Thursday, November 15, 2007

"Colossus cracks codes once more"

A cooperative project between Britons and Germans is pitting a reconstructed, World War II era computer, Colossus, against modern PC's. The project's goal is to draw attention to the National Museum of Computing, based at Colossus' home, Bletchley Park.

My money's on Colossus, but we'll have to wait and see. The results won't be in till Friday.

Human Destruction of Ecosystems Nothing New

One of Western Europe's earliest known urban societies may have sown the seeds of its own downfall, a study suggests.

Mystery surrounded the fall of the Bronze Age Argaric people in south-east Spain - Europe's driest area.

Data suggests the early civilisation exhausted precious natural resources, helping bring about its own ruin.

The study provides early evidence for cultural collapse caused - at least in part - by humans meddling with the environment, say researchers.

Some things never change.

Eco-ruin 'felled early society'

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

War weary

This month's issue of the "Voices in Wartime" e-newsletter features the following "Editor's Reflections:"

In the documentary film Voices in Wartime, visual images accompany the words of Rachel Bentham as she recites "War--the concise version". In the pause between each scene, her lines rest in near stillness as if we don’t want to go on. We know what’s next, and indeed, are weary of the war’s resistance to all forms of compassionate thought.

Lately we’ve become justifiably weary of the ineptitude of our nation’s politicians. Their cheaply costumed rhetoric easily infuriates the anti-war warrior. We’re weary of the news media, its opinions and attention deficit regarding the civilian suffering in Iraq, while the silent masses tune out via the new season of sitcoms and the NFL. Patience is a different war of nerves as the work continues to put this war into its grave.

Read the entire article

The ongoing war in Iraq, together with the collective unwillingness of Congress to take meaningful action to conclude it, are indeed frustrating and wearisome, as is the call of some on both sides of the aisle for another unprovoked, irrational and illegal war, this time on Iran. In Burma, in Afghanistan, in the streets of Mexico and the U.s., wherever one looks in the world, violence and conflict abound, seemingly forces of nature, as unpredictable and uncontrolable as weather. For myself, I can't altogether condemn those who "tune out via the new season of sitcoms and the NFL." Under the circumstances, tuning out seems almost to be not only a viable, but a reasonable response.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

REading Lost Gravestones with High Tech

Illegible words on church headstones could be read once more thanks to a scan technology developed in the US.

Scientists at Carnegie Mellon university are making high resolution 3D scans of tombstones to reveal the carved patterns in the stone.

A computer matches the patterns to a database of signature carvings which reveals the words.

The technique could one day also be used by doctors to examine a patient's tongue for signs of illness.

Scientists often find it difficult to distinguish between natural phenomena and man-made art works carved into stone, due to the build-up of algae and surface dirt.

At the moment, archaeologists are forced to do hand-tracing work with plastic sheets and to examine objects first hand in order to decipher obscured writings.

Full Article
Scans reveal lost gravestone text

Saturday, July 21, 2007


Harry Potter and the Deathly HallowsHarry's here, Harry's here, Harry's here!!! WOOT!!!

I was going to wait a few days till the unabridged audio cassette edition arrives. But... Really, how can I wait?

*ruful grin* Yes, I actually am a mature, intelligent grownup person. But, damn it, everybody needs a little fun and silliness in her life once in a while.

Gotta fly. Harry's waiting!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Viking Treasure Hoard Found in Yorkshire

The most important Viking treasure find in Britain for 150 years has been unearthed by a father and son while metal detecting in Yorkshire.

David and Andrew Whelan uncovered the hoard, which dates back to the 10th Century, in Harrogate in January.

The pair kept their find intact and it was transferred to the British Museum to be examined by experts, who said the discovery was "phenomenal".

It was declared as a treasure at a court hearing in Harrogate on Thursday.

North Yorkshire coroner Geoff Fell said: "Treasure cases are always interesting, but this is one of the most exciting cases that I have ever had to rule on.

"I'm delighted that such an important Viking hoard has been discovered in North Yorkshire. We are extremely proud of our Viking heritage in this area."

The north of England, especially the area now known as Yorkshire, was a vibrant center of Viking culture in the Tenth and Eleventh Centuries. At the same time, large Viking finds in England are rare.

Viking Treasure Hoard Uncovered

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Alan Johnston, Freed in Gaza

The BBC's kidnapped Gaza correspondent has been freed!

BBC's Gaza Correspondent Released

Oh, how wonderful to be able to remove that banner!!!

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Vikings and Emperors

A replica of a Viking ship has set out to sail from Roskilde to Dublin.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, a hitherto unknown chamber has been discovered in the tomb complex of Qin Shihuang, first ruler of a united China.

Viking Ship Sets Sail for Dublin
China Finds Secret Tomb Chamber

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

I've just finished The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte. Believe it or not, I'd never read it before. Depressing, how many books I've never read. However, that number is now reduced by one.

For others who may not yet have read this dark, powerful novel: The title character is Helen Graham, a pretty, strong and selfreliant young woman, ostensibly a widow, who has moved into the largely ruinous Wildfell Hall with her young son and only one womanservant. She is surrounded by mystery and, soon, also by malicious gosip, in which the village's handsome young squire, proprietor of the Hall, figures promanently. Gilbert markham, a substantial farmer and landholder, falls reluctantly but inexorably in love with the inigmatic Mrs. Graham, but is baffled in his attempts to learn her history both by the lady herself and by his friend, Squire Fredrick Lawrence whom, in his jealousy and despair, he eventually attacks.

Mastering his anger at what he believes to be the perfidy of his beloved and his friend, Gilbert returns to the Hall to confront Helen. But, though she confirms her return of his love, she maintains that it must not be consumated or even allowed to flurish in their hearts. Finally driven to frenzy by Gilbert's persistance and lack of understanding, she thrusts a thick manuscript into his hands, and commands him to go.

The manuscript, with a few pages torn from the end, proves to be Helen's journal. In it she recounts her courtship by and marriage to one Arthur Huntingdon. Though her aunt, her guardian, remonstrates, Helen believes that she can discourage what is bad in Arthur and cultivate what is good. However, her life with him gradually becomes intolerable as his drinking, philandering and general Debauchery come to threaten the wellbeing of their young son. With the help of her brother, none other than Gilbert's friend Squire Lawrence, and her faithful attendent Rachel, Helen devises and carries out a desperate plan of escape. But, no sooner has she returned to Wildfell Hall, her childhood home before her father sent her away to live with her aunt and uncle following her mother's death, but village tongues start wagging. To add to her troubles, the handsome young cockscomb, Gilbert Markham, has attracted her attention...

Now understanding both her sorrows and her scruples, the broken hearted Gilbert avows his undying love, but at the same time agrees to honor Helens request that they part. Hurrying to Lawrence, he apologizes awkwardly but sincerely, and Lawrence welcomes the return of their friendship. But, shortly thereafter, Gilbert learns from a malicious former sweetheart that Helen has returned to Huntingdon. Lawrence confirms this, explaining that Huntingdon has sustained severe injuries in a riding accident and, since he is gravely ill, Helen has returned to nurse him. Through Helen's letters, which Lawrence freely shares with him, Gilbert learns of Huntingdon's final illness and death. Lawrence gives Gilbert no encouragement, and between this and his own well-meant but misplaced delicacy, his pride, and his tendency which he shares with even the best specimines of his sex to be a blockhead, Gilbert lets time slip past without trying to write to Helen, as she had asked he do at their last interview.

It is, of all people, the same malicious former sweetheart who saves Gilbert by laughingly informing him that the former tenant of Wildfell Hall is to be married in two days' time. Travelling to Grassdale Manner, Huntingdon's estate, with all possible speed, he finds that it is not Helen but Fredrick Lawrence who has just been married. Warmly congratulating his friend, Gilbert travels on to the aunt's home, where Helen is now staying. But, his hopes are finally dashed forever, as he thinks, when he learns from the conversation of his fellow coach passengers that Helen has inherited a substantial fortune from her uncle. In despair, he walks up and down in front of the park gates, knowing he must leave yet unable to do so. Thus it is that Helen finds him when she returns with little Arthur and her aunt. It is almost more than Helen can do to persuade him that she still wants to marry him, despite her newfound wealth. Eventually, however, he grasps the miraculous fact, and while he gains his heart's desire, she earns at last the quiet, happy life she deserves.

I didn't measure, but I should think Helen's narrative takes up at least half the text. And, a harrowing narrative it is, detailing her struggle to maintain her dignity and her child's safety and innoscence in the face of Huntingdon's decline from casual vice to confirmed, despairing evil. Helen does sometimes seem a trifle too good. Certainly, she quotes Scripture with disconcerting fluency. We must remember, however, that Anne Bronte was a clergyman's daughter. Also, perhaps, she wanted to underline the difference between Helen's simple yet deep and sustaining piety on the one hand and Huntingdon's rejection of both human and divine law on the other. Only occasionally was Helen's piety cloying or distracting. For the most part, I found her a strong, attractive and deeply sympathetic character.

Huntington is by no means as strong or memorable a character as Rochester or Heathcliff. He didn't strike me as being as strong a representative of evil as Gilbert is of good. Still, the contrast is stark enough. Gilbert's egotism is relatively harmless. He is well off, handsome and intelligent; but, if he is aware of these advantages, he is likewise aware of being petted and spoiled by both his mother and his sister and realizes that he may not be quite as fine a fellow as they fondly imagine. On the other hand, Huntington's selfishness, willfulness and popencity towards cruelty manifest even before his and Helen's marriage.

The way Bronte has set up the novel's structure leads the reader almost unconsciously to contrast Gilbert favorably with Huntington. That is, we meet Gilbert first, finding him sympathetic if somewhat exasperating, as young people are wont to be. We also see his and Helen's growing affection, and are able to contrast it readily with the relationship between Helen and Huntington. In other words, this reader at least was predisposed to find that Huntington suffered by comparison. Yet, I do not think this is an authorial trick but rather a deft manipulation of material. If Bronte had told the story in chronological order, beginning with Helen's meeting and falling in love with Huntington and concluding with her meeting and falling in love with Gilbert, some at least of the emotional force of both storylines would have been lessened. Both are strengthened by the mutual contrast.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is not summertime fluff, but rather more of a thoughtful winter's afternoon read. As brooding and powerful as Wuthering Heights, it is yet less clostraphobic and achieves brighter sunshine in the end.

Unabridged Audio Cassette

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Hatshepsut, Greatest Ruling Queen of Egypt Finally Recovered from Mellennia's Obscurity

Sorry it's taken me so long to get this up. I spent the entire evening on an unrelated wild goose chase. Ooh, but I hate not being able to find what I'm looking for, especially in cyberspace!

Be that as it may, the discovery announced today is being hailed as the Egyptological find of the century. A mummy that has long been known but has languished, unidentified, was finally identified as the great (female) Eighteenth Dynasty pheroah Hatshepsut.

Herself a princess, Hatshepsut was married to Thutmose II. Upon his death, she became regent for her young stepson, Thutmose III. In time, however, she assumed the throne in her own right (some sources use the "U" word, "usurper"), ruling strongly and successfully for twenty years. When Thutmose III eventually deposed her, he took his revenge, and a terrible revenge it was by ancient Egyptian lights, by defacing all statues and monuments he could find that bore Hatshepsut's name or likeness. Thanks to his efforts, the greatest female ruler of Egypt long languished in obscurity. I'm very tired, and can't remember just now how she came to be rediscovered. I'll try to remember to look into the matter tomorrow.

Find of Century for Egyptology
Hatshepsut (from Wickipedia)
Hatshetsut (from

Thursday, June 21, 2007

On Writing

The BBC's kidnapped Gaza correspondent, Alan Johnston, has been missing for one hundred and one days.

As part of their continuing coverage and efforts to keep Alan's plight before the eyes of the world, they have posted a piece he wrote about a year ago on the art of journalism. Reading it, I found myself repeatedly nodding my head and murmurring, "Yes, yes." For, though he was talking about radio reportage, Alan wrote a lovely, concise article on fiction writing as well. I highly recommend it to all here.

Click the title to go to Alan's article.

Saturday, June 02, 2007


Crossposted at Disabled Americans for Democracy.

I've decided to learn to read braille music. To this end, I've bought, and am about halfway through, a book called who's Afraid of Braille Music?.

Naturally, I can read print music. But, even the largest of large print music is a struggle, while having music read to me to play and learn is, well, not particularly enjoyable. So, on a whim I bought the book and have been reading a little at a time. *shrug* It keeps me out of trouble.

The book itself is in braille - getting the print edition seemed a trifle counter intuitive - and the reading is going pretty well. Braille will never supplant audio in my life, but having access to a variety of media is helpful.

Feel free to discuss your own experiences with music, print or braille.

Thanks to Alan at Howard Empowered for the Wikipedia link.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Al and Gwen

Earlier this evening, The News Hour interviewed Vice President Al Gore. Read the interview.

It's been a long time since I heard Mr. Gore. Of course, I remembered him as devastatingly intelligent, but I didn't remember him as so charming and engaging. What an all round great guy!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Has Anyone Seen The Kettle?

Today the BBC has a story that would please Arthur Dent: Tea Healthier Drink than Water. Well, we knew that, right? *grin*

In a related story (from a few days ago), Blair Pines for Good Cup of Tea. The PM's finally got his priorities straight. LOL

Monday, May 21, 2007

India Works to Shield Traditional Knowledge from Modern Copyrights

A new digital library in India is safeguarding ancient knowledge from patents, which can force royalty payments for knowledge that is common in that part of the world. NewsHour correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro reports from New Delhi.

