Of Lands and Seas, A Prehistoric Age of Exploration

I know, I have been away from this blog for nearly two months.  A lot has happened here in the real world:  two days when the snowfall exceeded ten inches, the coldest day in my lifetime (-18 on February 20!), doing my taxes, another post-season where the University of Kentucky Wildcats made it to the Final Four in the basketball playoffs (the fourth time this has happened in the past five years), and three guests staying in my house over the past week.

Also, I have been composing a new history paper since the rewrite of Japan and Korea was finished, exactly two months ago.  This time it is Chapter 1 of my new South Pacific history series.  You remember how I once said it is my job to fill in the gaps other historians leave in our knowledge of the past?  Well, now I am filling in one of my own gaps; I gave you Chapter 2 last December, without giving you Chapter 1.  Since then I have remembered a funny bit Bill Murray did on Saturday Night Live many years ago.  He was supposed to review the movie “Chapter Two” and he said, “What happened to Chapter One?  I think anyone who sees Chapter Two without first seeing Chapter One has to be a jerk.”  Which naturally led to the next movie he was going to talk about, “The Jerk.”

Now I have corrected that omission by finishing Chapter 1.  Called “Of Lands and Seas, A Prehistoric Age of Exploration,” it covers the history, or should I say pre-history, of the South Pacific, from whenever the ancestors of the Australian Aborigines showed up, until 1500 A.D.  The topics covered are named as follows:

Chapter 1: Of Lands and Seas, A Prehistoric Age of Exploration

Pacific Geography

From Sunda-Land to Sahul-Land

The Melanesians

Early Austronesian Migrations

The Polynesian Expeditions

Polynesian Cultures

The Micronesians

The Tu’i Tongan "Empire"

Nan Madol

The Easter Island Mystery — Solved




Or if you missed Chapter 2 and want another chance to read it, click on the link below:

Chapter 2:  Terra Australis Incognita (1500 to 1780)

As with my other history papers, I hope you enjoy reading my latest one as much as I enjoyed composing it!

Full-Blooming Transition

Yes, I’ve been too busy in the real world to write anything here since Monday.  And the city I’m in hasn’t been too happy since the UConn Huskies beat our UK Wildcats in the NCAA championship game.  While there’s still a chance UK will win a 9th championship someday, it won’t be this year.  And then the ladies’ basketball team for UConn won their championship, so this week Connecticut has two things to crow about.

I did see one funny bit about this today.  A FOX News anchor (I don’t know what city she was in), mistakenly called UConn “the NAACP champions.”  Please go easy on the comments about her, though.  I think I was thirty years old before I knew what NCAA stood for, and I didn’t know how the college basketball playoffs worked until five years ago, after I had moved to Kentucky.  College basketball isn’t a big deal in Florida, where it has to compete with professional sports leagues and college football for fans.

The “full-blooming” part of the title refers to the flowering trees in the neighborhood, especially the ornamental pears.  Because it was so cold last winter, the trees are finally getting their act together, two weeks later than they normally do.  If you come down my street this week, the trees will be white all over, and this time it’s not because of snow.

Of course with April 15 just around the corner, one of my activities is getting my taxes done.  My goal is to put it all in the mail tomorrow, since I won’t be getting refund this year.  Besides that and my history projects (I started composing Chapter 6 of my Latin American history last week), I am also getting ready for my new job.  The background check is apparently done, but there’s additional paperwork that needs to be filled out before my first day.  Yesterday I got the e-mail with my official start date:  I start on Monday, April 21.  That marks two years and one day since my last job ended, so the whole family is definitely seeing this month as a new beginning.

Even the Sun is a Basketball Fan In Kentucky


The NCAA championship game is less than an hour away as I write this, and however it works out between the UK Wildcats and the Uconn Huskies, this will be a big day for Kentucky.  You could call this the biggest cat-dog fight of all.

