Friday, May 25, 2012

Pit Bulls: Nanny Dogs

Its sad to say that most people today think of pit bulls as dogs to be feared. But is that an accurate point of view? Personally, I have never been afraid of them, having had a pit bull/retriever mix and now a pit bull/lab mix. Though mixed breeds, the pit bull temper has come out in both and the kind of temper is not what most people would have you believe. They are one of the most even-tempered breed dogs you can ever have. The pit bull/lab mix we have is Gracie and the only thing she can be accused of is clumsiness, despite her name. She cowers when you raise your voice, and she has never been abused. They are a sensitive breed of dog. Bucky, the pit bull/retriever mix, was a very passive dog and the only thing he ever "attacked" was a dog biscuit. I know a number of other pit bull mixes and all of them display that same mild-tempered, sensitive nature that is customary of the pit bull breed. They can never be accused of unexpected reactions. This is what I believe and now I am happy to say that there is proof, thanks to the media for a change, to back up my beliefs. Yahoo News had an article called "Pit bulls' surprising past: Nanny Dogs" some time back and now they tell of a sad incident involving two of them where one died and the other was heartbroken.

According to the first article, pit bulls were known as Nanny Dogs and were specifically used for that purpose for Helen Keller, and many young children. As further evidence, there are vintage pictures showing children with their pit bulls, in the first article. The sitting position of the last one, I might add, is the typical slouch that seems to be so popular among those I have been acquainted with. Adorable but hardly majestic.

And now, the news had a story of a pit bull who had gotten hit and was dead on the side of the road. The other dog must have been her pal, or possibly her sister, for the poor thing stayed by the dead dog for 14 hours until Animal Control finally came and picked it up. Its amazing how seemingly "vicious" dogs can display such sorrow and grief. As an animal lover, this makes me want to cry. Hopefully the dog will go to a good home where he will recover and be loved.

Now this presents a question. Why then have pit bulls been suddenly given an aggressive status? Cesar Millan, the "dog whisperer", says, "Pit bulls get a bad rap because of irresponsible owners." My response to that is "You got that right!" The owner can make the dog what it is. An irresponsible owner, or even worse, a mean owner, who will mistreat his animal, will cause problems and create aggression and/or rash behavior. The dog has been given the knowledge to care for itself by our Creator and will do what he thinks necessary for his survival, in most cases. The same with humans. It stands to reason that a hungry person is more likely to steal than a well fed one. Why should a dog be any different? (I'm not advocating stealing, just presenting a fact.)

Anyhow, I encourage those who are scared of pit bulls to seriously reconsider their fear and give the breed a chance. You couldn't get a more appreciative best friend.

Here's a picture of our dog Gracie looking sweet and gentle. Its not an act, that's how she is. A sweety.

Friday, May 18, 2012

All Men are Created Equal

Here's another article I wrote some time back. I've polished it up a little and would love peoples opinion on it. So feel free to tell me what you think.

All Men are Created Equal

The word 'race' is said to be an incorrect term for what some would call the different 'people groups' of the world. Asian, African, American, is there really any difference between people other than that which is visible? According to God's word, no, there is no difference. All men are descendants of Adam, the first man (1 Corinthians 15:45), and because of the great flood in the Genesis account, Noah. But for those who cannot, or will not, accept the gospels account as truth, science has its own proof. Beginning with the genetic material within cells and ending with the color of skin, scientists have proven that there really isn't any difference, other than the external features, between what is known as the 'races' of this world. So, therefore, the widely discussed and debated argument of equality among men does have an answer, giving reason to reconsider those thoughts that have said otherwise.

For instance, the first recorded man in the Bible was Adam (Genesis 1:27). Adam was made by God in the likeness of God. He was far from evolved pond scum or primordial soup. For and from him, God created the first woman, Eve, who became the mother of all the living (Genesis 3:20). What is known as the different 'races' is actually people who were separated and became specified in groups. History makes it clear in Genesis 11 of how all the people on the earth, the descendants of Adam and Eve, rebelled against God and joined together in their defiance. God, however, caused their languages to change so that there was great confusion. Because of this the people had to do what He had commanded them to do in the first place, separate and populate the earth. Over the centuries, these groups grew and expanded, becoming more and more self-sufficient, though they still preserved bits of the beginning. The Mayan's, for example, a ruthless and bloody people, were found to have an account, though slightly altered, of the flood in their own religion and language. It would seem to prove the point of all being descendants of Adam and later, Noah (Genesis 9:19). This was something that Paul even spoke about to the early church. Galations 3:28 and Colossians 3:11 talks to two churches about the very subject, except between Jews and Greeks. He says that in God's eyes the only difference between people is their belief in Him.

Furthermore, a research project on the human genome, gave way to intriguing results. The scientists on the project had put together a draft of the entire genome sequence and concluded that all are basically clones of each other. In other words, the human genome is the complete genetic material that is encased in the nucleus of every cell of the body. That information tells us that there is no such thing as a lesser human. We are no different at the core; all are truly equal. George Washington Carver was just as much human and on equal standing as the Wright brothers. The report added that "the more closely that researchers examine the human genome the more most of them are convinced that the standard labels used to distinguish people by 'race' have little or no biological meaning". They say that the external features are the criteria people use for 'race'. Which then provides us the reason to discuss a factor of the skin called melanin. Melanin describes a colored pigment designed to protect the DNA in skin from the suns rays and results in the color we see of our skin. Eumelanin provides the colors brown to black and pheomelanin, red to yellow. God made melanin to crowd around the DNA in parts of our skin that are most exposed to the suns harmful rays. Each person is created equipped with this special sunblock feature, though some have less. The darker the skin the higher the melanin count and vice versa. That is why certain people groups, such as African's and East Indian's, are darker in color than Asian's and those from Ireland or Sweden, etc. Therefore, whether internal or external, there is proof that there is no difference between 'races'.

Yet the equality of mankind is not a difficult subject to prove considering the evidence visible in Scripture and science. As usual, everything reflects the Creator. He knew of the trials and the questions that would come and created His children with the answers literally within them. The theory of evolution caused trouble for groups of people, like the aborigines and the African's, claiming them less evolved and not equal to the higher evolved "white people". Thankfully, God inspired men to write such scripture as Acts 17:26, "He has made from one blood every nation of men", to prove that that kind of thinking has no place in this world. God made men, inside and out, with no real defining difference, and separated them when they rebelled. From color pigments in our skin to our genetic makeup, God made us all equal. 1 Samuel 16:9 reminds us of the attitude to assume: "The Lord sees not as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

An Overview of Maritime Archaeology

Here's a paper I wrote sometime back on one of my favorite subjects:

An Overview of Maritime Archaeology

History is the key to the future, as the phrase goes, and this is the foundation for every archaeologists' motivation. Their quest is to find answers to their questions, and in maritime archaeology, the answers often lay at the bottom of the sea, ocean, lake, or even pond, and, not surprisingly, their commitment to the search leads them all over the world.
Maritime Archaeology is like a mystery novel, consisting of "crime scene" (which is the wreck), "evidence" (the artifacts), and "research" (history, in this case); an archaeologist is the detective, responsible for paring them all together and solving the case to find out: Who owned it, captained it, and was aboard it; What: the specifics of the ship, its name, width, length, etc; When: all the dates involved, when it was built, launched, and wrecked; Why: the reasons for its demise; and How: the details of its demise. There is much more one could ask, but regarding the basics, an understanding of the science is necessary.
Maritime Archaeology Defined-- Archaeology is the study of ancient life through the means of excavation; maritime archaeology is a sub category, it is everything archaeology is except in or near water. Further categories include underwater archaeology and nautical archaeology, of which the first addresses the past through submerged remains and the second through vessel construction and use.
The most common objectives in maritime archaeology are shipwrecks. Since air travel wasn't a possibility until the 1900's, the seas and lakes of our world were highly trafficked as a means of survival and livelihood. As can only be expected, ships went down because of tempests and rocky coasts, plus failure to properly handle the ship, and sadly, so much more. One ship in particular was destroyed as a result of carelessness. A sailor dropped a lantern in the spirit locker, and the fire reached the powder magazine and burnt the ship, HMS Serapis, to her waterline before she drifted to the depths of the Indian Ocean. In warm, shallow waters, wood is easily destroyed by marine worms and other sorts of aquatic life, but in most deeper waters, when this happens, because of the cool water temperature and the lack of marine life, the ship is preserved, suspended in time waiting to be discovered years later. Thus the reason they have been termed "time capsules".
On The Job-- However, before an archaeologist can give thought to excavation, one must first consider what will be needed, and depending upon the nature of the site, the equipment required will vary. Diving equipment and skill is a must and if the site is not able to be reached by land (e.g. a shore-side wreck), a boat should be next on the list but the size of the boat is a question of affordability. In large scale situations where the site is massive, or in deep water, or both, more advanced technology is required, such as a large support vessel with equipment handling cranes, underwater communications, computer visualization, ROV's (Remotely Operated Vehicles), and sometimes on rarer occasions the use of a submarine is required. But maritime archaeology doesn't always demand such radical paraphernalia, it can function on a much smaller scale.
First off, fixing the position of the site is necessary for present efficiency and future reference. This can be accomplished with a standard GPS devise. After that is a survey of the site and sometimes this includes testing the waters for harmful chemicals, but this is usually only the case with more recent wrecks where the ships were made of metals. The simple form of survey is using depth gauges and tape measures, and though not 100% accurate, it does the job satisfactory. Once the area is graphed, the next step is recording the site. One way is scale drawing with pencil and special underwater paper, but an easier and more advanced method is photography. Making a mosaic or photo-montage of the site can help a lot in the hours of lab work to come. And recording must continue through the rest of the steps of archaeology as well. Knowing where an object was found will tell a great deal about that object and present vital information. If failure to properly record artifact locations occur, the archaeologist will encounter only confusion in later work. Only when basic recording of the site is finished can excavation begin. Once again, depending upon the nature of the site will a person know what is required but the water dredge is an effective choice. It removes the sand or dirt around specific artifacts whereas on land one might use a shovel. It also collects tiny objects that might otherwise be missed sending them to the boat above for careful sorting. The handler of the dredge in the boat must beware, though, many a time have they met with an unexpected visitor of the world below. Squids, for example have been known to make it up the hose.
The hardest part is yet to come. It involves research and sorting and categorizing all that has been gathered. This in itself can take more time than the field work. Conserving the artifacts is a method all its own and takes time, even more so for encrustations. Encrustations could be described as growth from the ocean melding one or more artifacts together. The larger the encrustation the longer it will take. It must be treated and carefully worked on, using pneumatic tools and even x-ray.
Preservation-- Notwithstanding the above, not always is a wreck retrieved from its place of long time berth; instead some are marked as preserves. They are considered underwater museums, welcome to divers of varying stages for sport or further research.
One reason to choose to preserve a wreck over salvaging it is when it has become part of the environment. On the other hand, there are times when salvaging the wreck is necessary. This is the case with wrecks in water too deep to safely dive in, or when the remains of the wreck are sparse and would be better suited to research if brought up. Also one might decide to salvage a wreck in shallow water. Here are two reasons this would be the case: one is nature and the other is man. The dangers posed by the former could be rounded off to wind, waves, and, in some places, ice. The reason for the latter is often because of fishermen. For fish populate wrecks and when the fishermen drop anchor over the wreck it often does extreme damage. Added to this is the danger of looters, people who have no consideration for the historical value of a wreck and its contents and only see the profit.
Other Maritime Archaeological Interests-- Aside from shipwrecks, the science of maritime archaeology delves into other cases such as sunken cities. Port Royal, for instance, which was the center of shipping commerce in the Caribbean during the later half of the 17th century, was hit by an earthquake in 1692. It sunk the northern section of the town and is now a means of great archaeological interest. Artifacts from as early as 1588 have been found there and to this day archaeologists are still continuing to excavate the city, with many "digs" still in progress.
In every case of archaeology, caution must be taken to secure the protection and proper care of the site and artifacts. A recommendation for maritime archaeologists would be to have a knowledge of history. Many answers will be provided to students of history, because as they say, history is the key to the future.