Total Tolkien #007 7 Wonders of Middle Earth

Total Tolkien #007 7 Wonders of Middle Earth

 

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In this episode following on from the ring of Isenguard and the Tower of Orthanc we are taking a look at the Statues of the Argonath. The twin statues guarding the ancient norther boundary of the kingdom of Gondor.

 

Who built them, when, why, how and how do they compare to modern marvels in our world?

 

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Total Tolkien #006 7 Wonders of Middle Earth

This is the first in a seven episode series exploring the 7 Wonders of Middle Earth left standing at the end of the Third Age.

 

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Obviously inspired by the famous list of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient world, ours differs only in that we are only counting those monuments that are still surviving as of the events in The Lord of the Rings.

 

At number 7 on our list is the ring of isengard and the tower of Orthanc.  Listen to the episode to find out why this monument to the craft of the Numenorians comes in at numbers seven.

 

What do you think will come in at the remaining 6 places.

 

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Total Tolkien #005 Two and a Half Swords

Total Tolkien #005 Two and a Half Swords

 

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This episode of Total Tolkien looks at the Elvish Blades of Glamdring, Orcrist and Sting, owned by Gandalf, Thorin Oakenshield and Bilbo respectively. 

 

We look at the place and the people who forged them, their powers and properties, why they glowed blue and cut spiders like butter.

 

Three of the greatest swords not only of the Lord of the Rings Stories, but in all the History of Middle Earth.

 

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Total Tolkien #004 Magic In Middle Earth III

Total Tolkien #004

 

Magic In Middle Earth III

 

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This episode we round off our three part look at Magic in Middle Earth with a look at how Magic is used in Middle Earth. The different types of magic, how it differs from Valar to Elf to Man to Dwarves and how knowledge and natural power play their own important roles.

 

We look perhaps one of the most important issues of magic in Tolkien, expendable power, using your own natural power dominate and corrupt the nature of something else. Usually an evil act, but not always…

 

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Total Tolkien, Magic in MIddle Earth I

Welcome Back to Total Tolkien

 

In this three part episode we are looking at Magic in Middle Earth. Look for our full episode listings on iTunes or at out server.

 

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Its one of the questions brought up my new readers of Tolien or those turned off from Fantasy because they think it childish or naive to read about magic and fantasy worlds.

 

In this first of the three part episode we list several of the examples of magic shown in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. From the surprisingly few examples in the Hobbit, To the more obvious, but also more abstract magic shown in The Lord of the Rings.

 

IN the next two episodes we will be taking a deeper look into exactly what magic is in Tolkiens world and how it differs to most modern concepts of magic.

Segregated Education

Most of us, hopefully, believe, everyone is born equal, but surely by the time they are 10 we know if they are idiots or not?

 

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It sounds harsh, it sounds very utilitarian, it sounds like a way to create a generation of emotionally crippled kids. But it seems to work. Listen Direct or on iTunes, the German education system seems harsh, but it really does work. Show 009 of Three Wise Guys.

 

I suppose I should explain this a little better first… Firstly, I’m originally from New Zealand, our education system is pretty similar to most of the western world, kids go to Kindergarder when they are 3 and 4 for a few hours a day, learn basic ABC’s 123’s, but mostly just developmental things, like playing and being social, leaving Kindergarder most kids can’t read or write or count past 10 unless their parents taught them individually. Then you have primary school from 5-12. There is no entry criteria for primary school, while it is expected most kids would know basic ABC’s and 123’s, they are still covered in the first year along with the foundations of reading and writing, each year getting progressively harder, by the time you leave, you should have decent literacy, Addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and the basics of algebra (More being aware of them more than being able to do them. Throw in some basic social sciences like history and geography and simmer. In primary school you have one teacher for the entire day who handles all the different classes. 

 

Some schools separate the last two years, when the child is 11-12, and have a intermediate school, kind of a practice highschool, but these are not terribly common. 

 

Then on to highschool, where for the first time, classes are taught by different teachers in different classrooms. You start having to do every class option for at least one term, then every year you get to drop those you dont want and pick up more specialized classes, for the first two years there is just basic, Math and Science, but after 15, they split into different disciplines like Statistics, Calculus, Physics, Chemistry, ect 

 

Then on to university or a trade school at 18 if they wish. 

 

This by in large, is similar to how most of the western world handles education, with slight differences in testing and what year certain things are done. 

 

The Germans couldnt be more different if they tried.

 

When I first came to Germany 3 years ago I thought their system brutal, harsh, liable to destroy any student thrust into it. But after seeing the system in action for 3 years, I think we should hold it up as the ideal.

 

They have kindergarden, but theirs runs to 6, and in the last year tends to be a little more proactive in real teaching. 

 

Primary School starts at 7 and goes to 10-11. Now by in large it is fairly similar to most of the west in what they teach and how it is taught.

