Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Writing evolution

Science is one of my favourite subjects, and has been a constant in my life. While my friends were reading Stephen King, I was reading Stephen Hawking. He, along with Isaac Newton, Benjamin Franklin and more recently Professor Brian Cox are among my science champions. When I log on to my computer, I get the latest science news. I can hear you thinking “science nerd supreme” but I don't mind.

Recently among the science bullets, I read a blurb about a study conducted by Daniel Rockmore and his cronies at Dartmouth college in New Hampshire on what they term a “stylometric” study of literature. (Journal reference: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1115407109) Sounds dull, but wait! don't glaze over just yet it's rather fascinating really. According to Rockmore and his team, “Literature is a form of expression whose temporal structure, both in content and style, provides a historical record of the evolution of culture.”

Rockmore, who is a mathematician, found that writers were influenced by their writing contemporaries rather than their literary heroes as we may have assumed and that is how the style of writing has evolved. Pretty heady stuff eh?

The survey also found that earlier writers composed their works in a similar vein but concluded that is most likely because they read the same small group of “classics” and drew from those works. As the literary pool grew, so did the style of the greats of literature. But I suppose just like today, as time marches on, we reach for more current vernacular to express our views, because we want to appear to have a fresh voice. I must be a dinosaur, as I like those older written works, they seem so much more articulate to me. So, (and not ergo) in writing as with speaking, the adage “Out with the old and in with the new.” characterizes how our language progresses.

Curiously, the researchers in the project targeted what they term content-free words like “to, or, and that” among others. It's the usage of these smaller words that Rockmore's team focused on and although these words have been used throughout time, how they are used causes our writing to evolve. It makes you sit back and contemplate what Hamlet's “To be or not to be” soliloquy would sound like today.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Rainy Day Fun

We had a few rainy days this past week so I played indoors. I had some old magazines I got from a charity shop in town and while I was reading through them I  found a lot of pictures that I liked and decided to use them to make some envelopes and postcards. I like colourful envelopes so I used a lot of the pages in the books. I have a set of templates called "Create - Lope" that are easy to use and I like that there are 6 sizes to choose from in the set.   I cut out smaller images and words for my collage work too, so there usually isn't much left when I finish with a magazine.  To make my envelopes sturdier I like to line them. I used some leftover papers from card making for that.  I think they all came out great.  I love that there are so many different themes and colours.  Some for every mood.

I didn't make so many postcards but still, the ones I made are interesting.   Some of them are a little out of the ordinary because  I like cutting out large images to use as postcards. Just as long as the shape isn't too intricate, they usually go through the mail in tact. I think they are fun and  I always get a good comments on them too.  I really like the way these came out. What do you think?

I also made a Harry Potter postcard for a swap I'm doing on Swap-Bot. I joined a long time ago but had only done one swap so I thought I would have a look at the site and see what I could find that I might like to do. I had some Harry Potter things I was saving for just such an occasion and I think this postcard came out very nice. I put a quote on the front of it from one of the movies. I don't think you can read it on the photo but it's a nice quote so I'll write it here for you to read: 
"Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if only one remembers to turn on the light."    
                                                           ~~Albus Dumbledore 
Front view
back view

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

All I learned about Archaeology I learned from my postman.

That sounds a bit off the wall, I admit, but it's true. When I first came to England to live I discovered I loved gardening and as a result of my efforts I unearthed some forgotten treasures of other times. I didn't know much about the shards of pottery and pieces of bottles that I found but tried to do a little research on line and got thoroughly confused. There is a lot of information out there and being a total novice I was a bit overwhelmed.

Victorian pudding bowl
One day, I asked my husband about a few things I had dug up with the weeds and he told me I should ask Les as he was an archaeologist. The history nerd in me sat up and paid attention when I discovered Les was an amateur archaeologist and I was fascinated. The house we lived in when I moved here had origins back to the 1200s so it made sense to be finding items from hundreds of years ago. It never ceased to amaze me that these odds and ends were scattered about the garden. I used to go on treasure hunts looking for things in the flower beds. I had quite a collection including nearly complete Tudor bottles, a Victorian pudding bowl and hundreds of pieces of the gardener's pipe. You know, those long white pipes they smoked way back when. Les knew as much about the history of the house as my husband, the restorer. I learned a great deal about the house from them both, but it was inevitably Les that gave names and eras to things I had found. He became elevated to supreme postman in my eyes, not only did he bring me letters, he identified my finds.

Tudor pottery shards and bits of pipe
Of course what I longed to find was something written. A diary would have been the find of a lifetime for me, but as the house had burnt down at one time, I didn't think that dream would be realized. Still, I searched and Les identified. He took things to a museum in London on occasion to be dated and that was always thrilling. There were pieces of those big black cooking pots from the dark ages, things so old it's hard to conceive of such periods in time. When I heard what these burnt little bits of pottery were I just held them in my hands staring at them in awe.

In the end, Les retired from the post office and we downsized to a more manageable size house. We live in a Georgian house now and are beginning to uncover the hidden history of the former occupants which is intriguing as it unfolds. We've found little pieces of the past in our house as well as in the little gardener's cottage cum stable at the top of the garden. And you know what? Guess who we bumped into when we went to the market in Wales? Our friend Les, happily selling antique coins. So, the quest for history continues, with the all knowing Les to shed insight.