Back to School…

August 14, 2019 at 4:25 am (Education) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Well, actually, we never left.

History in the hammock.

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King’s List

August 6, 2019 at 5:20 am (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

As a classical homeschool mom, I encounter many lists, I don’t always remember their sources, and often I add to them. One list is my “Chronological Order of People to Cover,” scrawled out in a yellow, college-ruled, spiral notebook that I picked up for some ridiculously inexpensive price (11 cents sounds about right) at a school supply clearance sale post Labor Day. There’s a sloppy box around my ineloquent title, and my initial attempt at writing neatly at the top of the page, beginning with:

“Cheops, pharaoh of Egypt 2700-2675 BC

epic Gilgamesh legend by 2600 BC, written 2100

Hammurabi 1750 BC

Hatshepsut 1480 BC

Tutankhamen 1355 BC…

the list goes on, until I reach King David 1000 BC”

King David is often skipped over when you consult secular lists, after all he’s not just known as the King of the Israelites, he’s the scrawny kid on the felt boards in your Sunday School class who killed a giant with a slingshot.

It’s true that those most interested in King David’s existence would be those studying Judaism or Christianity, as there are not many references to his historical presence outside those sources. But it is also interesting that he appears in the Quran, as well as the Tel Dan Stele, a stone with Aramaic writings regarding the battle history and reign of King Hazel from the 840’s. In Hazael’s account of his rule and victories, he includes an account of having killed a man of the House of David.

I love history. I love archeology. Maybe one day I’ll do more with these loves than read a lot of books, maybe not. But this bit of history found on a basalt stone is enough for me to remember that the history of God’s chosen people is a history worth studying by all people, whether you believe in religion or not. The Old Testament, archeology, all of these things are stories and evidence that point to the good news of Jesus Christ and why He’s available for ALL people to accept. All of these people are relevant pieces to the giant web of life and affect religion and politics today.

During my separation from my ex-husband I read a Beth Moore study called David: 90 Days with a Heart Like His. It was my first Beth Moore study, despite being from the bible belt of Houston. I found it comforting, captivating even. During my latest revival of the ancient history cycle with my kiddo, I read David: A Man of Passion & Destiny by Charles R. Swindoll and I found it both theologically and spiritually educational.

Beth Moore’s study, as you can imagine, goes into all the great things we think about David. All the things that truly help us see why he was called a man after God’s own heart. Swindoll does a better job of addressing his sins, the parts of him that make us wonder how this man could possibly be considered a man after God’s own heart. Swindoll addresses what a non-believer might get hung up on: David was a warlord, adulterer, possibly a rapist (depending on how you view the story of Bathsheba), he wasn’t a great father, he had many wives and his household fell to shame and scandal more than once. But David always got back up again. He always repented of his sin, looked to the Lord, and asked how to fix it.

As a history enthusiast, my immediate reaction is to find more sources and do more research on this man. I know his heart, as presented by the bible and Christian commentaries, but I want to know his world. Naturally I made some requests from the library and pulled out a few choice titles from my boxes of ancient history books… yes, boxes – plural – of ancient history books, that I own. I have a bit of a book problem and a perpetually insatiable curious mind. However, I’m still lacking the focus to choose one particular thing to study, fancy degrees, and access to fabulous antiquarian documents.

First up, Robert Alter’s Ancient Israel. I invite you to join me, if you’re interested.

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Gilgamesh

July 26, 2019 at 4:47 am (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

If you’re studying ancient history in chronological order, sometime after you’ve read the Book of Genesis, it’s really fun to dive into Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh is an epic poem most kids have to read in high school or early college for literature classes, originally written in Akkadian. It’s a mythological adventure about a real Sumerian king documented in history, who, like many kings of old, became a legend passed down through the ages, the truth of his life distorted and lost to deification.

Ludmilla Zeman has a fantastic children’s picture book trilogy that I find to be the best starting point for learning about Gilgamesh. It is consistent with most translations and full of beautiful illustrations. When kiddo was small and we were studying ancient history the first time around, we checked these out from the library over and over again. She loved them. This time I bought them, brand new. They’re worth every penny.

