Friday, June 30, 2023

Greece 2023: Greece And Geography (Prologue The Third)

 To understand Greek History and lot of what we associate with "Greece" and what we saw on our trip, one has to understand the geography.  In this case, Geography was very determinative in how we understand "Greece".

As a historical country, Greece (Ἑλλάς  pronounced "Hellas", thus the ancient reference to the Hellenes) is a part of the Balkan Peninsula of the main European continent consisting not only of the attached land mass itself, but also of the islands of the Agean, Ionian, and Mediterranean (over 6,000 in the current Greek republic):

Another unusual feature of Greece is the fact that mainland narrows at one point to 3.9 miles/6.3 km.  Known as the Corinthian Isthmus which is bounded by the Gulf of Corinth and the Saronic Gulf, this effectively separated the mainland of Greece (Attica and Boeotia) from the Peloponnesian Peninsula, thus creating a sharp divide between the two geographies (and making Corinth fabulously wealthy as a transfer point in the process).

The geography of Greece is largely mountainous (80%) with limited plains (making it, at least in that way, like Japan) with one of the most extensive coastlines in the world (11th longest); one is never too far removed from either the mountains or the sea.

All of this, of course, has impact.

To the Greeks, the sea was never seen as a barrier but rather as a highway: the first Greek civilizations of the Cyclades and Minoans were actually based on islands and the Mycenean culture used the sea for trade and invasion, as the Trojan War alludes to (and modern archaeology suggests).  The sea also allowed the Greeks to colonize and expand throughout the larger Mediterranean and beyond.  The Greeks became great travelers, merchants, and colonists.

  Of course, being on the Mediterranean and Asian End of the Mediterranean also meant that Greece later in its history was a convenient stopping and conquest point for and all going East or West.

The mountainous terrain and relative lack of plains meant that, for the large part, small habitations (the  polis) formed.  We know the names of many of these small city states:  Athens, Sparta, Argos, Corinth, Thebes, Elea. The nature of the land meant that for the most part farming was towards plants that could survive in dry, somewhat arid conditions for at least 50% of the year:  the olive, the grape, grains.  

A mountainous terrain also meant that there were several choke points to prevent travel.  The pass at Thermopylae was the most famous, but there were others. Historical battles occur - and re-occur - at these choke points.

The separation between the Peloponnese and the mainland part of Greece also led to a difference in strategy in the two main powers:  Athens, located along the coast and in somewhat arid conditions, turned to the sea for power projection while Sparta, deep in the heart of the Peloponnese with somewhat more plains, turned to land warfare as their power projection (and while Athens could and did field credible land armies, Sparta never really became a sea power until late in the Peloponnesian war when Persian gold allowed them to buy a navy).  Also, neither side particularly developed cavalry as there were not great plains; it is to the north that we read of the horse lords of Thessaly.

Even after the Classical period, geography continued to play a role. The mountainous terrain and meant that during the Frankish and Ottoman wars, small territories could exists and hold out.  The coastline meant that Venetian colonies could be supplied and reinforced, even after the mainland had been conquered.

As a small country, Greece is also very close together.  It was shocking to me to realize that Athens and Sparta, the two great adversaries of the Peloponnesian War, are a mere three hours drive from each other.  Corinth is about 1.5 hours drive in either direction.  The distances are not nearly as vast as the writing makes them out to be.

Some pictures from driving around may help to give an idea of the countryside and geography:

Thursday, June 29, 2023

The Collapse CVIII: Troubling News

02 June 20XX +1

My Dear Lucilius:

Bothersome news from the Near Abroad.

As you may recall, one of the realized benefits last year from what has become the loose association of communities that surrounds us is that a ham radio network established – or re-established – itself (to be fair, I never really understood how such things work). While I am certainly not “in the know” on anything, Young Xerxes apparently is. He has occasionally mentioned news which has I have noted and let pass out of my brain as it really had no impact on my own small world.

This afternoon, he brought a different set of news.

