11-13-2000 Martinmas

Dear Folks:                                      November 13, 2000
November 13- it’s Honour’s birthday, and let’s see, what else? Of
course, the eleventh was Veteran’s Day- celebrated by the Asatru as the
feast of the Einherjar- the fallen heroes; and it was Martinmas- when
hiring fairs were traditionally held. And, of course, it’s the sixth day
of counting ballots! Boy, I’ll bet anyone who didn’t get out and vote is
kicking him or herself now!
And I see that the junior senator from New York wants to change the
electoral college system. Hmm. Well, if there is anything that would
convince me that something that should temper the simple popular vote,
this brough-hah in Florida about the “butterfly ballot” handles it. I
was sympathetic until Aelfwine brought home a picture of the ballot.
There is no way that anyone with enough brains to vote could have gotten
confused! OK, maybe some variations of dyslexia, but there are people
there to help folks like that. What bothers me much more are the stories
I have heard about polling places closing while there were still lines
of people standing outside them waiting to get in. If our economy is so
good, it’s because people are working two and three jobs per family,
which means that they don’t get to the polling places until six- and if
they close at seven, that’s disenfranchising the working voters. I think
that as long as there is a line, they should keep the polls open. I
would even think it acceptable if they put someone at the end of the
line at the published closing time to turn people away. But if the idea
is to allow people to vote- they should let them vote. I am also not
happy about the stories of towns where they moved the polling place
without notice. That’s irritating enough for a social event, it’s
totally unacceptable for running an election. Seems to me if money is a
question, we should take a percentage of the money raised by the people
who are running, and use that to cover the costs of the actual election.
They certainly spend enough on ads.
But I won’t say that people can’t take more personal responsibility
about getting to the polls. Honour changed her ticket, cut her vacation
short, and flew back to Michigan to be able to vote because she hadn’t
been able to get a by-mail ballot before she left, and she thought that
her responsibility to vote was more important than her first five days
of vacation in 16 years. There is no reason that people shouldn’t be
able to make arrangements with their employers to take whatever time
they need to go vote. Of course, we are only three minutes from our
polling place, and when we hit the town hall, there wasn’t much of a
line. (I did drop off brownies and peanut butter cookies for the
Laffayette Artilleries Bake Sale there. I’d thought about making sugar
cookies shaped like flags, but thought something that looked familiar
and old fashioned would sell better. I think if I had a cannon shaped
cookie cutter I might have made sugar cookies.)
I didn’t catch the puzzle show on NPR this week, but if I were the
“Puzzlemaster”, I would do something with the word “chad”- a new word in
the vocabulary of most people in the country this week. In case you
haven’t learned it yet, the chad is the little piece of paper poked out
of the ballot by a voting machine. (A dimple is referred to as
“pregnant”.) One thing I don’t care much for is the Republican inference
that the people who are chosen to check the badly marked ballots won’t
be honest if they are Democratic. I am sure that they are chosen because
of their honesty, and that’s pretty insulting. there is no reason not
to, for example, have people from both parties on the committee that
checks them to preserve the image of fairness, but as individuals, I
think they are probably honest. Avoiding even the image of conflict of
interest is a reasonable motivation. For example, I understand that the
results of the vote of the electoral collage are certified by the vice
president. I would assume that in the many cases when a vice president
was running for the presidency, he recuses himself, and someone else
does that. Of course, if it isn’t close, it wouldn’t even be a question.

I understand and sympathize with the complaints of the people who are
objecting to irregularities in the polling places. If you are on the
losing end, people say you are just angry about the results, but I know

from personal experience (back when Stonemarch was going barony) how

frustrating that can be. All my life I have actively fought for
fairness, even when it could come out not in my favor. But the one time
I was involved, everyone assumed I was just upset because I had lost. I
don’t mind losing, but I mind greatly unfairness. You just aren’t
allowed to complain if you are on the losing side. When I was young and
innocent I thought that if you were right, you wouldn’t need to defend
yourself or your position, because everyone would be able to tell, and
if not, other people would defend you because you were right. Now I know
that not only are there many sides to anything- blurring the perception
of what’s wrong and what’s right, but that I am part of a very small
minority that thinks that doing what’s right is worth the risks
involved. Many good people are quite willing to put up with something
that’s clearly wrong, simply to be able to maintain a position that will
allow them to fix other problems or fight other battles. I think that’s
what they call maturity. It certainly is related to the finite amount of
energy available to us as we age. I find it sad. I used to think we
could do everything if we only tried hard enough.
But on to less national concerns.

Since we are doing the evening chores before Aelfwine gets home, he
only gets to see the animals once a day. I think he misses it.
Aelfwine has been cutting and splitting and stacking firewood whenever
he has the time. (I should think it would be time, energy, and light,
but he uses artificial light, and pushes himself even when I think he’s
used up all his energy.) I got him to take a break yesterday and help me
plant daffodil bulbs on the western slope under the trees. I am hoping
they will spread and give us a little spring cheer, but I do think I
went overboard when I bought them. I also got too many tulip bulbs- I
have no idea what I was thinking at the time! Star has started to help
with the splitting, although he’s not very good with it yet.
I think I mentioned that Kat is participating in a dance team after
school. They practice from three to five almost every day. Comparing
that to how much time the drama club put into rehearsals, it’s not
surprising that they are doing pretty well. This week they got their
uniforms/costumes. They have black velvet pants, black jazz shoes, and
blue and silver tank tops which are incredibly sheer. There are also
while long sleeved shirts to go under the tank tops for when they
perform outside at athletic competitions. Considering their first one is
next weekend, and it goes on, I am thinking it may have more to do with
the cold than my original thought, which was to cover their bare arms
and shoulders so they wouldn’t look too “sexy”. The challenge now is to
keep them clean.
This weekend they went down to a competition (for cheerleaders I think)
in Boston. They had to leave at five thirty Saturday morning, so most of
the team just spent the night at Melody’s house. (I am not sure yet
whether Melody is the name of the dance coach or her daughter.) Sadly,
we discovered this morning that in the dropping off and picking up of
pizza money, toothbrush, bathrobe, and such, Kat lost track of her
school bag- so we had some consternation this morning trying to locate
it- and all her school books and notebooks. At this point we are hoping
she left it at school. But we won’t know until she gets home. Things do
just disappear from school (like my huge stack of belly dancing records
I loaned to the dancers for the Arabian Nights play, or Dan’s classes
permanent records, which were ready to be passed out to the students as
they left, but the whole box went missing before they got distributed).
If this is another case like those, we’ll deal with it, as we always do,
but at this point I am hoping it’s just in a corner of the cafeteria.
But the big news is that her team won third place! They got a trophy,
which is going to be the first trophy in the new trophy case in the new
school addition, and each of the girls got a rose, which was nice. I was
a bit less blown away than I would have been because when Willow dropped
Kat’s stuff at school on Friday she saw them practicing and had told me
that they were surprisingly good. I guess it’s all that practice. The
coach did give Kat a hard time because we had to pull her out early on
Tuesday when we went to the theatre.
This was the last show of the season: Fiddler on the Roof. I really
enjoyed it, the music in Fiddler is almost universally fantastic. Oddly,
at least in my opinion, the two songs that fall short of the others are
the two love songs- “Wonder of Wonders, Miracle of Miracles” and “Now I
have Everything”. Also it was one of those musicals which is handicapped
by the compact requirements of the North Shore Music Theatre. A bit more
space to spread out, and a few more actors would have helped I think. We
also admired their special effects candles- it wasn’t until some of the
actors passed down our isle that we could tell that they were electric.
I had been sure that the “rabbi’s” beard was going to catch on the
candles in front of him, as the beard was big and fluffy, and the
candles really looked real. I am pretty sure that the torch they used in
the pogrom scene WAS real. (I wonder if we can get some of those to use
in the SCA?)
We also noticed a sign very near the theatre for Monsarat College,
which is one of the ones Willow is looking at. (And Willow says I should
correct last week’s letter- she is not going into web page design.
“Everyone is doing that.” as she points out.) She is, however, looking
at College booklets, and we are looking at financing. Oh joy, oh
rapture. Apparently the art colleges have a lot more of the classes that
she would like to take, and a lot less required courses in things in
which she is just not interested. While I think a liberal arts education
is a very good thing indeed, I can’t help but feel that when one is
spending huge amounts of money on each class- you shouldn’t be forced to
take classes you don’t want to take.
Amanda’s parents are thrilled at the thought that they might be able to
go to college together- apparently they think Willow’s a good influence
on her. Possibly, I tend to think that Amanda is simply growing up. It’s
hard to tell because people do improve so dramatically at this age.
Actually the sad part is that society actually discourages adults from
making dramatic changes- even for the good, past the early twenties.
When someone decides to actually get around to doing something they’ve
always wanted to do, people act as though they were “attacking the
system”. I guess it’s because adapting to change is difficult, and so we
want to be in control of whatever changes around us. I know that I get
cross when I find out that a store that I might only go to once a year
has closed up, or that when I find a present for someone I think they
will like, they have stopped doing that particular hobby years before.
On the other hand, I would say that mostly that’s my own embarrassment
for being so out of touch. Transference. I wonder what we’d have to do
to make it easier for older people to change when they feel like it.
Change human nature? Why do we allow kids more leeway?
On a more personal note, Aelfwine and I both dropped fillings, and had
“emergency” dental appointments last week. The “funny” part was that he
had to wait three weeks with clove oil soaked cotton stuffed in his
cavity, whereas I lost mine on Saturday, called them Monday morning and
was offered an appointment (there had been a cancellation) an hour
before Aelfwine’s. I had them switch us so he could take the earlier
one, so he could just vote and then go to work, rather than go to work
and come back for it. Both of us need crowns. Luckily, they will let us
do it on a time payment, although we have to give them half up front to
cover what they have to pay the lab that makes the crowns. Actually I
need three, so that’s four total, which the insurance only covers half,
and they are $850 each. I tell you what: ow!
Still, Doc Roy says that they should last fifteen or twenty years, and
I do like the idea of crowns rather than mercury amalgam fillings. It’s
hard to credit the claims that something as common as fillings could
cause the problems that some say they do- but there is enough variety

from person to person, that you can’t tell unless you check it out

whether you are one of the small number of people that any given
stimulus might actually effect. And certainly I think a lot of the
health problems we have these days, as a group, are not from any one
pollutant or other culprit, but a result of the huge mass (and
interaction) of all the little “insults”, each of which might be
harmless enough by itself. Aelfwine was horrified to learn that we used
to play with the mercury from broken thermometers in our silver mugs
before Mother threw it in the trash. Recently we read about a woman who
broke a fever thermometer and called for advice on the safest way to
clean it getting a visit from the EPA with guys in complete
contamination suits, and a helicopter and news cams and all sorts of
stuff. And they didn’t even take the mercury away with them. They put it
in a baggie and told her to dispose of it properly. Helpful. Be careful
who you ask for advice I guess.
This week I read ADD: a different Perception, which was pretty cool.
The premise of the author is that it is not a diseased way of thinking,
but simply a different way of thinking that is not well suited to say
schools and offices, although it is very well suited to other
occupations, for instance sales. He describes it as people with ADD are
showing more genetic tendencies passed on by hunters, whereas non-ADD
folk show more of their legacy from farmers. Different abilities lead to
different skill sets. I’m not sanguine about the hunter/farmer division,
but I do think the point that it’s simply a different and not
necessarily bad way of dealing with the world is a good way of looking
at the problem. One does have to wonder if such a premise could lead to
schools being divided not into academic and vocational tracks but high
focus and sustained focus tracks. As long as all the kids learned
everything they needed for general use, I see no reason not to school
them to be successful in different future work situations.
I know am easily frustrated. Recently I’ve been conscious of it with
the darned computer. I am aware, theoretically, that you can find almost
anything on the internet, but I can’t seem to make a search engine work.
I look for information on herbs or Coenzyme Q10- or for sheet music for
the old song Smile (though your heart is aching) or for how to reach the
publisher of the book The Sutton Hoo Ship Burial Vol. 3 by
Bruce-Mitford- and I get stuff on the latest movies or people selling
stuff. But not what I’m looking for. I do think it is both a function of
our computer and my ignorance. Maybe they need to design computers for
ADD people and non-ADD people.
This week’s old movie I watched was The Man Who Knew Too Much with
Jimmy Stewart and Doris Day. It was a bit hokey, and certainly I doubt
that anyone these days would be allowed as much freedom to make
decisions about their own safety as they were allowed in that movie
(once the government had become involved). Still, it was a wonderful
exploration of the choice between saving loved ones and strangers. I
also took several old videos from the Brother Cadfael series out of the
library. I’m not sure I will get to see them all because we haven’t got
the TV running at this point. It was living on top of the two stacked
microwaves in the kitchen (with its video player on top of the stack). A
while ago one of the microwave’s started arcing when we used it, and
this week we finally remembered to send it to the dump. This left space
to install a toaster oven- which we are hoping will reduce energy use,
because we can use it to cook a couple of potatoes or one pie without
heating up the large oven. But we could hardly stack the TV on top of
it, the way we could with the microwave. So Aelfwine is building a TV
and VCR shelf to attach to the wall above it, and we are without video
until it is installed.
Our other new small appliance is a juicing machine. Star has wanted one
for years, and I’ve thought it might be a good idea, but the ones
advertised on TV and in Mother Earth News are very expensive. This week,
though, I noticed that they had one for only $35 at Walmart, so I
thought I’d give it a try. The juice is pretty good- but at this scale,
at least- you can’t just toss the food in and out comes the juice, you
have to chop it fairly small before feeding it in, and then you have to
clean it, which is perhaps sufficiently inconvenient to argue against
the whole deal. I also am not thrilled with the waste I am seeing in
this model anyway. The ads would lead you to believe that you are
getting just about everything that you could digest; but I got a book on
juicing too, and apparently it’s normal to get a cup of juice from each
pound of produce. Even if the bulk of the juice is made from carrots and
apples at fifty cents a pound, that’s still fifty cents a cup. And while
we have both animals and compost heaps to put the waste into- the
“juiceman” recommends two cups of fruit juice and three cups of
vegetable juice per person per day. Yeah, right. I’m going to carry home
and juice thirty five pounds of produce every week- per person? I don’t
THINK so. And what about those people who DON’T have a compost heap or
animals?
I’ve been thinking about how our diets have changed over the years I’ve
been cooking. I don’t think most people would notice much difference
when they eat here, except that I think it may be unusual to habitually
serve two vegetables and a salad (and I understand that many people put
bread on the table every night). It’s not that we produce our milk and
eggs and most of our meat, and some of the vegetables. It’s not just
that we have yogurt and tofu (occasionally), and eat fish instead of
fish sticks, and when we have hot dogs it’s a treat because they are
kosher and cost more than steak. It’s not even the alternative flours we
use because of the kid’s allergies. We don’t eat canned soups or instant
rice or potatoes or good old Chef Boyardee or Kraft Dinner anymore. I
haven’t bought margarine or Crisco in years. I cook fresh vegetables,
rarely using canned or frozen. At this point, I am not sure what the
rest of America eats, except that the grocery store is full of stuff
that I love the pictures on the packages, but when I occasionally try
them, they just don’t taste as good as the same thing made at home with
the natural ingredients. But each change has been gradual. I can still
remember the first time I had a Toll House Cookie made with butter
rather than margarine, and I didn’t believe that Eowyn had used the
standard recipe, and that butter had made all the difference in the
taste. The difference between real and artificial vanilla. The
difference between Sparrow chocolate and Hersheys. The discovery of the
wonderful flavors of Basmati and Jasmine rice. Learning how to mix my
own curry and chili powder, and learning how to grow the herbs. I still
make my mother’s recipes for chili and curry, and stroganoff- but now I
use mushrooms from my back yard, and organically raised Angus beef. One
change at a time- will I get to the point where I won’t care for
reconstituted orange juice?
Much of my taste change I have attributed to learning about better
ingredients and also aging. I don’t like sweets as much (although I
still love chocolate). Sometimes I read about how much soda and donuts
Americans are supposed to eat and assume that they must have gotten it
wrong. But then, Dennis says that when he offered to pick up donuts for
one of his partners who used to be a cop, and his friend told him that
“powdered sugar is part of the uniform”. It may well be that I simply am
unaware of the way people eat in parts of our culture with which I don’t
come in contact. Certainly the people who come here are generally at my
mercy- food wise. I guess some of them DO bring the kind of snacks we
don’t buy with them.
On the other hand- I tried a recipe for “roasted roots” which looked
good, and simple. Peel and cut various root vegetables: potatoes, sweet
potatoes, carrots, onions, beets, etc. into inch cubes, put them in an
ungreased dish, cover and bake for 35 minutes, uncover and brown for 10.
Yeah, RIGHT! I baked those things for about three hours, then ended up
boiling them to get them cooked through! I am going to have to check
other cookbooks to see what part of that recipe was unclear or incorrect
enough to have thrown it so far off. I’m thinking maybe it may require
one of those clay pot cookers that you soak first. Those cook fairly
quickly, but at high heat. I do want to try it again though, because I
didn’t happen to have any beets, and I think that the red in the mix
would be lovely. You couldn’t do that if you were boiling them, because
the beets color would bleed. Also, as we aren’t vegan, I think some sort
of grease would probably help too.

Willow is arranging an “orphans” thanksgiving for her friends this
year. She’s deciding what pies and rolls and such she’s going to make.
(I don’t think she’s addressed the deep mysteries of which stuffing to
make yet.) This weekend she went to another Crafts fair and made $100,
plus bartering. Much better than last time. It seems also to have been
better because Amanda went with her. How she is going to replenish her
stock with Ben Franklins gone I don’t know.

Aside from getting her new dance outfit, Kat also got five new other
outfits this week. Some times you just hit them right, and this week we
happened to be there as they were marking down all the summer stuff. $13
outfits down to $3 each, so I got five. That should hold her for awhile.
Actually, I will have to alter the pants on one of the outfits- even
though it is labeled size 12, they were about six inches too short (and
shorter than the other size twelves. Someone told me that this is a
fairly common industry practice. That if they have an order for a gross
each of each of the eight common sizes, and run short of one size, they
simply switch the size tags in another size, and then they have the
right number of the required items to ship out. So always check on your
body, and don’t take the tag number as a reliable indicator of size. And
don’t be surprised if the top and bottom don’t seem to be the same size
even though they are labeled as such. It seems a reasonable caution. The
kind of thing that people would do. Oh, well.
Something cheerful to finish up with: while Willow was walking the dog,
she found me some Queen Anne’s Lace still blooming so I could still have
fresh local flowers to put on the altar. Also, the nasturtium and
calendula are still blooming too (even though the nasturtium aren’t good
cut flowers). It’s very cheerful, and I think I’ll go get some
bittersweet to make a wreath for the door.

Tchipakkan

“It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by
itself.”  – Thomas Jefferson