I picked up used copies of the epic for myself. I was disappointed to discover that every translation available was a translation of a translation. I know its ignorant to expect to read direct translations of the Old Babylonian tablets when you pick up a Penguin trade paperback, but I did. I went back to the store after reading through David Ferry’s pretty version and N.K. Sandar’s better translation, looking for something closer to Andrew George’s 2003 version – or better yet, George Smith’s 1870’s version! To no avail. Everyone wants new and better more modern ways to tell the tale, while I bemoan my inability to read archaic clay tablets I’d never get my hands on anyway.

I was hoping to find a cool cartoon on the tale for us to watch together, desiring a repeat of the experience we had when we studied Beowulf in 2016 (YouTube had an amazing cartoon rendition of Beowulf featuring the voice of Joseph Fiennes at the time…). All I found were some not so kid friendly “cliff notes” style videos of people walking students through what it was all about so they wouldn’t have to read the book themselves.

Attention all animators: Please provide a kid appropriate Gilgamesh cartoon, featuring an oddly famous actor of the 90’s of my choice. Thanks.

Gilgamesh is neat. I love the beautiful picture books we own. I will be the parent that makes sure she reads poem and doesn’t watch internet video summaries when she’s older. But I’m not in love with it the way I am with The Iliad and Beowulf. I think it may be the insincerity of it all. It feels obvious that it was a legend born of puffing up the ego of a king and his people. It takes Noah’s ark and twists it, I love reading confirmation that many regions of the world had a major flood, I’m saddened when the details are distorted and inconsistent, making heroes of those who weren’t and forgetting the one man who did obey.

Maybe I’ll love it when I finally get my hands on one of the George translations…

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Hammock University

July 10, 2019 at 9:36 pm (Education) (, , , )

I’ve taken my studies to my new hammock. This is what lifelong learning is all about!

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To Be Indiana Jones…

September 11, 2016 at 4:46 am (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

2359468Title: Babylonian Life and History

Author: E. A. Wallis Budge

Genre: History/ Archeology

So, I want to be Indiana Jones when I grow up. Who doesn’t? Although a friend advised me that to be Andi “Tex” Klemm would be far cooler, and I have suggested that I just might have to embroider this onto a fedora.

In the meantime, I study as much history as I can.  I also subscribe to the Archeology magazine.  And the way I go all fan-girl at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, well, it’s part of what makes me awesome… right?

So my “grown-up reading time” during my 5 year old’s ancient history year was Babylonian Life and History by E. Wallis Budge.  It was neat teaching her the bare bones of the Babylonians and Assyrians out of Susan Wise Bauer’s Story of the World, and memorizing tidbits from the Classical Conversations curriculum, while getting a deeper dose for myself. I’ll continue this effort of furthering my education while I begin hers as long as I can. If you don’t have time for that, I understand completely; but if you do, this is a worthy book to select.

E.A. Wallis Budge never ceases to amaze me. Every time I think I have everything he ever wrote I think I find 3 new titles. He’s so prolific and seems to be the end all be all on Ancient History. Found some tidbit of from the ancient world you’d like to investigate? – there’s probably a Budge book for that. His prose is nothing special, and at times even a little boring, but I love reading his work and hope to read it all before I die.

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Ptolemy – Dwight Howard – Same Thing…

May 18, 2015 at 2:01 am (In So Many Words, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , )

I’ve never felt like a bigger idiot than when trying to read Ptolemy’s The Almagest.  First of all, I inevitably always pronounce the P when speaking about it.  And constantly get corrected, but can’t stop doing it.  Secondly, I switch the m and the g of “almagest” in my head so often that in my deepest heart I’m not reading The Almagest, I’m reading The Algamest.  Third, it’s a lot of information that I’ll never remember.  I hate knowing that what I’m reading is not going to sink in… it’s all just a passing whimsy and I’ll be able to tell you nothing of value about it when I’m done with it.

