1/05/2012 Be on Purpose Month

    Winter cold has arrived for sure the last couple of days. Last night when I went to bed it was about 10 degrees out- and about 45 degrees up in my room. (I LOVE my feather beds.) The wood stove is going, and I’ve got a pot of Chili on- in a bit I’ll make some corn bread. VERY disappointed- I decided to make soup with the stock from the turkey, but it had gone over. Once it started warming it smelled off, so I had to toss it- along with all the vegetables I’d put in, and that included the last of the celery. Phooey.

     The cats continue to drive us crazy. One thing I discovered when I took my bath is that I am COVERED with small scratches from Freya and Zoloft trying to shoulder sit. Scratches on my chest, my belly, my arms and hands… And Kat is covered with nasty scratches too. My legs are better off because of the layers of skirts and petticoats I wear, but sometimes they get through those too. I’m annoyed. 

     I assume they are trying to get our attention because they are also ignoring the litter boxes and leaving us “deposits” under the kitchen table, in the pantry, and all sorts of places that aren’t the littler box. But they are right out in the open, which leads me to believe they want us to know that they are expressing their independence. They are knocking things down. Smoky knocked a kerosene lamp over in the living room- thank goodness it didn’t break and only spilled a little. Zoloft broke me “Toe of Frog” bottle; the “Wool of Bat” jar went last month. I don’t think it’s accidental. The cats know the rules- stay off the tables and counters. Freya spends most of her time balanced on chair arms and backs. Also in support I offer the tale of Megan and Dennis’ cat carefully pushed a heavy bust four feet along a tall shelf to get it over their glass coffee table, and then pushing it down onto the table. These beasts know what they are doing. “Why” is the mystery. 

     That reminds me of a story Willow shared with me this week- there was a study that showed that rats will help another rat in trouble, even when it does them no good, and of the helmet conch that were photographed helping another one who’d tipped over get right-side-up again. Some animals: cats, dogs, horses, are capable of amazing problem solving. Others are dumb as rocks. (Like people.) Why do we tend to think that every individual in a group should be like the other parts of the group? I guess it would make our lives easier if it were true, but the reality of variation smacks us in the face, and it’s easier for me not to be hit with that. 

     That may reflect what’s going on in politics, people are so beaten down by the various stresses of the world that they can’t deal with trying to differentiate between candidates, and simply latch on to one trait they can wrap their minds around and cling to it. I can feel sorry for them, but at the same time, in this country it’s the duty of the people to do their part of running the country. That’s what our ancestors wanted. If we don’t use it, we could easily end up with another system in which we don’t “have to” make these decisions. True, no matter which system of government there will be some rules we don’t like, but at least in this case we have a say. 

     I must say that it’s a relief to have the year end barrage of requests for donations, especially as I don’t have the money to support the causes I’d like to support. One morning when I went through my email it only took me about a half hour because there was NO real mail, only requests for support. Delete, delete, delete, delete… not that I don’t prefer getting real email from friends, but it takes much less time when there’s no demands to think.

     For New Years Eve, after I’d finished re-writing last week’s letter, Jon and I went out  on the errands, and we stocked up on staples: pasta and canned soup and spaghetti sauce, and we also got lots of stuff to make hors d’oeuvres, (like the sheets of the Pillsbury crescent roll dough that aren’t perforated, so they make bacon puffs or wrap around cocktail wieners better), and that was our big year-end celebration. 

     Kat put it this way on her Facebook:

“So over at the House of Noms we’re serving: Swedish Meatballs, buffalo wings, loaded potatoes, bacon puffs, wrapped weenies, spinach puffs, sliced apples, shrimp, mead, chips, crudites, and mini tiramisus. Also I’ve had a Sonic Screwdiver and a spiked mocha, and I’m about to have a Mike’s.” 

     The swedish meatball recipe I found was described as being enough for “four vikings or 8-10 normal people”. We had the “left overs” for dinner later. I cut it down and see if that’s more workable: 

(Halved) Swedish Meatballs Recipe

Meatballs:

 Sauté

  • 1 onion, grated (through a cheese grater- I want to try using a blender)
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  •  Soak bread in milk for 15-20 minutes
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 2 lg. slices of bread, crusts removed (I chopped those to make croutons)
  • Mix together the onions, the soaked bread and 
  • 1 eggs
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoons black pepper
  • Form the meatballs by tablespoon, 40 to 50 meatballs.

Sauce:

      Brown the meatballs on medium in

  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • They don’t need to be cooked, just browned on the outside. Be gentle, they are soft meatballs, remove them from the pan, setting them aside so they don’t crowd in the pan. When done,
  • Whisk in
  • 1/3 cup flour into the leftover butter, if there isn’t, replace it. Cook, stirring often.
  • Thin the roux with 
  • 1 pint (heated) beef stock  slowly added while you keep stirring. 
  • Add meatballs, turn the heat down. Cover, cook on low heat for 10 minutes.
  • Add
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup sour cream mix well.
  • Serve the gravy on the side. and
  • 1 to 2 Tbsp of Lingonberry, cranberry, red currant or raspberry jelly, more or less to taste (optional- we had the lingonberry, whisked into the gravy or you can also serve it on the side)

·       Yield: Serves 2 vikings, or 4-5 regular people.

     It was really delicious, although I might add a bit more sour cream, and between the meatballs and the baked potatoes, and the crudites, that came close enough to being a “real” meal, only the presentation was different. Basically, we made the various favorite things and nibbled a bite here and a bite there for 6 hours straight. If the next year takes its pattern from the point of changeover, we will be well fed all next year. We actually didn’t load the potatoes, but simply put out the baked potatoes with the sour cream, bacon, cheese, scallions etc. nearby for adding as you chose. Those leftovers made another later meal as well. We had a great discussion about “Spinach Puffs”- what Willow made was much like spanikopita- she blended feta, egg and cooked frozen spinach, and baked it in filo dough pastry shells. (yummy!), but I would like to try other variations. When I was a kid, our mothers made a sort of spinach souffle, and that was spooned into individual portions. Another variation is spinach added to the batter one would use to make cream puffs- savory of course. I suppose anything with spinach that “puffs” accepts the name (and anything that has egg in it puffs). 

     It was while I was shopping (in pre-holiday crowds, ouch) that I saw trays of sliced red and green apples as a party snack, so I grabbed the idea (and some green apples) and we put some of those out. They had put some sort of dip in the middle- we put out a bit of nutella and peanut butter, but I’m not sure anyone ate any. We did eat most of the crudites (carrots, celery, broccoli, and peppers). I thought we’d taken a picture of the spread, but can’t find it. Steve (Raskind) came up to see the New Year in with us. We stayed up until not much after midnight and then he headed home. While we did have some mead and mixed drinks (Willow made me something like an Egg Creme with some liquor in it), we stopped about 10. As we don’t have an antenna, we streamed the image from Times Square (why in the world would you want to program your next year to be one where you have cold feet and are in a crowd of drunken strangers?) and so we got to note when 2012 arrived. Then Steve headed home -quick before the drunks got onto the road. The next day we did see lots of signs of accidents on the highway, so I guess people DO drink and drive.

     One of the best things of the night was discovering a wonderful song for New Years: “Let the good guys win” *(lyrics below), sung by Murray McLauchian, Tom Cochraine and Paul Hyde, and released in 1989. It was posted by Charles de Lint (a favorite author). He writes about artists and musicians a lot- and perhaps these guys are some of his models.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZWRFY71jnWI

I loved it, but Willow and Kat called it “Smurfy”. I think smurfy has to be more than optimistic, it has to be annoying and pointless too. (I also found another song that I shared on my Facebook: “Put some gears on it and call it steam-punk”, but if you don’t know Steampunk, it wouldn’t be as interesting to you. On the other hand, this song would be a good introduction to the concept. Mostly Steampunk is a style of role-playing base on the idea of alternative cultural development combining the grace and style of the Victorian Era with more advanced technology, and sometimes magick. As with any concept when it gets popular, as it spreads and changes. We gripe a lot about the people who seem to think steampunk is walking around in bloomers and corset and a funny hat (“with gears on it”). Some do it well, though. At Darkover there was a lady who was wearing a beautiful light blue Victorian style gown- with the PanAm logo- she was an “air ship stewardess”. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TFCuE5rHbPA&feature=g-all-esi&context=G214f9f8FAAAAAAAAAAA 

     On New Years Day, for several years now Dan has had a Waffle Party to which friends come from all over the country (at least one was from California). He now has six (or more?) waffle irons. I gave him one this year called a “Smart Planet WM-3 Circus Waffle Shape maker”.  I stopped reading at “planet” I guess, and the clown looks something like south America, so I thought it made waffles shaped like continents (the waffle iron is round, and the picture was small). I was wrong, the waffles are circus themed: an elephant, a lion, and a clown. It is important to eat the head first, especially of the clown. 

