Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Heads-up for 9 November 2010

Mahabharata Podcast
Episode 31 - Rshyashrnga
The Pandavas continue their pilgrimage to all the holy sites of India. With Lomasha as their guide & storyteller, they hear the stories of Rshyashrnga and then the story of Rama Jamadagnya, or "Battle-Axe" Rama, who cut his own mother's head off and single-handedly killed off the entire race of Kshatriyas 21 times!

Also, J.A.B. Van Buitenen, our translator for most of the podcast so far, gives us a hypothesis that the story of Rshyashrnga made its way to Medieval Europe in the form of the Unicorn myth. It is certainly interesting that it took a virgin to capture the unicorn for the king.
(review, feed)

Philosophy Bites
Gideon Rosen on Moral Responsibility
What is moral responsibility? Are there ever grounds for saying that we have diminished responsibility? Gideon Rosen addresses these questions in this episode of the Philosophy Bites podcast. Philosophy Bites is made in association with the Institute of Philosophy
(review, feed)

Elucidations: A University of Chicago Podcast
Episode 17: Brandon Fogel discusses mechanism and causation
In this episode, Brandon Fogel discusses how attitudes toward the idea of action at a distance have changed over the course of history.
(review, feed)

Stuff You Missed in History Class
A Jewish Pirate's Life for Me!
During the golden age of Caribbean piracy, people from all walks of life set sail in search of gold. Yet you may be surprised to hear that some of the pirates were Sephardic Jews. Tune in and learn more about the lives of Jewish pirates.
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KMTT - The Torah Podcast
Parshat Vayetze
KMTT - Parshat Vayetze, by Rav Alex Israel - Angels and Ladders
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TED Talks
Teaching design for change - Emily Pilloton (2010)
Designer Emily Pilloton moved to rural Bertie County, in North Carolina, to engage in a bold experiment of design-led community transformation. She's teaching a design-build class called Studio H that engages high schoolers' minds and bodies while bringing smart design and new opportunities to the poorest county in the state.
(review, feed)

Money, finance and an unexpected link in history

When you learn about finance, you do not exactly expect to find out new data about Florence in the Renaissance or about the Dutch revolt against the Spanish in the 16th century. But it just happened to me.

This morning I was continuing my listening in on the Berkeley Lecture series Geography C110. As I have written before, this is a course in economics with excursions in to history, geography and politics. For all who tend to shy away from economics - this might just be the course that is going to do it for you. And for all those who like geography; eventually this is geography, but there is a lot of economics to take. (feed) And then there is history...

The first few lectures had a lot of history and after that, we sort of reached the late modern era and the lecturer, Professor Walker, spent more time in laying out the economics and their geography as we experience them today. He systematically went through the economics of areas, from global capitalism all the way down to city economies and discussed production and labor and then reached finance. And finance is not the easiest part of the course, as money is eventually abstract and the mechanics of it are often counterintuitive and the terminologies inconsistent.

So you might as well skip finance. However, now that we live in a world with a financial melt-down, the interest is renewed and some of the shady mechanics are more self-explanatory as we have seen them in action (and fail). And where did this strange abstract world come from? Walker explains how it is thoroughly modern, but finds its roots in late medieval Europe. And then in lecture 19 throws a couple of statements about history that are worth pondering: The Medici family started out as bankers and financed the Florence government and this is how they got to control the city themselves. And: the bankers from the Netherlands (this includes nowadays Belgium) financed the Habsburgs and when the Habsburgs defaulted, the Dutch revolted.

The bit about the Dutch Revolt seems a bit off. I have read and listened to quite a lot about the Revolt and never found this bit. However, I wouldn't rule out that if the Habsburgs defaulted to banks in Antwerp this would have added to the grievances.