Sunday, April 27, 2014

And furthermore...

Seems like I just discovered I have a blog, LOL. But it occurs to me I should share a couple of fantastic women whose blogs and wonderful, amazing thinking and creativity has been enriching my life and world view lately. I'll go in chrono order of when I first came across their web sites.

Ada Palmer is a scholar in Medieval and Renaissance history, at Texas A&M University in College Station, TX. She's also a genre fan, a writer, and composer and many more "-ers'."  Her blog "Ex Urbe" is fantastic. She has a series about Machiavelli that in addition to being fascinating, completely upended everything I'd ever heard about him. Her geekness is that period of history, and she's not only written music and blog posts - she did her PhD dissertation about it. And she's a science geek. This is a song she's written about real-life space exploration. Caution: may require hankies. I love, love love this, and she has a permanent fan in me.

My newer find is Felicity Ford, a soundscape artist (never heard of one? Neither had I. Wow, has she picked an enthralling career!) who is also a knitter and textile designer, and has one of the most infectious sunny enthusiastic attitudes I've seen in years. She lives and works in Reading, UK (I hope that's how you write that.) Just watching her Kickstarter video for her new book on designing knitting patterns had me grinning, as they say, ear to ear. (Of course I contributed, how could I not?) Her web site is The Domestic Soundscape and you must, must, must set aside an hour to go visit it. Luscious knits and sounds, and delightful creativity and humor.  (I'm writing this at 1:30 pm CST - there are only five more hours to go on the Kickstarter campaign so if you think you're interested, you'd better get over there! The book will be available once it's published, of course, but why not get in on the ground floor (with some lovely supporter rewards)?  She also (as if this all wasn't enough!) has a bi-weekly podcast called KnitSonik! It's available free on iTunes, too.

The few things I've said about these two women are just a tiny fraction of the areas they explore and the things they have accomplished, and the terrific projects they've got going.

ETA "Renaissance" to Ada's specialties.

They're falling like dominoes, I tell ya

Finished another book last night, this one for the mystery book club at the library. It's The Janus Stone, by Elly Griffith.


I really like this one a lot. It's the second of three (so far) in a series about a forensic anthropologist, Ruth Galloway, in Britain, called in to determine if a small skeleton found under the door of an old Victorian mansion, now being demolished for new apartment buildings, is modern, old, or ancient. I like Ruth a lot. She's an almost-40, not-thin, not-hot, professional woman with flaws and strengths (more than she knows), passions and prejudices. She's smarter than I am about when to shoot off her mouth (or punch some asshole) but when she does stand up, look out. Her relationship with her friend, Det. Chief Insp. Harry Nelson, is a source of warmth and oh boy complications, for both of them. The book has quite a few laugh-out-loud spots, which are always welcome. The story line is dark, twisted, and sad, and there are excerpts from an unknown perpetrator's disturbing diary at regular intervals, steadily ratcheting up the anxiety level. 

So there's another book read and reported. Last night I picked up the most recent Flavia DeLuce novel, The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches.  I devoured it the instant I got it home a few weeks ago, and then went back and re-read the whole series. This is my second, slower, reading. I love it as I love all of the Flavia books, but something - a rather major something - that struck me falsely the first time, did so even more this time. I won't write about it in my review because I don't intend to give out spoilers. I'm hoping to find someone who's read it who would be willing to talk about this point privately, though. 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Lagging behind with my reporting, here

Did a spate of sewing last week; this:

is the latest grocery tote project. Only two more to go and I'll have replaced all my venerable old (1985!) grocery sacks with these new, pretty ones. I'm finding that sometimes grocery clerks are hesitant to assume they're for my groceries, even though I plunk them on the conveyor belt ahead of my groceries. It's no surprise that female clerks commenting outnumber male clerks commenting by about 5:1.  I have to say, I haven't seen any prettier grocery totes than mine in any store I've been to. LOL this retirement gives one lots of time...

In the book-reading realm: Still none read for the Challenge (see right column and a few posts ago) but I have been working on my giant, teetering TBR pile steadily. I've re-read: Louise Penny's A Trick of the Light (for the library mystery club), and Alan Bradley's Speaking from Among the Bones, just because I love Flavia.* Well, and Inspector Gamache. I dearly wish we could get the Canadian Gamache TV specials series here on Netflix, sigh. I suppose it'll come around eventually, but really,  Nathaniel Parker as Gamache??? swoon


I've also partially read a non-fiction book that kind of disappointed me. I did get about 3/4 through before I realized I was Slogging, and quit.  Now, I loves me some biogeography - deeply, madly, truly I love it. So The Monkey's Voyage by Alan De Queiroz was totally my cup of tea. 

He discusses the ongoing controversy raging between the "far-flung species totally coulda rode accidental natural rafts to remote island sites" camp, and the "species on remote island sites got there when Gondawandaland (or was it Pangaea?) split up WAY before then" camp. It held my interest as long as it stuck with the bio- and the geo- - but it seemed to devolve into a certain amount of axe-grinding and personality conflicts (which engender so many of those delightfully entertaining shitstorms in Letters to the Editor columns in scientific journals) ego-stroking and petty bickering.  Ho-hum. Life's too short.

Yesterday, I finished The Geographer's Library by Jon Fasman.  


I really enjoyed reading this thing. It reminds me more of The Club Dumas than what it's been compared to, or rather slotted in next to, which is Dan Brown's The DaVinci Code. It interleaves descriptions of fifteen ancient objects that were stolen from the library of (an actual, historical) Muslim polymath, adventurer and traveler in the early 12th century in northern Europe. Latvia, I think, and/or Estonia. It gets confusing. Anyway, Those are alternated with a Today story of a young, kind of aimless small town reporter who haplessly crosses paths with the seriously dangerous people who are trying to find all these things, when he takes on the writing of an obituary of an old college professor at his alma mater. Naturally the flaky old guy turns out to be something other than what he seemed. Whoa Nelly, WAY Something Other. A mysterious and alluring woman a few years older than he, one of his own former professors, a likeable oafish but really brilliant cop, and of course the aforementioned Bad Guys make this a real page-turner. However ... after finishing it, some questions came to mind that made me realize that it could have been a lot *better*. It doesn't really fulfill its promise and potential, and that's all I say about that. I loved it while I read it, and maybe I'll entertain myself by imagining what *could* have happened. 

Last night, I finished Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer.  

It's the first in a trilogy, the other two volumes will be published later this year. It's a science fiction mystery/horror kind of thing, and I have to say, the first couple chapters were seriously creepy. Readers have complained because it's so obviously the first in a series, but I don't care as long as they get those other books out here SOON! Fascinating, horrifying premise and if the thing is what it seems, it's a gratifyingly original take on what "aliens" could be like - nothing like any I've seen or read about before. Nothing like anything I EVER want to meet in person thank you very much.

So that catches me up on the reading front. And the sewing front. 

ETA: the pretty book cover pictures, and the note, below. 

* Please note, I'm putting live links to these books' pages not because I'm an affiliate (I'm not) but because for the most part, I find the most useful site for good images of the covers (and any interior images they may post in their Look Inside dealie-bobber) and because there are usually a good mix of reviews pro & con each book.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Ahem, well, yeah. About that

reading challenge. Haven't read a single book for it yet. But, I have plenty of time, right? Until the end or middle of May, isn't it? Yeah. No worries. Heh.

More immediately, Saturday is International Table Top Game Day, which I and my little band of brave ladies, will be observing. Observing, but not really "participating" in because the people running the web site with the big map, with the pins for all the locations all over the world that are participating? That web site is set up for people with 1s and 0s in their very DNA. It is damned awkward and confusing to access, for me, a humble individual who was NOT nurtured by the soil of Silicon Valley since conception. Also, the web site assumes you are a business who wants ALL THE PEOPLE TO COME TO YOUR PLACE and play games Saturday - so they REQUIRE your address. I'm not putting my address on there. I did leave a query to their help desk, saying "I'm a private individual hosting a private game day for some friends and I don't want my address on the WWW, but we'd love to have a little flag in the general vicinity of the place so we feel like we're being included and counted. And we'd post a picture or two of the revelry. JUST LIKE THE PROMOTERS CLAIM YOU CAN DO, by the way."  What did I get? An email signed by someone with only a first name, saying "No worries, just sign up and we'll take care of all that."


Is s/he fucking KIDDING ME???

So we won't have our little flag or be able to post a picture but we're going to play the hell out of some game/s Saturday and eat good food and have a blast and I'm even going to print off the little Wil Wheaton and Felicia Day standup cartoons, and a copy of their ITTGD trophy, and put them all on cardboard and have them around (and our winner will take the trophy home. She will not be given a choice. Get it out of here.)  And I'll continue to enjoy Wil Wheaton's Table Top Games web program. But I am disappointed in the annual event's web site. They should do better by the private folks they claim to welcome. You shouldn't have to have been on the internet before you were born to understand how to sign up, and there should be a "private party" option that doesn't require your address. Oh well.