Jan 16, 2021

e-reader book case

Well, I made a new cover out of a book for my kindle paperwhite. Same method as last time, gluing the pages together into a solid block, tracing around the device and cutting the shape out with an xacto blade. Pressing and gluing again, making a notch for the on/off switch, and smoothing the inside edges with sandpaper. The first twenty pages or so came out neatly enough that I'm saving them to use for grocery lists and notes.
The aftermath.
The result!
This time I did not sacrifice an actual published book, as you might notice. I happened to find this blank cashbook in the recess of my filing cabinet- no idea why I originally bought it (must have been over two decades ago) and certainly don't have any other use for it now. So I figured why not see if it will work for this. The outer edge of the page block did end up very narrow- I was worried it wouldn't be strong enough, but glued and pressed it twice and so far it seems sturdy.

For a while I was looking online for a suitable blank book to purchase and hollow out- maybe a journal with a particular kind of cover- but never could decide on one. Also I found listed on various sites many journals or sketchbooks made with the covers of books removed and restitched or glued to hold blank pages. I was dismayed to see the covers of books I've read and loved myself- The Heart of a Dog by Albert Payson Terhune, Brighty of the Grand Canyon by Marguerite Henry, The Jungle Books by Rudyard Kipling, The Wizard of Oz, the Velveteen Rabbit, Anne of Green Gables, The Little Prince! Black Beauty! Charlotte's Web! Not kidding I saw all these rebound and more. I guess the people taking these books apart and reselling them as journals think nobody wants to actually read the originals- but it makes me upset. There's even sites where you can buy the covers of books already parted from their text content- as empty shells. In huge lots. 

Maybe I shouldn't let it bother me- I once did it myself. But now I can't bring myself to do it again. So I used this blank lined book that was a bit too small, and then put some vinyl letting and pattern on the front, from stuff I have leftover from other projects.
and the spine. Not quite straight, but at a glance on my shelf it fits right in with all the other TBR books, you wouldn't necessarily notice it unless I pointed out the one that says So Many Books.
Not perfect, I've run out of laminate sheeting which I was going to use over the cover, so the lettering doesn't peel off. Used packing tape. Some of it ended up with creases. And the spine got a little crushed under the stack I used to press it with. Still, it feels just like a book in my hand, though I haven't really tested it out by reading another e-book with it yet. Soon!

Jan 14, 2021

Heart and Blood

Living with Deer in America 
by Richard Nelson

     Marvelous book. It looks at all sides of the relationships deer and people have in this country. The author is a hunter himself but holds great respect for the animals and their environment, which you can palpably feel in his personal descriptions. The opening and closing chapters detail time he spent in the woods with his border collie dog- whom he depends on for alerting him to the proximity of wildlife with her keen senses. He follows deer but also has a close encounter with a marten (riveting scene) and is tailed by a brown bear, and in the final pages tells of witnessing a doe actually giving birth. It's incredible. All the other chapters tell about deer, both from his research and personal experiences as he crosses the country witnessing how people live alongside or utilize the cervids. There is a chapter that tells of the evolutionary history of deer (more in brief than Whitetail Tracks) another that explains the difference between North America's three deer species, their physiology and way of life. Most of the book is about deer / human interactions, with far greater depth and understanding than I once gleaned from Nature Wars.

Nelson visits many areas in turn: first an island in Alaska where deer are being studied, and discusses the impacts of various types of studies in general- including whether or not their means are considered humane. (Some studies have deliberately allowed deer to starve, others subject wild deer to a lot of stress). He visits an island off the California coast, and another near New York, where deer populations have far outgrown the space, looking at the various methods used to attempt controlling population numbers and why they don't work. He goes to an area of Texas that has a very healthy deer population, where the wildlife live alongside cattle on ranches (they eat different plant types) and then are thinned each year by hunters who pay for access- and it's very specifically managed.. He accompanies several Wisconsin hunters on public lands, where the control is slightly different, and contrariwise, also goes along with a group of animal rights activists in a different part of Wisconsin, whose aim is to interrupt the hunters (very civilly done, I might add). The varied hunts include stalking deer through the forest on foot, sitting in tree platforms near open areas where deer might visit, and walking with a group of men on a drive across fields and hillsides. Finally, he visits farmland in southern Wisconsin, where deer are also hunted- in this case mostly to protect the crops. Which is a very serious thing- it sounds like not a single crop grown could be brought to reasonable harvest if deer are not fenced out (which is often impractical) or shot. 

Overall I felt like this was a really well-rounded look at the deer situation, one approached with admiration for the animal, honest friendliness towards various types of people the author visited and interviewed, willingness to try and understand other points of view, interpretation of the science for laypeople like myself, and finally, a love for the beauty of the land and wildlife. I was struck by how time and time again, occasions were reported where deer that were troublesome in suburban areas were relocated in attempts to control their numbers- and what a failure that is. Some die of shock during handling, and most or all of the rest die within the first year of being moved. And it's expensive. Birth control for deer doesn't work, which is explained. Natural predators are for the most part missing, so it leaves human hunters to keep the population in check. Otherwise the deer destroy habitat leaving it unfit for other animals as well. Oh, and there's a chapter about forest growth, and how monocultures of trees replanted after logging usually don't support deer or other wildlife and why. The author himself personally witnessed the state of deer starving in winter in an overpopulated area; it sounds like the misery and suffering of the emaciated animals deeply affected him. He not-so-subtly hints that he disagrees with the animal rights people who assert that starvation is nature's way of handling the problem, opining that a hunter's precise mark which ends their lives quickly and gives them purpose as someone's dinner (for a family, it can supply a year's worth of protein) is a far more humane option.

I found that many of his sentiments closely harmonized what I read recently in Braiding Sweetgrass. In particular I marked a few quotes:
Organisms we buy in stores and array on the table are our makers, the creators and nurturers of our bodies, until eventually we die and nourish other organisms in turn. As a society, we could benefit enormously by finding ways to remember, acknowledge, and celebrate this process, to accept with gratitude and respect the plants and animals who keep us alive, who weave us into the living tapestry of earth.

A true ecological wisdom, it seemed to me, is one that keeps people and land together in the business of producing food while they develop a more balanced and sustainable relationship with the natural environment.
This is one of those books I lingered over, then read through the pages of references in the back, to add more to my never-ending, always-growing TBR. Including now several other titles by the author which look just as good.

Rating: 4/5              390 pages, 1997

Jan 13, 2021


1,000 piece puzzle by Peter Pauper Press. Illustration by Stephanie Law. I really like the picture- it has a very soft, dreamy quality compared to most of my puzzles. Also a non-glare surface which is so nice to work with. Just one odd thing- the bottom edge of the picture looks like it was copied in pieces and added on to make the image larger (probably to fit the puzzle size). It looks hastily done, and I'm not the only person who noticed- other reviews online mention this. Regardless, still a lovely puzzle that I enjoyed time with. 

Assembly sequence (click to view larger and skip through)

Jan 12, 2021

The Stallion King

by Glenn Balch

I'm in the middle of a longer book but needed an easy read for a hot bath, and this was it. Unfortunately I found out pretty quick that like Indian Paint, this book is an abridged version of the original (titled Wild Horse). Wasn't quite as "dumbed down" so I was able to enjoy it somewhat; however it still doesn't really sound like the author's voice to me and will only stay on my shelf until I find a copy of Wild Horse

It's about two kids who have been admiring a wild black stallion that lives near their father's cattle ranch. The father doesn't see much use in wild horses so he doesn't mind when men come to run the wild horses, intending to sell whatever they catch for rodeo broncos or to a factory that makes chicken feed. The kids are appalled that the wild stallion they call King might meet such a fate. The boy determines to go out and catch the wild horse himself, and his sister helps by bringing supplies and fresh horses. It is a long hard job which they mainly do by following the stallion in relays until he's worn out. Most of this story felt really flat and bland to me- the dialog and descriptions- but that is probably due to it being "revised". The final chapters were more interesting, after the horse is caught. The ranch hand is from South America.  He uses a bola for the capture instead of a lariat and his methods for getting the wild horse to accept some basic tack were also interesting. I liked that the horse's behavior and responses were very realistic. Eventually they teach the horse that it can't get away from a rope and are riding it (although it's not really controllable). The kids are so excited to have the wild stallion, but also dismayed that it seems the horse will never really accept confinement or guidance from a rider- having lived so many years in the wild and being set in his ways. But if they let him go again, he's at risk of being caught by others and sold to rodeo or slaughterhouse. The way they solve this problem is neatly done and honestly I didn't expect it at all, even though it was hinted at in the opening scene, I missed it.

Definitely think I'd like the original version of this story. Happily I found a website that lists Glenn Balch's books and notes which ones are revised reprints, so maybe I can avoid this mistake again.

Rating: 2/5            118 pages, 1960

Jan 7, 2021

Braiding Sweetgrass

Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants 
by Robin Wall Kimmerer

     The author of this beautiful book has Native American roots, and scientific training in botany and ecology. She deftly weaves science with knowledge rooted in her indigenous culture, expounding on how if we care for the land and treat nature with respect, the earth will shower us with abundance. How the land itself can teach us, can heal us, can lift us up. That simply leaving nature alone to do its own thing isn't enough, if we work together in harmony with it, respecting other (non-human) lives (non-human), all will thrive. I tend to think our earth is better left alone after all the harm we've done to it; Kimmerer gently encourages me to see otherwise. Even details a study she did with a graduate student to prove that sweetgrass is more prolific when it is regularly harvested, then when left alone. There is so much in this book about native cultures, social ills, and intricate details on plant life I just don't know how to phrase it all. Things about migrating salamanders and the balance of nutrients in a pond. About cedar trees, black ash, and maples known so deeply by the indigenous people who used them well. Strawberries, wild leeks, corn, witch hazel, lichens (most fascinating), blackberries, cattails, pecans, salmon, wild rice . . . The individual and distinctive beauty of raindrops. The cleansing sweep of controlled fire. Personal stories about gardening, harvesting, replanting forests, mothering children, learning the nearly-forgotten language of her people and teaching students to see and feel the land again. Or at least to know it by plant names. Painful stories from of native american history. Wise stories from cultural myths, hopeful stories looking into the future, hopeful to heal the earth together with humankind. I can't name all the things. Others have share their impressions, linked below. Now wanting to read her book Gathering Moss

My father gave this book to me, I am grateful.

Rating: 5/5               390 pages, 2013

More opinions:

Jan 4, 2021

Appalachian Wilderness

the Great Smoky Mountains
Natural and Human History 
by Edward Abbey and Eliot Porter

     I liked this book, but was initially confused about it. The photographer's name (Porter) is the only one on the spine and prominent on the cover, so naturally I assumed most of the text was by him- especially as some excerpts noted to be by Edward Abbey are in italics at the ends of pages indicating they pair with photos on the following spread. It wasn't until I was nearly halfway through that I realized the words I read echoed sentiments of Edward Abbey I'd read in The Journey Home. So then I thought well, this chapter at least must be by Abbey- however it wasn't distinguished from any other chapter as to the author. Not until I was looking at details of the book on LibraryThing did I at last realize that all the main text is Edward Abbey, and Elliot Porter the photographer. There are also many quotes in here by Ivan Turgenev, John Hay, Frank Russell and others, plus several poems by E.E. Cummings.

So it is in turns a picturesque description of the region especially the immensely diverse plant life, a rant against development (Abbey went on for pages at one point on his stance that only foot traffic- no cars- should be allowed into the Great Smoky Moutains National Park- even though he himself visited there in a vehicle), the history in particular of how Cherokee were forced out of their homes, the way hillside farmers make a living and their distinctive local culture and pride- and how it's been degraded by strip mining which ruins the land. Maybe it sounds a jumble but really it is very well presented together and my mind moved seamlessly from one aspect to the next. The photographs are beautiful (if a bit aged in appearance after all this book as an object is almost fifty years old) featuring waterfalls, brilliant fall leaves and bright forest floor wildflowers from the region. 

I read this book as an interlude during Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. That one is very much about how native american mindset and living is in close partnership with the land- and there's a chapter where the author takes a group of students to survey plant biomes in a patch of the Great Smoky Moutains- and I remembered I had this Appalachian Wilderness on a shelf somewhere, and wanted to see the pictures. It was a perfect pairing.
Rating: 3/5                118 pages, 1973

Jan 2, 2021

The Way of Shadows

Night Angel Trilogy 
by Brent Weeks

     I feel I ought to apologize to my youngest- that I didn't care for this book. It was a gift from her to me (a year or two ago, so she was eight or nine). She picked it out for me "because it looked exciting!" she said. I am sure it is- but it's just not my kind of read. I gave it a good try- got to page 106 and then argh, sorry, I just couldn't continue. I failed to care enough about any of the characters and the complexity of this made-up world and its politics just lost me. Similar to Jhreg I suppose, it's about an assassin. Young man who lives rough and half-starving on the streets, wants something better but mostly just wants to not be afraid anymore so convinces the most skilled and deadly assassin in the city to take him on as apprentice. He has to learn to blend in with people of much higher status, to learn stealth and swordplay and the arts of poisoning and there's also magic. I didn't get to the magic. Alternating chapters tell the story from other viewpoints- including of some leading factions and rulers in this city or neighboring realms- I didn't really keep track of what was going on with all the different ruling parties, varying cultures of the many countries and how they related to each other, even though the author dropped plenty of details and hints at such. Did kind of like the main character, at least his perspective starting out what somewhat sympathetic. I just couldn't focus on it.

 Abandoned                     677 pages, 2008