     It’s nice to see the variety of Dan’s friends, and see him happy. He presided over his many waffle makers- this year he had a bunch of different flours and was experimenting with vegan and gluten-free waffles. The teff (w/almond) was really delicious- although teff flour is rather expensive (about $6/lb.) I’m probably going to get some. It’s the grain used to make injera, the signature Ethiopian bread. He also made some pumpkin waffles with corn. Gluten free requires some sort of binder like xanthum gum or eggs (not helpful for vegan waffles). I was amused to note that Dan, like his mother, measures by “enough to make it the right texture”. 

     On the way home we picked up some Burritos. It’s traditional in many cultures to eat beans on New Years Day for good luck in the coming year. Mother always served Black Eyed Peas which was her cultural background. Personally I always found black-eyed peas to be the most vile of the entire Fabaceae family. Maybe it’s because they were canned, but they seemed both slimy and tasteless. Oddly, in later years she got good at cooking and knowing the many types of beans. I continued the tradition but tried to find something more palatable; I like Moors and Christians (spicy black beans and rice) or Hopping John (beans with onions and bacon). But the kids have never warmed to beans, Kat still quietly pushes her beans aside when I serve chili, but Willow will occasionally make herself baked beans. Perhaps they’ve simply warmed to the tradition of objecting to them. At any rate a burrito contains beans, and we all like burritos, so that’s a good compromise for good luck on New Years. 

     We also tried a new one- you put money under your doormat on New Years Eve, then the first one through the door on the first brings it in, to establish the pattern of money coming into the house all year. (Willow added putting it into a plastic bag so it wouldn’t get too dirty.)

     Apropos of nothing, I changed over my journal on the first. This is normal for pre-divided journals, but I use a large sketchbook, which allows me to add illustrations if I like (although I don’t very often). But since I may write anything from a paragraph to several pages, depending upon how much has gone on, and how loquacious I’m feeling (or how tired I am). But as I was closing in on the last page, I noticed that it was the end of the year, so I was more terse last week, and, for the first time I think, I’ve started the new year with a new journal. So far the only illustration is a small sketch of Dan in the very weird black beret he was wearing on New Years. We think that if only he had a walrus mustache, he’d look like Jamie on Mythbusters. Of course, it’s Adam who wears the glasses, while Jamie has the beret and big mustache- he’s kind of like a blended Mythbuster. 

     Kat made her usual year end video (I mentioned that last week), and she also collected the various things we’ve said and put together a Year in Sound Bites. You can find it on her facebook. Some of my favorites are:

     “New Hampshire and snow come together… like a good friend with an annoying S.O.”

     “And I’m sitting here in the backseat keeping my mouth shut and slowly dying of irony poisoning.”  

     And one funnier when you remember it’s coming from a girl: “I can count my sexual partners on my testicles.” –Kat

     A friend, Steve (Silverwing) posted a request on his facebook that his friends in the SCA post what their SCA names are. I know it’s a problem for me- when I only ever knew their SCA name, and they “friend” me on facebook, and I have no idea who they are (but can tell by the 30+ mutual friends that they must be in the SCA). So I did it too, and got 32 responses. What really surprised me was how many people I knew from other venues who had once been in the SCA, so they still had an SCA name, but I that’s not how I’d first met them, and so I had no idea that they were SCA. I guess El was right- there is only one world, and we all circulate within it- from SCA to Fandom to pagan activities… Except when we are part of other groups. What struck me was that as I read these accumulating responses my face went into a grin and stayed there, getting bigger and bigger until my face started to hurt, but it was still good. It occurs to me that I know too many Stevens, Charleses, Toms, Bobs, etc.; maybe I should put in last names when I use the common ones. Is there any wonder that I prefer SCA names? It’s much easier to track Steffan, Osgkar, Ragnar, and other names with less frequency of occurrence. 

     The cold snap has left me feeling foggy- I sit here at the computer and catch myself nodding off, although I’ve gotten a full night’s sleep, and the light is returning. I expect to notice it soon- except that I’ve now put up a curtain rod over my window so that I can allow in the sun during the day to maximize solar gain, but keep out the chill after dark. It IS chilly. The keeping room thermometer is reading 32º recently. I’ve been trying to figure out our upcoming schedule- figuring out how to make money. We’ve decided we want to hit more SCA events this year. I’m contacting organizers about selling and speaking at their events- when they don’t get back to me it makes me feel guilty about not getting back to my speakers and vendors more promptly. 

