June 28, 2017

Historian makes US Postal Service relevant again–For me at least

Historian makes US Postal Service relevant again

On Facebook Wednesday in Dallas, Texas, columnist James Ragland was writing about the latest news involving the US Postal Service and how they’re going to remain open on Saturdays now that Congress has basically flat told them they’re not going to be closing.

Friend and Dallas Morning News Columnist James Ragland

Friend and Dallas Morning News Columnist James Ragland

“So, the U.S. Postal Service plans to keep delivering mail on Saturdays, after all.
“Yawn.
“I’m yawning because, quite frankly, all I get in the mail these days are solicitations and bills. And more bills.
“Few and far between are the nice handwritten letters I used to get from friends and relatives, thanks to texts, emails and all the other high-tech-hellos/how-are-yous.
“Nothing wrong with the trendy evites, sweet tweets or fruitful ‘friends’ requests, per se. But I do miss the old-fashioned, hard-to-read cursive charms that once filled my box.
“OK, ‘filled’ is a bit of a stretch, but I once upon a time got enough letters and personalized cards to make me feel mighty missed and possibly loved.”

I say all this to set up the facts of the situation. Through this foray into amateur Archaeoastronomy I’ve had the great pleasure to become friends with two wonderful Egyptologists and geo-wizards from London–Hannah Pethen Barrett, whom you’ve all met through her videos previously posted here on The Wonders Expedition, and her pal, Liz Jones. (Liz is the geo-wizard sporting high-tech GPS oriented survey equipment and lots of terms dropped into the Twitterverse that I do not and likely won’t ever understand.)

Back to the story at hand: Today I checked the mailbox, done so in much the same way described by my friend James above.  And what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a white square envelope, cursive handwriting, and an unusual blue sticker with “By Air Mail par avion Royal Mail” on it!  Turning the card over to the back were the letters “From: E.A. Jones.”  (The salutation at the end was from Liz and her manly man, Stu–an adventurous Englishman in his own right.)

My Easter Card from Liz Jones

My Easter Card from Liz Jones

Inside was a delightful Easter card with best wishes coming “from across the pond!  I hope spring has sprung for you guys–it’s miserable here!”

How fun, special and unique.

“Hopping” back to what James was writing yesterday, “The romantic philatelist in me also enjoyed inspecting the stamps on personal letters and wondering if they carried a subtle message, like a single red rose against a backdrop of weeds.
Sigh…”

I’m happy to share with you the stamps that came on the outside, and a special one Liz attached to the inside of the card.

Fun Stamp from England

Fun Stamp from England

Beautiful Stamp from England

Beautiful Stamp from England

And so, friends, on both sides of the pond and around the globe as well, I hope you can sense the joy and excitement of having received a real card for a change–A card that’s traveled through many hands, thousands of miles and across the Atlantic Ocean just to get to me and my daughters.

It probably only took Liz a moment or two to pen the card and likely she’s not been pining away on her latest adventures wondering what’s become of it, but for me, it has incredible value because a friend of mine, one I’ve never met in person mind you, cared enough to do something so few of us even think about any longer.

Who could you send a card or letter to and make their day?

Trust me. This one’s going on display for a while and then it’s going to be tucked away in a drawer for some dreary day in days to come when I’m cleaning up or moving again and I’m going to sit and stop and remember the excitement of seeing what all was inside.

How’s that eCard you got the other day holding up?

And so, James, as you ended yesterday, yes, I’ve still got mail, and I’m quite the better for it.

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Dr. Mark Van Stone’s 2012 Book For iPad Now Available on the iBookstore!

DALLAS –After six months of production and more than four years of scholarly study, Dallas’ Claxton Creative, LLC and San Diego’s Dr. Mark Van Stone edition of 2012: Science & Prophecy of the Ancient Maya now is available on the iBookstore in 32 countries worldwide – just in time to answer one of the most pressing questions of the year: “What did the Maya predict would happen on Dec. 21, 2012?”

Joined in bit parts by 14 renowned Maya scholars from around the world and complete with four 3-D animations of ancient Maya and Aztec works, hundreds of photographs, interactive maps and drawings, and even an interactive puzzle of the historic right panel of Tortuguero Monument 6, Dr. Van Stone’s 32,000-word book was designed for the iPad(R).

