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Reading meme Wednesday has come round again. As it does.

Shortly after my last post, my brain went on a fiction haitus -- just didn't wanna touch it. What I've read instead is, mostly, nonfiction from The New Yorker (I have a large backlog saved to Pocket). Two observations: it's worth reading just about anything by Jill Lepore, and Malcolm Gladwell's glibness initially hooks the reader but soon gets irritating.

This means Sorcerer to the Crown is still a couple chapters from the end, Rondo Allegro is abruptly DNF (I couldn't renew that one -- I should buy it), and I'm a couple chapters into Rachel Ray by Anthony Trollope, one of his half-size novels in a more fluffy vein.

Ah, well.


Subject quote from "Blue Caravan," Vienna Teng.

A working papercraft V8 engine that runs on compressed air. (via)

Meanwhile, I'll just put this article on Anscombe's quartet here.

Antarctic fairy tales.


Subject quote from "Lines on Revisiting the Country," William Cullen Bryant.

The Three-ladder system of social class in the US is very thinky for me, and large portions of it ring true. Note that this is social not economic class, which Americans often have trouble untangling. (via)

John McPhee has a long meditation on the importance of omission in art. (via?)

Some real covers for public-domain ebooks. Lolwhut. (via)


Subject quote from "The Spirit of Discovery by Sea," William Lisle Bowles.

TBD is two years and nine months old, and looking and acting even more like a small child.

I've only recently come to appreciate how much repetition is essential to toddlers -- not just for comfort, but how they process this big, confusing world. It's developmental. Conversations and questions are repeated because that's how the content gets internalized, confirming that things haven't changed in at least this one way. Ditto all the play working on processing emotional subjects and states.

The book collection is getting out of control -- we've 'sploded the bookcase in TBD's room, and piles are constantly falling off the coffee table. Books are starting to be requested, especially ones advertised in books in hand -- and if the library doesn't have something, "Bookstore?" Needless to say, the solution is not fewer books but better storage. "Daddy, read book" is a hard plea to resist, as is "More book." As for subjects, non-fiction is trending, and not just about trucks and construction equipment but the natural world.

Favorite TV right now is Ponyo, and we sometimes play-act Ponyo searching for Sousuke or the reverse. Other media enjoyed include Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood and some Winnie the Pooh movies, but they're running a very distant second at the moment.

As for speaking, for a couple weeks TBD sometimes swapped syllables in unexpected ways: "holeman" for manhole, "backypig" for piggyback. This seems to be passing, though. OTOH, stumbling over words while trying to get out a complete sentence continues, and remains adorable. Emotions are getting more expression, directly, in conversation, and in play. And this time, I did manage to note more talking, talking:

Enough of them, they get a cut for lengthCollapse )

As you can tell, there's more singing. Music class has started a new term, to TBD's joy, and the song parts of library story-time get all the interest. That, and picking out another two books to check out. *glances again at book piles*

And so it goes -- life as fast as a toddler on a bicycle.


Subject quote from "Tightrope," Janelle Monáe.

Reading day, meme day, yay yay yay. Or as TBD might say right now, "Reading reading liang jing jing" -- but I digress.


Ordermaster by L.E. Modesitt, the second half of the story started with Wellspring of Chaos. It has some structural lumpiness, only partly explained by being the second half of a story. Said overall story is at least resolved mostly to satisfaction, though the costs of violence are more hand-waved at than actually explored. And with that, I am probably done with poking at Modesitt for a while.

The Novels of Anthony Trollope by James R. Kincaid, a surprisingly sensible study, read by way of looking for pointers on what would be a good Trollope to read next. (SPOILER: Rachel Ray is supposedly a fluffy, optimistic romance.)

In progress:

Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho, a Regency fantasy with matter by way of Clarke (rather than Wrede/Stevermer) and manner by way of Wodehouse and Heyer, all choices I approve. That there is far more Heyer than Wodehouse in the mix is disappointing enough to highlight just how much the world needs full-on Wodehousean fantasy -- Somebody Get On That. The storytelling itself is a little disappointing -- while I'm reading, I'm pulled along, but it's too easy to delay returning. (That said, it's definitively more compelling than Newt's Emerald, which is very much in the Wrede/Stevermer vein.) It does not help that that the protagonists both flip between very bright and blockheaded, apparently in service of the plot. Regardless, am heading toward the finish line, and I will definitely pick up the sequel.

I also read a few more chapters of Rondo Allegro, to a little short of half-way.


Subject quote from "Dolor Poem," Theodore Roethke.


Drone footage of herding reindeer in Magerøya, Norway. Drone Art: Arctic Wildlife has more general footage and a beluga soundtrack (though without enough lingering, alas). (both via)

Cuneiform cookies. (via?)

In other non-news, designing a Chinese typeface is hard. And fascinating. (via?)


Subject quote from "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," T.S. Eliot.

From a 1918 guidebook to Arizona and New Mexico:
[O]ne of the most interesting little cities of the Southwest—Tucson. It may be that not all will find this oasis town, lapped in the desert and girt about with low mountains, as much to their liking as I do, but I believe it possesses features worth going back on one’s tracks to see; for it has a decided character of its own. With an out-and-out modern American side, there is the grace of an historic past, whose outward and visible sign is a picturesque Spanish quarter in adobe, pink, blue and glaring white, clustering about a sleepy old plaza and trailing off through a fringe of Indian ranchería to the blazing desert.
The only local sight it then points up is the mission of San Xavier del Bac, which is actually a few miles south of town, on the reservation.


Subject quote from "Diamond Mountain," Luka Bloom.

While it is physically possible to play "Scarborough Fair" on an ocarina tuned to C6, it can be argued that the shrill upper notes, which must be blown hard, makes this tonally inadvisable.

Or at the very least, something that should only be done out-of-doors.


Subject quote from "Chevy Chase."


Yuletide 2015 brought us no less than five fanfics for Edward Gorey's animated introduction to PBS's Mystery!, which just by itself makes this a pretty good year. Some fics I especially enjoyed and want others to read:

All This Could Be Yours (The Martian) - AU divergence by having Commander Lewis also stranded on Mars. Continues far beyond the book's end to cover the aftereffects back on Earth. Longest fic of the season, and one of the best.

Miss Eleanor Tilney, or The Reluctant Heroine (Northanger Abbey) - Another long novella, retelling canon from Eleanor's POV (with considerable backstory and secret history). Ignore the self-deprecating "tongue-in-cheek" tag as this is a delight through and through, by the author in previous years of Fair Winds and Homeward Sail and Mansfield End (not to mention Rondo Allegro).

This American Life episode 141: A Whole New World. (Transcript) - Ira Glass and Sarah Koenig interview Steve Rogers, Hermione Granger, and Susan Pevensie about stepping from one world into another. Pitch perfect.

Two good character studies of Harriet Vane at Christmas time, both with voices spot-on:

Solitary as an Oyster (Lord Peter Wimsey) - In 1933, when she is still bitter and raw wounds.

Christmas at Duke's Denver (Lord Peter Wimsey) - In 1937, her first with Peter's family.

A Song for Ruatha (Dragonriders of Pern) - Menolly's first journey as a journeywoman Harper, to a hold that is still healing from the damages of the past generation.

A Piece in the Game (Kim) - In 1919, after the Great War, Kim is back in the Great Game, and now as an adult must decide (in the face of the Third Afghanistan War and the Jallianwala Bagh massacre) whether he is a Sahib. Nails the ending.

