empire builders


Ten Years of Ten: Gridlock (April 14, 2007)

“The Macra used to be the scourge of this galaxy. Gas. They fed off gas, the filthier the better. They built up a small empire using humans as slaves and mining gas for food.”
“They don’t exactly look like empire builders to me.”
“Well, that was billions of years ago. Billions. They must have devolved down the years. Now they’re just beasts. But they’re still hungry and my friend’s down there…”


Great Northern Empire Builder in Minneapolis in 1929 by seneferu


Amtrak - ‘Empire Builder’ by rrradioman on Flickr.

Amtrak Empire Builder approaching Chicago Union Station with the Chicago River and Merchandise Mart in the background


July 1974

Photos by Gary Sturm

Made with Flickr

heroineimages  asked:

So, out of curiosity, have you played Age of Wonders III at all? I'd be curious to get your thoughts on the Rogue character class for that game. Particularly in regards to the idea of a rogue as military-leader/empire-builder.

I’m afraid I haven’t played it, and have zero insight to offer on that.

For rogues as military-leaders/empire-builders in fiction (wait, did you mean historically?), I’ll give you just one name: the trained assassin and master of stealth Lord Vetinari.

The only reason he hasn’t conquered the world is because he doesn’t want to. ;)


The Shadow The West, by Edward Said. (1986)

Edward Said focuses on the plight of the Palestinians which can be seen as the most enduring residue of the modern encounter between the Arabs and the West. Said traces the course of European involvement with the Near East via the Crusades to Napoleon’s campaign in Egypt and the French and English entrepreneurs, adventurers and empire builders who came in his wake. 

You finish the new civilization video game, only to discover it’s a recruiting tool of multi-dimensional empire builders. They want to talk to you about your latest game.


Chicago to Seattle, Part Two: The Hills

Take a loose definition on hills for me with this one, okay? Anyway, the flats in yesterday’s post had this minimal, serene beauty to them, you know? But the mountain ranges- they’re big. They’re dramatic. They demand your attention. Passing through Olympic and Glacier National Parks left everyone on the train smashing their faces against the windows, and me burning through film and memory cards.

There’s not really a lot to wax on about here, these views speak for themselves. Enjoy.


Judgement at Karakorum

The death of Mongke Khan in 1259 brought the end of the Mongol Empire. Perhaps what made the Mongols most successful as conquerors was their unity, a unity which was always tenuous at best.  When Mongke Khan died he left no heirs to take over the empire, and as a result the Mongol Empire fractured between many khans and warlords. The largest and most powerful Mongol state that resulted was the Yuan Dynasty, founded in 1271 by Kublai Khan, which controlled all of China, Mongolia, Korea, parts of Siberia, and parts of Central Asia. 

The Yuan Dynasty didn’t even last a hundred years before collapsing, showing that while the Mongols were great empire conquerors and empire builders, they were not very good empire keepers. The Yuan Emperors created a class system with the Mongols at the top, controlling all high level government and military positions. The native Chinese were relegated to second class status within their own country, which fomented resentment against the Mongols. Furthermore, the Mongols of the Yuan Dynasty were terrible administrators, and over the decades the Chinese economy collapsed due to economic and financial mismanagement. The countryside was ravaged by outlaws and criminals. Corruption was rampant, as was political intrigue. Like I mentioned before, what made the Mongols most powerful was their unity. Without unity, the Mongols were nothing more than small bands of marauders and brigands. Infighting was common among the Mongols as heirs of Kublai Khan fought for control of the empire. The Yuan Mongols themselves were not the same Mongols bred during the days of Genghis Khan.  Rather than being fierce and ruthless steppe warriors, decades of luxurious living and wealth had transformed the Mongols into a horde of overprivileged brats who needed a good ass whoopin’ for their own good.

By the 1350′s, Chinese hatred of the Mongols had reached the boiling point. The Mongols ruled under the Mandate of Heaven, an ancient Chinese doctrine that said that rulers governed with the blessings of the gods. However, the gods could withdraw their mandate, giving the people the right to overthrow an incompetent or tyrannical ruler. Heaven would give a sign that it had withdrawn it’s mandate with a series of natural disasters. In the 1350′s China was plagued with a number of disastrous floods, droughts, and famines, disasters which a weakened Mongol government could do little to mitigate. To the Chinese, the Mongols were both incompetent and tyrannical, it was time for them to be tarred, feathered, and run out of town on a rail.

In 1351, a religious political movement called the White Lotus Society founded the Red Turban Rebellion, a movement to kick the Mongols out of China once and for all. The Mongols were almost powerless to stop them as millions across China rose up in arms. While the Mongols were extraordinary conquerors, the sucked at defending and holding ground. Back in the days before Genghis Khan, if the Chinese sent a massive army into Mongolia to quell the tribes, the Mongols would simply pack up their yurts and bug out, disappearing into the vastness of the steppes. Now that they had to defend an empire and hold on to territory, they had lost the advantage of mobility.  The Mongols were not prepared to deal with such a mass uprising. Over the next seven years the Mongols were forced to retreat toward the north, until in 1358 the last Yuan Emperor, Toghon Temur, ordered a complete withdrawal from China. 

The Mongols would found a rump state called the Northern Yuan Dynasty in Mongolia, while a Red Turban leader named Zhu Yuanzhang claimed the Mandate of Heaven and founded the Ming Dynasty.  The Ming Chinese continued to advance against the Mongols, driving father north and eventually kicking the Mongols out of Manchuria. In 1388 the Ming invaded Mongolia with a massive army. The Mongols attempted to stop them, but were easily crushed at the Battle of Lake Biur, which resulted in 70,000 Mongols surrendering to the Chinese Imperial Army. The Ming then marched on the Mongol capital of Karakorum, and burned it to the ground. Talk about comeuppance.

After the destruction of Karakorum, the Mongols reverted back into their old tribal ways, splitting into factions that remained in almost constant civil war. The Ming watched closely, and whenever it seemed that a leader would emerge to unite the Mongols once again, the Ming would invade, cut that person down to size, and the infighting among the Mongols would begin again. As a result, the Mongols would never be the existential threat to China or any other civilization like they were back in the days of Genghis Khan. Some came close to bringing back old Mongol glory, such as in 1449 when the Mongols defeated a 500,000 man Ming army, captured the emperor, and laid siege to Beijing, but Mongol infighting destroyed the offensive and regressed the Mongols back to their old ways once again. In 1757, the Manchu Dynasty conquered Mongolia, reducing the Mongol population by 80% through warfare, disease, and genocide. In the meantime, the Russians advanced from the west, conquering and occupying traditional Mongol lands in Central Asia.

Mongolia would remain a province of Manchu China until the fall of the Dynasty in 1912. In 1924 Mongolia became a communist state under the Mongolian People’s Republic. While technically Mongolia was a sovereign nation, in reality it was a puppet state of the Soviet Union, who occupied the country with Red Army troops up until the end of World War II. As a result, around 30,000 Mongolians were executed as part of Stalin’s purges in the late 1930′s. After World War II Mongolia would become a pawn of the Soviet Union in it’s Cold War squabbles against China. Communism came to an end in Mongolia as the Soviet Union collapsed.

An incomplete list of thoughts on the Gilmore Girls revival

1. Start with Richard’s death– well, not quite.

First, give us a day in Star’s Hollow, a winter’s festival with Taylor freaking out and Luke grumbling and Miss Patty flirting and Kirk toting around his pig– I loved his pig– and Lane’s band playing in the gazebo. Rory, visiting, just got that article published, and it’s on the back of Luke’s menus. Get all of the nostalgia out of the way, in this whirlwind of things going right.

We need that reunion, certainly, that reminder of how much we love this tiny, crazy town and the people who live there. Send Rory, Luke, and Lorelei home down familiar streets, to the house she and Luke rebuilt together, strung up with Christmas lights Lorelei definitely made Luke hang while she ate leftover Halloween candy and called critique from below.

Everything is good. Lorelei woke up that morning smelling snow. Rory is pulling tater tots out of the freezer– “Didn’t you have enough fried nonsense at Kirk’s fried nonsense booth?” “Fried Oreos, not fried potato shreds.” “NONSENSE.”

And then we get the call from Emily, about Richard.

Give us joy, reminders, a setting we recall and love– but then give us plot.

If you look at the bones of the four episodes, Richard haunted all of it. He should, but we shouldn’t have to bury down to the bones to realize that. Start with that– frame it. With Richard’s death set up as a catalyst, rather than backstory, Rory’s erratic behavior makes more intuitive sense throughout that year. The ghost of him is in the forefront of our minds. We watch those happy first few minutes shake, and the things that our kids were only pretending were stable start to fall apart.

