Archive for the 'Research' Category

The DARPA Robot

The Fast Company is perfecting its humanoid, soldier robot. Here’s a short video showing the latest.  Could this be the progenitor of some future Terminator?

I have a feeling this is going to end up in Sky somehow…

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Light of Eidon Scrapbook

Continuing my series highlighting the first book in my Legends of the Guardian King series, The Light of Eidon, I thought today I’d draw your attention to the scrapbook I developed for it, similar to the one I did for Arena.

In it I put up several photos of the ancient Nabatean city of Petra, which served as inspiration for the canyons of the SaHal in which the action plays out at the end of the book. There’s even a link to a virtual tour of the area.

Also included is a picture of an LL Bean model from the late 70’s that served as the inspiration for Abramm,

some information on swords, a map of the city of Jarnek,

and a cartoon that was pinned to my bulletin board for years.   If you’ve read The Light of Eidon, you’ll probably get the connection. If not… well… as you know, it’s being offered free as an e-book this week HERE… or you can try your local library. Amazon even has a few paper copies both new and used for sale…

To visit my scrapbook for The Light of Eidon, click HERE.

 

Over My Head

I’m reading a book about Rome (Life in Ancient Rome by Don Nardo) and have come across a number of interesting pieces of information, one of which is that during the Roman Republic, which began around 500 BC, they had a Senate comprised exculsively of men belonging to the Roman aristocracy. These men, who held their positions for life, controlled the finances, foreign policy and dictated how the provinces would be run. Here’s the part that struck me:

The traditional power of the oligarchic Senate was what kept Rome from evolving into a true democracy. This is not surprising, considering that the senators were part of the ancient and venerable patrician elite. They doubted the intelligence, abilities and moral capacity of the common people, whom they often referred to as “the mob.”

On this subject he quotes Cicero, who held that while a little democracy might be good, “too much was dangerous.”  Cicero believed that it would be unfair to grant authority to both society’s highest and lowest members because “the highest were by nature superior…and therefore deserved to rule, while the lowest would be incapable of ruling well even if given the chance.”

And it just reminded me of the political ruling class in this country. The idea that governing has allegedly become so complex and sophisticated that only a small minority has the intellect and capability of figuring it all out. If you haven’t gone to Harvard or Yale you are clearly hopeless.  (Unless you have, but you are a Republican with the last name of Bush…)

In any case, I can see why they think that with some of their strange ideas about the economy — for example, going into more debt is a great way of getting rid of one’s debts.  That is definitely a complex and sophisticated idea — so much so that to me, a common person, without an ivy league education, it makes no sense whatsoever.

Just like inflicting increasing gun control laws on our law-abiding citizenry, while freely allowing some 2000 guns to “fall into” the hands of Mexican criminals. I’m afraid I am too stupid to figure out how that was a good idea, either.

Nor how we can have “affordable” healthcare for all without it costing  any of us any more in taxes. And why are we lectured on the need for all of us sharing the sacrifice when our leader and his wife can’t even share the same plane?

I’m confused.

But then, I’m not a member of the ruling class intelligensia, so that must be why. It’s all just over my head.

The Silver Pigs

I found this book through a recommendation in Handbook to Life in Ancient Rome (Lesley Adkins and Roy A. Adkins): “The Falco novels by Lindsey Davis give an entertaining and well-researched look into life in the Roman world in the early empire.”

Since I was drowning in the technicalities presented in the Handbook — specifically I was struggling to understand Roman naming practices — I thought these might be just the deliverance I needed.

I found the first of Davis’s Falco novels, The Silver Pigs, at our library and just finished it last night. I really enjoyed it. Her objective in writing these books was to take the modern-day detective story and translate it into ancient Roman times. Except that her detective, Marcus Didius Falco,  has a family, and doesn’t find a new love to leave with every story. Or so says the introduction.

I enjoyed Falco, his family, and the setting. Falco even did a stint as a slave in a lead/silver mine in Britain. And there is a bit of a romance in it, as well. Quite entertaining.  And not only did reading it spark several ideas for Sky and get me out of the mental mud I was stuck in, but it pointed me to further resources when I investigated author Lindsey Davis’s website: A Falco companion filled with info on how she did her research and dealt with author problems in coming up with her various stories, which I immediately purchased from Amazon along with the next book in the series.

Anyway, I’m not going to do a summary — you can find that on Amazon here and here — nor much of a review — you can find many on Amazon as well. But what I thought was especially cool and want to talk about here is the triumphal march of Vespasian and Titus. As it happens, the first Falco story takes place in 70 AD which is the year that Titus destroyed Jerusalem. I’d already done a bit of reading on that subject for Sky, so the fact the story is set in the same time frame was an extra plus. I don’t think Davis is a Christian; I seem to recall reading she is an atheist, but I’m not certain.

In any case, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that she put a description of the procession into the book, toward the end, and I thought immediately of our Lord, who led His own triumphal procession after the Cross, “when He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, [and] made a public display of them (fallen angels), having triumphed over them through [the Cross].” (Col 2:15)

Paul was referring here to the Roman practice of the triumphal procession, something I doubt any of us have seen, but Davis’s description really made it take on shape and substance for me. It runs for several pages, and to try to reduce it to a paragraph or two completely guts the impact.  Not wanting to commit copyright infringement I’ll have to recommend you find the book itself to read the full description

One of the things I was surprised to learn from her portrayal was that the Emperor had the role of Chief Priest, another parallel to our Lord who is our High Priest. Then there was the Crown of Jupiter which was held over the Emperor’s head as he rode in his chariot  — the crown of a god, which no mortal man can wear. And our Lord being the God-Man, but crowned as a man, king of the Jews, Lord and Head and Husband of the Church. And she even had the slave whispering sic transit gloria mundi — “the glory of the world passes away.” I first learned about that slave from Colonel Thieme years ago, so it was a kick to see him presented here.

