Unusual books at the library

I regularly visit the libraries around my place and I’m delighted to find rather unusual books. Some of them can be put in the category “oddly specific”:

You can see a guide on how to use concrete for decorative art projects, a guide on how to keep piranhas in an aquarium, and a very thorough manual on how to build different kinds of chicken stalls. Not pictured here are books on goat keeping, beekeeping (with focus on beehives in the city), and very encouraging “My first ducks” guides! I absolutely love the practical approach of this type of books, it is so encouraging for me, as I need a lot of information before even starting to dream about a new project.

Another category of books that bears strong surprises is the cooking category. Among the most varied cuisines and traditions, there are over-the-top celebrations of food like “Sauerkraut Powerkraut”, absolutely innovative proposals like “Köstliche Insekten” (“Tasty Insects”), and half-serious ones like “Die Bier-Diät”:

Not pictured was a shelf of pro-veganism books with an anti-veganism book among them. I appreciated how more than one voice was represented, and by having a look at the anti-veganism book, I think it contained reasonable objections and encouraged critical thinking. That’s why I keep looking for thought-provoking books, and am glad that librarians fill the shelves with such a refreshing selection 🙂


Visit to the Museum for Communication Berlin


Some time ago I visited the Museum for Communication in Berlin, for the first time in many years that I live here. It was a pleasant experience: I was kept interested by the various ways in which the content was presented, the interactivity of the exhibition (especially in the first floor, with quizzes, robots, and various other funny art-like devices). I was not the only one having fun: there were two groups of children, who ran across the museum in detective suits, looking for specific items and solving riddles, following a tour designed by the museum. As children learn and remember by doing, I find that this kind of tour was a terrific idea to let them have fun and be active during the exploration of the museum.

There was definitely a lot to see! I was especially fascinated by the ceramic insulators display, and the lovely set of historical and iconic post-horns. Among the postal carriages there was an old Italian model from late 1800s that had “Impostazioni” written on the side – in modern Italian, “impostazioni” means “settings”, especially in the IT domain; at that time, it meant “items transmitted per post”. Funny and interesting find!

Outside the museum there are traffic lights, whose poles are completely covered by stickers. A closer look allows to recognise the museum stickers, which work as a ticket, and that one wears during the museum visit. Apparently, visitors who just exited the museum have taken the habit of peeling off the sticker and transferring it to the nearest pole. The whole looks both shabby and artistic:


That’s a museum I surely will recommend to friends who visit Berlin, and to anyone who hasn’t visited it yet 🙂


Science blogs I follow

Flame tests – source: Pinterest

As a follow-up of my post about food blogs I follow, today I wish to share with you the (much shorter…) list of scientific blogs in my feed reader. The first scientific blog I found is Simply Statistics, that I started reading when I was programming with R. I like the authors’ approach to complex problems, that take into consideration much more than the simple statistic/computing task at hand.

Math with Bad Drawings is my second favourite: it’s a blog with, well, math explained with comics. Drawings and puns can be a faster way to good understanding of an abstract mathematical concept, and for sure it’s funny! I recommend it to people who feel scared by maths but are curious, and to kids of course.

For my weekly moment of astronomy wow, I have chosen ESA’s Picture of the Week, by space telescope Hubble. On spacetelescope.org you can find this feed and a lot more pictures and information about outer space, planets, galaxies… have a look for yourself!

One that I don’t follow anymore, but is definitely fascinating and amusingly accurate, is What If? from xkcd’s author Randall Munroe.


Do you follow scientific blogs? Do you have some to recommend? Let me know in the comments 🙂

A new musical adventure: the trombone

Last Friday I started learning the trombone! My teacher is a musician from my orchestra, with whom I talked about learning a brass instrument at the beginning of last year; as my Montessori diploma course is now over, I have all my Fridays free again and I have again time and energy to dedicate to something new and challenging.

Why the trombone? Well, around ten years ago I started learning the baritone horn, but had to set it aside after a few months to focus on my high school studies. It was a cumbersome and quite heavy instrument, but with a mellow tone, and with the satisfying quality of making my own breath loud and musical. With the other instruments I play, the connection with the breathing is only indirect, so this is the first reason I have started to practice a wind instrument. Another important reason for me is that the position of the notes is not on a line, like on the piano – you go left, they become lower, you go right, they become higher, and each note is only in one place – but they are grouped differently, they repeat themselves along the instrument:

Wirth trombone slide position chart.jpg
Von Adam Wirth (Life time: Not known, not applicable) – Original publication: Posaunen-Schule für Alt, Tenor und Bass-Posaune / Instruction Book of the Simple and Valve-Trombone
Immediate source: http://kimballtrombone.com/trombone-history-timeline/19th-century-second-half/, Gemeinfrei, Link

Recalling a bit of the technique I learned with the euphonium, I was able to play most notes right away. The challenges ahead include developing lip muscles, produce a consistent airflow for at least a full piece, develop speed and precision in finding the notes on the slide. I like how all these goals sound achievable. I’m aware that I won’t become a professional trombonist overnight, but I know I can trace my progress and I can ask my teacher if I feel I am getting stuck.

And besides, the trombone is especially good at being funny:


… and finally, for some humour: