I Am a Filthy Liar

April 30, 2008 at 6:26 pm (Education, Environment, Family, Uncategorized)

So, just days after my musings about a post-apocalyptic future and my own current and future inability to survive in those conditions, on account of a lack of time to invest in such skills, I find myself compelled to eat at least a little bit of crow. Luckily, it is still fairly warm, which makes it less offensive than it might otherwise be. :o) Behold: Read the rest of this entry »

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Survival of the Poorest

April 20, 2008 at 6:04 pm (Comics, Economics, Education, Environment, History, Horror, Wine)

I was thinking today about what would happen to our society if we ran out of oil, and therefore could not afford to transport food between cities, states and nations the way that we currently do, and it occurred to me that the wealthiest people in the world, those inhabitants of the Western Hemisphere who have embraced the economic promise of cities and the specialization of labor, will be the group most affected, and hardest hit, by said (still hopefully hypothetical) collapse. After all, the bulk of the world’s population is much closer to the land than your average Angelino, and is either capable of, or knows people who are capable of, large-scale agriculture, animal husbandry, and other activities associated with pre-industrial human life. It’s only us city-slickers, who are used to our frozen pizzas and two-dollar lattes, who will find ourselves suddenly without food when the crash comes. Although that’s kind of terrifying, since I am one of those city-slickers, it’s also kind of heartening, since it means that, whatever happens to the population of North America, humanity will almost certainly survive and prosper somewhere else, whether it be Africa, Asia, Australia or elsewhere.
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World Enough and Time…

March 26, 2008 at 4:34 pm (Diving, Education, History, Travel)

Just when I thought that all of the great ancient voyages had been replicated, some visionary (and presumably financially well-connected) Brit has to go and prove me wrong. Sigh. If only I (a) didn’t have a baby on the way (not that I’d trade that in for anything) and (b) didn’t get seasick by stepping within fifteen feet of a boat. But it sounds like a grand adventure, doesn’t it?

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Classical Cartoons

February 28, 2008 at 9:11 pm (Arts, Computers, Education, History, Movies)

Good things come from Down Under. A friend of mine recently showed me this educational website from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Focusing on Ancient Greece and Greek mythology, the site has games, activities, cartoons and resources aimed at kids ages 6-12. However, the videos themselves are at least as entertaining for adults as they are for kids! I especially liked their take on the story of Orpheus and Eurydice, which casts Orpheus as an indie rocker, and the whole quest as a music video. Click on the link for “Storytime,” then on the link for “Orpheus and the underworld.” If you actually read this blog, then I’m pretty sure you won’t regret it. :o)

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The Academy and Digital Publishing

November 28, 2007 at 7:29 pm (Computers, Economics, Education)

I’ve talked before about the resistance in academia, or at least in the Humanities, to digital publications. After a fascinating talk yesterday by Simon Tanner, of King’s College, London, a number of us got into a conversation about the subject. One of Simon’s key points is that we don’t live in an information economy, per se. There is valuable information, but there is also worthless information, and there’s more of it than anyone could ever hope to assimilate. What is limited, and therefore valuable, in our modern world is attention. That’s why we have news services, television, magazines, RSS, etc., to weed through the glut of information and find the tidbits that we consider worthwhile. Read the rest of this entry »

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Academic Publishing and the Digital Age

November 5, 2007 at 6:31 pm (Dissertation, Economics, Education, Languages)

I’m currently participating (mostly as an observer) in a workshop here at UCLA sponsored by the Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative, discussing the “future of cuneiform scholarship,” specifically digital scholarship. One of the key questions to which conversation keeps returning is that of models for electronic research projects, of which there are two types, as one of the participants astutely pointed out: Models for acquiring funding or another form of support to ensure the endurance of the project, and models for ensuring participation and support within the academic community. The former I will perhaps deal with at another time, but the debate about the latter has been so vigorous and fascinating that I feel compelled to note down some of my comments here (for Bryan’s benefit, more than anyone else, since I think he’s my only reader who will find this at all interesting!). Read the rest of this entry »

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Religion, Science and the Development of Society

March 10, 2007 at 3:23 pm (Books, Dissertation, Economics, Education, History, Languages)

I’m finding Goody’s book exciting not just for the ideas contained within, but also because he is giving me a whole new vocabulary with which it explore ideas of my own, ideas that I’ve been playing with in my head for months and years but have never had the words to properly express before now. For example, as part of my research over the last few weeks, I’ve been repeatedly encountering the question of the distinction (if any) between the magic, religion and science in human societies. It is clear to any observer that there are dramatic differences in this aspect (as in others) between different societies, both contemporaneous and not (e.g., the difference between religion and technology in Sumerian Mesopotamia in 2500 BC and American Los Angeles in AD 2007). The real questions are, how do we describe those differences, and why do they exist? Read the rest of this entry »

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An Amazing Book

March 10, 2007 at 3:21 pm (Books, Dissertation, Education, History, Languages, Writing)

I’m reading a new book. And it’s blowing my mind. In a good way.

No, honey, it’s not a comic book. And it doesn’t have any zombies in it (at least, not yet). In fact, it is an academic book that I’m reading as part of researching my dissertation proposal. Despite all of those shortcomings, however, the ideas that it presents, and the arguments that it uses to defend them, are echoing around in my skull like atomic poolballs. I’m only two chapters into it, and its already changed the way that I look at world history and human behavior dramatically. Not bad for 35 pages, huh? Read the rest of this entry »

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An Inconvenient Truth

February 27, 2007 at 10:09 pm (Education, Environment, General)

So, Heather and I finally saw An Inconvenient Truth. I know, I know, we’re about two years too late to the party, but I swear I had a good reason. I mean, I’m already something of an environmentalist. I walk a mile to and from the bus stop five days a week and take a bus to and from UCLA. The only time I get a ride is if someone is already going that way. Frankly, I like the walk. It’s valuable “me time.” I also try to keep unnecessary lights off. I’m thinking pretty hard right now, and I can’t think of any other major environmental “charges” that I run up. And Heather never seemed too worried about the environment, but for the sake of our marriage, I didn’t want to push her, so I figured we didn’t need to see it. Anyway, it was a documentary. I mean, how good could it really be? Read the rest of this entry »

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A Useful Assyriology Tool

February 25, 2007 at 1:01 pm (Computers, Dissertation, Education, Languages)

Since I started this blog, I’ve been throwing around alternative career ideas for myself, besides straight Assyriology. One of the ones that I’ve found appealing of late is travel-writing, because (a) I’d like to think that I’m a decent writer when I set my mind to it, and (b) I do like to travel. Of course, it’s hard to make a living at that, so it would just be a “side” gig, that I’d do in addition to some other job that lets me work from home and/or otherwise control my schedule. However, in order to do this, I’d need a computer so that I could write and blog easily on the road (I know, I could use a pencil and paper, but I edit a lot, and a computer just makes that more efficient). Now, the UCLA Bookstore has a deal on Apple Macbooks where you get a $1300 computer for $1000, which is a pretty good deal. However, to really justify that expense, I figure I’d have to start using it for school and other work, as well as my writing, which got me thinking about what the ideal computer setup for translating cuneiform texts would be… Read the rest of this entry »

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