Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Science Challenge - Made for me?

My lovely wife Debi told me about The Science Challenge. I simply must participate. Here's a list of possibles:

- Bones of Contention by Paul Chambers
- The red queen by Matt Ridley
- Life of insects by Wigglesworth
- The pleasures of entomology by Evans
- Any one of the wonderful books by Stephen Jay Gould, especially Wonderful Life
- Biology of the amphibia by Noble

Now I guess the one, maybe two, readers of this blog will note that I am using a few books from the Decades Challenge. So much to read. So little time. So little time.

A new year...a new decades challenge

Happy new year to my reader(s): Just popping in to make a list for the new decades challenge. Last year, I went from the 1830s and worked my way toward modern times. This year, we begin in the 1990s and work back. Here goes:
1990s - Darwin: the life of a tormented evolutionist
1980s - Galapagos by Kurt Vonnegut or Pleasures of entomology by Howard Evans
1970s - On Human Nature by E. O. Wilson
1960s - Cat's cradle by Vonnegut or Life of Insects by Wigglesworth
1950s - Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
1940s - The natural history of mosquitoes by Maston Bates
1930s - Biology of the amphibia by Noble
1920s - The biography of spiders by Savory
1910s - The life of the caterpillar by Fabre
1900s - Insect life by Comstock

After looking at the list, I do detect an insectish theme here. We may play with this list over the coming months, but tomorrow I begin to read...and read...and read.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Finishing up the Decades Challenge

Well, I finally made it. I finished the Decades challenge almost a year after it began. And I thoroughly enjoyed it. Read a bunch of stuff I wouldn't have otherwise read. Here's what was read:
1830s - Voyage of the Beagle by Charles Darwin
1840s - Vestiges by Robert Chambers
1850s - The origin of species by Charles Darwin
1860s - Man's place in nature by Thomas Huxley
1870s - Descent of Man by Charles Darwin
1880s - The formation of vegetable mould by Charles Darwin
1890s - The island of Dr. Moreau by H. G. Wells
1900s - The natural history of aquatic insects by H. Miall
1910s - The lost world by A. C. Doyle
1920s - The origin of birds by Heilmann
1930s - Snows of Kilimanjaro by Ernie Hemingway.

I'm definitely going to do this challenge again in 2009, but I won't go so deeply into the past. I really wanted to read the old evolution masterpieces. In the coming year, I may begin in the 1970s, 1980s, or 1990s and work my way back. Thanks for doing this challenge, Michelle, and I can't wait to get back to it in January!

Friday, December 19, 2008

The lost world

I was happy to read The lost world by Arthur Conan Doyle for the Decades challenge (1910s). I haven't read any A.C. Doyle since I read some Sherlock Holmes as a kid. In short, I really loved this book. It was full of interesting characters and adventure. I wish I read it as a kid. I would've loved this book when I was 10.

As a biologist, I do have some issues with the science, but I don't want to be a spoil sport. This is a fast reading, well written (and easy to read for an almost 100 year old book), adventure story. I can't wait until I can read it again. It usually only takes me about 18 months to completely forget a book so I can read it again. Middle age and stupidity do have their up sides.

Hemingway: Stories where nothing happens Part II

In college a friend of mine suggested that I read The Sun also rises. I was amazed at how it was an entire book where absolutely nothing happened. I kept waiting for SOMETHING, but that something just never came.

Well, I gave Ernie another try with pretty much the same results. For Annie's What's in a Name Challenge as well as the Decades Challenge (1930s), I read Snows of Kilimanjaro. It was a series of short stories where basically nothing happens. Nada. After a whole series of such stories, imagine my surprise when I got to the last story where something actually happened. The last story is a humdinger and I recommend it. The rest of the book I would only recommend for people whose lives are way too and they need a book to calm them down. For such people who couldn't take any excitement at all, this is a good read.

My Ph.D. adviser did tell me not to tear down a barn unless I could rebuild it better. I definitely can't write better. His prose is actually very nice, but story-wise I really would have liked some plot. My advice is to skip to the last story, "The short happy life of Francis Macomber.