What Kind of Summer Is This?

I mentioned in previous messages that Kentucky is a little schizophrenic when it comes to deciding where it stands in the nation.  Sometimes it seems like it belongs in the South, other times it looks more like part of the Midwest.  No doubt that’s part of the reason why the state waited until five months after the Civil War started, to choose what side it would be on.

Well, for the past week Kentucky has been with the Midwest, weather-wise.  The whole Midwest has been unusually cool for July, and so has Kentucky.  For the past week it has felt more like September.  Once in the past eight days the temperature got up to 87 degrees; the rest of the time it never went above 81, and most of the time it has been in the 60s and 70s.  As for lows, yesterday morning it went all the way down to 54.

Remember how hot it was here in July of 2012?  If last July was the hottest since Leive and I moved to Kentucky, this July is fixing to be the coolest.

The daily rain showers have stopped, too, giving us a much-needed chance to dry out.  Because of that, the dehumidifier I put in the basement last week is doing its job.

I’m starting to wonder if our parrot, Brin-Brin, is psychic; it seems like he can read Leive’s mind, or at least understand what she is saying.  It’s normal for him to growl and snap when I’m around and Leive isn’t, to the point that I occasionally call him “the original Angry Bird.”  When he is mad enough, he will go to the bottom of the cage and shred the newspaper.  This in itself is nothing new; when I was working in Connecticut, I suggested that the company I was with ought to hire Brin-Brin, because they shred bins full of documents all the time, and he really will work for peanuts!

Yesterday, however, Brin-Brin was mad enough to shred the newspaper twice, each time when I was in the kitchen getting a meal.  That gets Leive mad, because she has to clean his cage every time he does that.  The second time it happened, she threatened to give Brin-Brin away!  After that he was a much better behaved bird.  He sat quietly on his perch for the rest of the day, sometimes chewing on his toys.  He’s definitely the craziest pet we ever had.

An Interview I’d Like to See

Here is my latest Random Thought:

If I wasn’t already a Christian, I’d probably make a good Zoroastrian, because I don’t care much for folks whose lives and careers are built on lies.  This includes fake Native Americans, fake reverends, and self-proclaimed "black leaders" whose skin color is about as light as mine (and I’m a W.A.S.P.!).  Accordingly, one of my fantasies is to have a reporter or talk show host interview Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton, and ask him only questions about spiritual issues — nothing related to politics.  For example, we could start with "How many baptisms, weddings, or funerals have you presided over?"  And then maybe some doctrinal questions, like if he believes in the pre-Tribulation or post-Tribulation Rapture.  When Jackson/Sharpton cannot give coherent answers to those questions, he will be revealed for the phony man-of-the-cloth that he really is, and his head will probably explode when he realizes that the whole country knows he has never been part of the solution, just part of the problem.

The Law of 14

Somebody’s got to say it, so here is my latest political commentary.  I have also posted it here on The Xenophile Historian.

Who will run for president in 2016? I have tried to ignore the question, because as I write this, the election is three years away, for crying out loud! Still, I’m astonished at how many folks think Hillary Clinton is a shoo-in for the Democratic nomination in 2016. Not so fast, reporters, your bias is showing again. At best, Hillary will have to fight somebody to get it, the way she fought Barack Obama in 2008. She has some serious personal flaws, and not too many people are talking about them. I’m not talking about the emotional and political baggage from being in the news headlines for two decades – we all know about that. I’m talking chronology; she’s too old to run for president anymore. By the time 2016 rolls around, she will be 69 years old, the same age Ronald Reagan was when he got elected. Does anybody remember when Democrats thought Reagan was too old to run?

A related problem is that by 2016, Hillary will have expired. Politicians may last longer than the food you buy in the supermarket, but they have expiration dates, too. According to columnist Jonathan Rauch, once a politician wins a major office – meaning he is a governor, member of Congress, or mayor of a big city – he has fourteen years to get elected president or vice president, before the voters get tired of him and start looking for fresher faces.

