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June 14, 2011

Archaeologists surveying the death tunnels of World War I

BBC News - WWI underground: Unearthing the hidden tunnel war
When most people think of WWI, they think of trench warfare interrupted by occasional offensives, with men charging between the lines. But with the static nature of the war, military mining played a big part in the tactics on both sides. The idea of digging underneath fortifications in order to undermine them goes back to classical times at least. But the use of high explosive in WWI gave it a new dimension. One of the most notable episodes was at the Battle of Messines in 1917 where 455 tons of explosive placed in 21 tunnels that had taken more than a year to prepare created a huge explosion that killed an estimated 10,000 Germans. Tunnelling was mainly done by professional miners, sent from the collieries of Britain to the Western Front.

June 13, 2011

The odd origin of "Apple of my Eye"

It's a mistranslation, but a fascinating one. Apple of my eye
The original Hebrew for this idiom was 'iyshown 'ayin (אישון עין), and can be literally translated as "Little Man of the Eye." This is a reference to the tiny reflection of yourself that you can see in other people's pupils. Other KJV translations of the word 'iyshown include dark and obscure, as a reference to the darkness of the pupil. This Hebrew idiom is surprisingly close to the Latin version, pupilla, which means a little doll, and is a diminutive form of pupus, boy, or pupa, girl (the source also for our other sense of pupil to mean a schoolchild.) It was applied to the dark central portion of the eye within the iris because of the tiny image of oneself, like a puppet or marionette, that one can see when looking into another person's eye.

June 11, 2011

Heat Wave Shatters 2,852 U.S. Records, Kills Eight

Heat Wave Shatters 2,852 U.S. Records, Kills Eight | ThinkProgress

June 09, 2011

Who are the ten worst American presidents?

I'm surprised Jackson isn't on this list. Worst American Presidents : Lawyers, Guns & Money
I also want to be clear that presidents are being judged strictly for their time in office. What they do before or after is irrelevant. 1. James Buchanan. Scott makes a powerful argument for Johnson. I’m going to stick with Buchanan though, as much for the sake of argument as anything else. When the nation is literally collapsing around you and your response is to let the next guy handle it, well, that’s pretty loathsome. Buchanan was a bad president all around, a northerner completely under the thumb of the Southern slave power (see the Lecompton Constitution for one piece of evidence). But it’s for his response to succession that he gets the title of worst president. 2. Andrew Johnson. I’ve long had Pierce here. But Scott’s convinced me at least this far. Johnson did have a wide range of actions he could have taken. He chose the worse. Without good reason, I’ve always been a little less harsh on him than Buchanan or Pierce because no one elected him president. So some of the blame falls on Lincoln and his endless obsession with luring supposed loyal white southerners back into the Union. This might have been Lincoln’s greatest weakness and one wonders how harshly he would have treated the white South after the war. But he couldn’t have done a worse job than Johnson. That would be impossible. 3. Franklin Pierce. The Kansas-Nebraska Act. Enough said. Weak and worthless. 4. Richard Nixon. People always say that Nixon signed all this good legislation, etc. And that’s true, even though he didn’t want to do any of it. But for permanently changing how Americans see the presidency and politicians in general, he deserves out loathing. Take out Vietnam and Cambodia and he still belongs here. . . .

David Barton, the Right's favorite historian, claims the Founding Fathers rejected Darwin

The problem of course is that Darwin didn't write any of his books until long after the Fathers were dead. David Barton is just a liar. The Right's Favorite Historian: Founding Fathers Opposed Darwin | Mother Jones
Talk to a prominent social conservative these day and the odds are pretty good that he or she is a fan of David Barton. Perhaps more than any other person, the Texas-based amateur historian has provided grist for the idea of American Exceptionalism—the argument that America's unique success in the world is divinely caused and due to its committment to core Judeo-Christian principles. Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, the tea party champion and likely 2012 presidential contender, invited him to teach members of Congress about the Constitution; former House Speaker Newt Gingrich says he learns something new every time he listens to Barton. He's a pretty influential guy. So what, exactly, does he teach? On Wednesday, Right Wing Watch flagged a recent interview Barton gave with an evangelcial talk show, in which he argues that the Founding Fathers had explicitly rejected Charles Darwin's theory of evolution. Yes, that Darwin. The one whose seminal work, On the Origin of Species, wasn't even published until 1859. Barton declared, "As far as the Founding Fathers were concerned, they'd already had the entire debate over creation and evolution, and you get Thomas Paine, who is the least religious Founding Father, saying you've got to teach Creation science in the classroom. Scientific method demands that!" Paine died in 1809, the same year Darwin was born. . . .