 

Where the real difference comes in is the final year. At the end of the final year, the teacher evaluates the student, and recommend them what level of highschool to go to, yes they have different grades of school. Before I get into that, I will point out, it is only a recommendation, and while it would obviously be smart to follow it, many parents dont, forcing their children into a higher grade than they can handle, this system has been tweaked several times over the last few years, taking power away from teachers and giving it to parents, which sadly, while we would hope to be a good thing, has resulted in chaos as demanding parents push their children more than they can handle. 

 

For their equivalent of highschool, the German separate into three different levels, the bottom is called “Hop school” and is very basic level of education, focusing more on classes, such as design drawing, woodwork ect, also classes are more designed to be fun and interactive to keep the children amused and paying attention. Students placed here are not of high academic prowess, and usually end up in blue collar work or trade professions. This level finishes at 15, where they can then leave to the work force or get tested into the next rank, which is…

 

The middle rank is “Real School” which is pretty much the equivalent of what most of the western world does for highschool, maybe a bit easier or more focused on “interactive learning” than the standard western school. These schools finish at 16, and children who go to them often move on a work/learn system that is very popular in Germany, where you study for 10-15 hours a week at a school, and spend the rest of the time at on the job learning/working. Jobs such as secretarial work, admin, computer tech, offer are common from this grade. If a child wishes to they can test at the end of this school to continue to…

 

The final grade of school is Gymnasium, which doesn’t have a translation really. This runs all the way up to 17. While they do receive students who are graduated from the lower level schools, it is not terribly common, and they usually lose more through dropping out to the lower grades than they get from people moving up (Especially since parents have been able to over ride teacher recommendations). Gymnasium is a step above what most western schools are, and in the final few years, are more similar to university courses than standard high school. The students are lectured at and are expected to motivate themselves. While a teacher is able to help, learning is self disciplined by in large. I would place most students who graduation from Gymnasium at or above many 1st or 2nd year university students from other nations.

 

At the face of it this system seems really hardcore, judging a 11 year old, guiding their future life plans from such a young age? It is harsh. But it has been shown to work time and time again. My highschool which took everyone had very smart kids, and real trouble makers, and thank God those kids dropped out at 15 (as soon as they are allowed to in NZ) because the rest of us could focus more.

 

How much better would your school have been if the kids who didnt want to learn werent there, and most of the students where at your grade of learning?

 

If you hated highschool because it was hard or not your thing, would you not have preferred a school tailored to teach you life skills and fun interactive learning?

 

The system at this moment has been broken a bit by the Green Government who took the power to place students away from teachers who knew the academic prowess of their students, to the parents, who by in large, force their children into high levels than they can handle, causing massive drop outs from the top level and lower learning standards for everyone involved. While the idea of parents having a say sounds right on the surface, teachers in Germany study for years in this system, parents are quite often blind to what is really in their childs best interests. In the old system, if a parent really didnt agree with the decision of the teacher, they could request a meeting or outside testing, but it was rare, as most had been through the system their selves and knew it worked.

 

I originally though that by placing a child in the mid level school you had decided their fate for ever and denied them access to university (as only students from gymnasium are granted university access), but they always have the option of being tested up if they wish. But most are happy to be placed into any level of school.

 

There is no real stigma about being in the “Dumb” school, as they are often more than happy to be in that level of school and move onto trade jobs, they never wanted a more academic path.

 

Considering the problem New Zealand and many western nations are facing with to many university graduates and not enough people in the trades, maybe a system tailored to the skills of the students is best.

 

Granted it took me years to get used to the system, and to this day, something about it still seems harsh. But with all the options given, and the results that speak for them selves. I cant honestly find a good reason not to support this system of schooling. 

 

I give a much more detailed description on the levels of schooling in the show here, or listen to iTunes with all the episodes, this is show 009, with questions from Preston and Aaron about the problems many in the west think the system has. At the least it is something to ponder. 

Genetically modified ME!

Being from New Zealand, where clean and green is almost a religion, I had been well and truly indoctrinated against Genetic Modified foods and animals, and well… everything.

But I also had a science teacher in high school who while not pro or con Genetically Modified foods, he was VERY in favor of his students knowing about them, above and beyond the propaganda from both sides. He was, with out a doubt, the biggest influence on my life outside of my immediate family. I think a lot of people have that one teacher that effects them on a deeper level than others, that help shape your view of the world.

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He refused to give his opinion on GE foods, although I always was under the impression he was in favor of them in general. Although his motto for life was everything in moderation.

When we covered this topic here on our show, I said I was fully in favor of them, and we got some interesting feed back. The stance taken by most of the people who dont like them, was that they damage diversity in our food supply, put us at risk of blights and famines, and that we dont know the long term effects, points that were covered by Preston and Aaron in the show, who while pro GE, are not as willing as I am to surrender to the coming GE invasion.

The main point I want to cover now is the idea that a lot of GE crops are designed not to breed naturally, so called terminator genes are put in them so that farmers have to keep on buying them from the supplier rather than propagate them their selves.

Now I think terminator genes are good for two reason, first, it stops cross pollination with non GE crops, which I agree, is a big issue and shouldnt be accepted, just because I support GE doesnt mean everyone should have to put up with it.

