I waffle about clothes. There are days I think I really need to do better because obviously it would be fantastic to always be wearing fantastic clothes. And then there are days when I think it's beneath my notice and pants never fit me right and I should just think about something more interesting. (And then sometimes I think I should take up sewing, because if you want something done right you should do it yourself. But then I think I shouldn't start a hobby that would have me spending even more time sitting down. Also, I don't have a sewing machine.)
But really I like clothes best as a spectator sport - it's nice to admire nice clothes on other people and that way I can wear shoes that don't hurt.
Anyway, I've been reading about clothes lately - The Thoughtful Dresser by Linda Grant and My Mother's Wedding Dress : The Meaning and Memory of Clothes in Our Lives by Justine Picardie - about their clothes and their lives and Coco Chanel and Charlotte Brontë and shopping and the Holocaust. (Discussion question: What would you wear on your way to a death camp? Apparently someone went with red high heels.) Because sometimes it's fun to read about things you would never actually do. Like, uh, get dressed up.
I have been known to mix them up sometimes. And I don't know about you, but when I think of taxonomy, I think of cabinets full of taxidermied specimens, à la Victorian amateur naturalist.
Anyway, I have come to be slightly interested in biology, which, as a somewhat squeamish person, I have avoided as much as possible. I'm not about to sign up for any dissections, but it's interesting to read about. You know, in a book, where you can't see the blood. So I have of late been reading Every Living Thing by Rob Dunn, who apparently is an ant expert. I can't say I care much for ants, but I'm kind of delighted that there are ant experts loose in the world. So we get some of Linnaeus, who made up Latin names and sent minions to gather specimens at the far corners of the world, but we also get ants and beetles and ants that look like beetles and legions of unnamed tropical insects. (Sometimes I think it would be fun to go to the tropics. Then I remember the bugs.)
Luckily it's not all bugs all the time, because there are also various weird critters like those luminous deep sea fish and bacteria that live on sulphur. And potential aliens. There's a section where he goes to an astrobiology conference and meets Francis Drake (of Drake's equation. The one for the number of alien civilizations where you have to guess at half the terms.) The thing about those astrobiologists is that they're all mildly crazy, or they're right - it's a very fine line.
Also, I'm kind of almost wishing I knew some Latin. Sure, it's not useful for everyday conversation, but you could understand all those official species names. And pretend to be smart at parties.
Kids, it's fall, and I'm finally out of that summer stupor where all I can do is lie around eating ice cream. Now I'm lying around reading books.
One of the things that always irks me about the world is that if you look at the science section in the library/bookstore, Chemistry is always sadly underrepresented. Unless you count publications like How to Pass Organic Chemistry Without Really Trying, which I do not. So whenever I see something Chemistry related I'll pick it up, and I end up reading it as often as not.
The Invention of Air by Steven Johnson isn't really heavy on the Chemistry, but it is about Joseph Priestly, who discovered oxygen, which is on the periodic table, and I'll take what I can get. He is kind of earnest and endearing, if you are not too turned off by the number of mice he suffocated in overturned beer glasses. (For scientific purposes, not for fun. They need their oxygen, you know.) Me, I am kind of delighted by the use of beer glasses - I love beer and science and, uh, oxygen. Also, he invented soda water and if that's not delightful I don’t know what is.
Yesterday I tried to make cupcakes but it was too hot and humid and sticky and the icing kept dripping into a pool of sticky goop and wouldn't set. I kind of feel that way myself. But less delicious.
"For, like, an hour before you guys got there, me and James were chasing each other around the house with air freshener. I smelled like fruit salad."
... that liquor companies pay people to go around being obnoxious in hopes of driving the rest of us to drink? Sometimes it seems like the best explanation.
Alas, I am out of gin.
You know, it's hard to talk about books sometimes without giving too much away. I mean, often the coolest stuff happens at the end. But I try to restrain myself because I know many people are much more uptight about spoilers than I am. (Usually I don't even remember them. If I haven't read the book, I don't know why it's shocking. And if it's not shocking, well, I still don't have my cell phone number memorized. I'm not about to start remembering stuff about a book I haven't read.) And I think it often doesn't even matter. You know going into a romantic comedy that they're going to get together. Even if they have no chemistry and don't seem to like each other at all. (Romantic comedy is perhaps not my favourite genre.)
Anyway, I want to tell you about A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner, but I can't even think of what to say without giving away the first three books. And for these books I think it does matter. If you want in you should start with The Thief. And probably not read the backs of the others.
I will say that we finally get to hear what happened to Sophos while he was kidnapped. And that I have a deep and abiding love for stories about a modestly awesome person who becomes more awesome. It gives hope to the rest of us. And this is another book that has a lot of its awesomeness concentrated at the end.
Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George is apparently based on a fairy tale, which I actually don't think I have read. It kind of reminds me of one where there are seven princes who turn into swans, but that is clearly a different story because this one has twelve princesses who (spoiler!) never turn into swans.
Anyway, it stars Galen, who is awesome because he knits his own socks (yeah, it doesn't take much to impress me.) A seemingly crazy old lady by the side of the road gives him magic wool and an invisibility cloak, which almost makes me think I should pay more attention to the crazy people on the subway who try to hand me pamphlets and stuff, just in case one of them has something similarly cool. Dude, just think of the things you could do with magic wool and an invisibility cloak. Galen gets a job as a gardener for the king, which is probably not what I would do, but whatever, everyone's different. At least it gives him a chance to meet the twelve cursed princesses. Various princes come and try to break the mysterious curse but they all fail miserably. Also, none of them knit, so they are obviously not awesome. Galen figures he can do better, and I don't think I'm giving anything away when I say that indeed he can, because he has magic wool and an invisibility cloak and also some magic knitting needles he picked up along the way. And I already told you this is a fairy tale. With knitting.