1-20-2016 No Name Calling Week

Dear Liz,                                         January 20, 2016
Hope your heat is working again. It is way to cold to have no heat just now! My room stays at a good temperature for sleeping (under furs and cushioned in down comforters and featherbeds); I think the heat that comes up the vent from the kitchen will keep the room at a “toasty” 40º so that the waterbed shouldn’t freeze (or become a heat sinc). The west wing hallway, on the other hand, has been gradually chilling, and the thermometer on the outside of my bedroom door now generally reads in the mid 30ºs. I really hope we can get some better insulation in the west wing one of these years.  The outside thermometers read thirties too- down to 10º at night. Sadly, even though I had Wally put trim around the front door, I could still feel cold air blowing in, so I stapled up cardboard around the inside, and that’s working. I guess I have to decide whether to keep my nice old solid door, or get a new better fitting one,… or just deal with kludges. When we repainted, we took off some shreds of felt- I guess that was a previous owners way of dealing. I’ll have to prowl the hardware store for other ideas.
I’d also like to find a nice rug for the front hall to protect the pretty floor from the ashes we sprinkle on the ice outside and almost certainly track in on our feet. Anything I’ve tried so far gets caught when the door opens. (I guess that’s why cold air doesn’t come UNDER the front door.)

So we are hunkering in, really enjoying the lovely morning light. Sunday I was able to actually know it wouldn’t get dark until 5:30, whereas a month ago it was dark at 4:30. That’s really lovely. I’m also grateful for the low gas prices, under $2 a gallon (at the same time, I still feel that if they stayed as high, it might motivate people to conserve better.)
I’m still posting holidays, although I am torn between enjoying it, and feeling I am putting in too much time on it. On the one hand, if I don’t check, I can get (and share) wrong information (I thought Penguin Awareness day was last week), but it would be faster not to check…; I really hate being the source of bad information on the internet. I enjoy holidays, and I like reminders about how cool the world is and to appreciate the things in life we might take for granted, but time is precious. “…and suddenly you aren’t there anymore.”*  With the recent deaths (Bowie, Rickman, the Eagles singer Frey, and our friend Olaf), it’s easy to think about that lately. DSCF9917I did find a picture of Olaf that I couldn’t find last week. He is going to be missed. (That’s Ekke in the background, luckily still with us, he and Sarah have moved to Maine.)

Here are some excuses to celebrate this week:
20 Cheese Lover’s Day, Penguin Awareness, (I discovered the “little blue” that I’d never heard of before- they are so cute! Willow knew about them already!)
21 Hugging Day, New England Clam Chowder Day, Squirrel little blue penguinAppreciation Day
22 Blonde Brownie & Southern Food Day, Thorrablot
23 Compliment Day,  Pie Day, “Cold, Cold Cold Day**”, Handwriting Day
24 Full Wolf moon, Belly Laugh Day, Talk like a Grizzled Prospector Day,
25 Opposite Day, Irish Coffee Day, Burns Night, Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day
26 Spouses Day, Peanut Brittle Day, Up Helly Aa
Some of these- like Up Helly Aa and Thorrablot are interesting enough that I had to include links. Thorrablot is from Iceland, and there used to be a tradition that the man of the house would put only one leg into his pants and hop around the outside of the house for some reason. These days it’s mostly an excuse to serve traditional Icelandic (read “disgusting to anyone from anywhere else”) foods. These may include: rotten shark, blood sausage, testicles, and jellied sheepshead. On the other hand, people eat haggis for Burns Night (and on yet another hand, it turns out that while cooked in a sheeps stomach, it actually is not much more than a meatloaf, and can taste pretty good. Kinda makes you appreciate them chopping up and disguising all the bits you’d probably rather not be aware you’re eating- like liver and lungs.) Up Helly Aa, on another hand (are we up to tentacles yet?) is a totally made-up holiday, created by Victorian Romantic reconstructionists who wanted to “have fun” like their ancestors. They dress up as Vikings, and burn a viking ship, and it’s essentially the climax of the Yule season.

On the phone front, Avi suggested putting the phone on airplane mode, which apparently tells it to not be looking for wifi all the time, so it doesn’t run down. On the car front, mine came back. We’d driven through a puddle and a belt slipped off, causing the troubles we spotted, on the other hand, I needed a tune-up and that cost hundreds. I’ll make it through the upcoming inspection, but come spring, I’m going to need new tires. Phoeey. Now Willow’s car is in getting fixed. Given that we bought it for $1000 three years ago, the occasional maintenance visit doesn’t seem so bad, even when it does cost a lot. If we can keep a car on the road for  $1000 a year, I think they are taking care of us well.
We got some snow this week, and I’m afraid I haven’t been keeping up with the shoveling. We have set up to get it plowed whenever there are more than a few inches, but sadly leaving the inches to harden up has created a nasty ice sheet and I’m feeling negligent. Also old. I feel like I SHOULD be out there shoveling as I did in my forties and fifties, but I’d rather have someone else do it, and haven’t managed to get rich enough to pay someone. Usually the whole family gangs up on it, but Willow and Kat have been having some hard time with their health lately- and that leaves it all to John.DSC02389
We’d hoped that Willow could go back down to Florida again, but the CFS has been bad lately, and it’s hard for her to do anything. I guess it was because they’ve realized that she’s not going to get back, Tyra sent her a box with some of the stuff she didn’t bring up with her- a Madam Alexander Astronaut doll, and a cool “paintings” done using oven bake clay, specialty yarn and some other stuff. DSC02390They are trying to move, and thus clear their house, and Willow couldn’t take so much on the plane back. I have to be a bit bemused by the Madam Alexander Doll. Apparently Tyra’s mother used to collect them when she was young- and they live a half mile from Cape Canaveral.

Poor Willow has had diarrhea for several days- and according to the wii gained 5 pounds. This goes a long way reinforcing the idea that gravity isn’t stable, I’ve had the same thing happen to me. Clearly, she needs more levity. She feels “crappy” so she is full of gravity, which pulls her down. When she feels better, I’m sure levity will lessen the pull and she’ll read lighter on the scale. We also feel that with such a complex system (it starts by asking you if your clothing is heavy or light), the wii should be able to recognize that anyone who’s chosen a female avatar is going to have a fluctuation in their weight once a month, and take that into account, maybe even track it. I’ve put winter weight on again. It’s hard for me to not make “comfort foods” during January, and frankly that comes down to a lot of carbs: potatoes, pasta,  rice, baked goods, stews, soups and chowders. We’re going through gallons of tea, and have gotten used to using the “instant teapot” (it’s still fun to watch since it lights up). Sadly, it only heats up about 1.2 liters at a time- about 5 cups (or 4 mugs of tea). Actually Willow’s favorite mug holds 2 cups, so we do have to refill it frequently. We looked up what she’s supposed to avoid and it includes meat and fat (what she really wants) and any sort of roughage- popcorn, whole grains, salads.
DSC02391I also mixed up some “Golden Mixture” which is supposed to cure just about anything from acne to cancer. It’s basically a paste of turmeric mixed into honey, with a bit of pepper (to activate the turmeric) and cider vinegar and lemon peel. Sadly the texture is a bit grainy. I think it tastes like a honey mustard dipping sauce, but it’s probably that turmeric reminds me of mustard.
Kat has gotten hyper sensitive to smells- things that didn’t used toDSC02386 bother her can make her yak. I’ve had to take over doing the dishes whenever there’s something strong smelling. I fear that no one in the house cares for the pea soup I made. And I tried a recipe from the internet for 3 cheese potatoes au gratin that included 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar, 1/2 cup shredded swiss and a 1/3 cup romano. Sadly I think maybe a tablespoon would have done it- it was so strongly dominated by the Romano that even John and I didn’t care for it. Poor Kat had to eat up in her room with just a plain baked potato. Who know’s what’s going on with that! But both of the girls are feeling ill most of the time, and we are trying all sorts of pro-biotic yogurt drinks to see if that can help their digestion. One day Kat actually looked pregnant she was so gassy! This does make me want to put them on strict health food diets, when they just want to be able to eat without feeling ill.

