How a Self-Taught British Genius Rediscovered Gilgamesh

From SmithsonianMagazine.com:

In November 1872, George Smith was working at the British Museum in a second-floor room overlooking the bare plane trees in Russell Square. On a long table were pieces of clay tablets, among the hundreds of thousands that archaeologists had shipped back to London from Nineveh, in present-day Iraq, a quarter-century before. Many of the fragments bore cuneiform hieroglyphs, and over the years scholars had managed to reassemble parts of some tablets, deciphering for the first time these records of daily life in Assyria of the 7th and 8th centuries B.C.—references to oxen, slaves, casks of wine, petitions to kings, contracts, treaties, prayers and omens.

As scholars go, Smith, 32 years old, was an anomaly; he had ended his formal education at age 14 when he was apprenticed to a printer, and perhaps it was because of his training as an engraver that he had such a knack for assembling coherent passages of cuneiform out of the drawers and drawers of old rubble. In fact, Smith had already established dates for a couple of minor events in Israelite history, and on this brisk fall day he was looking for other references that might confirm parts of the Bible. Then, on a fragment of a tablet, he came across a story that would soon astonish the Western world. He read of a flood, a ship caught on a mountain and a bird sent out in search of dry land—the first independent confirmation of a vast flood in ancient Mesopotamia, complete with a Noah-like figure and an ark.

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Soda Can Solar Panel

I’ve had a few days during the HMX build while I’m either waiting for parts or waiting for something to dry and had some free time. I’m not exactly one to sit and watch TV when I have nothing planned, so I set out on another project.

While I have electricity out to the garage now, heat has been an issue all winter long. Mattar graciously lent me his kerosene heater, which did an okay job of taking the bite off the chill. Insulating the garage would go a long way to help keep the bitter Vermont cold out, but that’s a project for another day. I decided instead to take advantage of the south-facing side of the garage and build a solar furnace to collect some of that sunshine just bouncing straight off my garage. My dad built one years ago and said he recorded a 110-degree temperature differential between inlet and outlet. And I had enough scrap materials around the basement to do something similar to what my dad built.

George Tenet and Ron Jeremy’s High School Connection

So the same class produced somebody who became the top in a despicable and disgusting profession while the other became one of the tops in porn. From TMZ.com:

TMZ has obtained high school yearbook photos of former CIA honcho George Tenet — and his classmate, porn king Ron Jeremy!

In the early 70s, the two entered Cardozo High School in Bayside, NY. Tenet and Jeremy (who’s real last name is Hyatt) played on the soccer team together. They were known for their balls after graduation as well, just in different ways.

Tenet served as editor-in-chief of the school newspaper. Ron’s thing was theater.

Tenet is making news for his book recounting his time at the CIA, while Jeremy just released an autobio which made the New York Times Bestseller list.

Happy Loyalty Day

Holy crap! It’s Loyalty day and nobody bothered to tell me. And here I am stuck without a flag to put on the back of my pickup truck and without a pickup truck to put the flag that I don’t have in the first place.

The Congress, by Public Law 85-529, as amended, has designated May 1 of each year as “Loyalty Day.” This Loyalty Day, and throughout the year, I ask all Americans to join me in reaffirming our allegiance to our Nation.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim May 1, 2007, as Loyalty Day. I call upon the people of the United States to participate in this national observance and to display the flag of the United States on Loyalty Day as a symbol of pride in our Nation.

(Thanks Comrade Eel Feather)