Nebador Archives presents an epic young-adult science fiction adventure - Deep Learning 2

J. Z. Colby's NEBADOR takes place in the wide universe around us ...
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Book Two Deep Learning Notes


The western half of Ilika's map of the kingdom uses very common symbols that the students learned in Book One, chapter 35. It is presented at the beginning of Book Two as it was before Ilika added any lines or notes, and therefore can be used as a challenge: to find the route the characters took during the book. Hints: the shack and Farmer Keni's farm are both on the map, and the group never went through the town of Horse.

Chapter 1: The Shack in the Wilderness

Why did the peasants scramble off the roads when the horn blew from the tower over the Traveler's Gate?

What would have probably happened if Boro had insisted that Mati confront the guards, since it was her they saw?

Even though Boro lost a small silver piece, what did he gain by talking to the guards?

The students were surprised that both a plant (oak tree) and an animal (tortoise) could live longer than people. Their surprise is understandable, considering that people do live longer than most plants and animals, even in a medieval culture. They will learn in Book Three how difficult it is to make accurate statements that include the words "all" or "none."

What qualities did the ruined shack and its surroundings have that gave all the students such a sense of relief and safety?

What value system was Boro using when he complained that Ilika should not be working while they slept?

Chapter 2: A Little Bit of Paradise

What life circumstances would have motivated Kibi, Neti, and others to learn about wild foods?

Edible salt, sodium chloride, has been rare and expensive in most places throughout human history. Most mammals crave it, and are constantly looking for it in the foods they eat, or in mineral deposits. Many kinds of salt are not edible, and will make us sick, such as hydrated magnesium sulfate, also called Epsom salts. Sea water is a mixture of many salts, and so is not a usable source of either water or sodium chloride.

How could the students have started a fire using Ilika's knife?

What did Ilika learn about his students when he saw that they all still had a great gold piece, and his tube of extra gold was untouched?

What are the naming rules in that culture that Ilika is worried about when Mati chooses "Tera" for her donkey's name? Are there any naming rules like that in our culture?

Some people claim that horses like having bits in their mouths because they work them with their tongues like we chew gum. Could this be an example of the Point of View Fallacy, in which we assume the mental state of another creature based on outward behavior, without any real way to know?

In Ilika's first chemistry lesson, he presents a simple but useful model of subatomic structure, with only protons in the nucleus and electrons orbiting. Any model of something that cannot be directly seen or measured, even the most detailed model we might use today, will always be simpler than the underlying reality.

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." -- Arthur C. Clarke

A common belief in Europe before about 1700 was that the sky was a shell and that stars were holes in the shell that allowed a tiny bit of the glory of Heaven to shine through.

Chapter 3: Tera

The taste-test for edibility works with most plants because plant poisons are most often alkaloids, bitter bio-chemicals that are strongly basic (the opposite of acidic). Alkaloids taste terrible, and the taste is very difficult to get out of the mouth. As Kibi points out, the taste-test doesn't work with mushrooms. Poisonous mushrooms are usually not alkaloid, and often quite delicious.

Perhaps one reason that donkeys, horses, and mules are so stubborn, but ultimately willing to work with us under the right conditions, is that they are highly intelligent. They have the largest brains of any animals, including humans, in proportion to body weight.

The edible root they found, called "turning-to-the-sun," is known to us as Jerusalem artichoke. It's a member of the sunflower family, and can sometimes be found in grocery stores.

The judgment that an animal must be treated firmly, like a human child, is probably correct in Tera's case. However, we should keep in mind that the same judgment is often used to justify slavery when no reason exists for it other than the profit of the slave owner.

Chapter 4: A New Team Member

As anyone who works with animals knows, the emotional content of our voices is critical. Donkeys and horses have more than their share of fear, and so are quite sensitive to tone of voice. Mati had to walk a fine line, creating a working relationship with Tera, without causing Tera to fear her.

The riding commands (voice, reins, boots) Mati and Tera developed usually take much longer. They can also be developed very quickly if the mount has previous training and/or a natural bond exists between rider and mount.

Chapter 5: The Truth About Stars

If we read between the lines of Ilika's discussion about adapting to new environments, we can spot something very interesting. Adapting to captivity may be unpleasant, but it is fairly simple; a person or animal in captivity has a small number of things they can do, and the list is easy to remember. Adapting to freedom is much more complicated, requiring self-discipline and problem-solving skills.

Of the three options Ilika asked Mati to remember if she and Tera ever faced a dangerous animal, which one do you think Mati would most easily forget?

The information Ilika shared about the structure of the planet, solar system, and universe, is all available in most educational settings today. Kibi stumbled upon what Ilika most wanted to teach. How would you describe Kibi's realization?

Chapter 6: Farmer Keni

Ilika is the captain and teacher, and is also entering into a close personal relationship with Kibi. A dual relationship like that can be challenging when one relationship calls for one response, the other relationship a different response. As the captain, Ilika must avoid making decisions about his crew before he gets to know them well. As Kibi's companion and friend, he wants to comfort her about the future. What do you think he would tell her if he could?

Farmer Keni and his wife used their intuition to decide if their guests were innocent travelers, or criminals. They remembered seeing fear in the priests' eyes. How did that help them to make their judgment about the travelers?