DSC02385The kittens are growing like crazy. Amber/Ambian has started sleeping up with Willow- this may account for some of the stiffness she’s been experiencing. I remember that when I’d fall asleep when I had babies in the bed I could get really stiff by unconsciously avoiding rolling on them.  When downstairs he likes to hide between the stuffed bear and orangutang. He has begun to seem bigger than Xanex/ Pyewacket, and often plays with Peripigelium as we’d hoped would happen. Xanex has displayed a very advanced intelligence- if I dangle something, he’s more interested in seeing what is causing it to move than to play with it. Zoloft loves to sleep in my room. I think she’s become more affectionate since the kittens invaded.
I was pleasantly surprised that my replacement contact came in in less than the week to 10 days they’d quoted- more like the 4-5 days one would expect in the modern world. I’d tried to rehydrate an old contact, but it wasn’t as successful as I’d have liked. This is only the second time in nearly 50 years that I’ve actually lost a contact rather than just switching them out.
The most “interesting” thing we’ve done all week is go up to Manchester for the pre-Birka meeting of the Stonemarche Curia. I was gratified to hear that there is actually a system in place for people who try to not wear garb. It IS an SCA event, and while there’s a certain amount of lee-way given for the people who are loading in and loading out, I really get cross when those who are set up don’t switch into their garb since we’ve set a policy of not giving them a hard time. Also, since someone pointed out a few years ago that it wasn’t posted anywhere (she’d seen it) that one had to wear an “attempt at pre 17th century garb”, that they shouldn’t have let her buy her way in before that was clear. Now we have signs by the gate. Not to mention Gold Key offering free loaner garb. I do wonder where people who come to Birka can hear about it, but not hear about the SCA and how it works. One has to assume that someone tells them “Hey, you’d probably enjoy this cool event up in Manchester! You can buy stuff there that you can’t get anywhere else. Everyone’s in costume, and there’s sword fighting and dancing!” But doesn’t bother with explaining what the SCA is all about. We have to admit that there are a bunch of new members who come in after having heard of Birka as their first event. I probably wouldn’t join the SCA from going to Birka, but then, my view of it is “shopping”, and other people do other more SCA oriented activities like dancing, fighting, court, etc. I shouldn’t be biased because there’s no feast and no play for years.
DSC02387Yesterday I finally got around to using my new wafer iron- this year I found one that makes 3 lozenges- very pretty. I used a lemon-orange recipe, and cut it so that I only made a few. I also noticed that it was Brew a Potion Day and while looking for my cough syrup recipe to share, posted several of my herbal recipes up on my website. I am still not sure whether I should have put everything I do on the same website, and certainly I haven’t got everything linked the way I would want it to be. For example, I’ve put the Herbals under Healing, which is under Metaphysics, but I certainly don’t think of herbal medicine as being metaphysical, although I know some people do (proving that they really have no idea how it works!).
BrennaI had a lot of fun with my podcast tonight. I talked to our Pennsic friend Brenna who has her own show- she reviews books and movies, and we’ll be talking about pop culture and magick. We also talked history, and role playing and various books we think have a good representation of magick. Next week I have a guest lined up to talk about space/time and magickal identity. I’m excited.
I was lucky, we didn’t get any political polling calls during the podcast. We’ve been getting them almost every night! John’s simply stopped accepting them. I’m happy to let people know how I feel and what I think. It recently occurred to me that while we will probably stop getting the calls after the primary, the disgusting ads will continue to be stuck into every clip on the internet, and will probably get worse.
It really bothers me when people who make these select the most unflattering pictures they can find of the people they are trying to discredit. For goodness sakes, their features or their fashion sense is not what people should be voting for, and to make a point of it is to make people think it has importance. Why can we deal with the issues, not the images?!
I have been reading the Pern books that I hadn’t read yet. (Dragonheart, Dragon’s FireDragonsblood, Dragonharper  (I certainly hope so- I no longer am confident that I can recognize a novel I read a long time ago. I am pretty sure that I read the Dolphins of Pern back in the 90s, when it came out, but re-reading it it only seemed familiar, I didn’t know what was going to happen next. I have come to the conclusion that I had not read Renegades of Pern, as I’d thought, probably because I read All the Weyrs of Pern, which followed and built on it.) I think part of this is that I’m reading like chain-smoking, because it’s on kindle, and at the end of each book they send you to a page that says “do you want a free sample of the next book in the series?”, and then, of course, having read that, it’s way too easy to click “buy” for about the cost of a fast food meal. I will say that it is frustrating as all get out to not be able to flip to the front of the book to reference the map of Pern when they mention a place.
