Reading Update

I’ve been reading all kinds of things since the last time I posted an update.  It’s true that I haven’t finished them all… but it’s also true that I’m not actually going to, in most cases.  Shrug.  My grandma claims she’s never started a book that she hasn’t finished.  Personally I don’t understand why I’d want to waste my time finishing things I don’t care about when there are so many other options just waiting for me to discover them.

Haven, by Ruth Gruber

I read this mostly while I was visiting family for Christmas, which… this is not a cheerful book.  It ought to be required reading for any human being alive right now, though; it feels entirely too relevant to current events for my peace of mind.  If you are someone I know, you can expect to be given this book at an upcoming holiday.

See, during WWII, the extent of the US’s willingness to take in refugees outside of its regular immigration quotas was to bring in 982 refugees as “guests” of the president, and keep them more or less confined to Fort Ontario.  (They were allowed out into the city of Oswego as long as they were back at night, but that seems to have been about it.)

Ruth Gruber accompanied the refugees on the troop transport ship that brought them to the US, and then stayed on at the camp once they arrived.  She recounts brief histories of some of the refugees, which–they’re Holocaust survival stories.  If they don’t make you cry, I’m not sure you’re actually a person.  Haven also gets into some of the politics and problems around the Emergency Refugee Shelter at Fort Ontario, all of which could just as easily be happening today.  For instance, the refugees’ legal status in the US was a mess, leading to all kinds of issues like how they couldn’t even apply to immigrate legally.  And the sheer bigotry surrounding how the US dealt with these people… yeah.

I had never heard of any of this until I moved about half a mile from Fort Ontario.  Why had I never heard of any of this until I moved here?  Why has no one I talk to heard of this until either they move to Oswego or I tell them about it?  The moral of the story is, read Haven.

The Nibelungenlied, translated by A.T. Hatto.

Yep, The Nibelungenlied.  Like, the thing Wagner apparently butchered for The Ring Cycle. (I’ve not actually seen that, so I’m taking Wikipedia’s word for it that it’s a butchering of the story.)  I’ve read parts of a version of The Nibelungenlied story before, because I read The Saga of the Volsungs a year or two ago.  I don’t remember hating Siegfried/Sigurd quite so much during that, though, probably because 1) I wasn’t as invested in Brunhild, and 2) I’m pretty sure he was less awful to Brunhild in that one.

I remember, like, Sigurd (who I guess is the same is Siegfried?  So maybe ye olde listeners to this story were as confused by all the Sig-something-or-other names as I was) riding through some fire his friend couldn’t get through, to prove his fearlessness so the friend could marry Brunhild.  And then he slept beside her with a sword between them, because stories this old are weird.

Anyway, in The Nibelungenlied it’s a much more involved deception, and then after Brunhild is tricked into marrying Gunther she refuses to have sex with him until he explains what’s up with Siegfried.  When Gunther tries to insist (aka rape her), she’s like, “Nope!” and ties him up with her girdle and hangs him on the wall.  F*** yes, Brunhild.  F*** yes.  Rock on.

But then Gunther goes and whines to Siegfried, and Siegfried is like, “Yeah I’ve got this; I’ll make it so you can rape her,” and Siegfried uses his super strength to beat Brunhild at wrestling while she thinks he’s Gunther.  After that she’s not so strong anymore and Gunther gets to rape her after all.  You see why I’m not loving this?  I’m having trouble continuing with the rest of the story to find out why exactly the Nibelungs are important enough to it to get the whole thing named after them.

Also I have this problem where I keep wanting to pronounce the name of this story as The Nibbling Iliad, which… I mean, who doesn’t want to nibble on The Iliad?  But still.

Anyway, if you’re curious, my vote is to stick with the Brunhild story in The Saga of the Volsungs, even if that one does get a bit weird with Brunhild predicting stuff and then getting mad at people because they do what she predicts.

Hidden Figures, by Margot Lee Shetterly

I loved the movie, so I wasn’t about to pass up my chance when a friend moving out of town offered me her copy of the book.  The book, too, is awesome.

I admit to having some trouble keeping track of people’s names, possibly because I mostly was reading it a few paragraphs at a time right before bed.  Still, I think this book is both great and important.  The book gives a better picture of just how much time and effort went into these women’s careers.  The movie made it feel like they won their battles quickly; the book gives a better sense of just how much crap they fought through.  Hats off to Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden.  If I can be 1/4 as awesome as they are, I will feel fortunate.

Linked: How Everything is Connected to Everything Else and What it Means for Business, Science, and Everyday Life, by Albert-laszlo Barabasi

This is one that I’m not sure I’m going to finish.  It’s interesting reading about the differences between random and scale-free networks, and how that impacts things like the internet… but for some reason this book just isn’t cutting it for me.  I can’t sustain my interest, is maybe the better way to put it.  I read this one night and I’m like, “Oooh, interesting!”  Then I try to continue the next night, and I’m more like, “Ugh, I need to find something else to read.”

I bet if the author had a TED Talk it would be worth watching, but he doesn’t seem to.  So that’s that, as far as I’m concerned.

Design for the Real World, by Victor Papanek

I don’t remember why I pulled this one off the shelf at work.  Possibly I mistook it for a title published more recently than 1972?  At any rate I imagine I might have quite enjoyed this if I were reading it in the 1970s, but reading it in 2017 was an entirely different matter.

One thing I will say for this book: Papanek’s hatred of automobiles is hilarious.  He keeps coming back to it, over and over.  Here’s an example:

Is an automobile, for instance, a piece of sports equipment, transportation, a living-room-cum-bordello on wheels, or a chrome-plated marshmallow predesigned to turn itself into a do-it-yourself coffin?

I really wish I’d kept track of all his car-hating quotes, because… wow.  I mean, I dislike cars, but I’m practically the hosts of Top Gear compared to this guy.

And More

Definitely more.  A lot more.  Did I ever write a blog post about Women’s Work: The First 20,000 Years – Women, Cloth, and Society in Early Times?  If not, go read that now.  Maybe I’ll write about it if/when I reread it.  Going by memory months after the fact isn’t going to let me do it any justice whatsoever.

I started reading Between the World and Me, and holy crap, Ta-Nehisi Coates can write.  I picked a bad couple weeks to have that book out from the library, though, so I didn’t manage to finish it in time.   Someone had a hold on it after me, so renewing wasn’t a choice.  I need to get back to this one.  I REALLY need to get back to this one.

Plus, of course, fiction.  Most recently some nice, fluffy, cosy mysteries set in 1920s England.  But also some snarky fantasy capers, borderline trashy (but entirely too much fun) werewolf novels, and Rebel of the Sands and its sequel.  That one I’ll actually name because I quite like it.  I picked it up on a whim at the mysterious Daunt Books store that appeared at the end of a rainbow when I was lost in London.  True story–my friend and I were lost, there was a rainbow, and BOOM there was this bookstore.  It took us at least an hour of wandering to find it again the next day, and I still don’t know where it actually is.

What else?  I’d have to go hunting through my computer and apartment to find out the other things I’ve been reading.  There’s been a lot.  My crafting has been taking second place to books for a while now; it might be time to shift that focus again, at least for a few months.

Returning to Tunisian Crochet

So, hey, I’m not dead.  But outside adventures aren’t something I think to write down here, so it’s taken until this chilly, pouring-down-rain weekend for me to post again.  Hum.

Anyway, it’s been a marvelous week for crocheting.  I’ve been mostly knitting for the past four years, except to teach beginner crochet at library events.  I’m tired of knitting.  I’m tired of teaching people slip knots (the necessary first step of crocheting).  But Tunisian crochet–ahhhhh, yes, Tunisian crochet is a thing I am not tired of.

I’m particularly not tired of it because it occurred to me that I could do a knit cast on for it, which is much easier than working into a long chain and hoping I manage not to twist it.  So there are benefits to returning to crochet after some years of knitting!  (It’s also occurred to me that I could use Tunisian crochet to bind off a knitting project at the end.  Given how awful my last bind off was, this revelation could prove very useful when/if I return to knitting.)

I’ve been working my way through the stitches in this Tunisian Sampler Scarf.  I’ve also been trying out cabling in Tunisian crochet, per this post.  My cables were disappointing, though.  Maybe if I did them in cotton they’d really stand out, but in the very soft acrylic I sacrificed to playing around, they were mushy and hard to see.  (No photos because it’s dark right now and I’m lazy.)

In the end, I decided that I really like the Tunisian simple stitch, so I started using actual wool and I was going to stick with just the simple stitch, but then I did that whole thing where I was like, “But hey, I could combine this with a slanted fabric stitch!”  So here’s the first few rows of that:

Three rows of Tunisian simple stitch followed by one row of Tunisian slanted fabric stitch.

And that was fine, and all.  Cooler than just simple stitch, because there’s that nice little twist every few rows.  But then I was like, “Hey… I could shift the twist from the slanted fabric stitch over so it connects neighboring columns, every few rows.  That would be cool.”  So here’s that:

A fancier combination of simple stitch and slanted fabric stitch, where I shift the slanted fabric stitch over every few rows for a nifty, interlocking effect.

And yes, that motif is old hat.  Everyone and their brother cables in that pattern.  But I’ve never done it Tunisian crochet, before, that I remember.  I quite like it.  It’s easier to see than the columns-with-a-twist, for some reason.  Must be psychological, because it’s not like there’s any extra stitch definition or anything.  Still–cool.  So that’s the stitch pattern I’m using for this project, because why not?

I want to work up to making this.  Just look at it.  Look at all those perfect, lovely, crisp stitches, combined so that they make each other look superb.

When would I wear this shawl, you ask?  Yeah, well… you know… ummm… I’d find a time, ok?  Maybe it could just live in my office or something.  My office is always cold.

Snails!

Snails are not something I remember seeing much of growing up, and I’ve got a friend who’s rather fond of them, so I’ve been paying more attention to snails lately.  There are lots of them on the River Walk by the backwater where it floods all the time, so I take pictures when I see them and send them off to amuse or annoy my friend.

Snails are much better than birds in that regard–photographing birds with your cell phone is hard.  But snails!  Ah, snails move at a pace my photography skills and equipment can handle.  Here are a few of the snails I’ve seen:

Probably a grove snail.
I think it’s a grove snail.
Yeah, at this point I’m pretty sure these are grove snails.
Looks grove snail-ish.
The rare snaileus balloonicus.

Ok, possibly that last one is when I first learned how to twist a balloon snail.  Possibly.

Anyway I’m pretty sure all the living snails I’ve seen in Oswego are grove snails.  Apparently some snails can live to be up to 10 years old, according to Magill’s Encyclopedia of Science: Animal Life, but Wikipedia says grove snails only get up to about 8 years old.  Still pretty good for a creature that small!

Grove snails are also known as brown-lipped snails, and are not to be confused with white-lipped snails, despite the fact that some brown-lipped snails have shells with white lips.  True story.  Apparently you have to dissect them to actually tell the difference, in that case.  But nothing I’ve read says that white-lipped snails can have brown-lipped shells, plus it sounds like maybe white-lipped snails haven’t been imported to the US like brown-lipped snails have, so I’m going with these snails probably being brown-lipped snails / grove snails.

So, yeah, did I mention they’re not native to the U.S.?  That’s a shame.  It’s hard to be quite so fond of invasive species.

But!  In the course of trying to figure out what kind of snails I was running into on the River Walk all the time, I came across this: the Chittenango Ovate Amber Snail.

A snail that’s only found at Chittenango Falls, in the entire world!  Now I have an excuse to go back there–I need to find a snail to admire.  There are more details on Wikipedia.

