Daily archives: April 26, 2005

1421: The year China discovered the world

What if Europeans weren’t the first outsiders to discover the Americas? Could some other great culture have come ashore in search of trade and materials?

Former Royal Navy submariner Gavin Menzies started pondering these questions whilst studying an old map. Turning his sailor’s eye to islands long considered fanciful or misplaced he began to see familiar shapes in their coastlines, matching them to islands in the western Atlantic supposedly undiscovered when the map was drafted. Further maps showed sections of coastline which had yet to be “discovered” by Columbus and his contemporaries. Digging into the legends of the great European explorers revealed whispered tales suggesting they had set out knowing exactly what they would find.

Where had these maps originated? Tracking their provenance, Menzies deduced that they were copies of documents drawn up by the chinese on great voyages that have since been forgotten, much first hand evidence destroyed.

In 1421 China was at the height of its power. Emperor Zhu Di, wishing to spread trade and extend influence, ordered a great fleet of junks to sail to all the corners of the Earth. There they would meet new peoples and trade Chinese silks and treasures for natural resources, diplomatic ties and strange creatures. The greatest empire known would, through bribery and awe, secure links with all the peoples of the world.

However, whilst the fleet was on its two year voyage, great changes took place in China. Disaster befell the royal palace and reduced Zhu Di to a shadow of his former self. The bureaucratic mandarins used this opportunity to wrest power from him and close the borders. When the remnants of the fleet straggled home their logs and maps were destroyed, leaving only secondary information and what had been garnered by other nationals who tagged along on the journey or were encountered on the way. And wrecks, treasures and genes spread across the globe to be found by a determined researcher.

Which is what Menzies proceeded to do, circling the globe and discovering ever more compelling evidence for Chinese landings in the Americas, Australia and New Zealand and the mapping of Antarctica and circumnavigation of Greenland. Presented as finding atop finding, with even more between the original book and this printing, it’s very convincing. It appears to be an accepted theory now, as I recently saw a documentary where modern travellers traced the path of Zheng He, the admiral leading the fleet.

If nothing else, this great journey offers great scope for “what if?” stories. What if the Chinese had maintained contact with South American cultures? Imagine what would have happened if the Conquistadors had come up against Mayans with gunpowder. What if the great mythical cities in the US’ heartland were real?

Further information is being added to a dedicated website- www.1421.tv as more people read the book and find its thesis resonates with local myths and finds.

(Cultural Imperialism appendix: the US version of the book is subtitled “The year China discovered America” because everyone knows the rest of the world doesn’t matter.)

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46 Reasons Why

Building Green puts forward a selection of benefits to, erm, building green, for architects to pick and choose the ones relevant to a project and make selling it to the client more likely.

To those of us entrenched in the green building world the benefits seem obvious. Why would anyone choose to build in a way that isn’t comfortable, healthy, and energy efficient? In the process of designing and building green, however, we keep running into others who are not yet as convinced. For those situations, it’s useful to be able to spell out the benefits.

The building owner ultimately calls the shots, so getting that person or group on board early is essential. But not every owner will find the same arguments compelling: a hospital board may opt for green because certain green features promote healing, a commercial office property holding company may incorporate green features to speed the lease-out and thus lower carrying costs, a federal agency may desire green features to improve employee morale and increase job retention.

Even within a single project, different team members often have different reasons for promoting a green agenda. The architect may promote environmental measures because she feels it’s the right thing to do. The facilities manager who will take care of a building may recognize inherent durability and maintenance advantages. And the owner may look strictly at bottom-line financial benefits of green.

via Treehugger

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Feed Me!

I get most of my news from RSS (atom, XML, whatever) feeds, which is why it was so annoying when my computer crashed yesterday and wiped out details of my subscriptions. (Goes away and exports OPML file, just in case.)

And I know at least one person satisfies their Spinneyhead habit from the full text feed. So I’m pleased to see that I may soon be able to extend Adsense to my RSS feed. I promise not to over use it when it becomes available.

Another useful RSS trick I discovered yesterday-

Some blogs don’t publish a link to their feeds. However, it seems that Blogger creates one by default on new accounts, and puts the information you need into the templates available on its site. So now you can keep up with that blog you forget/ don’t want to visit every day. When viewing the page, go to View->Page Source and look for a line something like link rel=”alternate” type=”application/rss+xml” title=”RSS” href=”../spinneyhead_rss.xml”, which sould give you all the information you need to find and subscribe to the blog’s Atom feed.

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Tweety Bird

The tale of a T-37 training jet’s retirement.

The commander of the 8th – Navy Cmdr. Brian Osborn – is an old friend of retired Navy Capt. Rance Dunmire of Pueblo. Osborn also knows Dunmire is vice president of the Pueblo Historical Aircraft Society and is always on the lookout for classic military aircraft for the Pueblo museum.

So telephone calls took place, paperwork was filed, and last Friday, Dunmire was at Vance having a sparkling T-37 loaded on a trailer for shipment to Pueblo. The little Tweet had been in use training pilots as recently as last month.

Trainers don’t have the glamour of combat planes, but they’re still an interesting subject. The Tweet was modified into the A-37 light bomber, so you could have the siblings sat next to each other on the runway.

T-37/A-37 models and detailing sets (all via Hannants)-
1:48th Revell Cessna A-37A/B Dragonfly
1:48th detailing set (for Monogram model)/ Weighted wheels
1:72nd Academy A-37 Dragonfly
1:72nd Academy Cessna A-37B “Black Eagle” R.O.K.A.F Display team
1:72nd detailing set (for Hasegawa kit)
1:72nd decals, including Vance Air Force base T-37

T-37 pages on Google.

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Staying Current

Bring up the subject of banking and you’ll quickly hear me moan about how shit NatWest are. Not so much the charges and other bullshit, because I expect those from any bank, but the repetitive incompetence that’s seen me in negative feedback cycles of ever increasing charges and overdraft. I’m changing bank sooner or later and the Cooperative has been at the top of my list of potential new homes for my cash for a while.

Hippyshopper draws attention to the Coop’s Privilege account, which is full of special offers designed to warm the Green heart. As with all premium accounts, you have to weigh up the pros and cons. Money off Ecotricity electricity is tempting, and an incentive to switch, but travel insurance deals aren’t much use to me at the moment. And there’s a charge, of course. Discounting the other benefits the interest rate on the account means you have to maintain a balance of over 5 grand to cover the expense of the account. If I had that much money to sit in a bank account I’d find one where it worked for me.

The Coop is still top of my list for my next current account, but I don’t want their Privilege account for the time being.

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John "Solar Panel" Prescott

Tucked away at the bottom of this news piece about a defecting Labour MP

Elsewhere, four Greenpeace activists tried to install a solar panel on the rooftop of Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott’s home in Hull in protest at the government’s energy record.

Update Ananova has more information.

[Ben Stewart, of Greenpeace,] said: “We have people up on the roof who have got the equipment to fit a solar panel.

“We want to draw attention to the Government’s record on energy efficiency.

“We have unveiled a banner which says ‘Oi Two Jags. Hit Targets, Not Voters’.

“I don’t know if Mr Prescott is at home but we think his wife, Pauline, is inside.”

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