On the Other Side of the Front

Well, the predicted storm front arrived on schedule.  My storm radio blared no less than thirteen warning messages between 4:20 and 6:30 AM, though most of them weren’t relevant for the Lexington area.  The storms themselves were compressed into a thin line; when they arrived at 6:30, they passed over in only five minutes.  In the news reports I checked today, I learned we got off easy, compared with other states.  The only damage reported in Lexington were a few trees and utility poles knocked down.  Two of the poles were near my former workplace; that must have messed up the local traffic.  Now it’s getting colder, so tomorrow we may get snow instead of rain.

As for me, I was still laid low by this flu.  I hope it doesn’t get any worse than this.  I won’t describe the symptoms in detail, I’ll just say that I had to stay inside for yet another day.  I had an appointment to attend a job fair, but obviously I couldn’t go to that; hopefully we can reschedule.  At one point Leive smeared her hot wintergreen oil on me, had me wearing a jacket, scarf and hat, and gave me a strong concoction of lemon tea with too much ginger & cinnamon in it.  This afternoon I realized that I wasn’t taking a strong enough dosage of the cold medicine I had been using, so we’ll see if all this makes a difference.

April in January

That is how the weatherman is describing the current conditions in Kentucky.  Over the past few days it has been warming up from last week’s freeze.  Yesterday the high temperature was 52 degrees, and today it was 66.  Today I went on a minor shopping run, and this was probably the first time in weeks when I could step outside without a jacket.  Unfortunately the balmy spell is scheduled to end tonight, as a big cold front comes in from the west; the front is expected to bring thunderstorms and high winds, followed by more cold temperatures to ring in February.

Alas, I haven’t been able to enjoy the nicer weather much; the main benefit is that it keeps my utility bills from climbing ridiculously high, as they are prone to do in the winter.  I’m still suffering from this flu or whatever that I have had since last Thursday; Leive may still have it, too.  Aside from the aforementioned shopping trip and another quick one on Sunday, I have only stepped out of the house to take out the garbage or check the mail.  I have even skipped the usual church activities and the Monday night LegalShield meeting.  Boy, I sure hope to get over it tomorrow, today was the worst congestion yet.

On the radio, I heard that John Kerry won approval to become the next Secretary of State by a 94-3 vote.  Richard Pryor once said, "The State Department’s job is to foster anti-Americanism and world turmoil, at which it excels.  At least as far as I can discern."  I’ve noted that too, over the past thirty years.  Knowing how Kerry opposed the US war efforts in Vietnam and Iraq, it looks like he is suited for his new job.

The Silicon Valley of the East?

I have lamented in the past that the closest community to here that is known for its high-tech industry is Oak Ridge, TN.  Now it looks like Chattanooga is taking advantage of the fastest Internet connections in the United States to turn itself into one.  We can’t call it another “Silicon Valley” because Chattanooga isn’t in a valley; will Silicon Mountain do?

City turns Internet speeds into jobs | Fox News.

Happy Tu B’Shevat!

TuBShevatTree

Today is a minor Jewish holiday, the 15th day of the month of Shevat.  Here it’s the middle of winter, but in Israel it’s also the earliest day when fruit trees are likely to bloom, so this is the Israeli equivalent of Arbor Day.  You can read more about the holiday here:

http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/3264/jewish/Tu-BShevat.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tu_Bishvat

Two Hundred Years Since the River Raisin Battle

Neither one of us went out today.  Not only was their snow on the ground (it snowed this morning), but both Leive and I are ill with a minor cold or flu.  I came down with it yesterday, and Leive got it first, so both of us are recuperating at home.  That’s why I didn’t post a message yesterday; I went to bed early instead.

Earlier this week was the bicentennial of one of the battles in the War of 1812, the River Raisin battle & massacre, also called the battle of Frenchtown.  Fought in southeast Michigan in January 1813, this was an unsuccessful attempt by the Americans to take back Detroit, which had surrendered to the British in the previous summer.  I’m mentioning it here because a lot of the casualties suffered came from the Kentucky Militia, and nine of Kentucky’s 120 counties are named after officers who fought in the battle, so the battle played an important part in the state’s history.  You can read the details here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Frenchtown

Click here for more on Kentucky’s role in the war:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kentucky_in_the_War_of_1812

And here is the battlefield’s website:

http://www.riverraisinbattlefield.org/

My Kingdom For Some Bones

My, but King Richard III has been in the news quite a bit over the last few months.  I’ll venture that he hasn’t been in the news this much since his death in 1485.  In case you missed the story, it looks like his bones have been found, generating a controversy over where he should be buried.

Skeleton of Richard III may have been found — but where will it end up? | Fox News.

I expanded a footnote in Chapter 9 of my European history to include the discovery, it now reads as follows:

“Richard III has been a controversial figure ever since. Tudor writers portrayed him as a villain, and in 1995, William Shakespeare’s play, Richard III, was made into a “politically correct” movie, with the king, played by Sir Ian McKellen, wearing a Nazi-style uniform. Even so, many feel he got a bad press, so today there are fan clubs devoted to restoring the good name of Richard III.
The latest news concerning Richard III is the discovery of two skeletons under a Leicester parking lot in 2012; one has been tentatively identified as the fallen king. Supposedly he was buried in a garden at Greyfriars church, but both church and garden disappeared in development of the property over the next five hundred years. If the identification holds up after carbon-14 and DNA testing, the remains will be given a state funeral and reburied in a more fitting location, possibly Leceister Cathedral.”

Unquote:  And here is Richard’s side of the story, sung on the TV show “Horrible Histories.”

 

The Greater Chill Is Here

Previously I said I couldn’t see any rules for the weather here in Kentucky, and longtime residents told me there weren’t any.  Well, it looks like I found a pattern.  For the first part of January the cold isn’t too bad.  Most of the time, even when there is snow, the temperatures are in the 30s and 40s, uncomfortable but acceptable.  Then in the third week of the month, we get a super chiller of a freeze; temperatures approach zero for the rest of January and much of February.

That pattern happened right on schedule this year.  Yesterday an Arctic blast arrived to bring temperatures down to twenty degrees below the normal level for winter around here.  It was 11 degrees this morning, and I don’t think it got even close to freezing today.  Now temperatures are falling again, with tonight’s low forecast at 12.  It will be warmer tomorrow, but for the rest of the week it is only expected to go above freezing on Friday.  I find it all the more amazing that the grass outside is still mostly green; if I took a picture of it, you probably wouldn’t think it was taken in the middle of winter.

I’m thinking of calling the part of winter in December and early January the “Lesser Chill,” which becomes the “Greater Chill” in late January and February.  As for Leive, she is staying with her space heater in a little room upstairs as much as possible.  Forget about asking her to go outside; she claimed she got a chill when she went to the kitchen, where it is currently 67 degrees.

I’ve Got the Southern Hemisphere on My Mind

Yes, this weekend Leive and I were thinking more than once about the bottom of the world.  Not only because of the weather; the forecast calls for really cold temperatures tonight, and it reminds me that south of the equator, it is currently summer.  When we went to church, the special guest speakers were Martin & Charlotte Jacobsen, missionaries to Patagonia.  We got to hear them once before; see my message from August 27, 2007 on that.  Because Antarctica has no permanent residents (except penguins), their school is about as far south as you can get, in any business involving people.  In addition, they included a couple pictures of penguins and a nearby glacier, to remind us that the south pole isn’t far away.

penguin_awareness_day_postcard-p239470857917863338envli_400

Then this morning, I visited Bing.com to see what their picture was for today, and it was an animated shot of six penguins sliding on the ice.  Why?  Well, it turns out that January 20 is Penguin Awareness Day.  I don’t know for sure why these funny birds have their own holiday, or why it is celebrated today, but what the heck.  It is more interesting than the other event scheduled for today, the beginning of Barack Obama’s second term as president.  A lot of folks must agree with me, because crowds are way down, compared with the turnout for the last inauguration.  Even the worshipful mainstream media doesn’t have much to say about it this time.

Speaking of terms, I have written about how a president’s second term in office almost never goes as well as the first one.  I wonder how Mr. Obama will come to grief in the next four years, there are quite a few possibilities . . .

In other news, every week a blogger named David Meadows sends out a newsletter called Explorator, which is full of links to news stories having to do with archaeology.  As an historian, I usually find several interesting stories, especially if they are relevant to my history papers.  This time one had so many links that I’m wondering why I did not hear about it sooner; it turns out that according to a DNA study, more than 4,000 years ago some Indians sailed to Australia, and spent enough time with the Aborigines to have some Indo-Australian kids.  They probably made the journey across the Indian Ocean to trade; no evidence of Indian colonization has turned up, but northern and western Australia have always been mostly empty, so it is possible that some Harappan-era trading posts may be discovered in the future, like the ones the Carthaginian explorer Hanno reportedly founded when he sailed down the coast of West Africa.  Curiously, the same study produced no evidence that those Indian sailors visited the islands to the east (Southeast Asia and New Guinea), though they are a bit closer and easier to reach than Australia.  In later eras, the inhabitants of those islands had a more advanced technology, making them better trading partners, while the Aborigines remained in the old stone age until discovered by Europeans.  At any rate, I plan to follow this story with great interest.

Ancestors of modern Indians may have come to Australia before Europeans, genetic study shows

On the other hand, an article about the Minoan civilization was a disappointment.  Excavations on Crete since the beginning of the twentieth century have not found any pictures or statues of warriors or kings, leading us to believe the bronze age inhabitants of that island were not interested in war or politics; if the art is accurate, they would have been the happiest people of their time.  Or were they?  A professor from the University of Sheffield has proposed that the Minoans had a martial culture, and passed their military tradition on to the Greeks.  That would have been fine and dandy, if the article offered any evidence to back up such claims.  How about a picture of Minoan warriors from a neighboring civilization, like the Egyptians?  As it stands, I won’t have to revise anything I have written on the Minoans just yet.

War was central to Europe’s first civilization, contrary to popular belief

Finally, here is a story from my former home, central Florida.  A museum exhibition in Orlando is currently displaying the jewelry found in the wreck of the Titanic.  The place is near the intersection of International Drive and Carrier Drive, putting it in easy reach of both Sea World and Universal Studios.  I don’t recognize the building it is in, but I’ve been in the neighborhood often enough that I shouldn’t have any trouble finding it.

http://blogs.orlandosentinel.com/features_orlando/2013/01/jewels-of-titanic-on-display-at-international-drive-attraction.html

Making Pandora.com for the Birds–Literally

If you’re like me, you consider the radio airwaves to be mostly a wasteland.  I don’t mean all radio stations, of course — there are some nice oases in that wasteland – but they often can be hard to find.  Especially on weekends, when most AM stations play reruns or discuss topics of marginal interest, while the FM stations seem to play more commercials than music, talk shows or whatever their format calls for.  I can remember some aggravating times on a Saturday or Sunday when I drove on an errand for fifteen minutes or more, and if I turned on the car radio, I got a constant barrage of commercials for most, if not all of the trip.  I also remember a joke about a station running a contest where you win if they play less than four commercials in a break, and you call to let them know about their oversight; is any station still doing that?

Fortunately in the twenty-first century, there are cures for that, making it possible to have your favorite music with you wherever you go.  First, there are MP3 players.  The Zune I got in 2008 still works quite well; too bad Microsoft stopped making them.  Second, there is satellite radio, which takes away most of the limitations imposed by geography.  I have always enjoyed listening to an XM/Sirius radio.  Usually it happened when I rented a car with one; maybe one of these days I’ll buy one to use around the house.  I can’t listen to it in the workplace, though, because my co-workers would get the wrong idea (ever notice that the reggae station is called “The Joint?”).

Third, there is streaming audio over the Internet.  As long as you’re in a place with a fast Internet connection, you can have your music with you.  I have had a free account with Pandora.com for a couple of years; today I signed up for an account with iHeart Radio, picked eight iHeart stations that I like, and installed apps for my new Google tablet to handle both websites.  Unfortunately, I did some of it while eating lunch in the kitchen, so our crazy green parrot, Brin-Brin, got to see what I was doing.  Over the past week, he seemed to figure out that the tablet is a lot like the laptops we used to entertain him, with videos of other parrots (the picture below is five years old, but still relevant).  Consequently he got excited, and started climbing around and screaming.

Last spring, when we had an Egyptian friend named Ilaria staying in the house, Leive told me that Brin-Brin got upset at the Arabic music she liked to play, but he listened and clicked when Leive played Hebrew songs.  The clicks mean he likes what he hears; he does it the most when Leive talks nice to him.  Along that line, while I had the Pandora app playing on the tablet, I decided that some songs from the late Israeli star Ofra Haza would calm him down.  I was also thinking of a news story I read a week ago, where two African Grey parrots were subjected to several genres of music.  Both of them seemed to like songs with vocals and a rhythm they could follow, while disliking instrumentals with a “house” beat, so if you’re trying to entertain a bird, anything by The Timewriter (my favorite electronic artist) is right out!

For those who are not familiar with Pandora.com, to listen you enter the name of an artist in the website’s search engine, and if the site has music from that artist, it creates a “station” that lets you listen to that artist, every time you log into Pandora.  With each song you have the option of telling Pandora if you like it or not; songs that get a thumbs-up will be played again in the near future, while songs that get a thumbs-down won’t be played anymore.  In that way the station will be customized to suit your tastes.  For variety, you can add more artists to be played with the first one, and Pandora will throw in songs from artists like the ones you have chosen already.

So what was Brin-Brin’s reaction to the Ofra Haza station I just created?  The station itself was rather odd; out of six or seven songs, only the last one I let it play was from Ofra Haza herself.  Most of the others were pop hits from the 1980s.  Brin-Brin screamed so much at two of them that I quickly hit the thumbs-down button to hurry on to something else.  On the other hand, he clicked loudly to Sarah Brightman, the Eurythmics, and Sarah McLachlan.  I think I detect a trend in Brin-Brin’s musical tastes – this silly bird seems to like 1980s-era female pop stars!