Fun With The Past

My interests are catholic, and among them are Archeology and Paleontology. I find that studying the past reminds me not to get too upset about the present.

Recently there are advances in finding the “oldest” — aided by technology, but with the caveat that as science progresses and wealthy nations have more people in the field, new discoveries will find still more “oldest.”

I have recently read an article in Archeology about the oldest discovered “computer” — a brass, hand-cranked celestial computer with at least 40 gears that showed ancient Greeks the alignment of stars, moon, sun and planets. This computer was found in a Roman wreck between Greece and Crete — it was probably booty from the Greek occupation by the Roman conquest of Greece a couple of centuries before Christ. Even though the wreck and the Celestial Calculator were discovered in 1900, newly Canadian-invented Exosuit diving suits will now permit divers to descend to the ancient wreck and pour over it for more parts to the device, and possibly even new devices. With the Exosuit, divers can descend to almost 500 feet and work for hours without nitrogen intoxication.

(Of some historical interest, the island nearest the wreck has a current population of only 44, but back in the day it was a seaport for Mediterranean pirates, and it was they who captured a young Julius Caesar — who subsequently had them crucified.)

Siberian researchers have found the oldest (so far) human DNA — from a human bone found in 2008. The bone contained recoverable DNA because of the Siberian climate and a peat bog, and that bone belonged to a man from 52,000 to 58,000 years old. (28 Scientists from 19 countries worked on the project.) His DNA does not have descendants among current populations, and it does have strong Neanderthal traces, although the bone belonged to a homo sapiens. Yes, our ancestors did have sexual relations with our cousins!

The general study of bodies in peat bogs is fascinating! These bogs, composed of water and rotting vegetation, cover as much as 5% of the earth’s land masses, were dried and lit to provide ancient heat — but also used to dispose of human bodies. Depending upon the society, bodies were submerged in bogs either as a sign of respect, or disrespect (criminals) and although their bodies have a leathery look, if one was your friend you would instantly recognize them today.

And, while not necessarily the oldest, I have recently read the story of a man buried in a British Church in the late 1300s, who, because he died violently and far from home, was encased in clay and then wrapped in a lead casing for transportation to his burial. Consequently, his innards remained red until turned brown by the exposure to air, his pupils are still visible, and his blood was present! It is not certain who he was, or how he died. At that time there were Hatfield and McCoy style land disputes, Scottish tribe revolts and even the Crusades — any one of which could have caused his demise far from home, necessitating the preservation of the body.

How about the oldest wooden statue? Once 15 feet tall when discovered in the Ural Mountains, only about nine feet remain of a carved statue discovered (again) in a peat bog and currently dated at 9,500 years old — twice as old as the Pyramids!

How about the world’s oldest footprints. Those would be from a Rumanian cave, discovered in 1965. Originally there were 400 footprints, but fewer than 60 survive the scientists, cave explorers and visitors. Those footprints from seven people, and made just after a rainstorm were dated from 36,500 years ago. (There are unpublished reports of footprints from Tanzania’s Engare Sero that MAY be 120,000 years old, but we will see when it is published.)

Finally, a non-bog story, and not an “oldest” either, just something that interested me. More than 700 Roman Villas have been found in Britain, dating from the Roman occupation beginning just after the death of Christ, until about 400 A.D. Even with 700 Villas, no graves associated with the Villas has been found — until recently when a gravesite near a Villa in Britain was discovered. Again the use of technology, particularly ground-reading radar, is playing a role.

Is China Too Big to Insult?

You know today’s date. Three other dates you should know, October 1 — that was the last time the president mentioned Hong Kong — November 4, the date of the Mid – Term elections, and November 12. That is the date the president meets with the Chinese President.

In Beijing!

So, exactly where does the United States stand on the subject of Human Rights, treaty adherence, a “Security Council Spokesman” recently mouthed all of the usual striped pants answers, but that was not the president.

The good news, such as it is, is that Chinese tanks remain in hiding, but this is a time to stand up for our standards.

We shall see. The final two dates fast approach.

Traditions Are Falling Fast

Now that the Gay Rights battle is virtually over, and since it was based on “Equal Rights” and delivered with the tag line “no one can tell us who to love” the same arguments can be used — and will be used — to justify both polygamy and incest.

Both movements have already been organized and are ready to roll when their efforts might gain traction.

“Marriage” as a civil matter did not begin until the Middle Ages, and in most Europe people “married” simply by pledging to each other without the formality of church or even witnesses. Couples in western Europe simply made their vows, quietly.

As usual, things became more complicated when government got involved, and today marriage is DEFINED by government. Using the currently accepted reasons for Gay Marriage it may be legally difficult to deny polygamy. Incest may prove longer and more difficult because of medical concerns, but I can see the day when it is approved, given the current trajectory.

While polygamy has deep historical roots, and even modern acceptance in many parts of the world, incest is not without ancient acceptance. The well-known King Tut was the result of a Brother-Sister marriage of his parents, and Tut himself was married (at age 10, no less) to his half-sister. There was a long period of Brother-Sister Kings of Egypt. Perhaps that was the reason for King Tuts fragile bones. (He died of a broken leg, and subsequent Malaria.)

The Roman ruler, Caligula, who was admittedly as crazy as a loon, believed himself the son of a God, and like the Egyptian rulers, married his sister for the same reason as the Egyptian Kings — to keep the Godly bloodlines pure.

Societal norms are always in flux. Everyone lives in the present, and everyone believes things should always be as they are now.

That has never been true and it never will be true.

Does Anyone Ever Learn — Communism Does Not Work!

The Venezuelan situation is so bad it is actually funny!

Venezuela has more oil under it than anyone — including Saudi Arabia — so it should be a filthy rich country, but instead it is rationing food and even diapers — while it imports oil from Algeria! Venezuela was teetering when oil was selling for $100+ a barrel, and now that oil is at $80 and falling…

How is this possible? The answer is Communism, first under Hugo Chavez and now under Chavez’s hand-picked successor, Nicolas Maduro, the Venezuelan economy has been so mismanaged that there have been shortages of toilet paper. The Communists are so enamored with helping the poor that they sell gasoline for 5 cents a gallon, but one woman quoted had to stand in line for three hours to buy two packages of diapers. She had tried cloth diapers but could find no detergent to was them.

Some airlines have stopped flying to the country over disputes over fuel costs, and some newspapers have stopped printing because of the lack of newsprint.

The nation staggers on with the “help of its friends.” Communist China has restructured their loan, and Communist Cuba has provided Doctors, but with fewer oil reserves, Saudi Arabia pumps 11 million barrels of oil a day while Venezuela staggers along with three million barrels.

Incompetence, buttressed by a failed ideology is not simply the provenance of The District of Columbia.

Overlooked in the News

The disclosure that one of the nation’s premier universities, the University of North Carolina (UNC) which is so well entwined with my family, has cheated — yes the word is cheated — not just the NCAA, and the student- athletes, but colleges and universities in general, is difficult to swallow.

Yes, everyone has suspected for decades that some, perhaps many colleges have passed athletes who did not meet the standards. We only need to listen to some professional athletes speak on camera to know they didn’t meet university standards.

But the disclosure of a study that the UNC Department of African Studies, a questionable subject matter to begin with, had not just once in awhile, here and there nudged an athlete or two above the passing line, but had for decades had classes with no content for thousands of people. More than 3,100 “students” over 18 years got “A” and “B”grades for fraud.

Regrettably, the news did not get the wide distribution that it deserved because it had to compete with wall to wall Ebola coverage. The length and breadth of this academic fraud may not initially rise to the current crises of homegrown Jihadists or Ebola, but it might just open the Pandora’s box of not just athletes getting a pass academically, but the academic rigor required of African Studies, and even Women’s Studies.

Athletes get a full scholarship, a great opportunity for a good education, but we know just from observation that many are on campus simply for the ticket to play professional sports with a four year stopover for campus partying, but the UNC report gives us a look under the rock. We must not let still more important news events let this opportunity pass.

During the 18 year period investigated, the results determined by the Rawlings Panel have now been addressed by the University with the sort of washy-washy educational jargon one would expect — but that doesn’t mean that the University will not actually address the problem. They probably will, but you can bet that they will not place themselves in a non-competitive position.

Only a full overhaul of all college and university football and basketball team academic situations in Division 1 athletics can solve what is a societal problem, long unaddressed. The NCAA had previously investigated North Carolina but had apparently not uncovered the African Studies Department, and that was the elephant in the room.

The special treatment of “student athletes.”

Musings

One of the things that bothers me is the claim by many on the right, that Obama is purposely destroying the US, is a Muslim, or any one of a number of things.

It brings to mind a GREAT Heinlein quote”

“You have attributed conditions to villainy that simply result from stupidity” Robert Heinlein, “The Logic of Empire” 1941

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There is a constant cry among some to support the Apple/Google new policy that locks all Apple/Google in an encryption that does not even permit a Federal Judge to break. The FBI and NSA are objecting, saying that a Federal Judge’s order should have access anywhere.

Solution?

Simple! Announce that no longer will the FBI provide any information or protection for Apple and Google facilities, or attempted electronic break-ins, worldwide! Problem solved.

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I have no idea about Global Whatever, but what I do know is that I began computer science in 1967, and never saw a predictive program that was worth Vice President John Nance Garners famous “bucket of warm spit.”

If you search for climate predictions made by date certain, and there have been many, none have even been close. Consequently, recent predictors have made their predictions for dates long past the horizons of most now alive, or at least past their caring.

It saves historical embarrassment.

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The Minimum Wage debate continues.

I started a small computer sales company. First I put up every cent I had plus money from family and friends. I had to sign a five-year office lease worth $250,000 that I was personally responsible to pay even if the company failed.

I was open six days a week, and my wife and I were the janitorial staff on Sunday. It took seven years to make a profit on paper (we sold it before then), and I had to feed the kitty from my sales and my house equity, and before that profit would have been reached my house had a mortgage, and a second mortgage, and a third, fourth and fifth — all at the same time. Only the confidence of my local banker in my work habits kept my business afloat — and if it failed I lost my house.

And government wants to tell me how much to pay my employees?

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The Christian right is all upset that wedding chapels and bakeries nationwide are being told that they must serve the Gay community.

Private property rights, and ownership mean nothing anymore! They have been eroded for decades!

Where have the good Christians been before their ox was gored?

The Fate of Hong Kong

Is history repeating itself in Hong Kong? (Of course the short answer is: It always does!)

In 168 B.C. (Or was it 186?…it is not worth looking up) — at the end of the Romans Third Macedonian War, the Romans first ruled Greece with a Velvet Glove, but tiring of the Greeks demand for “Freedom” and “Democracy” the Roman Army returned to enslave many Greeks, destroyed the walls of 70 cities to alert them that they were defenseless, and destroyed and sacked the artistic city of Corinth, and ruled with an Iron Fist.

The destruction Of Hong Kong is unlikely to take place, and even the enslavement….we have become far too civilized, perhaps to our undoing. You see those highly prized house slaves who were highly educated Greek intellectuals — over two centuries the Greeks changed Roman art, education, music, architecture…almost everything.

The Greeks in Greece were even less well off than the slaves. The Greeks fell upon their Italians neighbors who lived in Greece, and killed 80,000 of them and the Romans retaliated by sacking Athens and killing perhaps hundreds of thousands of Greeks, and establishing colonies of Roman troops in Greece.

Let’s hope the Hong Kong situation turns out well. It was my choice in my youth in case I had to flee. I look Hong Kong — at least the Hong Kong of old. My wife and I enjoyed several weeks there, and I pulled several tours of Liberty there.

Love Hong Kong.When I was there, it had pure Capitalism — no state welfare at all, but no one starved. Families and charities took care of those who could not work. I am certain that my custom made shoes were cut by a seven year old and sewn on a home sewing machine by a woman 85 because that was the norm. And, yes, my ultra-liberal shipmates who supported child labor laws bought tons of shoes knowing the situation — just as union members shop today at WalMart.

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