Monday, May 24, 2010

Ducklings, periodic tables, and music reviews, oh my!

The cold I have had for the past few days seems to have abated somewhat today, thankfully. I received some special news Thursday that I meant to post sooner, but I was waiting for pictures and then didn't feel like writing, so I am just getting around to writing about it now.

As some of you know, I have some ducks (back in California). They're Runner ducks, a breed that is equally at home on land or in the water, and often prefers the land (which is good, 'cause north central California is more land than water most of the year). They also happen to be the second most prolific egg-laying breed of duck, and were one half of the cross that produced the most prolific breed. However, they have no special maternal reputation, so it was with very great delight that I learned that one momma duck had managed to hatch out no less than six ducklings!

The proud mother. An early picture, before all had hatched.

Ducklings beat chicks hands-down in the cuteness department.

Chickens have no subtlety, but ducks...ducks are enigmatic.

(I should mention that these pictures are all by my photographically talented sister.) I have also heard that another of my ducks is sitting on a nest, so it remains to be seen if any more new arrivals join the first. Rest assured you will hear about it if they do!

On another note, at the risk of boring you with my hobbies, I rearranged the periodic table yet again into a form that is more pleasing to my eye, with the rare earth elements placed in their proper position, rather than being pulled out to the bottom. This is, if you like, the "correct" way to draw the most popular version of the table, but as you can see, that gives it the wrong aspect ratio for most books (there is, really, no true correct way to draw the table. The way you usually see it is just that, the usual way it is drawn. But there are over a hundred different ways that people have drawn it over the years). I should mention, you can click on any picture to see it in a bigger size.

 As you can see, the aspect is a little awkward.

To add to the randomness of this post, I will close out with a review of my new oratorio Elijah. It is by Mendelssohn, and rather like when I got Haydn's Creation for Christmas I was initially lost listening to it. Most oratorios I had heard previously had been by Handel, who has his own personal style which is hard to put into words.  It's a little hard to describe the feeling you get when listening to a non-Handelian oratorio for the first time; strange, and slightly lost. Things you unconsciously expect are not there, and unexpected surprises pop out at you. It's a bit like driving home at the end of the day to discover every house on your street had been repainted a different color while you were gone -- rather disorienting. However, on repeated listening, I have become very fond indeed of Haydn (why oh why couldn't he have written more oratorios?) and I'm beginning to do the same with Mendelssohn as well (and he actually did...). Every composer has their own unique style, and it simply requires a slight retuning of the ear in order to appreciate it fully.

I'd like to end this with a big thank you to everyone who's given me an oratorio over the years. After all, 5/7 of my collection was a gift, and those things do not run cheap. Rest assured that your gift has provided me with many happy hours of brain-stimulating enjoyment. I wouldn't be half so a good a whistler as I am today if I hadn't spent so many hours practicing along to complex Baroque fugues and interwoven Classical choruses.

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