Persian Letters

The Persian Letters(1720), written by Charles Montesquieu, was a precursor to some of his greater contributions to the 18th century enlightenment and society.  He’s better known as a political theorist famous for the separation of powers in a republic; most notably the separation between executive, legislative, and judicial powers.   His book Of the Spirit of Laws (1748) was his masterpiece and was more influential than any other book on the founding fathers who wrote the constitution of the United States of America.  The Persian Letters is a good start-off book for anyone interested in reading Montesquieu as it is a much more laid back and easy read than his other works.  The book makes observations of politics, fashion, and religion in 18th century Europe; often times with a healthy dose of satire.  Freedom of religion is another concept Montesquieu influenced us with and is perhaps just as important as any other freedom a person can have. This book demonstrates very well Montesquieu’s disdain for religious intolerance and religious persecution.  Many of my favorite quotes from the book that will be shared in this post series have to do with Montequieu’s view and insight on religion.

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Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba

Cuba has been in a constant state of struggle since the Spanish crown slaughtered the Taino Indians.   Learning about the plight of Cubans since that time (over the last 500 years) is something that can’t help but evoke many emotions and thoughts about society, socialism, revolution, freedom, and justice.

I just finished the book titled “Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba”.  I have to say it was terrific.  It chronicled the last 150 years of Cuba’s history from the vantage point of the Barcadi family.   Based on the level of detail in the book and the exhaustive amount of sources used to tell the story, you can only imagine it was ten to twenty years in the making for author Tom Gjelten.  The book provoked much thought and provided many “jump off on tangent” points to go back to and dive into related historical events.  I truly look forward to chasing down more detail on some of the anecdotes presented and have already done so in some cases.

I suppose the most interesting thing about Cuba’s history to me was how much has been propagandized by my upbringing in suburban Detroit.  As a youth in metro Detroit, our school system didn’t touch on Cuba much.  We’re raised to know that: #1 Castro is bad   #2 Socialism is bad  #3 Communism is bad.  We’re also told that Castro seized people’s private property and murdered people without due process of the law.  That’s it.  Then we move on to the next subject.  Heck, kids today might not even get that much of the story.  So when I read the book, I must admit that my ignorance was profound.  Perhaps my ignorance on the subject is what made this book so much more thought provoking.  After all, a dry sponge soaks up more water than a wet one.

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PC History, Spreadsheets & Programming Theory

Accidental EmpiresThere are a million tutorials out here on the internet showing you bits of code for whatever language you’re trying to learn or implement.  There are not, however, a lot of posts or essays on programming theory and logic in general.  It’s imperative to have an academic training that precedes your production experience if your production experience is ever going to truly be top notch.   This is true for most things learned and practiced in life.  It’s like they say about a house only being as good as its foundation.  And if your talking about personal computing and programming, you have to ask yourself where the beginning really is.

I’m going to consider the beginning to be birth of the PC and make reference to a book called Accidental Empires by Robert Cringley.  This is a terrific book about how the PC came about and gives a more human look at the lives of Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer, Steve Jobs and the folks at Xerox Parc.  It covers the players that were in the industry initially and touches on a program called VisiCalc.  While these titans of today were developing the first operating systems and hardware as kids in garages, there was one piece of software that was simultaneously being developed that changed everything: VisiCalc.  VisiCalc was a spreadsheet software that did something transformative to society: it gave people a reason to want a computer.  It gave them something they could really use.  The advent of the spreadsheet gave people this living interactive graph paper with a built in calculator and it was a oft overlooked transformative event for all of human society.   In this sense, the spreadsheet was the father of the modern day PC.  Without VisiCalc, there would probably be no computer on your desk today.  This evolution of how humans interact with data was going to come eventually no matter what, but you would probably turn the clock back years on computer technology had VisiCalc not come along when it did.

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