What I read in 2015

January 2, 2016

Sometimes my meal matches my book. (“Esperanza’s Box of Saints,” which is set mostly in Mexico, next to a plate of tacos)

Past editions of this list: 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008. This list is also available in pictorial format at Pinterest.

It was a good year for reading here! Forty books finished, including one academic book read for review. BG=Book Group selection. I’m in two book groups, so a lot of my reading is driven by that.  Just because I read a book doesn’t mean I liked it or would recommend it. But any year that includes TWO David Mitchell books and TWO Margaret Atwood books is a good one for me. Female author/male author ratio: 28/12; Fiction/nonfiction ratio: 34:6.

These are numbered in chronological order, from January to December.

1. Emily St. John Mandel, Station Eleven

2. Joan Silber, Ideas of Heaven

3. Naomi Hirahara, Summer of the Big Bachi

4.Tracy Guzeman, The Gravity of Birds BG

5. Michael Chabon, Telegraph Avenue BG

6. Edan Lepucki, California

7. Susannah Cahalan, Brain on Fire BG

8. Jennifer Marie Brissett, Elysium

9. Charles Bock, Beautiful Children

10. Helen Oyeyemi, The Icarus Girl

11. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah BG

12. Kazuo Ishiguro, Buried Giant

13. Esi Edugyan, Half-Blood Blues

14. Kenzaburo Oe, Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids

15. Martin Pistorius, Ghost Boy BG

16. Alice Hoffman, The Museum of Extraordinary Things BG

17. Elizabeth Gaffney, Metropolis

18. Kate Atkinson, Life after Life BG

19. Jessie Burton, The Miniaturist

20. Noelle Stevenson, Nimona

21. Kevin Wilson, The Family Fang

22. Emily Rapp, The Still Point of the Turning World BG

23. Maria Amparo Escandón, Esperanza’s Box of Saints

24. Grey and Gullett, eds., Contingent Maps: Rethinking Western Women’s History REV

25. David Mitchell, The Bone Clocks

26. Eleanor Catton, The Luminaries BG

27. Ben Mattlin, Miracle Boy BG

28. Margaret Atwood, Stone Mattress: Nine Tales

29. Kenneth J. Harvey, The Town that Forgot How to Breathe

30. Steve Silberman, Neurotribes BG

31. Lucy Foley, The Book of Lost and Found BG

32. Monica Byrne, The Girl in the Road

33. Eowyn Ivey, Snow Child BG

34. China Miéville, Kraken

35. Mary Doria Russell, The Sparrow

36. Meg Wolitzer, The Interestings BG

37. Tana French, Broken Harbor

38. David Mitchell, Slade House

39. Margaret Atwood, The Heart Goes Last

40. Hillary Jordan, When She Woke


Three-way Shawl

December 20, 2015

I found a big hank of hand-dyed navy-blue wool-silk fibre from Little Wool Co. of New Zealand, in a bag of yarns at a thriftshop. Of course I grabbed it. I knew it could make something quite large, so I started making a big rectangle, not completely sure what it would be….and this is what it became.


The gold edge detail is mohair from another thriftshop goody bag–it’s a little heavier weight yarn, but it helps with holding the shape. The buttons belonged to my great-aunt. And it turns out it can be worn three ways–I like the shoulder-button way best, because it means I can carry a shoulder bag without it getting bunchy.

You’re invited!

December 2, 2015

I’m one of the artists, but the whole show is going to be fun. If you’re in the LA area, I’d love to see you at the opening! It’s also a great place to shop, if you’re still buying holiday goodies.
Cardboard Art Flyer_vdarker

Wikipedia milestone 100

November 23, 2015

Earlier this month (November 2015), English-language Wikipedia reached its 5 millionth article — which turned out to be about an Australian shrub.

This weekend, I reached my own personal Wikipedia milestone:  I started my 100th article, during the New York Academy of Sciences Women in Science edit-athon.  It was about Nellie M. Payne (1900-1990), an entomologist who held a couple patents on insecticides. She did some pioneering research in the 1920s, on the effect of low temperatures on insects.  I just chose her off the work list for the edit-athon, probably because her name is Nellie (I’ve also done entries for chemist Nellie May Naylor and music hall performer Nell Emerald).  It’s not my most interesting entry, nor my best entry, but it’s my 100th entry.  Onward!  (My user page at Wikipedia has the complete list, if you’re curious.)