Chapter 7: Farmer Keni's Daughter

Keni is one of those wise parents who accepts that he can't stop boys from becoming interested in his daughter, but wants to make sure it happens in an honorable way for his culture and class. In farm life, stability and understanding gained by growing up on the land is essential. Right now, Toli does not have that. The boy down the road, mentioned later, does.

Why did Toli, who had been disgusted with Buna for several days, suddenly accept her help?

The logic form they studied is called the Hypothetical Syllogism, and is one of the nine or ten rules of inference that are generally accepted as valid. The second form reads "Sunshine and no Hat implies Ultraviolet, Ultraviolet implies Burn, therefore Sunshine and no Hat implies Burn."

The fallacy Ilika refers to is called Denying the Antecedent. The students first encountered it in Book One, chapter 35.

The Periodic Table of Elements Ilika drew was very simple, listing only the element number, which is the number of protons and electrons in a stable, non-ionized atom.

Chapter 8: A New Student

In this chapter, Ilika must tackle the thorny question of his (and his future crew's) relationship to people in unfortunate circumstances. Since most of his students were slaves, they have first-hand experience at being some of those. From Book One we know that Ilika is basically a moral person, but this chapter explores exactly that that means. Does morality imply efforts to remove suffering from others' lives? How many others? What if doing so would violate their will, or the wishes of their parents? What part of one's time, energy, and wealth should the moral person give to that effort?

Ilika's answer seemed to be a middle-road. At times he helps others in passing. Sometimes the mission of his ship is to help others, and sometimes it is not.

Notice that Ilika did not advocate hardening their hearts, feeling nothing, and treating others as objects, as does the slave master. He admitted that sometimes they will cry about what they see around them. But he strongly implied that being touched emotionally by what they see does NOT always mean they should jump in and do something about the situation.

Chapter 9: Travel Plans

Ilika's first lesson about life on a ship caught some of them off-guard, and gave them practice at not getting too attached to plans and preparations. What does this tells us about the nature of Ilika's ship? Is it the sort of ship that always sticks to a set schedule, like a cargo or passenger ship, or one that responds to changing situations, like a rescue vessel?

Chapter 10: Communication

The roles that naturally emerged, when the students tried to solve the fragmented math problem on their own, tell us things about the students' personalities. What was the result of having two leaders? What was the response of the introverts (like Mati) when the process became noisy? Notice that Kibi, a very social person, had a non-social reaction when she realized no one could hear her.

The belief that "Man is the measure of all things" is strong in our culture, even among religious people. In light of this, it is sometimes hard to hear that the natural, human way of doing something is not always the best way, and is sometimes completely useless.

Ilika explained that knowing when to be silent on a ship was just as important as knowing when to speak. Which students do you think would have the most trouble being silent?

Chapter 11: Vibrations

Ilika used the term "magic" when referring to his bracelet and data processor. Would his students have understood the devices any better is he had used the words "electronic" or "computer"?

Ilika continued to teach his students about life on a ship by pointing out that feelings (whether Toli showing off, or Buna feeling sorry for herself) had no place when on-duty, and could be dangerous. Although we have all read stories and seen movies in which heated conflicts take place right on the bridge of a ship, in reality such a ship would be lucky to make port.

Chapter 12: Shepherdess Noni

Jennies (female donkeys) can be fiercely competitive. Luckily, Tera was much older and wiser, and so she accepted the submissive position for the sake of friendship.

A smooth, glassy rock like flint or obsidian works best, but many rocks will create hot sparks when hit by (or upon) a piece of steel. The sparks must be caught by tinder, light and dry material that catches fire easily, such as fuzzy cotton, and then blown into a tiny flame. That tiny flame is then transferred to kindling, pieces of thin, dry wood, and eventually to larger wood.

Neti and Noni have very different opinions about being alone in the wilderness. Which do you relate to best?

In your opinion, does Noni's dog Bo provide her the same protection a man would provide?

Chapter 13: Eighty-Eight Sheep

For a shepherdess, or anyone else who tends animals, life and death are always very close. The shepherdess is, among other things, a midwife, and an ewe's only hope if something goes wrong with a birth.

What would have happened in this situation if Ilika and his students had not been there?

What do we call the device Noni wanted, and how hard is it to get in our culture?

Chapter 14: Rain, Rain ...

The hydrological cycle, from oceans to clouds to rain to rivers to oceans, is driven by the heat from the sun. Without the sun at just the right distance, water would either be boiled away (if too close) or frozen (if too far). In either case, the hydrological cycle would not work, and little life could endure the resulting environment.

It is not possible to print, in a book, an accurate illustration of the solar system, to scale, like the one Ilika laid out for his students with rocks. If we made the sun a one-pixel dot, the Earth would be 105 pixels away, which would fit in an illustration, but it would only be 1/100 of a pixel across, so could not be shown. If we made the sun larger so the Earth could be shown, the distance between them would be too great for any piece of paper or display screen.

What we call water is not just molecules with one atom of oxygen and two of hydrogen. It is a constantly-changing soup of several closely-related molecules, several of which are ions (holding an electrical charge because of too many or too few electrons). These molecules constantly dance around each other (in liquid water) while exchanging electrons and hydrogen ions (free protons). The dance is much slower in ice.

The atom and the solar system have something in common: they are both almost completely empty space. Philosophers and scientists from ancient times to the present have been aware of this parallel, and it is often expressed in the saying, "As above, so below."

