If it isn't obvious by now, I'm currently working on reading the rest of Haruki Murakami’s novels. I started with Wind Up Bird Chronicle in April 2008, and have only two left at this point. After finishing A Wild Sheep Chase it appears that there is some benefit in reading them in order, as this book and Dance Dance Dance share a few characters and locations. But the plots aren’t connected, so it probably doesn’t matter.
A Wild Sheep Chase is Murakami’s third novel, but is the first that is easily available in an English translation. Like the others, it slowly works it’s magic so that by the time strange things start happening, it seems normal. And the usual Murakami themes (solitude, cats, isolation in nature, etc.) are in evidence. But the whole thing doesn’t quite come together as well as in later novels.
Still, it is a very enjoyable book, and it’s fun to spend time in the strange worlds of Murakami’s characters. South of the Border, West of the Sun is next, and then After Dark. I should have no trouble finishing them in time for the English release of 1Q84.
Thus far in 2011 I’ve read three books. I finished Paul Auster’s Invisible, and read Girl Factory by Jim Krusoe on New Year’s Day. I read a few raves of the Auster book, and I’d put it in a very long list of his better books. Maybe not in the top five, but one not to miss if you like his writing. Girl Factory was excellent. After I finished it, I wrote to myself: “Highly entertaining, and the main character had a great voice. New favorite book of 2011, one day into it.” Two weeks later and I’ll stick to that opinion.
The book I just finished, while watching the Bears thrash the Seahawks, was Tana French’s Faithful Place. I can’t remember why I picked it up, but I probably should have known by the style of the dust jacket that it wouldn’t be quite my taste. It’s in the crime genre, and was a little too filled with the stock and trade of that category for me. Even so, the characters are spectacularly well fleshed out, and the sense of place was great. I don’t know anything about the lower class rowhouses of Dublin where the action takes place, but I had no trouble filling the blanks from her detailed descriptions.
Anyway, it wasn’t really my thing, but if you enjoy literate crime fiction, this is a book I can recommend.
I took Friday off from work and brewed my first batch of beer in quite a long time. It’s a brown porter named Crazy Kittens Porter. As should be obvious, it’s named after our three crazy kittens Caslon, Tallys and Jenson, pictured on the right. This time around I developed the recipe using the BrewPal iPhone app, trusting all the measurements and temperatures to the app. We’ll see how well it does. My favorite part of the app is the “style” tab, which shows you what styles your recipe conforms to and to what degree.
Normally I do everything out in the red cabin, but I had the wood stove cranking so I heated the strike and spare water on the wood stove and drained the mash in the kitchen (shown below). It was nice to be able to do that stuff in the house and to avoid burning fossil fuels for the wort production. As usual, I boiled and chilled the wort outside and set the fermenter in the old fridge out in the red cabin. It’s bubbling away now.
I plan to brew another batch of Devil Dog on top of the yeast cake from this batch. This is an excellent way to save some money on yeast, and the second batch normally gets a very explosive start from the massive population of healthy yeast.
We’ve been wanting to let the kittens into the rest of the house for several weeks now, but when we got close to letting them downstairs we realized they could get into all sorts of trouble in the utility area in the bathroom where the water heater, pump, and washing machine are. Worse, if they got in there, they could climb around behind the shower and tub surround and we’d have no way of getting them out.
So I built the doors you can see in the photo. They’re made from clear pine. I’d originally planned on using “pocket-screw technology,” on the doors, but when driving the pocket screws from the back of the rails into the styles, they cracked the styles. I wound up using glue and dowels instead, and they seem solid. I was a little worried because the doors were so large, but they’re flat and slide easily in the tracks I made.
The image looks a little warped because it's a series of photos that are joined together using the AutoStitch iPhone app. It's a pretty good alternative when you don't have a wide angle lens.
Today was the first day the kittens came downstairs (except once when Jenson escaped), and things seemed to go well. Nika and Piper have been spending nights with all of us, so they’re used to the kittens. Buddy and Deuce mostly seemed afraid. Koidern and Kiva were both very interested, and spent the whole time cautiously following the kittens around. After an hour or so we put the kittens back upstairs to let everyone relax. I opened up the gates again this afternoon and captured this video of Kiva’s interaction with Tallys (and a little of Jenson). Tallys is the one rolling around on the floor in front of the heater, seemingly trying to play with Kiva’s feet.
The music (which was playing on the stereo as I recorded the video on my iPhone) is from Four Tet's latest record.
We finally agreed on some names for our kittens: Tallys is the small black kitten, Jenson is gray and white and Caslon is the larger of the two black boys. They’re all serif fonts, as Andrea says, “because they’ve got tails!” We struggled for a long time with different naming schemes, but both of us really liked Tallys and Jenson as names, and once we’d gotten those two it was just a question of finding a third font that was appropriate. Caslon is one of my favorite fonts (it’s the typeface used for the body text in The New Yorker), and I think it fits well with the other two.
The kittens are still living in the bedroom but this weekend I fenced in the area at the top of the stairs and came up with a setup that should allow us to leave the bedroom door open and give them a little more room. This way we can slowly expand their range upstairs by opening the doors to the other rooms before letting them downstairs. There’s always a chance they will figure a way around my cat-catchers, or that they’ll jump off the balcony railing, but so far we’re only letting them out when we’re home so we can keep an eye out. The biggest problem with this plan is that the dogs can see the kittens at the top of the stairs and as a result, they’re staring and whining at them. Hopefully this behavior will stop in the near future.