Friday, August 30, 2013

RIP Seamus Heaney

I just read about the death of Seamus Heaney, the Irish poet. I knew his name best from the translation of Beowulf he did some years ago, but he's done quite a few other volumes of original poetry as well, and I really want to find and read at least one of those in the near future.

To be honest, it was the samples of his poetry in the New York Times obituary that have inspired me to find and read more of his work. Eventually, I want to re-read his translation of Beowulf too, as it's been so long since I read it. That, though, is going to have to wait for a while.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Hilo Shawl Finished and Socks Started

I posted about starting the Hilo Shawl back in May in the post Trouble Finishing Anything. Well, it's finished. I actually finished the shawl back in the middle of August, and just haven't gotten around to posting about it until now - mostly because I haven't gotten any good photographs of it yet. The photo here is the best of the lot to date, and it's a close-up of the pattern repeat taken while the shawl was still on blocking pins.

The Hilo Shawl was the pattern featured on the cover of Inside Crochet back in March, and I fell in love with it, buying the magazine just for that pattern (although there are some others in there that I want to do eventually), and starting the pattern a couple of days later, using Madelinetosh yarn in the Cousteau colour. I loved working with the yarn, the subtle variations in colour and thickness worked well for me - but then I do like working with singles yarns I've found (to date, just Bernat Mosaic in a couple of different projects and colourways and the Madtosh yarns for commercial yarn, but also my own handspun yarns).

Anyway, the magazine described the Hilo Shawl pattern as a good introduction to lace-work. If by that they meant that it was easy to get into the pattern repeats and it worked up fairly fast, they were right. It did however, take some attention to detail, making sure I didn't miss any stitches. All too many times it felt like "two steps forward" and one step back as I had to rip back an entire row to find the one stitch mistake in the previous row.

I was surprised at just how warm the shawl was the two or three times I've worn it to date as well. I thought it would be more of an ornamental shawl given how open the lace pattern is, but it kept the summer evening chill off very well.

I don't know if it was something I did in the way I blocked the shawl, or if it's part of the pattern design, but the shawl turned out longer and narrower than I thought it would, enough that I've been wearing it by using one of the two "sides" as the shoulder side rather than the chained base. Still, I'm really happy with the shawl and the way it turned out.

Of course, having finished one project, I couldn't wait to get onto the next. This time it's a pair of socks, and I'm already into the leg of the first one. I think it's about another five rows, then the cuff and the heel and I'll have finished my first sock. The pattern is the Triumph Crochet Socks (Ravelry link), using the Rowan Fine Art yarn in the Kingfisher colourway.

It's a slightly lacy pattern with a simple repeat that works from the toe up, which allowed me to keep trying it on and testing the length as I crocheted it, and the yarn is working up nicely - not too splitty and the colours look lovely. Had to learn two new stitches too: Linked Double Crochet and Foundation Single Crochet.

In the process, I've discovered that I prefer to learn stitches from step by step line drawings rather than photographs, and that the Crochet For Bears To Wear book that I've referred to here before has some of the best instructions short of the Stitch'n'Bitch Happy Hooker Crochet book, which I've packed away for now.

I like crocheting socks, if only because of how portable the project is, but it also makes something very wearable and useful. I only hope that I like wearing crocheted socks as much as I do making them.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Forever Hero - L.E. Modesitt Jr.

The Forever Hero
L.E. Modesitt Jr.
Tor Books
Copyright: 1999

The product description:
L. E. Modesitt, Jr's first major work was a trilogy of SF adventure novels published as paperback originals in the 1980s: Dawn for a Distant Earth, The Silent Warrior, and In Endless Twilight. Together they form The Forever Hero.

Thousands of years in the future, Earth is a desolate ruin. The first human ship to return in millennia discovers an abandoned wasteland inhabited only by a few degenerate or mutated human outcasts. But among them is a boy of immense native intelligence and determination who is captured, taken in, and educated, and disappears--to grow up to become the force behind a plan to make Earth flower again. He is, if not immortal, at least very long-lived, and he plans to build an independent power base out in the galaxy and force the galactic empire to devote centuries and immense resources to the restoration of the ecology of Earth.
I've had a copy of The Forever Hero for years - long enough that I can't remember where I got it. The book is in good condition, no creases or anything, but it does have a Withdrawn From stamp inside the cover. And no obvious library marks. It also doesn't have a price written inside the cover the way most of my favorite used bookstores do it.

For various reasons I never got around to reading the book until just this past month. With a few stops and starts, it took a little while to get into it, but by the second half of the book I was having trouble putting it down. At the same time, I found The Forever Hero to be somewhat confusing. There are a lot of time-jumps forward and many times I found myself scratching my head and trying to figure out what was going on/how long it had been since a particular event happened.

Overall, I'd have to give this book a mixed review. Most of it I really liked, but there were a few things, like the time jumps that just didn't quite work for me, including to an extent, the ending of the story.

The idea of using biology to manage the clean-up worked really well for me, as did a lot of the issues with the Empire - that just seemed really believable. Despite this not being quite one of my favourite novels by L.E. Modesitt, I did enjoy the read.

I'd have to recommend this if you like science fiction, but I will add the comment that I don't think this book is for everyone.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Get Out Alive TV Show

I've been watching my way through Bear Gryll's newest TV show, Get Out Alive, a "reality" show of sorts, since it started at the beginning of the summer. As much as it's the one show I'm watching each week, I'm not enjoying it anywhere near as much as I did Man Vs. Wild.

The blurb for Get Out Alive is as follows:
"Get Out Alive with Bear Grylls" is a larger-than-life adventure reality competition series hosted by world-renowned survivalist Bear Grylls. Grylls leads this non-stop extreme survival journey that tests 10 teams of two beyond their wildest imaginations as they venture into the unforgiving and dramatic landscape of New Zealand's South Island. Their mission is threefold: survive the wild, journey as a group and avoid elimination. Each week, Bear will send home another team. In the end, only one duo will remain -- the team that he believes has shown the most heart, courage, initiative and resolve in their quest to "get out alive" and claim a life-changing grand prize of $500,000.
The biggest things about Get Out Alive that I don't like are probably mostly due to the elimination format of typical reality TV shows, mostly the way each team sits there and tears apart the decisions made by all the other teams in the individual interviews.

There are times though, and I'm going to try to say this without giving away any spoilers for the show and the individual episodes, where I wonder if one of the entrance qualifications was to never have watched any survival oriented TV shows or read any books - mostly when it comes to the creation of shelters each night. I haven't done any of that myself, and I still find myself shaking my head at some of what they've come up with, just based on some of my reading and from watching Man Vs. Wild.

My third biggest gripe is that when Bear is demonstrating things for the various tasks, they're not very clearly done for the camera, such as the creation of the rope stretchers or the pulley-system last night. I'd like to have a clearer idea of how they were doing things like that, just for my own knowledge, and I found it nearly impossible to follow the way that was formatted on the TV. Maybe
 the book Living Wild, which I reviewed a couple of years ago, but I've forgotten. Right now, the book is also packed away, so I can't double-check it either.

Even with those complaints, I'm looking forward to next week's episode, which I understand to be the finale, and perhaps to any future seasons of Get Out Alive. I definitely have to say that the scenery is absolutely spectacular.

I have to hope though, that Bear is going to be doing something more like Man Vs. Wild again. If so, I'm definitely looking forward to it, although I will probably also watch any future seasons of Get Out Alive.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Tale Of The Virtual Cat - Heather Gladney, Don Clayton and Alan Rice Osborne - Short Story

The Tale Of The Virtual Cat
Heather Gladney, Don Clayton and Alan Rice Osborne
Catfantastic IV
DAW Books
Copyright, 2001
When you've got bugs in the system, get a programmer. When you've got Mice in the mains, get a Cat.
So says the introduction to Catfantastic IV, in introducing one of the most memorable stories in that volume. Ten years later, and the story still works. I guess technology hasn't progressed enough yet to make it seem too dated - and no specific dates are mentioned within the story itself either.

