Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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The Karavansara summer reading list for students (and everybody else)

I don’t know how it is there where you are sitting, but hereabouts schools are about to close for summers, and teachers are busy assigning homework and projects and stuff.
One of the things that hit the kids every year is the dread read at least five books from this list list.
I always hated that when I was in high-school – I usually approached summer with a stack of a dozen big books I wanted to read, and here I was forced to slip more dull novels in the mix. And now I’m told that with the lowering standards of our school they are reducing the required reads to three, but you get the idea.

SummerReading

And I thought, why not put together my own suggested reading list?
For kids out there, high-school level, to broaden their horizons, and provide some much-needed food for thought.
I’ll also do a list in Italian for my blog, as a form of service – but putting together a list of English-language titles is easier, and I’m told list posts are quite popular.
But with a twist: I’ll focus on a list of books in theme with the usual topics of this blog. Books that talk about science, nature, philosophy, literature, history and imagination.
With an eye for adventure, exploration, and a modicum of swashbuckling – because this is, after all, Karavansara!
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On a country hike with Alfred Watkins

watkinsToday is Easter monday, and traditionally it is the day dedicated to field trips and picnics.
With my brother, we are planning a short hike across the hills here where we live – a matter of a few miles, following dirt paths through the vineyards.
We’ll take a few photos, taking our time and enjoying the quiet, and make it to a place where we will find ice cream.
Because that’s our goal – ice cream!
Once our ice cream raid is done, we’ll walk back.
And I’ll be carrying in my small rucksack, my copy of Alfred Watkin’s The Ley Hunter’s Manual from 1927.
That is a bogus sort of pamphlet, and scandalised my old colleagues back in the days of fieldwork for the university, but it’s a fun thing anyway, and perfect for such a hike. Continue reading


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A way to keep the brain going: learning a foreign language (or five!)

The subject of languages came up in the comments section of my last post, when Floodmouse asked about my fluency in both English and Italian.
And I thought that for a blog that has the Silk Road as one of its themes, together with exotic adventure and history, then languages should be an interesting and pertinent topic. And languages have always been an interest of mine – and I learned a few, and I might have some dubious wisdom to share.

3592844F00000578-0-image-m-32_1466643151552And talking of dubious wisdom…
I can’t remember in which of the Flashman novels1, Flash Harry gives some good-natured suggestion to young men abroad in need of learning the local lingo in a haste.
Flashman’s suggestion boils down to shacking up with a local prostitute for the time needed, and do some conversation between… ehm, sessions.

 

Now I never tried that one, but I do have a few languages in my CV, and I am absolutely certain that knowing a different language (or three) is an essential life skill.
It helps us communicate with others, of course, and it provides us with the opportunity of seeing the world through other people’s eyes – by reading their books and newspapers, by listening to their songs and their radio news, by talking to them.
Practicing a foreign language is also an excellent method to keep the dust off our brain.
And it can be quite fun, if done with the proper attitude.
And indeed, the web provides a lot of opportunities for learning another language, and practicing it. Because practice is the important thing. Continue reading


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Teach Yourself to Live

This post was somewhat instigated by my friend Jim Cornelius, that runs the Frontier Partisans blog. On his Facebook page Jim shared the news about an American gentleman, a Ryan Holiday, that’s bringing about a renewed interest for Stoicism, of all things.
The guy is making big bucks in the self-help department, and is also running conventions, Stoicon, believe it or not, but it looks like he’s selling for big bucks a bastardized version of the original Stoicism.
And in case you missed it, Stoicism is described as…

an ancient Greek school of philosophy founded at Athens by Zeno of Citium. The school taught that virtue, the highest good, is based on knowledge, and that the wise live in harmony with the divine Reason (also identified with Fate and Providence) that governs nature, and are indifferent to the vicissitudes of fortune and to pleasure and pain.

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Nice and smooth.
Now, on to my post… Continue reading


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How to be a pulp hero on the cheap

Back in the old days, when heroes were an everyday occurrence on the pulps, Doc Savage Magazine published a series of articles on the minimal physical exercise you needed to become like DocĀ  himself.

Doc-Savage-as-shown-in-the-original-comics

In 23 installments, between 1935 and 1937, the Doc Savage Method of Self Development offered readers young and old a variety of physical exercises, but also an introduction to speed reading, to practices akin to what we’d refer today to as “mindfulness” and “cold reading”, plus other techniques of mental discipline and observation, the lot together with a moral and ethical set of guidelines.
Later, in 1938, came the Doc Savage self-defence course.

Times have changed, but the question is intriguing: can we define a curriculum, a training path, that anyone of us could follow to become a pulp hero? Continue reading