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[personal profile] bibliofile
Just took this back to the library, so I want to mention it before it drops out of my short-term memory. An excellent book, or as [personal profile] jaeleslie put it, "Theodora Goss is a fucking genius."

It starts in London with Mary Jekyll, mixes in mysteries (is Dr. Jekyll still alive?), suitably dismal nuns (caring for Mary's half-sister, Diana Hyde), adds in a bit of Holmes and Watson (on their way to another gruesome murder scene), further explores what Dr. Jekyll was trying to do (oh, and he was an alchemist, and they had this alchemist's society), and goes on from there.

It's not just one girl's quest for anything, though: there's the mystery of whether Mary & Diana's father is still alive. Mary tries to hire Sherlock Holmes for the task. There are other interesting people that they meet, especially the women. There is some science involved, and sexism (c'mon, it's the Victorians). A bunch of nuns trying to teach poor women some work skills to save them from sin, in suitably dreary conditions. And a couple of ghastly murders occur, too.

If this sounds anything like your cup of tea, READ THIS BOOK. Like Jae said: Theodora Goss is a fucking genius.

Reading: Gemini

Sep. 20th, 2017 09:18 pm
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[personal profile] white_hart
In the final book in Dorothy Dunnett's House of Niccolò series, Nicholas de Fleury returns to Scotland to try to make amends for the damage caused by his earlier actions and to safeguard his family from the enemies who have tried to kill both him and them so many times. For a while, I thought that Gemini was going to be a bit of an anticlimax to the series; several plot threads were resolved at the end of Caprice and Rondo, and Gemini is almost entirely set in Scotland, lacking the exotic locations of the earlier books. Nicholas has also changed and grown, and in Gemini is tackling the task of learning to care for people, and not just for the outcomes of his schemes. However, after a slow start, the novel gathers pace and the psychological drama is more than a match for the drama of any of Dunnett's other novels; there were just as many twists and edge-of-the-seat moments, and I found it just as hard to put down. It's a fitting end to the series, and like the ending of Checkmate leaves me wanting to go back and re-read key moments from earlier in the series in the light of the final revelations.

Fittingly, having started reading The Game of Kings on my 40th-birthday trip to Scotland, because I wanted to read something set in Scotland while I was there, I read Gemini while on holiday in Scotland once again. Three and a bit years, 14 books, at least 7,000 pages and an amazing sweep of European and Middle Eastern history in the early modern and late Middle Ages later, I can safely say that it has been one of the most intense reading experiences I've ever had. I can't actually remember who it was who made Dunnett sound intriguing enough for me to give her a try (I suspect it may have been a gestalt entity of friends and acquaintances), but it's been incredible, and in many ways I'm sorry to have come to the end. (I do still have King Hereafter to read, and will probably give the Johnson Johnson novels a try at least, but neither is going to be the same.)

Rosh Hashana 5778

Sep. 20th, 2017 02:55 pm
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[personal profile] filkerdave

Tonight at sundown marks the start of the Rosh Hashanah and the year 5778. May all of you reading this be inscribed in the Book of Life for a happy, healthy, and prosperous year ahead.

לשנה טובה

Happy Birthday [personal profile] randy_byers

Sep. 19th, 2017 08:12 am
del: (Default)
[personal profile] del
Hope the day is bright in Seattle.

linkage

Sep. 17th, 2017 01:10 am
bibliofile: Fan & papers in a stack (from my own photo) (Default)
[personal profile] bibliofile
Life After Hate's fundraising effort to continue its work after the Trump administration removed the group from its list of approved organizations for the Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) grant. Apparently Trump's people only believe in fighting Islamic extremism, not (y'know) the one that wreaks more actual violence here in the US.

The skiffy roots of the far right, from The Daily Beast. Pournelle and Niven et al., oh my.

On the plus side, trolls hijack white power (et al.) subreddits to discuss color swatches. Parents, don't let your kids grow up to be, er, disappearing moderators. (via [personal profile] conuly)

ETA: Programs meant to encourage women in STEM may be backfiring — because it’s not women who need to change, from Salon. New study finds that women in STEM tend to stick it out, but the field still suffers from pervasive sexism. Duh.

Reading: The Shortest Way to Hades

Sep. 16th, 2017 10:08 am
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[personal profile] white_hart
The Shortest Way to Hades is the second of Sarah Caudwell's Hilary Tamar novels, and is very similar to the first; Hilary, Professor of Legal History at Oxford, is called in by the junior members of the barristers' chambers at 62 New Square to investigate the death of a young woman who was recently involved in a variation of trusts case in which all of them represented various parties, and which they feel was suspicious. Like the first novel, it's entertaining and contains some lovely comic scenes; I particularly enjoyed the account of how Selena, on finding herself present at an orgy, decides that her preferred pleasure is in fact reading the copy of Pride and Prejudice she happened to have in her bag (a woman after my own heart!), and, having an Oxford background, I also very much liked Hilary's justification for not taking part in examining, which was an absolutely pitch-perfect example of the Oxford don's refusal to carry out a disagreeable task couched as a favour to absolutely everyone else. Meanwhile, the mystery was well enough plotted that I didn't come anywhere close to suspecting the real murderer until the final reveal, which is all you can really ask of a mystery, after all.

I think I enjoyed Thus Was Adonis Murdered more, but I'm not sure whether that's because the second book is so similar that I knew exactly what I was going to be getting and there wasn't the pleasure of discovering something new, or if I simply wasn't quite in the right mood for it; I certainly think it's just as good a book.

Wedding anniversary

Sep. 15th, 2017 07:13 pm
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[personal profile] flick
Today was out wedding anniversary.

I made Mike a card:


(I've only had the book on paper quilting for a year, after all!) Worth clicking to embiggen, ifIdosaysomyself.

Mike very kindly did all the mucking out.

(While he did so, I took Jo to the vet. Over the last week or so, she's been occasionally yelping or whining, but it's got more frequent and last night she had a particularly bad spell that involved her making a noise for a minute or so. The vet couldn't find anything particularly, but did think she was maybe not *quite* so keen to take her weight on one of her front legs. It may also be a neck thing, although she did have a good feel around there. Short walks and more painkiller than usual for a week, and we'll see how she goes on.)

We had a quiet lunch at home.

(During which I took some ibuprofen for a headache and Mike had a migraine pill)

After lunch, and Jo's walk, we headed off to darkest Sussex to look at a horse.

He's called Thunder Joe, a name which is definitely going to be unused in full.

We liked him enough to ride, and it seemed to go quite well.

Even if it did hail while I was on him, and we were in a field with overly-long grass, which is one of my least favourite places to ride.

We'll go back and see him again next week, with riding instructor, using a school that they can borrow just down the road.

If riding instructor answers her text messages....

Afterwards, we headed home again.

I'm not sure how the day has been utterly exhausting, but we're both worn out now!

We had a lovely special anniversary dinner...

(Party-left-over soup from the freezer, and the other half of the loaf of bread that neither of us ate much of for lunch

...and now we're on the sofa with a bottle of wine.

Thankfully, Mike did a run to France yesterday!
filkerdave: Made by LJ user fasterpussycat (Default)
[personal profile] filkerdave

It pretty much kills any real social media time, especially longer-form stuff like DW. I could probably do more if I turned the computer on at night but I really try never to do that when I'm on a project. There's no reason to.

Maybe things will even out a little. I'd made a commitment to myself to write here regularly, and I haven't quite been able to do it for the past few weeks.

On the bright side, Baltimore is a nice town so far. I'm sure there are parts that aren't nice, but that's true of every city, isn't it?

Smart duck

Sep. 12th, 2017 07:27 pm
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[personal profile] flick
When we went to put the animals to bed (before dinner! The nights are drawing in.), Eskarina was sitting on her own by the pond. She looked up and wiggled a bit when I walked over to get the feed dish, but she didn't jump up and head for bed, which was ominous.

I gave Mike the rugs I was carrying (most of the boys rugs are off being cleaned at the moment, but their two thinnest ones go in our washing machine ok so I took advantage of a sunny, breezy day to de-stink them) and went to pick her up, which is when I realised that she had a piece of nylon thread wrapped around one of her legs.

Fortunately, she didn't wiggle while I untangled her, and even more fortunately she hadn't been struggling enough to have actually cut all the way through the skin. As soon as I'd finished, though, she was off with a flap of her wings and a squawk.

It got me thinking, though (after I'd picked up the rest of the thread and thrown it away): it doesn't really surprise me that, say, elephants go to people when they need medical help*: they're smart. Similarly, dogs do it because they're tame. Ducks, though, are neither of those things. My runners are fairly domesticated, but anyone who's ever seen the reaction when I have to pick one up knows that they're not at all tame**.

Mike pointed out that birds are quite smart for brain size, and it's true that I'd be fairly unsurprised if, say, a corvid that I'd been feeding did the same thing. On the other hand, I'd be completely astonished if the robin, who follows me around when I'm carrying the duck / wild bird food, nagging me to hurry up with it, did the same thing.

* Elephants also, I just heard on the World Service, go into stealth mode when in danger from people: they hide out during the day and travel fast at night if they know that there are poachers in the area. There are now plans to look out for this on the researchers' movement trackers, so that they can alert the rangers to be on the look out for trouble when they see that sort of movement pattern!

** Except Esme, she was fairly tame, poor little thing.

Reading: The Mark of the Horse Lord

Sep. 12th, 2017 07:07 pm
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[personal profile] white_hart
Reading Gwyneth Jones put me in mind of Rosemary Sutcliff, and as I'm off to Argyll on holiday soon I thought I would re-read The Mark of the Horse Lord, which is set in Argyll. Unlike most of Sutcliff's novels set in Roman Britain, Phaedrus, the protagonist of The Mark of the Horse Lord, isn't a Roman soldier; instead, he's a half-British ex-gladiator, son of a Greek wine merchant and a slave woman, who lived his whole life as a slave until being freed after winning a fight in the arena. By coincidence, he discovers that he is the exact double of Midir, the exiled prince of the Dalriad tribe, and is persuaded to impersonate Midir and travel beyond the northern boundary of the Empire to lead a rebellion and win back the kingdom of the Dalriads from Queen Liadhan, who has seized the throne and imposed the old matrilineal rule of the Earth-Mother in place of the patrilineal worship of the Sun-God. The plot is not dissimilar to The Prisoner of Zenda, really, as Phaedrus tries to take over another man's life and relationships and learn how to be a king.

This isn't my favorite Sutcliff; Phaedrus is a less sympathetic protagonist than the various members of the family in the Dolphin Ring saga, hardened by the years in the arena as he is, although he does become more sympathetic as the story goes on. I also don't find the society of the Dalriads, beyond the frontiers of the Empire, as interesting as the Roman society depicted in the books set inside the Empire, and, revisiting it now, I also feel that the conflict between the matrilineal and patrilineal societies is probably more nuanced than the book really suggests, and I wish we had got to see Liadhan's point of view as well as Phaedrus's.

Morris first aid

Sep. 12th, 2017 09:28 am
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[personal profile] watervole
 We were dancing at Swanage Folk Festival this weekend and I had the usual use of our team first aid kit, a child with a scratched finger needing a plaster (it's hardly ever team members needing it).

However, not long after, a dancer twisted a foot mid-dance. He swapped out and tossed his stick to me and we finished the dance without missing a step. After the dance was over, I got out the emergency ice pack and a crepe bandage and applied both. By the afternoon (with the bandage re-applied) he was well enough to walk the procession, but sensible enough not to try stepping.


There are days when I'm very glad that I carry that kit around wherever we go.

(The item that I deliberately included in the kit, but hope never to have to use, is an eye pad. One has to be realistic about the risk of stick injuries when it comes to Border morris.)

Apart from having the right kit to treat the injury, the other big plus for me was that the dancer in question knew I could instantly replace him and we swapped without affecting the dance at all.  I
 work hard to learn every position in every dance (which is not to say that I never make mistakes) and it means that I can fill in almost  anywhere.  Some dancers only ever learn a single position.  They'll dance second in line on the left in dance A and in position 3 in dance B and so on.

I tend to visualise dances from an overhead viewpoint, so I see the overall pattern and that means I remember "First corners cross" rather than "I swap places with Henry". I've also been dancing for most of my life, so half the patterns are second nature anyway.

The boys are back

Sep. 11th, 2017 01:29 pm
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[personal profile] flick


I have a bean-pod-cut, sustained while helping Mike prep dinner veg last night. It's a bit like a paper cut, but more absurd.

Reading: Rainbow Bridge

Sep. 10th, 2017 05:16 pm
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[personal profile] white_hart
Rainbow Bridge is the fifth and more or less final novel in the sequence Gwyneth Jones began with Bold As Love (there is a sixth book set in the same universe, published several years later, but that appears to be a YA novel with a different main character, rather than part of the main continuity). It begins more or less where the fourth left off, in a near-future, post-oil England which has just been invaded and is under military occupation, and sees Ax, Fiorinda and Sage (Jones's near-future rockstar Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot) playing a complicated game, having to work with the invaders to try to prevent further loss of life and manipulate the global political civilisation to give the world the best possible chance of surviving the coming Dark Age.

It's taken me over a decade to finish this series, despite loving the first two; it took me a while to get round to obtaining a copy of the third, and then I wasn't reading much, because citalopram killed my ability to become absorbed in a narrative, and in any case I was scared to try to face the darkness of Jones's post-catastrophe near-future. I only returned to it after re-reading The Once and Future King left me thinking that the tragedy of the Arthur story could have been avoided if only someone had told them about poly, and I remembered that that's exactly what Jones does here.

Despite reading it so slowly, I have liked the series a lot; the narrative is odd, disjointed in places, and the structure of the novels is somewhat unconventional, veering between affairs of state and the trio's polywobbles, with parts of the political action taking place offstage and merely reported in a way that would drive the advocates of show-don't-tell as an unbreakable rule of writing round the bend, but somehow it works for me. I like the characters, too, even if I have found myself wanting to smack all of the central trio with codfish at multiple points throughout the series. And actually, like Rosemary Sutcliff's novels of post-Roman Britain, which are an obvious influence on Jones (there is a chapter in Rainbow Bridge entitled 'The Lantern Bearers', and a section called 'The Shield Ring'), while the future of these novels is dark and scary and beset with difficulties, it's not a hopeless future; what matters, mostly, is love and loyalty and being able to be flexible in some things while absolutely inflexible in others, and ultimately, it's quite a hopeful book, and ends with Jones's three heroes finally able to settle down in peaceful obscurity, away from the public eye.

Definitely autumnal...

Sep. 10th, 2017 06:01 pm
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[personal profile] flick
- fungi in the woods
- misty mornings
- light rugs on the boys overnight (and associated repeatedly checking the rain radar to see when we should bring them in to make sure they don't get caught in a shower just before the rugs go on them)
- no longer need to water the garden
- two evening haynets for the boys
- bringing them down the hill on my own when Mike's in London
- entrance to ex-Mrs Up The Hill's field turned into a swamp....

So, today we moved the boys back into our field. That meant a busy morning: leave the boys in the stableyard; go up the hill for a final poo pick and taking down the electric fence; put the electric fence back up in our field (the grass is still growing, so we'll put them in a small bit of it for a month or so and then start strip grazing for the winter); point out to the boys that the gate to the field is now open and watch them charge in to start noshing).

I've also started the sloe gin, which will be much more abundant than last year. It somehow seems wrong to be picking them so early, but some of the ones we picked today were almost over-ripe.

It's nearly time for jelly making, once we've fitted in a day scrumping on the common. The chilli one last year was quite a hit, and the patio chillis have done well (unlike the conservatory ones, which are pathetic), and I've not made a sloe one for a few years (and have plenty of sloes still in our hedge if needed). I probably want one more, suggestions welcome....

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