Nevertheless, I’m enjoying reading it.  Mostly because I’m a glutton for punishment, I think.  Also, it’s included in The Great Books, it’s fat (roughly 600 pages), and it’s part of our ancient history – which I’m a huge sucker for.

Reading stuff like this is kind of like watching certain sports for me.  I can follow the games, I know what’s going on, and I thoroughly enjoy them – but I don’t have sports lingo dripping from my lips and I rarely will discuss them with people because I know I’ll just sound like a moron.  I like the ambiance of the game and the thrill of hard work and athleticism paying off.  Just like I love the exertion it takes to read things slightly outside my knowledge base.  They are similar experiences for me.  Dropping me into a martial arts ring is more like breezing through fiction – I know it so well I can function there with my eyes closed.

It sounds completely absurd, even as I type it – but Ptolemy is like watching The Rockets play.  I’m there.  I get it.  I’m enjoying. I love it.  I will devour it – with chips, salsa, and beer.  I will not, however, scream and shout with the other fans or talk about it tomorrow; and if you try to talk to me about it, I’ll clam up. Mention apogees in anything other than reciting a chant from Bedknobs and Broomsticks and you’ll see the same blank expression on my face when people shout “Wet!”  I read that, I heard that… I internally absorbed it somewhere in my brain.  But please, please, don’t quiz me.  That’s recipe for an anxiety attack right there.

There are some things in life we should be allowed to simply enjoy without analyzation.  Therefore, just like I will never be any good at fantasy leagues, I will also never be able to give an intelligent lecture on Ptolemy and his great work.  But I’ll have fun being a half hearted amateur/ closet fan of both.

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Pythagoras, History , Music, and Reality

May 6, 2015 at 4:39 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

51emwyTkxmL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Title: Pythagorean Theorem: the Story of Its Power and Beauty

Author: Alfred S. Posamentier

Genre: Mathematic History

Publisher: Prometheus Books

Length: 320 pages

I’m not sure why I picked it up.  I didn’t even particularly care for math in school.  Geometry was not my strongest suit – but it was fairly easy math that I slithered through with the least possible amount of effort of any of my math courses.  But I was at the library one day and this geometric tree design was staring at me – I’d been collecting everything I could on trees because I am determined to become a certified arborist by the time I turn 40 – and upon impulse I through it in my “shopping” bag.

It might have been because I saw that it was about the Pythagorean theorem, and just a few years ago I attended a MENSA meeting where Andy Tang spoke on the topic.  The lecture was riveting, the discussion entertaining, and the wine pretty great for free stuff.  The event coordinator in me wanted to host his art exhibit at one of the bookstores I work with.  This didn’t happen, but there was such an exhibit led by him in Austin:

The community art exhibition “Pythagoras (and Austinites) Discovering the Musical Intervals” invites you to discover the story of what Pythagoras heard at the blacksmiths’ workshop. Continuing the tradition of passing down this ancient tale, this art show showcases Austin-area artwork through interactive, musical, and visual interpretations. (https://www.facebook.com/events/308042019293116/)

Whatever it was that possessed me, I picked up the book.  I read the book.  I enjoyed the book – a lot.  More than I could have thought I would enjoy a math book.

Although, let’s be honest, I enjoyed it for the philosophy and history, not so much for the endless diagrams and presentations on how the theorem works.  Yeah, yeah, yeah, I took that math class, I get it, and it’s cool, but I was really into the book for the tidbits about Fibonacci and then later, Bosman.  Bosman, by the way, is the guy that came up with the Pythagorean tree featured on the front cover.

I read this book for the whole chapter on music – that ties into that Andy Tang lecture I loved so much.  I read this book because I was a “Choir Queer” in high school and loved chamber music and found it completely fascinating how much math and music were so intertwined.  And of course, any one who does math and attempts music theory ends up asking the same questions:

“[…] do we simiply measure the distances between pitches or do we seek some measurable property of the pitches themselves that allows us to determine their relationships to other pitches […]”

Pythagoras had an answer.  And he’s an old, dead dude, and I love reading ancient history and things on or by old, dead dudes.  Except, naturally, Pythagoras was a top secret kind of guy and left no writings of his own behind and everything we know about him is second hand at best.)

Which leaves me diving into Philolaus, Plato, and Aristotle, and itching to get into Xenophon and see if anything is mentioned there because Herodotus didn’t spend nearly enough time on him.

I read this book thinking about Alyssa Martin’s Pythagoras cake bust.  She owns The Martin Epicurean – and cake that looks like a face – how cool is that?

I read this book because I will pretty much read anything, but especially because I love science more than my student transcripts could possibly portray – mostly because I avoided science courses like the plague.  I like the philosophies of science and concepts… I don’t care for the formulas and the math, but I’ll learn them ok if there isn’t any testing. Oh God, my test taking anxiety is insane… but reading up on it all, I love that.  After all, it suits my passions:

“Science is the discipline that attempts to describe the reality of the world around us, including the nature of living organisms, by rational means.” – Dr. Herbert A. Hauptman, Nobel Laureate

This one is a keeper.  I checked it out from the library, but I plan to purchase it when it comes time for kiddo to read it.  It’s an educational must-have.

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Literary Journal Monday – Mapping My Mind

March 10, 2014 at 10:14 pm (In So Many Words, Reviews, The Whim) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I am not ADD, but my mind is often many places at once. It goes and goes… it races… it is unstoppable.

hungerI’ve been reading Hunger by Michael Grant.  It’s one of my niece’s books – the second in a series she introduced me to.  No, that’s not how I want to start this post – is it?

I was craving a little bit of dystopian society literature after reading Herodotus.  My brain spinning in a circular momentum about democracies, oligarchies, and dictatorships.  Darius and then Xerxes tyrading around ancient lands building the Persian Empire.  A thousand utopian and dystopian variations of all societies throughout history – a million possible outcomes for our modern world – twisting about in my mind.  Conveniently, it was at this moment that a trailer for the movie Divergent came on and I thought, “It’s about time I read Veronica Roth.”

Cue discussion of autism I’ve been having on and off with people since reading Not Even Wrong written by Paul Collins. Collins is an amazing author and obscure historian. Still suffering from story hangovers from Divergent and the movie Tonight You’re Mine (all about instantaneous human connections) – I found myself thinking about my niece’s Gone series.

Set in a town in California, all the kids fifteen and under have been left in a supernatural bubble – all adults over puberty have vanished, leaving kids and babies to fend for themselves and create a new government. Not unlike Lord of the Flies, different factions have formed. One is under the leadership of Sam Temple, another under his half brother Caine (the biblical implications of Caine and Abel not to be lost on readers, of course). Sam and his new girlfriend, Astrid, are two of the oldest left behind. They have formed a parental union for the younger kids, caring for all the helpless, including Astrid’s autistic brother.

Like bumper pool – or pinball, if you missed out on the bumper pool phenomena – the synapses in my brain spark and twitch and leap bringing me back to Paul Collins/Not Even Wrong/ McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern. Then, I find myself thinking, “Goodness, it’s Literary Journal Monday.

tonight you're mineTonight You’re Mine still echoing in my gut (I’m pretty sure I love that movie far more than what is considered healthy or normal), I veer toward the London Magazine when selecting my Literary Journal Monday feature. (Tonight You’re Mine is set in Scotland – not England, but for an American like me, it is the closest I can get in Literary Journals once I mentally cross the pond.)

London Magazine February/March 1981 Vol. 20 Nos. 11 &12

The Private Letters of Tennessee Williams and a piece on Gore Vidal catch my eye. I flip through the first few ads, the table of contents, then stop dead on a heading: FINAL REMINDER.

