Monday, February 1, 2016

What is the author knitting?

The knitters among you will recognize this as an i-cord.

Three needles, three stitches per needle... looks fiddly.

Seems to be growing...

And growing....

Basil is riveted.

If these last two pictures seem lots nicer than the others, it's because Kevin took them, with Fancy Camera.

For this picture, I stuffed the ball of yarn into the thing I'm knitting
to make it more recognizable what I'm knitting.

Now beginning to knit a flat back. Decreasing stitches,
more abruptly than I was previously increasing them.

Almost done with the back; almost time to add...

Fiberfill stuffing.

It's what you think it is.

And now I'm knitting the other one...

And now they are done.

So here's the thing: I have the coolest friends. Recently, a friend who was about to undergo a double mastectomy told me about Knitted Knockers, which are soft, comfortable knitted prosthetic breasts. Did you know that silicone breast prosthetics are hot, heavy, and expensive, and can't be worn until weeks after surgery? Knitted prosthetics, on the other hand, are soft, light, and pretty, and, thanks to the organizers at and a lot of volunteer knitters, they're free for anyone who needs them. I just checked out the order page on the website, and there's a drop-down menu that seems to allow for every country, so I think the organization provides these worldwide! Check out this website, it's the coolest thing. And if you're a knitter, all the resources are there for you to knit them yourself. The website accepts donations of money and of knitted prosthetics.

if you're an inexperienced knitter and find this project intimidating – before I knitted these, I had never knitted an i-cord, never used double pointed needles, never used more than two needles at once, and never increased nor decreased stitches. This was a great way to learn all of those skills :o). I did some searching for tutorials on YouTube when necessary, and it turned out that with the exception of the very beginning, when you're working with a lot of tiny, tight stitches on multiple needles, it was easy. It was really enjoyable, to be honest. My friend provided me with this beautiful variegated yarn, and if you're a beginner, I actually recommend variegated yarn. The constantly changing colors make it much, much easier for you to figure out which row is which and tell whether you've made a mistake or not.

Please pass on the word about to anyone who might benefit from it!!!

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Photography Practice

Kevin has a fancy camera, and he takes lovely pictures. He would say the lovely pictures are because of the fancy camera, but everyone has seen uninspired pictures taken on fancy cameras, so I call bullshit on that. He takes lovely pictures because he's good at it. Here's a photo he took of my most recent Halloween costume.

 I was the forest at night.

Next week, I'm leaving on a very (very!) exciting trip. In the past, when I've gone on exciting trips, I've taken photos on my iPhone, and really, considering the phone's limitations, I guess I can't complain. However, next week's trip is extra exciting, and deserves something more. So Kevin is generously sending me off with Fancy Camera.

Fancy Camera is much more complicated than other cameras I've used! Therefore, I've been practicing. This involves things like lining up some shoes on my living room floor, lying down on the rug, and experimenting with focal points and apertures and shutter speeds and other camera words.

If you're wondering how to achieve these amazing results, the answer is, Fiddling With Buttons. I also recommend Hoping For The Best. Please, everybody pray for me while I'm on this trip. I really want to take some pictures that will do my destination justice, and I won't have the time for all this careful fiddling.

Here are a few more random sights I've managed to capture around town while practicing.

 Happy birthday, Mom :o)

 Here in Cambridge, the bus stops are pretty fancy.

 Random hovercraft on my bookshelf.

This is an example of a picture that, while far from brilliant,
 would have been horrendous if taken on my iPhone…

Harvard Square intersection.

Stay tuned next week for pictures from my mystery destination! I promise that even if they aren't very good, they'll be more exciting than shoes on my living room floor.

Friday, January 22, 2016

The common house zebra, when frightened, hides in the sock drawer. (For camouflage.)

This week I discovered that it's astonishingly easy for a person with minimal sewing skills to make a zebra out of socks.

Meet Basil.

It took me maybe two hours to make Basil, no more, no kidding. I used this wonderful sock zebra pattern/tutorial at The Sewing Directory by Caroline Short, with only minor alterations.

Here's how things looked partway through, though those who know Basil
personally may find this picture upsetting and, if so, should avert their eyes.

The quotient of adorableness to effort is very, very, VERY high.

Basil, incidentally, is a sock zebra from the planet Gallifrey.
Consequently he has two hearts, like the Doctor.

Basil likes having cousins. Maybe you should make a sock zebra, too.

The main thing I altered in the pattern is that I wanted Basil to have free arms, separate from his body. If you use tall enough socks (this pair went about halfway up the shin), you'll have enough sock material in the sock you use for the head to create both the ears and a couple of slender arms, which I then hemmed, stuffed, and attached to the torso.

This was so straightforward that I'm not sure why the world isn't overrun with sock zebras.

(Basil says that would be a good thing.)

Monday, January 18, 2016

Some Links to the Ongoing Conversation about Scholastic's Decision to Stop Distribution of A Birthday Cake for George Washington

(These links are by no means exhaustive, but each of them is worth reading, so I wanted to share. Thanks to Becca, Malinda, Sarah, Sarah, Anne, Nancy, and all my friends who keep me in the loop!)

Here's a link to the announcement at Scholastic. An excerpt: "Scholastic is announcing today that we are stopping the distribution of the book entitled A Birthday Cake for George Washington, by Ramin Ganeshram and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton, and will accept all returns. While we have great respect for the integrity and scholarship of the author, illustrator, and editor, we believe that, without more historical background on the evils of slavery than this book for younger children can provide, the book may give a false impression of the reality of the lives of slaves and therefore should be withdrawn."

Here's a perspective from Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, whose research at the University of Pennsylvania includes representations of slavery in children's literature: Children's Literature About Slavery: The Struggle Continues.

Here's Paula Young Lee's perspective at Salon: Smiling slaves at story time: These picture books show why we need more diversity in publishing, too.

Here's Zetta Elliott in the Horn Book: The Writer's Page: Decolonizing the Imagination. (Clarification: this essay was published in 2010. It was not written in response to the recent conversations [unless Elliott is a time traveler, like some of her characters ^_^].)

And here are the thoughts of the book's editor, Andrea Davis Pinkney, who, in addition to being a VP and executive editor at Scholastic, is an African American woman and a Coretta Scott King Award-winner: A Proud Slice of History.

At 5:24 PM edited to add (thanks, Laya):

From Mitali Perkins' blog: WARNING: This Book Might Be Recalled. Read it Fast. Decry it Even Faster.

On Jan 24 edited to add (thanks, Becca):

Michael Twitty, who works at the intersection of cooking, American history, and slavery in the USA, shared his thoughts at The Guardian: What happens when children's books fail to confront the complexity of slavery?

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Too Sad

Here's my office wall....

And here's David Bowie, A Life in Pictures.

Rest in peace, Alan Rickman and David Bowie. You were taken too soon.

Sunday, January 10, 2016


It's ALA Midwinter weekend and I'm eagerly awaiting a call from the Unreliable Blogger Award committee. Maybe you guys lost my number?

So, it's well past the point of apologies here on the blog, but I am sorry I've been so absent, I've missed blogging, and in fact, one of my New Year's resolutions is to ease back into blogging more often. I've been great, all is well, the work is moving along, the next book is on the verge of being scheduled. I have so much to say about it, but can't, until I get the go-ahead. Right now I'm in a stage that the writerly among you might be able to sympathize with: I'm working many hours, but with SO little forward progress. The work I'm doing right now requires intense identification with each individual character, combined with intense objectivity about each character, which is a tricky balance. It takes a lot of time and energy. The reason I'm doing this is to get a sense of whether each character rings true emotionally. So, I sink myself into each character emotionally to write a line. Then I become the outside objective reader and read the line I just wrote, in the hopes of getting an objective sense of whether it conveys the thing I was feeling while I wrote it. Because it's not enough for a writer to feel something while she writes it. The reader needs to feel it while she reads it, or else effective writing hasn't actually happened. This particular task involves a lot of backtracking, a lot of following one character through the story while ignoring the others, a lot of going back to the beginning. I suppose it's a good sign that this is where I am, because this only tends to happen in the later revisions. I certainly hope this revision will turn out to be one of the later revisions. :o)

I'll ease myself back into blogging today with a reflection on one of last year's New Year's resolutions: I resolved to bake bread once a month. "Bread," in this context, meant something that needed to be kneaded. I mostly baked traditional yeast loaves (buttermilk, potato, rye, etc.) and at one point I baked a soda bread. I baked bread every month – except December! December got away from me. So, on Friday night, I started an extra special bread to make up for my December folly: the better chocolate babka at Smitten Kitchen. Oh my goodness. This was definitely the winner for the year. If you're interested in trying the recipe but you don't have a standing mixer, don't worry, I don't have a standing mixer either and it was just fine (though I strongly recommend using room-temperature butter!). Very gloppy to knead (because of all the butter), but everything came together well. Thank goodness, I got some super-sharp knives for Christmas (thanks, Mom and Dad ^_^); I wouldn't have wanted to cut through the big tubes of raw dough with dull knives. If you make this bread, definitely follow the advice to stick the dough in the freezer for fifteen minutes before slicing. I left out the cinnamon and the nuts, checked them at 25 minutes and again at 30 minutes; they baked for about 35. Yummy! I suppose I should've taken more pictures in progress, but the ones on the website are lovely (and helpful). Here are the few I did take!

This is the dough's second rise. This bread isn't a big riser, so don't freak out if not a lot seems to be happening!

Out of the oven.

Ready for the feast :o)

Friday, September 25, 2015

Checking In

Greetings from the Worst Blogger Ever. I'm sorry I've been such an absent blogger lately! First it was because I was taking a much-needed work break, and now it's because all I ever do is work. I have a new book and I'm so excited for the day when I'm finally allowed to tell you guys a bit about it. For the moment, I'm working hard at it, trying to get it finalized. It's a strange book, and I don't know what anyone's going to think. That's out of my control, so I'm not worrying about it too much for now. I'm mostly just immersing myself in the experience of creating it. Once I'm allowed to talk about it, I think I'll have a LOT to say here about the process of writing it.

Soon I hope to be able to tell you what it's called, the premise, when you might actually be able to see it, etc…

In the meantime, I'll probably keep popping in now and then with more randutiae! Today I really, really appreciate Anna March's article at Salon, "Stop calling Pope Francis progressive: You might love his pastoral style, but don’t fool yourself on Vatican substance." YES YES YES. "Progressives should require that Pope Francis, or any leader, meet a minimum standard — to support equal opportunity regardless of race, gender, sexuality, class, disability and migrant/refugee status. To fail in any of these categories is, quite simply, to fail. And Pope Francis certainly fails. Progressives can do better than to laud this man. Progressives can be intersectional in our approach." Please read this article – and please stop calling Pope Francis progressive.

For fun: At the Guardian, "Saint √Čtienne's urban doodler with a sense of humour." A street artist named Oak Oak makes site-specific art. Love the walrus, the tight rope walker, and the little guy escaping from jail.

I appreciated Kate Harding's article about Susan Brownmiller at Cosmopolitan:  "When a Feminist Trailblazer Turns to Victim-Blaming, It's Time to Let Go of a Hero."  Excerpt: "If, 40 years from now, someone asks me what I think about young anti-rape activists, I hope my ego will allow me to profess admiration for whatever work they're doing to better the new world they've grown up in. But honestly, there's just as good a chance that I'll respond like Brownmiller, carping about kids' lack of historical awareness and respect for their elders, then adding a bunch of crap that sounds hopelessly outdated to anyone pre-menopausal. Either way is fine with me, really. If I get to the point where I have no idea what young activists are on about, or why they don't seem concerned with what most concerns me, it will probably mean they've taken what they needed from my generation's feminism and left the rest behind. I'm pretty sure that's what progress looks like."

Loved the pictures in this tiny slideshow of "The World's Most Iconic Skylines" in Elle Decor (there are only nine).

I love Flipboard's "Pictures of the Week," which bring me the rest of the world on a weekly basis. Every week, the range of topics is stunning. There are so many things going on every day in the world that I don't have the slightest clue about! Lately, I notice that the pictures keep coming back to Syrian migrants and refugees trying to make their way to safety, and I really appreciate the way the photo editors are doing it. Sort of like, "Yes, there's a parade in Mexico City, yes, people are praying in South Sumatra, yes, there are devastating fires in California and Porsche has released a new model... and here's what's still happening to the Syrian people."

Finally, for the pure glamour and weirdness that is New York Fashion Week, here is "New York Fashion Week Goes Glam: Pictures," at Flipboard's Photo Desk.