27 February 2011

the story of the scrolls by geza vermes

i've always been interested in the dead sea scrolls, as an archaeologist and a christian. although people would talk about the scrolls in very general terms, i never heard any specifics mentioned about their contents, or any books discussing them. almost 2 months ago chuck and i signed up for a new testament class (which we have since dropped - the teacher was the type who assigns reading and then repeats the reading without adding any depth or perspective). the class did remind me of my interest in the scrolls, which was good timing as it turns out. besides books with translations of the scrolls, the library had a book released last spring, the story of the scrolls, that gives an overview of the discovery of the scrolls, their context and contents, plus the scholarly work done up to the present.

vermes' review of the translation work and publication makes it clear why i've never heard specifics: very little was published until the late 90s. archaeological work was done at qumran where the majority of the scrolls were found, and that's even more embarrassing as nothing has been published in the 20 years since the work ended. artifacts have even gone missing. not very professional, as a major part of archaeology is preserving what we find and publishing the information for the public. it's a shame that sharing such an exciting find has taken over 50 years. but it does mean that there are books for me to read, now that i've come back around to the topic.

despite the academic presentation and dense language, i found the story of the scrolls an interesting read. i'm glad i read it before taking on any translations of the scrolls - now i have more context to understand them. some of the scrolls are copies of biblical texts but many deal with community rules and non-biblical topics. the scrolls fall in the time period between the old and new testaments, and vermes explains the historical background and religious groups present for that time period. he seems to present theories objectively, pointing out pros and cons of each. the book was very thorough and a great introduction to the dead sea scrolls as it not only introduces the scrolls themselves put places them, and the people who kept them, in the historic and cultural landscape. i'd definitely recommend it if you're interested in the dead sea scrolls.

next up in my serious reading queue is the complete dead sea scrolls in english by the same author, to be followed by josephus' history of the same time period. that ought to take the rest of the year. good thing i can read more than one book at a time......

26 February 2011

hey there, little red riding hood......

somehow my movie and book queues synced this week, with little red riding hood re-tellings. both were referred by sur la lune.

hoodwinked (2005)

hoodwinked starts with the end of the story as we know it, then rewinds to tell the story from each character's view. the movie is funny, light-hearted, and unconventional, with many humorous references to well-known movies and stories. i'm sure i didn't even catch all the references. it's a bit like a disney film, in that it has music, but (and i never say this) i actually like the songs. chuck even liked it, and he's skeptical of animated faery tale movies. i want this one on our dvd shelf.

sisters red by jackson pearce

sisters red starts at the end of the story as we know it too, oddly enough. instead of one girl, there are two sisters, and pearce explores how they live after the wolf eats grandma. there's new werewolf culture, a woodsman legacy, and the struggle of close siblings to grow up and apart without losing each other. this is a good YA book. the back of the book had a review for pearce's re-telling of hansel and gretel, also with an extra sibling. looks interesting......

25 February 2011

chuck ribs and sunshine

i took a break from my complicated, ill-fitting socks and knit some plain old ribbed socks for chuck. they're a simple 3x2 ribbing, with a short row heel. i have to recommend opal for its yardage - it keeps going and going. when i asked chuck how long he wanted the legs, he replied 'as long as you can make them.' groan. the total length is 12 in/30.5 cm from the bottom of the heel and go 2/3 of the way to his knees.
chuck ribs: done
they seemed to fit well, although i noticed after our photo shoot that the heels look a bit loose. there's no way i'm redoing those long legs though. chuck was all smiles once they were on his feet and didn't want to take them off. he sure knows how to make a girl want to knit him more socks.

i recalculated one of my problem socks, the sunshine socks, measuring both stockinette gauge and cable gauge. the first sock is just past the heel as of sunday and really truly fits well. at last.
sunshine socks: halfway marksunshine sock: detail
they will progress more quickly now that they are the main socks on the needles. i love the pattern and the yarn, it's a relief to finally get the fit right.

another work in progress, designed to stave off sweater knitting pangs, is the veil of isis shawl. it's a free ravelry download from bad cat designs, simple with elegant results. after a rough start with picking a gauge (the pattern doesn't specify any gauge) and misreading the chart, the pattern has grown on me and i only look at the chart for transitions. it started out on 4 dpns and grew onto 8,
veil of isis: row 33ishveil of isis: 8 dpns
then transitioned right onto a 40" circular needle, where it will progress through the Amorphous Blob stage before growing up into a lovely square shawl. i've no idea how large it will end up, i'm going to see how far a one pound cone of laceweight takes me.