Chapter 15: Difficult Parting

Rituals usually make painful transitions easier. One common ritual of parting is gift giving. Can you spot any other rituals that took place on the group's last morning with Noni?

The steam vents they discovered on the edge of the valley are called fumaroles, and occur when the amount of ground water reaching super-heated rock is small compared to the size of the opening to the surface. What water there is flashes into steam and remains in the gaseous state until cooled sufficiently by the air.

The hot springs, however, have a large amount of water compared to the opening, and that water is being heated to less than the boiling point, or the water circulates enough to avoid large amounts of steam.

Chapter 16: The Gaseous State of Water

One of the handiest lists to remember in a medical emergency is The Five B's: Beat, Breath, Blood, Bones, Burns. The order of these is very important. A heartbeat is the first priority, followed closely by breathing. Cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) deals with both. Next comes loss of blood (external bleeding) and broken bones. Finally, burns must be quickly protected.

In Miko's case, Ilika saw that the first four B's were not immediate dangers, so he jumped to Burns to protect the hand. However, because of the extreme pain Miko experienced, shock was a danger, which can affect both heartbeat and breathing if not treated soon.

As Ilika explained, any sour (acidic) food helps to fight infection. The best, of course, is ascorbic acid (vitamin C).

One of the basic techniques of avoiding pollution is to keep the pollutant in a part of the environment where it can harmlessly degrade. The mess in Miko's pants, caused by him going into shock, would be quickly made harmless by microbes when placed, as Ilika instructed, on the dirt. If washed off into a pool or stream, it might end up in the drinking water of a farm downstream.

Chapter 17: Many Hard Lessons

The microbiology lessons are a good example of how most people learn. It doesn't happen all at once, but rather in phases. No matter how skillful the teacher, new information is hard to absorb because meanings are often somewhat circular: you have to know the last thing taught before you can fully understand the first. In this example, Ilika taught them many things about microbes, but some of them missed the fact that they were too small to see, and went looking for them behind trees and between rocks. In a future lesson, with a foundation of understanding already in place, they would get many more of the "puzzle pieces" of the subject.

Ilika used the same pollution-control technique again with the lice potion, probably a mixture of soap and herbs, by asking his students to keep it out of the hot spring pools.

The conic sections give us several useful curves, all very important when dealing with moving objects. Miko, trying to jump over the pit in Book One, chapter 38, would have followed the top half of the ellipse, and might not have had enough vertical space. If you slice the cones just right, you can also get a point and a straight line. Can you see where?

In your opinion, was Ilika being too hard on Miko by making him return to the steam vent, or too soft on him by allowing him to wait two days first?

At the steam vent, Ilika taught them the basics of empirical research, the process of coming to understand the universe by observation, experience, and the use of instruments. Miko was the first to admit that the use of his hand as an instrument was not a good idea when trying to understand steam.

Sata's attitude about the geothermal area is called "externalizing evil," and it usually arises from fear. All people have a natural need to feel good about themselves. There are many ways to do that, but one of the easiest is to label something, or someone else, as "bad." The person then, by comparison, feels better. It is, of course, a cheap and immature way of feeling good about ourselves, and Ilika did not encourage it.

What do you think of Miko's attitude as he gained some distance from his accident?

Who do you think would be more careful around steam in the future: Miko, who had direct experience, Rini, who always had a positive outlook, or Sata, who feared it?

Why did Ilika let Sata decide if it was time to leave?

Chapter 18: To the Sea

The students, while discussing the future sleeping arrangements on Ilika's ship, realized their relationships, for the first time in their lives, might be an important factor. The reader might be tempted to guess who will share cabins, but should keep in mind that a long journey lies before them that will test those relationships.

Why does Sata beg Ilika to explain what they are seeing when they look out over the open ocean for the first time?

Wind causes the most general wave motion, but it is modified, and sometimes completely overwhelmed, by other forces such as tides and earthquakes. The waves caused by earthquakes, which are often very large, are sometimes called "tidal waves," but have nothing to do with tides, and the term "tsunami" is more accurate.

Chapter 19: Port Town

Police and military, at all times in history, have a difficult task separating "the bad guys" from the rest of the people, so they use a technique called "profiling," which involves looking for qualities they associate with "the bad guys," instead of looking for specific people. Since Ilika knew the guards were looking for a large group, he avoided detection by never being seen in a large group.

The process Ilika coaxed Boro to use to solve the math problem is an example of a general problem-solving technique. Many difficult problems are easier when broken into chunks. In this case, Ilika suggested Boro break 7 into 5 and 2 before multiplying by 4. Boro was able to do 5 x 4 and 2 x 4 in his head. Next comes the tricky step: remembering the relationship between the chunks. In this case, it was addition, and Boro was again able to do 20 + 8 in his head.

The healer in Port Town knew the first three degrees of burn. The lightest, reddened skin, is a first-degree burn. Blisters indicate a second-degree burn in which the skin is damaged but not destroyed. A third-degree burn is when the skin is entirely destroyed, and may have several different appearances, including cracked and charred.

The healer used three well-known medicinal herbs in the burn ointment. "Knitbone" is comfrey, emollient (soothing to the skin) and vulnerary (specific for wounds). "Mary bud" is marigold or calendula, emollient, vulnerary, and antiseptic (neutralizes toxins from infection and kills germs). "Vera juice" is, of course, the juice of aloe vera, emollient, vulnerary, and slightly antibiotic (kills germs).

