Nerdly News of Plagues and Heroes


, , , , , , , , , , ,

new&nerdlyA flea trapped in amber in what is now the Dominican Republic some 20 million years ago may have carried an ancient strain of the bacteria Yersinia Pestis, the Black Death.

Newly discovered lines from The Epic of Gilgamesh add color and sound to the Cedar Forests of Humbaba and tell us that he and Enkidu were childhood friends. However, I think that any regret Enkidu and Gilgamesh may have felt at destroying the forest was less about “ecological awareness” and more about it being the “abode of the gods”.

Apparently the tomb at Amphipolis was intended as a monument to Hephestion. That still doesn’t answer the question as to who was actually buried there.

And, for some unknown reason, they’re rehashing the Solutrean Hypothesis.

DigiScrap Spotlight: Movie Night, Falling in Love, and Main Street Magic


, , , , , , , , , ,

First, Movie Night from Aprilisa Designs, which was part of a Grab Bag at GingerScraps a few weeks ago, is now available on its own.


Next, from Just Because Studios is Falling in Love from at Gotta Pixel.  I love the vintage feel of this kit.


And last but not least, Main Street Magic from Magical Scraps Galore.  This is the latest addition to her awesome Theme Park Collection.  I love all the little stores, the clock, and the street lights.  And the car is just too adorable.


The Taming of the Queen by Philippa Gregory


, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

By all accounts, Katherine Parr was an intelligent, learned and sensible woman.  But Philippa Gregory has developed a singular talent for making smart women sound like idiots.  You all know what I thought of her Margaret Beaufort (The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory).  It really irritates me when she puts words like these into her Kateryn’s mouth:

“Nan, this is madness. They may disagree with me but they wouldn’t try to drag me down in the eyes of the king. They won’t falsely accuse me of God-knows-what because we don’t agree about the serving of the Mass. We differ; but they are not my enemies. Stephen Gardiner is an ordained bishop, called by God, a holy man. He is not going to seek my destruction because I differ from him on a point of theology.”

Could she sound like any more of an imbecile? Oh, yes she can.   Every Court plot and machination has to explained to her in cold, simple, logical (for Henry) terms.  She keeps passionately insisting that the king loves her, that he trusts her and would never get rid of her and take another wife.  Her sister warns her, Thomas Seymour warns her, hell, even the departing Spanish ambassador (the indomitable Chapuys) warns her, but it’s always “But he loves me.”  Until, that is, she’s on her knees, thoroughly degraded and humiliated, before her personal Bluebeard.

Rating:  3 out of 5 stars


Two Years Eight Days and Twenty-Eight Nights by Salman Rushdie


, , , , , , , , ,

Written over a thousand years in the future, this is an account of the Strangenesses which beset our ancestors in the 21st century when the slits between our world and the world of the jinn burst open with dramatic fury.  This 2Y8M28N_Rushdietime of chaos and death, which lasted two years, eight months, and twenty-eight nights, or one thousand and one nights, was heralded by an epic superstorm of wind and lightning.  And onto our unsuspecting earth stepped the Grand Ifrits and the Lightning Princess.  Beings of immeasurable power made up of smokeless fire and fireless smoke.

I love magical realism and this is magical realism at it’s finest.  The fantastical made logical.  Like The Thousand and One Nights, Rushdie’s Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights is an epic tale within tales.  This account of the War of the Worlds is made up of a complicated mesh of stories and tales woven with Rushdie’s consummate skill into an absorbing narrative.

The Philosophers’ Quarrel.  Ibn Rushd, Moorish philosopher, known to us in the West as Averroes, argued against al-Ghazali and his pivotal Incoherence of Philosophers.  This battle of the minds even continued into their graves when dust argued passionately with dust, literally.

The Princess and the Philosopher.  One day during his exile, a young woman of sixteen showed up at Ibn Rushd’s cottage in the Jewish part of Lucena that could no longer say it was Jewish.  Her “name” was Dunia.  It was highly unusual for a jinnia to feel love, but Dunia fell in love with his powerful intellect.  Together for two years, eight months, and twenty-eight nights, they would produce many children.  Though, if he was so smart, you’d think the fact that she could bear nineteen children in one go would be a big clue that she was not a Jew who could not say she was a Jew, but something else all together.

Then there are the stories of their Children:  Mother Teresa Saca, Mr. Geronimo the Gardener, Jimmy “Natraj Hero” Kapoor, Storm Fast, the baby of truth, among others.

And the legends of the four Ifrits, and the unrequited love two of them had, in their youth, for a certain Peri.

Like I said, it’s layered and complicated.  Complex.  At times all of this philosophizing and proselytizing gets a bit dense.  And I’m pretty sure I used the dictionary function on my Kindle more with this novel than any other.  Still, this was an enjoyable read.

Rating:  4.75 out of 5 stars


LibraryReads September and October Lists


, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

library_reads_logo_websiteSeptember Reads

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
Release Date: September 15, 2015

Fates_GroffThere are two sides to every story. Lott and Mathilde have a marriage that is the envy of all of their friends, but not everything is as it seems. Told first from one perspective then the other, this is the story of their marriage. A change in perspective makes a big difference.

I actually started to read this one, but I just had to drop it. Not because I didn’t like, I didn’t get far enough into it to decide that, but because of an accident of timing. I’d just dropped The Lives of Others in disgust. The next day, I open Furies. I’m reading along, not really sure if I like the prose or not, when it happens. Lance walks out and his crap drops out onto the floor. I promptly close the book and move on. Maybe I’ll come back it someday.

Family_CleggDid You Ever Have A Family by Bill Clegg
Release Date: September 8, 2015

The day before a wedding tragedy strikes in the form of a devastating fire that leaves only one survivor, June Reid, the bride’s mother. How does everyone cope? From June to the caterer with the forgotten bill, this is the tale of aftermath.


Crash_DeCarloThe Art of Crash Landing by Melissa DeCarlo
Release Date: September 8, 2015

What do you do when you screw of your life for the umpteenth time? You go home and start over. Even if you’re turning into your mother. But what if home is the place that turned your mother from a bright young woman full of light and promise into the broken shell you remember? The search for your mother’s “why” may break you, or it could lead to your own healing.

October Reads

after-youAfter You by Jojo Moyes
Release Date: September 29, 2015

Sequel to the much loved Me Before You. I can’t wait to read it, box of tissues at the ready.



The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks
Release Date: October 6, 2015

The story of King David as told by Geraldine Brooks. Should make for an interesting read. Here’s the blurb:

Chord_BrooksWith more than two million copies of her novels sold, New York Times bestselling author Geraldine Brooks has achieved both popular and critical acclaim. Now, Brooks takes on one of literature’s richest and most enigmatic figures: a man who shimmers between history and legend. Peeling away the myth to bring David to life in Second Iron Age Israel, Brooks traces the arc of his journey from obscurity to fame, from shepherd to soldier, from hero to traitor, from beloved king to murderous despot and into his remorseful and diminished dotage.

The Secret Chord provides new context for some of the best-known episodes of David’s life while also focusing on others, even more remarkable and emotionally intense, that have been neglected. We see David through the eyes of those who love him or fear him—from the prophet Natan, voice of his conscience, to his wives Mikhal, Avigail, and Batsheva, and finally to Solomon, the late-born son who redeems his Lear-like old age. Brooks has an uncanny ability to hear and transform characters from history, and this beautifully written, unvarnished saga of faith, desire, family, ambition, betrayal, and power will enthrall her many fans.

Nerdly Things: Neandertals, Denisovans, Music and Fishing


, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

new&nerdlyRemember that fossil from Sima de los Huesos who looked something like a Neandertal, but whose mtDNA caused such a stir because it was so Denisovan? Well, while Mama’s family seems to have ummm, played with others, Dad’s side of the family was definitely more closely related to Neandertals than any other species. This is according to an analysis of its nuclear DNA. This has huge implications for the timing of the genetic split between the three species and pushes back the origins of Neandertals as a distinct species as well.

Speaking of Denisovans, it looks like they used the cave which gave them their name longer than previously thought. The initial discovery of a finger bone from a little girl has been dated via DNA to about 50,000 years age. Teeth found in the cave, and also belonging to Denisovans, were those of individuals who died 110,000 and perhaps 170,000 years ago. Moreover, these people don’t appear to have been all that closely related to each other.

Apparently, the folk memory preserved in Aboriginal songs goes back a really long time. As in at least 7,000 years. Certain geographical references in the songs point to the fact that they, in their current forms, were being composed just as the Australian coastline was just beginning to take on its modern shape.

People have been fishing for salmon in the Pacific Northwest for at least 11,500 years.

The Lives of Others by Neel Mukherjee


, , , , , , , , , ,

Lives of Others pbk mech.inddIn this Man Booker nominated novel, Mukherjee tells us the story of the Ghosh family. They all live in the same four story house in Calcutta. The grandparents live on the top floor with their eldest son, his wife, and their children. On the bottom is the widow of their youngest son and her two children. We go from relative wealth and servants to abject poverty just by walking down the stairs.

Frankly, I thought the whole Maoist plot (double entendre not originally intended, but apt) with Supratik was superfluous.  It interrupted the flow of the story.  I would have much preferred to either stay in Calcutta and observe the Ghoshes in their natural habitat, or remain in the villages. All the hopping around between the two just added to the disjointedness of the book which was bad enough with the sheer number of point-of-view shifts between family members.