The Tale of the Virtual Cat is one of the funniest I've read in a long time - I just re-read it too, as it's been about a month since I read it as part of the whole Catfantastic IV volume.

All of the main characters - Mary, Beverly and especially the cat, Dickens are full of personality and combine to make one heck of an entertaining story. And the technological background of the story works too, at least in my mind. I'm sure that folks who know more about technology though, will be happy to give me a dozen or so ways that this story can't work. I'm just happy to laugh at it.

Garfield Fat Cat 3-Pack - Jim Davis

Garfield Fat Cat 3-Pack
Jim Davis
Ballantine Books
Copyright: 2009

The product description:

He used to be perfect, but now he’s even better! Garfield, the fat cat with the super sized ego, is back in the spotlight, dissing his dimwitted owner Jon – even pilfering his pants. Some cats chase mice; Garfield prefers to take legal action. When down on the farm, the city kitty puts up with-and puts down-Jon and his barnyard brother. No wonder Garfield’s often in a bad mood.

But no matter what, he’s always in the mood for food!

The Garfield Fat Cat 3-Pack series collects the GARFIELD comic-strip compilation books in a new, full-color format. Garfield may have gone through a few changes, but one thing has stayed the same: his enormous appetite for food and fun. So enjoy some super sized laughs with the insatiable cat, because too much fun is never enough!
There's been a theme to my blog recently: cats. From the short stories in the Catfantastic anthologies to the unfortunate news about Puss Cat, and now the Garfield comics. And, there's more Catfantastic posts to come.

Anyway, after all that and some other stresses, I needed a laugh. Garfield fit the bill perfectly (and I already had the book in my collection, making it even better). Exactly what the doctor ordered. The antics of Garfield, Odie and Jon (not to mention Nermal, Doc-Boy etc) are always good for a laugh.

Volume 4 of the 3-packs is comprised of Garfield Makes It Big, Garfield Rolls On and Garfield Out To Lunch, the tenth through twelfth books of Garfield comics, all in full colour.

Perfect for picking up and putting down at will, the only challenge with this one is actually reviewing it, which I'm finding nearly impossible. Everyone knows the antics that Garfield gets up to, tormenting Odie and Jon.

Monday, August 12, 2013

RIP Puss Cat ?-2013

Puss Cat had the most amazing eyes.
My Dad's cat, unimaginatively called Puss Cat, died today. It was a bit of a surprise when he called last night to tell me that she wasn't doing very well, since two days ago, she was completely normal. From there, she went downhill fast.

I'm still finding it hard to believe. I was over at his place for dinner tonight, and I kept looking for her in all her usual hide-outs, even though I knew she wasn't there anymore. I'm going to miss you, Puss Cat.

I don't know a lot about her early life, but I do know that she was a stray, who our then neighbors adopted before they moved to our neighborhood, and that she had a litter of kittens back then as well. At some point after they moved across the street, Puss started visiting, even inviting herself into our home, which was surprising as she was apparently quite a shy cat - which was something we noticed, too over the years since. From there, as they tended to travel a lot, we started taking care of her while they were away. Puss Cat didn't seem to mind at all, having the two homes. Even when they were at home, she'd often spend the day with us, then run back home for the evenings - best of both worlds, I guess, especially in the winter.

Eventually, they had to move, and couldn't take Puss with them, so we adopted her. Or did she adopt us? I still haven't figured that one out completely. For a while, she remained an indoor-outdoor cat, one who excelled at bringing us "gifts". Collars and bells were not all that effective at stopping her successes either. She seemed to have figured out how to move without jingling the bell - or equally aggravating for us, lose the collar entirely.

