Thursday, February 25, 2010 Spain?

Something about Atlantis tickles the imagination: a lost city, held captive by the sea, with vast riches awaiting discovery. One of the newest theories as to Atlantis's discovery rests in the hands of a team of Spain's Higher Council for Scientific Study who are examining a marshy portion of the currently known Donana National Park.

So what makes this a candidate for Atlantis? It seems as if this site was home to the Tartessians, a culture that predates the Phoenicians by a significant amount of time. Not only that, but this site was destroyed by a tsunami. Aerial photos are starting to produce circular and rectangular areas that couldn't possibly have been made by nature.

Read the full story in the Telegraph here.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Bristol University's Dig for the Homeless

Dr. Mark Horton, with a team of Bristol University students, recently recruited a team of homeless as a part of a wider project looking at the history and modern homelessness. The team aims to look at patterns of behavior and culture in "rough sleepers". The dig took part on Turbo Island in Bristol, an area currently a place of refuge for the homeless, but historically a place with a lot of interesting stories, including a place where pirates were hanged. Co-leader of the project John Schofield put it perfectly when he said, "Heritage can and should be for everyone." I can't think of a better way to get people involved in meaningful work that will be for the good of the human race to come.

Read the story at Bristol University's website here.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Marked by P.C. & Kristin Cast

I've always been a fan of P.C. Cast's Goddess books, so I thought I would try her and her daughter's YA series, The House of Night. As with many of the YA series available right now, the main character is a vampire, and Marked is her struggle from becoming a vampire to starting to find herself.

In Marked, vampyres (spelled with a y, and not an i) are made by being marked with an outline of a crescent moon. Full vampyres, if they survive "the Change", end up with a fully colored moon, as well as intricate and unique tattoos around the face and eyes. Vampyres are a part of normal society; it's almost a given that you will know one. Many of the famous actors and actresses are vampyres (any of them with talent and a copious dash of good looks), and this is taken as fact by the normal populace. Being marked comes with a price, however. The main character, Zooey, must leave her normal life and family behind to move in to the House of Night where she will train to become a vampyre, or she will die.

Many people equate this series to Twilight by Stephanie Meyer, full of teen angst. While the angst does exist, the spiritual quest of the main character is what sets it apart for me and gives it a more adult feel. Nyx, the Greek Goddess of the Night, is the patron goddess of the vampyres, and she speaks specifically to Zooey, urging her to be her eyes and ears. This is definitely a hard task for a teenage girl who is surrounded by catty classmates, too cute boys, and a blossoming bloodlust. The school is well thought out with it's nighttime classes, which includes fencing and equestrian lessons instead of the typical gym class, and health food in order to keep the young fledgling vampyres in tip-top shape. Each of them has a mentor to guide them through the process, and a roommate in which to confide.

A quick, fun ride, with a steamier, stormier edge than many of the YA books on the market, Marked is definitely worth a read. And if you like it, move on to Betrayed, it's sequel.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Basic Phrases a Traveler Should Know

Guten Tag! Merci! Sumimasen! Grazie!
You don't have to be fluent in a non-native language to travel. But if you're traveling to a non-native language speaking country for any length of time, even with dictionary in hand, a few memorized words and phrases will make your journey a lot more enjoyable. If you're one of those unlucky people who has a difficult time learning languages, then make a cheat sheet for yourself. I've typed some words out and laminated them in a size that fits easily in my travel wallet. When you travel to another country, you're a diplomat. You may be the only person from your country who has ever visited. Knowing the words and phrases below will help the locals view you as a responsible world traveler, and a credit to your home country.

* Hello/Good Morning/Good Afternoon
* Goodbye
* Thank you
* Excuse me
* Please
* Do you speak (insert language here)?
* I don't speak (insert language here).
* I would like... (you can always point!)
* Where is... (name your favorite destination or attraction...or missing family member!)
* Bathroom/Toilet
* How much?
* One
* Two
* Help!
* I cannot/do not eat... (meat, gluten, insects, etc.)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Strands of Starlight by Gael Baudino

In order to ensure that I read both older and newer books in my ever growing library, I force myself to read one book from each shelf of my double bookcase, moving in a clockwise fashion. I am always pleased when a book on my older fantasy shelf turns out to be such a delightful story. This one was full of revenge, change, and redemption, a perfect coming-of-age story, albeit the main character is eighteen and vehemently protests she is not a child at every turn.

Strands of Starlight follows the tale of a young healer, persecuted in the age of the Inquisition for having abilities she must have received from the devil. When the story begins, she is on the run after committing a daring escape from the torture chamber, especially given the physical and emotion damage that has been wrought upon her. Her escape is hampered by her being a slave to her healing powers; if she sees someone in need of healing, she must help or face the dire consequences of her body betraying her. Unfortunately it's during one of these healings that a man that she saves does not treat her as kindly. Vowing revenge, she flees to the Free Towns, where people like her are at worst, watched, but at best, they are appreciated for the gifts that they bring. The people she meets in these towns begin to touch her life, and bring a flicker of happiness and redemption to that dark spot that only wants revenge.

Strands of Starlight meshes the human and elvish populations in one of the friendliest pairings I've seen. Although the inquisitors fear and despise the elves, the other humans respect and are in awe of them. The interesting part is how the elves treat the humans. Often in fantasy, elves are seen as self-centered or isolated, sticking to themselves fully and letting the humans get what they deserve. Here they are helpful and care deeply about the humans, going out of their way to help, keep the peace, and heal the ill.

Strands of Starlight is a charming and often heart-breaking tale of a young woman who needs to find herself. It is a story of distrust turning to trust, of selfishness turning to selflessness, and of hate turning to love. And despite the lack of a steamy romance, finding love for others is a perfect lesson to remember for the upcoming Valentine's Day.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Gods & Goddesses of Love Around the World

Most Greek and Roman mythology buffs are familiar with Eros, Aphrodite, and Venus as the embodiments and deities of love. However, there are many other gods and goddesses around the world and throughout history who have worn the mantle. So, in the spirit of Valentine's Day, whether you enjoy spending time with your loved one(s), decorating your house with Hallmark kitsch, or simply embracing the multitudinous aspects of love, fertility, devotion, and adoration, I went looking for a list of those deities who have been associated with love around the world. I stumbled across this astounding (but admittedly not comprehensive) list of the gods and goddesses of love. May it inspire you to have a happy and safe Valentine's Day, no matter your beliefs or culture.

Click here to visit Cave of the Word Witch's Temple of Love.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Yorkshire Pheasant on a Rampage

Apparently I am often in the wrong place at the wrong time, and therefore miss out on opportunities to see not only a crazed pheasant chasing after prams, but local dogs running away with their tails between their legs. Bird behavior during breeding season can be unpredictable for humans at best, and one Yorkshire town has fallen victim to a pheasant who has committing terror attacks on its residents for over a month.

Read about the unpleasant pheasant on's Weird section

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Where I'd Like to Go: Antarctica's "Blood Falls"

I've barely scratched the surface of the Earth for places that I'd like to see before I die, but as I hunt around the internet for new experiences, I thought I'd post some of the more awe-inspiring and ones that make me want to run screaming from cubicle-land and into the next adventure.

Unfortunately I don't know much about Antarctica, other than it's home to ice, and lots of it. Apparently, however, it's also home to "Blood Falls", an underground iron-rich lake that occasionally makes its way to the surface, appearing to bleed through the ice. A new study has found microbes living in this most inhospitable of climates, and some hope that it may be a precursor to finding life under icecaps on Mars and Europa.

See a picture of this beautiful phenomenon, as well as learn a little more on Discover Magazine's 80beats blog here.