Archive: The World is Still Round

But Kansas is Still Flatter Than a Pancake

My good friend Jeff Mann, the true Yard Ramp Guy, has asked me to revisit some of my original posts. This week in my From the Archives series: a flat Earth is more like a flat tire...

Quick quiz: When did humanity discover that the Earth is round?

hand holding the earth

Note the Roundness.

If you answered Copernicus or Galileo, you're off by a millennia or two. The Ancient Greeks actually discovered this.

To prove the theory, they created an experiment using two dry wells, hundreds of miles apart. Then, at noon on the same day, the Greeks measured the shadows at the bottom of the well to see if they were at the same angle. When they weren't, they used the difference in angle to figure out the actual size of the Earth…with remarkable accuracy.

(Trigonometry is important, kids. If you don't believe me, just ask Jeff over at The Yard Ramp Guy.)

Okay, another quick quiz: When did humanity forget that the world was round?

I bet the most specific thing you can think of is the Dark Ages or the Fall of Rome, right? Well, both are incorrect: We never forgot.


Careful, buddy.

To quote the brilliant Stephen Jay Gould, "There never was a period of 'flat Earth darkness' among scholars (regardless of how the public at large may have conceptualized our planet both then and now). Greek knowledge of sphericity never faded, and all major medieval scholars accepted the Earth's roundness as an established fact of cosmology."

In fact, we can trace the popularization of the idea that people thought the Earth was flat back to specific historians in the 1800s.

Sadly, this is pretty common stuff when we think about history.

People are swift to assume that their distant ancestors (or at least other people's distant ancestors) were dumber than people today.

It really doesn't take that much effort to realize that idea is wrong, but most people won't even try to put in the effort.

(Really don't believe me? Then let's see you design an aqueduct with pen and paper.)

Yard Ramp Guy Blog: Yard Ramps for Forklifts

This week, my friend The Yard Ramp Guy honors both John Henry and forklifts. In my eyes, you can't do much better than that.

Click HERE to witness progress at its finest.

Archives: Gorge-ous

Or: Hooked on Fishing

My good friend Jeff Mann, the true Yard Ramp Guy, has asked me to revisit some of my original posts. This week in my From the Archives series:something fishy is definitely going on.

The one that didn't get away.

Fishing: It predates civilization…even the human race. (Birds fish, after all.)

There are plenty of ways people fish, ranging from fishing spears (which are really, really difficult to use) to nets. The best way, or at least most fun, is with a hook and a line. And it's a very old way.

The oldest fish hook in existence was carved out of shell. Fishing hook hunters (or stumble-uponers) found it in East Timor, and it dates back to as much as twenty-three THOUSAND years.

Shell was an extremely common material for ancient fish hooks. Our ancestors crafted hooks from bone, wood, horns, stone, bronze, and eventually iron. Each one of them, however, had problems of its own. Wood, for instance, floats, and that necessitates weights, or heavier bait. One common workaround was using multiple of these materials to leverage their strengths.

Fishing hooks became more common in the archaeological record around 7000 BC. Many of the early fishhooks lacked barbs, which would have made it much more difficult to fish with. In fact, one of the earliest types of fishing hook, known as a gorge hook, wasn't even curved.

The gorge hook is a small stick tapered to a point on each end. A small groove is cut around the middle, where a cord is tied. The cord is then wrapped along the length of the gorge hook, securing a piece of bait to it. When the fish grabs the bait, the cord comes unwound, which then results in the gorge hook turning sideways and lodging in the fish's throat.

This does require you to know the average length of fish in the area, though. The gorge hook has the distinction of being one of the few hooks that aren't prone to stabbing into your thumb.

Fishing with an antique-style hook is definitely a challenge. But the satisfaction you get makes it worthwhile.

Yard Ramp Guy Blog: Pricing Transparency

This week, my friend The Yard Ramp Guy admirably shows how transparency and honesty go hand in hand.

Click HERE to discover the best surprise.

Archive: Surviving Absurdity

Or: How to Make a $1,500 Sandwich

My good friend Jeff Mann, the true Yard Ramp Guy, has asked me to revisit some of my original posts. This week in my From the Archives series: everyone has, um, a (sandwich) price.

McCoy: In the Kitchen

Me...thinking 'bout making a rich sandwich

Have you ever made food from scratch? If you said yes, you're probably thinking of cooking bread from flour and yeast and so on.

You probably aren't thinking of growing the wheat, harvesting it, milling it, and all that jazz. One guy in Minnesota, however, decided to actually cook a chicken sandwich from scratch. It took him six months and cost him $1,500.

Little bit ridiculous, right? We’ve evolved our modern society toward specialization in order to reduce the workload on people and prevent us from having to do such outrageous things.

The most interesting aspect of this is, of course, the salt: the guy from Minnesota had to fly to the West Coast to harvest his salt. If he wanted to be a purist, he would have needed to either walk all the way to the ocean or build his own airplane from scratch.

Obviously, that’s too much work for a YouTube video.

If he wanted to be even more of a purist, he would have needed to build all his tools himself. No stove; rather, an open fire. And no metal pot; he would have needed to fashion his own cookware instead. You can see how quick the absurdity things would’ve gotten.

So where am I going with all this?

A McCoy Sandwich

I made me a sandwich…for $3.45

Believe it or not, I wanted to talk about survivalists. The typical survivalist strategy is to master a certain number of survival skills and to accumulate massive amounts of resources for survival purposes.

The missing ingredients? Almost everything, really. Our society has accumulated unbelievably huge quantities of knowledge dedicated toward merely keeping civilization running, mostly in the form of working professionals.

If someone were to make all of society's doctors disappear, we wouldn't be able to just set a bunch of people to the books and expect them to become doctors in a decade or so. Civilization reconstruction is a problem of a magnitude more significant than assembling a sandwich from scratch.

Any society emerging from survivalists in the wake of the collapse of civilization is going to be fairly primitive, by necessity.

And just to reassure Maggie and the kids and my gaggle of grandkids: I'm not investing in survivalist gear. Modern civilization is pretty durable. Gambling on it failing seems like way too much of a sucker bet to me.

Yard Ramp Guy Blog: The Diesel Blues

This week, my friend The Yard Ramp Guy turns the simple (chart) into the profound. Oh, and there's George Foreman, too.

Click HERE to fuel your day.

Archives: Games People Play

My good friend Jeff Mann, the true Yard Ramp Guy, has asked me to revisit some of my original posts. This week in my From the Archives series: are we gaming the system? Nope, it's gaming us.

Do I look like I'm playing games?

When I was a little kid, I hated board games. Absolutely did not like them. Especially Monopoly.

Risk I could tolerate about once or twice a year. Chess and checkers I could tolerate. That was the extent of the games we had (so maybe my choices were too limited). On rare occasions, I'd get to try a game someone else owned, but there weren't a lot out there (so maybe I come from a place where people didn’t play board games).

Things stick with us. These days, I’m surprised every time I see someone's board game collection (so maybe everyone’s not like me).

We're in a veritable board game renaissance right now. Most estimates put the number published each year in the thousands.

Of course, a huge chunk of these games are still terrible. Many are incredibly complicated and take hours—or even days—to play. Which, I suppose, is just fine for those with that kind of free time, but most of us don't have such free time. Other games are spat out quickly…or are just mediocre rip-offs of another game.



Still, and muffling my rant just a bit, there are probably a gaggle of good new games published every year.

I’ve picked up a few over the years that I've grown to like, mostly for my kids and grandkids. My favorite is one I bought for my grandkids: Master Labyrinth. I still drag it out whenever they come over, and I'm probably more excited to play it than they are.

While I was reading about board games, I decided to hunt down the oldest.

Senet, Backgammon, and The Royal Game of Ur are more than 4,000 years old. Go is about 2,500 years old, and Parcheesi is nearly 2,000. Tafl, a Viking ancestor of chess, is some 1,600 years old.

Yes. Humans have been playing games for fun for a long, long time. For better or worse. Mostly worse, I say.

This isn't just an old man rambling on and on about board games. Because I refuse to admit to being old…until I retire.

Yard Ramp Guy Blog: Industrial Disruption

This week my friend The Yard Ramp Guy describes a possible disruption to his own disrupting ways.

Click HERE to get disrupted.

Archive: Roads as History

My good friend Jeff Mann, the true Yard Ramp Guy, has asked me to revisit some of my original posts. This week in my From the Archives series: roads are literally, yes, a roadmap of history.

McCoy Fields Roads

Paved with (Good?) Intentions

I write a lot about roads on this blog. The Yard Ramp Guy must think I'm a bit obsessed (though he’d probably phrase it differently).

The study of roads is the study of history. Countless historical events, from the outcomes of wars to international trade, and from religious expansion to the maintenance of nations: they all rely on roads.

Incan roads—not the most extensive network of ancient roads but one of the most technologically impressive—were earthquake-proof with incredibly durable suspension bridges. Roman roads have been receiving acclaim for millennia now, and many are still in use.

Which brings us to ancient Chinese roads.

Under the Qin Dynasty (circa 220 BC), Chinese road networks were considerably more extensive than their Roman contemporaries. One, the Ancient Road of Mules and Horses, was created in 214 BC by an advancing army of the Qin. The Emperor marched a half-million strong army in a straight line on one of his wars of conquest, crushing the earth in its path. They later covered the road in slate, and it remained in use for 2,000 years afterward without changing routes.

Walking up a golden ramp. Kind of.

Walking up a golden ramp. Kind of.

Road maintenance was key in holding onto territory in China. Later dynasties, like the Han, went to great pains to maintain this and other roads, building hostels and post offices along their lengths. Another Qin road was immensely long, built to service border forts along a huge wall that predated the Great Wall.

My favorite ancient road of all, though, is the Stone Cattle Road. One of the ancestors of the First Qin Emperor wanted to conquer the nearby Shu kingdom to the south, over the Qinling Mountains. He had his sculptors and artisans carve five life-sized stone cows and decorate their tails and hindquarters with gold.

When the king of Shu received news of them, he asked the Qin king to send him a herd. The Qin king claimed that he would need a gallery road (built of wooden planks imbedded in the sides of cliffs) across the mountains to move the cows. The Shu king not only permitted it; he also helped fund the construction.

Yes, we know how this story develops: The first thing the Qin king brought over wasn't a herd of gold-depositing cattle. He brought an army.

Yard Ramp Guy Blog: Business Advantages

This week my friend The Yard Ramp Guy shows how buying his inventory can save you money.

Click HERE for his simple suggestions to make that happen.