Learned that the Moors swept out of modern Saudi Arabia in 711 and conquered modern day Spain

Al-Walid I sent an army of his men (varied reports but approximately 10K) out of modern central Saudi Arabia and conquered the Iberian Peninsula in 711 (not much is known about the Iberian Peninsula before the 8th Century).  The Moors would rule this area for the next 7 centuries and their presence had a lasting impact on Spanish culture.

Learned that the Moors swept out of modern Saudi Arabia in 711 and conquered modern day Spain

Gloomy entry alert: If (literally) an army of soldiers rushed by my house, the last thing I would do is pull out a gun and shoot.

I have not been in battle (knock on wood) so have limited credibility, but it seems to me that for every war hero who does something fanatical (like charging a machine gun nest) and survives, there are a thousand would-be heroes who are flat out killed, but we only hear about the one survivor (partially due to propaganda).  So the last thing I would ever do if an army of soldiers was passing by my house is race out with a gun and fire at said army (being part of a militia might be one thing, but an individual and overt act is quite another).  Yet, here is a German soldier’s diary excerpt from the Battle of the Frontiers in World War I, compliments of history.com: “Nothing more terrible could be imagined….We advanced much too fast—a civilian fired at us—he was immediately shot—we were ordered to attack the enemy flank in a forest of beeches—we lost our direction—the men were done for—the enemy opened fire—shells came down on us like hail.”  I truly wonder what that unfortunate civilian was thinking.  Had he given up hope?  Was he suicidal anyway?  Did he have a fleeting moment of invincibility?  A burst of desperation?  One of my favorite lines about war is from The Civil War (Ken Burns), who quoted someone: “War is all hell.”  I can’t think of a worse human instinct than war, especially since it is so often “a rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight.”

Gloomy entry alert: If (literally) an army of soldiers rushed by my house, the last thing I would do is pull out a gun and shoot.

Posting my index cards on history

I tolerated history in junior high school and high school, with the exception of my fall 9th grade year where I had a very prepared teacher who I thrived under.  But otherwise, I was generally a B and C history student.  This is unfortunate, because now that I am an adult I realize that I find history fascinating and spend a lot of time reading about it.  I am starting to document what I know about history (not much :)) so I don’t forget it and can review it.  Plus, I just like to “write” (i.e. type) stuff down.


Posting my index cards on history

There Is A Canadian In My Garden – A Serial Novella

A fictional story just for fun and inspired by the US Homestead Act, 1862. Canada was chosen since it is my nearest international neighbor, and is in no way meant to reflect Canada, its policies or its people. My grandfather immigrated from Canada so it is close to my heart 🙂

There is a man in my garden. When I saw him early this morning at sunrise I didn’t think too much about it — maybe he was looking for his lost dog, after all. But then he took a shovel and started digging, and now I had a problem.

I stepped out on the porch and demanded, “Hey there, what are you doing?”

I startled him. He stopped his shoveling and looked at me. “I am from Canada,” he said by way of explanation.

“What are you talking about? ” I asked. And then I noticed his tent in my backyard. He had a tent pitched square in my backyard. Behind the tent, he’d parked his car, and a woman (his wife?) and a young child were building a fire near my cedar tree.

“Just what in the heck are you doing?” I asked again.

“I’m digging an outhouse,” he said. “At least until I get my house built.”

“Again, what are you talking about?”

“I’m from Canada,” he said again, and extracted a parchment from his pocket. In fact, it was a deed issued by the government of Canada, entitling one “Joseph Pickens” to my land. It even listed my specific address. “I was given this land by the Canadian government, and it is legally mine.”

“Are you nuts?? I live here. This is my house. You are on my property. Take your family and get off! And don’t put your tent or your car on my lawn again!”

“But I am from Canada. This is my land.” He was a mixture of bemused and increasingly indignant.

Now, I’d had enough. I was a fit and muscular man, and I used these muscles to my advantage: I grabbed Joseph Pickens by the collar, walked him to the street and threw him to the ground. “Now try coming on my property again,” I said, standing over him. If I’d been a gorilla, I would have beat my chest, but I am a human so instead towered over him with my hands on my hips. Later, I’d realize I was wearing only a half-open bathrobe and a pair of pajamas (not exactly befitting my stance and posture at that particular moment).

