books!

Jun. 29th, 2016 09:04 am
ursula: (Default)

  • What did you recently finish reading?

    Listing back a little ways, since these books are thematically akin:

    Full Fathom Five and Last First Snow by Max Gladstone, Night Flower by Kate Elliott, The Winged Histories by Sofia Samatar, and Fire Logic by Laurie J. Marks.

    I read the first of Gladstone's Craft books, and found it interesting, but a little too aggressively weird for me to relate to any of the characters. Full Fathom Five, on the other hand, drew me in quite quickly. This could mean that I connect with hopelessly noble finance nerds, or that a postcolonial Polynesian setting is easier for me to deal with than a bunch of skeletons. The book starts out looking as if it's a thinly veiled meditation on the machinations that led to the Great Recession, and ends up being about faith. Recommended.

    Last First Snow is about, variously, war, gentrification, and choosing to be a parent. Heroic efforts mean that a doomed plan results in only about 95% of the expected carnage. Meditations on the nature of manhood & fatherhood aren't a theme that I connect with, particularly; if those themes matter to you, I suspect this book will be fascinating/ gripping/ horrifying. I read it in small increments while moving, and had to rush to finish the last ten percent before my library ebook expired.

    Night Flower continued the colonialism theme, and features another Kate Elliott heroine who is really good at selling fruit. Does not emphasize the horrors of war & its aftermath, which was a nice break.

    I read The Winged Histories in one sitting, on a flight to England. I associate Stranger in Olondria with sobbing in a hostel in Toronto; I didn't quite have tears running down my face on my intercontinental flight, but it was a near thing. My thumbnail description for Stranger in Olondria was 'if Ondaatje wrote fantasy novels'. At WisCon, I went to Samatar's talk on influence; she did indeed namecheck Ondaatje, and read excerpts from War and Peace. If you cross that book with The English Patient and then imagine the protagonist as a teenage girl with a sword, you will have some idea of what reading The Winged Histories feels like.

    I'm not entirely convinced The Winged Histories stuck the ending: it's an astonishingly beautiful doomed moment, but the book is complicated enough that I want to know about the messy things after the last page. I should note, also, that while meditations on fatherhood never quite draw me in, meditations on siblinghood always do. Still thinking about that strand, among many strands.

    Fire Logic felt rather a lot like the Steerswoman books in style; if you thought that that series would've been improved by more women kissing, this is definitely the book for you. Oddly, Karis reminded me of my maternal grandmother.

  • What are you currently reading?

    I started The Child Garden by Geoff Ryman, which like all Ryman books is fascinating, brilliant, and very, very weird. It's also an excruciatingly realistic portrayal of how awful it is to be a teenager. I am not quite ready for another amazing literary novel just now, and may put this aside until I'm ready to stop thinking about The Winged Histories.

  • What do you think you'll read next?

    The new Laundry Files book. I'd hoped to find this while at a conference in England, but was thwarted by the paucity of airport bookstores.

ursula: (sheep)
Recently read: Nine Princes in Amber.
Currently reading: Guns of Avalon.
Up next: Next one in the series, probably.

I actually stumbled on A/N/N/A/R/C/H/I/V/E, read about half of the Amber Diceless RPG rules linked therein, and decided to go back & see what the Amber books looked like, from an adult perspective.

I read Nine Princes in Amber the first time on a rainy day in the library of the Sylvia Beach Hotel on the Oregon coast, when I was about thirteen. I remember wondering why nobody had told me these books existed. I was interested in the world-building, I think, and the propulsive effect of the plot. I don't remember caring about the characters, particularly.

Adult me is struck by how terrible (intentionally) the characters are, and the amount of unintentional privilege conveyed. The sexism is blatant, and the echoes of Earth's colonialist history are likely planned; the casual assumption that the realest people in all of many universes can be distinguished by their pale skin and blue or green eyes is in some ways weirder.

Thirteen-year-old me was irritated by large chunks of the prose. I retain the joke "Blue sky . . . Green sky . . . Dot dot dot . . ." Adult me is interested in the structure, though. There are tales within tales, which reminds me very much of eighteenth-century novels, and a little of medieval romance.

knitting

Jan. 19th, 2016 08:46 pm
ursula: (sheep)
[personal profile] thistleingrey asked, "Have you been knitting at all?"

My knitting productivity definitely fell after I became a tenure-track professor, but yes, I have been knitting, even if I haven't been tracking most of it.

A few pictures )

Right now I'm working on a brilliant teal pair of stockings with patterning inspired by this sixteenth-century boys' pair. These gilt-and-green stockings in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts are part of the case for bright colors.
ursula: (Default)
[personal profile] pinesandmaples asked, "What recipes do you default to?"

This varies by season. Right now I'm in the middle of a month of travel (holidays followed by conferences), so I'm not cooking much. On a slightly wider timescale, my defaults have been changing because I'm avoiding cheese and [personal profile] glasseye wants lots of protein.

My improvisation-for-lunch standards involve a lot of eggs: frittata with whatever vegetables are around, soy sauce eggs from Madhur Jaffrey's World of the East (boil eggs briefly, peel them and cut slashes in them, cook smashed garlic in oil, add soy sauce and brown or palm sugar, simmer the eggs in the sauce until brown), fried rice with a scrambled egg or two, fried egg with rice and stir-fried spinach or mushrooms with lots of hot pepper, maybe scrambled-egg tacos. This quinoa gratin makes a nice template, though I like it more with greens and something savory like sun-dried tomatoes, olives, or bacon than with the rather plain zucchini and cheese in the base recipe. If I've got smoked trout-- there's very nice smoked trout available in Wisconsin-- I'll make something inspired by kedgeree, with leftover rice, a splash of fish sauce, and a bit of almond milk.

Last winter, I bought lots of frozen spinach and peas, canned tomatoes, potatoes and carrots, cucumbers, celery, and the occasional expensive bell pepper or avocado. The regular rotation included soy sauce eggs or egg curry, Madhur Jaffrey's ground lamb with peas (I've been skipping the yoghurt), ginger chicken (dreamwidth locked recipe/ lj locked), "Send the rice down" ground beef with celery (scaled up in quantity, because Fuchsia Dunlop's accounting assumes the number of dishes is the number of people plus one), and the Pok Pok Thai salad with canned tuna, which you can easily make more substantial by adding another can of tuna and whatever crunchy vegetables you've got handy.

This sounds a bit more carnivorous than I actually am, but the vegetarian dinners tend to be prompted more by things like finding some nice fennel in the market, so they don't get repeated as often. Lately I've been excited about chickpea soup with lots of parsley and lemon or preserved lemon, and about wild rice with spinach.

January!

Dec. 31st, 2015 10:39 am
ursula: (sheep)
Suggest some topics, and I'll post about them in January?

meme!

Dec. 18th, 2015 09:02 pm
ursula: (bear)
Let's take the Chaucer Hath Blog gift quiz, in the spirit of livejournal of yesteryear.

THE MOOST OOLD AND POWIRFUL QUIZZE OF GIFT PREFERENCE

1. Which element dost thou prefer: fyre, air, earth, watir?

Earth and air. (Careful high-school analysis suggests that I appear to be an earth sort of person, but am actually 100% air. This is probably still reliable.)

2. Ovid or Virgil? The Beatles or the The Stones? Seinfelde or Friendes?

Ovid; the Beatles; let's not.

3. Which humour doth dominate thy disposicioun: yellow bile, black bile, blood, phlegm?

Phlegm.

4. What type of rabbit ys best?

My sister's pet rabbits. Careful perusal of Wikipedia suggests that the Havana rabbit is pretty adorable, though.
ursula: (Default)
[personal profile] wild_irises wrote, Tell me about a personal event that is a treasured or meaningful memory.

I thought this prompt was interesting for the meta-journal reason that it initially seemed impossible, due to some combination of the attitude that ideas are more interesting to write about than events, and a superstitious feeling that if I'm going around treasuring past events too often, there is probably something wrong with the present.

But actually, 2013 was eventful, perhaps excessively so! I have only glancingly mentioned the fact that I spent four weeks at research workshops this fall, in Toronto, England, and France. This was both fortuitous and overwhelming. The French workshop was Women in Numbers-Europe, so named for its excellent acronym. It was held at CIRM, which is in the hills above Marseille. Adriana and I had a free day in the city after the workshop ended. We decided to take the ferry to the Chateau d'If, which is the fortress in the Count of Monte Cristo. It's a big, white, squarish castle, set on its own island in the middle of the bay. I took an informational pamphlet in French, and Adriana took one in English. The French pamphlet, and only the French one, explained that Francis I was inspired to order the castle's construction when he visited Marseille to see a rhinoceros, which was stopping in the city on its way to the Pope. I bought a T-shirt with the rhinoceros for [personal profile] glasseye.

2013-10-19 14.00.46

On the ferry trip back, we sat on the front deck. We were surrounded by a raucous group of French middle-school girls, who were singing folk songs and hip-hop in loud voices, and trying to dodge the spray. When they discovered we lived in America, they conducted a bilingual interview with us (their English was about as bad as our French). The results were as follows:


  • Do you like hamburgers? (Sometimes.)
  • Do you like fish? (Yes.)
  • Which do you like better, Marseille or Paris? (I have never been to Paris.)
  • Are you in love? (Yes, I have a husband.)
  • What is his name? (Brian.)
  • Have you been to New York? (Yes, my sister lives there.)
  • Have you been to California? (Yes, I used to live there.)
  • Have you met a movie star? (No, but I have friends who work in Hollywood.)
ursula: (Default)
Suggest a topic, and I'll post about it in January? (You can suggest a day if you like; otherwise I'll just use topics until they're gone.)
ursula: (Default)

  • What did you recently finish reading?

    A Stranger in Olondria, by Sofia Samatar. If you are interested in fantasy novels about cultures and gods that are not alternate-medieval-European cultures and gods, surely you are also reading this book? In many ways it feels like a late-eighteenth or early-nineteenth century novel, with its layers of stories within the story, but it is self-consciously structured and the prose is self-consciously lush in a way that feels more like the modernist writers. Also, it made me cry.

    More slowly, I read The Seljuks of Anatolia, which is a collection of essays about the Turks who were in Turkey before the Ottomans. There's some very interesting historiography here, about Turkish construction of identity and the information you can glean when faced with a dearth of "traditional" sources. I was particularly interested in an essay on the fluid religious identities of the Anatolian Seljuks (some seem to have been professed both Islam and Christianity depending on context). I was also interested in the titles the Seljuks used, and the way they showed a standard pattern of titles used for less and less important people over time: for instance, 'malik', which I'm used to translating as 'king', clearly means something more like 'prince' in the Seljuk context.

  • What are you currently reading?

    Servant of the Underworld, by Aliette de Bodard. This is a fantasy mystery novel about the Aztecs; it's part of my haul from Bakka Phoenix, an excellent science fiction & fantasy bookstore in Toronto. Before I went there, I started Miss Mackenzie by Anthony Trollope, which is unusual among nineteenth-century novels (and perhaps contemporary ones!) in that its heroine is in her mid-thirties.

  • What do you think you'll read next?

    I also bought a couple of spy novels with fantasy overtones; hypothetically one of these is earmarked for [personal profile] glasseye, so that means The Rook ought to be first.

ursula: (icosahedron)

  • What are you currently reading?

    Danse de la Folie by Sherwood Smith; [personal profile] sartorias mentioned yesterday that her book was on sale for $.99. It might be still, depending on when you read this! Thus far, it's entertainingly fluffy.

    I'm also reading bits and pieces of an abridged version of Gregory of Tours' History of the Franks, and Fanny Burney's Camilla. Best anecdote from Gregory of Tours thus far: the time when one of the Franks plotted to kill his brother by hiding a bunch of armed men behind a curtain, but the curtain was too short, so the men's feet were visible, and the brother was on guard. Eventually the schemer gave his brother a valuable silver dish to persuade him to go away. Thus far much of the plot of Camilla is driven by her Comically Illiterate Uncle; I tend to find him somewhere on the continuum from embarrassing to horrifying, rather than comic, which makes it slow going.

  • What did you recently finish reading?

    The Edwardians by Vita Sackville-West, and The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi.

    The Edwardians was interesting but ultimately a little slight. I am generally astonished that the BBC has not made a miniseries of it. (Also, it's interesting to see attitudes that I'd associated with Heyer-being-historical showing up as upper-class Edwardian attitudes: complaints about the Dower House, for instance. Layers on layers!)

    I had avoided The Quantum Thief based on fears that it might be a bit too surreal for my tastes, but ultimately found it quite satisfying. The cover blurb is from Charles Stross, which makes sense, because Quantum Thief feels a bit like a less aggressively weird cousin of Singularity Sky. (Both involve a fusion of a late nineteenth-/early twentieth-century Revolutionary aesthetic with quantum-AI-super-science.)

  • What do you think you’ll read next?

    I have Thieftaker and Redshirts out from the library, so likely one of those.

ursula: (sheep)
Meme from Book View Cafe.



  • What are you currently reading?

    I am bouncing back and forth between The Lions of al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay and 1610: A Sundial in the Grave by Mary Gentle. Both are historical fantasies which make many nods to old-fashioned swashbuckling Romance (I mean Romance as in roman, not Romance as in people falling in love, though that happens too). The Lions of al-Rassan is about a thinly disguised version of Moorish Spain, while 1610 is an alternate history which begins with our antihero inadvertently aiding in the assassination of Henri IV. I am finding both books rather slow going, which explains the bouncing.

    I have mixed feelings about Guy Gavriel Kay generally: I hated the Fionavar Tapestry in the way that one can only hate books lent by someone else, but liked his Sarantium books and Under Heaven, although I got tired of the hot-tempered hero with a heart of gold with whom everyone falls in love. I might be impatient with The Lions of al-Rassan because I know the period too well (I don't actually know that much about Moorish Spain specifically, but a semester of medieval Islamic history still unfits me for many fantasy novels). Really, though, I think I'm just tired of heavy-handed foreshadowing. I'm also mildly uneasy about religious and gender stereotypes. In particular, I wish Kay would refrain from inventing female characters who seem cool on paper, and then not letting them contribute to the plot. (Seriously, if your character is a skilled doctor who begins the book by vowing vengeance on a king, why do you let her boyfriend kill the king and her dad perform the impossible surgery?) I also find the small-r romance dull; Flowery and Epic is not really my thing.

    The small-r romance in 1610 is boring me, too, which is really too bad, since a cross-dressing woman with amazing rapier skill ought to suck me right in. Gentle goes in for obnoxious grit, though, and reading about sex from the point of view of someone who's mildly disgusted by it is not much fun. The actual plot is cool, though: scheming mathematician-astrologers try to change history!

  • What did you recently finish reading?

    Rachel Ray by Anthony Trollope (fluffy, slight, and also overtly sexist, classist, and anti-Semitic, if you're keeping score), and The Wrong Reflection by Gillian Bradshaw (as soon as you know it's science fiction, the plot is somewhat obvious; but I was surprised and pleased by our heroine's eventual romantic partner.)

  • What do you think you’ll read next?

    I just acquired Nate Silver's book from the library waitlist, so should probably read it quickly and return it.
ursula: (Default)
By request of [livejournal.com profile] kid_prufrock.

Meme rules:

Don't take too long to think about it. Fifteen fictional characters (television, films, plays, books, games) who've influenced you and who will always stick with you. List the first fifteen you can recall in no more than fifteen minutes.


I fail at the "not taking too long" part, but here are fifteen characters, in chronological order by approximate period of influence, starting around age four.

Laura (The Little House books)
Alice (Alice in Wonderland)
Sara Crewe (A Little Princess)
Oswald (The Bastables)
Inigo Montoya (Princess Bride. I thought he was the coolest person ever when I was eight.)

Nan (Witch Week)
Alanna (from the Tamora Pierce books. Yay sex ed?)
Cyrano de Bergerac (yes, me too)
Nazhuret (Lens of the World)
Elinor (Sense and Sensibility)

The author (The Thread: A Mathematical Yarn)
Hideo (A Fisherman of the Inland Sea)
Lawrence Waterhouse (Cryptonomicon)
Stephanie (Still Life, A.S. Byatt)
Charlotte Drummond (Wild Life, Molly Gloss)

gaming!

Mar. 11th, 2008 10:29 pm
ursula: (icosahedron)
[livejournal.com profile] aelfgyfu asked for a post about gaming. I'm assuming that, like any right-minded individual, she means tabletop RPGs. At the moment I don't have a game going ([livejournal.com profile] glasseye's campaign seems to have succumbed to the dual pressures of school and players who insist on gallivanting round the world). I keep meaning to run a couple of sessions of GURPS Goblins, but this involves either doing a bunch of arithmetic so my players can make characters without ripping my single set of books apart or feeling their heads explode, or else figuring out how to port the entire setting to a less arithmetically demanding system without losing the basic idea of a character built entirely from disadvantages.

[livejournal.com profile] cattifer and I have talked a little bit about doing a D&D-themed webcomic. I've been thinking a little bit about how one might set up a literal dwarven point of view, with humans disconcerting and monolithic.
ursula: (Default)
From [livejournal.com profile] ornerie:

Everyone has things they post about. Everyone has things they don't post about. Challenge me out of my comfort zone by telling me something I don't mention often, but you'd like to hear about, and I'll write a post.

advice meme

Jan. 6th, 2008 10:31 am
ursula: (Default)

Please comment with something you think I should do or try to do in 2008. Big or small, silly or earth-changing.
ursula: (Default)

Recycled rayon bag
Originally uploaded by ursulageorges
This is a bag made from recycled rayon saris and a bit of black linen. It was livejournal art for [livejournal.com profile] betzle.
ursula: (Default)

Romana scarf
Originally uploaded by ursulageorges
This scarf is for [livejournal.com profile] rivendellrose, as part of the art meme. It is based on a scarf that Romana wears in a classic Dr. Who episode. (According to IMDB, Lalla Ward, who played this incarnation of Romana, has written knitting books and married Richard Dawkins of angry-biologist fame after they were the only two people to show up on time for one of Douglas Adams' parties.)
ursula: (sheep)
Questions from [livejournal.com profile] slysidonia. Comment if you'd like five of your very own.

***

1. Who are your favorite Poets and why?

Horace, for versatility, audacity, lyricism by definition . . . I'm taking a graduate poetry workshop right now, which makes me very aware of how much I don't know about poetry in English. One measure might be whose books are prominent on my shelves: Theodore Roethke, Ted Hughes, Elizabeth Bishop, John Donne. Another measure of allegiances is the list of poets I am meaning to read, or read more of: Pope, Milton, Louise Glück, Wordsworth, Alcuin, Venantius Fortunatus.

(If you wanted a poem, here's a pretty hilarious example of how *not* to critique poetry: assume that the poet means everything the speaker says, even when the speaker is a flower.)

2. Why did you join the SCA and what keeps you there?

Friends, men with long hair, excuses to make stuff; to which I now add, excuses to get weird books out of the library. I like the worldwide social network. I like being appreciated for my academic bent. I like meeting people who have nothing to do with academia.

3. What is your idea of a perfect evening out?

Good food, good drink, good conversation? And for true perfection, there should be absolutely no fretting about transportation: no people who want to drink but have to drive, no taxis getting lost, no anxiety about buses or trains which stop running at a certain time.

4. Tell us about the Hobbies you have.

Let's start with things that aren't hobbies: reading and cooking. To me the word "hobby" has this aura of extraneousness, a suggestion that, no matter how intensely you may be involved, you could substitute a different activity entirely without any real change in self. The hobbyist's approach to food, in particular, I find both fascinating and disconcerting: why, yes, for dinner last night we did make mushroom-lentil soup with chanterelles and organic carrots and garlic and sage and porcini flour (that powdery gold), deglazing the seared mushrooms with red wine, but then it was wet out & I'm sick & we had to eat something.

So what is engrossing and yet extraneous? Right now, knitting and the SCA, I suppose. In some ways, it's more fun to think of potential hobbies: embroidery and folding paper cranes have taken the same space in my life as knitting in the past, along with a bit of netting. Naalbinding? Sprang? Quilting? (Patchwork Ottoman silk star pillow-covers!) Weaving, if I had the space for a loom (tablet-weaving strikes me as privileging the annoying fiddly parts of the operation). Maybe spinning. At the moment, RPGs are more potential than actual hobby, but a good game with the right people could tip me back into obsessiveness, or I could get semi-serious about writing for games. I could edge further into artsy science-fiction fandom, too.

5. What one luxury item would you buy for yourself if you got an unexpected windfall?

I am actually expecting a windfall, in the sense that a substantial fellowship check ought to come my way sometime this quarter; part of that money is earmarked for a new, lighter laptop. So maybe I'd just buy a nicer laptop. Maybe [livejournal.com profile] glasseye and I would have dinner someplace unsuited to a student's budget. Or maybe I would buy a chunk of gold, since suddenly I'm in the market for a ring . . .

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