Cover of The Soup & Bread Cookbook

The Soup and Bread Cookbook by Beatrice Ojakangas. Rodale Books. Photographs by Hector Sanchez. ISBN: 978-1-60961-362-4. (Retail: $23.99 / Amazon: $18.47) (October 2013)

First, I love cookbooks. I buy them for many reasons besides wanting to make the delicious sounding recipes in them. I buy them for the beautiful photos or artwork, the way they’re set-up and designed, their clarity, and especially if the writing is clear, informative, entertaining, and the recipes themselves seem to be accurate (no ingredients hidden in the instructions that aren’t in the list of ingredients — that sort of thing). I even have the two books by Laurie Colwin that aren’t so much about the recipes as they are about cooking, food, and good eating and read like you were sitting around the table with a cuppa and just talking.

Ojakangas’ The Soup and Bread Cookbooks has some of that flavor for me. The introduction to each season’s recipes is sort of a quick overview of what the season means to her. There’s also some interesting background in the short information piece on each recipe. The recipes seem set up to make them easy to follow and the instructions are clear. Some of the recipes have variations and some of the bread recipes have instruction for using a bread machine rather than doing it all by hand.

My preference is for recipes and cookbooks that use actual ingredients rather than a can of this and a can of that, plus a box mix or two of something else. All the recipes use real food — which is better for you and your family. However, I did notice that many had a note on use of a canned or frozen ingredient as well as some substitutions if something wasn’t available in your area.

The photography was beautiful and it looks like this would be a cookbook you could sit and look at over and over.

Now for the cons:
Understand that I read a digital review copy which expired just about the time I finished reading through it. Digital review copies, as well as the print review copies are unfinished — there were a few places where there was just a note on what would be added, such as a sidebar. Even so, the instructions were still clear and concise — meaning I have great hopes for the finished edition. None of the recipes, in the copy I read, had calorie, carbs, etc. listed for a serving size. Normally, that wouldn’t be of interest to me but my family is being really careful right now due to a medical need to cut cholesterol and lose weight — so I’m more aware of this information not being readily available. WARNING: Since the copy I read was unfinished some of the material may change between the copy I read and the finished one you’ll find in your favorite bookstore.

Overall Impression:
Overall, I found this cookbook to be one I’ll more than likely go out and buy when it comes out in October. You’ll notice that the recipes that most often caught my attention are those for bread — I love bread. During the winter, I make bread — from scratch — nearly every week. While I currently have a bread machine, I still like to set it on dough and knead it — there’s something so satisfying and relaxing about making bread. Anyway, that another reviewer bias for you to add into the mix.

Now for the details:
Basics: Stocks, Broths, and Basic Breads
This section contained some recipes as well as helpful information and tips.
Recipes: Basic Chicken Stock, Two-for-One Chicken Stock (for soup stock and flavoring beans and rice dishes, braising vegetables, etc.), Two-for-One Beef Stock. Soup Tips: Cooling Stock Safely, Tips for making broth or stocks in a slow cooker, How to freeze stocks and Broths, Basic Vegetable Broth.

Glossary of Bread-Baking Basics
This section had some really good advice on breadmaking and some tips on how to get it right.
Recipes included: Fresh Baguette, Basic Vegetable Soup (whatever is in the house soup), Basic Home-Baked Bread (with Variations)

The book is arranged with the recipes chosen for what fresh ingredients would be available, and to deal with the heat or cold of the time of year. For each season, I’ve listed the total number of recipes for either soup or bread and the recipes that really got me wanting to pull out the pots and pans and try out. Luckily, I just did a read through because the book expired before I finished reading it through and if I’d stopped to cook along the way, I wouldn’t have gotten through it.

27 soup and bread recipes
Some recipes that sounded interesting: Herbed Biscuit Muffins, Wheat Germ Batter Bread, Rosemary Focaccia, Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins, Asian Lemon-Ginger Soup, Cheddar Cheese Onion Scones, Walleye Chowder, and Super Simple Salmon Chowder.

24 soup and bread recipes
A sample listing of the recipes in this section I enjoyed reading: Whole Wheat Buttermilk Biscuits, Avgolemondo Soup, Pita Bread, Summer Day Herb-scented Soup, Whole-Grain Buttermilk Oatmeal Bread, Bacon Parmesan Crackers, Red Curry & Coconut Bread, Spiced Zucchini Soup10-minute Chickpea-Tomato Soup, Easy Refrigerator Rolls. Cranberry Bean & Pasta Soup. Southwestern Chicken Tortilla Soup, and Cowboy Beer & Cheddar Bread.

26 soup and bread recipes
The first recipe in this section is for Stone Soup based on the children’s story. This is great for an autumn party potluck dinner and the author gives suggestions for what the guests should bring, as well as a bit of the story of stone soup.

Some of the recipes that caught my eye as ones I’d really like to make are: Oatmeal Batter Bread, Curried Chicken Wild Rice Soup, Dutch Raisin Bread, Green Cabbage & Hamburger Soup, Honey Whole Wheat Cranberry-Nut Bread, Brie & Apple Soup, Granola Loaf, Buttermilk Corn Muffins, and Curried Pumpkin Soup.

I was surprised by the Old-Fashioned Gridded Cheese, Apple, & Basil Sandwiches. I love grilled cheese sandwiches and often have them with swiss cheese, onion, and tomato but never thought of using apple and basil — what was I thinking, or rather not thinking to never consider this taste combination? I’ve got to try this in the fall when we usually have apples in the house.

30 soup and bread recipes.
Some of the recipes that intrigued me in this section: Spicy Black Bean Soup (one can never have enough black bean soup recipes), Oatmeal Rusks, Brown Bread Muffins, New Year’s Good Luck Lentil Soup, Johnnycake, Herbed White Bean & Sausage Soup, Beer Biscuits, Cumin & Coriander Bean Soup, Senate Bean Soup (similar to one served in the US Senate dining room), Molasses Wheat Loaf, Rustic Rye Bread, Swedish Yellow Pea Soup with Pork, Overnight Mini Croissants, Russian Black Bread (there’s chocolate and coffee in this one), Cabbage & Apple Soup, Mulligan Stew, and Feijoada (a black bean soup with oranges).

All in all, a great cookbook, especially if you have a garden or a good produce section in your local stores. Not a lot of specialty items needed. Soups are always great because you can stretch them out to feed company or for several meals. Since many people are cutting their budgets and food is usually a big expense for most families — soups and homemade bread would be a great way to serve nutritious meals at a lower cost per person.

As always, feel free to leave a comment.

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We just finished watching Crusade, all 13 episodes. Crusade was a science fiction television program that followed on Babylon 5 after the Shadow War and Earth was seeded with a virus that would kill everyone in five years. The crew of the ship Excalibur were to find a cure for the plague. But that’s not why I’m mentioning the show. Every episode started with some questions:

Who are you?
What do you want?
Where are you going?
Who do you serve and Who do you trust?

Now on the surface these questions seem really simple ones that everyone could just answer off the top of their head without having to think. In fact, they are very serious questions — ones that deserve a lot of thought. I’ve been thinking of them off and on for days and I still don’t know how to answer them.

Who Are You?
The main character in the show answer with his name and, because he’s military, with his rank and where he’s stationed.

I believe most people would answer with their name. But is your name really ‘who’ you are? Many believe that your name defines you and if a person knows your true name then they can control you. Parents agonize over what name to pick for their child — afterall, you don’t want your child made fun of, or to insult some relative for not naming them after them and so on.

But after thinking about this question, I don’t believe a name really sums up a person. It doesn’t tell you their likes or dislikes or their joys, passions, interests, talents… the parts that make up the person. It may give you an idea of heritage if and only if the name reflects their heritage. But it doesn’t tell you how closely they hold their heritage in their hearts.

