sometimes I’m just like, haven’t we seen this before?
Some books give value just with their title. I’d say I think about the title of Clayton Christensen’s book about once every two weeks or so. Most of what’s in the book can be found in Christensen’s 2010 speech on that theme.
This theory addresses the third question I discuss with my students—how to live a life of integrity (stay out of jail). Unconsciously, we often employ the marginal cost doctrine in our personal lives when we choose between right and wrong. A voice in our head says, “Look, I know that as a general rule, most people shouldn’t do this. But in this particular extenuating circumstance, just this once, it’s OK.” The marginal cost of doing something wrong “just this once” always seems alluringly low. It suckers you in, and you don’t ever look at where that path ultimately is headed and at the full costs that the choice entails. Justification for infidelity and dishonesty in all their manifestations lies in the marginal cost economics of “just this once.”
I also find myself often thinking of an anecdote about milkshake purchases Christensen describes in the book:
The company then enlisted the help of one of Christensen’s fellow researchers, who approached the situation by trying to deduce the “job” that customers were “hiring” a milkshake to do. First, he spent a full day in one of the chain’s restaurants, carefully documenting who was buying milkshakes, when they bought them, and whether they drank them on the premises. He discovered that 40 percent of the milkshakes were purchased first thing in the morning, by commuters who ordered them to go.
The next morning, he returned to the restaurant and interviewed customers who left with milkshake in hand, asking them what job they had hired the milkshake to do. Christensen details the findings in a recent teaching note, “Integrating Around the Job to be Done.”
“Most of them, it turned out, bought [the milkshake] to do a similar job,” he writes. “They faced a long, boring commute and needed something to keep that extra hand busy and to make the commute more interesting. They weren’t yet hungry, but knew that they’d be hungry by 10 a.m.; they wanted to consume something now that would stave off hunger until noon. And they faced constraints: They were in a hurry, they were wearing work clothes, and they had (at most) one free hand.”
The milkshake was hired in lieu of a bagel or doughnut because it was relatively tidy and appetite-quenching, and because trying to suck a thick liquid through a thin straw gave customers something to do with their boring commute.
Something illuminating about food as something to do.
Understanding the job to be done, the company could then respond by creating a morning milkshake that was even thicker (to last through a long commute) and more interesting (with chunks of fruit) than its predecessor. The chain could also respond to a separate job that customers needed milkshakes to do: serve as a special treat for young children—without making the parents wait a half hour as the children tried to work the milkshake through a straw. In that case, a different, thinner milkshake was in order.
In the book, Christensen also goes on about how parents have to say no very often, and a milkshake is a relatively easy “yes.”
loving this one. Supposedly the words of Odin himself.
Even Odin gets sloppy sometimes.
Crawford includes the Old Norse, if you need that. I’m not up on my Old Norse, I’m way behind on my Arabic as it is, my French is déchet, my Spanish is worse, most of my Irish is forgotten, but it’s cool to look at some of these syllables.
Regular readers of this website will know I’ve expressed some reservations about whether the Peñasco Blanco pictograph actually depicts a supernova from the year 1054 AD. It’s an exciting theory. For background, here’s what Timothy Pauketat has to say about it in his excellent book on Cahokia:
On that morning, recorded by a Chinese astrologer as July 4, a brilliant new luminary appeared in the sky. It was a “guest star,” a supernova, a visitor in the constellation Taurus, visible today with a high-powered telescope as the Crab Nebula. One of only fifty supernovas ever recorded – only three in our own Milky Way galaxy* – this nuclear detonation was the last gasp of a dying star. The inaudible explosion discharged a billion times more energy than the small star had previously emitted, and that morning a brilliant beacon – four times brighter than Venus – appeared in the daylight adjacent to a crescent moon…
Whatever i might have meant to the native peoples, a New Mexican Mimbres valley potter commemorated the celestial event by painting a pot with a star ad the foot of a crescent-shaped rabbit, a representation of the rabbit many indigenous North Americans believed resided in the moon. Ancient rock art in Arizona also appears to illustrate the supernova, as do petrogylphs in Missouri, which show the moon and supernova astride rabbit tracks. And in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, a map of the night sky in July 1054 was painted on the sandstone cliffs above a palatial-sized, multi-story Great House called Peñasco Blanco, under construction at about the same time in the middle of the eleventh century. The pictograph shows the exploding star next to a crescent moon and a human hand, the later possibly representing a group of stars still known among Plains Indians today as the Hand constellation. Also in Chaco Canyon, construction began around this time on a massive new kiva, an underground ceremonial building, now called Casa Rinconada, just south of the largest Great House, Pueblo Bonito.
There was a “big bang” culturally in North America around 1000 AD, and it is interesting that around that same time, there were two supernovas, bright new stars in the sky.
Recently I had the opportunity to have a look at the so-called Supernova Pictograph in its location in Chaco Canyon, New Mex. Seeing it myself provoked some thought.
One observation is that there’s a huge amount of rock art in Chaco Canyon. I consider myself kind of a petroglyph enthusiast, but even for a passionate fan, there’s a lot. You’ll actually get pretty bored of looking at petroglyphs. Much of the rock art in the canyon is striking and weird.
Some of it feels pretty crude and amateur, or could be attributed to later visitors.
But the Super-Nova / Peñasco Blanco pictograph really stands out, both in vividness and in the drama of its location.
It’s almost upside down. Was it painted Sistine Chapel style?
The pictoglyph is on what I guess? could be a very old trail, that leads up from Chaco Wash to a mesa where the Peñasco Blanco “great house” sits. The Peñasco Blanco site is huge:
It was three stories tall and had 300 rooms. Construction had begun by the 900s, so before the appearance of the supernovas of the 1000s.
The structure was laid out with some thought to north-south alignment, as most Chaco sites seem to have been. To me it does suggest something like an astronomical theater:
On the day I was there I was the only person around, which is a spooky feeling.
The site reminded me of Irish monastic sites from the same era:
Certainly whoever was hanging around Peñasco Blanco was interested in the sky.
The park service is not shy about identifying this pictoglyph as depicting a super-nova:
Note the sign, bottom right. But I’m just not sure the evidence is there.
Krupp’s investigations have ultimately caused him to dismiss all of the connections between Southwest cave paintings and the Crab supernova. “I am certain that star-crescent combos have absolutely nothing to do with the 1054 A.D. event,” he said. While some may indeed be celestial symbols, “their meaning varies with culture and time.”
from a 2014 Scientific American piece, “‘Supernova’ Cave Art Myth Debunked,” by Clara Moskowitz.
On the other hand:
from a 1979 paper, “The 1054 Supernova and Native American Rock Art,” by Brandt, J. C. & Williamson, R. A. in the Journal for the History of Astronomy, Archaeoastronomy Supplement, Vol. 10, p.S1
There’s no way to reliably date a work like this. Chaco Canyon was occupied or had at least semi-frequent visitors around 1054 AD, and these visitors were absolutely interested in sky events. The dating of the pictograph is usually attributed to nearby pottery shards. You can still find ancient pottery lying around all over the place.
One thing is clear: if these people had a message they wanted to leave for us from one thousand plus years ago, it is “hand – crescent – star.”
A day before visiting this site I had lunch with a friend of mine who works on shooting lasers at rocks on Mars to determine their chemical makeup. We’re still OBSESSED with the sky!
Monte Alban is a pre-Columbian site near the present day Mexican city of Oaxaca. It thrived sometime between about 500 BCE and 500 CE.
One of the famed features of the site are some carvings called Los Danzantes, “the dancers”
That’s a fun interpretation! However, current thinking suggests that these aren’t, in fact, people having a cool time dancing, but captives being subjected to various horrible tortures. Having their genitals mutilated and so on. There are glyphs next to their heads, maybe their names, and the idea is the Monte Albanians were celebrating conquering and torturing the leaders of various rival towns.
That was the interpretation of Michael Coe anyway, one of the great Mesoamerican problem solvers. In this book:
it’s suggested that the Danzantes may have been connected to a war memorial:
Still, you have to account for the emphasis on the genital messed-upitude. Are we looking at a self-punishment that led to ritual visions, not unlike the Mayan case of Lady Xoc?
Looking at the Danzantes, I wondered at an alternative explanation, if these are depictions of people suffering from a weird disease or plague of some kind. (I’m not the first to think of that).
Or maybe they’re up to some shamanic ritual. Here’s a whole paper by John F. Scott and W. P. Hewitt from 1978 looking into the mystery. Some possible explanations are explored:
It struck me looking at this photo that the Danzantes have a resemblance to the gravestones of early New England.
These too will perhaps be mysterious and a subject of speculation when they are 1600 years old. They’re already pretty weird.
Los Danzantes is also the name of a highly regarded restaurant in Oaxaca and Mexico City: