Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Decline in Human Intelligence

If you think that people are getting stupider, you may be right. A new study suggests human intelligence is on the decline. In fact, it indicates that Westerners have lost 14 I.Q. points on average since the Victorian Era. Study co-author Dr. Jan te Nijenhuis, professor of work and organizational psychology at the University of Amsterdam, points to the fact that women of higher intelligence tend to have fewer children than do women of lower intelligence. This negative association between I.Q and fertility has been demonstrated time and again in research over the last century.

This isn't the first evidence of a possible decline in human intelligence. The reduction in human intelligence (if there is any reduction) would have begun at the time that genetic selection became more relaxed, Dr. Gerald Crabtree, professor of pathology and developmental biology at Stanford University, told The Huffington Post in an email. I projected this occurred as our ancestors began to live in more supportive high density societies (cities) and had access to a steady supply of food. Both of these might have resulted from the invention of agriculture, which occurred about 5,000 to 12,000 years ago.

As for Dr. te Nijenhuis and colleagues, they analyzed the results of 14 intelligence studies conducted between 1884 to 2004, including one by Sir Francis Galton, an English anthropologist and a cousin of Charles Darwin. Each study gauged participants' so-called visual reaction times (how long it took them to press a button in response to seeing a stimulus). Reaction time reflects a person's mental processing speed, and so is considered an indication of general intelligence.

In the late 19th Century, visual reaction times averaged around 194 milliseconds, the analysis showed. In 2004 that time had grown to 275 milliseconds. Even though the machine gauging reaction time in the late 19th Century was less sophisticated than that used in recent years, Dr. te Nijenhuis told The Huffington Post that the old data is directly comparable to modern data.


Other research has suggested an apparent rise in I.Q. scores since the 1940s, a phenomenon known as the Flynn Effect. But Dr. te Nijenhuis suggested the Flynn Effect reflects the influence of environmental factors such as better education, hygiene and nutrition and may mask the true decline in genetically inherited intelligence in the Western world.

The research was published in the April 13 issue of Intelligence.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Mitt Romney: Avoid Birth Control and Have More Babies

2012 U.S. Republican Presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, has a solution for increasing Republican election victories at the polls. It’s not to embrace immigration reform, or stop putting misogynistic candidates on the ballot, or pursue economic policies that would benefit groups other than rich, old, white people. Mitt Romney’s big idea is that conservatives need to have more kids.
During a commencement address, Romney gave at Southern Virginia University, a predominately Mormon college, Romney urged new grads to get married young, avoid birth control and start having more children. He wove his speech around a quote from Jesus in the New Testament, “Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets” which he interpreted to mean that one should live a deep, meaningful life, not a shallow one.
He said, How do you do that? Well, getting married is one way of launching into the deep. I’m so glad I found Ann when I was still so young. … Some people could get married but choose to take more time, they say, for themselves. Others plan to wait until they’re well into their 30s or 40s before they think about getting married. They’re going to miss so much of living, I’m afraid.… Now, bringing children into the world is also launching into the deep. I had friends who weren’t sure they were going to have kids. They told me they were going to buy a dog first to see how that went. A dog!
Again quoting from the Bible, he said, Children are a heritage of the Lord, and the fruit of the womb is his reward.… Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them…. If you meet a person you love, get married. Have a quiver full of kids if you can.
As for how people are support all those kids in a stagnant economy rigged to benefit the wealthy, Romney had no advice. And as for how the planet might support all those kids in a time of climate chaos, dwindling freshwater, and pinched food supplies, he apparently is not worried it.
Republican Presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, has a solution for increasing Republican election victories at the polls. It’s not to embrace immigration reform, or stop putting misogynistic candidates on the ballot, or pursue economic policies that would benefit groups other than rich, old, white people. Mitt Romney’s big idea is that conservatives need to have more kids.
During a commencement address, Romney gave at Southern Virginia University, a predominately Mormon college, Romney urged new grads to get married young, avoid birth control and start having more children. He wove his speech around a quote from Jesus in the New Testament, “Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets” which he interpreted to mean that one should live a deep, meaningful life, not a shallow one.
He said, How do you do that? Well, getting married is one way of launching into the deep. I’m so glad I found Ann when I was still so young. … Some people could get married but choose to take more time, they say, for themselves. Others plan to wait until they’re well into their 30s or 40s before they think about getting married. They’re going to miss so much of living, I’m afraid.… Now, bringing children into the world is also launching into the deep. I had friends who weren’t sure they were going to have kids. They told me they were going to buy a dog first to see how that went. A dog!
Again quoting from the Bible, he said, Children are a heritage of the Lord, and the fruit of the womb is his reward.… Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them…. If you meet a person you love, get married. Have a quiver full of kids if you can.
As for how people are support all those kids in a stagnant economy rigged to benefit the wealthy, Romney had no advice. And as for how the planet might support all those kids in a time of climate chaos, dwindling freshwater, and pinched food supplies, he apparently is not worried it.

Oklahoma: Political Hypocrisy

Senator James Inhofe opposed using federal money to help the victims of the 2012 super-storm, Sandy, which devastated New Jersey and New York. There are parts of both states that are still in shambles and there many people who have not rebuilt their homes and tattered lives.  The Oklahoma Senator voted "no" on the much-needed federal funds after Hurricane Sandy.

However, residents of Inhofe’s own state, Oklahoma, are going to receive help from the federal government  in the wake of a tornado which killed at least 24 people and leveled buildings across five counties. And, Inhofe is just fine with that and has adopted the position that aid money should flow in from federal coffers to help rebuild Oklahoma’s shattered neighborhoods. But this is not some watershed moment wherein, seeing his own people mired in tragedy, the senator suddenly comes to value cooperation and collective action. Rather, Inhofe claims the situation is “totally different” from Sandy because his fundamentalist Christian and Republican constituents are more trustworthy and less wasteful than those in the liberal Democratic states on East Coasters who subsidize Oklahoma existence.

Inhofe was questioned on MSNBC about his support for federal aid given his past opposition to the Sandy aid bill, which he had described as a slush fund. In his response, Inhofe displayed startling ignorance about the differences between a tornado, which causes highly localized damage, and a hurricane, which can cause havoc across a whole region. He said That (Sandy aid bill) was totally different. That was supposed to be in New Jersey; they had things in the Virgin Islands, they were fixing roads there. They were putting roofs on houses in Washington, D.C. Everyone was getting in and exploiting the tragedy that took place. That won’t happen in Oklahoma.

Inhofe wasn’t the only Oklahoma lawmaker to oppose the Sandy aid bill.  ABC News reported that a number of Republicans from the Oklahoma may be forced to reckon with their past votes against emergency disaster funding.  Oklahoma’s two Republican senators, Jim Inhofe and Tom Coburn, opposed a bill that provided more than $60 billion in emergency aid after Sandy devastated the East Coast. Inhofe went even further claiming Sandy was God's wrath for immorality in America. In addition, three members of the U.S. Congress from Oklahoma joined with most Republicans in opposing the legislation.
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Political writer Joan Walsh wrote:

There’s something so typical about today’s GOP in the way Inhofe can dismiss comparisons between tornado aid and Sandy aid while Coburn grandstands for his long-term demand that new spending, even on disaster relief, must be “offset” by cuts elsewhere. Meanwhile, the notion that a new disaster relief bill should include funding to cope with future disasters isn’t lauded as common sense, it’s derided as pork. Like Inhofe, Coburn objected to the Sandy bill’s including funding for future disaster relief. … Just as modern conservatism helped create categories of “deserving” and “undeserving” poor, we now apparently have deserving and undeserving disasters. When tragedy strikes, most Americans tend to want to pull together, but many Republicans look to pull us apart, placing their own constituents’ needs above everyone else’s.

As far as these lawmakers are concerned, it should be everybody for themselves- except for the voters in their districts. Perhaps the support that the rest of the country provides for Oklahomans in their time of need will help these politicians see things in a new light. But, don’t bet on it

Monday, May 20, 2013

U.S. Radio Hate Speech: A New Low and a National Disgrace


It is a national disgrace that political discourse on the public airwave has sunk to this level.

On his radio broadcast, right-wing Republican talk show host, Peter Santilli, made an implied threat both to President Obama and to former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. Concerning Clinton, he said, "I want to shoot her right in the vagina…." Concerning the President, he said,  "Barack Obama needs to be tried, convicted, and shot for crimes against the United States of America".  These statements go beyond political discourse and bad taste. They are threats and incitement to violence. Ironically, the news report of the incident contained a warning. But, no such warning was on the radio broadcast. (See below.)

At a time when you cannot say "shit" or "fuck" on the commercial airwaves, is right or justifiable that you can make implied threats, utter total falsehoods, and incite violence under the premise of "freedom of speech"?  The airwaves are owned by the people and not the advertisers, the corporations or talk show hosts. And, the Federal Communications Commission is the agency which is in charge of regulating the airwaves in the interest of the people. But, they ignore issues such as this one but then fine a radio personality or a station when a so-called obscene word is uttered, a word which one can hear on any street corner or in any school, there is something wrong with the FCC.

Peter Santilli is an agent of hate and incitement to violence. He has no place on radio or television. And, the FCC are obliged to do something about him.

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The following was reported on AOL's Huffington Post on Sunday, May 19, 2013:
Pete Santilli, Radio Host: Hillary Clinton Needs To Be 'Shot In The Vagina'
Radio host Pete Santilli made shocking remarks about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, claiming she should be "shot" for being "involved in the killings of American troops."
Santilli hosts a show on his website, but says he's "ready to take my show to national syndication; that is, of course, if the FCC regulated AM/FM radio stations can handle my truth & honesty."
(WARNING: this post contains language that may disturb some readers.)
"Hillary Clinton needs to be convicted. She needs to be tried, convicted and shot in the vagina," Santilli said, Right Wing Watch reports. "I want to pull the trigger."
Santilli criticized Clinton over the Sept 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. He also slammed Clinton over what he called "the fake hunt down of this Obama bin Laden thing":
"I want to shoot her right in the vagina and I don't want her to die right away; I want her to feel the pain and I want to look her in the eyes and I want to say, on behalf of all Americans that you've killed, on behalf of the Navy SEALS, the families of Navy SEAL Team Six who were involved in the fake hunt down of this Obama, Obama bin Laden thing, that whole fake scenario, because these Navy SEALS know the truth, they killed them all. On behalf of all of those people, I'm supporting our troops by saying we need to try, convict, and shoot Hillary Clinton in the vagina."
Santilli also criticized Obama, saying he deserves the same punishment as Clinton.
"Barack Obama needs to be tried, convicted, and shot for crimes against the United States of America," Santilli said. "And if anybody has a problem with that, then you are an enemy of our state."