Chapter 20: The Cave

Tides are caused by the gravity of the moon and sun, and since there are two causes, they interact in complex ways. There are usually two high and two low tides each day, but the timing of them is constantly changing. The height of each tide also varies, with the highest and lowest occurring when the sun and moon are aligned.

If there are 24 hours in a day, 60 minutes in an hour, 360 degrees in a circle, and the sun spans 1/2 degree of arc from our position in space, how long does it take the sun to set?

If you are wondering why Ilika said the sun was 80 million miles away, instead of 93 million miles, keep in mind that the unit "mile" has more than one meaning. Ilika's statement, along with the fact that the kingdom has a sea port, tells us that the nautical mile was in use, which is about one minute (1/60 degree) of latitude, or about 6080 feet.

When the excursion deep into the cave began, what difference could we see between Boro and Miko?

Chapter 21: Little Thief

As the author thought back over his own public-school education, he realized that none of his teachers ever told him what the word "arithmetic" meant. It was always presented monolithically, as if it was too huge to define: "Do arithmetic." For this reason, Ilika teaches his students "the arithmetic for multiplication," and thereby reveals that it just means "calculation method," and is not so scary after all.

When Ilika talked about division, he described that two of the numbers needed units, and one number didn't: N1u / N2 = N3u, where N1 is the dividend, N2 the divisor, N3 the quotient, and u the unit. Ilika was, of course, emphasizing understanding, instead of rote arithmetic.

The commutative property states that an operation of two terms can be done in either direction. Addition and multiplication are commutative: A + B = B + A and A x B = B x A. Neither subtraction nor division are commutative.

In the Transport Service saying that Ilika shared with Sata, both parts are important: standing on your own two feet (being competent), and smiling (being happy). Many schools of thought emphasize only one of these. If competence is over-emphasized, a cold, military-like functioning results. If happiness is over-emphasized, a selfish attitude results.

When Neti's pack disappeared, what thought process did Sata go through?

When Ilika proposed adding 5 apples + 3 plums, the students took their first step into set theory, searching for words that could describe the mixed total.

We can now be sure that the "mile" in that kingdom was the nautical mile, since Speed (knots) x Time (hours) = Distance (miles). "Knots" is short for "nautical miles per hour."

What values, involving apples and cups, might Ilika have put into the Speed x Time = Distance formula to see if his students were awake?

Ilika told Kibi he could already see what job each person could do best on his ship. What would you guess, at this point in the story, for each of the nine students?

Chapter 22: Kit

Ilika was prepared to capture a man. Why didn't he complain when Kibi quickly changed methods?

In what two ways did Kit have an animal name?

When transforming formulas, it is important to remember to apply the same change to the ENTIRE expression on BOTH sides of the equation. For example, if one side is 2 + 3 and you want to multiply it by 4, then the result is (2 + 3) x 4, not 2 + 3 x 4. The correct change equals 20, and the incorrect one could easily be seen as 14 (and would be in many computer languages).

The goal, in algebraic transformations, is usually to get rid of terms (adding or subtracting) or factors (multiplying or dividing) while keeping the equation valid. To get rid of a multiplication by T, Ilika divided by T. In the same way, if the formula is adding X, we can get rid of it by subtracting X. If it subtracts Y, we can add Y. Then, of course, we have to do the same to the other side of the equation.

If we are ever transforming a formula and we wind up with something like 1 = 2, we know we have made a mistake that caused our equation to become invalid. Another mistake is when we get something like 0 = 0. It is not invalid, just completely useless.

What two conflicting motivations did Kibi have when Kit left?

Chapter 23: Brainwork

In your opinion, would Kit have been more likely, or less likely, to return Neti's pack if the group had expressed anger and demanded he give it back?

Ilika was very clear that his general statements about brains did not necessarily apply to individuals. Like with most things, what we DO with what we have is often more important than what we start with. Brains grow, just like muscles, if given good nutrition and exercise.

Chapter 24: Mommy

When thinking about Kit's situation, and the group's possible responses, it is important to remember the cultural setting. It is easy to suggest that Ilika should have told someone about him so that Kit would be taken care of, until we stop to remember that the only social safety net in that culture was slavery.

In your opinion, would Kit have been better off in slavery than as a petty thief?

Since the guards ignored Kit, does that mean his situation and life-style were effectively within the law?

In what ways was Kit NOT like other people who landed in slavery in that culture?

When Ilika challenged his students to respect Kit and his situation, he was presenting a different definition of "respect" than we are used to. How is it different from ours?

Chapter 25: Farewell to Port Town

In what ways will the gifts Kit received (including the arrangement at the bakery) make him more, or less, self-sufficient?

In your opinion, is it a good change for Kit to become more self-sufficient?

Chapter 26: Real Thieves

Ilika's students got an example of a situation in which following orders is essential. Situations like that come up quickly and unexpectedly. Toli and Mati both had trouble recognizing the need, but Mati's hesitation was over-ridden by a sharp word from Ilika and Boro's actions. Toli wasn't so lucky.

How was Mati able to turn her mistake to good use on the hilltop?

Chapter 27: The Edge of the Ocean

Fostering (not to be confused with the current "foster care system") and assigned companions (not to be confused with the current "mental health system") are both ideas that have been used by communities in our history from time to time. They only seem to work in small, tightly-knit communities in which wise elders can oversee the people. Such communities have been rare in our history. What does this tell us about Ilika's civilization?

Which student seemed most comfortable with the concept of following orders from the commander quickly?

After discussing it, we can see that Toli and Mati failed to quickly follow Ilika's order for different reasons. How would you describe each one's reason for doing what they did?

By admitting that he could make mistakes, and that his crew might someday have to relieve him of command, how is Ilika different from most persons in command?

In your opinion, did Toli really learn from the experience?

Considering that the great gold piece would probably make the fisherman and his wife LESS independent in the long run (they wouldn't try so hard to catch fish and grow vegetables from that point on), was it a good thing for Ilika and his students to do?

Chapter 28: In a Pinch

Ilika and his students missed a warning sign before they entered the dangerous stretch of coastline with no beaches above high tide. Can you spot it?

Stories have great power because they speak to both our minds and our hearts. By teaching his students to write using the story book they already loved, Ilika used the emotional power it contained to help them over the hardest parts of their learning process.

Remembering a series of letters, in the right order, is a good mental exercise, especially when the letters are received one way (such as by hearing) and used another way (such as by writing).

In the geometry illustration, each of the 3-dimensional figures on the right is the most regular form of the 2-dimensional figures on the left, and therefore the easiest to calculate. It is important to notice that A1 in the tetrahedron is the AREA of the base, not the length of a side. It is necessary to use the formula for the area of a triangle first (S1 x H / 2, where S1 and H are from the base), then multiply by H (the height of the tetrahedron, not the base).

The students experienced "writer's block," the difficulty of putting what we can imagine into words. Writing is a complex process involving the code of language, cultural symbols, and the invocation of shared experience.

In the decision to go forward along the dangerous stretch of beach, what different roles were played by Mati, Miko, Kibi, and Ilika?

Why did Ilika choose Boro to explore the waterfall bowl and make a decision?

Why would Sata have a smile on her face as she stood in the cold, churning water before climbing up to help with Tera?

Chapter 29: What Comes In Must Go Out

The past tenses are the most important for the story teller because most stories are written in past tense. Most story tellers find that the simplest verb tense that will work is usually the best, even when another is technically more correct. This generally means using the simple past tense instead of past perfect. Instead of "Tera had eaten lots of grass that day," it is easier to read "Tera ate lots of grass that day."

The story teller must be on the lookout, however, for those situations when the simple past tense cannot be used. "Mati was groggy because she had not slept all night long." In that case, "Mati was groggy because she did not sleep all night long," creates a time confusion, making the reader unsure if the long night is over.

Chapter 30: Ancient Beings of Light

Why is Miko being fed acidic berries again?

Under a forest canopy, competition for sunlight become critical. The tallest trees get the most, of course, and the more completely they block the sunlight, the fewer bushes can grow on the forest floor.

Although there are some self-cloning plants whose clonal communities are even older, the oldest known individuals on Earth are the Norway Spruce on the Norway/Sweden border (8000-10000 years old) and the Bristlecone Pines of eastern California and Nevada (almost 5000 years old).

Ilika refers to plants as "the original magicians" because of photosynthesis. What do chlorophyll molecules and Ilika's bracelet have in common?

The direction a ship points is its "heading," the course it actually takes (not necessarily a straight line) is its "track," and the direction to anything else is a "bearing."

Modulus arithmetic is done by adding or subtracting whole cycles (360 in the case of compass degrees) until the result is between zero and the cycle size. With compass directions, both zero degrees and 360 degrees are valid, and equivalent.

Although longitude lines radiate from the north and south axial poles, which are natural and fixed, they require us to select an arbitrary zero point from which to begin counting. That point, on our world, is in the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, England. The latitude lines are completely based on the natural north and south axial poles, with zero placed halfway between (at the equator).

Chapter 31: Gleaming Eyes in the Dark

What are the differences in power and temperament between the different animals that made the students switch from fear and watchfulness, to sharing food, when they realized they were being observed by a fox instead of a wolf or mountain lion?

The illustration about angles shows three examples of both 3-sided and 4-sided figures. In both cases, the one on the left is the most regular, the one in the middle is partially regular, and the one on the right is the most general. In what ways are the figures in the middle of each row regular, and in what ways are they not regular?

For those who attempt to write your own stories, be aware that passive voice is usually a bad writing habit. Compare "There were three apples in the basket," to "Three apples nestled in the basket." Occasionally, however, passive voice can be used to advantage, as in Ilika's example. An active verb, with the dragon's fiery breath as the subject, might be even better. Can you rewrite Ilika's example using an active verb?

Why do you think Ilika did NOT tell Miko that he saw no signs of infection?

If you remember nothing else about trigonometry (and few adults do), the tangent of 45 degrees can help you with many difficult puzzles. Tan(45) = 1 = far side / near side. This refers to the two sides surrounding the right angle, not the hypotenuse (the "sloping" side).

Chapter 32: Trial by Teeth

Personification is the process of making a non-person (inanimate object, abstract concept, etc.) into a person by giving it qualities it normally doesn't have, but persons have, such as thought, emotion, intention, etc. It is similar to anthropomorphizing, which is giving something human qualities. How was Kibi's phrase "mischievous dream" a personification?

