Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Snape: A Definitive Reading by Lorrie Kim (spoilers for Harry Potter abound)

I actually purchased Snape: A Definitive Reading by Lorrie Kim on my Kindle. Most books I write about here I get from the public library because I'm that kind of person, but I actually couldn't find this one through the public or university library systems and it was only $4.99, so I ponied up the money.

In this book, Kim goes through each of the seven Harry Potter novels through the lens of Snape. She makes the claim that if you follow Snape through the novels, the real story is there.  Even when Snape doesn't appear on the actual pages (he's absent for a large part of the last novel, for example), what he's doing off the pages is just as important was what's happening on the pages. As someone who still is a bit on the fence about Snape and his role in the novels and is more than a little creeped out by his strange stalkerish fixation on a long-dead woman who rejected him when he was a teenager, I read this hoping to develop a bit more empathy for the man Snape became.

I think this book actually delivered on that hope.  Snape, particularly in the later novels of the series, was in an unwinnable position. He didn't dare to use his full strength to help students and members of the Order of the Phoenix for fear Voldemort would find out, particularly give Voldemort's skill at Legilimancy.  He was a double agent and I hadn't actually given much thought about what that would do to his mental status until it was repeatedly pointed on this book.

But the chapter that really swayed me the most on my reading of Snape's character came from Kim's evaluation of Snape in the Half-Blood Prince.

     "It's as if he's gone back in time. Slughorn is back. A young man
     takes the Dark Mark and will never be able to remove it. Potter
     wins at Quidditch and dates a redheaded girl. Snape's old Potions
     books resurfaces, and along with it, the Dark Magic spells he
     invented in his teens." (51% on my Kindle)

These parallels really spoke to me. If I had to go back and relive the worst years of  my life and what I see as the worst mistakes of my life, I might be a bit shirty like Snape is throughout most of the HP&THBP.  I would not be able to be the better person I hope I've become since high school. I would slip back into my old ways of defensiveness and a cloak of cynicism and sarcasm. If I were a double agent at the same time, who knows what would be happening in my brain and how that would manifest itself outwardly?

So, I think this book is a great read for a mega-HP fan. I don't think there's anything super new here if you're a thoughtful reader (and re-re-rereader), but it's interesting to see it all in one place.

Now, if only someone would write a defense of Dumbledore and his atrocious teaching methods. 

Monday, June 18, 2018

2018 CSA Week #2

Last week went pretty much according to plan. We used everything except for some of the pea shoots and a few of the green garlic stems.  (Of course, I did not even attempt oregano, despite some helpful suggestions about it.)

I made a Caesar salad for lunch a couple of days (pea shoots, lettuce, Parmesean cheese, chicken, and dressing) and that used a lot of lettuce. The raspberry rhubarb crisp I made (using gluten-free flour) was a success at book club. I'll happily take rhubarb in our basket again!

This week brings us:
Green garlic
Kohlrabi (one, TINY little bulb)\

I think our plan is pretty similar to last week.
1) I'll saute the spinach (and the kale and turnip greens) with some balsamic, sprinkle some Parm on it, and call it part of lunch on a couple of days when I'm home for lunch.  I'll also use a bit of the green garlic here.
2) I'll eat the turnips and kohlrabi with lunch or as snacks when driving to and from.
3) We'll do a frittata with the kale and use some of the green garlic with it, as well.
4) I made one salad with the lettuce and we'll use some of it on tacos we're going to have this week, too. I'll use some of the green garlic in the taco meat, too.  If there's leftover lettuce, I guess I'll have another salad.
5) The lovage and basil are wild cards. I have repeatedly put in my feedback to our CSA farmers that I don't like it when we get herbs because we never use them, but here we - still getting herbs.  Oh, well, maybe inspiration will strike me or maybe I'll end up putting them in the compost with the oregano.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Podcast Roundup Week #24

This week I listened to 40 episodes.
99% Invisible had an excellent episode called "Curb Cuts" that is just amazing. It talks about the Disability Rights Movement in the United States, focusing on one of the leaders, a wheelchair-bound fellow named Ed Roberts. I feel like I have a working knowledge of the black civil rights movement, the American Indian civil rights movement, and a post-Stonewall history of the LBGT+ civil rights movement, but this was the first time I'd really delved into this movement.  If you, like me, don't remember life before the ADA or curb cuts, this might be an interesting listen for you.
The Moth has reliably good storytelling.  The story that Jason Falchook told called "Empathetic Subway Screaming" is well done, although I question its veracity.  Regardless of the truthfulness of the story or not, it's well told and made me laugh as this man interacted with his fellow New Yorkers on a crowded subway car.

