Monthly Archives: October 2012

My Interview ~ and Passing the Torch

Welcome to the blog-hop, a lovely way to learn about each other and to expand the reach of the Facebook Group, Where Writers and Authors Meet. The torch was passed to me by Rachel McMahon.  You can find her interview here.   Lovely lady, lovely blog, I highly recommend the visit.

The rules for our game can be found here at our extension website.  Anyone can join as long as you include at least one author from our group.  A list of potential victims is kept at the site, or you can contact someone directly you know in the group.  Maybe we should pester some of our sleepers and get them involved!  Basically you answer the questions that have been passed to you (10) and then you write 10 questions to pass on to your selected victim!  Oops, interviewee.  I think some of these are going to grow into favorites.

These are the questions Rachel asked of me:

1.      Do you have a writing schedule that you try to conform to, or do you write whenever and wherever you can?

I wish I had a schedule.  I am a schedule person, I’m an accountant by profession and I live by deadlines.  However I haven’t quite rearranged my life in such a way that my writing is nestled in a particular time slot.  Working on it, I really am.  I do have an office that is nicely organized and rather comfy.  I am surrounded by books.

2.      What’s your favorite thing you’ve written, and why?

Strange as it may seem a little four-line poem that graces the banner of both my Facebook page and my blog.  It says a great deal about my quest for knowledge and my belief that there is more to the world (universe), past, present and future, than we have yet dreamed, or that we remember. (Now you have to go look. I’ll wait).

3.      I use music to help me write. Do you do that, and if so, what is your method?

I love music – all kinds of music.  However, to avoid typing the lyrics I tend to instrumentals when I am focused on writing; vocals when I’m doing numbers.  I don’t usually listen during the day since I keep an ear out for my husband; but once he’s in bed it’s headphones and Yanni.

4.      What was your favorite book as a child, and what is it now?

Oh, dear.  This one is quite painful.  Those who know me know that my husband and I have a huge private library. This is like picking a favorite child.  I grew up with Heinlein, Clark and Asimov.  I do remember having books of fairy tales that I would read out loud to our cat.  She was always impressed since her name was Princess.  Now it’s even more difficult to choose.  Other than always having some form of scripture around I would have to choose Lost Horizon.  The very thought of a place hidden away somewhere in the world where knowledge is king is somehow my vision of heaven on earth.

5.      What is your current work in progress?

I am actually working on a book entitled, “Why Me? Come Let Us Reason with Job.”  It is part of the work my husband wanted to see me publish.  I am finding it rather refreshing to revisit some of my stored up notes and thoughts and see how they have changed and matured.  The subject gives me an opportunity to discuss my own philosophy and the more pragmatic side of life.  I hope to help the reader better understand and deal with problems in his or her own life and those of others.  I’m actually having a great time getting it all organized in a cohesive and easily read format.

6.      What is your biggest challenge in writing?

Time.  I love to read, I truly love to get my thoughts into little black pixels on a screen.  I love my subjects.  I am in heaven when I’m researching.  I want more time.

7.      Do you write only nonfiction?

At this point, yes.  There may come a time when I am prepared to be a pure storyteller, but not quite yet.  I still of piles of notes on historical, scientific and philosophical subjects to wade through.  Of course, in order to reach and hold an audience, we must all be storytellers of one type or other.

8.      When did you first decide you wanted to be a writer, and what influenced you most?

I have dabbled with writing for years and have published an article or two.  Many years ago I prepared something of an historical commentary to scripture that was well received by its limited audience.  It was some of that text that caused my husband to encourage me to write for publication.  Not all of my work, however, is based on religious topics.  Of all the people who have influenced me, my husband would be the star of the show.  His background was primarily in mathematics, physics and philosophy.  We spent hundreds of hours tossing ideas back and forth, exploring the relationship between the sciences and human thought, philosophy and history – I fell in love with his undying sense of wonder.  After the publication of my first book, a story of my learning to cope with his dementia, I felt compelled to do what he had always encouraged me to do:  write AND publish.

9.      Do you let your manuscript rest for a while after the first draft, or do you jump right into revisions?

I am constantly revising.  I have told many of my writing friends that I look at a book as a sculpture of sorts and I truly believe that.  As it starts to take form I find things better said in a different order or more clearly understood if placed in contrast to another concept.  Remember I don’t really have a “plot” per se, I have a concept that I wish to convey with some reliable sources for further understanding.  Yes, I start with an outline, but I move those pieces around and reshape them as the full picture presents itself.  I think once I have a complete draft I let it sit for awhile before revisiting.

10.  And your random question…What is your favorite coffee drink? If you don’t drink coffee, which, quite frankly, would startle me, then use this space to mock those of us who can’t write without it.

Swiss mocha.  Without a doubt.  Although I don’t get it very often.  I’m usually drinking whatever happens to be on sale.  I was practically weaned on coffee so it doesn’t really help keep me awake.  I try to switch to tea sometime during the afternoon but that doesn’t always happen.  I do, though, have to have something at my elbow while I contemplate the screen.

And so I now pass the torch to my dear friend, Tc McKinney.  His questions are as follows:

  1. With a bit of poking around I discovered that you call yourself a “perceptual poet.”  Can you tell us why you use that term?
  2. You are also involved in graphic arts.  Does your love of art influence your writing, or is it the other way around?
  3. What subject matter do you find most intriguing?
  4. If you had to pick one person (other than your lovely wife) that inspires your writing more than anyone else in the whole world, who would it be? (It’s my question I can put limits if I want too!)
  5. You are rather talented in a number of fields.  Do you find similar things inspire all your creative works, or do you get into specific moods for different projects?
  6. Passing the torture on, what was your favorite book growing up and what is it now?
  7. When you write, who do you write for?
  8. What one event in your life was most influential in sending you on the path you chose, the path to creative works?
  9. What was the single most important impetus that made you want to become the publisher as well as the published?
  10. The Random Walk:  Who is your favorite cartoon character, and why?  Superheroes are allowed as long as they were first published in a cartoon/comic book format.

Okay folks!  Tc has asked me to pass on the following blog address to see his answers:  PDMI Freelance Publishing.  Keep in mind he has skipped town with his lovely wife for a day or two!

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Filed under Stuff about Writing ~ Tips and Tools

Book Review ~ The World of Seen, But Not Seen

QED:  The Strange Theory of Light and Matter by Dr. Richard Feynman.  Available for less than $10.00

A little late this week, but we’re still here!  This week I thought I would review a little book that I have treasured for years, QED.  You might notice, if you spend much time in my little corner of the world, that I love to explore various fields of scientific study.  This is due in part because our universe is so amazing and in part because I feel that what we learn from the natural world tells us many fundamental things about ourselves.   My husband is a physicist.  When I first met him a whole new world of thought was opened up to me.  QED was the first place he sent me to begin my journey into the conceptual study of Quantum Electrodynamics.

The author of this little book, the late Richard Feynman, was a Nobel Prize laureate in physics in 1965.  He was a member of the team that developed the atom bomb and served on the panel that investigated the space shuttle Challenger disaster.  Although one of the world’s most brilliant physicists, he was also a well loved professor at Caltech.  Neil Bohr would seek him out often because of his unassuming nature and ability to play devil’s advocate with any scientific mind of the time.  His immersion in the topics of mathematics and physics gave him the clarity in his teaching that could speak to the uninitiated.  This book is an edited version of his presentation for the Alix G. Mautner Memorial Lecture series given at UCLA.

So, what is so terribly amazing about this particular book?  Well, with little or no mathematics and diagrams that walk you through each and every step, Feynman takes you into the world of quantum mechanics where nothing happens as we expect.  Time travels whatever way it chooses, particles can be here and there at the same time, or nowhere at all.  As a teacher, Feynman does not talk down to his audience, nor develop not-quite-right metaphors to lead the blind into the semi-gray darkness.  The presentation is straightforward and just as applicable to the adventuresome layperson as it is to a physics major.   A delightful way to get introduced to some of the aspects of the strange and wonderful universe we call home.

So, tell me, what kinds of things do you like to explore?  What burning questions do you have that seem like rumors and not real science?  Do you have a favorite series, book or teacher?  Let me know!  Always happy to incorporate things from my audience.

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Filed under Natural Sciences from the Observation Deck

Book Review ~ Of Ancient Tombs and Trusted Slaves

The Egyptian Series by Wilbur Smith.  All four are easily available for under $10.00, or less.  The titles include: River God, The Seventh Scroll, Warlock, and The Quest.

Well, it’s time to lighten up a bit and return to our book review corner.  This week I chose a series by one of my most favorite historical novelists, Wilbur Smith.  (Of course I would never burden you with anything less than my favorites)!  Wilbur Smith was born in Rhodesia (Zambia) in 1933.  He studied journalism but was pressed by his father to get a “real job” and thus became an accountant.  After many changes in life that included failed marriages and multiple rejections of his work, Smith finally became what he wanted to be, a novelist.  He writes about the thing he loves most, the African continent.

I have to admit that it is through his descriptive and passionate writing that I have been able to grasp something of the beauty and passion that can be found in Africa.  More than a nature film, his writings provide the background to the many struggles that engulf sub-Saharan Africa in wars and intrigues involving political, religious, tribal and national conflicts.  His ability to draw characters that walk off the page and sit beside you give you understanding of, if not agreement with, some of the deepest desires and hopes of the people who live there.  He also brings unforgettable mental pictures of the lives and tribulations of the creatures that once occupied the continent in uncountable numbers.  In the series discussed today, he steps back even further than his normal haunts and takes us to ancient Egypt during the time of the Hyksos invasion and a period of weak pharaohs.  It was a time of a political and religious struggle that threatened the life of a country that could be known as Egypt.

River God begins the epic with the introduction of a eunuch slave named Taita.  This character is the main character throughout the series, even though in the second book of the series he is an historical character speaking from the past.  You will get to know him well.  River God is the story of arranged marriages and broken hearts that drive two young lovers apart but create a dynasty destined to recapture the Egyptian double crown.  Taita is assigned to look after and teach his lord’s daughter, Lostris, the future queen of Egypt.  When she is forced into a marriage to the pharaoh to protect her father’s position, the only gift she asks for her wedding day is Taita; according to custom her father cannot deny her request.  Devastated she cannot marry the man she loves; she is determined to keep someone she can trust near to her.

The Seventh Scroll is a story set in modern times describing the discovery of the ancient scrolls created by Taita as a record of his mistress’ family.  He speaks of hidden tombs of pharaohs, treasures beyond imagination and the last minute switch of a pharaoh’s mummy for that of the more honored captain of the army.  A man who is the Queen’s lover and the father of the heir to the throne.

Warlock is the story of Taita’s initiation into the ancient occult practices of Egypt.   It is the story of how he trains the grandson of his beloved queen to become the champion of the ancient kingdom of Egypt.  Smith uses exquisite descriptions of Egyptian practices of warrior initiation and battles from one end of Egypt to the other.  Loves found and lost, political intrigue and the recapture of the double crown from the hated Hyksos all form the background of this sweep of history.

The final story in the series is The Quest.  Admittedly this is probably my least favorite of the series.  Perhaps it gets a bit far off point for me as far as historical fiction might go.  It is still a wonderful story about a time when Taita is called back to the haunts of men to help his pharaoh put down an insidious religious threat and to seek out and resolve the source of the failing Nile.  The pharaoh is blamed for angering the gods and causing them to withhold the Nile waters which, of course, throws the country into abject poverty.  Taita takes on the quest to seek out the source of the Nile and to battle whatever force keeps its waters from their course.

Pieces of history, pieces of fantasy, ancient religion and unchanging human heart breaks and triumphs.  All drawn with the skillful hand of a very talented artist.

So, who are your favorite historical authors?  Do you like to read a bit about history with the characters fully developed?  Do you prefer textbook sorts of stories with dates and times, who shot who and where the bodies are buried?  Let me know what you think, I’m happy to poke around and see what I can find that will interest my growing blog family.

 

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Filed under Humanties for the Unbound Mind, My Bookshelf (and a movie or two), My Bookshelf ~ Fiction

Mysticism, Science ~ or Both?

Courtesy of ru.wikipedia.org

My husband and I have recently purchased the first two seasons of an intriguing series entitled, Through the Wormhole narrated by Morgan Freeman.  This series is a wonderful and fascinating collection of some of the most enduring questions in a number of fields of study.  The focus of today’s blog was entitled, “Is There an Edge to the Universe?”

As is not uncommon, the segment really just got me interested and generated more questions than it answered.  In addition to this segment we had also watched the thirteen-episode classic, Cosmos, with Carl Sagan.  In one of his segments he talks about Pythagoras and the dodecahedron.  My sometimes strange mental chemistry began to put some interesting things together.  Keeping in mind I am not a mathematician or a physicist, I still thought two concepts developed some 2 ½ millennium apart somehow resonate.  I am not the only one.

