The Art of Book Design: Pasakas

It’s Fairy Tale Saturday and this week we have a very special book that comes to us from our very own rq. It’s Latvian and a real departure from the fairy tales we’ve looked at so far. The pictures are very bold and some are darkly intriguing. I know you’ll enjoy it.

I don’t know Latvian so I’m including the publishing details in a photograph. I would surely botch it up if I tried to translate.

©rq, all rights reserved

I’ve attached photos of a classic Latvian family book – a large (perhaps THE) comprehensive compilation of Latvian folktales. Some are quintessentially Latvian, some are older than others, some resemble your well-known fairy-tales, and some are quite distinct and individual.

The artist is Pāvels Šenhofs, born 1924, died in 2011.

In any case, it’s a classic, and they don’t publish like they used to!

First, you have the book cover, which is a bit melodramatic.

Front cover, ©rq, all rights reserved

Back cover (with the price!) ©rq, all rights reserved

Then there is the fabric cover of the book itself-  how I knew it, as the copy we had when I was growing up did not have the cover anymore. It’s a dark green print on rough (almost canvas) textile, also the spine.

©rq, all rights reserved

©rq, all rights reserved

Then there is the inside covers, which are very traditional in style.

©rq, all rights reserved

Then some samples of the inside art: each story begins with an “illuminated” letter, drawn to look like it’s carved from wood, along with a distinctive introductory illustration, and most stories also have other line illustrations along the margins or at the end.

©rq, all rights reserved

©rq, all rights reserved

But the colour plates are simply fantastic. The stories are just as horrifyingly charming!

©rq, all rights reserved

©rq, all rights reserved

©rq, all rights reserved

©rq, all rights reserved

An extra picture for the antireligionists among us: the book has a whole series of stories about duping the local priest or pastor in a myriad of ways: as with German barons, if they’re not cast as the Devil himself, then they’re cast as the fool. And even the Devil can be tricked!

©rq, all rights reserved

Free Carola Rackete

I don’t know how big a story this is outside of Germany and Italy, but the Sea Watch III captain Carola Rackete has been detained by Italian authorities, facing up to 10 years in prison. Racktete is part of the civil sea rescue operations that safe migrants in the Mediterranean, because our collective governments have decided to simply let them all drown. Rackete had rescued over 40 people and Italy simply denied her access to their harbours (as did Malta) while other countries simply ignored her requests to access their harbours (France, I see you).

As the situation on board became worse and worse, with people threatening suicide, Rackete decided to land in Italy, despite warnings and bans ( you can read up the whole thing in English here). She has quickly turned into a symbol figure, not the least because the Italian fascist in charge, Salvini, has decided to make her an example and because she really, really gets to him, because we all know that nothing threatens a fascist dude more than a young woman who simply won’t know her place and who is standing up to him.

So please show your support to this brave woman by signing the petitions and/or by donating to her support fund.

#FreeCarolaRackete

Story of two Knives

This article contains an acute case of Opinions.

Let’s talk about two chef’s knives that currently reside in our household.

The black one is some cheapo crap that we got as a “bonus” back when Reader’s Digest was a thing and my mother had a subscription.
The blade is coated in Teflon and the handle is from some cheap plastic. The shiny one was moderately expensive. It is made from one piece of stainless steel, although judging by the mass the handle is hollow (I have no clue whatsoever what the manufacturing process was).

I like the cheap one. And I regret buying the expensive one. The cheap one cuts like a lightsaber. The expensive one sticks and twists and does not go through anything with ease, cutting onions or potatoes is a penance.

As far as I can ascertain with callipers, they both have nearly identical secondary bevels – the blade near the edge is circa 0,6-0,7 mm thick and the bevels are somewhere around 1,2-1,5 mm long. That means that the grind angle is for both blades between 11°-15°. They are both sharpened the same way. But they both behave and handle very differently, even when freshly sharpened.

