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Archive for August, 2009

Because this book is barely 150 pages, it almost could be said to be a refreshing read for me after some much longer books I have read recently. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury is another dystopian novel that I’ve read this past year, it isn’t so much that I’ve been attracted to this genre as much as I’ve just been trying to read some of the “classics” I’ve collected over time. You see, I’m addicted to books. For a while there I was browsing the Border’s clearance isle weekly, which I do recommend checking out. I would also recommend this book.  The book was short, but it didn’t lack much. Bradbury is a master of his words.

The title refers to the temperature in which books burn. The main character Guy Montag is a fireman trained to burn books which are illegal in this futurist society. This is the ultimate politically correct society in which the contents of books, which can be contradicting to other books or to society’s norms, are appalling to the happy-go-lucky TV addicted zombies. They want colorful TV shows and loud radio broadcasts. They want a happy life in the fast lane that is full of excitement. Philosophy and poetry are too depressing. It has only been about half a century since the book ban first took effect and many copies were still floating around. Those that had books were hunted and their homes were burned.

Guy Montag’s world turns upside down when he realizes what he had been missing by not having the powerful words in print.  He meets several people that share his new found passion. The story is short, but fast-paced. Montag’s treason is discovered, he becomes hunted, and in the end he becomes not only a redeemer of books but for the future of his city itself.

Written word can pierce your heart. Could you imagine a world in which people give up the word (initially I didn’t mean this, but also the Word) for dumbed down television telling them what to think? Or has that horror already become reality? Is it in our future to be rid of books and dissenting ideas?

This book has pores. It has features. This book can go under the microscope. You’d find life under the glass, streaming past in infinite profusion. The more pores, the more truthfully recorded details of life per square inch you can get on a sheet of paper, the more ‘literary’ you are. That’s my definition, anyway. Telling detail. Fresh detail. The good writers touch life often. The mediocre ones run a quick hand over her. The bad ones rape her and leave her for the flies. So now do you see why books are hated and feared? They show the pores of life. The comfortable people only want wax moon faces, poreless, hairless, expressionless..(pg. 111)

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Tiny ancient shells point to earliest fashion trend

Shell beads newly unearthed from four sites in Morocco confirm early humans were consistently wearing and potentially trading symbolic jewellery as early as 80,000 years ago. These beads add significantly to similar finds dating back as far as 110,000 in Algeria, Morocco, Israel and South Africa, confirming these as the oldest form of personal ornaments. This crucial step towards modern culture is reported this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA (PNAS).

A team of researchers recovered 25 marine shell beads dating back to around 70,000 to 85,000 years ago from sites in Morocco, as part of the European Science Foundation EUROCORES programme ‘Origin of Man, Language and Languages’. The shells have man-made holes through the centre and some show signs of pigment and prolonged wear, suggesting they were worn as jewellery. (more…)

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The names of people and places that Tolkien came up with are sometimes quite difficult to pronounce, at least correctly that is. At the back of the Silmirillion there is a pronunciation guide, had I not used this I would have been WAY off on some things, naturally I initially tried to pronounce them in my American English. Many names I actually had to say aloud several times to teach myself the word. I hope this helps somebody!

Consonants

C——–always has the value of k, never of s; thus Celeborn is ‘Keleborn’, not ‘Seleborn’. In a few cases, as Tulkas, Kementári a k has been used in the spelling in this book.
CH——-always has the value of ch in Scotch loch or German buch, never that of ch in English church. Examples are Carcharoth, Erchamion.
DH——-is always used to represent the sound of a voiced (‘soft’) th in English, that is the th in then, not the th in thin. Examples are Maedhros, Aredhel, Haudh-en-Arwen.
G———always has the sound of English g in get; thus Region, Eregion are not pronounced like English region, and the first syllable of Ginglith is as in English begin, not as in gin.

Consonants written twice are pronounced long; thus Yavanna has the long n heard in English unnamed, penknife, not the short n in unaimed, penny.

Vowels

AI———has the sound of English eye; thus the second syllable of Edain is like English dine, not Dane.
AU——–has the value of English ow in town; thus the first syllable of Aulë is like English owl, and the first syllable of Sauron is like English sour, not sore.
EI———as in Teiglin has the sound of English grey.
IE———should not be pronounced as in English piece, but with both the vowels i and e sounded, and run together; thus Ni-enna, not ‘Neena’.
UI———as in Uinen has the sound of English ruin.
AE———as in Aegnor, Nirnaeth, and OE as in Noegyth, Loeg, are combinations of the individual vowels, a-e, o-e, but ae may be pronounced in the same way as ai, and oe as in English toy.
EA and EO–are not run together, but constitute two syllables; these combinations are written ëa and ëo (or, when they begin names, Ëä and Ëö: Eärendil, Eönwë).
U———-in names like Húrin, Túrin, Túna should be pronounced oo; thus ‘Toorin’, not ‘Tyoorin’.
Er, IR, UR-before a consonant (as in Nerdanel, Círdan, Gurthang) or at the end of a word Ainur) should not be pronounced as in English fern, fir, fur, but as in English air, eer, oor.
E———-at the end of words is always pronounced as a distincet vowel, and in this position is written ë. It is likewise always pronounced in the middle of words like Celeborn, Menegroth.
A circumflex accent in stressed monosyllables in Sindarin denotes the particularly long vowel heard in such words (thus Hîn, Húrin); but in Adúnaic (Númenórean) and Khuzdul (Dwarvish) names the circumflex is simply used to denote long vowels.

