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review 2018-01-10 07:25
Storm in a Teacup: The Physics of Everyday Life
Storm in a Teacup: The Physics of Everyday Life - Helen Czerski

2018:  I re-read this book as part of the Flat Book Society's group read.  I don't want to review it twice, so I'm re-posting my original review.  My feelings about this book stand, and moreover, it holds up on re-reading very well.  




2017:  A pretty excellent book for anyone who gets a bit giddy about science and the everyday ways that science is part of everyone's life.


Czerski has a very accessible voice and a very clear way of explaining what are at times complex topics, and she covers the gamut:  electromagnetism, water tension, viscosity, plate tectonics, and Newton's laws of motion (I'm old-school) among them.  I learned so much about so many things and those that I had a basic understanding of, she elucidated in ways that really brought the concepts to life in better detail.  I had no idea that an electromagnet was what held down the tray in my toaster - did y'all know that?  That's why the tray doesn't stay down when the toaster is unplugged.  


So much of this book got read out loud to MT, who is not a lover of science, but even he found the bits I shared fascinating (he was equally surprised about the toaster), and there were so many suggestions throughout the book that can easily be done at home; I plan to do several of them with my nieces when next they are here - including building our own trebuchet.  


Honestly, anyone interested in science but might feel intimidated by the often tedious or complex explanations, or anyone who just thinks the science involved in the every day fascinating will get a lot out of this book.  Czerski often gets auto-biographical with her narrative, but she is a physicist, so why wouldn't she use her own experiences to illustrate her points?  (For the record, MT and I both think she and her friends got totally screwed on the whole trebuchet debacle.)


Overall, a lot of fun.


PS:  oh, yes, the trebuchet will happen!

Source: www.sciencebuddies.org/blog/mini-trebuchet-science
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review 2018-01-05 21:32
Sherlock Holmes: Silver Blaze
Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Collection - Arthur Conan Doyle,Stephen Fry

“I am afraid, Watson, that I shall have to go,” said Holmes, as we sat down together to our breakfast one morning.

“Go! Where to?”

“To Dartmoor; to King’s Pyland.”


I was not surprised. Indeed, my only wonder was that he had not already been mixed up in this extraordinary case, which was the one topic of conversation through the length and breadth of England. For a whole day my companion had rambled about the room with his chin upon his chest and his brows knitted, charging and recharging his pipe with the strongest black tobacco, and absolutely deaf to any of my questions or remarks.

And so starts our favourite duo's first excursion to Dartmoor - that place of mystery and fantastical beasts.


The mystery in this story is the death of John Straker, a horse trainer, and the fantastical beast in question is Silver Blaze, a famous race horse, which goes missing. 


I wish I had many good things to say about the story or had noticed any interesting aspects in, but alas, no. As far a Holmes stories go, this is one of the most boring in the canon for me. I have no interest in horses, and even if I did, the horse doesn't even feature for most of the story. Apart from some delightful banter between Holmes and Watson and some insightful descriptions by Watson of Holmes at the beginning, there is little in this story that kept me interested until we reach the conclusion. 


The conclusion, however, is rather neat and does contain one of the most famous exchanges in all of the Holmes stories, and that I must applaud:

Colonel Ross still wore an expression which showed the poor opinion which he had formed of my companion’s ability, but I saw by the Inspector’s face that his attention had been keenly aroused.

“You consider that to be important?” he asked.

“Exceedingly so.”

“Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”

“To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”

“The dog did nothing in the night-time.”

“That was the curious incident,” remarked Sherlock Holmes.


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review 2017-12-29 22:37
Sherlock Holmes: The Adventure of the Copper Beeches
Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Collection - Arthur Conan Doyle,Stephen Fry

Our gas was lit and shone on the white cloth and glimmer of china and metal, for the table had not been cleared yet. Sherlock Holmes had been silent all the morning, dipping continuously into the advertisement columns of a succession of papers until at last, having apparently given up his search, he had emerged in no very sweet temper to lecture me upon my literary shortcomings.

