Bread updates

Lately I had a short break from baking, as I struggled planning the two-day process, and would not fall back to a quicker timing. After two weeks of store-bought bread I resumed baking:

The first batch (three small baguettes) came out crispy and tasty, but I forgot to put salt 🙂 The second large bread was a wonderful mixed flour loaf, that stayed soft for a whole week. And my last batch came out nice too. I guess I will bake buns more often, as the leavening and baking times are significantly shorter than for a loaf.

Book impression: “Nonluoghi” by Marc Augé

I found this book at the Italian bookstore while I was scanning the shelves for something that would somehow bring light on a topic I am familiar with, but not knowledgeable. As a former frequent traveller, the cover with the airport symbols caught my eye. I started reading it at a quick pace, then stopped and started over, equipped with a higlighter and a pencil, in a more study-like mode. It is a short text but it contains a lot of starting points for further analysis, reflection, observation, thought.

As I finished the book I found it intriguingly close to Calvino’s “Le città invisibili”, as both see the city (and per extension the world) as a mix of socially meaningful locations, impersonal places, traces of the past, people both as individuals and more or less part of the society. Maybe in the future I would read both books again, to pick up the cities in Calvino’s book and link them to the relevant part of Augé’s text.

While looking for links about the author I found this interview, held twenty years after the publication of this book. I listened to it today, enjoying the dual French-Italian quiet voices not less than a deeper, more philosophical, more symbolic view of the non-place – a place that is more a blank canvas and is seen as a crucial component of the globalisation process.

For further reading I would suggest to start with Marc Augé’s Wikipedia page and follow links. The French version has a longer bibliography, while the English version has more about his career and the development of his theoretical apparatus.

I’m sorry that such an intense book is not really shining in my short post, but I recognise that it left me with a sense of wonder, of “OK, I need to reset many of my opinions on so many things”, so it actually cleaned up space in my head – which is refreshing and sometimes necessary.

Small knitting update

Fall is here with morning fog and colourful trees, and I try to get a hat ready as fast as possible:

The other two WIPs are a granny square blanket, that is sort of on hold because the colors don’t convince me much, and a cotton shirt that will likely be worn only next year, so no rush. I also got wool for a pair of felted slippers. I would also like to make leg warmers for yoga, which will be faster than knit socks (leg warmers would be socks without heel nor toe) and I have a lot of nice sock wool to pick from 🙂

Knitting update: cotton shirt

I’m trying to complete a summerly project in time to wear it this year, but my chances are getting slim… nonetheless, it’s a very pleasant project to knit and to see developing 🙂 The pattern is called Cloudesley and is available on Ravelry. I hope I will have enough yarn, I have used one skein already…

Speaking of autumn, I bought a small set of four seasonal plants that now adorn my windowsill. I hope they will get enough light and not too much cold. Next to them are some of the summer’s flowers, still green and cheerful!

Book impression: “In nessun modo ancora”, Samuel Beckett

I initially gave this post the title “Book review” but there is not enough review to justify it, so I preferred the term “impression”.

This book is the Italian translation of Nohow On, and was lended to me by a very good friend. I usually read books entirely, including introductions and interpretations, but this time I skipped them and went directly for the text. The first novel, Company, first disoriented me then captivated me and I read it in one sitting. I assumed that the text was meant to be read, and therefore it would be written in such a way that thoughts could be followed by other people; instead, it seemed the full recording of thoughts formed into the brain, a sort of “raw data” version of a book. Surprisingly, I found that form extremely understandable, probably more than the potential revised form – and likely the introduction, that I haven’t read yet (sorry). I was led to analyse, think, smile, laugh, read again to appreciate every word. I read the following two prose pieces but I was not really focused and they were written in a slightly different form, so I will need to read them again.

Company sounded to me like a victory against revisions to a text and implicitely to thoughts. In school I had mixed feelings about someone else telling me “look, your text lacks clarity, you should change these parts, explain these ones better, remove that paragraph” because I didn’t feel that a third person could check if my text matched my own thoughts (in which case I would have accepted corrections that made the text a truer expression of my thoughts) and the corrections seemed to add their touch, their need for clarity, in my own words. My reactions got worse when I arrived to the point of writing scientific articles, because revisions tended to make the text less clear to me, the author, and that would have been ridiculous! I later kept writing my thoughts in a diary and started this blog. I don’t edit posts unless there is a mistake or a follow-up that I want to link to. I write only when the text has a clear structure in my mind, and consider it a snapshot rather than an encyclopedia entry – therefore, it represents my thoughts about something in that moment, and are not supposed to be edited afterwards, only connected to other posts.

On the other hand, there is text that I write as part of documentation or news items, for example OSM Weekly News. In that case the focus is on the tool/service that needs documentation, or the contents of the news items. I am not going to treat that text as my own thoughts, quite the contrary: I see myself as an ambassador for the tool/service/news item, so I am more than open to comments and review that get the text as true and clear as possible.

