Saturday, May 10, 2014

At last, another post

It's been a while ...

I have just finished reading Ngaio Marsh's Opening Night (I'm gradually working my way through the Alleyn novels in the Haprer omnibus editions). A great story, and with all the detection being done in a few hours after the murder. However, the thing I most enjoyed was the theatrical setting. It's been a long time since I last stage managed a production (it must have been 2001 - a semi-staged Dido and Aeneas in Oxford), but Marsh writes so evocatively of the theatre that I was immediately transported back. As ever, her characterisation is excellent and the build-up to the crime is as exciting and interesting as Alleyn's methodical detection.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Plant Physics - Niklas and Spatz

I'm only two chapters in, but I'm really enjoying Plant Physics by Niklas and Spatz.

Being a chemist and therefore only having amateur botanical knowledge and slightly rusty physics (at this level - chemistry degrees don't include much fluid mechanics), it is quite hard-going, but the prose is elegantly written and considerable help is given with understanding what the formulae mean. For anyone who is seriously interested in this topic, I'd definitely recommend it.

Also currently re-reading Mingos Essential Trends in Inorganic Chemistry and Dickens Tale of Two Cities (which is my favourite Dickens novel).

Hoping for more active blogging as the summer holiday approaches!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

I think this video about astronomy, spectroscopy and the evolution of the universe from PhD comics is well-worth a look!


Sunday, November 04, 2012

Half-term reading

The real joy of teachers' holidays is the ability to read and read and read. Here's what I've been reading over the last two weeks:

Fiction
Allingham   Look to the Lady
Adams   Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency
Wells   The Island of Dr Moreau
Marsh   Death at the Bar
Stevenson   Treasure Island
Eco   The Prague cemetary
Trollope   Barchester Towers (ongoing) 

Non-fiction
Sequin   The Chemistry of Plants
Cox   The elements on Earth (ongoing)
Kendrick and Davis   Fossil Plants
Stewart   Nature's numbers
Fortey   Survivors (ongoing)

I've also been listening to my John Eliot Gardner Bach cantata piligrimage CDs, but have only reached volume 5 of 27!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Fougères

I have just returned from one of my regular visits with M to the Limousin region of France (where my father-in-law has retired). On this trip we went to visit the Arboretum de la Sédelle in Crozant. This turned out to be a really excellent arboretum as well as a very interesting fern (fougère) site. Most of the planted ferns were fairly ordinary, with Dryopteris dilatata, D. filix-mas, and Athyrium filix-femina in considerable abundance. However, tucked away near a bridge over a small stream, was a mossy bank on which I'm pretty sure Hymenophyllum was also present. I don't often get to see them, and so I wasn't completely sure, particularly from their relatively small size (the fronds were about the size of the top joint of my thumb) and from the fact that I'm not familiar with continental flora so I may have mistaken them for something else, perhaps a large moss. Also of interest were Polypodium spp. on granite outcrops near the river. The first plants I encountered were quite small (10-15 cm) and seemed to have abbortive sori, but no other Polypodium plants were around, which made me think hybrids unlikely. However, further down there was an abundance. Again, I wasn't sufficiently confident to hazard a guess at the species, particularly off of British soil, but the stands were impressive to say the least.

Well worth a visit if you are in the area. My recommendation would be to take (a) a camera (why oh why have I never got one with me?)  (b) a hand lens (that was a careless oversight) and (c) a continental fern flora (if you need one).

Happy ferning.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Buchan on Hymenophyllum

I very much enjoy John Buchan's novels and have been getting to know some of the less prominent ones that Polygon have recently brought back into print. I am currently reading John McNab (an old favourite about a group of prominent public men who take up a poaching challenge in the highlands) and in the second chapter occurs this sentence:

"Scrambling in the dell of a burn, he had observed both varieties of the filmy fern and what he knew to be a very rare beast, and, though an ardent botanist, he had observed them unmoved"

So that would be Hymenophyllum tunbridgense and H. wilsonii. The "very rare beast" might be a reference to Trichomanes speciosum as the habitats are similar. However, this might well be considerable artistic license as the distribution of H. tunbridgense is very westerly in Scotland. Nonetheless, it's pleasing to find Buchan talking up these beautiful plants.