Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Physics of Star Wars

I just finished reading The Physics of Star Wars: The Science Behind a Galaxy Far, Far Away. As the title suggests, it looks at various aspects of the Star Wars universe, such as planetary science, the Force, robotics, and weapons. For each item that the author covers, he includes some information about which films (the most recent movie he discusses is Rogue One) reference the topic, which physics concepts are introduced, Star Wars back story, how the physics works in Star Wars, and how the physics actually works in real life. Some of the concepts turn out to be rooted in fact (like planets orbiting a binary star system) while other still remain more fiction than fact (alas, light sabers and Force jumps are part of this group.) I'm not sure whether this book is meant to be more of a physics primer with a fun slant or a book about a specific aspect of Star Wars.

Do you like books that analyze the scientific aspects of a fandom, or do you think the explanations destroy the wonder and "unweave the rainbow"? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Monday, June 18, 2018

KU--To Renew or Not to Renew

I've never had much luck with Kindle Unlimited (KU) as an author, but last year, I decided to try it as a reader during Amazon Prime Day last year, when it was available at a reduced price. Soon I'll have to decide if I want to renew it or not.

Although I consider myself a voracious reader, it's hard for me to get my money's worth of reading out of KU each month. Part of this is because if I discover a book during its free period, I'll "buy" it instead of borrowing it. Since my Kindle and Kindle apps display the newest books first, the books I do borrow will get buried quickly if I don't read them immediately. The Kindle and Kindle apps aren't set up for me to manage my KU books there, so I have to log into my Amazon account if I want to find and return any KU books. The exception is when I try to borrow an eleventh book; the Kindle or app will prompt me to return one of my ten books I already have and continue. Of course, having access to all the books in the KU library doesn't stop me from buying plenty of other books outside the library.

All the complaints aside, I will say that my use of KU comes and goes in spurts. While I may go for a while without using it, I've read at least two books (maybe three) in KU recently. There are some authors I follow in KU, so it's convenient for binging on their books. I like to think they will get more money for a $0.99 book if I borrow it instead of buying it.

Are you (or have you been) part of KU or other subscription service for books? If so, what did you think of it? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

A Plethora of Projects

As if I didn't have enough to do already between writing, crocheting, and making a new set of Jawa robes, I've discovered a new project: making lanyards. My family and I are planning to attend Star Wars Celebration next year, so naturally we need suitably themed Star Wars lanyards for our badges. Rather than spend $10 each for the official Celebration ones, I did a little searching and found instructions for making my own lanyards from porg-patterned fabric I already had. (See photo.) They're so (or sew) easy even a beginner like me can make them, though it takes me longer than ten minutes (as promised by the pattern). I plan to make more, but this project cuts into time I need for other activities. I'm not sure exactly why I'm inspired to do so many other projects, though it could be a way of avoiding my current writing project.

How many projects do you juggle at once? Do you find yourself spending more time on projects that are lower priority than the ones you really need to do? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Monday, June 11, 2018

The Tale of Genji

Last month, as I was browsing my library's online catalog of ebooks, I discovered they had a translation of The Tale of Genji, which was written almost a thousand years ago by a Japanese noblewoman and is considered the world's first novel. Naturally, I decided to read it. It's about 1,100 pages, so it took me almost the entire lending period (three weeks) to plow through it. Although there were footnotes, they weren't hyperlinked to the relevant text, which made it difficult to match them up. Nevertheless, I managed to get the gist of the work, though I'm sure there are a lot of subtle details I missed.

The Tale of Genji is more of a biography (albeit of a fictional character) than a plot-driven book that we would consider a novel. It focuses on the life of Genji, the son of an emperor and a beloved concubine. Due to his mother's low rank, he's not eligible to become emperor himself. Today, we might consider Genji a "Marty Stu," as he's extraordinarily handsome, charming, and talented in many areas--and he has quite a few romantic dalliances. It's actually difficult to track all of the women he becomes involved with, especially since it was conventional at the time not to refer to people by name. Genjis' relationships take up much of the story. Characters quote poetry at each other, travel to view cherry blossoms or autumn leaves, and participate in impromptu evening concerts. The tale focuses on day-to-day events, not conflict. That said, there is a time when Genji falls out of favor when a new emperor takes the throne, and he's exiled from court for three years. During this time, he fathers a daughter who becomes the next empress. However, the story doesn't end when Genji dies, but instead focuses on two of his descendants and their rival relationships with women. The story ends abruptly, and there's debate on whether this ending is intentional or not.

Given that this story was written so long ago, relationships between men and women are much more formal than today, and women's lives are quite restricted. Women not only live in separate parts of a house from the men, but also have screens separating them from male visitors. If a man manages to sneak a peek through the screens at the woman, it's a big deal. If he sneaks past the barriers and meets the woman face-to-face, he apparently can have sex with her without much resistance. In fact, a bride and groom spend three nights together before they are betrothed. There are a couple of instances where a man takes a girl and raises her up to be his wife when she comes of age; today, we'd find that repulsive. Genji does this with his second wife, and she's quite shocked when he consummates the relationship. Women in this society can become very house-bound and asocial; for example, one of Genji's lovers refuses to leave her house after her father dies, even though there's no one to help her run it. Many of her servants leave, and the house starts to fall apart before Genji finally learns what's happening and helps her. A pair of sisters also resist leaving their home to go with men who love them after they lose their father. At least two women involved in affairs end up taking religious vows after they have children. I'm not sure how these incidents would have been received by the women who made up the original audience for this story.

The original manuscript of this story no longer exists, so we're lucky that it's been copied down and passed on to us. Story structures have evolved quite a bit since The Tale of Genji was written. It's interesting to look back at older works and see what parts still appeal to us. (For me, there were a couple of passages about stories and wanting someone to share experiences with that resonated with me.)

What's the oldest work you've read, either in the original language or in translation? Did you find it difficult to follow? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

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