The family dynamics are fascinating if you can just get passed the horribleness of these people. I couldn’t.  Priyo and Chhaya were the worst. Just no. I managed to get through the scene in the brothel, barely, though my head was filled with a giant exclamation point as I kept chanting “Ewww!”. But, then, what happened in the bathroom.  “Ewww!” was joined by “Ick!” and “Oh, my God!!!”.  I promptly deleted the book from my Kindle.

This book gets an emphatic DNF (Did Not Finish).


DigiScrap Spotlight: Sandbox and Fall Frolic


, , , , , , , , , , ,

The Sandbox Collection (scroll down a bit) at Meagan’s Creations is really cute.  The trucks are really cute.


And I just love the Oh Boy template in the collection.


I also found this Fall Frolics kit at Gingerscrap but LJS Digital Designs:


A Problem of Wills


, , , , , , , , , , , ,

My next Dixon post was supposed to be about Lydia Caton and her William, and I’ll get back to them, but I’ve run into a problem a bit further up the tree.  Most genealogies state that William was the son of Chosewell who was the son of John who was the son of Walter.  Like these, just to name a few:

My problem with this has to do with their wills, and I’m surprised no one else seems to have noticed this before.  First, you can read Walter’s will in this post at by Suzy Bennett:  Walter Dixon, Sr.

In this will, dated March 7, 1767, Walter names his wife, Elizabeth, and several children.  One of these children is a son named John, deceased.  So far, so good.  Then we get to John’s will.  If you go to North Carolina State Archives MARS – Basic Search, and type in “John Dixon” and “All”, you’ll be able to read the actual will.  The ink’s faded, but here’s what I was able to make out (with the help of PSP):

In the Name of God Amen. I John Dixon of Beafd County and province of North Carolina this 23 Day of March 1772 being sick and weak of body but of perfect mind and memory thanks be to God for the same therefore calling to mind the mortality of my Body and knowing that it is appointed for all men once to Die I therefore do make and ordain this, my Last Will and Testament that is to say principally and first of all I give my soul into the hands of God that gave itt and for my Body I Recommend it to the Earth to be buried in a Christian like and Decent maner nothing Doubting but at the general Resurrection I shall Receive the same again through the mighty Power of God and as to touching such worldly goods wherewith it hath pleased god to bless me with in this Life I give and Devise in manner and form all followeth. Viz.

Impremis: I give and bequeath unto my son Choosewell Dixson all my Land and Plantation whereon I now Live to him and his heirs for Ever.

Item: I give and bequeath unto my Wife the Third Part of my moveble Estate to her and her heirs for Ever.

Item: I give and bequeath unto my daughter Biatha Dixson one feather bed to her and her heirs for Ever.

I have one horse my mare to be sould by my Executors and the money to be put to the use of the ? house to support my children.

And I do hereby ordain constitute and appoint my Wife and Chosewell Dixon my Executors of this my Last Will and Testament acknowledge this to be my Last Will and Testament in witness whereof I have set my hand and seal the Day and year above written.

John Dixon

Signed Sealed and Published in the presents of

Nicholas Daw
Levin Stanford
Thomas Dixon

This is definitely John, father of Chosewell, but it is NOT John, the son of Walter.  It can’t be.  Why, you ask?  Look at the dates.  John Dixon’s will is dated March 23, 1772 with a probate date of December 11, 1773.  If John is dead March 7, 1767, then how is he alive to write a will March 23, 1772?

So, who was the father my John?

The fact that Walter’s youngest son was named Roland and Chosewell’s grandson was as well may mean they were related in some way, but how, I don’t know.

Homo naledi and other Nerdly News


, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

new&nerdlyThere’s been a staggering amount of coverage on the discovery of a hell of a lot of hominin bones in a South African cave.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Just google Homo naledi and you’ll find a lot more.  There’s even a documentary being aired about it and Australopithecus sediba, on PBS tonight on NOVA.

Or, you can watch it online: Dawn of Humanity NOVA | PBS.

The age of the bones is unknown at this time.  Even if the claim that these bones belong to a new species in our genus, Homo naledi, turns out to be wrong, the sheer volume of fossils, all of which are hominin bones, this find is extraordinary. Because it certainly looks as if something or someone brought those bones into Rising Star cave and it seems unlikely that any kind of predator would have targeted hominins with this amount of exclusivity.

In other news, the genomes of ancient Iberians links the early farmers of that area to modern day Basques.

To quote one article:

Our results show that the Basques trace their ancestry to early farming groups from Iberia, which contradicts previous views of them being a remnant population that trace their ancestry to Mesolithic hunter-gatherer groups…

Uh, how is it contradictory? Can’t it be both?  Hunter-gatherer female decides she’d like a more settled lifestyle and hooks up with a farmer, or a group of hunters raids a farming settlement and steals a few brides and slaves in the process.  Voila.  Admixture.  And you get both.

There’s also been an interesting study conducted by the University of Miami about the prevalence of iconicity in spoken language, especially in words we first learn as babies and how the iconicity aids in that acquisition of language.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 51 other followers