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J. R. R. Tolkien is an amazing writer. There are not many people that have the immense imagination needed to create a comprehensive fantasy world such as he did. The Silmarillion was the first book he started, but the last to finish. The “Silmarillion” literally means the history of the Silmarils, the gems created by Fëanor in Valinor (the land of the gods who created the world) and how these gems intertwined into the fate of the Elves. The book is mostly about the history of the different Elf kindreds, but also discusses the history of Morgoth, Dwarves, and Men, and the Rings of Power.

At times the book can be hard to follow because it covers thousands of years of history (the first, second, and third ages) very briefly with what seems like hundreds of characters.  Quite often elves of the same kindred have similar names which makes it more difficult to remember exactly who is who. Luckily all Tolkien books that I have read contain an index of names and place names at the back of the book. Without anyone telling me, I’m sure that I’m an uber Tolkien dork. I have The Atlas of Middle Earth by Karen Wynn Fonstad, which is a book of amazingly detailed maps of the terrain of Tolkien’s world, this book I read concurrent to the Silmarillion for a better understanding of the place names and how they were in location to each other. I also have Tolkien’s World A to Z: The complete guide to Middle-Earth, which is a complete dictionary of names from all of Tolkien’s books. This is a great book to have to cross reference different stories together.

Tolkiens stories are fantastically complex. I have read the Hobbit and all three of the Lord of the Rings series. Reading some of the back history really put a lot of things into place. The more you read and understand about Middle Earth, the easier it becomes to remember who’s who, and where they came from.

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Unheated silcrete (left) can show dramatic changes in color and texture after heating and flaking (right).

Unheated silcrete (left) can show dramatic changes in color and texture after heating and flaking (right).

Early modern humans used fire to engineer stone tools

Evidence that early modern humans living on the coast of the far southern tip of Africa 72,000 years ago employed pyrotechnology – the controlled use of fire – to increase the quality and efficiency of their stone tool manufacturing process, is being reported in the Aug. 14 issue of the journal Science. An international team of researchers, including three from the Institute of Human Origins at Arizona State University, deduce that “this technology required a novel association between fire, its heat, and a structural change in stone with consequent flaking benefits.” Further, their findings ignite the notion of complex cognition in these early engineers.

“Our illumination of the heat treatment process shows that these early modern humans commanded fire in a nuanced and sophisticated manner,” says Kyle Brown, the lead author and a doctoral candidate at the University of Cape Town, and field and lab director in Mossel Bay, South Africa, for ASU’s Institute of Human Origins.

“We show that early modern humans at 72,000 years ago, and perhaps as early as 164,000 years ago in coastal South Africa, were using carefully controlled hearths in a complex process to heat stone and change its properties, the process known as heat treatment,” Brown says.

“Heat treatment technology begins with a genius moment – someone discovers that heating stone makes it easier to flake,” says Curtis Marean, the project director and a co-author on the paper. Marean is a paleoanthropologist with the Institute of Human Origins and a professor in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change at Arizona State University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. (more…)

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An image of a tablet being prepared for removal is at Tayinat

An image of a tablet being prepared for removal is at Tayinat

The University of Toronto has just posted this news release on their website detailing an important discovery at one of their dig sites…

University of Toronto archaeologists find cache of cuneiform tablets in 2,700-year old Turkish temple

TORONTO, ON – Excavations led by a University of Toronto archaeologist at the site of a recently discovered temple in southeastern Turkey have uncovered a cache of cuneiform tablets dating back to the Iron Age period between 1200 and 600 BCE.  Found in the temple’s cella, or ‘holy of holies’, the tablets are part of a possible archive that may provide insights into Assyrian imperial aspirations.

(more…)

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“The basic mood of the future might well be one of confidence in the continuing revelation that takes place in and through the Earth. If the dynamics of the Universe from the beginning shaped the course of the heavens, lighted the Sun, and formed the Earth. If this same dynamism brought forth the continents and seas and atmosphere; if it awakened life in the primordial cell and then brought into being the unnumbered variety of living beings, and finally brought us into being and guided us safely through the turbulent centuries—there is reason to believe that this same guiding process is precisely what has awakened in us our present understanding of ourselves and our relation to this stupendous process. Sensitized to such guidance from the very structure and functioning of the Universe, we can have confidence in the future that awaits the human venture” (qtd. Thomas Berry pg. 310-311).

Thank God for Evolution was written by Michael Dowd, a pastor and self proclaimed “evolutionary evangelist”.  Reverend Dowd says he has dedicated his life to proclaiming the “Great News” (a term commonly used by Christians referring to Bible teachings of Jesus Christ) or the “Great Story,” which is the sacred view of cosmic, biological, and human evolution. This book was much different than expected. There were parts of it that I really enjoyed and others not so much. Although, obviously, I like the whole subject matter of science and religion, I was left rather annoyed as I finished this book.  I have no problem uniting science and religion, but the subtitle’s promise of telling me “how the marriage of science and religion will transform my life and our world” didn’t happen. In fact, this seemed to be just a philosophy book that  only briefly touched on scientific aspects. I completed the book questioning if the author himself even believed in God or that Jesus Christ was more than a common man and philosopher. I did get a lot of good things from the book, but on a philosophical level that didn’t involve any of Christ’s teachings. The book doesn’t promise to reconcile Christianity and science, merely religion and science. It was insinuated that because the author was a Pastor that Christianity would be a greatly discussed subject, but it was not. With that said, I would recommend this book to those who  are feeling the pull towards faith, but need the help reconciling that with science.

(more…)

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