Tardis Snap

Hound of the Baskervilles

Reading Hound of the Baskervilles in my way through the Holmes canon, and, man, was Holmes an inveterate name-dropper!

In relation to the death of Sir Charles Baskerville: "I had observed some newspaper comment at the time, but I was exceedingly preoccupied by that little affair of the Vatican cameos, and in my anxiety to oblige the Pope I lost touch with several interesting English cases." 

And that is where the Vatican Cameo reference in Scandal in Belgravia came from.

(Unfortunately, I can't give a page reference as I'm reading it on my Rocket e-Book, which doesn't give page numbers.)

Tardis Snap


Finished "Jewels: A Secret History" by Victoria Finlay.

Picked it up because of my jewelry obsession, and I read part of her book "Colors" and really enjoyed it. Have been working on "Jewels" for months.

Finished because it's really good. She has a great enthusiasm for her topic, and I like that her research takes her to many interesting places.  She tries to visit many of the historically and currently important places relevant to her subject.  For instance, she visited Burma to explore their ruby mines.  Not many people travel to Burma these days.

She also has a very personable writing style; definitely narrative non-fiction.

Memorable image from the chapter on Amber p.7-8: "Amber really is the tears of trees ... of conifers that grew in great forests millions of years ago. Many evergreens ooze resin as a self-healing mechanism, but for a normal forest with a modest drizzle of resin to be transformed into an amber forest with a flood of it, something special had to happen.
     "...Whatever the reason, at some point in prehistory a species of conifer went into medical overdrive. Judging from the massive lumps of amber that are sometimes found today, some of which can weigh 9 pounds or more, it must have been quite a sight. There would have been resin hanging from the branches like great candy apples, spilling onto the forest floor in honeyed pools and even oozing under the bark of the trees like coagulated butter. As well as being very sticky, the whole place must have smelled intoxicatingly of incense.
     "Over the years, most of the resin dripped into the soil and was absorbed. But ... some solidified, and the long process of fossilization began."

One takeaway - I'm leaning towards continuing to focus on costume and semi-precious jewelry in my collecting. She talks about conflict, or blood, diamonds, and the story is not pretty.  There's also a lot of pain associated with other precious stones (emerald, sapphire, ruby), and I don't know that I have any desire to contribute to any of that, or to the continuation of the cultural practice of venerating these stones just because they're beautiful. Diamonds aren't even really rare - their "rarity" is artificially maintained to keep their prices up.  Interestingly, there's no secondary diamond market.  Even though the stones don't deteriorate, they have very little resale value. 

Interesting fact:  The birthstone table was created in 1921 by the gem industry to give people another reason to buy. The gems originally on the table were the most popular at the time, and gems are added every so often as the become popular.  Yet this table has become very important culturally.  Pure advertising, just like the birth of the diamond engagement ring industry in the post WWII years by DeBeers so they could sell more diamonds (many people used to want colored stones, mostly rubies, as they represented warmth and emotional color), and the recent changes in the anniversary gift tables to put diamonds in 3 times - DeBeers didn't want you to have to wait 60 years to give diamonds again.

Includes extensive notes, bibliography, glossary, and index; a miscellany of jewels, and extensive research and first person accounts. Discusses the science, business, history, cultural significance, myth, and beauty of jewels. 

I'm scanning the notes and bib for further reference.
Tardis Snap

Black Books

Hung out with friends tonight and watched Season 3 of Black Books. 

Reason watched: Have had Season 3 disc from Netflix on coffee table for how many months?  Too many.  Came up in conversation, and we watched it.

Like it but can't take too much of it at one time.  Best one ep at a time, I think, but doable by the 6-ep season.

Insane.  Surprise Simon Pegg as an aggressive corporate drone.  Very funny. 

Also watched first ep of Doc Martin.  Will have to explore this further.
Tardis Snap

Dangerous Teen Novels - This Seems to be a Thing Lately

"Americus" by MK Reed & Jonathan Hill

Teens growing up in a very religiously conservative town in OK. Kind of scary.  A fantasy series full of magic and dragons becomes the focus for the conservative forces as they try to protect their teenaged children from the forces of evil. 

There was one particular mother who was the motivating force behind the banning effort.  She made military school look like a good option for a 14 year old.

My liberal hackles were raised by all the conservative talk - a biology teacher introducing her class with, "Now we all know that the earth was created 6000 years ago, but science has another theory." WTF?

Found it through Unshelved's Friday book recs.

Finished it.  Devoured it, actually.

Coming of age story.

Gay character

Includes bits of story from the fantasy series. 

Also one of the important characters is a librarian fighting the forces of censorship in the town, and the main character loves to read and spends a lot of time in the library.  How could I not love that?
Tardis Snap

Is Bad Writing Dangerous?

"Alien Tango" by Gini Koch.

Why I read this: I read the first book in the series a while ago, and despite the less than stellar writing, found something attractive about it.  Picked up sequel to see if that would carry over.

50 page test:  Passed.

I finished it. There are currently 2 more in the series; I don't know that I can stand to read them.  Shallow characters, read as anti-feminist in parts, plot holes you could drive a truck through, and a bit repetitive. 

Also, random.  The main plot is a group of aliens on earth who help Terrans fight bad aliens, and one of the major plot points is a psycho stalker after the main character for a boyfriend she broke up with in high school?  Really?  However, random.  Winning a fight against overwhelming odds at the Kennedy Space Center by throwing alligators into the room where the baddies are holding the good guys hostage. That's just crack.
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Bombs are Dangerous

Last night we watched "Dr. Strangelove:  Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb."  Dark, dark, dark, but very funny.  Truly a classic. 

I can see why it succeeded as it did.  People had enough of being terrified by the cold war and the threat of nuclear annihilation in real life; they didn't need to see a movie that tried to do the same thing.  "Dr. Strangelove" invited them to laugh at it, no matter how darkly. 
Tardis Snap

Dangerous Santa

We went to a friend's New Year's Eve party this year, and he's a gigantic film buff.  We saw 3 films, all of which were ... odd. 

(I only saw part of this.) Really funny.

"Rare Exports"
A Finnish horror movie - very darkly humorous.

Surrealistic, chock full of symbolism, 3 hours long, and lots and lots of klezmer music. Again, very dark humor.

All in all an interesting intro to 2012. Thanks, Matt!
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Dangerous Fiber Arts

I knit my niece a Christmas stocking this year.  My mom knit all 7 of us Christmas stockings when we were little, and my sister had the genius idea of she and I knitting them for our nieces and nephews (all 12 of them).  We (I) only got the one stocking done this year, but we have many years to come.  It was my first sock and was fairly successful.  A little oddly shaped, but the heel came together well and I'll do better next time. I also learned to Kitchner

I'm also knitting stuffed animals for my sister-in-law's baby showers - she's having twins!  And then I'm going to quilt two squares for the baby quilt.  All by the end of January.