Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Crime and Punishment

For some reason I was not looking forward to tackling this novel. I had it in my head that it was much longer and less readable than it actually was. The only aspect I struggled with slightly was keeping track of all the characters since everyone seems to go be several names and nicknames  which, since I'm not Russian, was more confusing than say realising that Kate and Katharine were one and the same. Once I got to the end of the book I found a chart listing all the characters and their alternative names. My reading would have been simpler had that chart been at the front !

 Fyodor Dostoevsky has created  an incredibly flawed and complex character in Rodion Raskolnikov. The plot, however,  is relatively straight forward. When we first meet Raskolnikov he is a poor, depressed student who is struggling with a major decision. Turns out that decision is whether or not to commit a murder. Since the novel is called Crime and Punishment I don't think it's giving to much away to say that he decided to go ahead. At the scene of the crime he is interrupted and ends up committing a second murder. He tries to convince himself that the murder was justified  since his victim was a parasite on society, and also  believes he was superior to much of society and thus able if not entitled  to get away without punishment. However, he is driven mad  by guilt and fear of being found out, eventually confesses and is duly punished by society. In confessing and accepting his punishment he is redeemed and reconciled with the rest of society.

I found Crime and Punishment to be a compelling, rich read. It provided an interesting insight into life in St. Petersburg , included a cast of fascinating characters plus many compelling sub-plots and left me with much to think about. I'm glad I overcame my initial hesitance and picked Crime and Punishment for my Russian Classic in the Back to the Classics Challenge 2017 It's definitely one I can see myself rereading in the future.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Week Ending 19 November 2017

A strange week in some ways. Early in the week we thought the sickness had left the house but later in the week both girls had a relapse and felt under the weather again. Miss 17 even ended up coming home from work early one day since she thought she was going to pass out. Funnily enough it was the day she was meant to have her all-day training at the supermarket but they had postponed it. Leaving sick on your first day in a new job would have been a bit awkward.

Despite this the week did have some high points. One of them was a birthday. You may have noticed above that Miss 16 that  has changed into Miss 17.

One of the birthday traditions in our family is getting to select a breakfast cereal. In recent years Miss 17 has selected  muesli. This year  she decided to channel her inner 6 year old. Turns out she's not the only one with an inner six year old since her siblings were happy to partake as well!

Another highlight was bird banding. It was the best session we've had so far and Miss 17 banded more birds than she had in all the previous sessions combined.

This juvenile Starling was one of the trickier birds to band. It kept attaching its claws to awkward places and it needed a sturdier band which Miss 17 struggled to close. Since she broke a couple of bones five years ago her right arm has been noticeably weaker.

A 3+ female Greenfinch.

Checking the Greenfinch's wing. It is the colouration here that lets them determine the age and sex of the bird.

A Bellbird - the first one we've captured. It was blind in one eye.

A baby Fantail. They removed three from the nest, banded them - a tricky job given how tiny they were - and returned them to the nest - while the parents were absent.

We also managed three low-key birding trips - one with our birding group and two by ourselves. Nothing of any special note but it is always nice to get out - lots of baby birds to be seen this time of the year.

The only other thing of note was noteworthy for all the wrong reasons. Mother Nature obviously decided things had been a bit too quiet lately and decided to throw an earthquake our way. Only moderate but enough to have me heading for shelter before it stopped.

Linking to the Weekly Wrap-Up and Homeschool Highlights.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Week Ending 12 November 2017

Another very quiet week, partly due to sickness. Mr 19 had been quite sick for most of last week - not ideal since he was supposed to be studying for his university exams this week. Anyway I came down with what seems like a mild dose of what he had early in the week and now both Miss 16 and Miss 22 seem to have succumbed as well. Hopefully they also have mild cases.

In between my brush with sickness and Miss 16's we did manage a couple of things of note. The highlight of the week was undoubtedly banding. We tried out a new site this time and were fairly busy in the first hour before things quietened down. Through observing birds in the area we got some ideas for how to set the nets next time. Hopefully we'll get closer to our goal of 10 birds per hour.

