 4th day. And, the Jewish Midrash says, “The Moon was created for the counting of the days.”

In ancient days, the lunar calendar was the best way to deal with the solar-year. The Jewish lunar calendar, for example, was based on a 19-solar-year period with 7 of the 19 years having 13 months. The 19-solar-year period contained 235 months. Finally, the 19-solar-years added up to a total of 6,939.7 days, a difference of about five weeks per century.

Even the 19-year period required some adjustment, but it became the basis of the calendars of the ancient Chinese, Babylonians, Greeks, and Jews. This same calendar was also used by the Arabs, but Muhammad later forbade shifting from 12 months to 13 months, so that the Islamic calendar now has a lunar year of about 354 days. As a result, the months of the Islamic calendar and the dates of Islamic religious festivals vary from year to year.

According to the Jewish calendar, the years 2011-2012 are 5772-5773. The Jewish high holy day of Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year and it is celebrated over a 2 day period. The next new year for Jews begins at sunset, September 16, 2012, and continues through nightfall, September 18, 2012.

The Ancient Egyptian Calendar

The ancient Egyptians used a calendar with 12 months of 30 days each, for a total of 360 days per year. In about 4000 B.C., the Egyptians added five extra days at the end of every year to bring it more into line with the solar year. These five days became a festival because it was thought to be unlucky to work during that time.

The Egyptians had calculated that the solar year was actually closer to 3651/4 days, but instead of having a single leap day every four years to account for the fractional day (the way we do now), they let the one-quarter day accumulate. After 1,460 solar years, or four periods of 365 years, 1,461 Egyptian years had passed. This means that as the years passed, the Egyptian months fell out of sync with the seasons, so that the summer months eventually fell during winter. Only once every 1,460 years did their calendar year coincide precisely with the solar year.

In addition to the civic calendar, the Egyptians also had a religious calendar that was based on the 291/2-day lunar cycle and was more closely linked with agricultural cycles and the movements of the stars.

The Roman Julian Calendar

When Rome emerged as a world power, the difficulties of making a calendar were well known, but the Romans complicated their lives because of their superstition that even numbers were unlucky. Hence their months were 29 or 31 days long, with the exception of February, which had 28 days. However, four months of 31 days, seven months of 29 days, and one month of 28 days added up to only 355 days. Therefore the Romans invented an extra month called Mercedonius of 22 or 23 days. It was added every second year.

Even with Mercedonius, the Roman calendar eventually became so far off that Julius Caesar, advised by the astronomer Sosigenes, ordered a sweeping reform. 46 B.C. was made 445 days long by imperial decree, bringing the calendar back in step with the seasons. The solar year of the value of 365 days, 6 hours became the basis of the Julian calendar. The months were 30 or 31 days in length, and to take care of the 6 hours, every fourth year was made a 366-day year. Moreover, Caesar decreed the year began with the first of January, not with the vernal equinox in late March. However, despite the correction, the Julian calendar is still 111/2 minutes longer than the actual solar year, and after a number of centuries, even 111/2 minutes adds up.

The Julian calendar, named after Julius Caesar, continues to be used by the Eastern Orthodox faiths for its holy-day calculations.

The Gregorian Calendar

By the 15th century, the Julian calendar had drifted behind the solar calendar by about a week, so that the vernal equinox was falling around March 12 instead of around March 20. Pope Sixtus IV (reign:1471-1484) decided that another reform was needed and called the German astronomer Regiomontanus to Rome to advise him, but Regiomontanus died shortly afterward, and the Pope's plans died with him.

In 1545, the Council of Trent authorized Pope Paul III to reform the calendar once more. Most of the mathematical and astronomical work was done by Father Christopher Clavius, S.J. and were implimented by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582. In addition, a reform suggested by the Vatican librarian, Aloysius Giglio, that every fourth year should be a leap year unless it is a beginning of a century year was also adopted. Century years can be leap years only when they are divisible by 400 (e.g., 1600 and 2000). This rule eliminates three leap years in four centuries, making the calendar sufficiently accurate. Most Catholic countries in Europe adopted the new calendar almost immediately.