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Ancient Egypt: Everyday Life, Customs, and Rituals

Egyptology  is one of the oldest discipline to study ancient man. There are several people who are sometimes considered to be founders of this science such as W.F. Petrie, but in reality, the study of ancient Egyptians is much, much older. In some respects, it can be said that Herodotus, Manetho and Strabo were Egyptologists, but even many of the ancient Egyptians themselves studied and were proud of their own history. Prince Khaemwese, a son of the Pharaoh, Ramses II, was interested in Egyptian customs and history, and during many periods, particularly when times were difficult, the ancient Egyptians looked back upon their predecessors and took up at least some of their more ancient traditions. Unfortunately, from ancient times into our present day, this science has mostly focused on the grander side of life, exploring great kings and their temples and tombs. The life of common Egyptians has often been ignored, and even when it was investigated, the evidence is frequently skewed in a funerary context.

What immerges from this study is a people who, fundamentally, are not unlike people today. Men and women fell in love, united, created families that became the center of their lives, worried about their children, worked, struggled, sought security and had moral concerns from which some deviated to became criminals. It is true that they sometimes fought savage wars, but our modern society seems not yet to have outgrown that very ancient tradition. The young played with toys, while older children and adults played games and competed in sports, partied, danced, sang, rejoiced on special occasions and were sad when death took a loved one. They sued each other, divorced, paid taxes, fought with their neighbors and their wives, but also believed in the golden rule, to love thy neighbor. Some common Egyptians excelled in life, rising to become great officials, while others failed miserably, but in general they survived and lead ordinary lives for their time. They adapted to their landscape, and appear to have been patriots of their country.

The Ancient Egyptians showed most of the traits of modern man, though in an ancient context and with ancient pressures. Rather than putting locks on their doors, they built walls and surrounded themselves with fellow countryman for security. Rather than central refrigerated air conditioning, they built fountains and naturally cooled houses for their comfort. Though lacking huge motorized cranes and heavy trucks, they nevertheless managed to build monuments that even today are very impressive to us, using ancient technology that has sometimes become lost in the tracks of time. And like today, many of these large, public programs such as the building of the pyramids created principles that were useful in everyday life such as geometry.

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Society

Ancient Egypt was largely an agricultural society. At the time the pyramid texts were written, the Nile flooded annually from July to November, providing a rich silt for farmer's crops. Red barley, white wheat, fruit and vegetables were the people's main staples. They also grew trees, barley, beans, chickpeas and flax. In addition, Egyptians raised cattle and oxen which they ate along with geese and fish. We can see from tomb illustrations that Egyptians saw a strong correlation between their everyday lives and heaven, by the fact that they are shown performing their daily activities in the presence of neteru, or gods. They perceived no difference between the sacred and the mundane. By 3100 BCE, Egyptians adopted the means of Pharaohs as governance. These hereditary rulers were believed to be "the sons of Ra".

Women and men in ancient Egypt were treated equally. Women were respected for their motherly and reproductive roles and central to the sustenance of society. Gods and goddesses were worshipped in separate temples, although goddesses were often shown as protectors of male deities in the form of lionesses, or shown with or as cobras or vultures. Isis, the symbolic mother goddess of ancient Egypt and her son Horus are often depicted as Osiris' protector, shown behind him as he sits on the throne.
The Egyptian alphabet was a visual one, based on symbols which each have a picture that represented a sound. It was based on 42 hieroglyphics, some of which were used interchangeabley. This written language was formed around 3100 BCE, the same time the Pharaohs began to rule, and it lasted until 400 CE, at which time Egypt adopted Coptic, a Greek-based alphabet, and then Arabic.
Ancient Egyptian religion was not based on a set of strict religious beliefs. Their ideology was more of a "cult" with regular "practices", duties performed to maintain the favor of the gods. These took place at centers of worship and focused on an "image" of the god, a statue to which they performed sacrifices and rites.
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Sex and Cleanliness
Egypt was and is a civilization of vast diversity. Ancient Egypt had many different sexual behaviors and diversities: homosexuality, trans-genderism, incest marriages, exhibitionism, prostitution, adultery, bestiality, necrophilia, and others. There were different customs among nobility, common people, and slaves. Nobility had a wide range of marital customs and practically all sexual behaviors were accepted and condemned depending on the time period and the ruling class. This was similar with the common people, only there seems to be a more strict regime in marriage, and a variety of punishments to those who broke the laws. What was acceptable among slaves and concubines was dependent upon their owners.
Although Egypt has similarities to other civilizations, they also had unique sexual imagery and customs.
Egyptians thought highly of cleanliness and shaved not only their heads, upon which they wore wigs, but also their pubic hair, which prevented forms of pubic lice. Circumcision was also practiced which eliminated smegma (dirt and bacteria build up under the foreskin and causing possible disease or infections).
Different types of contraception were attempted, such as the use of animal dung as a form of a spermicide. If this failed, potions were derived to induce miscarriage. Potions were also used as aphrodisiacs.
Ancient Egypt’s lineage was traced through women and property was passed through women. For this reason, Ancient Egypt originated as a matriarchy. The Pharoahs were trustees of the property passed down and their reign was decided by their matrilineal status. Because of the matrilineal structure, husbands would lose their property and status if their wife died. The property was passed down to the daughters and granddaughters. Many incest relations began with fathers and daughters and granddaughters because the men wanted to stay with the property. There were also numerous brother/sister incest marriages.
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Sex and the Gods
According to one Egyptian creation story, Chaos (probably the Roman name equivalent of the Egyptian deity), the god of creation, masturbated, and from his ejaculation he created the other gods.
Two of the most important gods of the Ancient Egyptians were Osiris and Isis. Osiris was hacked into pieces by his brother Seth. Isis pieced him back together but was unable to find his phallus, so she created a new phallus. Egyptians would have a celebration of this event, during which women would walk through the streets singing and walking with puppets that had extremely large genitals.
Bes was the dwarf god with a very large phallus. He was considered a protector of women and some would tattoo Bes on their thigh. Bes is celebrated in physical sex and rooms came to be known as Bes Chambers. Hathor was the goddess of love and music. In one story she exposed her genitals to her father, the sun god who smiled. Bastet was the cat goddess, associated with Hathor, and also a fertility goddess. During the festival for Bastet, women would expose their genitals.  For 40 days, women would go to the Temple of Apis, the Bull. They would expose their genitals to the statue. Once they left, they never returned again. The Temple of Amun had different practices over Egyptian history, but at one point, a woman would go into the temple, have sex with whomever she pleased until menstruation, after which there was a celebration. Then she was married.
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Art
It was the artist's and sculptor's aim in ancient Egypt to reproduce the subject's appearance as faithfully as possible. He did not however have in mind a portrait in the modern sense, exhibiting a particular person at a particular moment in his life, but the presentation of salient features at an ideal age, usually in youth or in full maturity.

The art of making death-masks was known as early as the Old Kingdom. Casts could be used as technical aids in making figures for tombs, particularly for the special chambers called in modern times the serdab. These were thought to embody the spirit "ka" of the deceased, the symbol of his individuality, and certain funeral rites accordingly centered round them. Similarly the so-called "reserve heads" of the 4th Dynasty dignitaries from Giza were probably placed in the tomb to ensure that the deceased's likeness would survive even if his mummy disintegrated. These likeness were created to be very realistic inspite a degree of idealization.

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Medicine

Of all the branches of science pursued in ancient Egypt, none achieved such popularity as medicine. Homer said in The Odyssey (IV, 229-232), That fecund land brings forth abundant herbs, some baneful, and some curative when duly mixed. There, every man's a doctor; every man knows better than all others how to treat all manner of disease ....

There was even a degree of specialization quite remarkable for the time.  Herodotus asserts that The practice of medicine is so divided among them that each physician treats one disease, and no more. There are plenty of physicians everywhere. Some are eye-doctors, some deal with the head, others with the teeth or the belly, and some with hidden maladies....
The usual term for a doctor was sunu, written with an arrow-shaped symbol that might suggest it was an allusion to the use of arrowheads to lance abscesses. Some doctors belonged to the priesthood, including priests of the goddess Sakhmet, patroness of diseases, remedies and physicians, and of the lector-priests (khery-heb). Some again were counted among the scribes, as shown in such titles as "chief doctor and scribe of the word of god". Many enjoyed ecclesiastical as well as lay titles.
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Food
The Ancient Egyptians probably ate better than many others in the ancient world. In the early period of Egypt during the Old Kingdom, Egypt was referred to as Kemet (Kermit), or simply Kmt , which meant The Black Land. They called themselves remetch en Kermet, which means the People of the Black Land. The term refers to the rich soil found in the Nile Valley and Delta.
There is no doubt that since the invention of agriculture, Egyptians in the Nile Valley and Delta had a distinct advantage over many others when it came to food. Of course, there were lean times, when the flooding of the Nile which created the rich soil failed them, but most often, this was not the case. In fact, we find many statues and pictures of ancient Egyptians who are well overweight.
The Egyptians ate a type of flat bread, beans, chick peas, lentils, green peas, olives, leeks, garlic, onions  and a type of Egyptian lettuce. The most popular fruit in ancient Egypt was probably dates which are rich in sugar and protein. While the rich used honey as a sweetener, the poor more often employed dates. Dates were also dried for later consumption, and were sometimes fermented to make wine. The poor ate geese, ducks, quails, cranes and roasted or broiled fish from the Nile. Beef from cattle was frequently eaten by the rich, but appeared on the tables of common people usually only during festive occasions, when a sheep or goat might be slaughtered.  Antelope, ibex, gazelles, deer and pig was eaten, though the pork was associated with the evil god, Seth, because of trichinosis.
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Love and Marriage

For all that religion played in ancient Egyptian life, there was one place it had no role at all: the Egyptian marriage. There wasn't even a civil ceremony. Rather, marriage simply took place when two young people decided to move in together and start a common household. Usually that meant that the bride would move in with her husband.

A bride would be young, about 14 or 15 years old. Her husband could be anywhere from 17 to 20 or older if he was divorced or a widower. Marriage was taken very seriously and the ancient Egyptians were encouraged to marry young, especially considering that the average life span was relatively short (average age at death: 54 for men and 58 for women).

