Archive for May, 2006

Ancient Egypt III – The Hyksos Presence, its Social and Technological Changes

Sunday, May 28th, 2006

Digshotep had enlisted in the campaign against the Hyksos. This life changing event had come about by accident due to the success of his winery, still the only venture of its type in the Theban region.

Traders coming upriver to Thebes from Crete had told him that wine had a certain purification property. He did not know what made it work but experimentation showed him that it did.

Trade was beginning to slow as the Hyksos were cancelling travel permits for foreigners through their territories. They had solid control of Memphis and river traffic was subject to their whim. Wine imports from Crete were slowing to the point they were dry and Digs had expanded his production accordingly.

The Pharaoh’s troops had been limited in their ability to carry supplies, especially drink. The only safe liquid was beer and it meant that troops had to stop every day or so to brew more. The vast amount of water in the river which flowed beside them was useless. Even if allowed to settle till it was clear, drinking it could cause all kinds of sickness.

Digs’ experiments had demonstrated that mixing wine with the clarified water ( or even unclarified ) as the traders had told him, could make it much safer as a beverage. Wine was also easier to transport than was beer, which needed to be made fresh almost daily. This discovery allowed the king’s army to move much faster as they now could slake their thirst from the Nile simply by mixing one part of strong wine to three parts water.

Digshotep stood beside his lead mule, one of dozens loaded with jars of wine, and watched demons approach across the desert. He wondered if Amenhotep were anywhere nearby to witness this deadly miracle? He had not seen his son since the boy enlisted three years earlier.

The sun was just setting, heat waves created a quivering haze across the horizon and all was in sillouette. But he could still see clearly enough to recognize his doom as it approached.

What kind of magical powers did the Hyksos possess that they could call up demons from the very pit? What kind of power did they get from worshipping the demonic god Seth? It is said they had adopted that ancient Egyptian deity of evil as their own almost as soon as they had entered Egypt. Seth’s domain was the Eastern Desert and the mountains of the Sinai. This god had no business being in the valley.

But Digs knew what he saw. Wavering images of tall four legged monsters with human arms, human torsos and men’s heads were rapidly heading his direction. There was no use running from such swift devils. He sank to the ground to wait for the end.

The demons were now among them and there was panic all around. When out of the confusion he heard, “Dad, Dad, look up here. Get up off your knees and look.”

Digs raised his head, and his amazement was almost as great as it was when he first saw the demons attacking. There on top of a great long legged, snorting beast, sat his son.

“Dad, you don’t need to be afraid. They’re called horses. We captured them from some Hyksos scouts. Have you ever seen such wonderful animals?

“Gaaaaak” said Digs, with his usual sense of having just the right word at the right time.

Amenhotep slid down from his horse, grasped his still shaking dad and helped him sit in the shade of a rock. “Maybe I had better give you some explainations,” he began.

“Gaak,” responded the eloquent Digs.

“When I enlisted three years ago, I was assigned to a medical team working directly with the king’s personal guards. I think the old butler had a lot to do with that.

“Anyway, when one of the Pharoah’s favorite hunting dogs fell ill, I was called to attend it. The dog lived and a few days later I was called into the King’s presence.

“I was then told about a secret weapons program that was being developed for the war against the Hyksos. It seems the Hyksos had developed a moving platform on wheels from which their warriors could fight. It was pulled by these beasts called horses.

“The king had already captured several of these animals and had them on a secured private estate far south of Thebes. He had established a breeding program and was determined to hit back at the Hyksos with their own weaponry. Except he wanted to do it in a much more efficient manner than the Hyksos. He sent me there as a stable master in charge of the beast’s health.

“He had also sent several engineers and architects to try and make the moving platforms even more effective. They were rather cumbersome and not really designed for the terrain of the desert and valley. And they broke down a lot.

“Those chariots which we had captured had large solid wooden wheels on wooden axles and were miserable to turn, other than in a wide curve, making them next to useless for close combat.

“Our engineers did away with the solid wheels and devised spoked wheels which are not only lighter, but give greater manuverability. We also put tires on them instead of a solid wood rim, that too increases their manuverability. They don’t slide on turns like the Hyksos wheels do. The tires are made of sections of wood tied to the wheel with leather lashings, which pass through slots in the tire sections. The thongs don’t come in contact with the ground, making the chariot more reliable and reducing the number of breakdowns. There are many other changes we made too, such as chariot rails made of one piece of boiled and shapped wood instead of gluing several short pieces of wood together, and covering the axles with metal sheething to reduce friction.EgyptianChariot.gif

“It is because of the secrecy of our research that I had not been able to get away till this mission to test the Hyksos strength this far south. We also wanted to bring back some prisoners since we need extra slaves for the stables.”

“Slaves,” spat Digshotep, finding his voice at last. “Slaves.” That is probably the most abominable thing these Hyksos brought to our land. “Slaves.” And what is even more abominable is that our people picked up the disgusting habit of using such labor.

“My father, and his father, never even heard the word ‘slaves,’ let alone know what it means. The great monuments of our golden past were built as labors of love. Every man and woman who helped build the pyramids did so out of the desire to be part of something greater than themselves.

“They were not forced and they certainly were not slaves. Every person working on those projects knew they would share the king’s immortality. His life was theirs and his afterlife was theirs. The workers were well taken care of and excellent villages and barracks were built to house them while they worked on public monuments. They weren’t housed in swine pits as ‘slaves’ are.

“The people loved the gods and the king was among the greatest of gods. And the gods and the king loved the people back. When we build temples in the future, how will the gods love us back? Those temples will not be built by willing servants but built on the blood and sweat of forced labor. How can the gods then love Egypt, when the very houses we build for them will no longer be labors of love, but monuments giving testimony to terror, pain and blood?

“These are the enduring gifts the Hyksos have brought us. Until these Shepherd Kings invaded from Palestine, Egypt never even had an organized army. Now we have secret weapons programs.

“Before these Hyksos invaded from the East, we built for the glory of the gods and we did it with love. Now we will build only for the glory of king and country, and we will do it with the blood and sweat of captives who don’t know the gods, or care for them.”

Seeing his father in such a mood, Amenhotep decided it was time for a change of subjects. “And how is my little sister doing? Is she still hanging on the arm of young prince Amose?

“You know you almost had me when you said she was trying to catch the prince’s royal eye. It didn’t come to my mind till much later that little Amose was just that; little. What was he at the time, about five? I was at his eighth birthday celebration just a few weeks ago.”

“Look,” said Digs, “It seems like more of your horse riders are arriving. And it doesn’t look like they’re stopping.”

“Back to Thebes,” came the cry from the mounted scouts as they swept past. “Back to Thebes.

“The Falcon Seqenenra Tao has flown to the Sun. The King is dead. Back to Thebes.”

Egyptian_Museum_Tut_s_chariot.jpgKing tut’s royal chariot, Cairo Museum – photo source unknown

Till next time

Digs

For more about daily life in ancient Egypt: http://www.archaeolink.com/ancient_egyptian-civilization.htm

Bookmark Madness, Powermarks Sanity

Saturday, May 27th, 2006

Bookmarks.

You know how it is. You stumble across an interesting site with something new…a particularly cool design, something weirdly offbeat, some facts and figures of interest, a database you might want to come back to and explore one day. Only half conscious of what’s happening, you mouse over to Add to Favorites, and before you know it, your bookmark list is half the size of the Manhattan Yellow Pages.

And good luck ever finding that database again.

If you’re a professional internet researcher, then multiply that scenario by at least an order of magnitude. I currently have 4,557 bookmarked sites in my personal collection…and this after a recent purging of dead links! Not quite the Manhattan phone book, but still, a hefty and unwieldy collection.

I long ago realized that the Internet Explorer method of storing links in Favorites folders just wasn’t going to cut it. Sure, I could have my Maps folder of links, and my Census folder, and my Cities folder. But what happens when I find a site that takes city census data and maps it on the fly? Which category should it get stored in? And — a year later, when I want to use the map tool — how the heck am I supposed to remember where I put it?

Looking around for a better way of doing things, I came across a free-trial of software called Powermarks. I almost abandoned it, at first, because it seemed an awkward and unfamiliar way of managing bookmarks. But some instinct told me to stick with it, and I eventually wound up doing something that (for me) is pretty rare…I bought the danged software!

Now, five years later, I can’t imagine working and researching without it.

Powermarks is simple to set-up, and actually is quite simple to use, my initial reservations notwithstanding. It puts some small icons in your tool bar or task bar (quick…which is which?), and you use these to quickly add a bookmark, and to efficiently manage your entire collection.

It’s a keyword-based system. As you store a new site, Powermarks generates likely keywords based on the URL and tags and such, though I only occasionally keep these. Usually, I just add my own keywords from scratch.

So, for example, my Powermarks entry for the above-mentioned Census site has keywords for census, maps, cities, states, zip, and 3-digit.

And years later, when I’m thinking: Where was that site that could map out 3-digit zip codes?, I can search on zip or 3-digit or map, and Powermarks will find it for me in an instant.

And cooler than cool, I can sychronize bookmark lists over the web, so that the PC in my attic, and the laptop in the kitchen and my computer in the office all have the same set of bookmarks listed.

It’s such a useful tool, that I haven’t even explored any of the new online bookmark management tools that are popping up all over the Net

It would be interesting to hear about anyone’s experience with them, if they think they’ve found a top-notch solution to the bookmarking madness.

Cheers, all

pafalafaga David Sarokin

How (not) to become a Google Answers Researcher

Friday, May 26th, 2006

People frequently ask how they can become a researcher for Google's Google Answers service. With a particularly delicious touch of irony, some even post their enquiry as a $2 question at Google Answers.

Truth is, it's not hard to find the answer. A Google search for become a google answers researcher (with or without quotes) will find the answer amongst the first page of links. Unfortunately, when people do find the answer, it's unlikely to be what they were hoping for.

Daily Life – Ancient Egypt II – Medicine

Thursday, May 25th, 2006

Digshotep, the patriarch of a Late 17th dynasty Middle Kingdom, upper middle class, Egyptian family rests under a palm on his new country estate. His lot in life has improved tremendously since he planted those first ‘new fangled’ grape vines in his back garden. In just a few years he had developed Thebes first small commercial winery.

The royals seem to like the sweet, cloying stuff and are willing to pay a premium for it. Though it will never take the place of good Egyptian beer.

Life seems to be bright, the beer flows, the kids are just finishing their education, and the only personal dark spot is his relationship with his son, Amenhotep, who has now reached the age of 18.

Four years previously, Amenhotep had graduated from scribe training at the Shrine of Thoth, and with honors. He also received his cherished admission to the advanced school in Karnak Temple, where he was still receiving honors.

However, Seqenenra Tao II was now on the throne in Thebes, and there were rumblings of war with the Hyksos in the North.

Just as Digshotep had wanted, Amenhotep was socially networking nicely with the high officials of the court who were also taking classes, as well as some of the younger members of the Royal Family.

One of his closest friends at school, and one who had great influence on him was the Royal Butler, which in the Egyptian court means he was also one of the king’s main advisors. He was a man in his late fifties who believed in returning to school as frequently as he could. He was a priest and architect, a leading academic in anatomy and an expert in math. His hero was the great Imhotep, also a priest, physician, mathematician, and the 4th dynasty architect of the first Egyptian pyramid, the Step Pyramid of Zoser at Saqqara.

This is where the conflict between Amenhotep and Digshotep started to simmer.

Digs had dreams of his son rising high in temple or court, perhaps even both. But thanks to the influence of the Royal Butler, Amenhotep wanted to study anatomy and become a physician.

“Pure quackery,” yelled the old man. “You think mixing up piles of hippopotami dung sweetened with milk and honey actually cures somebody instead of killing them? Do you want old men puking all over you? Do you want widows dragging you in front of the king’s court accusing you of killing their husbands? And your hands will always stink.

“Why can’t you be more like your sister? She has joined a troop of temple dancers. She’s second lead in the Karnak choir. She’s cultivating her friendships with the Royal Princesses and has even been seen hanging on the arm of the king’s younger son, Amose. She’s at least trying to make something respectable of herself and get ahead in the world. And her hands won’t stink like some common cattle barn mucker.”

“Dad, I wash my hands a lot, ok?

“You have been healthy all your life. I think about all you know about modern medicine is old-wives-tales, and the stories your nurse used to tell you in order to scare you into washing behind your ears. You really haven’t had that much exposure to the healing arts.

“There is a lot more to medicine than honey drizzled hippo poop. Though it has its place. And I don’t stick my hands in it. That’s what post-grads are for.

“Up-to-date medicine is a mix of observational science, magic, faith healing, properly used spells and more. We have gone far beyond kissing it to make the hurt go away then spreading on the doo-doo. Though some people still practice that simplicity, and even then a few get the order of the procedure backwards.

“We have totally modernized. We no longer have the archaic separation of physician, priest and magician. It is now all one discipline, and better because of it.

“If you were to cut your foot on a broken pot, I would apply a paste of fruit and honey, then I would put a bandage over it, then I would say the proper incantation, and last I would give you a magical amulet to keep until the cut was healed. See what I mean? We now address medicine on every level, not just the old-fashion cover it up and hope for the best.

“We also encourage people to keep bathing, shaving their head and body hair, and maintaining dietary restrictions against raw fish, any kind of pork, and other animals that are unclean to eat. Temple and palace precincts are forbidden to the uncircumcised, those who eat unclean foods and those with any body hair. That’s why even foreign embassys are greeted in the palace courtyard and never permitted inside till they have met with our cleanliness standards.

“Remember the young prince from Babylon who came to study at Karnak Temple? As high ranking as he was, he was not permitted in the classroom till he shaved his elaborate beard and hair, threw away his abominable woolen clothing, and was circumcised to acknowledge the covenant between Egypt and its gods.

“We are the cleanest and healthiest nation in the world. You and mom are now both over sixty years old. That’s more than 30 years beyond the average lifespan in some other countries and many of our people reach that mark and more. In fact, our normal lifespan, including the lowest classes and slaves is well over forty years.

“Our modern medicine makes the difference.

“Besides, if the king has his way, we will soon be marching north to meet the Hyksos threat. The army will need all the trained physicians it can get. He is already calling on the military recruiters to drag in all the able-bodied men they can round up. One way or the other, I will be going. Being a trained scribe and academic will not keep me out of the infantry. The only way I can avoid that would be to enlist voluntarily and use my education to give me ‘officer’ status. At least I would be able to sleep in a tent, instead of on the ground with only the stars as a shelter.”

Digs merely grunted. Why go on? He knew he had already lost this argument. All he could do would be wish for the best and hope the gods would see fit to end the coming war early. Whatever Amun wants, Amun gets.

He turned slowly and gave his son a serious look. “We are going back to the townhouse in Thebes in a few days. On your way back to Karnak, would you stop by Iggys and let him know the air conditioner is on the fritz again? The pads are drying out too fast and it’s not cooling the air.”

physician Physician – painting by HM Herget – National Geographic October 1941

Till next time

Digs

What’s Wrong with Copyright?

Thursday, May 25th, 2006

The Constitution gives Congress authority over copyrights and patents — what we nowadays call intellectual property — with the usual spare language of the founders:

The Congress shall have Power…To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.
United States Constitution, Article I, Section 8

Couple of key things, here.

First off, the whole purpose of these protections are to promote progress in science and “useful arts” (no protection for any non-useful arts, eh? Looks like Family Guy is fair game).

Secondly, any protection afforded is for a limited time.

How limited? Inventors get patent protection for anywhere from 14 to 20 years, depending on the type of patent. So how come inventors get a decade or two, and writers, musicians and other ‘creative’ types get a century or more?

Actually a copyright holder gets life plus seventy years! If you reproduce this paragraph without my permission anytime while I’m alive, I can sue your whoozitz off. Once I kick the bucket, my heirs can still sue you and your whoozitz for another 70 years. If I live another 80 years, then this here paragraph is protected a grand total of 150 years, and you can feel free to begin reproducing it anytime after May 25, 2156.

Does 150 years of absolute control over my paragraphs really do anything to promote the progress of the useful arts?

Do artists really need a century more protection than inventors?

The answer to both these questions is a resounding No. But even if you disagree — even if you feel that copyright protection should be longer and stronger than it is — it’s still hard to avoid the conclusion that copyright is profoundly dysfunctional in its current form.

The two key problems with copyright are these…

next up…the two problems

david sarokin aka pafalafaga

Daily Life – Ancient Egypt

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2006

This will be one of several posts about daily life in ancient Egypt.

While Egypt was a conservative civilization and the daily round did not change all that much in three thousand years, there was still enough difference between eras that articles about middle and upper class life during the Old Kingdom and Greco-Roman Egypt would reflect changing attitudes and styles. Plus there is that cultural hiccup known as the Amarna period.

So, we will begin in the middle somewhere. How about middle class, late Middle Kingdom Thebes;17th dynasty? (Some scholars call this the Second Intermediate Period, a term which applies to the whole country. But since we are dealing with the Theban region, we are culturally still Middle Kingdom.)

During much of this time, Egypt maintained a social element almost missing from many other ancient civilizations; a fairly large and thriving “middle class.”

Some things never seem to change.

The middle class Egyptian family had to worry about house payments. Dad went to the office to work each day. Mom may have rehearsed with, and sang in a temple choir. And they were trying to put enough aside to give their kids a good education.

Then there were the unexpected expenses, such as the air-conditioner breaking down or fixing a clogged drain from the back yard swimming pool, not to mention that the ice maker is on the fritz again.

Such were the visitudes of life in surburban Thebes during the Late Middle Kingdom.

First, we had better get that air-conditioning fixed. It looks like it will be a scorcher of a day. Try to get a plumber to make a house call at dawn. And little Amenhotep is going to be late for school again if he doesn't get his butt out the door.

The air conditioning should be fairly easy to repair – if the man ever shows up.

Ancient Egyptian air conditioning systems were along the line of what we might call “swamp coolers” today; they were evaporative units ( malqaf ).

During most of the year, the wind in Egypt is from the north. That provided two ongoing bonuses. The Egyptians could “float” downstream ( south to north ) and with the wind from the north, could use sails to get back up the river again ( north to south ). It also meant that 'wind catchers' could be placed on top of various buildings, such as homes, and as long as the north wind blew, it provided a steady stream of air into the interior. The Egyptians then placed pads of water soaked linen in the path of the moving air and the evaporation cooled the air before it entered the house. Some of these units had roof tanks which were filled with water and a slow drip kept the pads moist – – thus the need for our plumber.

80A01E0M.gifThis line copy of an ancient Egyptian drawing of a house shows two date palms behind the house and the triangles on the roof are the air catchers, the “air conditioning” units – malqaf. – – image courtesy United Nations University http://www.unu.edu/unupress/unupbooks/80a01e/80A01E0c.htm

The broken ice maker worked along the same principle. Egyptian winters can be downright cold. So cold at times that frozen buckets of water have been observed as far south as Aswan. Throughout the Delta and the northern Nile Valley, there are occasional winter cold snaps accompanied by light frost and even snow.

While temperatures going below freezing are rare, winter nights can still get close to that mark. Once again we deal with evaporative cooling to get the job done. When temperatures are near freezing, a combination of breezes and very low humidity can lower the temperature of a very shallow pan of water enough that a skim of ice will form on the surface. Actually our broken ice maker is no more than a crack in the bottom of the ceramic ice making tray ( jar ) which should be an easy repair. If we can get enough made ahead, we can wrap it in an insulating material, bury it, and it will keep quite a while. Nothing like fruit juice, milk and honey whipped into crushed ice on a hot afternoon.

You will find more about ancient Egyptian ice making here: http://www.bookrags.com/sciences/sciencehistory/the-advent-of-mechanical-refrigerat-scit-05123456.html

I wonder if that kid has made it to school yet. He is enrolled in an intermediate class for scribes at the Thoth Shrine. If he does well enough there, he might be able to make it into the advanced classes at Karnak Temple. The Pharaoh's own sons study there and it would be a good opportunity for social networking. It won't be cheap. Certainly hope he winds up being more than a simple clerk in a temple supply room.

Now to get to work on that clogged pool drain. That pool was one of the best ideas ever. Great place for the kids to splash around in ( no crocodile danger from swimming in the river ) we can grow fish and water lilies. It also irrigates a wonderful garden.

And my dear Nefert tried to say we didn't need one.

We now grow our own onions and garlic, melokyiah greens, fava beans, dates, figs, and pomegranates. Next year maybe we'll try one of those new fangled grape vines.

Now that there is the garden, Nefert wanted something colorful too. So, in addition to the water lilies and lotus blooms, there is a line of oleander bushes along one wall and something new from Crete called roses. What a lovely smell.

I'll bet he stopped to watch a ball game again, instead of going to classes. It seems all he wants to do is hang around a ball field, eat long sausages wrapped in bread and drink beer. At least it is our national beverage. Might be our national pastime too. ( sausage and beer vendors were a common sight at Egyptian sporting events )

If he did, I'll tan his hide when he gets home. After all, “a boy's ear is on his back.” – (quote from a student exercise for scribes.)

Now to get little Amenirdis ready for her dance class. She's not so little anymore. She's studying written language right along with the boys, and keeping ahead of most of them too.