Her days as an indoor-outdoor cat though, eventually came to an end after a near miss with some local wildlife. We guess that it was a raccoon, but we were never certain. All we know, is that we discovered a nastily infected bite on her throat, which the vet was able to clear up, but we were definitely worried for a while, and you could feel the scar forever after.

After a while, Puss adapted nicely to life indoors - probably helped by the large balcony we gave her access to.

She definitely had a personality though! For a while after we first adopted her, in the morning, I'd find her on the cabinet in front of the window, and she'd chirp a greeting, then more or less demand I go sit on the sofa so she could settle in my lap. I learned to be prepared for that, by grabbing a towel or something to protect my legs - she loved to kneed and purr. And it was definitely a loud purr too - sometimes I could hear it from the next room.

This photo I posted for one of the Saturday Snapshots posts I did a while back is a pretty good descriptor of her personality at times - as was the nickname a friend bestowed on Puss last Christmas: Ebineezer Hiss. She wasn't afraid to let us know when she wasn't happy with something we were doing. Or with my two cats - more than once she threw a pretty impressive hissy-fit when we brought them up for a visit. Or even a couple of large dogs owned by two of our other friends. It was almost as if she was taunting them sometimes.

Whenever people would visit, she'd go hide somewhere - under the bed, in the closet, sometimes she'd settle in behind the cabinet she liked to sit on. It was a rare occasion when she'd come out and actually visit with some of us. I was a bit saddened by the way she started doing the same thing with me after I moved out.

After Dad moved, she slowly became a bit friendlier again, and even - since the yard was fenced, started going out beyond the new balcony a bit.

That's what had happened yesterday. She went out for her usual morning wander, but took longer than normal, so Dad went out to look for her. He found her lying in the wet grass by the gate, which was unusual, so he got her up and she walked a few steps then sat and lay down again in the grass. He carried her in, and she went and hid under the table - normal there. A while later he took some water down to her, and she didn't seem to have the energy to drink.

A call to the vet later, and she was on her final trip. He found out today that it was a mix of things - something to do with blood acidity that needed to be balanced, and then apparently kidney failure. My understanding is that both were caused by the diabetes she'd been dealing with for a couple of years, and she wasn't going to make it.

I'm going to miss you Puss-Cat.

Sitting at the door.
The stare of doom.
Puss Cat's eye, heavily edited.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A Tangled Tahitian Tail - Clare Bell - Short Story

A Tangled Tahitian Tail
Clare Bell
Catfantastic III
DAW Books
Copyright: 1994

Possibly the funniest story in Catfantastic III, at least in my opinion. Clare Bell has written a story that leaves me laughing out loud every single time I've read it, partly in rueful sympathy for the people around that cat, having seen the messes my cats have made of my yarn at times - without the aid of magic, I'm assuming, though with cats, one never knows.

Anyway, A Tangled Tahitian Tail is written from the cat's perspective all the way through, and in a stream-of-conciousness format that just adds to the humor of the situations he finds himself in - ending up as the first cat on the island of Tahiti.

All I'll say on the matter, to try and avoid spoiling the story, is that sometimes what you think is a curse, turns out to be a blessing. And, as I said in my review of Partners, from the same book, that you really should try and find the Catfantastic books if you're a cat or fantasy lover.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Partners - P.M. Griffin - Short Story

P.M. Griffin
Catfantastic III
DAW Books
Copyright: 1994

Partners is one of my favourite short stories from Catfantastic III, along with Clare Bell's A Tangled Tahitian Tail. Set in the same world as In Bastet's Service from Catfantastic II, it's an amazing story. I just wish I could have a similar type relationship with my two cats - without the element of danger, thank-you-very-much.

I find it interesting to read the two points of view in some of these short stories, that of the cat and the human, and I think that P. M. Griffin has done a really good job, creating a story that's vivid and pulls the reader in.

Trying not to give away any spoilers is making this review nearly impossible to write, simply because everything in it contributes so clearly - even the introduction to the story hints at events later on, I should note, and simply finish off by saying that I've read Partners several times now and have loved it every time. I recommend all of the Catfantastic volumes to any cat and fantasy lover.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Women in Science Fiction Meme - Reposted

It's been a couple of years since I first did this Women in Science Fiction meme, so I thought I'd see how my knowledge has changed. My original list, from June 2010 is posted here.
Found this over on Grasping For The Wind.

The meme:
Bold the women by whom you own books
Italicize those by whom you’ve read something of (short stories count)
*Star those you don’t recognize

Andre Norton
C. L. Moore*
Evangeline Walton
Leigh Brackett*
Judith Merril*
Joanna Russ*
Margaret St. Clair*
Katherine MacLean*
Carol Emshwiller*
Marion Zimmer Bradley
Zenna Henderson*
Madeline L’Engle
Angela Carter*
Ursula LeGuin
Anne McCaffrey
Diana Wynne Jones
Kit Reed*
James Tiptree, Jr.*
Rachel Pollack*
Jane Yolen
Marta Randall*
Eleanor Arnason*
Ellen Asher*
Patricia A. McKillip
Suzy McKee Charnas*
Lisa Tuttle
Nina Kiriki Hoffman*
Tanith Lee
Pamela Sargent*
Jayge Carr
Vonda McIntyre
Octavia E. Butler
Kate Wilhelm*
Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
Sheila Finch*
Mary Gentle*
Jessica Amanda Salmonson*
C. J. Cherryh
Joan D. Vinge*
Teresa Nielsen Hayden*
Ellen Kushner*
Ellen Datlow*
Nancy Kress
Pat Murphy*
Lisa Goldstein*
Elizabeth Ann Scarborough
Mary Turzillo*
Connie Willis
Barbara Hambly
Nancy Holder
Sheri S. Tepper
Melissa Scott
Margaret Atwood
Lois McMaster Bujold
Jeanne Cavelos*
Karen Joy Fowler*
Leigh Kennedy*
Judith Moffett*
Rebecca Ore*
Emma Bull
Pat Cadigan*
Kathyrn Cramer*
Laura Mixon*
Eileen Gunn*
Elizabeth Hand*
Kij Johnson*
Delia Sherman*
Elizabeth Moon
Michaela Roessner*
Terri Windling*
Sharon Lee
Sherwood Smith
Katherine Kurtz
Margo Lanagan*
Laura Resnick
Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Sheila Williams*
Farah Mendlesohn*
Gwyneth Jones*
Ardath Mayhar
Esther Friesner
Debra Doyle*
Nicola Griffith*
Amy Thomson*
Martha Wells
Catherine Asaro
Kate Elliott
Kathleen Ann Goonan*
Shawna McCarthy*
Caitlin Kiernan*
Maureen McHugh*
Cheryl Morgan*
Nisi Shawl*
Mary Doria Russell*
Kage Baker
Kelly Link*
Nancy Springer
J. K. Rowling
Nalo Hopkinson*
Ellen Klages*
Tanarive Due*
M. Rickert*
Theodora Goss*
Mary Anne Mohanraj*
S. L. Viehl
Jo Walton
Kristine Smith*
Deborah Layne*
Cherie Priest
Wen Spencer*
K. J. Bishop*
Catherynne M. Valente*
Elizabeth Bear
Ekaterina Sedia*
Naomi Novik
Mary Robinette Kowal
Ann VanderMeer*

Running down this list, I found that there are an awful lot of asterisks there. Clearly, I need to get out and find some more authors to read. On the other hand, this list is really neat, because I didn't realize there were so many female SF writers out there. Fantasy, yes, but not SF.

On my second run through, three years later, things have changed a bit. There's still a lot of asterisks, but quite a few more authors on the "read" list. To be honest though, a fair bit of that is thanks to the Catfantastic books edited by Andre Norton. I have been finding though, that there are a few authors I know of who aren't on this list - of course, no list can be completely exhaustive.

There are also a few I've left unmarked, as I think I've read something by them, but can't quite remember.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...