When the Gregorian calendar was adopted, ten days were omitted from the calendar, and it was decreed that the day following (Thursday) October 4, 1582 (which is October 5, 1582, in the old calendar) would thenceforth be known as (Friday) October 15, 1582. That was done to compensate for inaccuracies that built up over time concerning the length of a year.

Although the Gregorian calendar was considerably more accurate, it took a long time to adopt in some places. Out of fear of giving in to "popery", in parts of Protestant Western Europe it was not adopted until the1700's. In England and in the United States it was not adopted until 1752. Egypt adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1875. Russia did so in 1918. Japan adopted it in 1873 and China did not adopt it until 1949. Today, the Gregorian calendar is the most commonly used calendar world-wide.

In many countries the Julian Calendar was used by the general population long after the official introduction of the Gregorian Calendar. Thus, events were recorded in the 16th to 18th Centuries with various dates, depending on which calendar was used. Dates recorded in the Julian Calendar were marked "O.S." for "Old Style", and those in the Gregorian Calendar were marked "N.S." for "New Style". To complicate matters further, the first day of the new year was celebrated in different countries and sometimes by different groups of people within the same country on either January 1, March 1, March 25 or December 25. January 1 seems to have been the usual date but there was no standard observed. With the introduction of the Gregorian Calendar in Britain and the her colonies, New Year's Day was generally observed on January 1. Previously in the colonies it was common for March 24 of one year to be followed by March 25 of the next year. This explains why, with the calendrical reform and the shift of New Year's Day from March 25 back to January 1, the year of George Washington's birth changed from 1731 to 1732. In the Julian Calendar his birth-date is 02-1-1731, but in the Gregorian Calendar it is 02-22-1732.

Between 1582 and 1752, not only were two calendars (both Julian and Gregorian) in use in Europe and in the European colonies, but two different starts of the year (January and March) were in use in England. Although the "Legal" year began on March 25, the use of the Gregorian calendar by other European countries led to January 1 becoming commonly celebrated as "New Year's Day" and given as the first day of the year in almanacs.

In spite of the revised leap year rule, an average calendar year is still about 26 seconds longer than the Earth's orbital period. But, this discrepancy needed 3,323 years to build up to a single day.

* * * *

The Meaning of the Names of the Days of the Week

in the Gregorian Calendar

The current western calendar supposedly begins its dating from year that Jesus was born. According to the Gregorian calendar, the next year it will be 2012 since the birth of Christ. But, given the surrounding circumstances of Jesus' birth (for instance, the dates of reign of King Herod the Great; 73 or 74 BC- 4 BC), the calendar is off by anywhere from 10 to 4 years. That means that the actual year is anywhere from 2022 to 2016.

The date of the start of the New Year over the several centuries in western societies has varied. at one time or another under different calendars, it has been March 1, March 25, Easter, September 1, December 2, and January 1.

The use of BC before a year indicates that the date is before the birth of Christ. The use of AD before a date comes from the Latin words anno domini (in the year of our lord) and indicates that the date is after the birth of Christ. BCE is an increasingly common abbreviation before a date for politically correct reasons or in recognition that the Gregorian calendar is used in many non-Christian countries. It means before the common era, and when it is used, AD is never used for indicating dates after the birth of Christ.

In spite of the fact that the Gregorian calendar was created by a Catholic Pope and the starting date of the calendar is the supposed date of the birth of Christ, the names of both the days of the week and the months of the year remain from the pagan roots. In English, the days of the week are all name after celestial objects:

English Names

· Sunday (Old English Sunnandæg, the Sun's day), a translation of the Latin phrase dies Solis);

· Monday (moon's day- from the Old English Mōnandæg);

· Tuesday (in Old English, Tīwesdæg, meaning Tiw's day, a day named after the Norse god Twi. It in turn is based on the Latin, die Mars, Day of Mars);

· Wednesday (in Old English Wōdnesdæg, meaning the day of the Germanic god, Wodan).

· Thursday (Old English Þūnresdæ, meaning the Þunor's day). Þunor is commonly known in Modern English as Norse god Thor. Hence, it is called Thor's Day or Thursday. The day is based on the Latin dies Iovis, Day of Jupiter.

· Friday (Old English Frīgedæg, meaning the day of [the Norse goddess] Frige ). The Norse name for the planet Venus was Friggjarstjarna, 'Frigg's star'. It is based on the Latin dies Veneris, Day of Venus.

· Saturday is the only day of the week to retain its Roman origin in English, named after the Roman god Saturn. In Latin it was dies Saturni, Day of Saturn. Ironically, it is the only week-day name in Latin-based languages which does not retain its Latin root.

European Names

· Many European languages, particularly all of the languages rooted in Latin, have changed the name of the first day of the week name to the equivalent of "the Lord's day" (based on Ecclesiastical Latin dies Dominica). In Spanish and Portuguese, it is domingo; in French, dimanche; in Romanian, duminică; and in Italian, domenica.

· The second day of the week in Latin-based languages is named after the moon and all are a variant of the Latin word lunie which means moon in Latin.

· The third day of the week in Latin-based languages is names after the Roman god of war, Mars. In French, the day is called mardi; in Spanish, martes; in Romanian, marţi; and in Italian martedi.

· The fourth day of the week in Latin-based languages is named after the Roman god, Mercury and in French is mercredi; in Spanish, miércoles; Romanian, miercuri; and in Italian, mercoledì.

· The fifth day of the week's name in latin-based languages is based on the Latin dies Iovis, the day of Jupiter, the god of thunder. in French it is called jeudi; in Spanish, jueves, in Romanian, joi and in Italian, giovedì.

· The sixth day of the week in latin-based languages is based Latin dies Veneris, Day of Venus. Venus was the Roman goddess of beauty, love and sex. In French, the day is called vendredi; in Spanish, viernes; in Romanian, vineri; and in Italian, venerdì. Venus was the Roman goddess of beauty, love and sex.

· In Latin, the last day of the week is called dies Saturni, Day of Saturn. In the Latin-based languges, in French, it is called samedi. In Spanish and Portuguese the last day of the week is called sábado; in Romanian, sâmbătă; and in Italian, sabato. All of these words come from Sabbata dies (Day of the Sabbath), a the day of rest in the Jewish religion. The word Sabbath is a Hebrew word meaning cease and rest.

The Meaning of the Names of the

Months in the Gregorian Calendar

Most of the names of the months are Ancient Roman in origin. They were named after Roman deities or important Ancient Romans. The remainder of the month's names are rooted in Latin.

The Roman year began in March. The Gregorian calendar instituted by Pope Gregory XIII established January as the first month of the year. This information is important in understanding some of the names below.

  • January: This month is named after Janus, the Roman god of doors, beginnings, sunset and sunrise. He had one face looking forward and one backward.

  • February: In Latin, februare means to purify. On February 15, the ancient Romans celebrated the festival of forgiveness for sins and 'purified ' their souls.

  • March: This month is named after Mars, the Roman god of war,

  • April: The origin of the name of month called April is unclear. It could possibly be derived from the Latin word, aperire, meaning to open, as in the opening floral buds. Or perhaps it could refer to the Roman goddess, Aphrodite, the goddess of love. She was called Venus in Ancient Greek mythology.

  • May: This month is named after Maia, the Roman goddess who was the daughter of Atlas and mother of Mercury.

  • June: This month is named after Juno, the Roman goddess, who was the daughter of Saturn and the wife of Jupiter. She was called Hera in Ancient Greek mythology.

  • July: The seventh month of the year was renamed for Julius Caesar in 44 BC who was born in this month. Quintilis, Latin for fifth month, was its former name.

  • August: Formerly known as Sextilis (sixth month), it was renamed for Emperor Augustus Caesar in 8 BC.

  • September: This month was the seventh month in of Julian or Ancient Roman calendar. The Latin word septem meant seven.

  • October: This month is eighth month of the Julian calendar. The Latin word octo meant eight.

  • November: This month was the ninth month of the Ancient Roman calendar. The word novem is Latin for nine.

  • December: This month was the tenth month of the Julian calendar. The Latin word decem, means ten.