April 19th, 2006


The Role of Modern Royalty

The Queen of England's recent birthday, combined with a recent recollection of a very long conversation I had a long time ago, inspires me to ask of you all, what is/should be the role of modern royalty (and, perhaps, other largely ceremonial roles in government) in society. Historically, Royals/Nobles were very different than they are now, having power that was both temporal (i.e. nonsymbolic) and actual (meant to be used). In modern times, only the highest royals/nobles have an administrative role in their nation (if at all), and that role is increasingly symbolic. Some modern nations have stripped their royals of all power (e.g. Germany and France), while others never had them (the United States under its present government). The monarch of England has had their power transformed into theoretical (reserve) power whereby their actual use of it is bound by tradition into certain limits, while some other monarchs have no power even in theory. Monarchs today provide a symbol of the state, a tie to history/tradition, provide grandeur, and serve a diplomatic function for their nation. The cost of a monarchy is financial, perhaps also symbolic, and can be limiting in the shape and nature of the continued development of the state. Additionally, in rare circumstances the monarch (or state machinery associated with them) may exercise powers that may lead to a constitutional crisis. There have been movements across Europe (and other parts of the world) to abolish monarchies (Republican movements, as in Ireland, Canada, etc), to reestablish them (as in Greece and Germany), and to weaken/strengthen their role in government. Some resent them because they are the remnant of an older power base than the business class (new money), while others celebrate them for the same reasons.

I ask you to take a position on these things and briefly argue for said position. Further, do largely ceremonial roles, e.g. the President of Israel (the First Minister of the Knesset is the actual effective leader of Israel), differ in your judgements?
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Crown of Wind and Thunder

BioInformatics has wandered firmly into the realm of things I understand entirely because it's related to my stuff at work, even using a lot of the same software. I am both relieved and disappointed.

About half the time I take the bus anywhere, there's someone who's a bit unhinged sitting in the front talking to the (unwilling but too polite) driver. Their unhingedness varies from what seems to be mere Asperger's (pretty irritating) to people who are genuinely scary. Sometimes I'm tempted to ask them to be quiet.

My boss won the Heineken award for cognitive science. In that press release, I found that he apparently joined the CMU faculty the same year I was born...

I would write more, but because I had a good amount of cheesecake last night, I have a bad headache today. Given that I am attending a lateish Seder, this is a very bad time to have a headache.. now, I have errands to do relating to selfsame event. I'll write more when I feel better.



That was an awesome seder. Good food, good company, good conversation.. Hurrah.

On the way to buy seder gifts for the host, I found that the local state liquor store has decided to start stocking the blue stuff again! Hurrah! For those not in the know, the blue stuff is Bartenura Moscato d'Asti, an incredibly mild (almost nonalcoholic), pleasant, sweetish white wine that is my favourite alcoholic beverage. Hurrah!

Sadly, no Pittsburghers offered to help me move on Friday/Saturday or offered advice on Carnival. *sniff*

Meh, things are looking good.

I am presently trying to understand (again) if and how traditions are important to the formation of culture, if they can/should be done without, and similar things. Participating in a Seder plays into that in a sense.