Friday, October 31, 2014

A peak into Emilie and the Sky World

I just realized that I never did a post on Emilie and the Sky World by Martha Wells!  It is the sequel to Emilie & the Hollow World and I thought both of them were great fun to read. If you are interested you should get both before the Strange Chemistry books all disappear.

So for Book Beginnings on Friday, hosted by Rose City Reader here we go, picking up from the end of the last book ...

Emilie took a deep breath and knocked on the door. 

Twilight had fallen, and the quiet street smelled strongly of dinner. Karthea's house, like all the others, had a chunky stone façade and wood-framed windows with cheerful curtains and potted flowers on the stoop. The gas lamp on the corner had already been lit, glowing brightly in the failing daylight. 

There was no answer immediately and Emilie began to wonder if Karthea had closed the school temporarily and gone on some journey. If so, it was less of a disaster than it would have been a fortnight ago. 

And of course I am sitting here with my digital copy (I have a paper copy at home too), it doesn't have real page numbers and I don't want to do the 56% mark - way too deep into spoiler territory! - so for The Friday 56 hosted at Freda's Voice here is the, um 5.6% mark :)  Well actually the start of Chapter 2 ...

Late that afternoon, Emilie, Daniel and Professor Abindon boarded the fast steamer for Meneport. Daniel thought that they would arrive perhaps half a day behind the Marlendes. 

In a highly agitated conversation that morning, Daniel had convinced the professor that they could reach the Marlendes more quickly by going directly to Meneport themselves. Daniel had pointed out that the Marlendes were likely to spend all day at the shipyards with the damaged airship. And Emilie had thought, though she didn't say it aloud, that if Miss Marlende had been ignoring the professor's wires, she wasn't likely to bring them immediately to her father's attention once they reached their home again. Obviously, there was some sort of disagreement or sore point between Professor Abindon and Miss Marlende. 

And because I am going through withdraw - here is a gratuitous picture of a gigantic Airship - Castle Wulfenbach from Girl Genius ...

 Which really has nothing to do with the book, other than the whole airship steampunky thing but it looks cool anyhow.  

Happy Halloween!    

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Me too.

Lark confessed, I guess I will too. In a fit of something or another - probably despondence from working so hard on a journal article that is being intransigent, I signed up to do NaNoWriMo. I have wanted to for a couple of years but didn't because I knew that I couldn't commit the time to it. I still can't but have a better chance this year than I will again any time soon.

So - I have no idea what I am doing and am also terrified, but I have at least two story ideas that I have been thinking about for ages and would like to work on.

I have decided that what I write is allowed to stink, that I am not doing to do any serious editing initially and that I can get all James Joyce once in a while and just write whatever comes to mind simply in order to use my imagination and to see if I can write fiction rather than just nonfiction.  I am a published author but all of my writing is highly detail oriented, fact-based nonfiction. It is going to be so weird to be able write whatever I want and not to have to create gigantic reference lists or spending hours double checking some obscure fact. 

I am not worried about length so much - I was asked to do a one page summary of a project proposal a couple days ago and at the moment I have five pages written and it isn't done. The editing is gonna be murder - I am probably going to resort to all those tiny margin, smallest acceptable font, funky line spacing (1.3 is close enough to 1.5, right)  - tricks that my students use in reverse to get it onto one page.

Wish me luck!  I am going to need it. 

I am doing NaNoWriMo.

Colors of Blood

Too Cool!

Just in time for Halloween, presents a lovely primer on the chemistry of blood.

Wondrous Words Wednesday 31

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Kathy at the Bermuda Onion where you "can share new words that you’ve encountered or spotlight words you love. Feel free to get creative!"
Pot luck words from the past week ... 

Our bone samples come from two cemeteries excavated in the town of Puerto de Mazarrón, dated from the 4th to the 6th centuries AD on the basis of archaeological and numismatic criteria. 

From Wikipedia: Numismatics is the study or collection of currency, including coins, tokens, paper money, and related objects. The discipline also includes the broader study of money and other payment media used to resolve debts and the exchange of goods.

So - I actually did know what this meant but it was so out of context that I was confused and wanted to make sure that I wasn't missing something. It really does just mean that they dated the grave sites based on archaeological context as well as the coins that they found. I did find out that there is a really weird relationship between archeology and numismatics though. They evolved as disciplines separately so numismatists and archeologists can find themselves at odds. Also, numismatists are not the same as coin collectors - numismatists are interested in historical context, trade, etc. while coin collectors are basically interested in the coins themselves as objects of value.

Coins found in the tomb of the late Roman site of La Molineta in Mazarrón.

"A little pourboire. I merely reminded Sir Aubrey of all we had been to each other, and he wanted me to have it for old times; sake."

pourboire  /po͝orˈbwär/
A gratuity; a tip.
 Origin French, from pour boire, literally '(money) for drinking'.

   -- ** -- ** --

"That satinwood commode belonged to Lord Hutching. Eve bought it from the antique shop next to Parker's place..."

Because clearly the first definition that comes to mind is has got to be wrong. 

commode /kəˈmōd/
1: A piece of furniture containing a concealed chamber pot.
   1.1: North American A toilet.
   1.2: North American historical A movable washstand.

2:  a woman's ornate cap popular in the late 17th and early 18th centuries 

3: chest of drawers or chiffonier of a decorative type popular in the 18th century.

Origin mid 18th century (sense 2): from French, literally 'convenient, suitable', from Latin commodus. sense 1 dates from the early 19th century.

So in this case we are speaking of definition 3 - a chest of drawers.

Late 18th Century Sheraton period satinwood serpentine commode/chest of drawers.
The top inlaid with a rose and banded in padouk. Circa 1785.

chiffonier  \ˌshi-fə-ˈnir\
Origin French chiffonnier, from chiffon 
First Known Use: 1765

variant spelling padauk

1: Timber from a tropical tree of the pea family, resembling rosewood.

2: The large hardwood tree of the Old World tropics that is widely grown for this timber. Some kinds yield a red dye that is used for religious and ritual purposes.

Genus Pterocarpus, family Leguminosae: three species, in particular African padauk (P. soyauxii)
Origin mid 19th century: from Burmese.

Padauk wood

Pterocarpus macrocarpus (Burma Padauk) 
But I can't resist definition 2 of commode as well ...

More precisely, a commode is the wire frame over which the curls are arranged, piled up in high masses over the forehead in a hairstyle called a fontange, or frelange. Technically, fontanges are only part of the assembly, referring to the ribbon bows which support the frelange. The frelange was supported by a wire framework called a commode.

Ugh. It looks terribly uncomfortable to me.

Friday, October 24, 2014

A peak into The Story of Buildings

Happy Friday !

I am still working my way through the elementary/middle school nonfiction books that have been nominated for a Cybils award. I am currently at 27 done and 3 in progress out of 104. Eek. OTOH I am having a ton of fun reading about all sorts of different things.

For Book Beginnings on Friday, hosted by Rose City Reader I would like to introduce you to The Story of Buildings by Patrick Dillion, illustrated by Stephen Biesty ...

If you ever enjoyed David Macaulay's books like Pyramid, Cathedral or Underground, this should be right up your alley and a great gift for any children you know who are interested in architecture. (My son has been reading about Frank Lloyd Wright lately.)

Imagine you find yourself in a forest. Night is falling. You have to build a shelter. 

You gather sticks and stack them up to make a cabin, but the sticks keep toppling over. At last you learn how to tie them with vines to hold them upright, but when you crawl into the cabin, there's hardly any space inside. Logs don't keep out the rain either. It trickles between them and drips on your face. 

Maybe you find yourself in the mountains, so you decide to make a stone house. But though you gather all the stones you can find, you don't have anything to stick them together with. After hours of hard work, your house is just a heap of rocks. 

If you find yourself by a river, it's even worse: there's nothing to build with but mud. 

The illustrations are amazing !

(this one is from pages 36-37)

Above is Notre-Dame 

from pages 30-31
And this is the Hagia Sophia "The Parthenon was more beautiful on the outside than the inside. Hagia Sophia was the other way around. It was the interior, with its dome, windows, and mosaics, that took every visitor's breath away."

Speaking of illustrations, page 56 for The Friday 56 hosted at Freda's Voice is an illustration of The Royal Abbey - Melk Abbey, Austria, 1702. 

Page 56 (sorry for the quality - I did this with my phone)
So on page 57 we start ...

Louis XIV of France had shown how a building could display the power of a king. Other European emperors and kings soon copied him, and baroque palaces appeared all over Europe, with twisting staircases and columns, and walls that curved in and out like rolling waves. Gilded plasterwork unfurled across ceilings. Precious marble glowed in the light of a thousand candles. Churches became more elaborate too. Some of the most splendid of all were built in the lands of the Austrian empire, where architects planned buildings that soared above the landscape, showing the power of emperor and church together. 

Most splendid of all was the monastery of Melk, which stood high on a cliff above the Danube River. 

The book goes from log cabins and stone houses through the Forbidden City to the Chrysler Building and the Pompidou Center in Paris. Cool stuff if you are interested.

I have run out of time, so no fiction book this week. Have a lovely weekend!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Wondrous Words Wednesday 30

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Kathy at the Bermuda Onion where you "can share new words that you’ve encountered or spotlight words you love. Feel free to get creative!"

Some random words from a Georgette Heyer book, because I want to do something fun this week ...

The house itself, now that she saw it in the daylight, she found to be a beautiful building, two hundred years old, with chamfered windows, and tall chimneys. 

chamfer verb \ˈcham(p)-fər, ˈcham-pər\

1:  to cut a furrow in (as a column), make a groove
2:  to make a chamfer on, make a bevel

Origin: back-formation from chamfering, alteration of Middle French chanfreint, from past participle of chanfraindre to bevel, from chant edge (from Latin canthus iron tire) + fraindre to break, from Latin frangere First Known Use: 1567

chamfer noun

1:  a beveled edge 
First Known Use: circa 1847

So, a beveled window ?  There is a bunch of stuff out there claiming to be chamfered but I think, based on the description in the book, we are talking about something like this ...

They were interrupted. 'There had ought to be the hatchment up over the door," said Barrow severely.

hatchment /ˈhaCHmənt/

1: A large tablet, typically diamond-shaped, bearing the coat of arms of someone who has died, displayed in their honor.
Origin: early 16th century: probably from obsolete French hachement, from Old French acesmement 'adornment'.

I have noticed the some books seem to confuse hatchment with the crape display traditionally put up on the door, so I wanted to sort this out in my mind. Hatchment is the heraldry on a diamond shape and obviously not everyone would have that to display.

funerary hatchment of John Marsden (probably) who died 1826. St Margaret, Hornby 
Funeral crape would be the black ribbons and heavy, crinkly fabric draped around the door and windows, and the wreath or badge of crape on the door. The knocker in particular is supposed to be covered up - white ribbons would be used to tie the crape if a child had died, otherwise both the ribbons and the fabric would be black. Pretty much anyone could do this.

"I will make you a panada presently," she said. 'You will like that, sir."
"Shall I?" he asked doubtfully.  

panada \pə-ˈnä-də\
:  A paste or gruel of bread crumbs, toast, or flour combined with milk, stock, or water and used for making soups, binding forcemeats, or thickening sauces.
:  a paste of flour or bread crumbs and water or stock used as a base for sauce or a binder for forcemeat or stuffing 
: A dish consisting of bread boiled to a pulp and flavored.  
Origin: Spanish, from pan bread, from Latin panis First Known Use: circa 1598

So what the heck is forcemeat?
forcemeat  \ˈfrs-ˌmēt\
:  finely chopped and highly seasoned meat or fish that is either served alone or used as a stuffing —called also farce

Back to the panada  ... 
From Wikipedia "In British cuisine, it may be flavored with sugar, Zante currants, nutmeg, and so on. A version of panada was a favorite dish of the author Percy Bysshe Shelley who was a vegetarian. Mentions of this dish included bread, water and nutmeg."

The British Magazine for December 1762

I agree with Nick, I am somewhat doubtful as well.  And it would help enormously if Google would stop 'helping' and insisting that I am searching for panda! 

Happy Wednesday! 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Something Beautiful for a rainy day

Lots of people have probably already seen this, but I wanted to say "WOW" anyhow. The underwater sculpture of Jason deCaires Taylor is amazing. He "creates underwater living installations ...  site-specific, permanent works [that] are designed to act as artificial reefs, attracting corals, increasing marine biomass and aggregating fish species, while crucially diverting tourists away from fragile natural reefs and thus providing space for natural rejuvenation. ...

Taylor’s sculptures change over time with the effects of their environment. These factors create a living aspect to the works, which would be impossible to reproduce artificially. As time passes and the works develop biological growth, they redefine the underwater landscape, evolving within the narrative of nature."

His latest work is Ocean Atlas

This sculpture of a kneeling young Bahamian girl supporting the ceiling of the water on her shoulders is 18-feet-tall and weighs 60 tons.

The work was commissioned by the Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation as one component of the Sir Nicholas Nuttall Coral Reef Sculpture Garden. The sculpture was constructed using sustainable pH-neutral materials to create an artificial reef for marine life to inhabit while simultaneously drawing tourists away from over stressed natural areas, allowing them time and space to recover.

Go - look at  Taylor's website!

see also:

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Pilot and the Little Prince: The Life of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry by Peter Sís

The Pilot and the Little Prince: The Life of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry  
by Peter Sís
Published: May 27, 2014
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Sold by: Macmillan 
Pages: 48 pages
Genre: Nonfiction
Age Range: 5 - 8 years **
Grade Level: Kindergarten - 3 **
Source: library

** I disagree with the age range here. I would think 3rd grade minimum. 

Summary from Macmillan:
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry was born in France in 1900, when airplanes were just being invented. Antoine dreamed of flying and grew up to be a pilot—and that was when his adventures began. He found a job delivering mail by plane, which had never been done before. He and his fellow pilots traveled to faraway places and discovered new ways of getting from one place to the next. Antoine flew over mountains and deserts. He battled winds and storms. He tried to break aviation records, and sometimes he even crashed. From his plane, Antoine looked down on the earth and was inspired to write about his life and his pilot-hero friends in memoirs and in fiction. Peter Sís’s remarkable biography celebrates the author of The Little Prince, one of the most beloved books in the world.

Oh dear, this is another one of those puzzles. This book is absolutely beautiful. My son said that the pictures were more important than the words and they are what told the story.  I find that I agree.
The images are poetic. They tie in very strongly to the feeling of The Little Prince.

Follow the face of the land - Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers

Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers

It is the text is where we run into problems. There is the skeletal story told in normal text at the bottom of the pages. This story flows, but is pretty basic. I suppose that technically if all you read is the text at the bottom, you could consider the book appropriate for the age range listed (5-8) but you would also be missing most of the story.

See, there is more text, in a stylized script inside the illustrations - woven into the illustration or going in a circle around the round images in the page (you can an example in the page above.) This text is where things get more interesting and bulk out the story. However - since this font is small and often goes in circles, it would be almost impossible to read to a group a children. And since children are generally pretty clever, they are going to notice this text and expect you to read it. (Have you ever tried to skip text in front of a group of 1st graders - not happening.) This illustrative text is also where the vocabulary kicks up a couple notches as does the depth of the material. You wander out of the range of 5-7 year olds and into more of a 4-5 grader territory. This is the sort of book where an individual reader pours over each page, soaking in the details.

So, beautiful, interesting - though it really needed to talk more about the books de Saint-Exupéry wrote. Most of them are just listed as emblems with a year published or awards won. He was world famous as an author-pilot, but the book lets that first one lie rather fallow - you are flowing along with the story and then ...

then there is the ending. If you don't know anything about Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and have never read The Little Prince this is going to be a spoiler so

Spoiler alert?  sorta  ...  

See, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry vanished on a reconnaissance mission during WWII - he took off on a spotting mission and never returned. It was one of the great mysteries of WWII.  The assumption generally was that he had been shot down and he was hailed as a hero. So - tough ending for a kids book, but doable. 

The way this book ends - the last two page spread reads ...

"But he never returned. Some say he forgot his oxygen mask and vanished at sea."

"Maybe Antoine found his own glittering planet next to the stars."

But the problem here is that I have never seen anyone imply that he forgot his oxygen mask. This is such a weird line to add - I can only assume that the author is attempting to gently allude to the possibility de Saint-Exupéry might have committed suicide in a fit of depression rather than being shot down by the Luftwaffe as had been assumed for decades. When his plane was discovered, off course from where it was supposed to be, and material finally recovered in the early 2000's, there were no bullet holes in the pieces they found. However, my understanding is that they didn't recover much of the plane, so the lack of bullet holes doesn't really mean that much.

In terms of adult biographies of de Saint-Exupéry this has been a huge point of contention since about 1998. There is some evidence that suggests he might have intentionally committed suicide, but it is also entirely possible that the plane really was shot down by the Luftwaffe or that something happened to the plane, or that there was a pilot error. He was flying around in the middle of a world war after all. There simply isn't enough information, as far as I have seen, to draw a strong conclusion. Either way, no one suggested he left off his oxygen mask, at least not that I have seen anywhere, so as far as I can work out,  that line is made up - which is my first problem.

The second issue that I have is that you don't even need to go there in a picture book meant for K-3 kids. I am profoundly disturbed by the way this author chose to add "Some say he forgot his oxygen mask" - I mean, why? Why end the book like that - there are only three sentences on the last two pages and that didn't have to be one of them. It implies either Antoine was careless/stupid or that it was done with intent. The book never really discusses depression but does list all of de Saint-Exupéry's crashes (and boy were some of them doozies!) The book also talks about the first time that de Saint-Exupéry had to use an oxygen mask. This sets things up in an uncomfortable way. If you want to talk about depression or fog of war then talk about it don't just slyly insinuate something and leave it sitting there like that.

It really upset my son when he read the book and he is 12. He was attracted by the art and was totally focused on the book. Then hit the last page and voiced disapproval. We had to have a discussion about what was being implied there. He loved the book up to that point (which is the other issue I raised - the text is really too complex for the intended age range).  And yes - the way this is set up, kids are going to notice that line.

Plus - the book just ends like that. There are no end notes or anything. It just stops. Most books would at least give you a 'his books live on' or 'the world mourned his loss'  - you could still end the book with the line about "Maybe Antoine found his own glittering planet next to the stars." without leaving your child readers totally bereft. A book that was a celebration of de Saint-Exupéry's life ends rather like a smack in the face. It has been seventy years since he disappeared - you could at least say something about his impact as a author. 

End spoiler alert 

Okay - sorry. I will stop ranting now.  I think the most exasperating kind of book is one that you are really loving up to the point it disappoints you and starts dating that trashy book from the other shelves.

So to sum up  - if you have an older elementary school child interested in maps or old airplanes or who really loved The Little Prince - this would be a good book for them, but be ready to discuss how the book ends.

The author/illustrator talks about this book at

Friday, October 17, 2014

A peak into Thursdays with the Crown and Chasing Cheetahs

Happy Friday !

So, I am sitting here literally and metaphorically surrounded by elementary/middle school nonfiction books that have been nominated for a Cybils award.

This is putting rather a crimp into other reading but I just have to talk up Thursdays with the Crown by Jessica Day George. This is the third book in the series, the first two being ...

Wednesdays ended with rather a monstrous cliff hanger so I am going to try to be careful with this ... for Book Beginnings on Friday, hosted by Rose City Reader here is something from the beginning of Thursdays with the Crown ...

"You are not leaving me behind," Celie repeated. 
Rolf and Lilah exchanged looks, and Celie could see her brother and sister were preparing to side against her. She braced herself. 
"Someone needs to stay here with Pogue," Lilah said in a wheedling voice. 
"But you could stay with Pogue," Celie retorted. "You don't want to get dirty hiking around the forest do you?" 

