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The Power of Narrativium

The Science of Discworld - Terry Pratchett, Jack Cohen, Ian Stewart

Murder by Death and BrokenTune have essentially summed up a lot of the points I'd want to make about The Science of Discworld.  (What a misnomer that title is, incidentally -- and not only because the science part is really concerned with "Roundworld," i.e., our world ... the science part in this book expressly negates what chiefly makes Discworld tick, namely narrativium, which is described here as the narrative imperative, but actually stands for so much more.  But I'll get to that in a minute.)  And there is quite a bit of more discussion in MbD's post here and in the comments sections of BT's posts here and here, so little remains for me to add. 

 

There is one point in particular that is bothering me about the assertions made by the scientist co-authors, though, and that is their constant poo-pooing of any- and everything that isn't scientifically quantifiable or measurable, even though (in one of their many contradictions) they do admit in the book's final chapters that the "How-to-Make-a-Human-Being" kit we have inherited and are, ourselves, passing on to future generations (both individually and collectively) includes "extelligence", which constitutes not only collectively shaped knowledge and experience, but also virtually every abstract concept known to mankind today ... as long as -- according to Stewart and Cohen -- a person's response to such a concept can be measured and recorded in some way, shape or form.  That, however, still doesn't stop them from talking down the concept of a soul (human or otherwise), or from insisting that narrativium doesn't exist in our world.  I disagree, and largely in lieu of a review I'm going to throw their co-author Terry Pratchett's own words right in their teeth (and incidentally, Pratchett was, for all I know, an atheist, so religion -- which seems to be a key part of Stewart and Cohen's objection to the notion of a soul -- doesn't even enter into the discussion here):

"I will give you a lift back, said Death, after a while.

'Thank you.  Now ... tell me ...'

What would have happened if you hadn't saved him?' [the Hogfather, Discworld's  version of Santa Claus.]

'Yes! The sun  would have risen just the same, yes?'

No.

'Oh, come on.  You can't expect me to believe that.  It's an astronomical fact.'

The sun would not have risen.

She turned on him.

'It's been a long night, Grandfather!  I'm tired and I need a bath!  I don't need silliness!'

The sun would not have risen.

'Really?  Then what would have happened, pray?'

A mere ball of flaming gas would have illuminated the world.

They walked in silence.

'Ah,' said Susan dully. 'Trickery with words.  I would have thought you'd have been more literal-minded than that.'

I am nothing if not literal-minded.  Trickery with words is where humans live.

'All right,' said Susan.  'I'm not stupid.  You're saying humans need ... fantasies to make life bearable.'

Really?  As if it was some kind of pink pill?  No.  Humans need fantasy to be human.  To be the place where the falling angel meets the rising ape.

'Tooth fairies?  Hogfathers? Little --'

Yes.  As practice, you have to start out learning to believe the little lies.

'So we can believe the big ones?'

Yes.  Justice.  Mercy.  Duty.  That sort of thing.

'They're not the same at all?'

You think so?  Then take the universe and grind it down to the finest powder and sieve it through the finest sieve and then show me one atom of justice, one molecule of mercy, and yet-- Death waved a hand.  And yet you act as if there is some ... some rightness in the universe by which it may be judged.

'Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what's the point--'

My point exactly.

She tried to assemble her thoughts.

There is a place where thwo galaxies have been colliding for a million years, said Death, apropos of nothing.  Don't try to tell me that's right.

'Yes, but people don't think about that,' said Susan.  Somewhere there was a bed ...

Correct.  Stars explode, worlds collide, there's hardly anywhere in the universe where humans can live without being frozen or fried, and yet you believe that a ... a bed is a normal thing.  It is the most amazing talent.

'Talent?'

Oh, yes.  A very speccial kind of stupidity.  You think the whole universe is inside your heads.

'You make us sound mad,' said Susan.  A nice warm bed ...

No.  You need to believe in things that aren't true.  How else can they become?  said Death, helping her up on to Binky."

(Terry Pratchett: Hogfather)

So you see, Messrs. Stewart and Cohen, there is narrativium everywhere where there are humans.  It may not have been part of the universe from the time of its creation (however we attempt to pinpoint or define that time).  And we don't know whether any of the long-extinct creatures who populated our planet millions of years before we came along had it -- if they did, it seems they at any rate didn't have enough of it to create a lasting record beyond their fossilized physical remains.  But humans wouldn't be humans without narrativium.  Because that's how the rising ape becomes something more than a mammal (call it a falling angel or whatever you will).  Because that's why it is the sun we see rising every morning, not merely a ball of flaming gas.  Because that's why the stars are shining in the sky at night, not a collection of galactic nuclear reactors that just happen to be close enough so we can see them with our naked eye.  And because that's what enables us to hope, to dream, and to consequently make things come true that nobody previously even thought possible.

 

It's narrativium that got us where we are today.  Not alone -- science, technology, and a whole lot of parts of the "How-to-Make-a-Human-Being-Kit" helped.  A lot.  But narrativium is the glue that holds them all together.

 

And since as a species we also seem to be endowed with a fair share of bloodimindium, maybe -- just maybe -- that, combined with narrativium and scientific advance all together will even enable us to survive the next big global catastrophe, which in galactic terms would seem to be right around the corner (at least if our Earth's history to date is anything to go by).  If the sharks and a bunch of protozoons could, then one would hope so could we ... space elevator, starship Enterprise, or whatever else it takes, right?

 

P.S.  Like MbD's and BT's, my love of the Discworld wizards is unbroken.  And clearly there is no higher life form than a librarian.  (Ook.)

 

P.P.S.  I said elsewhere that I'd be replacing Val McDermid's Forensics with this book as my "16 Festive Tasks" Newtonmas read.  I'm still doing this: at least it does actually have a reasonable degree of actual scientific contents; even if highly contradictory in both approach and substance and even if I didn't much care for the two science writers' tone.

 

 

Update...

You know, I am not the biggest fan of romantic comedies, chick-flicks, or Hallmark feature movies, even though I admittedly have seen quite a large share of those back when I was younger and foolishly in love with my classmate. But there comes a time in your life when change knocks on your door or calls you on your cell phone and you must answer it, to embrace it and try something different, something you haven't tried before. Something like a shift between two genres, your favorite one and your least favorite one. And that's exactly what I did when my friend came by for a visit and we've had quite an extensive conversation about the romantic comedies we've seen back in the day and the romantic comedies that all of us can see today. We've reached the same conclusion that there aren't that many romantic comedies anymore, and if they are the romance seems either forced or rushed, completely unlike the romantic comedies from the nineties which are timeless to this day. Anyway, the reason why I am writing this is because I like to contemplate the complexity of love and complexity of life, and I am interested into your opinion about the romance that we see today and romance we have seen back when we were younger. Do you agree with our conclusion that today's romance seems to be forced or rushed, or are we both wrong and it's actually quite beautiful and timeless ?   

Reblogged from Beeday's Book Blog For The Kind-Hearted.

16 Tasks of the Festive Season: Updates / post-Blackout

I've technically blacked out my card, but I'd like to try and see how many more books and tasks I'll manage to complete before the month (and the game) is over.

 

 

The Markers:

 Stack of Books: Books read

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red Bows and Ribbons: Other Tasks completed

 

Joker cards used:

 

 

The Squares, Books and Other Tasks:

Square 1: November 1st: All Saints Day / Día de los Muertos & Calan Gaeaf

Book themes for Día de Muertos and All Saint’s Day: A book that has a primarily black and white cover, or one that has all the colours (ROYGBIV) together on the cover.

Book themes for Calan Gaeaf:
Read any of your planned Halloween Bingo books that you didn’t end up reading after all, involving witches, hags, or various types of witchcraft –OR– read a book with ivy or roses on the cover, or a character’s name/title of book is / has Rose or Ivy in it.

=> Terry Pratchett: Carpe Jugulum

1 point.

Tasks for Día de Muertos and All Saint’s Day: create a short poem, or an epitaph for your most hated book ever.

=> Epitaph for 50 Shades of Grey and Twilight

1 point.


Tasks for Calan Gaeaf: If you’re superstition-proof, inscribe your name on a rock, toss it in a fire and take a picture to post –OR– Make a cozy wintertime dish involving leeks (the national plant of Wales) and post the recipe and pictures with your thoughts about how it turned out.

=> Bami Goreng

1 point.

 


Square 2: November 5th: Guy Fawkes Night & Bon Om Touk

Book themes for Guy Fawkes Night: Any book about the English monarchy (any genre), political treason, political thrillers, or where fire is a major theme, or fire is on the cover.

=> S.J. Parris: Heresy

1 point.


Book themes for Bon Om Touk: Read a book that takes place on the sea, near the sea, or on a lake or a river, or read a book that has water on the cover.

=> P.D. James: The Lighthouse

1 point.


Tasks for Guy Fawkes Night: Post pictures of past or present bonfires, fireworks (IF THEY’RE LEGAL) or sparklers. Or: Host a traditional English tea party, or make yourself a nice cup of tea and settle down with a good book to read. Which kind of tea is your favorite? Tell us why.

=> Tea and book

1 point.

Tasks for Bon Om Touk: Post a picture from your most recent or favorite vacation on the sea (or a lake, river, or any other body of water larger than a puddle), or if you're living on the sea or on a lake or a river, post a picture of your favorite spot on the shore / banks / beach / at the nearest harbour.
=> Norfolk Coast / Rhine Valley at and near Bonn

1 point.

 

 

Square 3: November 11th: St. Martin’s Day & Veterans’ Day / Armistice Day

Book themes for St. Martin’s Day: Read a book set on a vineyard, or in a rural setting, –OR– a story where the MC searches for/gets a new job. –OR– A book with a lantern on the cover, or books set before the age of electricity. –OR– A story dealing with an act of selfless generosity (like St. Martin sharing his cloak with a beggar).

=> Kazuo Ishiguro: An Artist of the Floating World

1 point.


Book themes for Veteran’s Day / Armistice Day: Read a book involving veterans of any war, books about WWI or WWII (fiction or non-fiction). –OR– Read a book with poppies on the cover.

Tasks for St. Martin’s Day: Write a Mother Goose-style rhyme or a limerick; the funnier the better. –OR– Take a picture of the book you’re currently reading, next to a glass of wine, or the drink of your choice, with or without a fire in the background. –OR– Bake a Weckmann; if you’re not a dab hand with yeast baking, make a batch of gingerbread men, or something else that’s typical of this time of the year where you live. Post pics of the results and the recipe if you’d like to share it.

Tasks for Veteran’s Day / Armistice Day: Make, or draw a red poppy and show us a pic of your red poppy or other symbol of remembrance –OR– post a quote or a piece of poetry about the ravages of war.

=> Quotes and poppies

1 point.

 

 

Square 4: November 22nd and 23rd: Penance Day (22nd) & Thanksgiving (23rd)

Book themes for Penance Day: Read a book that has a monk, nun, pastor / preacher, priest or other representative of the organized church as a protagonist, or where someone is struggling with feelings of guilt or with their conscience (regardless over what).

Book themes for Thanksgiving Day: Books with a theme of coming together to help a community or family in need. –OR– Books with a turkey or pumpkin on the cover.

Tasks for Penance Day: Tell us – what has recently made you stop in your tracks and think? –OR– What was a big turning point in your life? –OR– Penance Day is a holiday of the Protestant church, which dates its origins, in large parts, to Martin Luther, who published his “95 Theses” exactly 500 years ago this year. Compile a catalogue of theses (it needn’t be 95) about book blogging! What suggestions or ideas would you propose to improve the experience of book blogging?

Tasks for Thanksgiving Day: List of 5 things you’re grateful for –OR– a picture of your thanksgiving feast; post your favourite turkey-day recipe. –OR– Be thankful for yourself and treat yourself to a new book - post a picture of it.

=> 5 things to be grateful for.

1 point.

 

 

Square 5: December 3rd and following 3 Sundays: Advent

Book themes for Advent: Read a book with a wreath or with pines or fir trees on the cover –OR– Read the 4th book from a favorite series, or a book featuring 4 siblings.

=> Martin Edwards (ed.), Various Authors: Silent Nights

1 point.


Tasks for Advent: Post a pic of your advent calendar. (Festive cat, dog, hamster or other suitable pet background expressly encouraged.)

=> TA's Advent calendar.

1 point.

 

–OR– “Advent” means “he is coming.” Tell us: What in the immediate or near future are you most looking forward to? (This can be a book release, or a tech gadget, or an event … whatever you next expect to make you really happy.)

Bonus task: make your own advent calendar and post it.

 


Square 6: December 5th-6th and 8th: Sinterklaas / Krampusnacht (5th) / St. Nicholas Day (6th) & Bodhi Day (8th)

Book themes for Sinterklaas / St. Nicholas’s Day / Krampusnacht: A story involving children or a young adult book, or a book with oranges on the cover, or whose cover is primarily orange (for the Dutch House of Orange) –OR– with tangerines, walnuts, chocolates, or cookies on the cover.

