Friday, May 17, 2013

More Spinning

An update of sorts to Spinning My Wheels And Getting Nowhere, which I wrote last summer when I had a streak of bad luck with my spinning wheel and bobbins (mostly the bobbins). It must have been not more than a week after the events I described previously that my fiance convinced me that just gluing the bobbins back together wasn't going to work indefinitely - yes I'm a bit of a cheapskate at times, and I also believe that glue is a spectacular fix-all.

He got me to go order a few new bobbins - and what's more, to upgrade my wheel a bit. It's still the same old single-treadle Ashford Traveller - I love the look of the Traveller with the turned wood lines and old-fashioned styling, but I now have a jumbo sliding hook flyer, and the larger bobbins to go with it. Means I can do longer skeins of yarn now as the bobbins won't fill up as quickly. The sliding hooks took some getting used to - and they've changed the appearance of my wheel a bit - it's no longer quite so old fashioned in look. But, there's no more wasted space in on the bobbin where the hooks won't fill. I can slide the hook across to fill much more evenly.

The one thing I wish I could do is figure out how to match the finish on the wheel - I got it used a few years ago and it has a lovely rich finish, while the new bobbins and flyer are unfinished wood. A little jarring in appearance I find. I've kept the old flyer system for any time I want to take photos of the wheel, not that that's happened as yet.

I have yet to completely fill one of the jumbo bobbins too. The current project I have on the go is a pound of undyed wool that I'm trying to spin as finely as I can. It's taking a lot longer than I thought it would. It's funny. I know the name of the sheep the wool came from, but I don't know the breed. At any rate, the wool has a white base with the occasional dark brown hair, making for an interesting colour mixture as I spin it - some sections come out darker than others, depending on the frequency of the darker hairs. It's spinning up quite nicely (so long as the cats haven't been playing with it) - nicer than the merino I had on the wheel prior to this one. That's a project I've kind of given up on for a while, there were so many bits in the wool.

As usual, I have several drop-spindles on the go as well. One lovely multicolor pinks and purples in mohair that's spinning up even and fine. A purple merino and silk combo that I need to get back to (I just found it again yesterday). Blue and white sprinkle-dyed corriedale top that is spinning up into a lovely fine single. I've actually got several balls of singles for this one waiting for me to figure out what I want to do with them in terms of plying. The final spindle has an interesting mix of colours in merino, including yellows, blues and pinks, also sprinkle-dyed. This one's going to take a while to do, as I've got another two and a half bags of the wool. This one is slowly being chain-plied on the wheel - so far it's half-filled one of the jumbo bobbins, but I want to wait until I've got Freddie's wool spun before I do more.

The Kobo Family

Way back when, when I got my first E-reader from Kobo, they only had the one model. Now, there are almost too many to count - especially when you add in all the colour options.

The earliest that I still see on the market on occasion is the Kobo Wi-Fi. This was the second Kobo E-reader I got, and as a basic model, it still does absolutely fine. If I remember correctly, it held up to a thousand books and the battery typically lasted about two weeks. I remember getting about three to five books read on it at a time. I know this one was on the market in mid-2011 because I wrote a post about it around then. This was the first Kobo to give more than simply a choice between black and white. There was the black, all-white, white and lavender, white and silver, white and baby blue, and I think, white with a grey backing. Navigation was done via the thumb-pad in the bottom right corner.

The next models on the market were the Kobo Vox and the Kobo Touch. Two completely different e-readers catering to a completely different audience set. The Kobo Touch was the next generation e-ink reader and the first of the new touch-screen readers Kobo released. The biggest additions this brought about were more control over the page appearance - not just font size, but multiple fonts, line spacing and margins were all adjustable. They also added the ability to touch a footnote and have the book take you to that point and then back to your original page again, which in my mind opened up a lot of non-fiction reading options, not to mention the ability to highlight and take notes on what you're reading. Kobo also improved the battery life dramatically.  As with the Wi-Fi, the Touch comes in several colour options, including pink, blue and white backs with a white front, and also an all black model.

