Tag: history

Pickles

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Pickles.

Love them or hate them, you have to acknowledge their existence. Why rail against the inevitable truth? Pickles are made. Pickles are consumed. Pickles have loomed in the human subconscious for millennia.

I like pickles. They’re delightful, especially homemade ones. That tanginess, that little explosion of flavor… I don’t like them so much on sandwiches, but they’re really excellent by themselves. So I have to wonder, when were pickles invented? According to Wikipedia, “pickling began 4000 years ago using cucumbers native to India.” The Pickle History Timeline of the New York Food Museum claims that pickling began in roughly 2400 BC in Mesopotamia. The Pickle Guys, in the History of Pickles page on their website, say that the earliest known pickles were cucumbers pickled around 2030 BC in the Tigris Valley. With three sources roughly agreeing, I think it is safe to conclude that pickles have indeed been around for over 4000 years. Their tyranny has been virtually unopposed. But as usual, America gets the short end of the stick: in India, there are 20 or more commonly consumed varieties of pickle, while Americans are stuck mostly with cucumbers and sauerkraut!

I think it is time to raise an army for the purposes of bringing the banner of the Almighty Pickle into its place of deserved prominence over the townships and cities of the American nation.

~ Jared

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I Rant About the Government

I hate this country’s government and everything it stands for.

The corruption, the lies, the tyranny. The violence and intolerance. “Political correctness.” Conformity. Control. Power. Empty gratification. Mindless acceptance. It’s a vile creature, this government.

It started okay. Good idea behind it. Wonderful Constitution, and all that. Yay for freedom! But the government today has devolved into an entity which is quite frankly beneath contempt. My personal belief is that this change started in the Civil War of the 1860s. That war was, at its core, about state’s rights. Yes, the excuse both sides used was the issue of slavery. But ultimately, this was how it went: the states in the South didn’t feel like the U.S. government was very good for them, and therefore, they wanted to secede from the Union and make their own country. The Government, however, didn’t like that. They didn’t want to lose any of their power. So they started a war to force the Southern states back into the Union, though they had no legal or moral right to do so. After the Civil War, the rights of individual states decreased a good deal. I consider this unjust and tyrannical application of power on behalf of the Northern Government to be the start of the current Federal Government’s corruption.

It can be argued, however, that the beginning is even earlier, at the very introduction of the constitution. According to Patrick Henry,

The fate … of America may depend on this. … Have they made a proposal of a compact between the states? If they had, this would be a confederation. It is otherwise most clearly a consolidated government. The question turns, sir, on that poor little thing—the expression, We, the people, instead of the states, of America. …

With the replacement of the Articles of Confederation by the Constitution, the United States became a single country rather than a collection of principalities united toward a common goal. Thus, it can be argued that the start of the government’s unjust powers was in fact with the acceptance of the Constitution. Do I think the Constitution was a bad thing? No. It was an enlightened document. Unfortunately, humans are capable of abusing any law, no matter how enlightened it might be.

At any rate, this country has reached a point where the its people are in thrall to a government that wants nothing but more power and more money. A government that will use any excuse to tighten its stranglehold on the public (case in point–the SOPA Act, the Patriot Act, and the recent modifications made to the National Defense Authorization Act, which allow the government to detain for an indefinite period any US citizen who is suspected of terrorism). A government that spends with no thought to the future and forces its citizens to bear the burden of its own lack of fiscal wisdom. A government run by corrupt thieves for whom lying comes as easily as breathing, which supports any suppression of free thought. A government eager to use violence and physical force to cow its enemies, be they foreign or domestic. A government… that needs to fall.

I realize this may seem to some like a gross over-simplification. I realize that not everyone in the government is an evil bastard. However, consider this: power, by its very nature, is an extremely corrupting influence. Because of the way this country’s government is designed, the people who gain power tend to be the ones who look for it, who will do anything to attain it. It’s been said that the man most worthy of holding power is the one who wants it least. Draw your own conclusions.

I could spend a long time ranting about the Government’s various shortcomings, and how these can be tied into all levels of American society. However, I don’t think that would be very constructive. Instead, I shall present a possible alternate form of society, which would, I think, resolve most if not all of the problems with this government. I don’t claim that this idea is practical, and I have little idea of how it could be put in place, but it’s good to ponder other options. There is rarely only one way to do something.

The first and most important thing to do: abolish the Federal Government. A big government creates the exact opposite of freedom. There is, in modern society, a very large misunderstanding of what the government’s role should be. People tend to think that they are owed something by the government. They feel entitled. This starts young: “everyone’s unique and special! You have to follow your dreams! Don’t let anything stand between you and happiness!” And this view is carried into adulthood. The government only encourages the view, by running welfare programs and putting out economic stimulus packages and doing other such things. However, the government’s purpose is not to be a breadbasket for the population. The purpose of a national government is extremely simple: enforce the laws and protect the people. That is it. There is absolutely nothing else the Government should be doing. It is not the government’s place to interpret or create laws. It is not the government’s place to declare war. It is certainly not the government’s place to run the economy or give financial aid to anyone with a sob story.

So clearly, the Federal Government’s powers must be drastically reduced. I would reduce the government to one single entity: the Court. This would be a simple system of judges. Every town would have a judge, who would handle local disputes. If a dispute involved certain criteria, it would be passed upward to a higher court, of which there would be as many as needed to keep things running smoothly. I imagine there would be some “circuit judges,” servicing the more remote towns. There would be no lawyers. Juries would be used, and they would of course be raised from the local folk. The Court would have its own private army–what is today the Police–in order to ensure that its verdicts are carried through. A Code of Laws would be set up at the beginning of this administration, which could be amended only by consent from a large amount of voters. Punishment would be swift, public, and in proportion to the crime. “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,” would be the Court’s motto. A murderer would be put to death immediately–courthouses would have their own facilities for punishment–most likely by hanging, a historic and effective form of public execution. It is important to make these punishments public because public punishment dissuades others from committing the crime, or at least that’s the theory. Many punishments would involve public humiliation, such as being put in the stocks. The fear of having one’s pride demolished would be an effective fear in the prevention of crime. Punishments would also be applied evenly regardless of age. It does little good to coddle the young, because such coddling reinforces the belief that one can sin and get away with it, making it more likely that the youngster will commit the same crimes when he’s older. In short, the justice system would be swift, efficient, and as impartial as possible–as well as the only permanent government entity.

Now, that sounds like an awful lot of power. In order to balance that power, there would be a militia. This militia would serve a couple of roles: protection from foreign threats, and keeping the Court’s powers in check. The Court and the Militia would serve to keep each other in check, so that neither entity could abuse the people. A further check would be that Commanders and Judges would be elected, not by members of their own organization, but by the local citizens.

A nationwide council would be elected, by popular vote, to handle foreign affairs and other such things that are better handled by a small group of people than by a large country. Its members would change every few years, and it would hold little real power.

The Federal Reserve would be abolished and inflation would become a capital offence. Each bank would issue its own money, but money would really become less important, as a more compact barter system would have equal prominence. No one entity would be allowed to control the economy, and each state–each community–would have free rein in terms of trade.

There would be no standardized, government-run education system. Such things encourage only close-mindedness.

There would also be no centralized medical care. Medical care would be run on a smaller and more local basis, rather than being controlled by huge hospitals and pharmaceutical companies.

Standards would be enforced by the Police, who follow a series of Codes–Construction Codes, Educational Codes, etc. However, the if Police became overzealous, it would be the job of the Militia to step in and keep them in check. Also, there would be no gun control laws (beyond perhaps age-based permits), and common citizens would therefore be able to defend themselves from both the Court and the Militia.

