1-2-2008 Universal Letter Writing Week

Hi again.
New Years Resolutions come round and I’m redoubling my efforts to get the book done. I’ve been toying with the idea of not doing this letter- does anyone read it? I get the impression that it does occasionally get read and enjoyed, and I think sometimes that writing it enhances my writing skills. I also have a near pathological fear of losing touch with friends and family. I’m not really sure that this helps, but in theory it does. Still, it takes, about four hours a week. Keeping in touch is so worth that.

In theory the week between Christmas and New Years is the week in which we do the business inventory and tally the books, and get papers in order. Yeah, like that happens. Mostly we’ve been doing catch up, clean up. We’ve had two or three snowfalls this week, and that gets us outside shoveling. I like the group effort- like when we get together around the table.
It’s a trick of course- the driveway is only so big, and there are only so many places to put the snow which means we each have to choose a zone and pretty much stick to it. Star usually goes over and works on the access to the mail box. The mail delivery lady won’t bother to try if it doesn’t look like she can drive right up to it, and at this point the snow is piled up high around it. Kat has been taking the causeway to the great hall- the snow can go up against the woodshed. I usually do the path through the berm to the back so the gas, electric and oil guys can get through. I also do the defining how far I want it to be shoveled to. I figure we’d better start those paths at least two shovels wide in case they get more narrow as the snow accumulates.
I imagine I may have jinxed us by saying that I’d get a better cardiovascular workout if I could shovel for an hour a day every day rather than having two or three big shoveling projects a year. I didn’t mean that I wanted to have enough snow to require daily shoveling!
At this point the snow has gotten high enough that it’s really hard to throw the snow over the heaps- six or seven feet high over most of the herb garden. The Spirit is totally buried. I’ve put a flag at each end of it incase a helpful neighbor with a plow thinks of giving us a hand. They do that sometime. Also I’ve flagged the kickwheel which I still haven’t found a permanent indoor home yet.
I keep thinking how silly it is the way we try to ignore weather. Throughout history we humans planned ahead- there will be snow in the winter, so we’ll get ready for it, and deal with it when it comes. Now we put so much energy into being able to “ignore” it. You have to be at work at the same time every day, even if there’s been snow, so we put a lot of tax money into keeping the roads clear, and personal time and money to make sure that our personal areas are clear. Why do we clear? The mail and UPS guy may need to come in. The fuel guy needs access to the tank, and the electric company has to be able to reach the meter. And of course, there’s potential liability- can’t take a chance that someone who believes he has a right to come onto your property doesn’t try and hurt himself. But in earlier years, if you could get to the barn to take care of your animals, and the shed to get wood to keep your fires going, you didn’t need access to the road.
Admittedly, this means that in case of emergency, we can get out more easily. I was pleased when after the first big snow the local volunteer firemen came by to see if we were doing OK. I don’t know if they asked everyone or just the ones who hadn’t bothered shoveling out at that point. I tend to go with the old saw “God put it there, he can get rid of it”. I guess I resent that it is only our custom that require it. In theory far more of us could work from home. Why don’t we make that happen?

Star has been checking the cistern every morning after milking and the level is gradually rising. Also, we keep the heat down far enough that frequent showering would be, well, not the most comfortable thing- at least coming out. I measured the drip at the kitchen sink at about 3 quarts an hour, or 18 gallons a day- which is as much as a couple loads of laundry or showers all around, so we took the faucet apart to find what seal might need replacing. Took the only thing that looked anything like a ring, and the guys at the hardware store said that it wasn’t anything that would result in a drip (it didn’t look worn anyway). So we put it back together again, and it still drips- not quite so much, but I’m afraid that we’ve got some sort of modern faucet where you have to replace the whole unit for $100 instead of a 50¢ seat. (grumble, grumble)
The tree will come down this weekend, and we’re into the fast season between holidays- thank goodness. I’ve had about as much holiday food as I can stomach. I still can’t sell the kids on the joy of eating beans though. I figure I need better recipes, but they are significantly uncooperative about experimenting. I gave them plain great northern beans for New Years luck- better than the greyish over-cooked black eye’d peas Mother used to insist on (I blame her southern heritage) every new year. I made some lovely black beans with onions, garlic and pepper. Willow went out to look for red bean paste- which would have satisfied me. Azuki beans can be cooked into a lovely sweet paste which is used for Japanese confectionary- and they have it as a new years food. So we had our beans, but I’m not sure we’ve yet had a “first footer” (I doubt going out to do the chores and coming back in counts). OK- we need a strange dark man, and we’ll be happy to give you a drink! (Wait, did Trevor come back in for anything while they were getting into the car?)
Avi and Trevor were the only ones to show up for New Years Eve. They stayed until just after midnight, wrapped Bianca up and we all went to sleep as quickly as we could manage. We just sat around and chatted and snacked. I played with the baby. Star worked his butt off to finish the chapter he was working on before the new year. I have no idea what it is he is writing, but he is very involved in it.
Kat’s gotten several commissions for avatar art, along with the expected compliments when she delivers them. There is no doubt in my mind that all this practice is helping her art. Now if we could just get past the agoraphobia, she could go to school.
Me, I finished (finally) the cover for the Birka program. I am very pleased with it- it’s full of details. I thought- briefly- of making it into a T shirt to sell, but then I was reminded that T shirts work best with bold dramatic images- as in posters- not little detailed stuff- as in illustrations. I’m an illustrator. I love the details.

