H.E.R.: Focus


I love this song, even if it is kind of repetitive. Maybe it is the harp. Or that it was on “Insecure”. Or that it seems like it samples “I’m Not in Love” (1975) by 10cc.

The song came out in 2017 and went to #45 on the US R&B chart. It went to #1 on “urban adult contemporary” radio stations and is still in the top ten on BET Soul.

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Can you focus on me?
Baby, can you focus on me?
BabeHands in the soap
Have the faucet’s running
And I keep looking at you
Stuck on your phone
And you’re stuck in your zone
You don’t have a clue

But I don’t wanna give up
Baby, I just want you to get up
Lately I’ve been a little fed up
Wish you would just focus on

Can you focus on me?
Baby, can you focus on me?
Can you focus on me?
Baby, can you focus on me?

Lazy and broke?
No, he get this money
So I guess I can’t complain
But I feel alone even when we’re alone
And that don’t cost a thing

But I don’t wanna give up
Baby, I just want you to get up
Lately I’ve been a little fed up
Wish you would just focus on

Can you focus on me?
Baby, can you focus on me?
Can you focus on me?
Baby, can you focus on me?

Baby, focus
Can’t you see?
I just wanna love you, baby
Look me in my eyes

Books I read in 2017

Some of the books I read in 2017 and what I think of them now:

Eddie S. Glaude Jr: Democracy in Black (2016) – where Black America is and where it is going. Says little will change until Whites change. Translation: it is going to get worse before it gets better.

Andrew J. Bacevich: Washington Rules (2010) – how the US became addicted to a war economy in the Second World War and has yet to kick the habit. The US learned almost nothing from the Vietnam War. Thus Iraq and Afghanistan.

Jonathan Schell: Observing the Nixon Years (1989) – pieces he wrote for the New Yorker when Nixon was in power. As bad as he thought Nixon was, Nixon was worse.

Rebecca Skloot: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (2010) – about Henrietta Lacks and how her cancer cells, taken from her on her death bed without her family’s knowledge or consent, have changed science.

Harper Lee: Go Set a Watchman (2015) – “To Kill a Mockingbird” before her New York editor changed it up. Scout makes her peace with White racism. Ugh.

Jonathan Schell: The Time of Illusion (1975) – how nuclear weapons shaped the Vietnam War and caused the downfall of Nixon. Excellent.

Donald P. Ryan: Ancient Egypt on 5 Deben a Day (2010) – time-travel tourism. Wonderful.

Colin McEvedy: Cities of the Classical World (2011) – short articles on 120 cities of Greek and Roman times, from Londinium to Babylon.

Naguib Mahfouz: Miramar (1967) – I read this because Mahfouz won a Nobel Prize and Alexandria is one of my favourite cities I have not visited. The book now forms most of my picture of present-day Alexandria.

Herge: Tintin in the Congo (1946) – as bad as it sounds.

H.G. Wells: The Time Machine (1895) – I love time travel stories but what a downer!

W.E.B. Du Bois: The Souls of Black Folk (1903) – since high school I have heard such good things about this book that I felt embarrassed for not having read it. Some chapters are great, but some are cringetastic. Du Bois (trained as a scientist) lacks the clean, moral outrage of James Baldwin (trained as a preacher).

Carter G. Woodson: The Mis-Education of the Negro (1933) – about how Eurocentric US education is, making university-educated Blacks too brainwashed to be of much use.

Margot Lee Shetterly: Hidden Figures (2016) – about the Black women who helped to put the US in outer space. Enough for a miniseries – and without Hollywood’s White gaze. Shetterly is a treasure.

Michael Hastings: The Operators (2012) – Hastings’ behind-the-scenes look at the War in Afghanistan in the first years of the Obama Era. Mike Flynn is in it. Confirms Bacevich and Schell.

Lauren Slater: Prozac Diary (1999) – I read this because I love how she writes. The most interesting part was how she felt about her sex life.

I also read half of (and have yet to finish!):

Tolstoy: War and Peace (1868) – about rich Russians and Napoleon’s invasion of their country. Long, but good (so far).

H.G. Wells: Outline of History (1920) – the most interesting parts are where he tries to talk about religion from a historian’s point of view.

– Abagond, 2018.

Source: Images mainly from Goodreads.

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The Columbian Exchange

(Image via Slideplayer.com)

The Columbian Exchange (1492- ) is the exchange of plants, animals, people, and diseases between the Americas and the rest of the world. It took place after Columbus arrived in 1492.

In 1491 in the Americas there were no:

  • cows, oxen, horses, sheep, pigs, chickens, rats,
  • honeybees,
  • wheat, rice, barley, oats, rye, yams, black-eyed peas,
  • sugar, coffee,
  • bananas, apples, peaches, pears, lemons, oranges, watermelons, grapes,
  • carrots, lettuce, onions,
  • dandelions, crabgrass, thistles,
  • malaria, measles, mumps, swine flu, smallpox, typhus, bubonic plague, diphtheria, or whooping cough.


Meanwhile, in Africa, Europe, and Asia there were no:

  • turkeys,
  • maize (corn), potatoes (white or sweet), cassava (manioc),
  • pineapples, avocados, blueberries, strawberries,
  • tomatoes, pumpkins, squash,
  • beans (kidney, navy, lima), peanuts, cashews,
  • chocolate, vanilla,
  • chilli,
  • sunflowers,
  • tobacco,
  • syphilis.

American Indians did not ride on horses. There was no tomato sauce in Italy or curry powder in India.

Columbus changed all that. The Portuguese Empire and the Catholic Church, with their early worldwide networks, helped it along.

The Americas had been largely cut off from the rest of the world for over 10,000 years. When plague and disease had repeatedly wracked Eurasia, killing millions, the Americas were untouched – until, that is, Columbus arrived. Then, in the space of 200 years, more than half the people of the Americas were wiped out by disease and the dynastic wars and famines it led to.

European conquest: The Aztecs and Incas, by the time the Spanish conquistadors arrived, had already been seriously weakened by Eurasian disease. Disease, not any technological edge, was the main reason the Spanish made short work of both empires.

Likewise, it is unlikely anyone but scholars would have heard of the Mayflower if disease (maybe bubonic plague) had not ravaged the New England coast before the Pilgrims arrived.

African Diaspora: In the 1700s the Americas bounced back – but much of the increase in people came from Africans brought as slaves. Malaria, a disease probably brought by Columbus himself, gave Africans an edge over both Europeans and Americans. But because they were in fact slaves, it was Europeans who profited.

World population growth: Because farmers had more choice of what to grow, in both the Americas and elsewhere, more land could be farmed or farmed better. Sweet potatoes, for example, grow better in parts of China than rice. Wheat grows better in parts of North America than maize. Cassava and potatoes, because they grow underground, helped people in Africa and Europe live through wars. And so on.

Mass extinction: The growth in farming, though, has meant that many species have died out, as many as would ordinarily die out in a million years. People have more choice of what to eat, but at the same time there are fewer different kinds of plants and animals on the Earth.

Alfred Crosby, a geographer and historian, came up with the term “Columbian Exchange” in the early 1970s. But it did not catch on till 1992, when all things Columbus were in. It is now a standard part of history as taught at US schools.

– Abagond, 2018.

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The Tommy Westphall Universe

The Tommy Westphall Universe (1951- ), or TWU, is that strange, alternate universe that most US television shows take place in. Some British television shows and Hollywood films also take place there.

For example, you cannot buy real Morley cigarettes in the US. But they have been appearing on television shows since 1961, like “The Twilight Zone”, “Seinfeld”, “Friends”, “The Walking Dead”, and “The X-Files”.

Or: The character Detective John Munch shows up not just on “Homicide: Life on the Street”, but also “The Beat”, “Law & Order”, “The Wire”,  “30 Rock” – and “The X-Files”.

Or: Yoyodyne made a bus station in “The John Laroquette Show”, set in the 1990s. By the 2300s they are making starships on “Star Trek: The Next Generation”. They have an office right on the promenade in “Deep Space Nine”.

and so do “The Dick Van Dyke Show”, “Caroline in the City”, “Frasier”, “Cheers”, “St Elsewhere”, “Homicide: Life in the Street” and more than 400 others.


  • “The Alan Brady Show” was a fictional television show on “The Dick Van Dyke Show” – and on “Mad About You”.
  • Kramer from “Seinfeld” appeared on “Mad About You” as did Ursula from “Friends”.
  • Chandler from “Friends” appeared on “Caroline in the City” as did Daphne from “Frasier”.
  • Frasier went to the bar on “Cheers” as did characters from “St Elsewhere”.
  • Alfre Woodard’s character on “St Elsewhere” was on “Homicide: Life on the Streets” – as was Detective Munch!

And on and on and on, connecting over 400 shows:

A chart of known television show crossovers, as of 2016. Click to enlarge.

Some TWU shows:

  • 1950s: I Love Lucy, Dragnet, Superman, Honeymooners, As the World Turns, Leave it to Beaver, Donna Reed.
  • 1960s: Dick Van Dyke, Mister Ed, Beverly Hillbillies, Doctor Who, Addams Family, Munsters, Gillligan’s Island, Bewitched, Batman, Star Trek, Flying Nun, Brady Bunch.
  • 1970s: Mary Tyler Moore, All in the Family, M*A*S*H, Good Times, Happy Days, Diff’rent Strokes.
  • 1980s: Hill Street Blues, Degrassi, St. Elsewhere, Cheers, Family Ties, Miami Vice, The Cosby Show, Murder She Wrote, Moonlighting, The Simpsons.
  • 1990s: Twin Peaks, Fresh Prince, Seinfeld, Law & Order, X-Files, NYPD Blue, ER, Friends, Moesha, Ally McBeal, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The 70s Show, Angel.
  • 2000s: The Office, Girlfriends, CSI, The Wire, The L Word, Lost, Breaking Bad, Community, Glee.
  • 2010s: Luther, The Walking Dead, Orange is the New Black, Sleepy Hollow, The Flash.

Tommy Westphall was the autistic son of Dr Donald Westphall, the head
doctor of St Eligius hospital on “St Elsewhere”(1982-1988). Tommy only
appeared every now and then. On May 25th 1988, in the last scene of
the last episode, he is looking at a snow globe. His father comes home
– only he is not a doctor at all but a construction worker! He says to
his father:

“I don’t understand this autism thing, Papa. Here’s my son, I talk to him, I don’t even know if he can hear me. He sits there, all day long, in his own world, staring at that toy. What’s he thinking about?”

And in the snow globe we see St Eligius hospital – the whole show was
just in his imagination! According to the Tommy Westphall Universe Hypothesis so are all the other TWU shows.

Television is not just fake – it is fake within fake.

– Abagond, 2018.

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The Meso-American Long Count

Stela C from Tres Zapotes (Olmec): the oldest, clearly written Long Count date found so far: (September 1st 32 BC).

The Meso-American Long Count (by 32 BC) counts the number of days since the beginning of the world, since August 11th 3114 BC. It is also known as the Mayan Long Count since the Maya are the best known for putting it on their monuments.

The number zero: The Long Count is the first thing known to use the number zero. The earliest clearly written Long Count date found so far by archaeologists is or September 1st 32 BC on the Gregorian calendar. By then the Long Count had probably been in use for hundreds of years, probably starting with the Olmecs.

Today on different calendars:

  • Mayan: (17 Yax 9 Kan)
  • Gregorian: October 15th AD 2018
  • Roman: October 2nd 2771 AUC
  • Alexandrian: October 2nd AM 7511
  • Byzantine: October 2nd AM 7527
  • Athenian: Pyanepsion 6th Olympiad 699/2
  • Hebrew: Heshvan 6th 5779 AM
  • Islamic: Safar 4th 1440 AH
  • Persian: Libra 23st 1397 AHS
  • Julian Day: 2458406
  • Unix: time() = 1539561600
  • Discordian: Bureaucracy 69th YOLD 3184

The Mayan date: (17 Yax 9 Kan)

Comes in three parts:

  • Long Count:
  • Haab: 17 Yax
  • Tzolkin: 9 Kan

The Haab date was for farmers (it repeats every 365 days). The Tzolkin date was for priests (it repeats every 260 days). The two together determined daily life and repeated every 52 years. That made it terrible for history, monuments or long-term prophecies. Thus the Long Count, which can last over a billion years.

The Long Count is made up of five numbers:

Each number goes from 0 to 19, except for the second-to-last one, which only goes up to 17

Tomorrow will be, then and so on till The day after that will be The day after will be And on and on.

Format: If Western dates, like October 15th 2018, were expressed the same way, they might look like this:

the format being:


For the Long Count the format is:


where the kin goes up by one every day, the uinal every 20 days, the tun every 360 days (almost a year), the katun every 7,200 days (19.7 years, almost a double decade), and the baktun every 144,000 days (394.3 years, almost a quadruple century).

So for, the first three numbers (13.0.5) are like a year, the next one (16) like a short month, and the last one is the day of that month, the first day being day zero.

The full format has four more numbers:


An alautun is 23,040,000,000 days or 63,081,429 years. Twenty times that is 1.26 billion years. One alautun ago was about when a comet hit Mayan land, killing off the dinosaurs.

Hieroglyphics: Meso-Americans wrote the Long Count vertically in hieroglyphics. An example is pictured at the top of the post.

Oh, one more rule: If the gods destroy the world and recreate it, then the Long Count starts over, at

End of the world: The last time the gods destroyed the world, the Long Count had reached Which is why some thought the world would end on December 21st 2012, which was also The Maya themselves never said that. What some of them say is that the world will end on, which is January 3rd 3590, a Wednesday.

– Abagond,

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The Kanye-Trump meeting

The Kanye-Trump meeting (October 11th 2018) was when rapper Kanye West met US President Donald Trump at the White House, aka Crazytown, to discuss “manufacturing resurgence in America, prison reform, how to prevent gang violence, and what can be done to reduce violence in Chicago.”

Kanye tried unsuccessfully to get Colin Kaepernick to attend.

In the part that was shown on live television, in the Oval Office with Trump sitting behind a very empty desk, Kanye West did almost all the talking.

About stop-and-frisk in his native Chicago:

KANYE: The thing that the head of the police and Mike Sacks met with me last night at the Soho House about was we feel that stop-and-frisk does not help the relationships in the city, and everyone that knew I was coming here said, ‘Ask about stop-and-frisk.’ That’s the number one thing that we’re having this conversation about.

REPORTER: points out Trump favours stop-and-frisk.

KANYE: I didn’t mean to put you on blast like that bro.

TRUMP: I’m open-minded. I’m here. I am open minded.

About why he wears a “Make America Great Again” Trump hat:

KANYE: You know, my dad and my mom separated, so I didn’t have a lot of male energy in my home. And also I’m married now into a family that, you know, not a lot of male energy going on, it’s beautiful though. But there’s times where, you know, it’s something about, I love Hillary, I love everyone, right, but the campaign “I’m With Her” just didn’t make me feel as a guy that didn’t get to see my dad all the time, like a guy that could play catch with his son. It was something about when I put this hat on, it made me feel like Superman. You made us Superman, that’s my favourite superhero, and you made a Superman cape for me.

About whether Trump cares about Black people:

KANYE: A Liberal will try to control a Black person through the concept of racism because they know we’re very proud, emotional people.

About his answers:

KANYE: You are tasting a fine wine that has multiple notes to it.

About his mental illness:

KANYE: I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I was connected with a neuropsychologist that works with the athletes in the NBA and NFL. He looked at my brain, it’s equal on three parts. I’m gonna go ahead, drop some bombs for you. 98 percentile IQ test, I had a 75 percentile of all human beings when it was counting eight numbers backwards, so I’m gonna work on that one. The other ones, 98 percent, Tesla, Freud. So, he said that I actually wasn’t bipolar, I had sleep deprivation, which could cause dementia 10-20 years from now, where I wouldn’t even remember my son’s name.

He told Trump “I love you” and then hugged him.

(Photo by Oliver Contreras – Pool/Getty Images)

Kim Kardashian, Kanye’s wife, was mortified and heartbroken. She thinks her husband meant well but was played by Trump, who at one point was laughing at him.

– Abagond, 2018.

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“Eratosthenes Teaching in Alexandria” (c. 1635) by Bernardo Strozzi at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Note that books in Eratosthenes’ time were all in scroll form.

Eratosthenes (c. -276 to -194) was the Alexandrian scientist from which the West gets:

  • the word “geography”,
  • the musical scale,
  • leap days,
  • the idea of prime numbers,
  • dating events in history,
  • dates of many events of ancient history.

And that was not even his day job.

Ptolemy III of Egypt had put him in charge of the Library of Alexandria and made him tutor to his son, the future Ptolemy IV.

Like Columbus, Eratosthenes said the Earth was round and that you could sail west from Spain to reach India – some 1700 years before Columbus did.

In our time he is best known for his amazingly accurate measurement of the circumference of the Earth. But no one knew how right he was till 1522, after the voyage of Magellan.

In his own time he was best known for solving the Delian problem: doubling the cube. It was one of three great problems of Greek mathematics, along with squaring the circle and trisecting an angle.

Round Earther: Eratosthenes believed the Earth was round because its shadow was round during an eclipse of the Moon. And, from living in Alexandria, he knew you could see a whole ship from the top of the Pharos lighthouse while on the ground you might only see the sails peeking above the horizon. That made sense on a round Earth, not a flat one.

Measuring the Earth: He did it with a stick, a well, and a royal pacer. At noon on the first day of summer, the rays of the sun reach the bottom of a well in Syene (now Aswan) in the south of Egypt. That meant the sun was directly overhead. At that very same moment a stick to the north in Alexandria casts a shadow of 7 degrees. That meant 7 degrees of the Earth’s 360 degrees lay between Alexandria and the well. Once the royal pacer he hired had walked back from the well to Alexandria, pacing out the distance, all Eratosthenes had to do was divide the distance by 7 to get the length of a degree. From that he got a circumference of 252,000 stades or about 39,700 km. The right value is 40,008 km.

Other measurements:

  • tilt of the Earth’s axis: 23.85 degrees (our value: 23.77)
  • distance to the Sun: 125.5 million kilometres (our value: 150.0)
  • distance to the Moon: 122,300 km (our value: 384,000)

Notice he gets at least the scale right, which seemed way too big to people back then.

What his world map might have looked like. Click to enlarge. It did use latitude and longitude, with the prime meridian going through Alexandria. The map went from Britain to Sri Lanka and from the Caspian Sea to Ethiopia. He knew it covered only a fourth of the Earth and that Africa was probably larger than it is on the map.

His books: He wrote at least 12 books, among them:

  1. “Geographica” – where the word “geography” comes from.
  2. “On Ancient Comedy”
  3. “Erigone” – the story of Virgo.
  4. “Hermes” – epic poem about the god Hermes.
  5. “Hesiod” – epic poem about the death of the poet Hesiod.
  6. “Chronologica” – history with dates! Introduces the leap day (did not catch on till 200 years later).
  7. “Platonicus” – includes the Sieve of Eratosthenes for finding prime numbers.
  8. a star catalogue of 675 stars
  9. a book of constellations and the stories behind them

All are lost – all we have are bits and pieces of them quoted in other books.

– Abagond, 2018.

Source: mainly Google Images; “The Rise and Fall of Alexandria” (2006) by Justin Pollard and Howard Reid. 

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