Many people would add their job title or position, but this also doesn’t tell you whether the person loves their job or whether it’s just a paycheck. Either way a job doesn’t define the person. You can’t really tell anything about a person just because they are a computer programmer, trash collector, waitress, writer, truck driver, or artist. It may help to pigeonhole someone but then I know that I don’t fit in a neat category or slot and I doubt very much that there are any people that actually do.

So, this question of “Who are You?” is not as simple as it seems on the face of it.

What Do You Want?
This is even more of a puzzler because if you don’t know who you are, how could you possibly know what you want. I think most of us could say that we want to be happy — just as a very broad sweeping wish for ourselves. But, dig deeper and my idea of happiness is probably not the same as anyone reading this blog. We might have some overlapping criteria but the specifics could be quite different. Some people want fame and riches. Some want only to see their children employed, no one ill, and enough money to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. Is this “What do you want?” about achievements or emotional contentment and desires? Again not a simple questions.

Where Are You Going?
Is this simply asking for a destination or a goal? I’ve had a lot of goals in my life. Some I’ve come close to but, on approach, found that it wasn’t the ‘real’ goal that I wanted — that goal was something different. I still don’t know where I’m going but I’ve learned that, for me, the journey is the real joy, even when here and there along the way there’s a bit (or a lot) of heart-ache. My cancer diagnoses, over 14 years ago now, certainly changed the way that I looked at the future as well as the present. So, I guess, for me, I don’t know where I’m going, but I’ll take every day as it comes with the current goals that I have.

Now if this asks for a destination. I don’t have one. Maybe some people can say this is where I’m going and I’m nearly there but I guess I don’t have that clarity. Or maybe, I’m just thinking about this too much. But this also is not an easy question to answer.

Who Do You Serve and Who Do You Trust?
Think about this two-part question for a minute. Do you serve your boss? Your employing company? Your government? Your family? Your children? Your church? What exactly is meant by “Serve”? The same is true of “trust”. I trust my husband, my son, and some of my close friends. But when I broaden that circle as I go outward I’m not sure. Just think about everyday life — if you were in a life or death situation who could you call? That person would probably be someone you could trust. For most of us, those that we could count on to step up in an emergency are usually a much smaller subset of friends, family, or acquaintances. On the other hand, and isn’t there always another hand, you might be surprised to find who would be the people to step up in a crisis.

I’ve known people who were very surprised and shocked to find that their trust was only from them to others and there was no help forthcoming when they found themselves in a tight corner. Then help came, as it often does, from unexpected directions and people that they would have least expected to help them out. Such experiences can be surprising as well as heart-breaking, but they happen all the time and we often read such stories in the news — with either good or devastating results.

Again not an easy question to answer.

I’m not sure I really have answers to any of these simple questions. But, I’m still pondering the ramifications and potentials of these questions. As always, I’m interested in what others think. I’ve talked at length with my husband but what do you, my readers, think?

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Cover of Knit Your Socks on Straight
Knit Your Socks on Straight: A New and Inventive Technique with Just Two Needles by Alice Curtis, Storey Publishing, LLC (June 5, 2013). ISBN: 978-1612120089, Spiral Bound, 144 pages. List Price: $16.95 (Amazon: $11.32 / Kindle: $9.99)

In the past, I’ve knitted a couple of different patterns for two-needle socks. Each one was different and rather plain-vanilla in appearance. There was variation in the type of yarn used (mult-colored or one-color) or using more than one yarn color for strips. Each had a seam that varied from under the foot and up the back or on top of the foot. Mostly, I knit my socks using five needles, but I’ve often thought that those knitters who prefer to use two straights should also have a chance to knit beautiful socks and now they can with Alice Curtis’ book.

Alice Curtis in Knit Your Socks on Straight gives knitter who are uncomfortable with knitting on circulars or multiple needles a chance to make socks. There are plain socks to get a feel for the pattern basics. Then there are some familiar lace patterns, cabled socks, and even a pattern for a pair of argyle socks. There’s also socks for babies, men, and women. There’s enough variation to keep a knitter happy and once familiar with the basics of her pattern a chance to strike out on your own.