The glass merchant with his arms guarding his wares as a dog goes by, a cock chasing a hen, men carrying barrels in various ways (I looked at the Vikings again to see how it was done), a man buying a string of beads, another looking at various combs (I should have piled antlers behind the vendor), the smith… The kids gave me some grey scale pens I’ve been playing with. I’ve tried making shadows, making the people stand out against the back ground- different things. I guess that’s what art school is for.

The kitten’s eye is getting better. She’s gone through trying on a half dozen names- Zoe, Holly, Lucia, Nuisance, Urchin, Zymbalta (because we can tell from all the commercials that stroking a kitten relieves depression), and now Invader Zim-balta. I think “off the table!” is what she hears most often. We haven’t gone out to give the vet her picture, so she’s still here. Since we now have had stool and blood checked and know that she’s come through being lost without picking up parasites or AIDS or Leukemia or anything else (we’ve checked for), now we just have to wait to see if there’s someone out there missing her- or if she’s going to stick around. Currently she and Grendel seem to get along, she chases Greymalkin away, and Freya has beat her up a few times. Go Freya (usually a wishywashy thing)!
Speaking of cats, Morgan called- when he got home he discovered that his neighbor had called the pound on his cat who’d been left with food and water while he visited family for the holidays. Saba has always been afraid of strangers and hid when they came. I haven’t heard if Morgan and Rachel have lured her out yet.
Poor Megan and Dennis were looking after other friends dog while they visited home, and the poor dog was having seizures- but he did manage not to die until his people got home. I feel it’s quite a gift for them to have watched and held the poor dog during that hard time- bad enough for anyone who loves animals, but it would have been worse for his owners. It’s so hard to watch a loved one die- even when you’ve done the whole chemo thing, you always wonder if you could have done more to help.

On disease: good news! Viz seems to have come out the other side, and while at risk for recurrence is cancer free! It seems like a victory for everyone who’s ever had to fight cancer. Of course, we apply the term cancer to a lot of different types of related problems, each of which has to be dealt with differently, but still, it’s a bitch, and one loves to hear about victories.

I’ve been reading some fiction lately- Class Dis-Mythed (reminding me that Asprin has a wonderful grasp of magic), Deerskin, which was a marvelous retelling of the Donkeyskin/Many-furred-Creature tale), and I started the latest Ann McAffrey Pern book- but can’t remember the title. In non-fiction, I’ve been rummaging through palmistry books again.

Movies watched recently included Unleashed-2005 which is an action film about a guy who was raised as an attack dog reclaiming his humanity. That came up because I’ve been going back to some of the “cultural literacy” (what are other people talking about?) movies recently. I was surprised how reasonable (and sweet) it was.
Flags of Our Fathers was also a pleasant surprise- examining the lives of the men effected by the media circus that the Iwo Jima picture turned into The Astronaut Farmer was a good solid movie about how to deal with attempting the impossible. I guess what got to me most about it was that the main character, Farmer, was told that he had to choose between being an astronaut, and being a family man, and he refused to accept that either or pronouncement. As someone who’s spent most of my life trying to deal with wanting to do it all, I liked that he made it work. I didn’t cover what I’d watched last week . The Christmas Card was a nice, Hallmark story, but Christmas Do-over has to be one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. Kat took out one called Millenium Actress- which was a Japanese animated film about the career of an actress in which the film makers interviewing her seem to be magically transported into her flashbacks- kind of confusing, but very cool. Star seems to watch TV type Anime, and I don’t bother checking it out. I watched the Harry Potter Pentology, and the Back to the Future Trilogy – or rather had them on in the background as I was doing my art. I also got around to watching Die Hard IV which I was pleasantly surprised to be the same high quality as the first three. After how good the first one was, I couldn’t believe that the sequel could live up to it- or the third one be up to the first two, or this one to the others. I don’t know how they do it, but it’s one of the best action films I’ve seen, although the cutting was a bit tighter in this one. I think that’s due to the way films are done these days.

I know I should be working on the paperwork- but I keep getting distracted by cleaning. For example, putting the wrapping paper away after Christmas led to emptying the entire china-closet, throwing out all the older paper that had gotten too messed up (yes, Tchipakkan throwing things away- can you imagine?) and we ended up moving the drawer set I’d gotten for camping in to put the various party supplies in- hopefully in a way that will help maintain order. We have SO MUCH accumulated stuff! Some have died in storage- like old balloons and party blowers, others like plates and cups are fine- but will we ever use them? There are bags of pretty shiny mylar confetti. I don’t want to ever use it- I wouldn’t want to have to clean it up, but more, at this point in my life, while I could leave it at the recycling center, I can’t get around the problem that I really don’t want anyone else using it either. I don’t want it in the environment. But it’s already been produced- I suppose it should be used. And I keep telling myself I don’t need all the dishes we have- but which ones to get rid of? Ah well.

These are upcoming excuses to celebrate in January
2 Cream Puff Day, Get Over It Day, Science Fiction Day
3 Sleep Memento Mori Day, Humiliation Day, Silly Putty Day
4 Spagehetti Day,Trivia Day, Clean Desk Day, Tennis Day, Braille Day
5 Whipped Cream Day, 12th Night, Bird Day
6 Shortbread Day, Smith Day, Cuddle Up Day, Bean Day, Apple Tree Day
7 Tempura Day, Distaff Day/ Plough Monday, I’m Not Going to Take it Anymore Day, Pass Gas Day
8 English Toffee Day, Rock’n’Roll Day, World Literacy Day. Show and Tell at Work Day

Mark sent a post reminding us of what like was like in the US a century ago, which is basically the way much of the world still lives. Things like electricity, phones, plumbing, cars and secondary education were rare. The post, of course, went on about what things cost, and how little people were paid- but there was little to put it in context. If eggs were 14 cents a dozen, and the “average” wages 22¢ an hour, our eggs not costing half of minimum wage seem a bargain doesn’t it? I’d love to see one of those things that translates all the prices into percentage of average income- this percentage of what you made spent on heating, this much on food, this much on medical, this much on housing. We feel we NEED to have instant access to information. We deserve to have our physical/medical/and psychological needs met. The theory is that if the money exists, there’s no reason we shouldn’t have it because those who do are no more worthy than we. At what point has worth ever directed where money went?
I think it’s reasonable to strive for better standards of living, and worthy to attempt to create a life where getting what you want doesn’t reduce what other people get unfairly. We can strive to be as fair as possible without expecting nature to be fair.

Finally- this is going to be the last week of the campaign blitz in NH. I am so happy. I’d be happier if I didn’t think the glossy, content free adds that arrive in my mailbox every-day weren’t just going to change targets. It is so annoying to think that a) they think that sending such wasteful wretched flyers is going to help them win votes, and that b) there must be some evidence that that’s true, or people wouldn’t keep spending the money that way. That would mean that people are so stupid that seeing attractive pictures of people is going to influence their votes. That’s scary. As far as I can tell, the major thing that gets people to vote for someone is that a lot of other people are going to vote for them. That’s so wrong.
I heard a show about the caucuses, and I like the idea of being able to reallocate your vote when your preferred candidate can’t win. Still, as with the primaries, third parties are in really bad positions. I’m working on a chart that says “McCain is for this” “O’Bama has done this” “”Romney has said that” “Clinton has done this” so that maybe I can figure it out. There are very few deal breakers except egregious stupidity (Juliani struck me that way with his plan to deal with imigration.) Clinton’s Christmas present ad was enough to shoot her down for egregious tackiness alone. The kids are also feeling overwhelmed and we get about a dozen calls a day from various campaigns. I do feel it’s a responsibility, so I really have to look at their positions. I just wish they would be more up front about what their positions are. Yes, everyone deserves health care- but who’s going to pay for it? I am very suspicious about anyone who thinks it’s possible to get money out of the rich.
Oh well- let’s see if I can end this on a happy note, Joanna sent me a link to one of Skippy’s adventures. If you haven’t encountered Skippy’s list yet, do check it out. http://skippyslist.com/?page_id=3 Willow says it’s guys like that that make her feel uncreative. I think, however, that his idea of squid pie has got to intersect the idea of “less politics, more pie” as well as StupidityinMagic.

Remember to visit my Flickr space to see the pictures I took this week. I also spent WAY too much time putting some of my old favorite pictures in there. So take a look: http://flickr.com/photos/22256634@N08/

*Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.” Mark Twain

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