An Eclipse to Celebrate the New Month

I just learned that tomorrow we’re going to get a total solar eclipse.  Because most people don’t see even one solar eclipse per year, they are worth mentioning whenever they happen.  They were an even bigger deal in ancient times, when people didn’t know what caused eclipses, and were terribly upset by them.  In Mesopotamia, for example, an eclipse was seen as a sign that the king was going to die, and he might crown a substitute king for a few days, in the hope that the wrath of the gods would fall on him instead.  If nothing bad happened before the omens turned good again, they would sacrifice the substitute king as a thank offering to the gods, which also caused the death of the king the omens had predicted in the first place.

At least once, however, the custom backfired.  Around in 1639 B.C., King Irra-Imitti of the city of Isin got some bad omens, and responded by putting the crown on the head of his gardener, Enlil-Bani.  But things did not go as planned–the real king died because “he had swallowed boiling broth.” (poison?)  The lucky king for a day refused to step down and ruled for the next 24 years.

But I’m digressing.  It seems that a total solar eclipse is only likely to be visible once in a lifetime, at any given spot.  We got one while I lived in Florida, on March 7, 1970.  The best place to observe it was a small town named Perry, near Tallahassee.  Consequently our planetarium had a bus trip to and from Perry, and I went with my mother.  Unfortunately the sky was overcast when we got there, so all I saw was a dark shadow rapidly move across the clouds towards us, and then about three minutes later daylight came just as fast, from the same direction.  In other words, the clouds eclipsed the eclipse!

Unfortunately you won’t be able to see this eclipse from the United States.  I gather it’s mainly an Arctic show this time; it will be visible from parts of Canada, Russia and northern China.  You could also call it a herald for next week’s Beijing Olympics.  The National Aeronautics & Space Administration is promising to cover it live on NASA TV, starting at 6 AM EST (11 AM GMT).  Or watch the video below to know what to expect, and what to do if you manage to catch the eclipse.  See you next month!

My Congressman Is Out of Touch With His District

Can somebody tell me what is wrong with Ben Chandler (D-KY, 6th District)?  When I moved into central Kentucky, back in 2006, I was dismayed to find out that the only two choices in the congressional election were Chandler and a Libertarian.  Coming from a county that is overwhelmingly Republican, I was shocked, and asked, “Where are the Republicans?” When I asked this in the Kentucky forum on, another “Freeper” told me not to worry, because Mr. Chandler is not like the Democrats in other states.

Well, if Chandler was a so-called “Blue Dog Democrat,” that’s a thing of the past.  Last Monday I found out that he is opposed to drilling for new oil, whereas the vast majority of Americans are for it these days.  And yesterday on the radio I heard that he didn’t know much about the eastern Kentucky strip mining industry until today, when he flew over the mines in an airplane. Hasn’t he seen the mines from the air before, when commuting between Lexington and Washington? I certainly would have noticed them, if they’re anything like the strip mines of northeastern Pennsylvania.

On the energy independence/drilling issue, many Democrats are coming around.  Even Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid seems to realize that on this issue, the Democrats have painted themselves into a corner.  It’s extremists like Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama who are holding out, thinking that saving the planet means impoverishing everybody but themselves.  In this case, the slogan “Yes we can” has been replaced by “No we can’t.”

Now I know that Mr. Chandler is in the same camp as Pelosi and Obama. Have I got a moonbat representing me in Congress?

The Oldest New Testament + The Newest Technology

There has been stuff happening in the family for the past couple of days, but I’m not sure how much I can report at this time.  A lot can happen between now and the next message.  For now I’ll say that I don’t expect late summer to be as busy as early summer was, but it looks like it will be busy nonetheless.

