In Memoriam

March 20, 2008 at 1:59 pm (Books, Comics, History, Horror, Languages, Movies, Travel)

It saddens me greatly to think that we have lost two of the greatest minds in the history of science fiction and fantasy in the last two weeks. On March 4, Gary Gygax passed away, and then, just two days ago, Arthur C. Clarke died in Sri Lanka. Arthur C. Clarke, I must confess, never made that significant of an impact on me, although I recognize his influence on the field of science fiction and, frankly, science. I’ve only actually read one of his books, Rama Revealed (which was an excellent novel, although it will also make you loathe the base nature of the human race), and I’ve only seen 2001: A Space Odyssey once. However, he fell into the brilliant class of authors who wrote what is called “hard science fiction,” that is, sci-fi that is firmly tied into what we know/believe to be possible, and was quite a visionary: For example, he was the first person to suggest the system of communication satellites which currently orbit the Earth. Read the rest of this entry »

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Valentine’s Day, Old-School…

February 14, 2008 at 6:14 pm (Books, Humor, Languages, Music)

Well, the wackos at America’s most dearly beloved publisher of academic material about the Ancient Near East decided this year to create a Valentine’s Day contest.  The rules were, you had to submit a Valentine’s Day message in one or more Ancient Near Eastern languages (including Greek), and they would judge them and award prizes to the best.  Well, you can see the results here, and it’s funny enough that pretty much any nerd will appreciate the results, and the commentary!

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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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A Dramatic (and Surprising) Week

March 19, 2007 at 8:37 pm (Arts, Comics, Family, Horror, Languages, Music)

In case you haven’t figured this out, I love being the center of attention. When I was a child, I was involved in musical theater; once I hit junior high school, I dropped out of that and got into Speech and Debate instead. And, one of my first acts upon arriving at UCSB to start my MA in Classics was to join the Middle Eastern Music Ensemble, which was a rocking good time if there ever was one. However, since coming back to LA, my opportunities to perform have been rather limited. So, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that, when given the opportunity to participate in a play with a budget that might possibly include negative numbers, and in German, no less, I leapt at the chance. Read the rest of this entry »

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Haunting Celtic Airs

March 11, 2007 at 8:53 pm (History, Horror, Languages, Music)

NPR today did a segment on Navan, an a capella Celtic group hailing from Madison, WI. The only word that I can find to adequately describe their music is ‘primal.’ It’s a bit like Dead Can Dance, but without the bizarre melodies and obscure instruments (in other words, it’s actually quite accessible). If you want, NPR has three of their songs linked from the article’s webpage.

The most intriguing part for me, however, is a song that was described and partially demoed in the article itself (starting at around the 4:30 mark). Called “Thig an t-Eathar” (if I’m understanding the Scotch from the interview correctly), it is formally a lullaby, but it is at the same time a story of jealousy, murder and justice. 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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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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Some Educational Audio

February 5, 2007 at 9:39 pm (Education, Languages, Music)

While chatting with Angela at work today, somehow, this NPR article that I heard a while ago came up. It was about a team that creating rock-sounding songs using a lot of SAT vocabulary to help kids learn the words. The neat thing about it was that the songs that they demoed in the article were pretty catchy! Plus, it’s just fun listening to the words they stick in there. I like their idea of not explaining the words, per se, but of putting the new words in apposition to simple phrases of the same or similar meaning.

While thinking about that, I was reminded of this project that I came across years ago, Earworms. Their idea is that music gets stuck in the brain more easily than regular reading or speech (which is reasonably true), and so they created a musical background to go with basic vocab and grammar lessons in foreign languages. Although I wasn’t blow away by the free sample that you can listen to online, or the total quantity of lessons on each CD, it’s still a pretty interesting idea.

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Some Thoughts on My Future

February 3, 2007 at 5:03 pm (Dissertation, Education, Languages)

While doing laundry and cleaning today, I spent some time thinking about where I might like to end up, career-wise, and I started thinking about my dream professorship, at LMU, of course. I’d be teaching both Mesopotamian languages and archaeology. There would be a couple of intro courses, and I would give a talk on the Archaeology major and minor at the end of each semester, for anyone who was interested. The major would require them to learn two languages, one dead and one living (French or German), plus write a certain number of papers that could be added to the CDLI wiki on various archaeological sites or topics. If I had funding, then I would have a team of undergrads, each of whom would be responsible for becoming an expert in a particular area of the ancient Mediterranean, and they would write overviews with bibliographies for the wiki, gradually populating it with information and making it easier for future students to get informed. Ultimately, they’d also have to write a senior thesis which would/could be a publishable article. Read the rest of this entry »

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