darthfar: (Default)
Well, I'm back from vacation... and it's only taken me all of four days to get around to updating. *facepalm*

Things acquired


- Galactic North (Alastair Reynolds)
- Revelation Space (Alastair Reynolds)
- Redemption Ark (Alastair Reynolds)
- Absolution Gap (Alastair Reynolds)
[Are you seeing a pattern here? I haven't fallen this hard for an author's books since I found Asimov at age 14. -Okay, so Arthur Clarke came really close-. It's just that case of finding an author whom you're so comfortable with that you'll readily buy *any* book they come out with. And really, I'm a big sucker for old fashioned space opera, with a generous side of technology. Side note: The bookstore I went to had EVERY book Reynolds ever published, and I can't tell you just how tempting it was to buy the whole lot all at once.]

- Lost & Found (Shaun Tan): I loved ST's graphic novel, The Arrival (which is one of the genre's most beautiful books ever published), and I love his art style; this is an opportunity to see how the man works with colours for a change.

- Hellblazer: Original Sins: Seriously? Getting started on the Hellblazer series is a bad, bad, bad idea because it just about runs forever. But I'm a big fan of the fellow from his appearances in the Tim Hunter comics (and that's the original blond, womanising bloke from Liverpool, thank you very much. Not Keanu Reeves), so it sort of makes sense to transition from BoM/NoM/AoM to Hellblazer. I think.

- The First Three Minutes (Steven Weinberg): There's just no escaping Weinberg, and Sean Carroll's From Here to Eternity (which I read on vacation. Yes, my idea of a vacation is reading physics books, apparently) was just the umpteenth reminder how I should track down his book on the early universe, once and for all.

- The Eerie Silence: Searching for Ourselves in the Universe (Paul Davies): Just because I hero-worship Stephen Hawking, it doesn't mean I necessarily frown upon making contact with aliens either, haha. The book synopsis alone makes me think of Sagan's work, and his theories on what form extraterrestrial life would take... and that invocation of the memory of Sagan alone is about enough to sell me a book.

- Post Captain (Patrick O'Brien): I would have gotten HMS Surprise as well, but would you believe it... the bookstore had EVERY book in the Aubrey-Maturin series BUT HMS Surprise. *facepalm*

Electronics & Misc

- GARMIN nuvi 2465 GPS navigator: Because I couldn't find my way around the block on my own if I tried. KIDDING. ... Okay, not really. My mother's constant worry is that someday I'll miss a turn and  find myself on the other end of the country. At least now if I do, I can blame it on a little GPS device for getting me lost.

- The Sims 3 Late Night: Okay, so I caved in. I have every expansion set that ever came out for TS1 and TS2, and it looks like the same is going to be true of TS3; compulsion keeps me collecting, even if the sensible voice in my head screams, "NO, not again!" Considering that the last ten games I've played consisted of a player character brutally maiming and killing other characters (or, in the case of Amnesia, the other way around), LN is a nice change of pace, *and* I get new Build/Buy stuff for my architecture/interior design obsession. Oh wait, I kill Sims too. Never mind.

- The Complete National Geographic: Every issue from 1888 to 2009, on six DVDs. I have no idea how long it'll take me to put even a dent in the 8,000+ articles in the collection, but I figure it's always good to have the whole set at your fingertips, right? Not to mention... 200,000 photos' worth of pic reference. I'm such a magpie.

- Pandemonium Tour CD+DVD (Pet Shop Boys): Home for four days, and I'm already burning a hole in this. ;) [But seriously, Neil Tennant, what the hell's with the dancing Christmas trees? ROFL]
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For you Aubrey-Maturin fans. You know who you are. ;)

Serenade Before the Storm
by *DarthFar on deviantART
darthfar: (Default)
So [livejournal.com profile] abelarda  posted this Take The Golden Compass Daemon Test thing on her journal... and because I'm a fan of the Dark Materials books, I had to have a go as well:

Your result for The Golden Compass Daemon Test...

Distant Loner Soul

A confident and independent person, you are logical and probably very intelligent. Some people think you are a little cool and unemotional, just because you don't prattle on about your feelings all the time like some people do. Outbursts of either anger or joy are both rare for you: You try to keep yourself under control at all times. You tend to deflect any really personal questions with a joke, an overly-literal reply, or even an out-and-out lie. Your few friends and your family probably wish that they knew you better. You probably wish they would just leave you alone.

The thoughts and opinions of other people don't hold much sway over you. You don't spend time agonizing over other people's feelings, and you don't much care what people think about you. Sometimes your insensitivity can hurt people's feelings, but that's their problem. If someone didn't like you, you wouldn't lose much sleep over it. You march to the beat of your own drum, and if your friends and family think you can be a little odd... well, that's their issue.

You are an introverted person, disliking crowds and strangers. Some people might think that you are shy, but really, you simply find parties and crowds to be unpleasant and tiresome. You get exhausted quickly when you are forced into social situations, and you need some time to yourself to recharge afterwards. You don't like noise and chaos. You like to keep things calm and logical.

Your daemon would represent your cool, unruffled, solitary nature and would probably spend a lot of time comparing you favorably to the people around you, or helping you work out logically complex problems.

Suggested forms:
Octopus, Manta Ray, Shark, Boa Constrictor, Komodo Dragon.

Take The Golden Compass Daemon Test at HelloQuizzy

O..kay? Aside from the quiz pretty much nailing my personality and the weirdness of getting THREE aquatic daemon possibilities (wouldn't that doom me to a life of seafaring, never to tread the ground? What if I was born on land? ROFL ROFL ROFL), can you imagine the hilarity of possessing an octopus for a daemon? I imagine it would be a peaceful coexistence like this...

darthfar: (Default)
So I'm back from vacation. And, being the veritable garden of infection that I was, I have also probably managed to spread whatever it was that my respiratory tract was harbouring to... oh, between a few tens to a few hundred people. [chuckle]

Snippety snip  )

The lion dance performance. Pretty nifty, for anyone who's never seen it before. Unfortunately, I filmed this on the 1st floor walkway, so the drumming is muted; it was either that, or film it on the ground floor for better audio... and capture only the tops of people's heads. ;)

More on acquisitions )

[NOTE: I've just discovered, thanks to Wikipedia, that Dick Winters passed away on the 2nd of January this year. :-(( There'll be a tribute painting at some point, if I can fit it in my schedule.]
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1. There's a Corpse Under My Mattress

Everyone's heard that gruesome urban legend about some vacationing couple/other holiday makers finding a highly aromatic, putrefying ex-person under their hotel bed. Well, some of those stories are actually true... and I just found out that my mother's friend knew one of the women who found one of said ex-people lurking under the mattress. Said woman was part of a group of insurance salespeople who went up to our local highlands for a convention/workshop; because they had to pay their own way for accommodations, six of them wound up sharing a hotel room, which necessitated the urgent rearrangement of the beds as everybody wanted dibs on the soft upper mattress rather than the harder support. At which point they found a (thankfully, I suppose) very fresh, deceased female playing sandwich meat to the double bread layer of bedding...

I'm only mentioning this because my mother and her friends (including the one who knew the insurance lady) went up to said highlands resort on vacation last week. Because the story had circulated among them, the two only women who *didn't* go to burn their money at the casino were far too frightened to go to sleep until their roommates had returned. Which makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. If they're afraid that *their* beds might harbour grinning corpses, why didn't they check under them when they first arrived at the hotel? wouldn't it have been better to *know* for sure that nothing was lurking under your bed, rather than to spend the night in trepidation, and letting your imagination run havoc? And what's so bad about sharing the bed with a corpse? I mean, I suppose it would be a little unhygienic - and probably olfactorily unpleasant - to be bedmates with something that's cooled down to room temperature and is now being systematically broken back down to its elements by microorganisms, not to mention slightly uncomfortable if you have The Princess and the Pea constitution... but it's not as if said ex-person is going to rise again and hurt you? It's not going to do anything; it's not even going to have the courtesy of talking to you (and if you do manage to have a conversation with it, there is probably something the matter with you). It's just actively being... Not.

Heh, people. [grin]

2. Angering the King of Gods

I'll say this much about learning a new thing (be it a new language or musical instrument or technique): you learn so much faster when you're thrown right into the deep end, rather than when you're left to paddle about in shallow waters. I've literally been forced to learn the French horn at breakneck speed since the end of August last year because... nobody else slowed down to give me time to catch up. And last night, I had the 1st horn part for Gustav Holst's Jupiter from The Planets dropped into my lap - a piece that I found already found challenging for the trombone, and I've had years' experience playing that instrument. And which I had to sight-read, never mind that (1) my brain still remembered all the trombone parts, (2) there were *high* notes that I'd never had to tackle before (and never mind all the strange ones, because my brain still works at concert pitch), and (3) OMG SOLI SOLI SOLI. So it did come as a pleasant surprise that I did not manage to completely mess up the piece after all. (And strangely enough, I find that I do much better sighting fast pieces with whole strings of notes, rather than very slow ones with only a smattering of notes. Go figure). Of course, I do have this very sweet new Holton Farkas MDC mouthpiece that I ordered from Hickey's:

which is a dream to play because it's new and plated with silver and so nicely padded at the rim, and works so well when wet. (Compare that to the original mouthpiece that came with the horn, which was so old the finish had come off in places, leaving the rim uneven and abrasive... and furthermore contained nickel, which I was badly allergic to).

I'm no longer so miserable playing this wretched instrument. Even if it *is* disgusting to empty.

