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David, by Earle Birney

One of my favourite poems. It seems to be so unknown :(

http://rpo.library.utoronto.ca/poems/david


Crosspost: http://silverflight8.dreamwidth.org/177044.html.

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Hey flist! I'm hosting the second part of the readalong for MWT's The Thief, in honour of its 20th birthday! Here's part one (chapters 1-3), and part two (chapters 4-6).

I'm actually cross-posting this all over because I spent absurd amounts of time on it. It's been ages since I've done this - I really should review in depth some of the books I've read recently, but it really does require hours of butt in chair time.


Crosspost: http://silverflight8.dreamwidth.org/176737.html.

books, I have read them

Wow, I haven't posted about my reading in forever. In fact there are still books undeleted from my kobo/marked as unread in Calibre cause I'm not even updating my spreadsheet of read books...for shame.

I finished Here Be Dragons. It improved as I went on, and the narrative really narrowed down a lot more after John's death, which was helpful - I don't really like a lot of POV-jumping. I find it hard to care as much when it constantly flips between people. At any rate, I didn't even recognize the Magna Carta when it showed up. Joanna calls it the Runnymede charter, which makes sense. You don't call it the ancien regime when you're in it. John's death also took me rather by surprise. I was reading a non-fiction biography sort of concurrently with Here Be Dragons, but very intermittently, during lunch breaks, and it was going much slower than Here Be Dragons, since it had to describe the warfare and political situations, esp on the continent.

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I also read the End of Karma: Hope and Fury Among India's Young, by Somini Sengupta, on recommendation from wordsofastory. It's a very engaging, well-written and also easy-to-plow-through book, which is really difficult to do. She doesn't shy away from talking about how ugly circumstances and life can be, but she doesn't pity or coddle either, and she does in an incredibly readable way. She takes stories from seven different young people, from all over the country with different ambitions and aspirations, and ties their expectations and hopes back to some of the hopes and promises that came out of independence. She calls them noonday's children - out of the dark, big dreams sometimes, wanting those promises to be fulfilled. And she wrote about inequality, which is something that is very relevant right now. This is an extremely recent book - especially since I'm always late to the party when it comes to reading new stuff - and it was good to see how she incorporated current events in her discussion. Overall extremely good, although I found the last chapter hard to get through - I had to slam the book closed a few times there because it was getting to me. This review is very short because I know next to nothing about India, history or current, and moreover I've had to return my book, but it's very good for someone who doesn't know India well at all.

I read Martha Wells' The Wizard Hunters in an effort to stave off my burning desire to have the next Raksura book. You know how you have books on your e-reader or shelf for ages and ages and are always excited about them when you're sorting through the library (and don't have the time to sit down and read), but when you are actually in a place to read you go, no, I'd rather reread this extremely trashy book for the 48572th time? Anyway, I finally started while I think I was waiting for the train and the opening part hooked me immediately, though when I say what it is it sounds rather horrible. Tremaine's looking for a way to kill herself that would be passed off as an accident - because her city's under siege and she doesn't really have close family anymore and it's not nearly as horrible and sad as it sounds! Oh god. Think Lirael's beginning or something.

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Crosspost: http://silverflight8.dreamwidth.org/176438.html.

!!

I got my chef's knife sharpened today, and it is the best seven dollars I have spent in my life. I was at the point where I couldn't cut tomato or pepper skin anymore, but now, now the knife goes through stuff like butter. I mean, it's so sharp I'll probably take a finger off one of these days, but I love it. I love it soooo much. This is gonna make cooking so much easier.


Crosspost: http://silverflight8.dreamwidth.org/176202.html.

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Sorrows of Young Werther

I finally finished it. I think my tolerance went up as I read it or it got less melodramatic (after that I no longer trust my judgement); I managed to get through to the end with a minimum of eye rolling.

Though when he started writing his suicide note addressed specifically to Charlotte saying basically "you're the cause of my death" and he thinks he loves her? I was more or less boggling while reading anyway, but that takes the cake. How wrapped up in yourself can you possibly be? Yes, obviously, he is not in a fit mental state, but that's amazing. (And then since he had no intention of immediately killing himself, he was obliged to add amendments to it...I assume, probably uncharitably, to twist the knife a little more. Whatever. Intentional or not, it would twist the knife. These things cannot be called love.)

I did not enjoy reading this. It's not even fun to mock because it's so self-pitying and melodramatic. There's bits where he bathes her hand in tears (I hope it was metaphorical; I am not reading it again to check). This is not how you treat someone you love. The condescension towards anyone of lower standing, perceived to be lesser, etc was constant and irritating, and Werther's naivete about children was grating (it's very much Romanticization - capital R and lower case r really - of childhood, which annoyed me when I first studied Romanticism and still annoys me.) There weren't even enjoyable rhapsodies about the landscape - which I still enjoy - because Werther would immediately have to inject his condescending social commentary or cry about Charlotte and his childhood again.

I've never liked woobies and I've never liked frail creatures. (Also I loathe the word woobie.) I've always preferred the hyper-competent people or the Scarlett O'Hara characters. Werther is pretty much the exact type of character I hate.

