Quotes

“Every noble work is at first impossible.”

Pretty much any interesting/useful/beautiful human achievement you can think of was at first impossible. Mass-printing books? You’re crazy. Sailing ships across the oceans? No way. Putting a man on the surface of the freaking moon? That one still gets me.

While John F. Kennedy gets my award for the best speech about doing the impossible (and within the decade no less!), the Scotsman Thomas Carlyle had summed this idea up nicely a hundred years before.

Every noble work is at first impossible.

Thomas Carlyle

This quote is so clear and to-the-point: it is perfect from a writing perspective.

But can you picture JFK getting up on stage at Rice University in 1962, saying, “Every noble work is at first impossible… let’s go to the moon.” and then just leaving? πŸ˜† I guess politics requires a little more bombast.

Thomas Carlyle, looking a lot like The Most Interesting Man in the World.
History · The World

When sh*t got real in Tenochtitlan, aka Mexico City

Nobody tells a great story like Throughline. This podcast gives new twists on old stories, from ancient collapses of civilization to modern controversies. Every story is a slice of history told with a tight narrative and professional production, including deft use of sound effects. This is not some dude blabbing about history.

In their episode about Tenochtitlan, they dive deep into the brutal Spanish conquest of Mexico. They start out describing ancient Aztect capital of Tenochtitlan (aka Mexico City) as an immense ancient metropolis, one of the largest cities in the world at the time (and now). It is full of towering temples, canals, schools, and a Venice-like network of waterways for transport and irrigation and composting. This is a city that smells sweet.

The Aztecs are advanced and powerful, but they can be pretty brutal conquerers themselves and have made plenty of their own local enemies.

Then the Spanish show up. βš”οΈ It’s a fascinating and pretty terrifying story.

πŸ‘‰ Tenochtitlan: A Retelling of The Conquest

History · The World

The collapse of the Bronze Age – and what came next

Here’s a pretty fascinating story about the collapse of the complex, globalized society of the late Bronze Age around 1200 BC. As we’re facing climate change, political polarization, and a raging virus, it’s an interesting listen. 😬

About 3000 years ago, it got bad. There was famine, drought, and earthquakes. And worst of all, the mysterious Sea People were attacking out of nowhere without warning or mercy. βš”οΈ

But this chaos eventually became a rebirth that led to the alphabet, iron working, monotheism, the Greek and Roman empires, etc. Basically, Western civilization.

The historian notes that, more often than not, civilization pulls back from the brink before it gets toooo bad, so he’s optimistic.

πŸ‘‰ Throughline: The Aftermath of Collapse: Bronze Age Edition (2021)

Illustration by Deborah Lee.
The World

“You can’t stay in Afghanistan forever.”

Leaving Afghanistan sucks, but it’s also the right thing and took courage.

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Not Einstein

What would you change about the following narrative?

  1. 9/11 attack on the US from an Afghanistan-based terrorist group
  2. Invades Afghanistan, topple the government, and occupy with an international security force
  3. Provide security, promote democracy, invest in education and infrastructure
  4. Keep nation building
  5. Keep nation building for another year, more dead
  6. Keep nation building for another year, more dead
  7. Keep nation building for another year, more dead
  8. Keep nation building for another year, more dead
  9. Keep nation building for another year, more dead
  10. Keep nation building for another year, more dead
  11. Keep nation building for another year, more dead
  12. Kill Osama Bin Laden
  13. Keep nation building for another year, more dead
  14. Keep nation building for another year, more dead
  15. Keep nation building for another year, more dead
  16. Keep nation building for another year, more dead
  17. Keep nation building for another year, more dead
  18. Keep nation building for another year, more dead
  19. Keep nation building for another year, more dead
  20. Keep nation building for another year, more dead
  21. Keep nation building for another year, more dead
  22. Keep nation building for another year, more dead

It’s not a great story, is it?

It’s unfortunate and ugly, but it was time to go. Would another year of nation building have helped? Were things getting any better?

I don’t doubt the good intentions of the war, and I don’t doubt the skill and courage of the brave people who fought it. I thank our soldiers for their service and give them my utmost admiration for sticking faithfully to the mission despite it’s impossible challenges. πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ

I hate that the ugly Taliban is taking back over, but their deeds are between them and their own god now. The US Army is out of that equation.

You can’t stay in Afghanistan forever.

War Machine

Here’s a clip from a pretty relevant movie that came out 4 years ago about a war that had already been going on for 12 years. Despite some serious overacting by Brad Pitt, it’s a pretty damned good movie and dead on. It shows a good and capable man trying to win an impossible war.