11/18/2009 World Kindness Week

Dear Dad,                                                               November 18, 2009

The weather has been variable this week here in Lyndeboro- it rained buckets on Saturday when I was driving up to Dartmouth, but it’s mostly been fine, and warmer than I’d expect for November. We’re still getting the occasional blossom from the Sweet Williams, but the nasturtium have given up for the season. We are definitely on purchased flowers for the rest of the season. Willow found a wonderful bouquet of Chrysanthemums which have lasted a couple weeks already and are still going strong. Usually in the winter I lean toward carnations. (I got some beautiful red and yellow roses right after Halloween, and they wilted the next day. Feh.)

The big thing I’ve noticed this week is the way the air smells. You know how memories and scents are so intimately tied together? I keep having “winter thoughts” and realizing that the air is beginning to smell like winter. I suppose that indoors it smells like the way inside air smells when the oil heat is on. Maybe a background trace of wool and mothballs. Outside it’s whatever the balance of scents from the woods, and coming in on the cold fronts, or whatever that makes me think “there’s a hint of snow in the air”. Or maybe it’s the Christmas catalogs that have started arriving, and I can’t bring myself to toss them without looking at them, even though I know we won’t be ordering anything. (I picked up a book at the library called Scroogonomics arguing against buying Christmas presents.) I’m thinking about giving cookies for Christmas this year to as many people as I can get away with. Butter, eggs, sugar and nuts may be expensive, but at least afterwards the recipients won’t be looking at whatever it was I gave them and thinking “why the heck did she think I’d want that?”. Everyone likes cookies, even the dieters can put them out for guests. All I have to do is figure out who’d be the appropriate targets, when they need to be mailed, and thus when to bake them.

So far I haven’t quite managed to fit regular sessions of art into my schedule, but I have to admit that the house is looking better. Sadly, one effect of this is to make me want the parts that aren’t cleaned up, and to make me want to maintain the parts that are. I think we’re all more likely to wash up the single dish we use for a sandwich or bowl of cereal because it would stand out in the sink, where it wouldn’t in a pile of other dirty dishes. The other night when I was working on Willow’s hat I didn’t even notice that I’d only done half the dishes (and it was my night), so when I came down and saw them in the morning I was SO embarrassed. (I also didn’t want my dereliction to become an excuse for anyone else to leave the dishes until morning on their nights.)sewing

There is so much I’d like to get done (although I hate to mention it, I really dislike it when people tell you about all the things they are GOING to do, and then they don’t), and somehow having the house cleaner seems to make it seem both more possible and at the same time, less possible- because, let’s face it: there’s a reason people used to hire housekeepers and staff, and why being a home-maker was considered a full time job. Because it is.

To keep a large house going and always swept and picked up and a bunch of people fed and clothed and cleaned up after takes work. I have NO idea how other people who do work outside the home manage it. (Maybe they’ve given up reading.) I really intend to get the book finished (you’ve got to be tired of hearing that! I’m tired of saying it) and I just realized I don’t have time to get any new sculptures done before Darkover, and I was hoping to have more art to put into the art show… And I’ve got a list of commissions to fill over the computer. Willow has been encouraging me to give up playing on Gaia. It seems like such a minor time investment, but one can “one more minute” oneself into lost hours. Maybe computer games don’t work that way for other people, but I have to admit they do for me. (And they wouldn’t call it “Ever-crack” if others weren’t susceptible.)

It’s probably one of the reasons I like audio lessons (and old movies I can have on in the background while I work), I can get two things done at once. Of course I have to be careful- I’ve noticed that I do have to concentrate on what I’m listening to in order to really learn it- that’s important with the language lessons- I can practice copying the pronunciation without bringing it to a cognitive level, but if I want to actually really learn a word, I have to be using the “front” part of my brain. This means it’s a good match for doing while I take a walk, but recently my CD player hasn’t been working well. I think the kittens may have been chewing on the cord.

Their favorite game (other than kitty-soccer) is jumping up and grabbing the net bags we have hanging by the kitchen door for using when we run errands and swinging back and forth. At first we worried that they were caught by their claws, but apparently if they want to disengage, they can just draw them back in again (duh!).