I found this fascinating, and most gratifying. It's about time people started fighting the modern propensity to copyright and pattent everything, whether they have a legitimate cause to do so or not, especially in the U.S.

This particular digital library program was brought on by several people claiming pattent rights on traditional Indian medicines and healing techniques. This seems to me only slightly less repugnant than pattenting new animals and plants. I hope the project flurishes.

Friday, May 18, 2007

History Pulitzer for Race and the Press

The 2007 winner of the Pulitzer Prize for History is The Race Beat. This evening, The News Hour aired a conversation with the book's authors, in which they discuss the role of the press in popularizing the cause of Civil Rights.

As with all News Hour Arts reportage, the segment is available only in RealAudio format.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

India 'neglects' its historic heritage

As India celebrates the 150th anniversary of the first uprising against the British, the town where the first shot was fired by sepoy (soldier) Mangal Pandey is witnessing the gradual obliteration of its historical heritage.

Mangal Pandey fired the famous shot at a British officer on 29 March 1857 at the Barrackpore parade ground - now on the outskirts of Calcutta.

It was an action that stirred up a wave of rebellion in north India against the colonial power, and meant that Barrackpore would be a name always prominent in Indian history books.

But 150 years later, many of the sprawling bungalows and imposing structures from the colonial past have been completely swallowed by wild undergrowth.

I'm ambivalent about this. On the one hand, as a history buff, I naturally deplore neglect of historic sites. On the other hand, it seems to me that India has bigger problems and higher priorities than maintaining colonial era buildings. Parts of India are jungle, for Pete's sake! If these buildings are so all fired important, let britain maintain them.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

King Herod's ancient tomb 'found'

An Israeli archaeologist says he has found the tomb of King Herod, the ruler of Judea while it was under Roman administration in the first century BC.

After a search of more than 30 years, Ehud Netzer of the Hebrew University says he has located the tomb at Herodium, a site south of Jerusalem.

As exciting as this find is, I can't help but be reminded by it of the priceless archaeological treasures lost or destroyed forever by the current war and occupation in Iraq.

Friday, May 04, 2007

'Stunning' Nepal Buddha art find

Paintings of Buddha dating back at least to the 12th century have been discovered in a cave in a remote area of Nepal's north-central region.

Researchers made the find after being tipped off by a local sheep herder. They discovered a mural with 55 panels showing the story of Buddha's life.

The mural was uncovered in March, with the team using ice axes to break through a snow path to reach the cave.

The find was in the Mustang area, 250km (160 miles) north-west of Kathmandu.

Journalists jailed in Azerbaijan

Two journalists in the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan have been jailed after publishing an article that some Muslims said insulted Islam.

Samir Sadaqatoglu and Rafiq Tagi, from Sanat newspaper, were sentenced to four and three years in prison respectively, for inciting religious hatred.

It is the latest in a series of jail sentences for journalists in energy-rich Azerbaijan.

Violence and reprisals, such as prison sentences, against journalists have been on the upswing for the past several months.

Related Links
Committee to Protect Journalists
Reporters Without Borders

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Gladiators' graveyard discovered

Scientists believe they have for the first time identified an ancient graveyard for gladiators.

Analysis of their bones and injuries has given new insight into how they lived, fought and died.

The remains were found at Ephesus in Turkey, a major city of the Roman world, BBC Timewatch reports.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Ancient Treasures of Gaza

A new exhibition showing off the archaeological riches of the Gaza Strip has just opened in the Swiss city of Geneva.

The exhibition, called "Gaza at the Crossroads of Civilisations", contains more than 500 artefacts dating back more than 5,000 years.

They reflect the diverse civilisations which at one time or another all spent time in Gaza.

Curators at Geneva's museum of art and history, which organised the exhibition, say Gaza's modern problems have so overshadowed its rich past that most people today are completely unaware that Gaza has any archaeological treasures at all.

The article discusses a project, supported by UNESCO, to build a Gaza museum, which would house these and other archaeological and cultural treasures. I think such a museum is a very bad idea. It would automatically, simply by vertue of its existence, become target No. 1 for the Israelis to bomb with their American-built planes and other armorment. As valuable as a museum of Gazan antiquities would be it, as so much else related to any sense of normalcy in Palestinian life, is held hostage until the mutual recognition by Israel and Palestine that the two states, the two peoples, exist and must live together in concord.

Gaza's ancient treasures revealed