How About a Map of Where You’ve Been?

This morning I discovered a website that generates one, created by a Dutch fellow who works for Google. You check off from a list which countries you have visited or lived in, and there’s your map! Here is the link to it:

Visited Countries

And here is what I got when I tried it:

create your own visited countries map
or vertaling Duits Nederlands

For one who uses the name “Xenohistorian” for both his website and blog, I’ve done surprisingly little traveling abroad. According to the site, I’ve been to 4% of the nations. Some of those visits were brief, too; the three European countries marked were just stopovers in airports, as I flew between the US and the Middle East.

If I get to travel more, I can think of places in most countries I would like to see. For example, Myanmar (formerly Burma) has been in the news over the past week, because of the monk-led uprising against the brutal junta that has ruled for most of the past 45 years. Right off, I can think of three attractions there:

1. The Shwe Dagon, the giant pagoda in Yangon that looks like an enormous golden bell.

2. Pagan, the former capital and city of 5,000 pagodas.

3. Kutho Daw, the world’s heaviest book–really. (The pages are carved in stone, and each one has a roof built over it to keep off the rain.)

By the way, have you noticed that the media seems to talk as much about Myanmar’s Internet connection being shut down by the government, as it does about the killings of demonstrators? I suppose the shutdown is important in today’s Information Age, but if it really happened, it means the Burmese have made some economic progress over the past decade. The last time I checked, in the 1990s, most of the country didn’t even have electricity!

In my church are a few immigrants from Africa. One of them is a grandfather from Cabinda (in Angola), who has also lived as a political refugee in Gabon and Congo-Brazzaville. Recently I gave him a copy of the French-language page Wikipedia has on the Web about Cabinda, and last night he said he wants me to go there for a visit. Since his French is better than his English, I hope he doesn’t think I wrote that article! Anybody know of any points of interest worth seeing, in or near Cabinda?

Finally, for those who are content to stay in the USA, the map-making website can also generate maps of the states you’ve seen. Here’s what it did for me.  Unfortunately the structure of this blog cut off the right edge of both pictures, so I’ll let you know that north and east of New York, Connecticut is the only state I’ve been in so far:


create your own visited states map

A Change In Routine

I have said in the past that the best time to join any religious sect is in the first generation of its existence, before it has had time to turn into an institution.  Maybe that’s why we did something different today; the pastor probably doesn’t want us to get stuck in a rut.  Instead of the usual singing and praying, we had a potluck, followed by watching another Veggie Tales video, like the picnic we had at the end of June.  Here’s a few pictures I took there.

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The first thing I saw when I pulled up was the inflatable bungee basketball court.  The object is to be the first to get two balls in your basket, before the bungee cord pulls you back.  We had both children and the young-at-heart on it; here two grown-ups have a go, Mike Hoke (left) and Ken Fortenberry (right).  If it looks like a lot of fun, well, it is.  Unfortunately I didn’t get to try it out before the pastor let the air out.

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For the smaller kids we had a “moonwalk” playground, shaped like Noah’s Ark.

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The chairs in the sanctuary were replaced with tables so we could eat.  You should be able to see Leive near the middle.  In the back corner is the screen that showed the video.

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Leive outdid herself again.  She made, and we brought, the two dishes you see at the top:  a vegetable casserole (mainly carrots, zucchini and squash) , and meatballs with peppers, onions and barbecue sauce.  Yum yum!  Of course everybody liked them, and we didn’t have any leftovers to bring back.

Tomorrow I get ready for my trip to Milford, OH next week.  If anything interesting happens, I’ll let you know.

The Candidate Calculator

Well, the 2008 presidential election still makes headlines, though it’s more than a year away. Currently there are eighteen candidates (ten Republicans, eight Democrats) running. And the states are competing to move their primaries/caucuses earlier, in an effort to replace Iowa and New Hampshire as the kingmaker states. Before all is said and done, we may even see some of the races take place before the first day of 2008.

Will that cause the parties to nominate better candidates for president? I don’t think so, because it eliminates competition too quickly; in 2004 the Democrats rallied behind John Kerry as early as February, and only found out later that he was a flawed, non-charismatic candidate. Have you noticed that neither party has had a serious battle to nominate a candidate, since the GOP pitted Ford against Reagan in 1976? In fact, at times I wonder if we ought to give the choice back to party leaders, switching to a smoke-free version of the old “smoke-filled room.” Here’s what I wrote about it in 2005:

There must be a better way to choose a presidential candidate. The primary system is supposed to be better than the so-called “smoke-filled rooms” of the nineteenth century, but does it really give the people that much more of a choice in the matter? I know for a fact that my first choice is always eliminated well before the convention. And most of the choosing is done in Iowa and New Hampshire, two small states where the voters are mostly white, non-Hispanic farmers–no longer a good sample of America as a whole. Maybe next time we ought to have the first primary in one of the “battleground states,” like Ohio. In 2004, the result was that five months before either of the major parties had its convention, we knew which candidates they would nominate, making one wonder why the parties still bother to have conventions. Finally, under this system the parties usually don’t pick a candidate who properly represents their platform; instead they pick the candidate who is least likely to offend the voters. The voters act the same way in November, picking the least objectionable of the two major candidates, since voting for an independent or third party candidate isn’t likely to get them anywhere. Choosing a candidate because he or she isn’t as bad as the other candidate is like choosing which of two ugly sisters to take on a date. During the 2004 election, columnist Mark Steyn remarked that if we had Saddam Hussein and Robert Mugabe running for president, “Farmer Bob” would win, because most American voters aren’t as familiar with Mugabe’s track record.

So who will I support this time? I am an independent conservative, no longer belonging to either major party (read my May 6 entry to find out why), so I won’t get to vote until after the conventions. However, I am still more comfortable with the Republican choices. I could probably be happy marking the ballot for any of them, except for John McCain and Ron Paul, who are RINOs (Republicans In Name Only); McCain’s anti-Christian as well. With the Democrats, on the other hand, what kind of choice is this? There used to be at least one moderate or center-right candidate in every election (e.g., Henry Jackson in 1972 & 1976, John Glenn and Reubin Askew in 1984, Joe Lieberman in 2004). This time, however, they’re all pandering to the barking moonbats that make up Moveon.org, Daily Kos, and other extreme left-wing groups. Most of them couldn’t even bring themselves to denounce the ad Moveon.org sent to the New York Times, which called General Petraeus “General Betray Us.” As far as I’m concerned, the only difference between the Democrats are personalities. If hair is the most important factor, the candidate for you is John Edwards (he spends more on one haircut than I used to make in a month!); if you want a likeable president, there’s Barack Obama; if you think she has earned a third term in the White House, go for Hillary Clinton; if you think ideas are more important than reality, you’ll like Dennis Kucinich.

In June I discovered a quiz on a blog that tells which candidate has views on the issues most similar to yours. I didn’t get around to taking it though, until yesterday. Since nearly half a million people have tried the quiz by now, it’s probably in more than one place in cyberspace. Here’s the location I know of:

The Candidate Calculator

First, it asks you which candidate is your first choice right now. Then it lists a bunch of issues that are being talked about. For each one, you choose whether you are for it, against it, or undecided, and then rate them high, medium, or low in importance. From that data the quiz tells you the percentage of times you are in agreement with each candidate.

I got a few surprises when I tried it. For the candidate, I’m flexible this early, and chose Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee because I’ve heard some good things about him recently. Instead, the quiz said I have the most in common with Colorado’s Tom Tancredo, at 93.55%. I think that’s because I rated securing our borders high, and Tancredo’s mainly known for taking a strong stand on illegal immigration.

But Tom doesn’t seem to be going anywhere in the polls, so who else is compatible with my views? The runners-up are Mitt Romney (91.15%), Fred Thompson (87.10%), and Duncan Hunter (85.48%). Would you believe Mike Huckabee came in 7th place, at 66.94%? Among the Democrats, the highest was Hillary at 38.71%, presumably because she tries to act moderate occasionally. At the very bottom of the heap was somebody I have never heard of, Alaska Senator Mike Gravel (8.87%).

So who agrees with you? Try the quiz to find out.

The Candidate Calculator

Zahi’s in the News Again!

I’m astonished at the persistence of the question over whether ancient Egyptians were white or black. You’d think it wouldn’t be an issue, because the Egyptians preserved their bodies by the thousands for us. I wrote about it here, a few years ago:

What Race Were the Ancient Egyptians?