3. More Books for the Shelf!

A couple of new reads that I'm very happy with:

Modern space operas are so hard to find, so I was pleasantly surprised to find this collection of short stories by former research astronomer Alastair Reynolds at the local bookstore. Even better, it comes under the heading of hard science fiction (hard, as in the opposite of soft - being science/technology-heavy rather than revolving around socioeconomics/politics) - the last hard SF book I read being Peter Watts' Blindsight  (and which I loved because it was so cold and unemotional). Multiple-universe theory, dark matter, artificial intelligence, cyberpunk, and sprinklings of general physics and astronomy? LOVE. I need to get my hands on his novels now.

A bit of trivia: The short story Beyond the Aquila Rift is hauntingly reminiscent of the mass relay technology in the Mass Effect games. Only, of course, Reynolds' story came first. [grin] <3

And this:

Which arrived at the beginning of the week. ^_______^

Oh god, I cannot tell you how long I have searched for this book. (Okay, so it was ever since I was old enough to realise that the Disney cartoon my granddad and I watched a bazillion times was a bastardised version of a much bigger, darker story that hadn't a happy ending). After years of combing secondhand bookstores, I finally found copies at a couple of online stores... which were expensive enough (given that only two editions were ever published - I think -: the 1967 hardcover, and the 1971 paperback) that I spent a further two years trying to decide if I was willing to part with that much money for an old book. (During which time I also conveniently acquired a credit card). As you can tell, I was. I paid an obscene amount of dosh for this 1st edition - though I would've paid even more if this hadn't been an ex library copy, even though it's in near-mint condition, as you can tell. (If this had been a library book *here*, it would be hideously mangled! And after I carefully removed the original plastic wrapping and rewrapped it in new plastic - a ritual I *always* carry out with old books, because it makes them truly *mine* - it was about as good as new). But it is so worth it. I just wish my granddad were still around - I think he'd have liked to read the original version.

[hugs the book]

And, just because I'm the curious sort, just two days ago I went back to the online stores where I found listings for this book to check the prices again - and found that they'd gone up even farther.[ As much as USD150 for the paperback!! Holy mother of gizkas.]
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This catalogue is for my reference, mostly, and will be updated as I acquire more books.

LAST UPDATED: 5 January 2011
CURRENT BOOK COUNT: Given up in despair.

A Godawfully Long Catalogue )
darthfar: (Default)
This catalogue is for my reference, mostly, and will be updated as I acquire more books.

NOTE: Star Wars writers whose non-Star Wars books are not part of my collection will no longer be listed under their own names. This is to avoid confusion (on my part).

LAST UPDATED: 8 February 2011
CURRENT BOOK COUNT: Given up in despair.

A Godawfully Long Catalogue )†*A Godawfully Long Catalogue )

My Library

Jan. 5th, 2011 11:39 pm
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I've just spent a good three hours or so rearranging my books. It was a ghastly job, but one necessitated by the fact that I had accumulated so many books they were all haphazardly stuffed into three shelves in the computer room, and posed a serious avalanche threat to anyone foolhardy enough to open said shelves. The graphic novels, art books and folios have therefore been shifted to the shelf in my bedroom to allow the rest of the books to breathe a little better. They're still quite tightly packed, but at least there aren't going to be any books falling on my head again anytime soon.


 TOP: Misc junk and unread books. And my Charles Wilbour translation of Les Miserables

MIDDLE: Griffin & Sabine collection, remainder of graphic novel collection, art books (does not include human and animal anatomy atlases, which are in my study)

BOTTOM: Graphic novel collection (minus the Star Wars ones in the main library)



[Note that this does not include my three sets of encyclopaedias, dictionaries, art references, old science textbooks, technical manuals, collection of National Geographic/Sky & Telescope/Discover magazines, or the vast number of juvenile books I acquired as a child.]
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So Tory and I were discussing Temeraire and dragon anatomy, and moaning over how Longwing markings should look. And since she wanted to do a dragon picture and had trouble with the anatomy, we both decided to fire up Deviant Art Muro and rough out the markings and skeletal system respectively. Here's my majorly screwed up half:

I'd have made the "humerus" for the wings longer, only I ran out of canvas space at the top - which just goes to show how awesome I am at planning pictures. [facepalm]

Has anybody any idea how Longwing wings can be "tipped with orange" *and* "edged with black and white markings"??? We're bashing up desks and tablets trying to work this out.

Amnesia Diary (spoiler!!!)
Finally finished the damn game! Agrippa - whose dead husk I found hanging in a torture area in the nave, but whose essence was perfectly happy to chat with me in a sprightly old voice - had me sever his head and toss it into the portal opened by the orb. This apparently caused the Shadow to kill not only Alexander, but me/Daniel as well. Only I woke up in darkness, with glowing blue lights in the distance, to Agrippa's voice telling his student Johann Weyer that I deserved so much more, and that he was to help me. The last thing Agrippa said before the credits started rolling was, "Don't worry, Daniel, it will be all right." Eh? and just what is Weyer going to do, bring me back to life? or am I joining them "beyond the stars"?

The "revenge" ending - which I got, when I played the finale a second time - was far more satisfying: Daniel killing Alexander, and then walking out of Brennenburg Castle, apparently having been cleansed of his sins by giving Alexander to the Shadow.

