Monday, April 30, 2018

Rest In Peace Surf Queen, Wild Island Orchid, Firestar and CLG Wild Star....

I want to thank Darcy Cole and Steve Cole of DSC Photography for calling the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company and 911 at the same time yesterday - each one called a number.  There were hiking on the north end of the island, looking for new foals.  To their horror, they spotted three mares stuck in quicksand.  One wasn't moving, but two were still feebly struggling.  The CVFC and Pony Committee members were there within 15 minutes. 
   Wild Island Orchid, a pale chestnut mare had already succumbed to the cold, wet muck and cold water.  Randy and Surf Queen were pulled from the quicksand, hauled into stock trailers, and taken to the Carnival Grounds.  The mares were suffering from hypothermia and dehydration.  They were covered with blankets and given intravenous fluids continuously.  Surf Queen, who had been the long-time lead mare for Surfer Dude passed away early this morning.  Randy has a cautiously optimistic outlook - if she can survive through tomorrow, and doesn't develop infections, she should be all right.
   Wild Island Orchid was buried on Assateague.  I'm not sure what will be done with Surf Queen.  I would assume she was buried today, also. 
   Firestar passed away on 19 February 2018 at a private home.  She had been a feral pony living on Assateague since 1992 and producing foals for the CVFC up until the fall of 2015.  She was born on the Maryland end of Assateague, sired by Saddleback and out of VIP.  She was donated by the National Park Service to the Virginia herd in 1994.  She was judged too frail to live in the wild at the Fall Round-Up in 2015 and was taken to a private farm, where she was fed grain and hay and was able to decide whether to stay under cover of a run-in or go out into the pasture.
   CLG Wild Star was an $11,000 buy back in 2015.  Her sire was Wild Thing, and her dam was Fire Star.  She was doing well with the other youngsters, but hasn't been seen in months, and was not found at this year's Spring Round-Up.  It is assumed she passed away during the winter months.
   Wild Island Orchid was also known as Naughty Lady.  She was foaled in 1994, and passed away on 29 April 2018.  She, Randy and Surf Queen became buddies over the past 18 to 20 months, and were often together while out of sight of their stallion, Hoppy (aka Effie's Papa Bear).  Orchid was with the stallion Witch Doctor for many years.  Two of her daughters, sired by Witch Doctor, are still on Assateague - Two Teagues Taco, a 2005 foal, and White Saddle, born in 2013.  Her last three foals were all fillies, and were sired by Hoppy.
   Surf Queen.  She was Surfer Dude's lead mare until his death in the winter of  2015.  She was born in 1997 and passed away today.  It is generally accepted that her sire was General Lee, and her dam was Virginia Belle.  After the Dude's passing, she wandered for a year before settling in with Hoppy.  She produce a gorgeous bay filly with him on 26 June last year, named Hoppy's Surfing Princess.  Three of her foals reside on Assateague, all sired by Surfer Dude:  her daughter, Surfin' Scarlett, born in 2000; her son, Surfer Dude's Riptide, born 2009; and her last Dude foal, Surfer Princess, born 2015.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Spring 2018 - Triple Crown Racing Time - Photos

Scat Daddy (2004-2015) has four sons in this year's Kentucky Derby

Curlin has three sons in the Derby

Medaglia d'Oro has two sons in the Derby

Trainer D. Wayne Lukas  has an entry this year

Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby

Pimlico, home of the Preakness Stakes

The ivy covered clubhouse at Belmont Park, where the last leg
of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes, is held

