Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Poverty Point State Historic Park

Poverty Point is an amazing archaeological site in northern Louisiana that I've wanted to visit for many years. We went yesterday, and the visit left me very intrigued and wanting to learn more about this bizarre group of people. The site consists of massive earthen mounds constructed at about the same time as Hammurabi, ca. 1750 BCE. The site is best viewed from the air, as it is huge. Here is an aerial shot from 1938 I believe:
On the grounds each of these giant concentric ridges formed a settlement ridge. They are hard to see on the ground, and have been reduced due to erosion and agriculatural plowing. Here is what one ridge looks like from the ground:
There are also several giant earthen mounds nearby. This one, Mound A, is said to be in the shape of a giant bird facing north. Here are the steps up one of its massive wings:
One of the biggest of many questions I have is how could so many hunter gatherers live in one location, as I thought hunter gatherer societies lived in small groups?

After the visit, we set up our tent at Poverty Point State Park and then I slept very little.
Glad to be back home.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Pharaoh Nagin

There's been a great deal of unfavorable reaction to Nagin's memoir Katrina's Secrets, self-published no doubt because publishers force authors to fix typos and more important, to fact check. Basically Nagin presents a scenario where it is him against the world. Untrustworthy government officials at worst are trying to poison him, and at best they are doing nothing because they are cowards, Republican, and in one case, female. These haters hate him, African Americans, and the Big Easy. But despite all of these countless obstacles the Great Nagin is victorious because God likes him. The most ridiculous part that nobody corroborates is that Nagin led a planned freedom march of stranded folks at the Convention Center across the bridge and they were on their way to the capital Baton Rouge. In volume 2 I'm sure Nagin played a key role in the Tracy Porter interception that sealed the Saints' Victory in Superbowl XLIV.

This all reminds me very much of ancient Near Eastern battle accounts in which various kings brag about how they alone courageously vanquished treacherous foes. One in particular that comes to mind is the Bulletin of Ramses the Great in which he defeats the Hittites. Most of the evidence suggests that at best this was a stalemate for the Egyptians, as they had to turn and high tail it back to Egypt. So go ahead and read this modified version, where the only changes are as follows:

Ramses to Nagin, Hittites to Baton Rouge, chariotry to buses, countries to parishes, ford to bridge, and Thebes to Poydras.

"Now while Nagin’s majesty sat speaking with the chiefs, the vile Foe from Baton Rouge came with her infantry and her buses and the many parishes that were with her. Crossing the bridge to the south of Baton Rouge they charged into his majesty's army as it marched unaware. Then the infantry and buses of his majesty weakened before them on their way northward to where his majesty was. Thereupon the forces of the Foe from Baton Rouge surrounded the followers of his majesty who were by his side. When his majesty caught sight of them he rose quickly, enraged at them like his father Mont. Taking up weapons and donning his armor he was like Seth in the moment of his power. He mounted 'Victory-in-Poydras,' his great horse, and started out quickly alone by himself. His majesty was mighty, his heart stout, one could not stand before him. All his ground was ablaze with fire; he burned all the parishes with his blast. His eyes were savage as he beheld them; his power flared like fire against them. He heeded not the foreign multitude; he regarded them as chaff. His majesty charged into the force of the Foe from Baton Rouge and the many parishes with her. His majesty was like Seth, great-of-strength, like Sakhmet in the moment of her rage. His majesty slew the entire force of the Foe from Baton Rouge, together with his great chiefs and all his brothers, as well as all the chiefs of all the parishes that had come with him, their infantry and their buses falling on their faces one upon the other. His majesty slaughtered them in their places; they sprawled before his horses; and his majesty was alone, none other with him. My majesty caused the forces of the foes from Baton Rouge to fall on their faces, one upon the other, as crocodiles fall, into the water of the Orontes. I was after them like a griffin; I attacked all the countries, I alone. For my infantry and my buses had deserted me; not one of them stood looking back. As I live, as Re loves me, as my father Atum favors me, everything that my majesty has told I did it in truth, in the presence of my infantry and my buses."

At least Ramses has the leadership skills not to tell us about his bowel movements after the battle.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

More Solar Panels

In January of 2009 we had 16 Solar Panels installed by Solar Works on the roof of our house. It cost about $25,000, and the only reason we were able to afford the panels was because of tax credits: 30% Federal and 50% Louisiana State (the highest in the country I believe). Here is a picture from Google Maps showing the panels:
We were very pleased with their production, so in April of this year we added 18 more panels, maxing out our roof.
Here are the 20 panels on the NW side:
Here are the 14 panels on the SE side:
Using the Enlighten system from Enphase Energy, we can monitor the production of the entire system and any one panel. Here is what is taking place right now as I type this:
Screen shot 2011-06-18 at 3.17.55 PM
Right now they are producing 5.12 kWh. Each panel is producing somewhere between 142 to 159 watts. We have a reversible meter from Entergy so right now we are selling electricity to the company, and later, when it's dark, we'll be buying watts back.

The 18 newest panels cost just under $30,000, so the entire system of 34 panels cost $55,000. However, after the 2011 tax credits, we'll have invested just 20% of that, or $11,000. With the energy savings, the system, we hope, will pay for itself in five to ten years.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Greece is the Word

Cassandra was cursed to see the future clearly, but unable to do anything to change the outcome. Such was the case for our wise friends in Athens, Lefteris and Daniel. Many summers after doing archaeological projects in Israel and Jordan, Therese and I would stop over for a few weeks in Greece. I remember vividly Daniel and Lefteris warning about the repercussions of Greece joining the European Union, and adopting the Euro. They explained that while such moves would greatly benefit the Swiss and German bankers, it would be devastating for the modest Grecian agrarian farmers and the workers. They said it was all devised so that people in northern Europe could pay lower costs for tomatoes and TVs. It is sad to see all of that playing out so vividly. And now the more cuts the Greek government shoves down the peoples' throats, the better the stock markets do around the world. Now Greece's unemployment rate is over 15% and set to rise.

While in Greece I recall watching the Marxist organization 17 November riot in protest because of a visit by President Bush 41, who they claim had played a role in supporting the Greek Military Junta. While I don't condone assassinations, I remember being impressed that at least some of the people would fight back against oppression. And honestly, I'm happy to see the people of Greece protesting these cuts today. It's hard to imagine people in Louisiana doing something similar. I would love to see a revolution. And oddly, perhaps we could model it on our own military. Nicholas Kristof wrote a column I read today about how the U.S. military has excellent healthcare, pays for education, and gives a living wage to all without the "top brass" earning 300 times what the lowest level employees are paid, as is the model with many corporations.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Ain't That A Kick in the Head

Last weekend my brother Jim and his family were in town. They are fans of the Miami Heat so I was glad when they left. While they were here we went to Ship Island. There, my son Gilgamesh climbed on top of me and kicked me repeatedly in the face. Therese took pictures.