The funeral– with Luke playing handyman out of discomfort and a desire to help, with Lorelei staying behind to support her mom and instead getting cornered, drunk and grieving, asked to say something simple and positive about a relationship that was complicated at its best– is now our plot starting to roll forward, as Lorelei and Emily have their falling out. Rory goes home and cancels the lease on her apartment, because she’s hardly ever there, right? When was the last time she was in Brooklyn? It just doesn’t make sense, right? Nothing makes sense anymore.

And everything slowly starts to unravel– Michel is thinking about leaving. Rory goes to London to meet with River Song about the book, and falls into bed with Logan. Her job talk keeps getting pushed back, and when it actually happens they ask about her future and present projects and she stumbles over her tongue. Emily’s words ringing in her ears, Lorelei starts looking into having children again, unsure who wants what or why or when.

This is a story about finding out who you are, and I liked that– the three Gilmore girls, who always thought they knew what they were doing, finding themselves adrift in the aftermath of loss and change.

Is Lorelei supposed to be a mother again? Are she and Luke doing this right– is this what love is supposed to look like, nine years in? Is her inn too small, her ambitions too quiet– if she does not reach for more, will she lose everyone she built this with, one by one? What does she want?

What is Emily supposed to with this empty house? With this portrait looming wall-sized over everything? With the things they had built together because they had wanted them together– what is she supposed to do now?

And Rory, the smart one, the pretty one, the last best hope of the Gilmore clan, the pride of Star’s Hollow– every accomplishment is expected, every failure is “out of character.” The world’s been bending itself to Rory’s will all her life– not even her will, exactly. The world loves her– it protects and favors her but it also pushes things onto her and always has. Her grandfather dies, her book deal falls apart, the website turns her down– who is she supposed to be now?

2. I would have loved to see more of that with our minor characters, too– change, and conflict. It’s been nine years, and it should look like that– I thought that was well done with Paris, with Dean, with Michel. But a lot of other people seemed in frozen in time.

2a. Lane’s gone from infants to prepubescents, and the band looks the same. Have her and the band be writing the spring musical for the elementary school and teaching kids how to strum electrical guitar. Have them have dropped their dreams of touring in exchange for making YouTube videos– nothing’s gone viral, but they have a following and they do weekly Q&A’s while their kids frolic in the background. While Rory paces about Logan or her mom or her grandfather, have Lane be freaking out about turning into her mother after one of her kids has a tantrum about not wanting to go to music lessons. Have Lane be involved and present in her own life. You don’t lose doubts and stress just because you have something that looks like a picket fence. You don’t stop moving.

2b. What the hell is up with Logan? What happened in the last nine years to regress him back to that level of adulterous immaturity? I’m sad to say I believe it of Rory. But the Logan who grew through seasons 6 and 7? I don’t, I really don’t. Either explain it or give us a different story.

Even something just as much as– he and Odette decided on an open relationship, because this is obviously a “dynasty” match by Mitchum. Odette’s in love with a Parisian pastry chef, she and Logan are happy partners in crime, and Rory’s sense of self can still grate at being not quite “the other woman” but definitely Logan’s “dirty little secret.”

2c. And the Life and Death Brigade! Like, I can absolutely believe they stagnated, but I’d have loved some mention dropped that one of them–to his GREAT SHAME–has fallen in love with accounting and works a nine to five. In a cubicle. And he doesn’t even hate it.

And maybe one of them’s fallen in love with a Californian sculptor who doesn’t put up with his shit, and he’s absolutely loyal, barely manages to flirt with anyone all night. They have a Great Dane, out in their home in Monterey, and he walks the pup along the foggy coast every morning before he goes home and makes breakfast for his still-asleep girlfriend.

3. Where did the second half of Paris’s arc go? I wanted her to figure out it wasn’t the marriage that was the problem, it was the stairs, and sell the house. I wanted her and Rory to get drinks every season, while Rory stressed about the eighteen article pitches she had in the fire (did she write anything in those twelve months except a book Lorelei asked her not to?), and Paris tore apart Doyle’s latest script with language slightly kinder than what she used to his face.  

4. There are plenty of things to keep– keep the relationship Jess and Luke have grown into, where Jess makes Luke take a break and sit down and talk when he can tell something’s wrong, where he rips out Luke’s wireless router as a gesture of love, and steals his ballcap.