Six Days Away From the Kentucky Derby

It looks like there will be a full starting gate of twenty colts for the 144th running of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, 5 May.  If none of the entries is injured, or becomes ill, there will be eight chestnut and twelve bay colts in the field.  Four of the colts were sired by Scat Daddy, who passed away at the age of 11.  Three colts are sire by Curlin, and two by Medaglio d'Oro.  So the field of 20 will represent the offspring of 14 stallions.
   Following is a current list of the top possibilities to run - they are in no particular order - and I have listed the sire (in italics) behind the name of the colt.
1.    Combatant    Scat Daddy
2.    Audible   Into Mischief
3.    Magnum Moon   Malibu Moon
4.    Noble Indy    Take Charge Indy
5.    Flameaway   Scat Daddy
6.    Vino Rosso   Curlin
7.    Bolt d'Oro   Medaglio d'Oro
8.    Bravazo   Awesome Again
9.    Enticed   Medaglio d'Oro
10.  Firenze Fire   Poseidon's Warrior
11.  Justify   Scat Daddy
12.  Promises Fulfilled   Shackleford
13.  Free Drop Billy   Union Rags
14.  Good Magic   Curlin
15.  Hofburg   Tapit
16.  Instilled Regard   Arch
17.  Mendelssohn   Scat Daddy
18.  Solomini   Curlin
19.  Lone Sailor   Majestic Warrior
20.  My Boy Jack   Creative Cause

Trainer D. Wayne Lukas will be sending his 49th hopeful, Bravazo, out to Run for the Roses this year.  Lukas, who turned 82 in March, has trained and saddled the winners of 14 Triple Crown races and 20 Breeders Cup races.  He has been awarded 5 Eclipse awards, and has trained 25 Eclipse winning horses.  (I might have to root for Bravazo this year....)

Sandby Borg - A Few Corrections

I went back and re-read several articles regarding the archaeological dig at Sandby ring fort on the island of Oland in Sweden.  I want to correct a few items that I wrote in the two previous blogs, for the sake of accuracy.
   Two complete children's skeletons were found; one belonging to a five-year-old, and one belonging to a baby, aged about two months.
   The child's bone found under the elderly man was not a femur; it was a humerus - an arm bone.
And a few new things I noted: 
   The archaeologists report that in one of the houses, a "pile" of newly killed lambs were found. Due to this, they believe the killings took place in late summer or early fall.
   The articles give different numbers regarding the number of buildings inside the borg, but the general consensus is that it was a little over 50.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Sandby Borg, Oland, Sweden - Photos

