19 April 2004

New Dunning!

Holy crap! Look what I just found by accident on the Munro's site. Gotta get me to a bookstore.

More 50 Books

Phew! I've read rather a lot so far this year. And I thought my reading rate had slowed down.

  1. The Queen's Conjurer by Benjamin Wolley. I knew who John Dee was before I read this book, but I didn't realize he was a legitimate scientist as well as a particularly crackpot astrologer. This biography of Queen Elizabeth's favourite astronomer/angel contactee was a little dry at times, but was mostly just really, really interesting. (And, by the way, I adore the remainder/bargain tables at Munro's Books.)
  2. Voodoo Science by Robert Park. This was a fabulous look at things pretty much on the border between science and pseudoscience. Some of the stuff Park covered was obviously crackpot, but some of it was less obvious. I found the part on homeopathy especially enlightening.
  3. The Search for the Giant Squid by Richard Ellis. I've been wanting to read Ellis's seamonster book for ages, so when I saw this one at Munro's (on the aforementioned remainder table), I had to have it. I'm not sure I buy all of Ellis's explanations for sea-serpent sightings (some of them look/sound more like whales or really big sharks than squid, but then I'm not a marine biologist). This is a great book, though, with my favourite ingredients for a volume of its sort: sections on biology and sections on folklore and sections on literature and sections on . . .
  4. On Writing by Stephen King. I reviewed this one for my work site. I'm not a fan of King, largely because I've not read more than a short story or two. This is a really good read, though, even if you're not a writer. There's lots of insight into how writers (or one writer, anyway) work. It's made me take a second look at some of those huge novels I keep seeing in the stores. Now if I could just find one really cheap.
  5. The Complete Sherlock Holmes, Volume 2 by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. At last, I get to some fiction! 8 or 9 hundred pages of Sherlockian goodness, this is. I was constantly surprised by how well these stories stand up so many years later, especially compared to some much more recent books.
  6. Timeline by Michael Crichton. I think this is the first Crichton book I've ever read. And after reading Peter Atkin's chapters on quantum mechanics and spacetime in Gallileo's Finger, I thought the time-travel mechanism really didn't work very well. It would probably have read better if Crichton had been more vague and trusted that his readers didn't need to have a full explanation. Also, the plot seemed to be pretty much a rack on which to hang all those ideas and carefully researched details about medieval France. That said, it was a pretty good, if pulpy read. And I kind of needed something pulpy after all that cerebral Holmes stuff.
  7. The Stone Circle by Gary Goshgarian. I picked this one up--at Value Village, I think--because the cover blurb reminded me very, very much of Grahame Joyce's Dark Sister (a lovely book that I very much recommend). I was curious to see how much alike they were. Plus the protagonist was an archaeologist. Anyway, there was some pretty crackpotty stuff--Mystery Hill and all--and it was not a fabulous book, but an okay escape for a few hours.
  8. Shadows in the Sea by Thomas B. Allen. A Times Colonist book sale find, this one's all about sharks (and skates and rays). The first few sections were a little too focussed on shark attacks, but there was lots of great folklore and biology here, too. And recipes. Plus, it was the perfect thing to read while "Daughters of the Sea King" (about halfway done now) was still an idea rattling around in my brain.
  9. A History of Pirates by Nigel Cawthorne. I kept thinking this guy's name was Nathaniel Hawthorne. Wouldn't that be confusing? Anyway, this is another post-Pirates of the Caribbean, gotta-read-about-pirates book. It's not as good as David Cordingly's book (but then, this guy isn't the world's foremost expert on pirates), but still worth reading.
  10. How We Believe by Michael Shermer. Another skepticism book, this time about belief--how and why people believe stuff and how that relates to why people believe pseudoscience instead of science. Also, it's very well written.

Anyway, that's the next ten. There are still more before I get to the end (looks like exactly ten more, unless I finish something else before I get back to this list).

18 April 2004

Self Torture

Here's why I want the see the movie version of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, even though I know it will be awful:
I had a sort of strange anticipation, a quivering of foreboding, that had to be satisfied. I didn't just want to see LXG to see what new stupidities could be put on screen. No, I was entranced by the prospect. LXG was a pile-up on the highway, beckoning to the passing drivers to take a look.
(It's from Chris Lawson's Frankenstein Journal.)

17 April 2004

50 Books

Somebody, somewhere, on some blog or livejournal or other (it wasn't one I regularly read, and I don't even remember where I found it from), issued a challenge to read 50 books in 2004 and then blog about them. Then later on I came across someone who was going to read 52 books in 52 weeks (that one I found via Bookslut, I think. This sounds like fun, I thought. This sounds like something I can do. I changed the idea, a little, and I'm just going to see how many books I can read this year (though I'll keep 50 as a general goal, just to have something to aim for). I don't know whether I'll blog much about them, but I will list them here. So, the books I've read so far this year (not counting ones I started in 2003 and finished in 2004) are:

  1. Skeptics and True Believers by Chet Raymo. This is very readable and interesting book about science and religion and the differences between them. Though Raymo is a little more hopeful, this is the book that really helped me figure out that religion and science are in many ways antithetical. This is a good one for those interested in why we believe (or not).
  2. Why People Believe Weird Things by Michael Shermer. Notice the beginnings of a trend here? Not only am I trying to figure out how things work, but I want to know why we sometimes have clashes in ideas about how things work.
  3. Eccentric Lives, Peculiar Notions by John Michel. This one is more about strange individuals and their strage convictions than about why people in general believe things in general. The writing was a little uneven, and generally mediocre, but the people Michel wrote about were quite fascinating.
  4. The Ancient Engineers by L. Sprague deCamp. This is a book that combines my interest in crackpotism with my passion for archaeology. DeCamp looks at the history of technology and does a little debunking along the way. It's a little out of date, but still holds up surprisingly well.
  5. The New Aquarium Handbook by Ines Scheurmann. Yeah, so I want to get some fish. And I always have to read up on things before I do them. It's kind of a short book, and I considered leaving it off the list, but then again, some of the others are very long.
  6. Bettas by Robert J. Goldstein. Another fish book (this time specifically on Siamese fighting fish), also pretty short. I still do not have any fish.
  7. Galileo's Finger by Peter Atkins. The subtitle is something about 10 great ideas in science, and Atkins gives a chapter to each, starting with evolution, then moving on through DNA, atoms, mathematics, entropy, and some others I've forgotten for the moment, to spacetime. There were some pretty brain-busting things in this book, but I made myself read very carefully. Atkins does a pretty good job of simplifying concepts so they're understandable to the layperson without rendering them completely meaningless.
  8. Under the Black Flag by David Cordingly. How can you not like a book by "the world's foremost expert on pirates"? Yes, this was brought on by viewing Pirates of the Caribbean. But I have always liked pirates. Who hasn't? Anyway, if you only read one book about pirates (as they say), make it this one.
  9. Are Universes Thicker Than Blackberries? by Martin Gardner. This is a collection of essays. I found some very thought-provoking, and others not so much. But it was mostly well-written (a few mediocre parts, but they weren't too distracting). Okay, there was some math stuff I just didn't get . . .
  10. Generation S.L.U.T. by Marty Beckerman. I read this one to review for my Teenwriting site, because Marty wrote it when he was 19, and I interviewed him about it. It's pretty disturbing. I don't remember being that fucked up when I was a teenager.

Well, that's the first ten. I haven't got to the end of the books I read so far in 2004 yet, but I'm getting a little weary of sitting at the computer. More later.

League of Extraordinary Books

My attempt to read all books referenced or alluded to in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (the comic, not the movie) is proceeding. Slowly, but it goes. I got all the way through the entire Sherlock Holmes canon (very delightful books, now go read them). Then I got sidetracked by other books, but only temporarily. If I can find a copy of Doyle's The Lost World, that'll be next. If not, then I'll move on to Poe, probably. Or else Jules Verne.

One of the things that has distracted me is science. I'm not exactly sure why, but I developed an urge--a quite strong one--to understand more about the universe. Now, I've always been interested in science--at times in the past I was going to be a geologist, a marine biologist, a botanist, and a wolf biologist; when I studied archaeology, I focused on zooarchaeology and when I studied folklore, one of my main interests was pseudoscience--but I've never felt quite so compelled to wrap my brain around things scientific. So I've been reading lots of science books, as well as history and archaeology and other disciplines that seek to understand the whys of the universe and civilization.

Comic Surprise

I hate when things go awry. I just wrote a long and witty post (of which the following post will be a bland paraphrase), then I went to a different webpage to collect another URL, and when I went back to BlogThis, all my text was gone (but the original link), as if it had reset to when I first opened it. Aargh!

Anyway, I was writing about how I was just searching the Vancouver Island Regional Library (VIRL) catalogue, and couldn't figure out why most of the graphic novels had no call numbers. Turns out, they have no call numbers because they are shelved in with the fiction. This is logical; graphic novels are usually fictional, and therefore should be in with the rest of the fiction. The reason I was surprised, I think, is because at the Greater Victoria Public Library (GVPL), all the graphic novels are in the non-fiction, which sometimes makes sense (as where Maus is shelved with the books on the Holocaust), but which means that someone just browsing the shelves for a good read is less likely to find graphic fiction.

Then I went on to say something about how I'd always percieved the VIRL as rather backward--I remember when signing out a book meant writing the title and your name on a sheet of paper at the check-out desk--and how the GVPL seemed much more sophisticated. Maybe because our municipality was a member of the VIRL and not the GVPL. The GVPL was unattainable until a few years ago, when Colwood/Langford joined up, and the VIRL left town.

Anyway, this is the second time I've been pleasantly surprised by the Cowichan branch of the VIRL. The first time was when I went in expecting to sign out one book (which I hadn't expected to find there), and came away with six as a result of browsing down a single aisle (the one with science and folklore) while waiting for my mother. And I could eaily have taken more. I put several back.

It's good to have your perceptions changed once in a while.

13 April 2004

What Colour is Your Dragon?

A SILVER Dragon Lies Beneath!

My inner dragon color is SILVER. Click here to try the Quiz!

My inner dragon is to dragons what the Ranger is to humans. I possess considerable intelligence and self-confidence. I live by my own code of ethics and I stick to it at all times. Click the image to try the Inner Dragon Online Quiz for yourself.

12 April 2004

Writing: Deadly Webs

So there's this contest where you send in your mystery novel manuscript (by July 1) and you can win a publication contract and a nice fat advance (not so different from trying to get published in the regular way, really, except the contest is limited to first novels).

I figure, I can write a novel by July 1. Or a draft of one, at least. With sufficient motivation (and if a chance at $10,000 isn't sufficient motivation . . . ). The problem is, can I write a mystery novel? I can read them, but that's rather different. But I've come up with a character--a zooarchaeologist. I'm thinking maybe she solves some mystery from the past (maybe recent past, to give it more immediacy). Something that someone else doesn't want solved. Murder, probably. Or else she debunks some pseudoscience that is somehow tangled up with a murder.

Or I could have a folklorist who solves crimes that copycat contemporary legends (that's urban myths for any non-folklorists out there). Now I just need a plot . . .

06 April 2004

I Am . . .

Grammar God!
You are a GRAMMAR GOD!

If your mission in life is not already to
preserve the English tongue, it should be.
Congratulations and thank you!

How grammatically sound are you?
brought to you by Quizilla
(Link via Language Log and Languagehat.)

05 April 2004


So I was getting all ready to submit a proposal and samples to Girlamatic. And then I checked today, and they've already found 11 new creators, so the open submissions are now closed. Sigh. I really wanted to see Fey there. But the news isn't all bad--it's still okay to send submissions, it's just that there won't be any openings until fall. Which is probably good, really. It means more time to get my stuff looking better (I didn't do very well in my first attempts to use Illustrator, and my results with Photoshop were less that ideal), and my proposal sounding better. And I'll probably (finally) invest in my own domain and more webspace/bandwidth than my current Geocities site can provide, and get some of my stuff up for people to read.

And, in case you're wondering, I'm having a strange and hectic and not really very nice week (er, couple of weeks), and I'm still sleepy, so I'm probably not terribly coherent. Or at all focussed. Or, probably, capable of spelling.