The Kobo Vox is one I've written about quite a bit on All Booked Up. It was the first Kobo Tablet E-reader. As a result it has all of the positives and the negatives for the type. I have one though, and I quite like it, so in my mind given what it is, for a certain segment of the population, the Vox is ideal, and the shortcomings won't be as noticeable. Mainly the shortcomings are that the battery life is about seven or eight hours of use and that the tablet isn't the fastest one out there. On the positive side is the ease of being able to browse the internet via Wi-Fi, and get your e-mail, jot down a few notes or even play a few games. The Vox also retains the micro-SD card slot, which is one of the things I've used the most often with it. The Vox (and of course, the Arc) is ideal for someone who likes graphic novels, or for someone who likes to be able to do more than just read on a device. I have to say, this is the Kobo that I've found it easiest to load on library books for, and another neat feature was being able to install the Amazon Kindle app as well, giving me the best of both worlds - something that has since been made even easier.

Another first with the Kobo Glo: The first non-backlight built in light for reading. Also, the first to go completely to a touch screen with no navigation buttons. Two GB of storage allows for 30 thousand books, and there's a micro-SD card slot if you need more storage. The Glo also has a slightly faster processor than the Touch, making for a slightly faster reading experience. Not as dramatic a difference than there was between the Wi-Fi and the Touch, but a very nice update, and honestly, the one I recommend to anyone I know is going to be doing a lot of travel. The light is just too helpful I think. Adjustably bright, so useful in all kinds of reading situations from twilight to absolute middle of the night darkness. If I were going to buy another e-ink e-reader I think it would be a toss-up between this one and the Aura HD.

Along with the Glo, Kobo has come up with another bright idea: the pocket-sized Kobo, perfect for students, commuters and anyone who likes to snatch any stray moment to read: the Kobo Mini. With only a five inch screen, this one will literally fit in your pocket. On the other hand, this is a more basic model. All of the navigation features are there, but this Kobo has a slower processor than the Glo, which came out at the same time, matching the one in the Touch. The Mini is also lacking the ComfortLight of the Glo and the micro-SD card slot. For some, that doesn't matter - the smaller size is the big selling point. For me, I think those are the deal-breakers. I'm a fast enough reader that the thought of having less text on the page and having to turn the page more often would be an annoyance.

Kobo also has a new tablet e-reader out this year: the Arc. Like the Vox, it's running on the Android operating system. Unlike the Vox, however, this tablet doesn't have the micro-SD card slot - something I would miss greatly. I used it regularly for transferring books and other files to and from my e-reader. One nice change between the Vox and the Arc though is the choice in sizes. The Arc comes in 16, 32 and 64 GB sizes, so depending on what you're planning to do, there's going to be plenty of room to work with. Another improvement I can see right off is the dual front-facing speakers. Those should really improve the sound quality if you want to use this for something like NetFlix.

As I said with the Vox, I'd recommend this one primarily for those who want to read books that use plenty of colour, such as graphic novels and the like. I can see from the screen layout that this is geared more for multimedia use rather than for strict reading.

Kobo Aura HD - OnyxThe final and newest e-reader in the Kobo family is the Aura HD. I wrote a full post on it here earlier today, so I'll just summarise some of the points briefly here. Rather than the normal screen of 6 inches that the majority of the other e-ink/pearl readers listed here have, this one has a 6.8 inch screen, making it closer to a hardcover in size. Also, the Aura HD has at least twice the storage of the other e-readers at 4 GB of space. Finally, the ComfortLight has been improves somewhat so there's less bleeding at the edge of the screen. The only negative I've found so far is the removal of the "Free Books" category from the Kobo store menu. The books are still there to be found. You just have to know about them to be able to search by name, rather than being able to browse a list.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Kobo Aura HD - The Newest Kobo E-Reader

I've been following the evolution of the Kobo E-reader from the very first e-reader of theirs, although my first post on the topic was after the second generation came out, when they added the wi-fi ability.

Kobo Aura HD - Onyx
Last month Kobo released a new e-ink reader - the Kobo Aura HD. They've done something a bit different with this one too - it's larger than the Kobo Glo (which it strongly resembles) and they've apparently added some new features as well.

The most obvious change is the size. The Aura has a 6.8 inch screen where the Touch and the Glo both have 6 inch screens. As a result, the page is more the size of a hardcover's. So, for those of you that don't like to change the page that often, this e-reader will be able to fit more text per page. Definitely something that I like about it.

Like the Glo, the Aura has the front-lit screen, but they have improved it a bit. There's less bleeding around the edge of the screen, making for a more even lighting. This is the biggest advantage of the Glo and the Aura. I certainly wish my e-readers had this feature. It's perfect for reading on air-planes, especially those overnight flights. I remember with the Kobo Wi-Fi when I was travelling that I'd forgotten to have the light with me, and the provided light was almost useless it was so dim.

Now to get more technical. The screen resolution is 1440 by 1080, which is supposed to be one of the best on the market for this type of e-reader. Going along with that is the increase in the controls you have over how the text appears. Font sizes, margins, line spacing, and the fonts themselves are all adjustable. That's been true for the last three models of the Kobo - since the Touch came out, but they've added the ability to adjust the sharpness and the weight of the fonts as well.

Not only that, but they've improved the onscreen keyboard as well. Now the row of numbers is on the same screen as the letter keys, making it easier to use.

The Aura HD has another feature that puts it above the rest of the Kobo E-readers as well: the storage space. My understanding is that this e-reader has the most storage space on board of any in its family, at 4 GB of storage, and a slot for a micro-SD card, so you can add even more storage if you need to.

Those are all positives. There is one negative I've seen with the Aura HD. They've removed the Free Books list from the menu. The books are all still available for you to download. They're just not listed together for easy browsing. Now you need to know exactly what you're looking for before you start. How big of an issue this is for you depends on the kind of reader you are. Personally, I've not used the free books listing with my Kobo in quite a while.

I honestly have to say that I've been quite tempted by the Aura HD.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Jamie's Food Revolution - Jamie Oliver

Jamie's Food Revolution - Jamie Oliver
Jamie's Food Revolution: Rediscover How To Cook Simple, Delicious, Affordable Meals
Jamie Oliver
Hyperion Publishing
Copyright: 2009

The publisher's blurb:
Welcome to my Food Revolution. This book is inspired by all the people I've met who thought they could never and would never learn how to cook. Of course, that kind of thinking is like a red rag to a bull to me because I believe that simple home cooking is one of the most basic, primal skills that every single person on this planet should have in order to look after themselves, their families and their friends.
So I've written this book to empower you (or the person you're buying this for) to learn how to cook as easily and as quickly as possible. I've done this by picking a whole load of recipes that we all love to eat and giving you my easy versions of them, using clear instructions and step-by-step pictures to hold your hand and open up a whole new world of great food. Whether you're a reluctant beginner or a good cook who just appreciates simplicity, allow me and this book to help you cook some truly delicious, crowd-pleasing meals.
Jamie's Food Revolution - Jamie Oliver (Paperback)
I've featured Jamie's Food Revolution a couple of times now on All Booked Up - there's the review I wrote last February, and it also has a spot in my Top Five Cookbooks list from before then. That, by the way, is a spot this book still holds today.

Jamie Oliver is one of my "go to" chefs, along with Michael Smith and Mark Bittman, and of his books that I own, this is my favourite. The recipes are simple, mostly affordable, and the ingredients are easy enough to find for the most part.

I keep finding more and more delicious recipes in this one book.
  1. Macaroni And Cauliflower Cheese Bake
  2. Frozen Fruit Smoothie
  3. One-Cup Pancakes
  4. Vanilla Cheesecake With A Raspberry Topping
  5. Cracking Burgers
  6. Cherry Tomato Sauce With Cheat's Fresh Pasta
  7. Mini Shell Pasta With A Creamy Smoked Bacon And Pea Sauce
  8. Chicken Fajitas
The above recipes are the ones I keep coming back to on a regular basis - the most recent addition to the list was the Cracking Burgers, which we had last week. The best burger I can remember ever having. Definitely something we're doing again, and the recipe doubled well. Other recipes I've tried doubling successfully include the Macaroni and Cauliflower Cheese Bake and the Chicken Fajitas.

There's a bunch more recipes I want to try as well, like the fruit scones and the roasted potatoes, parsnips and carrots dish.

A few random tips I've discovered with this book:
first, add an onion to the garlic in the Cherry Tomato Sauce With Cheat's Fresh Pasta dish. It's absolutely delicious.
Second, where most of the serving amounts Jamie Oliver gives with each recipe are correct, with the cheesecake recipe it's going to serve far more than he said. I've taken it to a potluck a couple of times and come home with more than half (there were about a dozen people or more there).
Third, with the dishes that have how long it takes to make them, don't be at all surprised if it takes you longer. I've never been able to make the Chicken Fajitas in less than about a half hour. He says it can be done in 19 minutes. Maybe if you're a professional chef like he is. For the rest of us? I'd say give them a bit longer.

Definitely one of my favourite cookbooks. Don't be surprised to see it pop up with another review in the future once I've tried a few more of the recipes.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

An Amazing Overview of Our Planet

Over the past couple of years, I've been watching my way through David Attenborough's various series about our planet: The Blue Planet: Seas of Life, Planet Earth and now Frozen Planet. The first two I have on DVD and they're absolutely spectacular, but compared with the blu-ray of Frozen Planet? That last one is just WOW.

I was first introduced to David Attenborough's shows a few years ago at work, when his Blue Planet and Planet Earth series were all the rage. Everyone wanted them - especially the combo pack containing both shows. At the time I had no idea who he was, or anything about either show. Later, I bought the Wildlife Specials on DVD - I wanted something I could watch with my Mom - I didn't have cable at the time, and none of the rest of my DVD collection was really her thing. All it took was one of the episodes (If my memory's not playing tricks, it was the Polar Bear episode) and I was hooked.

After that, I got the Planet Earth set as a gift and I haven't looked back. I love all of David Attenborough's shows that I've seen to date - most of the Wildlife Specials, all of Planet Earth and The Blue Planet, and as of the time I write this, the first two episodes of Frozen Planet.

Every time I put one of the discs into the player, I find myself to be amazed at the beauty and diversity of life on our planet. We as individuals may never be able to see many of the creatures filmed in these shows in the natural world, but thanks to the BBC, we can at least see them on T.V. And, of the narrators I've heard for shows like this, David Attenborough is the best, hands down.

The camera work is beyond description too. Under the ice in Antarctica (Frozen Planet), catching a shark leaping out of the water after a seal (Blue Planet, I think), hunting and capturing scenes of the snow leopards in their daily lives (Planet Earth) and so much more. Not to mention the deep-water creatures we'll never be able to see outside of their own habitats, they're so specialized.

I can't recommend the shows of his that I've seen enough, and the ones I haven't seen, I want to - the trailers for some of the other BBC nature shows that I saw on the Frozen Planet disc were amazing too.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Trouble finishing - anything

I seem to be having trouble finishing books - or anything else right now. I've got several books on the go and I can't settle in to any of them.
  • Star Wars At War With The Empire vol. 1.
    I've been intrigued off and on by the Star Wars graphic novels even though I'm not very much of a graphic novel reader. Mostly this was inspired by the Star Wars Panel To Panel book I got last year. The artwork and short descriptions of the stories told in the graphic novels were quite intriguing. And, actually, I'm finding that I've been really enjoying reading this one. Problem is, I'm sharing the read on the graphic novel.
  • Stalking Darkness (Nightrunner vol. 2) by Lynn Flewelling
    The sequel to Luck in the Shadows, which I really enjoyed reading. I've only gotten a few pages into this one though as of now. Not enough to have an opinion yet.
  • The Elite by Kiara Cass
    The sequel to The Selection, which came out last year - and is a book that I'd been looking forward to. I think I really needed to re-read The Selection before I picked this one up to really enjoy it.

Crocheted Afghans - Melody Griffiths
The same thing is true with crochet. I've got a baby blanket I'm working on for my best friend's new son. It's not even half way, and the child was born over a month ago. The rounds for it are quick enough to do, just tedious - and I need to get a hundred and sixty eight of them. Then I have to join them. Not looking forward to that at all. And I thought this would be an easy project.

Looking at the instructions (which I've memorized for each "square") the Puffs Baby Blanket, is simple enough, just as I said before, tedious - to the extreme. I've gotten over 60 of the puffs done though.

Rather than buckle down and really work on finishing the baby blanket, I started a new project: the Hilo Shawl from the March issue of Inside Crochet magazine. I'm using two lovely skeins of Madelinetosh yarn in Cousteau (shades of deem tourquoise) for this one and the more I work on it, the more I love the colours and the feel of the yarn. Still only on the first full row, but I started it last night. And, of course, I had to wind the skeins before I could start. I tell you, having my own swift and winder is a wonderful thing, both for the yarn I spin, and for the yarns I'm buying now. More and more, they don't come in pre-wound balls as the price goes up. And sometimes, the store's swift is broken. The biggest issue with this pattern is that it's from a UK magazine and some of the terminology is different. Triple Crochet stitch for the US Double for example. I've learned on the US stitch terminology so far, so I'm sitting here with a conversion chart. Thank goodness for the pattern diagram as well.