Book themes for Bodhi Day: Read a book set in Nepal, India or Tibet, –OR– which involves animal rescue. (Buddhism calls for a vegetarian lifestyle.)

=> Aravind Adiga: The White Tiger

1 point.

Tasks for Sinterklaas / St. Nicholas’s Day / Krampusnacht: Write a witty or humorous poem to St. Nicholas –OR– If you have kids, leave coins or treats, like tangerines, walnuts, chocolate(s) and cookies in their shoes to find the next morning and then post about their reactions / bewilderment. ;) If you don’t have kids, do the same for another family member / loved one or a friend.

Tasks for Bodhi Day: Perform a random act of kindness. Feed the birds, adopt a pet, hold the door open for someone with a smile, or stop to pet a dog (that you know to be friendly); cull your books and donate them to a charity, etc. (And, in a complete break with the Buddha’s teachings, tell us about it.) –OR– Post a picture of your pet, your garden, or your favourite, most peaceful place in the world.

=> Pet & peaceful garden

1 point.

 


Square 7: December 10th & 13th: International Human Rights Day (10th) & St. Lucia’s Day (13th)

Book themes for International Human Rights Day: Read a book originally written in another language (i.e., not in English and not in your mother tongue), –OR– a book written by anyone not Anglo-Saxon, –OR– any story revolving around the rights of others either being defended or abused.
–OR– Read a book set in New York City, or The Netherlands (home of the U.N. and U.N. World Court respectively).

=> Patrick Senécal: Le vide, part 1 - Vivre au Max

1 point.


Book themes for Saint Lucia's Day: Read a book set in Scandinavia (Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Sweden and Finland for the purposes of this game) or a book where ice and snow are an important feature.

Tasks for International Human Rights Day: Post a picture of yourself next to a war memorial or other memorial to an event pertaining to Human Rights. (Pictures of just the memorial are ok too.) –OR– Cook a dish from a foreign culture or something involving apples (NYC = Big Apple) or oranges (The Netherlands); post recipe and pics.

Tasks for Saint Lucia's Day: Get your Hygge on -- light a few candles if you’ve got them, pour yourself a glass of wine or hot chocolate/toddy, roast a marshmallow or toast a crumpet, and take a picture of your cosiest reading place.

=> Hygge!

1 point.


Bonus task: Make the Danish paper hearts: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jur29ViLEhk

 


Square 8: December 12th - 24th: Hanukkah (begins 12th, ends 20th) & Las Posadas (begins 16th, ends 24th)

Book themes for Hanukkah: Any book whose main character is Jewish, any story about the Jewish people –OR– where the miracle of light plays a significant part in the stories plot.

Book themes for Las Posadas: Read a book dealing with visits by family or friends, or set in Mexico, –OR– with a poinsettia on the cover. –OR– a story where the main character is stranded without a place to stay, or find themselves in a 'no room at the Inn’ situation.

=> Francis Duncan: Murder at Christmas

1 point.


Tasks for Hanukkah: Light nine candles around the room (SAFELY) and post a picture. –OR– Play the Dreidel game to pick the next book you read.

Assign a book from your TBR to each of the four sides of the dreidel:

נ (Nun)
ג (Gimel)
ה (He)
ש (Shin)


Spin a virtual dreidel: http://www.torahtots.com/holidays/chanuka/dreidel.htm
– then tell us which book the dreidel picked.

=> Dreidel pick: ה (He) - Kazuo Ishiguro: An Artist of the Floating World

1 point.


–OR–
Make your own dreidel: https://www.activityvillage.co.uk/make-a-dreidel, –OR–
Play the game at home, or play online: http://www.jewfaq.org/dreidel/play.htm and tell us about the experience.–OR– Give some Gelt: Continue a Hanukkah tradition and purchase some chocolate coins, or gelt. Post a picture of your chocolate coins, and then pass them out amongst friends and family!

Tasks for Las Posadas: Which was your favorite / worst / most memorable hotel / inn / vacation home stay ever? Tell us all about it! –OR– If you went caroling as a kid: Which are your best / worst / most unfortettable caroling memories?

Bonus task: Make a piñata (https://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Pi%C3%B1ata), hang it from a tree, post, basketball hoop, clothesline or similarly suitable holder and let your neighborhood kids have a go at breaking it.

 


Square 9: December 21st: Winter Solstice / Mōdraniht / Yuletide & Yaldā Night

Book themes for Winter Solstice and Yaldā Night: Read a book of poetry, or a book where the events all take place during the course of one night, or where the cover is a night-time scene.

=> Christina Rossetti: The Poetry

1 point.

 

Holiday Book Bonus Joker for Winter Solstice:

=> Ngaio Marsh: Colour Scheme1 point.

 

Book themes for Mōdraniht: Read any book where the MC is actively raising young children or teens.

Book themes for Yuletide: Read a book set in the midst of a snowy or icy winter, –OR– set in the Arctic or Antartica.

=> Anne Perry: A Christmas Visitor

1 point.


Tasks for Winter Solstice and Yaldā Night: Read a book in one night - in the S. Hemisphere, read a book in a day. –OR– Grab one of your thickest books off the shelf. Ask a question and then turn to page 40 and read the 9th line of text on that page. Post your results. –OR– Eat a watermelon or pomegranate for good luck and health in the coming year, but post a pic first!.

=> Bibliomancy: William Shakespeare's answer (9th line of p. 40 of the Complete Works, Illustrated Stratford Edition)

1 point.


Bonus task: Read a book in one night.

Tasks for Mōdraniht: Tell us your favourite memory about your mom, grandma, or the woman who had the greatest impact on your childhood. –OR– Post a picture of you and your mom, or if comfortable, you and your kids.

Bonus task: Post 3 things you love about your mother-in-law (if you have one), otherwise your grandma.

Tasks for Yuletide: Make a Yule log cake -- post a pic and the recipe for us to drool over.

 


Square 10: December 21st: World Peace Day & Pancha Ganapati begins (ends 25th)

Book themes for World Peace Day: Read a book by or about a Nobel Peace Prize winner, or about a protagonist (fictional or nonfictional) who has a reputation as a peacemaker.

Book themes for Pancha Ganapati: Read anything involving a need for forgiveness in the story line; a story about redemption –OR– Read a book whose cover has one of the 5 colors of the holiday: red, blue, green, orange, or yellow –OR– Read a book involving elephants.

=> Henry Wade: Lonely Magdalen

1 point.


Tasks for World Peace Day: Cook something involving olives or olive oil. Share the results and/or recipe with us. –OR– Tell us: If you had wings (like a dove), where would you want to fly?

=> Spaghetti and tomato sauce

1 point.


Tasks for Pancha Ganapati: Post about your 5 favourite books this year and why you appreciated them so much. –OR– Take a shelfie / stack picture of the above-mentioned 5 favorite books. (Feel free to combine these tasks into 1!

=> Most and least favorite books of 2017.

1 point.


Square 11: December 21st-22nd: Soyal (21st) & Dōngzhì Festival (22nd)

Book themes for Soyal: Read a book set in the American Southwest / the Four Corners States (Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah), –OR– a book that has a Native American protagonist.

Book themes for Dōngzhì Festival: Read a book set in China or written by a Chinese author / an author of Chinese origin; or read a book that has a pink or white cover.

Tasks for Soyal: Like many Native American festivities, Soyal involves rituals such as dances. What local / religious / folk traditions or customs exist where you live? Tell us about one of them. (If you can, post pictures for illustration.) –OR– Share a picture you’ve taken of a harvest setting or autumnal leaf color.

=> Carneval in the Rhine Valley -- 11/11, 11:11 AM Kick off

1 point.


Tasks for Dōngzhì Festival: If you like Chinese food, tell us your favorite dish – otherwise, tell us your favorite desert. (Recipes, as always, welcome.)

 


Square 12: December 23rd Festivus & Saturnalia ends (begins 17th)

Book themes for Festivus: Read anything comedic; a parody, satire, etc. Books with hilariously dysfunctional families (must be funny dysfunctional, not tragic dysfunctional). Anything that makes you laugh (or hope it does).

Book themes for Saturnalia: The god Saturn has a planet named after him; read any work of science fiction that takes place in space. –OR– Read a book celebrating free speech. –OR– A book revolving around a very large party, or ball, or festival, –OR– a book with a mask or masks on the cover. –OR– a story where roles are reversed.

=> Dorothy L. Sayers: Murder Must Advertise

1 point.

Tasks for Festivus: Post your personal list of 3 Festivus Miracles –OR– post a picture of your Festivus pole (NOTHING pornographic, please!), –OR– Perform the Airing of Grievances: name 5 books you’ve read this year that have disappointed you - tell us in tongue-lashing detail why and how they failed to live up to expectations.

=> Most and least favorite books of 2017.

1 point.

Tasks for Saturnalia: Wear a mask, take a picture and post it. Leave a small gift for someone you know anonymously - a small bit of chocolate or apple, a funny poem or joke. Tell us about it in a post. –OR– Tell us: If you could time-travel back to ancient Rome, where would you want to go and whom (both fictional and / or nonfictional persons) would you like to meet?

 


Square 13: December 25th Christmas & Hogswatch

Book themes for Christmas: Read a book whose protagonist is called Mary, Joseph (or Jesus, if that’s a commonly used name in your culture) or any variations of those names (e.g., Maria or Pepe).

Book themes for Hogswatch Night: Of course - read Hogfather! Or any Discworld book (or anything by Terry Pratchett)

=> Terry Pratchett: Hogfather (buddy read)

1 point.

Tasks for Christmas: Post a picture of your stockings hung from the chimney with care, –OR– a picture of Santa’s ‘treat’ waiting for him. –OR– Share with us your family Christmas traditions involving gift-giving, or Santa’s visit. Did you write letters to Santa as a kid (and if so, did he write back, as J.R.R. Tolkien did “as Santa Claus” to his kids)? If so, what did you wish for? A teddy bear or a doll? Other toys – or practical things? And did Santa always bring what you asked for?

Tasks for Hogswatch Night: Make your favourite sausage dish (if you’re vegan or vegetarian, use your favorite sausage or meat substitute), post and share recipe.


Square 14: December 25th Dies Natalis Solis Invicti & Quaid-e-Azam’s Day

Book themes for Dies Natalis Solis Invicti: Celebrate the sun and read a book that has a beach or seaside setting. –OR– a book set during summertime. –OR– set in the Southern Hemisphere.

=> Ian Fleming: The Man With the Golden Gun

1 point.

Book themes for Quaid-e-Azam: Pakistan became an independent nation when the British Raj ended on August 14, 1947. Read a book set in Pakistan or in any other country that attained sovereign statehood between August 14, 1947 and today (regardless in what part of the world).

Tasks for Dies Natalis Solis Invicti: Find the sunniest spot in your home, that’s warm and comfy and read your book. –OR– Take a picture of your garden, or a local garden/green space in the sun (even if the ground is under snow). If you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, take a picture of your local scenic spot, park, or beach, on a sunny day. –OR– The Romans believed that the sun god rode across the sky in a chariot drawn by fiery steeds. Have you ever been horseback riding, or did you otherwise have significant encounters with horses? As a child, which were your favorite books involving horses?

Tasks for Quaid-e-Azam: Pakistan’s first leader – Muhammad Ali Jinnah – was a man, but both Pakistan and neighboring India were governed by women (Benazir Bhutto and Indira Gandhi respectively) before many of the major Western countries. Tell us: Who are the present-day or historic women that you most respect, and why? (These can be any women of great achievement, not just political leaders.)

 


Square 15: December 25th-26th: Newtonmas (25th) & St. Stephen's Day / Boxing Day (26th)

Book themes for Newtonmas: Any science book. Any book about alchemy. Any book where science, astronomy, or chemistry play a significant part in the plot. (For members of the Flat Book Society: The “Forensics” November group read counts.)

=> Provisorially: Val McDermid: Forensics

1 point.


Book themes for Boxing Day/St. Stephen’s Day: Read anything where the main character has servants (paid servants count, NOT unpaid) or is working as a servant him-/ herself.

Tasks for Newtonmas: Take a moment to appreciate gravity and the laws of motion. If there’s snow outside, have a snowball fight with a friend or a member of your family. –OR– Take some time out to enjoy the alchemical goodness of a hot toddy or chocolate or any drink that relies on basic chemistry/alchemy (coffee with cream or sugar / tea with milk or sugar or lemon, etc.). Post a picture of your libations and the recipe if it’s unique and you’re ok with sharing it.

Tasks for St. Stephen’s Day / Boxing Day: Show us your boxes of books! –OR– If you have a cat, post a picture of your cat in a box. (your dog in a box works too, if your dog likes boxes) -- or any pet good-natured enough to pose in a box long enough for you to snap a picture.

=> Cats in (and on) boxes.

1 point.

BONUS task: box up all the Christmas detritus, decorations, or box up that stuff you’ve been meaning to get rid of, or donate, etc. and take a picture and post it.

 


Square 16: December 26th-31st: Kwanzaa (begins 26th, ends 31st) & New Year’s Eve / St. Sylvester’s Day

Book themes for Kwanzaa: Read a book written by an author of African descent or a book set in Africa, or whose cover is primarily red, green or black.

