Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Inca Empire

Fig.1: The poor treatment of 
the Inca civilization gives me 
an ugly, stinky llama face!
In terms of powerful empires in history, many get the short end of the stick just because they're not European or Mongol or Galactic. The Inca Empire can certainly be considered one of them. They possessed the largest state in Pre-Columbian America, and implemented a successful political and social system that governed and educated millions of people. And yet what are they known for? Getting their butts kicked by the Spanish, and being the focus of a cartoon with a talking llama (fig.1). The Inca even get shortchanged with their name: the word Inca really only denoted the rulers of the state, while the empire itself was called Tawantinsuyu. On second thought, maybe I'm better off using "Inca" just so I don't get carpal tunnel typing that monstrosity of a name out every time. Nonetheless, the Inca deserve more credit from the general public than they deserve, and it is my patriotic duty (as an author of a small-time blog that really only my mother subscribes to) to spread the word about this underrated civilization. It really is the least I can do.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Toledo War

Fig.1: The Toledo Strip, home to the Toledo Strip Mall with a Dunkin Donuts, 
a Krispy Kreme, and a Tim Horton's all in one convenient location!
Boundary disputes have perhaps caused more wars in the past two hundred years than any other issue, save for who is entitled to that last slice of pizza. Even in the 21st century, skirmishes between countries over where my stuff starts and your stuff ends occur regularly in Africa, South and Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe, and in the snack bar at the United Nations. But did you know that a war almost occurred between two states in the United States over a chunk of land about the size of Andorra? It's true: Michigan and Ohio both raised and armed militias in 1835 in order to keep a less than 500 square mile swath of territory known as the Toledo Strip under their own sovereignty. Both wanted access to the vital port linking the Maumee River to Lake Erie, the fertile farmland in the west, and to play home to the storied Toledo Mudhens minor league baseball team. The ensuing standoff left a staggering zero dead, one slightly wounded, and countless people's feelings hurt. It remains the largest internal dispute in United States history. And by that I mean it remains the largest internal dispute in United States history that deals with a strip of land in the Midwest with the same name as a city in Spain in which no one actually died.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Code of Hammurabi

Rule #1: Don't bring up King Hammurabi's nose.
Rules, rules, rules! They seem to be everywhere! In the classroom, at the airport, on that bottle of super glue (why can't I use it to stick sequins all over my sleeping roommate's face?). You can't go anywhere without having to follow some set of rules! Well we can blame an 18th century BC Babylonian king for that, who should have spent more time inventing the doughnut so they would stop living BC (Before Crullers). While Hammurabi (Rule #1) was not the originator of codifying the laws of the land, he was the first to popularize the idea, as well as transcribe it in the common language so that most everyone could understand it. After him, all civilizations from the Egyptians, Persians, Romans, and Grumpy British Nannies began to lay out everything that was expected from the population in writing for all to see, which is never good for folks like me that don't want to put their toys away or go to sleep by 9:30.

Thursday, September 5, 2013


Fig.1: The greatest contribution 
Zanzibar has ever given the world, 
suspenders and all.
If you're looking for a beautiful island with a rich history, colorful personalities, and one-of-a-kind wildlife, look no further than good ol' Zanzibar (even though it might be far from where you are, since it's on the east coast of Africa). While it is merely an autonomous region of the African nation of Tanzania today, Zanzibar boasts it's own unique independent history, and it even became the seat of power for monarchies as far away as the Arabian peninsula. While the mix of cultures present in Zanzibar have caused some conflict over the years, its blend of African, Arabian, and Indian peoples and customs have only added to the allure and flavor that make up the island. Most importantly, Zanzibar is the birthplace of a gentleman named Farrokh Bulsara, later known as Freddie Mercury (fig.1), lead singer and songwriter for the legendary rock group, Queen. Even though Mercury only lived on the island for a short period of his life, it had such a profound effect on him that nearly every Queen hit song was about the history of Zanzibar. Don't believe me? Well, let's go through and find out, shall we?

Archaeologists believe that Zanzibar has been inhabited for at least 20,000 years; since it is an island about twenty miles off the coast of the mainland, it must have been pretty difficult to "Keep Yourself Alive" with food and a fresh-water supply if you were an Ancient Zanzibarian. But they succeeded, and Zanzibar Town on the west side of the island is considered to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in Africa, which is one of the few accolades with "oldest" and "Africa" in it that the Egyptians haven't snagged up. A first century Greek text on ports in the Indian Ocean refers to an island named Menuthias in the location of Zanzibar, and praises its booming trade of tortoise shells, as well as even cryptically refers to "Fat Bottomed Girls" putting on a "Bicycle Race." Zanzibar was certainly one-of-a-kind even back then!