Friday, November 30, 2012

Knitted Finished Object - Big, Comfy Hat

See, it's not that this hat is so pretty - it's just serviceable stockinette stitch - but it's big enough for me!

I have a big head (stop snickering!) and waist-length hair (yes, I do! finally!) that I like wearing pinned up. In that picture up there? I have all my hair braided around my ginormous head in a coronet braid, and that hat STILL FITS!

Which is why I'm smiling so happily in the picture. :D

(Yarn is Knit Picks Wool of the Andes Tonal, in the Canopy colorway.)

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Interview with Regina Scott

Today I'm over at Regency Reflections, interviewing Regina Scott. Here's a snippet:

Was there any fun fact about the Regency period that you stumbled across in your research for this book that really fired up your imagination? Any little tidbit that prompted a plot point or a cool character moment?
I stumbled across an article written just after the Regency that laid out the specific rules for duels, contrasting them to those of the French. Because my hero, Vaughn Everard, has a reputation as a duelist, knowing some of the rules he could choose to keep or break really helped me write the main dueling scene in the book and keep it in his character. I learned to fence when I was in college, so I really wanted to get that scene right!

Go here to read the rest!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Happy Christ the King Sunday!

It's the last Sunday of the church year, when we celebrate Christ as King. It's my favorite Sunday of the entire year. In the words of the Te Deum:
Thou art the king of glory, oh Christ!
Thou art the everlasting son of the Father!
When thou tookest upon thee to deliver man,
thou didst humble thyself to be born of a Virgin.
When thou hadst overcome the sharpness of death,
thou didst open the kingdom of heaven to all believers.
Thou sittest at the right hand of God, in the glory of the Father.
We believe that thou shalt come to be our judge.
     We therefore pray thee, help thy servants,
     whom thou hast redeemed with thy precious blood.
     Make them to be numbered with thy saints,
     in glory everlasting.

And, to accompany that, here's some properly apocalyptic music, both heartening and sobering - because he will come, and he will surely come soon:

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Links - Advent, God, Amos, Tolkien, and more!

"Advent's Coming: Keep It Simple!":
One of the great things about any kind of Advent preparation is that, by definition, you have to keep it simple and spare. A lush, lavish, complicated Advent makes about as much sense as a simple, understated fireworks display on the Fourth of July.

"J.R.R. Tolkien and the Great War":
Tolkien's experiences in the Great War had a profound effect on his writing and stories. He left the war with most of his friends dead, and a personal view of the horrors that war wrought on the soldiers who fought it. Years later, Tolkien felt that the Great War "had come down like winter on his creative powers in their first bloom.” These views would translate into his writing, with his experiences on the front lines informing the epic conflicts between good and evil in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. His characters form close parties and alliances as they go off to face terrible adventures together, much like he did with his friends when evil arose in the world.
"God's Conduct" (on Romans 12):
But he is not really changing the subject. In fact, all of the commands he gives flow from the teaching he has just done. Any number of good commentaries can help you trace the connection, and any expositor who asks what 12:1′s “therefore” is there for is likely to come up with good answers.
"The Prophet Amos":
We do not know who wrote down the prophecies preached by Amos, though it may have been the prophet himself. The fact of it, however, is of enormous significance, because it implied that the prophet’s message was perceived to bear dimensions of meaning transcendent to the original circumstances in which he preached it.
"Pilgrim's Regress vs. Firefly":
 In other words, we all need to believe, but there is no ultimate basis for belief. Belief is a lie we tell ourselves to keep going in a world that is without objective meaning or purpose. There is thirst, and ways of pretending to drink, but no water.
Now this is simply a philosophical bias. Why believe that to be the case?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Operation Read Those Books: a December Project

There's something nice about starting the new year with a clean slate.

Now, for liturgical Christians, the New Year starts in about a week and a half, with the coming of the Advent season. And then, since liturgical Christians are ordinary citizens, too, we get a second New Year on January 1st.

So, I want to use the time in between my first New Year and my second to clean up a very important area of my life: my bookshelf.

Here's my Currently-Reading shelf on Goodreads.  See the problem? Yep: I am currently reading 11 books.

There are only two novels on there right now, and there's a reason for that: I read novels quickly. The narrative tension pulls me through, and I often finish them in a day or two. But non-fiction books don't have the same urgency-of-plot, and so I'll start one, put it down, and forget to pick it up again.

Yet, I still want to read them.

So, my Advent project this year is to shrink my currently-reading list. I plan to read a chapter a day from one of the books on my currently-reading shelf or, in the case of the poetry, five pages a day. Will this see them all read by the end of December? Probably not, but it'll make a decent indent in the pile.

And I'd love to have you join me. If you're interested, just leave a comment here - and on future Operation Read Those Books posts - linking to your blog. I'm hoping to post a note or a quotation from my day's reading each day of Advent, and I'd love to see what treasures you find, too.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Daybook for Wednesday, November 14, 2012

outside my window . . . a beautiful, 80 degree California day. I know, 80 degrees. It's finally gotten cold out here. ;)

I am listening to . . . "Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day". Yes, it's a Christmas carol, and it's not even Advent yet. But it's so pretty! I can't help myself.

I am wearing . . . pants! Like I said, it's gotten chilly. Bye-bye, shorts. See you next year.

I am so grateful for . . . coffee. And many other things. But right now? Mostly coffee.

I'm pondering . . . How to make my two main character stop flirting and get on with finding out who the killer is.

I am reading . . . The last chapter of The Elements of Style. My favorite quotation from the last chapter: "Prestigious. Often an adjective of last resort. It's in the dictionary, but that doesn't mean you have to use it."

I am creating . . . kilt hose. Very, very slowly. Cables and I are still not the best of friends.

from the kitchen . . . Last night we had roasted butternut squash soup, crusty bread, cheese, and wine for dinner. So simple, so good.

real education in our home . . . My son has figured out that he knows how to read. I mean, he's been able to read for awhile now, but I don't think he was really aware of the fact. But now he lays on the floor next to our library book basket and devours everything in there. It's pretty awesome watching that part of him wake up. :)

the church year in our home . . . This one deserves a blog post all to itself. For one thing, I'm thinking of very little other than the church year, as I edit this book about it. For another thing, we're part of a church plant that's launching in under three weeks (seriously, I so owe you all a blog post about this . . . suffice it to say: it's Anglican, it's in our city, we've been working towards it for years, and God (and our bishop!) seem to have said, "Okay, NOW", and so we're all scrambling to obey. I'm still sort of in shock about all of it - we're going to have a church home near our home. God is so good.).

recent milestones . . . I realized that my hair now reaches my waist. It only took four years! (I feel weird being happy about this - it's a goal reached, sure, but all I had to do to get there was not cut it. Pretty passive - how do you feel properly triumphant  about successfully not doing something?)

the week ahead. . . I don't know, but next week is Thanksgiving! Next week! How'd that happen?

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Monday, November 12, 2012

new counter!

A new finished object - this time not made by me, but by my husband! See?
That's handmade butcher block counter. Adam cut and pieced every block of wood in there. Look at the pretty!
It's finished with spar varnish, used for boats. So smooth, so shiny - everything else in our kitchen looks grubby by comparison. 

I told Adam that now I'm dreaming of living in a little jewel-box of a house, filled with detailed, handmade wooden appointments. 

He grinned and said that was fine with him. I think the man likes wood-working.

Just a bit. :D

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica snell

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Links: prayer, American Catholics, "The Casual Vacancy", and more!

"Praying With Children":
Its so important to pray with children, just like it is to do other hard things with them like Cook and Eat Dinner, Carry on a Conversation, Fold a Single Solitary Basket of Laundry, Pick Up the Blocks, Remember What It Was You Came Into This Room For Will You Stop Screaming So I Can Think For A Minute. And so on and so forth. Prayer, as many of us might remember, is a foundational part of the Christian Life and children should be included in it, even if it kills you.
"Where I'm Coming From":
But now the shadows of the past are looming large over Catholics in America again, and the battle to redefine marriage has become the weapon of choice for those who would really prefer it if Catholics went back to their little Catholic ghettos and didn't mix much with the "real" Americans, or expect to be able to hold certain public offices (anything pertaining to marriage, for instance) or jobs (anything where you have to sign a "diversity statement" that is actually a denial of your faith) or own businesses (anything where you have to maintain the fiction that two men or two women are a "marriage") or run adoption agencies or charities where they will be forced to repeat the lie that it is bigoted and hateful to claim that marriage is one man and one woman or that children need a mother and a father...
...and pointing any of this out at all is "uncivil," or so I'm told.
 "J. K. Rowling's 'The Casual Vacancy'":
The catalyst of the story is the death of a good man. He leaves a vacancy. His death is the casual vacancy, which is a phrase used to describe the opening created by the death of a local councilor. The book is about the void left by the death of a man who was his brother’s keeper, and the story shows that the main reason others can’t fill the void he leaves is because they don’t love like he did.
"10 Questions a Pro-Choice Candidate Is Never Asked by the Media":
4. If you do not believe that human life begins at conception, when do you believe it begins? At what stage of development should an unborn child have human rights?
5. Currently, when genetic testing reveals an unborn child has Down Syndrome, most women choose to abort. How do you answer the charge that this phenomenon resembles the “eugenics” movement a century ago – the slow, but deliberate “weeding out” of those our society would deem “unfit” to live?
"A Beautiful Testimony from a Christian About His Wife’s Death":
Was this a good life, NO. But this is what God had prepared for us to go through together. 
"How I Went From Writing 2,000 Words a Day to 10,000 Words a Day":
When I told people at ConCarolinas that I'd gone from writing 2k to 10k per day, I got a huge response. Everyone wanted to know how I'd done it, and I finally got so sick of telling the same story over and over again that I decided to write it down here.
So, once and for all, here's the story of how I went from writing 500 words an hour to over 1500, and (hopefully) how you can too

"Beer for beginners, part VII: Stouts and other British stuff":
I tried Samuel Smith's Oatmeal Stout and liked that very much. It seemed almost thick and viscous. "It's not, and you should know better," scolded Mark, "the viscosity of beer can't possibly be much different from water. It's not like it has a significant fraction of polymer suspended in it or something."
"Then what makes it that way?" I asked. "I can see when I pour it that it's not obviously viscous, but it feels that way in the mouth. Like cream." I took another pull and thought. "Could it be the bubbles?" I asked, beginning to ponder the Stokes-Einstein equation, but mostly I just wanted to drink the beer.

Monday, November 5, 2012


Christine kindly sent me a Sunshine award - thank you, Christine!

I have to answer these 10 questions and then nominate some of my favorite bloggers to do the same.

What is your favorite Christmas/Holiday movie? "White Christmas". No, it's not really about Christmas qua Christmas, but it's warm and sweet and so funny ("45 minutes, all to myself!") and I try to watch it every year.

What is your favorite flower? White roses. They look like clouds, floating above their green leaves.

What is your favorite (non-alcoholic) beverage? I'm with Christine: coffee!

What is your passion? Writing fiction.

What is your favorite time of year?  Spring.

What is your favorite time of the day?  Right after the sun goes down, the cool of the evening.

What is your favorite physical activity?  Besides the obvious one? :) Probably walking, preferably in the mountains. (Mountains! Mountains!) To stay fit? Plyometrics and weights, because it's uber-efficient.

What is your favorite vacation?  to the Sierra Nevada, with my family.

What song is stuck in your head right now? "Trisagion", by Fernando Ortega. Such a beautiful, beautiful setting of that essential prayer.

What are you reading right now? "Troll Valley", by Lars Walker. Ignore the ugly cover: a new book by Walker is always a treat.

Aaaaand, I'm nominating:
-An Undercurrent of Hostility
-At A Hen's Pace
-Laundry and Lullabies
-On A Joyful Journey
-The Joy and the Care

Thanks again, Christine!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Friday, November 2, 2012

Revolution on NBC - how can such a good show be so bad?

"Revolution", a television show set post-apocalypse, is so enjoyable.

And sometimes it's even enjoyable for the right reasons. But it's also so, so terrible . . . though only in two ways.

First, why is it good? Well, it's got a fun premise: what happens to the world if everything electrical suddenly stops working? No computers, no powered farm equipment or transportation or medical devices or anything like that, at all, ever. Disaster. Our society is dependent on these things, and so chaos follows.

Another of the good choices the series made was to set the show about 15 years post-apocalypse. This means we get to skip the really gory and depressing part of the story, where millions and millions of people starve and/or kill each other, and we take up the narrative when things have more or less stabilized.

Another of the good choices was casting Billy Burke (a.k.a "Mustache Dad" from the terrible Twilight series) as one of the main characters. He does a great job playing the world-weary, reluctant hero. Every time he's on the screen, I'm having fun watching the show.

And the best thing the show has done has been to handle its backstory well. They use flashbacks to tell some of what happened in the first few days/months/years post-apocalypse, and they interweave the flashbacks with the current-time narrative in ways that illuminate why the characters are they people they are today. I don't want to get too spoiler-y, but my favorite backstory flashback showed the moment that changed one character enough that he eventually formed a military dictatorship, and it was enlightening and believable and NOT what (or, rather, WHO) I had expected, and I just loved it.

The bad? Well . . . mostly, it's Charlie, the petulant, unreasonable and unreasoning main character. The phrase "too stupid to live" was invented for fictional characters like her. Moments after a gang of thugs attack her and her friends, she's found arguing that her friends shouldn't think the worst of humanity. If her uncle (the aforementioned awesome Billy Burke) saves her life, she yells at him for being too violent. If her uncle shows mercy, she yells at him for being too soft. Nothing any of her friends - all of whom are risking their lives to help her on her mission to save her brother - do is good enough for her. She's pouty and perfect and they all just have to deal.

And . . . the thing is, you could have a character like this and use her well. Self-righteous teenagers are pretty common in real life, after all. But instead of letting her be disillusioned and learn from it, or court disaster and learn wisdom, or anything like that, the narrative seems to insist that we admire her for her pluck.

And, argh. I just can't.

So I watch the show, enjoying its far-fetched premise and rooting for all the secondary characters, and hoping against hope that the writers fix the heroine.

Oh - I said there were two things wrong with the show. The second is that some of the plot twists and setting elements strain my credulity. Where are the characters getting all these new, clean clothes? How is our intrepid band finding food? If society has completely fallen apart, why haven't all of the hard-won women's rights completely disappeared, or at least been significantly damaged? Sans birth control, why aren't there a lot more toddlers running around?

But they address enough of the problems their apocalypse poses that I can pretend to ignore the gaps they missed. I'd like something a bit more consistent, but the show's interesting enough that I'm going to watch it despite the things they've missed.

If you do watch it, I recommend starting at the beginning, and not with the latest episode, because it's not really episodic - the plot builds on previous revelations. Also, because the latest episode was probably my least favorite. ;)  

But, again, only watch it if you're enough of a spec fic fan that you'll enjoy the story despite the frustrations. Because the frustrations? They abound.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell