Come Feel Bad About Your Home State

So you think the place where you live is “God’s Country,” a true paradise?  How terribly wrong you are.  No place is perfect, and last week a blogger made it clear where the United States is concerned.  The author of Pleated Jeans looked at US statistics and made a map which tells us how every state ranks worst in some category:


Not too many surprises here.  No doubt Kentucky got the worst rating for cancer because we have a larger percentage of smokers than the general population, and tobacco has always been an important part of the local economy.  But I thought Louisiana or New Jersey would be tops in corruption, not Tennessee, and for California I expected earthquakes to be mentioned, not the notorious air pollution of Los Angeles.  Maine got the rating of “dumbest state” because it has the lowest SAT scores; I hear some shocked Yankees are hollering that honor should have gone to Alabama or Mississippi!  And as a nerd myself, I don’t think the statistic shown for Ohio is so bad.

On the other hand, if you find this too depressing, check out Ilya Gerner’s map of the United States of Awesome, which shows what each state is best at:


Not Yuya and Tuya!


Here’s an update to my previous message.  With the Internet shut down in Egypt, accurate news is now hard to get from there.  The above map came from Al Jazeera, and was reposted on Ancient Egypt Online; it purports to show which parts of the Cairo Museum were vandalized.

Unfortunately, it is starting to look like the two destroyed mummies reported previously were those of Yuya and Tuya, the parents of Queen Tiye, grandparents of Akhenaten, and great-grandparents of Tutankhamen.  I mentioned them in this footnote, and you can read about their treasures on this page from the Theban Royal Mummy Project.  Yuya is particularly interesting, because he was a general during the reigns of Thutmose IV and Amenhotep III, and a priest of Min (a god so naughty that the only appropriate place for him today is in ads for Viagra!).  On top of that, Yuya and Tuya often appear in books because they have two of the best-preserved mummies ever found in Egypt.  I’ll keep you posted as I hear more on this breaking story.

Looting In the Cairo Museum

You’ve probably heard about the latest unrest in the Middle East.  Last week the government of Tunisia was overthrown, and that has given other people in the region the idea that their corrupt governments can be toppled, too.  Since then Lebanon’s government has come under control of Hezbollah, and there have been riots in Algeria, Jordan, and Egypt.  Egypt is the most distressing.  There’s no question about it, Hosni Mubarak has been in charge long enough (anyone ruling longer than Gamal Abdel Nasser and Anwar Sadat put together can’t be all good), and the state of emergency declared over the country in 1967 should have been canceled long ago, but with no history of a successful democracy anywhere in North Africa, it looks like the only alternative is a fundamentalist movement like the Moslem Brotherhood.  Thus, there is a real possibility that we’re about to see Egypt turned into another Iran.

Now the rioting has taken a disturbing new turn; antiquities are falling victim to the violence.  According to the above video, looters broke into the antiquities museum in Cairo (the one that is more than a century old, not the one recently built).  Alas, I saw two thirds of the museum on a visit in 1979.  The video shows some broken glass cases and shattered wooden artifacts, like statues of soldiers I recognized from the XI dynasty, and reports that two mummies were destroyed.  There is some good news, though; most of the protesters have enough respect for their heritage to form a human chain around the museum, which kept many, if not all of the looters out. Therefore I don’t think the looting will be as bad as what struck the Baghdad Museum in 2003. Still, I’m waiting to hear if the lost mummies were anyone I know.

New European Terrorist Alerts…by John Cleese

I recently saw this funny bit on another WordPress blog.  Some of you may remember a news story about the Axis of Just as Evil, which was wrongly attributed to Monty Python’s John Cleese, because it sounded like something he would write.  I have a feeling this bit about European terrorist alerts isn’t his doing, either, but let’s enjoy it anyway.

New European Terrorist Alerts…by John Cleese.

