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New planets!  I'm excited and agog, and also (is there anything I can't find a downside to?) thinking somewhere alongside the excitement that this discovery could foster up a feeling that now we don't have to worry about wrecking this planet because we've got somewhere else we can go.  (Of course there's no such real suggestion; I just mean how it might change people's mood about things.)  So... mixed feelings.  But still... seven planets, under a huge, cool sun.  Wow!  Oh, we live in amazing times!

So does everybody, of course - I mean, so everybody always has, whether they knew it or not.  Today's also, more or less, a hundred years since the stunning, out-of-nowhere (ha!) end of the Romanov rule over Russia, on the back of the chaotic butchery of WW1 and of riots over incipient (or actual?) famine. 
Coincidentally, on Nirvana in Fire, talk has turned to how a failure to provide relief in such crises leads to rioting and thus to regional (at least) instability - true enough, and I'm sorry Nicholas II hadn't better advisors, or (if he had them) that he'd listened more.  A sad ending for an amiable family.

Great sonnet, isn't it, by the way?  :) 

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The exodus is pretty nearly complete, and wonderful quietness is over the neighbourhood.  People have gone back to their family homes/ancestral villages for the New Year, and building works (thank goodness!) and businesses have shut down for the duration (three days, or so, pretty much).  The baker's shut down two days ago; we went to lay in a modest stock of bread supplies, including half-a-dozen mouse-bread rolls - the baker grinned, and threw in an extra - making it an excellent baker's half-dozen, i guess.  So that's the bread part.  :)

And the honey...

I was browsing through some regional newspapers - I think it was the South China Morning Post - when I came across a story of a man hospitalised after eating "mad honey" from Nepal.  (Yes, it was the SCMP!)  Just one spoonful was enough to leave him in a bad way (temporarily - he recovered!)

But... whoever heard of "mad honey"?  Not me, so i went to look for more info, and was vastly intrigued.  Honey-focussed ramble follows, with various links follows... )

And that's the end of my ramblings about honey (and a little bit bread).  :)

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I'm a bit stunned, right this minute. I was going to post today about the books I've read this month:

Peter Dickinson: King and Joker
Read more... )

Celia Blay: Margaret Bisset: Maiden of Bradley 1158-1242
Read more... )

Nevil Shute: Pied Piper 
Read more... )

and the one I've just this past hour finished reading
Christopher Duggan: The Force of Destiny: a history of Italy since 1796
more; warning for violent death. )

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I dreamed last night that I had agreed to write a story (not Narnia - SF, I think) and it was due in two days, and I was thinking, 'Oh yes, two days, I'd probably better start', and then thought 'Two days! Panic!' and woke myself up.  Which I suppose is just plain anticipation-anxiety for the NFE.  I finished writing a letter-to-the-writer, anyway.

But putting that aside for some inconsequential chat:

How about a dragon that switches from being male to being female?  Okay, it's the plain old ordinary lizard kind of dragon, and it changes very young, I think (I couldn't be absolutely certain from the article,apart from in the lab) but still it's "the first case of sex reversal seen in a terrestrial vertebrate in the wild".  So pretty impressive. :)

On the human-made side of things, I really like that the Forth Bridge has been named as a world heritage site.  I have a fondness for nineteenth-century bridges. No, maybe all bridges?  But the nineteenth-century engineering was something else again - just heroic!  Gritty, mathematical, groundbreaking in every single sense, and also playing mudpies/fort-building on a scale not seen since the pharaohs. 

In the world of reading, I've been rereading Kim, and debating with a couple of friends whether it is or isn't absolutely drenched in fairytale atmosphere.  (I'm on the yes side.  Opinions?  or opinions about Kipling himself, if you like.  He's a writer who breaks all the classifications, I think.)  
I've also been rereading, off and on, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, over at the NFFR site - where very interesting theories have emerged about Time and Winter, and much else.

In terms of future reading, a new Chalion-world novel - no, I see it's a novella - has emerged, with demon!  Well, there's an excerpt available for present reading, but in its entirety, it's future reading.  I hope it's good; I thought that The Hallowed Hunt was a bit over-reaching itself. (I was also narked by a character death which I just didn't want.)

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Writing:  not at all.  :(

Reading:  Looking about for something undemanding, I picked up the no-magic-here fantasy Mistress Masham's Repose, by T H White, which, with its wildly Wicked Guardians harks  back to nineteenth-century satires of Gothic literature and also is in the line which later produced in The Hundred and One Dalmations, and Joan Aiken's Dido Twite (etc) books.  It's not exactly a "children's book" - it's more like one of those clever fairy-tales told to amuse sophisticated Louis XIV court circles, peppered with Bloomsbury/Cambridge-y injokes, very arch, mildly satirical, mildly upper-class liberal in tone - some good side-shots at colonialism and at bossy do-goodery.)  Overall - clever, well-written, nice central conceit.

It j
arred, though, when White carried on with the suave, delicately humorous "we all know these things" tone when making reference to a seventeenth-century treason trial (with all that implies :( ).

Oh, for goodness' s
ake! How large is "too large", Dreamwidth?

This entry truncated, in mounting frustration with this shoddy  (DW) site.  The rest of it is on LJ.