Irony expresses something very different, usually opposite, of the literal meaning of the words. What was ironic about Sata's sentence about Death?

Assuming Ilika didn't really want a fox as a student, what was he teaching his students by letting them invite the fox to travel with them?

What factors caused Ilika and his students to be careless and easy targets for the wolf?

What do you think made Rini, usually so quiet and calm, come to Mati's rescue?

Chapter 33: Different Strokes

What do you think of Rini's decision to not hurt the sleeping wolf? What about Kibi giving it all their dried fish?

Most people pay lots of attention to what "everyone else" does. Ilika counsels his students to never limit themselves to that standard. What does this tell us about Ilika and his civilization?

Chapter 34: Lumber Town

Why would some of them not know when their birthdays were? Hint: other than Sata, they had no idea how to celebrate a birthday.

What do you think could cause a rumor about a band of sorcerers who put everyone in Port Town to sleep, and had a huge beast with them?

When Ilika had them open their money pouches, he never took back the gold pieces he entrusted them with. What did this communicate to his students? What would probably have happened if he took them back?

Chapter 35: Happy Birthdays

Writing about their experiences in the great forest was suddenly very easy for Mati, and very hard for Toli. Any idea why?

In Kibi's writing, how was her experience as a slave similar to the wolf's situation as a lone outcast?

What qualities had Sata shown on their journey that made everyone have sincere kind words for her at her birthday party?

Why did Ilika let Buna get drunk? What are some of the differences between a parent of a child, and a teacher of a young adult?

The next day, what good came of Buna getting drunk and having a hangover?

What mental changes might the students go through when they saw how small their kingdom was, compared to the rest of the world?

What are the global coordinates (latitude and longitude) of your home? What land or sea is on the opposite side of the world from your home (straight through the middle of the Earth)?

How many acres will each of Poki's cows have for grazing? How many numbers in the narrative story are unimportant to finding that answer?

Chapter 36: Whispers

Kibi and Boro's culture, as well as our own about a thousand years ago, was much more willing to listen to an unexplained "voice" (or "dream") than we are today. Our popular modern value that everything must have a rational explanation (positivism and rationalism), discounts unexplained "voices," and tends to assume they are something invalid, such as the effects of mental illness or drug use. Even most religions today discount any unexplained message, unless it comes through "proper channels."

Why do you think the voice was familiar to Ilika?

Since the land warms in the sunlight much more quickly than the ocean, causing warmer air to rise over the land and colder air to fall over the ocean, most coastal wind is from the ocean to the land. This caused the prevailing wind to be from the west at Lumber Town.

Even Kibi, an intuitive feeling person, might have been reluctant to following the "floating green ball of light" in other circumstances. What about the circumstances she was in caused her to follow the light without hesitation?

Chapter 37: Fish Stew

The little girl was going through the early stages of the grief process, and her refusal to speak was her way of denying what had happened. In mentally-healthy people, needs like hunger help us to "move on" by bringing our attention back to physical reality. A bowl of fish stew brought a smile, and a step toward healing, for the child who had probably not yet eaten anything that day.

Chapter 38: Leadership Lessons

The male need to be in control, if possible in command, is sometimes very useful, and sometimes a great hindrance to good leadership. The key word is "need," showing that this tendency is based on emotions and driven by hormones.

Although not developed in this chapter, the female tendencies to nurture and communicate, equally based on emotions and hormones, are also sometimes very useful, and at other times completely ineffective forms of leadership.

What was Kibi doing when she asked Miko to lead them down to the beach?

Chapter 39: A Strange Guide

In the following discussion, the word "deity" is used in place of whatever name or title you might prefer to use.

A theme runs through most religions: the willingness to do the will of deity when called upon. This idea is contrary to normal social values, in which we are taught to do the will of our parents, cooperate with our spouse, help other family members a little, speak respectfully to authority figures, and ignore most strangers.

Would you be more likely to do the will of deity if the instructions came from a human being, or from a non-human source?

If the deity-instructions came from a human being, would you most respect: (1) a priest/minister of your religion? (2) a government official? (3) a bearded wise old man? (4) a business man in a suit? (5) a scruffy homeless person? (6) a child?

If the deity-instructions came from a non-human source, would you most respect: (1) a glowing green orb? (2) a burning bush? (3) a hovering angel with wings? (4) a book written in old-fashioned language? (5) a beautiful girl-fairy with delicate wings? (6) an ugly demon with sharp teeth and slimy skin? (7) a talking animal (that normally doesn't talk)?

Ilika seems familiar with the green ball of light, but surprised others can see it. What does this tell us about him?

Most religions currently teach that only human beings have the "favor" of deity, and have spiritual potential. How did you feel when the fox was guided toward cubs who needed help?

In this chapter, we can see the natural point at which people become capable of constructive, helpful behavior. With rare exceptions, three and four-years-olds are not. Again, with exceptions, seven-year-old girls and nine-year-old boys are. Ages five to eight are a gray area. This basic fact about human nature is supported by many true-life stories.

In your opinion, should Ilika and his companions have forced five-year-old Rosi out of the log if she had not emerged of her own free will?

Chapter 40: Dreadful Waiting

Miko was recently humbled by his conflict with Kibi and Neti on the bluff. That gave him a little extra patience when his idea about waiting at the village was challenged, enough patience to discover that his basic idea was eventually accepted by everyone.

