2) Just finished two books recently which I want to share some quick thoughts about. First one was Lawrence Durrell's Justine, book one of the Alexandria Quartet. The book has very little plot, as Durrell intended, for it seems to me to be more of a poem than prose, dedicated to the city of Alexandria. Essentially it describes the life of an unknown narrator in Alexandira, Egypt in the 1930s, concerning mainly his relationship between Justine, wife of a wealthy merchant. But the novel deals with so much more than this, focusing on the role of the city as the most important character and the nature of love. Indeed, Alexandria is the only source of energy in the otherwise directionless and listless lives of the human characters. This Guardian eloquently describes my exact reaction to some passages , "There are many passages of such grand inspiration that reaching them feels like emerging from choppy seas into marvelously clear blue Mediterranean waters." There have been very few books that I have read where I have looked up after reading a passage and think "Damn, that was good." It is a difficult book to read, there being no plot that one can easily follow. The real worth of the novel lies in its poesy, mysticism, and allegory. I don't have favorite books, but this is pretty close to #1 should I ever rank them- highly recommended, read an excerpt here.
Also just finished a short article, A Time to Keep Silence (around 100 pages) by Patrick Leigh Fermor, as recommended by Gene Campbell (so its gotta be good). When Fermor was 18 he left to tour Europe for a few years in the 1930s. He ended up walking from Holland to Istanbul, which he wrote about later in two other books, fell in love with a Romanian noblewoman, worked for British intelligence in WWII behind enemy lines in Crete working with the resistance, traveled the Caribbean and Greece extensively, and referenced several times by Ian Fleming in 007 films. Basically the real James Bond.
A Time to Keep Silence recounts Fermor's time spent living in various Benedictine and Trappist monasteries while he was traveling Europe, as he had no money to live anywhere else. The book elegantly describes why people are attracted to Asceticism, why they were necessary, and the effect the complete tranquillity monasteries had on him. Also worth reading, especially because it is so short and easy to read.
3) sadly one of the tanks in which we kept our Cobia broodstock (sexually mature fish) broke, dumping our few fish and water all over the wetlab and our only female died after we dumped her into an ice chest and tried to pass oxygenated water through her gills. She was about 3 feet long, and was a delicious lunch.