Oh, and by the way, I finally found out just what had been chasing me in the darkness:

Seriously, Mr. Google-Eyed Slackjaw??? [dies laughing]

I guess it really  *is* a case of what you can't see being far scarier than what you *do* see. ROFLMAO!
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Our concert on Saturday night went... a little better than I expected, really. On my part, I managed *not* to mess up the opening for West Side Story (even if it wasn't as legato as it was meant to be because I sacrificed a little smoothness to make sure I managed to hit the notes at all), and didn't panic when the trumpets somehow missed their re-entry in E.T. The Extraterrestrial (how did that even happen...), leaving me to carry the theme on my own for eight gut-wrenching bars. Public reception was generally good, and it was nice that the people I invited enjoyed themselves, even if my mother never managed to work out which parts I was playing. (I was playing the duet with the trombone for the German Carols, mom!).

Went out and got myself two books yesterday: 

1. Andras Szunyoghy's Anatomy Drawing School: Animal. Szunyoghy's (I hate typing his name >.<) Human Anatomy for Artists is my personal bible, and sits on my music stand when there's no music on it, so I was delighted to find this other volume because this man *rocks* at anatomy. I've always had trouble drawing animal movement, mostly because I've never actually had the chance to observe said animals but also because I knew doodly-squat about their musculoskeletal systems. This book not only illustrates the complete skeletons and musculature of select mammals from various angles, but also separate bones and muscle masses as well as the movement of their limbs/bodies and the corresponding position of the bones during said movement. It's too bad the book doesn't cover avians as well; *that* is another area I know very little about, and could use an anatomy book to help me with.

2. Geoffrey Abbott's Execution: The Guillotine, the Pendulum, the Thousand Cuts, the Spanish Donkey, and 66 Other Ways of Putting Someone to Death. Probably not everybody's choice of bedtime reading, but I've always been fascinated by methods of torture and putting people to death - from a purely educational viewpoint, of course. (It's all research!). That, and I suspect that macabre/gruesome books, movies and games are a coping mechanism for when the world gets too stressful or upsetting. [Wait, I already know this: whenever I get upset, I go and kill hordes of zombies with headshots, and feel massively better afterwards.] A bystander should have no claim to distress, but it's nevertheless highly unsettling to watch chaos descend and claim casualties, particularly when they're not anonymous but have names that mean something to the observer, and having no right or business or way to do anything about it.
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Would anyone like a drawing, or would like to suggest something for me to do? I really need to get my painting muscles going again, but my brain's still frozen thanks to all the meds and peppermint drink.


I actually went out for dinner at a Japanese restaurant tonight. California temaki, and a whole plate of salmon sashimi all to myself. [Yes, I'm greedy. Yes, my degree was in microbiology. Yes, I eat raw fish. Deal with it.] It's officially my first real meal for the week: I'd been eating very poorly before, thanks to the cough (which was clearly opposed to my having anything digesting in my stomach), and everything had been pretty repulsive anyway. So yeah. Score one for me this time.

It's ridiculous how long this cough has been going on. It even got *worse* at one point, if anyone can believe it, and my mother became desperate enough to try the remedy from her friend, which she insisted would get rid of the cough. This was the remedy: coating the soles of my feet with Vicks VapoRub, and then stuffing said feet into a pair of very thick socks. Obviously, I hate having my feet touched more than the rest of me combined, and I protested vehemently that the day it worked was the day our sun rose from the west and set in the south, but she insisted anyway, so we wound up wagering an iPad. The result? Not only did I keep the neighbours up all night with seemingly never-ending paroxysms of violent coughing, the soles of my feet were so well lubricated that I spent the next day slipping, sliding and skidding around the house like a demented dog on an ice skating rink. At least my coughs are now respectable sporadic bursts, rather than the hacking variety with enough power to forcibly pop out my eyes and eject my brain through my nose.

Still waiting to regain hearing in my left ear, though. Left ear currently feels stuffed with sound-absorbent material; I lost a great chunk of my hearing earlier this week, following the ear infection. On the one hand, it's much easier to tune out and *not* hear things I'm not interested in (eg. market noises, horrible music from the radio); on the other hand, if I'm sleeping with my good ear in the pillow, you could detonate several bombs in our neighbourhood and I'd still sleep right through it. That is, if the coughing didn't keep me awake. Haha.


A good friend of mine - whose taste I never had cause to doubt up to now - recently started reading Twilight and, believe it or not, actually liked parts of it. After getting over my incredulity, I decided I would give the book the benefit of the doubt (I did read Harry Potter, didn't I? even though I had no intention of doing so?) and actually read it for myself before I passed judgment. And now, having finished it, I can really, honestly say:

It's not a bad book. It really isn't.

It's unspeakably horrible.

