Sunday, November 15, 2015
On the Conestoga Wagon: For much of the 18th and 19th centuries in the United States (and Canada), a heavy, covered wagon known as the "Conestoga" was widely used, especially by farmers and travelers. Often drawn by horses, oxen, or mules, the wagon originated in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, with the area's German Mennonite settlers during the early 1700s. The wagon received its name from the Conestoga River, which it frequently crossed. If caulked properly, the Conestoga kept its contents dry, as "fording" shallow parts of the river became increasingly commonplace. Prior to the American Revolution, Conestoga wagons helped open the Appalachian Mountains to colonists. By the early 1800s, Pittsburgh and Ohio had been invaded by Conestoga wagons. As a result, the first installation of toll roads gained traction around this time. And for the most part, tolls depended on both tonnage and distance traveled. A typical Conestoga, which was around twenty feet long, could carry up to six tons of weight when fully loaded. With that kind of storage capacity, the Conestoga became an iconic symbol of American westward expansion in the mid-19th century (Oregon Trail??).
Sunday, November 1, 2015
On Buddhism, Money, and Meaning: As a religion, Buddhism teaches that money is temporary, and ultimately meaningless in the long-run. As a philosophy, Buddhism questions how people can view something which is increasingly abstract (money), as something extremely practical. In the days of Ancient Rome, Greece, and Egypt, money was typically synonymous with precious metals (gold, silver, copper, etc.). For millenia, metallic coins served as the primary vehicles used to catalyze the process of exchanging goods. Throughout the 19th century, however, a variety of industrializing nations (beginning with Britain in the 1820s) adopted paper money as their basic facilitator of trade. Today it seems that money is becoming ever-more electronic (or paperless), as credit cards, Bitcoin, and PayPal-type mechanisms are starting to dominate the point-of-sale process. But why do people continue to attach themselves to something which is becoming less and less tangible? Buddhist philosophy states that no amount of money will ever make one feel secure. Yet one could set a personal money-saving limit to reach, which could one day lead to financial Nirvana.