Unraveled Wednesday, 5/18/22.

Joining Kat and friends. Go see what the others are up to.

Knitting.

Still grooving on hats. Left, project page; right, project page.

Reading.

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The Arsonist’s City by Hala Alyan. Interesting story of a well-to-do family set in Syria and Lebanon during and after the war in the latter. Character-driven, which is my favorite kind of book. But it could have benefited from a good editor; I found to be very long, 4★

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The Deep, Deep Snow by Brian Freeman and The Ursulina by the same author. I am reviewing these two books together because Ursulina is a prequel to Deep. In the first, Freeman introduces us to Shelby Lake, a sheriff’s deputy in a northern county. She had been left as a newborn on the steps of the sheriff’s house; he raises her and eventually she goes to work for him. This first book was a decent mystery. If you like escapist mysteries, you will probably like it. The second book trundles along in traditional mystery fashion… until the last 25 or so pages. Then the plot twist is so earthshaking as to render it unbelievable, even if you had already swallowed some of the unlikely bits in the first 80% of the book. Snow 3★, but Ursulina barely rates 1★. This is kinda sad because I had enjoyed the author’s Jonathan Stride series.

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. I have tried to read this book before without success. However, my Monday night book club — which I haven’t attended since the pandemic began; the library director at the library where the group meets took few precautions against COVID spread — was reading it this month. I decided it was time to go back. Elder Son has recommended it multiple times, but this time I had the extra incentive of book club. I read it on my new-ish Kindle. It was okay, not a five-star read for me. It did foster a good discussion; we all found it was a struggle to read because the first 2/3 was so boring. 3★, but YMMV. If you read it as an anthropological study in fiction book form it might be more palatable.

The Investigator by John Sandford. Sandford is my very favorite mystery author. His characters are intelligent and they have intelligent banter. The first 10 or 15 books in his Prey series (series has 32 books) with Lucas Davenport have him as a Minneapolis homicide detective, so there is lots of banter among his team. Later he moves to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (MN’s state criminal police) but still uses many of the same characters. In the latest books he is a US Marshall, less banter because less team. Still really good, but not as good IMO as the earlier books.

Be that as it may, Investigator is the first book of a series starring Letty Davenport, Lucas’s adopted daughter. The character is written to be very much like Lucas — smart, willing to do what must be done without agonizing over it. She is an aide to a US senator but is bored with the job and planning to quit when he gives her a research assignment: find out who is stealing oil from various drilling companies in the Texas Permian Basin, and more importantly where is the money from sales of the purloined oil going. Funding terrorists? drug dealers? rich retirements? Her senator is chair of the Senate committee overseeing the Department of Homeland Security, so the terrorist angle is particularly worrisome to him. Letty is paired with a DHS investigator, and the two of them work with several police departments in Texas. Lots of banter among them. 4★

Listening.

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Pretty Things by Janelle Brown. A novel about a trio of grifters and a spoiled heiress, I would recommend that you read it rather listen. It is a novel of suspense. which I prefer printed on the page, but I didn’t realize that when I selected it for my monthly book. Plot is okay, but I am just getting to the part where the suspense begins. 3★

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Neither a rant nor an animal be, 5/17/22.

Remember, if the text is too small, you can click to embiggen.

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Dogs and how useless they are.

I was up late one night last week, and at 2am I heard noises on the deck. It sounded like something big was lumbering around and running into things and moving the table and chairs. I took a small flashlight and looked around (from the safety of the doorway) but couldn’t see anything.

A few minutes later I heard more noises. No exploring this time; I stayed put.

The scene today:

The hummingbird feeder was in pieces on the deck, and the suet feeder was MIA. The saucer under the thistle seed feeder was knocked off.

Smokey and I scratched our heads, trying to figure out what had invaded our deck. An especially large raccoon? Maybe, but we couldn’t see how a raccoon could have gotten to the suet and nectar feeders hung from the eaves. A bear could be tall enough to reach them, but we couldn’t figure out how a bear got onto the deck — the top of the stairs are blocked off to keep the dogs from going roundabout. We finally concluded that a bear had climbed the side of the deck and over the railing.

And where were our faithful watch dogs during these midnight raids? Our dogs who go ballistic if a leave falls in the neighbor’s yard?

They were sleeping soundly in the bedroom.

