Not Frozen Yet

This morning was the first official freeze in Lexington, but not in my neighborhood. The low temperatures were 41 Monday morning and 37 today; aside from some frost on my windshield, the commute to work was normal. It was mainly the out-of-town areas that froze. The rest of the week should be milder anyway, 60s by day, 40s by night, so no snow just yet.

This morning it was 67 degrees upstairs, 69 on the main floor, and 59 in the basement, so now I’m going to hear the heat running for the next few months, instead of the air conditioning.

On the radio I heard that Americans spend more on Halloween than any other holiday, except for Christmas. Well, count me out. As a member of a church in Florida that has a problem with traditional Christian holidays, why should I observe one that doesn’t even pretend to be anything but pagan? I’ll probably turn off the lights and lay low tomorrow night, so the trick-or-treaters think nobody’s home. If you want an alternative day to observe on October 31, it was on that day in 1517 that Martin Luther started the Reformation by nailing 95 theses to the door of his church. The next day was a big church holiday, All Saints Day, so Luther knew a lot of people would see what he wrote. They certainly did; the theses were in Latin, so I doubt that most of the local folks could read them, but enough folks understood the document for copies of it to appear all over Europe within a few months. Therefore I would say that Luther couldn’t have timed it better. Okay everybody, Happy Reformation Day!

Some Fall Color

For a year I’ve had one of those “smart clocks” that sets its own time when you plug it in. I had a little trouble with it last spring, due to the hours of daylight savings time changing this year. Trouble came again this morning, since it was still programmed to go back an hour on the last Sunday of October, though Congress now extends this violation of nature at least a week into November. Consequently I got up thinking it was 7:30, only to find after I went downstairs that it was 8:30. Let the record show that the perfect machine hasn’t been invented yet!

In history-related news, I read today that a Dutch university believes it has a seal that once belonged to Israel’s most infamous queen, Jezebel. They’re 90% sure, not 100%, because part of the top is missing, and all they could read were the letters “Yzbl.” If the broken-off piece was there, presumably we’d have the rest of the owner’s name. I was interested in the Egyptian symbolism on the seal (the sphinx, the ankh, the cobras, etc.), because I know Egypt and Assyria were competing at the time to be the dominant power over the land between them. Seventy years earlier, the Egyptian king named Shishak in the Bible plundered Jerusalem, and then in 854 B.C., near the end of Ahab & Jezebel’s reign, Ahab led a coalition of twelve kings that defeated an Assyrian invasion at the battle of Karkar. Does this mean that in the superpower struggle of the early iron age, Jezebel took the side of the Egyptians?

Scholar claims ancient seal was Queen Jezebel’s

Finally, today we took a trip into the eastern Kentucky mountains to see some real fall color. Going out on the Mountain Parkway, through the Daniel Boone National Forest, was the easy part. Then I got off near the town of Campton, about 60 miles from Lexington, and followed side roads back by way of Beattyville, Crystal, Ravenna, Irvine, Waco and Richmond. Big mistake; Leive got carsick going up and down on those narrow mountain paths, and when I stopped at a gas station near Irvine, I filled up a gas can for our lawn mower and put it in the trunk, so we had to smell gas fumes the rest of the way back. I wonder how long it will be before we look back on that experience and find it funny?

Leive went shutter-happy on the first leg of the trip and took 172 photos of fall colors on the mountains and trees. We saw mostly yellows and oranges; last year there was more red at this time, but apparently that was delayed by the heat wave we had in September. Here are the ten best pictures from the set. Most of them are self-explanatory:

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Hey, hey, hey, what a lot of hay!

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I suppose any New Englanders reading this won’t be impressed by the pictures, but remember we’re a couple of ex-Floridians. In Florida most of the trees stay green all year round; the ones that do drop their leaves usually wait until December or even January to do so. Are you in the mood for Thanksgiving yet?