However, the controversy now seems to have been revived by the King Tut Exhibit, which will soon be opening in London. Demonstrators like these show up in every city where it stops:

Now it has gotten to the point that Zahi Hawass, the supreme chief of Egypt’s Antiquities Department, felt the need to express his opinion. My brother and I keep track of what he’s up to, because we have noted that he’s such a ham in front of the camera, and the fact that he speaks perfect English only seems to encourage him more. You may remember how the remains of Tutankhamen were examined by a CAT-scan machine in 2005, and they concluded that Tut wasn’t murdered after all; it is more likely he died from an infection caused by a knee injury. At the time, I got ten photos of the procedure, showing how they took him out of his sarcophagus in the Valley of the Kings, how they ran him through the machine, and how they put him back afterwards. Zahi got his white-haired head in all but one of those shots!

Tutankhamun was not black: Egypt Antiquities Chief

It’s Sukkot, Chag Sameach!

Today was the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles. Unfortunately I don’t have any appropriate pictures or cards, except for the one last Sunday showing our idea of an etrog (LOL). Best wishes to my Jewish and Christian Zionist friends anyhow.

boongon.jpg

The rest of this message is a quick recap of what’s been happening here the past few days. I took Tuesday off to take my car into the repair shop; having it there early on a weekday morning was the only way I could make sure it was serviced the same day. Sure enough, they got to it two hours later, and at the end of the third hour they were done. It turned out the squeaking sound was bad brakes, not a bad wheel bearing, so replacing the brake pads fixed everything. Now the Buick is ready for the next time I take it into the mountains.

A cold front came in late on Wednesday, bringing rain and a little lightning Wednesday & Thursday. Today the high temperature was only in the mid-70s, and it should get as cool as 50 tomorrow night. However, I’ve learned my lesson from the other false alarms this month. Though the leaves are starting to fall from the trees, I’m not yet convinced that summer is truly over. Or the drought, for that matter.

On Wednesday I returned to the dentist. I ended up getting three small fillings this time. The doctor I had for last year’s fillings had her new partner do it this time, I guess to gain some experience; she seems competent enough. Yes, I said she; it appears that everyone in that office (the doctors, assistants and receptionist) is female and several years younger than me. I suppose if I was single I’d want to go more often. 🙂

The Marcel Marceau We Never Knew

We’re losing several special entertainers these days. Just a few weeks ago Luciano Pavarotti, the greatest opera singer of our time, went to that big choir in the sky. Then yesterday the news came out that Marcel Marceau, the famous French pantomime, died at the age of 84. You probably know him for his clown makeup, his “walking against the wind” routine, and what I think was the best joke in Mel Brooks’ “Silent Movie,” where he got the only spoken part!

However, there was another side to Marcel Marceau, and I wish I had known it while he was alive; he was a hero before he became a performer. Originally his name was Marcel Mangel, but during the Nazi occupation of France his father was taken to the Auschwitz concentration camp, and never returned; he changed his last name to Marceau to hide the fact that he was Jewish. Then he and his brother Alain joined the Free French to fight back, and because he knew English, Marcel eventually got to be a liaison officer, working with General Patton’s army. Only after the war did he go into acting; I guess you shouldn’t expect mimes to get chatty about their life stories. Rest In Peace, Marcel; you earned it, and it looks like France finally has a president (the first since De Gaulle, anyway) who fully appreciates what you did.

However, the main headline for yesterday was the controversial visit of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to New York City, to speak at the UN and Columbia University. Apparently Columbia has a tradition of inviting this country’s enemies; Adolf Hitler’s ambassador to the United States spoke there in 1933. The university president justified the visit of a known terrorist-sponsor, religious fanatic and Holocaust denier by throwing some “hardball” questions at him, but it amazes me that nobody mentioned how much he looks like one of the militants who held the Americans hostage in Iran for 444 days, back in 1979-81. Even presidential candidate Mitt Romney didn’t mention it, and he called for Ahmadinejad’s arrest.

Probably the best part of the visit was when somebody asked about Iran’s record of abuse against women and homosexuals, and Ahmadinejad said, “In Iran, we don’t have homosexuals, like in your country. We don’t have that in our country. In Iran, we do not have this phenomenon. I don’t know who’s told you that we have it.” At least there he was truthful, though he didn’t explain why, as this cartoon does.