Many marriages were arranged with parental consent needed, as they have been in all societies, especially among the upper classes. But, the abundance of love poetry between young people signifies that many couples did fall in love and choose each other as mates. Women played a large role in arranging a marriage. A suitor sometimes used a female go-between to approach the girl's mother not her father.
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Sports

Many of today's sports were practiced by the Ancient Egyptians, who set the rules and regulations for them. Inscriptions on monuments indicate that they practiced wrestling, weightlifting, long jump, swimming, rowing, hockey, javelin throwing, gymnastics, archery, boxing, weightlifting, tug of war, marathon, fishing, rowing and various types of ball games.

Ancient Egyptian kings, princes and statesmen were keen on attending sports competitions, which they encouraged and provided with the necessary equipment. Both winner and loser were met with ovation, the first for his superiority and the latter for his sporting spirit.

Drawings on Pharaonic monuments tell us that several thousand years ago, the Egyptians had laid down basic rules for games, chosen a neutral referee, a uniform for players, and a means of announcing the winners by awarding them different collars.

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Style, Fashion and Dress

Like Egyptian women today, their forebears colored their nails, palms, soles and sometimes hair also with a paste containing the yellowish-red pigment of henna leaves. Tattooing was also used to enhance feminine charms.

No sooner had they stepped outside from the dim seclusion of their homes, the Egyptians were exposed to the full impact of the sun which tended to weather and prematurely age the skin. To treat wrinkles and freckles oil of fenugreek was used, a plant freely available because of its use as animal fodder.

The low humidity of the Sahara, the world's largest desert, affected the Nile valley too, so that human body temperature was regulated by the evaporation of sweat even at a time of great physical exertion. From prehistoric times, the climate of the country had forced people to wear light, airy clothes. Heavy perspiration led them to take care of their skin and hair not merely by washing, but by a quite elaborate cosmetic routine.

The pioneers in dress and hygiene alike were understandably the women, who learned to enhance the natural beauty of their dark-haired, dark-eyed Mediterranean kind and the charm of their graceful movements by the tasteful lines of their costume, striking coiffure, relative cleanliness and the use of alluring perfumes.

Textile manufacture and dressmaking were indeed the only areas of the economy that remained predominantly in female hands. These were activities pursued in every household, and women were also for a long time paramount in the spinning and weaving shops incorporated in aristocratic houses.
The most common material for garments was linen. In addition, wool and cotton were sometimes used. The dressmaking tools were knives or scissors and needles. Originally, knives were made of dressed stone and the needles of bone, but eventually they were made of copper and bronze.

The skin color of the men is faithfully reproduced in tomb paintings. in some painting and sculptures, men are shown naked except for a belt round the loins from which hung either a strip of cloth forming a penis sheath or else in a kilt with a thick fringe made of some plant material. These were probably worn not out of modesty but simply to protect the genitals.

Clothing was at first very short and remained so among the common people, but in higher circles it gradually lengthened to halfway down the calves and in time dropped to the ankles. The kilt was occasionally supplemented by a strip of linen draped loosely over the shoulder which in course of time acquired first short and then long sleeves.

For working in the fields villagers wore a simple apron, made as a plain triangle of material with a wedge-shaped opening in front and the point hanging down behind over the rump. Boatmen, fishermen and papyrus and reed gatherers wore nothing at all. Villagers only donned the kilt when they were bringing their produce to the granaries or to town, or visiting relatives or temples. Men usually wore kilts when they were bringing funerary offerings.

Egyptian women and men used kohl to darken their brows, eyelids and lashes with the aid of little splints or miniature spoons made of stone, metal, wood or bone. They usually traced lines from the outer corners of the eyes and eyebrows toward the front of the earlobes, where they met.
It might seem from all this that the Egyptians had achieved high standards of bodily care and hygiene all those thousands of years ago. However, these standards did not apply to the common folk, especially the very poor.

Great Thinker, Great Thoughts, No. 24

1. Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything that is beautiful; for beauty is God's handwriting -a wayside sacrament, welcome it in every fair face, in every fair sky, in every fair flower, and thank God for it as a cup of blessing. - Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 -1882) was an American essayist, lecturer, and poet, who led the Transcendentalism movement of the mid-19th century. He was a champion of individualism and a prescient critic of the countervailing pressures of society, and he disseminated his thoughts through dozens of published essays and more than 1,500 public lectures across the United States. Emerson gradually moved away from the religious and social beliefs of his time, formulating and expressing the philosophy of Transcendentalism in his 1836 essay, Nature. He also wrote a series of essays most as lectures first, then revised them for print. His first two collections of essays published in 1841 and 1844 represented the core of his thinking. His best-known essays are Self-Reliance, The Poet and Experience.
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2. For I am fearfully and wonderfully made... - The Bible, Psalm 139:14