“Tron” sweater vest/layering piece

November 12, 2015

Because my friend Kim said this reminded her of Tron. Made from a bunch of nice rayon/cotton blend (three colors of Tahki Stacy Charles “Victoria”), and some Bernat “Souffle” (nylon, the black parts), all thrifted. Looking forward to seeing how it wants to be worn.
Crocheted sweater vest

Halloween 2015: Crafty round-up

November 10, 2015

It was another fun season of crafting for Halloween this year.   For daughter, another Pokemon hat (Espeon, this time):

Crocheted Espeon Hat

Crocheted Espeon Hat on daughter

Also crocheted some Sylveon ears for her friend to add to a headband:

Crocheted Pokemon hats

Crocheted Pokemon headwear

For a friend’s preschooler sons, I crocheted Darth Vader and Batman hats/masks:
IMG_4010 IMG_4046

For myself? A giant crocheted bird costume.
12052466_10207998720194734_5299049856186379794_o 12140147_10207998717594669_1766060962848973503_o

For son, I built another cardboard/duct tape/spray paint wheelchair costume, this time “Rocketship to Jupiter”:

We photographed it at Trash for Teaching, because we got some of the materials for making it there. He won best costume at his teen dance, and we also won $100 in Crafted Cash at Crafted in San Pedro, so it was a popular costume.
For the yard: my Little Free Library got a monster costume:

Five Years, Same Panels, Redondo Seawall

April 19, 2015

Nell and I have been doing chalk art at the Redondo Seawall for five years now–always on the same panels, more or less, at the beginning of the walk.   A retrospective:

2015 (yesterday; see better images of the individual panels at ipernity):

Four panels of chalk art on a wall near the ocean.

Nell did the one with wings, I did the other three.

2014 (we were in a hurry, only stayed a couple hours, had to go to a bar mitzvah that night in Temecula; so I didn’t get one photo with all three panels, but you can see 2-3-4 in these):

panel of chalk art, woman with voluminous skirts reading.

Chalk art at seawall, 2014.

teen girl doing chalk art on a wall

Nell doing chalk art at seawall, 2014.

Human figure with bubble background, drawn in chalk on a wall.

Chalk Gollum-ish character 2014.

(there were two events in 2013, we chalked the same squares at both of them):

Three panels of chalk art on a wall near a pier

Nell did the one with wings, I did the other two.

teen girl working on chalk art on a wall near the ocean

Nell did the one with wings, I did the other two.


Chalk art in three panels, on a wall near a pier.

Nell did the one with flippers, I did the other two.

There’s a time-lapsed video of me working on panel 4 that year.

2011 (our panels weren’t all in a row that first year, so there’s no one photo for them; Nell did the NintendoDS, I did the other three):

chalk image of a fish drawn on a wall

Chalk Blackside Hawkfish 2011

Surreal Seascape chalk image on a wall.

Surreal Seascape, 2011.

Chalk copy of Edouard Manet, "On the Beach," drawn on a wall.

After Edouard Manet, 2011.

Child's chalk image of a Nintendo DS, drawn on a wall.

Nintendo DS with accessories, 2011.


What I read in 2014

January 3, 2015

Past editions of this list: 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008. This list is also available in pictorial format at Pinterest.

It was a good year for reading here! Thirty-eight books finished. Some illustrated books, some YA novels, one academic book read for review. BG=Book Group selection. I’m in two book groups, so a lot of my reading is driven by that.

This year in books (for me) was shaped by the closing of Mysterious Galaxy Redondo Beach in the late spring, the first of several local business closures this year that upset my routines–RIP Cork’er, Neighborhood Grinds, Soup Bar, and soon, Harmony Works.

These are numbered in chronological order, from January to December.

1. Jo Walton, Farthing

2. Robin Sloan, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

3. Kirsten Miller, Kiki Strike: The Darkness Dwellers

4. Meg Wollitzer, The Ten-Year Nap BG

5. Hanya Yanagihara, The People in the Trees

6. Naoki Higashida, The Reason I Jump

7. David Handler, Runaway Man

8. Margaret Atwood, MaddAddam

9. Mark Dunn, Ella Minnow Pea BG

10. Helen Dunmore, The Greatcoat

11. Colum McCann, Transatlantic

12. Jessica Ellen Sewell, Woman and the Everyday City

13. Andy Weir, The Martian

14. Jeff Vandermeer, Authority

15. Lauren Groff, Arcadia BG

16. Karen Joy Fowler, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves BG

17. Gerbrand Bakker, Ten White Geese

18. Rupert Thomson, Divided Kingdom

19. Jane Jeong Trenka, The Language of Blood

20. Octavia Butler, Fledgling

21. Paul Auster, Book of Illusions

22. Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch BG

23. Haruki Murakami, The Wind-up Bird Chronicle

24. Tana French, Faithful Place

25. Natalie Danford, Inheritance

26. Ruth Ozeki, A Tale for the Time Being BG

27. Jeff Vandermeer, Acceptance

28. Cory Doctorow, Little Brother BG

29. David Gerrold, The Martian Child

30. Hari Kunzru, Transmission

31. Jhumpa Lahiri, The Lowland BG

32. Oliver Sacks, Hallucinations BG

33. Jo Walton, My Real Children

34. Tom Perrotta, The Leftovers

35. Jonathan Auxier, The Night Gardener

36. Kenny Fries, The History of My Shoes and the Evolution of Darwin’s Theory BG

37. M. L. Stedman, The Light Between Oceans BG

38. John Scalzi, Lock In

Halloween 2014: Crafty wrap-up

November 8, 2014

We had a good Halloween this year, even with a football game and some (welcome) rain.  I did a lot of crocheting, and some other crafty stuff, and even made a raggedy stop-motion video.


I got a call from a friend–can you make hats for Halloween? (She asked in September, so I said yes.  Don’t ask in October.)  How about four hats, all looking like the Count from Sesame Street?  Sure, I can do that… right?  It took three tries to get a workable design, but then it went pretty quickly.  I only have three “heads” for simultaneous modeling, but trust me there were four total.
Three crocheted Count von Count hats
After the paid job was done and delivered to happy preschoolers (who apparently slept in their “Count Hats” the first night they had them), I turned to hats for my daughter and her friend, who wanted to be Thor and Loki.  These were pretty fun to make; metallic yarns can be annoying to work with, but helmets like these really need some metal.
Crocheted Thor and Loki hats
The third crochet Halloween thing was already done in time to start appearing on October 1:  our yard had an “infestation” of thirteen large colorful crocheted creatures who changed position each day.  They started appearing on October 1; this photo was taken on October 7, when there were seven creatures in place.
Infestation, Day 7

Other crafting:

This is son’s second year using a regular boxy wheelchair with big wheels (before that he used a Convaid stroller–smaller wheels, more triangular in profile).  The Kogi truck last year was easy and fun to make, and I decided to try something a little more complicated this year.  He loves big clear bowls–tupperware, salad bowls, that sort of thing.  So we built a cardboard costume around a big plastic salad bowl (cheap at Party City, but sturdy enough, and I didn’t have to damage it to make the costume–it’s still perfectly usable for its original purpose).  It’s kind of a “steampunk submarine,” but leaning more to the whimsical than the mechanical.  Lots of duct tape and spray paint, and some random bottle caps, also some plastic bits from Trash for Teaching.  And there’s an Altoids tin, and bamboo skewers, and old wallpaper samples, and a WHOLE lotta brads.
Fantasy Steampunk Submarine Costume

Stop-motion Video:

I made a stop-motion video of the yard “infestation”–it’s pretty raggedy, but I’m happy with the results, and I learned how to use iMovie a little.  Music is by Psapp, “This Way,” mostly because I liked the sort of munching found-sound effect.

My appalling birthplace (eleventh in an infinite series)

July 25, 2014

No particular need to comment on this one, it speaks for itself.


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