=> Margery Allingham: Traitor's Purse

1 point.


Book themes for Hogmanay / New Year’s Eve / Watch Night / St. Sylvester’s Day: a book about starting over, rebuilding, new beginnings, etc. –OR– Read anything set in medieval times. –OR– A book about the papacy –OR– where miracles of any sort are performed (the unexplainable - but good - kind).

Tasks for Kwanzaa: Create a stack of books in the Kwanzaa color scheme using red, black and green and post your creation and post a photo (or post a photo of a shelfie where black, red and green predominate).

BONUS task: Create something with your stack of books: a christmas tree or other easily identifiable object.

Tasks for Hogmanay / New Year’s Eve / Watch Night / St. Sylvester’s Day: Make a batch of shortbread for yourself, family or friends. Post pics and recipe. –OR– Light some sparklers (if legal) and take a picture – or have a friend take a picture of your “writing” in the sky with the sparkler. –OR– Get yourself a steak pie (any veggie/vegan substitutions are fine) and read yourself a story – but take a pic of both before you start, and post it.–OR– make whatever New Year's Eve / Day good luck dish there is in your family or in the area where you live or where you grew up; tell us about it, and if it's not a secret recipe, we hope you'll share it with us.

MASSIVE HUGE BONUS POINTS if you post a picture of yourself walking a pig on a leash. (Done to ensure good fortune of the coming year.)

 

 

The Bonus Jokers:

Surprise, Surprise 1: Melbourne Cup

My "ponies":

1. Marmelo
2. Almandin
3. Johannes Vermeer

 

2 bonus points (Johannes Vermeer)

 

 

Total Points, to Date:

35 points.

SPOILER ALERT!

16 Tasks of the Festive Season: Square 8 - Las Posadas: A Christmas House Party, the Murderous Way

Murder for Christmas - Francis Duncan, Geoffrey Beevers Murder for Christmas - Francis Duncan

Book themes for Las Posadas: Read a book dealing with visits by family or friends.

 

Christmas house parties were definitely "a thing" with the Golden Age mystery writers -- small wonder since they are, in essence, nothing but a seasonal subspecies of the subgenre that, perhaps, has come to be more synonymous with Golden Age detective fiction than any other subgenre: the country house mystery.  So it's no surprise that Francis Duncan, who published some 20 mystery novels between the 1930s and the early 1950s, but who was quickly and thoroughly forgotten after his books had fallen from favor,* turned to the subject as well, sending his amateur detective (and retired tobacconist) Mordecai Tremaine to the English countryside to attend the Christmas party of wealthy Benedict Grame.  But what begins like a true-blue Dickensian Christmas extravaganza, with Grame doing his level best to mime the likes of Samuel Pickwick and Mr. Fezziwig (Father Christmas / Santa Claus suit, presents on the Christmas tree, and all), in due course inevitably turns into a ghastly crime scene.  The victim is Grame's closest associate; a man whom some, but by far not all of those present seem to have a reason to dislike, but who to Tremaine seemed decidedly more "on the level" than some of the other guests, who had exhibited an unexplicable tension even before, and whose nerves now seem to resemble bow strings a fraction of a second before breaking point.

 

Few of the party's guests actually struck me as likeable -- but while I would have been quite happy to live with this in and of itself (which is, after all, par for the course of the average country house mystery), the solution 

makes clear that Duncan's real purpose here seems to have been to turn Christmas (particularly the Dickensian Christmas clichés) on its (or their) head, and the final reveal in the book's last pages contains a brutal about-face,which

(show spoiler)

considerably marred my enjoyment of the story, even if I had seen parts of it coming and my early suspicion as to the murderer's identity (though not their motive) turned out to be correct.

 

I own a print edition of this book, which I did pull for reference purposes on occasion, but I primarily listened to the deligihtful unabridged audio recording narrated by Geoffrey Beevers, who finds just the right tone for each situation and character.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

* As the Guardian reports, even his publisher no longer knew anything about him when Murder for Christmas was undusted and became a surprise revival hit -- it took for the author's children to see the book at their local Waterstone's to become aware of the publisher's appeal for information and get in touch with them.

 

16 Tasks of the Festive Season: Square 5 - Advent: Golden Age Christmas Vignettes

Silent Nights: Christmas Mysteries - Various Authors, Martin Edwards

 

Book themes for Advent: Read a book with a wreath or with pines or fir trees on the cover.

 

Silent Nights is the first of (at this point) two Christmas mystery short story anthologies in the British Library's "Crime Classics" series, edited by Martin Edwards. The anthology combines stories by well-known and -remembered authors (e.g., Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Wallace, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Margery Allingham) with stories by authors who, even if they may have been household names in their own time -- and many were members of the illustrious Detection Club -- have since been rolled over by the wheels of time; not always deservedly so.

 

The standout story in the collection is doubtlessly Arthur Conan Doyle's The Blue Carbuncle (one of my all-time favorite Sherlock Holmes adventures that shows both ACD and his protagonists Holmes and Watson at their absolute best), but I enjoyed almost all of the stories -- in varying degrees, and not all of them were apt to make me want to go on reading an entire novel by the same author, but several did; and thus, I am glad that I have extended my "Detection Club / Golden Age crime fiction quest" to the likes of J. Jefferson Farjeon, Ethel Lina White, Edmud Crispin, Leo Bruce, and Nicholas Blake (better known as Cecil Day-Lewis, poet laureate and father of actor Daniel Day-Lewis).

16 Tasks of the Festive Season: Eighth Square - Hanukkah and Las Posadas

Hanukkah (December 12th - 20th)

Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication of the Holy Temple (the Second Temple) in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid (Macedonian Greek) Empire (167 to 160 BC).  Hanukkah is observed for eight nights and days, starting on the 25th day of Kislev according to the Hebrew calendar, which may occur at any time from late November to late December in the Gregorian calendar.  It is also known as the Festival of Lights and the Feast of Dedication.  The festival is observed by the kindling of the lights of the nine-branched menorah, one additional light on each night of the holiday, progressing to eight on the final night.  The typical menorah consists of eight branches with an additional visually distinct branch.  The extra light, with which the others are lit, is called a shamash (Hebrew: שמש‎‎, "attendant") and is given a distinct location, usually above or below the rest.  Other Hanukkah customs include playing dreidel and eating oil-based foods such as doughnuts and latkes.

 

The Reading Tasks:

Read a book whose main character is Jewish, any story about the Jewish people –OR– where the miracle of light plays a significant part in the stories plot.