The book has a nice section on basic sock how-to instructions. This section explains the way the patterns are set up and the importance of measurement and gauge and how to get both of these. It’s clearly written with diagrams and directions that are simple enough for beginners and set out logically enough so experience knitters can find the bit they need without wading thorough lots of material they already know.

Caution: Each pattern, because of the seam, has right foot and a left foot instructions. This makes sense because the seam is hidden within the pattern of the sock to reduce it’s appearance — it blends in. It is also critical to slip the first stitch so that you can seam the sock more easily. (There are instructions.).

My disclaimer is that I haven’t yet made any of the patterns in the book thought there are a couple that I’ve added to my to do list. I did read through nearly all of the pattern instructions and they seemed well written and clear — but, then most knitters realize that what seems clear and concise on the first read may seem a bit muddy when the stitches are on the needles and you forgot to mark you place in the pattern.

I’ll also note that there are instructions for socks with several different yarn weights.

All in all, if you don’t like circulars or working with multiple needles and have been wanting to knit socks, this is your chance.

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This is very late in being posted. First thing we did is start packing and get ready to check out. My panel was at 10:00.

10:00 AM – Digital Marginalia: A Conversation with Your Future Self
Panel: Michael J. DeLuca, Gayle Surrette, Neil Clarke, Ruth Sternglantz, and David G. Shaw (moderator).

Discription: Electronic reading devices allow us to carry huge libraries wherever we go. They also provide us with the ability to highlight, annotate, and share what we read. In a 2012 blog post, Clive Thompson described this enhanced reading experience as “a conversation with the author, with yourself, and in a weird way, if you take it along as a lifelong project… a conversation with your future self.” According to Craig Mod, “The book of the past reveals its individual experience uniquely. The book of the future reveals our collective experience uniquely.” What tools will we embed within digital texts to signal this shifting relationship with literature, and how will readers use them?

This panel was quite interesting for me. The discussion ranged over whether or how we write or mark up our books. Did we treat electronic books differently? Are there some books you don’t mark/highlight/write in? And what would be our wish list of features we’d like to see in an ebook reader?

For my part I mark up Advanced Reader Copies of books. I often will mark up Reference works that I keep for myself. However, other finished books, I don’t mark up — or rather I very seldom mark them up (using post-it notes instead or taking notes in a file).

Other panelists had their on ways of dealing with books. Mention was made of century old books marked up by the monks that give a glimpse into their thoughts and beliefs.

I really enjoyed this panel and have been thinking about my ‘use’ of books ever since. Do I really use print books differently than I do ebooks? I do enjoy having many books on vacation or trips with me without adding pounds of paper to the luggage. I’ve also noticed that I prefer heavy books (those door-stopper type books) to be electronic so the weight isn’t an issue when I’m trying to read them (wrists just aren’t what they used to be).

We decided with a 12 hour or so drive ahead of us to leave after the panel. We planned to stop in Providence, RI to visit my son on the way back to southern Maryland and hopefully get back before Monday. (We came close in that we pulled into our driveway at about 2:00 a.m. Monday morning.) Dragged stuff in from the car. I got to get to bed and Hubby slept on the couch with the cat since he cried and meowed his disapproval of being left home from the minute we came into the house until hubby sat on the couch with him — then Emnot was all purrs and cuddles.

The cat became velcro-cat for a couple of days after we got back — just as he was when we got back from Discworld. My guess is he has abandonment issues. Since he’s a rescue cat, that’s probably a fair guess.

But inevitably, I managed to get tired out and worn down enough from the convention and drive to catch a terrific summer cold. I’ve been coughing and hacking for the past week and am just now finally feeling human again. I’m always amazed at how a simple cold can befuddle and confuse a person’s thought processes.

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Checked the crack in the windshield and it hadn’t gotten any bigger overnight — big yeah. Just hope it doesn’t do anything
awful until after we get home.

Got a late start this morning, so didn’t make a panel until noon, missing two earlier ones that I really, really, wanted to get to. Just one of those days. I’m now down to one coffee a day — and hating it, a lot.

