A Whole New World (Map) With The Newest Recognized Ocean

Aladdin and Jasmine sang about a whole new world as they floated around on a magic carpet in their Disney movie. While they were merely pointing out a new perspective of the world from having found each other, I, on the other hand am surveying a physical world map from my laptop and finding it vastly different than what I’ve known all my life. Surprise! An entirely new ocean, the Southern Ocean, has been recognized.

Remembering back to my school days, I was taught there were four oceans in the world–the Atlantic, the Pacific, the Indian, and the Arctic. Of course, I also learned there were nine planets including Pluto, and we see what happened with that information. Bye, bye, Pluto! So, I am now having to wrap my head around the recognition of only 8 planets but 5 oceans. Yes, the Southern Ocean has joined the cast of world oceans.

Where exactly is this “new” ocean? It begins at Antarctica’s coast and stretches northward. Nevertheless, disagreement exists as to how far north it extends. The prevailing thought is that its northern boundary is 60 degrees south latitude. Well, that certainly clears up the location for me–not!

The Southern Ocean is the second smallest of the now five world oceans. “Smallest,” of course, is a relative term. In my book, anything covering 7.8 million square miles is hardly “small.” Since it is difficult for me to mentally comprehend large numbers, let’s put the Southern Ocean’s size into perspective. It’s slightly bigger than twice the size of the United States. How could we have possibly missed recognizing such an ocean?

Actually, the Southern Ocean didn’t just pop up out of nowhere to make a claim to being the fifth ocean in the world. It was previously called the Antarctic Ocean and has long been recognized by scientists as an ocean. In fact, the U.S. Board on Geographic Names has used the name Southern Ocean since 1999.

So, why has no official recognition been given until now? The International Hydrographic Organization (IHO), the entity that standardizes sea mapping and official maps, hasn’t given its seal of approval to a 2000 proposal to add the Southern Ocean to the world map. Without international agreement, the Southern Ocean had never been officially recognized. But on World Ocean Day (how did I miss that?), June 8th, the National Geographic Society celebrated by announcing it was recognizing a fifth ocean.

Not only is the Southern Ocean the most recently recognized ocean, but it is also geologically the youngest of all the oceans. It was formed a mere 34 million years ago when South America and Antarctica moved apart. While these continents may have separated, the Southern Ocean remained neighborly. It touches three of the remaining four oceans: the Atlantic, the Pacific, and the Indian Oceans.

One of the biggest arguments for declaring this body of water an ocean is that the waters around Antarctica have characteristics different from other oceans. In particular, the Southern Ocean includes a unique current pattern known as the ACC (no relation to the college football conference) or Antarctic Circumpolar Current. The ACC makes the water around Antarctica colder and slightly less salty than more northern bodies of water. The Southern Ocean’s average sea temperature is a brisk 28 degrees Fahrenheit to 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

The ACC drives a global circulation system that transports heat around our planet. Seems strange to me that the ocean with the coldest water is instrumental is moving heat around the Earth. The current moves continuously eastward and comprises the world’s longest and strongest current system in the world’s oceans. In fact, it is the only global current.

Sadly, the Southern Ocean is one of the regions where rapid climate change is most visibly taking place due to increasing ocean temperatures. What so visible? ICEBERGS!! Why just last month the world’s largest iceberg (think more than three times the size of Los Angeles) broke off from Antarctica. Icebergs can occur any time during the year in the Southern Ocean. So, there can be “Ice, ice, baby” even during the height of summer.

Interestingly, the icebergs floating around in the salty Southern Ocean water are comprised of fresh water. The icebergs that form there each year hold enough fresh water to meet the needs of all people on Earth for several months. As a result, proposals have been made for several decades to tow icebergs north to places like Australia where the fresh water could be harvested for use. Can you imagine the size of the ship which would be needed to tow that iceberg multi-times the size of L.A.?

Not only are icebergs gargantuan in the Southern Ocean but so is the Colossal Squid, the largest type of squid existing. How big is this squid? Imagine a creature weighing up to 1,500 pounds and extending some 33 feet. Yeah, I don’t want to imagine that either. The diversity of species in the Southern Ocean includes a variety of penguins, seals, fish, and birds. Also found in the Southern Ocean are thousands of species which live there and nowhere else.

As unsettling as it is to have our concept of the world and how it appears on a map altered, change is inevitable in life. And change is a good thing when the revision makes what we believe and what we see accurately reflect the world around us. We’ve had our fill of fake news in recent months. We sure don’t want to have to deal with fake maps, do we?

Just WONDER-ing:

Had you ever heard about the Southern Ocean? How do you feel about altering world maps to identify this “new” ocean? Is the creation of large icebergs formed when land breaks off from Antarctica due to rising temperatures compelling evidence of climate change to you?

Selective Service Dodges Supreme Court Review Of Military Draft


Know what draft dodgers look like? They may vary by age, weight, height, complexion, eye color, etc., but draft dodgers all have one thing in common–they are MEN. What’s up with that? Well, men are the only ones currently required to register for the draft. Some men are up in arms (pun intended) at this disparity in treatment. Does drafting only men pass constitutional muster? We won’t find out what the U.S. Supreme Court thinks because the highest court in our land has denied a petition to have a case addressing that issue heard.

The case making headlines, but not the Supreme Court’s hearing docket, is National Coalition for Men v. Selective Service System. This men’s group brought suit claiming having men only eligible for the draft was an unconstitutional discrimination based on sex. For you legal scholars, their argument was based on the Fifth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.

Since a constitutional issue was the lawsuit’s basis, the Coalition’s case was brought in federal court. In 2019, a federal district judge found the men’s position to be persuasive; it held the draft setup to be unconstitutional. But wait! There’s more! To no one’s surprise, the Selective Service System appealed the invalidation of its program. In round two, the appellate court sided with the Selective Service System. So, not willing to give up the battle, the Coalition filed for a writ of certiorari (fancy legal term involving Latin word) asking the court to hear their appeal.

The Supreme Court can’t hear all the cases it’s asked to consider. I mean when would the justices have time to write their books, make speeches, and get their robes dry cleaned? If the justices feel a particular case addresses an important legal issue and should be heard, they grant a writ allowing the appeal to be added to its argument docket. No such luck for the Coalition, represented by the ACLU, though. The Supreme Court gave a thumbs down to the request; a brief statement issued by Justice Sonia Sotomayor explained why consideration of the case was not appropriate at this time.

To understand the case and the denial of the writ, it’s first necessary to understand the system in the litigation crosshairs. The Selective Service System (“SSS”) is an independent agency within the government’s executive branch. In case you were not a political science major like I was, that branch is run by the President. SSS is NOT a part of the Department of Defense.

SSS has two basic roles. First, it oversees draft registration. In registration, people (to be more precise MEN) identify themselves as potentially draft eligible. Second, if the need for a draft arises (think WAR), a law must be passed to authorize SSS to conduct a draft. SSS then oversees the conscription process. No draft has occurred in the U.S. since 1973 when the authorization expired to conduct a draft to conscript men for Vietnam War service. U.S. military forces have been all volunteer since then.

Selective Service was established to facilitate assembling military forces for combat. The Selective Service Act, which authorized the agency, was passed just six weeks after the U.S. entered World War I in 1917. A 1948 law compelled only men to register for potential military service. Women were not eligible for combat roles at the inception of the Selective Service System. Thus, they were not included in the net of people required to register for the draft. In fact, women could not even volunteer to do so.

But times, they are a changin’. When the draft ended in 1973, women comprised merely 2% of U.S. enlisted forces and 8% of the officer corps. These figures have now risen to 16% and 19%. Moreover, women have legally served in all combat roles for several years. Still male-only registration remains on the books. And failure of a man to register has steep consequences; it is a felony punishable by five years in prison, a fine up to $250,000 (that’s a quarter of a million dollars for those who are mathematically challenged), and ineligibility for federal jobs and student loans.

National Coalition for Men is, however, not the first case to challenge the requirement only men have to register for potential military service. In 1981, the U.S. Supreme Court in Rostker v. Goldberg upheld the setup by a 6-3 vote. A key fact cited in Justice Rehnquist’s majority opinion was that women as a group were not eligible for combat. In its simplest terms (since Supreme Court opinions are rarely short and easily understandable), the rationale was that women needn’t be drafted for military service when combat was anticipated since they couldn’t fill a combat role anyway.

The Rostker decision served as the basis for the federal appellate court reversing the district court’s decision in National Coalition for Men. The appellate court felt bound by the Supreme Court’s prior decision in Rostker. The fancy legal word for this legal concept is “precedent.”

So, if the composition of the military has changed to allow women in combat roles, why would the Supreme Court decline to hear a seemingly strong constitutional challenge to a male only registration process? The brief filed on behalf of the Biden Administration (remember SSS is part of the executive branch) and Justice Sotomayor’s Statement about the Court declining to hear the case provide the answer. Drum roll, please. The Court didn’t need to take action because the issue may be going away without court intervention.

How is this situation going to change? Legislative, rather than judicial, action is likely to be taken. The National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service conducted a four-year study of the male-only draft registration requirement. Its conclusion announced in March 2020? Eliminate the male-only draft. A 2020 bill was introduced to include women in the draft. Although the requirement as to who must register has not yet been resolved, the matter is being addressed by the legislative branch. And, as Justice Sotomayor noted, Congress has long given deference to Congress on matters of defense and military affairs. In others words, let the legislative branch deal with that can of worms.

I don’t own a crystal ball, but I imagine one of two things will happen with the draft system. Either women will be included in the draft registration requirement or the entire system will be chucked. This high profile issue really involves two questions–what should the role of women be in defending the country and how do we go about having a ready pool of individuals ready to serve should the need (again, think war) arises. Question one is a no-brainer and already answered. Women are ready, willing, and able to serve their country, even in combat roles, without being required to do so. With the advent of computers and online databases which can identify eligible individuals, simply having a list of people (be they men only or men and women) who have registered, and which list is not updated once entered, is not really helpful. A more modern and effective process is needed.

As an attorney, I applaud the Supreme Court for declining to take on a highly visible and interesting case. If the matter can be resolved short of involving the high court, why expend judicial time and effort to do so? That perspective seems to be common sense to me, but there’s a dearth of common sense in government, not to mention society in general, today. As for me, I’ve dodged the draft issue anyway; at my age, I am well past the age for registration (18 through 25).

Just WONDER-ing:

Do you know a man who was drafted? If so, how did he feel about the process? Were you aware the penalties were so severe for failing to register? If women are already serving in combat roles, why shouldn’t women as a group be required to register for the draft like men?

Have Another Baby, Please–Chinese Government Now Allows Three Children Families

The ubiquitous “Made In China” stamp appears on many goods Americans purchase. But manufactured items aren’t the only things made in China — Chinese babies are produced there as well. And the Chinese government is hoping more bundles of joy will be produced in the near future as a result of the recent relaxing of birth limits. Yes, the ruling Communist party has now given its permission for Chinese couples to have three children, up from the previously allowed two.

While Americans were celebrating Memorial Day on May 31st, the Chinese government announced it was relaxing birth limits on the number of children Chinese couples may have. How benevolent of President Xi Jinping and his fellow government officials. Why was this action taken? Well, it wasn’t because Chinese officials suddenly took a shine to young children and decided it would be great to have more of them around. No, indeed. It was a very calculated call on their part.

Driving this announcement that the cap on child production would be raised to three is the rapid aging of the Chinese population which is placing a strain on both the economy and society. The government is concerned that the number of working age people is dropping too fast while the number of those over 65 is rising. What’s a government to do when there aren’t enough workers to make goods to be stamped “Made in China?” Why allow more workers to be produced!

China has a long history of sticking its nose into the bedrooms of its citizens. Restrictions on the number of children a married couple is allowed to have have been in place for years. The most restrictive limit was the one-child policy first adopted in 1979. That limit was imposed to address China’s booming population which had swelled from over 542 million to approximately 975 million over the preceding 30 years. The one-child policy was enacted out of concern the population explosion would spiral out of control and strain water and other resources. Too many Chinese babies were being made in China, so production was decreed to be downsized.

The Chinese government meant business when the one-child policy was in place. Enforcement of the limit included mandatory IUD’s for new mothers, heavy fines for exceeding the baby limit, and forced abortions. Because Chinese society favors males, couples made sure the one child they had was a boy using infanticide, abandonment, or abortion when necessary. As a result, there are millions more Chinese men than Chinese women today. Good luck for these Chinese bachelors finding wives.

After 35 years of the one-child policy, China announced it was raising the limit to two children in 2015. This move was taken to address the resulting gender imbalance from the one-child policy and the country’s aging population. Despite relaxing the limit on the number of children allowed, Chinese births continued to fall. Chinese citizens were reluctant to have more children for several reasons: the high cost of raising children in Chinese cities; the need to care for elderly parents, and the interruption to their jobs. Chinese couples simply didn’t have time for child-rearing with a six-day work week with overtime often required. “996” (working 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. six days a week) put the kibosh on having more kids. Working 9 to 5 would probably seem like a vacation to Chinese employees.

The Chinese government strictly enforced the two child limit as well. Hefty fines of 180,000 yuan ($20,840) were imposed on those daring to have more children than allowed. Guess those Chinese workers had to work seven days a week to pay off that fine.

Despite the switch to the two child policy, the number of births in China dropped every year since 2017. The country’s fertility rate was merely 1.3 in 2020, a figure insufficient to maintain the size of its population. By the end of this century, China’s population, now at 1.4 billion, is expected to decline by half a billion, allowing India to surpass China as the world’s most populous country. Will this event lead to more of our manufactured goods bearing the stamp “Made in India?”

Seems like the Chinese government is a victim of its own success. Back in the 1960’s when the average Chinese mother bore more than six children, restraining population growth was a good idea. But the Chinese are overachievers. The government has convinced its citizens that less is more, so few want to have additional children now. What’s a government to do? Other Asian countries facing declining populations, such as Japan and South Korea, have opted to offer stipends to couples who have additional children as an incentive to procreate. Yes, I can see Ma and Pa explaining to the latest addition to their family that he/she was wanted so the family coffers could be increased.

Then there’s the psychological method of convincing people to have more children. The Chinese government has cleverly used stamps for that purpose. In 2016 after the two-child policy was adopted, a stamp for the Year of the Monkey depicted two baby monkeys kissing their parent. One look at that stamp, and a Chinese couple was sure to head to the bedroom to produce baby number two, right? Perhaps foreshadowing the rise to three children being allowed, a 2019 stamp for the Year of the Pig showed two adult pigs with three happy piglets.

Whether or not they want to have additional children, many Chinese women bristle at the idea of government interference with their reproductive choices. Child-bearing limits are seen by these women as an unwelcome attempt by the powers that be to control their bodies. Just by having these thoughts, Chinese woman are clearly demonstrating their government does not control their minds.

A valid question is how far the Chinese government will go to protect its economy and world standing. If it has the power to restrict the number of children a couple has, couldn’t it also mandate the number of children to be produced? I’d like to think that bundles of joy are just that–children conceived and birthed because their parents truly desired to have them and to expand their family. Having a baby simply to make sure there are enough workers to produce goods to be stamped “Made in China” is appalling and sad.

Just WONDER-ing:

Were you aware the Chinese government has imposed limits on the number of children a couple can have? How much say should the government have in the size of a family? Should citizens be offered monetary incentives to produce children?

Memorial Day–Don’t Forget To Remember

Have big plans for Memorial Day? Going to the beach? Having a cookout? While having a fun is not the purpose for Memorial Day, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a good time on the holiday. But while doing so, surely you could take a least one moment out of your day to remember those serving their country whose time on this Earth ran out prematurely. a

Memorial Day became a federal holiday back in 1971. Yet, a quarter of a century later in 1996, a boatload of U.S. citizens still hadn’t figured out what it was for. (Hint: It’s MEMORIAL Day.) A Gallup Poll taken in May 1996 showed only 28% of Americans knew the meaning of the federal holiday. Even worse, a group of kids touring Lafayette Park in Washington, D.C. that same month erroneously thought the meaning of Memorial Day was that it was when pools opened for the summer. Let’s give those school children a big fat “F” in civics.

For those who failed civics, Memorial Day was set as a time to remember and honor military personnel who died in performance of their military duties serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. The holiday is observed on the last Monday in May; in 2021, that day is May 31st.

The significance of Memorial Day is greater the more that is known about American history. Let’s take World War II for example. Even if someone wasn’t alive during that conflict, everyone is familiar with it from media exposure whether that be television (“Hogan’s Heroes” and “McHale’s Navy”), movies (“Saving Private Ryan,” “Fury,” and “Darkest Hour”), or books (Flags of our Fathers and War and Remembrance). While we may be entertained by stories set during World War II, we should also be aware it was the deadliest conflict in history with 3% of the world’s population, some 70-85 million people, killed. Of those deaths, U.S. military personnel accounted for 407,300 of them, a figure that is larger than the estimated population of Tulsa, Oklahoma in 2017And where would Americans be today without the sacrifices of those men and women killed during that horrible war? Would we be speaking German? Japanese?

But the impact of the number of casualties was not merely on those who were killed. Each death was of an individual who was a child of someone, and that parent suffered the devastating loss of his/her child. Siblings, significant others, and friends also experienced loss. How uncaring are we if we do not recognize those losses and heartache suffered as a result of duty to one’s country–your country and my country?

In the abstract, it may be difficult to mourn for people we don’t know. So, let’s put a face on the faceless to help you. We’ll start with name, rank, and serial number: Joseph A. Doyle, Jr., First Lieutenant, O-828978. He served in the U.S. Army Air Forces as a pilot with the 757th Bomber Squadron, 459th Bomber Group, Heavy. Lt. Doyle entered the service from the state of South Carolina, but he never returned to the Palmetto State. Lt. Doyle died in a plane crash in Italy during World War II and was buried in the 77 acre Sicily-Rome American Cemetery in Nettuno, Italy along with 7,844 of his comrades in arms. Who is this man? He’s my Uncle Joe, a man I never had the honor of meeting. A man whose loss deeply hurt my mother, his sister with whom he was very close. They are the two people in the picture at the top of this post.

So how can we honor my Uncle Joe and all those other men and women who gave their lives for us? Note that United States is abbreviated U.S. which letters spell “us.” A country is made up of its people, and we the people were the reason these military members served and died. The least we can do is give them a moment of our time on Memorial Day–literally a moment.

The National Moment of Remembrance Act , Public Law 106-579, December 28, 2000, established a specified time for Americans to pause for a moment of silence at 3:00 p.m. on Memorial Day. Why pause? To demonstrate gratitude to those who died for our freedom. This time was chosen because it is a time of day when most Americans are likely to be making the most of their freedoms. It is a symbolic act of unity for all to pause for 60 seconds. This action is simple really. Just do as Diana Ross and The Supremes urge and “Stop! In The Name Of Love.” The fallen gave up years of their lives. Can’t we manage to show some love and honor and give up 60 seconds to remember that?

What are you supposed to do for those 60 seconds? How you remember and honor the fallen is up to you. Perhaps you can reflect on the horrors of war and what they had to endure to serve us. You might say a pray of thanks for brave and selfless men and women who had a sense of honor and duty. It will take slightly more than a minute, but I’d encourage you to listen to “Taps” being played. That haunting song will surely stir you to recognize the toll which military service often takes. A link to a military produced video of the tune can be found below.

I am looking forward to an enjoyable holiday on the 31st. But I will not forget to remember what the day is about. I will be flying my American flag, I will say a prayer of thanks for Uncle Joe and all those who have served and died for our country, I will pause for a moment of silence at 3:00 p.m., and I will listen to “Taps” with a catch in my throat. Please don’t forget to remember the meaning of the day.

Just WONDER-ing:

Do you know or are you related to anyone who gave his/her life during performance of military service? What’s the best way to honor someone who made the ultimate sacrifice for his/her country? Were you aware a National Moment of Remembrance was established? If so, how have you observed it?

Hole-y Cow! Earth Found To Have Black Hole For A Neighbor

Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s a black hole! But wait. You can’t see a black hole. Nevertheless, really smart astronomers at Ohio State University managed to discover a black hole right here in the Milky Way near Earth. Yikes! What should we know about this intriguing but scary celestial neighbor?

Let’s being at the beginning. First of all, exactly what is a black hole? While Sheldon and pals on “The Big Bang Theory” may understand all the science involved, I frankly couldn’t tell you anything about a black hole except it is something to be avoided in space. But Darth Vader fits that description, so a bit more detail is needed.

Black holes appear to be appropriately named. They emit no light of their own and “gobble up” (yes, a highly scientific term there) everything including light. With no light, things are dark, i.e., black. Accordingly, black holes are invisible. The philosopher in me is screaming, “But if you can’t see it, does it really exist? Is it near the tree that soundlessly fell in the forest?” But I digress.

So we can’t see black holes, so what are they? Black holes are points in space which are so dense that they create deep gravity sinks. The gravity pulls so strongly that even light cannot escape. A boundary around the mouth of a black hole called the event horizon is the point past which something that crosses can never escape. Cue Kansas’ “Point Of Know Return” playing in the background; of course, with black holes, it’s the point of NO return.

Albert Einstein first predicted the existence of black holes in 1916 with his theory of relativity; however, the term “black holes” was not coined until 1967 by American astronomer John Wheeler. In 1971 the first physical (as opposed to theoretical, I suppose) black hole was “spotted.” (Um, how do you spot what’s invisible?) The first image ever recorded of a black hole was not obtained until April 2019; it was captured by the Event Horizon Telescope. This scientific instrument spied with its lens eye a supermassive black hole, Messier 87, in the Virgo cluster. (Cool, my Zodiac sign is Virgo!)

Black holes have been found then, but how are they formed? According to scientists (because I personally wouldn’t have a clue), black holes form because of stellar death; in ordinary terms, this means the center of a very big star falls in upon itself or collapses. Once a black hole forms, it sucks up dust and gas from around it allowing it to grow. Black holes comes in various sizes from small to supermassive. The latter have masses equal to more than one million suns together. What bright person does this math? (Pun intended.)

Hearing details about a black hole make me a bit nervous. Who wants to get sucked into one and never emerge? Not me! And, to increase our anxiety, be aware scientists estimate there are as many as 10 million black holes in our Milky Way Galaxy alone. In fact, a supermassive black hole dubbed Sagittarius A sits at the center of the galaxy, some 26,000 light years from Earth. (Whew!) Ginormous Sagittarius weighs in at an approximate whopping 4.3 million solar masses.

Even scarier? The recently discovered black hole is pretty close to our home planet. It holds two records at this point– smallest black hole discovered and closest black hole to the Earth. “Closest” is a relative term, though. This black hole is (GASP!) 1,500 light years away. That’s still too close for comfort for me!

Our newly spotted celestial neighbor is located in a faint constellation known as Monoceros. For those of us who are not Latin scholars, this word means “unicorn.” Thus, the black hole has been dubbed the Unicorn. It is considered “tiny” because it is merely three times the mass of the sun.

Since this black hole is so “tiny” and also invisible, just how were Ohio State scientists able to detect the Unicorn? The Unicorn’s companion star, a red giant known as V723 Mon, ratted it out. It seems most known black holes are discovered because of their interaction with a companion star which creates lots of X-rays which astronomers can see. These companion stars are connected to the black hole by gravity. The gravitational pull from the black hole can distort a star into a football-like shape with one axis longer than another.

Because of the gravitation pull from the Unicorn on its companion star, scientists detected a wobble in V723 Mon. Their research ultimately led to finding the Unicorn and publishing credits in the Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society in April announcing its discovery. Rats! I don’t subscribe to that publication and missed reading the announcement. But, should you want to plow through the scientific mumbo jumbo, the OSU scientists’ article can be found at https://academic.oup.com/mnras/article/504/2/2577/6261635?searchresult=1.

It’s pretty frightening to think about being sucked into a black hole that is a celestial neighbor here in our galaxy. That’s not neighborly! Perhaps we should simply focus on things right here on Earth. Then again, the federal government now appears to be publicly confirming the existence of unexplained UFO sightings here. Maybe our newly created U.S. Space Force can figure out how to push any unfriendly aliens into the Unicorn. They won’t be back to bug us if we can accomplish that!

Just WONDERING:

Did you have any idea that millions of black holes are thought to exist? Had you heard about the discovery of this celestial neighbor? Does the existence of black holes put your view of man’s capabilities to control the world/space around him into a different perspective?

Nonuplets For Mother’s Day–Oh, Baby, Baby, Baby, Baby, Baby, Baby, Baby, Baby, Baby!

This past Sunday, Mother’s Day, afforded the opportunity to specifically celebrate the moms and the mother figures in our lives. For one mom, the day took on added significance this year. A Malian woman expanded her family five days beforehand. She didn’t add one child to her brood or even two. NINE little ones, nonuplets to be precise, prematurely entered the world to give their mom quite the surprise gift for Mother’s Day.

We’ve all heard of triplets and quadruplets and possibly even quintuplets. But nonuplets? I’d never heard that word before. For word nerds like I am, you may be interested to know the term “nonuplets” comes from the Latin word “nonus” meaning nine. Actually, my thought when learning nonuplets were a thing was that I wanted “non-a” that. Giving birth to NINE babies in one sitting–or lying as the case may be? Nope. Producing one baby at a time was difficult enough for me. Whew!

If you’re thinking nonuplets are pretty rare, you’d be correct. This particular situation is the first time on record a woman has given birth to nine surviving babies at one time. Two previous sets of nonuplets have been documented. One set was born in Australia in 1971, but two of the babies were stillborn. In 1999, a Malaysian woman delivered nonuplets, but none of the babies survived more than six hours.

What’s even more amazing about the Malian nonuplets is there’s no indication their birth mother, 25 year old Halima Cisse, conceived as the result of any fertility treatment. Apparently the nonuplets are Demonstrative Exhibit A for the proposition humans can, on their own, indeed have litters. In contrast, the infamous Octomom, Nadya Suleman, a single American woman without a job, produced octuplets (that’s 8 babies for any prefix-challenged readers) back in 2009. Her babies (litter?) were conceived as the result of fertility treatments, specifically IVF. Her octuplets all survived and are now 12. (Oh, my! Eight children to be in their teens at the same time????)

So why was the birth of nine babies a surprise to this Malian mama? Certainly her pregnancy would be clear if she was carrying that many at one time. Well, doctors only saw seven fetuses on the ultrasound. Numbers eight and nine were an unexpected bonus at the time of delivery. Perhaps the statement, “But wait, there’s more!” was heard in the delivery room.

Although the mother lives in Mali, one of the world’s poorest countries, she gave birth in Morocco. Why was she traveling abroad while experiencing a high risk pregnancy? Her pregnancy, in fact, was the very reason she had to leave Mali to deliver. Her home country was not equipped to provide the special care required, so the Malian government ordered their pregnant citizen to be transferred from a Malian hospital to Morocco for such care. Halima was flown to the North African country in late March and admitted to a private clinic, Ain Borja, in Casablanca.

Halima’s pregnancy was no piece of cake. She spent two weeks in the hospital in Mali before her admission to the Moroccan clinic where she arrived at 25 weeks into the pregnancy. With full gestation set at 40 weeks, that point in the pregnancy was very early. A dangerous premature delivery was feared imminent. Thanks to the nonuplets, their mother had gained between 66 and 88 pounds consisting of babies and amniotic fluid. Who knows how much she would gain if she went full term. Alas, we’ll never know as Halima began having contractions at 30 weeks.

The babies’ delivery was quite the operation–literally. Ten doctors and 25 paramedics were assembled to assist with the C-section. That must have been one BIG delivery room to fit such a crowd inside. Tensions were high as each fetus faced 50% odds of being stillborn. Their mom had a rough time, experiencing heavy bleeding requiring a blood transfusion. Five boys and four girls emerged, all weighing between 1.1 and 2.2 pounds. Five of the babies were immediately hooked up to ventilators after birth, and all were placed in incubators due to their weight. These incubators will be their homes for the next two to three months.

Meanwhile, back in Timbuktu (yes, really), Halima’s husband, Adjudant Kader Arby, keeps the home fires burning. He is caring for the couple’s older daughter and not fretting about the babies’ future. He’s expressly stated that he’s not worried, noting “God gave us these children. He is the one to decide what will happen to them.” While I don’t know the medical prognosis for these numerous little ones, I do envision a future for them involving lots and lots of diaper changing and feedings for their parents to handle. Not sure if a Sam’s Club is located in Timbuktu, but the nonuplets’ parents will definitely need to buy in bulk.

Raising multiples, especially nonuplets, is undoubtedly a daunting task. Thankfully, multiple births in the United States are rare; per 2019 data from the CDC, only 87.7 births out of 100,000 in this country were triplets or more. My own family claims one of these rare events as I had triplet uncles. Although fraternal, they looked identical as kids and would switch identities as it suited them to the great frustration of my dear grandmother.

Because of this family history, my biggest fear with my first pregnancy was having triplets. I’ll never forget the amused response of the medical staff member on base when I asked if I could be carrying triplets. He said, “Ma’am, you be waaay bigger if you were having triplets.” In light of Halima’s weight gain and pregnancy complications, I’m blessed to say I only carried one baby at a time. Nonuplets make for interesting news but for a difficult pregnancy and motherhood.

Just WONDER-ing:

Have you ever heard the term nonuplets before? Have there been any multiple births (triplets or more) in your family? If fertility treatments are utilized, is it responsible to attempt multiple births? How many babies is enough for one pregnancy?

Teen Cheerleader + Snapchat + School Suspension=Momentous Supreme Court Student Free Speech Case

Reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic fill school days for most students. But Brandi Levy’s high school education focused heavily on civics, the U.S. court system in particular. Her instruction was as up close and personal as one can get; she became a party in a federal lawsuit stemming from her suspension from school. Future students will learn about Brandi since her case is now before the United States Supreme Court which has the opportunity to determine how far schools can go in policing off campus student speech.

Today’s “speech” isn’t your father’s speech. Oh, no. The concept of “speech” evolves with the times. Brandi’s “speech” which got her into trouble was a Snapchat post containing a certain four letter word beginning with the letter “f.” She used this word not once, not twice, but FOUR times. To visually illustrate her speech, Brandi’s post included a picture of her and a friend raising their middle fingers. Get her message loud and clear?

What was Brandi so upset about? The 14 year old was frustrated (to put it mildly) that, as a rising sophomore, she did not make the varsity cheerleading squad but would have to remain on the JV squad for another school year. Egad! What’s a troubled teen to do? Vent on social media.

And vent Brandi did. Her eloquent post read, “F— school, f— softball, f— cheer, f— everything.” Although undeniably related to school (hey, the post expressly used the word “school”), the “speech” did not occur at school or even on a school day. Brandi was at a local convenience store on a Saturday, and she wasn’t wearing school clothing (such as a cheerleading outfit.) The post was transmitted on Snapchatto 250 of her closest friends, some of whom were classmates and fellow cheerleaders; it would automatically self-destruct in 24 hours–plenty of time to be wiped away before the school bell rang Monday morning.

But the best laid plans of men, and of teenage cheerleaders, often go awry. A Snapchat friend saw Brandi’s post and screenshotted it. She then shared the picture with another high school student who was the daughter of one of the cheerleading coaches. (The plot thickens!) Needless to say, the coach was less than pleased with this “speech.” Other members of the cheerleading team also raised complaints. As a result, Brandi was kicked off the cheerleading team for the school year for violating school and team rules requiring students to avoid “foul language and inappropriate gestures.” The school’s athletic director, the principal, the school superintendent, and the school board all sided with the coaches.

Brandi’s parents, who were previously unaware of their daughter’s Snapchat antics, did not take her suspension lying down. They did what any normal American parent would do–they filed a lawsuit. The case, brought in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania in September 2017, alleged the school had violated Brandi’s First Amendment rights by restricting her off-campus speech. And the district court judge agreed, resulting in Brandi being reinstated on the cheerleading team. Rah! Rah! Rah!