Delayed Composition

Boy, what a time I had with those pictures in the previous post! That’s why it took me five days to put them up; I used up all the time I had for this blog on Wednesday and Thursday. It seemed that one out of every three pictures wouldn’t upload properly, though I tried more than once, and I don’t know why that happened. WordPress.com says I have 34 megs left for pictures, but maybe I’ve got too many as is.

This reminds me of an experience I had in 2000, when I was looking for a new home for The Xenophile Historian. One of the places I tried was Fortune City, and there I learned that the more space a free host promises, the worse is the service (Anybody remember how bad Xoom.com was?). It took me two weeks to upload the whole website (it was about 15 megs at the time, compared with 60+ now), because I was on dial-up, and because their FTP tool was unreliable; I couldn’t be sure my files arrived there safely. In fact, Fortune City gave me so many problems that by the time I was finished uploading, I was already looking for — and found — a better place for the website. Altogether I only stayed on Fortune City long enough to leave.

Enough tech talk for now. It has definitely gotten colder this week; 50s and 60s in the day, 40s and 50s at night. We might even get our first frost of the season tomorrow night. I believe Friday is when we started running the heat, instead of air conditioning. It takes a day or two for temperatures inside to mimic those outside; no doubt that inertia is intentional.

The University of Kentucky lost their football game with Florida last week, so today they’re trying to come back with a win against Mississippi state. There is also talk on the local radio about the Miami Dolphins and the New York Giants playing in London today, in the first regular season NFL game to be held outside the United States. Why bother introducing foreign sports like soccer here? It looks like the rest of the world is just as willing to try our favorite pastimes.

This is an election year for Kentucky, so we’ll be voting in a week and a half. A handful of state positions on the ballot, with the main one being the gubernatorial race between Republican Ernie Fletcher (the incumbent) and Democrat Steve Beshear. The polls all say Beshear has a double-digit lead, but after a year in Kentucky, I still know almost nothing about the local politics. I probably would vote for Fletcher anyway, since life has been good for me since my arrival, but what decided it for sure was the news that Beshear is for casino gambling. How often does that issue come up in Kentucky? In Florida the casino issue is like the monster from a horror movie; it comes out of the grave to appear on the ballot every 8-10 years, and the voters have to kill it again. Casinos overwhelmingly lost in 1978, 1986 and 1994, and a 2004 proposal to put slot machines in dog racing tracks in two counties passed by a margin of less than 1%. The gambling lobby never seemed to get the message, that they’re unwanted. Let’s hope and pray they do no better here.

The Ashland Estate, Henry Clay’s House

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(Note: To keep the various links in the left-hand margin of this blog, your browser will cut off the right edge of each picture. I guess horizontal scrolling is not permitted here. Click on any picture to see the whole thing.)

I think I told you that before I moved to Lexington, the only thing I knew about the city was that Henry Clay once lived there. I found his house on my very first day in town, and since moving here, have lived no more than four miles away. I even wrote about Mr. Clay at length in the American History paper I finished last February. Thus, I’m surprised that I waited nearly a year and a half to visit the estate.

The house is a three-story brick structure with two wings, located within walking distance of both Richmond Road and the nearest downtown buildings. In its heyday, the Clays also owned six hundred acres of surrounding property, which they used as a successful farm (the guide told me that eleven Kentucky Derby winners can trace their ancestry to horses that were raised by Mr. Clay). What I saw came from several generations, because the original house developed cracks shortly after Mr. Clay’s death, and his sons had to knock it down and rebuild it. It remained their home for three more generations, until the last great-grand-daughter died in 1948. At that time the University of Kentucky bought the place and started turning it into a museum, but some members of the family continued to live upstairs until 1959. Here is where I went in, on the southwest side.

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Here is Ashland Estate from the front. The front faces northwest, toward downtown Lexington.

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And here is the back (southeast) side of the house.

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This is the foyer behind the main entrance. On the left is a mirror that makes it look like there are two halls going in that direction. The fake hall is so realistic that some visitors have bumped into the mirror, so now there’s a bust of Henry Clay blocking the way.

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This “conversation chair” was in the drawing room, along with the piano and some fine couches. Got a couple you’d like to see sitting in it? I nominate Gene and Rezia. After I took the picture I was told by another tourist that no photography is allowed inside, so go to the estate’s website for more indoor pictures.

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The area behind the house is quite large, with many trees, especially ash (hence the name “Ashland”). The locals like to jog and walk their dogs here. You will also find this marker, commemorating a skirmish fought between Union and Confederate troops on this spot, in October 1862.

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There is a nice walled garden near the house. I took several pictures there, for Leive’s benefit.

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I remember lantanas in Florida, but here’s one in Kentucky. It doesn’t seem right for the same kind of plant to grow in both states, the climate is so different. This one would have looked dark red if my flash hadn’t gone off. They also had three citrus trees, (a lemon, a tangerine and an orange) but since they’re in pots, it’s easy to explain how they can grow here.

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Would you believe there’s such a thing as a holly tree? Here’s one.

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Aye yi yi, mushroom people!

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And here’s the gardener’s cottage nearby.

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These two cone-shaped buildings are the most unusual structures I saw. Called ice houses, they are brick-lined pits dug 15-30 feet into the ground, and when they are filled with ice in the winter, it takes months (usually until October) for the ice to melt. These ice houses worked so well that before the invention of the refrigerator, this was almost the only place in Kentucky where you could go to get ice cream. The door next to them leads to a cellar used for storing dairy products, that worked the same way.

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The stairway down into the dairy cellar cellar is treacherous, and there’s not much to see if you take it to the bottom.

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And finally, here’s a look into one of the ice houses. This is a dreary dark hole as well, but to my surprise, there’s just enough light for some ferns to grow in the walls.

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Thank God for Blustery Days

It has been raining almost constantly since Monday afternoon. A low pressure area, loaded with moisture, came out of the Gulf of Mexico, and it’s not passing over us very fast; we’ve got rain in the forecast until Friday, at least. According to the radio, we got three inches of the wet stuff just for today. And the red line on the thermometer is dropping, too. It doesn’t seem right to go to work before the sun comes up, and learn that you’ve just experienced the highest temperature of the day.

Nobody’s complaining, though! After five months of drought, we definitely needed the rain. Now I may actually get to mow the lawn once more before the snow arrives; I don’t think I’ve cut the grass since Labor Day, it has been so dry.

At the mens’ Tuesday night prayer meeting, I ended up sharing what I’ve learned from the Book of Job, and why I believe it’s the oldest part of the Bible, having been written down even before Genesis. It was well received; I also talked about the 1992 discovery of Ubar, the lost city of the Arabs, and how it pinpointed where Job lived–his tomb is a cave near near modern-day Salalah, Oman.

Finally, I shared a column I read today from Mike Adams, a professor in North Carolina, where he told about meeting a former satanist who’s now a believer. The story was inspiring, all right, but it’s remarkable how I found it. It was published at Townhall.com, a conservative political website; normally Mr. Adams talks about outrageous examples of “political correctness” on college campuses. And then I was directed to it by a link from Boortz.com, the website of Neal Boortz. I believe Neal’s a mainstream Lutheran, and if you’ve heard him talk about creationism, homosexuality or abortion, you know he’s no friend of fundamentalist Christianity, but even he liked the story! As he put it: “ Just a good story from Mike Adams. Read it. You need a lift today.”

In 2004 and 2005, I was a participant at AllEmpires.com, an online history club, but I’ve pretty much ignored it since moving to Kentucky, having been busy with so many other things. Yesterday I went by for a look, and in their monthly magazine, I found a really strange quote, supposedly telling the fate of the last American president. Quote:

“‘First they ignore us, then they ridicule us, then they fight us. Then we win.’–Mahatma Gandhi

‘First they fight us, then they ridicule us, then they ignore us. Then we lose.’–James H. Crackerbarrel, last elected President of the U.S.A., February 13, 2021.

Following Crackerbarrel’s capture, all future American Presidents would be selected by the Supreme Court – of China. After two weeks of hiding, the half deranged leader was found by the People’s Liberation Army in the basement of the U.S. Mint, desperately hand-cranking a printing press … a feeble attempt to fill one last wheelbarrow with dollars.

From Democracy’s Dunces, 2000-2050 by Chu-yu Soong.”

Unquote: A Google search also found the quote in what appeared to be a leftist blog, so I’m guessing that’s where AllEmpires.com got it. But why did they reprint it? It didn’t have anything to do with the articles they’re writing. And since I have a thing for anachronisms, where would it look good on my website, if anywhere?

What’s Up With My Websites?

Don’t worry, though it has been another busy year for me, I’m still working on the websites. Still, sometimes it seems the more I upload to the Internet, the more maintenance work I give myself. I still expect to eventually finish papers on the four world regions I haven’t written complete histories about yet (North & South America, Central Asia and the South Pacific), it’s just taking longer than expected, what with all the real-world activities. If you’ve been following along, you know I finished Chapter 3 of my North American history series in February, rewrote Chapter 2 of my Middle Eastern series in spring, and have composed a few essays since then. Behind the scenes, I began working on Chapter 4 of the North American series (Industrial America, 1861-1933) in July, and am still at it; I lost three weeks of work in September when I suffered a hard drive failure on this computer, so it took until recently to recover.  I’m up to page 41 on that paper (in WordPerfect) as I write this.

In other news, I’m laboring to get my textbook published, since I know several readers are waiting for that. Also, I’m planning to launch a new chamber-of-commerce type website for my new hometown, Lexington, KY, in the near future. The link is up for it already, but I’m only in the early stages of construction, so don’t look until I say so. Finally, the Google Ads have been on The Xenophile Historian for thirteen months, but now it looks like I’ll finally make some money on them, now that website traffic is starting to pick up again. To all of you, even those who just came for a peek, thank you for your support.

Some Additional Flower Shots

Yes, this blog has been quiet for the past few days. Leive and I have been doing stuff around the house, but it’s nothing to write about (activating a new cell phone, and so on). This afternoon I finally got around to seeing the Ashland Estate, Henry Clay’s house, so expect to see the pictures from that trip soon.

Today I read an article from the London Times listing what some historians consider the most important dates of the past. I guess historians aren’t supposed to agree, since this isn’t an exact science we’re talking about. I’ll just say I wouldn’t have chosen a lot of the dates listed. For example, they included the date when Shen Nung, the second king in Chinese history, discovered tea (2737 B.C.!). I suppose the discovery of tea is a red-letter date for an Englishmen, but since we don’t know if Shen Nung even existed, I think that’s stretching things a bit. They even included a 1957 A.D. hoax where somebody showed a picture of Swiss spaghetti farmers, preparing to harvest their crop! On the other hand, I didn’t see any mention of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians, in 587 or 586 B.C. I’m beginning to think that’s one of the most important events of ancient times, not only because the Jewish diaspora began there, but also because an astonishing number of prophets and philosophers lived on or close to that date (Thales, Pythagoras, Zoroaster, Buddha, Lao-Tzu and Confucius are the most prominent), and because that is when classical Greece really got into gear. Anyway, check it out and see what you think:

The 50 Key Dates of World History

And here’s some pictures Leive wants you to see. First of all, she put some new flower arrangements on the main floor windowsills. As you’re outside, facing the front door of the house, these are on the left.

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(Click on the picture to see both arrangements, the blog format cut off the right margin again.)

Surprise! This pink impatiens wasn’t bothered by the drought; over the summer it sprang up on our doorstep, right behind two of Leive’s “roses.” Unlike all her other flowers in the front yard, the impatiens are real.

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You can compare these pictures with the ones I took of the front yard last May.

Our House, Part I: Outside

Hopefully these will hold you for now. Gotta go to a prayer meeting. Leive’s in a cooking mood today, so we’re going to bring some lumpia Shanghai (all-meat egg rolls). Yummy! 🙂