If you have been following the tournament, you know what happened with Saturday’s game.  Just a few seconds before time ran out, Aaron Harrison scored the shot that put UK over the top, defeating Wisconsin by 74-73.  Harrison also made the last shot to win the previous game against Michigan, so this was a bit of a re-run for us.  When all is said and done, he’d better be named Most Valuable Player, at least.  And I bet two, maybe even three Uconn players, will be guarding him closely tonight.

This time around, all four of the Final Four teams represented states my family has an interest in.  My sister lives in Wisconsin, my brother lives in Florida, I live in Kentucky, and we all used to live in Connecticut!  While there were several things I enjoyed during my 2011-2012 job assignment in Connecticut, and I found out over there that I still talk with a Connecticut accent, 45 years after my first sojourn in the state, there are four reasons why I’m glad I don’t live there now:

1.  Connecticut winters are notoriously cold.  My wife will tell you that Kentucky is cold enough!

2.  Prices and taxes are much higher in New England.

3.  Most of the people over there are political liberals.

4.  Kentuckians are friendlier and politer.

Therefore I will be rooting for the home team, of course.  But enough with the rambling.  GO CATS!!!


And for this week, the nearest major league baseball team, the Cincinnati Reds, is wearing blue just for us.  How about that!


Happy First Contact Day, and the Final Four Games


Yes, it’s time for another nerd holiday, to go with Pi Day (3/14) and Mole Day (10/22).  Forty-nine years left to go, before we find out if there is anybody like the Vulcans in space.

Back in December 2012, people were going to Berea, KY, to escape whatever happened when the Mayan calendar ended (all that happened was that it stopped snowing on that exact minute). Perhaps we should make plans to camp out in Bozeman, MT, if we expect to be around in 2063?

Today is also the day of the Final Four basketball games.  The University of Kentucky plays the University of Wisconsin, and the University of Florida plays the University of Connecticut.  All four teams come from states my family has ties to:  I live in Kentucky, my sister lives in Wisconsin, my brother lives in Florida, and we used to live in Connecticut!  I guess all I can say is, may the best team win!




Is An End to Winter in Sight?

First of all, let me say Happy Birthday to both my brother and sister (yes, they’re twins).  Here are two old pictures from previous birthdays.  The first is their third birthday, taken in Connecticut:


And here is their eleventh birthday, from Florida:


Meanwhile, our bitterly cold winter continues.  Today I shoveled our driveway and doorstep again.  Fortunately the snow was not as wet and heavy as before, so I got done in an hour and a half.  The bad news is that there’s more ice, and my shovel didn’t do a good job of breaking it, so I had to leave some there and hope it melts soon.

Speaking of melting, the weatherman is now saying a warming trend is on the way.  Temperatures have stayed below freezing since February 5, but now they’re supposed to climb in the 30s tomorrow, and stay there for the rest of the week; then they’ll be in the 40s at least for next week.

Here are some pictures taken last week of what the country is getting.  First we see the Great Lakes from space, mostly covered with ice.


Last Friday, 67 percent of the continental US – that’s two thirds of the US mainland – was covered with ice and snow.  That hasn’t happened in eleven years.  As you can see, all of Kentucky is included.


And while Florida isn’t experiencing an ice age yet, it’s not as warm as it used to be.


One thing’s for sure, you better stay inside if you don’t like the color white!

White-Out In the Tropics

Would you find this embarrassing, if it happened to you?  Today I read a story about a hiker who was stuck on the mountain he was climbing for two days because of a blizzard with white-out conditions.  The mountain was Mauna Loa, in Hawaii!  What a strange winter we are having!

Hiker saved from blizzard . . . in Hawaii

Yes, I did hear this morning that the famous Pennsylvania groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, saw his shadow, and hence we should expect six more weeks of winter.  That may be true for Pennsylvania, but for Kentucky he was wrong the last two years.  In 2012 he saw his shadow, but both Kentucky (and Connecticut, where I was staying at the time) had an early spring.  If I was going to spend a winter in New England, that the definitely the year to do it; among other things, I missed Hurricane Sandy.  Then in 2013 the groundhog did not see his shadow, but we got an extremely cold March.  Therefore I’m going to predict that the worst part of winter is behind us.  Yesterday the temperature climbed all the way up to 65 degrees, and it rained this morning, so the last of the snow from a week earlier has been melted/washed away.  However, another big cold front is passing over us right now, and the thermometer is falling again, meaning winter isn’t over just yet; the weatherman is saying we could get 3 to 7 inches of snow by this time tomorrow.  And we’ll find out soon enough what kind of weather the Superbowl will have.