And since I have piles of nonfiction next to me ... I will take something off the top of the pile. How about something from Chasing Cheetahs: The Race to Save Africa's Fastest Cats by Sy Montgomery ...

Shortly after we leave the city, the parade of wonders begins: thorny acacia trees hung with straw nests of weaver birds, like Christmas ornaments; termite mounds as tall as people, pointed like the turrets on sand castles; road signs like those for deer crossings back home, only featuring silhouettes of warthogs and kudu. Along the road, we pass one sign with a crocodile above a crossed knife and fork, advertising a ranch that offers the reptiles for people to eat (instead of the other way around), and another sign advertising the Ombo Ostrich Farm.

This needs pictures!
An acacia tree full of nests of weaver birds (Source)

Greater kudu - Wikipedia

For The Friday 56 hosted at Freda's Voice here is something small from page 56 from Thursdays with the Crown ...

[Male character] strutted up the corridor to the room where they'd left the others. Celie wasn't sure how much he understood of what just happened, and how much he'd known was going to happen. Had he sensed the egg, and wanted to go to it ? Or had he merely wanted to stretch his legs, and found the egg by accident? And what would have happened if they hadn't arrived? Her heart clenched at the thought. 

"Where have you been?" Lilah's face was pasty white with fear when they reached the room again. "We heard noises and ... oh!" 

From page 57 of Chasing Cheetahs (page 56 is a photograph) ...

Ryan Sucaet holds the antenna out the window of the Land Rover and presses the receiver to his ear. "I think Bella's going to be near here," he tells us.

With Rachel Shairp, Ryan has been tracking Bella and another female cheetah, Padme, since sunrise. "They're doing great," Ryan tells Laurie. "They're finding prey, the right kind of prey, and the right amount of prey. I'm proud of them!"

Ryan is a recent graduate of Michigan State University. Rachel, after her stint in Namibia, is headed for a master's degree in her native England. But Bella and Padme are students too - at a school for cheetahs. Their classroom is fenced, eight-thousand-acre former game reserve called Bellebenno, where they're learning to be wild cheetahs again. 

Bella - the black wire with the silver top is the antenna on her radio collar.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Wondrous Words Wednesday 29

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Kathy at the Bermuda Onion where you "can share new words that you’ve encountered or spotlight words you love. Feel free to get creative!"

From Eat Like a Bear by April Pulley Sayre

Carex grayi  Gray's sedge

Tear at sedges.
Chomp cow parsnip stems.

sedge noun \ˈsej\
: a grass like plant that grows in wet ground or near water

: any of the family Cyperaceae  *monocotyledonous graminoid (grass) flowering marsh plants differing from the related grasses in having ^achenes and solid stems. (Mostly marsh plants but they appear other places too, even the desert.)

Features distinguishing members of the sedge family from "true" grasses or rushes are stems with triangular cross-sections (with occasional exceptions) and leaves that are spirally arranged in three ranks (grasses have alternate leaves forming two ranks). For example: water chestnut (Eleocharis dulcis) and the papyrus sedge (Cyperus papyrus), and sawgrass (Cladium).

“Sedges have edges, Rushes are round, and Grasses have nodes where leaves are found (or are hollow all the way up from the ground)”


Comparison of monocot
and dicot sprouting

also known as monocots, are one of two major groups of flowering plants (angiosperms) that are traditionally recognized, the other being dicotyledons, or dicots.

Most members of this group have one cotyledon, or embryonic leaf, in their seeds. In contrast, the traditional dicotyledons typically have two cotyledons. This isn't a very useful way of identifying the two groups since this condition only lasts for a short period in a plant's life.

One of the most useful identifying traits is that a monocot's flower is trimerous, i.e. with the flower parts in threes or in multiples of three (3, 6, or 9 petals), while dicots are typically tetramerous (4) or pentamerous (5).

More characteristics are ...

^achenes [ay-keen] 
:  a small dry indehiscent (this means it doesn't open - it lacks a seam where it would naturally split to release the seeds) one-seeded fruit developing from a simple ovary and usually having a thin **pericarp attached to the seed at only one point (so it has very little in the way of a skin, fruit flesh and seed cover section - see below). A sunflower seed is a good example of an achene. 

Achene (Greek ἀ, a, privative + χαίνειν, chainein, to gape): a type of simple dry fruit produced by many species of flowering plants, often mistaken for seeds. They typically float, contain a single seed and don't open.

A sedge achene with feathery bristles (Rhynchspora plumosa)
Sounds like a bunch of those annoying spikey, sticky and bristley things that end up stuck to your socks and pants when you go for a walk are actually achene. 

And, apparently strawberry seeds are not really seeds, they are achene too. 

**pericarp - the outer and often edible layer is the pericarp, which is the tissue that develops from the ovary wall of the flower and surrounds the seeds. The pericarp is typically made up of three distinct layers: the epicarp (also called exocarp), which is the outermost layer; the mesocarp, which is the middle layer or pith; and the endocarp, which is the inner layer surrounding the ovary or the seeds. In a citrus fruit, the epicarp and mesocarp make up the peel.

Good grief - this is all because I looked up one word (sedge) from a children's picture book!!!

I want to toss in at least a couple more of the words I ran into this past week.

She brushed her chestnut curls back from her face and caught them in a basket with the nacre comb Uncle had given her three birthdays ago. 

nacre /ˈnākər/
: mother-of-pearl
: a hard, shiny, and smooth iridescent substance that forms on the insides of the shells of some shellfish (especially oysters and abalones) and that is used in ornamentation.
Origin: French, from Middle French, from Old Italian naccara drum, nacre, perhaps from Arabic naqqāra drum. First Known Use: 1718

Abalone nacre. Photo: Mauro Cateb (Source)

So, she got something like this ...

Well, I was also finally going to try to sort out exactly what a Brutus hairdo looked like, but there is a huge amount of internet confusion about it so that will have to wait until I have more time.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

UK - 100 Great Geosites: The Final List

As part of Earth Science Week 2014, The Geological Society of London and their partner organizations celebrated the unique geo-heritage of the UK and Ireland by creating a list of 100 Great Geosites. The UK has an amazing amount of geology crammed into a really small amount of space ! 

 See ...  

You have to do a lot more traveling in the States to cover that amount of geologic time.

Anyhow, the GSL split the 100 sites into ten categories and the winner of a public vote in each category has pride of place as the ‘People’s Favourite’.

Here are a couple of the winners ...

The cliffs at Millook Haven have a spectacular example of recumbent folds that have a characteristic “chevron” kinky shape that tends to form when strongly layered rocks are buckled. The People’s Choice in Folding and Faulting category.

Hunstanton Cliffs is notable for the colorful, stripy contrast between the red limestone, known as ‘red chalk’ and the bright white chalk layer on top and for the local fossils. The People's Choice in the Coastal category.

If you want more information about the Bedrock Geology of the UK there is a a web-based map is available through the Engineering Geology Viewer.

For something a little simpler I just found the British Geological Survey Make-a-Map site too.

Friday, October 10, 2014

A peak into In Search of Lost Frogs

This is a beautiful book!  I saw it on the new shelf in the library when I was picking up some of the books nominated for the Cybils and despite my promise not to acquire non-Cybils books, I had to borrow it.

To be clear, it isn't a elementary/middle grade book. I suppose it might be considered young adult non-fiction book (not sure how to tell honestly) or simply a good introduction for any layperson to an important topic.

So ... for Book Beginnings on Friday, hosted by Rose City Reader here is something from the beginning of In Search of Lost Frogs: The Quest to Find the World's Rarest Amphibians by Robin Moore ...


On a late September day in 2007, three miles above the equator in southern Ecuador, I joined a team of scientists on a quest to find a small black frog. We hiked across windswept peaks under cotton-wool clouds billowing in a sapphire sky - the air so thin that it made my head pound and my lungs ache - in search of a creature no bigger than my thumb. The frog had not been seen in two decades; its disappearance had been as sudden as it was mysterious. The frog was posthumously named after the Quechua word for sadness, to lament the loss of frogs from cool streams and glassy pools across South America and beyond.

For The Friday 56 hosted at Freda's Voice here is something from page 56 from In Search of Lost Frogs ...

A third of known amphibian species were threatened with extinction - a further quarter were too little known to assesses, and 120 species were believed to have gone extinct since 1980. "It was much worse than we expected," said Simon Stuart, who led the project. While the main threats to amphibians were identified as habitat loss, disease, pollution and invasive species, a large category of rapid declines - affecting some 453 species - were classified as "enigmatic." Although disease and climate change were implicated and interactions between the two suspected, the exact mechanism behind these declines had not been pinpointed. 

And as a bonus,  here is a small bit of page 111 ...

Other than this, our encounters with teenagers in camouflage are brief and cordial. On one occasion, as we are photographing frogs beside a stream, I look up to see Alonso standing beside a young man with an AK-47. The soldier is focused on something in Alonso's hands and, as I more closer, I see it is a frog. The soldier is enraptured by Alonso's descriptions of the frog and why they are important components of the ecosystem.

The book has a website too  ... and there are amazing images there!  Go visit! 

 For example, here is a really tiny new toad which has been named the "Monty Burns Toad"...
A new species of beaked toad found in the Choco of Colombia.
Copyright Robin Moore

This is a very cool book !

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Wonderous Words Wednesday 28

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Kathy at the Bermuda Onion where you "can share new words that you’ve encountered or spotlight words you love. Feel free to get creative!"

I currently have a blazing headache - I don't know how coherent this is going to be, but I can't get any work done right now so here are a few words to share ...

"Tea was served on the lawn, with beautiful silver teapot and hot-water jug, and a milk jug under a dainty muslin cover weighted down with periwinkle shells sewn around the edges."

So as far as I was concerned, periwinkle is a flower or a shade of purple-blue ...
Vinca minor (aka lesser periwinkle or dwarf periwinkle)
with the eponymic purple-blue periwinkle color
Madagascar periwinkle or rosy periwinkle - a species of Catharanthus

so I was envisioning little lavender-blue shells ??? and getting confused, so I decided to look it up ...

and found out that there is an entire mollusc family, Littorinidae, that are known as periwinkles and that the common periwinkle is a species of small edible marine snail.

Shells of the common periwinkle
Having never been posh enough that servants wandered around offering me tea on silver trays, this was a new thing to me. I am still not quite sure what I think of having a muslin milk jug cover with snail shells sewn onto it - humm - so you can see why the author used the word periwinkle instead.

Oh - and I saved this up - I am a geologist so I already know all about them, but wanted to share ...

From Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey ...

The choice became apparent to me this morning when I stepped out of a Park Service housetrailer - my caravan - to watch for the first time in my life the sun come up over the hoodoo stone of Arches National Monument.

looove hoodoos!

A hoodoo is a tall skinny spire consisting of layers of sedimentary rock. They look sort of like natural totem pole shapes. They are formed by physical weathering processes - primarily frost wedging - water seeps into cracks in the rock and then freezes, expanding and causing the crack to widen. This is the same thing that creates pot holes in the roads over the winter. Over several freeze-thaw cycles this causes the cracks to widen to the point that pieces of rock (or road) break free.

Each layer of sedimentary rock in the hoodoo has a slightly different resistance to weathering so that the spire ends up with bands of variable thickness. They are most commonly found in the High Plateaus region of the Colorado Plateau and in the Badlands regions of the Northern Great Plains.

Hoodoos are fragile and constantly changing. Bryce Canyon has the most famous hoodoos, but here is an example from Arches, where Abbey worked.

Landscape Arch with LaSal Mountain in the background. The hoodoos here are still in crowd form - not standing isolated.
Here is a free standing hoodoo from Bryce canyon ...

Hoodoo in upper Hatshop from National Park Service

And here is the rest of Bryce Canyon (which isn't really a canyon at all - it wasn't formed by flowing water) because it is so amazing ...

And heck - my headache is winning so I will just give you some more pictures of Arches National Park instead of trying to remember any of the other words I had planned ...

Happy Wednesday !