but she's a girl...

[Femina geekoides]


Skylark

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It was the perfect day for a walk on the coastal path at Holkham in North Norfolk. The sun was warm, the sky a bright, clear blue, but the air was crisp and fresh and humming with Spring life. As we walked along the dunes backing the beach, closing our eyes occasionally to enjoy the warmth of the sun on our faces, we were stopped in our tracks by the song of a skylark.

It took us a few moments to actually spot the skylark. The glorious waterfall of notes appeared to be coming from the air itself, but eventually our eyes found the tiny, fluttering shape, slowly spiralling up as it sang. The thought hadn’t occurred to me before, but the name skylark is so apt. When you first think about it, it seems oddly redundant – surely most birds are sky-somethings? – but no British bird is more part of the sky or more difficult to distinguish from it than the skylark. And their song is astonishing. It bubbles and cascades, with trills and flourishes that seem to refract the air as a prism does the light. To stand beneath a singing skylark is to stand in a cone of sound, getting drenched by notes which soak the dry earth beneath you. And yet we are able to hear only a small part of the complexity of that song. Our ears cannot resolve all the phrases, the slurs, the trills, and the baroque ornamentation that you can distinguish with the aid of a spectrogram. So much more complexity is hidden beyond the limitations of our hearing.

As we looked up at the bird, soaking up its song like sunlight, it stopped – mid-phrase – and at that moment the bird itself seemed to disappear back into the air. It was like watching a burning ember rising in the heat from a bonfire at night. Once the ember has burned out, the cooling material drifts on, but we can no longer see it. When the skylark is singing, we do not hear the full beauty of its song, but once it stops singing, we cannot even see the bird itself. The song makes the skylark visible.

Spacemacs

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Spacemacs splash screen - Dogemacs

Regular readers will know that when it comes to tinkering with text editors, I can’t leave well enough alone. I’ve used many different editors over the years, but have kept returning at various intervals to Vim. I like Vim a lot, and despite its various inconveniences, I find ...

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Fictional history

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I’ve read some amazing books recently, but I wanted to focus on just two of the works I’ve enjoyed, or am in the process of enjoying.

The Devil in the Marshalsea by Antonia Hodgson

I seem to have hit a seam of interest in historical fiction recently (as ...

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Too much geekery

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On Friday, I taught a session of a basic statistics workshop that a colleague and I designed for undergraduates. The idea is that we give a brief overview introduction, then the students work through our worksheet using R commander to get a feel for how to run basic tests, construct ...

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Favourite things

mumblings View comments

How can it be 11th January already? I had a very relaxed Christmas and New Year, and recharged the batteries a bit, but apparently I’m still trying to wind myself back up again to normal levels of activity. I think I was really in need of a holiday, because ...

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Ranger

It’s nearly Christmas, and what could be more festive than writing about a command-line file manager? I’m pretty sure that I’ve tried Ranger before, but at that point it was early in its development, and I had a few issues with it. I was reminded of it ...

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Abracada-Bra

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Marlborough Bra

I was planning to give everyone a break from my rattling on about sewing this week and write about something else, but then I went and made a bra, and apparently, I can’t shut up about it1.

If you wear a bra, you know that all bras go ...

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