Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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Stars & Stones

I’ve just enrolled in an Archaeoastronomy MOOC for the late-winter/early spring term.
I have a number of other MOOCs coming (the first starts tomorrow), but these are strictly professionally-oriented courses1.
The Archaeoastronomy thing is purely leisure oriented – but with an eye to my writing, and one to future Karavansara posts.

The fun thing is, the course is based in Milan, 80 kms from where I am sitting, and I am accessing its contents in English, through an international platform, from my home2.

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Archaeoastronomy, for the uninitiated, is that branch of archaeology that studies the astronomical relations of ancient structures, like Stonehenge, Cheops’ Pyramid or the Nazca lines. Continue reading

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Life on Mars

As I am seriously thinking about ditching my TV set for good (and thus escape the blood-dripping 120 bucks TV tax our friendly government imposes us), I am once again using the web and MOOCs in particular for my entertainment and edification – and as a break from reading and writing.
And therefore, in October, I will be on Mars, for a short survival course…

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This free online course will introduce the key scientific concepts needed for humans to survive on Mars, where there is no air to breath, no water to drink and no food to eat. The course will also examine interdisciplinary skills and meticulous planning required to sustain human life in such a hostile environment. Case studies and insights from leading experts in the field of Chemistry, Astronomy, Physics and Geology will demonstrate the basic science and problem solving skills you can use in everyday life.

The course is offered by Monash University, through the Futurelearn platform.
It’s free and it will last four weeks.
I think my brother will join me on this one, too.
If you’re interested, see you on Mars next month.


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Learning photography, again!

And so I went and enrolled in a new MOOC.
Fact is, you see, I’ve spent a few days (and nights!) going around carrying my trusty old  camera, and I took lots of photos. And I realized I have lost my touch.
Not that I was ever a star photographer, but I was pretty good, for a self-taught amateur. In the time when cameras still packed a roll of film, I shot in black and white (it was cheaper), and I had lots of fun. I used a Nikkormat EL, back then, and I had studied a lot of photo books and courses and handbooks1. Boy, I loved that camera. An artifact from a more civilized time.

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Researching far and wide

Something I often discuss on these pages is the joy (and pain) of doing research when writing.
Being a naturally curious individual, I actually enjoy doing research, and quite often I see writing as an opportunity to explore some issues that interest me.

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Also, the amount of research is connected with the volume of work I am planning.
For a quick short story, say, set on Titan, the moon of Saturn, a selection of articles on the topic, plus the usual resources found online are normally more than enough.
Something particularly interesting and useful for the story might emerge, and then I’ll go in deeper on that single detail, usually while revising the first draft.
But in general, let’s say that, as a rule of thumb, a 6000-words story should be based on no more than one weekend of reading and note-taking. “For Dummies” books are a great resource when writing short fiction1. Continue reading


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Six Objects from the Turin Egyptian Museum

As I mentioned a while back, I was part of a MOOC hosted by the Manchester University, about Ancient Egypt as perceived through six objects in the collections of the Manchester Museum.

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As part of the course, I had to submit a short paper covering my choice of six objects, chosen to explore a certain facet of the Ancient Egyptian history or culture.

I chose six papyruses from the collections of the Turin Egyptian Museum – or Museo Egizio di Torino, in Italian – that show a different face of Ancient Egypt… and feature magic, murder, mayhem and naked women.

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Now that the course is over and my paper has been evaluated, I thought someone out there might be interested …

so here it goes

It’s a very simple, lightweight pdf document, eleven pages of loose text with some extra links for images1. You can read it online, or download it – it is distributed under a standard Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike license.

I hope you’ll enjoy it.
Comments are very welcome.
Cheers!


  1. but who knows – one of these nights I might try and expand it a little and do a DeLuxe version…