Radio silence from me last week. I didn’t feel like writing for the blog, so I didn’t. So it goes.
- In lieu of blogging last week I crocheted a lot. I needed a frame for a print I bought a few weeks ago, so I headed over to the craft store last Sunday. And because you don’t put on real clothes and shoes to spend two minutes in a store, I wandered around for a bit and found a book of crochet patterns. I usually pass these by because the instructions never make sense to me, but the patterns were A) for beginners and B) inspired by Iceland. After looking through them, I decided I was going to figure out the patterns, learn the new stitches, and make the things in there. So I learned to make hats this week! I’ve made two hats, neither of which I’m crazy about (the first one is obviously a first try, and the colors of the second one didn’t turn out the way I thought they would), but they are hat-shaped and they fit my head, so I’m counting them as wins. I will try again with the hat pattern with a skein that’s been hanging around here for a couple of years, and then get started on the first of the shawls. There will be audiobooking going on this week…
- If you’ve been following me since last July or so, you might remember that I pre-ordered the 3-volume boxed set of Tolkien’s History of Middle-earth from my local indie bookshop. It was released last Tuesday, but when I called to see if it had arrived, the shop’s owner said yes, but there was a problem. She’d received the first copy the week before so it could be ready for the release date, but it had a big dent across the top of the box that dug into the books. Because this was a $200+ set, and because the shop owner is great, she sent that copy back and requested another one. The second copy arrived a couple of days later— with the same damage! She suspects that something fell across the top of the pallet and crunched the books, and so she got on the phone with the publisher (again), and told them to make sure that the third copy was not damaged, because she wasn’t about to hand a customer a very expensive and very damaged set of books. The third copy arrived on Thursday, but I won’t be able to make it over there until this coming Wednesday. Which is fine, because I have a bunch of books waiting for me at the used bookstore, which is just a few blocks away from the indie shop. I’ll be able to pick up everything at the same time, and it will be fantastic.
The moral of the story: when pre-ordering fancy book sets, get them from your indie bookshop, because they’ll make sure your set is not damaged!
- There will be a book haul post this week. Count on it. I am excited about all the books I’m getting.
Obligatory Mina Photo:
Over the past couple of weeks, Mina has been creeping ever closer to Sidney on the bed. A few evenings ago, I walked into the bedroom to find that she was less than a foot away from Sidney– quite the accomplishment, given how grumpy he is about having her close. But he was asleep and so did not notice how close she was. He soon woke, though, and upon realizing that her tail was touching his, he hissed at her until she moved her tail away. Then he calmed down and was quiet.
Within a couple of minutes, though, Mina uncurled her tail and twitched the end of it at him, just to see what he would do.
He growled a bit, but came to realize that if he wanted her to go away, he was going to have to get up and do something about it, which he was too lazy to do. So he put up with her teasing until she got tired of the game.
I am quite sure Mina knew exactly what she was doing.
What I Finished Reading Last Week:
- Witch: The Wild Ride from Wicked to Wicca by Candace Savage
- The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison, audiobook narrated by Kyle McCarley
- Bird Brains: The Intelligence of Crows, Ravens, Magpies, and Jays by Candace Savage
- Medusa’s Gaze and Vampire’s Bite: The Science of Monsters by Matt Kaplan
Witch: The Wild Ride from Wicked to Wicca is a brief, concise history of witches in Western belief and lore from the late medieval era into the twentieth century, from the European witch trials that led to up to 100,000 executions over the centuries, to the rise of Wicca in recent decades. It’s an interesting look into the idea of the witch, but because it’s a short book it doesn’t delve too deeply into anything. But if you want a starting point for learning about witches through the ages, it’s a good place to start and it has a bibliography if you want to dig deeper.
The Goblin Emperor is quickly becoming one of my favorite books ever. It’s about Maia, the neglected and ill-favored half-goblin fourth son of the emperor of the elflands. But when the emperor and his three eldest sons are killed in an airship crash, Maia unexpectly comes to the throne, which is is distinctly unprepared for. Maia is so endearing as a character, and watching how he learns to navigate the court and its politics is oddly fascinating. There isn’t a lot of plot– it’s Maia figuring out which of his courtiers are friends and which are foes, sorting out marriage contracts, and worrying about being judged by the people who work for him. But it’s so intriguing, and Maia has a good heart that he’s trying to learn how to use for the good of his people, in spite of the expectations of the court his rules.
Bird Brains, like Witch, serves as an overview of the topic of corvid intelligence. It discusses the intelligence and creativity of birds like ravens, crows, and magpies, and suggests that these birds are far more intelligent than we give them credit for. There are a few case studies mentioned, but overall it doesn’t have much depth to it. But again, there is a bibliography and there are many beautiful color photos of the various corvid species.
Medusa’s Gaze and Vampire’s Bite is yet another book that serves as an overview. Kaplan discusses several creatures out of mythology and folklore, such as chimera, sirens, dragons, and vampires and discusses how and why people in previous centuries would have developed the stories these creatures first appeared in. There is plenty of science in here (Kaplan suggests that some of the stranger creatures of Greek myth, for example, could have come from jumbled fossils the Greeks found), and a lot of conjecture, but few certainties. Still, if you’re looking for a scientific take on monsters and beasts of lore, it’s an interesting book.
What I’m Currently Reading:
- Machine (White Space #2) by Elizabeth Bear, ARC provided by NetGalley (127/496)
- Dune by Frank Herbert (249/661)
I should be farther along in Machine, because it’s great so far and I love how Bear includes so many elements of physics and non-humanlike life forms. There are characters with eyestalks or multiple legs, artificial intelligence that is regarded as friendly, not as an enemy, and most interestingly, intelligent methane-based lifeforms who life in the deep cold and are vulnerable to radiation like visible (to humans) light, and who regard humans as frighteningly hot and squishy being with corrosive blood. It makes you think of humanity in a different light. Doctor Jens is a great character (as is the rest of the cast), and the mysteries of the two strange ships they’ve encountered are fascinating. But I keep not picking up the book. Which is weird, because when I do pick it up, I want to keep reading.
Thanks to our buddy read of Dune, Jackie at Death by Tsundoku and I have been having some great conversations about this book. It’s so fun to see her reactions to what’s going on in the story, and I’ve been enjoying rereading it again. We’re to the point where we really start to see the strange, desert-dwelling natives of Arrakis, the Fremen.
What I Plan to Start Reading This Week:
- Mind of the Raven: Investigations and Adventures with Wolf-Birds by Bernd Heinrich
- Vesper Flights by Helen Macdonald
- The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix
Adventures in Film Photography:
Ten years ago, I thought that film would disappear entirely. Instead, it’s undergoing something of a renaissance in the past couple of years, with all sorts of film stocks coming back into production and new special effect films coming out. I’ve been shooting a little more film lately, and got a set of negatives back from processing this week. Most of the shots are from a walk around the downtown historic district.
The film is Kodak ProImage 100, which is described as a cheaper version of Kodak’s Portra 160, a professional grade film that costs about $12(USD) per roll. ProImage 100 is half the price, though the reds and greens are a little punchier. From my own shots, it has a little more contrast than Portra. It’s a nice film for a good price, but I prefer the slightly less saturated and warmer color profile of Fuji’s C200.
Canon AE-1 with Kodak ProImage 100:
About That Writing Thing:
More slow and steady progress on my current work in progress. I finished Part Two last night, and while I’d prefer to have it be a little longer than eighteen pages, having a chapter break there makes more sense than including the next scene, which is where the action of the plot will really start to pick up, now that I’ve gotten to the end of the establishing scenes. I’m not thrilled with the quality of the writing so far, but that’s not what a first draft is for. Cleaning up the writing and making it elegant and clean is what you do in revisions. The first draft is for getting the thing down on paper in the first place.
And so I’m just writing away, fifteen or twenty minutes at a time, and moving ever forward through the story.