I love it when I stumble over a book

by dichroic in books

Huh. A while back I wrote A Girl Called Alice, a crossover fic combining two of E. Nesbit’s sets of characters, the Bastables and the Psammead from Five Children and It, set during WWI. Nesbit’s children were just the right age to end up in the trenches or supporting those who are).

No way of knowing if she ever saw it, but Kate Saunders (whose book Beswitched I liked, because it reads like a cross between Nesbit and Angela Brazil) has written Five Children on the Western Front – the original children who met the Psammead grown up and in WWI. Sadly, it currently seems to be out only in England and not in e-book format (though it can be ordered from US resellers). The Guardian seems to like it a lot. I think I’m going to have to buy a hard copy – I wouldn’t be surprised if this one never does get issued in the US.

Come to think of it, I’ve been encountering Nesbitiana a few places lately – I know I recently saw those same kids (Squirrel, Anthea, Cyril and Jane) somewhere or other, but I don’t remember where at the moment. And there’s an unmistakeable allusion to The Railway Children and to Nesbit herself in Pratchett’s latest book, Raising Steam. I first found Nesbit because Edward Eager was always having his characters praise her, so it’s nice to see more recent books mentioning her.

Oh – and while writing about books, I should mentioned that The Penderwicks in Spring came out last week, and is every bit as good as earlier Penderwicks books. Some time has past, but this book focuses on Batty, who was about 4 in previous books and is now coming up on 11 so it’s aimed at the same demographic of readers as the earlier books. I’ve read that there will be another gap between this and the last book, but there’s a new sister, Lydia, who’s just a toddler here so I’d guess it will center on her. Ben, who was two in earlier books, has grown into an engaging second grader who is very much his own person and easily distinguished from any of his siblings. It’s clearer than ever that the Penderwicks are lucky enough to have a very understanding set of adults; I was thinking about that, because it’s not very common in kids’ books. Normally for the kids to be able to have adventures, the adults have to be removed either in the literal sense, by death or absence, or by their own remoteness. Or less often (but more realistically for me) the parents are just find but don’t really understand the kids or what they’re thinking and doing. If I try to think of parents as understanding as the Penderwicks I keep going back to Little Women and Alcott’s other books (and I don’t think the March parents were nearly as good as Jo and her sisters think they were, though I understand why Louisa May needed to tell herself that story. But Rose’s uncle seems better, as do Polly’s offstage parents). With the addition of two new siblings, the Penderwicks don’t mirror the Marches as closely as they did in previous books anyway – though one plot development is hinted at here that’s all too close to Little Women, so I’m hoping that doesn’t materialize.

religious differences

by dichroic in musing

Some days I’m amazed at how much Christians and Jews differ in their approach to theology. Some Christians, anyway.

I am not even talking about Indiana’s recent “religious freedom law” now (I’m embarrassed to see in the Indy Star that people present at the private signing of that bill include Orthodox Jews as well as Catholic monks and nuns, conservative lobbyists, and so on.)

Yesterday, I received a postcard from a local church advertising their Easter service, talking about how they offer a “fresh message”. That’s the part I don’t get. First of all, if you’re going to be a Christian at all, how could any new message be more powerful than the age-old “He is Risen?” Second, isn’t some of the power of that precisely because it isn’t fresh at all but because people have been celebrating that same message for the last two thousand years? This confuses me, but maybe that’s because the whole point of Passover is to repeat the same story we’ve been telling for a few thousand years.

(Said church also mentioned their “authentic worship”. I take that to mean “we really mean the words we’re saying – we’re not just repeating set prayers”. This is also different from Jewish tradition where it’s important to say the words in community, even if they get mumbled more as a mantra than a literal prayer, but that discussion probably needs a better theologian than me.)

Jackson Hole

by dichroic in daily updates, photos, travel

My birthday gift this year was a long weekend skiing in Jackson Hole. (In 2011 Ted planned a trip to Venice for my birthday -0 that is, he surprised me with the plans and tickets on my birthday, then we actually went a week later. That was such a success that we have since been to Lisbon (2012) and Seattle (2014) for my birthday weekend. In 2013 we had just moved to Oregon, so we did local things and adopted our cats that weekend, instead.) It was great – not a good year for snow there, by their standards, but that still left us enough for pretty decent skiing.

