Reading: Arithmetic

So I mentioned a while back that I was reading Arithmetic.  I did pretty well with it for a while; Lockhart has an engaging writing style, and his was by far the best explanation of thinking in anything other than base 10 that I’ve come across.

…But, yes, there’s a but.  I’m nearing the end now–I’ve just gotten to the bit about fractions–and I’m flagging.  I’m no longer wowed by the different perspectives you can take on how all of this works, and I’m starting to think he’s annoyingly glib at times.

I’ve spent some time as I read Arithmetic trying to decide who I would recommend this book to.  It’s not really for children, for all that I think children are the ones who could benefit most from the different takes on how arithmetic works, and interesting points of view as those takes are explained.  Adults can just use a calculator if they don’t enjoy doing the arithmetic themselves, as Lockhart points out every few pages.  Kids, though–kids are stuck in school math classes where they’re graded on this stuff, and not tracked into the actually interesting math until/unless they master arithmetic.  But this isn’t really a book for kids.

Maybe it would be good for the parent or tutor of a kid struggling with math?  Or anyone who teaches math to elementary schoolers, I suppose.

Anyway, I’m not 100% sure whether or not I’ll finish this one.  I might.  But then again, I’ve already stumbled across Music and the Making of Modern Science while trying to find stuff to buy for collection development.  I’m not sure I can justify buying it for the library… but I can certainly justify ILLing it for myself!  Maybe this one will be the bedtime reading I’ve been waiting for.  It could be, right?

In other news, I think I saw a house finch yesterday, and I’ve definitely seen crocuses in bloom in two different places.  It’s spring!  And See You Around has been on repeat in my office and apartment for the past couple days.  That has nothing to do with spring, but it’s always nice to have new music as you usher in a new season.

Scaups and Mergansers (I think)

I mentioned last post that I’ve been seeing lots of white-winged scoters and long-tailed ducks down at the mouth of the Oswego River, of late.  Well, today I think I identified two more birds currently hanging out there:

  • Greater Scaups
    I’m not 100% sure of these; they might be Lesser Scaups.  But I lean toward Greater because their heads aren’t a funny shape, as far as I can tell.
    Two birds that are probably scaups, in the water.
    It’s *so* easy to tell from the photo, isn’t it?  Whatever kind of scaups these are, they’re shy.  They start paddling away from the edge of the river while I’m still at least 20 feet from the bank (and it’s not like they were right on the bank to begin with).  I’m going to have to dig out my binoculars, probably, if I want to get a better look.  Sigh.
  • Common Merganser
    I’m increasingly less certain of this identification. It might have been a Red-breasted Merganser; I think I’ve seen those before, right?  It’s definitely something with those awesome head feathers though, and those seem to be a merganser thing.  So at least I’m reasonably sure that I’m seeing some kind of merganser.

    Do I have a picture of these mergansers?  Well… no.  For some reason the mergansers won’t pose for me.  Very inconsiderate of them, in my opinion.

Reading: Keywords in Sound

I was doing collection development at work the other day, and because I’ve gotten all new areas, I was rummaging around an assortment of other libraries’ websites, Amazon, Gobi, etc., trying to get a feel for what’s out there.  Music and Math in particular seem bound to lead to things I want to read; I’m already finding titles that call out to me.

Keywords in Sound was one of those titles.  I mean, read the description:

In twenty essays on subjects such as noise, acoustics, music, and silence, Keywords in Sound presents a definitive resource for sound studies, and a compelling argument for why studying sound matters. Each contributor details their keyword’s intellectual history, outlines its role in cultural, social and political discourses, and suggests possibilities for further research. Keywords in Sound charts the philosophical debates and core problems in defining, classifying and conceptualizing sound, and sets new challenges for the development of sound studies.

How do you *not* want to read that?  I was really excited when the book came in through interlibrary loan.  (I couldn’t actually justify buying it for Music, so it had to be ILL.)

So I got it home and started reading–

–yeah, either sound studies are not for me, or this wasn’t a good choice.  I’m three or four keywords in now, and it’s just not cutting it.  The keywords I’ve read have been… ummm… acoustemology… and… errrrrrrrr…. body, I think?

I’m not retaining much, apparently.  And I’m not even enjoying not retaining it.

Fortunately, my next ILL request has come in: Arithmetic.  Cross your fingers for me; I could really do with some bedtime reading that I actually like.


In other news, there have been white-winged scoters and long-tailed ducks down at the mouth of the river for a few weeks now, and I kind of love them.

Three white-winged scoters and a long-tailed duck

More Birds of Oswego (and a Fish)

As part of my efforts to pay more attention to what’s around me, here are the birds I’ve been seeing lately:

  • Red-breasted Merganser
    This one was new to me.  Check out its crazy head feathers!  Love it.  There were a few of these down by the mouth of the river today.  Possibly yesterday as well, but I’m not 100% sure that what I saw yesterday was the same bird.Bonus: While looking up which merganser I saw today, I saw pictures of the Common Merganser, which I’m about 90% sure is something I saw last summer but couldn’t ID.
  • Robins
    No link for robins, because, I mean… robins.  Anyway they’ve been back at least since Pi Day; I saw them when I was out snowshoeing in the blizzard.  Very Oswego, that–spotting a traditional spring bird in a howling blizzard.
  • Crows
    Always crows.
  • Seagulls
    Always seagulls, too.  But there are kinds!  Specifically, I think these kinds: Ring-Billed Gulls and Herring Gulls.The other gulls, that are speckly brown all over, are juveniles, I think.  At least I know now that they’re not a different kind!
  • Mourning Doves
    I don’t feel like I usually see these around town, but maybe I just never noticed before today because they’re so normal I take them for granted?
  • Ducks
    What kind of ducks?  The normal kind, which apparently Audubon Society won’t uncover for you under a search for “duck”–no, you have to know to put in Mallard.  Duck snobs.
  • And a fish: Brown Trout?
    I’m not 100% sure that the fish I saw someone catch yesterday was a brown trout, but the time of year is right, according to the New York State Dept. of Environmental Conservation.  And the pictures when I Googled it also look about right.  So we’re going with it–I saw a brown trout breathing its last on the sidewalk.

Birds of Oswego

This summer I’ve been trying to learn the names of birds. I mean, everyone knows robins, crows, sparrows, bluejays, and the like. But I want to know all of them! The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s app, Merlin, has been a huge help. Here’s what I’ve seen:

Red Winged Blackbirds

I actually knew the male of this species already, because one of them used to dive bomb me every morning when I walked to grad school. You wouldn’t think something that size could be scary but ye gods, I understand the inspiration for The Birds after that summer.

Pro tips: Avoid their nests! Also, be aware that female Red Winged Blackbirds aren’t black and don’t have red wings. Well named, ornithologists.  Well named.

Double-crested Cormorants

I have no memory of seeing them in Oswego before, but the cormorants showed up in late summer and have hung around since. (Or at least, that’s when I noticed them.)

Cormorants are exciting because I’m pretty sure they’re in Island of the Blue Dophins, right? Doesn’t Karana make herself a cape from their feathers, or something?

Belted Kingfisher

I’ve only seen one of these, but its head feathers were every bit as fantastic as in the pictures.  Rock on, Belted Kingfisher!

Downy Woodpecker

Again, I’ve only seen one of these–but I’m very fond of it anyway.  Woodpeckers will always have a special spot in my heart after a childhood that involved plenty of Woody Woodpecker reruns at my grandma’s house.

Great Blue Herons

The Great Blue Herons mostly seem to like to hang out on the east side of the river, away from the river walk and my no-optical-zoom cell phone camera. Still, one of them *was* on my side of the river earlier this week. When I startled it, it flew away and took it out on a poor, unsuspecting duck who had been chilling in mid-river. The duck flew away in a mood.  Poor duck.

Green Heron

This one didn’t stick around long, but that’s ok; I hadn’t known there *were* Green Herons until I met it.

Bald Eagle

I only saw the eagle once, but I did see it! It was alternating between chasing and being chased by a seagull. I was worried for that seagull–it seemed out-matched. But it had several chances to escape and didn’t take any of them. Here’s hoping it knew what it was doing.


Again, I actually knew ospreys already.  Thanks, Osprey Cam!


And more! Also I’m going to add pictures to this post sometime when I have time.