Archive for January, 2009

Taking lines in various media for a walk

Friday, 30 January 2009

Before I started crocheting, I used to doodle quite a lot, in pen, or markers. This is an extreme (bigger and more detailed) version of the type, from a few years ago:
detailed blue line curving around A4 page

When I began playing with painting, I tried out the same idea there too:
Water-colour line-walk, half filled in with colours
(I never finished filling this one in, because I got put off by the smudge in the middle.)

So now I’m trying to get back into freeform crochet, and the new UK Freeformers group on Ravelry suggested various techniques for surface decoration, which I thought I’d try:
purple half treble ground, pink surface decoration

That began to look like one of my old line-walks, so I decided to continue. I haven’t quite finished it, but should be able to do that on the way home today.
purple half treble ground, pink surface decoration

I like abstract stuff, and it’s nice to find some continuity with what I’ve always done.

Crochet Pottering

Thursday, 29 January 2009

I am slowly doing a little crochet here and there, so here’s a piece I made the other night, that I still haven’t posted off to my father as a late token for his birthday. It’s in cotton, so could be used as a coaster, or a patch, or as was suggested at the knitting etc group last night, a glasses wiper. That’s up to him.

I doubt he’ll read this without me reminding him, so it’ll probably still be a surprise.

In other crochet news, I finally just finished my pink blanket (but haven’t yet taken a complete picture). It’s longer than me, and significantly wider, so good for snuggling up in.

My mother’s belt is growing (it’s perhaps one quarter to one third of the required length) and the pattern shifts with every little change in gauge are dramatic. You can see whenever I did a different long session. The width isn’t altering – the colours are just very sensitive to gauge – so I think it’ll be alright. I’ll try to get an up to date pic up soon.

And that’s what I’ve been up to. I’ve got cotton for freeforming with me wherever I go, but there’s nothing interesting to show yet. I also usually have the belt, but that requires stillness and very good light, so it mostly only gets done on Wednesday evenings these days, seeing as I’ve long missed the due date for it!

I do like half-trebles, but feel like I’ve done nothing else in ages!

Inspired again

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

So, four more books for you brings the total for the year so far a little closer to respectability. (I am so far resisting checking where I was up to by this time last year.)

6. I, Coriander by Sally Gardner
Coriander lives between a fairy-tale and a world where fairy-tales seem to have been forbidden, and must find her own place, with the inconstant help of often helpless friends, and the threat of power-hungry authority figures. Coriander tells her own story in seven sections, but never seems to have everything explained to her. I enjoyed the book, but some questions never really got resolved, and there were a few cliches along the way.

7. Set Me Free by Estie Florans

And this one was full of cliches, unfortunately. The writing really wasn’t bad, nor was the story, but I can’t see any excuse for its being 684 pages long, especially since an authorised play-script of the book is advertised at the back, so there must be a shorter version. I really don’t want to be completely negative about the book, but this really needs some stuff cut out of it. And I like long books!

8. The Host by Stephenie Meyer

This is a very American post-Apocalypse novel, that addresses many of the same issues as the Twilight series (but better), and owes a lot to the Star Trek episodes about the symbiont species the Trill. Basically, it’s about accepting that one species is not inherently better than another, and one individual has no more right to life than another. It’s also about making difficult compromises when there is no ideal solution to the problems at hand.

What I found interesting is that we have by the end a similar but actually more severe problem that’s obsessed over in Meyer’s other series – ie where one in a couple is immortal and the other isn’t – but it’s ignored here where there’s no solution of making the mortal party immortal. I haven’t heard any suggestion that there will be a sequel to this, and I’ll be quite happy if there isn’t, as it stands alone well. It might even stand up to a reread, but that won’t be yet, as I have other books to catch up on.

9. The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie

So, I’m finally catching up with my podcasts, too, and got to the end of Julie’s reading of this Christie classic. I’d actually only ever come across Tommy & Tuppence in cameo roles in a television version of a Poirot story (no idea which one), so it was intriguing to meet them properly. I really should get around to reading more of Christie’s tales at some point, but like I said, there’s a long list to work my way through.

Anyway, as always Julie’s reading is great. As both she and Dr Gemma discussed on their podcasts, she isn’t trying to do the accents, but she gives a great sense of the personality behind each character, which I think is more important. She’s also got the sense of which random English names won’t be pronounced like they’re written, to check them out beforehand. (I actually like how the American character the first time pronounces it “Holey-head”, whereas the British ones always say “Holly-head” – I suppose I’ve been through Holyhead far too many times to even consider it could have been said any other way.)

As for the mystery itself – I really enjoyed it. I guessed who the villain might be reasonably early on, but got distracted away from him a couple of times. (We’re told near the beginning that a man is behind the troubles, so I amn’t giving anything away.) I don’t go for mysteries just because of the genre, but the good ones tend to be fun, even when they’re fantastical.

Another view of last year’s books

Thursday, 22 January 2009
Wordle image of what I read in 2008

Wordle image of what I read in 2008

Another Wordle image, this time of the Reading 2008 page. There are a lot of large common first names in there, that came up among several authors and titles.

Playing with words

Thursday, 22 January 2009
Wordle image of this blog's front page text.

Wordle image of this blog's front page text.

I just found out about Wordle, and this was what I came up with to try it out on. Self-referential or what?!

Picture update

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Inspired by one of Jinniver‘s posts last week, recapping the various visits she’s had from Travelling Teddies, I thought I should catch you up on various photos, especially those of my visiting teddies.

R's belt
This is my mother’s belt, that was supposed to be for Chanuka, except that I lost the 1mm hook! I have got another one now, and it is a few centimetres longer, but still nowhere close to belt length.

French Twist
My great flatmate took me off to a fancy hairdresser for my birthday and this is the partial result.

Mr T on the tube
Mr T, my latest teddy visitor, on the day he arrived.

Crazy Cloth potholders and Knitpicks crochet hook
For my birthday and chanuka presents my brother took himself off to the LYS and bought me a Knit Picks Harmony crochet hook, which is beautiful, and works like a dream, as it’s perfectly smooth. Obviously I had to put it to practise straight away, but the only yarn I had available then was some cheap cotton, so I decided to make us some more pot-holders/dish-cloths, as we use the last ones I made all the time. I just finished the fourth one today, actually, so need to come up with a new commuting project that can fit into my raincoat pocket.
Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride Worsted
He also got me a yarn voucher, and he and my mother helped me choose this Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride Worsted to make myself another shawl. I’ve been wearing the Seraphina’s Shawl I made last spring all the time, and thought another would be just as useful, if I make it in colours to go with other sections of my wardrobe (ie blues). That one was from alpaca (in undyed beige and browns) my mother gave me last year, so having this one be from my brother will be good.

Cloth purse and phone holder
Back in London, in January, there was a secret swap at the local yarn wrangling group, and I received these great cloth bags.

Mr T reading about Billy Blood Drop
Before Mr T moved on to his next host, he came with me to the Blood Donor Centre to donate platelets, and was given a book about giving blood to read while I was there. Unfortunately I failed the iron test by one point (extra frustrating since the level required was five points lower, so I’d have passed that with flying colours!) so have been put off for three months.

Life energy

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

The books I’m finally getting around to discussing today don’t really have anything in common at all (the title’s the smallest stretch I could make for it), so here goes:

2. Essential Energy: Energy from Fossil Fuels by Robert Snedden

This is both informative and readable, as well as well laid out and comprehensive without diverting too far from the stated subject.

3. Amadans by Malachy Doyle

Doyle is an author I’ve heard of, but hadn’t read anything by, so when the title caught my eye in a charity shop I thought it would be worth the read. It’s a rather self-consciously modern fairy story (contact and transfer between the human and amadan worlds is via the internet), and I didn’t find it very subtle, but it’s fun.

4. The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

I did listen to this from start to finish via Librivox, but still dithered about counting it yet, as I did so only to listen to it again on Craftlit. Heather has just started the novella over there, and said that for a change she’s going to assume we all know the end as she commentates throughout, so those of us who didn’t should listen now. Which I did, and it’s very interesting, although I didn’t find it quite as convincing or creepy as I had expected to. I’ll have to give you a better review in the spring when she finishes it.

5. My Life on Wheels by Shaindy Perl

I’m going to revert to my overused phrase “thought provoking” for this one. It’s a very open and honest account of living with severely disabling cerebral palsy by a very thoughtful and expressive young woman, as recounted by an experienced biographer. The book is not as upbeat as many of the Jewish ‘medical’ biographies currently out, although Breindy H. is not always negative either. What she is, is clear about the good things and people in her life (and she seems to have a gift for making good friends out of those who make the effort to get past her difficult speech), but also about the many difficulties that continue to face her. I would say this is definitely worth reading for those interested in CP issues, and for adults who want to be inspired, but it might be difficult for some adolescents to see past some of the more dramatic incidents in the book to the valuable lessons it contains.

Between two lists

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Well, I’ve the first book of 2009 to report on, and I still haven’t finished the ones from 2008.

1. Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade by Diana Gabaldon

It’s a bit of a cheat, since the first of 2009 is actually a reread of one from 2008 (last March, so not that recent), which I can’t do better than explain as I did on the Outlander board over at Ravelry:

I just reread Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade (we were going to go to Coram’s Fields and the Foundling Museum, and I thought I’d share the bit about Dr Rigby’s Foundling Hospital – thankfully I skimmed it first and didn’t, as that is not a chapter to read out of context – suffice it (for those who’ve read the book) to say that that’s the chapter directly after the one entitled “Finally”, but anyhow I then reread the whole book) and noticed even more sly references to modern culture. There’s the obvious “She ain’t heavy, she’s his sister”, but has anyone else felt shades of Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride from the last scene in the regimental offices?

Oh well, I definitely was going to reread stuff from last year (I’m just impressed at how this whole thing stopped me – mostly – from rereading stuff within 2008), so I might as well be upfront about it from the beginning.

And now to confuse you, let’s skip back and do some more of the last of 2008:

314. Transfused With Hope by B. Berger

This genre within Jewish non-fiction of inspirational biographies of families dealing with severe medical issues seems to be increasingly popular, but thankfully also increasingly well-written. It certainly inspired me to go back to my platelets donation (I’d only missed one month, but still!) even from the beginning (I finished the book during my session).

315. In the Dark by Deborah Guttentag

Another newly published book from the Orthodox Jewish publishers, but this is different from any I’ve read before, and very good. It kept me guessing right till near the end (some of my early guesses turned out to be right, but I couldn’t tell that for sure for a long time). The plot doesn’t always move along as fast as one might expect, but in many ways that adds to the realistic feeling.

316. Elephants on Acid by Alex Boese

I picked this up as a Chanuka present for my brother on the way to meet up with him, dipping into several chapters in the shop, and then sneakily going back to the beginning and reading it cover to cover very carefully indeed so I could still give it to him in pristine condition a few days later! It’s both amusing and thought-provoking (which I prefer to ‘educational’, as that could mean almost anything), and includes the classic horrific psychological experiments that went wrong, like the Stanford Prison experiment, as well as plenty of bizarre scientific experiments I never had. (All of the experiments included were written up as peer-reviewed studies.) People’s curiosity does lead them some strange places…

317. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

I picked this one up at the same time as the Elephants above, after reading the comments of several school librarians on how popular they are with teenage girls, and discussions on the series’ actual merits. The nature of these discussions left me remarkably unspoilered, so I basically only knew it was a teen romance involving vampires, that apparently suggests sex should only take place within marriage.

Anyway, it was far better than I expected from that introduction, and I went straight out and got the other three in the series (so nice to come to a complete series, and not have to wait!). They’re not high literature, but I did find them thought provoking, and a step up in my reading mood from wallowing in classic children’s books I’ve read dozens of times before. You’ll see do I read them again anytime soon, however…

318. New Moon by Stephenie Meyer

Probably my least liked of the series, because depression is not a fun read, and it takes up a lot of the book.

319. Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer

Hm, I liked New Moon least, but I can’t really remember what happened in Eclipse… (I lent the books on, so can’t remind myself.)

320. Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer

So no sex before marriage, then, but once marriage takes place, why think of anything else unless it’s life-threatening?

Where am I up to, again?

Monday, 5 January 2009

306. Good Wives by Louisa May Alcott

Now this really is awhile ago, as it was one of Heather’s on Craftlit back at the end of November. It rounds out the youthful lives of the March girls and Teddy Lawrence. I still insist on classifying it as a separate book from Little Women, even though neither Heather nor Librivox agree, because that’s how I read them so many times as a child.

307. Long Way Home by Michael Morpurgo

This is by far the oldest of Morpurgo’s books I’ve come across, dating from 1975, and it’s interesting to see just how much of what happens would be rather implausible nowadays, if only because of the lack of apparent paperwork involved in transferring a young boy around the county (Devonshire, as it happens) to and from fostering.

308. The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips by Michael Morpurgo

While also set among Devon’s farming communities, this one was written far more recently (2005) and set longer ago (during World War II). I felt I wanted more of Adolphus Tips (the cat), but it’s very good.

309. Escape from Shangri-La by Michael Morpurgo

Generational angst. I really liked this one.

I shouldn’t have read so many light/short books back to back. A month later I have nothing to say about them.

310. Little Men by Louisa May Alcott

Librivox allowed me to revisit the younger generation at and around Plumfield, but I still haven’t finished Jo’s Boys. They’re as good as they ever were (if not necessarily as good as the original) but I wasn’t so much in the mood. More Nat and less Dan would be good.

311. Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott

We were comparing all of these over at the Craftlit group on Ravelry, so I thought I should revisit them. Here I think more challenges happen in the sequel (Rose in Bloom) but I haven’t revisited that one yet.

312. Little Lord Fauntleroy by Frances Hodgson Burnett

I think all this reversion to childhood favourites while between computers must have gone along with the avoidance of doing any useful study or work at home. No wonder I was feeling down (and I now have days to do months of assignment work…)!

313. Gifts to Treasure by Tehilla Greenberger

I’d never read this before, but it’s a kid’s book through and through, and kept making me think of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books (that I didn’t have to hand), although it shares little but the setting with them, so doesn’t get me off the hook.

The rest really were new to me, but it’s late and I have to go back to work in the morning, so they’ll have to wait (as will the links). Good night!