     Paul has been wanting to hear how I love the new tub, but I was a bit hesitant to get out of a hot tub into chilly air, but when I did try it, it was great. When we were kids we had great tubs- I think they were “sunken”- not a lot, but probably three inches below the level of the floor. They took two water heaters full of water to fill. You’d put it on hot only, wait until it got cold, turn it off 10 minutes, then finish filling it. They must have been at least five feet six inches long, and one and half or two feet deep before it hit the drain (I’d put a washcloth over it to get it a bit higher). You could really submerge in the hot water and soak until you got really pruney. This isn’t quite that big, it’s only 6 feet in the external measurement, but it’s much bigger than most of the ones I’ve seen in hotel rooms, and the old one he took out. I could mostly get covered. (Paul installed the drain upside down to get me an extra inch.) Another advantage we have is our “on demand” water heater.    Oh my goodness I was MELTED! It was wonderful! There’s something amazing about being so warmed through that walking to the bed in the cold air doesn’t feel chilly. I guess that’s why people coming out of saunas can roll in the snow.

(the picture of the new sink is on my flickr, I can’t remember how to link it)

     This week Paul came up and brought us a beautiful copper sink set into a beautiful counter made from a huge slab of wood he sanded down and sealed; it is freaking gorgeous! I’m not sure how much of the verdigris I’m going to be able to take off the sink, but the green sets off the golden wood well. All day yesterday I spent investigating how to make the tiles to finish off the room. We’d long talked about redecorating the bathroom in the style of the Queen’s Megaron at Knossos. I love the dolphin panel, and I’m thinking of making a set of tiles as the splash guard around the tub, that use the pattern from Knossos. 

     I tend to think that bathrooms should be tiled in ceramic. (As my mother said- “Raised on Skunk, you hanker for skunk.” I also think tableware should be silverware and like my forks and spoons to have some heft to them. As my mother said- “Raised on Skunk, you hanker for skunk.”) The problem, of course, is that ceramic tiles appear to cost about $10 per square foot. Admittedly, we only need about 50 square feet for the bathroom floor. But other than their waterproof qualities, tiles are incredibly sturdy. At some point previous occupants put some wretched pinkish tiles on half the floor of the bathroom (and tub, sink and toilet were sage green, the wallpaper sprigged flowers in pink and sage). I’ve tried to take them up. They are stuck GOOD! (or bad, if you are trying to take them up) Paul is going to bring up his power tile lifter and we will finally get them out of there, yay! 

     So while I’m thrilled to get what I don’t like out and replace it, I’m aware that if I put tile in that I like and whoever eventually buys this house doesn’t, that could be a problem. So I shouldn’t make it both permanent and “individual”. This probably accounts for the ubiquitous nature of white as a choice in bathrooms. I’m thinking cobalt blue, but heavens knows that all the kitchens in America were in arsenic green during the depression, and in the 70s they were all goldenrod, avocado and burnt orange. I think recently black and polished steel are the fashion, but let’s face it, not everyone likes the same colors, and it can be annoying to get stuck with the taste of whoever was there before you. So while painting the dolphins on the wall is OK, those who come after can easily paint or paper over them, but the tile should be able to be worked into other people’s tastes. 

     Meanwhile, it’s MY bathroom, and since I’m an artist with my own kiln, I can have what I want! And theoretically, it should not be very expensive to make. After all, a 25 lb. plug of clay is $12-15, and I expect that would make about an hundred tiles.  On the other hand, I should also take into account the energy to fire the kiln, and the glaze, and cones, and I measured it, and a strip around the bathroom (plus up and down by the tub and sink) would be about 60 feet, so that’s 90 8×8 tiles, or 180 if I opt for 4x4s. For that kind of repetition I would want to get racks to hold the tiles while I fired the glaze, and so far that looks like another $50. Kerensa is sharing his experience with me, and makes it sound easy. Julia who makes a living with her pottery says tiles are tricky and she avoids them. I expect it’s one of those things where one person takes to it and another can’t do it to save his life- but you won’t know which you are until you try. (And do I want to collect the tools if I’m going to turn out to be a “can’t?”.) Still, getting what you want is a good thing, and it may well be that even with the tools it’s still cheaper. On the other hand, I’m remembering my experience with making clothing. The THEORY is that you can make whatever you want, but you are still at the mercy of what fabrics are available, and your own skill. I’m sure the same can be said for making tiles. This requires thought. Besides, Paul might just turn up with an incredible tile that he got on a major sale 10 years ago.

