Sunday Sum-Up, October 18, 2020

  • Another quiet week on the blog, due in part to a lack of time and in part to some annoying computer issues which I think I’ve mostly solved. They weren’t disrupting my ability to do things, just slowing the system down and making it take twice as long.
  • I’ve been working on crochet projects, but not the wrap I had hoped to start. Nope. I remembered that I needed to finish a scarf I’d been making for a friend, so I finished that. And because I made a scarf for her husband last spring, I didn’t want to leave their two kids out, so now I’m making hats for each of the kids. The girl loves pink, so she’s getting a sparkly pink hat. The boy is a toddler who doesn’t really have color preferences yet, so I’m making him a green hat because he does like dinosaurs.
  • I’ve been re-watching previous series of The Great British Baking Show to have something in the background, and I was inspired to seek out some dessert recipes. Nothing as complicated as what the bakers make on the show, because my dessert-making skills are remedial at best. But I found a simple recipe for Icelandic skyrterta, and because I enjoy skyr (an Icelandic yogurt-like dairy food) I decided to give it a try. I didn’t make a cookie crust. I just bought a graham cracker crust from the grocery store. And it took longer to set than the recipe said it would (I blended things in the wrong order. Oops), but it tasted wonderful and I will definitely be making more in the future. I think I’ll try a chocolate cookie crust next time. Also, I made it with vanilla skyr and raspberries, not blueberries. I prefer the raspberries, so I will stick with those next time.

Obligatory Mina Photo:

Last Sunday evening, Mina was sitting by the front door. She would look up at me, then up at the door, and her meaning seemed clear: “Mom, I want to go out there”. Who was I to refuse? So I picked her up, and we stepped out into the hallway outside my apartment.

She started sniffing immediately– the air, then the wall– and afer a couple of minutes she looked around with wide, wide eyes.

Then she jumped out of my arms and made a beeline for our door, and glared up at me until I walked the ten feet back and let her in. She darted inside immediately, her tail all puffed out like she was afraid of the hallway. She hasn’t asked to go back out since.

So much for Mina’s big adventure.

What I Finished Reading Last Week:

  • Machine (White Space #2) by Elizabeth Bear, ARC provided by NetGalley
  • Vesper Flights by Helen Macdonald, audiobook narrated by the author

Machine is the story of Doctor Brookllyn Jens, who leads rescue operations in deep space when she isn’t performing surgery back at the nearly planet-sized hospital. Her latest job brings her to an ancient generation ship that’s far, far from where it should be. The ship is full of cryogenically frozen people who may or may not survive the warming process. While they’re on the ship, though, Jens and her crew discover another, far newer ship locked into the ancient ship. This leads them to a mystery that could rock the foundations of the society that Dr. Jens know. This was, on the whole, a fantastic ride. Dr. Jens is a smart, sarcastic character who is able to quickly relay complex information, like the nature of methane-based lifeforms and the effects of time dilation as it relates to near light-speed travel. The main problem I had was in the pacing; the set-up of the White Space universe is that people help each other– almost to a fault. So tension will be building as the action rises, and then a shipmind or other doctor will notice that Jens is struggling with fatigue or chronic pain and send her to bed, which diminishes the tension. But overall, that’s a minor flaw in what is, overall, a fantastic space opera.

Vesper Flights is a collection of Helen Macdonald’s elegiac essays on things like the vesper flights of swifts, how humans will travel to see great bird migrations and how it relates to human migrations, to what animals have taught her throughout her life. These essays are poignant, beautifully written, and make you look at the world– particularly at birds– differently. While there are moments of humor, the overall tone is that of sadness, as Macdonald is writing about creatures and landscapes that are disappearing quickly– probably forever. I highly recommend this to anyone who loves nature writing. I loved MacDonald’s previous book, H is for Hawk, and Vesper Flights is a fitting follow-up.

What I’m Currently Reading:

Jackie at Death by Tsundoku and I are slowly making our way through Dune. We’ve been chatting quite a lot– especially about the dinner party, which is such an intricate and fascinating scene. We’ll be continuing on into the next part, where we meet up with the Fremen and find out more about their culture.

Mind of the Raven is Heinrich’s story of his multi-year study of both wild and semi-captive ravens. For years, he spent days and weeks in the woods studying raven behavior and trying to figure out why they did what they did, and what the extent of their intelligence was. His writing is clear and clean and shows a deep love of these amazing birds. There are also plenty of anecdotes about his life with the ravens and his observations. My favorite is his story of how a pair of adult ravens was trying to get some peace and quiet from their annoying and demanding newly-fledged offspring who wouldn’t leave them alone. I’m not that far into the story, so Heinrich hasn’t drawn many conclusions about his raven friends.

The Fabric of Civilization is a history of fabric going back to the earliest traces of the first threads that humans made thousands and thousands of years ago, right up to the most modern and cutting edge protein-based fibers that the inventors theorize could be modified at the genetic level. Throughout the narrative, Postrel reminds the reader that fabrics are part of our technological history, and that we have been genetically modifying plants for thousands of years. Postrel delves into a study of the American cotton industry and the slavery that bore it for so long, and the history of silk-making from China to Europe to Japan. The section I’m currently reading is discussing spinning (like with a spinning wheel), and how, contrary to modern dismissive notions, spinning thread was vital to the survival of people and societies. It was women’s work, yes, but it was not considered to be ‘unimportant’.

What I Plan to Start Reading This Week:

The weather is cooling off somewhat drastically this week, and with wind and a bit of rain in the forecast, it sounds like a good week for curling up with an audiobook and a crochet project that will (hopefully) end up being fluffy and warm. There will hopefully be a lot of writing going on, too.

11 thoughts on “Sunday Sum-Up, October 18, 2020

  1. Your Mina story made me laugh and recall my father’s reaction when holding one of their cats who seemed to want outside. After not too long she decided she no longer wanted out and dug her claws into him. My father couldn’t get back inside fast enough! 🙂 I just checked my collection of ebooks and though I don’t have Machine I do have Ancestral Night, so I hope to try that series one day. And I have H is for Hawk, so I’m very pleased to hear that’s a winner. I’ll keep my eye out for Vesper Flights. It’s awesome to hear how much you’re enjoying crocheting. I have a friend who about a year or two ago tried crocheting little amigurumi animals, and she’s been having a blast with those ever since. Enjoy your week!

  2. *lol* Cats! They never seem to quite know what they want, unless it’s napping in a sunbeam.

    I’ve been having a great time learning new crochet skills! Making hats is fun and quick. I’ve already finished both of the kids’ hats I set out to make this week. Next up is either a hat for me, or the shawl I meant to start last week.

  3. Gorgeous Mina photo! I was just talking about knitting and crocheting with a friend last week. It’s been years (decades?) since I’ve done either, but it’s tempting to start up again. A scarf sounds like something my speed!

  4. Thanks! I’ve been crocheting at a very beginner level for a long time, and it’s only been since I bought a book of Iceland-inspired crochet patterns that I decided I wanted to learn more about it. So far, so good! I’ve had a lot of fun making hats, and I’m looking forward to beginnng the next project! I’ve found that YouTube crochet tutorials are super helpful, especially when they both talk you through the stitches and slowly show you how to do them. Photos and diagrams have never cut it for me.

  5. Lol! Oh Mina.

    I think my cat really wants to go outside just to see what it’s about. He sits at the large glass door to the backyard all day staring at the birds and squirrels and butterflies and bugs and the random cat and gets so worked up about it all that I feel bad as if we’re holding him hostage inside.
    Once he made a break for it and ran when a door opened, but it was to the garage and it was dark and gloomy. So after sniffing around for a bit, he came back inside. I think he may have been dejected because he went back to staring out the glass door.

  6. I once took Sidney outside because he was always so excited to look out the window at the birds and squirrels (and a couple of opossums!), but once we got outside and he’d had a chance to sniff for a bit, he decided that Outdoors was an awful place, and that he wanted to go back in Right Now! So that was the end of that.

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