“At the same time,” he remarked after a pause, during which he had sat puffing at his long pipe and gazing down into the fire, “you can hardly be open to a charge of sensationalism, for out of these cases which you have been so kind as to interest yourself in, a fair proportion do not treat of crime, in its legal sense, at all."

Aaaah, ... Holmes winding up Watson. How lovely. 



But as we all know by now, Holmes usually gets in a bad temper only when he is bored or frustrated. 


When we meet our detecting duo at the beginning of The Adventure of the Copper Beeches, Holmes' work is stagnating ... hence the temper tantrum. Holmes believes that his skills are not employed for the detecting work he should be doing and that he is wasting his time with trivial cases that do not require any detecting at all. 

“Pshaw, my dear fellow, what do the public, the great unobservant public, who could hardly tell a weaver by his tooth or a compositor by his left thumb, care about the finer shades of analysis and deduction! But, indeed, if you are trivial, I cannot blame you, for the days of the great cases are past. Man, or at least criminal man, has lost all enterprise and originality. As to my own little practice, it seems to be degenerating into an 

agency for recovering lost lead pencils and giving advice to young ladies from boarding-schools. I think that I have touched bottom at last, however.

This note I had this morning marks my zero-point, I fancy. Read it!”


He tossed a crumpled letter across to me. It was dated from Montague Place upon the preceding evening, and ran thus:


“DEAR MR. HOLMES:--I am very anxious to consult you as to whether I should or should not accept a situation which has been offered to me as governess. I shall call at half-past ten to-morrow if I do not inconvenience you. Yours faithfully,


I sympathise. Many of us have probably been in a similar situation. What followed in Holmes' case was quite funny - he interviewed the young lady and basically dismissed her case as being not worthy of his time.


Two weeks later, he receives a telegram from the very same lady asking for his immediate help.


If ever some fan comes up with using the Holmes stories as parables for a motivational self-help book, I hope they're using this story for the chapter on "not missing opportunities when they present themselves". 


[Btw, if you are that fan who now wants to write that self-help book, feel free, but please don't send me an ARC to review ... it is the kind of book I would loathe to pick up.]


What follows is a trip for Holmes and Watson into the country to meet up with Miss Hunter and figure out why her employers are such oddballs.


As far as Holmes stories go, this is not a favourite. There are some themes in stories that are repeated throughout the Holmes canon - some better than other. This one essentially follows the same theme as The Speckled Band but is nowhere near as gripping or interesting. 


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review 2017-12-26 18:00
Hogfather by Terry Prachett
Hogfather: (Discworld Novel 20) - Terry Pratchett

I've been working on my novel non-stop in preparation for a beta read and subsequently haven't had time to update. Apologies for that and failing to let you all know how much I've been enjoying it. Like it's been said, it was a little confusing, but I really liked it and I don't believe my enjoyment was diminished much by arriving late in the series. I was laughing out loud a lot, which I very rarely do. Thank you all for putting me onto it, especially BT for nudging me towards sticking with it, thanks again. It was my first Terry Prachett, but definitely won't be my last, I had a blast.


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review 2017-12-22 22:05
The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet
Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Collection - Arthur Conan Doyle,Stephen Fry

This is another one that I have read several times, yet, tend to forget it as soon as I put the book down. It’s not that good compared to the ones that have gone before in this collection. In fact, I’ll say it is the first “weak” story in the canon.


So much so that  I had to "rewind" Stephen's narration a couple of times because I found it far more interesting to try out two of the teas I picked up in town after the office Christmas bash yesterday. 


I've never tried Turkish Apple tea (it's a tisane but I'll call it tea all day long). It's delicious.

The second tea, Japanese Cherry (a green tea), was also delicious.   


Anyway, the story of the Beryl Coronet is really boring.


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