Part of the problem with all of this (books and crochet) is that I feel like I should been working on the readings and assignments for the indexing course I'm taking whenever I'm not actually working - guess I'm feeling a bit guilty. So, as much as I want to be reading or crocheting, I feel as though I can't, that I'm wasting time I don't have. And therefore, I can't settle to any one hobby/project.

Friday, May 3, 2013

My lastest time waster (Kanoodle)

Kanoodle. I don't usually review toys, but this one caught me. I remember playing with something similar as a kid - red tray with yellow blocks of various shapes that you had to set in to fill the tray. So, when I got the chance to play with Kanoodle a bit at work over the last couple of months, I couldn't stop myself.

Neither could one of the store managers. I see him at the table with the Kanoodle display all the time. And, I've caught some of the other employees fiddling with it now and again when I'm on shift. I like it enough that I bought myself one as well.

The 2D puzzles are fun enough - to start with and learn the way the pieces fit - you'll have to do one every time you want to put your Kanoodle away - the grid where they fit is how the puzzle pieces are stored. Not to mention, at the various levels, they're good for kids too. However, it's the 3D puzzles that really captured my eye. I've only managed to beat the first one at the most difficult level so far.

There's only seven of them though at that level. I'm wishing there were more puzzles at the challenger level. That's the main criticism I've seen about the Kanoodle in other reviews. But, for the price, it's well worth it - and I'm contemplating this as a Christmas gift this year for a few people.

The Kanoodle is compact - making it perfect for taking travelling, and great for the whole family: the listed age range is from seven to adult.

I have to ask though on a related topic, what's your favourite puzzle game? I know some people swear by the rubiks cube for example - I've certainly never been able to beat it, but one of my former co-workers could do so in less than a minute.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Upcoming Tolkien Book - Fall of Arthur

There's a new Tolkien book coming out at the end of this month:

The Fall of Arthur
J.R.R. Tolkien
Ed. Christopher Tolkien
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Release Date: May 23, 2013

The product description:
The Fall of Arthur, the only venture by J.R.R. Tolkien into the legends of Arthur King of Britain, may well be regarded as his finest and most skillful achievement in the use of the Old English alliterative metre, in which he brought to his transforming perceptions of the old narratives a pervasive sense of the grave and fateful nature of all that is told: of Arthur’s expedition overseas into distant heathen lands, of Guinevere’s flight from Camelot, of the great sea-battle on Arthur’s return to Britain, in the portrait of the traitor Mordred, in the tormented doubts of Lancelot in his French castle.

Unhappily, The Fall of Arthur was one of several long narrative poems that he abandoned in that period. In this case he evidently began it in the earlier nineteen-thirties, and it was sufficiently advanced for him to send it to a very perceptive friend who read it with great enthusiasm at the end of 1934 and urgently pressed him ‘You simply must finish it!’ But in vain: he abandoned it, at some date unknown, though there is some evidence that it may have been in 1937, the year of the publication of The Hobbit and the first stirrings of The Lord of the Rings. Years later, in a letter of 1955, he said that ‘he hoped to finish a long poem on The Fall of Arthur’; but that day never came.

Associated with the text of the poem, however, are many manuscript pages: a great quantity of drafting and experimentation in verse, in which the strange evolution of the poem’s structure is revealed, together with narrative synopses and very significant if tantalising notes. In these latter can be discerned clear if mysterious associations of the Arthurian conclusion with The Silmarillion, and the bitter ending of the love of Lancelot and Guinevere, which was never written.
I'm definitely looking forward to buying and reading this one when it comes out for several reasons:
  1. It's Tolkien, and for me that's enough of a reason right there.
  2. Adding to my Tolkien collection.
  3. King Arthur is one of those topics that has intrigued me ever since I read Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Mists of Avalon years ago.
I know that Christopher Tolkien will do as good a job with this one as he has with everything else of his father's that he's edited. I'm hoping for an experience similar to that of reading Sigurd and Gudrun - which taught me more about poetry, rhythm and meter than did any of my English classes at university.


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