Monday, December 13, 2010


I haven't posted at all since before Thanksgiving, but life has been busy. I've been designing socks, working on some crochet clothing items, worrying about holiday shopping, catching up on reading (The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins is magnificent, by the by), and on some TV (I have been making my way through Pysch on Netflix).

Also, this weekend, I added a new member to my happy little menagerie. Meet Zephyr:

I adopted him on Saturday without planning on adopting a cat. I went to Petsmart to buy rabbit food for the two buns and wandered past the cat adoption center and fell in love. It was truly a case of the cat choosing me and I was helpless to resist. He is a sweet and affectionate cat. I love him already. The rabbits are less than amused.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Pattern: Toe-Up Fish Scale Socks

These are toe-up socks with an afterthought heel. If you are familiar with crocheted sock design, this should be a fairly basic pattern of 5-dc shells crocheted in the round.

I love the look of shells, and wanted a pair of socks with a shell pattern. Halfway through, I realized that the sock looked like a fish (especially with the wild-colored yarn I chose - some exotic tropical species, maybe?). Turning after the completion of every round provides a slight textured look to the sock.

I used two skeins of Serenity Sock Yarn, thyme colorway. It's a fairly inexpensive bamboo/nylon/merino sock yarn that comes in 230-yd balls. I had bought up a number of different colorways when it was on sale and am now left with some pretty out-there colored sock yarn. I was interested to see just how far one skein can stretch, so I kept working the sock until I ran out of yarn.

Note: I wear a size 6 women's shoe. I tried to write the pattern to be flexible for different length feet, but alterations may be necessary to accommodate wider feet. If necessary, work the toe additional rounds before starting the foot (make sure the stitches around are a multiple of 4).

All stitches are in US terminology.

  • Approximately 400 yds fingering weight yarn (smaller sizes will require less, larger sizes will require more).
  • 3.5 mm/E crochet hook

Shell stitch: 5 dc in next stitch.

Make 2.

Rnd 1: Ch 10, sc in 2nd ch from hook, sc in next 7 ch, 3 sc in next ch. Do not turn; continue working on opposite side of chain. Sc in next 7 ch across, 2 sc in next ch. Do not join.
Rnd 2: sc in first sc, sc in each st to end st, 3 sc in end sc, sc to opposite end, 3 sc in end st. Do not join.
Work 4 more rnds, with 3 sc on the ends. (40 sc around)
Do not turn.

Rnd 1: *sl st, sc, dc, sc*, repeat from * to * around, sl st into last st. Turn.
Rnd 2: Ch 1, sl st into sl st, ch 3 (counts as dc here and throughout), 4 dc into same st as sl st, skip one sc, sc into dc, *skip one sc, shell in sl st, skip one sc, sc into dc*. Repeat from * to * around, join with sl st to third ch of ch 3. Turn.
Rnd 3: Sl st into first sl st, ch 3, 4 dc into same st as sl st, skip two dc, sc, *skip two dc, shell in sc, skip two dc, sc*. Repeat from * to * around, join with sl st to third ch of ch 3. Turn.
Repeat rnd 3 until sock reaches to bend of ankle when stretched. Do not turn on last rnd.

Rnd 1: Base ch/sc 20, skip 5 shells, join with sl stitch to next sc. Turn.
Rnd 2: Sl st in sl st, *sc, dc, sc, sl* across foundation chain, join with sl st to sc in third dc of shell, continue with shell stitch across for five shells, (shell in sl st, skip one sc, sc into dc, skip one sc) 5 times, shell in sl st, join with sl st to first dc of first shell in row.
Repeat rnd 3 of Foot until sock is desired length. If necessary, make 7-dc shells instead of 5-dc shells to accommodate the calf. Bind off.

