Vinland or Bust

Despite school yard rhymes “in fourteen hundred and ninety two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue” or America’s Columbus Day holiday – it is generally accepted Christopher Columbus rode on the coat tails of much earlier European discovery of America. Discovery of a Viking settlement at L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland, proved Vikings found America almost 500 years before Columbus bumped into the Caribbean – never underestimate a good publicist.

Written references to “Vinland” date back to the 11th century; Adam of Breman’s “Description of the Northern Islands” describes it as an island discovered by many in an ocean where grape vines grow by themselves, producing the best wine. Vinland is synonymous with the Norse, and accepted as the name given to North America.

I rarely link to Wikepedia, in this case I’m making an exception – a fairly good history of Vinland folklore and historical accounts…

Truth be told, it’s the Vinland Map that got me pondering. In the early 1960’s Yale University paid a million dollars for a map – a map offering definitive proof the Vikings discovered America hundreds of years before Columbus. Yale purchased the map a few years prior to the Newfoundland bombshell. In 1966 the Smithsonian cast doubt on authenticity of the map; a 1974 test of ink on the map showed traces of titanium dioxide, an element that didn’t surface in ink until the 1920’s. In 2002, Yale surrendered a sliver of paper; carbon dating concluded 1430 or thereabouts stood, as Yale believed, to be the year its paper was made.

Backing up a little; Vinland Map has a tricky, more accurately “slippery” history. It was originally offered for sale as an “extra”, as in “unexpected discovery” inside the pages of a authentic and verified book called “The Tartar Relation” – dated to 1440, a book written by a Franciscan friar on the “manners and history” of the Mongols. Rather an odd place for a Viking map to land; fueling speculation it was a forgery, penned on paper taken from the verified book.

This link allows you to click on areas of the map for points of interest, speculation and debate – basically, you decide. My mind needn’t ponder long to arrive at the conclusion Columbus basked in credit he didn’t earn or deserve. An  intrepid explorer – perhaps –  discovered America? Oh hell no, not even close.

I can’t help but find it incredible how we quibble over minor details. If almost 50 years of “science” still draws debate; that’s one masterful forgery. Speculation by historian Kirsten Seaver that German priest Joseph Fischer forged the map in 1930’s Germany as a protest against the Nazis (she contends the map has Catholic symbolism; a protest against Nazi persecution of Catholics and a “take that Adolf” bitch slap for Germany likening itself to the Aryan Norse people – last laugh on you Hitler – Vikings were Catholic and discovered the known world) are still just a best guess.

The Vinland Map is a good mystery, in the end it doesn’t change a thing. We know the Vikings were in North America long before the Columbus show. Who honestly cares at this point if they set foot in Minnesota. Nobody is trying to take Columbus Day holiday away from you. Knock yourselves out public education system; who cares where Newfoundland is anyway – until a Norse settlement rises in New York state, Columbus discovered America when he bumped into the Caribbean and everything hinges on a questionable map.

A Day With Notes

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Ponder Canadian winter; for those unacquainted with weather patterns of this vast country – I doubt this image would come to mind. Living on the west coast, my corner of Canada braces against winter’s rain. On those rare days when fog lifts and sunlight promises to keep dark skies at bay – nothing compares to a little road trip.

We settled on a drive to Squamish; 40 KM’s or so up the Sea to Sky highway towards Whistler.

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Squamish is characterized by Stawamus Chief, “the Chief” attracts thousands of rock climbers, eager to tackle its shear cliff face. A town promoting itself as the “outdoor capital of Canada”; hosting mountain bike and climbing events but really a logging town at odds with dwindling mill jobs and a location between Vancouver and Whistler – two of the most expensive places to live in the world.

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At 4 PM on a Sunday we had to search long and hard to find a restaurant open for business; squeaking in the door of The Campfire Grill, moments before closing. Without question – one of the best BBQ restaurants I’ve ever set foot in.

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With reports of fog banks snarling routes closer to Vancouver, and returning weekend traffic building on the highway our mini vacation had no place to go but home. A quick stop at Britannia Mine before the sun set.

