Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Book: The last albatross - Ian Irvine

For a long time I've been listing each book I read, way down in the sidebar on the right hand side of my blog. I know that if you subscribe to my RSS feed you would never see these updates; even those who visit the blog might not realise or remember they're there.

So I thought I might start posting a few thoughts. They won't be polished reviews. I will avoid spoilers - though I'd love to hear from you if you've read the same book - maybe we can have a discussion in the comments.

I've just finished reading The last albatross, the first in a trilogy of ecological thrillers by Australian author Ian Irvine (click on eco-thrillers for this series).

I didn't find any of the characters very likeable or sympathetic, and sometimes the main people were a bit wooden and inconsistent. In spite of this, they did grow and change through the novel which helped to keep my interest.

All of the names were fairly unusual, just enough to notice. Perhaps it's just a preference of the author, but given this is a book published in 2000 and set in 2010, recognisably in Sydney, this was just a bit strange.

It was interesting reading this in 2009 when it's set in quite a different version of 2010 than we are about to head into. I guess he would have been writing in the late 90's. This is an Australia where everyone drives fuel cell cars and all are somewhat inefficiently entangled in the internet - 'HouseNet' is useless or worse: the fridge can't be opened when the system shuts down, and 'SchoolNet' is forever going offline and giving teachers more to whine about (I found Jemma very whiny). The internet and reality TV offer even greater levels of depravity than our versions. Despite the 'net having pervaded every day life to an even greater extent, it is mostly shown as a one-way flow of information, with people turning on 'NetNewsLive' like they would turn on the TV.

The story was fast-moving, intricate and well constructed. It certainly kept my interest in spite of not being very into the characters, and I'm keen to read the next one. Irvine struck a good balance between telling a coherent, complete story, and setting up the rest of the trilogy.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

new shop

The new Craft Act shop is opening tomorrow, with a few of my felted pears and some bowls (bigger pods, essentially) among the items for sale.

I won't be at the Gala Opening as I'm going to Sydney for the weekend, but I'm looking forward to dropping in at a quieter time to see their wares.

shop opening hours
tuesday - friday 10am - 5pm
saturday 12noon - 4pm

Find us upstairs on Level 1
North Building
180 London Circuit CIVIC

(02) 6262 9333

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

I revved up my cycle and I cruised towards the house where she lived

The other day K and I were talking about Car crash songs (which of course includes motorcycle crash songs) and I was trying to remember the one from Sesame Street.

Wait, Sesame Street? A car crash song, in an educational TV show for pre-school children? Hmmm, it's not actually that likely, is it?

So what was I remembering? I recalled something about a one-way sign. Last night I heard ELO's 'Sweet Talkin' Woman' (opening line: "I was searchin' (searchin') on a one-way street") on the radio and thought that might be it. It wasn't.

YouTube revealed I wasn't completely off base with the car crash theme. It's actually a spoof of 'Leader of the pack', sung by male puppets instead of a girl group, a sweet story of a lovestruck guy who can't work out how to ride his motorcycle to his girl's house because of a pesky one-way street sign. Although early on he wishes he was dead (at least until his guardian angel saves the day)- there certainly isn't any crash!

My favourite bit is when the policeperson shouts "What gives!"

Monday, May 18, 2009

mini pears

mini pears

This and another set of three mini pears went out into the world as gifts on the weekend. Unlike the small pear pendant I made for my sister for Christmas, which was a felted bead (all wool), these are knitted and stuffed in the same way as the bigger pears.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Maybe the colour will keep her warm

red scarflet

Last weekend Mum and I hit Queanbeyan for a special mother-daughter outing. We went to several op shops, had a leisurely lunch, and finally shopped for beads at Benedict House, a lovely 1880s building which has a cafe and several art/craft concerns. That was where we found the wooden beads standing in for buttons on this scarf. Benedict House does have a website but I can't link to it just at the moment because my browser warns me that the site appears to contain malware. Eek.

Thanks to some unsubtle recent hints I knew that Mum wanted a short cabled scarf like the several I made last year. Unfortunately she's very sensitive to wool, and I had trouble deciding what to use. I wavered between Paton's Smoothie (a sort of genteel acrylic) and Lincraft Bamboozle, a cotton/bamboo blend. The Bamboozle won for its incredible softness, though I'm not sure if it will be particularly warm. It just has a cool feeling about it. I guess it's really a summer yarn.

I also wasn't sure about the bright tomato red colour (the second photo probably gets this across better) but thought I could dye it a darker shade later, if Mum wasn't comfortable with it. Turns out she loves the colour and it will look great with a brown coat she's making for herself.

red scarflet_2

Monday, May 11, 2009

Yes you can get something for nothing - though not til next year

It's too late now to promote Free Comic Book Day (1st Saturday in May, every year). Perhaps I should be saving these photos to promote it next year, but I would be likely to forget.

So last Saturday, I put in my one day (half day really) per year of being a comic shop girl at Impact Comics. It was a huge day for the shop, with hundreds of people pouring in each hour, many of them buying as well as picking up freebies. Of course there are those a bit down on their luck who are drawn in by anything free, and some came up with creative reasons to take more than their share (four per person - each business can choose how many they wish to give away, though they are not allowed to charge for the comics produced for this day). On the other hand I saw some families expecting maybe one book per kid, so pleased and grateful and making sure to say thank you on the way out.

As usual I had a go at answering people's questions. I do know which ones are free and which ones you have to pay for, but beyond that I often have to grab one of the real staff as my knowledge has a few gaps.


Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Would you accept puppy kisses from this dog?

grot dog
This was after our morning walk yesterday. He had it all sorted out by evening when I got home.

Must trim the hair that hangs in his eyes, though!

Saturday, May 02, 2009

There ain't no genie in the bottle, or in that magazine

Wearing docs or similar flat lace-up shoes was pretty normal for us in our late teens (I was 15 in 1990). You often wore sneakers with your jeans but a plain pair of black lace-ups was a smarter look. Many girls the same age these days wear fancier shoes, even heels, to school - though I have noticed the classic lace-up school shoe seems to be making a comeback.

I often feel sad for teenage girls these days. Such tight, revealing, uncompromising fashions give them nowhere to hide. And even when they can get away with wearing a big baggy hoodie, the jeans or tracksuit pants have to be tight and low slung.

When I was passing through those ages, at first it was the late 80s and your jeans and t-shirts were both baggy and oversized. Not super attractive but very practical at an age where you are not necessarily very confident in your body. Granted, there was that white scoop neck bodysuit-with-jeans fad. (Erk. I had no interest in wearing a top with crotch fastenings.) But even those bodysuits didn't show off your bra straps like the now ubiquitous spaghetti strap tanks do.

Then in the 90s came grunge and the op shop look - anything goes, some quite ugly combinations, but certainly no need to be revealing. These fashions didn't require a big emphasis on femininity. And looking back I think that was a blessing. I was sensitive about my very small bust and I was in my early 20's before both changes in fashion, and in my own confidence, had me starting to wear more fitted clothing.

Does anyone in my age group remember it differently? I guess being a teenager always has its challenges, but it does seem the pressures on girls to be sexy (ie exposed) have increased a lot.

In this vein, The Butterfly Effect is doing wonderful work in the area of body image and self esteem for teenage girls. Taking it a bit further, if you have an appetite for some serious radical feminism - check out I Blame The Patriarchy. Twisty is brilliant, cutting and often hilarious but at first I had to take this in small doses - the truth of it all and how mired we are in it, can seriously get me down.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Set the rest of us free

Today was a first - I wore hand knit socks all day.
socks & docs_2
I only have two pairs - two finished pairs, that is - and these were only finished last year after it was too warm for wool socks. The first pair are made from a cheap Spotlight wool/nylon blend that didn't feel particularly great on my feet the time or two I tried to wear them.

I do have sensitive feet and I have always had doubts about the 'grainy' feeling of hand knits. I should try those first ones again on a really cold day though - it's when my feet warm up that they get more sensitive and irritable.

For these socks I employed a strategy I've seen suggested here and there. I'm not sure now if I thought of it independently, probably not. The sole of the foot is knit in reverse stocking stitch, so that you wear the smooth side against the skin. You can get much the same effect wearing plain knit socks inside out - this just looks (arguably) a bit more polished.

This was the simple train knitting project during the work trip to Europe last September. I got the first sock done during the trip and the second one soon after returning. People often think my socks look small while on the needles (I have average sized feet). I remember whipping off my shoes and demonstrating the fit of the toe on a train somewhere in Norway. I think they look small because I tend to knit them at a fairly tight gauge on 2mm or 2.25 needles, another strategy to avoid the grainy feeling.
socks & docs
Hand knitted socks are perfect with my new Docs, a bargain on ebay recently. I finally had to admit that my beloved cherry Doc shoes that I bought so long ago (1992?) really were too small. I hadn't worn them much in years. They always needed very thin socks, but my feet have also widened quite a bit over time and they became unwearable. So I passed them on to a friend and now have these ones a size up.

I am loving wearing them to work with my dress pants, on days when I just feel a bit irritable about femininity in general. Sometimes I wonder how I became this person who wears ladylike shoes, carries a handbag and wears makeup every day (very little of it, but definitely essential). I was strongly opposed to all of these things when I was younger. I even wore flat shoes, and no makeup, to the Year 10 and Year 12 graduation formals. Now I enjoy these things - especially a variety of shoes. But I also enjoy having the option of wearing nice sensible lace-up shoes like men do.