Aerial view of Sandby Borg before excavations

Artist's rendition of what Sandby Borg looked like while occupied

A gold solidus, minted between 440 and 455, showing Emperor Valentinian III

One of the brooches recovered from Sandby Borg

Discovery photo of brooch and rings at Sandby Borg

Rings and solidus at Sandby Borg

Skeleton of young man at Sandby Borg

Left To Rot At Sandby Borg

A few years after the archaeologists brought in the professional metal detectors and found the five treasure caches containing jewelry and gold solidi, they returned to Sandby Borg to excavate.  As I wrote yesterday, they have little funds and a small window of time each summer to dig at the ancient ring fort.  Over the past three years, they have uncovered three houses and a small part of a street.  Each summer, as they arrive to work at the site, and while they are working, local people return to inform them that the place is evil, is cursed, and that the dead of Sandby fort haunt the local cemetery.  When cleaning the treasure caches, it was found that the newest gold solidi, which the Romans used to pay their mercenary troops, had been minted in 478; many other gold coins found in the area are dated between 350 and 455.  So the archaeologists first decided the event, what ever it was, happened around 500.  After three years of excavation, they have placed the date at about 480.
  During the last day of the first dig, having traced the outlines of the first house, they cleared the doorstep - and found two feet sticking out into the street.  So far, the dig has found 26 complete bodies, and a few bones from young child.  There are two full skeletons of children, plus the part of the third, along with 24 males.  The eldest man was between 50 and 60 when he died; the youngest was about 2 years old.  Every single person met with a violent end.  The were all attacked with axes or swords.  None of the people killed have defensive wounds; all seem to have been struck down from the rear or the side.  One teenager appears to have been killed while kneeling, as the roof of the house was extremely low at the entrance, where he was killed.  The older man had received a blow that shattered the back of his skull, and he fell forward across the interior fire pit.  His pelvis was scorched by the flames.  Under the eldest man was discovered the femur of a child about two years old.  The archaeologists wonder if the child's bone was the older man's grandson...
   The dig has opened three houses and a small section of street, exposing twenty-six dead.  Two dead were found in the street, and they had received their death blows from the side.  One of them was carrying his scrip, with gold coins inside it. The fort contains 52 or 53 houses.  How many more dead will be found?  Where are the women?  Are there more children to be found?  At that point in time, slavery was common for people, clans and groups that were conquered - a very good profit could be made from women and children in local  and foreign slave trade.  Why were those two (or three) youngsters slaughtered?  Why was the livestock - pigs, goats, sheep, cattle, and horses - left to starve? (Stealing livestock from the dead would have been easy, and then the person stealing the stock would have been that much richer...) 
  Usually after a village or borg had been raided, distant neighbors would have buried or cremated the dead; food, if still edible, would have been divided, as would the livestock. Whoever found any treasure trove was either (a) likely to keep it, or (b) turn it over to his/her overlord and hope for a portion as a reward.  While (hopefully) the living mourned their neighbors, they would usually be enriched, even slightly, by their deaths.
   But the borg at Sandby is completely mystifying - the dead were left to rot as they lay, they were never looted, and their livestock was shunned and left to starve.  It seems to be without precedent.  Thatched and wooden roofs fell into buildings, covered the dead, and the accumulation of wind-blown sediment and sand did the rest.  At some point in time, the rocks used in the building of the protective wall were used to delineate new fields.  But the entire area was still spoken of with dread...  Why?   I found one sentence in one article stating that the borg had built over a Bronze Age cemetery.  Was this massacre a retribution for building on the cemetery?  Was this borg, possibly, the home of tax-gatherers for the overlord? 
   Sandby Borg's massacre in 480 is a huge puzzle today.  I really hope that much more funding will be made available to the archaeologists who are conducting this dig.  It's silly, but I, personally, want to know why these people and all their belongings were left to rot; and why, 1,538 years later, the place is still considered evil.  How did the massacre occur?  Did an enemy open the gates in the middle of the night for an uncontested killing spree?  Again - why and who?  Where are the women?  Where are the children? 
   What truly happened at Sandby Borg?

Friday, April 27, 2018

Eketorp Borg and Oland, Sweden - Photos

Originally, Eketorp Borg would encircle an American football field;
it was rebuilt and enlarged several times.
This is how it appears today:

Iron age style houses inside Eketorp

Re-creation of the Eketorp stone

Stone cairns and a ship wreck on the shore of Oland

Oland is usually described as barren and windswept...

Oland beaches are popular for vacations in mid-summer

Stele and a windmill on Oland

Once, A Long Time Ago....

