Wednesday 18th April. Back at my desk, after the Easter break. The wind howls, the sparse rain raps my window. The 2012 bird action much reduced again, in line with the RSPB's early survey results. The starlings have once more failed to breed in next door's gutter, the herring gull colony on our rooftops that used to be such a torment is much diminished; one goldfinch remains faithful to our finch-feeder, the blue tits and the (very tame) garden warbler can be seen. So many populations are failing, it's inexorable, and will there ever be an upturn? I can't see it happening. But yesterday I saw the sparrowhawk dart across our gardens, and she's probably responsible for the storm of collared-dove-feathers, sans corpse, on the lower lawn. And I hear a blackbird singing around the close of the afternoon & that's nice.
Peter has totally cleared out and cleaned the little pool, which was very dirty and glistened nastily. Four healthy young frogs seen. No sign of spawn or tadpoles, but the two fish that live in there can now be seen playing together in crystal clear shade, scale rubbing scale where light is dim; but on Sunday the newt (or one of the newts, we hope) was sighted calmly basking in the algae fronds that thickly coat the wall of the larger pool. So, we probably won't give that murky basin the same treatment. My tadpole nursery tub is blooming, and the pet tadpole bowl has been instituted indoors.
Saw The Hunger Games for our Wet Bank Holiday Treat, & we all loved it. Remarkably true to the book (naturally, since book already huge success) and much better than the book, for my taste, despite whacky implications of that virtual-reality control room thing. There's Jennifer Laurence, to start with, & Katniss's internal monologue is no loss. But give Suzanne Collins credit, as a novel, The Hunger Games was made for cinema. Everything that became mildly tedious in print (like the endless grooming of Katniss) gets established on screen in a couple of shots, including the relationships, & the pace benefits enormously. Shame they've lost their director. Also seen: Once Upon A Time In Anatolia Interminable, mythical, daring to bore me into submission; murder without mystery, in an intensely patriarchal society, deconstructed by relentless real-time realism (almost the mirror opposite of The Hunger Games, in ways). That shot of the bright apple, falling from the tree and rolling aimlessly along the dark rivulet, that was wonderful.
I'm reading popular science again, for fun, first time in a long time. So far consumed, Why Beauty Is Truth, Ian Stewart on symmetry. Ian Stewart is patently just as much a teacher as he is a mathematician. Even I could follow his argument, and understand (to some extent!) where he was going with his equations, every step of the way; while also following the pleasingly inclusive historical asides, and any time I got lost, I could follow the thread backwards, and pick it up again. Execellent. But why is truth beauty? That's the hard problem.
God's Philosophers James Hannam. Now this is more like historical science journalism. Very enjoyable, and persuasive. The Mediaeval Scientists rescued from determined, ruthless, albeit well-meaning efforts of a century or two of anti-clerical propaganda. Myth debunking #n: When I was a lass I was always taught (okay, I admit, Koestler's The Sleepwalkers etc taken as gospel, so to speak), that the heliocentric view of the solar system had to win out, because the need for better navigational tables made the drive for accurate, rational readings of planetary movements an economic (& therefore invincible) imperative. Wrong! It was Astrology, the desire of Popes and Kings to have their fortunes read 'accurately' that protected the funding and the tolerance for astronomers and their research. & once I think about it, and see the references, I'm forced to believe this. Oh no! A whole edifice of fear not, the truth will out, for the real facts are of superior practical use demolished.
Critical Mass Philip Ball. I really liked Philip Ball's Bright Earth, all about colours, and their evolution in human society, even though it's a bit all over the place compared eg to anything by Ian Stewart. Critical Mass, about applying the statistical tools of physics to society, from phase transitions and power laws to the Iterated Prisoner's Dilemma, is good too, esp the catch-up provided on the history and nature of the internet, but isn't impressing me as much, even though it starts with William Petty, a name to which I'm sentimentally attached (which is why I bought the book), simply because I 'studied' his Politickal Arithmetic for about a fortnight as an undergraduate. The chapters on the statistical tools are interesting, but not well taught. The main argument of the book is doomed to be all about imaginary spherical cows, and how they've signally failed to move "us" towards a better place. (Depends on your point of view, of course).
Ginger is poorly with diarrhoea. It's not affecting her mood or behaviour. Just the furnishings, mainly. We've put her on a bland diet, and kaolin-for-cats. Hope it clears up soon.
That huge hollow sycamore tree, the biggest I've ever seen, is near Torver, Cumbria