Ptolemy – Dwight Howard – Same Thing…

May 18, 2015 at 2:01 am (In So Many Words, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , )

I’ve never felt like a bigger idiot than when trying to read Ptolemy’s The Almagest.  First of all, I inevitably always pronounce the P when speaking about it.  And constantly get corrected, but can’t stop doing it.  Secondly, I switch the m and the g of “almagest” in my head so often that in my deepest heart I’m not reading The Almagest, I’m reading The Algamest.  Third, it’s a lot of information that I’ll never remember.  I hate knowing that what I’m reading is not going to sink in… it’s all just a passing whimsy and I’ll be able to tell you nothing of value about it when I’m done with it.

Nevertheless, I’m enjoying reading it.  Mostly because I’m a glutton for punishment, I think.  Also, it’s included in The Great Books, it’s fat (roughly 600 pages), and it’s part of our ancient history – which I’m a huge sucker for.

Reading stuff like this is kind of like watching certain sports for me.  I can follow the games, I know what’s going on, and I thoroughly enjoy them – but I don’t have sports lingo dripping from my lips and I rarely will discuss them with people because I know I’ll just sound like a moron.  I like the ambiance of the game and the thrill of hard work and athleticism paying off.  Just like I love the exertion it takes to read things slightly outside my knowledge base.  They are similar experiences for me.  Dropping me into a martial arts ring is more like breezing through fiction – I know it so well I can function there with my eyes closed.

It sounds completely absurd, even as I type it – but Ptolemy is like watching The Rockets play.  I’m there.  I get it.  I’m enjoying. I love it.  I will devour it – with chips, salsa, and beer.  I will not, however, scream and shout with the other fans or talk about it tomorrow; and if you try to talk to me about it, I’ll clam up. Mention apogees in anything other than reciting a chant from Bedknobs and Broomsticks and you’ll see the same blank expression on my face when people shout “Wet!”  I read that, I heard that… I internally absorbed it somewhere in my brain.  But please, please, don’t quiz me.  That’s recipe for an anxiety attack right there.

There are some things in life we should be allowed to simply enjoy without analyzation.  Therefore, just like I will never be any good at fantasy leagues, I will also never be able to give an intelligent lecture on Ptolemy and his great work.  But I’ll have fun being a half hearted amateur/ closet fan of both.

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January 23, 2014 at 9:48 pm (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , )


Weekly Low Down on Kids Books

Title: Moonhorse

Author: Mary Pope Osborne

Illustrator: S.M. Sealig

Genre: Children’s Picture Book

I saw this and couldn’t pass it up.  Mary Pope Osborne invades my house again!  I love her.

I enjoy her complete ability to offer facts and history and in this case astronomy in the form of fiction.  To pique a child’s interest in a nonfiction topic with a bit of fantastical fairy tale.

I’m trying to get more detailed and specific when I offer these reviews of my child’s favorite books, but she doesn’t always seem to understand the questions.  Or perhaps, I don’t understand the beautiful simplicity of her answers.

Me: “Did you like this book?”

Kiddo: “Yes!”

Me: “What did you like about it?”

Kiddo: “The white!”

Me: “Because the horse is white?”

Kiddo: “With the red.”

The little girl in the illustration is wearing a red dress.  I think bits of the story were lost on my three year old today, she was drawing her own pictures and sucking down a cup of milk.  I think ultimately, what she may have been trying to tell me, in her distracted three year old way, is that she liked the illustrations and the use of muted color.  But I don’t want to put words in her mouth.

If you’re building an astronomy unit study for anyone under ten, this is a nice bedtime story to add to your week.  Personally, I wish the poetry of the tale was rhymed more, but I have a natural inclination to the sing-songy way of things.

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The Planets

June 22, 2012 at 2:29 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , )

Title: The Planets
Author: Dava Sobel

I’m impressed with how accessible Dava Sobel has made Astronomy.  As a New York Times journalist, she brings all the important information to the table.  As a writer, she’s a story teller of the highest degree.  Beautiful, fluid, and full of all the ancient romance of the stars, The Planets is full of history, poetry, and all the most relevant of scientific discoveries.  Sobel’s  work is not only a pleasurable read, but the dream-find for a homeschooling mom intent on classically educating her child.

With Sobel’s newspaper background, the book is very readable; a proficient sixth grader shouldn’t have a problem with it.  I plan to use this for my child’s eleven year old Astronomy lessons, along with a middle grade level study of Ancient History, as Sobel has filled the book with quotes from or about many of the Greats.  “Pythagoras believed the cosmic order obeyed the same mathematical rules and proportions as the tones on the musical scale,” (pg. 163.) introduces an entire chapter dedicated to man’s fascination with the planets and how that has been celebrated through the centuries through the art of music.

Always presented to me in school as a pitiable underdog, small and petite, Pluto was my favorite planet.  Even more so when it was first threatened by the idea of being stripped of its planetary status, I became indignant, an uneducated supporter of allowing it keep its rank in the sky and in our textbooks.  Like an older sibling protecting a small child, I felt like it was a personal attack to say Pluto wasn’t really a planet.  I was angered that someone had decided to take back all I had been taught and strip this little planet of a description I thought it had earned.  After reading Sobel’s explanation of Pluto’s discovery, history and status and then a chapter on Uranus, I think I may be sold on the reasons why Pluto title as the 9th planet is threatened and that Uranus is actually my new favorite.  So heavily tied to the literary works of Shakespeare in name and attitude with such a unique history, my new knowledge of Uranus now pales my previous love for Pluto – a childish emotion of elementary proportions, tied to an association with the Disney dog.

I have other books by Sobel lurking around in my library, and I can’t wait to dive into those when I’ve exhausted this particular topic.  I look forward to reading Longitude and see if she attacks the subject of geography with the same fervor as she did Astronomy.

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