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3. All our yesterdays light the way to dusty death. - William Shakespeare.
William Shakespeare  (1564 -1616) was an English poet and playwright . He is often regarded to be the greatest writer in the English language and the world's greatest dramatist. His surviving works, including some collaborations, consist of about 38 plays, 152 sonnets, two long narrative poems and several other poems. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright. Among his greatest plays are Hamlet, Macbeth, Julius Caesar and Romeo and Juliet .
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4. I'm nobody; who are you?...  -Emily Dickenson
Emily Elizabeth Dickinson (1830 -1886) was an American poet. She lived a mostly introverted and reclusive life. Thought of as an eccentric by the locals, she became known for her penchant for white clothing and her reluctance to greet guests or, later in life, even to leave her room. Most of her friendships were therefore carried out by correspondence. Although Dickinson was a prolific poet, fewer than a dozen of her nearly eighteen hundred poems were published during her lifetime. Dickinson's poems are unique for the era in which she wrote because they contain short lines, typically lack titles, often use half or imperfect rhymes (slant rhymes) and unconventional capitalization and punctuation. Many of her poems dealt with death and immortality. Although most of her acquaintances were probably aware of Dickinson's poetry writing, it was not until after her death that the breadth of Dickinson's work became apparent. Her first collection of poetry was published in 1890.
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5. I think over again my small adventures
My fears, those small ones that seemed so big
For all the vital things I had to get and reach
And yet there is only one great thing
The only thing
To live to see the great day that dawns
And the light that fills the world
.-Unknown Inuit Native-American
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6. Hatred does not cease in this world by hating, but by not hating; this is an eternal truth. - Buddha
Gautama Buddha (aka: Siddhārtha Gautama Buddha and Siddhattha Gotama) was a sage from the ancient Shakya republic. It is upon his teachings that Buddhism is founded. He is also referred to as "the Buddha" or simply as "Buddha." The word Buddha means "awakened one" or "the enlightened one". The time of Gautama's birth and death is uncertain: most historians in the early 20th century dated his lifetime as circa 563 BCE to 483 BCE, but more recent opinion dates his death to between 486 and 400 BCE. Gautama is the primary figure in Buddhism, and accounts of his life, discourses, and monastic rules are believed by Buddhists to have been summarized after his death and memorized by his followers. Various collections of teachings attributed to him were passed down by oral tradition and first committed to writing about 400 years after he died.
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7. Nothing is stronger than a habit. - Ovid
Publius Ovidius Naso (43 BC -17/18 AD), commonly known Ovid was a Ancient Roman poet who is best known for his mythological poem, Metamorphoses; his two collections of poems, Tristia and Epistulae ex Ponto; and for his three collections of erotic poetry, Heroides, Amores, and Ars Amatoria. Ovid was also the author of several smaller pieces and the long curse-poem, Ibis. He is considered a master of the elegiac couplet and is ranked alongside of Vigil and Horace as one of the three greatest Latin poets. His poetry influenced art and literature particularly during the late Roman Empire and Middle Ages periods
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8. Life never gives us what we want at the moment that we consider appropriate.  - E. M. Forester
Edward Morgan Forster (1879 -1970) was an English novelist, short story writer and essayist. He is known best for his ironic and well-plotted novels examining  class difference and hypocrisy in early 20th-century British society. His most famous novels were Where Angels Fear to Tread (1905), A Room with a View (1908), Howard's End (1910), A Passage to India (1924) and Maurice (written in 1913–14, published posthumously in 1971). Two collections of his short stories were published, Collected Short Stories (1947) and The Life to Come and other stories (posthumously in 1972).
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9. I want to see all the great things and do what the clever people do. - Henry James
Henry James (1843-1916(1916-02-28)) was an American-born writer and is regarded as one of the key figures of 19th-century literary realism. James alternated between America and Europe for the first 20 years of his life, after which he settled in England, becoming a British subject in 1915, one year before his death. He is primarily known for the series of novels in which he portray American encounters with Europe. James claimed that a text must first and foremost be realistic and contain a representation of life that is recognizable to its readers. Good novels, to James, show life in action and are, most importantly, interesting. The concept of a good or bad novel is judged solely upon whether the author is good or bad. Among his most famous works are The Europeans (1878), Washington Square (1880), Portrait of a Lady (1881), The Bostonian (1886), The Spoils of Poynton (1897), The Wings of the Dove (1902) and The Golden Bowl (1904).  
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10. I think I deserve something beautiful. - Elizabeth Gilbert
Elizabeth M. Gilbert (born:1969) is an American author, essayist, short story writer,  biographer, novelist and memoirist. She is best known for her 2006 memoirs, East, Pray, Love, which spent over 200 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller List and was also made into a film in 2010. Gilbert's first book, Pilgrims  (1997), a collection of short stories, received the Pushcart Prize and was a finalist for the  PEN/Hemingway Award. It was followed by her novel, Stern Men (2000), selected by The New York Times as a "Notable Book." In 2002, she published The Last American Man (2002), a biography of Eustace Conway, a modern woodsman and naturalist, which was nominated for National Book Award. Gilbert was born in  Waterbury, Connecticut, but she grew up on a small family Christmas tree farm in Litchfield. The family lived in the country with no neighbors and did not own a TV or even a record player. Consequently, the family read a great deal. In an interview, Gilbert said, I am a writer today because I learned to love reading as a child.

Friday, May 10, 2013

A New Living Will Form


Living Will Form and/or Health Care Directive


I, ____________________,
being of sound mind and body, do not wish to be kept alive indefinitely by artificial means. Under no circumstances should my fate be put in the hands of pinhead partisan politicians who couldn't pass ninth-grade biology if their lives depended on it, or lawyers/doctors/hospitals interested in simply running up the bills. 

If a reasonable amount of time passes, and I fail to ask for:  (Check appropriate items)
 ______a Martini; ______a Margarita; ______ a Scotch and soda; ______a Bloody Mary; ______a Gin and Tonic; ______a shot of Bourbon;_____ a Glass of Chardonnay;
_______a Beer; ______a Steak; ______Lobster or crab legs; ______the remote control;
______a bowl of ice cream; ______the sports page;______ Sex; or ______Chocolate,
it should be presumed that I won't ever get any better.
When such a determination is reached, I hereby instruct my appointed person and attending physicians to pull the plug, reel in the tubes, and call it a day. At this point, it is time to call the New Orleans Jazz Funeral Band to come and do their thing at my funeral, and ask all of my friends to raise their glasses to toast the good times we have had.

Signature:__________________________ Date: __________
Affix notary seal below.


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P.S. I also hear that in Ireland they have a Nursing Home with a Pub. The patients are happier, and they have a lot more visitors. Some of them don't even need embalming when their time comes.
If anyone knows the name of this happy place, please tell me so I go there and so that I can pass the information on to others.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

France and the U.S.

The History of the French-American Alliance

Many Americans view France as a weak ally of the U.S. and the French as arrogant, aloof, haughty,  over-sexed and an unreliable ally. Yet, France is the oldest ally of the United States and there would likely be no United States if it were not for the French. And, the relationship between the two nations has been a peaceful and supportive one since 1776. The truth is that the Franco-American relationship has been and continues to be one of the oldest and most important for the United States.

Here are some facts about the long and enduring French-American relationship:
·       America would not have won the Revolution without the help of the French. After declaring independence in 1776, the Continental Congress sent agents to Paris to recruit officers for the Continental Army. The French General, the Marquis de Lafayette, served with distinction as a major general. On February 6, 1778,  the Americans and the French signed treaties of alliance and commerce that bound the French to fight Britain until independence of the United States was assured.
·       In the peace negotiations between the Americans and the British in Paris in 1783 the American commissioners, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and John Jay violated the spirit of the alliance by directly bargaining with the British effectively locking the French out of the negotiations.
·       Six years later, the French Revolution toppled the Bourbon regime. At first, the United States was sympathetic to the situation in France. However, few years after the revolution,  foreign European powers tried to invade France to restore the monarchy. The French revolutionary government then became increasingly authoritarian and brutal, which made some in the U.S. hostile to France.
·       A crisis emerged in 1793 when France found itself at war with the British and its allies. The new federal government of the U.S. was uncertain how to respond. The United States had signed an military alliance agreement and was obliged to go to war on the side of  France.  Instead of honoring the agreement, President George Washington recognized the new French government but did not support France in the war with Britain. Instead, Washington issued a Proclamation of Neutrality, a proclamation issued without Congressional approval. The French revolutionary government viewed Washington's policy as a double-cross, an insult and as being partial to a French enemy, Britain.
·       In 1794,  John Jay signed a treaty between Britain and the United States. Again, the French felt double-crossed and viewed the treaty as hostile. In the treaty, the British agreed to withdraw troops from the Northwest Territory, and in return, the United States would pay debts to the British incurred before the American Revolution. Meantime, the war debt to France remained unpaid.
·       By 1800, Napoleon forced Spain to turn over Louisiana (which now comprises most of the upper mid-west of the United States) to France. However, President Thomas Jefferson could tolerate weak Spain in Louisiana and part of the Mississippi River but not powerful France. He considered war to prevent French control. But instead, Jefferson sent his close friend, James Monroe, to France to buy as much of the land around New Orleans as he could. Surprisingly, Napoleon agreed to sell the entire territory to the United States for $15 million. Because of the sale, the size of the United States doubled.
·       A foreign crisis loomed as warring Britain and France challenged U.S. neutrality and desire to trade with both nations. President Jefferson distrusted both Napoleon and Great Britain, but saw Britain as the more immediate threat to American interests. Both he and President Madison took a generally pro-French position and used the embargo to hurt British trade.
·       The British infringed on U.S. maritime rights and also illegally captured (impressed) and forced thousands of American sailors into the Royal Navy. France never did anything like impressment.
·       During the mid-1800's, there were many cultural exchanges between the U.S and France. Among the Americans who the 3 month voyage to visit and/or study in France were many scholars, painters a doctors who brought back to the U.S. the advanced skills of the French in writing, education, art and particularly in medicine.  At that time, France led the world in medicinal knowledge. Among the Americans who went to France were novelist James Fennimore Cooper, Mary Cassatt (painter) and Samuel F. B. Morse (painter, inventor of the Morse code).  Among the French who visited the U.S. was Alexis de Tocqueville who wrote Democracy in America (1835).
·       During the American Civil War (1861-1865), France was officially neutral.
·       During the Siege of Paris (September 19, 1870 - January 28, 1871) during which Prussians captured the city of Paris, the small American population led by the United States Minister to France, Elihu Washburne. provided much medical, humanitarian, and diplomatic support to people of Paris. That resulted in a great deal of respect for Americans.
·       From 1870 until 1918, France was the only republic in Europe (except for tiny San Marino). That fact endeared France to the United States. Many French people held the United States in high esteem as a land of opportunity and as a source of modern ideas, an  attitude which lasted well into the 1950's.
·       During World War I, the United States was initially neutral but eventually entered the war in 1917. The U.S. provided much-needed funding and sent over a million combat troops to help the French and defeat the Germans. The American troops were even put in among the French lines rather than the British because of the American prevalent opinion that the French were more careful with their soldiers' lives.
·       In the negotiations for peace though both the U.S. and France shared similar views on the major objectives, the two countries clashed over particulars. The major objective of French Premier Georges Clemenceau was to ensure the security of France for the future. He wanted restitution, reparations, and guarantees. Clemenceau had little confidence in what he considered to be the unrealistic and utopian principles of U.S. President. The two nations clashed on debts, reparations, and restraints on Germany. Clemenceau was also determined that a buffer state consisting of the German territory between France and Germany. The territory in question was to be occupied by Allied troops for a period of five to fifteen years, and a zone extending fifty kilometers east of the Rhine was to be demilitarized. Wilson and the British Prime Minister agreed that the United States and Great Britain by treaty would guarantee France against German aggression. Republican-dominated Congress leaders in Washington were willing to support a security treaty with France. It failed because Wilson insisted on linking it to the Versailles Treaty which ended the war.
·       During the years between the two world wars, the two nations remained friendly. Beginning in the 1920s, U.S. intellectuals, painters, writers, and tourists were drawn to French art, literature, philosophy, theatre, cinema, fashion, wines, and cuisine. Paris welcomed American jazz music and black performers such as the singer, Josephine Baker. In contrast to the U.S., France had no racial discrimination laws. Also, numerous writers such as William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and others  lived in France were influenced by their experiences.
·       In 1928, France and the U.S. were the chief sponsors of the Kellogg-Briand Pact which outlawed war.
·       Anti-Americanism surfaced in the 1920's because many French traditionalists were alarmed at the power of Hollywood and American culture. They warned that America culture might overwhelm French culture and the French language, which would in turn threatened traditional French values, customs and popular literature. These attitudes continue today.
·       In World War II, Nazi Germany invaded and controlled northern France and set a puppet regime in southern France.  After  the U.S. and the allied  invasion started at Normandy in France the Americans said that Paris would be liberated by the French because the city had no tactical interest for the Allied forces- a blatant slap in the face to French pride and its historical and cultural significance.
·       After the war ended, The U.S. forgave all of the remaining French World War I (2.8 billion  dollars), and gave France a new loan of $650 million. In return, the French created five-year plan for recovery and development. In addition, the United States helped revive the French economy with the Marshall Plan which gave France $2.3 billion with no repayment. The total of all American grants and credits to France from 1946 to 1953 came to $4.9 billion. This was not totally altruistic . The U.S. feared communist takeover of many European countries including France.
·       In 1949, the two became formal military allies through the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO.
·       Though the United States openly disapproved of French efforts to regain control of colonies in Africa and Southeast Asia, it supported the French government in fighting the Communist uprising in French Indochina (Vietnam and Cambodia). However, in 1954, U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower refused French requests for aerial strikes to relieve besieged French forces at Dien Bien Phu. Within a very short time after the French left Indochina, the U. S. became involved the region and in what eventually became the Vietnam War (1955-1975).
·       After Chares de Gaulle became the French president, he clashed with the U.S. over France's building of its own nuclear weapons and Britain's admission into the European Union. These and other tensions led to de Gaulle's decision in 1966 to withdraw French forces from the integrated military structure of NATO and to expel NATO from its headquarters at Fontainebleau.
·       The two nations differed over the Vietnam War, in part because French leaders were convinced that the United States could not win. The French popular view of the United States worsened at the same period, as it came to be seen as an imperialist power. Eventually, the French were proven right concerning Vietnam.
·       Relations improved somewhat under de Gaulle's successors, but tensions reappeared intermittently. France, more strongly than any other nation, saw the European Union as a method of counterbalancing American power, and has worked towards such ends as having the Euro challenge the preeminent position of the United States dollar in global trade and developing a European defense initiative as an alternative to NATO.
·       French President  Francois Mitterrand  supported the 1991 Iraq Gulf War. The French National Assembly took the unprecedented decision to place all French forces in the Gulf under United States command for the duration of the war.
·       In 1995, French Interior Minister Charles Pasqua expelled American CIA operatives on charges of economic espionage.
·       Public attempts in 2003 to boycott French goods in retaliation for perceived French "active hostility toward America" ultimately fizzled out, having had little impact. Nonetheless, the Iraq war, the attempted boycott, and anti-French sentiments whipped up by American commentators and politicians bred increased suspicion of the United States among the French public in 2003, just as anti-war demonstrations, hostile treatment of American tourists in Europe, and the actions of the French government bred a similar level of increased distrust of France in the United States. By 2006, only one American in six considered France an ally of the United States. Republicans in the U.S Congress went so far as to rename French fries as "freedom fries". It later came out the Bush Administration knowingly lied about Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq. The French were proven to be right.
·       Since 2008, France has been back to the integrated command of  NATO, a decision that has been greatly appreciated by the U.S,
·       A 2012 Gallup poll shows Americans to have a 75% approval rating towards France. That is up from a 57% approval rating in 2008.