Tag Archive | research

Teaching in the SCA: the class that taught me how to write the Legendary Women of World History Series

Many of you know that for over 20 years I was a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism, a medieval recreation group mostly centered in the United States and Canada that focuses on the time period between 600 and 1600 CE.  I was known at first as “Anne de Lyons” when I played as a student at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln (SCA chapter: Shire/Barony of Mag Mor, Calontir), but quickly shifted to a nuzhen persona once I took Asian history courses at UNL.

sands point demo 2009

As my life took shape I eventually took up my passion for birds and made it part of the SCA in 2006 while living in Brooklyn, New York. Now known as “Biya Saman,” I focused my research on both falconry and aviculture in medieval China, engaging in a four year long research project asking “what happened to the Derbyan parakeet” that were often talked about in some of the great poems of the Tang Dynasty.

In 2010 I completed my research and had the opportunity to present it in Chicago at the November “Royal University Midrealms” event.  Here is that course entitled “Talons and White Crests.”

Talon and White Crest class handout

Why is the class important?  Because ultimately it taught me how to organize my research into a smooth, easy to understand narrative.  It is the beginning of my narrative history approach and the way I approach and write each Legendary Women of World History book.

Not everything from my research made it into that class of course.  There was much I could not do. But the point was to teach students who had no background in Chinese history, language or culture; no background with parrots or the quirks of living with them; and no background in falconry as practiced in either medieval Europe or Asia.

When teaching students with absolutely no experience or background in your subject, I find it helpful to use a narrative method, to make it all about the story which is exactly what you find in the above course and in each Legendary Women of World History biography.

As I came to do with the appendices of my books, I deferred technical information to my class handout.  Open up the handout from the above link and you’ll find I really explain how parrots and birds of prey are different (and yes, people often don’t know even the most basic differences between them).  Deferring the technical stuff allows me to focus on the story and maintain clarity.

 

Talons and White Crests was an important step in learning how to write the Legendary Women of World History.  I hope you will enjoy it.

Myopia Epidemic: Get Outside and Play

This morning twitter gifted me with a fascinating study published this year in Nature magazine entitled, “The myopia boom: Short-sightedness is reaching epidemic proportions. Some scientists think they have found a reason why.”

Myopia2The study reports alarming and very dramatic increases in myopia (the scientific term for near-sightedness/short-sightedness) worldwide with Asian myopia rates now well over 90% compared to 10-20% just sixty years ago.

Intriguing in the analysis is the finding that time spent outside correlates with myopia with the highest risk for developing myopia among children and adolescents spending the greatest amount of time indoors and the lowest risk experienced by those spending the most time out of doors.  Activity level was surprisingly not a factor, but light exposure is.

Our eyes need light, especially unfiltered, natural sunlight in order to be healthy.  We need to get out of doors and play.  And on nice days we need to move our classrooms out of doors, something I am pleased to say my teachers did from time to time, especially in springtime.

So get outside — even when the weather is a less than ideal — and help preserve and protect your sight.  You deserve nothing less than healthy eyes.

Repost: Birds diversified in “big bang” after dinosaurs died out

Birds diversified in big bang after dinosaurs died out.

Reposted from World Science.

A ma­jor new study sheds new light on how and when birds evolved and ac­quired fea­tures such as feath­ers, flight and song, sci­en­tists say.

The study charts a burst of ev­o­lu­tion that took place af­ter the di­no­saurs sud­denly died out, about 66 mil­lion years ago. Sci­en­tists say this burst oc­curr­ed as new forms exploited op­port­uni­ties left open by the absence of the din­o­saurs, some of which were the an­cest­ors of these same birds. With­in 10 mil­lion years, re­search­ers found, the avian ex­plos­ion created rep­re­sen­ta­tives of nearly all the ma­jor bird lin­eages with us to­day.

The four-year proj­ect de­cod­ed and com­pared the en­tire ge­net­ic fin­ger­print of 48 bird spe­cies to rep­re­sent all these lin­eages—in­clud­ing the wood­peck­er, owl, pen­guin, hum­ming­bird and fla­min­go.

Re­search­ers al­so com­pared these genomes with those of three oth­er rep­tile spe­cies and hu­mans.

They found that bird­song evolved se­pa­rate­ly at least twice. Par­rots and song­birds gained the abil­ity to learn and mim­ic vo­cal ac­ti­vity in­de­pend­ently of hum­ming­birds, de­spite shar­ing many of the same genes.

The find­ings are con­sid­ered im­por­tant be­cause some of brain pro­cesses that are in­volved in bird sing­ing are al­so as­so­ci­at­ed with hu­man speech.

Birds are the most ge­o­graph­ic­ally di­verse group of land an­i­mals. They help sci­en­tists in­ves­t­i­gate fun­da­men­tal ques­tions in bi­ol­o­gy and ecol­o­gy and they are al­so a ma­jor glob­al food re­source, pro­vid­ing meat and eggs.

More than 200 sci­en­tists con­tri­but­ed to the Avi­an Phy­loge­nomics Proj­ect, which was led by BGI in Shen­zhen, Chi­na, the Uni­vers­ity of Co­pen­ha­gen, Duke Uni­vers­ity in North Car­o­li­na, the How­ard Hughes Med­i­cal In­sti­tute based in Chevy Chase, Md., and the Nat­u­ral His­to­ry Mu­se­um of Den­mark. The find­ings are pub­lished in 23 sci­en­tif­ic pa­pers, in­clud­ing eight in the jour­nal Sci­ence.

Build­ing on this re­search, sci­en­tists at the Na­t­ional Avi­an Re­search Facil­ity in Ed­in­burgh have cre­at­ed 48 da­tabases to share and ex­pand on the in­forma­t­ion as­so­ci­at­ed with the birds’ genomes. They hope that re­search­ers from around the world will con­tin­ue to up­load their own da­ta, of­fer­ing fur­ther in­sights to the ge­net­ics of mod­ern birds.

Such in­forma­t­ion is ex­pected to be use­ful for help­ing sci­en­tists to un­der­stand why in­fec­tious dis­eases, such as bird flu, af­fect some spe­cies but not oth­ers.

“This is just the be­gin­ning. We hope that giv­ing peo­ple the tools to ex­plore this wealth of bird gene in­forma­t­ion in one place will stim­u­late fur­ther re­search,” said Da­vid Burt, act­ing di­rec­tor of the Na­t­ional Avi­an Re­search Facil­ity at the Uni­vers­ity of Ed­in­burgh’s Roslin In­sti­tute.

“Ul­ti­mately, we hope the re­search will br­ing im­por­tant in­sights to help im­prove the health and wel­fare of wild and farmed birds.”

East Kingdom Wiki

The East

The East (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

East Kingdom Wiki

This is the wiki collecting information about the East Kingdom and its history (and therefore the histories of many other SCA kingdoms who were previously part of the East).  If you play in the East, please add your stories to this wiki.

History of the East Kingdom

The East

The East (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

History of the East Kingdom

Research is the key to every author’s success.  For the Peers of Beinan series, research into medieval history, science, and the history of the Society for Creative Anachronism all shape the stories each of you enjoy in my books.

But finding that information can be a challenge.

Fortunately there is a really good website for starting your adventure discovering nearly 50 years of medieval adventures in the Society for Creative Anachronism.

As the second oldest kingdom in the Society, the East Kingdom historian office has a lot of great information.  http://history.eastkingdom.org/index.php is the top level to the EK resources.  Whether you play in the society, write historical fiction, or just want to know more about the SCA as a whole, this site is a great starting point.