And that's all I'm going to leave you with this week. Hopefully next week I'll be back with something more interesting than podcasts that are reliably in top ten lists.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch

Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch is the second in The Gentlemen Bastards series (after The Lies of Locke Lamora), a currently three book series that looks like the author has plans to make a seven book series, but since Lies came out in 2006 and we're still waiting on the fourth book, I'll believe that when I see it.

I thought the first book was great fun and truly enjoyed hanging out with Locke and his band of thieves with their convoluted plans and strange sense of morality. I thought this second book was fun, too.  We spend some time with a casino heist, hanging out with a fabulous lady pirate at sea, and managing all of Locke's various identities and characters.  I also think Lynch has a way with words and I think each sentence is a joy to read, the dialogue is sparkling, and the setting is brilliantly actualized.  In short, I liked it a bunch.

The relationship between Locke and Jean, his boon companion and fellow Gentleman Bastard, grows and changes in this novel. I think the depiction of a complicated male friendship, complicated particularly when one of those men develops a new, close female relationship, was really well done. I read a fair amount about the complications of  friendships among women and girls (consider all the Ferrante novels), but this an eye-opener for me. There are women characters in this book, which was a nice change from Lies, and I thought this book was really strong with all of its character development.

Apparently, I am in the minority. There seems to be a sizeable population out there who thinks that this book didn't allow for the true cunning of the characters to come out and that the time of the characters spent at sea was not plot driven, in that all the time spent at sea didn't really change their positions in their schemes back on shore. But the time at sea was not about plot. It was about character and it was about relationships and it was about how sometimes in life you make decisions that don't actually propel you forward in life.

Anyway, I'm pro-Scott Lynch, but I wish he weren't in the long list of authors who take forever to finish a series (Rothfuss and Martin, I'm aiming this right at you).

Monday, June 11, 2018

2018 CSA Week #1

It's officially CSA season!  If you've never heard of CSA, here's a post I wrote about the basics.   The first box of the season brought us lots of green goodies.

Rainbow chard
Pea shoots
Green garlic

1) The oregano is a lost cause. I can't think of  a single time I've used oregano, fresh or dry, in the last year, so it's not worth it to me to dry it.
2) The lettuce will make someone* a nice salad or two for lunch this week.  The pea shoots will also go in these salads. 
3) We'll make a risotto with that delicious looking asparagus for dinner.
4) Spinach. Spinach is super hard to clean. E. coli sticks to the grooves in the leaves and makes it hard to get 100% clean.  We have, in the last year or so, taken to just throwing out spinach, but it seems so wasteful. I think, in light of that, I'm going to saute the spinach down to nothing and then throw in some of the green garlic, balsamic, and some Parm (feta is better, but we don't have any) and have it for lunch on one or two days. Apparently if you cook it, it can kill the E. coli. 
5) We have rhubarb growing in our backyard, but I've never picked it or cooked with it. I feel like my mom had an aversion to rhubarb for some reason, although whenever I've had any someone else has made, I've thought it was perfectly acceptable. Anyway, I think I'm going to try a rhubarb/raspberry crisp and bring it to book club.
6) The chard and some of the green garlic will inevitably be used in a frittata. 

And that's it. I think I have it under control, but it's only week one, so who knows what's coming?

*I don't really care for lettuce, but it will probably be me who eats these salads anyway since Dr. BB gets really upset at how few calories are in salads. He clearly does not understand the beauty of ranch dressing the way I do.  Anyway, maybe I'll cook up a chicken breast and use lots of Parm cheese and call it a Caesar salad.

Friday, June 08, 2018

Podcast Roundup Week #23

This was a big week for me. I drove to my sister's house and back and just listened to podcasts the entire time. Not to mention that my second job has me driving all over southeastern Wisconsin now that I'm back home, so the number of podcast episodes I listened to this week is an astonishing 59.

I just discovered the podcast Order 9066 and I'm absolutely riveted by it. In 1942 FDR signed executive order 9066, forcing the incarceration of over 100,000 people of Japanese descent after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.  Most of the people incarcerated were American citizens.  This podcast tells firsthand accounts of life in camp and the consequences of the war and imprisonment. It's truly chilling to listen to in 2018.  I'd like to point out to a particular episode, but they're all so memorable (you can skip the ones with the music).  I highly recommend this if you're into oral histories or just American history in general.

Another new podcast I've stumbled upon is Swindled. In this podcast, an anonymous host who goes by "A Concerned Citizen," walks us through white-collar crimes in the history of the United States. I'm not actually sure how seriously to take this guy because he's very into his "Concerned Citizen" status, but I think the storytelling is really good.  The second episode is called "The Horse Queen" and it talks about how a city manager stole millions of dollars from a town called Dixon, Illinois.  I was so excited because Dixon is our rest area when we're driving to Dr. BB's dad's house. It's a landmark for us and it was really interesting to learn more about it.  I like this podcast, but I do find the narrator's anonymous schtick a tiny bit annoying.

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Home Is Where You Can Give Directions

I walk a lot around the town where I live. People will frequently pull over to ask me where places are and most of the time I can help because people are looking for the library, post office, McDonald's, or grocery store and I know where those are. Sometimes people ask me about things like particular churches and I must confess I don't know the Lutheran from the Catholic from the Methodist churches, so I may have failed a time or two there. It makes me so happy when I can help someone out.

I was back in Michigan this past weekend and one of the things I did was go to a high school graduation party for one of my friend's daughters.  My friend graduated from high school at the same time I did and now she has a daughter who graduated from that very same high school.  Now you can figure out exactly how old I am. It seems like just yesterday that she was a baby and I was sending her tiny clothes and board books.  My friend had recently moved and so I had never been to her house, but I was armed with her address and I knew where the road was, so I took off with confidence to find it.

And I got so lost. You guys, this road is divided by a highway and I didn't know that. I was driving around in my hometown for miles, round and round in circles. It was craziness.  Not my hometown any longer, I guess. It was a harsh lesson. (You guys. I did put it into the GPS. Google Maps was WRONG.)

Another reason I went home is because my mom recently had surgery and she's laid up at my sister's house. My sister wanted a day off, which is completely understandable, so I went over to her house to take care of my mom and the collection of animals who live there while my sister and her husband went on a date.

So, my sister and her husband have two dogs and a cat. My mom has a dog and a cat. They're all there and they don't all get along.  Here are the relevant players to the story and I'm not changing anyone's name because they're all dogs.

Red: This is my mom's dog. He's and old, adorable Pomeranian who happens to be my favorite dog in the world. If you have a dog, clearly your dog is my second favorite.
Little Bit: This is my sister's dog. She loves to play Frisbee for hours and is terribly territorial about other dogs in her space.
Louie: Into this mess of animals, a couple of weeks ago, my sister and her husband got a new dog named Louie. Louie has clearly been abused in his life, but he's generally quite calm and is probably the most chill of all of the animals in the house.  He likes to play ball, but it's hard to do because Little Bit doesn't like him touching her toys.
I had been at my sister's house for less than 10 minutes when Little Bit attacked Red. She was biting him and Red, my favorite dog in the world, was making the worst sounds I have ever heard come out of a dog.  I put my foot in between them to try to separate them and Louie walked right up to me and bit my leg. I grabbed Little Bit's collar and managed to get her into a locked room to calm down and bandaged up Red's bleeding before I snuck off to the bathroom to see exactly what the damage was to my leg.
And this is why, when I got back home on Sunday night, I unsubscribed from the local pet shelter's web site that I had been following closely in an attempt to find the perfect dog for our house. I'm not going to be hanging out with any dogs for a bit.

There's no place like home, where you know how to give directions and you don't have to worry about random dog outbursts.
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