Monday’s Math Madness!

Wait, what?

Yes, I know, I NEVER talk about math!

Don’t look at me, it was Iva Sallay at Find the Factors‘ suggestion! (https://findthefactors.com/).

An invite, actually, to write a math-themed blog that Iva Sallay could possibly include in her “Playful Math Education Blog Carnival” that Sallay is hosting!

And one that I was thrilled to even be considered for!

I’ve followed Iva Sallay for so long I can’t even remember how we “met” but I kept following “Find the Factors” because I wanted to see if I could improve my math skills, and, at least, reach the level of the brilliant-at-math third graders I sometimes taught.

(I get numbers switched around a lot, like dyslexia but with numbers, and I even have trouble telling time. Ironically, even though teachers and others mocked me when I was growing up, I actually had a job once as a closing manager for a grocery store, and had to count out the tills at night and make the financial reports. And I actually became pretty good at it!)

A later workplace skills assessment even showed me that my math skills were actually within the average range.

Nothing to write home about, but nowhere near as pitiful as I once thought they were (I probably could have gone to school for Marine Biology after all, with some academic support and tutoring for math!).

Speaking of “writing home”, Iva Sallay offered the aforementioned invite to join in the Math Carnival fun after I posted up about the book set I am currently reading.

This book set (three books) showcases a fifteenth-century maritime manuscript by a Venetian mariner named Michael of Rhodes.

I purchased the set at a history conference in Florida, because I loved maritime history (I have an MA in history).

But the main portion of this fifteenth-century manuscript that Michael of Rhodes wrote (and/or recorded, as some of the scholars discuss in their essays in the third volume) is math! And I am so, so intimidated by math.

The book set contains three books: a facsimile of the original manuscript (which includes original drawings, charts, and equations), a typed version of the manuscript, and adjoining pages where the text of Michael of Rhodes folios is provided in an English translation.

Included in the last book is a chapter study written by Raffaella Franci (https://openlibrary.org/authors/OL1328338A/Raffaella_Franci) titled “Mathematics in the Manuscript of Michael of Rhodes”, where Franci dissects the math, and Michael of Rhodes’ motivation in including, of the equations that take up “about half” (Franci 2009, 115) of the manuscript.*

Franci concludes that Michael of Rhodes wrote this manuscript as a fifteenth-century version of a CV, or resume (Franci 2009, 146). After he finished his “service at sea” (Franci 2009, 146), he was hoping obtain a “post in public administration” (Franci 2009, 146).

Raffaela Franci also surmises in the mathematics chapter study that much of the math Michael of Rhodes included in his manuscript went above and beyond what was required as part of his profession (Franci 2009, 146). Franci hypothesizes that Michael’s extensive inclusion of mathematics in his manuscript to one key reason–Michael of Rhodes simply “fell in love with the subject” (Franci 2009, 146).

Even as a self-identified “non-math” person, I’m fascinated. I mean, come on, fifteenth-century math problems that this Venetian mariner did for fun? How cool is that?

Michael of Rhodes starts out with something called “practical arithmetic, or abbacus mathematics” (Franci 2009, 115). And, in addition to algebra, the rule of three, fractions, square roots, cube roots, and more (Franci 2009, 117-118), Michael of Rhodes treats math lovers with maritime/trade “problems”: “Commerce of pepper…freightage…buying jewels…travels…” (Franci 2009, 117-118) and even problems about “playing dice” (Franci, 118).

According to Rafaella Franci, Michael of Rhodes used something called the “Divisione a Galera”–the “Galley Method of Division” for his many calculations (Franci 2009, 119) and Franci provides the reader with a more detailed examination of this method (and other approaches to solving problems) within the chapter study of this manuscript.

Raffaela Franci states that Michael’s personal fascination with mathematics led him to calculate solutions purely as a theoretical exercise, because his solutions are so “complicated” that they “have no practical use” (Franci 2009, 143).

On the lighter side, but just as historically fascinating, is Michael of Rhodes’ examination of astrology and horoscopes in relation to not only successful maritime navigation, but in navigating the murky waters of business deals, health and wellness, one’s own personality assessment, and even in interpersonal relationships.

Some things never change, right?

And, if we embrace Raffaela Franci’s conclusion, Michael of Rhodes created this whole document for what many of us strive for today–a better job!

Source as quoted/used as reference for this blog post:

Fauci, Raffaella. 2009. “Mathematics in the Manuscript of Michael of Rhodes.” Pp. 115-146 in The Book of Michael of Rhodes: A Fifteenth-Century Maritime Manuscript, Volume 3: Studies, edited by Pamela O. Long. Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Links for the book set:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6787496-the-book-of-michael-of-rhodes

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6715591-the-book-of-michael-of-rhodes-volume-2

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6715592-the-book-of-michael-of-rhodes

Five Things Friday: Mini-Interview with Author Elinor DeWire

Egmont Key Light
Egmont Key Light: https://www.visitflorida.com/en-us/things-to-do/outdoors-nature/lighthouse-egmont-key-st-petersburg-fla.html
St. Augustine Light
St. Augustine Light https://www.staugustinelighthouse.org/

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I am absolutely thrilled about this week’s interview! I had the amazing opportunity to chat with Author (and Lighthouse Historian Extraordinaire!) Elinor DeWire!

Her book that I’ve had forever (I have the first paperback edition of Guardians of the Lights: Stories of U.S. Lighthouse Keepers for you book nerds out there!) was luckily not among the books damaged/lost in a flood. And it was the first book of my maritime history collection, and which eventually led to me getting a Master’s degree in history. While I’ve moved into other academic areas of interest (very recently!), I still love lighthouses, and have used them as settings for a couple of my (unpublished) short stories. And I love to read about lighthouses in fiction, too! (https://willowcroft.blog/2020/12/16/journeys-in-the-round/)

Willow Croft: So, we’ll get this out of the way, straight off. What’s your favourite light you’ve visited and/or lighthouse/light station you’ve stayed over at? What was the best part of your experience?

Elinor DeWire: I usually tell people my favorite lighthouse is the most recent one I’ve visited. That would be Cape Frehel in Brittany, France. Beautiful place and architecturally fascinating tower. That said, I must confess I REALLY love Nauset Beach Lighthouse on Cape Cod. (https://www.nps.gov/caco/planyourvisit/nauset-light-beach.htm) It was the first lighthouse where I did extensive research and even assisted–ever so little–the NPS with saving the Three Sisters lighthouses that preceded the red and white tower currently at Nauset Beach. I’m still hoping they will fabricate lanterns for the two capless Sisters. Nauset has a storied history and is pretty. I am a sucker for a pretty lighthouse!

Willow Croft: I always find a way to work in a mention of food, of course! Could you tell us about some common dishes and/or foodstuffs the lightkeeper and/or their family would eat while in residence?

Elinor DeWire: Keepers at remote or offshore light stations were given a standard supply of nonperishable staple foodstuff from the U.S. Lighthouse Establishment–dried beans, rice, sugar, flour, potatoes, turnips, molasses, salt, etc. I think a lot of fish was eaten, as it was handy nearby in the sea. Soups were served to stretch meat and have something hot on hand on cold days. The late Barbara Beebe gave me her mother’s rose hip jelly recipe, made from the beach roses growing at Old North Lighthouse on Block Island, RI. (https://lighthousefriends.com/light.asp?ID=40) Her family also ate blanc mange, made from seaweed. The late Connie Small gave me her apple pie recipe. There were apple trees on St. Croix Island where her husband was assigned in the 1930s. Of course, chowders were popular too, and coffee was always at the ready.

Willow Croft: As I gathered from your blog, you have a novel in the works. What has been the challenges (and benefits?) in conducting research in regards to the pandemic? Also, I understand that you’re on the board of directors for the United States Lighthouse Society. Were there any challenges with continuing work on lighthouse preservation, continued conservation of existing sites, and fundraising within the former political climate and with the pandemic shutdown and precautions? How have you tackled these challenges?

Elinor DeWire: I have written so many lighthouse books, I am growing a bit jaded with that…not that I have any less love for lighthouses; it’s just a bit of writer’s weariness and the fact that the lighthouse genre is saturated at the moment. I have three novels in print now, all set in late Regency and early Victorian England. I write under a pen name–J.J. Scott–as I feel “Elinor DeWire” should remain dedicated to lighthouses. My novels are heavy on history with a serving of romance and intrigue. My first one, Saving Lord M, was and remains quite popular, a romantic and even a bit supernatural story of William Lamb, Viscount Lord Melbourne, prime minister of England in the 1830s. I was inspired to write about him by the PBS series Victoria, which inaccurately portrayed him. The popularity of the novel surprised me, though I should have remembered that I won short fiction prizes years ago. I’m at work on a 4th novel at present, set in Cumbria, England in 1830. Fiction has recharged my researcher and scribe battery!

U.S. Lighthouse Society–I was brought onto the Board a few years ago to develop the society’s education initiative and bring kids and families into our fold. (Also, the board had been composed of all men for decades, so a woman’s touch was needed!) So far, my education efforts have been well received, and we’re bringing youth into the fold. We expect to offer a kids’ membership soon and do some events expressly for kids. The pandemic has been tough financially. Lighthouse tours are the backbone of USLHS’s income, and of course we haven’t been able to do any tours for over a year. I think the last one was in the southeast USA about 14 months ago. The society has been solvent in the last decade; we have been able to trudge through the pandemic. Tours will resume late summer 2021. The Board will have its first face-to-face meeting this late June in Florida. As for fundraising, we relied on our loyal membership to tide us through the previous administration’s lack of humanities funding (and lack of sanity, period!) and through the pandemic. We are solvent, and we are even in the process of awarding $30K in increments of $1000 to needy lighthouse groups hit hard by lack of tourism. We will slowly resume our normal ops this year.

