Questions and Answers: Volume 15

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Podcast Transcript

The month of February comes from the Roman month Februarius, which itself comes from the Februa purification ceremony, which was held during the festival of Lupercalia.

The Romans would run around wearing goat skins, wielding strips of goat hide, also known as februa, and hitting people with them, which was considered to be a sign of good fortune and fertility. 

However, they could have done it much easier. Instead of running around with strips of goat hide, they could have used the purification power of the truth, and there is no better way to get to the truth than with questions and answers. 

So join me today in our own audio februa as I answer your questions on this episode of Everything Everywhere Daily.

Let’s jump right into things….

Sean Vergowven asks, “It might have been asked before. But is there any place you wouldn’t want to visit again? Either because you had a bad experience or you saw everything.”

The first thing I’d say is that you can never see everything. I don’t think you can ever be “done” with a place. I’ve returned to places a second and third time and have had different experiences every time. 

Your experience in a place will depend on a host of factors, including the time of year, the weather, and who you happen to meet. 

So the short answer is no, there is no place I wouldn’t return to. 

That being said, there are some places where that are not high on my priority list for returning. Probably number one is Russia.

Russia has very onerous visa requirements for Americans, and when I was last there, I was harassed at the border control. and I don’t think things have gotten any better since I was last there. 

Visa issues and the difficulty getting into a country are always a big factor in determining where I would visit. 

John Higham asks,  Do you ever get used to the sound of your own voice? Whenever I hear a recording of myself I cringe.

Yes, it is something you get used to. The thing I found awkward when I first started this show wasn’t hearing my own voice, it was recording myself talking when there was no one around. 

I was used to recording podcasts where I was having a conversation with someone else but not recording something when no one was around. 

However, I realized that if this show was going to happen, I had better get over the awkwardness pretty quickly, so I did. 

If you find the sound of your own voice odd, it is just because you aren’t accustomed to hearing that way.  If you do it a few times, you’ll get used to it, and you won’t think about it at all.

Bairbre N’Cinneide asks If the oldest wheel in the world was a potter’s wheel. What other ubiquitous invention started out having a different use?

There are a great many inventions that were originally used for something else completely different. One of the most common things that will often change from their intended use is pharmaceutical products. Viagra was originally intended as a heart medication.

However, the best example I could come up with of something that had a totally different original use intent was……bubble wrap. 

If you’ve experienced bubble warp, it is hard to even conceive of what else it might be used for other than a packaging material. 

However, it was originally developed in 1957 by two inventors, Alfred Fielding and Marc Chavannes, who created the product to be a form of textured wallpaper. 

The use of the product as wallpaper was an absolute flop. However, they managed to pivot and established the Sealed Air Company in 1960 to sell bubble wrap as a packing material, where it was a great success. 

Max Shemtob asks Where do you see this podcast in 5 years from now? Still making daily episodes?

This podcast is a daily podcast. That is sort of its raison d’être. So I don’t particularly can’t see anything that would cause me to stop the show. If that were to happen, it would have to be something unforeseen.

I do assume that there will be changes in how the show is produced on the back end. That hopefully will not affect the end product but will make life easier for me in getting a show out every day.

Margarite Pardue Anderson asks, In general, when you travel, do you prefer to keep on the move to see as much as possible, or do you like to go slowly and soak things in? For example, I would love to just rent someplace and stay for a month (such as a house in the Scottish Hebrides or an apartment in Vienna,) but it is hard to convince myself to spend that much money and then just see one place.

It is a mix. If you move around constantly, you will get burned out. You can keep up that pace for a few weeks, but eventually, you’ll have to slow down. 

When I was traveling full-time, I had to do this every so often. I spent a month in Melbourne, Saigon, Honolulu, and other cities just because I got burned out from moving around so much.  

Spending an extended amount of time in one place is just a different way of traveling. It is the classic tradeoff between breadth and depth.  I would have no problem spending a month in the Hebrides or in Vienna. 

Ja Teng asks What language do you find most fascinating? Would you want to learn it?

