Spring has arrived- well, the way it does in New England. The snow is shrinking, (the berms are really black with the sand they put on them), and the wind is blowing. When I opened my car door at the farmstand, the wind whipped it out of my hand. The driveway is not only clear of ice, but at least temporarily dry. The cats have started going back out again, rather than just sniffing at the door, then looking out when we open it, and slinking back disgusted. We are hoping that Peripegelium will lose some weight because she got really round this winter.
Yesterday was Saint Patrick’s Day, and Avi brought her kids over. We had our usual green corned beef- which looks a bit like watermelon- pink on the inside, but green on the outer half inch, vegetables various variations on green. I did make a separate pot without the food coloring, but they really didn’t each much anyway. I think it’s because I didn’t put the vegetables in early enough. I had the roast in at 10 am, but I have an aversion to mushy vegetables, and didn’t give them enough time. Avi’s family seems to have a tradition of making “leprechaun traps” from toothpicks and mini marshmallows, and by the time I got dinner on the table, I fear they were full of marshmallows. We finally tried the “marshmallow minion jousting”. They made peeps shaped like Minions from Despicable Me, and I wanted to try the peep-jousting with them, but have consistently forgotten them. Last night I remembered and we tried, but sadly, discovered that the light in the microwave had gone out. Now that I know, of course, I wonder how long it will take me to get it changed? It turns out that we are evenly split- Kat and I enjoy the green dinner once a year, and Jon and Willow would prefer it not colored. We will have to continue negotiations- or keep splitting it into two pots.
Willow and I went out today to pick up my van from Winkles. Robert did his best to keep it cheap, but it still cost a lot. Having dropped a thousand last November, and being told it’s on it’s last year, I wonder if I’m throwing good money after bad. I suppose I’ve had it for eight years, but I tend to think of cars as lasting more than a decade.
I’m also looking at fixing the washer again. After dropping me off, Willow took this week’s wash to the laundromat (frustrating when you’ve got a washer!). Worse, it was wet, which makes it heavy. Now that it’s warmer I can face going into the pantry to physically drain it, and see if it’s the pump or a clog or what. Having replaced the board in the gas range (although the thermostat STILL doesn’t work), I am feeling hopeful about being able to fix the washer myself. I hope so, having a car and an appliance repair all in one month is too much.
We had the phone guy in yesterday morning, although, thank goodness, we have the service plan so it “didn’t cost anything” (except the $72 a year). He says we should probably get our service upgraded, that it “won’t cost anything”, and the computers will run faster. We’ll see. Turns out the problem was that when we replaced the old radio phone system with a new set, I’d noticed that there was a jack for the 5317 line next to the one the main unit (with answering machine) uses, and had found an old handset while cleaning, so I plugged it in. I like to have a land line in case the power goes out. There was a hissing on the line, so I ordered a new simple phone, figuring it was either the wire or the old set, but it turns out, that what was going on was the jack wasn’t filtered, and the hissing was the information going by. Apparently we now have four kindles and two or three other devices on our wireless modem, and I guess that’s a lot. I hadn’t thought about it as it seems like “everyone” has a kindle these days (“everyone”, in this case, probably being defined as people we know who got them before we did).
Having finished Enemies at Home, and a Whispering of Spies, and craving more of the same, I thought I’d check out what else was available in the “Historical mysteries” section. Turns out that Amazon not only lets you search for types of books, but also lets you try a sample on the kindle before you buy. I found a novella The Crossroads Brotherhood, that I could get on kindle for 99 cents. It was a quick read, apparently a prequel to a series about Vespasian. I may try another, but that one seemed to be about an ancient Roman mob, and I do like to have a character I can admire for something more than cleverness and pragmatism. I’ve read the teasers for a couple others- the sleuth in one is a judge, father of small children, another has a young man just shy of getting his toga, another a woman who’s come into enough money to be independent. Fun, but I’m now in the mood for non-fiction again. I’ll be honest, I took A Whispering of Spies to bed around ten last Thursday, and thought I’d read a couple of chapters before turning in. When I turned off the light I noticed it was four A.M. As you might imagine, I slept late. Like Libertas, I am getting too old for this foolishness. It’s probably the reason I like the character so much. He’s older, he’s an artist (mosaics), he’s just scraping by, but helps whoever he can. His patron just doesn’t seem to get the idea that others can have financial problems, and that seems very relevant to 2015. There are very few “detectives” I’ve heard of that worry about their creaking joints. But I usually hold off on what I’ve read until the end of the letter, so I’ll get back to this later.