We have made sure the girls in our family received good educations too. In this day and age, if a woman wants a good position in a palace, temple or merchant accounting house, she has to be able to read and write. Otherwise, she will just wind up being some guy's personal adornment with no real life of her own – or selling flowers, and other things, on the street corner.

Did I mention that my dear Nefert is a priestess and one of the lead singers at the new chapel at Karnak?

Because of her added income, we now have a new indoor bathing slab and comode room. No more running to the river to clean up or to the outside pits in the middle of the night. Modern technology is wonderful.

Remodeling the rest of the house too. We have just finished covering the walls with fresh whitewashed plaster and a local artist is painting one wall with flying ducks.

ducks image courtesy University College London

We have four rooms now, including the new bathroom. Sleeping quarters for Nefert and me, a large “family room” where the kids sleep and we entertain, plus a combination grainery, pantry, storeroom. We still do most of the cooking outside.

Which reminds me, I have to cut this short. Dan and his tribe are coming by later to play a game of senet ( sort of like backgammon ). We will probably play by the pool. They'd eat us out of house and home if I let them get near the pantry.

back garden Painting by HM Herget – October 1941 National Geographic magazine

We also have another large social affair coming up we need to save food and money for. We now have a handful of deceased relatives encoffined and stored under the floor of the “family room.” We will get together with the neighbors, and their deceased relatives, to hire a funerary priest to perform the rites and move our late relatives to their permanant houses of eternity. It seems only the very rich have the means to throw a funeral every time someone in their family dies. The rest of us have to make do with “group rates.”

Now, where is that game board? Dan's at the door and I haven't even picked up the beer yet.

Gotta run

Digshotep

The internet skews history

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2006

A huge amount of recent material has been placed on the internet and indexed by search engines, but recent material is greatly over-represented.

Philipp Lenssen searched for references to every year from 1000 to 2100, and plotted the results.

timeline.jpg

Philipp’s google-years page gives a feel for the timespan we’re searching when we Google for something.

Google’s synonym operator

Monday, May 22nd, 2006

Sometimes you know that the page you seek is out there, but you can’t find it. You’ve tried searching for all the relevant keywords you can think of, but the page must be using different words.

That’s when Google’s synonym operator comes into its own. Just prefix a word with a tilde (~) and Google will search for the synonyms that it knows about.

tilde.jpg

So, for example, a search for ~earth will find pages about world in addition to those about earth.

Suppose you want to lookup acronyms: most people wouldn’t think to include finder amongst their search terms, but a Google search for acronym ~search will return Acronym Finder amongst its results.

You can put the synonym operator in front of more than one search term if you like, but it doesn’t work in front of quoted phrases.

Google sometimes searches for very close synonyms without asking, but the synonym operator makes it use a fairly broad range. For example, Google’s synonyms for garden include plant and landscaping, synonyms for car include BMW, automobile, motor etc.

(photo by Bjarne Kvaale)

Should’ve Been The Perfect Google Answers Logo

Monday, May 22nd, 2006

conan-doyle.jpg

(Google used this logo on 22 May 2006 to mark the birthday of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes.)

What’s the name of that book?

Sunday, May 21st, 2006

Some of GA’s finest are very good in finding names of books, based on a brief description. This week, for example:

  • “gotisbrown3000” asked about an “Arthurian legend with homoerotic overtones”. Secret901 found the answer, “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight”. Secret is generous enough to reveal the secret – a small hint led him to read the relevant Wikipedia article
  • On the same day, “jengod1” was also helped, in the quest for a mystery treasure hunt book, read as a child. Jengodl even says that “I probably won’t get this answered since my “clues” are so vague”, but surprise! Bobbie7 seems to have found the answer: In Search of the Golden Horse by Sheldon Renan. What did Bobbie do? She also reveals her method: she searched the internet with keywords of the “vague clues”, adding the term “book”. In the thank-you-note, Jengod1 says: “I’m ashamed of myself. I thought I was gonna stump you guys. Naturally it only took, like, 2 minutes for a Google Researcher to figure it out.”

These are two good ways to find books you remember from your childhood: Wikipedia and searching the web for important keywords about the story. Another good way might be to use Amazon.com. Amazon now have a search-engine that enables you to search inside books. That means that you can try to search for an unusual name, an unusual combination. Or… You can always try to stump those GARs…