Monday, April 29, 2024

Nuclear War: A Scenario by Annie Jacobsen


Nuclear War: A Scenario
by Annie Jacobsen
ISBN 9781911709596
Nuclear war is an insane concept. Nevertheless, here we are in a world brimming with weapons that can destroy life as we know it many, many times over. In this book, Anne Jacobsen describes what would/could happen in the event of a rogue leader launching a nuclear weapon at the United States. She bases this on interviews, research, and access to the declassified information that is currently available. The book is incredibly well-written and reads like a thriller, as she describes, minute-by-minute, what would happen both with the nuclear warhead in its journey towards the target and with the US government as they react to the fact of an impending nuclear strike. She talks to people who have been in situations and jobs where they were well-versed in the procedures that would ensue. She explains what such a strike would do to the target area and the people in it. She talks about the possibility of a nuclear detonation in space that would immediately stop the US electric grid from functioning. The people she talks to admit that while the goal of having nuclear arsenals is deterrence, all of the plans and protocols go out the window in the event of an actual launch.

The book is subtitled, A Scenario, and it is structured in that way. The author is telling a story, based on fact as far as is possible. She lays out a scenario in which a 'mad king'--in this case in North Korea--launches a nuclear strike against the United States. How would people in the US and elsewhere respond? Would communication between the US and Russia occur and would it help to prevent more catastrophe or would things escalate? The situation she describes seems all too plausible. The book is very timely, describing as it does the nuclear arsenals that are precariously sitting all over the globe and in the oceans, while unhinged leaders feel an increasing need to appear powerful. This is an extremely important book that is also so well-written that it's a page-turner. Everyone should read it.

I thank NetGalley, the publisher, and the author for a digital review copy.

Friday, April 26, 2024

Fill 'Er Up!

 The other day we were in Letterkenny, having gone to pick up some books at the library. We were making our way back up the town to the bus stop, when I glanced in a bakery window as I passed. They had a few lovely loaves of bread piled up, so we went in to get a multi-seed cob. They wisely put the pastry case around the till. It was lunchtime, we were a bit peckish, and we gave in, choosing 'fresh cream' eclairs. We were disappointed at first bite, but it was my own fault, really. I interpreted the label the way I wanted to and after 10 years in this country, I should have known better. 

The first time we had eclairs here, we were surprised to find them filled with a strange stiff cream-like substance and indeed, they had some of those in the pastry case. Before we came here, we'd always had eclairs filled with what in the US would be like a creamy pudding, like the creamy layer in a Boston Cream Pie. They don't have exactly that here, except sometimes in frozen profiteroles, but they do have what they call custard. Some years ago, we went to a gathering of other immigrants from the US and a couple of Irish people. I made apple crisp and what I would call butterscotch pudding. The Irish woman had never heard of butterscotch or pudding (which usually means dessert in general here), but she loved it. I gave her the rest to take home, explaining to her how I made it. The custard here is similar to what I know as pudding, but thinner and doesn't come in different flavors like chocolate, butterscotch, lemon. It's just custard. So when we got the eclairs, for some reason I thought maybe fresh cream meant custard, since it clearly wasn't the weird stiff stuff. It didn't. It just meant fresh non-stiff whipped cream. Now, I adore whipped cream. When I was a kid and we were on a cruise, I had a severe disappointment when the baked Alaska at dinner one night turned out to be covered in meringue and not the whipped cream I was expecting! So whipped cream is always fine with me. And it was fine in the eclair I had, but it wasn't spectacular. The eclair was OK. I won't get another one, though. 

Bill and I both have books in at the library and are waiting to see if the others we're waiting for come in this week. Either way, next week we will make another trip to the library. We will stop at the bakery for another multi-seed cob, which is delicious. We will not get eclairs. But we might just have  try with something else. I'll let you know.

What are eclairs filled with where you are?

Thursday, April 25, 2024

Follow That Thought!

 Yesterday, out of the blue and who knows why, the thought, 'lemon ricotta' popped into my head. This seemed like a very good idea indeed, so when we were out doing our errands, I picked up a litre of milk, came home, and began. I had a net bag of three organic lemons that a friend had given me, so I washed those and grated the zest. I squeezed out the juice and set the saucepan of milk on the induction hob to heat up, stirring frequently. When it was just starting to get a few small bubbles on top, I dumped in the lemon juice. It curdled right away, but I stirred for a couple more minutes before taking it off the heat and letting it sit for 15 minutes. Because the curds were very small, I poured it into my fine mesh strainer to let the whey drain. I put the ricotta into a container and stirred in about half of the lemon zest. I put the other half in the freezer. I let the ricotta sit to cool, adding back a bit more whey as needed, because it firms up as it sits. After it was cool, I stirred in more whey and some desiccated coconut. 
This morning, I had some for breakfast--OMG!  It is so delicious! I've made ricotta plenty of times, but never like this and I don't know why. It won't be the last time, though. I love it! It's perfect for spring and summer, too. This morning I had it mixed with a sliced banana, some blueberries, and a couple of chopped dates. I don't know where the thought came from, but I'm glad I followed it to the end result.

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Yesterday's Haul

 These are the books I picked up from the library yesterday:

Those 4 are some of the ones I requested (I have three more coming). Some dark subject matter there, but quite informative and useful for the times in which we live. I've been struck more and more about how history repeats itself with different people in different places at different times. 

I spotted this one on the shelf:
I've not read everything Kingsolver has written, but I've read several of her books and I really like the ones I've read, so I added it to the pile. Have any of you read it and if so, what did you think?

At the charity shop, the books were 5 for a euro. Bill found 4 and I picked up this one to round things out. 
I have another of Kate Atkinson's books in one of my book piles (Life After Life), which I haven't read yet and this one has now been added. I've read a few of her Jackson Brodie books and at the end of each one, I've thought, 'Wow!' I hope I have the same reaction to those two.

I think this was a pretty good book haul to start the week!

Monday, April 22, 2024

Happy Surprise on Earth Day

 We did a library run today. We don't have a branch in this village, but there are three we can go to, so we've been alternating. For now, the Central Library in Letterkenny is the best one for us, because of the opening times and bus schedules, so we've had our requests sent there and 4 of mine came in. There is a charity shop conveniently located across the street from the library, so after I picked up my holds and an extra book, we went in there. They were doing a brisk business because all women's clothing was €2. When we got past the line at the till and the people going through the racks of clothes, Bill spotted this:
photo taken after we got home
As is so often the case, there was no price tag on it. I hate asking how much something is, so Bill took it up to the till and asked the guy there. He pondered for  minute and said, "Two euro." It didn't leave my hand after that. I dragged it upstairs to look at the books, back downstairs to pay for it and the books we bought, into the shop where we picked up an extension lead and plug adapter, into the bakery where we got a loaf of delicious bread and mediocre eclairs (we'll go back for more bread, but skip the eclairs next time), back up the town to the bus stop, then onto my lap for the ride home on the crowded wee bus. Now it lives with me. It is missing a screw on top, but it's easy enough to fix. I'll take off the weaving that's on there and I should be able to use the yarn at some point. I'm thrilled to have this--it will give me more ways to keep more textiles out of landfill--I can use yarn and cut fabric into strips and weave with that. It's a good find on this Earth Day!

Thursday, April 18, 2024

The Amendments by Niamh Mulvey

The Amendments: A deeply moving, multi-generational story about love and longing
by Niamh Mulvey
ISBN 9781529079852

How do you navigate a world in which you feel like, in some fundamental way, you don't belong? What kinds of things might you do to fit in, only to spend your life running away, literally or figuratively, from the consequences of those actions, large and small? For the women in this book, these are huge questions that have serious impacts on their lives even as the culture changes around them in profound ways.

Although most of the story is set in Ireland, the book opens in a therapist's office in London, where Nell and her pregnant partner Adrienne are attending their weekly appointment. It's clear that Nell is running from her own feelings and hiding her discomfort with the idea of being a mother, admitting this to no one but herself. Shortly thereafter, we meet Dolores, Nell's mother, and learn some of her story, along with that of her mother, Brigid. Along the way, Some of Nell's friends are introduced, some of whom will play a major role in subsequent events and some of whom will be more peripheral. One thread running throughout these women's stories is the massive cultural changes taking place in Ireland regarding the role of the church, women's reproductive rights, attitudes towards gay people, family roles, and more. The title refers to the various amendments around abortion that were voted on in different decades, which may lead to the impression that the book is primarily structured around these events. It is true that this is an underlying theme, but for me it was mostly in the background and wasn't the primary focus.

This is an excellent book. Niamh Mulvey skillfully captures the confusion, tension, and discombobulation people feel when the culture is changing around them in ways that strike at the heart of their essential identities. She also beautifully illustrates the pain of feeling like there is nowhere to belong, to always feel peripheral, to feel misplaced, and to desperately seek out groups and people who will provide some sense of security and belonging. The role of shame in this book cannot be understated--particularly for women--and shame plays a big role in the events that unfold for all the women. For some, overcoming their shame is the main work they have to do.

This is a fine book. The writing is beautiful. I found the characters and their issues to be very relatable, even though my background is quite different from theirs. The larger themes are some I have struggled with in my own life. In fact, much of my life was shaped by people trying to run away from their shame and pain, which didn't work and only made things worse. As a result, I found the characters and their actions very believable. This is a book that is well worth reading and I highly recommend it.

I thank NetGalley, the publisher, and the author for a digital review copy.

Sunday, April 14, 2024

All Tied Up

 I'm having computer issues again and have not gotten it to the tech guy yet. I got out an old computer that I saved for back-up. It's very slow, but it works.

Just before we moved, on a page devoted to upcycling textiles, I saw a post by a woman who makes bags out of old neckties. Unfortunately, while I loved the project, I didn't make note of the page or her name. I knew I wanted to try it after we'd gotten settled--after all, the charity shops always have lots of ties. Except for the shop we went to while in a nearby town to do errands and meet a friend. No ties to be seen. Said friend went to a different charity shop in a different town shortly thereafter and picked up 6 neckties for me. By then, I was into a large blanket project that I wanted to finish before it got too warm to have on my lap. It's all done now except for weaving in the ends, so this afternoon, I chose a couple of ties from the bag and started (hand) sewing. Here's the bag:

I was thinking about how to join the ends to make the strap. For now, I am going to just use it knotted so I can see how the length works out. When I know how long I want it to be, I will probably sew the ends together. I love the idea. I don't like to carry a big bag most of the time, nor do I need one. When I do, I grab my backpack. This is a good size, but I do have a rolled up nylon bag that I usually keep in my bag for when we stop at the grocery store or a charity shop or something. Although it fits, it takes up a fair bit of room, so I think I'm going to make a pouch to attach to the strap and keep it in there. That may be a project for later when I'm listening to an audiobook.

This is a really fun idea and very simple. Just lay the ties next to each other in opposite directions. Pin them together, right sides facing each other, and sew together a length that is double the depth you want your bag to be. Then fold in half, right sides together, and sew up the sides. The thin parts of the ties will be loose and become the strap. They can just be knotted together--it's adjustable this way--or sewn together. I'm sure there are ways to do an adjustable strap without the knot. Anyway, I have 4 more ties and may make at least one more bag. I'll be keeping my eyes open in charity shops, too.

I'll close with some necktie humor:
'If men can run the world, why can't they stop wearing neckties? How intelligent is it to start the day by tying a little noose around your neck?'
-- Linda Ellerbee