At the beginning of February, I got this magnificent idea that it should actually be fe-brew-ary. (Linguists in the house, I do know I just violated the maximal onset principle. But, in my defense: pun!)
Of course, I thought I should brew some beer which didn’t happen. The other thing I thought I’d try my hand at was some kombucha. Kombucha is a fermented tea drink. While I never got around to brewing beer, I did manage to brew some kombucha and I’m happy to say I’m about to make my second batch.
Kombucha is pretty simple. You need tea, sugar, live culture and if you’re feeling fancy some added spices and flavorings. For my first batch, I didn’t go fancy. But, this next batch I think I will do a secondary fermentation with some pureed berries or some juice. We’ll see how fancy I’m feeling in a few weeks. I enjoy the sour taste of the fermented tea and I’ve been reading about how good fermented foods are for your belly. Everyone has seen the Jamie Lee Curtis Activia commercials. Yogurt is great and delicious and full of happy bacteria! Super! Gotcha! But, since I’m not a huge fan of dairy products like yogurt, getting healthy bacteria into my life is best accomplished some other way. Kombucha seemed like a reasonable way. And, since it’s typically priced at a $1.50 or more a serving if you get it at the store making it myself really is a bargain. Tea and sugar are pretty inexpensive. I already had the jars to ferment it in. So, I just had to secure my own culture. I ended up buying the culture from a brewer through Amazon, which cost me no more than 10 bucks but I probably could have gotten it locally through Craig’s list or by asking around. In fact, I bet I will have enough SCOBY (that’s what the culture is called) to share. The culture itself really thrived on the sugar it had in the tea and if I’d kept it a little warmer may have even worked a bit faster. You have to give it at least 7 days, but I gave it 21 days. It turned out well and even though it isn’t fancy, I do still like its flavor.
I now know what gibbeting is. Thanks, Mary Roach. But, I also know that there is a company in Sweden that is perfecting the art of freeze drying and disintegrating human remains so that they may provide fertilizer for a tree (And, that, I think, is a beautiful memorial). This is another book that I got from the public library. I remember when this book first came out, darn near a decade ago. At the time, I thought it looked interesting and I’m happy I’ve now read it, even if some of the information is a little out of date. This book is about everything that a body can go through when it is donated to science. Roach takes us on a tour of medical schools, research facilities, body farms and mortuaries. In addition to that, she goes into some of the history of sciences that have used cadavers (including discussing resurrectionists, Burke and Hare and the early medical school horrors). She also discusses beating heart cadavers and the soul. This book was morbid and entertaining and off-putting and interesting. We know so much about our bodies and have benefited from the work that these previously human remains have done. It was terribly interesting to read about impact experiments and decomposition. Even if it was morbid and creepifying at times.
Definitely worth the read.
This is a book I found on audio at my local library. After Christmas, I like to read (or listen to) something about all the terrible ways in which people treat each other as a counter balance to the warm and fuzzy holiday season. I know; I’m weird. And, this seemed like it would fit the bill. This is a book written by a journalist about “what really happened” during the Willie McGee trial and the crime that precipitated the trial. I was interested in it because I had never heard of Willie McGee. He was an African-American man in the South who was accused and then convicted of raping a white woman and was then executed for the crime. His case is interesting because he had multiple trials because it had been shown more than once that he hadn’t gotten a fair trial. His case was also interesting because his defense and the subsequent re-trials were supported and paid for by members of the communist party, a fact that in the end probably didn’t help Willie McGee. The author interviews the children of both Willie McGee and the woman he was accused of raping and attempts to find a woman who claimed to be his wife during the various trials. He goes back to the source material and tries to piece things together.
Mostly what I learned from this book is that justice was miscarried a lot in the 20th century; many men went to their deaths having never received a fair trial. And, sensationalism in the media made villains of the accused and the accusing alike. (During the time of the trial there was a rumor the woman who accused Willie McGee of raping her had accused Mr. McGee of rape to hide an affair she was having with him. There appears to be no evidence to support this claim, but it was an idea that caught hold and muddied the waters surrounding the case.) Much like today, when everyone has an opinion on Travyon Martin, George Zimmerman, Michael Dunn and Jordan Davis and no one really knows what happened.
At the end of last year when I was setting goals for this year I decided that I should try to merge some of my interests in order to cut down on the number of things competing for my time. My first thought was that every other book that I read for fun should be either dissertation-related or dissertation-adjacent. As appealing as that idea sounded, I had to throw it out almost immediately because a lot of things that are dissertation-related or dissertation-adjacent are heavy reading and if you follow me on goodreads you know that most of my pleasure reading is light and doesn’t require a lot of attention from me. I need that when I’m winding down for the evening or while I’m eating dinner to just give myself that break. So, my next thought was that every other book that I read should be non-fiction. This was really appealing. I immediately found a number of books on audio at the library to put in the queue to have waiting. (Some of them have already come up and been knocked out. Cleopatra, for example.) But, this week I hit on something even more appealing: as long as it’s not too heavy, what if I read books that were about the area of Mexico (or Mexico in general) where I’m going to do my field work? I found three titles in the library that were recommended on a travel wiki I sometimes visit. Then, because I’m a total nerd, I went on wikipedia and got a list of Mexican authors and added what audible had to my wishlist. I have no idea what most of those things are about, but I’m excited to do a little more investigating and find out. It is hard to think about what one will be doing in the summer when there’s a wintry mix of snow and rain falling from the sky but sometimes it’s worth it.
This is another book that I got from the public library. I picked it up because it was on that Buzzfeed list about books one should read before the film comes out. This is set in a world where there are different kinds of vampires. There are the Moroi, who drink blood and have some kind of magic. The Dhampir who are warriors and act as body guards to the Moroi. And, then there are Strigoi, the walking dead who no longer have access to magic and who are stronger than strong and dangerous. The strigoi live by hunting down Moroi. I think you see where this is going. Rose and Lissa (a dhampir and a moroi) broke out of St. Vladimir’s academy a couple of years ago but have now been hunted down by the guards of the academy. They do not look forward to the prospect of returning to the school or their lives there. But, return they now must. They ran away because they were hiding a secret and when they return they discover that someone else knows. As they work to keep their secrets (and figure out who else knows) they have to unravel a mystery at the heart of their school in order to be in a better position to save themselves.
Exciting stuff. Added to all of that there’s romance and teenage jerks and evil-doers all in the mix. This was a fun a book and I’m looking forward to getting the next one in the series from the library. Although, I’m less interested in the film.
Worth the read if: You like vampires and crazy teen fiction
I’ve known for a long time that Jesus was a revolutionary figure. And, that the historical Jesus was alive during turbulent times in Palestine. And, even before Resa Aslan made the circuit of TV talk shows where he defended his right as a scholar to study a historical figure and then write about them (the issue, in case you missed it, is that Muslim scholar. And, by that, I don’t mean He is a scholar of Muslim topics I mean he is a scholar of Religious topics who happens to adhere to the Islamic faith. Like, I happen to adhere to a flexitarian diet but still blog about vegan and plant-based things. I don’t see what the point is. Man’s got a degree in the sociology of religions and another in writing from the workshop in Iowa (Represent!) which says to me he’s particularly qualified to write about dry historical topics in a way that will be accessible by non-Historians. But, wevs. Have your little freak out, Media.) I probably would have added this book to my reading list. Well, listening list. I’m so very glad I did. I can see why Christians might take offense to this treat of their savior but as someone with complicated feelings towards religion in general and the Christian church in particular I’m really happy that I read this book because I really like this Jesus who tried to stand up to the Romans. This Jesus who took offense to, and then action against, others who were collaborating with the oppressors against the people. I like this Jesus who championed the poor (okay, Biblical Jesus does that, too) went against the occupying force with little more than his Zeal. I loved putting things like Jesus saying, “Give what belongs to Caesar to Caesar and what belongs to God to God,” into a historical context and learning what that might have meant for someone in that time period. (Basically, the land of the Jews wasn’t Rome’s to invade. It belonged to God. So, this statement that I grew up thinking was about souls and being appropriately pious may have actually been a declaration of war.)
Oh, and I loved, loved, loved, learning about Roman occupied Palestine and the early Church. Learning about the Zealot party and the war to take back Palestine from the Romans was interesting. Learning about how Saul was instrumental in stoning Stephen, one of the first martyrs for the early church (maybe the first martyr?) which had tremendous consequences for the structure of the early church put Saul/Paul into a context I’ve never before had him in. (Which was really nice and I have to tell you, transformative moment on the road to Damascus or not, I still think he comes off as a jerk in his epistles and while now I know why it doesn’t make me like him any more.)
This was an interesting book and a quick listen (read by Reza Aslan himself!) I’d definitely recommend it if you are interested in a historical perspective on Jesus.
I got this book from the Buffalo Public Library. Library’s are the best!
All of the books seem to say the same thing: stock your kitchen such that the healthy food is just as easy to eat as the junk food (but of course, you should get rid of your junk food.) I’ve been reading Vegan before 6 by Mark Bittman and he suggests the same thing. Now, this is fine and it’s a great idea which is probably why everyone keeps repeating it. But, stocking your kitchen with ready-to-eat, already chopped, fresh fruit and veg requires planning and it requires budgeting. And, eating already requires a lot of planning for me because I cook to make leftovers which means I have to plan meals in advance. But, as someone who identifies as flexitarian, I would like to incorporate some of Bittman’s ideas into my life. I like the idea of being largely vegan with special animal-based treats every now and then. I like looking at my life and my diet that way. So, I’ve decided to try a few things. First, in order to stick to my budget, I’m going to have to eat as many of my fresh fruits and veg out of my freezer or a tin as possible. Technology (and industrial farming) have progressed such that eating frozen fruits and veg you are sometimes getting more nutrition from them than eating them fresh off the shelf. (This means that I have to keep my freezer from being choked with frost, but that’s a story for another day.) Additionally, I’m going to plan a month at a time so that I can buy staples in bulk. If I know that I’m going to eat 2 lbs of garbanzo beans then it makes sense to buy the five pound bag this month and the five pound bag of kidney beans next month to change it up, etc. (There are some problems with this, too, because I can be an emotional eater and if I’m planning a month in advance I can’t stop at the store on the way home and buy whatever I think will make me feel better when I’m having a bad day. Again, that’s a post for another day.) But, finally I’m planning on using my office on campus a lot this semester, which means those days I’m going to be there instead of home. So, I either have to hoof a lunch bag into campus with various snacks everyday (not loving the idea of adding an extra bag of crap to my commute), be prepared to eat a lot of Subway salads (terrible for the budget), or I have to come up with a third way. So, this is the third way I’ve come up with: I’ve taken a bowl and silverware into my office and I’m taking a bag of salad, pieces of fruit equal to the number of days I’ll be on campus that week and non-dairy milk if I’m out of it from week to week. I also have a bottle of salad dressing, too. I figure my desire to not irritate my office mates, I will keep me eating the perishables I bring into the office.
I’m nothing if not ambitious. This year, in the midst of Cold Sheeping it, I’ve decided to take part in the Ravellenic games and to do something from my queue. So, I picked the Accola shawl by Laura Nelkin. As you can see, if you followed the link, It is a beautiful design. And, I figured that after the initial outlay of the lacy border that, despite it being a beaded lace shawl, it wouldn’t be so bad because the lace on the body is confined to that panel in the middle so I’ll have long stretches of stockinette. That’s completely doable in a couple of weeks, right? I further sold myself on the idea with the notion that the Lace Guild’s annual Lace In was being held that day after the opening ceremonies (last Saturday), and if I went to that like I was planning to I’d have 6 hours to get at least the border under my belt and I’d go into this first week of Olympics ready to work on the body.
Of course, things never work out like you plan them. I didn’t actually make it to the Lace Guild’s Lace In because I was racing to make a conference deadline. Deadline in the bag on Saturday night, with a few hours to spare!, I did manage to get some stitches on the needles. Sunday, I had lunch at a Sports Bar and watched Poland take ski jumping gold (I like their hats) while I got a few more stitches on the needles. So, it’s Tuesday now and I’m about halfway through the border. I firmly believe that I will be working on the body by Friday. I still think I can make this thing. I’m so excited about it, actually. The yarn and beads I’ve picked I think will make for a beautiful shawl. Plus, now I have an excuse to go places and watch the games.
I have a ring that I love. It is a three-stoned Swarovski crystal. I wear it almost every day, or I did until about 2 weeks ago. I just couldn’t remember where I put it. This is actually pretty typical; it happens a lot. I put something some place and I think, “Oh, it’ll be safe here.” The only person it ends up safe from is me.
I knew it was here in the house, or my parents’ house (which was where I was at the time), so I didn’t worry about it. When it was time to pack up, though, I had to find it. I looked every place where I thought it could be. Maybe I took it off sitting here or there and it got knocked off the table. So, I looked under a lot of furniture and in the nooks and crannies of my parents’ house. Then, it hit me. What would be the safest place? In my portable jewelry box that I travel with. If I put it in my jewelry box because I was wearing a different ring then It would be completely safe. And, that’s where it was.
I wonder how many times I’ve done that. Found something missing in my life and possibly mourned it as lost when it just took some thoughts, some focus and some effort. What else could be found? Have you ever felt that way?