The Last Patternmaker

•March 5, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Found on Nag on the Lake.

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert: a film by Spike Jonze

•March 3, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Reviews of The Core of the Sun

•February 27, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Paper Doll Chain

The Core of the Sun, Johanna Sinisalo’s latest book (translated into English by your faithful correspondent) has been in bookstores for a month, and the reviews are starting to come in.

I particularly like a piece by Jason Heller on the NPR website that discusses the abundance of interesting speculative fiction in Finland, and how hard it is to find English-language publishers for these riches:

The Core of the Sun comes out in the United States this month, three years after its release in Finland. Considering how startling and moving the book is, that lag is a shame — yet Sinisalo is lucky. Precious few Finnish authors of speculative fiction receive such a boon as widespread American exposure, despite the fact that Finland — like so many countries around the globe — has a thriving spec-fic scene whose best writers rival those of the English-speaking world.

The reasons behind this are as mundane as they are frustrating: A lack of recognition, the cost of translation, and the American book-buying public’s hesitation in general to dive too deeply into the vast pool of books written in a language other than English. Exceptions abound, of course —
The Core of the Sun obviously included, although it remains to be seen if Sinisalo’s brilliance catches on in America — but they often require a champion in the U.S. publishing industry to step up and put some muscle behind them.

I wrote a piece on translating Johanna Sinisalo’s work for the Seattle Review of Books this past winter, and it’s fun to notice signs that my article is one resource that reviewers consulted in writing about the book.

Rich Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

•February 18, 2016 • Leave a Comment

DSC_0475I love peanut butter, so rich and delicious, but I have never liked peanut butter cookies. The traditional American peanut butter cookie is too sweet for me, and doesn’t taste rich like peanut butter. So I started altering the recipe until I came up with a delicious, shortbread-rich cookie that suits my taste.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies



1/2 cup (120 ml) butter and/or shortening
1/3 cup (80 ml) white sugar
1/2 cup (120 ml) brown sugar
1 egg
3/4 cup (180 ml) pure peanut butter (not the kind with added fat or shortening)

3/4 cup (180 ml) white flour
3/4 cup (180 ml) whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon (5 ml) baking soda
salt to taste
5 to 7 ounces (140 to 200 grams) of chocolate chips or chunks.



Preheat oven to 375 F (190 C).

Cream shortening or butter and sugars together until smooth. Add egg and beat well. Stir in peanut butter.

Stir the two flours, soda, and salt together in a separate bowl, then add them to the wet ingredients and mix well. Add chocolate chunks and distribute evenly through the dough.

Form dough into 1-inch (2.5-cm) balls and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten each ball with a fork.

Bake at 375 F (190 C) until done.

Makes 5 dozen cookies.

It’s a variation on the classic Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook’s Criss-Cross Peanut Butter Cookie recipe. Basically I reduced the sugar, increased the peanut butter, left out the vanilla (which tastes weird with peanut butter IMO), replaced half the white flour with whole wheat, and added chocolate chips or a chopped up chocolate bar.

I prefer the hearty, salty taste of Hershey’s chocolate in this recipe. If you can’t find Hershey’s chocolate chips for sale,  I’ve found that chilling a Hershey bar and then chopping it into small chunks works very well. I’m sure any not-too-soft chocolate bar, or whatever chocolate morsels you like the taste of, would work fine.

I also cut the recipe in half, because I don’t need 10 dozen cookies, but it scales up perfectly if you want to double or triple it.


Favorite Oscar Nominated Short Animations

•February 16, 2016 • Leave a Comment

For Valentine’s Day we went to see the short animations that have been nominated for Oscars this year. We came away with two favorites.

We Can’t Live Without Cosmos, directed by Konstantin Bronzit, is about two cosmonauts who are best friends. It’s made in a simple, hand-drawn style, and it’s a very moving story. There are small, poetic touches in the animation that are quiet little surprises. A film with a warm heart.

Historia de un Oso, directed by Gabriel Osorio, is computer animation, and at the beginning of the film I thought that the slick look of it was going to make it hard to enjoy, but as soon as the story within the story began, it showed a truly amazing visual and spatial imagination. This film is cute and scary and sad and touched by a dark politics.

If you like animations, I have tons of them posted.

Message in a bottle

•February 14, 2016 • 3 Comments

I put a message in a bottle back in September and threw it into the Columbia River at Astoria. My hope had been for the current of the river to take the bottle out to sea.


The message said something like, Today’s my birthday. My wife and I are on vacation. I’m throwing a message in a bottle into the river, please write me if you find it.

On February 13th I got a letter from a 10-year-old named Emma.


We found the Safeway in Astoria on a map, and it appears my message floated upstream about two and a half miles. Emma mentions that she found the bottle on December 26th, and says, “P.S: pleas wright back.”  You bet I’ll wright back.

I can’t tell you how pleased I am. I feel very lucky. I hoped someone would find it, but I didn’t honestly think it would work. I wonder what she must have thought when she picked the bottle up & saw the rolled up brown paper inside. If I found a message in a bottle, I don’t think I would believe my eyes.  So yeah, I feel very lucky indeed.

Darwin’s Kids Drew on the Back of His Origin of Species Manuscript

•February 14, 2016 • Leave a Comment

I ran across these delightful drawings on the American Museum of Natural History’s website. They’re pictures that Charles Darwin’s children drew on blank sides of the discarded manuscript of On the Origin of Species after the book was published.

vegetable mounts 2


Life Guard

Sir Horace Darwin


vegetable mounts

There are more drawings at The Museum of Natural History and the New Yorker.

More ephemera

The Friendship Book of Anne Wagner, 1795-1834

•February 10, 2016 • 1 Comment

I’ve recently discovered the Public Domain Review, a compilation of beautiful and fascinating things in the public domain.

A recent post on their site is about a friendship book, a sort of scrapbook to share with friends, belonging to a girl growing up in the late 18th century. The book is just five inches by three inches, and includes drawings, poems, and collages contributed by her friends.


poem from Felicia

seashell collage

hair ornament

back cover

More ephemera.


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