Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus

He steered Rome from a time of civil war and anarchy to a period of civility and prosperity.  He took the title: Princeps, or first amongst equals (i.e. The Benevolent Dictator.)  It’s hard in the end to judge what he did.  These were such different times that they cannot be judged from 2010.  Women were given away by men like commodities.  People were executed.  Children were executed.  It’s so hard to process what it must have been like in 44 BC.   Despite his participation in the debauchery and the executions and the battles where blood was spilled by many, there was an overwhelming reverence for Augustus which is what the title Augustus means: the revered one.  Some people, in fact, believe that the Pax Romana brought to the people of Rome is the basis for the Anno Domini and is an allegory to Augustus.   Perhaps this is because of his brilliant image campaign.  Perhaps public opinion would have been different for Augustus if the common folks knew of what he did behind closed doors.  Lord Acton once gave us a famous quote: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  Augustus achieved absolute power.

Timeline Part 4 – Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus 63 BC – AD 14

He considered nothing more incumbent on him then to avenge his uncle’s death and maintain the validity of his enactments. – Suetonius

When Julius Caesar was killed there was a vacuum in the heart of the Empire.  There was much uncertainty and there was unrest in the streets.  Immediately, political jockeying was underway to see who would or could take over the Republic.  Most held their ambitions close to the vest as no one could be trusted and confidence in the wrong soul would be met swiftly with murder.

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Gaius Julius Caesar 100 BC – 44 BC

A lot of people in America today don’t realize the powerful influence Rome has had on their everyday lives.  So many fundamental things such as our architecture, our laws, our policies, our religions, our constitution, and our democracy all have ties back to ancient Rome.  When you consider Julius Caesar you might not think about his power and legacy as a military general and politician.  But each year when your calendar reads July, have you ever wondered where the month got its name?  That’s right – July is named after Julius Caesar.  He’s still a part of your everyday life.  Rome put a spell and a stamp on this world many years ago and its influence is still relevant today.  Recognize that Rome hasn’t gone away and is still the origin of so many things you are accustomed to today.  In this author’s opinion, the most pivotal and influential man in all of Roman history has to be Gaius Julius Caesar.  This post is number 3 in a timeline series of posts that are all tagged Timeline.

Timeline Part 3 – Gaius Julius Caesar  100 BC – 44 BC

As a 15 year old, Caesar accompanied his father to the forum to get his first real taste of Roman politics.  Rome’s fast acquisition of territory around Caesar’s time was partly why it was so treacherous toward the end of the Republic and the beginning of the Empire.  Carthage had just fallen, Hispania was falling, and Gaul was coming into the control of the Romans as well; so much wealth was being acquired at an incredible rate.  The governance of the Republic was enduring significant growing pains.  To seek high office in politics in this time period was a dangerous thing.  I can’t think of a prominent politician that died of natural causes during this time period.  If you were elected into high office, it was likely you would die of murder, in battle, or of suicide.

Caesar’s dad died when he was a teenager and in the Greek tradition, he needed a male protector to help him ascend into adulthood.  Enter Gaius Marius, a wealthy and powerful man that was Caesar’s uncle by marriage with political and military connections.  Marius was a champion to the poor and underprivileged; particularly the plebs like our good friend Tiberius Gracchus.  He had a significant influence on Caesar as a young man.  Marius helped Caesar to grow into a very confident young adult.  Caesar was already dressing differently and making a point to set himself apart from his contemporaries.  In fact, he was already very vain as a teenager.

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Tiberius Gracchus 168BC – 133BC

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This post is part two in a timeline series of posts.  The goal of this post is to examine the impact of Tiberius Gracchus on the republic of Rome.  His life would forever change the complexion of Roman politics as he was the first person to really recognize and leverage the power of the “mob mentality” upon the Senate.  We will also draw some parallels to our American republic as there are some definite similarities.  In the end, as you will see, it is very difficult to ever discern whether a human being’s actions are rooted in evolutionary morality or their self-serving lust of power guised as such.  Although all evidence points to the latter, I have this naïve hope that human beings will one day treat each other ethically, coexist peacefully, and be prosperous.  In that spirit, I choose to believe that Tiberius Gracchus was a man of nobility and magnanimity.  But in truth, we’ll never know and logic tells us that this is unlikely when considering his species.

Timeline Part 2 – Tiberius Gracchus 168BC – 133BC

Like many of his era, his birth year cannot be confirmed.  Tiberius was born sometime in the 2nd century BC.  He was old enough to fight as a junior officer in the third Punic war (149 to 146 BC) pitting Rome against Carthage.  Tiberius was born into political power and influence as was any Roman you will ever read about.  If you were not born with the proper pedigree, you had no chance of being “somebody” in the Roman historical record.  And if you were, your chance of being somebody usually rested on your military success.  Your political success was also hinged upon your military success.  So to recap, your chance of being written about in Roman history rested on 3 basic criteria occurring in this specific order:  1)born into the right family  2) successful military career  3) successful politician.  Each criterion’s opportunity was predicated upon the previous criterion’s occurrence.  Most people were disqualified at step one which is out of their control.  My friend Kirk and I have always referred criterion #1 as “the lucky sperm club” of which, unfortunately, neither of us are members.  Let’s begin with Tiberius’ military career to understand his rise as a politician.

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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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Reading To Your Kids

42-17371503It cannot be emphasized enough how important it is to read to your kids.  It’s something you should do every day or at least at some regular frequency.  There are so many different skill levels when it comes to “knowing how to read”.  Being an above average reader will increase your child’s ability to do just about anything and everything necessary to eke out a living in this world.  As I have said before, I believe that reading skill levels fall into a vast spectrum of beginning to advanced.  There is always room for advancement in education and vocabulary.

The best method of teaching your child to read is repetition.  By reading to your child at a high frequency, you set him up to know so much about this important skill without him even knowing for a moment that he’s learning.  To him, it’s just fun and for you it’s quality time spent with your child.

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Review Your Child’s Schoolwork

School Teacher            Reviewing your child’s schoolwork is a great way to stay close to your child.  It will allow you to know:  1) what subjects your child is working on at school  2) give you an idea of what his day was like and 3) give you assets for starting a conversation.

            It’s difficult to start a conversation with my four year old some times.  I might ask “how was your day?” and get no response, or “poo poo” for a response, or a giggle, or some other nonsensical response.  Four year olds have only started developing their vocabulary so it’s tough for them to converse on abstract topics.  Therefore, you get responses that lead to no conversation when you don’t ask the right question.

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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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Learning To Read

Learning to read is not like flicking on a light switch.  You need to start with the basics:  the alphabet.  My son is four now and our primary focus is on letters.  I started with what most people probably start with which is singing the alphabet song.  Over the past year we have been working on writing a different letter each day.

3_lined_paperAll you really need to do is work at it.  You don’t need to spend money on fancy materials or programs; you just need to put in effort.  For example, you can grab a sheet of paper and write out some lines for your child to write between.  Kids like to stay in between the lines when they write.  I usually use three lines per row:  A solid line on top, a dashed line in the middle, and a solid line on the bottom.  I just grab a pen and make five or so rows on the top half of a sheet of paper and write the letter myself in upper left hand corner.  From there, I ask my boy to try to write the same letter as many times as he can in the remaining space I’ve provided.

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