I began studying Latin during the pandemic, and I’ve been keeping up with it, although not nearly as much as I should be. 

I know a smattering of languages, but not enough that I could really claim fluency in anything. 

Many people think that Latin is easy because it is the basis for so many Romance languages and because there are so many words in English that have Latin roots. 

From a strict grammar standpoint, that’s true, but the structure of Latin is very, very different from any of the Romance languages. Latin is highly inflected, which means that the ending of words determines how they are used in a sentence. The order of words is largely irreverent in Latin, and there are no articles like ‘the’ or ‘a.’

On top of the structure of the language, there is the whole ancient aspect of the language and how it opens the door to understanding the past.

Seth Louviere asks How do you construct your shows? I can’t imagine you simply copy and paste from one source like Wikipedia. How many sources do you usually try to get information from? Do you have some sources that are a go-to?

There is no single source for anything because every topic is different. 

I have no problem with Wikipedia per se, but there are issues with using it.

For starters, I often find data that doesn’t jibe with other sources. When that happens, I often have to dig around to find the correct year something happened or at least check the original source that Wikipedia sites, and to be honest, there often either isn’t a source or the link to the source is broken. 

There are some articles that are simply too long and too in-depth, and there are other articles that have almost nothing written. My goal is to tell an approximately 10-minute story, which requires trying to figure out the essence of what to say. That will often mean explaining the background of something or leaving out details that aren’t necessary. 

Cutting and pasting anything wouldn’t really work because writing for the eye doesn’t usually translate well into writing for the ear. 

One of the things I have to figure out for each episode is how I’m going to structure the episode and tell the story. Once I can figure out how the general arc of the episode is going to go, then it is just a matter of writing the script, which takes time but isn’t necessarily that difficult.

Henry Suski asks Do you ever try engage both locals and tourists to be more interested in culture and history in the areas you’ve traveled too? When traveling, it’s been a common occurrence for me to talk to locals, who haven’t visited cool attractions in their own backyard.

Yes and no. I often meet people, but I don’t go out of my way to do so. Either it happens organically, or it doesn’t. 

You are right that most people don’t visit tourist attractions where they live. It is one of the ironic things about people who say they want to travel like a local. People who live in a place aren’t traveling, and they aren’t thinking of doing travel things.

Otterpaw over on the Discord server asks, What was your first experience travelling to another country and how did it happen?

My first trip outside of the United States was a trip to Canada my family made in 1979 on a road trip to Niagara Falls. I can still remember it, but mostly how everything was the same but just a bit different. 

The first time I traveled out of North America was in 1999. I had sold my company to a much larger, international firm, and they sent me on a trip around the world. My first stop was in Japan, and I remember staying up all night watching Japanese TV because I was jet lagged and because I found it all fascinating.

TheArchVillager asks on Discord, What do you think the world would have looked like if the Byzantines won at Yarmouk?

Honestly, I don’t think the world would be that much different if the Byzantines had won.

The Byzantine Empire was in a very long, slow decline, and Islam was on the rise in 636.

If, for whatever reason, the Byzantines had won that particular battle, it wouldn’t have changed the overall trend of what was happening. 

Instead of the battle of Yarmouk, it would probably be some other battle that we would remember. 

Individual battles like Yarmouk often punctuate much larger trends. The battles usually are not the trend itself. There are exceptions, like the Battle of Gaugamela, but those are not the norm.

Fat Yankee asks on the Discord Server,  How does the increasing popularity of the podcast affect you? Is it more stressful? Does it give you more drive knowing more and more people love your work?

The funny thing is, what I do on my end of the microphone is almost completely disconnected from the number of people who listen on the other end. 

The production of the show today isn’t that radically different from what I was doing three years ago. In fact, one of the great things about podcasting is that it can scale almost indefinitely. 

That being said, I’m certainly aware of the size and growth of the audience, and it does factor into the attention I give each episode.

If you would like to have your question answered next month, just join the Facebook group or the Discord server, the links to which are in the show notes.