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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

On the Origins of Writing

I'm taking a class on the development of writing in Greece and Italy this semester, and recently we looked at several examples of ancient theories on how writing starting. One particularly intrigued me- Hyginus tells a story that the Fates were the first to write- they created the vowels and the letters B and T.  Why the vowels and those letters? It seemed to me that those would the sounds used in singing. That, coupled with the fact that many early writing examples are found on weaving implements led me to create the following myth. After the myth is the excerpt from Hyginus that inspired it. 




The women of Kercis’* town, like all women, sang as the worked. They sang as they drew the wool into strands, sang as the spun the strands into yarn, and sang as they wove the yarn into cloth. And the songs they sang were all the same. As they shared their work, they shared their music.

But when it came time for Kercis to marry, she did not marry a man from her town, but from another, and when she went to live him, she found she did not know the songs of the women there. And so she would work by herself, singing the songs of her town, while the other women sang their own.

It was a long time before Kercis learned the songs of the other women, and joined them in their work and singing, and she wondered what would happen if she had a daughter who married a man from another town. For it was a lonely thing to work and sing on your own.

So, one night, Kercis prayed to Athena. “Oh goddess,” she said, “You who gave us the loom and taught us to weave, you have given all women one work, and yet we have many songs. Should we not all sing together, even as we all labour at the same task?” And though Athena did not answer her that night, she heard the prayer, and wondered at it, for it troubled her.

Sometime later, when the moon was thin in the sky, Hermes came to Kercis one night. “Athena heard your prayer,” he told her. “It troubled her, and so she has sent me to take you to the Fates, for it is they who first made songs while at their work”. He offered her his hand, and Kercis took it, picking up her spindle as she did so, for a woman’s work is never done.

Hermes flew with Kercis to where the Fates lived, and Kercis heard them singing. Clotho sang as she spun the threads of lives, Lachesis sang as she measured the threads, and Atropos sang as she cut them. And all three of them sang the same song.

As Kercis walked towards them, the fates looked up from their work, their singing ceased, and they spoke. “What is it you have come to ask?”

“I have come to learn the song you sing, so that I might teach it to the other women, so we may all sing the same song while we work. For we share in one work; should we not share in one song?” This was Kercis’ reply.

The Fates answered her, “We shall teach you our song, and more than that, though you did not ask. We shall teach you shapes that mark the sounds of our song, so that you might teach women our song even when you are not near them.”

Then the Fates took Kercis’ spindle, and on the shaft they scratched shapes, and taught her which shape was for which sound, and how to sing their song.

So Kercis took her spindle back to the women she worked with, and she taught them the song and shapes. And those women taught other women, who taught other women, until all the women who worked at the loom sang the same song and knew the shapes the Fates had taught Kercis.

And one day, much later, a man named Palamedes, who was more observant than most, noticed that all the women, even those in different towns, sang the same song while they worked. And when he asked his wife about this, she showed him the shapes that made up the song, and explained how by learning the shapes, women all over the land had learned the song.

Palamedes was very taken by this idea, so he made up shapes for the sounds that weren’t in the song, and taught them to men, that they too might teach one other even when far apart.

And so it happened that while men will say it was they who made the alphabet, we who weave, we women, we know the truth. 



*Greek for "spindle"




Hyginus, Fabulae 277
Transl. Mary Grant

The Parcae, Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos invented seven Greek letters - A B H T I Y.
Others say that Mercury invented them from the flight of cranes, which, when they fly, form letters.
Palamedes, too, son of Nauplius, invented eleven letters; Simonides, too, invented four letters – Ó E Z PH; Epicharmus of Sicily, two - P and PS. 
The Greek letters Mercury is said to have brought to Egypt, and from Egypt Cadmus took them to Greece. Cadmus in exile from Arcadia, took them to Italy, and his mother Carmenta changed them to Latin to the number of 15.
Apollo on the lyre added the rest.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Coffee Chronicles: Day Four

No, I haven't already given up on trying to like coffee. I've simply come to the conclusion that I don't have the time to make a cup of coffee and blog about it every day. Instead, I'll just be conducting my coffee experiment on weekends.

In other news, several people on Facebook have weighed in on things they think I should try putting coffee, so I'm going to start using their's (and any else's I might get) suggestions. So far, it's been suggested I try:

Honey
Molasses
Vanilla soymilk
cinnamon
hot chocolate mix
vanilla/almond extract
Salt (apparently this will cut the bitterness)

Also suggested: Drinking coffee after a rich chocolate desert.

I'm going to be trying these suggestions one-by-one. What else would you like to see me try in my coffee?

Day Four:

Mixture: Sprinkle of salt in the filter, 1/3 milk, 2/3 coffee, level tbl.sp. of sugar

Results: For science's sake, I took of sip of the coffee before adding sugar, expecting it to be salty. To my surprise, not only wasn't it not salty, but it really was less bitter!  Consequently, I was able to add a little less sugar than usual. I still didn't love the drink, but it wasn't a trail to finish it. I think even as experiment with other things, I'm going to continue to leave the salt in.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Coffee Chronicles: Day Three

For years now, I have carried a heavy burden. I tried to ignore it, to pretend it wasn’t there. I tried compensating for it and excusing it away. But now it’s time to come clean. I don’t like coffee.  I love the smell of it, but I can’t stand the taste. And now, after years of asking for a cup of tea after dinner, or simply doing without, I’ve decided it’s time I learn to like coffee.

The motivation came in the form of a gift. A bag of coffee beans given to me just before Christmas. As I accepted the beans, I decided then and there I was going to learn to like coffee. So now, I invite you to join me on my journey to learn to appreciate this American breakfast staple.

