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.

Save the Pupfish!

With just thirty-five Devils Hole pupfish left on the planet, the National Park Service refused to risk a single breeding pair. It was reluctant even to surrender any eggs. After months of argument and analysis, it finally allowed the Fish and Wildlife Service to gather eggs in the off-season, when the chances of their surviving in the cavern were, in any case, low. The first summer, a single egg was collected; it died. The following winter, forty-two eggs were gathered; twenty-nine of these were successfully reared to adulthood.

— Under a White Sky, p. 81

“This is a good sign,” Gumm said.

Love how phlegmatic the scientist is. In truth, “she tries to spend some part of every day by the edge of the tank, just looking at the fish.”

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.

Question of the Day

How do the pensioners in The Thursday Murder Club know about the Dark Web when self only heard about it a month ago?

She’s on p. 181.

Also, it turns out, the DCI likes Oasis. OASIS.

Normally, she would just barrel through to the end (especially as it’s getting pretty exciting), but today has had all sorts of appointments, and she’s meeting someone for dinner — DINNER! — at the Beach Chalet. Her cousin from Manila, who’s only here for a few days.

Stay cool (it’s hard, that sun’s like a laser), dear blog readers. Stay cool.

Seducing the DCI

Detective Chief Inspector Chris Hudson is not a bad man. He opens doors for his (female) partner and doesn’t act like he expects to be thanked for it. But he tried to ignore the four octogenarian pensioners of the Thursday Murders Club, and they punished him by giving his partner a couch all to herself — a couch big enough for her to sit with legs folded up beneath her! — while he has to sit on a couch big enough for “two and a half”, a pensioner boxing him in on either side while they pepper him with questions about an ongoing investigation.

“So you do have a suspect? How wonderful. What do you make of the coffee and walnut?” says Joyce.

Chris lifts a slice of coffee and walnut cake to his mouth and takes a bite. Also better than M&S. Joyce, you wizard. Also, it was a well-known fact that there were no calories in homemade cakes.

The Thursday Murder Club, p. 108

Stay cool, dear blog readers. Stay cool.

Sentence of the Day! Definitely, the Sentence of the Day

  • It brought back all the things she loved about South London: murder, drugs, someone who carried off a “no comment” with a bit of panache. — The Thursday Murder Club, p. 90

Early Warning System

So every day Elizabeth opens her diary to a date two weeks ahead and writes herself a question. And every day she answers a question she set herself two weeks ago.

The Thursday Murder Club, p. 87

Dearest Mum had her own strategy: she had a huge calendar, and different colored marking pens. Gradually, self noticed that she began spending more and more time poring over it. Could have been as far back as 15 years ago. That must have been when she was just in her late 60s.

Dearest Mum came to visit self in California and started talking about this wonderful restaurant in Half Moon Bay called Gibraltar, a place she said she had just discovered. Self was quiet. Dearest Mum looked over. “What? I’ve told you this story before,” she said, looking for the first time in her life very unnerved.

“No. I was the one who took you to that restaurant. A friend in Half Moon Bay told me about it.”

So, the dementia started a long time ago. Could even have been as far back as 20 years ago. But Dearest Mum had this habit of being very gay and charming. If anyone noticed, they didn’t say a word.

Self is hugely enjoying The Thursday Murder Club.

Most of the mysteries she has read this year have been ace:

  • Find You First, by Linwood Barclay
  • One Fatal Flaw, by Anne Perry
  • All the Devils are Here, by Louise Penny
  • Eddie’s Boy, by Thomas Perry

Stay cool, dear blog readers. Stay cool.

Octogenarians Do London

We could have got another black cab straight back to the station, but Elizabeth wanted to have a stroll, and so we did. I don’t know if you know Mayfair — there are no shops you would actually buy anything in, but it was very pleasant. We stopped for coffee in a Costa. It was in a beautiful building, which Elizabeth said used to be a pub and where she and a lot of her colleagues would drink. We stayed there for a while, and talked about what we’d learned.

If today was anything to go by, this whole murder investigation is going to be the most enormous fun.

The Thursday Murder Club, p. 84

btw, reading this book is enormous fun.

HAPPY FOURTH

The Fourth was always self’s favorite holiday. Nothing’s changed.

Stay cool, dear blog readers. Stay cool.

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.

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