Undaunted, the Mahanoy Area School District appealed the lower court’s decision to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. Once again, a ruling was entered that the school district had violated Brandi’s First Amendment rights; the school district failed its test in challenging the lower court ruling. The June 2020 appellate court decision held schools “cannot censor students’ off campus speech based on a fear of disruption of school activities.”

Did the school district concede and go back to concentrating on providing a quality education for its student population? Nope. It appealed to the highest court in the land, the United States Supreme Court. The Supremes were going to be hearing only the fifth students’ speech case in its history, and the first one it had heard in over 50 years.

Oral arguments were heard presented to the Supreme Court on April 28, 2021. But the wheels of justice grind slowly, so it will be months before an opinion is issued. Meanwhile, time marches on. Brandi, a 14 year old high school sophomore when this story began, is now an 18 year old college freshman.

The disposition of Brandi’s case turns on the interpretation of a Vietnam era Supreme Court decision issued in 1969, Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District. Oh, the memories this case name evokes of me studying constitutional law in law school! But I digress. In Tinker two siblings wore black armbands to school to protest the ongoing war. The high court sided with the Tinkers holding students don’t shed “their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” Clearly, the high court did not buy the contention students should be seen at school but not heard as to their personal opinions.

While the Tinker court ruled in favor of the protesting students, it did recognize the authority of the schools to regulate speech that would “materially and substantially interfere with the requirements of appropriate school discipline in the operation of the school.” Because of the special characteristics of the school environment, a distinction was made between speech at school and speech off campus. The Tinkers wore their armbands to school, so their speech was undeniably an on campus event. But Brandi’s speech occurred on a weekend at a 24 hour convenience store. Those facts were compelling to both the district court and the appellate court below who ruled in Brandi’s favor. School districts and 50 million public school students are waiting with bated breath to see if the Supremes agree.

The Mahanoy School District’s counsel argued the off-campus location of Brandi’s speech was not dispositive. With remote learning due to COVID, a brick and mortar school isn’t the only “campus” where learning is occurring. OK, but it was Saturday and Brandi was at a convenience store not in front of her computer doing a history lesson, just sayin’.

Counter arguments to the school district’s position involved a common sense proposition. While schools have the power to regulate students they are supervising, that power ceases when they aren’t supervising a student. Brandi’s Snapchat “speech” was made outside school hours in a non-school (and even non-home) environment. Shouldn’t the parents be regulating student behavior and speech during non-school time and in non-school locations?

I’m not a Supreme Court Justice, but I am a member of the U.S. Supreme Court Bar and have been in the impressive courtroom where the Justices sit in the high backed chairs before red velvet curtains to hear oral arguments and announce their decisions. What would I rule? Drum roll, please. It’s Brandi for the win!

Why would I rule this way? First, the speech occurred in an off-campus location during non-school hours. There is no connection between Brandi and the school at that point other than she is a student who attends that school. Second, the power to regulate students is utilized to prevent “material and substantial disruption” to school. What such disruption occurred? Students say ugly, profane, unkind, impertinent things about teachers, coaches, and each other all the time. If every statement like that merited suspension, I dare say there’d be no students left in the classroom. Third, where does a school district’s authority stop? Are they big brother watching and listening to a student’s words no matter what the location? Fourth, it’s a parent’s job to supervise students during non-school time off-campus not the school’s. Fifth, I give you the First Amendment. Free speech means, well, free speech. The whole point of having the amendment is that what we say will often be unpopular and not well received. (Like “Down with King George!”) We wouldn’t need speech protection if everything said were words all enjoyed hearing.

Although I’d rule in Brandi’s favor, I by no means condone the speech she made. It was impolite, rude, and disrespectful. Bottom line? Brandi had the legal right to say what she did, but just because she could do it does not mean that she should have. Anyone have a bar of soap handy? Uh oh, that may lead to a case about “cruel and unusual punishment.

Just WONDER-ing:

If you were a Supreme Court justice, how would you rule? Everything has a limit. Where do you draw that line for free speech? For the school’s power to regulate its students?

Under The Sea–What’s There? A Sunken Sub Not The Little Mermaid

Things may be wonderful and happy “Under The Sea” for the Little Mermaid, but the scene is tragic and sad under the sea for the crew of an Indonesian sub. The world’s attention was riveted off the coast of Bali at the end of last week as a frantic rescue effort was undertaken to find the missing sub with 53 aboard. Dancing and singing crustaceans populate the floor of the sea in the Little Mermaid’s world, but in the real world the sea floor now holds a sunken sub and, presumably, the remains of its entire crew.

Ask someone to name an exotic destination, and Bali might be the answer given. That island paradise is part of Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s most populous country and an archipelago of over 17,200 islands. But there was trouble in paradise last week, and things didn’t end well. In fact, they ended with a catastrophic loss of life in the Bali Sea, the body of water just north of–you guessed it–Bali.

April 21, 2021 was a day like all days with the Indonesian Navy simply conducting training exercises. Taking part in these exercises was the KRI Nanggala II, one of five subs in the Indonesian Navy. It was a diesel electric sub with 53 aboard–49 crew members, 3 weapons specialists, and 1 commander. Named after the nanggala, a powerful divine short spear wielded by the Hindu god Prabu Baladewa, the 1,395 ton German-built sub seemed mighty and menacing. But the mighty are prone to fall or, in this case, sink.

Around 3:00 a.m. (whew, that’s early!), the sub requested permission to dive to fire a SUT torpedo. For those of us who aren’t familiar with such torpedoes (raising my hand), quick research indicates that it is a 21″ heavyweight wire-guided torpedo. Well, that cleared things right up for me (not!). After firing this live torpedo, the sub went missing. Contact with the vessel was lost an hour after it received clearance to dive. The sub was supposed to check in around 6:00 a.m. before resurfacing, but there was merely the sound of silence.

It wasn’t long before the Indonesian Navy sounded an alarm and sought international assistance in finding the KRI Nanggala II. Time was of the essence since the oxygen supply on board the sub would run out by Saturday morning at 3:00 a.m. Concern mounted when an oil slick and debris, such as a grease bottle for oiling the periscope and a broken piece of a coolant pipe, were found near the site where the sub had last dove. Even with no technical background, I can conclude that those findings spelled bad news.

Good news and bad news followed. The good news? Sonar detected a submarine-like object in the depths. The bad news? The location’s depth of 2,790 feet put the object below the KRI Nanggala II’s diving range. In layman’s terms, that means the object was below the point where water pressure was greater than the sub can withstand and will collapse. The collapse depth for the missing sub was 655′, less than a fourth of the object’s actual depth.

The worst news of all came from pictures taken by an underwater robot equipped with a camera deployed by a Singaporean vessel, the MV Swift Rescue. These visuals showed the sub lying deep on the ocean floor of the Bali Sea broken in at least three parts with the main part cracked. Faced with this evidence, the Indonesian Navy was forced to accept the grim reality that its sub had sunk and all lives aboard had been lost. Crabs and mermaids might be able to live on the ocean floor, but humans cannot.

This loss of life is the largest from a submarine accident since a Chinese sub malfunction in April 2003. While it’s always great to outdo the Chinese, this category is not a good one in which to come out ahead. To no one’s surprise, an investigation into the loss of the KRI Nanggala II is pending. A similar class sub belonging to the Indonesia Navy has been taken out of service in the interim.

Theories have been floated (no pun intended) that an electrical failure could have left the submarine unable to execute the emergency procedures necessary to resurface. No mention has been made of any black box being in the sub which might shed some light on what went awry.

Although I’m no military expert, I do have some pretty good analytical skills. I’m also available for hire at a relatively cheap rate if the Indonesian government wants to throw some money my way to pinpoint what went wrong. My first conclusion is that someone can’t count. The sub was designed to have 38 crew members but 53 sailors were on board at the time of the accident. (Were they trying to pack people in like sardines to enjoy the training exercise???) Being overcapacity may not have been the main culprit leading to the accident, but it certainly didn’t help things other than upping the number of lives lost.

The age of the sub also likely played a part. It was built in 1978 and had been in service since 1981. Thus, the vessel was over 40 years old. In fact, its age required that it be retrofitted in South Korea back in 2012. Some things, such as wine and cheese, may get better with age, but I sincerely doubt that statement applies to submarines.

Serving in the military is, of course hazardous. But most of us think of wartime or hostile engagements causing death, not accidents occurring during routine training. However, when training is occurring in a vessel taking humans deep below the surface of the sea where they cannot breathe on their own should anything go wrong, risks exist. This risk exists not just for the Indonesian Navy, but for any navy utilizing submarines. That means U.S. military members serving on submarines are risking their very lives doing their duty. And with around 75 subs in commission for the U.S. Navy, that’s a lot of lives which could end up under the sea.

Just WONDER-ing:

Think you (or at least a younger version of you) would be up to serving on a submarine? Are accidents inevitable if aging military equipment is utilized? Is the loss of a military member’s life more tragic during peacetime?

Composting Human Remains–From Dust To Dust, From Cradle To Compost Heap

Recycling is a popular environmental-friendly activity. But the concept of recycling has progressed far beyond plastics and cans. After you kick the bucket, your body can now be recycled into soil. Your remains aren’t placed into the ground, they are turned into it via human composting.

Natural organic reduction (“NOR”) is a new alternative to traditional burial and cremation. The statement, “There oughta be a law,” applies here. You can’t do just whatever you want with a corpse, so laws are required to allow NOR to be a legal option. Right now, only one state, Washington, has a law permitting composting of human remains as an authorized method of body disposition. That law, effective May 1, 2020, may soon be joined by ones in Oregon (where a similar bill was recently introduced), Colorado (where pending legislation has passed one legislative chamber), and Delaware (where a measure allowing the disposition alternative was introduced this month).

Although the concept of NOR may not be widely known, farmers have practiced a form of the concept for decades. They utilize it to recycle livestock back to the earth. So, if you’re walking through a farmer’s field, cow patties may not be all you’re stepping on; Bessie’s remains in the form of soil could be underfoot.

The burial and cremation processes are generally understood, but what happens when NOR is selected for a deceased’s body? The method speeds up the natural decomposition process and turns a body into usable soil. The goal is to breakdown a corpse into stable organic material which is unrecognizable as human remains.

Lying in the open, a human body can take months to return to earth. That’s why a body found in the woods on your favorite TV crime show is still recognizable as a body even if it’s been there for awhile. Embalming fluids and caskets significantly delay decomposition, but NOR accelerates natural decomposition. And, of course, today’s society is all about speed–fast internet, fast food, etc. Why not get rid of our bodies fast when we’re gone?

The five steps of NOR are straightforward, but please don’t try process this at home or as a science project for your child. Step one is placing the (dead) body inside a container, usually made of wood or steel. Other organic materials and oxygen are added to the container in step two. For those scientifically challenged, organic material may include not only food scraps but bacteria and fungi as well. (For fungi, envision mushrooms.) These additions speed up the decomposition process. At Herland Forest, a non-profit research center in Washington State, bodies are placed in a NOR cradle with 200 gallons of wood chips to which bacteria, protozoa, fungi, and oxygen are added. I’m assuming this “recipe” calls for stirring at this point.

Step three involves heating things up. The container is kept at 130-160 degrees through rotation and the use of solar panels. Heat kills dangerous or harmful bacteria, ensuring the soil produced at the end of the process is non-toxic.

In step four the body decomposes into soil. This decomposition occurs while the body is kept in a greenhouse-like facility. Human compost results in around one month’s time with each body creating one cubic yard of soil, the equivalent of four wheelbarrows full.

The final step in the NOR process is to return the soil to the deceased’s family who may spread it and use it to grow a garden or a tree. Flowers and trees are nice, but what about growing food with NOR produced soil? Would your deceased grandmother be proud of her soil producing some prized tomatoes? This result isn’t an option in Colorado; the pending legislation to authorize NOR there would not allow the soil’s utilization for human food production.

Other than providing soil for growing, what are the benefits of NOR? The process is environmentally friendly since no harmful chemicals or energy costs are involved. In contrast, cremation, which is favored in most of the world, burns fossil fuels and emits large amounts of carbon dioxide and mercury into the atmosphere. Every cremation uses 28 gallons of gas. Talk about a gas guzzler…According to Recompose, a NOR business in Washington State, for every person who chooses NOR over cremation or conventional burial, one metric ton of carbon dioxide is prevented from entering the atmosphere.

Harmful chemicals are part and parcel of the embalming process undertaken for traditional burials. More than 800,000 gallons of toxic fluid annually are utilized for embalming. Who wants harsh chemicals injected into their (dead) body when you could rest in peace with mushrooms and eggshells with NOR?

Human composting is also far less resource intensive. Conventional burial takes up valuable land and pollutes the soil. Traditional burials contribute to climate change through resource intensive manufacture and transport of headstones, grave liners, and caskets too. Hmm. Maybe if humans just didn’t die, all these negatives stemming from the need to dispose of corpses would disappear. But then where would that leave the $20 billion U.S. funeral service industry?

Affordability is an attractive feature of NOR. A traditional burial costs about $9,000 while cremation ranges between $4,000 to $7,000. Good thing you can’t take it with you because a big chunk needs to be left behind to cover last expenses such as burial. Human composting is less expensive with a price tag between $3,000 and $5,000.

On the downside, NOR has not been warmly received in some religious circles. Admittedly, no graveside services are possible since there are no graves, just containers. The Catholic Church has denounced human composting as “undignified” and does not view it as an acceptable method for disposition of remains.

What to do with human remains is not a pleasant topic. But sometimes hard decisions must be made. Making a considered, thoughtful advance determination will save grieving loved ones from having to agonize over the right choice as to what to do with your body. None of the options are appealing–incineration into ashes, pumped full of toxic fluids and buried to rot slowly, or mixed with fungi and food scraps and heated to rapidly turn into soil. Just like how you will live your life, how your body will be disposed of is up to you. And the choice may simply be what is the lesser of three evils.

Just WONDER-ing:

How much thought, if any, have you given to what will happen to your body after your death? Had you heard about NOR before? Were you aware of the negative environmental consequences from traditional burial and cremation? Would you consider NOR for a disposition method?

Can You Dig It? Archaeologists Find Ancient Egyptian City Buried In The Sand

Digging in the sand is fun for adults and kids alike. If you’re at the beach, your shovel may uncover some shells. But if you’re an archaeologist digging in the Egyptian sand, you might turn up something epic. A team of archaeologists working in Luxor recently unearthed the most significant find since the discovery of King Tut’s tomb. What had the sands of time buried?

The average person (raising my hand) thinks of archaeological discoveries as being things such as broken pottery pieces. Well, to quote Gomer Pyle, “Surprise, surprise!” A project led by Egypt’s best-known archaeologist, Zahi Hawass (we’ve all heard of him, right?), unearthed an entire ancient city. I can understand pottery shards being lost in the sands of time, but an entire city?? Yup!

Hawass’ team began excavations back in September 2020. (Apparently the Egyptian desert was not on lockdown due to the pandemic then.) After seven months of excavating and searching, the team unearthed a city which had been lost under the sands and untouched for thousands of years. And this wasn’t just any city. This city is the largest ancient city ever found in Egypt. Wow! Can you imagine the amount of sand which it would take to bury a whole city?

The unearthed location is described as “ancient,” but just how old is ancient? The answer is pretty old–like in 3,400 years old, dating back to the 14th century B.C. The place was a bustling metropolis under the reign of Amenhotep III (let’s just call him “Amen” for short), who ruled from 1391 to 1352 B.C. The lost city would also have been around during the reign of the boy king, King Tut.

Amen’s rule took place in a time of great splendor, style, and riches. Egypt reached its peak of wealth, artistic achievements, and international power then. Amen, also known as “Amenhotep the Magnificent,” served as the ninth pharaoh in the 18th Dynasty. Numerous statues were apparently commissioned to attest to his magnificence. More surviving statutes of Amen exist than of any other Egyptian pharaoh.

Given Amen’s magnificence and Egypt’s status in the ancient world during his rule, it should be no surprise that the unearthed city evokes wonder. The archaeologists who discovered it dubbed their find the “lost golden city.” The metropolis’ actual name, the Rise of Aten, suggests how “golden” the city was. According to Egyptian mythology, Aten was the creator of the world and deemed a sun god. (Clearly, he was a bright guy.) A seal found in the ruins referred to the city as “the domain of the dazzling Aten.”

Where were this scintillating city’s ruins found? Archaeological work was being conducted in The Valley of Kings some 300 miles south of Cairo at the time of the discovery. Specifically, the ruins were found on the west bank of the Nile River in Luxor, known as Thebes in ancient times. The site was situated between Rameses III’s temple and Amen’s temple at Memnon. Teams had unsuccessfully searched for the ancient city before, but pay dirt (pay sand?) was struck by Zahi Hawass’ team.

Despite thousands of years underneath the sand, the lost golden city appears in a good condition of preservation. This find is especially significant because archaeologists don’t have much evidence about how Egyptians lived and worked in their cities. Evidence abounds at this site in the form of structures, tools, and jewelry. And, if anyone’s hungry, a vessel holding two gallons of dried meat survived the years of burial. If it wasn’t dry before, centuries upon centuries beneath the sand probably did the trick.

So far, Hawass’ team has unearthed most of the southern part of the city, but the northern region awaits their attention. The city’s ten foot high walls remain intact. These walls may have kept out thieves, but they were useless in the end against the desert sand which ultimately buried the Rise of Aten. Streets in the city are lined with houses, and several residential districts have been identified. In particular, a zigzag wall enclosed one administrative and residential district offering only one entrance, likely for security. Yes, even in the days of the pharaohs gated communities were necessary.

Housing structures with complete rooms and walls appear in residential districts. These rooms are filled with the tools of daily life. And residents have to eat as evidenced by a bakery discovered in the area with ovens and storage pottery. Perhaps the special of the day was mummy (as opposed to monkey) bread.

The city’s workshop area allowed for the production of mud bricks to build temples and annexes. Bricks found in the city bear Amen’s seal. The presence of large numbers of casting molds indicate amulets and decorative elements were also being produced. Tools on site include those for spinning, weaving, and metal and glass-making. Slag unearthed evidences the metal and glass-making process. So, when they weren’t singing their pharaoh’s praises, these Egyptians were quite industrious.

And where people live, they also die. The lost city’s environs include a large cemetery and tombs similar to those in the Valley of Kings. Stairs carved into the rock led to the tombs’ discovery. While uncovered, these tombs have not yet been explored. The archaeological team anticipates the untouched tombs will be filled with treasures. Such a find, of course, would make the lost golden city even more golden.

As golden as the Rise of Aten may have been in its time, it eventually succumbed to and was buried by nature. As magnificent at Amen may have been (or at least thought he was), he eventually became a footnote in history; in fact, many readers may not have even heard of him until now. As mighty as Egypt was in the ancient world, it eventually lost that position. We don’t have to be archaeologists to unearth the bottom line from all that history. All earthly beauty, power, and status will eventually end. What will future generations look back and see about us?

Just WONDER-ing:

Do you think the day to day life of an ancient Egyptian was strikingly different from yours? Does it amaze you that an entire city could have been lost under the sand for thousands of years only to emerge relatively intact? What aspect of the lost city intrigues you the most? What patience must an archaeologist have to dig through the sand for months before finding something?