In the meantime, here are two bits of news involving ancient history and the Internet.  First, the oldest existing copy of the New Testament, the Greek-language Codex Sinaiticus, is going to be scanned and put online.  Books were a fairly new invention when it was copied by scribes, so in a sense, creating an electronic version is bringing the manuscript up to date.  Also, the manuscript was split into several pieces after its discovery at St. Catherine’s monastery, in the Sinai peninsula, so this will allow scholars to see the whole thing in one place, for the first time since 1844.  Here’s the article where I read about the project:

Scholars plan to reunite ancient Bible online

And the website where you can see the Codex itself:

Also, are you planning to visit the UK soon (United Kingdom, not University of Kentucky)?  If so, would you like to look at Hadrian’s Wall, or some other Roman-era ruins, while you are there?  Here are the top ten links to webpages about Britain’s Roman history:

Top 10 links for Romans in Britain


Rules To Enter Kentucky

I recently saw this on a humor page, from another Kentuckian:

Yes, I am from Kentucky and proud of it. We do wear shoes (most of the time), we can get the Internet (in most areas) and we are not inbred (for the most part). We LOVE tourists and welcome everyone. There are some rules to be taken into account when entering Kentucky, however.


1. Pull your droopy pants up. You look like an idiot.

2. Let’s get this straight; it’s called a “gravel road.” I drive a pickup truck because I want to. No matter how slow you drive, you’re going to get dust on your Lexus. Drive it or get out of the way.

3. They are cattle & feed lots and horse farms. That’s what they smell like to you. They smell like money to us. Get over it. Don’t like it? I-64 goes east and west, I-75 goes north and south. Pick one.

4. So every person in every pickup waves. It’s called being friendly. Try to understand the concept.

5. If that cell phone rings while a deer is coming in, We WILL shoot it out of your hand. You better hope you don’t have it up to your ear at the time.

6. Yeah, we eat catfish. You really want sushi & caviar? It’s available at the corner bait shop.

7. The “Opener” refers to the first day of hunting season. It’s a religious holiday.

8. We open doors for women. That is applied to all women, regardless of age.

9. No, there’s no “vegetarian special” on the menu. Order steak. Or you can order the Chef’s Salad and pick off the 2 pounds of ham & turkey.

10. When we fill out a table, there are three main dishes: meats, vegetables and breads. We use two spices: salt, pepper.

11. You bring “coke” into my house, it better be brown, wet, and served over ice. You bring “Mary Jane” into my house, she better be cute, know how to shoot, drive a truck, and have long hair.

12. The “Wildcats”, “Cardinals” and High School Basketball is as important here as the Lakers and the Knicks, and a dang site more fun to watch.

13. Yeah, we have golf courses. But don’t hit the water hazards – it spooks the fish.

14. Colleges? Try UK, Louisville, Morehead, EKU, or a bunch a’ others. People come outta there with an education plus a love for God and Country, and they still wave at passing pickups when they come home for the holidays.

The Gospel According to Barack

Oh boy, nobody can lay it on thick like the British can!

He ventured forth to bring light to the world
The anointed one’s pilgrimage to the Holy Land is a miracle in action – and a blessing to all his faithful followers

by Gerard Baker

And it came to pass, in the eighth year of the reign of the evil Bush the Younger (The Ignorant), when the whole land from the Arabian desert to the shores of the Great Lakes had been laid barren, that a Child appeared in the wilderness.

The Child was blessed in looks and intellect. Scion of a simple family, offspring of a miraculous union, grandson of a typical white person and an African peasant. And yea, as he grew, the Child walked in the path of righteousness, with only the occasional detour into the odd weed and a little blow.

When he was twelve years old, they found him in the temple in the City of Chicago, arguing the finer points of community organisation with the Prophet Jeremiah and the Elders. And the Elders were astonished at what they heard and said among themselves: “Verily, who is this Child that he opens our hearts and minds to the audacity of hope?”

In the great Battles of Caucus and Primary he smote the conniving Hillary, wife of the deposed King Bill the Priapic and their barbarian hordes of Working Class Whites.

And so it was, in the fullness of time, before the harvest month of the appointed year, the Child ventured forth – for the first time – to bring the light unto all the world.

He travelled fleet of foot and light of camel, with a small retinue that consisted only of his loyal disciples from the tribe of the Media. He ventured first to the land of the Hindu Kush, where the Taleban had harboured the viper of al-Qaeda in their bosom, raining terror on all the world.

And the Child spake and the tribes of Nato immediately loosed the Caveats that had previously bound them. And in the great battle that ensued the forces of the light were triumphant. For as long as the Child stood with his arms raised aloft, the enemy suffered great blows and the threat of terror was no more.

From there he went forth to Mesopotamia where he was received by the great ruler al-Maliki, and al-Maliki spake unto him and blessed his Sixteen Month Troop Withdrawal Plan even as the imperial warrior Petraeus tried to destroy it.

And lo, in Mesopotamia, a miracle occurred. Even though the Great Surge of Armour that the evil Bush had ordered had been a terrible mistake, a waste of vital military resources and doomed to end in disaster, the Child’s very presence suddenly brought forth a great victory for the forces of the light.

And the Persians, who saw all this and were greatly fearful, longed to speak with the Child and saw that the Child was the bringer of peace. At the mention of his name they quickly laid aside their intrigues and beat their uranium swords into civil nuclear energy ploughshares.

From there the Child went up to the city of Jerusalem, and entered through the gate seated on an ass. The crowds of network anchors who had followed him from afar cheered “Hosanna” and waved great palm fronds and strewed them at his feet.

In Jerusalem and in surrounding Palestine, the Child spake to the Hebrews and the Arabs, as the Scripture had foretold. And in an instant, the lion lay down with the lamb, and the Israelites and Ishmaelites ended their long enmity and lived for ever after in peace.

As word spread throughout the land about the Child’s wondrous works, peoples from all over flocked to hear him; Hittites and Abbasids; Obamacons and McCainiacs; Cameroonians and Blairites.

And they told of strange and wondrous things that greeted the news of the Child’s journey. Around the world, global temperatures began to decline, and the ocean levels fell and the great warming was over.

The Great Prophet Algore of Nobel and Oscar, who many had believed was the anointed one, smiled and told his followers that the Child was the one generations had been waiting for.

And there were other wonderful signs. In the city of the Street at the Wall, spreads on interbank interest rates dropped like manna from Heaven and rates on credit default swaps fell to the ground as dead birds from the almond tree, and the people who had lived in foreclosure were able to borrow again.

Black gold gushed from the ground at prices well below $140 per barrel. In hospitals across the land the sick were cured even though they were uninsured. And all because the Child had pronounced it.

And this is the testimony of one who speaks the truth and bears witness to the truth so that you might believe. And he knows it is the truth for he saw it all on CNN and the BBC and in the pages of The New York Times.

Then the Child ventured forth from Israel and Palestine and stepped onto the shores of the Old Continent. In the land of Queen Angela of Merkel, vast multitudes gathered to hear his voice, and he preached to them at length.

But when he had finished speaking his disciples told him the crowd was hungry, for they had had nothing to eat all the hours they had waited for him.

And so the Child told his disciples to fetch some food but all they had was five loaves and a couple of frankfurters. So he took the bread and the frankfurters and blessed them and told his disciples to feed the multitudes. And when all had eaten their fill, the scraps filled twelve baskets.

Thence he travelled west to Mount Sarkozy. Even the beauteous Princess Carla of the tribe of the Bruni was struck by awe and she was great in love with the Child, but he was tempted not.

On the Seventh Day he walked across the Channel of the Angles to the ancient land of the hooligans. There he was welcomed with open arms by the once great prophet Blair and his successor, Gordon the Leper, and his successor, David the Golden One.

And suddenly, with the men appeared the archangel Gabriel and the whole host of the heavenly choir, ranks of cherubim and seraphim, all praising God and singing: “Yes, We Can.”

The Oasis of the South

If anyone from the former Confederacy is looking to take a vacation, they ought to consider Kentucky.  In terms of culture we’re Southerners, too, only we don’t fly the Rebel flag, because our state went with the Union in the Civil War.  Anyway, the weather has been real nice here lately.  After a cold front and a brief thunderstorm passed through on Wednesday morning, it only got up to 83 degrees on Wednesday & Thursday, and 86 yesterday.  A blessed relief at this time of year, compared with readings in the 90s for everywhere south of Kentucky (it got to 99 in Lindy’s part of Georgia).

I had to make a stop at the local Social Security office after work yesterday.  Nearby I passed a Thornton’s gas station.  Have you noticed how quickly prices at the pump are falling, now that it looks like we’re going to start drilling offshore again (see my message from last July 19)?  At Thornton’s it was $3.79 the first time I passed, and $3.77 after I got out of the Social Security office.  Thus, I stopped for a fill-up, just in case the free-fall stops next week.