4b. Keep Lorelei going out to hike the Pacific Crest Trail because she read a book and she wants an epiphany– keep the fact that she never ends up hiking anywhere, and keep her phone call to Emily behind a closed roadside diner, when she tells her the story about her father that she hadn’t been able to give Emily at the funeral.

4c. Lord, keep Emily’s adopting Berta’s whole family and moving to Nantucket and frightening children with gleeful stories of whale murder. It’s not that her life with Richard, as society wife and DAR leader, wasn’t a full and fulfilling and true one– it’s just that that life was theirs, and he is gone. She needed to find something that would give her joy, and she did.

4d. Keep Luke’s Diner unfranchised, and, yes, absolutely, give Lorelei the inheritance for the Dragonfly. She has always been the empire builder. 

4e. Keep Rory turning down Logan’s key. For all I found the details of the arc with Logan absurd, I loved the end of it. That conversation, full of affection and respect– he will be there if she needs him, but she needs not to need him, and he’s gonna let her go. And her going to her grandfather’s study, writing at his desk– I think that was right, too. It went full circle, and I liked that. Rory and Richard’s friendship remains important to me, in his absence or not.

Though Rory’s relationship with grief was much subtler than Emily’s or Lorelei’s (and maybe should have been less subtle…), her grandfather shaped so much of her. She was running for so much of this story, grasping– leaving boxes here and there. She wouldn’t be who she was without Lorelei, but she also wouldn’t be the same without Richard and Emily.

5. But as much as I lovelove the desk, Rory sitting there with the blue light of her Mac lighting up her face in her grandfather’s inner sanctum– I’m pissed she wrote the book.

I was so damn proud of Lorelei for telling Rory “no.” I wanted Rory to respect that, not to talk about how she needed it. I wanted Lorelei to get the boundaries she asked for. It became, as it often does in this show, first about Rory’s desires– not even her needs, just her wants. 

And, more than that– Rory counters Lorelei’s desire for privacy with the argument that this book is the only thing that inspires her right now, the only thing that’s easy. Uh, okay? Why is your ease more important than your mother’s ownership of her own story? I’m a writer, so maybe this pisses me off more than your average viewer– but writing is work. This is not about easy and hard. Writing’s something you pour time and effort into. You write when you’re inspired, when you’re not, when you love the words and when you hate them– you put things down on paper.

And Rory’s not just a writer– she’s someone who’s trying to make a living as a journalist and/or non-fiction author. How on earth is she paying her bills? Did she write a single article that whole year? My god, child– write about lines in NYC. Become a staff member on the website that’s begging for you– and go into your interview with pitches, like a goddamn professional. Did she forget she had to earn things? Rory has this tendency to have things handed to her, and I can never tell if the show knows. Take notes on River Song, the eccentric feminist academic– ask questions instead of doodling. There was a book there, absolutely, but Rory wasn’t putting in the work.

And when Lorelei tells you she doesn’t want her story told, Rory, you listen.

I wanted Rory at that desk, face lit up in the dim light, comfortable in her grandfather’s legacy and love, but I wanted her to be writing something else.

Write about Star’s Hollow, this absurd cast of lovely characters and public shenanigans. There are books and books there– imagine the stories Miss Patty could tell.

Write about Richard, or go up to Nantucket and ask Emily about her life, her loves, her successes and failures and triumphs. In high school Rory once made a piece on asphalt seem fascinating; she can handle pulling some interest out of decades of backstabbing and intrigue in New England upper crusts, especially with Emily “I’ll say bullshit all I like” Gilmore’s help.

Be a goddamn professional, Rory Gilmore. And buy some underwear.


Saxon Iron Helmet, 6th-8th Century AD

Anglo-Saxon helmets, as well as Danish and Viking ones, had a conical shape in order to protect the wearer’s head by deflecting direct blows. The most expensive ones, used by kings and nobles, were entirely made of steel and iron while less expensive ones had an iron skeleton to which panels of animal horn, hard leather or even wood were fixed. The face, cheeks and the neck of the wearer were protected by additional elements made of iron plate or other materials.

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Chicago to Seattle, Part One: The Flats

In the six months I’ve been doing this project, I’ve been on it five times. Yeah, I got a crush on this route, but man if the views I’ve already posted from this train (see here) have yet to persuade you it’s a ride worth taking, this two part series should take care of that.