We will start with a Greek fellow named Pythagoras.  He lived somewhere around 582-507 BCE in southern Italy in a town named Croton.  At some point he and his followers got into a lot of trouble with the locals and had to flee.  What we know of the man’s writings come to us almost exclusively through quotes and references  This makes it a tad difficult to be certain what he contributed and what his disciples contributed.  In general, he traveled a great deal when young and when he settled in Croton he formed a philosophical group that studied mathematics as a sacred and esoteric subject that should not be shared with the un-initiated.  In the Cosmos episode (Backbone of the Night), Sagan postulates that the Pythagoreans where a contributing factor to squelching the growing innovative and scientific explorations of the Ionians.  The whole affair appears to represent an ancient form of religious fanaticism suppressing scientific freedom (ala Sagan).

In any case, you may actually recognize the name of this ancient Greek.  He is considered, in many ways, the father of geometry.  Two things we can attribute to him and his followers: the five perfect solids and the golden ratio.  The golden ratio, as it happens, develops mathematically from the formulas used in the formation of the fifth solid: the dodecahedron.  The mathematics involved with the dodecahedron produce all sorts of interesting relationships and correlations.  It really is no wonder that those who came upon it considered it somehow sacred.  The crystal pyrite (fool’s gold) actually forms an imperfect dodecahedron.  The Pythagoreans, believing that mathematics formed the foundation of reality, saw something quite magical in the properties related to this particular shape.

We move forward to 1596 CE and we find the intrepid Kepler attempting to explain the paths of the planets by using Pythagoras’ five solids: tetrahedron, octahedron, icosahedron, hexahedron (cube) and dodecahedron.  Sadly, this didn’t work out.  However, instead of giving up, Kepler used his failure to develop the actual math by which the planetary orbits can be predicted.

Courtesy of en.wikipedia.org

Move forward a bit more to the work of Jules Henri Poincaré (1854 – 1912).  Poincaré was a mathematician, theoretical physicist, engineer and a philosopher of science.  Among the many, many contributions he made to his fields of study was Poincaré’s homology 3-sphere, or dodecahedral space.  I do not have the math to explain what happens in the model; however the work that Poincaré did on the structure led scientists working on the microwave background of the “big bang” to postulate that the universe just might be in the shape of a Poincaré sphere.  This is not an interpretation with a general consensus.  Enter the fellow introduced to me in the “Edge of the Universe” episode, Jean-Pierre Luminet of the Observatoire de Paris.

This scientist set out to see if he could determine whether or not the universe had an edge and if so, what was its shape.  I need to insert something here.  Scientists working on the “edge of the universe” do not envision an “edge” that one might bounce up against or fall off.  What they see is something similar to the world of the old “Space Invaders” video game where if you exit one side of the screen, you would reappear on the opposite side of the screen going in the same direction. Using the model of the dodecahedron, you would exit one of the twelve pentagon-shaped sides and immediately reappear on the opposite side with a bit of a twist.  This reminds me a bit of Arthur C. Clarke’s Wall of Darkness about a three dimensional mobius strip.

Back to Luminet.  He could tell from the readings of the background microwave noise of the early universe (as we know it) that there were certain sound waves that were “missing.”  After much testing he discovered that one particular shape would produce the pattern that we find in those sounds: a common soccer ball, or our ancient friend the dodecahedron.  So, maybe Pythagoras was right: the dodecahedron may be the highest and most sacred solid form.

What is really interesting about all of this is that scientist are now looking for ways to reach past that microwave “background noise” and see just what it is that is out there, if anything.  Can we tell there is an edge?  Are there experiments or astronomical observations that would give us some clues?  Are we stuck on the side of a brane? Do we float in an endless series of bubble universes?  Will we collide with a neighbor and start the whole thing over again?  Is the whole universe composed of singing strings generating all the energy and matter in the universe?  Is there anyone else in the vast cosmos that is as excited about learning about the workings of our amazing home as we are?

If you would like to learn more about the history and application of the dodecahedron I have followed this article with a few links to get you started.  In the meantime, what are your favorite mysteries/fascinations with science and the world around us?  Are you drawn to the incredibly small or the incredibly large?  Do you prefer your science in the form of the visible, tangible world around us?  Or do you revel in the abstract philosophy, mathematics and physics of what makes it all tick?  Let me know what you are interested in.  You never know what lurks on the shelves of our library!  And remember — “Is it something that we’ve left behind….”

 http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/dodecahedron/

http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/news/2003/oct/08/is-the-universe-a-dodecahedron

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Filed under Natural Sciences from the Observation Deck