In essence, everything would be decentralized and taken out of the control of the Federal Government. By spreading power, freedom would be maintained. The country would no longer be so unified, but unification comes at a steep price, and I don’t believe this price is always worth paying.

Of course, I don’t claim that all this would work. But I think something like this would be a better option than the current power-hungry monstrosity that controls the nation. Another thing I find interesting is a revival of the feudal system in modern society, which I might discuss in a later post….

Peace.

~ Jared

Words

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. ~ John 1:1

And God said, “let there be light,” and there was light. ~ Genesis 1:3

 

Seeing as I have hitherto tried to avoid a religious bias in this blog, it might seem strange for me to open this post with verses from the Christian Bible. Nevertheless, I’m a Bible believing Christian, and what I’m discussing in this post relies on those verses. This is some very theoretical musing, so feel free to disagree… in fact, I don’t care if you disagree with anything I say anywhere in this blog. Disagreement leads to debate, which is generally pretty interesting.

 

Anyway. Words. Words have power. “In the beginning was the Word.” “God said, ‘let there be light.'” Words are eternal. The Word existed before anything else. Everything was made through words. Clearly, words are an extremely powerful thing. Humans have been blessed with the gift of words, of language, of speaking intelligibly and recording our memories in written symbols. Words are a holy thing. I’m sure you’ve always been told to watch your tongue, to choose your words carefully, that words can both heal and hurt.

 

In Webster’s dictionary, “word” is defined as “a speech sound or series of speech sounds that symbolizes and communicates a meaning, usually without being divisible into smaller units capable of independent use.” The origins of the word “word” mean things like “to say, to speak” or, more to my concern in this post, “to call, to name.” Words have been in use since the beginning of time and beyond–the only single thing for which this is the case. In light of all this, the old adage “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never  hurt me” seems rather empty, doesn’t it?

 

So, words have power. But the difficulty comes in defining that power. Everyone knows how easily words can be used to manipulate others. With just a few words, you can cause someone extreme joy or lower them to the deepest pits of depression. Words can move nations to war, or bring peace and prosperity. They can record things that have long since faded into the past, incite all manner of emotions, communicate all manner of ideas and feelings. Words are the entire foundation of human culture and society, and one of the greatest gifts we have been given. This power at first glance seems like nothing special. It’s what we’re all used to. But stop and think. Is this not an incredible power?

 

But it is my belief that the power of words extends beyond these commonly accepted levels. This power is nothing so spectacular as calling down lightning or casting fire or other such things, which is, in fantasy, often presented as the mightiest culmination of words: magic spells controlled by means of a long-lost language. But nevertheless, the power is there. It may not have significant effects on the outer world, but is not the inner world just as important? One of the chief areas in which words have power is the area of naming. It seems that humans must name everything they come across. Every culture appears to have an obsessive fascination with naming things. This is, of course, a method of categorizing one’s surroundings so that they make sense. But when something makes sense to a human, that human has a certain measure of power over it. He or she may not be able to control the thing, but the human will certainly have the power to properly react to what it does. A great many ancient cultures hold the belief that to know the true name of a thing is to hold that thing in the palm of your hand, to have the power to control it. This belief is one of the oldest in existence. Naming, and its ability to create order where once there was confusion and chaos, is one of the greatest powers that words possess.

 

This power is mental or spiritual, but that does not reduce its efficacy. When it comes to the power of words, this is one important thing to remember… any power words have is almost entirely in the heads and hearts of humans. It might be argued that this fact means words have only as much power as humans grant them. To a certain extent this can be true, but think of it this way: the human head and heart are the center of our race. If someone can direct and influence those, then he has power, regardless of how much people allow him to affect their thoughts and feelings. Mental power, though often amorphous, is no less powerful because of being so.