24 February 2011

grimm legacy, quatrain and neverwhere

posting reviews of books sure makes it seem like i'm reading more than i thought! i just hope they're interesting to the other bookworms out there.....

the grimm legacy by polly shulman

this book has a library i'd love to work in. the setting is urban fantasy and as a young adult book, it was engaging and quick to read. i liked it, but there was something lacking. this fell between uglies and pretties by scott westerfeld, which i'll review after i've read the last book of the trilogy. they were all decent books, but read so close together impressed me with the same flaw.

harry potter caused an explosion of YA sci-fi/fantasy, with positive and negative results. there's fascinating new worlds, retellings and twists on traditional tales. for me, the main difference between adult and YA novels has been the age of the main characters. the dilemmas should be somewhat adapted to the character's age, but more to their life situation. either way, adult and YA novels should have a feeling of reality and depth that brings me back for a second reading. some of the recent YA books, including the ones above, lack that sense of reality and depth. there's a little too frequent use of hollywood's favorite plot twist - no clear and honest communication rather than true moral dilemmas. it's a bit too easy to guess what's coming next. really, it's almost like there's not much effort to write a real story. the fantasy bit is the setting, the background. how the characters solve their problems is what grabs our attention and makes a story relevant for re-reading. communication issues are boring, just stop being a coward and talk - not telling your friend something should not be the main problem the book solves. the newer YA books have interesting worlds and are fast reads, but CS lewis and madeleine l'engle still have 'em beat.

what do you think? any opinions on the new trends in YA books?

quatrain by sharon shinn

this book is a collection of four short stories/novellas, each set in a different world previously published by the author. i grabbed it for the first story, set in the world of samaria and the archangel series. it was a decent story, set in the same time period as archangel. the other stories were in worlds i hadn't read yet. the second story, blood, was my favorite. it's got very different cultures and customs clashing in the background of a young man's personal quest. this story was most successful at drawing the world and its conflicts in a short space. the next story, gold, was very fluffy - an immature princess and her unconvincing story. the last story was another good one. in a world again brought to life with few words, it tells of an outcast with a mystery to solve. the second and fourth stories will have me looking for other books about those worlds.

neverwhere by neil gaiman

i am a fan of gaiman, his books have good plots, good twists, and incorporates fantasy and mythological elements in new ways. neverwhere is one of my favorites, which i am re-reading after watching the 6 episode tv series. if you've read the book and liked it, it's a decent enough show. it's a bit odd, just like the book. chuck thought it seemed hokey and unrealistic - like it couldn't really happen. the book was more convincing but the series is not bad if you're at the bottom of your netflix queue and waiting for the new doctor who season to start.

17 February 2011

shoveling the deck poem

deck poem
the brilliant colors of spring's promises
bidding gentle farewell in autumn
lay crumbling and broken,
frozen and forgotten
beneath the bitter cold of winter

15 February 2011

arctic gold round my neck

arctic gold aka qiviut or muskox fiber, spun up into fine, very soft and very warm yarn. most qiviut is fingering weight yarn yet can be knit into lace and retain its warmth. when i first moved to alaska it cost $70 for a 50g skein. these days it goes for $90 as more people (and tourists) have learned about it and demand has gone up. a couple years ago i scored a reduced price skein at our local group's destash. it's actually a 50/50 blend of silk and qiviut that costs less than pure qiviut. if you know how expensive silk is, that might put it into perspective.

anyway, the silk adds drape, sheen and, well, silkiness to the qiviut. it felt wonderful to knit with and literally kept my fingers warm while i was knitting! small projects are common with qiviut, to make use of every last inch of yarn. i went with a neckwarmer as scarves have never been a hit with me. my neck does get cold, of course, so hopefully this neckwarmer will do the job.
qiviut neckwarmer
the pattern uses a sideways version of feather and fan, which we all know i'm a sucker for. it's a free pattern meant for qiviut, although a different brand with more yardage than what i had. i made some adjustments to the pattern to accommodate the difference in yardage, which turned out to be unnecessary, and so i can tell you on good authority that qiviut/silk frogs very well and can be reused with no problems. in the end, i followed the pattern as written (gasp!) with fewer repeats and ended with just enough yarn to weave in my ends.

the feather and fan was fun to knit, no surprise there. the neckwarmer pools into a cuddle of silky warmth on my neck. since the folds hide the pattern, and the inside shows, i may end up wearing it inside out, just to see if anyone notices.
qiviut cowl: done!
i've worn it indoors and outdoors a few times, but have yet to try the -20F/-30C half hour walk test. due to the drape, it doesn't really cover my whole neck and it won't stay hooked over my nose, so i don't know if it will work the whole winter. it definitely can be worn in a chilly house or for extra coziness. i'm glad to finally put the qiviut to use. now it won't stare at me from the shelf and my neck will be warmer!

03 February 2011

the sun is coming back!

here comes the sun

maybe only at a rate of 6 minutes a day, but that's enough. by mid-march we'll have daylight until 8pm, which is almost the summer max for the lower 48. the snow will still be here, which makes for cold comfort (pun unavoidable). i'll take it anyway.