Yesterday we lost Koidern to complications from laryngeal paralysis. Koidern came to us in 2006 from Andrea’s mushing partner who thought she was too “ornery.” It is true that she wouldn’t hesitate to growl at a dog or cat who got too close to her food bowl, and she was protective of her favorite bed, but in every other way she was a very sweet dog. When she was younger she loved to give hugs, jumping up on her hind legs and wrapping her front legs around your waist. She was part Saluki, which made her very distinctive in Andrea’s dog teams and she never lost her beautiful brown coat, perky ears, and curled tail. I will miss her continual energy in the dog yard racing around after the other dogs, how she’d pounce on dog bones and toss them around, “smash” the cats, and the way she’d bark right before coming into the house as if to announce her entrance.
Finished Mario Vargas Llosa’s The Bad Girl this morning. This is apparently a rewrite of Flaubert’s Madame Bovary. Never having read Flaubert, I wouldn’t have recognized the similarities, but I doubt if I’d enjoy that book as much as The Bad Girl. Lydia Davis just re-translated it into English (“the English translation it deserves”, according to Kathryn Harrison in the New York Times), so maybe it’s worth a read.
The book is written from the first-person perspective of Ricardo Somocurcio, covering his entire life. As the bad girl disappears and reappears, she throws his life into chaos, ecstasy, and ruin each time. He’s unable to overcome his love for her, regardless of the depths she plumbs in her quest to make a life for herself and escape the poverty of her family. It isn’t the most compelling plot, but Somocurcio tells a very entertaining tale, and anyone who has experienced the ways that love defeats reason will understand what he goes through. It’s also something of a guilty pleasure to witness how the bad girl uses her power over Somocurcio (and the other men she exploits) to get what she wants, and observe the train wreck when she moves on.
I only highlighted one line in the book. I don’t think it characterizes the message of the book, but perhaps one of them: “In this life things rarely happen the way we little pissants plan them.” I wonder what word was actually used in the Spanish original, and translated into pissant here?
Good book. I’ll be reading more Vargas Llosa in the future, starting with The War of the End of the World, which is considered to be his best novel.
Kiva died today as a result of an inflammatory disease that we couldn’t bring under control, and the pain this was causing her. She was a little over seven years old.
We got Kiva from the Fairbanks Animal Shelter in November 2004 when she was only a year and a half old. She’d been abandoned because she “didn’t want to be a sled dog” by the same musher who had previously abandoned Piper. Throughout her life she was a super energetic dog that had a hard time staying still, loved sprint racing, and was the best fetching dog I’ve ever seen. She was great with people, and seemed to be completely in love with the cats (our old cats Ivan and Alexi and the new kittens we got late last year). We sometimes called her “devil dog” for her personality, dark coloration and bright blue eyes. Unfortunately, she didn’t get along with Piper, and started four major fights. The latest fight, two weeks ago, happened in the house, and we think it was because her pain was increasing. We finally decided that it was time to say goodbye.
As much as we love Kiva and all the energy she brought to our household, we struggled with her disease and her fighting. We agonized about euthanizing her for years, and even more over the last couple weeks since her latest fight, and we finally decided that it isn’t fair to her to be living with enough pain that she’s intolerant of the other dogs and can’t go to the bathroom normally, and it’s not fair to the other dogs (or us) to be placed in a situation where they might get injured or killed. I wish there had been something else we could have tried, some treatment or medication that would have made her happy and peaceful.
Some things I remember about her:
- Whenever she was excited she’d run in counter-clockwise circles, over and over again.
- She liked coming with me when I went out to the red cabin to get beer.
- We played fetch with her using chunks of wood when we lived on Whistling Swan and bought a Chuck-It so we could throw it all the way down the dog yard or driveway here on Railroad Drive.
- She loved it when we changed the kitchen garbage.
- She was the only dog that would howl, usually before races.
- She hated water and would go well out of her way to avoid stepping in puddles.
- She went absolutely crazy when there were dogs outside the dog yard.
- She got so excited before races that she’d chew the lines and would slam forward, rock back and slam forward the entire time at the line.
- She was a nervous little dog that scared easily.
We miss her.
I finished Gravity’s Rainbow last week. For me, it was a bit of a disappointment, not so much with the book itself, but with myself for not devoting the time to reading it more faithfully from start to finish. With the previous Pynchon I’ve read (Crying of Lot 49, Mason & Dixon, Against the Day) I started out reading very carefully, taking notes as I went along. After I got comfortable with the narrative and felt I was familiar enough with the gestalt, I blazed through the remainder of the book. This time around, I started the same way, but didn’t devote the time to reading it after the first part and I wasn’t able to keep the characters and situations in my head. So the novel wound up as a jumble. I can see the brilliance and magic at the margins of my comprehension, but that’s about it.
At this point, I’d have to place it below both Mason & Dixon and Against the Day in my list of favorite Pynchon books. Someday I’ll have to pick it up again and try to give it the time it deserves.
Since finishing it, I’ve been reading like crazy. First was Deb Olin Unferth’s Vacation, which was fantastic. It reminded me a bit of the way Paul Auster can keep you off balance and wondering what will come next as the characters start behaving more and more strangely. Then McSweeney’s 28, which was a series of entertaining short fables (my favorite was the one about the guy who kept meeting himself). Finally, Mary Roach’s Bonk. I enjoyed this one as well, even if the continual footnoted asides became tedious by the end. I was amused, and feel like I learned a lot about what science has to say about sex.
After my success at quickly completing three books, I’ve started working on 2666 by literary superstar Roberto Bolaño. I had to special order it because my local independent bookstore didn’t have any copies, and appeared to never have heard of Bolaño. They’re surprisingly out of touch with the world of literary fiction, which seems odd for a store trying to survive the big box, low price onslaught of Barnes and Noble. Maybe they make their hay selling Twilight or whatever other bestselling doorstop is popular today and forgotten tomorrow.
In any case, 63 pages into 2666 and I’m highly amused. Thus far, the story has revolved around four literary critics obsessed with a reclusive German author. If that sounds like an odd premise for a story, it is; odder still is that despite there being very little plot, I’m eager to get back to it.
More eager than chopping wood or cooking my Thanksgiving ham, stuffing, gravy and sweet potato pie, in fact.
Still on vacation. I just finished brewing my second batch of beer in the last week. It was originally called “Barking Buddy”, named after our biggest sled dog Buddy, but because of the heavy snow we’ve been getting today, I decided to rename it “Barking Buddy Blizzard Bitter.” All this snow is odd because early last week we had daytime highs in the 50s and the snow on the ground was rapidly melting. Suddenly, it looks a lot more like winter than spring. The top photo shows the start of the boil; that’s Buddy in the dog yard in the background of the photo.
Devil Dog Rye IPA fermented nicely over the past week, going from a gravity of 1.086 down to 1.022 at transfer to the secondary fermenter (a keg). I left for a funeral the day after I brewed it and put Andrea in charge of monitoring the temperature and the location of the fermentation chamber’s insulated lid. I removed the lid the morning after brewing because the yeast was going crazy and the wort temperature was up to 75°F. The wort was pitched on top of the yeast cake from the primary fermentation of my previous batch, and that’s why I got such a rapid fermentation and high temperature despite the high starting gravity. I was worried that there might be some off-flavors from the heat, but the beer tasted really good when I transferred it so I think it’ll be OK. Without Andrea’s help, it probably would have either gotten even hotter (if I’d left the lid on) or gotten too cold and I would have returned from Chicago to a stuck fermentation.
Today’s brew was relatively uneventful. I got another very high mash efficiency (85%!) this time around. As I mentioned in my last brewing post, I suspect this is due to my new mill, but it could also be the longer mashing times I’ve used, or the change in base malt (Castle Pale to Crisp Maris Otter). I’m happy that my yields are back up again, but it’s unfortunate that I changed all three variables at the same time so I can’t positively assign a cause to the improvement. I also hit my target pitching temperature of 66°F on the nose this time, so I’m finally getting the hang of the pump I’m using to circulate cold water through the plate chiller. It’s all good.
The second photo shows Kiva’s reaction to the dog beds being occupied. Buddy has a tendency to stretch himself out across two beds, and when Koidern nestled in next to Buddy there was no room for Kiva. But rather than moving to one of the other beds we’ve got, she wedged in behind Koidern. In the photo she’s giving Koidern the stink-eye, trying to get her to move. Didn’t work, and eventually all three went to sleep all packed together on the two beds.
One more day of vacation until the weekend. I’m looking forward to smoking salmon, working on a side table for Andrea, and relaxing.