His wife and child had now gotten into the car and tore through my yard toward Joseph Pickens. I jumped back to avoid getting run over, and the car screeched to a halt. Joseph picked himself up from the ground, shook a fist at me, and cried, “This isn’t over. You’ll see. The Canadian government gave me this land!” With that, he leapt in the passenger seat, slammed the door shut, his wife stomped on the accelerator and just like that they were gone.

But the shovel, tent and the fire remained.

Convinced I was hallucinating, I none-the-less walked to the tent, pulled it from its stakes and threw it into the street atop the shovel. I doused the fire with the hose, hardly believing the start I was having to my day.

My neighbors appeared on their porches. “What is going on?” Beth Crosby from across the street called.

“Some crazy dude from Canada said this was his land. He had a campsite in my backyard and everything.” This sparked some laughter, and my mood lightened a little.

Beth Crosby said she’d organize a Neighborhood Watch meeting. “There are too many crazies running around,” she said. “It’d be good for all of us neighbors to get together again.”

I thought this bizarre scene — where I clearly was not hallucinating but just as clearly the man and his wife were on drugs — was over.

But I was wrong…

Copyright 2017, All rights reserved.


There Is A Canadian In My Garden – A Serial Novella

Frederick Douglas is one of my favorite men in history

Any man who is born a slave, learns to read (“illegally”), fights against his owners and will not let even the whip dampen his spirit, who flees then becomes a major voice in Abolition, is someone I admire very much.  On this Martin Luther King Day, I am also thinking of Frederick Douglas, one of my great heroes of all time.  Hopefully MLK does not mind my thinking of Douglas this day 🙂

Frederick Douglas is one of my favorite men in history

Wow, fascinating article about the health of pre-Columbus Americans

Researchers analyzed thousands of skeletons to get a general idea of the health of pre-Columbus Americans.  They learned that in general they were fairly healthy 1,000 years before Columbus, but health was on a slow decline since then (interesting that EUrope was going through plagues and such in the Medevial ages while the American’s health was declining).  Societies that relied on farming were generally less healthy, and the navites along the Brazilian coast most healthy (plains INdisans were also healthy). Urban envinronments appeared in America 2000 years ago, and agriculture 7000 years ago.  And like with the Middle East, the appearance of these things match a decline in health.  Also, in the Mayan culture, which had more urban and agriculture, people were less healthy.


Wow, fascinating article about the health of pre-Columbus Americans

Citizenship Test Flash Cards (What is the Supreme Law of the US)M

My Brother in Law is studying for his US Citizenship test (he is from Europe).  He said there are 100 questions, and 200 possible questions to studyt for.  Was curious what they were so am looking at the US Government flashcards.  Below is the first question plus some of my own explanation added.

What is the Supreme Law of the Land? The Constitution.
On 4 July 1776, the American colonies declared their independence, and in 1778 they put together the Articles of Confederation to loosely define their government. But the articles were imperfect, and did not allow for a strong government that could govern a loose gathering of 13 states and defend against strong foreign powers. Stronger and more clearly defined guidelines were needed.  

Beginning 25 May 1787, nearly 11 years after the US declared its independence, 55 representatives from 12 of the 13 states (Rhode Island did not send delegates) gathered for 4 months to negotiate the Constitution. The representatives were wealthy, learned (and white) men with different — often contrasting — opinions who engaged in countless debates and took more than 400 votes. They were over to overcome strong differences of opinion on whether the Federal or State governments should have more power, if each state should have equal representation or one based on population, how and how long the President should be appointed, and the issue of slavery (they agreed to table the discussion of slavery for 20 years but counted each slave as 3/5 of a person and allowed for 3 new non-slavery states.  

The final document a living (i.e. amendable) document defining a republic providing Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches of government. The fincal consitution, The Supreme Law of the United States of the America, was signed in September 1787 and ratified by the 9th state (9 of the 13 states were required to ratify the document) on 21 June 1788. 

The first 10 Amendments, known as the Bill of Rights and which clearly define individual freedoms, were added in 1791.

Citizenship Test Flash Cards (What is the Supreme Law of the US)M

US History Overview Part 1

Am casually documenting what I know from/about US History for my own edification…


If I have learned anything about history, it is this – bad things happen.  

Take, for example, the Native Americans.  100 million people had lived for 1000s of years in the Americas.   In 1453, they lived their lives in sophisticated tribal socieites (as they had done for generations since before the kings were building their pyramids in Egypt), not knowing that halfway across the world a young and ambitious Ottomon emperor was sending his armies to sack Constantinople.  When the Ottomons emerged victorious following a brief but bloody battle, and the Europenns would go scurrying across the seas in search of new ways to find their beloved silks and spices.

