Site Changes! 5 Star Reviews and the Podcast Page

Evolution is real and History Nerds United is not above it! First things first, we pulled down the personalized recommendations page and the virtual book club. No one used them. They had to go.

In their place is two new pages:

The Podcast Page – It is exactly what you expect. It has every podcast we do and a player right on the page to make it easy to play and listen. Please listen. It takes so much damn work. Check it out here.

The 5-Star Review Page – Here is a comprehensive list of all the best books I have ever read. Head on over and take a look to pick your next book. I guarantee you will love them. I back this guarantee up with absolutely nothing. You’re welcome! Check it out here.

Stay loose, nerds!

Happy Thanksgiving 2021!

Happy Thanksgiving 2021, nerds!

Never forget that 400 years ago, the Pilgrims landed on our shores and proceeded to find opportunity and success.

Before you think it was all rosy, go watch the Saints & Strangers miniseries. It should be a Thanksgiving tradition like watching A Christmas Story during Christmas.

Yes, you can watch it in between football games. I will!

Hopefully you are somewhere warm and fun with people you love. Or cold and fun. I prefer the cold part.

Stay safe, nerds.

Mailbag #1

I asked and then you asked! Here are the questions I got from my loyal readers. Some were good, some were bad, and some were quite profane. You people need a therapist or Jesus. Not sure which one.

I did some editing to the questions for clarity, space, and again, because some were filthy. I also changed the names to protect the (not really) innocent. Let’s do this!

Dare in Virginia asks: You can invite 3 people from history to a dinner: they can be from any time periods, but one must be a woman and one must come from a non-western culture – who would you choose and why?

  1. Marquis de Lafayette – if you read this blog at all you know why. I won’t belabor the point.
  2. Isabella I of Castile (better known as Queen Isabella of Columbus fame) – one of the most remarkable women ever who ruled in her own right and very fairly (for her time). I might want to ask about the whole Inquisition thing. Maybe she needed to take that down a notch.
  3. Gautama Buddha – I feel like it would be a real chill conversation.

Pushy asks: If you were going to author a work of historical nonfiction, what would the subject matter be and what would you title it?

I would write a book on Cape Cod Highland Lighthouse. It is the oldest lighthouse on Cape Cod. It was built in 1797 (reconstructed in 1857) and has seen a lot in that amount of time. Bonus: I’d obviously have to make the publisher pay for me to live on the Cape while I was writing it. It’s just the right way to go about it.

Classic Book Nerd asks: I just finished reading “The Scarlet Letter” which takes place in the 1640s in the Puritan Massachusetts Bay Colony. My history question is who was coming to the New World at that time? Was it in hopes of making money or was it all to escape religious persecution? And how many unaccompanied women were coming over at that time?

All of the above! We think of the Puritans as the only passengers but there were also non-Puritans as well, who were called “Strangers” because the Puritans were kind of jerks. This is how you get the title of the amazing miniseries Saints & Strangers which everyone should watch. Some people came for religion, others because their prospects were limited back in the home country for various reasons. Oh, and some were just plain criminals.

As for unaccompanied women, it depended on where you were. The first group to land in Jamestown was all men. Often, men would be sent with no women to begin settlement of the land and then women would be shipped in later. The businessmen running these enterprises knew men would need women sooner or later and would send unaccompanied women to settle once a beachhead was set. In contrast, the Puritans sailed as full families in some instances.

The other thing to remember is many women ended up unaccompanied without intending to be. The death rates for early American colonization were shockingly high. That was the bad news. The good news is they tended to remarry immediately if only for survival’s sake. Silver lining?

Jersey Girl asks: Boxers or briefs or pantaloons?

Easy, pantaloons. Do you see how much freedom and room you have in those bad boys?

Jay-Quell-In asks: Colonialism vs neocolonialism- discuss

HNU: If you don’t know, the difference between these two is subtle. Colonialism is the control over a country or culture directly while neocolonialism is indirect involvement. For example, we all know Great Britain had a colonial relationship with the U.S. before the Revolutionary War. We were called “the colonies” after all.

Neocolonialism is harder to come up with an all-encompassing definition. Bigger nerds than me still argue about it. You can say the U.S. uses this method by having smaller countries dependent on our financial aid. You can even say the proliferation of McDonald’s is an example of neocolonialism. I say it is also an example of the human craving for really good French fries.

A Catholic (ironically) asks: FMK (google it if you want, I’m not writing it all the way out)— Marie Antoinette, Catherine The Great, Anne Boleyn.

HNU: You have to marry Catherine the Great for so many reasons. She was very intelligent, and she never had her exes executed when the affair ended. Well, if you don’t count her first husband. Marie Antoinette was extremely shallow and would probably only be entertaining for a short while. As for Anne, she most likely had the worst personality of the bunch and she wasn’t even known as a great beauty. She’d have to go.

Brownie asks: If you had to experience one of the natural disasters you’ve read about, which one?

I assume I would be able to live through it, right? The Great Lakes Storm of 1913, also called the White Hurricane, would be my pick. 90 mph gusts of wind on the Great Lakes in November and numerous acts of heroism. It would be a sight. Plus I love the cold.

Argumentative asks: My friend was having fun at an 80s concert and said she would rather be living in the 80s then now. I told her she was being ridiculous. My history question is, objectively, I’m right, right?

If she said 80s music is better than now, she may have had a point. But living in the 80s again? You win in a landslide. Remember cable back in the day? Sure, you went from 7 channels to 60 but they were grainy 90% of the time. There was barely any internet! You had to go find an encyclopedia Britannica just to argue with your drunk uncle who swore the Confederacy won the Civil War! Not to mention the amount of time needed to get the right amount of hairspray in your ‘do.

Now? Amazon. Air conditioning is the norm. Hairdos are only stupid sometimes instead of completely ridiculous all the time. The knowledge of the world is in your pocket at all times. It’s not even a discussion. Punch your friend. (Don’t actually punch your friend.)

Thanks for all the questions! Keep them coming!

Musing: Why No Politics

I have been asked why I don’t delve into current politics. The world, and especially the U.S., seem to be filled with people taking very strong stances on literally everything. I can affirm this by looking at my Facebook feed.

My response is simple: history does it all for me.

Case in point, here’s the basic synopsis of Last Men Out by Bob Drury and Tom Clavin:

  • A group of U.S. Marines are the last U.S. service-members in a war-torn country where the U.S. is actively evacuating
  • Government personnel have a ridiculously rosy view of how the evacuation will happen
  • The occupying power is taking over the country with alarming speed and is surrounding the final U.S. troops
  • U.S. allies are part of a large contingent of people trying to get away from the occupying power that will definitely kill them
  • A large portion of these allies will be left behind
  • U.S. Marines are killed at the gate of an airport during the evacuation

You may ask, how did these authors write a book about Afghanistan so quickly? This all just happened.

Oh, that’s because this is a history book about the last days of the Vietnam War.

What is that saying about people who don’t know history? I forget.

My Personal History: Empire of Pain – My Coda

I recently finished Empire of Pain by Patrick Radden Keefe. (Spoiler: I loved it.) It touches on the reasons for the opioid epidemic in the United States and how it came to be. The book is extremely powerful, enraging, and for me deeply personal. You see, from about 2005 to 2007, I was taking Percocet, a powerful opioid, on a daily basis.

Now before you call the cops, I was taking these legally. I never bought drugs off the street and my pills came from legal prescriptions. I had 4 surgeries on my lower back and was in a pretty good amount of pain in between surgeries. However, looking back, I had to wonder.

Why the hell did doctors keep giving me Percocet for that long?

Empire of Pain finally answered the question for me. Pharmaceutical companies performed a magic trick where they made doctors believe opioids were not the dangerous pills they thought they were. Once doctors fell for it, they started writing prescriptions. By the time people started asking questions, it was too late. People were dead, or hooked, or already ruined.

Luckily, I was not one of them. I could have been, though. I always prided myself on being drug free and I never did drugs in high school and I certainly never did in the military. Plus, if a doctor gave it to me, then it must be okay.

It can be very easy to blame someone with a drug addiction, especially when you are clean. Why can’t they just stop? Don’t they see what they are doing to themselves and their loved ones?

My experience with Percocet divulged a dirty little secret. The opioids are more than strong little pain pills. They also have the powers of mind control.

See, I never took any of my pills for fun. I took them for the pain. Now, when you take them long enough, you invariably need more. No big deal. Then one day I noticed I was always tired. I was moody. I had put on a lot of weight and I really hated what I saw in the mirror. It was time to stop. It helped that I only had 30 pills left and the doctor was unsure about refilling my prescription. Ultimately, I would leave that bottle with 15 pills left and never touch them.

Weaning yourself off an opioid is not easy. The withdrawal is a test of endurance for both your body and mind. I remember my brain telling me I was in pain and I needed another pill. As I got the drugs out of my system, I began to realize I was not actually hurting. My brain wanted the pills so bad that it made me think I was in tremendous pain.

Later in life, I had other procedures where the doctor prescribed me opioids. After kicking them once, I wasn’t afraid, but I was wary. I would set a deadline for myself to stop taking them and then not go back, pain be damned. The issue never resurfaced for me.

I was never addicted to opioids but I do see how you could be, though. I am a lot less judgmental now.

For more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opioid_epidemic_in_the_United_States

Happy New Year (Almost!)

Well, how the hell do you sum up a year like this?

I got it! I’ll just plagiarize myself!

From last year: “All that being said, there was also amazing highs to balance the lows. My family and friends are more than I could ever ask for. A little website called History Nerds United started this year (and analytics say that more than just my mother actually comes here!). Now, I’ve interviewed honest to God authors who treated me with more kindness and patience than I could have expected and have others planned. Dealing with my PTSD is challenging at times but I’m fighting my PTSD and winning. And finally, I’m realizing I need to challenge myself more and I’m excited to find some new adventures.”

All of it is still true and I still mean it as much then as I do now. Probably even more so. This year was another exercise in perseverance for a lot of people. So be kind to yourself and others. Take care of your mental health. Wear a mask. Tell people how much they mean to you right after the ball (theoretically?) drops and continue to do it all year. Read my blog because, honestly what else do you have to do while sitting in your sweatpants?

Oh, and as for challenging myself? Well, I guess it’s time to get those podcasts out to you. Stop nagging. It’s unbecoming.

Happy New Year, Nerds!

Merry Christmas!

Hello, nerds and Merry Christmas (Eve)!

Here is my list of “must watch” Christmas movies:

  1. A Christmas Story. Duh.
  2. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.
  3. Die Hard. Any suggestion it is not a Christmas movie is both wrong and unamerican.
  4. A Charlie Brown Christmas.
  5. Elf.
  6. Mickey’s Christmas Carol.

Or, you know, read something. I think I’ve given you enough options.

Merry Christmas and be safe!

Timely History: Smallpox

With Thanksgiving in the rear-view mirror, there was plenty of mentions about American Indians and how they were treated in the creation of this country. Then, we are also in the midst of a pandemic. I had the brilliant idea of writing about smallpox. (Actually, someone suggested it, but she’s an egomaniac and I refuse to give her credit. It’s for the best.)  

Here are some random facts about one of the deadliest killers in history. 

  • There is evidence of smallpox back as far as the 3rd century on Egyptian mummies. 
  • It didn’t get its name until the early 16th century. They needed a new term to distinguish it from the “great pox” which was syphilis.  
  • It had about a 30% death rate. It was no black plague, but those are still scary numbers. Also, if you had no real acquired immunity, it would be even deadlier (like the American Indians). 
  • Don’t google photos of smallpox. Seriously. 
  • A famous story is that Hernan Cortes used smallpox blankets to conquer Tenochtitlan. It is only half right. The Aztecs caught it from the dead body of an infected soldier and then devastated the population. 
  • George Washington had smallpox and survived, thus giving him lifelong immunity. 

Here’s the big one! 

  • The only disease eradicated by humanity is smallpox. It was done so with vaccination. Imagine that. Vaccines eliminating a disease entirely. Almost like maybe people should get vaccinated and not make up stupid reasons not to. (Shrugs shoulders) 

For more reading: 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smallpox#History

https://www.medicinenet.com/smallpox/article.htm

https://www.cnn.com/2013/09/02/health/smallpox-fast-facts/index.html

https://www.cnn.com/2016/12/08/health/smallpox-child-mummy-17th-century-lithuania/

https://www.cdc.gov/smallpox/history/history.html

https://www.livescience.com/65304-smallpox.html

https://www.history.com/news/smallpox-george-washington-revolutionary-war

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving, nerds! 

400 years ago, the Pilgrims landed on our shores and proceeded to find opportunity and success. 

Just kidding, they found an absolute sh*tshow. Famine. Disease.  A native population that vacillated between wanting to kill them and wanting to help them. A little bit more precarious than the times we find ourselves in now. 

Wherever you are today, I hope it is with people you love. And if you aren’t with the people you love, I am sure they are out there wishing they could be with you today. Give them a call, shoot them a text, or set up a Zoom.

Bright side? Drinking, football, and naps. You don’t need to go anywhere to enjoy those! 

And if you don’t feel like those things? 

The ultimate rendition of the Thanksgiving story is the Saints & Strangers miniseries. If you haven’t watched it, I am ashamed of you. Do so now. 

In book form, read Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick.  

Stay safe, nerds.  

Musing: And Now for Something Completely Different – Art!

I had a flight of fancy and approached a co-worker who I knew had amazing art skills. Ethan is a jovial guy and seemed excited about the project. I came up with a scene: A knight standing in front of a medieval castle with a queen looking out over ramparts. Ethan had a lot more questions, but I do what I always do with talented people; I got out of his way.

And you can see the fruits of his labors. Pretty cool, right?

(Added it below in case it doesn’t show in the header. You’re welcome, technologically challenged.)