Nothing truly focused of course: rumors of trouble in outlying homesteads, of homes burned and available supplies taken. No crops are bothered, but apparently livestock is slaughtered, sometimes for food and sometimes for the sheer waste of life. To date, anyone located at any of these locations has not been heard from.

It is all quite ominous of course, and even he discussed it in somber tones.

I have always known such things were possibilities, Lucilius. I have even imagined what life in the urban centers must look like now – and one of those urban centers is only 1.5 hours from here, so it is not as if this the sort of thing that is vapid fantasy on my part. And logically of course things would run out in the cities at some point and start to radiate outward. The question, of course, was how long it would take.

There are a number of factors that would control and mitigate it, I imagine. One is simply survival of the sort of element that would do that. Another is the availability of fuel to enable wider ranging activities – travel by foot takes a long time, and I cannot imagine more fuel is being refined as we speak.

Perhaps in my hopefulness I had not hoped that such things would happen so soon. But it appears that they are, whether I theorize them as unlikely or not.

It is not the event itself that distresses me, upsetting as the thought of violence is. It is fact that in the space of less than a year we have apparently entered a more barbaric era so quickly.

I fear that once such collapses as civilizations occur, it will be rather hard if not impossible to resurrect civilizations so quickly. The Dark Ages were not only dark – they were long.

Your Obedient Servant, Seneca

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Greece 2023: A Brief History (Prologue The Second)

One of the fascinating things to me about Greece is that it is awash with history.
(Citadel of Mystras - Mystras/Sparti, Frankish/Byzantine era)

Many Americans have likely heard of Sparta and Athens, and most would likely know that someone that Alexander the Great existed, but before and after that remains a large blank until probably the 1990's and the vacation spots of Mikinos and Santorini became a thing.  All the items in the middle are largely just "filler".  

Humans having been living in Greece for a shockingly long time, perhaps as long as people have actually been around.  And some of the earliest and greatest civilizations of Europe that we have ruins and records of started in Greece: The Cycladic civilization (3200 B.C.), the Minoan civilization (2700 B.C. - 1500 B.C.), and the Mycenean Civilization (1600 B.C. to 1200 B.C.).

(The Parthenon - Athens, Classical Era)

At which point everything collapsed in what has been called the Late Bronze Age collapse, when most of the civilizations along the Levant and Eastern Mediterranean collapsed for reasons speculated but not determined.    We know little of why the collapse happened or what happened in the intervening years until approximately the 8th century B.C., when The Illiad and The Odyssey emerge and the first Olympic Games occur (776. B.C.).  

Into this Archaic period and then the Classical period (776 B.C. to 338 B.C.) small kingdoms and city states - the polis - emerge.  Argos, Athens, Thebes, Sparta - names that we learn of in The Illiad - reappear with different parties involved.  The polis fight among themselves and embark on a colonization effort that sees them planting colonies as far away as eastern Spain and the Crimean peninsula.  The Greeks - upstarts that they were - pushed back the Persian Empire's expansion westward in the 5th century B.C.,  then involves itself in the civil war known as the Peloponnesian War (431 B.C. to 404 B.C.).  After the Spartan victory, the next 60 years or so are consumed with more infighting until Philip the Second, father of Alexander the Great, effectively conquers all of Greece in 338 B.C.

(The Temple of Hephaestion - Athens, Classical Era)

From here, Greece becomes less of a central player and part of other kingdoms:  First the Alexander the Great's Empire, then the Macedonian Kingdom, and then the Achaean league - until their conquest by Rome in 146 B.C. and their incorporation into the Roman Republican Empire - where, as a constituent part of the Roman Republican Empire, then the Roman Imperial Empire, then the Eastern Roman Empire that became Byzantium, they remain for over a thousand years.

Until the Fourth Crusade (1204 A.D.), when Constantinople is invaded, the Latin Empire of Constantinople is established, and Greece proper is divided up into Frankish principalities and Italian city-state possessions such as Venice.  Suddenly an influx of Western impinged itself on Greece - until the Franks were in turn reconquered by the Byzantines (the Venetians held out far longer).

