Thursday Tea and Cookies

This week, I have a guest baker, so I didn’t have to try and bake this week (lovely, as we had a faculty meeting until 5:30 at the other campus on Monday, and I didn’t get home until 7 after grocery shopping) and then was out at other things on Tuesday and Wednesday nights.

The cookies are krum kajer, a Norwegian rolled cookie. (They’re also spelled krum kakke, or krum kaker – the Wikipedia article gives a good overview. )

For resources, I’ve pulled together some books on the brain and the senses.

Thursday Tea and Cookies

Today’s cookies are chocolate dipped lavender cookies (though I’ll admit here that they spread a lot more than intended: I realised after baking that I’d left out half a cup of flour. Oops. They still taste fantastic, though.)

To go with them, I pulled together eight books on the English language – titles like Woe is I, and Eats Shoots & Leaves, and The Grouchy Grammarian as well as books on how idioms develop.

web comic: Unshelved

Welcome to one of my favorite webcomics – all about a public library. Unshelved has been running since 2002, so there are a whole lot of comic strips there. You can get a quick introduction to the characters here, and search for strips with a particular word in them in the top left sidebar.

Along with the comic, they also run a full color Sunday page that highlights a particular title. A few that we own here:

Thursday Tea & Cookies

Today’s cookies were based on another recipe I found via the Smitten Kitchen: the Slice and Bake Cookie Palette.

In this case, they have a 1/4 cup of cocoa powder (replacement for some of the flour) and 2 tsps of orange extract. They came out with a truly lovely and fine texture (but not too crumbly), but not very orangey. (In a future batch, I am contemplating either more orange, or maybe something like dipping half of them into chocolate ganache and setting them on wax paper.)

Anyway, they made a number of people happy on a bitterly cold and miserable day. (it was -20 when I left for work, and our high was -6. Farenheit. Fortunately, tomorrow, we’re supposed to get into positive numbers again.)

Today’s resource was our new Global Issues in Context database, which Gale launched in mid-December. It combines current events, historical background, primary sources, reference material, and a number of other resources (including videos and podcasts), and I’m really liking what I’ve seen with it so far.

books: Green Glass Sea and White Sands, Red Menace

Both Green Glass Sea and White Sands, Red Menace are by Ellen Klages, who I had the great pleasure of meeting last year before and at the 4th Street Fantasy Convention (a local recently revived convention focused on writing.)

Now, Ellen is wickedly funny, and had already written my all time favorite library/librarian story ever (” “In the House of the Seven Librarians”, in her anthology Portable Childhoods), but I finally got around to ordering both the YA novels she’s written for the library.

They are set during the development of the atomic bomb at Los Alamos (the first book) and in the testing of rockets and further military development (the second one) – but like all of Klages’ stories, the real focus is on the domestic side: what it’s like living in those worlds, and what family, betrayal, sacrifice, and ethics mean in both the little decisions and the big ones.

One reason I wanted to get these in particular is the way they deal with women and science: Dewey (our protagonist) is a creative engineer and scientist. One of the main adult figures in the book is a chemist – and the way her skills and focus are treated (both by children, and by adults, which you see only in casual mentions) are fascinating pictures of the times.

These books read fast, as the language is very appropriate to the viewpoint character (who is in her early teens), but they leave deep thoughts. And they’re definitely

news: pleasure reading up

The National Endowment for the Arts has just released their periodic report on reading. Its title, Reading on the Rise gives a good hint of the content. They have been doing this survey (which is carefully balanced to reflect actual demographics, based on the census) for 26 years, giving them a long baseline of results.

How do they define literary reading? For purposes of this study, “reading of any novels, short stories, poems, or plays in print or online.” (Note the last bit, which I believe was not true in 2002.)

Key findings:

  • 50.2% of Americans did literary reading in the past twelve months.
  • This is an increase from 46.7 in 2002, the last year of the report.
  • The absolute number of readers (in terms of population) has increased significantly, and is the highest at any point in the survey’s history.
  • 84 percent of adults who read literature (fiction, poetry, or drama) online or downloaded from the Internet also read books, whether print or online.

There are some especially interesting results for young adults (ages 18-24) – their rates have increased at nearly 3 times the rate of adult literary reading growth, despite steep declines in the surveys since 1992. The increases for white, African-American, and Hispanic readers are also very interesting.

Much more information is available in the NEA study (see the link above), and it’s presented in a very readable fashion.

book: A Brother’s Price

A Brother’s Price (by Wen Spencer) was in the book order that arrived on Friday. It’s not a new book – it came out in the summer of 2005, but I’d added it to our recent order because I was ordering other books dealing with gender and social roles. (I came across it originally because it was on the short list for the 2005 Tiptree Award, an annual literary prize for science fiction or fantasy that expands or explores our understanding of gender.

A Brother’s Price is an alternate world where male children are very rare – a family of 30 sisters might have two brothers, and Jerin’s family is considered extremely fortunate to have four. This basic fact turns a number of assumptions about gender roles upside down – men are heavily protected, while women take on a number of more active and aggressive roles in society (as soldiers, farmers, traders, and everything else.)

The world of the story is agricultural. While the alternate world aspect makes this into speculative fiction, there’s no sign of magic, and science fiction only in the broadest strokes (i.e. something happened to change the birth rates, but this is not an immediately post-apocalyptic novel.)

All of that said, what makes the book for me are two things. Jerin’s voice and struggle to figure out what he wants in a world where he has very little control over what happens to him – and the competing demands of the various women, who often want similar things, but go about getting them different ways. It also looks at what it means to be family – and how to pick yourself up after betrayal. Both of them continue to intrigue me, and drew me rapidly in to read the book not once but twice this weekend.