So you don’t think I came up with this, I recommend you read Rauch’s column on the subject: Who Can Win in 2004? He wrote it back in 2003, but it’s still relevant. There he gives all the details, all the numbers, involved with the 14-year theory, and they haven’t changed since then. In a nutshell, almost every president, from Theodore Roosevelt onward, became president or vice president within fourteen years of when he first achieved one of the major offices mentioned above. Rauch started counting with Teddy because it was at the beginning of the twentieth century when presidential primaries were invented. Before that time, it was mainly party leaders choosing who would get the nomination; the rank and file voters had little or no input on the process. Since then, the only exception to the “Law of 14" has been Lyndon Johnson, because John F. Kennedy picked him for his running mate after he had been in Congress for twenty-three years. Even so, because of the law, we can say that if LBJ had been nominated as the Democratic candidate in 1960, instead of JFK, he would not have beaten Richard Nixon.

The vice presidency is a special case. For some reason the clock stops ticking once somebody becomes vice president, and his years in the number two spot are not added toward the fourteen years he has to become president. Maybe it’s because we don’t pay attention to vice presidents most of the time. But once he leaves the vice presidency, the clock resumes. Probably the best example of how this works came from Nixon, who was elected president twenty-two years after he first ran for Congress, but because he had been vice president for eight years under the Eisenhower administration, only fourteen of those years count, meaning he won exactly on the expiration date.

Now how has the rule held up since 2003? Well, it correctly predicted the winners in both 2004 and 2008. John Kerry had been a senator for twenty years, and John McCain had been one for twenty-six, so both of them were too stale to win. It also gave me an idea of how things would go in 2012. By the time the primaries started, four Republicans were left, and among them, only Mitt Romney was still fresh, having won his first major office ten years earlier. The shelf life had already run out on Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul. That would not have kept Santorum, Gingrich or Paul from getting the nomination, but if they had, I would have known right there that the Republicans weren’t going to win. Of course Romney didn’t win either, but you probably remember how the election was too close to call for a long time; only Romney had a fighting chance against Obama.

With Hillary, whether you count from when she became first lady (1992) or when she became a senator (2000), she has been in the national spotlight too long to be considered fresh. Sorry Ms. Clinton, by the time the Obama administration is done, you will probably be done, too. Hope you enjoy retirement.

"Politicians are like diapers, both need to be changed often, for the same reason."–Anonymous

It’s Not the Heat, It’s the Humidity

That is something I found out this week.  I told you about it being a wet year so far; we’ve got one week left to go in July, and already we have had twice the usual rainfall for the month.  I also told you about the challenge we’re having keeping water out of the basement, every time it rains.  On the first day of June, Leive and I put caulk in the south corner, where the wall meets the floor.  That stopped another problem—ants bringing in dirt—but a little water still got in after each rainstorm, requiring us to keep a few towels in that corner to catch it.  What’s more, mildew keeps appearing on the wall in that spot, and the wooden floor has warped enough to remind us that we’ll have to replace it someday.

This month hasn’t been too hot, by July standards; only eight days with a temperature of 90 degrees or more, and today it only got up to 81.  Still, I’ve been sweating indoors like we were getting last year’s triple-digit temperatures.  Now I know why.  In my basement office is a pair of gauges to give me the temperature and relative humidity around my desk.  Earlier this week while sweltering, I took a look at the gauges, and while the temperature was only 76 degrees, the humidity was 80%!  This month the basement has been a moisture trap.

The first thing I did about it was put out some chemical moisture absorbers I bought at the store; they worked, but only a little.  This morning was quite cool, so I opened the basement door for an hour or two; that brought down both the inside temperature and humidity, but of course we can’t rely on that as a long-term solution.  Then in the afternoon we had a repairman come over, and he suggested four things:

1.  Find the end of the foundation drain and extend it beyond the house.

2. Pile more rocks and dirt on the outside around the south corner (Leive’s initial solution), to help keep the water from coming in.

3. Look to see if there are any leaks above ground level, and make sure the gutters aren’t clogged.

4. Get a dehumidifier to dry out the air inside.

#4 was the only task I had time to do this evening, so I went to Home Depot, bought a small dehumidifier (guaranteed to remove 30 pints of moisture at a time), and set that up in the basement.  It’s running now, so we’ll see how it works over the next few days, while we implement the other suggestions.

Where You Can Retire In the USA, Updated

I first posted this joke here on October 9, 2011, but then moved it to my joke folder on The Xenophile Historian.  Now I have been given several new entries to add, so here it is again:

Where You Can Retire In the USA

There is no perfect place to live in the USA. Sure, you probably have your idea of where "God’s country" is, but at best it only comes close to paradise; every place has drawbacks to offset its advantages. Hawaii, for example, has the kind of climate most of us would enjoy, but the cost of living there is terrible, because anything that can’t be made or grown locally has to be transported across the ocean. And every part of the nation has to deal with natural disasters at one time or another: blizzards, tornadoes, floods, etc. I heard once that when it comes to natural disasters, Utah is probably the safest state, because hurricanes, earthquakes and volcanoes never strike there — but Utah still gets some fierce thunderstorms.

Anyway, if you are looking for a place to retire, here is what you can expect from several retirement havens.

You can retire to Seattle where:

1. You can rust, grow moss on your back and webbed feet all at the same time.
2. Coffee is a major food group.
3. You can wear socks with your sandals and shorts with your parka.
4. You can go to the Seattle Rain Festival–starts in January & ends in December.
5. The four seasons are rainy, rainier, sunbreaks and rain, and construction.
6. And, no matter how much you try, you can’t drive as fast as the Canadians.


You can retire to Phoenix, Arizona where:

1. You’re willing to park 3 blocks away because you found shade.
2. You’ve experienced condensation on your hiney from the hot water in the toilet bowl.
3. You can drive for 4 hours in one direction and never leave town.
4. You have over 100 recipes for Mexican food.
5. You know that "dry heat" is comparable to what hits you in the face when you open your oven door.
6. The 4 seasons are: very warm but tolerable, hot, really hot, and ARE YOU FRICK’N KIDDING ME??!!


You can retire to California where:

1. You make $250,000/year and still can’t afford to buy a house.
2. The fastest part of your commute is going down your driveway.
3. You know how to eat an artichoke.
4. You drive your rented Mercedes to your neighborhood block party.
5. When someone asks you how far something is, you tell them how long it will take to get there rather than how many miles away it is.
6. The 4 seasons are: Fire, Flood, Mud, and Drought.


You can retire to New York City where:

1. You say "the city" and expect everyone to know you mean Manhattan.
2. You can get into a four-hour argument about how to get from Columbus Circle to Battery Park, but can’t find Wisconsin on a map.
3. You think Central Park is "nature."
4. You believe that being able to swear at people in their own language makes you multi-lingual.
5. You’ve worn out a car horn (if you have a car).
6. You think eye contact is an act of aggression.


You can retire to Minnesota where:

1. You only have four spices: salt, pepper, ketchup, and Tabasco.
2. Halloween costumes fit over parkas.
3. You have more than one recipe for casserole, which you call "hot pot."
4. Sexy lingerie is anything made of flannel with less than eight buttons.
5. The four seasons are: almost winter, winter, still winter, and construction.


You can retire to the Deep South where:

1. You can rent a movie and buy bait in the same store.
2. "Y’all" is singular and "all y’all" is plural.
3. "He needed killin" is a valid defense.
4. Everyone has 2 first names: Billy Bob, Jimmy Ray, Bonnie Sue, Betty Jean, etc.
5. Everything is either "in yonder," "over yonder" or "out yonder." It’s important to know the difference, too.