Some people have a tendency, after a crisis, to stay in a state of alarm (or "freaking out") even when it is no longer helpful. Other people quickly return to normal tasks and routines. Which tendency do the two leaders (Kibi and Boro) have? If they hadn't done lessons that day, what would Toli have done all day?

Why do you think Ilika didn't want to say much about the glowing green ball? Does this remind you of something else he didn't want to talk much about?

By making sure Kibi understood they will sometimes be separated, what kind of relationship was Ilika developing with her?

Chapter 41: Reunions and Hard Choices

In an emotional sense, money has value in proportion to the amount owned. If I have a dollar and spend ten cents, it makes me about as happy as if I had a million dollars and spent $100,000. The copper piece that Tati's mother freely gave to Boro was probably a large part of her "net worth." When he multiplied it by ten by changing it into a small silver piece, she was suddenly, in an emotional sense, very rich.

The men picking up dead bodies were grateful to Ilika for finding lost children and giving them silver pieces. If they had been less mature and wanted to find someone to blame (a "scapegoat"), what might their attitude have been instead of gratitude?

What spiritual qualities did the fox and Tera the donkey have in common that showed during and after the fire?

Kamo just stepped into adulthood, although he had his uncle to guide him and do most of the hardest work. Would Kamo have been better off if a rich person (or system) had offered to foster him so he could continue his childhood? What about if (as in our society at present) he had been forced to continue his childhood?

Ilika told Misa the most likely truth about her parents once they had run out of places to look. He could have told her earlier (as soon as he knew), and he could have not told her at all. What do you think of his timing?

Chapter 42: A New Companion

Children often respond poorly to verbal directions, especially when deep feelings are involved. By simply getting ready to leave the village, more was communicated to Misa than any nagging adult could have accomplished. The author has often observed teachers talking themselves hoarse about putting on coats, lining up, staying together, hurrying, etc. An occasional wise teacher just models the necessary behavior. Observation and peer-pressure do the rest. This only works, of course, when the task at hand is interesting to the children. If it is some tedious routine imposed by an institution that doesn't understand children, then the yelling and nagging is necessary.

Grief is usually processed in phases. In this chapter, seeing the map caused Misa's tears to flow again. Some adults confuse the emotional trauma (seeing the fire and her fleeing parents) with the healing process (crying) and try to stop children from grieving. Of course, there are times and places that are too dangerous for grieving, but in general, tears, screaming, even violence, are part of the human emotional healing process, and should be allowed whenever possible.

Why do you think Misa didn't relate to all parts of the story about Kit?

Why did Rini have trouble telling about his actions with the wolf?

In any mathematical formula using addition, subtraction also works because subtraction is the same as addition of a negative number: A - B = A + -B

Some people would call it "child abuse" to make a seven-year-old girl walk half a mile, barefoot. This is, of course, because we are rich enough today to have bicycles and cars, and so we rarely walk. The author has observed social workers take children away from families because they didn't have milk to put on their Sugar Frosted Flakes, without stopping to realize how rich a family is, compared to families throughout history, when they have Sugar Frosted Flakes. Do you think it is a proper use of laws and police to enforce such rising social expectations?

Chapter 43: Proposal

People in poor rural cultures are thrilled by the opportunity to earn money because, for the most part, their day to day economies function without it, using barter instead. Money is necessary for those rare trips to the city to buy the few things (mostly luxuries) that cannot be produced (or traded for) locally.

Thatched roofs only work at a steep angle, so a large farmhouse tends to have two or more "attic" levels under the roof for storage, drying and curing, and sleeping, all accessible only by ladder.

Why would Ilika let his bracelet be discussed with shepherdess Noni, but not with Farmer Koto and his family?

Why was Sata making lots of mistakes while reading? What did she learn that evening?

Chapter 44: Trigonometry

What harm could possibly come of letting Farmer Koto overhear them using big words he didn't know?

The calculations in this chapter are not very precise because of the rough bearing measurements made with a hand-held compass. A ship's compass, even in the days of wooden sailing ships, would be much more precise. The variance between magnetic direction (to the magnetic poles, as measured by the compass) and true direction (to the axial poles) is not a factor because the calculations only use the differences in the bearings. Also, the length of a "Toli-stride" cannot be measured perfectly.

Even though it took a long time, what was gained by waiting for Buna to get over her feelings of failure when trying to apply the distributive property? Hint: it showed most clearly when others were doing calculations after that.

Ilika agreed with Boro that the process was too difficult to use "on the spot" during navigation, and so the ship's tools would do most of the work, most of the time. It is not humanly possible to retain a skill that is rarely used, but it is possible to retain a "sense of" the skill, so it can be refreshed quickly when needed, and so the work of calculating tools can be intelligently guided and checked.

One of the most important reasons to have some personal experience with mathematics is to watch for "unreasonable" answers from our tools. If I press "pi" on my calculator and get 3.14159265358, I may not notice (or care) that 3.14159265359 would be more accurate. If I get 7.3, I better stop and figure out why. If I had no experience with the real "pi" and just trusted the calculator, my results would be garbage, of course.

By putting Kibi "in charge" of calculating the elevation, what was Ilika having her practice?