You see, Constannople sat atop the Spice Routes, a series of trails that joined Asia and its fine goods with Europe and its insatiable kings and queens.  When Constantinople fell into the hands of the Ottomans in 1453 (39 years before Columbus’s journey), they could  — and did — begin charging enormous fees for the use of the Silk Road.  This made the cost of these goods prohibitively expensive, and not surprisingly the Europeans began searching for new ways to Asia.  The way that made the most sense to try was by sea.

In the beginning, the Porugese sailed south and east, around Africa and into India, and they got a head start on the rest of Europe. But as Portugal found new ways to India, king Ferdinand and queen Isabella were completing their quest to create a unified Spain (before Ferdinand and Isabella spain was a collection of independent fiefdoms).  Once Spain was united, Isabella could begin her own search for new routes to the spices, and she funded Christopher Columbus’s ambktious plan to sail West to China.

This was 40 years after the fall of Constantinople.  And life for the Native Americans was about to change…

Columbus almost literally stubmled upon the Carribean, and his return in 1493 ignited a SPanish desire for gold and treasure in the new lands. It took just over 50 years of conquest by largely violent men who lived largely violent lives, but when the dust settled nearly all of South and Central AMerica had been conquered and plundered, with most of its peoples killed or enslaved.

 Spreading To The Northwest

It was nearly a century later before Europe turned its attention towards North America in earnest.

In 1513, Ponce de Leon foujnd Florida during his quest for eternal youth and during the 15th century fishermen from Europe fished off the waters of New England in search of cod, but it was not another for another 50 years (1563) that the French established a short-lived colony in the Carolinas and 1566 that Spain established the first permanent colony (St. Augustine) in the future US.  

With Spain controling Florida and expanding up through the future Mexico to Texas, New Mexico and other parts of the future southwest, England, France, the Dutch and even the Swedes postured back and forth for control over the rest of North America during the 17th century (1600s).  In 1607, England established colonies in Virginia and New England, the French controlled the Great Lakes along the MIssissipi River down to the Gulf of Mexico, and the Dutch and later Sweden controlled small portions along the Hudson River up into Albany (New York).  

By 1620, after years of near extinction, Virginians had discovered the black gold that was tobacco, and grew rich and powerful and began exporting slaves from Africa to provide the required labor.  In the north, the Beaver fur trade largely fueled the economies of the various players.  

Finally, after 50 years of posturing in the Northeast, the Dutch expelled the Swedes then England expelled the Dutch, so most of the future US and Canada were controlled by England and France.  The French were largely furriers, trapping and trading for beaver pelts that they could export back to Europe, whereas the English largely used settlers and expansion to gain more control of the area.  

Although the various Indian nations often helped and traded with the colonists, there were still many battles fought between the Native Americans and the colonists.

US History Overview Part 1

Proclamation of 1763

Read about the Proclamation of 1763, which I never heard before…

After the British defeated the French in The French and Indian War (aka The Seven Years War), the British began harsh treatment of the Indians. The Indians, largely led by Pontiac, began rebelling and a number of battles erupted, some which the Indians slaughtered British and some where the British slaughtered the Indians.  In 1763, partially influenced by this (and partially to keep the colonists close to the shores where the “motherland” would have more control over them), Britain enacted The Proclamation of 1763, which banned colonists from settling on Indian lands East of the Appalachians.  For the Americans, who had helped defeat the Indians in part for access to these lands, this would be the first of several acts (such as The Stamp Act) that would drive a wedge between they and the British, and were the first seeds of the American Revolution.

Proclamation of 1763

The Battle of Saratoga

During the American War of Independence:

In 1777, the British devised a new strategy: they would divide-and-conquer the colonies by splitting them in half and breaking their resolve.

Three British armies were to meet in Albany (New York) as part of this plan, but only one of the armies made it and was quickly surrounded by superior American forces at Saratoga.  Over the next two weeks, the British tried two attempts to break free in the Battle(s) of Saratoga, but were repelled (in large part because of Benedict Arnold’s heroics while fighting for the American army) and forced to surrender.

This was a pivotal victory for the Americans and perhaps the most pivotal moment of the entire war.  It was a sign that the Americans might win the war, in turn encouraging the Europeans to support the Americans and the French in particular to join forces with the Americans.

Following the victory, the Americans built a monument in Benedict Arnold’s honor, a monument that is still at Saratoga today.

The Battle of Saratoga