I’ve written about Thornton’s here before.  They’re the closest thing we have to 7-11, the convenience store that’s so common in Florida.  The main difference is that whenever possible, the products they sell are made in Kentucky.  Like Ale-8-1, our official soft drink, and Mingua Brothers beef jerky.  This store also has plenty of Kentucky-related souvenirs.  I saw a postcard that I thought was particularly funny, that explained our doctors’ terminology:


Artery = The study of fine painting
Barium = What you do when CPR fails
Benign = What you are after you be eight
Caesarean Section = A district in Rome
Colic = A sheep dog
Coma = A punctuation mark
Dilate = To live longer
Fester = Quicker
GI Tract = a pamphlet meant to be read by soldiers
Grippe = A suitcase handle
Hangnail = A coathook
Medical Staff = A doctor’s cane
Minor Operation = Coal digging
Morbid = A higher offer
Nitrate = Lower than the day rate
Node = Was aware of
Organic = Church musician
Outpatient = A person who has fainted
Post-Operative = A letter carrier
Protein = In favor of young people
Secretion = Hiding anything
Serology = The study of English knighthood
Tablet = A small table
Urine = Opposite of “you’re out”
Varicose Veins = Veins which are very close together

I didn’t know Willard Was Jewish

No wonder he named his chief rat Ben (LOL).

Over the years I’ve heard plenty of conspiracy theories coming from the Palestinians.  One accused the Israelis of sterilizing Palestinian girls by poisoning the water supply.  Actually that was a rerun; remember how during the Black Death, Jews were accused of poisoning the wells of Europe?  Another claimed they were introducing drug-enlaced gum to Egypt, while Israeli prostitutes were spreading AIDs.  Anyway, here’s the latest, from an article in Front Page Magazine.  Quote:

Israel’s ‘Supernatural Rats’

By Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook
Palestinian Media Watch | Friday, July 25, 2008

The Palestinian Authority has come up with yet another wild accusation about Israel. Two PA newspapers – one directly controlled by the office of PA President Mahmoud Abbas – are accusing Israel of releasing rats with  supernatural qualities to chase away the Arab residents of Jerusalem.
According to the PA papers, the Israeli-Jerusalem rat is:
1. Immune to rat poison;
2. Aggressive and larger than usual;
3. Unafraid of cats and able to scare them away;
4. Highly fertile — female rat gives birth to 140 babies a year, four times the normal average;
5. Highly selective — Jewish residents of Jerusalem apparently are not affected by these rats.
Israel’s goal, the libelous PA articles accuse, is “to turn the residents’ life into a living hell, forcing them to leave.” Interestingly, the articles do not mention how the rats are trained to differentiate between Jewish and Arab residents of Jerusalem.
The following are the two stories:
“…one of the most amazing things that we’ve read during this month is that [Israeli] settlers have been bringing chests filled with rats and releasing them in the Old City’s [Arab] neighborhoods; they breed and have become a major curse… the [Arab] residents’ efforts to counter this infestation have failed, especially since cats run away from these rats because of their size and ferocity… All of the conventional efforts to kill them have not succeeded, because they seem to be immune to poison and they breed in the sewers. It is known that this female rat gives birth seven times a year, each time giving birth to 20 babies; which compels Jerusalem’s [Arabs] today to face the dangers of settlement and the infestation of rats…” [Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, controlled by the office of Mahmoud Abbas, July 18, 2008]

“Large numbers of [Israeli] settlers have been bringing huge cages full of rats and releasing them onto the streets and alleys of the Old City [Jerusalem]…in order to turn the [Arab] residents’ life into a living hell, forcing then to leave…” [Al-Ayyam, July 17, 2008]

Creating libels against Israel is a pivotal aspect of the Palestinian Authority’s incitement to hatred against Israel and Jews. PMW reported earlier this month that the PA media were accusing Israel of conducting Nazi-like experiments on Palestinan prisoners (LINK).

Unquote:  I could have sworn that the pesky rodents were on their side.  Remember Farfur, Mickey Mouse’s hate-filled cousin (see my messages from June 19, 2007 and July 3, 2007)?

Oh, maybe this is one of the super-rats they’re talking about (LOL).

An Unbiblical PBS Documentary? Why Is This News?

Holy Moses!  PBS documentary suggests Exodus not real

The above link goes to an article in the Orlando Sentinel, my former home-town newspaper.  This shows one reason why I never cared much for the newspaper many central Floridians call the “Slantinel.”  It was too conservative when I was a kid, too liberal after I grew up, and anti-Christian all the time.  I didn’t even want to use it for the birdcage!

Last Monday they posted an article on an upcoming episode of the PBS show “Nova,” which asserts that the first books of the Old Testament weren’t put together in their present-day form until the Babylonian Captivity, the stories in the Bible didn’t happen, that people like Abraham, Sarah and Moses probably never existed, that the Israelites began as just another Canaanite tribe, and that monotheism developed gradually over hundreds of years, instead of appearing suddenly at Mt. Sinai.

Now will somebody tell me what’s new about this?  Theories like these were being tossed about when I went to school (my Egyptology professor certainly didn’t believe the Biblical account of the Exodus), and I gather they’ve been popular longer than I’ve been alive.  At least since the time of Voltaire and Rousseau, I’ll venture.  This is what I would classify as a “dog bites man” story; sure, some people will be offended by the program, but more will not even notice because it has happened many times before.  It would be more unusual for PBS to broadcast a show that asserts the Bible may be right.  Indeed, books and TV specials like that from David Rohl are what attracted my attention to him in the first place.

Another archaeological hero of mine is Sir William Ramsay.  This scholar lived in the late nineteenth century, and he started out as an atheist.  When he went to Turkey, he thought he could prove the Bible false once and for all, by digging in the places where Paul went on his missionary journeys, and finding evidence that the most detailed book of the New Testament, the Book of Acts, had errors concerning dates, places, and the names of important people.  But after thirty years of digging, he came to the opposite conclusion; not only did everything he find agree with what Luke wrote, but by the time he returned to England he had become a defender of the Scriptures’ accuracy!

On a distantly related note, late last night I was doing a bit of research, for a minor rewrite of one of my history papers (Chapter 5 of the European series).  I was looking for the last time the famous Oracle of Delphi made a prediction.  Well, I found it.  Appropriately, it happened in 362 A.D., when Julian the Apostate, the last pagan Roman emperor, came by to restore the temple.  The Oracle told him:  “Go tell the King, the well-wrought hall has fallen in the dust; Phoebus Apollo no longer has a home or laurel, or a murmuring spring. Even the talkative spring has dried up and is no more.”  In other words, don’t bother, because Apollo isn’t coming back.

I can believe that story, because Julian ruled twenty-five years after the death of Constantine, and by then paganism was definitely on the way out.  However, I found another one that is even more amazing.  This one concerns the first emperor, Caesar Augustus.  Augustus had a problem finding an heir, never a good thing if you’re trying to start a dynasty.  He had no sons of his own, and he killed the only son of Julius Caesar when he became emperor.  His daughter married twice, but both husbands and their sons died young.  Consequently Augustus ended up adopting Tiberius and proclaiming him his heir, and you probably know how that turned out!

Anyway, as the story goes, Augustus went to Delphi and asked the Oracle who his heir should be.  But this time the normally talkative priestess, the Pythia, said nothing at all.  Augustus waited for a minute, grew nervous, trembled, and begged to know why the priestess would not speak.  Finally the priestess said, “A Hebrew boy bids me leave this house and go to the underworld.”

This sounds to me like Augustus just received a prophecy about the coming of Jesus and Christianity!  Does anyone reading this know the original source of the story?  The oldest reference to it I have found so far comes from several authors who lived around 1600, like Sir Philip Sidney and Philippe du Plessis-Mornay.  It sounds like a medieval tall tale to me, so I need to know if the original author was a Christian apologist, or a pagan biographer like Tacitus.  Without that bit of info, I don’t dare post the Augustus story in one of my history papers!

Seti the Great Springs a Surprise

Ever notice how we think a rich archaeological site is tapped out, like Pompeii in Italy or Nimrud in Iraq, and then an exciting new discovery is made?  It just happened at the tomb of the great Pharaoh Seti I, a tomb in the Valley of the Kings that was opened nearly two hundred years ago.  The discoverer, Giovanni Batista Belzoni, apparently missed some passages in the place, that were not found until now.  I wonder what they were for?

Pharaoh Seti I’s Tomb Bigger Than Thought