Once, a long, long time ago, around the year 480, something very strange happened on the Swedish island of Oland.  Why it happened is still a mystery, but even today, 1,518 years later, the native-born in the area speak of evil and curses surrounding the area, as well as ghosts haunting the local cemetery.  Archaeologists began excavating the ancient ring fort at Sandby in 2010, after reports of fortune hunters with metal detectors were reported digging in areas outside, but near the old borg.  The Swedish government does not fund archaeological work unless the site is considered to be in imminent danger of destruction, so funding for this dig has been small and somewhat piecemeal.
   In 383, Magnus Maximus withdrew all Roman troops from Great Britain, except for a few scattered auxiliary forts.  (These forts were closed in 410.)  The reason was a massive push of Germanic peoples against the Roman forces in Europe.  The Germanic tribes had gained the upper hand completely by 455, and ruled the entire northwest European lands.  It is uncertain whether the island of Oland was under the rule of the Germanic tribes, or a local island leader, or if they were under the rule of Sweden.  What is definitely known is that Scandinavian mercenaries were in the employ of Rome - men from Norway, Sweden and Denmark all were recipients of gold Roman coins for their work in the Roman Legions.  From the recoveries of treasure troves - but more importantly, grave goods - it is apparent that Scandinavian warriors hired themselves out well before the Viking era.
  Oland is just over 85 miles long, and not quite 10 miles wide at the broadest place.  In 480, it is believed that 15 or 16 borgs were in existence.  The island people fled to them for safety from sea-borne raiders.  This was well before the Scandinavians were known to go a-viking - and earned themselves the name of Vikings. It is believed that most of these raids came from mainland based Germanic tribes and Danes.  Most of the people of Oland farmed a little - the ground was very rock strewn in the south - fished a lot, and about half of them had a goat, sheep, a pig or two, or cattle.  Horses were luxuries. 
   Around 400, the people of southern Oland began building Eketorp Borg.  Eketorp is the only one of the 19 known prehistoric fortifications on Oland that has been completely excavated, yielding over 24,000 individual artifacts. The Eketorp fortification is often referred to as Eketorp Castle, and is a huge tourist attraction for the island.  The entirety of southern Oland has been designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
   Sandby's ring fort is more oval than round in construction.  There is a small earthen berm, and then a rock wall of 13 to 16 feet was built upon it.  There were three, probably four, gates that were open except when the people were threatened.  In fact, the archaeologists believe that Sandby Borg itself was only occupied for a total of four months or less, due to the small amounts of trash and midden heaps. There were 52 buildings inside the borg, most built against the walls, with a few in the center with a surrounding street.  Food stores for entire families were kept inside the borg in case of trouble. The borg is quite close to the shore of the Baltic Sea.  I was amazed at how close the shore-line is today, but I don't know if the shore has washed away, or filled in since 480.
   After the archaeologists received reports of treasure diggers outside the walls of Sandby, they hired professional users of metal detectors, and had them check out the interior of the fort.  They found five "treasure caches" inside five different houses, each placed under the floor to the left of the door. The caches include gold, silver and bronze brooches, silver bells, gold rings, amber beads, glass mille fiore beads, and even cowrie shells from the Mediterranean.  Also found were Roman solidi, gold coins commonly issued as pay in the late Roman empire. The solidi found on the island are distinctive, and matching dies have been found in Rome.  A lot of the coins are very fresh, in mint condition, without the characteristic wear of coins that have been passed from had to hand in trade.  Through these coins, there is a direct link to Rome, and later to Milan and Arles.
  Apparently, the warriors brought their pay home to Oland - and 36% of the Roman solidi found on Oland were found within a one mile radius of Sandby Borg.  However, with the Romans losing their empire in the northwest, the warriors of Oland would have to travel almost all the way to Constantinople for employment with the Eastern Roman emperor.  Seemingly, this was not acceptable to the men of Oland.  Soon, there were a lot of unemployed men, trained to war, in somewhat closer quarters than they were used to. 
   But what triggered the seemingly unexplainable massacre at Sandby Borg, where bodies were never buried or cremated, where easy loot was never touched, and where livestock - including precious horses - were left to die of starvation, and not taken by neighbors or family, after the massacre occurred?  Why was everything left untouched?  Why did awful tales grow about evil and curses and hauntings?  Why do local people still shun this place 1,518 years later? 
  More tomorrow.... 

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Brightly Colored Birds (7) - Photos

And, finally, the end of the brightly colored bird photos...

Painted bunting

Paradise Huppe

 Paradise Tanager

Pink pigeon


Purple gallinule


Racket-tailed roller

Raggiana bird of paradise

Rainbow lorikeet

"Screw It" Pruitt - aka EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt

I worked for several years for the Environmental Protection Agency under the leadership of Carol Browner, whom I loved, and Christine Todd Whitman, whom I disliked.   (I didn't like the directive to address her as "Governor Whitman," actually.)  The current Administrator is the 14th, and he was appointed by the 45th President; I completely loathe both of these men.
  (Edward) Scott Pruitt was born in Danville, Kentucky in May 1968; his family moved to Lexington, Kentucky when he was a boy.  He was awarded an athletic scholarship to the University of Kentucky, but moved on to Georgetown College after a year, where he graduated with degrees in political science and communication.  He then moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma where he earned his Juris Doctor law degree from the University of Tulsa College of Law in 1993.
  After law school, Pruitt started a solo legal practice in Tulsa that he named "Christian Legal Services," which focused on defending Christians in religious liberty cases. He worked out of that office for 5 years before running for the Oklahoma state senate, and he won the election, representing Tulsa and Wagoner counties for two terms.
   After two years in the state senate, Pruitt was selected to serve as the Republican whip from 2001 to 2003.  He was then selected to serve as the Republican Assistant Floor Leader, until 2006.  During that time, he also sat as chairman of a task force for the American Legislative Exchange Council.  There, he sponsored a workers'-compensation reform bill that sought to impose drug tests on workers who were involved in on-the-job injuries or accidents.  In 2005, Pruitt told a radio interviewer that there are "not sufficient scientific facts to establish the theory of evolution."
  In 2010, Pruitt was elected the Attorney General of Oklahoma.  In that role, he opposed abortion rights, same-sex marriage, the Affordable Care Act, and almost all environmental regulations as a self-described "leading advocate against the EPA's activist agenda."  In his campaigns for Oklahoma Attorney General, Pruitt received major corporate and employee campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry, taking at least $215,574 between 2010 and 2014, even though he ran unopposed in 2014.  In his role as Attorney General of Oklahoma, he sued the Environmental Protection Agency at least 14 times.  Pruitt was elected as chairman of the Republican Attorneys General Association in 2012, and was re-elected for a second term in 2013.
  Administrator Pruitt rejects the scientific consensus that human-caused carbon dioxide emissions are a primary contributor to climate change; and has falsely claimed there is no scientific consensus on climate change.  As EPA leader, Pruitt has reversed and delayed numerous environmental rules, relaxed enforcement of existing rules, and has halted the agency's efforts to combat climate change.
Pruitt assumed the office of EPA Administrator on 17 February 2017.
  By the middle of this month, April 2018, Pruitt is under 10 (ten) separate investigations by the Government Accountability Office, the EPA's Inspector General, the White House Office of Management and Budget, and two Congressional House committees over his spending habits, conflicts of interest and management practices.  His spending extravagances include having spent over $3 million for his personal security team of 20+, which has included security at the Rose Bowl, Disneyland, basketball games and family vacations.  He has spent $43,000 for a "sound proof phone booth" inside his office, plus has greatly exceeded the budget for bullet-proof vests, ammunition, art loans from the Smithsonian Institute, and the framing of  a flag in his office.  He also made frequent use of first class air flights, as well as frequent charter and specially scheduled military flights.
   Pruitt has had private, undisclosed meetings with heads of industries; and special concerns have been raised concerning those meetings with coal miners and an appearance in a video promoting the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.  He has been caught using four e-mail addresses, only two of which were known to Congress, and Senator John Barrasso (Republican, Wyoming) has sent sent Pruitt a letter warning  him that the use of those e-mail addresses makes the use of FOIA impossible and is breaking the law.
  Also under investigation are his multiple dismissals of well-known scientists from EPA Science Advisory Boards, whom he replaced with people from the industries and state regulators in the areas they are giving advisement.  Most people know about Pruitt's "renting" a condo in Washington, DC for $50 per night that belongs to a lobbyist whose clients were regulated by the EPA.  He was also involved in a housing scam during his time in the Oklahoma state senate, which (gasp!) incredibly also involved the two assistants for whom he got very large, un-authorized pay raises.  Misters Wagner and Kelly are friends from Oklahoma, and Pruitt used a narrow provision of the Safe Drinking Water Act to autonomously give raises of approximately $28,000 and $57,000 each, which allowed both of his friends to avoid signing conflicts of interest pledges.
    Talk about scheming lawyers!!!!