Keurig Grandchild

Yesterday I learned that my daughter Lindy ordered a new toaster and a Keurig (K-cup) coffee machine.  However, I think there was a mistake in the order; that looks like my granddaughter Lexi in the box, not a coffee machine!


I saw my first Keurig machine in 2009, at my dentist’s office, and I learned how to use one in 2011, while working in Connecticut.  They are still not common in Kentucky yet, and now my daughter has one; I used to joke about how backward and remote her part of Georgia is, even compared with Kentucky!

Yes, I could have gotten a new coffee machine after returning from Connecticut; the stores here do have them.  So far I haven’t because my wife and my parrot don’t drink coffee, so I would be the only one using it, unless we have guests.  What’s more, it and the K-cups are more expensive than the old-fashioned coffee pot.  When I came back into town, I had about twenty K-cups I had not used in Connecticut, and they sat in my cupboard for nearly a year before I figured out what to do with them; since my little coffee pot makes two cups at a time, I could just cut open two K-cups and dump the contents into a filter, for the same result.  What Keurig machines have in their favor is that they make a cup in a minute, and it’s done right every time.

The last time I visited Lindy, Adam and Lexi, they didn’t even drink coffee, so I had to bring my own.  Did one of them start drinking it recently?  Well, now their coffee machine is more advanced than ours.

A Bit of Connecticut Humor

Overall, Yankees aren’t as funny as Rednecks; that’s why I don’t hear as many jokes about the North as I would like.  Here’s one, though, from my own experience:

The two biggest grocery store chains in Connecticut are A & P and Stop & Shop.  While I was there, the A & P in downtown Danbury closed.  Maybe the other stores should merge, and we’ll call the new chain Stop & P.

Good Family News

God has been good to my family this week!  First of all, my unemployment benefits ran out last week.  Now that may not sound good, but read on.  I have been trying to call the Connecticut Department of Labor about that since Monday, but they are so busy this week, that I did not get through until today.  Judging from what the agent on the phone told me, I qualified for an extension, and I won’t even miss this week’s amount.

The news from my brother Chris is even better.  You may remember he visited us the first week of June.  When he got back to Florida, the first thing he did was go to Tallahassee for a job interview.  In the month since then he has been scanning my Dad’s slide collection, and posting them online so the rest of the family will have copies.  Well, this morning he learned that he got the job!  He will be starting on August 5, so sometime before then he will have to move from Naples to Tallahassee, leaving behind all the Everglades critters he has been living next to for the past ten years.  In addition, he will be a few hundred miles closer to the rest of the family, so we can expect him to visit more often.

Another Connecticut Assignment?

I mentioned around the beginning of this year that some companies are starting to hire again; I am seeing a few more “help wanted” signs than I did in years past.  This cartoon appeared in our local newspaper, The Lexington Herald-Leader, last January, and gives you an idea of what jobs are available in our area.


It sounds fine and dandy, but I’m not ready to declare the Great Recession over yet, because nobody in Kentucky has a suitable job for me.  The high-tech market that attracted me here in the first place has largely dried up, and I haven’t seen signs of that coming back.  Consequently my last job, from June 2011 to April 2012, sent me to Danbury, CT, more than 800 miles away.  For me Kentucky has been a very nice place to live but not a good place to work.

Well, my job situation could be changing later this month.  This morning I got a call from the recruiter who got me the job in Connecticut.  That job is available again, for another assignment that could last at least six months.  Other candidates have been submitted for the position, so it’s not a sure thing I could be going.  Still, Leive and I are going to be doing a lot of planning in the event it happens, like how to get reliable transportation for both of us, and where to stay if the apartment I used last time is not available.