Thursday, October 7, 2010

My work here is done...

Like a lot of people, I'm fascinated by the weird and wonderful wildlife found around our planet. So I was really interested when I heard/read a story about a recent survey of deep-sea creatures and the new species they had found. I love reading about new species—it's a reminder that there's always something left to discover, even if you think you know it all—and besides, new species are usually some of the freakiest-looking creatures you've ever laid eyes on.

I was really impressed by this recently discovered hydromedusa jellyfish, Bathykorus bouilloni, that they had nicknamed the "Darth Vader Jellyfish." (I'd reproduce the photo here but it's copyrighted, so here's a link to the National Geographic pic.) This critter was a jellyfish that looked like Darth Vader's helmet, round on the top with that crazy flared brim at the bottom. I shared this fact with Boy, since I thought he might find it amusing (and yes, I'll admit I'm desperate to have a conversation with him that elicits more than a grunt).

ME: "Oh, did you hear about that new jellyfish they're calling the Darth Vader jellyfish? It kinda looks like his helmet."
BOY: "Is it black?"
ME: "No, it's white, but it really has the same shape."
BOY: "If it's white they should call it a Stormtrooper jellyfish."
ME: "Stormtrooper helmets aren't the same shape. They don't have that flared thingy at the bottom."
BOY: "But the Vader helmet is based on Stormtrooper helmets."
ME: "????"

Every parent hopes that some day their children will grow up to share their interests and values. Yesterday I had a pointless, nerd-tastic argument with my son involving science fiction trivia. I think I've done my job!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

2010 Book Report: Third Quarter

The quest continues to read 100 books in 2010; I was one behind halfway through the year, so did I catch up during a lazy summer, or get slowed down by the crazy fall? Here's my list of this quarter's reading.

Key: C: Children's; F: Fantasy; H: Historical; Hr: Horror; M: Mystery; MG: Middle Grade (ages 8-12); NF: Nonfiction; P: Poetry; SF: Science Fiction; SS: Short Stories; YA: Young Adult (age 13+); *not in the last ten years at least; ^read for work.

07/02/10: David Almond, Skellig (YA, 2)
07/03/10: Walter Dean Myers, Monster (YA, 1)
07/03/10: Lois McMaster Bujold, The Sharing Knife: Beguilement (F, 4)
07/04/10: Bujold, The Sharing Knife: Legacy (F, 4)
07/05/10: Bujold, The Sharing Knife: Passage (F, 3)
07/07/10: Bujold, The Sharing Knife: Horizon (F, 2)
07/08/10: Ellen Wittlinger, Hard Love (YA, 1)
07/09/10: Louise Rennison, Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging (YA, 1)
07/11/10: Carol Plum-Ucci, The Body of Christopher Creed (YA, M, 1)
07/12/10: John Green and David Levithan, Will Grayson, Will Grayson (YA, 1)
07/13/10: Lois McMaster Bujold, The Curse of Chalion (F, 5)
07/16/10: Bujold, Paladin of Souls (F, 4)
07/17/10: David Brin The Practice Effect (SF, 5 or 6*)
07/19/10: Chris Lynch, Freewill (YA, 1)
07/21/10: Peter Dickinson, The Ropemaker (YA, F, 1)
07/21/10: Virginia Euwer Wolff, True Believer (YA, 1)
07/22/10: An Na, A Step from Heaven (YA, 1)
07/24/10: John Joseph Adams, editor, Federations (SF, SS, 1)
07/25/10: Terry Trueman, Stuck in Neutral (YA, 1)
07/27/10: David Almond, Kit's Wilderness (YA, 1)
07/29/10: Virginia Euwer Wolff, Make Lemonade (YA, 1)
07/31/10: Garret Freymann-Weyr, My Heartbeat (YA, 1)
08/03/10: Sara Zarr, Story of a Girl (YA, 1)
08/05/10: Nancy Farmer, House of the Scorpion (YA, SF, 3)
08/07/10: Jack Gantos, Hole in My Life (YA, memoir, 1)
08/09/10: Aidan Chambers, Postcards from No Man's Land (YA, 1)
08/13/10: Lois McMaster Bujold, The Hallowed Hunt (F, 3)
08/14/10: Carolyn Mackler, The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things (YA, 1)
08/18/10: Jennifer Donnelly, A Northern Light (YA, 1)
08/21/10: K. L. Going, Fat Kid Rules the World (YA, 1)
08/22/10: Angela Johnson, The First Part Last (YA, 1)
09/02/10: Simon Winchester, A Crack in the Edge of the World (NF, 1)
09/03/10: Allan Stratton, Chanda's Secrets (YA, 1)
09/16/10: Suzanne Collins, Mockingjay (YA, SF, 1)

Total for the quarter: 34 books, mostly read in July and August—so I've had both the lazy summer and the crazy fall. With 83 books total through three quarters, I'm definitely on target for 100 for the year, although I'll have to do a lot better than September's 3-book pace or I'll fall short. Most of the books I read this quarter were young adult novels, for my Printz Award project, although I did sneak in a couple of series by my favorite author as well as a lone nonfiction work.

So what was my favorite book for the quarter? Looking back over the list, there isn't one that strikes me as amazing or life-changing, but there was one I greatly admired as a writer, and that was Chris Lynch's Freewill. The more I think about his experiment with the second-person narrator ("you look around and see..."), the more impressed I am with its execution. He took something that could have been tiresome and experimental and made it integral to the plot and characterization. I think anyone curious about writing techniques should read it.

Check back in three months for my year-end survey, to see whether I made my 100-book goal.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Photo of the Week--10/3/10

During our crossing of the Drake Passage on the way to Antarctica in early 2008, we attended several lectures on the kinds of wildlife we could expect to see there. Seals and whales and all sorts of marine birds, including, of course, penguins. There were three kinds we could expect to see, our expert told us: the Adelie (crazy-eye), the chinstrap, and the gentoo. The beautiful Emperors would be occupied far south of us with breeding, and the king penguin, which is smaller but has similar coloring, was usually found north of our location, on the subantarctic chains like the Falklands. Imagine our surprise, then, when at our first stop we encountered this very lost king penguin on the beach among a whole bunch of chinstrap and Adelie penguins. He hung out on the beach as we traveled the island; I think he knew he was the subject of much admiration. He didn't even mind the paparazzi as they took pictures; here he posed specially with the two of us (at a reasonable distance away, of course).