Yes, I know it's a book for teens. Yes, I know it's romance. But even with the knowledge that all teens are angsty and have percolating hormones, and believe in soppy things like One True Love Forever... it's still horrible. And it's not just the romance because surprise surprise, there *is* actually such thing as - thought it hurts me to say this - tastefully written romance. (Which, incidentally, you won't find anywhere in this book). For one, Bella Swan is about the most spineless, lamest, most vacuous and insipid protagonist I have ever come across in the world of teen fic. Apart from her name, which should already send alarm bells ringing (beautiful swan???), she's a Mary Sue who doesn't even bubble and dazzle like her sisters; she's like a Mary Sue with all the fizz and glamour taken out of her. She's supposedly a disaster magnet, an accident waiting to happen - but apparently that adds to her charm because she manages to attract people (particularly boys) like flies, never mind that she's a new girl in a little town where presumably everybody has known everybody forever. Her range of emotions range from angsty/snivelly to needy to blindly enamoured to more-depressed-than-a-wet-mop. And that's just her.

It gets worse once Edward the sparkly glampire enters the picture. If you have read Les Miserables, and were annoyed by how Victor Hugo kept reminding his readers about how beautiful and statue-like Enjolras was... well, at least Enjolras was still human, and he did die at the insurrection. Not to mention Enjolras would've looked like a drippy wallflower next to Edward Cullen. Seriously, every few pages we are treated to Bella's fawning descriptions of how devastatingly beautiful and gorgeous and perfect Edward was. It was nauseating. And really? If a boy, in real life, kept breaking into your bedroom to watch you sleep at night, and stalked you everywhere, and claimed that he was nothing until he met you, and that his whole life revolved around you, you'd get a restraining order. But apparently it's perfectly all right if the boy is a vampire? Eh?

The tragic part is that there *are* interesting fragments of the story that, perhaps, in the hands of a much better writer, might have become midway readable (especially, say, if it had been written in the 3rd person rather than the 1st). But this isn't it. It's a jagged mountain of painfully clunky narrative, unrestrained blathering and angst and emo and angst and emo. And major characters so two dimensional they could've been printed on floppy typing paper. And at the end of the day, all there is to he book is a perfect, smouldering, angsty sparkling, stalky vampire, and a girl whose only purpose in life is to be around him, and be rescued from danger by him. It's as if someone collected the dreams of every sad, lonely, overweight, deluded teenaged girl who wanted to be loved by a perfect guy, and distilled it into a 500-page novel. *facepalm*

It terrifies me that not only teenaged girls but also middle-aged women all over the place are reading (and loving) this because, really, what does that tell you about their evaluation of love and romance and desire?
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Perhaps the strangest book I've read this year:

Review here )


Want to know more about quorum sensing, or what happens after death? Check out these articles:

Small Talk in the Microbial World
The Processes of Death and Decomposition

[Yes, I wrote those as a student.]
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The previous week has been interminably slow and dull; my chief forms of entertainment for the past few days has consisted of watching my computer do primality tests for M23837323 and M23837659 for the Mersenne Primes Search (GIMPS), watching season 3 of The Guild and... playing Hitman: Blood Money. After four years. Seriously. It's embarrassing: I was such a big fan of the previous three games (and I wrote that exhaustive guide to the first game, that covered all the weapons and equipment, characters *and* different execution methods - easy and cheapskate - which should say something about my commitment)... and then I bought the fourth and let dust gather on it for FOUR YEARS before I finally installed it. I don't know why I never got around to it for so long (maybe Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and my then-newfound interest in art had something to do with it), but god, it's rekindling the joy of planning and pulling off the perfect Silent Assassin execution. Not to mention the frustration of occasionally botching it up because you accidentally bashed someone in the mouth instead of sedating them...

Enzyme Fever

In other news... my mother is caught up in the latest fad sweeping through town: ... making enzymes? Confused, I went poking around the internet for an explanation of what the hell they're actually doing, and found about a gajillion eyebrow-raising recipes with titles like "Making fruit enzymes"  and "Making garbage enzymes" and "Fruit enzyme drink". WTF?

Blatherfest )

On the Art Front

I also did manage to finish my painting of Volly and the cow in spite of the fact that all my betas were on vacation >.<. Proof that I'm ridiculously unsystematic when it comes to painting (I changed stuff so many times it's not funny):

Pointless Wippage )
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... Even if I *did* all but disappear off the face of the Internet for the better part of two weeks. >.<

I blame it on:

1. My obsessiveness in helping my conductor look for new scores for the orchestra (seriously. I tend to interpret statements like, "If you have the time, could you help look for some more pieces" as "Spend all your goddamn time searching everywhere, and transcribe the damn handwritten scores on Encore if it kills you").

2. My obsessiveness in playing The Sims 3: Ambitions. I blame this one on TankMagnet.

3. My obsessiveness in drawing the following exercise in insanity (and what is quite possibly the *worst* crack pairing in literary history):

by =DarthFar on deviantART

4. This one series that was recommended to me, that I wasn't even particularly keen to start - and now I can't bloody put it down and I'm reading it for the second time in two weeks. In fact, this is what resulted from said obsessive reading:

(If anyone has any idea at all where this is from!).