Just lost everything below here twice as my spam software suddenly decided that my site wasn’t safe or didn’t exist — it couldn’t make up it’s mine so there was an immediate change of software and the misbehaving software is now in time out.

Noon – Constellations of Genres
Panel: John Crowley, Veronica Schanoes, James Patrick Kelly (leader), Ted Chiang, Gary K. Wolfe, and Kit Reed.
Description: On Readercon 23’s panel “Genre Transference,” James Patrick Kelly cited four genres a book can have: “The genre of the writer’s intent, the genre of reader expectation, the genre of the critical review, and the commercial genre.” Let’s dig deeper into this idea. Are there more genres than these four? How does the constellation of a book’s various genres change the reader’s experience, or the writer’s career?

As genres seem to be evaporating because the walls between genres seem to have become porous. The tropes of one genre are now showing up in others. However, often those who are not familiar with the originating genre of the tropes don’t have the same depth of understanding of why/how/where the trope is used. Then there was a lot about the conversation between the author and the text and the text and the reader and whether other genres want to talk to each other in any type of conversation.

1:00 PM – Authorial Metanarrative
Panel: Glenn Grant, Alex Dally MacFarlane, Theodora Goss (leader), Lila Garrott, Sonya Taaffe
Description: A number of authors build in subtle links between otherwise unconnected works. A link may not be something as literal as a common character or name; perhaps, instead, there’s a repeated trope or event. Leah Bobet, discussing Patricia A. McKillip’s works in a 2011 blog post, described this as writing “epic poetry, and the whole of [McKillip’s] output is the poem.” How do such links affect a reader’s interpretation of or approach to a body of work, and what motivates authors to link their works together?

Some author’s have put in links that connect their stories — these links can be a secondary character that shows up in a work where they don’t necessarily have a part, or events from one story are mentioned in another, or symbols reoccur in multiple stories. These can be either intended by the author or happy happenstance. Discussion of what does an author do when such reoccurring items are pointed out to them. Are they gifts to the readers or a frustration because to understand you have had to read all the author’s works not just a selection? Does it work between author’s or only for the one author? Can these items tell their own story across the author’s body of work?

2:00 PM – The Relationship of Reality and Fantasy
Panel: Andrea Hairston (leader), Julia Starkey, James Morrow, Scott H. Andrews, and Anil Menon.
Description: In a 2012 essay titled “PSA: Your Default Narrative Settings Are Not Apolitical,” Foz Meadows addressed the notion that “deliberately including POC, female and/or LGBTQ characters can only ever be a political action.” She demonstrated that history, the historical record, and commonly accepted historical narratives are in fact three distinct things, and pointed out the irony of fans who accept magic and dragons in their fantasy but balk at the idea of female pirates or a black Lancelot because they’re “unrealistic.” Whose reality does fantasy need to reflect in order to be believable? How can we use fantasy to shape and change our realities?

This more or less, in my opinion only (remember I’m caffeine deprived), focused on the nature of reality with a work and how it is best achieved. Also led into a discussion of Truth, truth, real, reality, and reality within context.

Visited the Book Shop (Dealers’ Room) — lots of really interesting books and I hope to get back tomorrow to buy a couple of the ones I spied today. Readercon’s Book Shop is just that all booksellers — new, used, and collectable, and sometimes all with the same bookseller. It’s a bookaholics dream come true.

7:00 PM – Woldbuilding by Worldseeing
Panel: Romie Stott, Sarah Smith, John Crowley (leader), and Harold Vedeler
Description: Kipling’s Kim, Mayhew’s London Labour and the London Poor, Dickens’s “sketches”… who is writing about the present day this way, and what can worldbuilders learn from these Victorian-era worldseers? All these observers were at some remove; how does observation differ when one is part of the culture one is observing?

The discussion focused on the need for writers to write what they know and if you don’t know to find out. You should get your facts straight. If writing modern urban fantasy, you should know the city of your story and get the details and environment of that city right. If a character works in a garage, pizza parlor, or coffee shop, for example, talk to someone about what it’s like to work there — learn the details of the job. Getting the background right helps to ground the story when the fantasy elements come into play.

8:00 PM – The Gender of Reading Shame
Panel: Natalie Luhrs (leader), Jordan Hamessley, Ann Tonsor Zeddies, Julia Rios, and Trent Zelazny.
Description: In a 2012 post on Book Riot, Amanda Nelson wrote about bookstore shoppers who display signs of shame or embarrassment about their reading choices. She concluded that this behavior is highly gendered: “If men read ‘unliterary’ but stereotypically masculine genres it’s fine. If women read ‘unliterary’ but stereotypically feminine genres it’s deserving of a brown paper bag in the form of increased e-reader sales so you can read in public in peace.” Our panelists discuss their own experiences with reading shame or lack thereof, whether the gender hypothesis holds true within the speculative fiction–reading community, and why we read books we’re ashamed of or feel shame about what we read.

First ‘unliterary’ was defined to be non-genre. As you can imagine this was a panel with lots of personal accounts as well as recent research and anecdotal impressions. There was also the problem of the title and description as it implied binary gender ignoring the spectrum of gender as it is today. Everyone agreed that having an ereader so that you didn’t have to deal with a book cover giving you away has taken a lot of the stigma of reading those items that you personal feel uncomfortable about.

As always your thoughts and impressions about the topics are welcome. Leave a comment.

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Morning is not as fun as you’d think it would be when you’re sleep deprived. Just took a while to settle down once we were in last night. The hallways were quiet but some banging started outside our window pretty early in the morning — nothing out there on the roof except the usual hotel roof equipment. Could not figure what it was but it was from that area. Eventually gave up and got up.

Got to registration and got our name tags, program book, and other stuff. Also this year the con is using an electronic program guide that you down load onto smart phone, a notepad (iPad or equivalent) and it stays even when you loose connectivity. It lists program items, participants, and the program descriptions. If you click on a panelist you get that person’s bio. If you click on the box next to a program item it puts that item on MyCon so you have a list that’s just the things you want to go to so you don’t get confused looking things up.

We had to get books out of the car for one of the booksellers and noted that the crack in the windshield hadn’t grown any while sitting in the parking lot. In the evening, we went to get into the car to go out to dinner and found that the crack had grown about 2 inch since we’d last looked at it. So, we added more crazy glue. The local dealership called back and said they don’t do window replacements and didn’t have any local glass people to recommend. So, we’re trying to hold out until we get home and to our own dealership and local businesses. I’m hoping it won’t be any worse when we check it today.

Now here’s the program items we went to today:

Faux Estrangement in Fantasy Panel

Faux Estrangement in Fantasy Panel

11:00 AM – Comforting Fiction: Faux Estrangement in Fantasy
Panel: John Clute, James Morrow, Graham Sleight, Ruth Sternglantz, and John Stevens (leader)
Description: In 2011 China Miéville, discussing literature of estrangement and literature of recognition, referred to “the clichés of some fantasy” as “faux estrangement.” Yet these clichéd, faux-estranging works are often tremendously popular. What’s so appealing to writers and to readers about recognition disguised as estrangement?

This was an interesting panel with far ranging discussions about estrangement, faux estrangement, and recognition. It’s really hard to capsulize the conversation so I won’t try. I suggest you read the articles by China Mieville and then come back and leave a comment:

What the Future Is and What the Future Is Not Panel

What the Future Is and What the Future Is Not Panel

1:00 PM – What the Future Is and What the Future Is Not
Panel: John Crowley, Glenn Grant, John Shirley, Bud Sparhawk, and Vincent McCaffrey (leader).
Description: While looking backward, we can examine a past moment in time. Much of what we find there is with us today: part of our lives at present. Were we prescient enough, we could predict things and ways that would survive from our present into the future. Successful predictions would make our children rich, could make us famous (or infamous), and might change the world to come. This open discussion, led by Vincent McCaffrey, will attempt to predict which ideas, things, and methods will be useful or meaningful parts of the lives of those yet to come.

Talk ranged over nuclear weapons, global warming/climate change, surveillance technology and it’s uses and, of course robots. They also stressed that the future isn’t here yet and when it is here it’s today so everything they talk about is simply speculation and guessing.

Knit One, Print Two Panel

Knit One, Print Two Panel

3:00 PM – Knit One, Print Two: Handicrafts, Replicators, and the Future of Making
Panel: Natalie Luhrs, Adrienne Martini (leader), Eric Schaller, David G. Shaw, and E.C. Ambrose.
Description: Take your average 21st-century American knitter on board the Enterprise and the first thing they’d do is replicate a heap of yarn and some needles, or roving and a wheel to spin it with. The replicator might obviate the need for real plants and animals as sources for raw materials, but not the desire of people to create beauty out of those raw materials, or just to do something with their hands on long trips. Given this, why do we almost never see handicrafts in SF futures with replicators? What can futurists learn from the recent simultaneous booms of 3D printers (which are arguably proto-replicators) and handicrafts, both under the header of “making” and often employed and enjoyed by the same people?

There was a lot of discussion about the need to create and whether a replicator that can make what you want would essentially snuff out the desire to make items with our own hands (no likely). There was some talk about how artisans and craftsworkers are important to society and in some potential post-apocalyptic events could become essential for us to survive. Also how wealth allows people to do crafts, gardening, wine making, etc. because you need money to get started.

Questioning the Ostensibly Reliable Narrator Panel

Questioning the Ostensibly Reliable Narrator Panel

4:00 PM – Questioning the Ostensibly Reliable Narrator
Ian Randal Strock, Sheila Williams, James Patrick Kelly (leader), John Kessel, and Rick Wilber.
Description: In a recent Locus roundtable discussion, several authors and critics agreed that, in Andy Duncan’s words, “all fictional narrators are, to some extent, unreliable.” Some may be deliberate liars; some may be prevaricators omitting crucial information (as in Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd); some may believe themselves to be reliable (such as Doyle’s Dr. Watson); and some may distrust their own perceptions (such as Imp in Caitlín R. Kiernan’s The Drowning Girl). How does fiction featuring supposedly reliable narrators change when it’s approached by a reader who questions everything they’re told?

This was one of the most interesting, informative, and thought provoking panels of the day (genetics was a close second). Just how important is a reliable narrator and how does it impact the reader when the narrator is unreliable. Can a 3rd person narrator be unrealiable? (This took up a bit of the time.) What about when the 3rd person narrator becomes so close that it collapses close 3rd person into a character?

One factor I found interesting was whether an unreliable narrator who detailed exactly what happened really unreliable if his/her interpretation of events does not mesh with ours (in our present time and societal beliefs).

8:00 PM – Genetics
Lecturer: Michael Blumlein
Description: If the genetic code is the musical score, then epigenetics is the music. Our genetic sequence is only part of the story. The other part is how and when and why any particular gene is turned on or off and how these genes interact. This is the science of epigenetics. Unlike the fixed genetic “code,” epigenetics is fluid. It changes in response to any number of factors, and it can evolve and adapt rapidly. Can such rapid changes be inherited? Can inheritance be driven by purpose, as Lamarck believed, or is it always the product of random chance? Dr. Michael Blumlein will explore these and other questions of genetics, epigenetics, and what lies beyond.

Epigenetics is about the bits that turn things on and off and how it fits together with traditional genetics which we all learned about it school. If I tried to put the lecture in any short form I’d just mess it up so the first sentence is my best attempt. But it was very interesting and I’ll certainly be looking into this subject more later.

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We drove up from Brandywine, Maryland. It’s a 10 hour trip, or at least it was this time, we had some really good luck with traffic. However, it was a bit tense since we got a crack in our windshield. Crazy Glue on the inside and outside of the crack seems to have it stabilized and we’ll get the windshield replaced Monday when we get back home.

Got to the hotel and found a wall as soon as we came in the doors. Surprise. The hotel is being renovated. First response was a feeling of displacement because things weren’t where they should be. We’ve been coming to this convention for years. There’s a sense that things should be the same as we left them. But there’s essentially no noise and the convention people have everything under control — as they always seem to do.

The only real problem is that all the nice seating areas for relaxing with friends between panels is gone and what few seating areas that remain are just not enough.

Thursday night, I was on a panel at 8 PM. after that, exhaustion won, and I turned in for the evening.

8:00 PM – The News and the Abstract Truth
Panelists: Adrienne Martini, Robert Killheffer, James Morrow, Gayle Surrette, and David G. Shaw (Leader)
Description: The controversies surrounding Mike Daisey’s The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs and John D’Agata and Jim Fingal’s The Lifespan of a Fact arose when art and truth collided. While fiction can play fast and loose with facts in order to tell a compelling story, monologues and essays are held to a higher standard. The authors of these books were surprised by audience reactions to the discovery that their “factual” accounts were fabrications; they claimed that their work was more “beautiful” or “lyrical” than the truth. But which are more important: true words, or beautiful words? Why do some writers think it necessary to take liberties with the truth in order to create great “nonfiction”?

My personal feeling is that nonfiction sets up a contract with the reader that what they are reading is fact and you should not then make up things and present them as fact. If you are going to use non-verifiable information then you need to present it as supposition or in some other way signal to the reader that this isn’t ‘fact’.

I’m not sure but I think most, if not all, of the panelists felt the same way. Talk did touch on how much fact checking fiction required and where it was okay to let imagination take over.

My feeling is that those facts that are stated should be checked and if they can be checked they should be accurate. However, those that are not ‘checkable’ (the number of planets in habitable range because so far science hasn’t checked it out or can’t yet check it out) are given a pass for the sake of the story.

I’d be interested in hearing the thoughts of my readers — leave a comment.

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Partially done Cobblestone Sweater for Paul
For a while, I was knitting a row or two of a sock and then putting it aside. Lots of starts and very few finished — well none of them finished actually — got the finishing of about 12 socks on my ToDo list now and trying not to get overwhelmed by the length of that list .

Then I got in the mood last year and did a seat-of-the-pants sort of proof of concept sweater just to wear around the house. Paul — who hates sweaters by the way — put it on one cold morning and loved it. Seems he really hates sweaters that are tight in the neck. He wore it to work and around the house and actually had it on 4-5 days a week. It was hard to get it back to wash. The problem was it wasn’t even a really good sweater — just navy blue left over yarn knit top down with no pattern and not really following the rules for increases and the sleeves were short.

So, I decided to make him a nice sweater. He picked out some really nice grey yarn (Red Heart’s Grey Heather). By nice I mean it will go into the washer and dryer and be tough since I’m expecting it to be worn as much as the navy blue one from last year.

Got the yarn home and tried to find the Cobblestone Sweater pattern by Jared Flood. I’d made this sweater a couple of years ago for my son. Couldn’t find the pattern which was in a past issue of Interweave Knits but couldn’t find the magazine. So, went to Flood’s website and bought a copy, downloaded the pattern, and started knitting.

In a week, I’d knit the entire lower body and then needed to start the sleeves. Several month’s later I was still on the first sleeve with 6 more pattern repeats to get to the part where you join for the top of the sweater. So, I started knitting when I watched streaming video of class lectures, news shows, etc. and finished the first sleeve in 1 1/2 weeks. I took this picture of the body, pattern, and sleeves two days ago — sorry for the blurriness. The second sleeve is now just 11 patter repeats from being done. Once this sleeve is finished I expect to be able to zoom through the top and finish it. I’ll report next week on how far I get from this point.

I should also note that I’ve made a change from the pattern. I continued a strip of garter stitch up the outside of the sleeves (10 stitches wide).
Next Thursday, I’ll post another photo of the Cobblestone Sweater status. It feels good to be back into knitting again.

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