Turn sock inside out and hold with toe pointing towards you. Join yarn to first dc in the right-hand corner of the heel opening.
Rnd 1: Sc in same dc as join, 3 sc, *sc (dc, sc, dc) together, 4 sc* 4 times, 3 sc, sc 2 corner sts together, sc across foundation chain to last two st, sc3tog.
Next rnds: *Sc across to last two st before corner, sc3tog*. Repeat from * to * in rounds until there are 10 stitches left (5 on each side).
Last rnd: Sl st join the opening closed(5 sl st).
Bind off, weave in ends.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sock Yarn Addiction

I have been going through my yarn stash and I came to a realization: I have a sock yarn problem. I love fingering-weight yarn. I'm immediately drawn to it. I love the feel of it as I work it up, I love the colors, I love how soft and pettable it is. And I love love love the yardage of it. Sock yarn guarantees you the most yardage for your dollar. This does leave me in a bit of a conundrum: I have stashed more sock yarn than I make socks. Before this week, I have made a total of 1.75 pairs of socks (the .75 keeps staring at me, telling me that I should just man up and finish the cuff and heel). When I look for new patterns to work on, I want garments. Shirts, dresses, skirts. These require significant yarn and time investment, and I am afflicted with project-ADD. I have partially completed projects scattered throughout my condo.

But aside from that, I still have mountains of sock yarn, waiting to be turned into socks. Yes, I know I can make other things out of them, but I don't wear shawls, and I have the hat and gloves that I like. But socks... I adore socks. I love knee-high, brightly patterned socks. They keep me warm all winter. I love the whimsical nature of having a spot of color poke out beneath black suit pants, or to complement a shirt paired with jeans. I love the seductiveness of fishnet stockings, and the feel of bamboo or merino against my feet.

In short: I love socks.

So, this winter, I will make socks. I will make socks from already existing patterns. I will design socks based on stitches I like. I will freeform socks for the hell of it. Because I have 20 types of fingering weight yarn stashed that were bought specifically for socks, so socks they shall be.

Once I make a dent in those, then I'll return to the tunic dress that is currently sitting beside my desk chair.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Happy Guy Fawkes Day

Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.
Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, t'was his intent
To blow up the King and Parli'ment.
Three-score barrels of powder below
To prove old England's overthrow;
By God's providence he was catch'd
With a dark lantern and burning match.
Holla boys, Holla boys, let the bells ring.
Holla boys, Holla boys, God save the King!

And what should we do with him? Burn him!

Keep Politics Out of My Fiction

Lately, I've been trying to read some books by some of the newer Baen authors and have found that I just cannot. I have known for a long time that Baen, as a company, leans heavily towards the right but I have (for the most part) not encountered that in their books. This may speak more of the books I prefer than the books they publish. I tend to read more fantasy than science fiction, and don't really care for military science fiction.

But since the founder Jim Baen's death, I've noticed a steady trend of political creep into their books, particularly with their new authors. Has it become a de facto requirement that in order to be published by Baen you have to shout your Republican credentials from page 1?

I read fiction for enjoyment, not to get preached to. I am heavily opinionated and work in the policy world, so I don't need to encounter it when I'm thinking I'm picking up a nice story about a time traveling family. (I nearly threw the book across the room when I got to the line in the prologue "Just thank God for Ronald Reagan." It also didn't help that the writing style was crap.)

While I'm a liberal, I don't want to see politics of either stripe in my books unexpectedly. If I want to read something political, I'll read something political. But don't preach to me or shoehorn in political ideology into a fiction story. I've stopped reading authors I used to love because of their constant soapboxing. I can't read Mercedes Lackey anymore because I felt her books were beating me over the head with the message of how unfit, controlling, or even misunderstanding parents did not deserve their children. I don't necessarily disagree with that but I don't want to read it over and over and over again.

Using fiction books as partisan political platforms ultimately drives away readers. If overdone, it annoys those who share those same views, and angers those who do not. And ultimately, it is completely unnecessary to the plot. The vast majority of books tell a damn good story without having the author's personal political or religious beliefs shoved down the readers' throats. It is even possible to tell a good political story without being partisan. Christopher Buckley, who is a Republican, wrote an entire book satirizing the American political system without once naming a political party.

There are too many lines drawn in the sand throughout our society. In a time when the extremes dominate the conversation, and the idea of "you're either with us or against us" has taken on a life of its own, people seem to have become so entrenched in their own particular opinions, mindsets, and world views that they are unwilling to compromise or even talk. I see it every day around me. I do not need or want to see it in books I read for pleasure.

Baen, of course, has the right to publish whatever they want. Just as I have a right to read whatever I want. Unfortunately, Baen's stable of new authors won't make it onto my TBR list.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Plagiarism: It's What's for Dinner

Earlier today, the internet exploded with the realization that New England cooking magazine Cooks Source is a thieving, plagiarizing, arrogant POS. Long story short, Monica Gaudio of Godecookery learns from a friend that an article she wrote got published without permission in Cooks Source. She writes to the editor and asks for an apology and a donation to the Columbia School of Journalism. The editor, Judith Grigg, classily responds with:
Yes Monica, I have been doing this for 3 decades, having been an editor at The Voice, Housitonic Home and Connecticut Woman Magazine. I do know about copyright laws. It was “my bad” indeed, and, as the magazine is put together in long sessions, tired eyes and minds somethings forget to do these things.
But honestly Monica, the web is considered “public domain” and you should be happy we just didn’t “lift” your whole article and put someone else’s name on it! It happens a lot, clearly more than you are aware of, especially on college campuses, and the workplace. If you took offence and are unhappy, I am sorry, but you as a professional should know that the article we used written by you was in very bad need of editing, and is much better now than was originally. Now it will work well for your portfolio. For that reason, I have a bit of a difficult time with your requests for monetary gain, albeit for such a fine (and very wealthy!) institution. We put some time into rewrites, you should compensate me! I never charge young writers for advice or rewriting poorly written pieces, and have many who write for me… ALWAYS for free!”

This story gets picked up and blogged, tweeted, and posted about by a variety of people around the Internet with large audiences, including Neil Gaiman, boing boing, and woot.

And this is when it gets interesting, and it is proven, once again, the power of the Internet mob.

On the Cooks Source facebook page, a constant stream of posters are commenting on the wall. And the magazine has helpfully posted shots of all its issues as photo albums. It turns out that Monica's apple pie article was not the first to get stolen. Savvy Internet detectives have linked articles and recipes appearing in the magazine to Martha Stewart, Paula Deen, Weight Watchers, NPR, the Food Network, WebMD, Recipes Today, Wikipedia, CNN, My Recipes... etc., etc., etc. And Griggs' other magazine, Travel Source is full of stolen and plagiarized material too.

People have been contacting the magazine's advertisers, who have been pulling out (and I'm sure, are sick and tired of getting phone calls). The Cooks Source website is down (too much traffic, perhaps?), and now mainstream media is picking up the story.

Without a doubt, Judith Griggs screwed up on the Epic Fail level. I look forward to see how this all unfolds. Which just proves: don't mess with the internet.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Sneaky Costume Hint

My Halloween costume is almost finished and it's going to be awesome.

I'm not going to say, yet, what I'm going to be, but I'll give a hint:

Book Review: The Parasol Protectorate

Steampunk is all the rage at the moment, and has been climbing in popularity for the past few years and moving into the mainstream. In 2008, the New York Times did a piece on the subculture. Last week, the network murder mystery show Castle featured steampunk in the episode "Punked".

In the literary world, the publication of steampunk novels has been steadily increasing and becoming more frequent. (And may I just express my sincere gratitude that Stephanie Meyer's badly written faux-vampires and their clones are finally starting to move out of the limelight?) As a genre, steampunk combines Victorian-era culture with futuristic technological advances and gadgetry (this combination can occur in various forms).

I've fallen headlong into lust with a set of books called The Parasol Protectorate by Gail Carriger that have been getting a fair amount of press among the sci-fi/fantasy set.

The basic premise is that the supernatural exists and has been integrated into British society. One can be turned into a supernatural (a werewolf, vampire, or ghost) if one has excess soul. Alexia Tarabotti is the opposite, a preternatural, one born without a soul. Along with a lack of creativity, she has the ability to negate supernaturalness with a touch, temporarily turning vampires and werewolves back into mere mortals, and (more permanently) exorcising ghosts. While London society is aware of the supernatural, it is blissfully ignorant of the preternatural.

In the first book, Soulless, Alexia stumbles into a plot in which someone is manufacturing vampires. Which brings her into contact with Lord Conal Maccon, the Alpha of the local werewolf pack and head of the government's Bureau of Unnatural Registry (BUR) which has jurisdiction over all things supernatural.

The second and third books takes the readers onto a dirigible ride into Scotland, and a mad dash into France and Italy, respectively. Along the way, Alexia learns more of her preternatural heritage and picks up odd companions to make up her Parasol Protectorate.

If you're looking for high literature, these aren't it. What these are are just plain fun. They're tongue-in-cheek, witty, full of a hodge-podge of eccentric characters, and enough political machinations to shake a parasol at. Plus, fantastic world-building (I'm a world-building junkie) of the supernatural/human culture. Each successive book is better than the last, and I'm eagerly awaiting the publication of the fourth book next July. (Is it July yet?)

"A vampire, like a lady, never reveals his true age."

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Some Thoughts on Elizabeth Moon and Wiscon

SF3 has formally announced that it has withdrawn it's Wiscon 35 Guest of Honor invitation to Elizabeth Moon. While there is no explanation of why, it's pretty certain it's related to her blog post "Citizenship" from September 11th.

I find myself conflicted over this. I understand where SF3 is coming from. Many found Moon's posting deeply offensive, including some of the Wiscon staff. On the other hand, it does create ill-will and paint the con in a bad light for many, including those who have already pre-registered and paid looking forward to seeing Moon there as GoH.

But yet, when I think though this I find I ultimately agree with SF3's action. This was not a kneejerk, spur-of-the-moment decision. Moon's post was on September 11th. SF3 made their public announcement on October 21st. It is fairly obvious there was a long internal conversation about this (with some staffers threatening to quit if Moon remained GoH). Ultimately, I think SF3 decided that given the public conversation about Moon at the moment, that was not the particular conversation they want framing their con. Which is solely in their right.

If you go back and read Moon's post, she makes the point that new immigrates must assimilate to survive, and that is their duty as a good citizen. On the surface, this is a fairly innocuous statement -- until you probe deeper. The United States is a melting pot in which different cultures have come together to create a new, shared culture. But new cultures are continually entering into the pot, and rather than embracing and accepting them into the mix, American discourse has focused on excluding them. This is the case with the immigration debate, and the anti-Muslim hysteria that has undertaken our nation. I find this extremely disturbing and hypocritical.

Focusing on Muslim-Americans for a moment, I have to ask Who cares? Muslim hatred is no different than anti-Semitism or anti-Catholcism, or racism, or any other form of -ism out there. It is the painting of an entire group based on the actions of a subset of that group, or the belief in a stereotype that is not entirely true. We don't associate all Baptists with Fred Phelps, and we shouldn't associate all Muslims with Al Qaeda. Then there are those who not only continue to believe that President Obama is a Muslim, but say it as it's a bad thing -- by spouting such rhetoric, they are only exposing themselves as the bigots they are. But they are only the tip of a larger anti-Muslim voice that has been steadily gaining traction in the country.

The thought that "assimilation" is their only hope of success is deeply offensive when you consider what such assimilation would entail. For many, religion and culture are intrinsically intertwined, and to do without one is to do without the other. In France, this mindset has led to a law banning the burqa. While I would like to believe that something like that would not happen here, I would have never believed it would happen in France, either.

Moon's post sounds very reasonable, but it is indicative of moderate America, believing that the immigrant has a responsibility to compromise their culture but that those who are already here do not have the corresponding responsibility to accept this new culture. This speaks to a deeper societal issue of intolerance that needs to be addressed in order for America to continue to be the America founded on the principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Happy Genocide Day

It's been a while since my last post, and I have a number of half-written, half-baked ideas floating around ye ol' drafts folder. But instead of finishing one of those, I wanted to speak out about something: Columbus Day. It's a federally recognized holiday in which the federal government and many other businesses take off, school districts around the country are closed, and about which children are taught about the "discovery" of America by Europeans.

Growing up, my school district never got the day off; perhaps this was a political decision, as we were more liberal than most. Perhaps it was just logistical, giving us that day somewhere else like after Thanksgiving. But yet, I still learned "In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue" and the story of the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa María. It was the cookie-cutter history that every other school child learned, and has learned since.

Yet having a day devoted to a man who was, to be frank, not very nice and was the poster child for the near annihilation of the native peoples of two continents never sat well with me, even as a child. I guess my liberal roots sprouted early in life. On the scale of human history, I sympathize more with the Lakota, Arapaho, and Cheyenne than with Custer.

In college, I made a conscious, somewhat tongue in cheek, decision to refer to Columbus Day as "Genocide Day." It was supposed to be a humorous and not very serious declaration. This year, I'm continuing with that, but making it more serious.

So this year, and every year from now, I'm going to celebrate Columbus Day as "Genocide Remembrance Day" and take a few moments to think about all those who have been victims of genocide throughout history, and even today. And I will start with the American Indians, who really, are overlooked, marginalized, and not even thought of on this day.

I think when I get home, I'll pick up my copy of Custer Died For Your Sins by Vine Deloria, Jr.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Movie Review: TiMER

Title: TiMER
Starring: Emma Caufield, Michelle Borth, John Patrick Amedori, and Desmond Harrington
Release Year: 2009

TiMER takes place in a world where people can buy an implant that will tell them when they will meet their soul mate. The story follows Oona (Emma Caufield), a 30-year-old a woman whose TiMER is blank, meaning her one and only has not received a TiMER. The move starts out with Oona dragging her TiMER-less boyfriend into a TiMER store to receive his implant. To her disappointment, he is not her one and they part ways.

What would you do if the uncertainty is taken out of love?

For Oona, she desperately dates guys without TiMERs in the hopes one of them is for her. Her stepsister Steph (Michelle Borth), whose TiMER won't hit zero until she is 42, has anonymous sex with random guys - something which disgusts Oona. But after their younger brother receives his TiMER and learns he will meet his soul mate in just a few days, Oona changes her mind and starts an affair with a much younger man: a supermarket clerk by day, indie rock musician by night. His TiMER is four months away from zeroing out.

The movie subtly shows the importance of life being unscripted. For some (such as Oona's mother), the TiMER is a miraculous invention that has done away with the heartbreak associated with failed relationships. For Oona, the TiMER has been a curse she has lived with, mocking her with the possibility that she would never find true love. In TiMER, the quest for romantic completeness is portrayed as the be-all, end-all of life, and those whose TiMERs have not yet zeroed out are simply biding their time. This is a disconcerting mindset, and perhaps is is a mild poke at the cultural obsession with finding true love so prevalent in books, movies, and fairy tales.

I enjoyed TiMER and thought it was an interesting departure from the normal romantic comedies out there. The premise is unique (if complete scientific bullshit) and there is enough sociological philsophying to make my brain happy.

"Do you think the TiMER actually works, or is it just a self-fulfilling prophecy?"

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Dude, Where's My Forehead?

A while ago, I started a book list over at Goodreads titled "Dude, Where's My Forehead?". I seeded the list with scads of books I've noticed where the cover figure is sans anything above his/her nose (and it's usually her). Since then, the list has exploded with people making their own additions of forehead-less books.

Not surprisingly, most of them are romance, chick-lit, or paranormal urban fantasy, that new subgenre of fantasy that has taken on a life of its own recently. But not all. Oh, no. Classic titles have taken the meme and run with it.

Exhibits A, B, and C:

I don't doubt that these are very striking covers. There is something very alluring about them, and a hint of mystery. Just what does the rest of the face look like? Are the eyes looking at you? Closed?

The eyes are one of the most expressive parts of a person's body. They can convey sadness, happiness, amusement, anger, lust, hate, annoyance, loneliness, and boredom. There are some who say the eyes are the window's to a person's soul. So why are the eyes not shown on these book covers? It could be laziness. Really expressive eyes are difficult to capture in a painting or even a photograph. But eyes, when done well, are extremely haunting. A few years ago, I felt like getting some culture and decided to go visit the National Gallery of Art for a day. There was one painting by Renoir, Madame Henriot, which stopped me dead in my tracks, and I found myself circling through the rooms just to go visit it again. There were other Renoir paintings with amazing eyes, but none that struck me like Madame Henriot's. If Renoir had been less skilled with painting her expressive eyes, the painting would probably not have moved me. It is otherwise a pretty ordinary portrait done in neutral tones. The only dark spots are her hair and eyes.

Eyes are also integral to a person's identity. They are the organs with which we view the world. By hiding the eyes, the cover artist could be playing into subconscious wish-fulfillment. You too could be the heroine: slayer of demons, lover of pirates, and star of your own story.

Or, another theory. Without the eyes, the focus moves to the lips, which are an inherently sensual part of the body. We use our lips to kiss, smile, murmur, caress. Lips are beautiful and we are drawn to them. The focus on the lips could be a subtle hint to the sexiness within a book. When you stare at another's lips, you imply you wish to kiss him or her. So looking at the lips on a cover, you subliminally want the book; need the book; want to take it home and spend long hours with it.

Of course, this all boils down to marketing. And the truth is, covers sell books. No matter how many times we hear, "Don't judge a book by its cover," we still do. We all have a little magpie in our hearts, and it is human nature to be drawn to things that we find visually appealing. And those forehead-less covers do look pretty cool.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Crocheting Hyperbolically

In October, the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History (whew, that's a mouthful) is exhibiting the Smithsonian Community Reef. The Smithsonian reef is a satellite of the Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef, a project of the Institute of Figuring. Hookers around the region and nation are invited to contribute pieces for the reef.

The project is the brainchild of two sisters, Christine Wertheim and Margaret Wertheim. Daina Taimina of the University of Cornell figured out that using crochet, one can easily create a three-dimensional model of a hyperbolic plane by crocheting in the round and incorporating increases. Thought to be completely theoretical by mathematicians, hyperbolic planes are actually fairly abundant in nature, particularly underwater. It is no coincidence that the Wertheims were inspired by Taimina's work to create crocheted coral reefs to raise awareness of the plight of the earth's oceans.

Here are some that I've made:

The Crochet Coral Reef Project is much like the AIDS quilt, in which many people can contribute and parts of it can be displayed throughout the world. The Community Reef will actually be made up of three separate reefs. The first will be a healthy reef in which many colors and fibers are used; the second will be a bleached reef consisting of only white, gray, and off-white colors; the last is a trash reef made of recycled, found, or trash objects. I'm planning a coral for the trash reef with a trim of soda pop-tabs.

If you're interested in hyperbolic crochet, here's a short article from Interweave Crochet.

If you're more interested in the mathy bits, here's a more substantive article co-authored by Dr. Taimina.

The Smithsonian Community Reef will open October 16, 2010 and run through April 24, 2011 in the Sant Ocean Hall of the Natural History Museum. If you are interested in contributing to the reef, please visit the ravelry group for specifics.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Book Review: The Actor and the House Wife

Title: The Actor and the Housewife
Author: Shannon Hale
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Publication Date: June 2009

Shannon Hale is best known for her beloved young adult fantasy series that began with The Goose Girl (disclaimer: I have not read this, but it is definitely in my TBR pile), a retelling of the Grimm fairy tale of the same name. She has written a total of nine books, only two of which were for adults. This is one of them.

Hale is an extremely versatile writer. She can make you laugh, cry, and wince in sympathy with her characters. Based on her bibliography, she loves a good fairy tale and a good love story. Oddly enough, The Actor and the Housewife is neither -- at first glance. The plot is something out of a movie: frumpy housewife from Utah becomes best friends with A-list Hollywood heartthrob.

This is a modern fairy tale where the improbable occurs and miraculous things happen to ordinary people. True, there are no fairy godmothers who wave wands so that the servant girl can make it to the ball on time to meet fair prince. But there is something magical in a plot where someone ordinary meets someone unattainable. So yes, it is a fairy tale.

It is also a love story, only without the romance. The main characters meet and fall headfirst into platonic love for one another. Becky (the housewife) tried to explain it to Felix (the actor), pointing to the "I'm Going to Go Back There Someday" song Gonzo sings in The Muppet Movie. Specifically, she cites the line "There's not a word yet for old friends who've just met" -- because Becky and Felix's relationship clicks from the very beginning. And like any good love story, they encounter obstacles. They are both happily married, and Becky struggles with how to have a friendship with a man. They are also complete opposites: Becky is a Mormon, Felix is staunchly secular. They confuse and confound one another, and yet they still are drawn to each other.

(Side note: Don't let the religion aspect turn you away. It's quietly there, and definitely not preachy.)

Based on the reviews I've found, this is a book you either love or hate. It should be apparent where I fall into that spectrum. I started reading the book on the train commute home from work and had to force myself to put the book down so I can do such trivial things as shower, sleep, and earn money. I laughed with the characters, cried with the characters, and fell in utter love with the entire book.

A common complaint by reviewers is how secondary Becky's family and Felix's wife are in the book. But aren't they supposed to be? We are all the stars in the movie that is our lives, and everyone around us are the supporting cast. This is first and foremost the story of Becky and Felix (just look at the title!). Hale makes no bones about that, and peppers that point throughout the text, glossing over background events to focus on the progression of the relationship between the two title characters.

The Actor and the Housewife is plotted like a movie, something that Hale did deliberately and masterfully. And like any good movie, it sucks you in and doesn't let go until the very end when the credits start rolling. Don't forget the popcorn.

"It was karma, it was kismet, it was magic. It doesn't matter how it happened, just that it did."

New Blog

As if I really need yet another thing to update, but I suppose it is only human nature to:
  1. Want to talk about oneself;
  2. Want to talk about the things that interests one; and
  3. Want to talk about one's interests to others who share those same interests.
So here I am.

We'll see what topics pop up, but I read, play with yarn, cook, and a whole bunch of other things. I'm envisioning a blog that is part-review site, part-craft site, part-random musings.

A brief tour: On the sidebar, underneath all the boring stuff, you'll see a few of my favorite things. The first box under the blog archive is a rotating quotation widget (how cool!) of various quotations that strike my fancy. The next box shows the latest books I've finished reading. The bottom box is a link to my ravelry page.
(I like widgets; can you tell?)

Welcome to Mobius Dreams.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Book Review: Julian Comstock

Julian Comstock: A Story of 22nd-Century America by Robert Charles Wilson

With Julian Comstock, Robert Charles Wilson has created a world in which oil has dried up and civilization as it was known is no longer. The peoples of the world have devolved to an eighteenth-century way of living, complete with social norms. This new society has been built on the graves of the past, literally. The title character is the nephew of the current President, sent into exile for his own safety. But then the war finds him, and safety is no longer a possibility.

First off, there was absolutely fantastic world-building. The world which Wilson creates is vivid, raw, and very much probable. It could, in fact, be our world in a century or two. The narrator, Julian's common-born best friend, speaks of the time of Efflorescence of Oil when the Secular Ancients lived, and considers it an era of gross consumption and moral degeneration.

The story revolves around Julian's rise to power, almost comical in its accidentalness. And peppered throughout is some subtle (and not so subtle) commentary on social inequality, religious monopoly, creativity and censorship, learning, the hazards of fashion, and questioning the status quo.

I was not myself very enamored with the book, but from the accolades and awards the book has garnered, I appear to be in the minority. I did love the glimpses into this brave new world Wilson has created, and for that alone it is worth a read. If you are a fan of post-apocalyptic fiction or military fiction, this is right up your alley.

"The territory through which we passed had been overbuilt in the days over the Secular Ancients, but only a few traces of that exuberant time remained, and a whole forest had grown up since then, maple and birch and pine, its woody roots no doubt entwined with artifacts from the Efflorescence of Oil and with the bones of the artifacts' owners. What is the modern world, Julian once asked, but a vast Cemetery, reclaimed by nature? Every step we took reverberated in the skulls of our ancestors, and I felt as if there were centuries rather than soil beneath my feet."

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Re-Reading is Good for the Soul

I have been discovering a lot of new authors lately but there are always those books I turn to when I need a quick pick-me-up or I'm in a reading slump or I just want to revisit with old friends. There is nothing quite like re-reading an old favorite, whether it's been months or years since the last time. For me, my comfort reads tend to fall into the science fiction or fantasy genres, which really is no surprise. Those were the books I read almost exclusively during my formative years.

A friend of mine is so busy at the moment that he is only reading new books. I think he's missing out.

We're human. We forget things. If it has been years since I last read a book, I can guarantee you that I will remember practically nothing about it other than if I liked it or not. In a way, it is almost like reading a new book, but not quite. You get deja vu as you turn the pages, and laugh in the same places you laughed before, and cry in the same places you cried before, and at the very end, you are still cheering for the main characters as they ride off into the sunset for their happily ever after.

Or, you get the shock that the book just isn't as good as you remember it. Which happens. Tastes change, we get more sophisticated in our language usage, or just expect more in a book than we did before. I, for one, have become utterly spoiled by Lois McMaster Bujold. Because of her, I now demand consistent characterization, realistic character development, a multi-layered but realistic plot, and well-written language. (I know, right? So demanding!)

I grew up on Nancy Drew. I devoured them, sometimes more than one in a span of a day. A while back, I picked up one of the classic Nancy Drew books, one of the one with the yellow covers, and tried to read it. I just couldn't. The writing was simplistic, the dialogue was painful in places, and I could not suspend my disbelief enough to ignore the first two.

But those are few and far between. I've found that generally, even if I've outgrown an author, I don't outgrow the books I have already read.

Whenever I go through a reading funk (and it happens more often than I would like), whether it's because I just don't have as much time at the moment to read, I don't find any particular book on my to-be-read list interesting enough to pick up, or I've gone through X number of not-so-great books, I find myself returning to old favorites. These are books that blew me away the first time I read them, that I connected to in some way, or played a role in the person I am today.

When I was in middle school, one of those books was The Talking Earth by Jean Craighead George. I read the library's copy repeatedly and I probably would have read it to pieces if it had been in paperback. Some others that I still find myself revisitng are:
  • Jackaroo by Cynthia Voight: I swear this was the book that began my lifelong obsession with outlaws.
  • The Outlaws of Sherwood by Robin McKinley: This book focused my outlaw obsession on Robin Hood
  • The Lark and Wren by Mercedes Lackey: Long after I've outgrown this author, I still find myself re-reading this book every year or two.

Oddly enough, I don't find myself re-reading books that I first discovered as an adult, no matter how much I love them. Maybe I just haven't found that one special book yet.

Does anyone want to share their favorite re-reads?