Apologies to Samuel Beckett for the minimal comment about his work. Next review will be a proper one 🙂 stay tuned!

Book review: “La délicatesse” by David Foenkinos

I have read this book last week, and I must say I struggled to finish it, still finding many interesting points along the story. The book has been adapted to a film and has been a big success in France. Still, I found that the characters shared many thought processes and action patterns, and it made them unrealistically similar in my eyes, despite being women, men, of different origins and living in different contexts. I found that some of the scenes were resolved too quickly for my needs, with a spectacular, film-like action, but that left me with open questions. I liked the ending the most, and some non obvious plot developments.

I am more puzzled by my reaction to the book, rather than by the actual content. I haven’t read a novel since a long time, and it felt odd to be in a story generated by the mind of another person. I feel that my review is harsh and that I missed the many inspiring points, but at the moment they are not accessible to me. That’s why I wish to recommend the book anyway and welcome you to write your impressions in the comments!

Weather and clouds

I finished reading a small book about weather prediction by observation of clouds: “Wolkenbilder Wettervorhersage” . It was an easy-to-read guide through the complex field of weather prediction and the more intuitive interpretation of clouds as indicators for humidity, wind, temperature and pressure. The scientific approach was enriched by clear pictures, that had for me a significant artistic interest naturally embedded in them. How can one not think of the many paintings and drawings, where the artists tried to convey the lightness and vibrancy of clouds and skies, as well as the difficulty of capturing the textures and contrasts with a camera?

I liked the first chapters, that described the main weather states and sequences for Germany. I guess that the latitude and the simple orography of the country makes the weather dependent on medium to large-scale weather phenomena, and the weather prediction seems pretty straightforward. Now I feel more knowledgeable about what I see in the sky, and I’m reassured by my new ability of deciphering the messages hidden in the clouds literally in plain sight.

Drawing goats: the horns

This morning I went outside before it could get too hot. I went straight to the goats’ enclosure and found many children greeting and petting them. I walked to the other side of the enclosure, on the bridge above it, and started sketching.

At first the goats were really far away and I could only draw the outlines. These are two small goats in the first page. Then I focused on an older goat laying down in the shade, and what I could see best were its horns. I went on sketching horns in all possible orientations. Their shape is not easy to understand, especially as I don’t have depth perception: so the sketches become flat just like pictures. They are the clearest way to show two important facts: first, that the horns are not cylindrical, and second, that they follow a wide spiral. When the spiral of one horn is seen from the side (with the axis coming out of the page, so to speak), it makes a very round arc, but then the other horn has the funniest shape, as the axis of the spiral is almost parallel to the page and the horn section (which is sort of tear-shaped) makes all sort of sharp angles and almost rectangular shapes. The 90-degree angle midway is the oddest form that comes out of this combination of shapes, and I find it the most recognisable goat horn marker. I will definitely come back and try to observe the horns better. In the meanwhile, enjoy these three relaxed goats 🙂

Drawing goats

In the park near my house there is an enclosure with a dozen goats. They can stay in a little wooden house and roam in a space with plenty of rocks and some shade under the trees. There are some older goats that walk slowly, a few youngsters and a few who will give birth soon. They seem content and with enough to do to have a pleasant life. Here is one that looked quite satisfied:

A black goat was resting in a convenient spot to be drawn so I took my sketchbook and gave it a try:

Resting goat

I would like to visit them more often but there is always quite a crowd around, and there are not many sitting spots (just one bench). I get tired quickly of the distractions from the flow of people, just the same as in the zoo, but there even more because there are no other animals to visit. I almost wish I were a goat and had the chance to stay in the enclosure, maybe in a quiet corner, and take all my time to contemplate, eat, jump and sleep 🙂

On baking bread and taking care of plants

I was wondering why I find baking bread and tending to my little green companions so rewarding, and I think it is because they need my support, but they do the work on their own. Bread needs me to assemble the ingredients and respect the temperatures and timings, but the leavening happens without any input from me. Plants grow when I water them and take care of light and nutrients, but I am not the one doing the legwork.

I think I see myself as the helper and enabler, and I marvel at how well the bread and plants develop, according to their own plans. OK, bread’s shape and form are very much under my control, but plants are not, they follow their internal models, make leaves, flowers, seeds, totally on their own. I feel the need of being the facilitator, and see what fascinating creation comes out. Unlike some other people, I don’t feel capable of taking responsibility for the whole plan and implementation, and therefore I feel more afraid of than empowered by so much control. I’m relieved when the bread and the plants know how to take care of themselves and don’t wait for me to grow (mostly the plants, but bread is pretty independent too). It means I am not the bottleneck or the blocker when I happen to be busy with something else.

Let me finish this short post with pictures of bread and of a new succulent I bought yesterday.