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    Picnic table

    Ghostly Cannibal Rats

    A  fairly accurate statement would be “Lyubov Orlova was doomed from the start”. Her saga began in 1976. Cruise ship vacations gaining popularity –  Russian interests built a modestly sized, lavish little ship, a ship destined for Arctic tourism; well healed Russians would surely jump at the chance to spend a week on ice. Built in Yugoslavia for Russian “Far East Shipping Company”; she was registered in the Soviet Union until 1992, from 1992 – 1999 – Russian registry, and finally from 1999 – 2013 in the Cook Islands. Refurbished in 1999 for Antarctic treks courtesy charters by Marine Expeditions, spruced up again in 2002 for charters under Quark Expeditions and Cruise North Charters. In 2006 she ran aground at Deception Island in Antarctica; towed free and capable of making her own way, thank you very much Spanish navy – it was September 2010 before she was noticed again. A point everyone seems to agree on – Canadian authorities seized her in St. Johns Newfoundland for monies owed to Cruise North over cancelled charters, and wages (now 5 months owed to a crew of 51) – an amount of US $251,000 in total.

    She’s been sitting derelict for 2 years in St. Johns, Transport Canada sells her for scrap,Neptune International Shipping makes the buy and hires a tug to tow her to the Dominican Republic. A day out of port, in strong winds and high seas – the line breaks. Rough seas thwart attempts by the tug boat crew to reattach the tow – the date was January 28, 2013. Canada assigns recovery to a supply vessel in the area – concerned about a possible collision with off shore oil rigs. Mission accomplished within a few days, oil rigs safe, and chugging for international waters.

    Here’s where it gets tricky – pay attention because this is the moment responsible for internet hysteria over a Russian ghost ship populated by disease ridden cannibalistic rats poised to slam into the coast of Ireland.

    Clear of oil rigs, bobbing along in international waters – Transport Canada makes the decision to cut her loose. February 4, 2013; drifting north-east in international waters; Canada wipes its hands of Lyubov Orlova – taking the position her new owner was responsible now. On March 1, 2013 reports surface of transmissions from her emergency positioning beacon – designing to transmit only when submerged – position; 700 nautical miles off the Irish coast. That was the last time so much as a whiff of evidence indicated her position.

    An article in today’s National Post newspaper started with the headline “Five reasons Lyubov Orlova – and its cannibal rats – are at the bottom of the Atlantic”. Good job Canada; sensible reporting, resisting a ride on the sensationalist band wagon, avoiding nonsense, maintaining integrity by being a voice of reason. Canada may have cut her adrift – one thing for certain; we didn’t pack her with rats (well maybe a few – its unavoidable) and push her towards Ireland. Bottom line – she hasn’t been seen in almost a year, its only 3000 nautical miles from St. John’s to Ireland, emergency beacon was water activated 2 months later within 700 miles. If she’s managed to put down anchor, avoid detection while allowing 10 months for rat populations to multiply to the point of cannibalism – that’s some feat.

    CNN lead with the headline “Apparently This Matters – A Ghost Ship With Cannibal Rats” An “Editor’s Note” preceded Jarrett Bellini’s  article, advising he would apply his “warped sensibilities” to trending topics and random items of interest on the Web. Listen carefully Jarrett – I’m not saying this because you made fun of Canada, I’m saying this because you need to stop relying on that dog eared, soft cover “Satire for Dummies” school of journalism. You had an opportunity to fondle “cannibal rats infest Russian ghost ship” and your tiny little head thought this would be the knee slapper….

    “Eventually, another Canadian ship was sent out to corral the wayward vessel in what can only be described as the slowest, crappiest, worst-attended rodeo of all time. But once captured, the Lyubov Orlova was safely hauled farther out to sea, away from Canadian oil rigs.

    And then they just sort of cut it loose in international waters. Because, hey, what’s the worst that could happen?

    Transport Canada, the government department responsible for roads and planes and trains and SHIPS YOU JUST LET WANDER OFF INTO THE OCEAN, assured its citizens that the Lyubov Orlova “no longer poses a threat to the safety of [Canadian] offshore oil installations, their personnel, or the marine environment.”