Monday, April 23, 2018

Earth and Earth Day Photos

Iron Eyes Cody -  Keep America Beautiful PSA, 1971

The Spy Geyser in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada is a 
man-made accident caused by drilling

Victoria Falls, where the Zambezi River drops in Zimbabwe, is
considered one of the seven wonders of the natural world...

Earth Day and the Dismantling of the Environmental Protection Agency

Yesterday was the 48th anniversary of Earth Day.  I remember small groups of people celebrating the first Earth Day in 1970.  I was in 8th grade, and my educational world was being shaken by the Federal Desegregation Act.  From going to junior high school on a full-time daily basis, I was suddenly going to school only in the afternoon at another school's buildings; and I was way ahead of the other students in everything except American history.  I remember groups of "hippies" celebrating and protesting on and around the University of Florida campus; but not much else, honestly.
   However, there was a growing movement afoot.  Dad had taken Kathy and me to the Devil's Millhopper and hiking out into the woods almost every weekend - and we always carried a brown paper grocery bag apiece, to pick up any trash we saw.  So I guess I was environmentally aware of certain problems, even though I didn't really think about them.  But suddenly, it seemed, litter was a big social issue.  Then, in 1971, the Public Service Announcement ad with Chief Iron Eyes Cody, with a tear running down his cheek, was released.  A Native American was crying over the trashing of his country; it stamped itself on the nation's memory.
   In part, thanks to Earth Day, President Nixon established the Environmental Protection Agency with an executive order from the White House. Suddenly, it seemed, Congress jumped onto the bandwagon, and the following Acts were passed:
The Clean Air Act  in 1970
The Environmental Quality Improvement Act  in 1970
The Lead-Based Paint Poisoning Prevention Act  in 1971
The Clean Water Act  in 1971
The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act  in 1972
The Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act  in 1972
The Marine Mammal Protection Act  in 1972
The Endangered Species Act  in1973
The Safe Drinking Water Act  in 1974
The Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards  in 1975
The Hazardous Materials Transportation Act  in 1975
The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act  in 1976
The Toxic Substances Control Act  in 1976
The National Forest Management Act  in 1976

  Yesterday, there were a lot of celebrations of Earth Day in and around Boulder, Colorado, my current place of residence.  Here, we have a lot of conserved and protected Open Space, trails, and green ways.  We are backed up against the Roosevelt National Forest, and have lots of parks and recreational facilities.  Boulder is striving to achieve a 85% trash recycling and composting rate.  This area wants to be "green."
   But, as we know, we are racing backwards fast, under the so-called leadership of a head of the EPA who sees his mission as (a) leaving as many citizens as possible exposed to environment degradation, and (b) picking our pockets clean in a breath-taking manner.  Just Google "EPA environmental regulations" and you'll quickly see all the damage that Scott Pruitt and the 45th President are trying to accomplish.
   If  the Democrats can regain the lead in Congress in 2018, and if we can re-capture the White House in 2020, we can swing our environmental incursions back in the other direction quickly.  We can rejoin the Paris Climate Accords, re-enforce CAFE standards, and a whole lot more...    And that same 2020 that will bring us the next presidential election will also bring us the 50th anniversary of Earth Day
   Here's hoping for a much better future for Mother Earth here in the United States, and for a much better, and re-invented, re-energized Environmental Protection Agency, as well!

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Brightly Colored Birds (6) - Photos

Gray-crowned crane

Harlequin duck

Helmeted woodpecker


Lilac breasted roller

Malachite kingfisher

Mandarin duck

Mrs Gould's sunbird

Northern red-shafted flicker

Orange breasted sunbird

Friday, April 20, 2018

What I Do To Distract Myself

Besides having about 20 adult coloring books, most with intricate patterns and/or pictures, I also paint items that Bea and I buy at thrift stores or yard sales...  I recently finished painting the items we display on our balcony, as well as the owl that we have inside.  These are the results: