Monthly Archives: April 2018

The Search for Earth’s Twin

Whenever the Resident IT Consultant says ‘I thought you might want to read this’ to Daughter, she never does. She made an exception for this book, however. Stuart Clark’s well-written The Search for Earth’s Twin, was a book she read, and then said she might read again.

The Resident IT Consultant had bought two copies, one for her, one for us, because it was going cheap at The Works. First he read it and then I did. I didn’t want to commit, so started by giving it the once-over, which resulted in me reading all of it as well.

Stuart Clark, The Search for Earth's Twin

This is Daughter’s world. ‘Everything’ in the book is relevant, and I kept coming across names of people that pop up in our daily conversations. I feel I finally know what it is she does, and I intend to put this book into the hands of anyone careless enough to ask what it is she does.

It goes from Doppler in the early 19th century, and from there on most of the names you might recognise from school physics books have done their bit. Published in 2016, Stuart even covers some of what is happening right now, like TESS, which was launched in mid-April this year.

So not only could I read about the acronyms I’ve had thrown at me for nearly three years, but I half understand some of the physics, not to mention the agony for the people involved, when they were not believed, or when they were scooped, or the funding disappeared despite theirs being a very good idea.

The one thing that made me uncomfortable was finding Geoffrey Marcy being used as the red thread through the history of searching for exoplanets. Stuart Clark’s compelling first chapter describes the young Marcy in 1982, with his doubts for the future, and this would have been a great opening, were it not for more recent developments. Bad timing, but these things happen.

Still, a fantastic read about astrophysics today for the layman. And we seem to have another two copies of the book, in case of emergencies.

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Board books and sex

OK, so this isn’t as bad as you think.

Remember the board books I told you about a few weeks ago? There were some tiny board books about pioneering women, and then there were those ‘Quantum’ board books on physics and maths and all that.

I was wondering what actual parents, and other adults, who buy books for their little ones, will choose, depending on the sex of the baby/toddler/preschooler.

I think we know, don’t we? No boys will be given the female pioneering role model books. People will feel there is no need. Boys lead, and they won’t need to be encouraged to think that girls can. They do need that, of course, but I suspect adults won’t think like that. Until it’s too late.

Probably a few more girls will receive the quantum books. By the time you’d think of getting a book like that for someone, I dare say adults can tell that girls might be minded ‘that way’ too.

I would like to be wrong.

Bodies in libraries

What was I thinking?

My mind works fast – occasionally – when coming up with ideas. And then it forgets again. I took this picture waiting for my train recently, to remind me what I was thinking. That worked well, didn’t it?

The Body in the Library bag

I believe I mused a little on my long ago reading of Agatha Christie. Because nearly all of it happened forty to fifty years ago, and I’ve not re-read much. I decided I couldn’t remember who dunnit in the library. Or who died, for that matter. The body will not be the same as the one in the vicarage, where there was also a murder.

Decided I could look it up, and then decided against. Just in case I happen to read the book again, any time soon. Or, for that matter, if it turns up on television, like that Ordeal by Innocence the other week. I gather one way of dealing with well known novels being adapted for the screen is to change the plot and the ending. In which case there is only annoyance for anyone with a good memory, or a recent encounter with Wikipedia.

So, looking on the bright side, I could have a brand new reading experience by reading The Body in the Library again, purely through poor memory and the passing of a lot of time. Or, I could have that anyway, by watching the BBC do their stuff. As long as it’s retro, who cares?

My apologies to the lady with the bag. I just liked the look of such a well-used bag, illustrating such a well-known crime novel.

Changing what we like

We are all mostly set in our ways, and we don’t want to change. Do we?

Fussy Freda in Julia Jarman’s book, with illustrations by Fred Blunt, certainly knows what she likes. I mean, what she doesn’t like. There is rather a lot Freda doesn’t eat. At all.

Julia Jarman and Fred Blunt, Fussy Freda

And if you don’t eat, then… Told in rhyme, we see Freda’s family trying to tempt her to eat, until the day when… well it’s too horrible to tell.

Let’s just say that common sense has something to do with it.

In Steve Antony’s Unplugged, a black and white tale about Blip who likes her screen time a little too much, it takes another drastic interruption to sort her out. It’s amazing what ‘no power’ will do to someone addicted to screen play.

Steve Antony, Unplugged

You might even be forced to go out there and do normal stuff. You might even like it.

Fresh air, and friends, and suddenly colour enters your life.

Let’s hope these two cautionary tales will give parents hope when it looks as if nothing will make their little ones change.

A Bottle of Happiness

This is, well, it’s a story that will go round and round. I’m not sure how else to describe it.

Pippa Goodhart and Ehsan Abdollahi, A Bottle of Happiness

Pippa Goodhart’s story tells of the happy but poor people on one side of the mountain, and also the much more commercially minded people on the other side. There they buy things, but does it make them happy?

Maybe not.

The question is what happens when the two sides meet. Also, can you really bottle happiness?

Ehsan Abdollahi’s illustrations would not have surprised me fifty years ago. And still they are not retro as such, but the colourful and angular people in this book take me back to my childhood in some way.

Happiness is contagious. Maybe that’s it.

No more wardrobing

I’m guessing Son’s had it with working in wardrobes.

Personally I liked – or rather, I preferred – to have my [holiday] desk in a wardrobe than not to have one at all. Although I will admit to moving to the dining table more these days, so maybe my wardrobe days are over.

Office

When it came to serious writing some months ago, Son clearly didn’t want to sit tight, so to speak, so he sourced a leftover, cobwebby desk and carried into a ‘free’ space. I suspect he just wanted to sit next to the cardboard fish on the wall. Not everyone has them.

Temporary office

After all, if he was that fond of ex-wardrobes, he could have stayed at home and sat in his own closet office.

The office

And now, he’s finally some place where he can build a proper workspace, even if it doesn’t look so promising yet.

Office-to-be

Maybe I should get him a fish.

Pleasing people

Aunt Scarborough was back in town over the weekend. She came with her daughter Alloa, and we ‘all’ went to have a look at a building site, before having afternoon tea. As you do.

Over tea Alloa thanked me much more profusely than there was a need for, for the book Please Mr Panda, which was one of the books I sent along when Scarborough moved away from here a couple of years ago. I’ve enjoyed other Steve Antony books, but never got round to reviewing the panda one. I was merely glad to be able to pass it on.

Steve Antony, Please Mr Panda

Alloa has several grandchildren, so I reckoned someone would be the right age for the various books. It seems her youngest grandchild, aged three, absolutely loves Mr Panda. It sounded like it’s the kind of book we’ve probably all known, where a child reads the same book over and over again.

It appears he was so keen that he even dressed up as Panda for [I think] World Book Day. And the lucky young man, being the great grandchild of a woman who knits doughnuts, even had the doughnuts to complete his dressing-up.

All this makes me very happy.