Let’s start with the first thing – weight and point of balance. Both have nearly identical point of balance, near the heel of the blade, right in front of the hand. I personally prefer my kitchen knives balanced at the forefinger, but I do not mind the more forward put point of balance on the black knife, for one simple reason – the knife is very light, it weighs nearly nothing. The steel one is on the other hand heavy, and in combination with the forward put point of balance, it feels more like a chopper than like a knife.  But that is a personal preference thing – I do not like chef’s knives in general that much, and I do not actually need to use them all too often. Maybe they are all supposed to be weighed like that, I have no idea.

The second difference is, however, more objective. The black knife has a massive handle with cross-section more like a rounded rectangle than an oval. And it has a big flat spot on the spine right behind the blade. It looks chunky, but it is in fact very comfortable in the hand, the handle allows for firm grip and great edge alignment. And the flat spot is there for the thumb should you need to apply more pressure. The steel knife handle is very slick, very elegant looking. It is thin towards the blade and its crosssection is at all points nice and oval. But not only does that make edge alignment slightly more difficult, it also does not allow for a very strong grip. When tackling a difficult cabbage, a big chunk of heterogeneous material, the knife tends to slip and twist in the hand (especially when wet) and it is a struggle to keep the blade on track.

The third difference is the real clincher – blade geometry. The black knife has hollow ground primary bevels and the blade is a mere 1 mm thick at the spine. The shiny one has flat grind and is 2,7 mm thick at the spine – nearly three times more.

That kind of thickness is suitable for a heavy-duty camping knife, but in a kitchen it is a noticeable hindrance. When cutting small things, like herbs, carrots or similar, it is not a problem, but when cutting something bigger and/or harder, like a lemon, an onion or a potato, or something stickier like a sausage or hard cheese, the blade thickness makes the cutting more difficult, because it must push the hard material more to the sides.

Each of these problems in itself would not be a big problem but together they make a chef’s knife that is truly awful to use – it is supposed to be a universal knife, but instead it is a knife that is only universally problematic.

I guess the moral of this ramble is – when it comes to knives, cheap does not always mean bad and expensive does not always mean good.

 

Mah Pollard, Mah Coppice

I am sorry for not posting yesterday. I have plenty of various pictures, but I still have a huge backlog of work around the garden as well due to the six weeks that I have spent lounging in my bed drinking tea and whatnot. And I think it will take a few more weeks to get back on track.

These last few days I had to clean up some rubble from house renovations. I used it to repair the gravel-covered area behind my house, waste disposal trucks made some grooves there that needed filling. And as for yesterday, the weather was splendid and these are the fruits of my labor.

Firewood © Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Also, I am totally knackered today, but it is hard to take a picture of that.

I was shredding and cutting wood from coppiced and pollarded trees in my garden. I have planted these trees years ago specifically for this purpose. The pollarded trees are willows, some local variety of Salix fragilis that unfortunately does not grow as fast as I would wish to. But I also got a few willows of another species from lowlands in Pilsen, which looks a lot more promising.

Pollarded willow © Charly.

Pollarded willow © Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

For the coppice, I bought poplar hybrid Populus nigra x Populus maximowiczii Max 4. It grows well, but it would be better if I had the resources to plow the area first. As it is, it takes for the trees two-three years to really take root and unfortunately, during that time a lot of them die to water voles. Water voles are a huge problem, despite the fact that I do not live anywhere near water. One year they got into my bonsai trees and totally massacred them, destroying even some very valuable ones. And they make setting up of the coppice a real pain in the nether regions.

Coppice © Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

That is why as of now I only have only one row of really established trees and one row of two-year-old trees that should hopefully take off this year. The rest of the coppice was planted last year, but this spring we had to renew about 30% of it and unfortunately due to my illness it was not done on time and properly, so it is questionable whether it will work or not.

The wood of this particular poplar tree is not as good firewood as hardwood would be, it is very light, almost like balsa. But what it lacks in density, it really more than makes up in volume. Even so, I am also planting oaks, hazels, and maples in the coppice, they sprout all around the garden anyway and this way I get some use out of them in the future. And this year I bought 200 hornbeam seedlings and planted them around the area near the hedge. That is the south edge, thus the slower-growing hornbeam won’t be overshadowed by the super-fast-growing poplars and willows. Unfortunately, it too is a very tasty water vole snack – one of the bonsai trees that fell victim to their raid was hornbeam and nothing was left of the tree back then except a tiny pencil-like stub and a few splinters. But I already planted hornbeam for hedge a few years ago and it thrives well in this area so I hope the trees in the coppice will grow faster than the voles manage to eat them.