     Paul brought us the tub because more than a year ago John gave him a backrub (as he likes to do) and made his back stop hurting- for more than a year. So he wanted to do something nice for us, and offered us the tub- including putting it in. 

     The tub has grab bars (which were really nice when I was getting in and out- that look like glass and he asked if I’d like some matching towel racks. I told him I’m trying to keep the rustic look of the farmhouse we ornamenting. So he turns up with a brass towel rack. Fancy! But more fancy still- it plugs in- and pre-warms your towels for you! I think he noticed the ceramic heater I’d brought in when I took my bath last week. Talk about fancy! When he puts that in, he’s also going to put in a light positioned for reading in the tub. Heh, heh, heh.

     He’s also offered us a new front door, and to help with other fixes we need around the house. It’s been ten years since we lost Ælfwine, and the house sure needs it, but I don’t want to take advantage. Well, I do want to take advantage of his generosity, but I don’t want to exploit it, if you get the difference. He is a really nice guy- also he’s useful, which is one of the best things a person can be in my less than humble opinion. He does plumbing and electric work and other stuff. I also think he may be able to help redistribute some of the stuff in Ælfwine’s shop before it rusts or crumbles into scale.  I hate the idea of things going to waste, and that’s what happens when something isn’t being used. Maybe he can find someone who wants the pieces of the walk-in freezer we hadn’t installed when Ælfwine got sick. The idea of making the world a better place makes total sense to me, and if I love the old copper sink (which goes so well with our old house) while other people want the new fangled stuff, we’ll all be happy. 

     So now we have the lovely counter and copper sink, and once I repaint and put in a good tile floor and back-splash, we are going to have a really classy bathroom.

     Meanwhile, back at the farm, Rosemary, our lovely milk-goat is ill. We aren’t sure what’s wrong, so we wait, and watch and hope she recovers. She’s been a great goat- but I am not quite sure how old she was when Darcy gave her to us, so she may simply be old. I should go look up in my journal when we got her. Wish I were still keeping the “livestock records” I started when we first started raising animals.

     On the computer, I’ve been trying to find sites with information on tile making, trying to analyze how much it would cost to get the tools to make the tiles efficiently, and getting reference pictures for my inspiration. (Suppose I’ve got the dolphins on the main wall above the tub, admittedly most of the walls have shelves and mirrors and such on them, but maybe one of those lovely minoan octopus? If I put a nice wall painting up, I’ll be hesitant to put shelves over it- and we can always use more shelf space.) I’ve also been looking for reference shots for Jane’s book cover. As much as I love the internet, it is contaminated with the general misinformation that abounds. Most people don’t differentiate between different historical periods and regions, so looking for images of 16th century Scandinavian farmhouse will  get me anything from the 16th century, anything farmhouse (mostly 19th century), and frankly, anything from any century since the computer is only looking for the word century, and it doesn’t get Scandinavia either. Oh well.

     I should admit that the problem is greatly compounded by my intrinsic curiosity for all the things I do see, and want to know more about. Sigh.

     Calls from my sisters have let me know that my niece Jill had a minor operation, the most interesting thing being that I get the impression that she didn’t want to even tell her mother. Liz, on the other hand, has a lifetime of experiences and knows about rare but serious complications, and while fairly confident did want to be nearby just in case. On the other hand, last time Dad fell and she wasn’t there to help was a time when she was out, so 

when you are dealing with “what if?” scenarios, there is no winning. Something can always go wrong, we must be thrilled that it so rarely does (and just enjoy the humor when it does, if possible). 

     What I’ve been reading and watching this week has mostly been Dr. Who, which I stream when I’m doing brainless stuff on the computer. Just before Christmas, Kat set me up with the Christmas Invasion, the first episode with David Tennant, but seeing characters interacting with a newly regenerated Dr. Who made me want to see the change, and rather than just watch that episode, I went back to the beginning of the season where Christopher Ekkelson, the 9th Doctor is introduced. Apparently there had been a long interval, from 1996-2005. I have seen the movie where we see the 8th Doctor (played by Paul McGann), is regenerated from the 7th Doctor, which was a pretty cool plot device. That movie was the only depiction of the 8th doctor, which makes it seem that maybe it (almost) killed the series, although I have no idea why it would have. 

     My idea of Dr. Who was Tom Baker- the one who was on when we watched back in the eighties. I sent Public TV money because when we discovered it, Ælfwine actually made an effort to get home by 7 so he could watch it, and that was unusual. At some point I will have to do as Kat has done and go back and catch as much of the earlier doctors as is available, but meanwhile, I’m just at the beginning of the tenth doctor. And I have to admit he’s pretty cute, and they do admirably convey much of the same quirkiness, while exploring the questions he asked himself in The Christmas Invasion, “Who am I? Am I rude?” (“Rude and not Ginger?”) “What kind of man am I?” 

     The answers he came up with were “Lucky” and “No second chances”. I’ll be watching to see if they carry through on those during the rest of the 10th Doctor series. 

     I also have been looking at Dr. Who (and Star Trek, and other shows with great influence) while listening to the first lessons in the course Myth in Human History. Myth is the way that a culture explains itself to itself. In The Parting of the Ways episode Dr. Who has to make the decision whether to kill all the Daleks in order to stop them from attacking other humans on other planets later (which is actually logical), but when challenged, “What are you? Coward or Killer?” chooses “Coward. Any day!” basically refused to do so because he didn’t want to be a killer like his enemies. THAT is the myth we are telling ourselves, that your choices are what make your destiny. I think we hear that in Harry Potter (another modern mythology). 

     On the other hand, then Rose accidentally gets godlike power, she says “Everything dies.” and gently scatters their atoms across the universe, and that does not seem to imply that she is a killer, she is simply saying that she sees “the whole of time and space”, and that “Everything must come to dust. All things. Everything dies.” So on a cosmic level, death is OK, but choosing to be a killer isn’t OK. I remember seeing that in a Vampirella comic once- “You may deserve death, but I don’t have the right to kill you.” This is a very common modern myth then, but I don’t remember seeing it in earlier myth cycles.  

     I was also thinking about another modern mythology- creationism. It’s how we explain ourselves to ourselves. We are the product of repeated random chances where one trait is more successful than another, that kind of makes us “the best there is”. It reinforces a linear sense of time, and puts us at the current pinnacle of progress, and get contains within it the assumption that we will be replaced- or looked at another way, that we’ll keep improving (as long as we can continue identifying with whichever is on top at the time of writing).  It’s a fun game to play- what stories do we tell ourselves about ourselves? 

      Another way of exploring that is looking at people taking themselves out of the modern world- role playing. As we do in the SCA, or in another TV show Kat got, and I’m watching too. It’s called Regency House-party, and it’s a cross between those reality TV dating shows- (throw ten young men and women looking for mates together and watch them check each other out), with the reality “can you make it in a different period” like Frontier House or Manor House (where people show how much of the modern world they take for granted.) Oh, sure, the guys love the drinking and gambling and permission to be sexist, and the women hate the restrictions, but enjoy the clothing, but there’s nothing like watching modern people walking around in Regency clothing to make it clear that they don’t get the period. Admittedly when someone does a movie from a Jane Austen novel they have to dress it up to make it more palatable to their audience, but Austen’s genius was that she so beautifully portrayed her characters that even within the restrictions of the period, they are such real people we can still relate to them. The young girls are silly, the older ones insecure, or pompous, the ones we like are capable of learning and recognizing their faults. If you look at the 1940 Pride and Prejudice with Maureen O’Sullivan and Greer Garson and compare it to the 2005 one with Keira Knightly, or the 1995 one with Colin Firth, the story and characters are still almost the same. (I will always love Judith Denches’ Lady Catherine de Bourgh over any other.) Anyway, watching these young people mince around and be far more intent on checking out the potential marital prospects than playing the game makes me feel more sympathy for the people who are playing the hosts and chaperones- who were picked to try to keep them in period, and you can see that these are people who really love the period and are very frustrated when the young people aren’t. 

     Another show I’ve found is The Borgias, which is not too bad, (how bad can it be with Jeremy Irons as the pope?) The girls ask me if it’s bad history, but frankly, I don’t know enough about the period to tell. They’d have to be pretty blatant for me to catch it. I am watching them fairly closely- I tried the first disc of The Tudors, and all that was was costumed screwing. This has even less than they had in Rome. Like Rome, the characters and story make it worth fast forwarding past the gratuitous sex. Actually so far the sex hasn’t been totally gratuitous- it has carried plot points, although I am willing to assert that it did not need to be on screen to make them.  But the acting was good. So far my only complaint is killing off Derek Jacobi’s character too soon. 

     I finished reading Thomas the Rhymer by Ellen Kushner (I was curious, having met her at Darkover and quite liking her wit in person), and am now reading the Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year (although I can’t figure out what year- I think 2005) which had one of her stories in it. Given how I like series, I am not terribly surprised that I don’t seem to like short stories as much as novels. I like to get to know the characters and watch them develop. This morning I read one story that was charming, and fun to read- but it didn’t go anywhere. It was like a well told joke that took 10 minutes. It seemed somewhat pointless to me, although I enjoyed it while I read it.

     I spent the Christmas money Dad gave me on the course Myth in Human History, as I said before, and a DVD one on Pompeii- because we’re going to be going down to the Science Museum and see the Pompeii exhibit- this weekend I hope. I also took some books out of the library. I always find a museum exhibit is more interesting when you understand what you’re looking at.

     In more frivolous watching, the movie Priest, was a slightly different take on vampires. It had them as the usual “other race” and as usual, they cast the church who’d originally trained a set of fighters to take out the vampires as being more interested in protecting their own power base than continuing to protect people. 

     [I’m actually getting a little tired of seeing the Church and religion being dissed at every opportunity. Religion is a valid way of explaining the world, and includes things that some aspects of science refuse to take into account. I think most religions have a core that helps people a lot. Yes, almost any large organization must protect itself, so no matter how good it started out to be, it provides motivation and opportunity for individuals to use it as a justification for their own misbehavior. But while it’s appropriate to be cautious about the possibilities for abuse, it’s daft to assume ubiquitous abuse.]

      The new take in Priest was that as “the eyes are the windows to the soul” and vampires have no souls, they are eyeless. I’ve noticed that often lately there’s a split between the “vampires are just like us, only addicted to blood” (sparkly) side and the “vampires are scary monsters” side. Part of this may because modern special effects allow them to show some really great scary vampires, but there also has to be a cultural reason for it being an acceptable option. I have to wonder why. I heard once that someone did a study figuring out that there were more zombie stories when Democrats controlled Congress and more vampire stories when Republicans did. Or the other way around. I don’t remember, and don’t care much. I think it’s bollocks, and only wish that I knew how to get a grant for such daft theories myself. (I put an essay on my thoughts on Zombies on my website. I don’t think I should bother to repeat that here. I’m still not sure about “blogging”. It seems to me a bit self aggrandizing to self publish one’s essays on the theory that other people who don’t know you will want to read them. This letter is different, it’s a written form of normal sharing of what I’m up to, recipes, reactions to what I’ve read, random opinions and the like- what I’d talk about if we were face to face. I’m still not quite sure who the audience for the website is yet. On the other hand, Willow and Kat have started taking pictures of her silks to post images on etsy or eBay or some place like that, and that’s good.)

     But back to politics, the election season has well and truly begun. Up to now I’ve been ignoring it, although ads have been on for months, as I really think it so much of this is a waste of money. One shouldn’t advertise candidates, we should educate ourselves about them. Tuesday is the New Hampshire Primary (THAT snuck up on me!). 

     I am more worried than I can say about the Republican candidates. are there that many crazies out there? I’m for fiscal responsibility, and gun rights, and many of the things they are promoting, but this religious intolerance, and anti-gay backlash is vile. I have great sympathies for people who believe that the soul enters the body at conception and therefore believe that abortion is murder. It would be very disturbing to live in a culture where the views were so different than yours. I have to guess that homophobes aren’t just too stupid to be able to recognize all the evidence that’s accumulated that the urge to love people of the same sex is just a natural result of over-population. To not differentiate between pedophilia and homosexuality seems to be just mental laziness to me, but at the same time, I have to remind myself that “unable” isn’t necessarily “lazy”. Some people can’t remember as much as others, some can’t understand as complex concepts as others, some have mental skills in different areas. I feel that I shouldn’t be judgmental of people who are “differently abled”, or who’ve never had the opportunity to learn what I have. At the same time, I certainly don’t see any reason to try to let the stupid or ignorant people decide how everything is to be done. 

     Our government is there to try to protect the rights of the people, not their protect their ignorance. They have a right to believe as they will, they don’t have a right to try to make other people live according to their beliefs. We are trying to balance the greater good for the many with individual good. Yes, an individual should have the opportunity to benefit from his own efforts, and share the benefits (he or she) creates with those he chooses, but that doesn’t mean that he should be allowed to do whatever he likes if it harms other people- and it’s his responsibility to keep track of what the more distant results of his actions. Yes, you can harvest the trees on your land- but you aren’t going to be there for more than fifty or so years- you must make sure that the land you’ve harvested remains healthy for those who come after. You have the right to take medicine, but I believe you have the responsibility to be aware of what happens to the the parts of the medicine that your body doesn’t use. I see no reason people shouldn’t be required to collect their personal waste and return it for medical processing, not to expect some nebulous “somebody” to get it out of the water supply so they can just go to the toilet without thinking about what they’re putting into it. Similarly people who choose to put pesticides or herbicides on their lawns (or golf courses) should have to take responsibility for those poisons entering the ground water- just as much as oil companies are required to clean up (and preferably prevent) oil spills, and for the same reason. 

     As the Ghost said to Scrooge when he claimed he didn’t know, “you COULD have known”. Ignorance is not excuse unless someone has been suppressing the information. We must all make our best efforts to get past the rhetoric, the fear mongering, the advertising, and the hype and vote for the person who will benefit the country the most. I am terribly disturbed by the many calls that I get asking which issue is most important to me. It’s really a good question, but I wish I believed that they want to know what I care about, because they are just using newspeak that doesn’t mean what it sounds like it means. Yes, I care deeply about security and family values and fiscal responsibility. But when what they really mean is giving the CIA more power, or stomping on the rights of gays, or cut back funding on programs they don’t like. And mostly, I wish I didn’t think that they use the results of these polls to adjust what they say to maximize the votes they get. I accept that once in office a person can’t do everything he wanted to do, but at the same time no one should use misdirection to get into office so he can then do what he wants- or worse, what the people who paid to get him there want. Sigh.

     Money and politics have always been closely linked. Money and power. I don’t think we can change that. But we can address any serious problems we spot. The US is a marvelous experiment. I wouldn’t give up on it yet, but it doesn’t matter of only 3 percent of America is GBLT, and a much larger percentage of the population doesn’t like that they exist. They have more right to have lives, jobs, vote, etc. than the people who fear them have to discriminate against them. Their sexual orientation really has nothing to do with anything but themselves and their partners. Or we could say many of the same things about religious minorities- like me. My father always used to say that “your right to swing your arm stops short of my nose”. They can rant all they want about how ridiculous a flying spaghetti monster is, but they have no right to tell me that I can’t worship it if I do. Atheists may think that all religion is stupid, but when they tried (in Russia and China) to legislate against it, not only did it not stop the worship, it convinced the people to resist the government that tried to keep them from do it. A person’s thoughts and beliefs are his own. Legislation should only have to do with actions. 

     Ah well. I guess I’ll be voting in the Republican primary on Tuesday. 

     Do they really not realize that all this nasty name-calling during the primaries is going to hurt the Republican cause in November? 

     Sigh….

     Dana (Stewart) tells me that some of my problems with the computer may have come because I’d been “sleeping” my computer rather than shutting it down at night. I’ve heard “computer experts” argue both for leaving it on, and for shutting it down regularly- I expect that there are advantages and disadvantages for both. So this week I’ve been shutting it down. On the other hand, when I saved it, it didn’t save the subject line or who I was sending it; I think this comes with some recent “upgrade”- all the ones before early December had their subjects saved, and then it stopped. I guess someone saw that as an advantage. I expect somewhere there are meetings where they decide what would be improvements… and inevitably some customers will complain. If enough do, then they’ll change it back. Meanwhile, most of us just get used to the new way. 

     Let’s face it, computers are wonderful. I love my rural living. But at the same time, I think it facilitates it. Contact with the outside world is facilitated- we can research stuff and support (at least some of) our social needs. How the world has changed in the last generation- if I encounter the name that seems familiar, but not in the context in which I encounter it, I can look it up and find out if it’s the same person; if I come across the term “po-faced” in my reading and finally stop going with the context and start randomly wondering what precisely it means, I can instantly look it up. I don’t have to write myself a note, then the next time I go to the library go looking, and hope that they may have the right reference book. I have become so spoiled by the ability to find things out almost instantly. I LOVE the internet!

     Talk to you again in a week!

Tchipakkan

This is going to be my song for 2012:

“Let the Good Guys Win”

May I get what I want

Not what I deserve

May the coming year not throw a single curve

May I hurt nobody

May I tell no lies

If I can’t go on give me strength to try

(chorus)

         Bring the old year out

         Bring the new year in

         Bring us all good luck

         Let the good guys win (x2)

May the one you love

Be the one you get

May you get some place you haven’t been to yet

And may your friends around you

Never do you wrong

May your eyes be clear

And may your heart be strong

(chorus)

May the times to come

Be the best you’ve had

May peace rule the world

Let it make us glad

When you see something wrong

Try and make it right

Pull your shadowed world

Into the bright sunlight

(chorus)

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