You can retire to Colorado where:

1. You carry your $3,000 mountain bike atop your $500 car.
2. You tell your husband to pick up Granola on his way home and he stops at the day care center.
3. A pass does not involve a football or dating.
4. The top of your head is bald, but you still have a ponytail.
5. The seasons are: Hiking, Feels Like Snow, Snow, Melt/Snow/Melt.


You can retire to the rural Midwest where:

1. You’ve never met any celebrities, but the mayor knows your name.
2. Your idea of a traffic jam is ten cars waiting to pass a tractor.
3. You have had to switch from "heat" to "A/C" on the same day.
4. You end sentences with a preposition, like, "Where’s my coat at?"
5. When asked how your trip was to any exotic place, you say, "It was different!"
6. You actually believe you don’t have an accent when you speak.
7. Your favorite church hymn is #372, "In Heaven There is No Beer."
8. Badgers and Wolverines fight with each other for sport.
9. Lutherans are the strongest gang and have the best colors.


You can retire to Florida where:

1. You eat dinner at 3:15 in the afternoon, to catch the early bird special.
2. All purchases include a coupon of some kind — even houses and cars.
3. Everyone can recommend an excellent dermatologist.
4. Road construction never ends anywhere in the state.
5. Cars in front of you often appear to be driven by headless people.
6. You’ve gotten used to having bugs in the kitchen, and lizards and snakes in the yard.
7. The seasons are: Early Summer, High Summer, Late Summer, and Not Summer.


You can retire to northern Michigan where:

1. You don’t take your dog(s) to the vet when they return home with two hundred porcupine quills in their mouths, nose, gums, and tongue, because it happens too often to pay that much money, so you hold them down with scissors and pliers and do it yourself.
2. Your trashcans/bags at the end of your driveway are in a protective structure in order to keep wildlife out, up to the size of a raccoon, because the bears will tear down any defense you build anyway.
3. Locals fall into three categories: Yoopers (live north of the Mackinaw bridge), Trolls (live under/just south of the bridge), and Fudgies (downstaters on vacation).
4. You know why downstaters are called Fudgies (their specialty is Mackinaw fudge).
5. Snowfall is measured for the season in tens of feet.
6. You eat "pasties" for dinner.


You can retire to Massachusetts . . .

but I can’t think of one reason why you would. Ever.


Source:  http://xenohistorian.faithweb.com/holybook/jokes/retire.html

The Chinese Emperor List

When I wrote my world history textbook, I included an appendix that listed the rulers of the empires covered in Chapters 5-9:  the monarchs of Assyria, Babylon, Media, Lydia, Persia, Macedonia, the Hellenistic kingdoms, Rome and Byzantium.  You can see a copy of that appendix here.  Later I created my own Old Testament chronology list, so readers can see when I believe characters like Abraham, Moses and King David lived.  Then when I wrote a complete history of Africa, I created a list of the pharaohs of Egypt and the kings of ancient Nubia, because in my narrative I deliberately avoided using dates any more than I had to.

Now, to go along with my Chinese history series, I have created a list of most of the Chinese emperors, from mythical times to the one who became the subject of a movie in the late 1980s.  I did it because it is hard to find a good, pronounceable list of Chinese emperors anywhere; even Wikipedia gives each emperor so many names and titles that I found their lists more confusing than helpful.  Part of the problem is that the most thorough lists still use the out-of-date Wade-Giles system, for spelling Chinese words in Western languages.  Since the late 1970s, most people, with the encouragement of the Chinese government, have switched from Wade-Giles to the more phonetic Pinyin system; that is why the name of the founder of the People’s Republic was spelled Mao Tse-tung when he was alive, and Mao Zedong more recently.  However, for some reason I have yet to see any list of emperors that used Pinyin names and covered more than one dynasty; the Wade-Giles names still turn up surprisingly often, on websites like Friesian.com.

Another problem that I have is with the way other historians treat Chinese history before 770 B.C.  Because the only written records we have going that far back are the famous “oracle bones,” the first two and a half dynasties (the Xia, Shang and Western Zhou) are treated with more than a little skepticism.  Granted, each of the early patriarchs has probably been given credit for the deeds of several forgotten individuals, and even I will admit the early legends are far-fetched, but when I was young we did not have any evidence that the story ran differently from what the Chinese told us, so history books used the traditional dates and told the stories, all the while throwing in a disclaimer that what we were reading might not be true, like the stories about King Arthur and the Trojan War.  Nowadays, however, the absence of evidence is seen as evidence of absence.  Most historians question whether the Xia dynasty really existed, and while they allow the Shang and Zhou dynasties to stand, they replace the traditional dates with alternate ones that vary from one book and website to the next.

Myself, I do not see the recent archaeological discoveries as incompatible with the Chinese history told through the ages; e.g., the Sanxingdui and Jinsha cultures are in the right times and places to be the ancient states of Shu and Ba, to give one example.  Therefore it is astonishing how the traditional history has been thrown out completely, by so many books and websites.  For me the traditional dates will do, until compelling evidence turns up that another chronology is correct.

Anyway, to research this list, I had first to find the traditional dates for the early eras (they ended up coming from old books I had), and then I had to find the correct Pinyin names for the rulers.  Click on the link below to see the results; I hope you find it useful for learning Asian history.  This is another case where I couldn’t find what I wanted, in books or online, so I was better off writing it myself!

The Emperors of China

Jumbo viruses hint at ‘fourth domain’ of life | Fox News

Oh my, some scientists have discovered two species of a giant virus, which they have tentatively named pandoraviruses.  Don’t worry, I don’t think they will infect us or take over the world — their preferred hosts are amoebas.  Still, this will rewrite the biology textbooks, if this indeed turns out to be a “fourth kingdom” of life.

Jumbo viruses hint at ‘fourth domain’ of life.

Mixed News From Near & Far

Quite a bit has been happening with the family this week.  First of all, my brother Chris has been in Tallahassee, FL since Monday, doing apartment-hunting because his new job will be starting there next month.  Here he is in front of the state capitol building.


Yesterday he found a suitable place to stay, in a good location, and definitely in a civilized neighborhood, unlike the kind of place he has been in for the past decade.  As I write this he is on his way back to the Everglades, presumably for the last time, and in two weeks will be moving his stuff to Tallahassee.

At home we have had two broken appliances in the kitchen for the past two or three years.  The door broke on the overhead microwave, meaning we could not use it because we couldn’t close the door; we even had to unplug it to keep from wasting electricity, from the inside light coming on.  Since then we have gotten by with a portable microwave on the counter.  Also, the stove works but the top of it is cracked; I’m not sure what caused that.  Here is the kitchen you’re familiar with, if you have seen the pictures I took in there previously:


Here I tried to photograph the cracks in the top of the stove.  Unfortunately the flash hid half of them; they actually extend all the way to the top right corner.


Anyway, on Thursday last week Leive and I went shopping for a new range and microwave.  We visited three stores, and when we found what Leive liked best we placed an order.  Then we waited until yesterday, when they were delivered.  The first truck delivered both items, and the guys in the truck installed the range, but not the microwave.  A couple hours later the second truck arrived, and those guys put the microwave in place, after doing a bit more drilling and bolting than expected.  Leive spent the rest of Wednesday cleaning the kitchen, so I could not get some good pictures of the new appliances until this morning.  Here they are:




Now our kitchen will definitely be more pleasant, the next time we have company in the house.

On the other hand, the news from Leive’s family in the Philippines is not good.  Her elder sister Irma has been in poor health for a while, and last week she suddenly found it impossible to walk without a cane.  We finally got her to see a doctor, and the test results came back yesterday.  No stroke or diabetes, which is what we feared, but she has an enlarged heart, and her kidneys are failing.  Leive is talking about Irma’s days being numbered, and we are praying that will not be the case; please pray with us on that, too.