(The Library of Hadrian - Athens, Roman Era)

The Byzantine Renaissance lasted only for a brief time, relatively speaking. The Ottoman Turks began conquering parts of the Byzantine Empire and Greece both before and after the Fall of Constantinople in 1453; the Despotate of The Morea in the Peloponnese fell in 1460.  After this, Greece was largely an Ottoman possession with Venice controlling the Western (Ionian) Islands and some land bases on the continent, which largely fell to the Ottoman's in the 15th and 16th Century.  

Venetian rule ended in 1797 with the dissolution of the Venetian Republic by Napoleon and the Ionian islands were (briefly) ruled by France through 1815, when they passed to Britain.  The Ottomans continued their rule in the rest of Greece until 1830, where after a series of revolts by the Greeks (1821-1830) and the final intervention of Great Britain and France, Greece was declared an independent country for the first time (arguably) since 146 B.C. (338 B.C. if you want to perhaps be more precisely correct).

(The White Tower - Thessaloniki, Byzantine/Turkish Era)

I will end the history lesson here although that is not the end, of course:  add in an imported monarchy that brought in 19th Century European Architectural ideals, a series of wars in the Balkans, invasion of Turkey (and ultimately, defeat in Anatolia), military dictatorship, invasion first by Italy and then by Germany in WW II, a Civil War (1946-1949), and a military coup (1967-1974) and it is clear that even after "Greece" became a thing again, there was still a great deal more history.

(Palace of St. Michael and St. George - Corfu City, British Protectorate)

Why does it matter?  Because (I suspect) when we think of "Greece" we often think only of Athens and Sparta (The Classical Period) - but in point of fact every civilization that has been in Greece has left its mark -  thus the comment by our tour guide repeatedly that Greece is a Monument state in that there is history and ruins almost wherever one goes.  It is makes it challenging on two levels:  on the first, the practical fact that in order to preserve some history one has to either destroy or work around other history; the second that there is always a careful balance between preserving the old and allowing the new. 

(Gate to the Old City - Corfu City, Venetian period)

And so our journey was not just through "Greece The Classical Age", it was more "Greece Through The Ages".  Which I had not really anticipated, but made undoubtedly for a far better tour.

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

On Training And Re-Sets

 Our Iaijutsu Seminar concluded yesterday.

It was the first time we have had to train with our Grand Master in 3 years, due to the The Plague.  We had a total of 22 hours of training over five days.

It was...invigorating.

There is something about training five hours a day under the eye of the highest member of your school or order that focuses the mind wonderfully, like nothing else can:  partially, of course, from the terror of doing something incorrectly and reflecting poorly not so much on yourself but on the dojo, but also partially from the fact that one wants to show improvement and get things correctly.  As a koryu (Old combat style founded before 1600), form and details matter as much as the execution itself - our art is labeled Iaijutsu not Iaido as it retains its original combative application.  The techniques themselves were used at one time for actual life and death combat; although we no longer engage in these, maintaining them in their original form is important.

It came at a perfect time:  no work or other responsibilities to divert my attention with a great jagged chasm between my life before June and my life after June.  A time (at least in theory) of reflection.

I had a lot of time to reflect, doing kata and then coming home and making notes on everything that had been given to me as a correction or as new information.  I am still processing it of course, but there some immediate things to walk away with:

1)  Iaijutsu is the Path:  Or at least, Iaijutsu is my path.  Training directly with the headmaster reminded me again of why love Iaijutsu - and how far I still have to go.

2)  Details matter:  It was emphasized to us that every detail - every one - matters.  Things that I have taken for granted in activities like bow in, bow out, and even standing during training - all have confidence, all matter.  The fact that this is true of everything else in life is probably just a passing thought.  Probably.

3)  To do something, we have to not do others:  There is a finite amount of time anyone one of us has to dedicate to activities, a finite amount of energy to expend.  At some point, we have to make choices.

