2019/06/02

Akhenaten and "Lincoln's Dream"



I love it when I find different references to historical stuff in non-historical texts. It's fun to discover something and then do the research to see if it's true. Connie Willis is one of my favorite science fiction writers and I found this passage in a book titled "Lincoln's Dreams."


I have studied early Egyptian history and have a vague memory of studying Akhenaten. He is a very interesting leader because of his wife Nefertiti and his son Tutankhamun (King Tut in current lore.) He is the first Egyptian monotheist pharaoh and his apostasy from the 'true' Gods caused his future successors to try and erase him and his new religion from history. These successors were unsuccessful in erasing Akhenaten from all monuments and written documents and so we know his name and some of his reign today. Another thing we know is that his statues show a man with a very different physique than those who came before and after him. His face is depicted as long and thin; a body with larger breasts, thick thighs and a sagging stomach. While some egyptologists believe that these are stylized depictions, others believe that these depicted physical characteristics are a true representation... that the pharaoh did look this way... that he may have clear physical traits of illness.

What the illness might have been has been guessed at over the centuries. There is no illness that has been able to be definitively proven, but the diseases that are currently in the running are Marfan's syndrome, Homocystinuria, and Familial Temporal Epilepsy. One thing that potential removes Marfan's syndrome from the running is that a DNA test was performed on the mummy of Tutankhamun and was found to be negative. As Akhenaten's son, King Tut should have shown some markers of the disorder if it was available. However, Marfan's has not been fully ruled out for Akhenaten... it has simply been ruled out for Tutankhamun.

This was a fun exercise today. There appears to be no Egyptian authorities that suspect Akhenaten had acromegaly as Connie Willis suggests. From what is known at this point, there is no hard evidence for anything including even the possibility of illness. But this was a fun exercise all the same. I look forward to finding more references in other books. These flights of fancy distract me from difficulties in my own life and give me interesting things to roll around in my brain. Tomorrow will bring new things to think about. But for today, my mind is on Egypt and its rich and glorious past.

2019/05/23

Surgery Update 2


Things are going great! Here is a picture of my foot when they took off the cast.


Here it is now...


So things are doing well. I'm really grateful. :)

2019/05/17

Basic Structures of the Eye


Here is a set of notes I took about the basic structure of the eye. Enjoy! (The image is a focused shot of my right eye.


Visual process/ basic optical system - When a person looks at an object, the light rays that will reflect off the object enter the eye through the front and into the back of the eye. During the process, the light rays are bent and produce an upside-down image onto the retina. This image is then turned into electric impulses that travel to the brain where the image is translated and the object is then able to be perceived as upright. Light enters the globe through the cornea to the lens which also helps to bend the light and the light then travels through the vitreous to the retina where the information is changed into the electrical impulses and sent to the brain by the optic nerve.

Globe- the structures and membranes that together comprise the solid round shaped eyeball.

Cornea- the outermost front part of the globe. It is a thin, tough, crystal clear membrane that is sometimes called the window of the eye. It is transparent due to a lack of blood vessels which distinguishes it from other tissues as the cornea receives its nourishment from the tear film that covers its surface and a specialized fluid that flows beneath it. It provides 2/3 of the total refractive power of the eye and is the chief refracting tissue. There are five layers to the cornea body

-------- Corneal epithelium - first line of defense against injury and infection.
-------- Bowman's membrane - this membrane serves as the anchor to the epithelium layer.
-------- Corneal stroma - the main body of the cornea and contributes rigidity to the cornea. 90% of corneal thickness
-------- Descemet's membrane - provide some rigidity to the corneal body; a thin layer of collagen and elastic fibers
-------- Corneal endothelium - has cells that service pumps to maintain a proper fluid balance in the cornea and also help provide nutrients to the whole. It is a layer of delicate cells that cannot regenerate.

Sclera - the white tissue surrounding the cornea which is a strong fibrous outer layer that helps protect the intraocular parts and structures. So the white of the eye is actually bulbar conjunctiva which is translucent over the tissue of the sclera. Covers over 80% of the eyeball including whole of the rear.

Limbus - the juncture between the sclera and the cornea. The bulbar conjunctiva terminates here.

Anterior chamber - the area between the cornea and the iris. It is a small compartment filled with a fluid called aqueous humor that helps nourish the cornea. It is deepest at the center.

Iris - this structure is a colored diaphragm of tissue that is stretched across the back of the anterior chamber. In essence, creating the chamber between itself in the cornea. Using both a dilator muscle and a sphincter muscle, the iris can make the hole in the center pupil larger or smaller to control the amount of light that can be captured by the inside of the eye. It controls the pupil by involuntary reflex.

7. Pupil - this is not an actual structure; simply a name for the absence of structure or the hole in the center of the iris. The iris controls the size of the pupil and aqueous humor flows through it into the anterior chamber. It appears black because there is no light in the back of the eye to shine through to the front.