Why I didn't like the joke about the trial )
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First up: stay warm, all friends in snowy, snowy places!  :)

And ..things I've been reading, this past week

I am slogging on with My Name is Red, by Orhan Pamuk.  It's an interesting, but for me, distinctly not an easy read - I'm not sure how much this is because it's culturally a jump for me - it's sixteenth-century Ottoman Empire, in the lives and concerns of miniaturists, painting/illuminating those glorious manuscripts of tales.  So far - I'm just over halfway through - I haven't felt the utterly compelling sense of involvement in the lives of the characters which is one thing I enjoy in reading.  Maybe it's not what the writer is wanting to produce, though?  Lots of it is philosophical, thinking about art and artifice and theology - it's set as Islam begins to edge towards (if I'm reading correctly - much ignorance here) the strong anti-depiction theology of today.  And that sort of thinking-through of values and changes is also something I enjoy a lot in reading; and that part is starting to grip.

Thanks to the post three lines from three WIPs meme, I have found my way to a whole new story-cycle by [personal profile] cofax7  - it's a combination of two fandoms I don't know, taking the protagonists of Supernatural, and putting them in a world known as Riderverse from novels by  CJ Cherryh. Rivetting!

Other reading:  The Railway Navvies: a history of the men who made the railways, by Terry Coleman.  I enjoyed this very much as a connector, linking the construction of railways in Britain with many things, like parallel European works and the Crimean War.  For example, it was the brilliant intervention of the railway baron,Morton Peto, who more or less pulled the British army from total disaster in the Crimea,by getting built (at cost) a railway to get supplies through;  Army officers were astonished at the speed, skill and cohesion of the workforce (all volunteers -paid,but not drafted).  It's popular history, not academic history, and won't be much new to any historian out there, but they're not in the general memory - or at least, they weren't in mine!  It's not terrific in terms of reliability - he is a little bit fast-and-loose with his sources - e.g. one source which he quotes as being about pipe-smoking among the navvies turns out on investigation to be about pipe-smoking among the women in the navvy community (not labourers - family).  But I thought it was great as a thought-provoker and for lots of sidelights on social history.  :)

also, come across by chance on the internet: an interesting paper called "Omitted from History: Women in the Building Trades" by Linda Clarke and Chris Wall, which gives details of legislation and actual figures of women involved in these trades in England over several centuries. Some of their sources are secondary, e.g. they bring from someone called Snell, the info that "in the southern counties of England between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries... 34% of parish apprentices were girls, who were apprenticed in 51 occupations including as bricklayers, carpenters, joiners and shipwrights".  But some are primary, such as the London 1841 Census figures.  All of which I found very interesting, though I have no particular use for it.  :)

editing to add:  And I made another ghastly bish-up trying to to get the neat link to [personal profile] cofax7 .  :(   Thanks to [personal profile] lady_songsmith  for bailing me out!

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For the Athena's Daughters 2 Kickstarter.      It's been really interesting watching from a distance how it works.  (The video, for starters!  Amazing!)

And only a week or so back I was reading an essay  by [personal profile] sartorias about how she and [personal profile] rachelmanija went the self-publishing route for their latest book, Hostage, and the reasons for a shift from publishing through the big companies.
It occurred to me that what's going on is actually a rolling back of a publishing model which began more or less with the Industrial Revolution.  Before that (very open to correction on this - this is idle thought, not actual research speaking!) poets and theorists self-published slim pamphlets, or else publishers asked for a list of subscribers before they'd take a risk on setting up larger books, or else writers could find one major patron (who then might renege on the deal, as in described in Samuel Johnson's famous letter to Lord Chesterfield )  but then, round about Jane Austen, authors found themselves not waiting on subscribers or patrons, but on approval from publishers, before the works hit the presses.

I guess it was to do with technology?  As printing presses became larger, the industry became more capital-intensive, and the decisions were made more deliberately in terms of the return on capital alone, by those whose capital was tied up in the presses?   Wiser insights gladly welcomed.

*I tried to make the links using <username=  >, but it didn't work.  :(  Insights welcomed there, too, as to what I'm doing wrong.

late addition: thanks to wise advice over on LJ, I have now conquered how to do neat links, though I still don't exactly know what I'm doing.
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This first is very, very sad, but it is also a true story, of a woman who died as part of the struggle against Nazism.  I'm putting it up not that I've anything much to say except how hideously sad war is, and how amazing this woman was.  And that her story needs to be more widely known. (But seriously, not a post to be reading if you're not feeling robust.  It can wait.)

And I watched recently a fictional story- the film The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (UK, 1943) which I had seen praised as giving a sympathetic picture of honourable Germans in wartime.  I found it not impressive on that score - how inept and foolish would it be to portray all the members of the other side in war as irredeemably evil, especially when there's been a long history of social and cultural crossover between combatants?  In fact, I found it very straight-down-the-line in terms of what I'd think a wartime propaganda film would be - it's targeted at British (especially the middle class?) with qualms about actions like the destruction of the French navy, or worse.  And I won't go into that here. 

Instead, I was interested in the film as historical document.  It opens in 1902, and thus shows the London and Berlin of that time as reconstructed by people who had actual memory of those locations then.  So the hansom cab bit is how calling up a hansom cab worked, the 'Turkish bath' (ie for gentlemen, in London) is how a 'Turkish bath' was, the German gymnasium is how the German gymnasium looked, and the duel is how the duels worked.  There's plenty of written documentation of those things, of course, but there's so many incidental details that are second nature to those who've lived through something but which are never actually written down - like where the seconds stand in the duel, or the costume of the bath attendant.  The whole movie a classist propagandist fantasy, pretty much, but still based on the real memories of real locations.  So... interesting.  :)


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