Beautiful Sentences: Lydia Kiesling

Why did I have a child? To have a child is to court loss.
Lydia Kiesling, The Golden State.

Writerly resolutions: June status

The Chart of my wordcount over the month of Junenovel gained a net of nearly 10,000 words this month, which is a vast improvement over previous months. Doing the 1,000 words of summer thing helped a fair amount even if, during the two weeks of that challenge, I only hit the 1,000 word target a few times.

Not much progress on the new story, but three older stories got revised and back into submissions.

In all, though, a good month for my writing ambitions.

Beautiful Sentences: Tom McAllister

Shell-shocked acquaintances will say without irony that he had so much to live for, ignorant of the fact that the prospect of having to live like this for another fifty years was not the solution to but rather the cause of his hopelessness.

Tom McAllister, How to Be Safe.


550 KRE The Basics of Earth Science

When I wasNewImage in high school, earth science was the class that was taken by the kids who didn’t really want to learn science., much like the stereotypical intro to geology in college which gets dubbed “Rocks for Jocks.” As someone who was a science nerd in his youth, I of course, didn’t take earth science (or geology) and so my knowledge of the subject didn’t expand beyond what I was taught in grade school science class.

It was with a sense of humility that I came to this book thinking that I’d learn something I didn’t know. The first problem came up when I realized that the typesetting of the book was faulty: The symbol ▯appeared in place of pretty much every special character, making nonsense of things like the descriptions of chemical reactions where ▯ appeared in place of ⇌ (somewhat miraculously, this lack of symbols resolved itself for the last few chapters).

The text itself largely consists of a dull recitation of facts. It’s as if Krebs got a hold of an outline of earth science study guide and just filled in the paragraphs. It’s enough to make the mind go dull, but then there was at least one dramatic error in the text (possibly more, but I have a grade-school understanding of earth science): at one point Krebs talks about sedimentary rocks metamorphosing into igneous rocks. I learned the correct answer as a dinosaur-obsessed first grader: Under high temperatures, sedimentary rocks do indeed metamorphose, but they metamorphose into metamorphic rocks (Krebs did manage to get this right in the section on the three kinds of rocks).

But the worst thing about this book is it turns out that Krebs is an anti-environmentalist climate change denier. Early in the book he discounts the need for things like post-consumer recycling and he repeatedly cites The Skeptical Environmentalist a much-criticized work that serves primarily to be used as propaganda by anti-environmentalist forces. When he gets to climate change, he repeats the same tired claims that have been peddled by the fossil fuel industry and their allies about how the change in the climate is probably not human caused and even if it was, it’s not worth doing anything about.

Overall, a garbage book, probably even worse than the Slovene language text that made me so angry a couple months ago.


Beautiful Sentences: Bennet Sims

What if he is her paramour from the past tense, cuckolding me from her unconscious, such that her body will break up with me in undeath, leaving our apartment for him?

Bennett Sims, A Questionable Shape.


Dewey Decimal Project: 540 NEW The New Chemistry

Continuing through the 500s and science, I get to chemistry. In high school, I was a chemistry wiz. I took tCover of The New Chemistrywo years of chemistry, acing both years, but somehow between the end of high school and the beginning of college, I managed to persuade myself that I wasn’t good at chemistry and I barely passed freshman chemistry when I was still enrolled at nerd school.

I picked this book out of all the options because I had imagined it might be a college-level chemistry textbook and I could right the wrongs I had committed against myself and finally and properly learn some chemistry.

This was not the book that I expected. Instead it’s a collection of articles that seem to assume at least a year of college chemistry knowledge to fully understand (and my year of college chemistry is three decades behind me and was pretty much forgotten on the spot, let alone available for use these many years later). Nevertheless, I gave it a try, starting with the creation of new elements and working my way through a variety of topics that culminated with chemistry and society. 

Reader, I understood less than half of what I read. I still would like to re-learn (or would that be just plain learn?) chemistry, but I’m not much closer to it now, although I have to admit that some side-reading in Wikipedia and elsewhere in trying to understand some of what was presented did bring me infinitesimally closer to understanding basic chemistry.


Beautiful Sentences: Genevieve Valentine

Of course, like most unkind advice, it was correct, eventually, somehow.

Genevieve Valentine, Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti.


Dewey Decimal Project: 530 FEY The Character of Physical Law

When NewImageI was a college student, I read Feynman’s autobiography, Surely You’re Joking, Mr Feynman. It was a breezy fun read (and I was young and dumb enough not to notice the misogyny and other problematic aspects of Feynman’s personal life). Feynman has a reputation for presenting challenging topics in an accessible way, so with that plus my experience of reading his autobiography, I thought I’d give this book a shot, despite its unpromising title.

As I expected, it was an accessible yet challenging read. The text is taken from a series of lectures Feynman gave at Cornell University and uses the idea of what constitutes a physical law as its organizing principle and gives a decent overview of physics starting with Newton’s law of gravitation and considering a number of topics including relativity and quantum mechanics. There have been a number of significant discoveries in physics since Feynman gave these lectures in the early 60s (notably the confirmation of the existence of the Higgs boson and the detection of gravitation waves), but Feynman’s lectures seem to anticipate these reasonably well given the state of what was known at the time. 


Beautiful Sentences: Sigrid Nunez

In the news: Thirty-two million adult Americans can’t read. The potential audience for poetry has shrunk by two-thirds since 1992. A “rent-burdened” woman worrying how she’s going to survive in New York City decides to try writing a novel (“and that’s going well”).

Sigrid Nunez, The Friend.


Dewey Decimal Project: 523.1 ALE The Jazz of Physics : The Secret Link between Music and the Structure of the Universe

Continuing NewImage through sciences in the Dewey Decimal system, I decided that this would be a good option for something to fill the Astronomy slot since I’m a musician and for a year or so of college I was a physics-English double major.

The book itself is what I would call the academic memoir, in which the author’s area of study and autobiography are presented together. I’d read a couple books with this structure earlier when I was in language and linguistics during the 400s and as I think about it, a case can be made for some writers’ autobiographies also following this schema for presenting the contents of the book.

Alexander’s life is fascinating and he’s an example of a surprisingly common class of academics, the physicist-musician (just looking at my own circle, I can point to one friend from my undergrad days with a PhD in physics who just finished his DA in music and another undergrad friend who left physics to pursue music, which is not to consider the physicists who do music on the side as an avocation). The physics is presented reasonably well, although there’s a tendency for him to occasionally dip into a bit of vocabulary or concept without explaining it (I noted, for example, that he uses parsec without ever giving a definition of it and given the famous misuse of the term in Star Wars, it might have been a good idea to be sure to explain, at the least, that it’s a measurement of distance.