“If you want to know what the ancient Maya predicted about Dec. 21, 2012, we have worked with Dr. Mark Van Stone to compile the most extensive, interactive, animated and scholarly product that’s ever been produced on the subject, bar none,” said Donald Claxton, the book’s publisher. “We have a ‘Who’s Who of Maya Scholars’ in more than two hours of video clips, 3-D animations, interactive maps, photos and drawings, plus never-before-released interpretations of Maya glyphs. This is the most complete and scholarly source of information about what the Maya did and did not predict.”

The book, printed in English, can be purchased in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.

“It has been a dream come true to see this body of work formatted to work so well on the iPad,” said Dr. Van Stone. “Through the magic of technology, we have been able to revive the Maya and pay tribute to the uniqueness and intelligence of this very special people. What did the Maya predict about Dec. 21 or 23, 2012?

“In my book we explore the most up-to-date interpretations and discoveries of the ancient Maya and explain them in a way that will be accessible to all: to an elementary student working on a class report, a layman searching for answers based on the hype surrounding the 2012 meme, and even the college student or scholar on the quest for greater understanding of the Maya,” Van Stone said.

Claxton, who met Dr. Van Stone, a speaker, author, Maya expert and professor of art history at Southwestern College in Chula Vista, California, online in March via Twitter following an appearance on Ancient Aliens, said his company has worked closely with the professor and other Maya scholars to develop this new form of technologically advanced book, which can only be read on an iPad.

“It’s been an amazing journey to learn the essence of this developing technology and marry it with the lunar, planetary and solar observations of the ancient Maya who more than 1,000 years ago studied these things as a way of explaining what was going on in their world,” Claxton said. “Dr. Van Stone now is ramping up efforts to inform children of all ages about what the Maya knew and what they said, in particular about Dec. 21 or Dec. 23, 2012, depending on which way of counting scholars have devised.”

“From the second one opens my book on an iPad, readers are transported into the ancient past by some of the most recognized Maya scholars,” Dr. Van Stone said. “Professor John Hoopes from the University of Kansas traces the 2012 meme all the way back to Christopher Columbus’ discovery of the New World.

“Colgate Professor Anthony Aveni explains his ‘what works theory’ and how non-scholars ‘cherry-pick’ information they use to get their personal theories to match their personally desired outcomes while omitting conflicting information. Independent scholar, Austin’s Dr. Barb MacLeod, presents the first-of-its-kind interpretation and reading of one of the most important pieces associated with the 2012 meme, among others,” Van Stone said.

In the book Dr. Van Stone also was joined in short video clips by:
* University of Calgary Professor Kathryn Reese-Taylor
* Yale Professor Oswaldo Chinchilla
* Tulane University Visiting Assistant Professor Marc Zender
* Flora S. Clancy, professor emerita of art history at the University of New Mexico
* Khristaan Villela Santa Fe University of Art and Design
* John Justeson of the University at Albany
* Maryland Senior Lecturer John B. Carlson
* Ivan Sprajc, Institute of Anthropological & Spatial Studies, Scientific Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Science and Arts
* Susan Milbrath, curator of Latin American Art and Archaeology, Florida Museum of Natural History
* Northern Illinois University Professor Jeff Kowalski
* Jaime Awe, Director of the Belize Institute of Archaeology

Claxton and Dr. Van Stone said they are working on a series of promotions in the coming months including an extensive travel schedule that will mean planned public presentations in Atlanta, New York, Washington, Boston, San Diego, San Francisco, Portland and on the campus of Princeton University.

“We are encouraging teachers in primary and secondary schools, as well as college professors to adopt this text for a course of study, research papers, or even a special guest video appearance from me throughout the fall,” Dr. Van Stone said. “As we get closer to Dec. 21, 2012, and the election season winds down in America, interest in this subject is going to increase and the non-scholars, many of whom are predicting either a ‘blow up’ or a ‘bliss out’ depending on which kind you talk to, are going to be coming out of the word work. If you’re armed with the information in my book, you’ll be able to refute each one of them with the facts and help put the minds of those around you to rest.”

Device Requirements:
* Viewed using iBooks 2 on an iPad
* Print Length: 179 Pages
* iOS 5 is required

Pricing and Availability:
2012: Science & Prophecy of the Ancient Maya is $14.99 USD (or equivalent amount in other currencies) and available worldwide exclusively through the iBookstore in the Astronomy category. Schedule an interview now about this amazing technological work by calling 972-863-8784.