“If we are to survive the next issue we need 1,000 new subscribers or their equivalent, and we need them immediately […]”

P1010303My reading screeches to a halt and I turn to the shelf. Were there more? Did they have to cancel the magazine? Did they get their 1,000 readers? Ah, sigh, they survived. At least until 1989 where the collection at the bookstore stops. So clearly, they got their 1,000. I wonder who these 1,000 were and if this final reminder is what provoked them to officially subscribe. Or were they friends and family of existing subscribers, terrified their favorite magazine would cease to exist if they didn’t recruit others to love what they loved?

My thoughts have veered so far off track that I forget what I was reading altogether. I flip through the journal in my hand trying to grasp the reason I had sat down to look at this in the first place.

It’s March. St. Patty’s Day is coming up. Irish authors keep popping in and out of my mind. Ireland… Scotland… Tonight You’re Mine… music… poetry… Derek Mahon, an Irish poet’s name blinks at me from the page of the literary journal in my hand. Literary Journal Monday, of course. I read the poem “The Elephants” first. I love elephants. Then my eyes skip over to “April in Moscow” and I read “Spring burst into our houses…” It does, doesn’t it? Just bursts right in and none too soon. At the end of the poems there is an ad for the Poetry Society Bookshop at 21 Earls Court Square in London. I wonder if it is still there.

If they do still exist, I bet they have a copy of Lang Leav’s Love & Misadventure. I’m dying for a copy. Leav has been speaking to my soul lately. Misadventures stuck in the cogs of the mind of a woman turned 30.

A line from Grant’s book swings into full view of my mind’s eye:

“He buried his face in her hair. She could feel his breath on her neck, tickling her ear. She enjoyed the feel of his body against hers. Enjoyed the fact that he needed to hold her. But there was nothing romantic about this embrace.” – pg. 21

There rarely is when a hug is really needed. It’s that moment Leav writes about…

When words run dry,
he does not try,
nor do I.

We are on par.

He just is,
I just am
and we just are.

– Lang Leav

The lack of selfishness between the characters at this point is refreshing in fiction and real life.

In a 2014 American Society of infantile adults who never learned to fend for themselves and work hard without constant praise, we are fascinated by literature and movies where children and teens are forced to grow up overnight and be adults.

It’s sad when the idea of fifteen-year-olds co-leading a community and making wise, unselfish decisions for themselves and each other sounds absurd and fictional. My associative mind leaps back to all the ancient history I’ve been studying, back to the likes of King Tut – pharaoh at age nine – dead by nineteen, married somewhere in between.

We believe in responsible marriages like the Romans, but we chase telepathic connections like the Greeks. What a very convoluted and contradictory way to live – the reality of a dystopian society is that every society is a dystopia – even a society of one. Our minds are everywhere and nowhere. Of course we are in conflict.

I suppose you Literary Journal Monday followers got a little more than you wanted. I bit off more than I could chew today. I attempted to map my own mind and identify all the associations and patterns, leaving myself somewhat exhausted from chasing whimsies.

At least I got to spend a few stolen moments in this room…

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Herodotus and Me

March 2, 2014 at 6:10 pm (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , )

On Wednesday one of my book clubbers emailed me about my reading status.  How far along was I in preparation for our discussion for Monday (now tomorrow).

We will be discussing The Histories by Herdotus.

When he emailed me I was only on Book 3 (out of 9), roughly 200 pages into the historian’s account (out of 953).

I sat down, promising myself I wouldn’t go to bed until I had complete Book 4…

I had to stop myself after completing Book 6.

It is not going to be difficult to finish this book by Monday.  Now, Sunday afternoon, I’m to Book 9 and I didn’t read anything at all yesterday.  You would expect Herodotus to be dry and boring, another clubber said it was like reading the bible.  My best friend read the reblog of the North Africa post and said, “I WISH that sounded interesting to me.”

The fact that it doesn’t astounds me.

Ancient History fascinates me  I’m riveted.  Hooked.  I want to know everything.  So much that when I stopped to take a bath I took The Peloponnesian War by Thucydides with me.  The book and the historian are mentioned tirelessly in the footnotes of the Landmark Herodotus and is chronologically next in line (and Landmark Herodotus isn’t bath tub friendly).  I’m looking forward to him… then Xenophon.