 

–OR–

 

Other Tasks:

Light nine candles around the room (SAFELY) and post a picture. –OR– Play the Dreidel game to pick the next book you read.

Assign a book from your TBR to each of the four sides of the dreidel:

נ (Nun)
ג (Gimel)
ה (He)
ש (Shin)


Spin a virtual dreidel: http://www.torahtots.com/holidays/chanuka/dreidel.htm
– then tell us which book the dreidel picked.

–OR–
Make your own dreidel: https://www.activityvillage.co.uk/make-a-dreidel, –OR–
Play the game at home, or play online: http://www.jewfaq.org/dreidel/play.htm and tell us about the experience.–OR– Give some Gelt: Continue a Hanukkah tradition and purchase some chocolate coins, or gelt. Post a picture of your chocolate coins, and then pass them out amongst friends and family!

 

 

Las Posadas (December 16th - 24th)

Las Posadas is a novenario (nine days of religious observance) representing the nine-month pregnancy of Mary, the mother of Jesus, celebrated chiefly in Mexico and by Mexican-Americans in the United States.  Las Posadas – Spanish for lodgings or accommodations, which in this case refers to the inn in the story of the nativity of Jesus – was introduced into Mexico when Spanish missionaries brought the custom of the religious pageant to Mexico, where they used it to teach the story of Jesus' birth to Mexico's people.  In 1586, a papal bull ordered that a Christmas Mass was to be observed as novenas on the nine days preceding Christmas Day throughout Mexico. – Las Posadas is a procession going from one house designated as “inn” to the next, during which either individual participants play the various parts of Mary and Joseph with the expectant mother riding a real donkey, and with attendants such as angels and shepherds acquired along the way, or the pilgrims carry images of the holy couple instead.  Children may carry poinsettias.  The procession is followed by musicians, with the entire procession singing songs asking for lodging at the inn.  At the end of each night's journey, there are Christmas carols (villancicos), children break open star-shaped piñatas to obtain candy and fruit hidden inside, and there is a feast.

 

The Reading Tasks:

Read a book dealing with visits by family or friends, or set in Mexico, –OR– with a poinsettia on the cover. –OR– a story where the main character is stranded without a place to stay, or find themselves in a 'no room at the Inn’ situation.

 

–OR–

 

Other Tasks:

Which was your favorite / worst / most memorable hotel / inn / vacation home stay ever? Tell us all about it! –OR– If you went caroling as a kid: Which are your best / worst / most unfortettable caroling memories?

Bonus task: Make a piñata (https://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Pi%C3%B1ata), hang it from a tree, post, basketball hoop, clothesline or similarly suitable holder and let your neighborhood kids have a go at breaking it.

16 Tasks of the Festive Season: Square 9 Reads (Winter Solstice / Yaldā Night and Yuletide)

The Poetry - David Shaw-Parker, Christina Rossetti, Ghizela Rowe Goblin Market - Christina Rossetti A Christmas Visitor - Anne Perry Colour Scheme - Ngaio Marsh, Ric Jerrom Colour Scheme - Ngaio Marsh

Book themes for Winter Solstice and Yaldā Night: Read a book of poetry.

Book themes for Yuletide: Read a book set in the midst of a snowy or icy winter.

 

Holiday Book Joker as Bonus Joker: A book set on Winter Solstice (or Summer Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere)

 

  

 

Winter Solstice and Yaldā Night Read: Christina Rossetti: The Poetry

A wonderful reading of some of Christina Rossetti's best-known poems by David Shaw-Parker and Ghizela Rowe, including her long narrative The Goblin Market, which I also own (and reread, for the occasion) in a delightful hardcopy edition illustrated with images by Christina's elder brother, the Pre-Raphaelite painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti.  Not holiday reading per se (and The Goblin Market is decidedly dark), but still very fitting poetic complementary material for the holiday season.  Highly recommended!

 

  

 

Yuletide Read: Anne Perry: A Christmas Visitor

Anne Perry's Christmas novellas are spin-offs of her major Victorian series (Thomas & Charlotte Pitt, and William Monk, respectively), featuring supporting characters from those series as their protagonists.  A Christmas Visitor is the second of those novellas, and its protagonist is Henry Stanhope, a mathematician friend of William Monk's.  Stanhope travels to the snow-laden Lake District to spend Christmas with the family of his longstanding friend Judah Dreghorn; only to discover that just prior to his arrival Judah has apparently slipped on a set of ice-sheeted stones crossing a brook on his estate.  What initially looked like an accident, at closer inspection is revealed to be murder, and while everybody's favorite and allegedly most likely suspect is soon found, it falls to Henry to find out what really happened.

 

Perry's writing is very atmospheric and captures the Lake District, 19th century rural society, and the Christmas spirit to perfection -- I loved this story right up until its very end, which (even for a Christmas book) struck me as overly moralizing and sentimental on the one hand, and just that decisive bit too neat on the other hand.  (Readers not enamored of mysteries hingeing on certain points of law might be turned off on those grounds)  Still, for a quick read to get into the spirit of the season (and be served up a nicely-plotted mystery into the bargain), I could hardly have done better -- and the stellar reading by Terrence Hardiman contributed greatly to my enjoyment.

 

  

 

Winter Solstice Book Joker Bonus Read: Ngaio Marsh: Colour Scheme

One of my favorite mysteries from Ngaio Marsh's Roderick Alleyn series, here served up in an unabridged reading by Ric Jerrom.  The story is set in Marsh's native New Zealand and begins on Summer Solstice, which is Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere and thus makes the book eligible for this particular holiday's book joker.

 

The mystery is set at a spa hotel near a hot springs / mud pot / small version of Yellowstone National Park type of area, where a gentleman who has made one enemy too many (i.e., your classic Golden Age murder victim) one day is found to have fallen into a boiling hot mud pot.  (He may or may not also have been a German spy -- the story is set in the 1940s -- but this is one of the rare exceptions of a Golden Age mystery with that kind of angle that is blessedly devoid of "5th column" shenanigans, and where the war background is actually used skillfully to demonstrate how WWII affected daily life even in seemingly remote New Zealand.)  Also present at the spa is, inter alia, a star of the British stage and screen (unabashedly based on Sir Laurence Olivier) -- secretary in tow -- as well as, arriving on the day after the "accidental" death that very probably wasn't an accident, a Mr. Septimus Small, whom none of the other denizens of the spa manage to figure out, and who soon inspires the wildest conjectures as to his identity and occupation.

 

Upon revisiting the mystery -- thanks in no small part to Ric Jerrom's excellent narration and portrayal of the characters -- I found the story's inner logic (and the path to the solution) decidedly more obvious than when I first read it a few years ago, but then again, this time I knew where the whole thing was headed and, consequently, I was not as distracted by minutiae as the first time around.

 

16 Tasks of the Festive Season: Seventh Square - International Human Rights Day and St. Lucia's Day

International Human Rights Day (December 10th)

Human Rights Day is celebrated annually across the world on December 10 every year.  The date was chosen to honor the United Nations General Assembly's adoption and proclamation, on December 10, 1948, of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the first global enunciation of human rights and one of the first major achievements of the new United Nations. The day is usually marked by high-level political conferences and meetings and by cultural events and exhibitions organized by governmental and non-governmental organizations dealing with human rights issues.  The Nobel Peace Prize is also awarded on this day. -- Note: The 2017 award went to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), as announced on October 6, 2017.  You can read the Award Ceremony Speech on the Nobel Prize website.

 

The Reading Tasks:

Read a book originally written in another language (i.e., not in English and not in your mother tongue), –OR– a book written by anyone not Anglo-Saxon, –OR– any story revolving around the rights of others either being defended or abused.
–OR– Read a book set in New York City, or The Netherlands (home of the U.N. and U.N. World Court respectively).

 

–OR–

 

Other Tasks:

Post a picture of yourself next to a war memorial or other memorial to an event pertaining to Human Rights. (Pictures of just the memorial are ok too.) –OR– Cook a dish from a foreign culture or something involving apples (NYC = Big Apple) or oranges (The Netherlands); post recipe and pics.

 

 

St. Lucia’s Day (December 13th)

St. Lucia’s Day is a Christian feast day celebrated on December 13 in Advent, commemorating a 3rd-century martyr under the Diocletianic Persecution, who according to legend brought food and aid to Christians hiding in the catacombs using a candle-lit wreath to light her way and leave her hands free to carry as much food as possible.  Her feast once coincided with the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year before calendar reforms, so her feast day has become a Christian festival of light.  Falling within the Advent season, Saint Lucia's Day is seen as an event signaling the arrival of the Light of Christ on Christmas Day.  Saint Lucia’s Day is celebrated most commonly in Scandinavia, where it is a major feast day, and in Italy.  In Scandinavia, where the saint is called Santa Lucia in Norwegian and Sankta Lucia in Swedish, she is represented as a lady in a white dress (a symbol of a Christian's white baptismal robe) and a red sash (symbolizing the blood of her martyrdom) with a crown or wreath of candles on her head.  In Norway, Sweden and Swedish-speaking regions of Finland, as songs are sung, girls dressed as Saint Lucia carry rolls and cookies in procession, which symbolizes bringing the light of Christianity throughout world darkness.

 

The Reading Tasks:

Read a book set in Scandinavia (Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Sweden - and Finland for the purposes of this game) or a book where ice and snow are an important feature.

 

–OR–

 

Other Tasks:

Get your Hygge on -- light a few candles if you’ve got them, pour yourself a glass of wine or hot chocolate/toddy, roast a marshmallow or toast a crumpet, and take a picture of your cosiest reading place.


Bonus task: Make the Danish paper hearts: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jur29ViLEhk

Addendum: Lillelara shared another set of instructions here and explained:

"You can find a link for a pfd file with a lot of different patterns here: http://www.altomhobby.dk/jul/flettede-julehjerter/sadan-fletter-du-julehjerter/

Klick on the link called "52 gratis skabeloner til flettede julehjerner". They do mean julehjerter - christmas hearts. A julehjerne is a christmas brain. I had to chuckle quite a bit at that :)."

I realize that one snowflake does not yet make a White Christmas ...

... and we're still 2 weeks away, and for all I know this may be all we're due this winter, but I can't help tacitly getting my hopes up.

 

This is what our garden and our neighborhood looked like this afternoon:

 

(The last two photos are the view from my living room window towards the other side of the road, past some of the bells of my terracotta bell mobile.)

16 Tasks of the Festive Season: Sixth Square - Sinterklaas / Krampusnacht / St. Nicholas's Day & Bodhi Day

Sinterklaas / Krampusnacht (December 5th) / St. Nicholas Day (December 6th)

Saint Nicholas, also called Nikolaos of Myra, was a historic 4th-century Christian saint and Greek Bishop of Myra, in Asia Minor (modern-day Demre, Turkey).  Because of the many miracles attributed to his intercession, he is also known as Nikolaos the Wonderworker.  His legendary habit of secret gift-giving gave rise to the traditional model of Santa Claus, through the Dutch Sinterklaas.  Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of everybody from sailors and merchants to archers, repentant thieves, children, brewers, pawnbrokers and students in various cities and countries around Europe.  The best-known legend associated with him is his secret nightly gift of money to a pauper whose daughters would have had to remain unmarried if their father had not been able to pay their dowry.  According to one version of the legend, in order to remain undetected, St. Nicholas dropped the final bag of gold down the chimney.  According to another one, the daughter who was the intended recipient had washed her stockings that evening and hung them over the embers to dry, and that the bag of gold fell into a stocking. – Gifts that children find in their shoes (or stockings) on Sinterklaas / St. Nicholas Day include tangerines, walnuts, chocolates and cookies.

 

In German and parts of Central European folklore, St. Nicholas has a companion variously known as Knecht Ruprecht or Krampus.  While Knecht Ruprecht is a human, Krampus is a horned, anthropomorphic figure, half-goat, half-demon, possibly of pre-Christian origin.  During the Christmas season, this companion punishes children who have misbehaved, in contrast with Saint Nicholas, who rewards the well-behaved with gifts.  Children can avoid punishment by, inter alia reciting a short piece of memorized poetry to St. Nicholas as a sign of good behavior.

 

The Reading Tasks:

Read a story involving children or a young adult book, or a book with oranges on the cover, or whose cover is primarily orange (for the Dutch House of Orange) –OR– with tangerines, walnuts, chocolates, or cookies on the cover.

 

–OR–

 

Other Tasks:

Write a witty or humorous poem to St. Nicholas –OR– If you have kids, leave coins or treats, like tangerines, walnuts, chocolate(s) and cookies [more common in Germany] in their shoes to find the next morning and then post about their reactions/bewilderment. ;) If you don’t have kids, do the same for another family member / loved one or a friend.

 

 

Bodhi Day (December 8th)

Bodhi Day is the Buddhist holiday that commemorates the day that the historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, experienced enlightenment, also known as bodhi in Sanskrit and Pali.  According to tradition, Siddhartha – an ascetic born as a prince in the Northern part of the Indian Subcontinent, in an area today partly in Nepal and partly in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh (India) – had recently forsaken years of extreme ascetic practices and resolved to sit under a peepal tree and simply meditate until he found the root of suffering, and how to liberate oneself from it.  As the morning star rose in the sky in the early morning of the third watch of the night, Siddhartha finally found the answers he sought, became enlightened, and experienced Nirvana (in Buddhist belief, the ultimate state of release from the cycle of birth-and-pain-and-death).  As a result, he became a Buddha or Awakened One.

 

The Reading Tasks:

Read a book set in Nepal, India or Tibet, –OR– which involves animal rescue. (Buddhism calls for a vegetarian lifestyle.)

 

–OR–

 

Other Tasks:

Perform a random act of kindness. Feed the birds, adopt a pet, hold the door open for someone with a smile, or stop to pet a dog (that you know to be friendly); cull your books and donate them to a charity, etc. (And, in a complete break with the Buddha’s teachings, tell us about it.) –OR– Post a picture of your pet, your garden, or your favourite, most peaceful place in the world.

 

12 Days of Christmas Tudor Book Giveaway

 

I am honored to be part of the 12 Days of Christmas Tudor Book Giveaway at On the Tudor Trail! Check it out for a chance to win a copy of Queen of Martyrs, and make sure you sign up for the many other fabulous books as well.

Source: http://onthetudortrail.com/Blog/2017/12/04/on-the-fourth-day-of-christmas-book-2
Reblogged from Carpe Librum

Reading progress update: I've read 135 out of 385 pages.

The Science of Discworld - Terry Pratchett, Jack Cohen, Ian Stewart

Well, so far the science writing is pretty neat for what it set out to do, and this one will definitely replace my Newtonmas read for the 16 Festive Tasks.

 

Still, can I just say that I nevertheless prefer the Discworld chapters?

 

16 Tasks of the Festive Season: Fifth Square - Advent (December 3 and following three Sundays)

This, again, may be the "16 Festive Tasks" equivalent to carrying coals to Newcastle, but anyway ...:

 

Advent is a season observed in many Christian churches as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas.  The term is a version of the Latin word meaning "coming".  Advent is the beginning of the Western liturgical year and commences on the fourth Sunday before Christmas (sometimes known as Advent Sunday), the Sunday nearest to St. Andrew's Day (November 30), in the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church and, inter alia, in the Anglican, Lutheran, Presbyterian and Methodist calendars. – Practices associated with Advent include keeping an Advent calendar, lighting an Advent wreath, praying an Advent daily devotional, as well as other ways of preparing for Christmas, such as setting up Christmas decorations.

 

As Advent involves four Sundays, we’ve assigned one square to this period, with the four Sundays (and four candles on the Advent wreath) corresponding with four sets of tasks.

 

The Reading Tasks:

Read

(1) a book with a wreath or with pines or fir trees on the cover; or

(2) the 4th book from a favorite series, or a book featuring 4 siblings, or a book involving a countdown to something.

 

–OR–

 

Other Tasks:

(1) Post a picture of your advent calendar, if you have one.  (Festive cat, dog, hamster or other suitable pet background expressly encouraged.)

(2) Tell us: What in the immediate or near future are you most looking forward to?  (This can be a book release, or a tech gadget, or an event … whatever you next expect to make you really happy.)

Bonus task: make your own advent calendar and post it.

 

 

Our garden, earlier today.  Just a teeny tiny bit of white dust, and it won't last -- in fact, it's raining again already, and the white coating of the fir trees is already gone again.  But for it to snow at all here all the way at the bottom of the Rhine valley is not a very frequent thing to happen, so I think with yesterday's sighting of decidedly more snow on the higher elevations that we passed through on the way to Frankfurt, and today's token appearance even in the lowlands, we can well and truly declare winter to have begun.

16 Tasks of the Festive Season: Square 13 - Hogswatch Night

Hogfather (Discworld, #20) - Terry Pratchett Hogfather: Discworld, Book 20 - Random House Audiobooks, Terry Pratchett, Nigel Planer

Ponder and his fellow students watched Hex carefully.

"It can't just, you know, stop," said Adrian 'Mad Drongo' Turnipseed.

"The ants are just standing still," said Ponder.  He sighed.  "All right, put the wretched thing back."

Adrian carefully replaced the small fluffy teddy bear above Hex's keyboard.  Things immediately began to whirr.  The ants started to trot again.  The mouse squeaked.

They'd tried this three times.

Ponder looked again at the single sentence Hex had written.

+++ Mine!  Waaaah! +++

"I don't actually think," he said gloomily, "that I want to tell the Archchancellor that this machine stops working if we take its fluffy teddy bear away.  I just don't think I want to live in that kind of world."

"Er," said Mad Drongo, "you could always, you know, sort of say it needs to work with the FTB enabled ...?"

"You think that's better?" said Ponder, reluctantly.  It wasn't as if it was even a very realistic interpretation of a bear.

"You mean, better than 'fluffy teddy bear'?"

Ponder nodded.  "It's better," he said.

Finished -- and there will have to be an instant reread.  My life needs this right now.  Urgently.

 

16 Tasks of the Festive Season: Square 2 - Guy Fawkes Night

Tasks for Guy Fawkes Night: [... M]ake yourself a nice cup of tea and settle down with a good book to read. Which kind of tea is your favorite? Tell us why.

 

 

The tea in this mug is Earl Grey, one of the teas I got today during our trip to Frankfurt.  It's most constantly been one of my favorite teas as long as I can think; I like all things with a citrus taste, so the mix of black tea and bergamot oil is right up my alley.

 

Other favorites include certain Darjeeling and Assam teas, Yunnan, Keemun, Oolong, English and Irish Breakfast, Chai, and a large number of the blends marketed by Kusmi, Whittard of Chelsea, Tazo, Taylors of Harrogate, Fortnum & Masons -- and of course by that lovely Frankfurt store, which sells a huge variety of blends of their own.  (In the denomination of "blends" I include, for present purposes, "real" / black or green tea blends as well as the non-actual-tea fruit blends that the French call tizanes.)

 

The mug pictured above is in almost constant use, too, btw.; it's a large one that holds 0.5 l (= 17 fl. oz.) of liquid, so I frequently make my tea right in this mug, even if I know I'm going to have several mugs in a row -- it'll always be nice and freshly brewed that way.

 

I grew up with afternoon tea; it was downright a "thing" in our family, whereas coffee was the stuff that you have for breakfast and drink too much of at the office.  These days, I can't tolerate large quantities of coffee any longer, but I can drink tea to my heart's content.  As a result, my kitchen doesn't even have a coffee maker -- but it does contain a water heater, and large quantities of tea: