Easter Eggs From The Universe

Had a doctor’s appointment Monday at 1:00pm and afterward, I did my Wal-Mart shopping.  The day had not been warm to begin with and the afternoon was getting progressively colder as the latest cold front came through.  Fortunately, I had dressed for the weather.  After I got my shopping done,  I decided to stop in at IHOP (which is just down the access road from Wal-Mart) for a set of eggs and a pair of toast.  I don’t buy eggs, mostly because I don’t like them enough to eat a half dozen before they spoil,  but every now and again I get hungry for some fried eggs (over easy) and toast.

They have “canned music” at IHOP (Sirius Satellite Radio?) that features a lot of “oldies.”   I’m waiting for my food and they’re playing Led Zepplin’s “Dazed and Confused,” Rick Nelsons, “Teenage Idol,” Chubby Checker’s “Peppermint Twist;” and I’m eating my food and they’re playing Credence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son, “Percy Sledges’ “When a Man Loves A Woman,” Ray Charles’ “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” and so on and so on.  Right into the middle of this melange, they drop Dave Brubeck’s, “Unsquare Dance,” which is so jazz and so brilliant.  (Try clapping in rhythm to this one!)

It was like an Easter egg from the universe.

 

 

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Books Read in 2019

29. *The Curious Case of the Werewolf That Wasn’t, Carriger, Gail (reread)
28. *The Parasol Protectorate: Timeless, Carriger, Gail (reread)
27. *The Parasol Protectorate: Heartless, Carriger, Gail (reread)
26. *The Parasol Protectorate: Changeless, Carriger, Gail (reread)
25. *The Parasol Protectorate: Blameless, Carriger, Gail (reread)
24. *The Parasol Protectorate: Soulless, Carriger, Gail (reread)
23. *How To Marry A Werewolf, Carriger, Gail (reread)
22. *Romancing the Werewolf, Carriger, Gail (reread)
21. *Competence (The Custard Protocol, Book 3), Carriger, Gail
20. *Imprudence (The Custard Protocol, Book 2), Carriger, Gail (reread)
19. *Prudence (The Custard Protocol, Book 1), Carriger, Gail (reread)
18. *An Unnatural Heir, Charles, K. J.
17. *His Consort, Calmes, Mary
16. *An Unnatural Vice, Charles, K. J.
15. *An Unseen Attraction, Charles, K. J.
14. Chanur’s Legacy, Cherry, C. J. (re-re-read)
13. *An Enlightenment Story: Unnatural, Chambers, Joanna
12: * An Enlightenment Story: Seasons Pass, Chambers, Joanna
11. * Enlightenment Series: Enlightened, Chambers, Joanna
10. * Enlightenment Series: Beguiled, Chambers, Joanna
9. *Enlightenment Series: Provoked, Chambers, Joanna
8. Chanur’s Homecoming, Cherryhh, C. J. (re-re-reread)
7. Chanur’s Venture, Cherryh, C. J. (re-re-reread)
6. The Kif Strike Back, Cherryh, C. J. (re-re-reread)
5. The Pride of Chanur, Cherryh, C. J. (re-re-reread)
4. Alliance Rising, Cherryh, C. J.
3. *Introducing Mr. Winterbourne, Chambers, Joanna
2. *Mr. Winterbourne’s Christmas, Chambers, Joanna
1. Merchanter’s Luck, Cherryh, C. J. (re-reread)

* Ebook

Steampunk, Stuff and Nonsense

Gail Carriger‘s books feature a particular style/variant of Steampunk which I like a lot.  She incorporates not only all the elaborate gadgetry, gizmos, dalliances and daring-do set in Victorian England of Steampunk at its finest, she adds in a large dollop of the paranormal, as in vampires, and were-beasts.  Her delightful Steampunk novels are like pillow mints for the brain.  They’re delicious to read and melt into minty goodness in your mind.  If you like Gilbert and Sullivan, Steampunk and paranormal romances, you’ll love these books.

A whisper of warning, though. The books she writes as “Gail Carriger” are inclusive*. (If that sort of thing curls your lip, then you really won’t like any of the books she writes as “G.L. Carriger.”)

These books of which I speak are all set in the same “Carrigerverse” of 19th century England during the reign of Queen Victoria and cover two generations of the same family.  They begin with the adventures of Alexia Tarabotti, eldest daughter of Letitia Tarabotti Loontwill (neé Phinkerlington), and ex-Templar Alessandro Tarabotti, as related in the first book in the Parasol Protectorate quintet, Soulless, and continue through Blameless, Changeless, Heartless, and Timeless.   In Soulless, the first book in the series, Alexia has exciting adventures and marries Lord Conall Maccon, a Scottish werewolf and leader of the London pack.  It is a love match.  As you might suspect, a parasol is involved, as well as hats, Egypt, treacle tarts, and an octomaton.  Lord and Lady Maccon have a daughter, whom her mother names Prudence.  They move from the country into a London townhouse, next door to Lord Akeldama, a rove vampire with a colorful wardrobe, a taste for young men, and a dirigible named Dandelion Fluff Upon A Spoon.

Prudence grows up and has adventures, which mostly involve not living up to her name.  These are detailed in the Custard Protocol books,  Prudence, Imprudence, Competence,  and Reticence (which comes out in August); and involve hats, mechanical contrivances, were-creatures and dirigibles. Also involved are Madame LeFoux’s adopted son, Ivy’s twins, and a woman named Phinkerlington, who may be collaterally related to our heroine.

Ms. Carriger has another series in this ‘verse, which is the Finishing School series:  Etiquette and Espionage, Curtsies and Conspiracies, Waistcoats and Weaponry, and Manners and Mutiny, all of which are in the To Be Read pile.

I will note that all of the above-mentioned books are available in ebook format as well as in dead tree editions.  The reading of the above involved multiple pots of tea.  No hats were harmed either in the reading of the books, or the writing of this review, and a good time was had by WOL.

*inclusive - accepting of the reality that the Human species includes LGBTA individuals, and that these individuals have the same rights as everybody else.

See There? Knitting Is Good For You

Yeah, I’m kind of preaching to the choir here.  If you’re a knitter, you already know what she’s talking about.  What’s good is that this lady gives you the talking points, the whys.  If somebody gives you grief about your knitting, you can come back with some of her points.  It relieves stress, generates endorphins, relieves depression, helps you deal with anxiety, is calming, etc.

I want this one on a tote bag . . .

Sorry For The Radio Silence

I’ve been down with that awful crud that’s been going around, what my dad would have called “the galloping epizöotic*.”  Nasty business.  Head cold plus bronchitis.  (I’ve been watching my temperature closely as there’s a nasty strain of flu that has been going round as well.)  I’ve been holed up at home and haven’t been going out at all.  Staying in out of the cold temps.  We did get some cold weather, but the Polar Vortex missed us this time.  Those poor people up north. (What we now call “Polar Vortex” is what we used to call a “blue” norther, for the same reason Babe is blue.)

I haven’t been doing much knitting in the last couple of weeks, as I’ve been spending most of my time either sleeping, blowing my nose or trying to cough up my toenails.  I did get in some reading though.  I’ve had one of those bedside tables on rollers for a couple of years.  (I deliberately set up my bedroom furniture so I have room to roll the table out of the way when not needed.)  I mounted a plug strip with a 12-foot cord on the underside of the table top (just takes two screws) where I can plug in my Kindle tablet and a little desk lamp, as well as my phone, to keep them charged, and when I’m not using the table, it doubles as a charging station for my electronics. (I have some binder clips clamped onto the edge of the table to hold the charging cords when not in use.) I have a little stand for my tablet.  It’s a nice sized little table, and there’s also room for a pot of tea and a plate of munchies.  Last year, I got a bed wedge to complete the ensemble, and I was so glad to have all of it these past two weeks.  Now if I can just get my reader’s shrug finished . . . Hygge, y’all. Tells you something, doesn’t it, when other cultures have a word for something so basic and fundamental, and yours doesn’t.  I mean, what’s the point of having a place to live if it ain’t comfy, snuggly and exactly suited to your needs?  What the world needs now is Gemütlichkeit, sweet Gemütlichkeit. . . .

One of the ladies in this Sekret Klub my mom belongs to wanted some more washcloths, and of course I got roped into making them.  The lady said she’d pay me, what do I charge?  Well, obviously, there’s the cost of the materials, but what about my time?  People have no idea how much time is involved in doing things like this, and isn’t my time worth something?  Takes me about 3 hours to knit a wash cloth.  So for one washcloth, figure $4 for the yarn, and minimum wage in Tx is $7.25/hour, so $25.75 per washcloth . . . .?   See the problem?  I’m going to charge her $15 for two, which is dead cheap when you get right down to it.  The cotton yarn I make them out of is stiff and hard to knit with, and I can’t knit on something made with it for too long before my hands start getting unhappy with me, and I was done with knitting washcloths two months ago . . .   grumble . . . grumble . . .

Which brings me to:  One of the washcloths is based on a simple seed stitch pattern. Here’s the pattern for free.

Cast on an even number of stitches +1. (41 stitches for a washcloth)
Knit 12 rows. Measure length of work so far = X.
Row 1: K2, *p1, k1, repeat from * until 1 stitch remains, k1.
Repeat row 1 until piece lacks X measurement to be long enough.
Knit 12 rows.
Bind off.

It makes a nice nubby washcloth, but you can easily adapt this pattern to make anything from a washcloth to a coaster, to a place mat, to a table runner, to a throw rug, to an afghan to a blanket/bedspread. A set of coasters would be a great stashbuster project for those odds and ends of cotton yarn.

Folks have commented about the time I spend reading.  I mentioned I got a 10-inch Kindle Fire tablet because of the bigger screen, which is able to display more text — almost a whole page — at a time.  This is because I read pretty fast.  I also tend to binge read.  That means I have to allocate my time accordingly.  I try hard not to read at bedtime (unless its a book of short stories), otherwise I’ll get caught up in the story, keep turning pages until suddenly there’s no more pages, look up at the clock and it’s 5 a.m.!  (If a book can’t hold my attention like that, I’ll bob to the surface pretty quickly and typically won’t finish the book.)

I’m retired now, and my time is my own, so I can spend all day (or all night) reading a book at one sitting if I want to.  I try not to stay up all night reading, though, because my mom gets upset with me when I don’t keep “normal” hours and sleep at the right time, etc.  (She’s the only one it bothers . . . )  But really, it’s all about time management.  If you want to read more, allocate a block of time for reading.  Schedule it into your other activities in the evenings or on the weekends.  A dedicated block of time to  find a comfy seat somewhere quiet, shift into neutral, kick back, take it easy and read.   Instead of sitting like a zombie in front of the TV at night, turn the TV off and read.  Now there’s a radical concept . . .

Now that I’m starting to feel less like I’ve been rode hard and put away wet, as we say here in the Flatlands, I’m beginning to think about knitting again and the projects I have going and want to get back into — once I finish this last durn washcloth. . . .

*I have a cheat sheet of ASCII codes for all the diacritical markings like ö.  You hold down the "ALT" key, use the number pad to type the code number, then release the ALT key to get them. A word's not spelled correctly unless it has all the right little marks, like façade, fiancé, Münster . . .  Life on the spectrum, y'all.

Bipolarity

When it comes to two of the loves of my life, I’m kind of bipolar. For a while, all I want to do is knit, and then my poles flip like a magnet, and all I want to do is read. Just in the last week or so, my poles flipped again, and I’ve been mostly reading, and not knitting very much.  So it goes.

So, what do I read?  The lion’s share of it is fiction set in any historical period including those that haven’t happened yet.   I’m big into Tony Hillerman.  His stuff falls into the heading ‘crime procedural’ but there’s a reason he was given a Special Friend of the Diné award.  If you like your crime procedurals in the present day with a heady dose of the land and culture of the Four Corners region, you’re in for a big treat.   I have every one of his books I can get my little mitts on, and a big reread may be looming on the horizon.

C. J. Cherryh’s newest just came out, Alliance Rising, co-authored with her spouse, Jane Fancher, who is a talented author “in her own write,” to coin a phrase.  (Check out Jane’s RingDancer novels for the fantasy fans, and her scifi NetWalkers series.)   It’s set in the world of Merchanter’s Luck, Cyteen, Finity’s End, and Downbelow Station.  Alliance Rising starts a little slow, but then so do avalanches.  Bear with it.  It’s like a juggernaut with no brakes.  Once it gets rolling, it’ll drag you along with it.  Cherryh is a world-builder par excellence, but she populates her worlds with real, flesh-and-blood beings — not all her characters are Human.  But even her aliens are convincingly real.  There are the Mri of her Faded Sun trilogy, the various alien species of her Compact novels (the Chanur series), the Atevi of the Foreigner novels.  Her Morgaine novels are a brilliant mix of fantasy, sword and sorcery and scifi.

You’ll see some books by Joanna Chambers and K. J. Charles on my list.  They’re “romance” novels, but these books stretch the genre in a totally different, and more inclusive direction.  They’re not for everybody.   I like good stories with well-rounded characters.  In my world-view (unlike that of a certain well-known loose cannon in a certain well-known oval office), love is where you find it, and chacun à son goût.  I’ve got one of those pink knitted hats, too, in case you’re wondering.

I’m inordinately fond of the classic British detective novels, the  Lord Peter Wimsey books by Dorothy L. Sayers, and the Margery Allingham books, not to mention Agatha Christies’ books.  I love Neil Gaiman’s books (some more than others), and Charles de Lint.  I adore Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books, and Douglas Adams‘ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy books, both of which are in the grand old British tradition of sharp-toothed nonsense.

I’m a classics fan:  I much prefer Carroll‘s Alice, Milne‘s Pooh, and Travers‘ Poppins to Disney’s silly, superficial, exploitative, high-fructose corn syrup fueled versions.  (Disney gets short shrift from me.  I won’t enlarge upon my opinions here.  My momma raised me not to use that kind of language in polite company.  If you happen to like him, well, like I said, de gustibus non est disputandum.)

Sharon Lee and Steve Miller are also great favorites.  (Regency SciFi!).  Ursula Le Guin, Patricia McKillip, Sharon Shin, Ray Bradbury, Steven Brust, Diana Wynne Jones,  Lois McMaster Bujold.   I like Elizabeth Bear in small doses;  she’s a bit intense and hard-edged for me, though. I like Seanan McGuire‘s October Daye books a lot (Tybalt!).  I’ve tried some of her other books, but couldn’t get into them.  Doesn’t mean they’re not good; just means I couldn’t get into them.

Becky Chambers‘ first book in her “Wayfarer” series was hilariously good.  I have the next one but haven’t gotten to it yet.

D. B. Jackson’s Thieftaker Chronicles books are good.  Set in an “alternate universe” colonial Boston just before the Revolutionary War, but one where magic works.

I like Gail Carriger‘s books.  They’re like fine pastry with a good cup of tea in a comfy chair.  What with how grim and dark the real world’s gotten lately, I’m finding I’ve become more drawn to witty, light-hearted comedy.  Again, she’s an inclusive author, and some of her books are more “inclusive” than others.

Megan Whalen Turner‘s putting out another in her Queen’s Thief series this March.  If the Mycenean Greeks/Persian culture had made it to the Middle Ages, that would be the world of Eugenides the thief.   Great reads, the lot of them.  I expect the new one to be no different.

There’s also going to be a new Sebastian St. Cyr book out in March, the 14th in C. S. Harris’ long-running Regency detective series. Whodunnits set in Regency England, with an aristocratic protagonist and a side order of biting social commentary.  She has a PhD in European history, so she not only tells it like it was, warts and all, she gets it right, too.  These are not “women’s romance novels.” If you’re looking for Georgette Heyer, you won’t find it here.  Nothing frothy or frilly about Harris’ books;  they’re a truly meaty read.  Flesh and blood characters that live in a world that’s very real.

You notice I do a lot of rereading.   Good books are hard to find.  I only keep the books I’ll want to read again and again.

I can usually tell by the first chapter if I’m going to like a book, very often by the first 5-10 pages, but it’s very much one of those you have to be there.  Sometimes, a book will eject me, and a few weeks, or months, or years down the road, I’ll be bored and desperate for something to read, give it another try and love it.  I read 109 books in 2014, the first year I started keeping a list, 151 in 2015, 125 in 2016, 92 in 2017 (I moved house that year and took three trips), and 85 in 2018 (a year when I was dealing with some serious health issues).  Look at the ones I’ve reread more than once.  Those are the best ones.