Willow Croft: In your book, Guardians of the Lights: Stories of U.S. Lighthouse Keepers, you include stories and photos about the keepers and their animal companions, and you have also included them in your The Lightkeepers’ Menagerie: Stories of Animals at Lighthouses. What’s the most memorable companion story you remember from your research? Also, please tell us about your own animal menagerie!

Elinor DeWire: I grew up on a small farm in Maryland; thus, I LOVE animals. My two kids had every kind of pet imaginable as they grew up, though my one requirement was “legs.” No pets without legs! (I am not fond of snakes.) I wrote Lightkeepers’ Menagerie because I had SO MANY little anecdotes about animals in my research files. They seemed so important in lighthouse history. I suppose I am biased toward the stories of cats at lighthouses, as I love kitties and have had many in my lifetime, Currently, I have a tabby and a Maine Coon. In the book, there is a story about Jiggs the cat, who was born at Pigeon Point, moved with the Henderson family to Point Sur, and then died there. He was exhumed when the family moved to Point Pinos and reburied there. I included a picture of his little grave in Lightkeepers’ Menagerie. I think this is my favorite animal story because Jiggs reminds me so much of one of our cats, ignobly named Warhead by my husband, a retired Navy ordnance officer. The mention of Jiggs climbing a woman’s legs under the dinner table is priceless. Warhead did the same thing to an insurance salesman who weaseled his way into our house many years ago. Warhead somehow realized we didn’t care for this man and had no intention of buying insurance, so he did his best to make the man leave. Success!

Willow Croft: I’ve visited a few lighthouses in Florida and up into in Georgia, but I haven’t experienced anything paranormal or supernatural at the ones that I’ve visited. Not even during the St. Augustine nighttime tour that included a visit to the grounds of the St. Augustine Light. (I say I haven’t, even though I did see big, glowing blue “orbs” bouncing around the base of an old oak tree, because it doesn’t really feel like it counts.) Have you witnessed anything paranormal at any of the lights, lighthouses, or light stations you’ve visited? If you haven’t, do you have a favourite ghostly tale to share about a lighthouse you’ve researched?

Elinor DeWire: No ghosts have allowed me to meet them at lighthouses. I am not particularly receptive, though I think the ghost tales and supernatural stuff is fun to write about, and it definitely has an audience. I did several lighthouse ghost tv shows years ago. I wish there was more interest in the real history of lighthouses, but people DO like the scary stuff! Knowing all that I know about lighthouses, I can usually explain away ghosts and supernatural events at lighthouses. A couple of years ago I visited St. Simons Lighthouse in Georgia, famous for its stairway ghost and a dog named Jinx that responded negatively to the poltergeist. (https://www.coastalgeorgiahistory.org/visit/st-simons-lighthouse/) I climbed the stairs alone after hours and heard the clanking and creaking sounds attributed to the ghost. It was just the iron stairway cooling down from a hot summer day. Metal expands in heat and contracts when cool. Bang, screech, groan!!! My favorite lighthouse ghost is a little gray kitty that haunts the upstairs of the keepers’ house at Fairport Lighthouse in Ohio. (http://www.fairportharborlighthouse.org/)  It’s a long story. You’ll find it in Lightkeepers’ Menagerie. I interviewed the woman who lived in the upstairs apartment in the 1980s, a curator at the museum. She was truly convinced the feline ghost was real, especially after repairmen came to the quarters and found the mummified body of a small cat in a wall. Ooooooh! Who am I to say…

ElinorDeWire

Elinor DeWire Links

Find her on Facebook as “Elinor DeWire, Author” and here: https://www.facebook.com/J.J.Scottnovelist/
Find @ElinorDeWire on Twitter
Visit her Author Blog on Blogspot: http://elinordewire.blogspot.com/
Find her Author Website here: https://www.elinordewire.com/
View her lighthouse videos on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCoDc9cP-B8oKTF05jg9t3Iw
Visit her “Lighthouse” Pinterest Boards: https://www.pinterest.com/fineshine/
Find her on Amazon here https://www.amazon.com/Elinor-DeWire/e/B000APJJ0M and here https://www.amazon.com/J-J-Scott/e/B07QQ36XBT
View her education page at U.S. Lighthouse Society (full of resources for teachers and kids): https://uslhs.org/education/educational-materials