Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Convergence, Part 1

There is a concept in mathematics called convergence in which elements of a particular kind of sequence, no matter how scattered they may appear at first, will eventually draw closer and closer together until they meet at a single point.

I have the odd feeling of approaching a convergence in my life. It is quite strange and even disorienting to realize, as I look back, how all the elements of my past seem to be converging toward an inevitable point. In Greek mythology, this would be called Fate or Destiny. In a universe ordered by a Master Designer and Mathematician, it is convergence.

It appears that I will most definitely be teaching Math, Science and Bible in a Christian school next year. When I look back at the course of my life and all of the decisions I felt drawn to make, it truly amazes me how they have uniquely prepared me for this undertaking. My decision to study mathematics rather than English in college. My dual major in Math and Physics (which became Math with a physics minor). My summer internships at NASA Lewis Research Center. My two years of classroom teaching as a T.A. in graduate school. My clinical trials experience. Even the dollhouse that a friend gave me when she moved, launching a hobby that contains multiple examples of how to use simple ratios, algebra and even a little geometry. The chemistry and biology that I use everyday as I garden and cook and maintain our backyard pool.

When I first started teaching fourteen years ago, my students would ask "When are we going to use this in real life?" Now I can tell them.

Being called upon to teach Art Camp and Vacation Bible School, which exposed me gradually to being around kids - something I hadn't really done up to that point, being too busy studying and working. Teaching various Bible studies and giving presentations at Mothers of Preschoolers meetings. Teaching 4-and-5-year-olds in MOPPETS this past year. The first time I ran that class, I was completely exhausted after the two hours. By the end of May, I was loving it!

Clearly, a divine appointment had been made when my husband and I walked into Principal Watts' office last October to discuss enrolling our son at his school, and walked out with an application for a teaching job. Teaching middle school was the last thing I would have thought of doing, but clearly God had other plans.

"What just happened here?" my husband asked. "We went there to interview them about enrolling our son, and he ended up interviewing you for a job!"

It was convergence.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Name of a Name of a Name

I was in high school and working on my first novel when my dad saw a baby name booklet in my room and had a minor heart attack. My mom, who is also a writer, laughed and told him he was not about to become a grandfather, it was for naming characters in my story.

I have never been great at coming up with either titles or names on my own. Right now I am really struggling with the name of the fictional country where the story I am writing is taking place. (The book itself is called The Legend of the Golden Gryphon which isn't terribly original either.) Thank God for Google... it turns out that several of the names I had so painstakingly thought up are actually in use by a role-playing game or are a brand of something. I did find a fantasy name generator on line that is pretty interesting, but I want a name that actually means something, not some random arrangement of consonants and vowels. I also want to avoid unintentionally swearing in another language.

Everything I think of sounds stupid, but I keep reminding myself that Narnia, Gondor and Rohan must have sounded stupid the first hundred times someone said them, too. I'm starting to think that, like Tolkein, I'll have to invent my own language just to come up with new names, but then I don't want things in my book to be too wierd or unfamiliar. I want the book to be comfortable and easy to slip into, like a favorite robe.

Actually at one point I had toyed with calling it Croatan (or some derivative) and having it be the place to which the Roanoke settlers disappeared, but abandoned that idea. Though, actually, it's not a bad concept now that I think of it again - what if the settlers had created an improved monarchy based on their English roots, rather than the representative republic we now have? But I can't call it Croatia, for example.

Anyhow, some of the names that are NOT taken are

Celadon (a lovely shade of light green), which could be transformed to Celadonia, although it sounds a lot like Caledonia which is a real place

(based on Mount Airy, New Jersey, get it?) which is also a postal district in Portugal but I don't think they'd mind

Halduran - which is composed of the Norweigan root "Hal" meaning rock and the Latin word "duran" (enduring), (which is similar to Aldaran, the planet Princess Leia lived on in Star Wars, probably based on the same linguistic roots - ironically the "enduring rock" was blown up by Darth Vader)

I really like the "enduring rock" idea, and thought of just calling it Duran or Durin, but then again Durin is the name of one of the Dwarf Kings in Middle Earth. Tolkein beat me to it. The balrog of Moria is referred to as "Durin's Bane". Duron is a brand of house paint.

See the problems I'm having here? Any ideas, people? Anything at all?

Now I know why Thomas the Tank Engine lives on the island of Sodor. I always thought that name sounded really stupid, but at least no one can confuse it with something else.

P.S. As I was composing this, I found a feminine name meaning "Rock" on a baby name website - Sela. So, I thought, what about Selador? Guess what, I googled the word and found a reference on Wikipedia to a famous interview with J.R.R. Tolkein discussing how the words "cellar door" could be transformed into a name - you guessed it, Selador. So everyone would think that I stole it from him!

Do you see the brick marks on my forehead? I'm beating it on a brick wall.

Time to go braid some yarn for dollhouse rugs. I need something mindless to do - I've had it for today. Maybe I could just call the place Dalharug and be done with it. Or better yet, how about Yarnia?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Good News about Copyrights

I have had a very frustrating morning, but finally found some good news! I have been agonizing over the fear that if I use a name that also happens to be the name of a product of some kind that I will be violating copyright laws. After a while I decided to see if I could find any information on copyrights and names, and discovered that according to the U.S. Copright Office...

Names, titles, and short phrases or expressions are not subject to copyright protection. Even if a name, title, or short phrase is novel or distinctive or if it lends itself to a play on words, it cannot be protected by copyright. The Copyright Office cannot register claims to exclusive rights in brief combinations of words such as:

Names of products or services
Names of businesses, organizations, or groups (including the name of a group of performers)
Names of pseudonyms of individuals (including pen name or stage name)
Titles of works
Catchwords, catchphrases, mottoes, slogans, or short advertising expressions

They do say that trademarks are a different matter, but that would only apply if I was trying to sell a product under a name that was already trademarked.

What a relief!!!