They are no longer our official watch dogs.

They have been demoted to blanket weights, foot warmers, and furry snugglers.

Posted in Animals | 4 Comments

Museum of Me, 5-15-22.

This is a new kind of post invented by Kym. I will give you some history of myself in these. This month it is about pets. Sadly, I have no photos of long-ago pets; I will use generic images.

My father was a mink rancher. One of the necessities of that occupation was having a dog that was trained to help catch any mink that had gotten out of its cage. The dog’s role was to circle around the animal and chase it back toward my dad.

We had two black cocker spaniels, Duke and Duchy. Duchy was Duke mothers. Even though they were working dogs, I was free to play with them any time I wanted. They were not allowed in the house, though.

When I was ten we moved from the ranch into the tiny village a couple miles away. We had always had cats, both inside cats and barn cats. Graystuff was a tortoise shell cat like the photo below, but gray instead of black.

Graystuff was always on my mom’s sh!tlist. She was supposedly an outside cat but periodically she would sneak into the house, usually to have a litter of kittens. We also had a white cat that was allowed inside (I cannot remember her name) (Mom preferred white cats) that was deaf. Apparently that was a common affliction among white cats. Whitey eventually was the victim of a poorly chosen napping spot — under the truck right behind the tire.

Our white cat had matching eyes, unlike this one.

In town I was allowed to pick a kitten from one of Graystuff’s litters. I picked a white tom and named him Toto. A few years later he got distemper and died. (Take a cat to the vet? Never. There was an endless supply of kittens, thanks to Graystuff, so none of the cats were irreplaceable.)

When I was a rising sophomore we moved to northern Minnesota, where my dad managed a large mink ranch. As usual there was a outside cat that loved to have kittens. None ever became my special cat; I loved and played with them all.

College dorm life did not allow pets. ::sob:: When I eventually moved into an apartment it was not long until I imported a cat from home, an orange tabby. Sadly, he (she? don’t remember) didn’t last long in the city, thanks to stray dogs, stray cars, and stray mean people. But a neighbor had a friend whose cat had recently had kittens, and I adopted Cactus, a handsome tuxedo cat.

Cactus didn’t have this much white, mainly just white feet and a little white bib.

I initially named her Abigail, but her feisty nature overwhelmed that name and she became Cactus. Besides just being combative, she had a nasty trink of leaping through the triangular opening of a person with one ankle on the other knee. She did that anytime anyone sat like that. I had to surrender her at the Humane Society after several years because I was moving into a really nice apartment with a couple friends, and the landlord turned out to be very firm on his No Pets policy.

After several pet-free years I moved with my boyfriend at the time into a different apartment that allowed pets. A friend had just found a stray mother cat with a brand-new litter under the steps of her building, and boyfriend and I adopted two gray tabby kittens, a male and a female. We named them Pius and Argyle, respectively, simply because we liked the sound of those words. Pius had been the runt of the litter, but grew to 15 pounds or so. Argyle was a more normal feline weight. Both kittens got sick at one point; Pius recovered with no apparent ill effects, but Argyle lost a lot of brain cells. When it got to the point after several years that she essentially lived in my closet, it was decided that her quality of life had degenerated significantly, and I surrendered her to the Humane Society. Pius, however, lived to something like 16. I had moved twice with him, gotten married, moved a couple more times, and had a baby. Somewhere is a photo of Elder Son in a walker scratching his head. At the ripe old age of 16, Pius developed diabetes, which we were unable to treat properly (full time jobs, new baby), and he gave his organs to the University of Minnesota vet school to be used in studying diabetes.

During the Pius years we adopted other cats: first was Sheba, solid gray, and named after a female fighter pilot on Battlestar Galactica. But Sheba developed the fatal habit of peeing not in the litter box. When my parent bought us new carpets for living and dining rooms, Sheba went back to the Humane Society. Smokey took her, and I told him Don’t come home with another cat! We were about to leave on a two-week vacation, and I thought it would be better to adopt another cat when we got home.

He listened to me as he always does and came home with a little tuxedo cat whom we name Daisy Bumble, after a character in a Monty Python sketch. Daisy was a good little cat, and we were once again a two-cat household.

Shortly after we moved to our second house, we adopted a third cat, Zoot, a Siamese cross we named for a character in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. During the summer after we moved in, Smokey laid a cobblestone 2-strip driveway in the back yard to improve access to the tuck-under garage. Zoot supervised all his work and approved it as satisfactory. (The cobblestones were from an old street in Minneapolis being paved and were available free for pickup.)

However, we found that having 3 cats –Pius, Daisy Bumble, and Zoot, for those of you keeping track — meant a lot more commotion than 2 cats. I concluded that the commotion level corresponded to the number of potential interactions among the cats rather than the actual number of cats. All three cats got along most of the time, but when they didn’t all hell broke loose.

Zoot also lived to 16 and developed diabetes in her old age. At that point we were able to care for her, but she died not too long after her diagnosis. The boys and I were spending the summer at the cabin (where we now live), and they performed the burial ritual.

We had also acquired a dog during those years whom we named Bear and who was beloved of Elder Son.

Somewhere in there Daisy Bumble was mistreated by a neighbor and died of a herniated diaphragm, vet was not able to save her. Once we had moved back to Minneapolis the four of us — Younger Son was about 3 them — trekked to the Humane Society to pick out a kitten.

Meet Tabby, so named by Elder Son when he learned that she was, in fact, a tabby cat.

Tabby also lived to the ripe old age of 16 (are you sensing a trend here?) During her life we acclimated her to riding in the car. The secret is to start when the cat is still a kitten. The boys and I were spending every summer at the cabin by now, plus many weekend, and Tabby always came along. After the cabin become home she and Bear would ride along in the car every morning when I drove the boys to school. (If I drove them instead of have them take the school we could all sleep another hour. Easy choice.)

By the time the boys and I were spending the summer here in WI we had also started fostering litter of kittens from the Humane Society.

Posted in Museum of Me | 5 Comments

Furry Friday, 5/13/22.

How to end your cat’s habit of gravity testing.

Pest control.

Kittens and puppies meet for the first time.

I want to know what the cat did that required two — count ’em, TWO! — FBI agents to bring him to justice.
Posted in Furry Friday | 5 Comments

Rants, various, 5-12-22.

Posted in Rants, various | 8 Comments

Unraveled Wednesday, 5/11/22.

Joining Kat and friends. Go see what the others are up to.

Knitting.

This hat took me roughly forever to knit. Anyone who has knit a Sockhead knows whereof I speak. 4 inches of 2×2 ribbing, then 9 miles inches of stockinette, all on US#2.5 (3mm) needles.

But now this yarn has finally found a use. I would never buy it myself, I got it in a swap. It has haunted my brain for years: what to do with it? Those vivid colors — red, green, purple, turquoise — might fight each other. But in this hat they formed nice tidy stripes. The could just as easily have pooled or flashed as these did. Calling this a win. 

When I went to put that hat away in the donations box, I found several hats that never made it to the blog. Behold!

Made for the Blue Hat Project. The first two are knit with various blues of worsted weight, the last two are double-stranded. Hat three is Cascade Heritage in gray-blue stranded with some Knit Picks Felici that never made it onto my stash page. Hat four is that same Cascade Heritage stranded with some Zauberball Crazy that was left over from this hat.

Another hat, this one of Berroco vintage, that lovely soft yarn.

Berroco Vintage DK. I have a metric sh!tload of both worsted weight and DK in this yarn. The dark green worsted is because I didn’t read the Carbeth pattern carefully, so I ordered worsted; oops, pattern called for DK. Return? Nah, I’ll use it…someday. The gold is a random skein I bought with the vague thought that I might put a stripe somewhere in Carbeth.

Well, as you might guess, I still have plenty of that Vintage, both DK and worsted. Apparently, someday has not yet arrived…

Somewhere there is another hat, double-stranded gray and beige. Perhaps it will appear in a subsequent post? No way to be sure…

Reading.

The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn. This book was as good as I had hoped. It is based on the true story of Lyudmila Pavlichlenko, a Ukranian/Soviet sniper in WWII. Mila was a single mother, student, historian, and librarian. But she had taken a sharpshooting course a few years before and discovered that she had amazing accuracy. In 1941 when Stalin called for volunteers to join the army to repel the German invasion, aka Operation Barbarossa, she immediately joined up. Women volunteers were being shunted to the medical corps, not combat troops, but she persevered and became the [in]famous sniper with 309 official kills (actually more than 400, but to be official the kill must be witnessed by others). 4.5★

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Say Her Name by Dreda Say Mitchell & Ryan Carter. Another freebie from Amazon. A biracial woman who was adopted seeks out her biological parents. She uncovers long-ago crimes never investigated because they “only” involved Black women. 2.5★

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The Power of the Dog by Thomas Savage. We watched the Netflix movie based on this book, mainly because it starred Benedict Cumberbatch, and I thought I would read the book to get more insight into the characters. Although the writing is excellent, I was not enthralled by the book. 2.5★ but YMMV.

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The Premonition by Michael Lewis. I read the synopsis on the front cover flap and thought This seems familiar, so I read the first few pages. Yup, Goodreads tells me I read this last July. It was so good I almost want to read it again. There is a blurb on the cover saying that the blurb-er “…would read an 800-page history of the stapler if it were written by Michael Lewis.” That is my feeling exactly — Lewis is a wonderful researcher who writes about his findings in superlative prose. 4.5★

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The Ballerinas by Rachel Kapelke-Dale. As a would-have-been-a-ballerina-in-another-life, I will read or watch anything about ballet or dance. I only got a little bit into reading this when I got distracted by some other shiny thing and I never finished it. No rating, but perhaps I will read it someday.

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Still Life by Sarah Winman. Boy howdy, I really had a hard time finishing books lately. I started this one but, again, got distracted by another book. Reading the synopsis on Goodreads makes me want to read it. It is available for borrowing when I decide I want it.

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The President is Missing by Bill Clinton and James Patterson. Obviously, the draw of this book is the authors. It was a decent thriller, not great, but definitely worth the time to read it. One of the women in my book group said that State of Terror by Hillary Clinton and Louise Penny is better; “smarter” was her word. So I put that one on hold, too. 3.5★

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State of Terror by Hillary Rodham Clinton and Louise Penny. Let’s deal with the elephant in the room first: This book is head and shoulders above Bill’s book. The plot is tighter, and it never lapses into a multi-page soliloquy of the author’s thoughts about the office s/he held or the state of the world or anything that does not put the plot forward. I started reading this ~500-page tome at 5pm and finished a few minutes before midnight, with only a couple brief interruptions for dinner, bathroom, something to drink. t***p is clearly the previous president, and the authors spare nothing in depicting him as an incompetent dumbass, put forward and supported by right-wing titans of industry to undermine our democracy in favor of something else and poisoning our relationship with our allies in the process. 5★

Watching.

Doc Martin, series 6-9. Number 9 is the last series that has aired. According to the Internet, series 10 has been filmed but not aired yet. (spoiler alert) At the end of series 9, the Doc has been struck off; in American terms, he has lost his license to practice medicine. Never mind that he is a brilliant diagnostician and surgeon, his rudeness to patients and absolute inability to be tactful could not be ignored by the powers that be.

The character was developed in a couple movies. I watched one, Saving Grace, and found it meh. Another one was included with the series 9 DVDs; we started watching it and quickly decided we would rather go to bed and read.

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Suits on Amazon Prime. This is my go-to thing to watch when Smokey is not around. (He would absolutely HATE this series.) But I find it amusing enough to be the background for knitting. It reminds me of working in the fairly conservative world of accounting and also that that was not nearly as cutthroat as the world portrayed in this series. Of course, I was not a partner, just a lowly staff person, and I was in Minneapolis, not New York; my view was definitely limited. But from what I observed in a couple business trips to the Big Apple, it seems accurate. 4★

Posted in Unraveled Wednesdays | 3 Comments

Fiber Monday, 5/9/22.

Yarn and beer, what a great combination!

Posted in Fiber Monday | 3 Comments

Guess what I am ranting about today, 5/5/22.

Yup, you guessed it…

Meanwhile. there are a number of other things that require ranting…

Posted in Rants, various | 6 Comments

Furry Friday (a day late), 4/29/22. My apologies!

First, did you know that Friday was National Shrimp Scampi Day? It’s okay to celebrate a day late.

Second, some of the captions below are in very small print. If you click on the image, it should get bigger.

Third, identify the Blue Boys in a photo below. No prize except bragging rights.

Story time at our house.
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