Saturday, July 15, 2017

10 Of History's Overlooked Mysteries

History is filled with mysteries, some small scale like the origins of a book and others on a very large scale such as the disappearance of an entire civilization.

I recently came across a list of 10 historical mysteries that don't seem to get too much attention.

The Tarim Mummies
An archaeological excavation beneath the Tarim Basin in western China unearthed more than 100 mummified corpses dating back more than 2000 years.  Even though dug up in China, when a college professor viewed the mummies in a museum, he was shocked to discover they had blonde hair and long noses.  In 1993 he returned to the museum to collect DNA samples from the mummies.  Tests validated his belief, showing that the bodies were of European genetic stock.  Ancient Chinese texts from as early as the first millennium BC mention groups of Caucasian people living in the far east, but there is no mention on any living in the Tarim Basin.

The Voynich Manuscript
This is quite possibly the most unreadable book in the world.  The 500-year-old, 240 page manuscript was discovered in 1912 at a library in Rome.  It contains illustrations and writing in an unknown language.  The best cryptographers have been unable to decipher the text, but statistical analysis of the writing shows that it does seem to follow the basic structure and laws of a working language.

Who Was Robin Hood?
The possible real-life existence of a bandit living in the forest who stole from the rich and gave to the poor is more plausible than the legendary King Author and a magical sword named Excalibur.  The historical hunt for the real Robin Hood has discovered several candidates including Robert Hod, a fugitive in Yorkshire who went by Hobbehod as well as Robert Hood of Wakefield.  The name Robin Hood eventually became synonymous with being an outlaw.  His identity would later become even murkier as various authors wove more characters into the tale such as Prince John and Richard the Lionhearted.

The Carnac Stones
As with the construction of Stonehenge, it was a backbreaking task for the people responsible for the Carnac Stones.  On the coast of Brittany, in northwestern France, there are over 3000 megalithic standing stones arranged in exacting lines and spread out over 12 kilometers (7.2 miles).  The local myth explains them as a Roman legion on the march when the wizard Merlin turned them to stone.  The identity of the Neolithic people who build them is unknown.

The Bog Bodies
Hundreds of these ancient bodies have been discovered buried around the northern wetlands of Europe.  Researchers who inspected them have found tell-tale signs of torture and medieval foul play.  These clues have led some to suspect that the dead were victims of ritual sacrifice.  [I recall reading about an incident in England, I think in the 1800s, where a body was found in a bog and it was so well preserved that the locals believed it to be a recent murder which resulted in a police investigation.]

Disappearance Of The Indus Valley Civilization
The ancient Indus Valley people were India's oldest known civilization.  Their bronze-age culture stretched from western India to Afghanistan with a population of over 5 million.  Their abrupt decline rivaled that of the Mayans.  Excavations in 1922 uncovered a culture that maintained a sophisticated sewage drainage system and immaculate bathrooms, but found no evidence of armies, slaves, social conflicts, or other vices prevalent in ancient societies.

The Lost Roman Legion
After an underachieving Roman army led by General Crassus was defeated by Persia, legend says that a small band of POWs wandered through the desert and were captured by the Han military.  An Oxford historian who compared ancient records claimed that the lost Roman legion founded a small town near the Gobi Desert named Liqian, which is Chinese for Rome.  DNA tests are being conducted to hopefully explain some of the residents' green eyes and blond hair. [Which leads one to wonder if there is a connection with the Tarim Mummies.]

Fall Of The Minoans
The fall of the Minoan Empire has proven just as puzzling as the collapse of the Roman Empire.  Approximately 3,500 years ago, life on Crete was disrupted by a huge volcanic eruption on the neighbor island of Thera.  Ancient clay tablets show that the Minoan Empire continued for another 50 years.  Theories about their demise include a blanket of ash devastating their crops and another one says their weakened society was left vulnerable to an eventual Greek takeover.

Lost City Of Helike
The Greek writer Pausanias wrote about a great earthquake that destroyed the city of Helike followed by a tsunami that swept away what remained.  The once flourishing city had been a worship center devoted to Poseidon.  No trace of this legendary society existed outside of ancient Greek texts until 1861 when a bronze coin was found showing the head of Poseidon.  In 2001, the ruins of Helike were located beneath coastal mud and gravel.  Work is currently under way to unearth what some consider the real Atlantis.

Rongorongo
Rongorongo is an indecipherable hieroglyphic writing used by the early inhabitants of Easter Island, often referred to as the other Easter Island mystery.  Rongorongo appeared mysteriously in the 1700s, at a time when no other neighboring oceanic people had any type of written language.  The language was lost along with the best hopes of deciphering it when early European colonizers banned it because of its pagan roots.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

THE 10 LIES YOU HEAR EVERY DAY

I recently came across an article (primarily directed toward men rather than women, but for the most part it applies to all) listing 10 lies that we all hear (and say) on a daily basis…things you don't necessarily think of as lies.  These are usually considered as slight exaggerations, an attempt to be polite rather than confrontational, or merely being nice rather than hurt someone's feelings.  But no matter how you rationalize it, they are still lies.

1)  "Everything's great."
It's the usual response in a restaurant when your server asks how everything is, a brush-off even though the soup is too salty.  And the possible consequences of this insignificant little lie?  The chef never finds out he's heavy-handed with the seasonings, people stop coming to his restaurant, and you end up with the same too-salty soup everyone else was also reluctant to mention.  You might be doing the chef a favor if you tell your server—politely—that something is off.

