12 May 2011

pinocchio by carlo collodi

ever since i stumbled across a quote about teaching the alphabet to the ants, pinocchio has been on my to-read list. it's bit of a random story, not surprising for a print-by-the-week story. pinocchio's adventures include the ones featured in the disney film, as well as more outrageous ones. he goes from one scrape to another despite his promises to work hard and obey. eventually his bouts of diligence are longer than his vagabond periods, but it is only when he must nurse geppetto that he works and serves his father with his whole heart.

there's an undercurrent of christian ethics seen in the oft-repeated morals of working hard and helping others. overtones of the prodigal son story and bits of isaiah (where the righteous are judged against and the prisoners are set free) show up in the second half of the story. pinocchio's is a highly dramatized, often ridiculous, story that is nevertheless easy to relate to. i love the repeated maxim that little boys who won't learn and work turn into little donkeys, which is literally fulfilled by pinocchio and his friends. if i had a little boy, that's what i'd tell him to get him to do his homework.

10 May 2011

i am nujood, age 10 and divorced by nujood ali

this book caught my eye on the fancy updates our library sends out now. very simple and descriptive prose makes for fast reading. the confusion of a 10-yr-old thrust into marriage with no idea what that entails comes through clearly. an insider's picture of life in yemen is marred by violence against women, which is rarely acknowledged and more rarely discussed. i expected some legal drama perhaps. instead, the book is told entirely from nujood's perspective and based on her limited knowledge which only increases its impact. for me, this book touches on the right of any person to make their own choices much more than a western vs. eastern theme. and yet i can't help wondering what men (anyone) are really thinking when they follow destructive traditions.

09 May 2011

paper towns by john green

this is a good YA novel. paper towns starts at the end of high school, with a nerdy guy drooling over the hot girl next door, and his one big chance for adventure. which turns into his chance to (possibly) have the girl of his dreams, solve a mystery and learn how hard it is to truly know anyone. there's introspection on how we relate to and understand others. there's also the obligatory teen drinking and sex although not in painful detail, thankfully. and yet this book is not chained to the stereotypes it invokes and is surprisingly true to reality, where no matter how much you've thought something through and changed your perspective, something can still come out of nowhere and knock you on your back. over and over again. good stuff.

07 May 2011

square socks

since i haven't had much luck with socks for myself lately, another pair for chuck seemed like a good idea. i grabbed a skein from his sock yarn stash (picked out by himself) and got started without thinking too much about it. after testing a couple needle sizes, i got a larger gauge than usual. that was ok, since the yarn seemed like a thicker sock yarn. it's not a very soft yarn, and the swatch felt extremely sturdy, but that was ok too. a sturdy gauge makes for a long-wearing sock. after passing the heel, there was an alarmingly small knob of yarn left. and it really did feel like it would wear like iron, only not in a pleasant way. to appease my growing suspicions, i looked the yarn up on ravelry, where it was clearly marked as a sport weight yarn. yup.

after i frogged that attempt, i moved up a few more needles sizes and got a fabric that might not scour the bottoms of chuck's feet. the first sock jumped off the needles in less than a week, and the second sock quickly followed suit. the pattern is a simple knit and purl texture, perfect for guy socks. standard vertical ribbing didn't work out with the stitch count, so i knit a few rows of horizontal ribbing as that matched the pattern better. the ribbing really flares out, both pre- and post-blocking.

square socks: done

luckily, there's no evidence of that when the socks are worn.

square socks: model

or maybe they just conform really well to chuck's skinny ankles and large calves...............

06 May 2011

the road to lisdoonvarna by charles de lint

this book came out of my owned but unread pile. unlike most of de lint's fantasy books, the road to lisdoonvarna is a straight forward mystery novel. a private detective is trying to find out who raped and beat a friend while taking on a case for a missing teen. some of de lint's trademarks sneak in: a love of celtic music, busking musicians, canadian setting, a native american sidekick, and the idea that we should all help each other as best we can. except for the bad guys, maybe, who take each other out in the end. no surprising twists here, just an enjoyable read.

05 May 2011

forest born by shannon hale

i was delighted to find another installment of the bayern books at the library. this book is the fourth in the series, although i believe each book can stand on its own. each book has examined a different kind of magical speaking and the focus in this book is tree speaking. hale's characters experience the typical faery tale journey of self-discovery, and in the discovery and acceptance of their talents, must learn to use them to reach out to others. the broad trope is the only similarity, as each main character has their own particular problems to solve and faults to overcome.

rin, the main character in forest born, has perhaps the most clearly human problems to resolve, despite her magical abilities. she must learn how to be herself, rather than reflecting others, and discover the truest way to speak with others. as in the previous books, political problems and their resolution form the backdrop for rin's journey through the land and to self-discovery. none of the solutions come easily and rin's difficulties are easy to sympathize with as characteristic of struggles we all go through.

04 May 2011

WIP wednesday: knitting retreat

last week, in anticipation of our local knitting group's yearly retreat, i indulged in some startitis. after all, who wants to run out of projects at a retreat? and not wanting to neglect knitting content, a WIP wednesday to show off progress seemed just the thing.

veil of isis

veil of isis: mid-blob

previously seen in its pre-blob state, the shawl is slowly but surely globbing along. its main weekly feeding is during church, with some snacks sporadically through the week. perhaps at its next check up, i'll measure the cone and try to estimate how far i've come. it's making steady progress through the Amorphous Blob phase and i'm pleased with its growth.

sauna mat

sauna rug: pre-border

although the sauna mat has been lurking in the side bar, this is its first public appearance. it's knit with worsted weight cotton held doubled and rag strips knit as yarn for contrast, using size 13/ mm needles, and the log cabin construction in mason-dixon knitting. the actual knitting for this went very quickly. weaving in the rag ends, not so quickly. at the retreat, all the ends were woven in while i was distracted by great conversation. now all i need to do is cut more rag for the crochet border.....

spoked stash hat

spoked stash hat: slogging

one day when i wanted a fast, mindless project i grabbed a skein of swedish acrylic off the shelf, picked a pattern largely at random from a recent interweave knits, and cast on. after making bobbles on the second row, the hat is knit in ribbing for 8 inches. very mindless - a bit too much in fact. and not as fast as i imagined in DK weight yarn. so it got some enforced knitting time at the retreat as well and grew at least an inch.

blackwatch swing socks

blackwatch swing: heel

i matched up a languishing skein of lorna's laces with the pattern sunday swing socks from knitty and had the cuff and one repeat finished before the retreat. the pattern calls for only 3 repeats length-wise before the heel but since this was a mere 5 inches, i added 2 more repeats for an 8" leg. the heel flap is just about done and i should be turning the heel in a day or so.

skewed space dust socks

skewed space dust

a few months ago i was gifted a skein of socks that rock (colorway space dust) by a friend with a large STR collection who knew i'd been wanting to try that yarn out. that's right, this is my first time using socks that rock. all the crazy colors seemed perfect for a fairly plain sock but not wanting another easy project, i picked a pattern with an unusual construction. prior to the retreat, i got as far as swatching. at the retreat, i cast on, knit half a foot, frogged it and knit another half a foot. although the pattern is knit on the bias, it can be tried on as you go and, thus far, has been easy to customize. there is supposedly math involved with the heel, so i will try not to get too confident yet. the yarn is great, and although there are many individual colors that i dislike, they are very cheerful all mashed together.

and that's what i've been working on! the retreat was great - we were in a new location this year (touch of wilderness in healy) and it was very open and welcoming, good food, great atmosphere. i think we'll be back next year. it was one of those rare places whose online photos match the reality. we had some fun classes and just enjoyed sitting around talking about everything you could imagine and probably a little you couldn't. i've said it before, and i'll say it again, i love our knitting group. there's such a variety of personalities that there's never a dull moment. in our white elephant exchange (which is a total misnomer, as every package has desirable items) i acquired a smattering of exotic fibers. BFL, alpaca, silk and qiviut all bundled up in a ravelry project bag.
knitting retreat white elephant haul
looks like i may have to get a spindle and see if i can make yarn.

03 May 2011

heart of gold by sharon shinn

i followed up on one of the short story worlds from quatrain, which led me to the stand alone book heart of gold. again, i was captivated by the fascinating clash of cultures and races. a matriarchal, blue-skinned race conflicts with a patriarchal, gulden-skinned race over customs legal and private, land control and terrorism. there's also an albino race, although they stay in the background of the story. racial and cultural tension are central to story as the races deal with terrorist acts done in retaliation for land taken over in violation of a treaty. shinn manages to convey both societal and individual reactions to the main and underlying conflicts. she successfully portrays contrasts and conflicts at several levels.

beyond the question of national interest and what means are acceptable to protect that, shinn takes on how our understanding of life is based on culture, upbringing, and individual characteristics, and whether and how people can change. on the personal level, her characters deal with moral dilemmas reflecting those larger issues and how those larger issues affect family and personal relationships. the world of heart of gold is very complex in a subtle way, realistic and highly engaging.

the princess and the hound by mette ivie harrison

the princess and the hound was a very good story, although the title characters were not the sole focus as the title might lead one to think. fairy tale motifs were used in a new way, to great effect with unexpected twists. the ability to speak with animals is outlawed and the prince who possesses it is forced to hide it for his safety and the good of the kingdom. he also learns to sacrifice his self for the kingdom, until his pending arranged marriage forces him to examine himself and the worth of a life half lived. told from the prince's perspective, i'm reminded of the description given of the princes bride "fighting, torture, revenge, chases, escapes, true love, miracles..." there is a bit of everything that comes together in the end.

the story didn't just end right at the climax, but actually followed through on some of the repercussions of choices made. rather than leaving practical consequences to the reader's imagination, the author showed things aren't always roses right away and showed the character's responses to opposition. instead of an unrealistic all-ends-tied-up ending, there was enough of a follow through to show that new problems will arise in the solving of current issues. i really enjoyed this book with its very human characters. there are two sequels which i plan on reading once the library picks them up.