Wednesday and Thursday alone, I read through most of King Darius I’s reign.  I learned a long forgotten word from some government or history class long passed – oligarchy – and contemplated the reality of governments.

I also did a bit of research on Parnassus and enjoyed pulling my Oxford English Dictionary down to inspect with my handy-dandy turtle magnifying class, and I felt quite studious.  These are the things that bring me joy.

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Herodotus Notes Continued

February 17, 2014 at 4:07 pm (Education) (, , , , , , )

Session Two – in which I sat outside in the beautiful Sunday outdoors of a Valentine weekend, drank my coffee, and devoured some history while the kiddo painted.  Like so,

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Yes, she paints with TWO hands, and doesn’t even have to look at the canvas, she is that awesome.  Also, I have x-ray vision and can read through the book boards.  Not really, I just really like the front cover of the Histories edition I’m reading from.

Today, while I was reading, I got caught up in a bit about the sacred animals of Egypt.  Herodotus takes time to discuss this topic in a bullet point type fashion and very little detail.  I suppose he had so much information to relay that this was not high on his list of things to be extraordinarily well researched.  He simply mentions which ones are sacred and plods happily along with his narrative.

Except he mentions otters.

Otters were sacred to the Ancient Egyptians.

Otters are in my top ten list of favorite animals of all time.

lizzy&andi ottersHowever, most of my adoration comes from watching them for prolonged period of times at the zoo, or in sharing adorable pictures of them with my friends on facebook… like these ones on the right caught kissing.  (How adorable is that?!)  I actually know very little about otters, much less that they are native to Egypt.  I am a little bit obsessed with Ancient Egypt and consider myself a very amateur budding Egyptologist of sorts [very, very amateur who buds quite slowly].  Somehow, until now, the otters have escaped me.

The World Book Encyclopedia describes an ottter as a “fur-bearing animal that spends much of its time in the water.”  They are flesh-eaters and hopelessly cute.  Of course, I’m drawn to them – but the encyclopedia offers no explanation or even reference to the fact that the Ancient Egyptians would care.

So, of course I google it and find this.  If you’re not in a link hopping, article reading mood, I shall spare you and share only this highlighted introduction paragraph:

Four otter species occur in Africa. The Eurasian otter (Lutra lutra) occurs only in the rivers rising in the Atlas mountains. Three species are endemic to Africa: The Cape clawless otter (Aonyx capensis), the Congo clawless otter (Aonyx congica), and the spotted-necked otter (Lutra maculicollis). Throughout the high rainfall regions (i.e. within the 500 mm isohyet) of sub-Saharan Africa at least one of these species, often more, can be expected to be present. Otters are absent from only six countries on the African continent: Djibouti, Egypt, Libya, Mauritania, Somalia, and Western Sahara. With the exception of Egypt, these counties probably do not have sufficient permanent water for otters.

Absent from Egypt.  Still sacred to Ancient Egyptians.

Of course, this led me to more questions.  More googling.  (And even more plans to visit a bookstore and the library in search of answers as soon as humanly possible .)  Which led to this little gem… Otter or Mongoose?.

Despite my extensive personal library I am constantly shocked by what is not in it – and I have nothing on otters… or mongooses for that matter.

I also have nothing on Queen Tomyris of the Massagetai and she, too, though not as thoroughly as the otters, piqued my interest today.  How have I not heard of this woman?  This semi-psychotic warrior queen who is responsible for the death of Cyrus the Great.  Obviously, I need a biography on her stat.  Well, not too stat, as I’m currently in the middle of The Life of Charlotte Bronte and I’ve yet to finish a whole host of other fabulous biographies that are piled around the house.  Rest assured, however, I have taken note in my handy dandy notebook of all things Ancient History and Queen Tomyris will not be forgotten.  The wonderful thing about scholarship is that there is always more to study.  The terrible thing about scholarship is that I have to be patient with myself knowing that I can only read as much as I can read in a day and that there will always be more to read.

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