 

At any rate, I believe that when speaking of powers beyond those commonly accepted, naming is the most important one, and the only one I shall mention here (honestly, I can’t think of many others… if any of my readers can, feel free to post your ideas). Expanding into the realm of fantasy, what if the belief that knowing the true name of a thing gives control over that thing is true? Perhaps the human race has forgotten the true names of things. Perhaps that is why we have this obsession for naming, because some deep part of us hopes to one day stumble across the true, ancient names that we no longer remember, that will grant vast power to those who know them.

 

In the end, then, names have a power that is really quite magical. Writers and orators are wizards in the truest sense, using this power as their tool. Of course, it might be more accurate to say this is a Holy and Heavenly power, seeing as we humans have received our gift of words from God. But call it magic or divine power, the power is there, and it is significant.I tend to have a fairly mystical mindset about things, but I hope that everyone can agree on this point, at least.

 

Well, that all might’ve sounded a bit pretentious, but hopefully someone will find it interesting. I might have more thoughts on this subject to post later, we shall see.

 

~ Jared

 

P.S. By no means take this to mean that I believe I’ll be able to gain magical powers if I can only properly name things. That was just fantasizing. I don’t think there is anything that directly contradicts that view, however, so who knows? Maybe it is true.

 

Fortune Cookies

This was one of WordPress’s prompts for a new post topic: “You’re now in charge of writing the messages in fortune cookies. Tell us our fortunes.” Now, usually, I’d come up with a topic on my own, but this was so interesting I had to use it. I also thought it might be interesting to discuss some of the history of the fortune cookie. So, without further ado…

 

 

DISCLAIMER: I did minimal research on this, so don’t be surprised if you look into the subject and your findings are different than mine.

Approximately three billion fortune cookies are made each year, mostly for consumption in America, and a great many of them by Wonton Food, Inc, the largest fortune cookie manufacturer in the world (Wikipedia). The fortune cookie was originally invented in California around the turn of the 20th century, though there’s some contention on the exact date and inventor. According to some sources, a Chinese immigrant named David Jung, the man who started the Hong Kong Noodle Company, invented them in 1918. One story goes that he, being concerned for the poor he saw in the streets around his shop, started passing out free cookies which contained inspirational verses written by the local Presbyterian minister (Chinese-Fortune-Cookie.com). According to another theory, fortune cookies are of Japanese origin. Apparently, a sort of cookie similar to the fortune cookie has been made in Kyoto, Japan since at least the 19th century. These are called tsujiura senbei and typically contain a fortune, or omikuji–a Japanese temple tradition (Wikipedia). It is possible that these cookies inspired a Japanese immigrant in San Francisco, Hagiwara Makoto, to create what we know today as the fortune cookie. Despite controversy over their origins, fortune cookies are clearly American. In fact, when they were introduced to Hong Kong in the 1990s, they were marketed as “Genuine American Fortune Cookies.”

 

So now, there’s a little bit of history. In my opinion, the sayings on fortune cookies are rather boring.  How much more interesting would it be if you got a cookie that said, instead of something bland like “good fortune will smile upon you next week,” something more exciting? Following is a list of possibilities that I think every Chinese restaurant should consider.

 

“A mysterious stranger will disrupt your finances.”

 

“The sun will one day explode, but have heart and you will at least die feeling good about yourself.”

 

“Your dog will die tomorrow.”

 

“You will be visited by a mysterious Doctor with a blue box. Do not follow him.”

 

“One day soon, your home will go the way of Alderaan.”

 

“When the birds fly south, you will discover buried treasure.”

 

“Beware of dogs with tie-die sweaters.”

 

“Remember: the path to happiness is as short as a fingernail clipping.”

 

“Beware the mice. Remember your towel.”

 

“You die.”

 

“Turn left and save the universe.”

 

“When in doubt, obliviate.”

 

“When in doubt, C4.”

 

“Beware of exploring new places in a red shirt.”

 

….well, that just devolved into a bunch of random nerdy references. Cheerio! May your fortunes be ever exciting!

 

~ Jared