Monday, 24 January 2011

How to ride a dragon's Storm by Cressida Cowell

How to Ride a Dragon's Storm (Hiccup, Book 7) (Bk. 6) Ellie and I have read this together, mostly me out load, and I have had to back fill where she has read it to herself without me.
This one is actually the signed copy that we queued for at the Oxford Literary Festival last year.
Enjoyable, with good pacey bits, and internally consistent, I still trip over some of the names, though Big Boobied Bertha is fun, and typical of Cressida Cowell's thigh-slapping principal boy style, in which she rather overdoes the cartoon adult men, weedy male hero and plucky girl companion and/or love interest.
Probably I am not sufficiently well read to get the references which are flying over my head but it feels in places a bit derivative even if I can never pin down from what.
All of that carping to one side this is a jolly good read and I suggest you go out and buy yourself a copy.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Gödel's Proof by Nagel and Newman

Gödel's Proof
Towards the end of our honeymoon in Cuba, in August 2000, I bought El Teorema de Godel, the translation by Adolfo Martin, from La Moderna Poesia in Habana. The idea was to learn Spanish by using Gödel's Proof as my Rosetta stone. Eleven years later I have at least bought and read the English copy. Maybe I will finish the job in another eleven years.

I would recommend Gödel's Proof to anyone with an interest in, or fear of, higher maths. I certainly wish I had read this a long time ago. It outlines the elements of Mathematics required to understand the proof, but it is the clear exposition of Gödel Numbering which I particularly enjoyed.


Such a shame that the precise use of English of the authors is let down by the type setting.

P84 We can gain gain some
P107 footnote 37 employ a a fixed
P116 S2 and from two

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Seal Morning by Rowena Farre

I borrowed this handsom first edition from my mother in law, who was given it on her birthday by her brother Peter on 14th April 1958.
Published two years before Gavin Maxwell's more famous Ring of Bright Water it too has been made into a film. It would be really interesting to know if Maxwell had read it.

It has much in common with Out of the Wild by Mike Tomkies, in that they both are set in the most isolated parts of Scotland, and both are a series of tales about the authors interactions with wild, normally injured, animals. Tomkies' book has photographs and he lives alone, as a grown man.

Seal Morning is the story of a girl's childhood, from ten to seventeen, with her aunt; her morning. The majority of this time she has a Common Seal as a pet, but also a pair of otters, a pair of squirrels and a rat. I am not sure how much scrutiny the book bares - surely a rat who lived with otters would not die of natural causes? do otters not have a mechanism to block incestuous pair bonds? even in the fifties surely you could not just take a ten year old into the wilds for seven years? these points aside it is a delightful read, and highlights how much we have changed in half a century. The thing, as a parent, that I find shocking is that a child had been sent from India at age seven, not to see her parents again for ten years.

What is impressive is the dedication to reading, music and the outdoors which enables two people to be a sufficiency to each other. Also notable is the postal delivery service where the postman walks the extra four mile round trip twice a week to deliver the mail in person for the sake of a cup of tea. It is also interesting to read about a period of time when the fight to outlaw gin traps and bird nesting was still ongoing.

Lastly I want to mention the recipe for Lambs Wool: the insides of a baked cooking apple whisked in hot milk with sugar and wine (or beer) added to taste.

Wildwood - A journey through trees

Wildwood A Journey Through Trees by Roger Deakin

I was given this book by friends for my fiftieth birthday, so made an uncharacteristic effort to read it; it was well worth the effort.

By the end of the book I found myself in tune with Roger Deakin, who lived my part-time passion for wood, trees, wildlife and trees.

Whilst his chainsaw installation artists were a little hard to take, indeed his artist friends were all from a different universe to mine, his travels in Kazakhstan, Australia and Kyrgyzstan were a delight.

The sections on natural history and the Engish countryside were well informed and informing.

I will probably read again and again, and have recommended to friends and even bought a copy as a birthday present.

He speculates that the evolutionary pressure on trees such as Ash to be respond well to coppicing was from extinct megaforna such as mammoths and mastadons. Which reminded me of my own musings on the reason that Oak dies back in the way it does. The picture is of a scrubby Cornish oak, the sharp, triangular section die-back is no deterrent to a modern, small, browser such as a Row Deer, but might put a mammoth off knocking the tree down accidentally.