Favorite Reads, So Far 2021

The Relentless Moon, by Mary Robinette Kowal (science fiction)

High as the Waters Rise, by Anja Kampmann (first novel)

Ice Walker: A Polar Bear’s Journey Through the Fragile Arctic, by James Raffan (environment)

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, by Elizabeth Kolbert (environment)

Inferno: The Fiery Destruction of Hamburg, 1943, by Keith Lowe (WWII history)

The Thursday Murder Club, by Richard Osman (mystery)

July #TreeSquare Challenge # 17: Ocean Beach Again

Self will never tire of looking at these pines overlooking Ocean Beach. You can see the direction of the wind in their branches, even on a perfectly still day.

The #TreeSquare Challenge is the brainchild of Becky at The Life of B. Ever so grateful to her for hosting.

The Fascination of Simulations

Elizabeth Kolbert is very fascinated by simulations of fragile ecological environments, the ones where scientists test out various doomsday scenarios. Under a White Sky is full of such sims.They cost hundreds of millions of dollars to build and maintain.

What must it be like to work in one of those? Self would love it. But Kolbert is a straight arrow: she describes the scientific work in such a way that it appears — by design — dull. Kolbert doesn’t think it’s dull, but the scientists are so self-deprecating.

On p. 109, Kolbert is interviewing Paul Hardity, the Director of SeaSim, a simulation of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

She has him saying this:

  • “We come from this planet. Anyway, I’m getting a little philosophical. I’m going to have to go home and watch a hockey game.”

HAR HAR HAR!!!!

Stay cool, dear blog readers. Stay cool.

Sentence of the Day: Still Elizabeth Kolbert

Self is on Section 2 of Kolbert’s Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future.

The future of life, Kolbert says, is Extinction.

And no one writes Extinction with a capital ‘E’ like Elizabeth Kolbert.

Kolbert is scary good when she writes about soon-to-be-extinct animal species.

In section 2, Into the Wild, she focuses her tremendous laser-like intelligence on pupfish, whose only known habitat is Devils Hole in Death Valley National Park.

She makes passing reference to Edward Abbey, whose Desert Solitaire made quite an impression on self when she read it, decades ago.

p. 78:

  • Though the book chronicles Abbey’s stint as a ranger in Arches National Park, in Utah, he wrote most of it sitting at a bar in a brothel just a few miles from Devils Hole.

A brothel? Really?

Stay cool, dear blog readers. Stay cool.

Sentence of the Day: Elizabeth Kolbert

Self keeps wanting to spell the author’s name as “Colbert” because she loves Stephen Colbert.

Anyhoo, this author is FUNNY. Considering she’s writing about how we are all DOOMED because of our own stupidity, that’s quite a feat.

Essay # 1 of Under a White Sky did not slay self (Loved The Sixth Extinction, so Kolbert had big shoes to fill), but then Kolbert began discussing carp. Yes, you read that right: carp as in everyone’s Favorite Aquarium Fish. Apparently they have eyes affixed to the bottom of their skulls, meaning they are grazers like cows are grazers, only instead of grazing for grass the carp are grazing for algae or snails. After that, self became completely hooked. Anyhoo, someone had the genius idea of introducing carp to the Chicago River and they are destroying shellfish. Basically, the Chicago River is turning into one giant aquarium, there are probably more carp there than there are in China. They breed like crazy and it’s no use trying to make carp a popular food because they are so bony.

Essay # 2 is where self found the sentence of the day:

  • I was anxious, too, though only a little, since the Mississipi we were looking at was about five inches wide.

The author sets up all these challenges for herself, such as trying to reach the Gulf by WALKING from New Orleans and running into a little problem of wet socks. A paragraph later, she introduces us to an engineer who is keeping a close eye on a simulation of the Mississippi Delta while sitting in a folding chair in the Center for River Studies at Louisiana State. This model simulation must be really ACE because the engineer, Kolbert noticed, also “had wet socks.” The model was so accurate that it kept flooding, and the engineer couldn’t move from the folding chair because it was his job to document everything. At least, I think, Kolbert got her wet socks while actually WALKING.

Stay cool, dear blog readers. Stay cool.

July #TreeSquares Challenge #11: Last Year, During the Fires of September

Self was looking over the pictures in her archives. She was shocked to come upon the pictures of the backyard in September 2020. There were wildfires raging up and down the state. The Lightning Complex Fires in Santa Clara County, Santa Cruz County, and San Mataeo County began in August and raged through the first half of September. The air quality was so bad, and there were days she could distinctly smell smoke.

For today’s #TreeSquares Challenge, she’s posting these pictures as a reminder. She heard on the news that the fires raging now in California (there are quite a few) have burned four times as much acreage as the fires this time last year. Can you imagine if we get to September with worse air quality than what’s in these pictures. The heat so far this summer is so intense. Cross your fingers and pray.

Summer 2021: Favorite Reads

Self set a 2021 reading challenge of 35 books. So far, she’s read 30. She’s back, people. Self is back. She used to average 60 books a year. That sank to just 4 in 2014. But every year since 2014, her reading rate’s been inching back up.

Her favorite summer reads have been:

  • Oak Flat: A Fight for Sacred Land in the American West, by Lauren Redniss
  • The Sixth Extinction, by Elizabeth Kolbert
  • Inferno: The Fiery Destruction of Hamburg, 1943, by Keith Lowe

She’s currently reading Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II, by Keith Lowe. Hope it’s as good as Inferno.

Stay cool, dear blog readers. Stay cool.

July #TreeSquare Challenge #1: Land’s End, San Francisco

Thanks to The Life of B for the #TreeSquare Challenge!

Self’s first post for the challenge are the trees of Land’s End, San Francisco, just outside the Legion of Honor. She visited the museum in June. (The trees are in the background, not the focal point, sorry)

These coastal California cypresses have endured wind and fog for many years — even, centuries. Hopefully, they will endure for centuries more!

Stay cool, dear blog readers. Stay cool.

Quote of the Day from . . . Still that Book!

“The rainforest looks a lot better on TV.”

— Mario Croft-Hahn, American ornithologist in Brazil

At first it seemed to me there was nothing moving anywhere around us, but then Cohn-Haft began pointing out the signs of insect life and I began to see lots of activity going on in, to use Wilson’s phrase, the “little world underneath.” A stick bug hung from a dead leaf, waving its delicate legs. A spider crouched on a hoop-shaped web. A phallic tube of mud sticking up from the forest floor turned out to be the home of a cicada larva. What looked like a monstrous pregnancy bulging from a tree trunk was revealed to be a nest filled with termites.

— Chapter IX, The Sixth Extinction

Prize for the Most Deadpan Sentence Ever

After days spent tramping around in a tropical rain forest, wielding a machete to force a path through impenetrable jungle, Wake Forest University Professor “Silman was eager to learn as much as possible about the tree, so that when a new taxonomist could be found to replace the one who had died, he’d be able to send him all the necessary material.”

That sentence is delivered with the same aplomb one would use in describing the activities of, say, Paddington Bear!

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