This is like the least helpful book review ever, but it's been a trying day.


Crosspost: http://silverflight8.dreamwidth.org/175912.html.

books catchup

I read Games Wizards Play and I was disappointed, to be honest.

Plotwise, it's quite interesting. There's nothing epic or earthshattering this time; instead the Wizards' Invitational is on, a competitive event where young wizards demonstrate their projects to a jury - a big international science fair. They are mentored by older wizards who the Powers think can pass on knowledge. It's meant to be a opportunity to help younger wizards experience without the life and death consequences that errantry usually brings.

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I also read Edge of Worlds, by Martha Wells, which I enjoyed a lot more. It's about the Raksura, a shape-shifters groundlings/skylings in a world full of different sapient species. It's been a few (peaceful) turns since the last book, but the whole court has had a strange, premonition dream linked again to the Fell, shape-shifters that prey on other species. Moon and Jade and some of the other Raksura sail away with a group of strange groundlings to investigate an sea-bound island that the groundlings think that the Fell-and-Raksuras' forerunners might have built.

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Progress mostly stalled on Sorrows of Young Werther and Here Be Dragons. I am reading a biography of John's rule during my breaks, and it's going well. It'd be going better if people in medieval England had more than like, five names in circulation. I cannot keep track of everyone! The big names, like William Marshal I can remember, but sometimes it's disputes of William vs William.


Crosspost: http://silverflight8.dreamwidth.org/175650.html.

I run out of time daily

In honour of April Poetry Month, one of my favourite poems:

Euclid Alone - Edna St Vincent Millay

Euclid alone has looked on Beauty bare.
Let all who prate of Beauty hold their peace,
And lay them prone upon the earth and cease
To ponder on themselves, the while they stare
At nothing, intricately drawn nowhere
In shapes of shifting lineage; let geese
Gabble and hiss, but heroes seek release
From dusty bondage into luminous air.
O blinding hour, O holy, terrible day,
When first the shaft into his vision shone
Of light anatomized! Euclid alone
Has looked on Beauty bare. Fortunate they
Who, though once only and then but far away,
Have heard her massive sandal set on stone.

I'm not doing the one poem a day posting (or writing - kudos to everyone doing that) but I am really appreciating all the poetry on my flist.


Crosspost: http://silverflight8.dreamwidth.org/175351.html.

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letter meme

evelyn_b gave me the letter H for this meme:

Something I hate: Hosiery. I hate pantyhose. It seems to develop runs if you so much as look at it wrong, and I've always felt it's had a whiff of old-fashioned sexism attached to it. It's also totally ineffective at keeping you warm.

Something I love: Haydn! I have been listening to the Creation again and enjoying it enormously. He's such a troll too. Full of surprises.

Somewhere I’ve been: Honolulu! It was glorious and beautiful and I would love, love, love to go back and photograph all the flowers (as well as explore and actually snorkel and everything). They've been photographed in every way possible already, but I'd love to go back.

Somewhere I’d like to go: Holland! Just the art alone, aaaa. I've been (very briefly) to Belgium but didn't have time to make it over to the other Low Countries.

Someone I know: Henry. For some reason I can't think of anyone else, and I even looked up names in my email addressbook AND looked up baby names online, and nope. (I do know other people whose last names start with H though.)

A filmbook I like: The Horse and His Boy. I will forever love Archenland, and although I am as city-slicker as they come, I would love to live there. Narnia, I could take or leave, but Archenland sounds divine. I also loved Shasta's journey and prickly Aravis and the relationship between all four of them. (And Rabadash getting hooked on the wall.)

Comment if you want to get a letter too!


Crosspost: http://silverflight8.dreamwidth.org/174966.html.

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Recipes I have made recently

Putting them here so I have a copy, and in case anyone is interested. I did a lot of baking this winter.

My Mother's Peasant Bread.
I was looking for a bread that didn't require kneading, and this one came out beautifully. Well, the second rising was less successful because the house is heated in the winter between 57-60 degrees Fahrenheit (the first rising I put in the barely-warmed oven) but so long as you don't live in an ice cube like my family prefers, it works really well. The crust especially was super tasty with the butter lining the pan.

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Chantal's New York Cheesecake
Really, really easy cheesecake. But halve this recipe--one half will make a 9-inch pie pan's worth. The only problem is I have never made it without it cracking, even leaving it in the oven for hours afterwards, but it tastes really good and comes out really well in every other respect every time. Also there is no water bath. There's no difference between buying like a retail-sized cream-cheese spread and the baking spread, as far as I can tell. I also put in a little less sugar; sometimes the full amount is too much.

I recommend using actual graham crackers to make the crust. It's really painful to make the crust when you have baguette-y bread and then you toast it so it becomes somewhat akin to brittle rock and then have to crush it into tiny sandpapery rocks. (The crust also came out wayy too dense that time). Never again! Also I've made this recipe by hand, but if you do that you should either let the cream cheese warm up by letting it sit outside/use the microwave, because it is really hard to beat otherwise--there's a lot to cream with sugar. I also tried freezing the cream cheese (we bought three pounds of it, which is frankly an alarming quantity) and upon defrost it was horribly textured, but it seems not to have made a difference once baked. I think.

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I am terrible at pastry, but I've found grating the butter helps (I don't have a pastry cutter). Basically, put the butter in the freezer, mix the dry ingredients--flour, salt, etc--, and then take out the butter and grate it into the flour mixture. Then combine. I usually do this in stages, putting the butter back in the freezer periodically while I combine flour and butter, especially as it starts melting on me.

I dream of making pastry that's nice and buttery and easy to roll out in sheets; when I do it it's horribly crumbly. It comes out tasting and flaking okay, but it is such a pain to make, and it does not make a pretty pie--the edges are Frankenstein with added lumps from bits I've cut away from elsewhere.

I mention pastry because: Chicken Pot Pie. Holy cow. This was so tasty. It does require two saucepans going at once and pastry, so I usually make the pastry in advance--the onions one needs to be stirred almost constantly. I usually don't have to bake it for as long as half an hour. This recipe (with somewhat eyeballed "cup" of carrots and "pound" of chicken) makes EXACTLY enough to fill a 9-inch pie dish. Like every time I've done it I wonder if this is the time I will not be able to cram everything in, but it always works out and I lay the crust on top gingerly. Actually, that's true of the cheesecake too, and when it bakes the cheesecake balloons straight upwards out of the pan and comes back down as it cools...

But seriously I wanted to eat the stuff poured over the cooked chicken/vegetables, it smelled so good.

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Simple Scones
I wanted to eat alllll of them as soon as they were out of the oven. I've only had the kind of really dry supermarket scones that you must drink some liquid with to avoid choking on and true, if you leave these out for three days they will acquire similar properties, but straight out of the oven they're divine. When shaping them up for laying them out on the tray, be careful not to over-handle them; the butter starts to warm up in your hands and they get all sticky (and that will ruin the pastry bit). Just quickly shape them into the rough shape you want. Also, this recipe makes a lot fewer scones than I expected.

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Things I've unsuccessfully tried to make include macarons (the cookie-like sort). My mom, who I made them for, really liked them, but they were tragically un-feeted--I suspect it's because it's so damp, so they never set when I let them stand, and so they just baked like usual cookies. Also, I discovered I don't really like macarons. Also recipes that require stiff peaks scare me; it's not the separating yolks/beating part I am afraid of (with a handheld mixer, it's just standing there) but the part where they tell you to gently fold in the flour. Aaaargh. I am so afraid of squishing out all the bubbles in one fell swoop and overbeating it. I have the same problem with pastry, actually--always afraid I've overworked the dough, except then giving up and smushing it all together with extra water in a fit of frustration when it doesn't come together. I've also made many, many, many brownies and chocolate cakes (not just this winter but generally) and I've never really come across a really satisfying one. Sugar cookies--meh, okay but not really that worth the effort. Mocha cake--unsuccessful, tasted neither particularly chocolate-y nor mocha-y, so failed on two counts. I should try the kind where you make a very chocolatey cake, and then frost it with a very mocha frosting, like Smitten Kitchen recommends. I tried a sponge-cake with lemony filling; the lemon filling came out great but the sponge cake recipe was no good and also I should not have halved that recipe--the cake came out ludicrously tiny. I also made this horrible chocolate cake which had an awful aftertaste, but interestingly involved putting chocolate chips into boiling water and stirring them till they melted. I also made these sugar cookies with "baked icing"--basically, you ice the cookies and then frost them. I spent so much effort (literally, in squeezing because it's very tough icing and also the stupid piping bag had a leak in the side so it would squirt out the side) and then I baked the cookies, and the icing virtually disappeared!!

ETA: Also now that I think about it, I am actually quite hungry. Don't have a kitchen at present sadly. I'm wondering if it's worth getting up and going to the grocery store now.


Crosspost: http://silverflight8.dreamwidth.org/174513.html.

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jumbo plushie vegetables

I have found my favourite etsy store. It is this store, which sells giant plush vegetables.

GIANT
PLUSH
VEGGIES

And they are adorable! And actually it's more than just the jumbo vegetation--she has a six-foot long carrot--but the humour that shines through the photographs and the descriptions, like the fact the carrot's photo gallery opens with the carrot in question lounging nonchalantly on a sofa (and taking up far more space than it really ought to, considering its skinniness). At some point she made a six-foot carrot out of shimmery orange spandex cloth, and called it the disco carrot. And there are pictures of stuffed pickles lying in bed reading a book with a fine pair of glasses on. Go on, look! It's delightful. On her instagram there's stuff that used to be on there or new prototypes, like a big leafy kale or a stuffed olive or a persimmon.

My younger brother loathes eggplants--there are only few things he won't eat but eggplant is one of them--and I am ever so tempted to send him a giant stuffed eggplant for his birthday, which is in fact coming up soon. Sadly I can't afford to spend so much on a novelty eggplant, but the thought of him unwrapping a giant eggplant is just too funny to ignore :D


Crosspost: http://silverflight8.dreamwidth.org/174254.html.

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