4) The Way is in Training:  This thought is not original to me; it originated with Miyamoto Musashi in A Book Of Five Rings.  It was re-emphasized to me this week in that the only way to improve and get better - in Iaijutsu, in gardening, in writing, in anything - is to do it repeatedly.

5)  Iaijutsu is really all about life:  This is not a new lesson but one that was re-emphasized to me.  Everything in Iai - Timing and distance, details, constantly seeking improvement, attention to detail - all of these are as much a part of every other aspect of life as they are a part of Iaijutsu.  If I am a good Iai practitioner, it follows (in theory anyway) I should be a reasonable human being skillful in many aspects of life and human relationships because things like timing, distance (spatial or psychological), and self improvement are just as critical there as they are in Iai. It is just that we do not use swords.

The longer this month goes, the more this unexpected reset seems very much like a planned reset by Someone.  

Monday, June 26, 2023

Lots Of Things, Lots Of Places, Almost All Together

 Apologies for the delay in responses this week.  For the first time in three years, the head of my sword school has been able to come to U.S. to train with us.  Trainings are broken into a morning and evening session and (perhaps not surprisingly) I have been coming home and largely collapsing, so writing and responses have been crammed into the morning or early afternoon.

Perhaps even better news is that a seminar in Japan is confirmed for early next year.  It will be shorter than previous years, but at least we will be able to go (assuming, of course, that the world continues to hold together for that long).  It certainly gives me something to work towards.

That has simply contributed to the feeling of being in a whirlwind.

Now that I am back (and to answer a question from earlier this week), I am back on the schedule at my part time job.  If this holds true, it looks like it will be a schedule of something like 12 to 15 hours a week, something like three weeks a month.  That will be welcome, both for the actual income as well as the fact as now I have Japan to plan for.

I am T minus a week or so from starting my new job, and so am scrambling to get the last sorts of things done that will need me to be out of pocket for a time such as car repairs.  And working on what will be the new training regime for the gym.  And, realizing that I have to be onsite now at least part of the time, re-planning my schedule to accommodate everything that I in theory would like to do.

And working on what the new schedule to Old Home will look like (I am thinking now Friday afternoons through Sundays or even Mondays, but that will have to include time to figure out how we are going to get the house cleared out).

And in the back of my head, I still have Greece to write about (and perhaps try and make an actual writing pitch about).

The whole thing makes my head spin a bit.

On the bright side, of course, it sure beats the alternative of 2009, when I had all the time in the world - and nothing to do.

Sunday, June 25, 2023

On Doing It Now

 Friend of this blog Old AF Sarge posted a thought-provoking duet of posts on the death of a neighbor and the passage of time (original posts here and here).  In short, they talk about the death of a long-time neighbor and the thoughts that surround such situations.  Perspective gathering, as it were (the second one is also interesting in that it covers a discussion of open versus closed casket, with some interesting perspectives).

The title of the second post is actually taken from a commenter - "Do It Now - Rob".   

Traveling, and the sudden health issue of The Director, has put me in a reflective mood.

There is always a careful balance that needs to be maintained between the concept of "Carpe Diem" (Seize the Day) and managing for the future.  Too often in the past, speaking only for myself, I have been in the camp of "Do It Now" - with not always great outcomes; the enthusiasm of the young not tempered by wisdom leads to disaster just as often or more so than it leads to success.

At the same time, managing for the future bears its own set of issues.  Undoubtedly we all know of individuals that planned and planned for the future, only to have something devastating happen - a death, a lifestyle change, an event - that destroys the value of all the planning.  The vacations long planned for are never taken, the good clothes carefully selected dress one only for their funeral.

I wonder if some of this is related to age and experience, that many times the advice of "do it now" is given to the young without the admonition of "and plan for the future" and that the advice of  "keep planning for the future" is accepted by the old without the caveat of "and the future is coming pretty quickly".

But I find myself in a unique position at the moment, poised (literally) between the past 14 years and the beginning of a new experience.

Literally outside of iaijutsu, almost everything has changed.  Our home has changed with the impending departure of the last child.  My job of the last seven years, with its known factors and quantities, has expired to be replaced by a new job where (literally) no-one knows me and a second job where I can literally just shut up and work.  My gym has changed (a much bigger deal than one might think).  How often and how long I go to Old Home is likely to changed, but also with the caveat that we are likely not staying here forever.

All of this wants to make me more of the latter, the "and I will manage for the future".  Which is prudent, as I do not know what the future of the next six months will look like.  At the same time, I need to push myself out to "Do it now".

What does that look like?  I am not sure, to be honest with you.  Certainly being willing to try different things is on the list.  If something seems interesting, I should probably try it, it being a great deal like seeing something unique or long searched for in a store:  you should buy it as likely you will not see it again.  Probably being willing to do some more traveling with The Ravishing Mrs. TB.

We should always plan for the future - but like I have often said about eschatological discussions about pre-millennial, post-millennial, or a-millennial, if one dies tomorrow, the entire discussion is moot:  the end has come. Let us not make planning for the future so focused that we fail to see the joys and challenges (and even fun) that is here in front of us.

Do it now, indeed.

Saturday, June 24, 2023

Greece 2023: Prologue

 My interest in Greece came late in my intellectual life.

(The Acropolis - Athens)

A child of the educational system of the 1970's and 1980's, my introduction to history beyond the basics (state history, US History) was minimal at best, largely because my "track" was not in history at that time.  Sure, I knew some about the High Middle Ages - but that was because I was playing Dungeons and Dragons (First edition, thank you very much) which was largely "set" in that period.  And even when I got into college, history remained something I took at interest and never really "clicked" with me beyond an interest in Japanese history (and all things Japanese in general).

Until a long plane ride and Thucydides.

The Parthenon- Athens

The plane ride was to visit The Director at his graduate program in Hawai'i; the book was The Peloponnesian War, which related the first 20 years of the great struggle between the Athenian Thalassocracy and the Spartan Alliance (431 A.D. to 404 A.D.) which led eventually to the catastrophic failure of the Greek City State and led to the rise of Macedon and Philip II and Alexander the Great who in 338 B.C. at the Battle of Charonea effectively co-opted all of Greece (except the Spartans) into a pan-Hellenic alliance under Macedon.

View from Edessa

If you have never read Thucydides I cannot recommend him enough; his observational powers were immense and his insights into human nature remain as relevant now as they were 2500 years ago when he wrote.  The folly of war, the corrosiveness of violence, the undermining of political systems and international relations all for "a good cause" - all is there, cleverly disguised as ancient history lesson.

Shrine of the relics of St. Demetrius - Thessaloniki

From this reading, I realized there was a fantastic gap in my historical and educational background, one that impinged on my understanding of history and indeed, Western Civilization.  My library began to grow as first Greek authors and then Latin ones joined my reading list:  Xenophon, Plato, Cicero, Plutarch. Caesar, Tacitus - all of this filled my bookshelves, as well as supplemental general histories.  I soon outgrew my local bookstore and library; to me the greatest thing about the InterWeb was that I could find books there I could find nowhere else.  And then I discovered the Loeb Classical Library, where books were published in their original tongue (Greek or Latin) as well as translated.  Suddenly the world expanded again and authors that were never covered in the Penguin books translations became available.

And yet, I still lacked any view of Greece beyond my books, pictures, and the occasional Greek festival.

Traveling from Igoumenitsa to the island of Corfu, looking North to Albania

For all my reading and all my acquired knowledge, there is still nothing likely actually going somewhere and seeing things.  Of walking where the historical figures I had read of had walked.  Of seeing the geography of the place and understanding how geography impacted everything in the Ancient and Medieval World in a way that is not readily felt in our modern world.

Temple of Apollo - Delphi

In 2022, we found ourselves with vouchers for airfare from a trip to Italy that did not happen.  The Ravishing Mrs. TB asked Nighean Dhonn where she wanted to go for her graduation trip.  "Greece", was her response.  She turned to me - Would I, she wondered, be interested in going?