Anne McCaffrey did a wonderful job of world building, and I can understand her being dubious about letting fans intrude and perhaps alter it, but while I’d avoided her son Todd McCaffrey’s work, I have discovered they fit seamlessly into the world and am quite enjoying them. Having centuries to work with, there is room for many more stories to be told, many crisises to be lived through and disasters averted.  As I get closer to reading the whole series, I’m discovering things that have been bugging me since my teens and twenties. I finally have an explanation of why Kylara could have said she saw her fire lizard eat thread when in First Fall they speak of how they chew firestone and flame. I’ve now read about the differences between the watchwhers and dragons, and why the Ruatha watchwher was chained up. This is the world building that makes reading fantasy so satisfying.
I’ve started reading Lights Out, Ted Koppel’s book about the too likely concept of a terrorist attack taking out our electric grid and the problems that could cause. Apparently this could be done with a cyber attack, and considering how often I see people on the internet talking about how hard they would find it to go without internet for any length of time, and I think about how our bills are paid on line, how I do so much on line, how our gas stove requires electricity to bake, how our food supply, fuel, medical system, and almost everything else is so dependent on power, it’s sobering. We in the boonies can get by without power for a week or two- but how long would we last if the cities ran out of food in three days and those populations got as far as here?  We’d be screwed I think. Forget zombies, we’d never survive the “displaced urbanite apocalypse”.
I finished How Doctors Think and am starting What Doctors Feel. I was also reminded recently that Mark Harmon who plays Gibbs on NCIS, also played the young, handsome plastic surgeon on St. Elsewhere, and watched a couple of those. As with the books I enjoy reading about how doctors learn and practice, it’s sad to watch people learn that no matter how much they care and know and can do, they can’t fix everything or save everyone. I suppose that’s a big part of what makes doctors the way they are.
We had a discussion the other night at supper, and I put the question on facebook- isn’t it normal to have suicidal thoughts when your life is going to hell? I got over fifty responses, more than I’ve had to almost any other post. As I suspected, most people do have suicidal thoughts occasionally, but there’s a wide range of attitudes to whether one should follow through and under what circumstances. Once again I am struck by how our society focuses so strongly on preserving life without dealing with the things that make life difficult. Some people who are very against abortion, seem to show no motivation to help the children and families. Older people who are terribly unhappy with nursing homes and other such “care” have to deal with “safety” being the only criteria of their lives that is being judged. The life in a nursing home is very little different than a life in a prison, with no freedom of choice about what you can do, with whom, where, when, or even such things as being with your spouse or practicing your religion. All that is taken into account is whether you are surviving. Who wants to survive under those conditions? Perhaps if criteria included more than safety and cost, we could age without depression. Poverty reduces options that privilege does not consider; it’s a “let them eat cake” mentality. And because we have this “one size fits all” response to talking about dying, suicidal speech is essentially criminalized, this prevents many who have suicidal thoughts from getting the help that might otherwise be available, simply because they fear being thrown into the mechanism of the legal medical system that doesn’t address any of the problems except the legal requirements that have been imposed upon them. I’m sure they’d love to help, but it’s made more difficult by the restrictions imposed with all good intentions, but because we are so caught up in what can be measured we ignore the very important things that cannot, and we need to start making a more wholistic approach toward life. For one thing, we need to accept that yes, we all die, and worry more about how, and why than when, and “if”. There is no “if”, there is only when and how. And certainly giving people more control over that would be a good thing.

Ah well, I need to “post” this and get to bed. As long as the sun is going to start coming up earlier, I should be getting up earlier as well (and I haven’t been).

* the musical Scrooge
** The coldest temperature ever recorded in the United States was at Prospect Creek Camp, Alaska, in 1971: -79.8 Degrees F

“As people grow older… they focus on being rather than doing and the present more than the future. …  Others argue that the behavior change is forced on the elderly and does not actually reflect what they want. … They narrow in focus because the constrictions of physical and cognitive decline prevents them from pursuing goals they once had or because the world simply stops them for no other reason than that they are old. Rather than fight it, they adapt- or, to put it more sadly, they give in.” Atul Gawande  in Being Mortal