11/20/2013 Absurdity Day

Hello again Friends!                November 20, 2013

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We are now in the brown part of the year, where things are cold, and all the color is gone, but the covering of snow hasn’t made everything look elegant. It’s like the difference between a bed with the mattress folded up and the springs visible, and one made up with a quilt over it. When I was a kid walking to school, we’d wish for snow. Snow you could play in, but we’d have frost, which would fool you and make you think it might have snowed until you found out it was just the frozen dew on the grass. It always seemed like a cheat to me. We had to bundle up in our cold weather gear, but there was no skiing, no building snowmen, just cold. Phooey. On top of that, as an adult, I have to think about paying for heating, and getting the yard ready for winter.
John and I have brought the “Daddy fix-me” shelf down to the cellar where we can use it to store paints- I should look up and see how cold paint is allowed to get. I am covered with cobwebs and fragments of dead leaves and the other stuff that collects on clutter. There is SO MUCH stuff down there, and none of it seems well organized. I should also organize the attic- we’ve packed up the Halloween stuff, and not brought down the Thanksgiving tablecloths yet. Soon.
We’ve brought in the hose, and closed off the pipes to outside, moved a bunch of stuff around and put trash in the van for the next dump run. (Wow, cellars sure do collect stuff!) I have to decide whether to move the little garden beds away before the snow comes.
This year the Winter Solstice is on a Saturday, so we’ve started inviting people for this year’s Solstice Feast. The first was in 1973, so I guess the 40th passed last year without my noticing. This year we have invited everyone (at least on Facebook) we can remember having been to one, even though they are spread from Florida to Ohio- I suppose even India and Australia, but that’s what happens with people these days. Even having asked 50 people, I expect we won’t get more than the usual dozen, spread over the weekend, but if more came, we’d like to have the parking. On the other hand, if we move them and want to use them again next year, we’ll have to get the dirt back in them then. Decisions, decisions.
Willow has a new expression: “A good decision was made that day.” Alternately, “A good decision was NOT made that day.” Those two phrases can cover a wide variety of observations! Meanwhile, we have noticed that the woodshed roof is in desperate need of repair, and Willow figures she can do it- as we did the floor repair last year. We have wood in the hall, we have leftover shingles and tar paper from the big roof repair, and we have the skills, time, and knowledge. What we lack is the energy. So I’ve called Wally and asked him if he and his guys can do it. What would be a long and involved weekend job for us, will probably take them a morning.  “A good decision was made today.”

My plan for the week after the conference was to do nothing. I figured either I’d just goof off, or I’d get sick and still do nothing, but be sick and miserable while doing nothing, so I chose goofing off. This did not stop me from continuing to email people about everything we’re wrapping up and planning for next year. A couple of mornings I wake up and realize I’ve been dreaming about working on the conference. I should be able to take a break- even asleep!
I have to admit that I am very excited about the other people who are stepping up to take over parts of the con. I think it will be more organized AND less work for me (and I assume Jane). One of the things we have planned is to have video conferences monthly to coordinate our efforts. The technology is available, and I think this will work. Last night Brian walked me through how to do it (and we also talked about the updates he’s doing on the website). I try to take this as a learning experience. Other people find some of the things I do hard, and it’s only fair that I should have a hard time with some of the things that seem simple to them. On the other hand- after downloading a new system Google Chrome in order to do the video conferencing, Yahoo and WordPress no longer recognized me and I had to reset my passwords (AGAIN). I don’t know if this is because something in Google’s program bumped something in Yahoo and WordPress’s stuff, or it’s just coincidence, because I have to reset my yahoo password about every two weeks. The infuriating part is that each time I do I copy it carefully into my little password book, and then in a few weeks they tell me it’s wrong even when I’ve copied it precisely from what’s been working. I theorize that this is the same thing that drives people bug-house when the supernatural stuff works, because it’s not supposed to in their world view. In my world view, if you don’t do anything to it, it shouldn’t change!

The next month is supposed to be catching up on the house, as it’s gone downhill while we concentrated on the conference, and especially since we did renovations this summer. Oh where, oh where will I put all my books? I don’t want to get rid of the ones that don’t fit, although that’s the logical thing to do. Or I could get rid of other stuff. The thing is I LIKE my stuff. This happens every year about this time. There is nothing like the upcoming gift-giving holidays to make one ambivalent about stuff. Once again I’m thinking- no gifts this year! Just cookies, music and friends. (and some lights, but not until after December.)
Since Thanksgiving is so late this year, we won’t get back from Darkover until it’s December, so that’s OK.  Since Jaelle died this spring, this is the last Darkover. Next year it will be the Thanksgiving Science Fiction and Fantasy Con, but this will be dedicated to Jaelle, who started it all 36 years ago. We’ll be doing a traditional Thanksgiving dinner around one, washing the dishes and hitting the road, (so feel free to give John a call over the long weekend.)
I have moved from an extremely low carbohydrate diet to simple low carb, and my weight continues to go down slowly, so I’m satisfied. I am under 250 for the first time since I started dieting a few years ago and put the last 30 pounds on. I actually tend to say that I’m “banting”, a Victorian term for avoiding starches to lose weight. I like it because it’s both historical and pretentious.

This last weekend we celebrated our returning energy by going to see the new Thor movie- it was EXCELLENT! We also stopped at JoAnn’s where they were having a half price sale on the fleece Willow uses for her blankets, and we filled up the back of her car. I also got some flannel for another slip and wool for another skirt. If I throw some old clothes out, I’m allowed to replace them. I have retired my beautiful tiered skirt with the stars on it I made so many years ago. It’s been years since people stopped me in stores to ask where I’d gotten it, and when I told them I made it, asked me how much to make them one. It was lovely, but now it’s only lovely in my memory. So goodbye old friend, I hope I got pictures of it back when it was new.
Kat has been keeping us apprised of the upcoming 50th anniversary of Doctor Who, and the things that fandom is doing to celebrate. Every so often there is a weird noise coming from her room, and Willow and I investigate- either something really awful has happened, or something wonderful, inspiring some sort of non-suppressible ululation that is also not interpretable in a normal context. Tonight while I’m doing my podcast, she’s hosting a sharing of some strange Whovian movie with other fans and having something to do with Frobisher a talking, shape-shifting penguin.
Last week Kat got some tea in her keyboard and we had to drop it off at the Mac store to get it fixed. It’s taking longer that it would to replace it because it’s an “older” computer- something like 3 years old. Good heavens, how often do they want you to replace them, and who can afford to? Because I was still hoarse (although I still think it was lack of sleep and too much talking) we skipped the blood drive. It’s kind of hard to be convincing when you can’t say “yes, I’m feeling well today” out loud.

You know I like to read several books at once and see how they somehow seem to address the same subjects. This week I’ve been reading Claude Lecouteux’s books on Household Spirits and Poltergeists and Haunted Houses, and the book The Argument Culture: Moving from Debate to Dialogue (which seems to be the same as Stopping America’s War of Words– I really dislike it when they re-release a book with a new title and cover, I’d figured one was a sequel!). I love the way Tannen (who wrote He said-She said) points out the damage done by trying to frame all our problem solving as combat, and polarizing arguments. She also gives suggestions for seeing things in a more multidimensional way, and helps show how it’s more useful to understand than to simply defeat those on the other side. Interestingly, while wholeheartedly endorsing that position, I was taking the other side in the other books I was reading.
For fiction I chose juvenile books to rest my brain: first, the Guardians of Childhood books: Nicholas St. North (Santa), E. Aster Bunnymund (the Easter Bunny), and Toothiana. Last week I read about Sanderson Mansnoozie (the Sandman, my favorite), and the books, unlike the movie, have nothing about Jack Frost, while the movie left Night light and Katherine (who clearly is a young version of Old Mother Hubbard), although they are central to the book. I keep thinking of the scene in The Majestic where the writer watches the production team mess with his script and wonder about the process that changes a book’s story into the movie story.
I also thought about the Majestic because another kids book I read this week is one of the American Girl books- the stories that provide background for the dolls. This one was Chrissa, a story about bullying. Every kid who moves knows the pain of being uprooted from their neighborhood and family, and while it’s possible to start over, meet new people and make new friends, you never get over that loss. Most of the American Girl stories start out with “changes for” the girl. In this one she also has to deal with bullying. Part of it works pretty well, but as usual, the advice in the end is to get help from adults and ignore the bullying. In the story at least, they were dealing with a group of girls who at least partly were joining in from peer pressure, and getting them away from the instigators worked. I’ve found that the roots of bullying are so deep that usually the way to stop it is for the “victim” to beat the crap out of the bully, and so they find a new target. It’s not politically correct, but it is functional. And I really feel that letting them keep bullying is not helpful to the bullies, much less their victims. As Luke Trimble said in the Majestic: “When bullies rise up, the rest of us have to beat them back down, whatever the cost. That’s a simple idea, I suppose, but one worth giving everything for.”
I love that the Guardians kick butt. They aren’t just givers of presents and candy, they aren’t just to inspire, they get their swords out and get between the children and danger. The don’t deny that sometimes people go bad because they fall into despair because their lives are awful, but that doesn’t give them a pass for their bad behavior. Kids books are simpler and more direct, good is good, bad is bad, even when the bad behavior is motivated by having been hurt yourself. Tannen’s book would warn against such dualistic thinking, but I don’t see it as dualistic so much as that there comes a point where compromise is no longer balance, it’s exploitation of the one who’s willing to concede. Concessions are reasonable when you have figured out where the line is. Also when you don’t inflate your original demands to maximize your ability to adjust. It requires insight and honesty.
I tried to watch one grown-up movie this week: The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call N.O., but the protagonist (Nicholas Cage) just wasn’t appealing. Sure he got into drugs because he was in pain from a back injury, but we didn’t see him fighting against it. I couldn’t even finish it. I have to CARE about the characters in a book or movie, and if they have no redeeming traits, I don’t. I want to compare it to Bad Lieutenant (waiting at the library); that movie was made 15 years earlier with Harvey Keitel, about a corrupt cop trying to change his ways.  I’ll probably like that one. I also caught a couple of old movies- The Tower of London (1939) starred Basil Rathbone as the evil Richard of Gloucester, with Boris Karloff as his executioner, and Vincent Price as the Duke of Clarence. Kat shared her find: The House that Dripped Blood, (1971) with vignettes showcasing Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Jon Pertwee, and Denholm Elliott. Having been watching so much British television, (not just Doctor Who but everything from Are you Being Served to Johnathan Creek) there are a lot of familiar faces. I also liked the point- that the house just brought out what was inside people. If you were good, it wasn’t going to bring out anything bad.

Blessedly, my life is quiet. Most of what’s interesting is happening to my friends. The wind that is ringing the wind-chimes outside my window is what’s left over from a tornado system that left Honour in listening to a warning siren and looking at a purple sky.  My niece Ali has been to Vietnam and has been sending back fascinating pictures to fb. Other news isn’t so good- some I can’t tell because sometimes people don’t want everyone to know they are having troubles. It’s an offering of trust when someone shares their frustration and sadness with you. I’ll just say that Facebook let me know that more than one friend has lost a loved one this week, and others are in that place where you have no time for anything but doing the cancer caretaker dance. It’s hard to remember there’s a world outside when you’re in that.
On Monday I went to the Wilton/Lyndeboro Women’s Club meeting; we addressed cards for the presents the club is providing for the poorer families in town. The club is also providing about 60 Thanksgiving dinners. In a town this size (OK, two towns), that’s a lot of people who need help. This is the time when communities can really help each other, and that’s a good thing. In the spring the fund raiser they were talking up is a show with a club of magicians doing a show for two hours with a break in the middle where we can sell refreshments. I suggested that perhaps I could teach a few of the ladies fortune telling and they could do that during the break. The magicians would split the take with the club, but if the ladies do the fortune telling, the club will get it all. They actually liked the idea, so I guess I’ll be teaching the locals some soothsaying this winter.

Steve came up for dinner on Sunday, and Brian came over for supper Friday (and to help me with my computer). God bless the people who help me hobble baby-step by baby-step into the 21st century! Actually I do enjoy it once I can figure it out. There are toys attached to the video conferencing so I can make my image have a halo or horns, or a beard or seem to be on a beach. Sadly, the instructions often foil me, they told me to do something obscure last night, and I could figure out what they wanted. I finally got it, but if they’d said open a new window in finder and click on the (whatever it was) icon, I’d have had no problem. The problem was, they knew the carton with a transparent yellow something coming out of it meant “whatever the name was” and I didn’t, so I had no idea what they wanted me to do. I get used to the way one system phrases things and can’t translate to the next system.
Friday I made skölbrot because it was skölbrot day. It’s a kind of sweet bun with a dimple in it you fill with vanilla custard, then decorate with coconut. The way I’m doing my diet is that I had just one of them, and called it good. (I’ll tell you something, though, breakfast is hard when you can’t just grab a bun or have a bowl of oatmeal!) The skölbrot was nice, full of cinnamon and cardamom, and to my surprise the coconut wasn’t intrusive. I also made one of our Stormgard Tiramisu variant for Steve- it’s got Frangelica as well as kahlua, and much faster and easier than Tiramisu. Kathryn Goodwyn makes her Christmas cookies over several weeks and has been sharing her results on fb. I am so inspired (although I tend to make about 5 kinds of cookies at once in a blitz baking)!

There is one good thing about the short nights of this time of year- it’s easier to say “it’s time to get dinner on” when it’s dark out.

Until next week!
Tchipakkan

“In a room full of puppies and kittens, what will get the most attention is the rattlesnake.” – anonymous

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