Chapter 45: Precious Freedom

What need in Mati might have caused her to see a magical house, where others saw a crude and cramped shack?

As they discussed ship emergencies, what feelings was Miko experiencing?

Why did Ilika stay seated when the goatherd arrived?

The relationship between Mati and the goatherd was obviously not based on a long courtship and an intimate knowledge of each other's personalities, values, and habits. It was based on what they could see in a few short hours, and was motivated by the hard, cold reality of their situations as handicapped people in a world where no allowances were made for such people. Anyone who disagrees with their decision may want to try harder to "see through their eyes and walk in their shoes."

How, in your opinion, did Kibi know that Ilika would pick Mati to be on his crew? Do you believe Kibi was right?

What feelings might have motivated Buna to respond to the situation so dramatically?

Could Rini have done anything, during this chapter, to change the outcome?

Chapter 46: Grief

In a sense, grief caused by death is easier than what happened to the group. Death is final, and rarely do questions linger about what might have been done, or what could still be done. During those days at the shepherd's cabin, what things do you think Buna was tempted to do? How about Rini?

Three days is a traditional grieving time in many cultures. It is long enough for most healthy people to get over the worst of the feelings, but not so long as to disrupt life completely. Kibi asked for those three days, and got them. Then she asked for a week. Assuming Mati didn't return, how long would you have needed?

Which of the "seeds" Kibi planted do you think sprouted?

The "denial" phase of grief was represented by Buna. The "negotiating" phase was represented by Kibi. Most of the others experienced the "depression" phase during those days at the shepherd's cabin, unable to find excitement in lessons or anything else.

If Mati had not returned, which students do you think would leave with Ilika the next day, even though they might still be grieving?

Chapter 47: Mati's Story

What would Mati have had to give up to be a simple, obedient wife?

What would the goatherd have had to learn in order to keep Mati?

How much harm was Ilika doing by educating people beyond anything possible in their culture? What should he do to make up for this harm in the ones he will select for his ship? What about the ones he doesn't select?

To realize that Kibi was right about the ship, what would Mati have had to think about?

It is fairly easy to experience what Mati went through getting Tera saddled. Try packing a heavy suitcase and then loading it into a car or truck without ever letting one of your feet, knees, or legs touch the floor.

Chapter 48: Perspective

As Buna learned by listening to stories, goats are much smarter, and more willful, than sheep. Which animal has the most in common with Ilika's students?

Not having the natural math skills of Rini, Sata, and Toli, Kibi learned to use a skill she did have, visualization (mental picture-making), to help her solve math problems. Buna would probably have benefited by the same skill, but was still struggling to get over her fears any time she had to solve a difficult problem.

By faithfully tending Tera, what was Rini communicating to Mati?

Miko, while gazing west toward the ocean, realized the difference between strategic and tactical leadership. Strategy is a high-level thinking process that requires taking into account the broadest possible perspective. Tactics are the steps necessary to implement strategy.

When Misa realized the value of being a good friend to everyone in the group, it had been a week since the fire at Lumber Town. How much had she grown up in that week, compared to most weeks in most people's lives?

The fully self-reflective thinking of Sata as she looked toward the bay is a key feature of sapience, or wisdom-potential. People like to think it is uniquely human, but it had been proven to exist in many other animals, both birds and mammals. In humans, it generally arrives with puberty, but that seems to be coincidental, as it sometimes manifest several years before, and sometimes not for many years after.

Were Neti's realizations about Miko's weaknesses good for their relationship, or bad for it?

What do we know of Farmer Koto's values after the priests visited him?

In your opinion, did Ilika's superiors think it would take him just a week to hire his crew, or did they know something like this journey would be necessary?

In your opinion, is the learning and growth that takes place during a journey like this possible without the danger?

Book by Book

the narrow streets of a medieval walled city
Book One:
The Test
Spring 2010




Letter to Readers

Dramatic Audiobook

Audiobook Chapter 1 (6MB)



Deep Learning

Where to Get It

Screenplay 1

a lonely beach along a wild seashore
Book Two:
Summer 2010


Letter to Readers

Dramatic Audiobook

Audiobook Chapter 13 (8MB)



Deep Learning

Where to Get It

Screenplay 1

the colorful aurora above majestic mountains
Book Three:
Fall 2010


Letter to Readers

Dramatic Audiobook

Audiobook Chapter 5 (13MB)



Deep Learning

Where to Get It

Screenplay 1

stranded on a frigid ice continent
Book Four:
Flight Training
Spring 2011


Letter to Readers



Deep Learning

Where to Get It

fascinating planets with strange life forms
Book Five:
Back to the Stars
Fall 2011


Letter to Readers



Deep Learning

Where to Get It

a shining jewel floating in the blackness of space
Book Six:
Star Station
Summer 2012


Letter to Readers



Deep Learning

Where to Get It

unseen guests at an event of universe importance
Book Seven:
The Local Universe
Summer 2013


Letter to Readers



Where to Get It

stillness and silence where movement and sound should be
Book Eight:
Summer 2014


Letter to Readers



Where to Get It

Heather's meeting circle at a top-secret military facility
Book Nine:
A Cry for Help
Summer 2015


Letter to Readers



Where to Get It

a strange eco-system deep underground
Book Ten:
Stories from Sonmatia
Summer 2016


Letter to Readers


Where to Get It

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by J. Z. Colby
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