The other reason is that it does protect the companies that do the, usually, very expensive research into these new breeds of crops, if they could only sell it over one growing season, they would not get the financial reward for their research.

This must be off set though, by having alternatives to their crops, if they supply the only strains of a certain plant, then it becomes unacceptable, as they would have a monopoly.

So long as we can protect the non GE strains, and so long as the dont pollute the natural plant lines. I think GE crops have done the world a lot of good, increasing crop yield across the board and providing drought and flood resistant strains of crops to areas with less fertile land.

As my old teacher would say, everything in moderation.

Now the case for GE in humans is another topic we covered here and I will respond to the feed back we got latter.

Three Wise Guys 020

Three Wise Guys

 

Episode 020, Listen Direct or on iTunes!

 

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Topic: Synthetic Life, Biological Robots. A look at the different portrayals of synthetic life in movies, from Ash in Alien to the artificial life in Blade Runner. Then we look at where we are in the development of this technology and what we can expect from it in the coming years.

 

Soap Box: Animal right and where to draw the line. A talk about the changing face of animal rights, from the vegans to the carnivores, where do we stand and what should we tolerate in the treatment of animals.

iTunes: User friendly no more?

Computer programs have seemed to be getting more and more user friendly, this is a trend headed mostly by Apple.

Three Wise Guys Podcast, 5 long, long steps away in iTunes, 1 away in Google!!!!!!

Apples tag line has long been, it just works. It doesnt need years of training and a manual thick enough to stop a RPG to get it to work.

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What is that?!?!?!?!

But iTunes seems to be damn near indecipherable to lots of people. It is cluttered with suggestions to get you to buy stuff, its covered in advertising, and its always moving. Add to that the fact that I cant remember the last time I opened it with out it telling me it needed to be updated…

If, by chance, you want to find something on their yourself with out just buying whats on the chart (for an inflated price), well good luck, we’ll wait a week for you then hold a simple memorial service, since you were undoubtedly lost somewhere in there.

When we first submitted our show to iTunes podcasts, it took them three weeks to notice a RSS feed that takes most people, 4,2 seconds. They placed it in the wrong section, and over 6 months latter, still have the blurb wrong.

The most common question we have received for the show, is not what topic is next, or when we are going to revisit a topic with lots of feedback, its where is it on iTunes, since that is where most people get most of their music/podcasts from.

Even the search function isnt a lot of help, being hidden away in the corner, iTunes draws you attention away from it with flashing banners on their latest high market hits. Then once searched, it offers nice suggestions on anything but what you actually want.

I have never had the heart to explore the other feed options provided by Google or Microsoft. Since Apple was supposed to be the easy one, I am almost afraid to think what those look like. I just dont have the heart to try.

So we Blog and we Tweet (oh how I hate twitter almost as much as iTunes) and Facebook away, hoping one of those never ending updates will finally fix something!

Three Wise Guys = Subscribe, can iTunes do it with out blowing up a RSS feed?

It takes 5 steps to find it on iTunes, it takes 1 on Google.

 

Man vs Nature

Man vs Nature, and a lot of the time, it does seem like a fight. Fight for survival, fight against the elements, fight to preserve what we make. Fight for the right to party… not so much.

 

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I have traveled a lot both in my previous jobs, and for personal reasons. For almost three straight years I never spent more than a week in any one country. I went on tours as a tour guide, I went off by myself to explore cities older than my own country. I haggled with taxi drivers in a dozen languages. 

 

The one thing I take away after all these years an all these countries, that despite what most people think, despite what most travel books print on their covers, despite what many of us want to be true. We love the works of our own hands, far and above that of any work of nature.

 

There is something almost tangible about standing in front of the pyramids, or at walking through the ancient canyon city of Petra in Jordan. A lot of the time, its not even the fact that these places are especially amazing. Anyone who has walked a street in New York and then sees the pyramids tends to shrug and almost go “Is that it” for even though they were the tallest building for millennium, we have far surpassed them in the last century. 

 

But even so, the sense of history, the sense of human achievement. It is almost visceral feeling you get, the connection through time to our ancestors. 

 

And it is something that is completely lacking in nature. I have seen some amazing natural scenery, I am from what is considered to be one of the most beautiful countries in the world and have visited most of the other. But you get used to it very quickly, I was in Alaska once for 5 months, and was bored of the scenery after 2 weeks, as was every single other person at my firm of several hundred people. 

 

Nature seems to wear thin quickly, it is common place. Which is probably why we don’t mourn it very much when we bulldoze through the middle of it to build a highway or pipeline.

 

Where as our history, our creations through time… even the smallest of achievements of our ancestors millennia ago are revere now, where as mountains that took millions of years to rise are defiled for the ore they can give us. 

 

While I think we need to preserve nature and that it is a good an honorable goal to preserve and protect the nature.

 

I cant deny that on the list of most amazing things I have seen in my life, its a long way down the list before anything made by nature appears.