2)  "I'm fine."
Reality check for men: No woman who says this to you is actually fine.  Something's wrong and you need a strategy to figure out how to fix it.  Most of the time it's as easy as asking her how she really feels.

3)  "I love your new haircut."
People usually compliment anything that catches their eye as new or different—no matter how ugly it may be or how much they don't like it.  If your significant other has a different opinion on your new hair style—or jacket, or shoes—than your chipper coworker, trust your significant other's take.  The I get so many compliments on this defense doesn't hold up.

4)  "No thanks, I've got it."
Guys, in particular, feel guilty accepting assistance from others, especially from a woman—even if they could really use it.  If you have to ask, "Can I give you a hand with that?" you should already be helping—not offering to lend a hand.

5)  "I couldn't find time to look at that today."
It doesn't matter if your boss said that, a client, or someone else, rest assured that you're being bluffed.  If you need the feedback right away but fear you might irritate your boss or client with repeated requests, you'll need to come up with a new way to present your need.

6)  "It's so great to see you."
Is it really great?  Your wife's or husband's friend from college looks to be in a huge hurry, and you don't really know the person that well.  This is a polite lie that really means, "I want to stop talking to you now."  Offer a quick smile then you can both get on with your day.

7)  "That's interesting."
People throw out this meaningless phrase so often it's become more of a cliché or silence-filler than a lie.  Instead, consider what you actually think before speaking, and come up with a more insightful adjective (and "That's stupid!" doesn't count).

8)  "Your email ended up in my spam folder."
Of all the emails you've successfully sent this person and it's this one that mysteriously ended up in the spam folder?  No need to call this person out on it.  Recognize this deception for what it is and figure out a better way to grab this person's attention next time.

9)  "I just saw your text."
Your friends have no problem lying about being busy when they're actually looking at other things or surfing the net.  But when they actually have a lot on their plates, they become reluctant about admitting it (sometimes for fear that it sounds like a flimsy excuse).  This text message is their polite way of saying, "I was too busy to answer you right away."

10)  "Sorry."
Admit it: Even you toss out apologies as readily as you would a losing lottery ticket.  At least 95 percent of the time you tell someone you're sorry when you really mean, "That's too bad."  Don't apologize unless there's something you need to apologize for and you mean it.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Fourth Of July Holiday—Some Trivia And A Fireworks Safety Quiz

July 4, Independence Day—on this date in 1776, the Declaration of Independence was approved by the Continental Congress, setting the 13 colonies on the road to freedom as a sovereign nation. The U.S. Constitution, the document that emerged from the 1787 Philadelphia Convention, is the oldest national constitution in the world.

As always, this most American of holidays will be marked by fireworks, parades, and backyard barbecues. Fireworks displays are common throughout the world and are the focal point of many cultural and religious celebrations. Fireworks were invented in ancient China to scare away evil spirits, as a natural extension of the Chinese invention of gunpowder.

With 4th of July fireworks comes the concern for safety. A reality for the holiday is that fireworks cause thousands of injuries, and even some deaths, in addition to enough fires to make July 4 the day with the most reported fires across the United States according to the National Fire Protection Association.

So…how much do you know about fireworks safety? Here's a 9 question quiz to test your knowledge. Correct answers are at the end.

1)  How hot does a sparkler burn?
          a:  212 degrees
          b:  600 degrees
          c:  950 degrees
          d:  1200 degrees

2)  What portion of 4th of July fires are caused by fireworks?
          a:  10 percent
          b:  35 percent
          c:  50 percent
          d:  90 percent

3)  Which age group has the most injuries reported from fireworks?
          a:  under 20
          b:  20 – 40
          c:  40 – 60
          d:  60+

4)  You should skip buying fireworks in brown paper packaging as that could be a sign that they're made for professionals, not consumers.
          a:  true
          b:  false

5)  If a pack of fireworks has not fully functioned, you should cautiously relight it.
          a:  true
          b:  false

6)  What's the best way to dispose of used fireworks?
          a:  throw in trash
          b:  use hose or bucket of water to soak them then throw away
          c:  bury them

7)  Last year what was the most common fireworks injury?
          a:  fractures and sprains
          b:  contusions and lacerations
          c:  ear injuries
          d:  burns
          e:  eye injuries

8)  According to a U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission investigation, which of these were common reasons for fireworks injuries?
          a:  holding fireworks in the hand
          b:  mischief
          c:  debris or smoke from a malfunction
          d:  errant flight path from a malfunction
          e:  early or late ignition from a malfunction
          f:   all of the above

9)  Never light more than how many fireworks at a time?
          a:  1
          b:  2
          c:  3

And now, for those of you who want to see how well you did on the quiz—

1)       the correct answer is d…1200 degrees F, hot enough to burn certain metals and ignite clothing.

2)       the correct answer is c…50 percent, when shooting fireworks keep a bucket of water or sand available.

3)       the correct answer is a…under 20, children 10 – 14 are more than twice as much at risk for fireworks injuries.

4)       the correct answer is a…true.

5)       the correct answer is b…false, any malfunctioning fireworks should be soaked in water and then thrown away

6)       the correct answer is b…use hose or bucket of water to soak them and then throw them away

7)       the correct answer is d…burns

8)       the correct answer is f…all of the above

9)       the correct answer is a…light just 1 at a time.

Happy…and safe…holiday to everyone.