NaNoFeed: Greek fire, crankshafts, and a grocery list

After the tour, I’m 1300 words short of being caught up. I am feeling much better about NaNo and life after yesterday’s Minneapolis Central Library write-in, the Very Highly Moderated Write-in For People Who Want to Get Stuff Written, following the five-hour write-in at Wilde Roast.

And now we have the breakthrough: yes, folks, Greek fire and crankshafts.

One of the conflicts in this story is the opposition of techne (craftsmanship) and poiesis (art) which is so predominant in Greek philosophy and which has bedeviled Western science down to the present day. Cleopatra, as a principal investigator whose world-view bridges cultures (she is the first Egyptian-speaking monarch of the Ptolemy line) is uniquely positioned to bring together different takes on this; there’s also her position as sacred impresario (stage-managing her own performance as avatar of Isis, both in the ordinary conduct of public life in Alexandria and greater Egypt, as well as the attested ‘summit of gods’ with Antony at Tarsus).

In between times yesterday, I wrote a grocery list of research yet to be done:

  • Order of battle at Actium, and how the outcome might be changed
  • More about Alexandrian steam technology, automata, Archimedean screw, as well as the technical (metallurgical) requirements for building screw propellers and other components of ‘modern’ steamships
  • Egyptian and greater African world-view about craft, diplomatic relations between Egypt and other kingdoms in North Africa, East Africa; any trans-Saharan contact at this time?
  • Timeline for the Silk Road, and links between Alexandria and points east
  • Full political briefing on both Rome and Egypt and their alliances and emnities in the Mediterranean Basin and elsewhere.

This story is only a sketch. The paradox is to write with confidence as if I knew what I were doing, and to be willing at the same time to revise the result extensively in the face of subsequent research.

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