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Book review: Newton and the Counterfeiter

I really enjoyed this book- it was only about 250 pages long, so I whizzed through it. (Well, relatively- it took about a week). It describes the (relatively brief) conflict between Isaac Newton and William Chaloner.

I knew shamefully little about Newton before starting this book (other than the obvious 'scientist who thought up gravity when an apple landed on his head'.) The book describes his early life, and rise to fame as a scientist. (Apples are barely mentioned). Later in life, he was appointed Warden of the Royal Mint, at a time when England's coinage was debased and in need of re-minting. Part of his role as Warden was to chase down anyone who was counterfeiting coins- this was punishable by death, as it was considered treason against the monarch (whose face was on the coinage). Thus, Newton came into conflict with counterfeiter William Chaloner, who first came to London as a runaway apprentice, trying to make his fortune.
(One of my favourite parts of the book w…
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Belated round-up

Having just re-read my 2014 aims post, and noticed that I intended to write a monthly round up of my progress, I thought it was about time for, err, a three-and-a-half monthly progress summary!

- C&G knitting course- I have made slow progress on this- although slow is better than none! I have at least written out a giant list of what I need to do to finish the module so that I can have the satisfaction of ticking things off said list. I've knitted a few more samples and written up the notes on them. I think I need to focus more on this aim, if I am to actually finish the module this year. I seem to have a bit of mental block about it though, and I am not sure why.

- donate 2% of earnings to charity. I have been doing this, although more by sponsoring people for the London Marathon and joining the National Trust than by picking a charity each month and donating to it, which is what I originally envisaged. I am wondering if donating less often, say every six months, would be mor…

Book reviews: Man's Search for Meaning and The God Delusion

I was leant 'Man's Search for Meaning'- it's a short book, written by a doctor who survived the concentration camps of Nazi Germany. The point of the book is that we can all find meaning and purpose in life, even in the most terrible of circumstances, and this meaning will sustain us, even in Nazi death camps. The 'meaning' can vary from person to person, and can be anything from the desire to write an academic book to the desire to care for your children. Although this book should be uplifting, I didn't find it particularly so- what stuck with me the most was the author's descriptions of his memories of life in the camps.

Inspired by Dar's post (Dar's posts seem to be my inspiration for all things book related- I also had a clear out of books which I was no longer inspired to read) today I decided that, as I was feeling a bit under the weather, I would sit and read a book, rather than vegging out in front of the TV.
Assisted by two of the cats…

Admitting defeat

I've come to the conclusion that, as The Lady in the Tower: the Fall of Anne Boleyn by Alison Weir has been sitting half read on my bookshelf for months, I am probably never going to finish it! It's a very dense, well researched book, focussing on a very short time period, and unless I read it in a fairly short space if time (a week, say) I'd never be able to keep a track of who all of the people discussed in it are.

Also, The Three Edwards by Michael Prestwich has been hanging about for a while- not as long as Anne Boleyn, but long enough!

These books were relevant/interesting/useful to me at one point, but now there are other things that I would rather be reading, so it's rehoming time for them...

Book review: A History of Bury St Edmunds by Frank Meeres

This is a book that I will be keeping, as I am sure that I have not absorbed all of the information in one reading! As this is my home town, I found that I often stopped reading to look on a map to find the places which the book was referring to.

I'm not sure that this book would be highly interesting to anyone with no connection to Bury; and I did notice that the author was amusingly defensive of the town (which was described as 'dull' in the nineteenth century) and also mildly disapproving of some modern development. The writing style was fairly engaging- although I might not be the best person to judge this, as my idea of 'readable' has probably been heavily skewed by some incredibly unreadable books during my history degree! One of my favourite books so far, as I will be able to wander around Bury feeling much more well informed about its history, and perhaps actually understand the origins of some of the place and road names.

2014 aims and review of 2013 aims

After all of the Christmas feasting (the fridge is still full of cheese, and sprouts that didn't get cooked), and despite the first cold of the winter, I am feeling the urge to get cracking with some projects, and finish up all of those little lingering jobs that I've been putting off. One of those is to work out what I am aiming to achieve this year...and this is what I have come up with:

- complete first module of C&G knitting course and start second. Save enough money to pay the course fees for the whole course.
- donate 2% (minimum) of earnings to charity. I am planning to donate at the end of each month, and to donate to a variety of causes, local, international, animals, people, conservation- hopefully a wide variety.
- read down the house- I'd like to read 12 books this year, which would leave quite a few books unread. But it'd be nice to establish the habit of reading again.
- reduce stash of knitting yarn from just under 40,000 metres to under 30,000 met…

Book review: Bad Science and I Used to Know That- History

Bad Science by Ben Goldacre.
I whizzed through this book, which was actually quite entertaining, as well as thought-provoking. Essentially, he explains the 'bad science' behind alternative remedies/medicine, the dubious credentials of some famous providers of health and nutritional advice, and discusses the media storm around healthcare stories, such as the MMR vaccine's link (or not, as it turned out) to autism.

I felt like I was already vaguely familiar with a lot of the information on how scientific research is conducted (although the last time I did anything even close a scientific experiment was about 10 years ago, at A-Level) but there was a lot that I have forgotten, or was not familiar with in such depth. This was a very accessible book, which didn't treat the reader as stupid. It has given me a healthy suspicion of health/science stories as reported in the media...I suppose I always thought there were a lot of dubious/exaggerated stories which may have misunde…