Mixture: Same as Yesterday.

Results: Drinkable, but not enjoyable. I've recently gotten some feedback on Facebook about my coffee experiment, so tomorrow I'm going to start changing up the ingredients I use.


Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Coffee Chronicles: Day Two

For years now, I have carried a heavy burden. I tried to ignore it, to pretend it wasn’t there. I tried compensating for it and excusing it away. But now it’s time to come clean. I don’t like coffee.  I love the smell of it, but I can’t stand the taste. And now, after years of asking for a cup of tea after dinner, or simply doing without, I’ve decided it’s time I learn to like coffee.

The motivation came in the form of a gift. A bag of coffee beans given to me just before Christmas. As I accepted the beans, I decided then and there I was going to learn to like coffee. So now, I invite you to join me on my journey to learn to appreciate this American breakfast staple.

Day Two:

I slept in this morning, then slowly went about setting up for my next cup of coffee. I poured 1/3 a cup of milk, then warmed it up in the microwave for a few seconds while the coffee brewed. The coffee was just starting to brew when I remembered...the Farmer's Market! I had to go pick up my CSA this morning! I stuck my cup of milk in the fridge, then dressed while the coffee finished brewing. I turned off the coffee maker, and rushed out the door. 

When I got back, I finished making my cup of coffee, warmed it up in the microwave, and sat down to blog about it.

Mixture Ingredients: 1/3 milk, 2/3 coffee, 1 tblsp. sugar

Results: Palatable. Which is to say I didn't feel the urge to spit it out. I didn't particularly enjoy it, but I was able to drink the whole cup. No use messing with a good (or at least, acceptable) thing, so I'm going to stick to this combo for a few days and see if it grows on me.


The Coffee Chronicles: Day One

For years now, I have carried a heavy burden. I tried to ignore it, to pretend it wasn’t there. I tried compensating for it and excusing it away. But now it’s time to come clean. I don’t like coffee.  I love the smell of it, but I can’t stand the taste. And now, after years of asking for a cup of tea after dinner, or simply doing without, I’ve decided it’s time I learn to like coffee.

The motivation came in the form of a gift. A bag of coffee beans given to me just before Christmas. As I accepted the beans, I decided then and there I was going to learn to like coffee. So now, I invite you to join me on my journey to learn to appreciate this American breakfast staple.

Day One:

10:00 a.m. I opened the four –cup Mr. Coffee coffee maker I bought over break, set it up, and ran it through one empty cycle to clean, as per the directions. Then I realized I didn’t have any filters.

10:30 Went to Publix to buy coffee filters and several other items I needed.

11:30 Cleaned and set up the coffee bean grinder I bought over break.

11:45 Ground a cup of coffee beans

11:50 Pressed the ‘on’ switch and watched in anticipation as the first cup of coffee I’ve ever made started to brew.

*Mixture Ingredients: 2/3 milk, 1/3 coffee, 3/4 tblsp. Sugar (which I figure is still way less than a Starbuck Carmel Macchiato)
* Measurements are estimated 

Results: Ummm….gross. I only managed to drink about ½ the mixture, and almost spit it back out. The main problem, I think, was too much milk. The milk cooled the coffee down to room temperature (ick) and tasted, well, like milk, another beverage I don’t really like the taste of. Tomorrow I’ll try less milk and more sugar. The ultimate goal is to drink the coffee straight, or with just a little milk, without wanting to spit it out. 





Friday, January 7, 2011

Inevitable

Video camera + Bunny rabbit= Hazel the Spy Rabbit investigating my parents' garage. And this totally counts as a Fibre Friday post because Hazel is a fibre source.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Dear Electric Blanket...

Dear Electric Blanket,

Although a friend of mine had been propounding your virtues for some time now, I must admit I was dubious. To me, you were the thick, strangely textured, stiff object I used to occasionally see at people's house. In my mind, you resembled not so much a blanket as a tarp. You were also a potentially frightening object, running the risk of overheating and shorting out. My dear Electric Blanket, I apologize for my prejudices. I had not realized how much you had changed.

First, I must praise your softness. Your micro-fibre covering makes you the softest blanket I own. The wires that allow you to become so gloriously warm are so thin I scarcely notice them. Then there is your warmth. Even on the coldest nights I can now sleep without socks on. With you on my bed, I fear neither cold nor shivers. In the cocoon of your warmth, I sleep comfortably and soundly. Oh, Electric Blanket, I am sorry I ever doubted you.

Even my fears of your danger have been assuaged, and I sleep securely knowing you have an automatic cut-off switch should you overheat, be left on too long, or short out. You have come far, Electric Blanket, and I am grateful.

And now, as I right this, I can feel the cold seeping into my feet. So I shall leave my computer 'till the morning, and retreat now to your warm embrace.

Forever yours,
Emma

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Precedents

Even more important than goals and resolution, I think, are New Year Precedents. These are the things you do in first week of the New Year to set the tone for the rest of the year.

My Precedents so far:

1. Held a fun get together at my cleaned AND organized house New Year's Eve.

2. Hung out with my former college roommates on New Year's Day.

3. Spent Monday (last day before classes started) at the beach with my good friends here.

4. Bought a bike pump, lights, and rode my bike to school today! (Don't ask why I brought a bike and not a pump to school with me)

5. Made and ate a real breakfast (I know, this is important, but I tend to not do it)

6. Bought a coffee maker (Another New Year's Goal- learn to like coffee)

7. Contemplated going for a run- and then decided that a six mile bike ride was good enough (I will go running this week, though)

8. Finally let go of my dream of marrying David Tennant (but only because he got engaged)

9. Got up before 10, even though my first class wasn't until 3:35

10. And blogged!