I had forgotten how tiring skiing is – not the skiing itself, so much, but the walking around in skiboots, from the lodge to the lift, down stairs to the restrooms, and so on. Also we hadn’t been on skis in about a decade, and one thing I do remember is that the better you get, the more you let gravity do the work. Unfortunately I wasn’t feeling confident enough to go very fast, so I was using lots of muscle to turn and slow down a lot. We didn’t get lessons because we only had two days on the slopes but next time I definitely will. Also I will do more endurance-training workouts before hand – I was pretty exhausted hiking up a mountain two weeks ago, too, so at least some of this weekend’s fatigue was just about conditioning, I think. (Or maybe I really do need those thyroid pills I’m taking – still too soon for them to have had any effect.)

But it was beautiful there, and it was good being outside on the snow. The weather was surprisingly warm (unfortunatley this made for wet heavy snow on Sunday, though Saturday was better). It definitely left me wanting to go again, a lot sooner than 10 years from now.

Only airport inside a national park:
jackson airport

Me at the top of the gondola and then looking out over the slopes:
jackson_hole

me_jackson

And now, with this and the Venice trip, I can say I’ve ridden both kinds of gondola on my birthday trips (though technically the previous pics were at the top of the gondola, and these are of the tram, which goes even higher):
gondola

pano

Also, good shopping in the town of Jackson. These hover perilously on the line between fabulous and ridiculous, but I finally caved and bought them (50% off! and very comfortable). I’m wearing them today under boot-cut jeans but I think they’ll be cute with short dresses too.:
boot

feminism, and also a farewell

by dichroic in daily updates

A woman I know posted on her Facebook the other day something like, “A married woman never has to worry about being childless, as long as her husband is around.” This is someone I’d consider wise, but the best of us have our weak spots. (She s married once, but only briefly.) I married a grown-up, and I’m grateful for that amazingly often.

I also married a feminist. The other day he mentioned that he was trying to figure out how to approach his local HR person to register a complaint: apparently, she’d been asking only the women who work for him to help plan social doings, never the men. He didn’t think that was fair. (He did go talk to her; apparently she was surprised and said she’d never realized she was doing that, which sounds awfully disingenuous to me. But possible, I suppose.)

Then yesterday, my car showed a CHANGE OIL SOON message. I called the dealer, since we’d just had it in there to have the oil changed. They told me “Oh, yeah, we must have forgotten to reset it. Just bring the car in any time and we can do that for you.” When I told my husband, he said, “That happened before on the truck, and they just told me how to reset it myself. I bet they’d have done that this time if a guy had called.” So I googled it, and sure enough, resetting the sensor (timer? mile-counter?) is a trivial thing.

It’s much harder to notice prejudice when you’re on the privilege end of it; he’s doing a good job these days.

And because I can’t not mention the death of Sir Terry Pratchett, here’s a great article about him by Neil Gaiman. I think this is some of why his books are so much more than just funny; his best characters (in my opinion, Granny Weatherwax, Sam Vimes, and Tiffany Aching) all have that same righteous rage in them.

Wish he could keep writing so we could get his views on what happens on the other side of Death’s house.

the tea setup

by dichroic in photos

image
Yay, I have a tea container! I was storing it in the plastic bags it comes in (I can buy loose tea in bulk at the local supermarket) and they aren’t all that sturdy so I finally broke down and bought a canister. I really love that red TeaVana mug; the infuser that fits into it makes brewing loose tea more convenient (it has its own little lid to sit on and it doesn’t leak leaves into the tea cup, two very minor annoyance factors that can otherwise make tea bags less trouble to use). Nore importantly if you click the lid shut, it doesn’t leak. Like ever – you can throw it up and catch it or turn it over and there will be zero tea escaping. And somehow even though it can keep tea hot for hours (literally, 2-3 hours if closed) it cools it at first so I almost never burn my mouth.

In the background of the picture is my little kettle, which is so adorable that the office manager bought two just like it for general use. Personally I bought it because T-fal usually seems to be reliable and my previous low-end-brand kettle stopped working after a few months, but apparently for her looks are more important. So far, it’s been managing to succeed in both form and function.

azaleas!

by dichroic in daily updates, knitting, photos

It’s not even my birthday (that’s next week) so I don’t think this is supposed to be happening yet – but apparently nobody told them:
IMG_1831
Tomorrow is the Rose City Yarn Crawl. My local yarn shop organized a group going in a limo, starting on the far side of town, so there will be lots of riding. (I mean, we’ll meetout here but our first stop is way over in Gresham.) I’ve got knitting to take; I cast on a cowl just for this, on the theory that I want it for skiing next week and my other current projects aren’t ideal for car knitting. I’m just having trouble to decide what to wear, since there’s a 30-degree F difference between tomorrow’s forecasted highs and lows, and what to take for lunch. I think I’ve settled on a sleeveless gray top and navy cords as a base, then layered over that a shawl (probably this one or this one, a denim jacket and possibly another jacket if it feels cold when I leave. For lunch, I might take summer sausage, cheesesticks and gorp so I can just nibble.

Apparently we are going to be visiting 11 different shops. I feel like I might need to buy yarn at the first one and leave a clew behind me, like Jason in the Minotaur’s maze. If I don’t make it back, lock my credit cards and send help.

doing Oregon things

by dichroic in daily updates

What a great weekend. We did the sort of thing we used to do a lot back when we moved to Arizona, before they filled up the lake there and rowing took over our lives. I miss things like hiking and rock climbing; I also miss going out to restaurants even if my own cooking has leveled up a bit. This weekend we did both.

We started out Saturday morning at Longbottom coffee for breakfast; they may market themselves as mostly a coffee and tea shop, but they actually had a fiarly diverse breakfast menu, and they were happy to make my breakfast burrito without eggs. (I don’t have food intolerances, just don’t like them). Ted had an egg strata thingy that he also seemed to like. I actually didn’t like the coffee quite as much as the food – my decaf latte was OK, but Ted’s regular decaf tasted burnt – not dark roasted, but kind of burnt. But a) I’m not really a coffee person and b) we both had decaf, as mentioned, so take that with a grain of salt. Anyway, it as pretty decent, just not stellar. We’ve been disappointed with the breakfast places around here, since they tend toard being either greasy or limited of menu, so this was a nice find.

Since we’d decided to go out for dinner too, I wisely ate only have of my breakfast and got a box for the rest (the potatoes that came with my burrito were definitely worth saving! and the burrito itself held up for today’s lunch.)

We went grocery shopping, erged, and did some errands, then went to the Chart House for dinner. The view was spectacular – we could see downtown, the river, Mt Hood and Mt. St. Helens. The food was good; my beet salad with goat cheese, arugula, and “prosciutto crisps” (aka fancy bacon bits!) was probably the high point for me, though Ted’s salmon and my mixed seafood grill, with salmon, shrimp scampi, and crab cake were also tasty (except the crab cake, but I think I just don’t like those). The one disappointment was the winelist – nothing intrinsically wrong with it, but even though the restaurant is a chain, when it’s in a wine region as rich as this one I’d expect something more regionally slanted. I suspect this means the menu is standard across the chain, too.

On Sunday we hiked up Saddle Mountain which is why I’m sore today. The weather was good and lots of people had the same idea, so the parking lot was pretty crowded. It’s a little over 2.5 miles, with a 1600′ elevation gain; apparently it had been longer than I’d realized since I’d done a hike like that. By the steepest bits near the top, I was not only huffing but having to stop for a minute after every little segment fo the trail. I’m in pretty good shape from rowing at the moment, but I find I get tired just as fast when I do other sports. The main place it helps is that I recover a lot faster than I would otherwise. The hike was well worth being tired then and sore today; once you get to the peak, you can see the ocean to the west and south, and Mountains Hood, Saint Helens, Adams and Ranier to the east and north. It was both pretty and comfortable hiking this time of year, too; cool enough for a light jacket but no more than that (meaning that half the Portlanders hiking past us were in shorts, the remainder wore tights or jeans, and the vast majority were in sneakers rather than hiking boots), and with long views all the way up that will be obscured by leaves in another month or two. Right now the branches are just putting out buds, so there were bits of green everywhere without covering up the view.

There were daffodils along the road on the drive there too, as well as the flowering trees I’m seeing everywhere (cherry or dogwood or probably both). Those wild daffodils are one of the things I love about spring here.

more good things

by dichroic in books

We’re going to the lake house this weekend – we haven’t been there for a few weeks, and after this we aren’t likely to go for another four more. There are good and bad sides to this: the good side is that we won’t make it down there (unless we go next weekend) because the weekend after next I will be doing fun Yarn Crawl stuff, doing the Crawl with a group in a limo on r and showing off my designs on Sunday, and the weekend after that we’re going skiing for the first time in very many years. The down side is that we’d hoped to race this year and that’s going to be a bit iffy if we don’t get some water time. I think I’m in pretty decent share for it, due to the rowing machine, but it isn’t quite the same. We should have good weather for rowing this week, at least.

I’ve found a new YA series I like enough to want to recommend; the first book is called The Eighth Day and it does something with the Arthurian myth cycle that’s sort of like what Rick Riordan did with the Ancient Greek myths, but different enough to be very much its own unique thing. (The hero is named Jaxon, so these books will feel a bit dated in fifteen years, but meanwhile I’ve recommended it to an acquaintance who has a son with that name.) Also, it’s turning the Chosen One trope – the kid who learns that he (most often he) was born with a special destiny – in a slightly new direction that I’ve seen a couple other times lately, notably in the (more mediocre) Jack Templar books. Yes, the hero is born to greatness yadda yadda and he doesn’t have to decide if he’s special, just what side he’s on – but he’s got friends who choose to join him, who have nothing special about them except their own will. It’s a good start; next I’d like to see it turned around to where the ordinary kid saves the day with the gifted one as sidekick.

And the biggest news: according to my publisher’s statement, apparently I’m going to get a royalty check! We’re not talking much money – we can share a pizza and have a beer each if we don’t go to a fancy brewpub – but this is my first one, and means the book has earned out its advance, so I’m pretty giddy.

On the down side, a minor annoyance: today I had a discussion with a coworker about how much time Real Authors actually spend with butt in chair typing. (It is worth noting that coworker writes but has never published – I don’t think she’s tried. She’s basing this on “all the authors she knows.”) It is totally true that writing while on “sabbatical”, as I did, is definitely the easy way to go; I have vast admiration for the people like Jim Hines or Merrie Haskell who get books finished while holding down day jobs. On the other hand, coworker claims that if I’d been under the gun to earn a living from my writing, I’d have spent much more time at the keyboard every day. I contend that if I’d spent ten hours in that chair instead of four, I’d have produced the same amount of usable writing and six hours worth of crap. I’m not saying this is true for all writers – Asimov apparently wrote for 8 hours a day, every day – but I’m pretty sure that for a lot of people, brain-growing-back time is part of the writing gig. I suppose it’s possible that you develop more endurance over time, though.

good things

by dichroic in daily updates

A couple of brags: Just a couple of days ago I learned that my book has a review up on Amazon! (I mean, a critic’s review, not a reader’s review – still none of those.) It’s from the American Society for Quality’s main journal, Quality Progress – since I am an ASQ member and get that one, I checked back. It’s a full review in the December edition and can be seen online here – the tag line that Amazon quotes is “This is a balanced, well-written, practical and easy-to-read guide on business process management, and I strongly recommend it.”

Yay!

In a completely different field, because I created one of their designs for this year’s Rose City Yarn Crawl, I am in the “Designer Spotlight” my local yarn store – here’s their newsletter. I’ll be in the store one day of the Crawl to show off and discuss my designs.

And today I walked into our daily standup meeting two mintues late, only to find that the manager whose turn it was to run it today was showing off something I led and talking about how much he liked it.

I suppose things might be about to head downhill from here, but meanwhile I’ll enjoy it!

cooking (and not cooking)

by dichroic in OR house

It’s very annoying that some of my updates get rejected by LJ; no idea why that happens. (This is why yesterday’s update from here just went up over there – if you read an LJ and you didn’t see it, it’s about workouts, migraines, massages and thyroid function and involves some minor kvetching. Nothing too exciting.)

I love where I live in many ways, but I do really miss having lots of restaurants close by. We have lots of great burger places and brewpubs, but it would be nice to have a couple of fancier places. Beaverton (the next town in) has a few, but otherwise they’re all in town, a bit far for weeknights. I do really like BJ’s brewpub, which has a large and varied menu, but I don’t want to go to the same place every week. (I have read plenty of older books in which people eat at the same restaurant every night. These aren’t even always wealthy people – in some cases they’re poor and just don’t have their own kitchen. I would hate that, but if I had to do it I could do worse than BJ’s.)

The upside is that we have a really excellent grocery store (a Fred Meyer), plus nearby Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and New Seasons in case I feel the need to spend more or get lesser-known vegetables or a wider variety of grains. (To be honest, though, I think the meat quality at Freddy’s might beat any of those pricier stores for taste.) So I’ve been doing a lot more cooking than when we were in previous cities.

Normally Ted does his fair share of the cooking. I do more of the planning, at least in broad outline, though he’s come up with some interesting riffs on the main ingredients. For the last few weeks, though, he’s been working 12-15-hour days – lucky if he gets home in time to eat the food, forget about cooking it. He’s been doing some work at home on weekends, too. So it’s been mostly me.

I just got a copy of Ree Drummond’s The Pioneer Woman Cooks, which is also helping for inspiration. She cooks the way I do (not a lot of measuring, quite a lot of butter). I much prefer weekend to weekday cooking – I get the feeling that cooking for her husband, four kids and ranch cowboys pretty much is a full-time job, which may explain why she isn’t in such a hurry on weekdays. I understand that most of the recipes are on her blog, but it is easier to cook from a book, and I’ve gotten enough use from her online recipes that I’m happy to throw some money her way. (Which got me thinking so I just checked – and what do you know, Kenji Lopez-Alt has a cookbook. coming out. If you’re wondering whether to buy his book, just go get a thick steak, a cast-iron frying pan, and follow his directions.)

Last Saturday night was steaks, caprese salad, homemade bread, homemade kruidenboter (herbed butter), and some tapenade from Freddy’s, with a Syrah from Abacela. It was so similar to what I’d have eaten at a Dutch steak restaurant (except that the beef and wine came from Oregon, rather than Argentina and France respectively) that I had to have coffee to top it off. I even dug out some little pieces of mint bark left over from Christmas (we had a couple kinds – the better one is long since eaten!) because Dutch coffee is always served with a cookie or sweet on the side – the koekje bij. Sunday was enchiladas, made to Ree Drummond’s recipe, which are definitely going on our rotation. They’re a bit fiddly, because you have to make the sauce (starts from a can, but mixed with broth and seasoning), brown the beef and onions, fry the tortillas, then dip each tortilla in the sauce and assemble the enchiladas. They’re not horrible for a weekend meal, though – maybe an hour or so. And last night was back to Ree Drummond again, for her recipe for shrimp penne with tomato cream sauce – I made a full batch and have just had some more of it for lunch. Unusually for Drummond, this one actually does work for quick weeknight cooking, and I’d probably be able to make it again without looking at the recipe.

The other thing I’ve been doing to balance all this cooking is just skipping dinner some nights – just having popcorn or soup or a salad or a baked potato. With the more intense workouts I seem to always be starving int he late morning and at lunch, but there are also times when I’m just not to hungry at dinner (probably because of how much I eat earlier in the day!) so I figure it’s better to honor that than to cook food I don’t want. (And if Ted comes home and does want food, well, that’s why we deep-fried an extra turkey at Christmas and froze all the meat. We’ve got that and plenty of other stuff handy for him.)