Finally, have you noticed that today’s dictators seem to be S.O.B.s from the get-go? In the past, most tyrants had some redeeming factors: Mussolini made the trains run on time; Kemal Ataturk singlehandedly modernized Turkey; Hitler brought Germany out of the Great Depression in only two years; Ferdinand Marcos was smart and married to a beauty queen. Thus, they were appealing to some folks at first, and only turned bad later. However, I have yet to see what anybody could like about Ahmadiniejad, and other modern tyrants (Bashar al-Assad, Kim Jong Il) would be losers you had never heard of, if their fathers hadn’t put them at the top of the heap.

The Decline of Languages

It is usually on Sunday or Monday that I read news stories that are history or archaeology-related. That was the case yesterday, and I shared with my family the most interesting one, a story about how the number of languages in use has been decreasing. I already knew that, but it’s a new fact for the folks, so let me post a link to the article and rephrase what I’ve written on the subject.

The Languages of Extinction

There are about 7,000 languages in the world today, but only about 80 are used outside the country of origin. Half of them have just 0.2 percent of the world’s population (13 million) speaking them. Today a language is becoming extinct every two weeks, as its speakers die off or simply switch to a more popular tongue. A few years ago, for example, I heard that only four speakers of Livonian, the medieval form of Latvian, are left, and all of them are in their eighties; if they have passed on by now, Livonian has, too.

For most of history the trend has been for the number of languages to increase. As mankind spread over the earth, poor transportation and communications isolated people into small groups. That isolation and different experiences encouraged each tribe/nation/people-group to make up new words, until their language was completely different from that spoken by other groups. Eventually every city, every county or province, and sometimes every family, would speak its own dialect. If you had suggested to a thirteenth-century English poet, for instance, that he should write his verses in English, he probably would have replied, “Yes, but what kind of English? That of London, York, Cornwall, or some other place?” That is why the Catholic Church promoted Latin throughout Western Europe; not only was the Bible written in it, but using it was the only way to make sure that more than a few people understood you.

In Europe, there was a move between 1300 and 1600 to standardize languages. It started in Italy when the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II (1212-1250) encouraged poets at his court to compose verses in Italian, rather than Latin. A few decades later, Dante Alighieri did likewise, by writing his greatest work, The Divine Comedy, in Italian. Those who read Dante’s tale of a journey through hell, purgatory and heaven came to see his dialect (Tuscan) as the correct form of Italian, so Tuscan became the standard Italian dialect in the fourteenth century. Then a standard German dialect arose in the 1520s, when Martin Luther translated the Bible into German. Once again it was the author’s way of speaking and writing–in this case the form of German used in the state of Saxony–that was accepted. In the case of English, two sources of literature established the standard, William Shakespeare’s plays and the King James Bible. France also produced a standardized form of French in the sixteenth century, but because the works of several authors were involved, and France’s literacy rate was lower than that of its neighbors, old dialects like Provençal managed to survive until about 1800, when Napoleon Bonaparte ordered that all schools do their instruction only in the official French. Finally, at the end of the sixteenth century, Don Quixote, the brilliant satire by Miguel de Cervantes, established the official form of Spanish. With that, the languages of everyday use could replace Latin at last.

The rise of standardized languages not only made communication much easier; it also slowed down the rate at which vocabulary and grammar changed. For example, it became necessary around 1520 to produce a new English translation of the Bible, because John Wycliffe’s 140-year-old translation could no longer be understood, but today we can still enjoy Shakespeare’s works with just a high school education, four hundred years after the Bard wrote them.

Around the same time, the white man left Europe to explore, exploit and colonize the world. In doing so he nearly annihilated the indigenous tribes in three areas: the Americas, Siberia and Australia. Those natives that survived usually had to learn the languages of their conquerors, in order to cope with the new society forced upon them. That is why the article lists Australia, eastern Siberia, and parts of North and South America as the places with the most endangered languages.

The invention of the steamship, the railroad, and instantaneous communication like the telegraph and telephone eliminated the factors that caused dialects and languages to form in the past, and the new trend was for people to switch to a few well-known languages (English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Mandarin Chinese, Arabic and Swahili), to minimize misunderstandings. Consequently the number of languages in use has been decreasing since 1800. Some new languages that are easy to learn, like Esperanto, have been invented for the same purpose.

Unlike an endangered animal, a language doesn’t seem to be missed when it becomes extinct. And some that appear safe can fall out of use without warning. For example, a hundred years ago, the Manchu language must have looked like it was on solid ground, because the Manchus had ruled China for two and a half centuries, and they passed laws to keep them distinct from the Chinese masses, thereby delaying assimilation. Today, however, just forty years after the death of the last emperor, the Manchu language is all but extinct; while Westerners may still call the Manchu homeland Manchuria, the Chinese simply call it Dongbei, meaning “Northeast.”

Every time a language dies, a culture goes with it. Since most of the languages in trouble don’t have a written form, we can only guess at what songs, poems and stories–how much of our heritage–is tied up in them. It should also be of concern to Bible-believers reading this, because it’s a sign that we’re heading back to a one-language society, like we had at Babel. And if Babel is ever restored, I don’t think the coming of the Messiah can be far behind. If you’re like me, you must be wondering: is the decreasing number of languages more evidence that the end times are near?

Quest for Coffee

I forgot to mention over the weekend that last Friday I made the move to the trailer where I’ll be working for the next three months.  Most of my stuff, including the computer, made it without a hitch, but my phone stopped working shortly after it was plugged in, and it wasn’t fixed until around noon today.  Apparently it got hooked into a bad line.  There are eighteen cubicles in the trailer, but only three other employees besides myself, so I expect it to fill up before long.

In the short run, I’m going to have to “rough it.”  The nearest restrooms and break areas take at least five minutes to walk to.  I expected that from the assignment I worked last May; what I didn’t expect was that I’d have to walk nearly as far for a cup of coffee, and it took me two hours to find a pot that wasn’t cold and empty.  I guess I’m going to have to bring in my own, like I did when I worked at the East Orlando store for Gateway Computers, six years ago.

By the way, did you know that according to the New Testament, it’s the man’s job to make the coffee?  Where does it say that, you might ask?  In the Book of Hebrews (he brews, LOL).

Weather-wise, it hasn’t cooled down yet.  In fact it was just over 90 degrees yesterday, 93 today, and is expected to be 90-something tomorrow, before a cold front arrives.  I think I said previously that it sometimes can get hotter here than it does in Florida, but that’s supposed to happen in July and August, not the fourth week of September!  I’ve read in history books that 1816 was called the “year without a summer,” because an eruption of a massive volcano in Indonesia filled the atmosphere with enough ash to cool the whole world.  Is this going to be the year without a fall?

Arrgh, I HAVE Been Photoshopped!

This is a follow-up to what I wrote on September 16 & 17. My brother e-mailed me some pictures of me that could cause trouble, if they fell into the wrong hands:

With North Korea’s Kim Jong Il and former Chinese President Jiang Zemin.

With two African tyrants, Uganda’s Idi Amin and the Congo’s Mobutu Sese Seko. Hmmm, I thought both of them were dead; how old is this picture?

With Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez. Oh come on, I don’t buy gas from Citgo anymore!

Even worse, Hugo again with Cindy Sheehan.

Cindy again, with Jesse Jackson. I guess as an unholy trinity, we’re not very convincing.

(singing) “We’re Knights of the Round Table, we dance when we’re able–Ouch!” (click on the picture above to see where I am in it)

On second thought, King Arthur, let’s not go to Camelot. It is a silly place.

I see this one coming in handy, should the Democrats win next year’s election.

This last picture is unrelated. It shows a pumelo, what Leive calls a bo-ongon, that I picked up for her today while shopping in Yu Yu, the Asian grocery store near the University of Kentucky campus. I put a ballpoint pen beside it to show it’s larger than an ordinary grapefruit. Appropriately I found it just a few days before Sukkot (September 27 this year). One of the decorations used by Jews for the Feast of Tabernacles is a citrus fruit called an etrog, known in English as a citron. However, etrogs always seem to be hard to find. In Florida I used a pumelo as a substitute; Leive loves them, and their size makes them a good conversation piece. Early this year I found a few in Meijer as well, so I guess I’ll be using them for the same purpose in Kentucky. Now I still haven’t found a replacement for muscadines . . .