In other news, I can’t really write about snails without at least mentioning that snail jousting in medieval manuscripts is my favorite marginalia ever:

Snail jousting illumination.

There’s at least one scholarly paper about it, too… but I seem to have lost hold of that citation, and it’s taking more than 30 seconds to recover.  Maybe that can be a future post.  In the mean time, many thanks to the British Library for its Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts, from whence I retrieved the wonderful snail joust to the right.

Alexa on Raspberry Pi

On Friday I was talked into going to one of the library’s Maker Events focused on turning a Raspberry Pi into (effectively) an Amazon Echo.  I know that I’ve been to quite a few student presentations where they talked about using Alexa skills to let them do all kinds of nifty things, but I hadn’t really given much thought to what was involved in using Alexa myself.

We spent most of Friday’s session getting micro SD cards set up with Raspbian on them, and setting up our Amazon developer accounts.  Honestly that sounds like it was probably the hardest part of the whole project.  After that, it looked like it would just be a matter of following this sample project before we’d be ready to go.

Yes, I am saying “it looked like.”  We didn’t actually finish the project.  We didn’t have good enough wifi to complete Step 4, where you clone the Git project onto your Pi, in a reasonable amount of time.

Most of the other people at the event had bought their own equipment, and thus were able to take it home and continue working on the project.  I’ll be curious to talk to them and see how the rest of it went.  For myself–well, I was using the library’s equipment, which had to be turned back in before I left.

I’m pretty ok with that, though.  I don’t particularly want an Amazon Echo, I don’t have any projects in mind that would make use of being able to talk to a computer and ask it to do things, and I’m mostly just happy to have gotten a sense of how a project like this works.  If I *do* think of a project that would benefit from this, I know where to start and I’m pretty confident I could pull it off.

Linen Stitch

Knitting at professional conferences is simultaneously wonderful and awful.  On the one hand, I love the spontaneous connections with other knitters.  Also, knitting is a great way to stay awake during those presentations that are, shall we say, less than stimulating.  But on the other hand, trying out a new stitch or pattern in a public, noisy, stressful place… well, that’s not so good.

All of this is leading up to how I’m learning to knit linen stitch.  You can read more about the stitch here, among many other places.

I was really excited about how much knitting I got done at Computers in Libraries last week, until I realized just how awful a job I’d done at keeping track of whether I was on a knit row or a pearl row, and whether each stitch was a slip or a proper stitch.  All of that matters when you’re making a scarf as simple as this one.  There’s nowhere to hide your mistakes.

So when I got home, I ripped out all those many hours of travel/conference knitting.  Wheeeee.

Thinking positively, though, I have now gotten myself in hand enough to keep a written tally of which row I’m on.  This gets rid of the problem of doing a perl row when I ought to do a knit row, and vice versa.  It also gets rid of the problem where I go, “Hang on, how many rows have I worked in this color?”  Variegated yarn and an unfamiliar stitch do NOT make it easy for me to see my rows!

Plus I’ve spent enough hours with this stitch now that I know how to see whether I’ve just stitched or slipped, which is key to knowing which to do next.  Better still, I’ve *finally* figured out that for most of these rows, you can just check the loops on the needle to make sure they’re alternating colors.  If they are, you haven’t screwed up the stitch pattern within the row.  So obvious!  And so painfully learned in the school of “Now you must rip out everything that you spent hours and hours doing in the first place.”

Anyway–linen stitch.  I’m doing it.  And I’m totally going to continue using it for other projects after this, because I’m getting rather fond of it.

More Birds of Oswego (and a Fish)

As part of my efforts to pay more attention to what’s around me, here are the birds I’ve been seeing lately:

  • Red-breasted Merganser
    This one was new to me.  Check out its crazy head feathers!  Love it.  There were a few of these down by the mouth of the river today.  Possibly yesterday as well, but I’m not 100% sure that what I saw yesterday was the same bird.Bonus: While looking up which merganser I saw today, I saw pictures of the Common Merganser, which I’m about 90% sure is something I saw last summer but couldn’t ID.
  • Robins
    No link for robins, because, I mean… robins.  Anyway they’ve been back at least since Pi Day; I saw them when I was out snowshoeing in the blizzard.  Very Oswego, that–spotting a traditional spring bird in a howling blizzard.
  • Crows
    Always crows.
  • Seagulls
    Always seagulls, too.  But there are kinds!  Specifically, I think these kinds: Ring-Billed Gulls and Herring Gulls.The other gulls, that are speckly brown all over, are juveniles, I think.  At least I know now that they’re not a different kind!
  • Mourning Doves
    I don’t feel like I usually see these around town, but maybe I just never noticed before today because they’re so normal I take them for granted?
  • Ducks
    What kind of ducks?  The normal kind, which apparently Audubon Society won’t uncover for you under a search for “duck”–no, you have to know to put in Mallard.  Duck snobs.
  • And a fish: Brown Trout?
    I’m not 100% sure that the fish I saw someone catch yesterday was a brown trout, but the time of year is right, according to the New York State Dept. of Environmental Conservation.  And the pictures when I Googled it also look about right.  So we’re going with it–I saw a brown trout breathing its last on the sidewalk.

Cream of Tartar

One of my plans for the weekend involves baking scones, and my dad’s scone recipe involves cream of tartar.  I don’t make scones much, and I don’t use cream of tartar much, so I started to wonder whether cream of tartar is the sort of ingredient that goes bad.  Happily, not even spice companies who presumably want to sell me more of the stuff claim that cream of tartar goes bad.  Huzzah!

So I can make my scones using my cream of tartar from I’m-afraid-to-think-about-when… but… I mean, the stuff doesn’t really have a taste.  What is it?  Why is it included in this recipe, anyway?

Apparently cream of tartar crystallizes out of wine, especially when the wine gets too cold.  Wine people mostly seem to talk about “tartrates,” for the record, but it’s the same deal (at least mostly).  My mind is blown.  I’m cooking with a bizarre substance that crystallizes out of wine and can look like shards of glass, which apparently freaks people out a lot when they find it in their wine bottle.

A main use of cream of tartar seems to be stabilizing egg whites so you can make stuff like meringues.  (I really should make meringues sometime; they always look so lovely on The Great British Bake Off.)  Who comes up with these ideas, do you ever wonder?  Like, “Hey, I found these things that look like shards of glass in our wine; guess I’ll go throw them into this meringue I’m whipping up.”  I just… maybe the experimental cook was a chemist, and already had some guess as to what might happen?  I’m going to go with that, because the alternative just seems suicidal.

But anyway scones don’t involve stabilizing egg whites, or I would have noticed.  So… why the cream of tartar?  Best guess, it’s because you can combine cream of tartar with baking soda in order to get baking powder.

Well then.  Now I know.

Reading: Thinking in Systems

I don’t remember why I decided to ILL Thinking in Systems. I think it must have been cited in something else I read; maybe Design is the Problem?  Regardless, I did ILL it, and it was fantastic bedtime reading. Many thanks to Nazareth College for having a nearly three-month checkout period. Seriously: Much appreciated. Provided that I don’t forget to throw the book into my work bag tonight, I will even be returning the book early!  That makes me feel all accomplished and smart and stuff.

The only downside to this book was that I don’t (yet) keep a notepad and pen at my bedside, so I didn’t jot down any of the fabulous quotes in this book. And because I read it right before bed every night, I know that I’ve forgotten some of the best bits. The book is copyright 2008, but the author died in 2001, and–I mean, are we sure she didn’t have a time machine?  Because wow she had some quotes that feel very, very timely.

Anyway, what am I taking away from this book?  The “systems zoo” was interesting, with its examples and simple diagrams of various types of systems:

  • Systems with competing balancing loops
    Think thermostat heating a room. The temperature is the stock, and the thermostat tries to keep the room warm even as the temperature outside tries to cool the room down.
  • Systems with competing AND reinforcing balancing loops
    Think population. The birth rate reinforces population growth, and the death rate competes with it.
  • Systems with delays
    Think inventory in your store. You buy more inventory to respond to what your customers have bought (and what you think they’re going to buy), but it takes time for the new stock to show up. How much of a delay you put on your orders for more stock affects oscillations in what/how much you have on hand.
  • Systems with a renewable stock constrained by a non-renewable stock
    Think oil economy. The oil is non-renewable; your oil company’s capital is renewable. The amount of capital you have (after you start) both affects and is affected by the amount of oil you extract.
  • Systems with a renewable stock constrained by a renewable stock
    Think fishing. Your fishing company’s capital affects and is affected by the population of fish. (Which is a population system–so the fish’s death rate is competing with their birth rate to control how many fish there are.)

If you think about systems rather than just events, you get into why things happen, which is truly a thing that I love. But how do you figure out the limits to your system?  You don’t want to think about too small a system, or you won’t learn much. But you also don’t want to think about too large a system, because you’ll get lost in waaaaaaay too much information that’s only tangentially related to whatever it is that you care about.

“Ideally, we would have the mental flexibility to find the appropriate boundary for thinking about each new problem. We are rarely that flexible. We get attached to the boundaries our minds happen to be accustomed to. Think about how many arguments have to do with boundaries–national boundaries, trade boundaries, ethnic boundaries, boundaries between public and private responsibility… It’s a great art to remember that boundaries are of our own making, and that they can and should be reconsidered for each new discussion, problem, or purpose.” (p. 98-99, author’s emphasis)

Swoon. And then she has a section on “system traps”: resistance to policies because the goals of sub-systems don’t align with the goals of the larger system(s); everyone’s beloved tragedy of the commons, where because people get all the benefits but only part of the negative consequences for over-using something, they over-use the resource; the drift to low performance, where we all say “well, given x, can you really expect any better?”; escalation, where we all keep responding a little more strongly in opposition to each other; the trap where the rich keep getting richer because one of the rewards of success is more of whatever it takes to become successful; shifting the burden to an intervenor whose “solution” to a problem isn’t really a solution; trying to beat the rules; and seeking the wrong goal (think: assessing the wrong things).

She offers ways out of these traps, but if I’ve managed to phrase them right in my summary, I think the ways out are generally pretty self explanatory. Once you’ve realized what kind of trap you’re facing, anyway.

She also offers a list of places to intervene in a system, albeit with the caution that we often have a tendency to “pull the lever” in the wrong direction. That reminds me of an obstructionist co-worker I once had, and how everyone just kept excluding her from more and more decisions because she argued about everything, but that just made her more and more obstructionist. When I shocked my boss and brought the obstructionist to the table intentionally, she worked with the team on the project instead of obstructing it. Seeing the larger system FTW!

Anyway, one of the last sections of the book is about places you can intervene in a system. Stock, buffers, reinforcing loops, delays, presence/absence of information, overall goals, and more. I liked this part, but really once you’ve gotten your mind wrapped around the system and are thinking of it as a system, I think these are also pretty obvious.

The very last section of the book is “Living in a World of Systems,” and offers a series of maxims that made me want to jump up and down and say, “This is what I’m trying to do!”  I don’t think any of them are earth-shattering on their own, but I quite like the list. This section of the book seems like it might make a good reading assignment for… something. Anyway, here are the section headings:

  • Get the beat of the system.
  • Expose your mental models to the light of day.
  • Honor, respect, and distribute information.
  • Use language with care and enrich it with systems concepts.
  • Pay attention to what is important, not just what is quantifiable.
  • Make feedback policies for feedback systems. (This one I think needs translating: Make dynamic, self-adjusting rules to control your system.)
  • Go for the good of the whole.
  • Listen to the wisdom of the system.
  • Locate responsibility in the system.
  • Stay humble–stay a learner.
  • Celebrate complexity.
  • Expand time horizons.
  • Defy the disciplines.
  • Expand the boundary of caring.
  • Don’t erode the goal of goodness.

In short: This book is who I want to be when I grow up. And you can see why it’s so chock full of quotes that feel relevant right now, even if I didn’t transcribe those quotes. So much of my problem with current events is that I feel like the people in charge are not even seeing the whole system, much less understanding how its various parts play together, how those parts affect people who aren’t the same as the people in power, thinking about the future, etc.

Anyway. Thinking in Systems is good stuff, and I recommend it.

They Want to Terminate the EPA??!

There’s now a bill in the House of Representatives “To Terminate the EPA.”  I am really not ok with this.  Here are some reasons.
 
Where I Live Now
My current home in Oswego, NY is near a bunch of Superfund sites. That means the EPA is working / has worked to clean up toxic pollutants near me. This is work that needs to be done; who would do it if the EPA weren’t around?

Search for Superfund sites near you.

Where I Grew Up
I grew up near the Cuyahoga River, which burned several times.  Yes, several times.  Everyone knows about that time in ’69, sure, but there were more times before that.  Water quality in Lake Erie (which the Cuyahoga River feeds into) was and is kind of a big deal.  It even made Saturday Night Live, back in the day.
The EPA has been involved in helping clean up the Cuyahoga. I think that’s a good thing.  I loved being able to go to the beach on Lake Erie when I was a kid.  
Whenever I Buy Appliances
The EPA is in charge of Energy Star, which lets us know ahead of time how much energy our appliances will consume.  That lets consumers make informed decisions about which appliances to buy if they want to keep their electricity bills under control.
Being Able to Breathe
Remember that whole thing with VW cheating on their emissions tests?  Whose side were you on when you heard those stories?  Personally, I find it difficult to cheer for a company who lied to consumers as they were making decisions about what car to buy.  The EPA was on the other side of that fight, and I support that.  I really like being able to breathe the air outside.
All Kinds of Other Things, I’m Sure
I have to get other things done today so I’m stopping here, but seriously–the House of Representatives wants to kill the EPA???  Not cool, House.  Not cool.

Reading: The Tea Book

I’ve lost some time lately to little things like, oh, introducing a second cat to my first cat, plus discovering that NYPL library cards are available to anyone who lives in NY state.  So many ebooks of fun, fluffy, escapist reading!  So convenient to download while preventing growling cats from killing each other!

But I’ve also been following through on some of the things I said I needed to learn about, when last I wrote.  Specifically, I have now read The Tea Book: All Things Tea.  Scholarly?  Heavens, no.  Unbiased?  Again no–this was written by some people who own a tea company.  So I can’t really blame them for the pages that discuss things like which of that tea brand’s teas are best for whatever mood, etc.

It did, however, serve me well in giving me a very brief history of tea drinking, some recipes, and explanation of the differences between green tea, black tea, and white tea.

In short–most of the difference is in how the tea leaves are processed after they’re picked.  There *are* some exceptions to that, like how white tea seems generally accepted to involve younger tea leaves / buds, and matcha tea involves shading the tea bushes for a couple weeks before the harvest.  Also you drink the entire leaf with matcha, instead of filtering it out, which makes sense of the fact that when I tried matcha this week it tasted like, well, leaves.  (It does taste nice in a milkshake with coconut ice cream, though, FYI.)

Anyway the difference between green tea and black tea is that black tea is allowed to oxidize (more) before they heat it to stop that process.

Plus everyone makes a big deal out of where the tea was grown, including considerations like elevation.  That part really sounded a lot like reading about wine.

And… now I know.  I’m also intrigued by some of the recipes in The Tea Book; I hadn’t previously considered cooking with tea.  That now seems like a grave oversight.  Culinary adventures, here I come!