    As for everyone else and the hundreds of diseased cannibal rats floating around the Atlantic?

    “Soory ‘boot that, eh.”

    And, so, the 295-foot ship goes sliding by. Free!”

    To his credit “warped sensibilities”  and Grade 9 slapstick took a nap long enough for Jarrett (though most likely his editor) to link to National Post’s article.

    The New York Daily News story was awesome. They claim the abandoned cruise ship filled with cannibal rats is headed for British shores.

    “The Lyubov Orlova has been detected off the coast of Scotland. Its only passengers are demented, disease-ridden rats feeding off each other.”

    That ought to sell a few papers! They mention the beacons, omit they need to be submerged, and forget to report no one has seen it for almost a year.

    “An abandoned cruise liner teeming with inbred cannibal rats is adrift in the Atlantic Ocean and possibly about to run aground on Britain’s coastline, according to a new report.

    The Lyubov Orlova has been drifting east from Canadian waters since last year.

    Newly detected beacons off the dilapidated vessel’s rescue boats indicate it is was recently off the west coast of Scotland, raising concerns it could run ashore there, along the west coast of Ireland or the southern tip of England, according to The Sun.

    Salvage hunters are keen to find the dilapidated 300-foot ghost ship that can carry 110 passengers because it is estimated to be worth nearly $1 million.

    But once aboard, the scrappers will face unimaginable horror: a demented, disease-ridden population of rats that have been feeding on each other and breeding.

    “There will be a lot of rats, and they eat each other,” Belgian-based salvage hunter Pim de Rhoodes told the tabloid. “If I get aboard, I’ll have to lace everywhere with poison.”

    The Daily Mail, not content with cannibal rats – sweetened the pot with “inbreed”, then focused on the safety of salvage dudes. Holy crap. I’m so tickled I’m going to tag this post “inbreed cannibal rats”.

    My head hurts;  pondering cannibal rats a second longer will push me over the edge.

    Scientific Proof of God?

    I don’t know why I do this to myself; in all likelihood because I find it so fascinating. While researching crater size from various asteroid impacts, a site claiming scientific proof of God muddied the waters. Do tell, my pondering mind clicked before common sense caught its breath.

    Y-Jesus, The Facts About Jesus Presented By Scholars went on to give scientific “proof” of God.

    Not able to stop myself; knowing full well that reading would make me grumpy – caution took a hike as I forged ahead. Y-Jesus’s scientific proof consisted of arguing probability based primarily on quotes. Using prefaces agnostic, atheist, and formerly atheist before scientist’s names, while quoting them and Stephen Hawking out of context. Seven pages later; scientific “proof” of God came to this – the “speculative” nature of physicists can lead to only one conclusion – science can’t offer a definitive explanation, therefore God is science “fact”. Yikes.

    Ponder this statement…

    Scientists who used to scoff at the Bible as a book of fairy tales, are now admitting that the biblical concept of creation from nothing has been right all along”

    Keep pondering….

    “Physicists calculated that for life to exist, gravity and the other forces of nature needed to be just right or our universe couldn’t exist. Had the expansion rate been slightly weaker, gravity would have pulled all matter back into a “big crunch.”

    We’re not talking about merely a one or two percent reduction in the universe’s expansion rate. Stephen Hawking writes, “If the rate of expansion one second after the big bang had been smaller by even one part in a hundred thousand million million, the universe would have re-collapsed before it ever reached its present size.”

    On the flip side, if the expansion rate had been a mere fraction greater than it was, galaxies, stars and planets could never have formed, and we wouldn’t be here”.

    Stay with me, I’m getting to the point….

    For human life to be possible from a big bang defies the laws of probability. One astronomer calculates the odds at less than 1 chance in a trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion.  It would be far easier for a blind-folded person—in one try— to discover one specially marked grain of sand out of all the beaches of the world.

    Another example of how unlikely it would be for a random big bang to produce life is one person winning over a thousand consecutive mega-million dollar lotteries after purchasing only a single ticket for each.

    What would be your reaction to such news? Impossible—unless it was fixed by someone behind the scenes, which is what everyone would think. And that is what many scientists are concluding—Someone behind the scenes designed and created the universe.

    This new understanding of how miraculous human life is in our universe led the agnostic astronomer George Greenstein to ask, “Is it possible that suddenly, without intending to, we have stumbled upon the scientific proof of the existence of a Supreme Being?”

    However, as an agnostic, Greenstein maintains his faith in science, rather than a Creator, to ultimately explain our origins.

    Jastrow explains why some scientists are reluctant to accept a transcendent Creator,

    There is a kind of religion in science; it is the religion of a person who believes there is order and harmony in the Universe…This religious faith of the scientist is violated by the discovery that the world had a beginning under conditions in which the known laws of physics are not valid, and as a product of forces or circumstances we cannot discover. When that happens, the scientist has lost control. If he really examined the implications, he would be traumatized.

    It is understandable why scientists like Greenstein and Hawking seek other explanations rather than attribute our finely-tuned universe to a Creator. Hawking speculates that other unseen (and unprovable) universes may exist, increasing the odds that one of them (ours) is perfectly fine-tuned for life. However, since his proposal is speculative, and outside of verification, it can hardly be called “scientific.” Although he is also an agnostic, British astrophysicist Paul Davies dismisses Hawking’s idea as too speculative. He writes, “Such a belief must rest on faith rather than observation.”

    Although Hawking continues leading the charge to explore purely scientific explanations for our origins, other scientists, including many agnostics, have acknowledged what appears to be overwhelming evidence for a Creator. Hoyle wrote,

    “A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature.”

    Although Einstein wasn’t religious, and didn’t believe in a personal God, he called the genius behind the universe “an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection.”

    Atheist Christopher Hitchens, who spent much of his life writing and debating against God, was most perplexed by the fact that life couldn’t exist if things were different by just “one degree or one hair.”

    Davies acknowledges,

    There is for me powerful evidence that there is something going on behind it all. It seems as though somebody has fine-tuned nature’s numbers to make the Universe…. The impression of design is overwhelming.

    And for life to exist, the conditions in our solar system and planet also need to be just right. For example, we all realize that without an atmosphere of oxygen, none of us would be able to breathe. And without oxygen, water couldn’t exist. Without water there would be no rainfall for our crops. Other elements such as hydrogen, nitrogen, sodium, carbon, calcium, and phosphorus are also essential for life.

    But that alone is not all that is needed for life to exist. The size, temperature, relative proximity, and chemical makeup of our planet, sun, and moon also need to be just right. And there are dozens of other conditions that needed to be exquisitely fine-tuned or we wouldn’t be here to think about it.

    Scientists who believe in God may have expected such fine-tuning, but atheists and agnostics were unable to explain the remarkable “coincidences.” Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, an agnostic, writes, “The remarkable fact is that the values of these numbers seem to have been very finely adjusted to make possible the development of life.”

    And finally….

    As noted previously, leading atheist Antony Flew’s atheism came to an abrupt end when he studied the intelligence behind DNA. Flew explains what changed his opinion.

    What I think the DNA material has done is to show that intelligence must have been involved in getting these extraordinarily diverse elements together. The enormous complexity by which the results were achieved look to me like the work of intelligence…. It now seems to me that the finding of more than fifty years of DNA research have provided materials for a new and enormously powerful argument to design.

    Although Flew was not a Christian, he admitted that the “software” behind DNA is far too complex to have originated without a “designer.” The discovery of the incredible intelligence behind DNA has, in this former leading atheist’s words, “provided materials for a new and enormously powerful argument to design.”

    All above paragraphs in italics – from Y-Jesus.



    Notes Has a Toothache

    When I hear the word “ache” dull pain comes to mind. Muscles ache after a hard run or work out, feet ache if you’ve been on them too long, heads can ache, over exertion could result in a back ache; teeth don’t ache –  a toothache is nothing less than a pain demon. An all consuming assault on every last nerve ending. What a knee slapper; nothing is worse than an unhappy tooth. There isn’t a more inappropriate word in the English language – at least not at this moment when all I can do is writhe, wait for pain killers to kick in, and a dentist in the  morning. I’ll be back when sanity replaces “ache” – yikes.

    Tooth vector icon. Dental symbol Stock Photo - 11950598

    New South China Mall

    My knowledge of modern China is limited; my mind’s eye forming images and opinion based on news stories or photographs. Past ponders on “ghost cities”, factories, use of banned pesticides, pollution and foreign investment do little to sharpen the image. I can’t speak from experience, all I can do is ponder.

    New South China Mall is worth a ponder; a development that simply doesn’t make sense, another example of the China I don’t understand.

    Chinese billionaire Hu Guirung  – his fortune made in instant noodles – secured a loan from the Agricultural Bank of China to build the world’s largest mall in Guandong Province. I can’t speak to relevance but find it interesting this bank was a “policy bank”, one that made loans based on government policy rather than economic feasibility. When completed in 2005 it had space for 2350 stores and a 99.5% vacancy rate.

    Located in Dongguan, a massive industrial city of over 7 million residents with an area twice the size of Los Angeles – economic feasibility missed the mark and then some. Over 5 million residents classified by the government as “permanent migrants” – primarily women working in factories, with wages to match. Throw in toll highways leading to the mall, absence of public transportation, reputation for high crime in the area – it soon becomes clear why low income workers didn’t flock to shop.

    Amusement park, areas designed as “cities of the world” – Rome, Paris, Amsterdam – deserted. Security guards positioned to keep people out; best of all, mall president Kun Liu announced in 2011 , a period of “strength accumulating quietness” would be broken with development of another 2 million square feet.

    All you have to do is walk into Wal-Mart or count dollar stores on your street to grasp where China is making money. A select few becoming extremely wealthy; wealthy enough to build grotesquely bloated malls or “ghost cities” driven by real estate speculation. I can’t help but find it absurd.

    A link to my post on “ghost cities”….

    Clarence Bekker Plays For Change

    Far too much time has passed since I pondered Playing For Change. Clarence Bekker of PFC fronts yet another version of What’s Up – Sunday night medicine for all that ails you. Take a moment to click on the following link, Playing For Change is a movement making a real difference.

    Has This Happened To You?

    Some time ago I wrote a post on Chinese ghost cities. Within half an hour the Chinese Daily Mail was following my blog – no big deal. A few months later Felix Baumgartner made headlines when he parachuted from the edge of space. I wrote a post titled “Sorry Felix, D.B. Cooper Has My Vote”, referring to Cooper’s 1971 hijacking. Cooper forced a landing in Seattle, collected $200,000, and parachuted into folk hero legend somewhere over the Cascade mountains. No trace ever found other than some marked ransom money along a river bank in 1980. Cooper has been on the FBI’s most wanted list since. Within half an hour of posting,  Yahoo alerted me to my hacked email. The message stated Langley, Virginia as the source, advising me to change passwords. The CIA is headquartered in Langley.

    My daughter called me today – over the past few days she downloaded the Passionate Eye documentary on Putin and his Sochi Olympics. Next it was a documentary on Russian mobs, followed by a Google search on Sochi. Not long after her Sochi search Yahoo notified her of a breach in her e-mail. Intruders managed to gain access to her account – the source being Russia.

    It’s possible coincidence met fat chance; strange things happen all the time. My gut tells me “chance” had nothing to do with it; odds of compromised e-mail accounts immediately after activity – however innocent – containing “flagged” or frowned upon interest, are miniscule to none.

    Perhaps I’m over pondering, I tend to do that at times. Curiosity has the better of me – I need to know if I’m off my rocker, if this has happened to anyone else, and thoughts on these chance occurrences.

    Zeppelin Guts

    This ponder could well be old news to many; for me it was an astonishing tidbit  – something to learn more about. My knowledge of the first world war is limited to sobs as I tried  making it to the end of the movie Gallipoli. I knew of German air raids on Britain; I had no idea Zeppelins were involved.

    Characterized by their rigid, cylindrical shape, Zeppelins relied on light weight frames encased in layers of fabric “skin” coated with protective resins. “Lift” was possible when lighter than air hydrogen gas filled numerous cells within the structure. Mounted below these behemoths – up to 600 feet long – was a gondola. Gondolas held engines for thrust – captain and crew, passengers and later on – bombs.