I have several hundred square meters of my garden for the coppice, which means that in a few years I could grow a significant portion of my firewood (I estimate it at about 30%, or 100% every 3 years) on my property. That is one little project that I could do on my own to go from burning fossil fuels to renewables.

Youtube Video: Brexit, Briefly: REVISITED!

There’s three things, pick two. I use it often in engineering, where the corners of the triangle are Cheap, Fast, Good and you can only pick two. Managers always, always want to pick all three, just as well as the UK seems to want to pick now. Have your pie and eat it is the motto of the day.

I cannot even snigger at the stupidity of Britons who voted to leave, since I have no doubt that had Czech Republic had a similar referendum, our results would also be similar. Because despite the objectively measurable fact that we are much better of in the EU than we were outside it, a lot of people yearn for the good old days.

Good old days that never were. If I were to pick only one reason for why EU is a massive political success despite all its flaws it would be this:

There was not a war between members of EU for two generations. Prior to that, the whole EU history was stumbling from one war to another, and the scars from those wars still did not heal.

Jack’s Walk

Happy Birthday to me! ©voyager, all rights reserved

Today is Jack’s 11th Birthday, sort of. Jack is a Leap Year Baby and since there is no February 29 this year we’re celebrating today. So far, Bubba has listened to his parents sing to him off-key, had bacon and eggs for breakfast and then had an exciting romp up at the lake. Plans for later in the day include gifts (a new rubber pig that honks and squeals and a bag of his favourite treats – Greenies,) more singing (Jack loves to sing) and a nice bit of salmon to top his kibble for supper. All in all, I’d say that’s a pretty good day for a not-quite birthday.

Crimes against mankind: fat women existing

Let’s get it out of the way, right at the start: I’m fat. That is a simple statement of fact. I’m not a bit “on the chubby side” or have “womanly curves”. Actually, I find such statements pretty offensive because they imply that being fat would be a horrible thing (it isn’t), but I’m not (I am). Listen, everybody with eyes to see knows I’m fat. this is not a moral statement. This does not tell you much about who I am or what I do. It has absolutely no relationship to my character.

Yet, when you’re fat, especially when you’re a fat woman, your weight is everybody’s business, usually under the guise of being “concerned” about our health.

So, Nike creating a range of sportswear for fat women should be universally lauded because it will encourage us to finally take up that exercise you’ve been bothering us with for the last few decades, right? Right?

Comments on the picture:

You don’t have to be so PC, Nike, this is trying too hard, fat isn’t pretty nor healthy.

Another guy, Aaron,  feels obliged to explain this to us in detail:

Nike have officially just lost my respect and cracked other the PC brigade of having to keep people happy (sic), next you all will be supporting severe obesity where people can’t walk or get out of bed lol health and facts have literally gone for all you snowflakes. So we want people to be happy with their weight, even if it causes cloths (sic) higher blood pressure, diabetes, sever (sic) difficulty in breathing and lazyness (sic), is this what you loneys (sic) all support because if so then you’re supporting a person’s insecurity to try feel proud of themselves but really hate every inch of there (sic) body and emotionally eat themselves fat, and you still support it, anyone who supports this is the reason, and proof that this world is losing touch with keeping healthy.

I don’t know, but it seems like Aaron is a bit, uhm, emotional about a clothing line for women. Especially given that this is sportswear, so it’s actually designed for people who want to, you know, exercise. But Aaron’s (and other guys’ anger is well justified, because if we make clothing that fits fat women (somehow fat men are of little concern even though statistically, there’s more of them), they may actually feel good about themselves (because nothing can cause grumpiness like an ill-fitting bra) and that cannot be permitted. Because as Aaron and every other dude like him knows, we’re categorically miserable. Really. We may seem to live happy and productive lives, have friends, lovers, lots of fun, but as Aaron knows, we’re actually just faking it (you cannot be productive anyway because fat people are lazy, don’t you know?).  The obvious solution for this is that we just stop being fat. Somehow. While please not existing in public, because that really offends dudes like Aaron. No exercise and sports either, because somehow that supports us in being fat. Sorry if that logic escapes you. It’s because you’re a woman, or fat, or both, or neither. Don’t ask me, I don’t make the rules.

Or maybe we just see Aaron for the sad entitled prick that he his, feigning concern for our health while being very upset about a company selling clothing that makes it easier for fat people to actually exercise and do something for their health*.

And  I’m sorry I have to say it, but Aaron, you should have sat still and paid attention in your English class.

*And no, exercise is not about losing weight. Exercise is good for you. Go find something that you enjoy and that makes you feel alive. Forget about your weight.

It’s the season! Making bird food.

One of the secret to great tit pics is to feed them well. You can buy “tit balls”, but for several reasons I prefer to make my own.

The first is that they are relatively expensive, costing around 30 to 50 ct apiece. More importantly, they are usually in a green plastic mesh that can get lost and end up in nature. They’re quick and easy to make, so if you want to try your hand at them, here’s how to.

I use some silicone baking forms for this. the small Gugelhupf forms are the best, since they have a hole in the middle already, but I only have four of them. Standard muffin forms work nicely as well. What you absolutely need is some ring as a centre for the suet to stick to, otherwise they will fall apart after the first pecks. I just use some rattan, but anything goes.

I just fill them halfway with birdseed and then add the ring.

Those that don’t have something to form a hole need something to make that, otherwise hanging them up gets difficult. I use some straws or an ice cream stick.

Birdseed popsicles

Finally I just fill them with suet. Don’t be shy, the birds won’t mind some extra. Now all I have to do is wait for them to get hard again and the next two weeks are covered.

Filled up with important winter calories.

I know there are controversions about whether or not to feed birds in winter, but one undeniable advantage is that we get a lot of organic fertiliser…

Walking in a Winter Wonderland, part 4

ice flowers

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Some flowers, showing off their new “bloom”.

icicles

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Icicles growing in an old Roman quarry.

icicles

©Giliell, all rights reserved

icicles

©Giliell, all rights reserved

 

cobweb

©Giliell, all rights reserved

trees

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Let’s call the “The Lovers”. As you can see, the right side tree didn’t fall onto the other one but started to its left, and then grew all around it.

 

Mornings at the Station

It’s getting dark. Once again, an impressionist shot. But I will say that this darkness is unusual – for one, crappy camera, but also today has been a particularly foggy day, and it’s only getting worse now that evening is upon us.

I’m enjoying the atmosphere of the second shot, though. I’m standing between the two tracks, and something about that light effect and the out-of-focus is very appealing to me.

The usual angle, as it were…
©rq, all rights reserved.

©rq, all rights reserved.

Incidentally, I am currently reading José Saramago’s Blindness (mixed feelings). Today’s weather is a lot like his characters describe their blindness: just a lot of white. Although the fog here is probably less luminescent; going home is going to be interesting. Oh yes, and we lost all our snow.

Speaking of keeping a lid on things, I travel next week to Macedonia again, returning on the 23rd. I have mixed feelings about this trip, but I guess it’s good to be recognized?

Soundtrack to your life: 1

Browsing through some music it struck me how certain songs are just the defining songs for certain times in our lives. You listen to them and they take you a to a place and time, they can evoke a certain mood like nothing else can, so I decided to share some of my “personal soundtrack” with you. Feel free to reply with your soundtrack in the comments.

Growing up and not knowing who you want to be: Innuendo by Queen

This was actually the first CD ever which I got together with the CD player. My English wasn’t quite good enough at that time to quite understand the lyrics, but the music just said enough. Just keep on trying, eh? Later I sat down and translated many of the songs, a much better exercise than anything we ever did in class and to this day some words are automatically said in Freddy’s voice in my head.

It was a time in my teenage years when I was trying to figure out who I wanted to be and what I actually liked.

Freddy died not much later and I was devastated, cut lose again after I thought I had found a place. Queen stayed with me through all these years. Although I like a great variety of music, I became a rock chick back then and have always stayed one at heart.