As far as verse-fics this year, the four are a mixed bag: The Bootlegger is a Prohibition Era rewrite of "The Highwayman" in the original verse form -- highly recommended. The Peggers' Tale is an original fabliau in stanzas, recounting a threesome of Eleanor of Aquitaine, Henry Plantagenet, and a lady-in-waiting, and is as rollicking and filthy as the title and form require. Also containing Henry is 26 December 1170, a Murder in the Cathedral fic in Eliotonian blank verse, in which Thomas gives a Christmas sermon -- I think a missing scene, but I'm not familiar enough with the source to be sure. As for the fourth, on the one hand +1 to the writer of Beowulf: An Adventure of the Missing Years for making King Beowulf (not yet old) face a roc, of all things, and for the valiant attempt at alliterative verse -- on the other, while it starts appropriately heroic, eventually it breaks voice with (half-)lines like "Anyway, the sword died," and then gives up and goes completely silly.

(I have to say, I'm disappointed in the paucity Asian fandoms outside of anime/manga. I should nominate some next year, even if again I don't participate.)


Subject quote from "Half Asleep," School of Seven Bells.

Wednesday reading meme day yay.


Miss Marjoribanks* by Margaret Oliphant, a Victorian triple-decker that I can only describe as "social manipulation competence porn." The titular character is very good at running her drawing-room-based world, and her town, through judicious indirection and calculated directness. Best character study of a domestic tyrant (narrator's term) I've read, and a delight through and through. Oliphant is not a Trollope** or even a Gaskell, but she wields her irony on point and was a popular writer for good reason, even if we have largely forgotten her.

The Towers of Sunset by L.E. Modesitt, dropping back to book two of the Recluse series. Meh. I don't think I've ever believed a matriarchy written by a male author. That this is an origin-story installment (another one) may also be a factor.

Fanfic from just-past Yuletide, to be reported on later.

In progress:

Back to Rondo Allegro by Sherwood Smith, to a little short of half-way.

Up next:

Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho just arrived from the library, yays.

* Pronounced "Marchbanks."

** Which is just as well, as he'd've bungled this one, especially the election business in the last third.


Subject quote from "Let's Dance," David Bowie (RIP).


ProTip: Do not get strep throat and a sinus infection at the same time.

Short shameful confession: I would love being a professional yarn detangler. Or even semi-pro. (via lost)

Poking at the limitations of quantum mechanics. (via lost)

A report on a 1519 Latin primer for schoolboys, with English translations of the dialog.


Subject quote from "Red Sea, Black Sea," Shearwater.

Reading reading, meming meming.


The Magi'i of Cydor by L.E. Modesitt -- meh. Skipped the other half of the story to move on to

Wellspring of Chaos, also Modesitt, the first part of another two-volume novel -- which is also slow-paced (especially at the start) but otherwise rather more interesting. Am waiting for the library to cough up the other half.

The Shepherd's Crown by Terry Pratchett, the final Tiffany Aching novel. The comedy isn't as pithy as most Discworld novels, but the story is good. More interestingly, I think with this, this series moved out of YA and into adult -- which I was wondering might happen, given the arc of I Shall Wear Midnight is very much about Tiffany taking her place in the adult world, as a witch with her own steading acknowledged by both her charges and her peers, which pretty much defines the end-state of young-adult character growth. More saddening is the distinct resemblance to Persuasion, another last novel that's significantly shorter and less complicated than others, with work cut short by the author's final illness. (Do not read without the previous Tiffany novels -- and if you've done that, this is already on your list.)


Rondo Allegro by Sherwood Smith, being a Napoleonic-era historical romance (marriage-of-convenience subgenre) that echoes then explicitly rejects tropes from Regency romances. Lovely stuff, including settings (a Paris opera house) not usually touched by historical romances, but I confess I did pause it the moment my library tossed me the Pratchett. Am now back to it, of course.


Newt's Emerald by Garth Nix, a Regency-era historical fantasy (a la Mairelon the Magician) that felt thin after so much recent Heyer, to the point that I willingly forsook it for Modesitt and then Smith.

Up Next:

Yuletide 2015!


Subject quote from "The Writing's On the Wall," OK Go.


... a place for posting bits of fluff caught in my filters. Warning: I list "very bad poetry" among my interests.

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