    Hydrogen molecules are tiny. Gas cells had to be strong and “fine” enough stop leakage and maintain pressure. The answer – cow intestines – lots and lots of intestines. It took roughly a quarter million cows to make a single Zeppelin. Intestines were cleaned, cut and pieced together with nothing more than water as glue. As fibres dried, they literally curled around each other forming incredibly strong bonds.

    The German army and navy saw potential in Zeppelin reconnaissance; at the start of the war, the army had six and  navy one – that’s 1,750,000 cows! During the war, Germany is estimated to have had 115 Zeppelins. Do the math; even rounding down to a conservative 175,000 cows per ship – taking into account wartime Zeppelins were smaller – that’s over 20 million cows.

    Clearly the reason Germany banned sausages during the war.

    Able to reach altitudes of 25,000 feet while travelling nearly as fast as an airplane. Inclement weather mattered little when flying above clouds; a crew member lowered in a wicker basket, dangling up to a thousand feet below the ship, reporting to the captain by telephone line. Imagine being assigned that duty.

    Zeppelin raids over Britain accounted for roughly 1,500 deaths. Not the success Germany hoped for despite a terrifying psychological impact. Cow fact digested – I’m off to learn more about WW1.

    Image – Maggie Jones –

    Ice Cracks and Mercury

    I can’t explain what happens to set me off; that split second of clarity – aha moments, outrage, jaw dropping realities, outrageous buffoonery – a dog’s breakfast of circumstances to ponder. Today it was ice cracks and mercury.

    Man is one sorry excuse for a species; it defies all reason to have muddled through this far. Name any other species and you’ll find they hone their skills, adapt to environment, and learn from past missteps. Opposable thumb, spoken language, massive brains –  unnecessary for survival. Survival of the fittest and natural selection merely  rough drafts of evolution’s story. Heightened sense of sight, scent, and sound, venom, camouflage, hibernation, migration – simplistic generalizations describing nature’s magnificence

    Mankind drew the straw guaranteeing a disconnect from that nature. The straw responsible for impenetrable structures, religious squabbles, pointless aggression, division of classes, and a hot cup of tea. Our evolutionary hiccup resulted in a species of dependant, gullible, attention deficit nincompoops. A species harbouring shreds of animal instinct between marshmallow fluff and Lemming sensibilities.

    News of ice cracks and mercury managed to focus mankind’s folly; a perfect example of our hubris. A story about climate change – a scientific paper published in Nature magazine – a warning about alarming levels of mercury in the arctic.

    Mercury vapor from coal burning power plants and gold mining pollute the atmosphere. About 20 years ago, science sorted out where all that mercury vapor was going. They knew it travelled thousands of miles into the atmosphere; the kicker was how the planet took care of it. Every spring, something remarkable happened in the arctic. Following months of near darkness, our sun’s rays set a chemical reaction in play – a process that removes harmful mercury.

    Here’s the problem – arctic ice has become thinner; thinning leads to sea ice cracking at alarming rates. Huge fissures appear, ice flows break apart, exposing open water. Water is considerably warmer than arctic air. Temperature differentials cause”churning” in the air flow – a phenomenon responsible for pulling mercury down rather than showing it the atmospheric door.

    Global warming elicits rolling eyes or impatient blank stares – sure, a concerned group of realists acknowledge the reality, the rest sitting firmly on their opposable thumbs. Climate change peaked with Al Gore, relegated to a dusty shelf along side plastics, oil, tar sands, and nasty banned substances contaminating imported food products.

    Nature does the best it can. Our species taking for granted nothing will disturb the complacent unnatural balance our big brains delivered. Oblivious, unprepared, ignorant – pick a word – how about “stupid”? We are so far removed from reality, gobbling big money’s pacifier – a ball gag dipped in honey preferable to imploding reality. It doesn’t matter whether climate change is manmade or a natural cycle. What matters is it’s real, it will effect our lives and we haven’t the skills to cope with difficulty.

    Image –

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