Pedestal of a statue at Olympia.  2000 years later, we can still read the Greek.

Of course I would love to go.  When would we leave?

View from the Acropolis of Mycenae

Friday, June 23, 2023

A Prayer Request And Numbering Our Days

 One of the habits I tend to practice when I am on vacation is that I regularly track The Book of Face on my phone, mostly as a method of uploading pictures of what we are doing.  As with here, it is always a pleasure to share the places I go with people.  A secondary output of that is I tend to get more updates on people's lives than what I typically do. 

Thus, it was with a bit of shock that I saw one morning that my long time (40+ year) best friend from high school days, The Director, had a stroke.

As it turns out, not just a single stroke.  Likely this was the second or third one and a coworker had finally noticed it. He was in the hospital, then out, then back in as he was still having issues.  He is, thankfully, stabilized and home and working on starting his recovery.

Given my experience with TB The Elder, I am sensitized to strokes.  Given the fact The Director is my age, I am doubly so.

It is a reminder of the realities of life and the fact that life - at least this life - is not endless.

That thought has been on my mind anyway due to the last year or so, with a combination of my father's death, the loss of my job (initially of interest, then of the actual job itself), and doing the actuary math of lifestyles of the over 50.  

My estimate - given family history, which is likely an general guide but never a precise one, suggests that at best I likely have 25-30 years max.  How much of that time remains "productive" remains to be seen but is a great unknown as well.

One of my great strengths - and weaknesses - is that I always like doing and learning new things.  That is of great benefit in that it keeps the mind engaged. It is less good in that one sometimes struggles to keep the commitment and focus on a few things to the point that one becomes more skilled in them.  

And now, with this reminder, it is a good thing to take stock precisely of what I am doing and what I intend to spend the next years - if I am granted them - working on.  Likely it will be a continuing combination of old and new - after all, without the willingness to try the new I would never have gone to Greece or started hiking - but the reality is that I simply cannot just keep "adding" new things without end.  There has to be a combination of adding the new while continuing to focus on those items that I have committed to improving on.

As always I would ask - and I ask only because I know of your generosity in this area - that you would keep the The Director and his family in your thoughts and prayers.  And perhaps, pray for all of us that we, as Moses suggested in Psalm 90, might "number our days" accordingly that we might spend them in the best way possible.

Thursday, June 22, 2023

The Collapse CVII: Dinner Date

 30 May 20XX +1

My Dear Lucilius:

Yes, I know – this seems like a great deal of communication in a very short time. It minds me of the early 19th Century romances one reads where letters went out two and three times a day. I seldom seem to have that much to say, let alone to generate multiple short commentaries.

Still, events sometimes warrant additional communication.

It has been years since I have had someone over for dinner – likely before I relocated here and even before my wife passed away. I was never much of a socialite and dinners usually happened at restaurants or at other people’s homes. Almost never at ours, and certainly never at mine after my wife died.

So how does one entertain, precisely?

Well, one has to choose a menu (Given our current circumstances, something that looks a lot like fish and a side dish seemed likely). One has to clean the location of the dinner – which in my case is my entire house given its size. One has to have table settings, preferably that match. And one likely should have some idea of how the evening will go: what will be the topics of conversation, what will be the entertainment, and things like that.

One should. I, however, struggled.

House cleaning at this point is a dusting and sweep as that is what I have access to. Table settings seemed surprisingly easy to come up with: even if I have not had people come in years for dinner, I still have a matching setting for four. A main dish can easily be caught and ready in 30 minutes; I rounded out the menu with the last of the potatoes and some dried fruit that I had. The course of the evening conversation….well, suffice to say this was the weakest point of the plan.

And so, house cleaning and table set and meal ready to go and music playing on the small rechargeable device, I was ready.

Pompeia Paulina did me the ultimate kindness of dressing for dinner when she arrived – which, after a brief welcome and entry into the house, sent me scuttling to the back of the house to change into something perhaps more presentable. Looking slightly more as if I actually expected company, I proceeded to offer her a delightful apertif of tea and with that, she sat and looked through the bookshelves and greeted the rabbits as I cooked fish.

Dinner conversation was not as strained as I had thought it would be – she seems to be a natural-born raconteur and filled the rather slim meal with a steady flow of conversation and life history. She had somewhat seen The Collapse coming – but who could have fully? She spoke of her daughter and their time there; her daughter’s father was carefully not mentioned in any of her tales.

I repaid the sharing as well as I could, giving her the brief history of my time here and my time leading up to here: my wife’s death, my children’s slow disappearance, my confusion at finding myself at a point in life and having no idea what to do except to come back to a place I had been as a child.

The dinner invitation was a little vague on how long dinner actually had to run; having no better plan, I suggested a series of readings from the bookshelf with the other party choosing for the reader. I had her read from Letters from a Stoic by my namesake; she insisted I read sonnets by Shakespeare. I had not done any sort of dramatic readings in decades; we had tea with honey and laughed endlessly at the words of men long gone.

Finally the sun began to sink below the horizon; better to be back before it went completely down. I armed up (we all seem to arm up now even when walking the shortest distances now; a sign of the times I suppose) and strolled the short distance to her house. The sky had assumed that shade of palest green before dusk that brings me the greatest delight of any color the sky can be.

She asked me if I wanted to come in but I declined; I had no idea how things may have actually gone inside and being only an outsider at best, it is not my place to intrude She was very gracious and thanked me profusely for dinner.


And if anything happened or did not happen Lucilius, I will surely not tell. In the ongoing romance of Young Xerxes and Statiera, I am a supporting cast member only, certainly not one of the stars.

Your Obedient Servant, Seneca

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Old English, A Historical Background: Final Thoughts


Thanks for your patience over the last five months as I have walked through at least a high level review of Anglo Saxon History.

(Offa's Dyke - Source)

This project became a lot more involved than I had originally anticipated. My initial thought was that this was a way to help me keep a commitment to study Anglo-Saxon this year with an eye towards performing a reference-free translation.  What it turned into was a 700 year review of British History - a pretty ambitious goal for someone with a small blog that writes this in his free time.

(The Alfred Jewel - Source)

In reviewing history, there is so much we did not touch on.  Anglo-Saxon artists produced metallurgy and art the equal of anything else.  Anglo-Saxon governing institutions set in place certain practices and beliefs that in some small fashion continue down to our day.  Anglo-Saxon literature (which we will hopefully touch on) remains as fresh and insightful as it did back in the day.

It strikes me that last month is the 30 year anniversary of my cessation of formal tertiary education and since that time, I have not undertaken a research project to this extent or this depth.  It comforts me to know that those skills are not entirely lost and, when prompted, the art of performing research is still something I can access (Using new tools, of course; in my day the InterWeb was barely a thing for research).

   (Anglo-Saxon Sword Belt End Ornament, Sutton Hoo Burial - Source)

At heart I am a historian and, like all historians, believe that the present can only be understood by the past - not the past as we wish to find it, but the past as it really happened. Hopefully this less than brief excursus can shed some light on how England came to be England and where some of the traditions and beliefs of even our own day date from.

(First page of the Beowulf Manuscript circa 975 - 1025 A.D. - Source)

Next steps?  I am still thinking this through.  A brief review of the language might be in order (although Old English is technically "English", it has a number of characteristics which are as foreign to us today as any other foreign language).  And certainly touching on the literature, the main vehicle of Old English, is worthwhile, as the Anglo-Saxons were as skilled writers and observers as any in the modern era.

(Chapel of St. Peter-on-the Wall, built 654 A.D. - Source)

In closing of this segment, I offer a quote from The Battle Of Maldon, which describes a battle in 991 A.D. between Anglo-Saxon troops and Viking Raiders.  The Anglo-Saxon leader,  Byrtnoth, has allowed the Danes to cross an estuary for a fair fight and both sides are now prepared for battle:

 “Nu eow is gerymed; gað ricene to us,
guman to guðe; god ana wat
hwa Þære wælstowe wealdan mote.”

"Now the way is clear for you, O warrriors,
hasten to the battle.  God alone knows
how things  will turn out."

Wes Þu Hal!

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Hammerfall 2.0: New Beginnings And Flattening Ends

 The day after we arrived at the start of our tour (07 July) in Thessaloniki, Greece, I received an e-mail from the HR person at the company I had spent a fair amount of time interviewing at.  Would I be available for a quick call?

The fact that the e-mail had arrived was not terribly surprising, only because of the fact that my references had informed me that they had all been contacted with the idea of moving up the reference check if possible. Still, one never really knows in the current environment until "the letter arrives".

The letter, it seems, arrived, along with a formal job offer.

I have nothing to complain about.  The offer is the top of the range that they informed me they had (yes, it is a pay cut, but that was to be expected) and a very fair offer.  All the anticipated benefits that my industry typically offers (much to the relief of my family).  They had a "no accrued PTO" policy in the sense that time off can be taken as requested (People acting as adults.  Imagine that.). And they are accepting of the fact that I would like to work remotely to continue to manage the transition at Old Home.  

I will have to go into the office again, which will be odd after three years of not going into the office.  That said, as the job is still local (and thus, no move) and they are willing to accommodate "remote",  I have nothing to complain about.

Start date is 05 July. That means I will have been "out of work" for 37 days and most of that by my own choice to accommodate plans which were already in motion.

Thanks be to God, of course.  And thanks to all of you as well for your prayers, well wishes, and encouragement.  

On the Former Employer front, things continue to implode.  I was informed by my friend that is still working there that she was notified that she is being laid off, along with 50% of the remaining work force, at the end of the month (for clarity, the company will have no laid off 80% of its employees since September 2022).  This was not really surprise to her, as the company announced it was going to pay everyone for the entire month on the first payday of the month to help "with financial planning".  I have, in all my days, never heard of this as a policy ever.  

It remains a sad truism that the first layoff is always the best one to be laid off in.  

I anticipate one more entry in this series, documenting the quite slipping of the company below the waters of bankruptcy - less of an obituary and more of an acknowledgement of the passing of an institution that had far more impact on my life than I would have likely anticipated when I took the job originally.  Such is the nature of such things: the most innocuous of items can produce impacts far beyond just the job itself.

Monday, June 19, 2023

Back From Greece 2023

 After slogging through a final 27 hours transit, we are safely back from Greece!

The simple thing I will say - probably multiple times - is that I loved Greece and if you ever get the opportunity, you should go.  Not just for the history - the landscape itself is amazing and we may have literally eaten our way through it.

I have something like a thousand photos and videos for review and a lot of thinking to do, but did want to leave you with a taste of what we saw:

Climbing to the Acropolis - Athens

The Parthenon - Athens

The Ancient Agora of Athens.  The Temple of Hephaestus is in the background.

A mosaic from Pella, the ancient capital of Macedon where Philip II and Alexander the Great were born.

The gold crown and funeral casket of Philip II - Aegae, Modern Vergina

The Monastery of The Great Meteora, dating from the 14th Century - Meteora

Corfu City, Corfu

Crossing between Corfu and Mainland Greece

The alter Screen of St. Charalampos - Preveza

The Harbor of Nafpaktos.  The current building dates from the 15th Century by the Venetians, but the harbor itself dates back to Classical Greece

The Treasury of the Athenians - Delphi

The Theater of Delphi, looking down on the Temple of Apollo

The Stadium of Olympia, where the original Olympics were held 776 A.D. to 393 A.D.

The Bourtzi, a fort built by the Venetian in the 18th Century - Nafpalon

The Lion's Gate - Mycenae.  This represents one of the earliest known sculptures in Europe, dating from 1250 B.C.

The Treasury of Atreus - Mycenae