The flat sections often they get a bad rap for being boring, but I find beauty in the minimalist landscapes. The variations in grasslands, the rolling hills, and even those occasional and exciting gouges in the land caused by rivers- you develop an intimate connection with the prairie. Having gone both east and west on this train several times, let me tell you both ways leave you with this feeling that America offers no experience better and more pure than to sit on a train and watch it’s majestic scenery roll on by as the mountains draw near or, depending on your direction, fade away.


All the people criticising Stephen Fry for his comments, I recommend you watch the full interview with his comments in context before saying things like “why is he telling victims to be quiet he must be a paedophile”. Yes I’ve actually seen someone say that.

For convenience here’s a mostly accurate transcription of the entire second half of the interview (rather than the media-chopped version designed to mislead people)–

Rubin: I find in America right now it’s the left—what people are referring to as the regressive left—that seems to be coming after language and speech. Do you see that? Is that happening across the pond too? I suspect it is.

Fry: We fear that it is going to happen more and more because America leads and Britain follows in all kinds of ways, and I think it’s started to happen in Britain with the removal of—or the attempted removal of statues of people who are considered unlikeable—

Rubin: That were once very beloved—

Fry: Once beloved, and have become in a very 1984 way “unpersons”, and suddenly someone—because they were an imperialist—Cecil Rhodes is the example I’m thinking of who is probably best known in America because of the Rhodes scholarships that Americans take to get into oxford, and he founded the country called Rhodesia, hence its name, which is now Zimbabwe of course … and he was a real empire builder, and he was I’m sure a monster, he once said “to be born British was to have drawn first prize in the lottery of life.” And there is a big sculpture or something of him in Oxford College, and there was a movement because people were offended by this, because he stood for values that we now regard, rightly I think, as terrible: stealing other people countries, not a good thing to do—and raiding all their mineral wealth. But to remove his statue strikes me as being stupid. I mean the way to fight colonialism and the ideas behind it is not to pull down statues, it is to actually reveal who he is, to say “this is who this man was, look at him”. You might occasionally throw an egg at it.

Rubin: And this is like when in America we now don’t—they won’t show repeats of the show ‘Dukes of Hazzard’ because they had a confederate flag on it, or I’ll even hear, you know, Thomas Jefferson, people will say well—you know it’s known that he was sleeping with one of his slaves—and people say well he was a rapist and we should now—but he also, he also helped free the slaves—

Fry: I know, because life is complicated, and nobody wants to believe that life is complicated. This is the problem. I suppose you might call it the infantilism of our culture. You know, the food people eat is pappy soft food that barely needs a knife and fork to be eaten, they a’sfdhvdkvb;sidadbs in their mouth like that, and these sugary drinks that grown-ups have, with baseball caps on them—baseball caps! Wear a baseball cap on a baseball field. Nowhere else. Do you understand? And don’t drink these drinks once you’re over 12 years old. Just don’t. And above all, when you go to the cinema, don’t go to see superheroes hitting each other! That’s for children! Do you understand?

Rubin: Well it sounds like somebody didn’t get the bad guy role in Batman vs Superman!

Fry: I know it does, but seriously, there is deep infantilism in the culture, and that extends—you know you can laugh at it in terms of what people wear and what films they see, but in terms of the way they think, they can’t bear complexity. The idea that things aren’t easy to understand—that there’s a ‘Mmm’, but there’s a ‘Aaah’. You have to think; there are gradations, you know. That, no one wants that, they want to be told, or they want to be able to decide and say ‘This is good, this is bad. I’m saying so.’ Anything that in any way conflicts with that is not to be borne. And on student campuses this idea of—

Rubin: Trigger warnings! Safety!

Fry: There are many great plays which contain rapes. And the word ‘rape’ now is even considered a rape—to say the word ‘rape’ is to rape. It has an interesting Latin root, and the word ‘raptor’ comes from the same root, ‘rapine’, and there are all kinds of words from it, ‘violate’, you know these—they’re terrible things, and they have to be thought about, clearly. But if you say you can’t watch this play, you know, you can’t watch ‘Titus Andronicus’, or you can’t read it in a Shakespeare class, or you can’t read Macbeth because you’ve got children being killed, and you might trigger something when you were young that upset you once because uncle touched you in a nasty place, well I’m sorry. It’s a great shame and we’re all very sorry that uncle touched you in that nasty place, you get some of my sympathy, but your self-pity gets none of my sympathy, because self-pity is the ugliest emotion in humanity. Get rid of it, because no one’s going to like you if you feel sorry for yourself. The irony is we’ll feel sorry for you if you stop feeling sorry for yourself. Just grow up.