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Why we shouldn't bother colonizing Io: every time it's eclipsed by Jupiter, its sulfur dioxide atmosphere freezes out, only to sublime back into a gas when warmed by the sun. (via)

The biggest ant war ever is still going on right now. (via)

My brother-in-law gives a TEDx talk: introduction to the double-bass, including some wicked playing.


Subject quote from "Mount Vernon," Grenville Mellen. Yes, that's in Spenserian stanzas. Really.

Short, not at all shameful confession:

We've so far managed to raise a toddler to three thinking that Mickey and Minnie Mouse are the same character, named Mickey, who happens to sometimes dress like a boy and sometimes like a girl.

Said toddler currently prefers Mickey's femme form.


Subject quote from an anonymous Tartar song, trans. W.S. Merwin.

TBD is three years and three months old.

Achievements unlocked in the last month: drawing vaguely anthropomorphic figures (with recognizable if blobby arms and legs), mixing blue and yellow finger paint to get green then adding a large blob of red under it to depict a strawberry, an appreciation of Elephant & Piggie books, "Good job!" as self-praise, demands to be thanked for small courtesies, using kid chopsticks (hinged) to eat noodles, twirling spaghetti onto a fork, finding "On Top of Spaghetti" funny, throwing paper airplanes, and answer-shopping between parents. (So far, that last hasn't worked.)

TBD can reliably count to 13 aloud, and up to 6 objects (more than that, we start losing track of which have been counted). Distinguishing "shoulder" and "stroller" is still challenging, among other pronunciations. Eating out, we talk more with strangers, and more loudly. And demand attention. Very three, as an observer commented. The last two weeks, especially, much more boundary and authority pushing.

The "scary monsters" we've been evicting from the house during bedtime ("Go away, scary monsters, you don't belong here") have been augmented by robots and skeletons and, sometimes, Darth Vader. Also, lightning and thunder has suddenly become scary, requiring reassurance that we're safe indoors.

But most of my notes this time are, for once, talking, talking:

TBD: "Let's play {$cats} are the doctors."
Me: "So we'll have to wait a while for them to see us?"
TBD: "Yeah."

"I'm pretending I'm milk in the bottle."

"Let's go to the park. No, it's too late. Let's go back."
(this was narration of pretend play)

"Thank you, rain, for putting out fires."

Improvised smoothly to the tune of "Frère Jacques" as we watched restaurant tables being cleared, all lines sung twice:
♪ Dirty dishes
Where are you?
Rolling in the trolley
Clean them up ♪

As we're taking off, looking out the window:
TBD: "There's a park! Is there a big-big kid down there?"
Me: "There probably is."
TBD: "And he's looking up, and pointing, and saying, 'Mommy, I want to get on that plane.'"
Me: "You think so?"
TBD: "But he can't, because we're already flying."

"I need to run."

"When you see the mockingbird, you point out the mockingbird, because you're the Daddy."

"I don't like the meat in bacon."

*hands to face* "Oh my goodness, I don't like heat."


Subject quote from "To Autumn," John Keats.


Reading, meming, meming, reading.

Mostly, more articles from Encyclopedia Britannica 11th edition -- right now, working through volume 11 (Franciscans to Gibson), where I am now being edified upon by French Literature.

But I've also started Parnasus edited by Ralph Waldo Emerson, a poetry anthology published late in life based on his commonplace book. As such, it has a lot of extracts not marked as such, supplied with editorial titles -- on the other hand, he includes entire several long poems, including Comus. His taste is, to my surprise, quite palatable. It turns out he was lukewarm on Wordsworth:
Wordsworth has the merit of just moral perception, but not that of deft poetic execution. How would Milton curl his lip at such slipshod newspaper style! … No great poet needs so much a severely critical selection of the noble numbers from the puerile into which he often falls. Leigh Hunt said of him, that “he was a fine lettuce with too many outer leaves.”
Well said, Mr. Hunt, well said indeed. (Emerson devotes several paragraphs to the issue, suggesting a certain defensiveness with this opinion.)


Subject quote from "To the Virginian Voyage," Michael Drayton.

Three extraordinary things:

Many lichens are not a symbiosis of algae and fungi, as we've long thought: large numbers are a symbiosis of algae, fungi, and yeast. (via)

On June 20-21, Icelandic state television RÚV did a 24-hour live broadcast of a drive on the Ring Road, all the way around Iceland, to the soundtrack of a procedurally generated 24 hour remix of Sigur Rós's "Óveður." I caught parts of this livestreamed online, and had fun recognizing places I've been. The recording is finally up on the band's website: "Route One" Content warning: hypnotic Icelandic landscapes. (via)

Via All of Bach (previously): Der Friede sei mit dir (BWV 158).


Subject quote from "Everybody Got Their Something," Nikka Costa.

In lieu of a regular reading-day post, some picture books I've particularly liked over the past two years:

Goyangi Means Cat, words by Christine McDonnell, pictures by Steve Johnson & Lou Fancher -- One of the few adoption books we've found that really is entirely from the child's point of view: it refuses to flinch from Soo Min's deep grieving. (It is very hard to keep my voice from breaking up when I read this aloud.) Korean rather than Chinese adoptee, but close enough to be representation.

My New Mom and Me, words and pictures by Renata Galindo -- Almost as tightly child-POV as Goyangi, this features a domestic interracial adoption (probably foster-to-adopt), with the mother drawn as a cat and the child as a dog. It's also a little more upbeat. And, yes, adoption is about all parties learning how to be a new family.

Over the River and Through the Woods, words by Linda Ashman, pictures by Kim Smith -- Four families travel to the grandparents' house for a holiday dinner ("bring your favorite pie!"). The text itself is quietly quirky, with spot-on versification, but the pictures are a delight of diversity: one family has a gay marriage, two have interracial marriages, and one has interracial adoptees (twin east-asian girls). Representation for the win.

Moonday, words and pictures by Adam Rex -- One day, a girl wakes up to find that last night's big, full moon is even bigger, because it's in her backyard. For all I love the wackiness of Smekday and his illustrations for the Chu books, I think Rex is at his best with quietly quirky -- see also his recent release, School's First Day of School. (Bonus representation: it's subtly painted, but the girl seems to be an east-asian adoptee.)

Good Night, Gorilla, words and pictures by Peggy Rathmann -- An excellent bedtime book, simple enough for younger toddlers but with enough going on for older ones to still enjoy. A zookeeper does final rounds for the night, unaware that a gorilla has swiped his keys and is letting the other animals loose. See also Rathmann's much busier 10 Minutes to Bedtime, which takes place on the same street.

The Very Busy Spider, words and pictures by Eric Carle -- I do not know why, but I like this one more than anything else by Carle. Yes, it's yet another farmyard animal book. I still like it. Spider!

Mimi Says No, words by Yih-Fen Chou, pictures by Chih-Yuan Chen -- Not only does this navigate the tricky balance of toddler independence versus security, but it's the rare picture book in English with animal characters that don't code as white (the artist is Taiwanese). More translations from Asia, please.

Ling and Ting, words and pictures by Grace Lin -- Not picture books, but very early readers, specifically a series (four out so far) featuring twin Chinese-American girls who are very silly in entirely childlike ways. My favorite so far is the second, Not Exactly the Same.

Recommendations for more, especially early readers at the level of the Elephant and Piggie books, cheerfully accepted.


Subject quote from "Solsbury Hill," Peter Gabriel.

Reading? Reading! Well, some. Specifically, aside from finishing Books and Characters, all I've done is grazed selective* articles from a random slices of the 11th edition Encyclopedia Britannica snaffled from Project Gutenberg.**

Which is something to do carefully, of course -- as Wikisource notes: "The point of view held by the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica is roughly the one of the British and American educated classes at the beginning of the twentieth century. Any topic that would be sensitive to this point-of-view (POV) should be considered potentially biased … Changing circumstances and more recent research may have rendered this information obsolete or revealed it to be inaccurate, especially in the areas of science, law, and ethnography."

To give an example, the literature articles were edited by Edmund Gosse, who wrote several himself, and are, let us be diplomatic here, very late Victorian in mindset. Himself on John Donne:
The influence of Donne upon the literature of England was singularly wide and deep, although almost wholly malign. His originality and the fervour of his imaginative passion made him extremely attractive to the younger generation of poets, who saw that he had broken through the old tradition, and were ready to follow him implicitly into new fields…

The first impression of an unbiased reader who dips into the poems of Donne is unfavourable. He is repulsed by the intolerably harsh and crabbed versification, by the recondite choice of theme and expression, and by the oddity of the thought. In time, however, he perceives that behind the fantastic garb of language there is an earnest and vigorous mind, an imagination that harbours fire within its cloudy folds, and an insight into the mysteries of spiritual life which is often startling. Donne excels in brief flashes of wit and beauty, and in sudden daring phrases that have the full perfume of poetry in them.
Needless to say, I disagree with much of this.

OTOH, the math articles were overseen, and many written, by Alfred North Whitehead, so while they are firmly in the Principia Mathematica mindset, they are nicely lucid and readable.

Anyway, articles from a couple eighths of an encyclopedia volume, all either beginning with B and D.

* As in, what looked interesting.

** Pro-tip: to create an ebook TOC, use regex to parse out bolded article titles and stick them in heading tags.


Subject quote from "Wernher Von Braun," Tom Lehrer.

The Periodic Table of Storytelling. Content warning: TV Tropes links. Which is basically the point of the page: an organized portal to key tropes. (via)

Why "Fuck you" isn't an imperative. Tl;dr: "fuck" isn't, here, a verb. via)

The Legend of Gnome Ann.


Subject quote from "No Surrender," Bruce Springsteen.

Short shameful confession

I'm willing to enjoy pickles, by way of modeling foods for TBD, but I draw the line at olives.


TBD is three years and two months old. We're having more and more days of being easily frustrated by Everything Being All Wrong. But I repeat myself.

Achievements recently unlocked include: independent narrated play (holding both sides of a conversation with toys), answering when a stranger asks "What's your name?", eviction of the booster seat when we're eating at home, eviction of scary monsters by drawing them and so trapping them in the paper, desire for improvised self-inserted bedtime storytelling ("Talk about my X day"), ambivalence to thunder, songs with both words and tune invented, basic wordplay jokes, Candyland, and flipping standard-height light switches while standing on the floor.

(Speaking of achievements, I've had to adjust the verses of "We Shall Overcome" as sung at bedtime to match current aspirations. Currently the cycle starts with "We shall overcome," "We'll not be afraid," and "We shall all hold hands" (all canonical), then "We'll go straight to sleep," then as many of "We shall dress ourselves," "We'll pedal our bike," and "We shall drive a truck" as needed to extend the song, then always "We shall grow up strong," ending with canon again with "We shall all be one.")

Pretend play all over the place, including a phase (sparked by a newborn down the block) of taking care of a baby, sometimes with the doll named Baby but just as often imaginary. Lots of injuries and trips to the hospital, in ambulances, for people and stuffies. Plus, as mentioned above, growing independent play with toys, narrated aloud in a soft enough voice I usually can't make out what's happening (though the "Oh no!" when something falls is pretty clear). Contrariwise, playing a game with set rules and turns is also a major milestone (Candyland was consciously chosen as a starter for learning just that).

The ability to grasp (and build on) simple logical explanations astonishes me ("I don't want it [Pedialyte] because I'm all better now"), as is the growing ability to think and plan ahead ("I want to save my strawberries for tomorrow [at school]"). Abstraction, it has arrived.

Pronunciation continues to improve, though I still struggle differentiating medial -r- and -l-. I managed to get down a couple more talking, talking bits:

Me: *reading from a didactic book* "What makes you happy?"
TBD: "Reading book!"
Me: *glances at the book piles covering the coffee table* "Anything else?"
TBD: *points to next page to say 'Keep Reading, Dad'*

TBD: *watching TV* "Those cars are talking. And playing the music."
Janni: "They are."
TBD: "That's funny."

"Don't draw in picture books, Dad. It's not safe. For the books."

"You're in the way of the Grandma. You sit over there."
(grandparents are now firmly and entirely Grandma and Grandpa)

*petulant* "I don't like that. I'm going to walk away."
(and did just that, not come back to the table until no longer mad)

TBD: "Why we get owies?"
Janni: "Everyone gets owies sometimes. It's ... how the world works. Sometimes we're happy and sometimes we get owies."
TBD: "And then we get band-aid!"



Subject quote from "The Pleasant Comedy of Patient Grisell," Thomas Dekker, Henry Chettle, and William Haughton, song attributed to Dekker.


Reading, reading. Not much, but some anyway.

In Tales of a Wayside Inn, in a discussion of whether artists should stick to local material or mine other cultures, which in 19th century America generally meant European subjects, one character says:
Poets—the best of them—are birds
Of passage; where their instinct leads
They range abroad for thoughts and words,
And from all climes bring home the seeds
That germinate in flowers or weeds.
Over his lifetime, Longfellow published five collections (called "flights") of poems under the general title Birds of Passage -- the second of which was tacked onto the end of the first installment of Tales. As suggested by the association, the subjects mostly range widely from the local, both in place and time. They also betray persistent anxiety over the purpose and power of poetry. Overall, the quality is good -- there are, in fact, a few anthology classics here, including "My Lost Youth" (which gave Frost the title for A Boy's Will), "Snow-Flakes," and my favorite, "The Children's Hour." I don't necessarily recommend reading all the collections, as I did, unless you already want to read more Longfellow. But I don't regret doing so.

In fiction, reread Earthlight by Arthur C. Clarke, which I haven't done since I was a teen -- when I read it a couple times a year (it was part of the handful of SF at our usual summer vacation place). It's a very white male future, without any women in sight (though a few are mentioned), and several aspects of how astronomy is done has been overtaken by technological progress. The story proper is sound, though, and I want to see a good writer (one who knows how to represent) to steal the plot revise it as a contemporary skiffy yarn of political intrigue. Possibly, along the way, adding some actual sense of tension to what is ostensibly a thriller.

In nonfiction, finished The Art of Fugue by Joseph Kerman, got only a little way into The Garden of Cyrus, and read ¾ of Books and Characters by Lytton Strachey, which is literary criticism in what I think of as the Woolfean Common Reader mode -- I got sucked into this because I was pointed to the essay on Beddoes. (I confess I end up skimming the French essays, as they include a lot of untranslated quotations.)


Subject quote from "The Kennebec," Anonymous.

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

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