2012: Science & Prophecy of the Ancient Maya
Purchase and Download
YouTube Video (Trailer)
Screenshot
Screenshot

Claxton Creative is a Dallas-based full-service public relations firm focused on the development of interactive, multi-touch publications for mobile devices worldwide. The company was founded by former Dallas ISD communications director, Donald J. Claxton and is supported with the assistance of Fort Worth Author Ron Rose, Dallas Author Allen Manning, Birmingham, AL editor Larisa Lovelady, Ally Stephenson of Huntsville, AL, and others.

Copyright 2012 Claxton Creative, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Apple, the Apple logo, iBooks, iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries. App Store and iBookstore are service marks of Apple Inc.

 

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What’s Your Excuse?!?!

While we’ve been working on Dr. Mark Van Stone’s 2012 Meme book and the other projects for the Wonders Expedition, I’ve gotten some never-before-heard of reasons why people have to delay talking to us. I long to be able to experience some of these same reasons.

Two of the most amazing have been–“I am currently in the Peruvian Amazon and now, an equally great one: “I’m in Krakow, Poland with hit and miss Internet.”

Don’t those two responses make you feel like you’re missing out on life, even just a little? This is just the sort of adventure I seek. And I hope this post inspires you as well….

Krakow (Poland) Barbakan

Krakow (Poland) Barbakan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

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Are you getting ready for the Annular Eclipse?

We had contemplated a trip to Lubbock, Texas this weekend to be ready for the first annular eclipse to happen in the United States in the past 18 years, but with us nearing the completion of Dr. Mark Van Stone’s 2012: Science and Prophecy of the Ancient Maya as a multi-touch book for the iPad/interactive book for the iPad/iBook for the iPad (Did you read our post from ClaxtonCreative.com?) we thought it’d be better use of our time to stay in Dallas and work on that.

We are on the hunt for a great place in Dallas to shoot the cosmic event and we’re thinking that something involving the new Calatrava Bridge downtown will be just the ticket. It’s only supposed to be an eclipse of about 67 percent here in Dallas, so no ring of fire stuff, but hey, it’ll be something special to watch nonetheless.

Eclipse Anular

Eclipse Anular (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Is there going to be darkness near you?

Does this eclipse have anything to do with Mayan prophecy?

Lots of things to discuss.  Obviously, like we did with the Supermoon, we’ll welcome your photos of the celestial happenings.

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Using Modern Tech Tools To Tell The Story Of The Maya & 2012

There was no known archeoastronomic calendar date associated with yesterday’s release of the Adobe Creative Cloud CS6 Suite of products–May 11, 2012–but after going through clips we recently shot of Dr. Anthony Aveni of Colgate, I’m sure, as he would say, we could find some 2012 enthusiast to “cherry pick” some points of significance to highlight the day.

For our part, we’ll just stick to what we know for fact–Using Adobe’s Prelude CS6 is making it easier for us to comb through the multiple hours of video we shot at the 2012 Society for American Archaeology meeting in Memphis in mid-March and help us catalog the materials in such a way that it’s going to greatly expedite the time we spend actually editing the content for the upcoming release of Dr. Mark Van Stone‘s interactive book for the iPad–2012: Science and Prophecy of the Ancient Maya.

Dr. Anthony Aveni as he discusses the recent announcement about Maya ruins

We also are proud to say that we have video of Dr. Aveni talking about the discovery announced Thursday and the findings being released in Science magazine and National Geographic.  When can you see it?  When we get the book done and loaded up in iTunes of course!  Which thanks to the release of the Adobe Creative Cloud Suite this past weekend, will be very, very soon.

I will say this though–if the Maya had been using these new Adobe Creative Cloud tools to tell their stories, make their glyphs and leave us hints/no hints about Dec. 21, 2012, no one would be worried about it being the end of the world.  In fact, they’d be like me and really hoping it doesn’t end.  I want to be still playing with these programs on Dec. 22nd!

We also have a couple BIG announcements coming about the release of the book.  But more about that later.

Prelude has been a great addition to our editing and creative tools.  Now we need to get back to using them!

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Maya Xultun Discoveries Fascinating–Prove Once Again No 2012 Doomsday Predicted

The announced discoveries from Xultun in Guatemala prove something that’s not new–archaeologists have been saying there is no evidence to predict a doomsday on Dec. 21, 2012 from Maya ruins. But the beauty of the discovery, their age and their very findings, are amazing and beautiful to review, to think about, and now, for scholars, to spend several years analyzing.