We needed the new phones because the ones we have wouldn’t hold a charge for the duration of a call. In any reasonable world, if the batteries were dying, you could replace the freaking batteries, and keep using the phones! But no, the religion of the modern world is Commerce, and you have to buy a whole new phone because they won’t sell replacement batteries. So phones that otherwise work are going into a landfill (as did the functional TV, goodwill won’t even take it because it’s the old style. Frankly, I’d rather pay to have it recycled than to not have it recycled, but how did we get to this point?) We keep talking about minimum wage, and standard of living. I’ll admit that a century ago when the average household had one wage earner and one housekeeper (plus dependents), they didn’t have phones, kindles, TVs, appliances, cars, and sometimes they didn’t have indoor plumbing. But they all had shelter, and food, and transportation to wherever they had to get. I know that we “have to have” phones and cars in order to get jobs these days; and the reason it takes two incomes to cover those costs is because the demands on purchasing power vs. what we do for ourselves has been tipped that way, but I believe we could renegotiate this contract so that we buy less and have a better quality of life, don’t use up so many resources, and we’d be more content.
Steve came up on Sunday. We had our usual relaxing time. Saturday was Pi Day, and I’d made an apple and a raspberry pie. Apparently Megan and Dennis had an entire party with a dozen kinds of pie. I’d have made quiche, but ran out of eggs. Since I didn’t have a car (Willow and Kat were off to a one day anime con at a high school, where they didn’t sell much, but did get to see their friends) I couldn’t run off and buy them. This reflects back on how the world used to be. Can you imagine someone going to a neighbor to borrow a cup of sugar? No, we’d do without, if we couldn’t go out and buy it. We didn’t have that sort of relationship with our neighbors. We didn’t have that sort of relationship with stores.
I made stuffed shells, carefully not making too many, and ended up with leftover cooked but unstuffed shells. Yesterday for lunch I chopped up some leftover broccoli, and mixed that, some onion, and cheese into some leftover mashed potatoes. These broccoli shells reminded me of perogis, and I liked them. It’s difficult to deal with leftover broccoli since overcooking any cabbage family can make them sulfurous. (on the other hand, all day I’ve been snacking on kelly green cabbage leftover from last night and it’s delicious!) I tried to make blinzes (Friday I think) but while the pancakes were fine, the filling was too runny. I will have to try again.
This week we’ve phased out snowflake dishes, and red plates we had for February, and are using the green glass ones. Sadly, there are only 5 and they have no lunch plates or bowls, still, the green is more springlike.
I’ve gotten tired of my fingernails being short and flaking, so I’ve pulled out my fingernail polishes again, hoping that they will provide some protection, although what I probably need is to learn to always wear gloves when I wash dishes. This week I put down a sparkly blue with extra sparkles (with stars and moons) on top, and a extra hard coat on top of that. So far so good- but I have had to patch some chips and they’re getting sort of thick. Fun though.
I learned you could downloaded your facebook archives. I’m not really sure what I’d want with the others, but there are some pictures on fb that I lost in the computer crash last year. So now I’ve got some pictures back. Yes, I may have hard copies of some of them, if I can find them, but I’m excited to have them again. Sadly, I now have to go through them all removing a LOT of duplicates, and pictures of Giraffes, in-jokes, macros, and other ephemeralia.
This week the on-line course’s unit is on incense and scents. Mostly incense, which I
don’t much care for. If you want something that smells good, I’d go for flowers, for food, for things that evoke pleasurable memories. My favorite scents are lumber, honey, leather, apples, these things smell like wealth, security, and comfort to me. I continue listening to more of the History of the World in 100 Objects. Fascinating.
Oh, another food experience to share: We have now tried “Spicy Sweet Chili” Doritos, and have declared them to be delicious. (It has become hard to find anything that Kat can eat without feeling like she’s going to yak. French fries are safe, but very little else.) The bag is purple (there are a LOT of varieties of Doritos these days), and the next time we picked up “Jacked Spicy Street Taco” flavor- ALSO in a purple bag with a lovely orange triangular dorito on it. It is NOT the same (too much cilantro), and not only do none of us like them, we haven’t found a guest to foist the rest of the bag off. After a couple of mistakes, Kat labeled the bag with a sticky that says “Kat, don’t eat this! If you are hungry, eat something else!”
The indigestion has become a real problem. Next time she goes to her psychiatrist if she doesn’t mention it I will. As I understand it, you are supposed to get treatment for psychological problems when they interfere with living normally, and that description fits the amount of problems the indigestion caused by the psychiatric drugs is causing. She’s already prescribed Prilosec, but that’s not working well enough that Kat isn’t constantly uncomfortable with problems eating, poor thing.
I think Kat’s mostly done with her commissioned Lolita. Last I saw she was putting together the bonnet. We don’t wear enough hats in the modern world. I like hats. She’s working more slowly than she’d like because she’s wiped out. When she got back from the miniCon she felt sick, and thinks she may have caught something. Possible, but I don’t think she got it there- that would be an unusually fast incubation. Poor Liz, has got the flu, and is miserable alone up there in her little house. Even if I feel like sleeping the whole time I wouldn’t want to be alone when I was sick. Today Willow bought home more oranges and orange juice. We have enough stored chicken soup I think. That may be why she got turned away from the blood drive on Thursday. I did too, but it was because I’d given in February and lost track when they called to invite me. I must say I’m not impressed with their tracking system. The last call I got says I’ve now done 8 gallons! (I thought I heard them say I was no longer going to be eligible, but then she asked me when I could come in, so I must have mis-heard her.)
Tonight’s New Normal Podcast was about magickal mishaps- “Oops” is not a Word of Power part two, with Starwolf. It’s fun to talk with someone who knows their stuff.
Our old Carolingian friend Kali died. It wasn’t unexpected, he’s had a brain tumor for a while. Still it sucks. Nothing like your friends dying to make you think “we’re not THAT old!” He was a Harvard guy, degrees in Literature and Languages that he could play with as a “viking” in the SCA. I remember a story about his family playing with some passer-by when they were at their summer place. His father (also a bigwig at Harvard) was using a scythe on their front yard, wearing a straw hat, jeans, and boots (as is only practical while cutting grass) when this tourist came by and assumed he was a hick, so he called to his son (probably affecting a mountain accent) “Caleb, get your ma!” There’s a joy in knowing who you are, that allows you to have fun with people who don’t have the ability to work it out. He died the same day as Terry Prachett, with whom he had a certain similar style. They will both be missed, although I expect more people knew Sir Terry at least at distance.
Now I’ll get back to what I’ve read and watched this week. Having whipped through Enemies at Home, I found out that they’d asked several popular authors to write stories specifically for people who have never read books- presumably because they find reading difficult or books intimidating or something like that, and one of those was by Linsey Davis, something from another period she writes about the English Civil War. It’s called A Cruel Fate. I love Lindsey Davis’ writing, and figured anything she’d written would be great. I expected a short, well written historical novelette with great characters, humor, and plot twists, and since I could get the ebook for 99¢ and read it immediately; so how could I lose? Well, it was short and cheap. Sadly, I think they may have editted it for her- to keep the words short and sentences simple, because even though it had fighting, torture, escape, love, true history (to paraphrase the Princess Bride) it failed to be gripping. Sad. Given that it was supposed to get non-readers to like books, I’d call it a dismal failure. I console myself that this summer the next book in the Flavia Alba series, Deadly Election, will come out, and I can go back and re-read the Ides of April, if I feel like it. (I checked it out on Kindle when I wasn’t locating my copy- it was $9.99, so I took Parthian Shot out of the library. I’d tried it a couple of years ago, and couldn’t get into it- the “detective” talked like what I expect a Raymond Chandler PI would talk like. This is of course, ridiculous, because I don’t think I’ve ever read one of his books, although I may have, given how many Mother had around the house. She’d occasionally recommend one or another book to me. This time I went with the flow and read it in three days. Then, as I mentioned above I got a couple other cheap kindle mysteries from ancient Rome.
I think, although I’m not sure, since I’m not going to get out of bed in the middle of the night and come down, turn on the computer and check, but I think that when you get the free first chapter, and then you can click and get the book at the end of the sample, I think there may be a deal. It probably depends on the book. I still am more willing to try a kindle book for a dollar or two than the ten bucks that some of them are charging. I expect e books are not unlike what paperbacks used to be- lightweight and disposable. I still like to mix up some fiction and non-fiction reading.
Similarly, this week I watched The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel which is just as good as everyone said it was. Beautiful performances, lovely stories interwoven together in an ensemble piece. If I had someone to go with, I’d go see the sequel in the theatre right now. The kids are not interested. Not surprising. I will admit that afterwards I felt a bit melancholy. I’d so identified with these older people being crushed by the options available to people after retirement and loss, disrespected and sidelined by their families, (not that I am, but I have seen how when you can no longer manage everything on your own, even loved ones try to make helping you fit into their lives as conveniently as possible). These people took chances and managed to create new lives for themselves, but they also had to totally give up all their old friends, locales, everything. That’s damn scary, and of course, there’s no guarantee (as in fiction) that you’ll succeed.
I also watched the Notebook , another movie about old people loving each other and taking risks. As with so many plots, the girl has to choose between two wonderful men she loves. The point of this story was that his love was important enough to the husband to sustain him through dealing with the pain of his wife not recognizing him most of the time due to senile dementia. During one of her “lucid” moments she asked “how long do I have?” and he said “last time about five minutes”, which they didn’t quite get, and when he seemed a stranger to her, she was afraid of him. I have a theory though (as if this were not fiction). At the point she chose Noah, there were two possible futures. When she’s “not there” mentally, her soul is off visiting the other time stream where she had a full and happy life with the other man she loved. This would be consistent with my metaphysical view of the universe. Still, choosing is hard, whether it rips your soul or not.
This week I also watched the less critically acclaimed X-men days of future past. It still had great performances, explored important themes, and also had some cool special effects, and action. I loved the idea that people were willing to give up the world they knew in hopes of a better one for other people. I also liked that they knew that their younger selves were unlikely to accept the wisdom that they’d learned over the past 40 years of living, even when given the information. I wonder how many of us can look back on our earlier selves and not think that we were a bit of a jerk, or at least not as cool as we are now.
I also watched a totally “B movie” adventure called the Knights of Badassdom, it’s the story of some live action role players, played by Peter Dinkage & Ryan Kwanten, who accidentally (as happens in these movies) magickally raise a demon at one of their LARP weekends, and have to deal with it (luckily they had brought some actual steel and pyrotechnics). As may have been inevitable, the role players are portrayed pretty ridiculously, (but then, they don’t treat the paint-ballers any better). I’m not sure that any hobby is ever treated respectfully- except in sports films, an accepted team sport is OK, even if the participants are seen as too highly goal oriented. I think everything other people do has to be a bit “out there” because we don’t get what it is they find so appealing about it. Looking at the highly varied costumes and armor, I couldn’t help think that that’s what the SCA looks like to most of the world. As an SCAer, I can think “we do it better”, but at the same time, they also had some really cool outfits along with the dopey ones, and I bet there are a lot of SCA people in wheel chairs who’d love to have one tricked out like the king’s war chariot. This movie is to LARPing as Gamers: the Dorkness Rising is to table-top gaming, or Knightriders is to the SCA, or Noises Off is to theater geeks. We know that Romero took the inspiration from watching an SCA Crown Tournament, and wrote a good story, changing what he’d seen of the SCA enough to make the movie salable (ie: motorcycles), but it still spoke to us. I have no idea if the Hollywood version of LARPing this shows will appeal to role players the way Knightriders did to us, but I thought it was a lot of fun, and it really did remind me of a lot of SCA houses I’ve seen. Modern, but with medieval decorations. The event scenes also reminded me a lot of the SCA- except for the overtly fantasy elements which are discouraged in the SCA. The personal interactions also reminded me of the way we have to hop back and forth between modern and medieval, although the SCA has pretty much given up on speaking “forsoothly” (not only is it hard for most people, it’s not really correct for most personae). My favorite part was Peter Dinkage, kicking ass, he was so cool that I could think about watching Game of Thrones again. The other guy Kwanten, who I recognized as the one who played Jason in True Blood, was wonderful as the heartbroken noobe. I actually wonder if that’s what LARPing is like, having never actually been to one. If you like gaming or medieval role playing and humor, I can recommend this movie.
I hate to admit it, but that’s all the “excitement” for this week. As the light returns, and with it (I am hoping) our energy, there should be something more interesting to talk about.
“Everything will be all right in the end… if it’s not all right then it’s not yet the end.” Sonny in the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel