Monday, October 16, 2017

Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler

Written in 1993, this dystopian novel shows us a world in which economic inequality has grown so that there are haves hiding behind fenced in areas, kind of haves who are people making do with homemade fences and barricades, and have nots who are homeless and live in dangerous, unpoliced areas.  Environmental crises have led to water being more important and more rare than gasoline. There's a politician whose slogan is "America Great Again," but most people don't bother voting because the government stopped being in charge long ago.  The police need to be paid to investigate crimes and corruption in the police force is rampant. 

Many of the homeless are addicted to a new drug that causes them to set fire to things, and with water such a scarce resource, arson is a larger and larger problem.  People become hooked on this drug because there doesn't seem to be a way out of the social caste into which they are born.  People with disabilities cannot survive in this world.

Some people move into neighborhoods sponsored and protected by large corporations. They soon find themselves in debt to their employers and while they have a job and housing, they are unable to leave. The price of freedom is safety.

Wow.  It's only been 24 years, my friends. Butler was clairvoyant.

And then there's a relatively boring story of a young teenage girl's spiritual development that Butler seems to focus on.  As a non-religious person, I found this part snooze inducing, but the overall world building was so terrifyingly prescient that I couldn't stop turning the pages.

Friday, October 13, 2017

CSA Week 19: Winter Harvest Begins

I'm definitely behind in my vegetable usage, but now we're getting a lot of storage vegetables, so I'm planning on hoarding some of them for quite some time.

Honey nut squash (2)
Onions (2)
Garlic
Green cabbage
Leeks (3)
Romanesco
Jalapeno peppers (3)
Daikon radish
Sage
So I already have a head of cabbage in the fridge and this one will go in there to create a matching set. Eventually I'll make slaws with them - the radish will be good for the slaw, too. The leeks will be used in place of onion in a butternut squash risotto we'll make for dinner next week.  The honey nuts we'll bake and use as sides for dinner on the non-risotto nights. 

I'll eat the romanesco raw with lunch, but I don't love it. 

The garlic, onions, and peppers will go into storage for a bit.

Meanwhile...
My sister gave me a bunch of tomatoes out of her garden and they're finally ripe. Now I have to figure out what in the world to do with all of them!

Monday, October 09, 2017

Driftless by David Rhodes

Our book club book for this month was Driftless by David Rhodes.
Set in a fictional town in rural Wisconsin (what is commonly known as the "Driftless" region of Wisconsin), this comeback novel by David Rhodes details the ways in which community is built in rural America. Rhodes was apparently quite the sensation in the 1970s, when he released several critically regarded novels, but then he was involved in a motorcycle accident that left him paralyzed. It wasn't until 2008 that this novel was released.

I thought it was kind of lazy, if I'm going to be honest. There was not a lot of plot in this book; it was much more character driven. Since there was so little plot, the fact that there are giant gaping plot holes is problematic. We have a character who has been in a wheelchair most of her adult life and it turns out that she's been misdiagnosed and some antibiotics can fix her (!). Even in rural Wisconsin, doctors aren't that incompetent and it only took her a single trip to Madison to fix the situation. There are no black mountain lions in Wisconsin. The characters who swoop in to save the day at the end are a couple of lawyers we don't meet until the last twenty pages. I mean, we were introduced to dozens of characters throughout this novel, so why couldn't they have been slipped in, at least a brief mention, at some point before the very end.

Rhodes' writing style was fine. I thought it occasionally lapsed into too many words for my liking, but most of the time it was interesting and just descriptive enough. 

There were mixed reactions in our book club. Some folks really loved the descriptions. Because we live in Wisconsin, we tend to think it's the best place to be and reading fiction that elevates our geography and our sense of community. Some of us thought it was a bit too writerly in the sense that Rhodes thinks a bit highly of himself. We were unanimously confused about the role of religion in the book, but since only one of the people at book club regularly attends church, we assumed this was more about us than about the writing. I was not the only one to note the plot points (the veterinarian in our group actually thought it was supposed to be magical realism because of the oddness in the plot), but I think I was the only one to roundly dismiss the book because of how lazy I thought it was.

All of that aside, I might go and get one of those novels from the 1970s to see what his writing was like before the accident. This book definitely intrigued me, even if I didn't love this it.

Friday, October 06, 2017

2017 CSA Week 18: Let There Be More Winter Squash

This week brings us quite the delicious bounty.
Delicata squash
Honeynut squash
Onions (2 red)
Garlic (1)
Carrots
Chard
Romenesco
Peppers (3 sweet)
Parsley


The squash will get roasted and eaten for lunch on Saturday and Sunday.  We're making a stew tonight that will include the onions, some of the garlic, some of the carrots, and the peppers. We'll use the chard in a frittata.

The romanesco is beautiful, but it tastes kind of like cauliflower, so it's not the best raw. I might give it a shot and roast it. It's getting cooler now, so taking 20 minutes to roast something doesn't seem quite as dire as it did two months ago.
And that's that. We'll chip away at the parsley, but I think we actually have a good plan for this week's basket.

Last week's butternut squash risotto was AMAZING, you guys. I highly recommend butternut squash for maximum winter squash delight.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

2017 Yearly Goals, Quarter 3

Third quarter here we come.  Quarter one here and quarter two here

Area One: Fitness Goals
1) Workout four times a week - I met this goal 11 out of 13 weeks in the quarter. Considering how difficult the summer was in terms of stuff going on, I'm going to call this a win. Since I did workout more than 4 times a week on some weeks, my average workout was 4.4 times a week. I'm going to give myself a solid B+.

2) 11,500 steps a day - I missed five days and two more days when my Fitbit was broken and I was waiting to get a new one.  I'm going to say this is 94% and give myself a solid A.

3) Weigh myself weekly - I literally did this three times. Ha! Some of this was because our Wii Fit was not unpacked for a couple of weeks, but this is mostly because I hate to do it. I will do better next quarter.

Overall, fitness goals are fine.


Area Two: Communication Goals
1) Update my blog twice a week - SUCCESS! I only missed one week. 92.3% is an A. Woot! I averaged 2.5 posts a week.  That is the best I've done since I started this goal. I'm super pleased with this. I'm a bit concerned about what I should write about once the CSA season is over, but I'll deal with that issue when it arises. 

2) Make contact with four people (MDTT) at least once a week - I missed everyone at least once. The success rate was 86.5%, which isn't ideal, but is much better than I have traditionally done in my life. Some of this was because my mother's damn phone wasn't getting my texts, which we discovered at breakfast at IHOP on Sunday morning when I mentioned that maybe it would be nice if she responded to my texts and she was SHOCKED that I would say such a thing, but most of this slacking is just my fault.  I shall endeavor for better results next time.

3) See my mom four times in the year - I saw my mother TWICE in this quarter. Once I was in Michigan when my sister had a health crisis and I went last weekend for my high school's Homecoming game. Since I failed to see her last quarter, this means I'm right on track to meet my goal if I see her one more time before the end of the year. I'm extremely pleased with this.

4) Send a letter or postcard to my grandmother and two of my elderly aunts at least once a month - In July I sent moving announcements with our new address, in August I sent cards with breezy notes about moving and painting our guest room, and in September I sent my grandmother a birthday card (100!), but apparently I failed to send anything to my aunts. I'm a terrible niece.

5) Post a photo to Instagram at least once a day - I missed 13 days for a rate of 69%. That's pretty bad. I would say that I'm going to do better, but I've already missed two days in Quarter 4, so maybe that's optimistic.

Considering the chaos of our lives in this quarter, I consider my communication goals to be a win.


Area Three: The Rest of My Life
1) Vacuum or sweep twice a week - I didn't do great at tracking this. Somewhere in the move I just forgot. I'll keep better stats next quarter.

2) Brush Zelda's teeth when I feed her at night - I missed 10 days when I was home to feed her.  Honestly this is better than the once a month I was doing before I started tracking it, so I'm going to call it a win.

3) Get my sewing machine out at least once a month - This is a big fat zero. Our sewing room isn't set up yet and between the yard and the family stuff, I just didn't do anything with this. I'll get on it. I imagine once the weather cools down and there isn't so much immediate yard stuff going on, this will be more prioritized.

Overall, the rest of my life could be better, but I'm only human.





Friday, September 29, 2017

CSA Week 17: Let There Be Winter Squash

Yay! Fall is here.  This means great things for me, mostly that the weather is cool again and we get squash in our basket.

Butternut squash
Garlic (x2)
Peppers (x5)
Diakon radish
Leek
Cabbage
Arugula

We rode to school yesterday and then I rode to get the CSA. And then I drove to the grocery store. So much for saving Mother Earth.
The cabbage will make a slaw. I'll use the radish in that slaw, too.

I'll eat the pepper raw.

I'm going to visit my family this weekend and I'm going to round up all the garlic and onions we currently have and give it to them. I'm also going to pawn off the beets we got a few weeks back on someone, too.

I don't know what we'll do with the leek, but we're going to make some squash risotto with that butternut and I might use the leek in place of the onion in that dish.

I put the arugula in someone else's basket.  Seriously. I ain't got time for that.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Ghost in the Wires by Kevin Mitnick

Ghost in Wires: My Adventures as the World's Most Wanted Hacker by Kevin Mitnick with William L. Simon is the autobiography of a sociopath hacker  scam artist who breaks the law, makes excuses, and gets upset when he is forced to pay the consequences for what he has done.
I generally find memoirs insufferable and this is no exception. If someone thinks their life is so great that it's worthy of an entire book, they generally are either wrong or full of self-satisfied sanctimoniousness.  This guy falls into the latter category. This guy breaks the law CONSTANTLY and dares to get pissy when the police and FBI and other law enforcement agencies go after him. I found myself actively rooting for him to get caught and somehow injured during the arrest. When I find myself rooting for LE officials, you have so obviously done something wrong. I mean, how could this guy have made himself any more unlikeable?

He basically uses "social engineering" (which is just lying to people) to get them to reveal information that he then uses to allow himself access to computer files of major utilities and corporations. He then steals those files. He's all defensive about this (I didn't USE the information for profit, he says - as if that would comfort the thousands of people whose credit card, social security, and utility numbers he has) and doesn't seem to actually be able to put himself in the shoes of the people he has scammed.

And don't even get me started on how he discusses women. 

I just seriously disliked this man.  I kind of wish he were still in jail.  This book didn't make me anymore worried about technology breaches (I live in 2017 when Equifax just basically released EVERY PERSON'S private information to everyone, after all), but just reinforced my belief that computer guys are jerks.  Way to go, Mitnick. 
 
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