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24 october 2016

I've been reading (and reviewing here) some excellent popular science books of late. But they're all between two and five years old. Why this odd selection? It's what appears in my public library's e-book collection. However books get marketed to and chosen by the library or its e-book vendor, they tend not to be today's bestsellers (or perhaps, just as with print editions, today's bestsellers are usually checked out). The selection is a little random, a lot eclectic, and possibly not vetted by human beings at all; algorithms often lead me from one book I've checked out to another one like it. By letting the machine direct me to these middle-aged popular texts, I don't perhaps get up-to-the-minute scientific information. But as Simon Knell says, "the scientific book is an impossibility; almost immediately it is a history book." If nothing else, I am getting a very good look at exigent issues in science of the early 2010s.     read more

20 october 2016

It's common enough to see coyotes here in Texas. My partner keeps a horse at a stable out south of Fort Worth, and frequently sees coyotes at dawn and dusk, even occasionally in the daylight. I used to live in a house that backed onto a railway, and I'd see coyotes ambling up and down the embankment: they clearly used the right-of-way as a path between their various habitats. (Appropriately, a roadrunner used to nest in the scrub near the tracks, but Looney Tunes action was lacking.) Coyotes are a frequent sight – and of course even more frequent sound – in the twilight all over the Dallas metro area, and somehow one assumes they would be. This is not quite the desert southwest (the ancestral range of the coyote), but in August it feels like it, and one gets the impression that Dallas and Fort Worth were built over coyote habitat, incorporating it into their sprawl.     read more

19 october 2016

Samuel Beckett's Endgame should be a frustrating, depressing experience. Many times, I imagine it is; a lot of things can go wrong when producing the play, and even in reading it, you may just begin in the entirely wrong mood. But approached in certain frames of mind – or perhaps without any frame of mind, ready for anything – the play can be a strangely uplifting experience.     read more

18 october 2016

Atypically for a Montalbano story, "Sette lunedi" – "Seven Mondays" – begins from the perspective of the perpetrator, not from Salvo Montalbano's. The perpetrator, in this instance, snares a fish from a live tank, after hours at a fancy restaurant, and shoots the fish in the head. Our heroes seem to be dealing with a maniac, possibly a religious maniac, who has set them an elaborate puzzle – and failure to solve it within those seven Mondays may be disastrous.     read more