2019/05/11

Simon Schama - A History of Britain: "Dynasty"


These notes are from the third episode from the series by Simon Schama titled "A History of Britain." Moving on from the Iron Ages to the Battle of Hastings



England 1154 nearly a century after the Battle of Hastings the country has been torn apart by a savage civil war. William the Conqueror was long dead. For 30 years his grandchildren have been locked in a life-or-death struggle for the crown of England. The realm was in ruins. And then there appeared a young king brave and charismatic who stopped the anarchy. His name was Henry and he would become the greatest of all our medieval kings. He should be as well known to us as Henry the 8th or Elizabeth the 1st, but if he is remembered at all today it is as the king who ordered the murder in the cathedral or as the father of the much more famous and impossibly bad King John and the impossibly glamorous Richard the Lionhearted.

Henry II has no great monument to his reign. No horse backed statue of him stands outside Westminster yet he made an indelible mark on our country. The father of the common law; The godfather of the English state. But Henry was cursed and brought down by the church, his children, and most of all by his queen- the older, beautiful, and all powerful Eleanor of Aquitaine.



They ran Britain with a furious energy that entranced or appalled their subjects.and like many family firms they had the capacity for both creation and destruction. What their intelligence built their passions destroyed.

At the height of their power they were the masters of everything that counted in Christendom. Thier England was the linchpin of an Empire that stretched from the Scottish borders to the Pyrenees and much bigger than France itself. Not since the Romans and never again has England been quite so European. The dentist he had its roots in the civil war that was being fought between two cousins Stephen of Blois and Matilda the grandchildren of William the Conqueror. It was Stephen who seized the crown but that wasn't the end of it.

In 1128 Matilda married Geoffrey of Anjou also known as Plantagenet. His family emblem was three lions. Along with his money, power, and territory he also gave Matilda a son -Henry.

This was the age of chivalry when the myth of Arthur and Camelot was at its most popular. It was at this point that Henry was groomed by his parents to take England away from Stephen... To be a new King Arthur... His Guinevere - Eleanor of Aquitaine.

In 1153 Henry Plantagenet crossed the channel. His father Geoffrey had already taken Normandy from Steven so now it was up to Henry to take England. A deal was struck that Stephen would be allowed to die on his throne but Henry would be his heir. Within a year Stephen was dead and Henry and Eleanor were crowned king and queen of England.

Henry spoke virtually no English at all. What he would have grasped though if only for his coronation oath was that Kings of England we're supposed to be both judge and warlord. In fact the coronation oath preserved intact from Edward the Confessor was increasingly being held up as some sort of ideal. Monarch pretty much spelled out the job description of the king of England. One: was protect the church. Two: preserve intact the lands of your ancestors. Three: do justice. four: most sweeping of all suppress evil laws and customs.





It was vow number one though- the protection of the church- which quite unpredictably would cause Henry II the greatest grief. It was to provoke a kind of spiritual civil war. And it's was every bit as unsettling as the feudal civil war and which in its most dreadful hour would end with bloodshed in the cathedral.

Thomas Becket- the first commoner of any kind to make a mark on British history. Became archbishop of Canterbury.

Monarchs had long taken it for granted that they were directly anointed by God (and were) safely above the church. But the popes of this period begged to differ. Kings they said reported to popes and not the other way around. This wasn't just an academic quibble. This was a fight to the death.

There were two flashpoints. The first was whether lawbreaking clergymen could be judged in the king's courts like everyone else. The second was whether bishops had the power to excommunicate royal officials. By making Thomas Becket the archbishop of Canterbury, Henry believed he could depend on someone who would share his view of the subordinate relationship state of church to state. The king was in for a shock.

It all came to a head early in 1164 when Henry summoned a special counsel of the princes of the church and the most important nobles of the realm. There he demanded that they ascent unconditionally to "the customs of the realm." In the end Becket advocated for refusing Henry's demands and ordered his bishops to do the same. This is a position he never budged on.

In October 1164 Becket was brought to trial by Henry II for improper use of funds. The trial broke up with Becket storming out. Convicted on the charges, Becket fled with a small group of followers.

It took two painful years of back and forth diplomacy and increasingly impatient signals from the pope to arrange even talks about talks. After a series of abortive reconciliations in 1170 it looked like peace might finally break out. Henry and Thomas met and spoke for hours. Henry agreed to restore Thomas to his position of authority and to treat Becket's enemies as his own. Henry then told all that he was reconciled with Becket.




Soon disagreements between both men were renewed and Beckett's inability to let bygones be bygones created a deep wedge between himself in the king. Around 6 December 1st 1170, Becket excommunicated many bishops who had stayed loyal to Henry. Henry had a complete meltdown. After all, Becket was a traitor and what happens to traitors...? So be it.

December 29th 1170 around three pm. Four knights arrived at Becket's place of residence and after an ugly conversation Becket left. The knights caught up with him in the chapel and murdered him. "Let's be off," he said. "This fellow won't be getting up again."

The actual murderers got off very lightly. Hiding out in Yorkshire, excommunicated, told to go off on crusade. But the real judgement Henry reserved for himself and the verdict was guilty as charged. In 1174, Henry made a pilgrimage to Canterbury where Becket's blood was said to work miracles. Over the last miles Henry walked barefoot in a hair shirt as Becket had done four years earlier. At the tomb he confessed his sins and was whipped by the monks. However tough his punishment though the blood would never wash away. Henry the hero of the common law would always be remembered as the biggest of England's crowned criminals - the murderer in a cathedral.

Henry would rule for another 20 years. Long enough to see his embryonic legal system grow into a thriving network of courts. Up and down the land these new courts were to settle not just the usual disputes of blood and mayhem, but all matter of painful rows over inheritances, estates, and properties. How ironic then that the only family that would not accept the king's justice was his own. Because if there was one person that was likely to finger the king- not as judge but as transgressor- it was his wife.



Betrayed and alienated by Henry, Eleanor turn her formidable energy and intellect to the business of getting her justice through her children. She was now determined to do everything she could to convince them that their father was robbing them of their rightful power and dignity. Her four sons rose to the bait.

Young Henry rebelled but ended up dying of dysentery. Geoffrey also rebelled but was trampled by a horse. Richard the Lionheart and the youngest son John were left.

It was on Richard that Eleanor pinned her hopes. She was even prepared to encourage an alliance between Richard and her husband's bitterest enemy- the king of France. In 1189 Richard declared war on his father. Henry face defeat as his barons defected to Richard. He had no choice but to negotiate with Richard which humbled him before his own son. He died two days later... some suggest of a broken heart.

It appeared that few people mourned Henry II. Most had already defected to his son Richard who had already won the public-relations battle. He was already the superstar of the dynasty. To prove it- to show that the old regime had passed and a new glamour had arrived- Richard gave a show-stopping coronation.

A fear of a sinister Jewish plot which triggered a general massacre begin the first Holocaust or pogrom of the Jews. Richard did make strong efforts to forbid these massacres, but he was not around to enforce it. He vanished to the Holy Land to do God's work.

In 1192, when news arrived of Richard's capture on his way back from the crusade, Prince John quickly declared his brother dead and himself king. Eleanor struggled with grief and her inability to deal with the treacheries of her children.

Richard was later ransomed but it left the country bankrupt. On his way home Richard was shot by an arrow and the wound became gangrenous and 10 days later he had died.


Assuming disloyalty he ended up guaranteeing it.

Magna Carta. Even if the Magna Carta is filled with the moans and the bellyaching of the barons that bellyaching turned out to have profound consequences for the future of England.

A generation before the barons couldn't have cared less about the rights of men held in prison for unstated causes. That was what happened to commoners. But under John bad things had happened to them; land stolen, widows hounded, heirs made disappear...

So if it isn't exactly the birth certificate of democracy it is the death certificate of despotism. It spells out for the first time the fundamental principles that the law is not simply the will or the whim of the king. The law is an independent power onto itself. The king could be brought to book for violating it

John died on campaign and John's nine year old son was named Henry III.


pictures from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_the_Conqueror, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_II_of_England, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_I_of_England, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magna_Carta, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third_Crusade

2019/05/07

Salem and His Wonky Eye


Today was a little bit of a different day. Lately I spend most of my days resting to make sure that my foot and ankle are healing well from the surgery. I have an appointment to get my cast off in 2 weeks and I'm hopeful it will be healed up enough that I can do that and won't need to get another cast put on. So I spend my days resting and doing miscellaneous things that I can do while sitting with my foot up.

Today I realized fairly quickly that one of my cats was having a problem with his eye. Salem has chronic respiratory disease and so it is very easy for him to catch different infections due to it. I was able to make an emergency appointment with one of my local vets and get him in and he currently has drops to help his eyes feel better. If his eye doesn't feel better by Thursday, then I will have to take him back in.

The major problem today was getting him into the vet. I'm not allowed to put any weight on my foot and so finding a way to get to the shed to get the cat crate, then getting it back to the house and getting the cat into it, and then getting the box with Salem in it to the car was going to be a nearly impossible task. I did manage to get the case out of the shed and into the house while using my crutches. However, getting Salem into the box and to the car required full weight on my foot. The wonderful staff at the veterinary clinic took care of carrying him from the car and throughout the clinic as needed and then got him back to the car. Then I had to put the weight on my foot to get him back into the house.

I'm pretty sure I did not re-injure it and it doesn't feel nearly as bad as I thought it would. So yay for that! Salem looks like he's doing a little better and I'm glad I took him because he clearly needed it. However I thought it prudent to spend the rest of the day on my back with my foot up and I have done that. I'll make sure I baby the ankle more tomorrow to make sure that I take good care of it. I'm glad that it was healed up enough that I didn't hurt myself doing what needed to be done today. I'm hopeful that this will not have to happen again. I was able to make arrangements with a friend to help me on Thursday if he has to go back in to get a different antibiotic. Otherwise both of us are resting this evening and looking forward to tomorrow.