Part biography, part history, and part popular science book, The Invention of Air discusses the effect of the life of Joseph Priestly on the development of the modern scientific method and the politics and people surrounding the American and French Revolutions. The book is laid out in roughly chronological order, but frequently makes quick diversions into the past or future to examine a source of inspiration to Priestly, or a far-flung effect of his discoveries. The result is that he occasionally seems like a Georgian-era Forrest Gump, somehow managing to be involved in or at the periphery of several major events of the late 18th century.
The book pulls no punches, though; Johnson doesn't shy away from pointing out the remarkable lack of rigor in Priestly's trials at a time when his fellow scientists were learning to conduct experiments with precision and focus, nor from criticizing his lifelong devotion to the theory of phlogiston when others had abandoned it. But he is rightly credited with breaking apart the existing scientific paradigm and changing our very approach to science itself, even if it took other more rigorous scientists to put the pieces back together in a more accurate way.
#25: Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett
This is a reread I've had on the nightstand for a while. It was the Discworld series' first exposure to Granny Weatherwax - still one of my favorite characters from anywhere in the series - and had a lot of interesting exposition on the culture surrounding Discworld magic (where the first two books had mainly just focused on what wizards did, this one questioned who and what they were). But I found the ending rather unsatisfactory, as one of the driving questions of the book was more or less dismissed noncommittally.
#26: Black Powder War by Naomi Novik
Third book in the Temeraire series, this one was a sort of space-filler after the second book, setting up a lot of the pieces for the fourth (and presumably fifth) books. Knowing that there are at least two more books to come, I didn't particularly mind - it's entertaining enough, and the plot doesn't really need to stand on its own. It felt like the third act of a five-act play, which is all it needed to be; I was satisfied with that, and it certainly had me wanting to continue reading the fourth book at the end - which is what I'm doing at the moment.
Other than stopping to pick up badges Thursday night, we were only able to be at the con Friday night through Sunday, since we couldn't afford the vacation time. So it was a shorter con than usual for us, and the result ended up being that we didn't go to any discussion panels at all. (I did compete in the mad-scientist laughter competition, though.) But that was just as well; most of the panels didn't really interest us enough to draw us away from hanging out with friends and playing games or browsing the dealers' room. On that topic, I got an awesome outfit - a red ruffled shirt and black captain's coat. It goes well with my top hat and black kilt for a sort of neo-Victorian look (which I'm planning on adopting into a steampunk costume soon enough), and I suspect it'll also work well with my pirate gear.
On the downside, Sora and I both ended up pretty sick coming out of the con. It was just tiredness and a bit of hoarseness for me on Sunday, but by Monday I'd lost my voice and Sora had a fever and chills. I only really have my voice back today, and Sora's losing hers now (since apparently the fever left her open to whatever I had).
Lots of sports notes, oddly enough. I never mentioned the rest of the curling competition - we won our midnight game (including a very strong finish where we left it literally impossible for them to make up the difference on the last end despite them having the hammer), then another blowout at 6 AM (on the same sheet where we'd gotten blown out earlier). We were having a lot of trouble adjusting to the difficult ice on that sheet. All together, I'm happy with how we played, and am really looking forward to the season's start in October.
NHL playoffs started yesterday, and the Wings start their playoff defense of the Stanley Cup tonight against Columbus (appearing in the playoffs for the first time ever). It's a 2-vs-7 seed matchup, but that doesn't mean a whole lot; there's quite a bit of parity in the playoffs this year, and Detroit's been pretty inconsistent. We'll see how it goes.
Finally, in baseball, the Detroit Tigers are 5-4 and the Mariners are 7-2. This is kinda surreal. Hoping we can make it out to a game this year.
If any of you puzzling sorts aren't playing SNAP 5 (this Saturday!) but are interested in helping run the event, aprivatefox is recruiting volunteers. See his entry for details.
If I'm urging others to make sure they correct themselves on this sort of thing, I certainly need to do so as well. From a company statement being emailed out:
This is an embarrassing and ham-fisted cataloging error for a company that prides itself on offering complete selection.For what it's worth, in my last post I complained about people spreading rumors about Amazon based on "incomplete information". From what I can tell, at least some of that incomplete and erroneous information came out of Amazon itself, from customer-service reps responding to complaints with basic statements about how the company handles adult materials, implying that the books under discussion were intentionally classified that way. So, in addition to the technical problem, the company itself was exacerbating the issue for a while, and in that light people's reactions seem far less overblown than I had thought earlier this week.
It has been misreported that the issue was limited to Gay & Lesbian themed titles - in fact, it impacted 57,310 books in a number of broad categories such as Health, Mind & Body, Reproductive & Sexual Medicine, and Erotica. This problem impacted books not just in the United States but globally. It affected not just sales rank but also had the effect of removing the books from Amazon's main product search.
Many books have now been fixed and we're in the process of fixing the remainder as quickly as possible, and we intend to implement new measures to make this kind of accident less likely to occur in the future.
Thanks for contacting us. We hope to see you again soon.