Weblog by A. Elizabeth Graves. iPhone photography and links to science-y and foodie topics.
So, I haven’t posted in a very long time, and… so much has happened that I can’t summarize it all today!
The highlights: I emptied my home of 20 years, moved to a neighborhood where all the little dogs have their own outfits, had a major structural retrofit start at my house, covered the work of multiple open roles at my job, photographed an amazing series of sunsets, spent a lot of time enjoying holiday lights, and caught COVID.
The books I was in the process of reading are all in storage, and most of my ordinary habits have been very much disrupted. I’ll get back to them, but I’ve been living in an interim (liminal?) state for months.
I’ll get back to myself and start posting again. In the meantime, best wishes for a healthy and happy 2023.
This is a sci-fi story about parallel universes, and a person who makes contact with a parallel version of themselves to see how their life could have been different. It’s concise! It’s great! Go read it.
‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens
UVALDE, TX—In the hours following a violent rampage in Texas in which a lone attacker killed at least 21 individuals and injured several others, citizens living in the only country where this kind of mass killing routinely occurs reportedly concluded Tuesday that there was no way to prevent the mass…
If you aren’t used to seeing this satire site’s fierce commentary on American Denialism, it devastates because they can use this template SO OFTEN.
The Onion went big for this particular mass shooting, covering their page in reprints of the many times they have needed to use it. For commentary on that, the Guardian has a good recap:
‘No way to prevent this’: why the Onion’s gun violence headline is so devastating
After the latest mass shooting in Texas, the site, known for satire, opted for a layout that was ‘not a belly-laugh type joke’
While you may think this dark view and the imagined interviews are an overstatement, I personally have heard young people say that mass murders such as these can’t be prevented and that gun control doesn’t work, completely oblivious to how the rest of the developed world lives. Without awareness of the world beyond the US borders, the fact that other nations successfully prevent mass murders and successfully apply gun control can’t penetrate the internal propaganda bubble that Americans live in. (This is politically convenient for all sorts of fringe political leaders, but mostly right-wing ones, which we have so many of.) The internal propaganda around this wears people down, until they just… accept it.
And Americans have fantasies such as, “this can’t happen here, to my family,” until it does.
I AM DRAWING – BY HAND! ON PAPER! It has been a while since I’ve done this… I drew often in childhood, and regularly sketched for architecture school in my late teens and early 20s, but after leaving architecture professionally, I stopped drawing regularly. Drawing is slow and thoughtful, and I have too often struggled with long hours and demanding work – drawing felt like something I didn’t have time for. Photography, especially once I started carrying a small camera in my purse, was more accessible – and FASTER. Drawing fell by the wayside, a cost of my non-creative profession.
I never gave up drawing entirely: I still enjoy drawing in flurries, especially when I want to really take my time to enjoy studying things. I’ll take a new sketchbook to a museum, sketch sculptures for a day or two, and then set it aside until the mood strikes again.
I’m drawing again this month, because I’ve been suffering from paint lust. In my fantasies, I’m about to make a series of really great gouache representational paintings, and I’ll need to lay out some great drawings and buy some gouache to make this happen. This is an outrageous fantasy: I have been making primarily abstract (non-representational) drawings and paintings since 2012, so I am out of practice in representational (representing the shape of real world things) drawing. Plus, I have never been IN practice with gouache: I have just one, small notebook with abstract or patterned gouache multimedia sketches.
This fantasy is grandiose, and so I’m putting conditions on it, such as: I can’t buy gouache until I make a representational gouache painting with my existing little set of 5 colors FIRST.
And I can’t make a representational painting without a drawing to guide me, and so this is why the sketches at the top of the page exist. I need the practice. Badly. This is a fun prerequisite, even if I am clumsy and using a museum-gift-shop pencil with multiple leads.
There is more to this plan: I can’t just buy any paint, because gouache paintings are delicate (there is no natural seal against moisture, abrasion, or UV light, like traditionally varnished oils or acrylics have), and I insist on using permanent, artist-grade paints. Gouache has often been used for commercial art with a short lifespan, and so many colorful gouaches aren’t made with stable, long-lasting pigments.
I’ve done my research, ruled out familiar brands with unstable pigments, and have a surprise choice in mind (German!?!), but… I don’t want to write about that until I’m actually painting with that product. So, hopefully I’ll get some more drawings in, and knock out at least one cheerful little painting before money flies out of my wallet for this.
This book centers on Maggie, one of the heroines of the Love and Rockets Locas stories, and the hardships – and relationships – that shaped her and her family from childhood through middle age. With her family eager to suppress the truth – about infidelity, abuse, divorce, and painful separations from partners, siblings, and friends – traumas play out in slow motion over many years, but are not fully healed.
In her later years, Maggie may have a chance to (re)connect with the people she loves, before they are truly gone.
This is a well executed, well drawn, well told story. While I’ve seen elements/chapters of this in other collections, there is new material here as well, and the way it is all combined creates a profile of Maggie’s relationships that packs a great emotional punch.
I recommend reading ALL of the Locas stories first, to understand more of Maggie’s life and the relationships (shown here in chapter-length flashbacks) for the greatest impact – and because the Locas stories are GREAT! (Disclosure: I cried at the end of Locas volume 1, so I’m invested in the characters. No, I’m not telling you why I cried.)
I love this – and highly recommend it to all Maggie (and Love and Rockets) fans.
Coffee fans fall into camps, and I’m both an espresso drinker (a special fan of almond milk lattes) and a French press coffee devotee.
I rarely drink pour-over coffee. I’ve had it in various places, and… just haven’t been impressed. It was okay, but it reinforced my fondness for the additional flavor that soaking in a French press brings out in the beans.
My friend C brought me the gift of Peet’s Ethiopian Fancy (peets.com) recently, which is a favorite of mine – but he brought it over ground. FINELY ground. It was automatic: he makes Italian Roast as pour-over, and this is his usual grind, though it is too fine for my French press. I made it in the French press anyway, and it was good, but also different, and I didn’t like having sediment in my cup afterward.
So, I caved and bought a pour-over device from another local coffee place, plus filters to fit, so I wouldn’t have to waste any of this finely ground coffee.
And… my first attempts at pour over were really GOOD. Yes, the coffee is different from my French press version with these same beans (though ground more coarsely, and with the oils still in the brew rather than on a paper filter). But still richly flavorful. And fast to make!
I’m not giving up the French press, but I like this additional option – and I LOVE Ethiopian Fancy this way.
I’m still studying Japanese, but my lack of kanji memorization is slowing me down, and I haven’t been making the flash cards from my notes to get to the level I need to be at. But I’m not giving up, either…
Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice book and audiobook published by ECW Press audiobook read by Billy Merasty 2018
This novel is a slow, intense burn – and the audiobook is narrated in an impressively CANADIAN manner!
Evan and his family have a comfortable, modest life on a small Anishinaabe (First Nations) reservation, where he works for the community government in a range of jobs that are enough to keep his spouse and two children warm and fed through brutal Canadian winters. He enjoys hunting to keep his extended family fed through the winter, and he and his wife both enjoy meeting with elders to learn more about the old ways, which their community has partly abandoned in favor of modern trappings that arrived with reliable electricity.
When the power goes out, it disrupts the community’s school and local businesses, but is sure to come back soon.
Then the landlines stop working. Which is exotic.
Then the satellite phones and radios go silent as well. For a community displaced to this isolated reservation a few generations ago, who are accustomed to keeping to themselves, there aren’t any obvious places to go for information that aren’t a great distance away.
And then, refugees begin to arrive from the nearest non-native town, where some sort of societal collapse is underway… It occurs to Evan that the power may not be coming back on again for a very long while, if ever. And, that some members of his community aren’t interested in doing the work required to survive without imported foods and fuels…
The story builds tension throughout, with soft moments of Evan’s children learning Anishinaabemowin words from the elders in between fights breaking out over emergency supplies, armed standoffs, premature deaths, and the realization that a community really shows its character during a crisis…
Actor Billy Merasty’s intense Canadian-ness adds something special to the narration. The sort of chill, slow-paced ‘how are your folks doing’ dialog while tensions mount contributes to the surreal nature of the crisis: these are ordinary people living ordinary lives until the crisis hits, and they maintain their normal pace in a realistic manner. (No one suddenly becomes a super-efficient action-movie-hero! ) His reading of the Anishinaabemowin dialog, and the way that local words mingle with Canadian English so naturally in inter-generational conversations, reminds me of inter-generational, multi-lingual conversations here – they are well written and well performed. (Merasty is a First Nations actor and author himself, though from a different group than the author.)
This is a well-written, compact, increasingly stressful book to read – stressful in a good way. I’m glad I read it!
That’s the official number, and it is known to be an undercount.
U.S. Officially Surpasses 1 Million COVID-19 Deaths – Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
The United States officially surpassed 1 million COVID-19 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.
There are a range of excess-death resources online, including a CDC dedicated Excess Death page associated with the pandemic, which notes other causes of death that increased beyond those associated directly with COVID-19 infections, because people couldn’t access care to address other serious health concerns.
The US President ordered flags flown at half staff earlier this month, which is a memorial tradition here, but it doesn’t feel like enough. We have more mourning and memorializing to do.
With new COVID variants in circulation, and cases still popping up weekly at my workplace, the pandemic still isn’t OVER.
The impact of all of these deaths, plus the infrequently spoken of impact of long-term COVID disabling so many people, is still not well understood. It feels like it touches everything in the developed world in some way, but how people and organizations manage is up to them. Which… creates some concerns.