Snapshot from Negros Occidental 2013

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Monopoly: Business, Technology, Science and Society

Did you know that the game Monopoly had its beginning as a tool to teach people the reality of business and its impact on human society? The game originally done by Elizabeth Maggie was hoped to be an educational tool. It was so successful that years later Clarence Darrow developed it into the game we know now. Thanks to the game board company Parker Brothers, they were able to settle with Maggie and went to market and sell the game called Monopoly by Clarence Darrow.At this point in time, Monopoly has become the most popular game in the world giving fun and squabbles among friends and family – indeed the object of the game is to be richest.

I wonder though did the aim Maggie to have the game as educational tool in revealing to its players the human cost and evils of monopoly survive?

A look at the game of Monopuly brings in mind the coming out of the United States as a world power. This was the time when the United States came out of a civil war where the industrialised and technologically advance North prevailed over agricultural South. One of the factors that led to the North’s victory was the use of the railway and the telegraph – troops, supplies, information and commands were moved at a fast paced that it helped the North defeat the South. And at the same time this was happening the industrialists came to dominate American business – people like Vanderbilt, Carnegie, Rockerfeller and J.P. Morgan became the Industrialists of the United States.

It is said that J.P. Morgan was the inspiration for Uncle Moneypenny or Mr. Monopoly. J.P. Morgan was an astute banker who became the owner of railways, four companies in the Monopoly game, US Steel and several electric companies. In an era of unregulated stock exchange and business J.P, Morgan knew how to leverage and how to make a profit. Of interest to us is the story about J.P. Morgan, Thomas Edison and Nicholas Tesla.

Tesla was a former employee of Edison, who became his rival as to whose electrical system,would eventually be used by the United States public. Tesla’s partner was Westinghous while Edison’s partner was J.P. Morgan. Edison and Tesla were competing to provide the technology to produce electricity. Edison and Morgan attacked Tesla two ways. Edison did his best to show that Tesla’s technology was dangerous – efforts included electrocution of an elephant and a convict, while Morgan indirectly attacked the financial viability of Tesla’s project and in order to get more funding Tesla was forced to sign over his copyright to Westinghouse and future investors. In the end though Tesla and Westinghouse won the Arizona contract. J.P. Morgan was not perturbed though and pursued his financial attack on the company of Westinghouse. He, Morgan, only relented when Westinghouse agreed to lift the copyright from Tesla’s technology. After that Morgan was able to set-up several electric companies across the United States – incidentally one of the utilities in Monopoly was the electric company. As for Edison, Morgan bought controlling shares of the company and took control.

Industrialists and Financiers like J.P. Morgan used technology and money to provide service to a number of Americans. However, at the same time unregulated business led practices that increased profits but neglected the works. The plight of the workers led to a public backlash of big business, prompting the Democrats to field a candidate who was anti-monopoly: anti-Trust .The solutions of Big Business was to back a pro-business candidate who won his name was William Mckinley. It was years later when another political challenger to Big Business rose up, this time from the Republican Party – Theodore Roosevelt. The solution of Big Business was to make him Vice-President. However, in an ironic twist of fate, McKinley was not able to finish his second tern: He was assassinated by one of the victims of Big Business, one of the laid worker from J.P. Morgan’s business empire. With Roosevelt as US President , Anti-trust cases and legislation were implemented. Tycoons like Rockerfeller were brought to court, but J.P. Morgan was not – some say this was because at the time he was working with the United States to build the Panama Canal. To be sure though J.P. Morgan was more astute than Rockerfeller, his political contacts and clout saved him.

Looking at the game Monopoly now brings back more than memories of Big Business but the ascent of the United States from a former British Colony to a Super Power with its own new territories. It was McKinley who decided take the Philippines via Benevolent Assimilation, Commonwealth, and Independence – other former colonies ceded by Spain fared differently Cuba was declared indecent and Puerto Rico was made into a protectorate. Of course Monopoly still allows us to learn how big business operates. Of course, there are anti-trust laws and regulations now but that only means Big Business now are more creative in their ways.

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On Aquariums And Why Keep Them

Since the early days of Civilisation fishes and other aquatic organisms have been kept for two reasons. The first is of course is to have a supply of food source and the second is for aesthetic pleasure. Chinese have kept goldfishes for centuries and has developed several types of goldfishes. These were initially viewed from above and later when aquariums were developed of course seen horizontally. The Japanese have kept cultured Koi and goldfish as well initially allowing only the upper class to keep them. One of my favourite type of goldfish that came from this craft was the Ranchu. In Egypt, fishes from the family to which knife fishes were kept for religious purpose. And in Ancient Rome, the statesman Cicero described how retired rich Romans would include in their villas ponds fed with water from the sea via aqueducts and filled with saltwater fishes. Cicero ridiculed them by calling them piscinarii or fish crazy.

The keeping of fishes and other water organisms – from this pout on let us use fish/fishes both for fish and other aquatic organisms – is both an art and science. In order to successfully maintain a fish and other water organisms in a closed or semi-closed water environment uses advance techniques from aquaculture. There are basically three ways to successfully keep fishes in semi-closed and closed water environment ( all aimed at providing more than adequate environmental conditions for the fish). First, Change water continuously or a daily basis. Second, Set up a life support system that will keep the fishes safe and able to breed – life support system here would include filtration system, fish health management, and weekly change in water. And Third, to set up what I would call a natural aquarium – in essence re-creating the natural environment of the fish with minimum technological input. The aim of all these systems is to provide the fish with an environment that it will not only survive in but thrive in. One of the signs of a good aquarium and a good aquarist – one who keeps an aquarium – is that the fishes live and reproduce.

As such to be a successful aquarist one needs to have enough skill and tools to successfully set-up and maintain an aquarium. A lack of knowledge and commitment in keeping fish will have fatal consequences for the fish. One of these skills is to know the needs and nature of the fishes one keeps. And not all fishes can be kept and cared for by anyone. There are fishes for beginner aquarists and there are fishes for advance aquarists. There are fishes for private aquariums and there are fishes for public aquariums – because of the biological and environmental needs of each fish.

SO WHY KEEP FISHES?

First, fishes in aquariums is a good scientific tool to study the fishes and the aquatic environment.

Second, An aquarium, both private and public, is an educational tool that allows its viewers a glimpse of the aquatic world. In it you can see not only how fishes move but how they behave: how they interact; how they breed; and how the aquatic world functions. It is a chance to see the mating dance of the fighting fish. It is a chance to see how the Japanese Weather Loach reacts prior to thunderstorm. It is a chance to see how the convict cichlid guards its young. It is also a chance to study genetics – why there are zebra bad leopard danios from the same mother; or what combination will bring about the most beautiful beta or even a flower horn cichlid.

Third, Both as a hobby and the mere act of watching an aquarium has a calming effect. The creation of biotopes and aquascaped aquariums – Amano’s plant aquariums are a good examples – are aquatic equivalent of zen gardens.

Fourth, the study of aquariums has allowed us to expand how to create man-made environments we can use here or elsewhere.

THE RESPONSIBILITY OF KEEPING FISHES

Fishes are living things and they inhabit different types of water environment. Their adaptation to these different water environment have resulted in not only different kinds and shapes of fish but also different needs. As such when an aquarist takes on keeping a fish what comes with it is the responsibility of making sure the fish not only survive but thrives. And this is the reason why not all fishes can be kept by just any aquarist. As I said before skills and resources would be needed. In the end the aquarium is a delicate and beautiful thing that must be cared for anything one does or does not do will affect it. As such it brings to mind what Frank Hernert once said in his novel Dune. Ecology is a study of consequences. The aquarium is one of ultimate embodiment of Ecology.

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