Miss 16 with a Welcome Swallow. It didn't need banding since it was banded last week. It was the first recapture of the project.

Measuring the Welcome Swallow's wing length. It was quite different from when it was captured last week so either the bander  made a mistake then (Miss 16 double checked her measurements given the disparity) or the bird has grown a lot!

Weighing the Welcome Swallow. It looks undignified but it isn't there for long and being head down stops  the bird struggling - and means it is less likely to escape. It wasn't weighed last time so it was good to get the weight now.

Banding a Goldfinch. This one is a male. We caught a female at exactly the same time so assume they are a pair.

Miss 16 and I also took a short road trip. A reading challenge I'm doing this year requires me to read a book that I got on a trip. None of my travels this year have involved buying a book and I was thinking of stretching things a bit by just making a trip to the library. Then I remembered a second hand book barn less than an hour away. So Miss 16 and I took a drive. She came away with a pile of Agatha Christie mysteries while I purchased Shakespeare's A Winter's Tale, since it's being performed here early next year and it's one I haven't yet read.

It doesn't look much from the outside but it is packed with reading treasures.

Linking to the Weekly Wrap-Up and Homeschool Highlights

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Week Ending 5 November 2017

I've had a very relaxed and chilled-out week which was much appreciated after the busyness of October. I've spent time pottering in the garden and planting some herbs, vegetables and strawberries. I've done plenty of reading (including the latest edition of Home School Life magazine), listened to podcasts (I still enjoy BraveWriter's one), gone for a walk everyday, practised yoga most days, and tried out several new recipes.

Miss 16 has been busier than me - although she hasn't been away from home overnight which is a change from last month. She attended a two day plant identification workshop which will hopefully help with her birding (since certain birds like certain plants, knowing what those plants actually look like will be useful!) as well as in her eventual career (something ecology related and plants are an important part of that) as well as giving her a nationally recognised qualification (although not by one of the universities she's hoping to attend). She also enjoyed a girls' day out with Miss 22, shopping and lunching. Not my idea of a good time at all so I'm glad they can enjoy it together.

We did do one short birding trip together to my favourite spot and were pleased to see a Grey-tailed Tattler which had been spotted a few days earlier. These are classified as vagrants (I think this was only our third ever sighting of this species) so Miss 16 was delighted to discover that an Unusual Bird Report didn't have to be submitted. We got the thrill of an uncommon bird without any of the pesky paperwork!

Heart of Darkness

For such a short novel - novella may be more accurate - I found this surprisingly heavy going and I'm not really sure why. The plot is simple enough. Charles Marlow, who is based strongly on the author, recounts his adventures deep in the African Congo  during the time of the 'Scramble for Africa'. Marlow is employed by a Belgian ivory company and is on a mission to relieve Mr Kurtz, a top trader who has a fearsome reputation and whom Marlow is soon obsessed with. While the writing style is not the simplest it is no more complicated - in fact probably simpler -  than that by Charles Dickens and Victor Hugo which I have enjoyed and been engaged by in the past. I think part of the problem may have been that the story lacks immediacy. Marlow is recounting his adventure years later and has had time to order the events and ponder their meaning. He doesn't just recount but attempts to explain and put things in context. In doing so I felt some  potential intensity and vibrancy had been lost. I struggled to connect with  either Marlow or Kurtz and thus didn't really care what happened in the story as a whole. Some of the themes were interesting - the dehumanizing nature of colonialism for all parties, madness vs sanity,  the essential emptiness at the core of humanity. However, many of them were tied to Africa - the darkness of the interior was tied to the darkness of man for instance, while the "strangeness"  and perceived threatening nature of the setting seemed inextricably linked to - even contributing - to man's madness, violence and greed. Such a portrayal felt racist, wrong and alienating to me, a modern reader.