Anyway, at first it seemed to be exploring their world, but now I’m sure it’s just an occupation of theirs. I guess they just hadn’t gotten to the “mischief” phase until now- I’m hoping that just changing the earphones will be good enough. I’m mostly doing review of the first 30 lessons, I started the second 30 and realized that I’d missed really learning enough words that it was making learning the new stuff (they are getting into past tense and other such useful things) hard. When there’s a whole sentence and I am hesitating over one part of it, and then the feedback/reinforcement gives you the right translation, I can miss that I hadn’t gotten to trying to figure out the other portion. If I have one problem with the Pimsleur system, it’s that each lesson is an entire half hour lesson and I can’t go back and drill on the parts I need to work on. I would love some drill on the numbers. I can just count in my head, but if I’ getting them wrong, without the “feedback”, how will I know? Oh well.

I’ve been having some really weird dreams- nearly every morning I’ve woken up from a dream in which I was sobbing or close to it, or really angry with someone (in one case, Ælfwine). I think I must be having some physical sensations that feel close to being upset that result in my brain generating images that will justify the sensations, but they are something as dumb as sleeping wrong in some way. Another thing is that my right ear has gotten very sore- I think I’ve been reading in bed too much (leaning with my head (ear) supported on my hand. Time to stop reading so much. (but I LIKE it!)

Kat made a spooky machina (that’s a movie that uses mechanically generated “actors”) called the Stairs this week.  Willow provided one voice for it. You can see and hear it here.

I heard my first “end of the decade” list story on NPR today- someone is making a list of the biggest stories about the internet this decade. The first one they mentioned was the first one I thought of: Wikipedia. You-tube. The cluster of Facebook, LiveJournal and those other blogs. I didn’t think of Craig’s list and e-bay, and had forgotten the Napster blow up, but agree that probably the whole question of free or paid access to information may well be the big internet issue. E-pay is a biggie.

I do wonder about Youtube. Is it all people playing with their computers at home, or do people look at other people’s stuff and say “wow, you’ve got talent, come do this where we’ll actually give you money for it!”? Star has been getting lots of “hits” on his fiction. I’m not sure whether it’s good or not that the computers can track that for you. I used to save my rejection letters from when I sent manuscripts to publishers, but that proved to me that I was actually trying- and I could check and see who I’d already tried. But I hate rejection. Seems to me that every hit where you don’t get a positive response feels like a rejection. I think Willow feels that way sometimes- when she’s getting a lot of hits, she points out that she doesn’t have as many as others she respects, or worse, less than artists whose work she doesn’t respect. I tend to think it has more to do with getting your site into the right search engines or tied to other popular sites, rather than your intrinsic value. But that’s just a variation on physical world marketing.

That’s one of the down-sides of listening to my “tapes” (recorded courses), I’m not listening to as much NPR, and probably don’t know what’s going on in the world as much. Well, it’s less depressing to learn about ancient history than it is about current events. Although I do think that the one gives the other context.

After doing the letter last week I looked forward to our up-coming schedule and started pulling out the stuff for Willow’s Maleficent hat again. I have a natural affinity for understanding and being able to recreate weird hats and garments (although I won’t say that I don’t sometimes blow it- I really like the ability to make mock-ups first). I generally use the same type of thinking that I do with sculpting. In this case the horns of the double hennin were made of buckram, sewn, then dampened so I could prod them into their more bent shape (and dried there with a hair dryer). They seemed a bit fragile, so I sewed on millinery wire, and now am covering them with satin. The key for me is making it secure enough that Willow/Maleficent can throw back her head and cackle maniacally if the situation calls for it.Making horns

Meanwhile Willow is working on getting the dags and other lined bits of the robe to work- making the under-gown. She made a staff of PVC which she twisted bits of with heat, and painted. She got a ball that lights up and has swirling sparkles in it to put on top of it. The shoes she found are ridiculously high, but she does seem to be able to walk in them. At one point she was standing on a box for some fitting or another and the box broke and she fell. This showed why it’s so important for her to have the staff (other than that Maleficent has one), if she falls off the shoes, the staff should help. Today went to the hardware store for a pipe fitting that goes over the end, and some fishing line to reinforce holding the ball on. With the smaller ball she had she could whack the bottom of the staff on the ground and it would light up, but the bigger (more accurate) ball doesn’t light up as easily. Oh well. She’s also practiced the makeup. She’s got setting powder so she thinks she will be able to spot clean the cowl.Cutting out Maleficent

Thursday Kat and I did the errands because there was a blood drive. Sadly, she came in a tenth of whatever the units are that they measure hematocrit by and couldn’t donate this month. I thought about doing the hemodyalisis (it takes longer, but you also can’t go back for twice as long, so it saves you the waiting), but they didn’t need my type (A pos), too common. Willow took Mouse to the vet for his shots- and he still needs another set before they will fix him. It’s rather annoying. I tend avoid any shots that aren’t really critical for people- by preference I’d probably just get the rabies shots for the cats, but I do believe in neutering, and the vets hold that service hostage unless you get the shots.

honour's birthdayFriday was Honour’s birthday, and we had her over for dinner. Steve came up too. I made her a chocolate Boston Creme pie (we used 3 bars of Black and Green’s Organic chocolate in the various components- chocolate cake, chocolate custard and ganache). It’s a good thing she can have eggs and chocolate, because baking without gluten and milk is hard. But it was really good (her no-gluten carrot cake is great too). We had a roast pork and potatoes too, and the candles were weird- the flames themselves were different colors.  While I was assembling the cake (she had to bring some of the more interesting ingredients like the imitation cream and Xanthin gum so I couldn’t make it ahead) we watched the Lon Chaney Phantom of the Opera. As it was a silent movie, it was really easy for us to do the “Mystery Science Fiction Two Thousand” thing (make sarcastic comments based on the cultural differences between now and when the movie was made- like “Hey, your sleeves are dragging in the water!” and “Didn’t he just tell you not to touch his mask you stupid bint?” “NOW see how you like it!” etc. Mocking old movies is fun, which is, of course, why MSF2K was able to make a whole show out of it.

I gave her some blueberry syrup, and Willow dyed a dress for her, and we’d gotten and saved the Spock glass from the Star Trek glasses Burger King was selling this spring. We thought that was the one from the set she was missing, but apparently she was missing Nemo, so we gave her ours. And I gave her the picture I’d drawn of her at Concertino (giving art always seems cheap to me). Other than that, I took her to the event the next day.

It was the “Inn at Knotty Cross”, an (almost) SCA event. The group of SCAers at Dartmouth are trying to get a branch going there. The Outing Club has a really cool building with a large raftered hall with a stone fireplace at each end. I went there last year, but couldn’t quite remember how to find it, and forgot to get the directions before we left. Last time Honour and I went up it was for a demo, which we should have been able to spot by the fighting on the quadrangle- but there was rain. Once again, we got there and found the Dartmouth Outing Club- but not the outing club building. Well, not right away. There is an advantage to being old- experience. We kept asking until we found directions, and then, of course, I remembered going there last year.

Olaf was there- apparently he lives somewhere around there- we got to chat for awhile. The event was small, and even smaller than expected as the rain apparently kept most of the students (who’d have had to walk there) away. Last time at the demo we’d discovered that someone else up there is gluten and casein intolerant and so we figured it might be a good feast for Honour and it was. (Oh, I keep forgetting, she’s got her name changed to Alizandre now, not Alizaunde, as it’s easier to document.) But we were right, and she could actually eat most of the feast. As there were so many people missing, there were lots of leftovers, and we each brought some home. I especially liked the Apricot pie, and the spinach. There was enough for me to make into spinach pies. The Baron and Baroness were there, and a few other people we knew. For the second time recently I didn’t bring stuff to sell, and just sat around talking with people. I actually got to help with the clean-up, which I’ve missed, and we can’t do when we’ve got our goods to pack up.

Frenja (who cooked) had her 10 month old son there, so I got a baby-fix (I remember making fun of Olaf for that when I had babies!), and chatted with him about languages. Frenja’s from Canada so they are bilingual. He wants to be good enough to be able to take a college level course. (I just want to be able to converse and watch movies in the other languages.) He told me that it’s not just my perception, Japanese IS harder for American’s to learn than Norwegian. He also told me that if I can get decent in German and French and Spanish, then Italian should be a “gimme”. It’s nice to know it’s not just me. The best story I heard was from Ælthylhafoc- who has, as Alizandre did, changed his name to make it more authentic (hafoc is OE for hawk). At Crown Tourney last month, the heralds kept messing it up (probably more because they knew him as Ælthylhawk) and in the last round the herald announced him as “Æthyl-mess-up”- because he’d been telling himself as he prepared to make the announcement “Don’t mess up, don’t mess up don’t mess up” and then when he opened his mouth, that came out instead of hafoc. (Worse, it wasn’t “mess”, it was the f word.) When he started the story, I could see it coming. We ALL do things like that! It is SO gratifying to see how many Anglo-Saxons there are these days!

On the way home we were stopped by a policeman to tell us one of our headlights was out, so Monday I took it to Stoney’s to get it fixed. I’d first tried to change it myself, but it was hard to get at. (I probably could have done if I had two sets of joints in my wrists.) The mechanic had to unscrew several things to get at it, so I’m convinced it was well worth the $17. He also said that he could probably fix the lock on the back door, so this morning Willow and I dropped it off for the estimate. I am hopeful about it.

I took Sunday as a day off, which I rather feel that I needed, although I also feel like I don’t deserve to have one because of not working outside the home. But it felt really good to do nothing but read and check out my friends page on the Live Journal and stupid stuff like that. I did convince the kids to play a game with me- Apples to Apples. I enjoy games- I’m not sure why. Maybe because I like words, or just using my mind. (Certainly many people don’t seem to  understand the great enjoyment I get from learning new things.)

Last week Johnathan realized that he’d spaced the April and October barn cleaning, and buckled down and spent two hours a day shoveling and finished in record time. If the car doesn’t cost too much I’m going to call in an electrician to fix the lights in the milking room. Now all we need to do is get the windows that have broken over the year fixed before winter sets in. I am always amazed at how so many windows can break when in theory there’s nothing touching them. But heck, where does all the dirt come from on the floor? You sweep one day and the next day, there’s a pan full of dirt again! I can understand cobwebs- the spiders are doing their best to make them. Mess? The kittens (still no call from the shelter), apparently spend any time we aren’t in a room knocking things down so they can play soccer with them. No, really, those kittens are playing soccer with the spools of thread, and little plastic things that come off of ink cartridges, and corks and other things. They run very fast with the “ball” between their paws and the other kittens chasing them and trying to get it away. Looks like soccer to me- only the goals change.

Divine thunderboltWe also got some good news- Arwen’s book The Divine Thunderbolt is finally done- she spent more than a year getting the glitches out (she’s self publishing and they don’t edit, just stick it in the computer, which has messed up the numbers on the illustrations, messed up the bibliography, and a bunch of other glitches that HAD to be corrected since it’s a scholarly book. But it’s finally done, and she now has cases of books to sell (and send out review copies).

Even better, Steve’s gotten a job. Sadly, it’s down near Providence, RI, but once again he’s working, and that’s good. (and he doesn’t dislike driving as much as I do. And I’ve offered to loan him my college courses on CD to listen to. I figure that the more people who listen to them, the better deal it was.

Honour and I tried to listen to Exploring The Roots of Religion on the way up to Dartmouth- and they wouldn’t play. When I got home I discovered that they were DVDs. It’s all about the archeology of religious artifacts and sites, and so the visuals (not enough in my opinion) are really interesting. They’ve already shown several images I haven’t seen elsewhere. (I’ve had it on while hand-sewing Maleficent’s hat- I hope I’m not missing too many of the visuals.) In the first six lectures they’ve covered Neanderthal Burials, the Cave Paintings, and Neolithic Venus sculptures, the wall paintings and sculptures at Catal Huyuk, and Megaliths and passage tombs (like Newgrange), and we haven’t even gotten up to historical stuff yet. One point I found especially interesting was that warfare is a result of farming. Hunter gatherers simply collect what they need. As farming creates surpluses in order to get through the year, it creates something that others might want or need to steal, and the need to protect it. I’d never thought about that before.

Aside from that I’ve watched the new Disney movie Up, which shows the usual quality, but wasn’t Beauty and the Beast or Sleeping Beauty. I loved He’s Just Not That Into You– an ensemble romantic comedy purporting to give rules or advice to judge relationships. Personally, I believe that if someone stops kissing another girl in order to talk to you on the phone- he IS that into you. I think that’s pretty clear. In contrast, I watched an OLD romantic comedy- the Shop Around the Corner– staged for some reason in Budapest, with Jimmy Stewart and Frank Morgan, and no attempt whatsoever to do accents, although they used the Hungarian currency and other such markers that it was in Europe just before the war. The comments indicated that it went through many incarnations, the latest of which was You’ve got Mail. (Stewart and Margaret Sullivan are fighting at work while at the same time they have an anonymous pen-pal relationship through which they are falling in love.) I picked up a movie Scoop which had Hugh Jackman and was the story of a junior reporter who was being given tips by a dead famous reporter about a serial killer story-  which with ghosts and Jackman should have been great, but frankly, Woody Allen as the stage magician inadvertently drawn into the investigation, was the best part of it. We watched The Lost Colony (about Roanoke) which had Adrian Paul and Viking Ghosts- again, not enough to save it. I can’t really recommend it.

On the tail end of our Halloween queue I saw two more Jekyll and Hyde movies. One was a martial arts movie with Adam Baldwin, which had almost nothing to do with original except using the name, and the idea of multiple personalities. He looked really familiar, but it wasn’t until after I looked it up that I realized he’d played Jayne in Firefly. The other was another comedic send-up Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde, which was funny- not hugely funny, but I wouldn’t warn people away from it (although I think Willow would). The girls have been watching How I met your mother (Season 2), which is funny enough to occasionally draw Willow away from the sewing machine to discover what’s getting laughs in the kitchen. I don’t watch it because I liked Robin and Ted together, and hate watching people breaking up, even when it’s couched in “funny” situations. And we saw the old classic Phantom of the Opera– Lon Chaney’s makeup rocked! Can’t be improved upon, and Phantom of the Paradise, which is apparently a “cult classic” from the 70s. About the same period as Rocky Horror, but not as much musical merit, or humor.Willow sewing

The best thing we watched this week (although I did like Just not that Into You), was Inkheart. It’s a fantasy adventure, which I like, and the main motivation is family feeling, also a plus in my book. The specials were good but not intrusive. I can recommend that one.

I mentioned that I have probably been reading excessively. High on that list is David Copperfield– yes, Dickens has gotten much better now that I’m older (but there are still places where he’s too wordy). I’ve also thought more about Great Expectations. I still feel that most of the characters were unlikable, but it has occurred to me that maybe the focus of the story was how Pip had to rebuild his life after finding out that the world that he knew was mostly in his own mind. That’s a pretty significant concept and quite one that many of us have to deal with on smaller scales.

I read a couple of the Cirque du Freak series- a juvenile set about vampires which is amusing, and quick. I asked the library to get me the latest Sookie Stackhouse books, since Steve has started logging the locations of his library into his computer, but hasn’t tripped over the right bin yet (and now may not have the free time to get to it). They got Dead to Worse, first, which was (I think) number eight, and I’ve only read one through five, so I’m looking forward to the others (which came in today).

In the non-fiction area I’ve been reading two books on Body Language- which is a very very cool subject, and I especially respect when they point out that each sign can mean several things and you have to see which cluster of signs there are, because you must have redundancy to figure out which it means in a given instance. I’m also continuing to read about Anglo-Saxons- which is different. I usually switch off from the history to magick after Pennsic, but I’ve got several good books stacked up on my bed-table I’m trying to get to. I’m also peering at my palm and looking through various books trying to get a hint about what I could possibly do to make money. Guess what? My hand says I’m artistic, and analytical, people like me, I’m stubborn, but often take on more than I can finish, I’m better at the big plan than doing details, I’m articulate, and will probably have my greatest success in old age. Great- success at what? Arwen thinks I could really do well with book covers- but I’ll need to get more organized.

Well, I took time off from the hat to get this done, but should get it done. The girls are going to Another Anime Con (that’s the name of it) this weekend, and need it done before then. I’ll be going up to Dad’s birthday party on Sunday. He’s going to be 85 this year. Pretty cool. I wish I could take Johnathan with me to help with the after-dark driving, but they’re keeping it small so Dad can keep his hearing aid on, and if it’s over when the game comes on (as planned), I should be most of the way home before dark.


You will find that the truth is often unpopular and the contest between agreeable fancy and disagreeable fact is unequal. For, in the vernacular, we Americans are suckers for good news. ” Adlai E Stevenson

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