Our Latest Trip to Florida

Okay, I’m back.  Leive and I left for Florida on January 20, and returned last night (January 26).  Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to post any messages on the trip.  It took a two days to travel each way, because we stopped at Lindy’s place in Georgia for the night, both going down and coming back.  Adam and Lindy have a reliable Internet connection, but we only stayed there long enough to sleep and play with our granddaughter Lexi a bit.  In Florida my father no longer has an Internet connection, nor could we link up with any networks in the neighborhood.  In the end we went to public wi-fi hot spots to check on things in cyberspace:  the local Whole Foods store, the Starbucks across the street, and the nearest public library.  Our time in all three places was limited, and when we weren’t there we were watching my father or prospecting for our Pre-Paid Legal business, so when connected, we checked our e-mail and messages on Facebook, and that was it.

We had a late start getting out of Lexington (12:30 PM), so it was almost midnight when we reached Portal, GA.  Still, we beat the snowstorm; I understand three inches fell after we left, and two more inches of snow came down early this week.  The previous Tuesday I had the Buick checked, and it turned out the problem with it shaking at high speeds was caused by bad spark plug cables.  Once the cables were replaced, it ran quite smoothly.  The only shaking episode on the trip south happened near Jellico, Tennessee, and that was probably caused by driving uphill for several miles; Leive thinks that was the highest elevation we reached on the trip, too.  It didn’t shake when we passed through there on the way back, though it did for a minute in the mountains of north Georgia.  It looks like the radiator leak I’ve been dealing with for the past month has finally been stopped, too.

In Portal the accommodations were a bit cramped, as they were on our last trip; again, everyone else got a bed, but I had to sleep on the couch with the dog.  Still, seeing little Lexi (Leive calls her Apo, meaning Grandchild) going both south and north was the most enjoyable part of the trip.

Lexi in the arms of Nana Leive.

And here I got three generations (Leive, Lindy and Lexi) in one picture.

After all the cold we’ve had in Kentucky for the past two months, even I was ready for warmer days, and we got them; the thermometer got all the way up to 76 degrees in Florida.  We arrived there at 5:30 PM on Friday, and after unpacking, we went to visit my father in the hospital.  During the previous days, we were led to believe that time was running out for him, so I expected him to be as pale as a sheet, but the hospital had been giving him oxygen at night, and he was cheered up considerably to have three family members with him (my sister was in town, too), so he looked pink instead of pale when we saw him.  Also, we were able to have an intelligent conversation for an hour.  The only moments when he wasn’t fully there was when he thought his caregiver was holding a black and white rat (because he used to have rats for pets, we took hallucinations of them as a good sign), and at the end of the visit, he thought we were leaving him outside.  The next day, he recovered enough to come home, though he is still on oxygen there and the Hospice folks check on him regularly.

On Sunday we went to the church we attended for more than twenty years in Florida.  Here I am with Derek Garrison, the son of the former pastor; as you can see, I wasn’t the only University of Kentucky fan there!

I spent the rest of Sunday visiting the Vietnamese stores Leive and I used to patronize, near the intersection of Mills Ave. and Colonial Dr. in Orlando; I also checked out the big new one in Pine Hills, which appears to have taken over a former Publix.  There I left business cards and DVDs for my business; let’s see what sprouts from the seeds I planted.

We started home on Tuesday morning.  We were warned of bad weather, and sure enough, it rained hard on Interstates 95 and 16 in Georgia.  This time when we stopped at Lindy’s place, we celebrated by going to our favorite Chinese restaurant in the neighborhood.  It was six or seven hours of driving on Tuesday, and eleven hours on Wednesday.  We had to face snow in northern Tennessee and Kentucky, but conditions weren’t as bad as they were on our December 2009 trip.  Finally at 9:30 PM on Wednesday, we made it home.  Both the house and Brin-Brin look good, after being away for a week.  We may go south again for Lexi’s first birthday in March, but that trip is only in the first planning stages.  Now what shall we do for February?

Another New Look

Last night I learned about a new theme available for this blog, called “Beach.” It looks like a nice combination of blue, green and orange, so I changed from the previous theme (“Fleur de Lis”) to this one. Maybe even I am getting tired of this winter. Leive will like the water image and the sharks on the bottom, anyway; I hope you like it, too.

Regarding the image in the top margin, I recognize palm trees, skyscrapers and rolling hills, but what is the bell-shaped structure near the top right corner supposed to be? A Burmese pagoda, perhaps?

A Turn For the Worse

Since Friday the news I have been receiving from Florida hasn’t been good. My father is back in the hospital, and this time it looks like he doesn’t have long to live. I’d rather not say more right now, because we are playing this by ear, and plans are changing each day. Currently it looks like I will soon be going to see him. We are also trying to make arrangements so that Lindy can take Lexi down there; the last thing I want for Dad is a chance to see his great-granddaughter. Keep Leive and I in our prayers, for a safe trip and all the other things going on in our family right now.

This Blog Is Four Years Old

Of course on the American calendar, today is Martin Luther King Day; I just saw the tributes and paid to the famous civil rights activist.  However, for me January 17 is worth remembering for another reason – this is the fourth anniversary of the day when I launched this blog.  Actually I signed up with WordPress for the blog on January 16, but it was on January 17, 2007 that I posted my first meaningful message (one where I said something besides “Hello”).  When I started, I didn’t think I’d have enough to say to post a new message, almost every day, for this long.

Part of it had to do with a change of direction.  Originally I was only going to post updates to The Xenophile Historian website here, for those who did not want to wait until my next newsletter came out.  That probably would have been the case, if I was still living near my relatives.  Instead, I moved from Florida to Kentucky in May 2006.  Leive followed in December, and 2007 saw the arrival of her niece Rezia and Brin-Brin, the Amazon parrot who thinks he’s a bat.  Despite all that, most of Leive’s family and mine are still out of state.  This blog quickly turned out to be a good way to keep the folks informed on what we were up to, so I ended up writing about our adventures in Kentucky most of the time.  I haven’t checked lately on how many messages have been posted under each category, but I wouldn’t be surprised if those tagged “My New Kentucky Home” are the most numerous of all.  Messages in the “Family News” and “Just For Fun” categories probably outnumber “Website Articles,” too.  Of course, if you’re a reader who’s only interested in the updates, and not in news about me, just click on the Website Articles link.

Speaking of updates, I haven’t forgotten about them; I posted one just yesterday.  Over the past few months, I have also read articles about the surprising results from a DNA test done on a finger bone found in Siberia.  Is this the only existing specimen of an extinct human race?  If so, it’s the most interesting news since the discovery a few years back of real-life “hobbits” (homo floresiensis) in Indonesia.  After reading another story about the Denisova discovery yesterday, I decided to write a new section about it, for Chapter 5 of The Genesis Chronicles.  Here it is:

Denisova Man

In 2008, a child’s fingerbone and a molar tooth were found in Denisova Cave, in the Altai Mountains of Siberia. They were dated as 41,000 years old, which to evolutionists means they came from someone who lived right around the time when Cro-Magnon Man replaced Neanderthal Man; the cave also contained stone tools from both types of cave men. Then in 2010, scientists took a DNA sample from the fingerbone and were able to recreate the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) of the owner. To their surprise, the owner was neither a modern human nor Neanderthal.

There are 16,500 nucleotides in human mtDNA, and whereas 202 of those nucleotides are likely to be different between Neanderthals and us, the sample derived from the fingerbone showed 385 discrepancies with modern mtDNA. The conclusion of the scientists was that the Denisovan is a new species of hominid, coming from an evolutionary line that diverged fromhomo sapiens about one million years ago. This throws a wrench in the “Out of Africa” theory, which has humanity spreading beyond Africa at a much later date. Others have suggested that “Denisova Man” was simply a hybrid, the result of Neanderthals and Cro-Magnons interbreeding.

Equally curious are the results from comparing the Denisova genome with that from six modern humans: a South African Bushman, a Nigerian, a Frenchman, a Papua New Guinean, a Bougainville Islander and a Chinese person. Among those individuals, 4 to 6 percent of the Papuan and the Bouganville Islander’s genome matched the Denisovan one, meaning that Melanesians are the closest living relatives of the Denisovans. If you ask how the ancestors of the Melanesians got from Siberia to the South Pacific, well, your guess is as good as mine.

I have already showed how those who believe in evolution will make a big deal out of a few bone fragments, like the tooth that became Nebraska Man. So far it is too early to tell if they have done it again with the Denisovan remains. Still, whether you believe in creation or evolution, you have to admit that Denisova Cave shows how little we really know about the origins of man.