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the various and sundry creations of sylvus tarn

magic window

20apr2018

cropI read a recce for this book on some blog or other, so I ordered it from ILL; and I have to say I was so engaged with it that it read nearly like a thriller for me, especially the first half, even though the author just basically writes about birds and how their plumage and mating behaviours evolved. He's evidently part of the team that discovered dinosaur feather colours, and I don't think I'm spoiling the book too much to say that one current theory is not only were dinosaurs quite a bit more feathered than they were assumed to be in my youth, but that, though while feathers initially evolved for warmth and/or protection, their evolution was quickly co-opted & driven by mate choice before eventually becoming complex enough to support flight. Mate choice as an intermediate step! Pretty darn cool.

But Prum doesn't actually discuss dinos much: his focus is on birdwatching, his early, nearly life-long passion, basically discovered as soon as his vision was corrected with glasses. (Sadly his hearing is going, which is limiting his love, as bird ‘watching’ is as much about bird listening. —Currently living in a house with 4 birds, and they all make a lot of noise.)

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18apr2018

cropToday's page is one of those blasts from the past and is unfinished to boot, but I need it to post this other page I reference in the next page in the series about the green dead mice so...here we are. Besides, our guild is passing out Double Helix for challenges, so a sample page about this high-silver-bearing glass is kinda relevant anyhoo. As a bonus, a hand-edited crop for the icon! Haven't done those in a very long time. Whohoo!

So I went to an author talk last night by John Scalzi for his new book Head On, which he didn't read, because, he said, we were all buying the book & could read (or listen to either of the narrators, who would do a much better job than he could) but instead wanted to treat us to stuff not available to anyone else. So now I have to wait until the library gets it in, but on the other hand that gives me a chance to reread the first book, which I would kind of like to do to see whether he cleans up (what I perceived, anyway) to be some dangling loose ends—Scalzi takes the craft of writing pretty seriously, so I'm guessing he will; it's one of the reasons I think LockIn is a good candidate for a sequel.

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17apr2018

cropI'm pretty sure it was Cory Doctorow that recce'd this charming pre-teen graphic novel by Jen Wang. The Prince and the Dressmaker is about, well, a prince and a dressmaker, whom he hires to make him clothes that people don't have to like nor understand, but can't fail to notice. As a prince, Sebastian feels very constricted in his role, trying to live up to his father's military prowess (which interests him not at all) and fulfil what his parents feel is his most important duty: carrying on the line.

Frances, the dressmaker, wants to make it big; their lives intersect in a very funny (and completely ahistorical) way that immediately set the tone of the book. Besides the not-client who brings Frances to Sebastian's attention, there's also an array of sympathetically drawn and lively secondary characters—mostly older, but there's at least one Sebastian and Frances’ age who helps to keep the story from heading in entirely predictable directions.

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16apr2018

cropVia boingboing, a charming tweet about a clever student work-around to a teacher's prohibition against phones (to avoid cheating) so they could listen to music during the test. —I personally would go batty trying to do anything as mentally demanding as an exam with music playing, but evidently it's a thing. Props to the teacher, too, who good-naturedly tweeted about their student's solution. —F2tE then told me about all the ways ze hid headphones with side-burns, high-collared shirts etc while in high school. ‘Kids’, ze informed me, ‘are smart. And sneaky.’ —Well, of course.

The same kid was kind of horrified by my fascination by LoveJoyFeminism's (& by extension Samantha Field's) deconstruction of christian romantic tropes in Francine Rivers. But like Lindsay Ellis’ reconsideration of Twilight I find these ongoing analyses of women's romantic fiction fascinating.

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13apr2018

cropWell, gee, Friday the 13th...actually, I found out yesterday that my torch didn't have to be shipped back to the manufacturer to be cleaned, despite idjit yours truly doing zir best to drop molten glass down the ports, so I'm feeling lucky. Also, we finally seem to be having some spring weather, and not only do I have clumps of snowdrops everywhere, my crocus are starting to come up—they didn't all get eaten. Yay.

I'm not the only person celebrating the arrival of spring, as frex someone or other I read (probably freethoughtblogs, given the focus) posted this comic about spring rain smell; I read this awhile back (in 2015! so much for ‘a few months ago—the same memory problem my dad had at my age...) in a Science News mag (unfortunately you need a subscription to access the article, but it basically says the same thing as the cartoon, plus there are tons of other articles about the phenomenon).

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12apr2018

cropI'm not always cranky and fulla gloom'n’doom —I resisted this video of people seeing the moon through a telescope, set to (of course) Debussy's Claire de Lune till finally about the 3rd or 4th time around I clicked, and yeah, it really is delightful & heartwarming. —Actually had a somehwat similar experience when my sister-in-law borrowed her club's telescope & we did indeed look at the moon—I even sort of managed to mash my phone camera to it to take a sort-of decent picture.

It was one of those only-a-few-times kind of experiences, one that proved durable; rather like my spotting an oriole last spring, on the bike path along a river that connects my town to the next one over; I've seen these bright orange and black birds only a very few times, and it's kind of special.

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