New York Times Photo and Article Reference

Our colleague, Dr. Mark Van Stone, has often repeated to us, even in video accounts on this site, that we still have only found a small, small percentage of the ruins in Mesoamerica and have yet to really unravel many of the mysteries that remain about them.

The discovery of the Maya ruins in Xultun prove this point once again.  Indeed, some of the articles we’ve ready help further emphasize this important point.  There is still so much we do not yet know about the Maya.

Xultun

We talked with Dr. Van Stone yesterday while he’s at the Archaeology Channel’s annual film festival in Eugene, Oregon this weekend.  He was clearly excited about this new find and was still reviewing the details of the findings.

In interviews we recently conducted in Memphis at the Society for American Archaeology, we interviewed Dr. Anthony Aveni of Colgate, one of the four scholars highlighted in the Xultun find.  We now are in the process of churning that video out for inclusion in Dr. Van Stones soon-to-be-release Interactive Book for the iPad–2012: Science and Prophecy of the Ancient Maya.

We congratulate Dr. Aveni, Dr. Bill Saturno, Dr. David Stuart, Franco Rossi, and most of all, Maxwell Chamberlain for their great discovery.

 

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CNN reports massive solar flares to remain active for Earth the next 13 days

CNN is reporting on its website that we are in a period where there is a massive sun spot that’s been detected on the sun’s surface and it could affect the Earth through solar flares for the next 13 days.

As we noted back in March via Dr. Mark Van Stone, this is not unusual and there are going to an increased number of solar flares.  Not because of Mayan prophecy, but because these things go in 11-year cycles and we’re in the midst of one.

So, if someone you know starts trying to tie this all to doomsday predictions of the Maya, tell them to just relax.  It’s been happening every 11 years since long before the Maya and it will keep happening long after we’ve come and gone as well.

 

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Supermoon 2012 Photos from Mesquite, TX

By Donny Claxton

My daughter, Chandler, 15, and I set up on the east side of Mesquite, Texas tonight in anticipation of the Supermoon of 2012–when a full moon happened at perigee–the moon’s closest point to the Earth in 2012.

Supermoon 2012. TheWondersExpedition.com

Here are the photos we took of this historic event.

 

 

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Supermoon 2012

 

There’s a full moon tonight–well, 96 percent–according to the SkyWalk iPad app.  Because the moon is a perigee–it’s closest point to the Earth, it’s supposed to look SUPER HUGE at its rising and setting.

According to SkyWalk, the moon should rise locally at 8:03 p.m. and set at 6 a.m. in the morning.

If you take a photo or two, please share them with us.

Here’s the first one from Gigi Zagorah in South Africa.  She reports that it looks like the moon of normal.  But as you’ll see, her photo is taken when the moon is high over the horizon.  It’s going to be the optical illusion effect that makes it seem larger than normal tonight.

We will publish more photos as they come in from around the world.

 

The Supermoon from South Africa, by Gigi Zagorah

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Do Search Engines Have An Obligation To Ensure Accuracy?

Editor’s Note:  A related post to this one also is here on TheWondersExpedition.com. 

The Aztec Calendar Stone--Not the Mayan Calendar

Throughout the process of producing the upcoming release of Dr. Mark Van Stone’s 2012: Science and Prophecy of the Ancient Maya interactive book for the iPad, I’ve seen the wide-spread erroneous use of the Aztec Sun Stone calendar labeled as the “Maya Calendar” on dozens of sites across the Internet.  For example, if one uses Google, Bing or Yahoo! to search the term “Maya Calendar” all of them will bring up photos of this Aztec piece of art that never was seen nor used by the ancient Maya.

This begs two serious questions–1)  Can information published on the Internet be trusted? and, 2) Do search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo! have an obligation to seek out and correct gross distortions of the truth for the purposes of accuracy?

From responses to a query on Help A Reporter Out, a consensus is clearly understood–Google, Bing and Yahoo! do NOT have an obligation to make sure the information produced in their searches is actually accurate–they’re merely going out and crawling the Web and bringing back their findings for anyone who searches to see.  (They do what reporters are supposed to do: Go out, gather the facts and report back with them so a reader can make a decision about accepting their validity or not.)

But here’s the problem: 4.4 million results were found on Google alone, and scrolling through the first page of them, nearly 75 percent of them are WRONG! The other assumption is that the Maya Calendar/Aztec Sun Stone can’t the the isolated incident where this is happening on the Internet!

Greg Hluska’s Response–Issues with the ‘Growing Web’:

Marketer and web developer Greg Hluska was one of the first to respond to the questions posed.  He said the topic “gets to the very heart of the development of the way the web is organized.”  Hluska points out that  in the early 1990s, the web was a much smaller, more sparsely populated place. Content was largely distributed by:

  • Bad search engines
  • Human curated directories
  • Links pages (on websites)
  • Newsgroups/early social networks

He said that when the web was so new, “these extremely personal methods worked. Since individuals were heavily involved in the process, there was a certain amount of editorial control. So, if Kipp Teague posted something on the REM newsgroup, you could be fairly sure that it was accurate.”  But he says that as the web grew, the algorithm became more important. He pointed out that it is difficult for an algorithm to:

  • Figure out what a page is talking about
  • Decide whether or not it is accurate

According to Hluska, the “truth has been the biggest casualty in the growth of the web.  It is difficult to pinpoint responsibility here. A company like Google would have to hire people to read pages and check facts. With millions and millions of pages, they would have to hire thousands of experts in many conceivable areas.”  That clearly isn’t possible and just as clearly isn’t going to happen.

He pointed to services like StackOverflow and Quora as alternatives to helping better moderate the accuracy of information on the Net. “These are curated question and answer sites that are determined to deliver answers. Alternately, services like Reddit and Hacker News curate content – new articles are voted up/debated by users and this form of editing tends to distill the truth!”

Ari Herzog

Digital Media Strategist, Ari Herzog asked, “Why should a search engine have a responsibility to correct information that is not on their site?”  He pointed out that a search engine’s robots/spiders are merely showing information from other places. “It should be the responsibility of those other places that are indexed to have the correct information. Once corrected, the spider will return and notice the change and update it respectively.”

Herzog pointed out poignantly, that “Nothing on the web is correct–and yet everything is correct.”  His recommendation when doing research on the Net was to “take the so-called journalist perspective to double-check anything” unless it is  obvious the source is authentic.

Collin Jarman

Clickoptimize.com‘s SEO technician, Colin Jarman wrote that, “Unfortunately, it is not the responsibility of search engines to verify the accuracy of data they return. …Anyone can put anything they like on the web, and all Google does is find it. Unfortunately, if society at large is suffering from a misconception like the one you describe regarding the Aztec and Maya calendars, then that is likely what search engines will show.”  He recommended more reading here.

When we talked a little about people just accepting what they finding on the Net, he replied, “I think you sort of hit the nail on the head when you said, ‘the problem is most people just accept what they find on the Net and go with it.'”  Clearly, from the example of the Aztec and Maya calendars, one cannot afford to do that.

“People have always been able to say/write/produce whatever they like, and it’s always been up to the consumer of the information to decide whether or not to trust that information… it’s just that information is easier to get than ever nowadays.  Without getting too terribly technical here, there IS a metric that Google uses called ‘Page Authority.’  In essence, the more times your site is cited as a ‘source’ and linked back to, the greater your PA.  The greater your PA, the higher chance you have of coming up in the search results for any given term,” Jarman said.

He also said that in this way, Google does sort of evaluate the trustworthiness of a site.  “For instance, Wikipedia is often cited as a page of notably high PA due to all the people that link to it as an authority.  The Wikipedia pages do distinguish between the Mayan and Aztec calendars.  Good sources are out there, they just take more diligent research to find,” Jarman said.

His brilliant, and yet incredibly time-consuming idea was, “In the case of all the sites who got it wrong… well, someone needs to correct them!  It’s a pretty monumental task for such a widespread misconception, but hey, if you correct them maybe they’ll link back to you with a ‘Credit to TheWondersExpedition.com for correcting our mistake.'”

Follow Up

I really appreciate the dialogue generated with each of these Netizens.  So you know now, the Aztec calendar pops up when one does a search for the Maya calendar on multiple search engines.  Are there other topics where this happens?  Surely, if there’s one there are many others.   Have you personally tried to address this issue?  What would you recommend?   If you were at Google, Bing or Yahoo! would you be concerned about this issue at all?  How would you address it?

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