As an interesting side note, I noticed in a timeline in my Handbook that not long after this procession, which occurred 71 AD — a year after Jerusalem’s fall — Rome was hit with both plague and fire. I do not think that is coincidental. Nor the fact that 10 years after Titus, under Vespasian’s command, destroyed the Temple at Jerusalem, another fire in Rome destroyed Vespasian’s newly completed temple to Jupitor.

I’m looking forward to reading more of Marcus Didius Falco and his world. Perhaps the next book will even reference the above mentioned plague and fire…

Kachinas and Chapter Breaks

“The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.  ~Pro 16:9

I’ve been thinking lately about my unrealistic expectations as to what I should “accomplish” in a day. Some days are just… ornery. A day when things skew out of control and you don’t even know why. Where you spill the coffee, track in mud, end up doing things you had no inkling you were going to do.

Like today, where I read some entries in a book called The Multi-Cultural Southwest that my son left here when he moved out . The entry that had most interested me was one written by the Hopi mentor of my old college boyfriend. It was called “Hopi Indian Ceremonies.” And in light of my recent Bible lessons on how the kingdom of darkness deceives, it was fascinating.

It had to do with how attitudes toward a culture or belief are developed in a child and was illustrated by the author’s own remembrances.

The Hopi religion involves kachinas, which are… well, even having read the article I’m not exactly sure what they think they are. Spirit beings that the men dress up and dance in ceremonies as, and somehow become the Spirit they are representing during the time of their dancing… That’s about the best I can do. Maybe it will be better if I quote the source.

Indoctrination begins in childhood where

“In Hopi practice the kachina is represented as a real being. From the time children are able to understand and to verbalize, until they are eight or ten years old, they are taught that the kachina is real. There are a variety of ways in which the Hopis attempt to demonstrate this realism to the child. The kachina is all goodness and kindness. The kachina also gives gifts to children in all of its appearances.  Thus it is rather difficult for me to agree with the descriptions of the kachina that often appear in literature. The kachina is frequently described as being grotesque, but the Hopi child does not perceive the kachina as grotesque.”

Here are a couple of pictures of my mother’s kachinas. You can decide if you think they are grotesque or not…

I think they look pretty scary, but I’m not Hopi.

As the child grows up, his fantasies all involve the kachina. He goes about emulating the kachina, enacting his feelings about it, and singing and dancing like one.  The author says,

“At an early age, [the children] begin to feel the sense of projection into spiritual reality. When the child is initiated and becomes eligible to participate as a kachina[in the adult ceremonies], it is not difficult to fantasize now as a participant in the real kachina ceremony, and that is the essence of the kachina ceremony. The fantasizing continues then, in spite of the initiation which seems to have the effect of revealing to the child that this is just a plaything, that now we are grown up and we don’t believe.

“The idea of make-believe continues with the Hopi man and woman as they mature, and …must continue throughout life. For the kachina ceremonies require that a person project oneself into the spirit world, into the world of fantasy, or the world of make-believe. Unless one can do this, spiritual experience cannot be achieved.”

He goes on to say that the mask in the kachina ceremony helps with this projection, since the man who dances behind it loses his identity and “actually becomes what he is representing.”  In fact, “the spiritual fulfillment of a man depends on how he is able to project himself into the spiritual world as he performs.”

I’ve read this several times and I’m still not sure what this means, since my concept of spiritual world and the writer’s concept seem to be two different things. The author’s subsequent development of what he’s saying above didn’t help much, either, explaining that while performing the man isn’t doing it for anyone “but himself, trying to express to himself his own conceptions about the spiritual ideals he sees in the kachina.” What those ideals are beyond “good and kind” isn’t elaborated upon.

But I can’t help wondering why concepts of goodness and kindness need to be represented by dressing up in scary masks with teeth, or black faces biting snakes.  I know there is a great deal more to the kachinas than what was presented here — there are so many different varieties — but the author seemed more intent on talking about how he couldn’t explain or give concrete answers as to what’s going on in all this —  it was just part of the Hopi way, elements of culture that didn’t fit with the “dominant culture” — than he was in explaining.

 Then again, maybe it’s not the Hopi way to explain things or to need them explain.  The attitude expressed in this article seemed to be more that they just “are” without any need of explaining or understanding why or even of trying to change any of it.

So, I read all that. Why? Well, for one I wanted to make more room on my bookshelf and so if I would just read that one article I could get the book out of my house. It turned out to be more interesting than I expected. But I’m not sure how, or quite why. I’ll have to ruminate on this.

In any case,  that’s part of what I did today. I also avoided writing for most of the day… again… but when I finally made myself go into the office, I reminded myself that it’s hard and complicated when I have sooo many decisions to make as I do right now, and that maybe I just need to make some and quit worrying about whether they’re right or wrong.  So I looked over what I’ve done, and decided that I’m going to stop ch 1 on p 17 and move the remaining pages 18 through 23 into ch 2. With additions and alterations.

But that will be tomorrow’s work.


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