My apologies to everyone whom I've failed to reply to/comment on their journal/stories/etc. I promise I'll be back on track... soon?
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We played a brand new piece at practice last night: Tan Dun's Internet Symphony, "Eroica". Check out the LSO's performance of the piece:


This was one of the times when, watching my partner look at the score and *facepalm* in annoyance/dismay, I was very, very glad that I made myself learn to read tenor clef. LOL. It wasn't as if we had notes crawling all around the staves, but still - being able to actually read said notes instead of having to rewrite them in bass clef like my partner did is a massive plus.

The video kills me. Just *kills* me. Wheel rims! Drum brakes! I'd love to see my conductor obtain *those* for our performance.

There's Something Fishy About You

I'm currently reading Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body by Neil Shubin. I'd already read a little about Jenny Clack's work on Acanthostega, as well as the role of hox genes in controlling the head-to-tail organisation of bodies in Carl Zimmer's very enlightening (and entertaining!) At the Water's Edge: Fish with Fingers, Whales with Legs, and How Life Came Ashore but Then Went Back to Sea, but Shubin's book traces not only our roots back to the first fish with wrists, but also our similar genetic heritage with everything else that has a body, all the way back to how the 'molecular rivets' in our bodies link us to the humble microorganism. As far as science goes, it's a little lighter on the technical side than some others, but I suppose that makes it more accessible to the general public than just to the scientific community (didn't Stephen Hawking's publisher warn him, back when he was writing A Brief History of Time, that each equation he put in it would halve sales? LOL). It certainly makes for a very entertaining read as well - I had a rather serious case of the chuckles reading the chapter "The Best-Laid (Body) Plans", and could not satisfactorily explain to the rest of the family just what could be so funny that came out of a biology book.

Mass Affection!

And because this is supposed to be partly an art blog:

Garrus Vakarian from Mass Effect, for TankMagnet who was evil enough to get me the game, and who has a massive crush on him. Although I can't, for the life of me, wrap my mind around how exactly you're supposed to romance an alien that's built like a lobster.

Tory, if you're reading this - I want my pod crab. ;) That was another subtle hint.
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Stolen from kittycallum, for the obvious reason that it seemed vastly entertaining.

1. Take five books off your bookshelf
2. Book #1 -- first sentence
3. Book #2 -- last sentence on page fifty
4. Book #3 -- second sentence on page one hundred
5. Book #4 -- next to the last sentence on page one hundred fifty
6. Book #5 -- final sentence of the book
7. Make the five sentences into a paragraph

A pair of fierce but beautiful eyes look out from the dull green undergrowth of conifers and ferns that bound the edges of mudflats and riverbeds. Instead, after wrangling with accelerated motion such as the spinning bucket, Newton saw no option but to invoke some invisible background stuff with respect to which motion could be unambiguously defined. What we do know is that, after the armistice, when he returned to Hay to pick up the threads of his life, the little solicitor was not a happy man. So what are you doing working for someone like this Tansy guy? Then we shall be at peace with Heaven and with ourselves, both during our sojourn here and when, like victors in the Games collecting gifts from their friends, we receive the prize of justice; and so, not here only, but in the journey of a thousand years of which I have told you, we shall fare well.

I thought it started rather well, before taking an utterly bizarre turn...

Books used:

1. Raptor Red (Robert T. Bakker)
2. The Fabric of the Cosmos (Brian Greene)
3. The Father of Forensics: The Groundbreaking Cases of Sir Bernard Spilsbury, and the Beginnings of Modern CSI (Colin Evans)
4. The War of the Flowers (Tad Williams)
5. The Republic of Plato (Francis Macdonald Cornford translation)
darthfar: (Default)
I've just gotten my electronic paws on this book by a Dr. Johann Wecker, published in 1661, called "Eighteen Books of the Secrets of Art & Nature: Being the Summe and Subftance of Naturall Philofophy, Methodologicall Digefted", and lord, is it a treasure. The tome is a large, rambling work about, well, the secrets of nature and how to manipulate it, and contains some very interesting recipes for the aspiring arsonist (How to make Greek fire! unextinguishable torches! Making rockets!), equally fun things to do to unsuspecting people ("A light to make one Fart"!), and hilarious illusions to perform ("That Men may feem to have the Heads of another Creatures"!), and some actually interesting - if bizarre - garden advice (curing languishing peach trees and producing pipless grapes). But of course you know where my interest lies, so when I saw Books IV (Secrets of the Internal parts of Man, the Paffions, Reafon, and Memory) and V (Secrets of Life and Death; Remedies for all Difeafes in the body of Man, both Internall and Externall; old Age, Eating, Drinking, Venery, Sleep, Exercife, and beautifying the body)... well, to hell with unquenchable fires and making people seem like elephants! (where would I get the dolphin fat, anyway?).

Nestled amongst recommendations on how to make husbands and wives agreeable (carry a Quale heart with you) how to cure a person bitten by a mad dog (feed the patient the liver of said dog without his knowledge) and how to relieve tooth pain (hold it with your thumb and forefinger), were the following gems:

To make a Man bold and confident:
Take the heart of an Ape, and tye it about your neck, letting it hang juft over your heart, and it will increafe Audacity. (Lord Bacon)

Yes, it'll no doubt make you hold your head up high... in an attempt to avoid the stench of said decomposing heart.

To procure love:
All men will love thee, if thou carry with thee a Swallows heart: and a Woman will love him exceedingly, from whom fhe fhall receive the powder of a Pigeons heart in meat or drinke. Moreover if any one put but fome Hares gall under his head, he fhall fleep perpetually, but you fhall raife him well enough, if you give him Vinegar to drink. (Mizaldus Memor)

How to spike drinks to win affection.

An Oyle that kils Men with the ill fent of it:
Take Turpentine two Pound, yellow Brimftone one Pound, Affafetida eight Ounces, Serapinum fix Ounces, Mans dung eighteen Ounces, Mans blood ten ounces; mingle them and put them into a Retort, very well ftopt, and Diftill them at a very vehement fire, until all the fpirits be come forth. (Fioravantus)

I don't know about this guy, but I'd die of inhalation first if I were to make this concoction. (That, or get my teeth knocked out trying to find a willing victim for exsanguination).

To increase the ftrength of the body:
All Creatures that are long lived, are good to lengthen Mans life, and all that are reftorative, ferve to renew our lives, and reftore youth: which Phyficians have often proved, as it is manifeft concerning Vipers and Serpents. And it is known that Stags renew their age by eating Serpents; for the Phaenix is refstored by the neft of Spices he makes to burn in: the Pellican hath the fame virtue, whole right foot, if it be put under hot dung, after three Moneths a Pellican will be bred from it. Wherefore fom Phyficians with fom confections made from a Viper and Hellebore, and of fome of the flefh of thofe Creatures, do promife to reftore youth, and fometimes they do it as Medea did to old Pelias. Alfo it is believed, that a Bears blood fuckt with ones mouth from a frefh wound made, will make a man very ftrong, becaufe that Creature is fo mighty ftrong. (Cornelius Agrippa)

Pay attention, kiddies: Bambi eats snakes.
Also, you know very well why I included this section. ;)

A Cake against the Plague:
Take white Arfenick two ounces, red Arfenick one ounce, make a round Cake as thick as your finger ,with the white of an Egg, or mucilage of Gum dragan, few this up in a linnen rag, and lay it to your heart: you need not put your fhirt between: (for though Arfenick taken inwardly be mortall, it is not by any fecret venome, but onely by corroding, fo that you cannot call it poyfon) for if you apply it outwardly, it is certain that it refifts poyfon. (Jacobus Carpenfis).

This is also a very good way to slowly poison a lover who is far too attached to your mammary glands.

Headach, a remedy by Vomit:
Take twelve grains of Stibium (that's antimony to you ;)), made into very fine pouder, put it into four ounces of Claret wine and fo let it ftand thirty hours, fhake it every fix or feven hours; at the thirty hours end, pour the wine from the pouder fo long as it runneth clear; let the grieved drink it with a little Sugar, or Sirup of Violets: it mightily purgeth fuperfluous humours from the head.

Or: how to cure headaches by making you feel so sick you forget your head even hurt in the first place.

[It's scary that the early Romans used the same antimony for their gourmand practices - the idea being that, if you threw up what you've eaten at a banquet, you could then go back for seconds. And thirds.]

To ftench (staunch?) Blood:
Blood running immoderately out of any part of the body, will be preferently ftopt, if Hogs dung yet hot, be wrapt up in fine thin Cotten linnen and put into the Noftrils, Womens privities, or any other place that runs with blood. I write this for Countrey people rather then for Courtiers , being a remedy fit for their turne (Mizaldus)

And this is how you discourage people from bleeding immoderately in the first place.
I can only imagine the horror of having hogs' dung stuffed up your "privities" on a regular basis.

For the Toothache:
Take the dung of a Hog newly made, and as hot as you can get it, apply it to the place, and it cureth. (Dr. Matthias)

God help you if you tell anyone your tooth hurts.

Sore Brefts:
Take of March Sand a fmall handfull, put the fame into grounds of Ale, put thereto a pretty piece of Butter unfalted, and break it into pieces as big as Beanes, with the yelks of two new laid Egges, ftirre it well together, then thicken it with flower, put as much of this in a frying Pan as will cover the Breft, and when it is well fryed, fpread it on a Cloath, and lay it to the Breft as hot as the grieved may fuffer it; this will draw, break, and heal the Breft without the help of anything. (Dr. Mathias)

Smearing piping hot butter, sand and eggs on your breast makes it less sore. Sure, I believe you.

For a Bruife:
Take an old piece of rufty Iron, be it Horfe-fhoe, or anything elfe, lay it in the fire til it be red hot, then take it out of the fire, and let the Patient make water upon it, and take in the fume thereof at his Nofe and Mouth, ufing this three daies together morning and evening, adn it fhall perfectly cure him. (Dr. Clarke)

What's that? you want me to heat up an old iron, piss on in, and inhale the smell for three days, for this bruise on my knee? I'll wait for it to subside on its own, thanks.

For pains of the Collickm and inward Impoftumes:
Scrape the skull bone of the Patient, or file away fome part of it in that place where the future is in the forepart of the head, in the upper part like a Crofs; of that powder, with broth or water, or wine if there be no Feaver, give the Patient one dram, or half a dram at one time to drink; it will make him vomit and purge exceedingly: wherefor you muft give it before the Patients forces are fpent.

I don't even know what to say.

For a Dyfentery:
Mens bones made into fine powder and drank in fharp red Wine, cure all raging Fluxes of the Belly (Miz)

This no doubt also encourages the growth of the grave robbery trade. Or maybe it just solves the problem of what to do with grandpa.

That a woman may conceive:
If a woman cannot conceive, take Harts horn and pouder it, and mingle it with Cows gall; let the woman hold this over her, let her ufe copulation and fhe fhall conceive prefently. Or give it to the woman that mnows not of it Mare smilk, let her copulate that hour, and fhe fhall conceive prefently. (Albertus)

"Oh hey, Marge, why don't you hold this powdered deer horn and cow gall concoction over your head while we do the horizontal boogie." 17th century foreplay at its best.

To affwage Swelling:
Take of new dung and frefh Butter and fry it in a frying pan, then frpead it upon a cloth like a Poultis, and lay it on as hot as the Patient can fuffer it. (Probatum eft Dr. Johnfon)

I can't help but be amazed by all these recommendations of treating pain by inflicting more pain. Not to mention the singularly creative uses of shit.

For Burning and Scalding:
Take four ounces of the juyce of Onions, common Salt half an ounce, mingle them well together annoint the foar. (Lord Bacon)

And that's what's called rubbing salt into the wound.

A Caustick that will fuddenly eat through the skin:
Sometimes we are defireous to eat through the skin fuddenly, not trufting to fection: I have elfewhere defcribed a moft earlie Medicament, but now a moft effectuall: for it is made of Sope-water, or of a ftrong lee of afhes. It is made thus: pour on twelve pounds of ftrong lee upon quick Lime and Oke afhes, and let them drain through, then poure it again upon new Lime and Afhes, and do this fo often, until that the water will beare an Egg. Then adde to every pound, of Lee one ounce or half, an ounce of Vitrioll, and by degrees boyl it thick in a brafs Pofnet, until you can take it forth and make little Cakes of it: for it is taken forth by degrees with a fpoon, if this be well made, it will penetrate the skin in half a quarter of an houre. (Carden).

It frightens me to even imagine why anyone would be "desirous to eat through the skin suddenly", let alone willingly apply lime-&-sulphuric acid cakes to one's skin.

And my personal favourite:

To ftop bleeding at Nofe:
Take a Spider the biggeft you can get, put him in a fine linnen cloth, bruife him a little, and hold the fame up to the nofe of him that bleedeth, but touch not his nofe therewith, but let him fmell to it and it will work the effect.

To cure a nosebleed, sniff a giant spider. Tory, aren't you glad you don't live in the 17th century?

Oh my.

Who needs modern humour books, when one can find humour in ancient medical tomes?

[Marguerite, if you're reading this - this is a book that Joly must NEVER get his hands on, do you hear? ROFL.]
darthfar: (Default)

In a startling turn of events, the achievements acquired by a large proportion of Left4Dead 2 gamers mysteriously vanished following the latest Steam client update. Rumour has it that this was the work of the ninth, unreleased Special Infected, the Swallower. This disaster is in conjunction with the equally unexplained spread of the unnamed infection in L4D, which turned normal people into mindlessly violent zombies, from the game into real life, as members of the Steam boards turned into frothing-at-the-mouth, incoherently babbling, mindlessly ranting zombies. It is unknown if Steam will be able to rectify this problem, or if CEDA personnel will be sent out to round up all rabid gamers before they start kicking and biting healthy people.


Seriously, Steam, what the hell?

I'm a little annoyed at the loss of something like 17-odd achievements, but it's more of an inconvenience than anything else - I can get those back with a couple more playthroughs. I can't help but feel sorry for those who'd gone and gotten the Expert achievements, though, only to lose it. That must hurt.


I will say this:

I cannot believe I completely forgot that Eoin Colfer was writing the sixth installment of the late Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy "trilogy in five parts". I read the news sometime last year, got all excited over it - after the bleakness of Mostly Harmless, ARTHUR DENT IS ALIVE! - and then... somehow managed to forget about it entirely. Until I hit the bookstore today (how obscene, when I still have a mountain of unread books), and it screamed at me: And Another Thing: Douglas Adams' Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy: Part Six of Three. Oi.

[geeks out]

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