1/20/2012 Popcorn Day

Good Morning!                        January 19, 2012
OK, now it feels like winter- the daytime temperatures have been in the 30s and teens at night. (We just got a $600+ oil bill, yikes!) It’s still hard to trust the min/max thermometer. In order to check it without putting a coat on, I put it by the front door, and the door-well gets solar gain so it often says that it goes up into the seventies during the day, and that I do not believe. There is a light coating of snow, only a few inches, on the ground, but February is coming. I would be very surprised if we didn’t get a few blizzards in the next month.

Rosemary, the goat, is still not doing well, and another rabbit died- I have been neglecting breeding them because of not wanting to take the time dressing them out to eat. We are having to think hard about whether to give up animals. I don’t want to do it, but being away so often makes it difficult.

Willow is looking for a new car- one wants to get the best value for the money, as good gas milage as possible, as few repairs as one can manage. Meanwhile, my plan is to get this letter done and then FINALLY get into the living room and get all the Christmas decorations up to the attic. (The tree is down, but there are still piles and boxes all over the living room.) When that’s done, I’ll be able to bring the flooring Kitty and Paul gave us and put it where the tree was until it gets installed. That will make doing errands easier. So far it’s still in the van.
Last Thursday, while I did laundry and started packing for Arisia, the girls did the errands (with the wood in the car). Willow has a habit of only getting and doing what’s on the list, so nothing gets missed, but every so often I have to go out myself and pick up the supplies I like to keep around- staples that no one but I track. John helped me search the great hall for an inflatable mattress and let it gradually warm up before we tried inflating it (quick changes of temperature aren’t good for the longevity of inflatable mattresses). We couldn’t find any of our three inflaters- heaven knows where they are, so he found in and tested the one with an inflater attached. Sadly it was a double, so I packed one of the twins, and thought we might look for one at Walmart on the way down.

I made an inventory of the CDs of the CTCW workshops, and set aside the ones that were requested, made a batch of Chicken Fiesta (you know the dead easy one: cook some rice, chop up and brown some chicken, add some melted Velvetta™, a bag of shredded cheddar, a pint of sour cream, a jar of salsa, and a can of corn). Because of the mix of colors, and pre-chopped textures, it looks like you already ate it once and brought it back up, and it’s really filling and fattening, but it tastes great! It’s also thick enough that you can carry it in a bag, and won’t leak, and warms in a microwave well.
I gave up on finding a format for the proposal for a podcast, and just sent the producer a few sentences about what I’d do with it, an informal mini-proposal, with a request that he let me know whatever else I needed to tell him.
I located the grolsh bottles, but didn’t get to washing them, so in the morning Willow did that for me and bottled most of the mead leftover from the solstice. We didn’t think it would last until Birka- quick mead has a very short shelf life. We also took most of the cookies left in the back hall and put them in a gallon jar.
I finished packing. I have a really hard time “packing light”. I thought I’d done well this time, but I still had a bag with the food, another bag with the mead, a six-pack of water, and more of seltzer (that bag was heavy, but in hotels I really DO need to drink at least a gallon of water a day), one staples box held the CDs, the ribbons, and the flyers from CTCW, and there was the bag of bedding (and Tragg), my suitcase, and my purse, and my Hogwarts sack in which was my embroidery and sketchbook.
My bundle of charcoal pencils was apparently hiding (no doubt put “somewhere safe”, so when we stopped at Staples for extra CD sleeves for the CDs that needed them, I picked up a few more. We had to stop for gas, and at the bank for money for parking and registration, and at the Post Office. We’d gotten a note that said I had a package that was “not media mail”. Media mail is the cheapest shipping, but you have to label it that, and they are allowed to open it to check. Apparently they opened a box and saw that beside the book, it contained a “chocolate” box, so I needed to fork up $5+ for the difference. So I opened it at the postoffice, and as I expected, the so called box of truffles was an empty box, being used as a big piece of emptiness. So I didn’t have to pay the extra, but it added time before we really got off.
I also forgot to leave extra time for checking into the convention (my first panel was at 5:30, so I figured I’d be fine if I got there between 4 and 4:30), or to leave extra time for traffic because it was a Friday afternoon. Willow pointed out to me that I really seemed to have a problem getting places early/on time. I’ve known for years that I have a problem getting off for events. I start looking around for things to do, see what I’d missed, that sort of thing. I’d always leave extra time for it, and use more than I’d left. Willow was the one who pointed out that I really should actually look at the directions I’d printed out BEFORE we headed down Pinnacle Road toward where-ever it was that we were going. Usually all I do is look to see how long it’s supposed to take to get there. Willow can, as Terry Prachett describes Witches, see what’s really there. So I paid attention when she pointed that out.
Sean had been waiting for me in the lobby since about 4 so he could give me a key to the room. He and Cathy had generously offered to put me up for the con when we missed getting in to sell, but I’d gotten on panels, so it would just be me, not all of us. I kept calling him to let him know how late we’d be as we negotiated the route in. Arisia was held at the Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel, so it’s past South Station. Sean was waiting outside for me when we pulled up at three minutes before my first panel. Cathy arrived immediately after that. The kids put all my gear (but the suitcase, which I took with) in a very clever little folding wagon they have, and Sean took it up to the room, and Cathy whisked me to the panel Parapsychology in Genre Fiction. Luckily the chairs were set in a big circle, so it didn’t matter that I didn’t have the sign with my name to put on the table in front of me. I was also reassured that the moderator admitted that she also had not checked in yet, and I wasn’t the last panelist to arrive! But it still made me think about possible psychological reasons for my chronic lateness.
It occurs to me that not everyone knows what Arisia is. Arisia is mostly a Science Fiction convention, but it has expanded to be a celebration of almost all forms of speculative fiction, and the “fannish” lifestyle. There’s a dealers room where you can buy books and many other things fans would like. There’s an art show, in which most of the subject matter is imaginative. They have panels, where 3-5 people who have some sort of knowledge about whatever the subject is share it, and field questions from the attendees. There are a lot of costumes worn; there’s a “Masquerade”, or show of some of the more impressive costumes, but people wear ones that aren’t too restrictive around the con, and there are “hall prizes” awarded for those. Starwolf got one this year, I forget whether it was for his normal “shaman suit” or whether he was “steampunked” up. The special guests this year were the Foglios- I first encountered their work in the Myth Inc series, but now their big project is a graphic novel series “Girl Genius”. There are also balls, and parties, concerts, and filk singing (people singing songs with borrowed tunes and Sci-Fi/Fan lyrics), a room (or more) dedicated to gaming, and more than one constantly running movies in the Speculative Fiction genres- that’s where I first saw The Color of Magic, before it got to the US), and probably more activities that I’ve forgotten or don’t know about. I mostly like going to the panels- but that’s just me. Others like other aspects of cons.
After my panel, I took my suitcase to my room, and checked in to the con and the organizers office. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that being on three panels was sufficient to get me in for free. I picked up my packet with my name card, and schedule. Then I took the CDs and other things (including a few cookbooks that I had grabbed when I packed up the cookies) down to the dealers room where Jane had to find room for them on her tables. I started searching the program to figure out which panels I’d attend just because I wanted to, and when the dealers room closed, I went to Jane’s room to  borrow her inflator and have supper (the Chicken Fiesta).
Jane had brought her microwave and grilled chicken, salad, and other stuff. Beside my drinks, I’d brought some fruit and granola and nuts, but went to her room to eat with her each evening. I also borrowed her inflator to fill my mattress. She had offered to let me “crash” in her room, before Sean and Cathy did, but I’m so happy they did. I’m not sure where I’d have fit- Jane’s mattresses (she stacked two for ease of getting up) were squished in between the window and one bed, the twin mattress Kirsten was on was between the beds and there was only a foot between the second bed and the wall. Everyone would have had to get out of bed by the foot (although during the day they were stood on end to allow people to walk around. Cathy and Sean simply had a king and there was plenty of room for my mattress on their floor.
I mentioned that there are parties- many of these are to “launch” a new book, or promote a convention, although some are just because the folks like to party. Jane’s room was at the end of the hall on the seventh floor where they’d grouped the parties, so they wouldn’t bother guests that wanted quiet. Sadly, the next day some guests who had come for the auto show seem to have been mis-assigned to that floor and complained about the noise, so the hotel shut all the parties down. Since this is often a semi-business activity, and one that the convention had intentionally pre-arranged with the hotel, I expect that there was some behind the scenes discussions with the hotel about this. I expect it came up because of some computer website assigning those rooms (to the auto show attendees) without taking the arrangements made by the people who booked the con’s plans into account. I felt rather badly for the people who’d put a lot of preparation into their parties. I’m not big on parties since I don’t particularly like talking to people I don’t know unless there is something we have in common to discuss. But Jane invited me to come with her to the Viking Mead party, and we were “carded” (looked over and judged to be not requiring further proof that we were over 18) and allowed in. After that we went down to the Pie party sponsored by Pi-con. Jane sells there every year and had a wonderful chat with the organizers, nicer because all they had left was a bowl of chips and one of mini-carrots. They’d only had 12 pies to start with (as Willow said, I’ve made more than that for a Thanksgiving), but less noise makes conversation easier if you ask me. Some people like party hopping. Maybe I don’t because I have such a hard time remembering names.
When I went back to the room Sean, Cathy and I talked for another hour or so. (Did I mention that the hotel TV had one channel dedicated to nothing but SF movies, and even ran the Masquerade film after it happened?). Oddly enough it wasn’t hard getting up to go see Green Arrow and Specter shorts (comics, both American and Anime, are another popular subgenre) first thing in the morning.
The main panels started at 10 and ran 75 minutes each, with 15 minutes between for us to change rooms. Saturday I attended panels on “Magickal Traditions”, “Science and Politics”, “Forensic Science”, and “the Gritty side of Fantasy”. I discovered that while I’d packed the gown I’m appliqueing with a motif from the Lindesfarne Gospels, and the “gold” floss, I couldn’t find the needles, so I wasn’t able to get the amount of work done on it that I’d hoped. Actually later it turned out that I had stuck the needle case in the bag of Pistachios I’d brought- but since that was heavy, I only took a few at a time with me to nibble on, and didn’t discover the needles until I got down to them on Sunday! The panel I was on Saturday was on the The Autism Spectrum. I was there as a parent, and was able to share my experiences about John, and encourage anyone dealing with it to try to deal with allergies and use a nutritional approach along with other techniques.
During the afternoon I discovered John and Chris Page running the information booth in the lobby, and spent a pleasant hour sitting and chatting with them and many other old SCA friends who dropped by. The information table was between the table where they were recruiting for the blood drive and another where they were selling girl scout cookies- I did get a box. For some reason, they no longer call the coconut ones Samoas- weird. But there were LOTS of SCAers among the SF fans- free thinkers the lot of us. Justin de Coeur commented that when you see people only once a year or so, it’s hard to not stop and say hi, and it can take him an hour to walk across the food court at Pennsic. The same thing goes for the lobby and halls of a big SF convention. It certainly is true for me, and contributes to my “lateness” problem. Upon reflection, I decided that Willow was right and I do have some sort of psychological block, so I would work on it. I attempted to get to all classes on time. (And I tried tapping to remove whatever the block.) The last one I was late for was the magickal traditions panel.
Sadly, the “magickal traditions” panel was in a room right opposite the “singing sea chanties” session, so they’d closed the door, and it had locked. I tapped and tugged a few times, but was trying to figure out other options when someone else arrived (and tried the door). Something in my personality responded to that, and I knocked loud enough to get heard at that point, and we both got in. (There’s something else to look at.) The panelists were all various kinds of wiccans, I’d have liked to see more variety, especially when one is exploring all the options available in speculative fiction. The one on politics was mostly about how research gets funded. The forensics one covered DNA scans and what they can and can’t do, how fingerprint matches can be way off if they use too few points, and how pathetically inaccurate eye-witness testimony is. At some point during the weekend I realized that when picking panels I almost always go for the ones that are addressing science (and metaphysics) as opposed to literature. Cathy, on the other hand, seemed to be going to every one available on getting your work published, and there were several. She also had a reading and a book-signing.
I was deeply disappointed that they didn’t have my favorite panels: “Ask a Geek”, which have been a standard for Arisia for years, usually one on biology and medicine, another on technology, and sometimes another on another topic, depending upon who volunteers I guess. There must not have been enough volunteers this year.
I got into a between-session chat with someone Saturday evening and realized that I was going to break my being on-time streak if I headed across the hotel for the Moral Aesthetic of Steampunk, so I went to the one I was near on Burlesque. It wasn’t a Burlesque show, just a panel talking about it. Still, I was asked for ID when I started to come in. What kind of ID I asked? “State ID” the young man told me- I haven’t been carded in decades, and wasn’t carrying around my purse. “Are you asking me to prove that I’m over 18?” I asked. He told me to go on in. There are some burlesque companies reviving the old form. The people involved like the costumes, and describe it as empowering for the woman. I didn’t know more about it than having seen references to it in the musicals Gypsy, Cabaret, and Oklahoma. Mostly I thought of it like the Muppet Show- only with live girls instead of the dancing pig chorus. So basically I knew almost nothing and am now fascinated by the art form. It apparently arose from mocking or parodying things in the popular culture, and goes back to the 16th century- the “girly show” part is a later addition, but now very much a part of it.
Arisia is no longer simply a Science Fiction con, the only thing I think everything in it has in common is about thinking differently than mainstream. There is a LOT of programing about “alternative lifestyles” (last year I was on a panel about Sacred Sexuality- I contributed the historical background), and there are explorations of polyamory, B&D, and other kinky stuff. There’s so much other stuff going on I can ignore it, but I understand there’s been some discussion about whether that kind of programming is appropriate, but for some reason, it’s the Burlesque that seems to be getting the flak from the hotel (I don’t think that the alternate sexuality workshops had people carding attendees). Maybe the hotel can simply recognize the word.

Once again/we only got about 5-6 hours of sleep, but oddly, I didn’t seem to feel it. In the line of “alternative lifestyles” the first panel I attended was “What is the SCA?” I think that while I’d love to be on it, I shouldn’t go unless I am because it’s hard for me to keep my mouth shut when I know so much about a subject. The best line I heard there was: “History is more diverse and fascinating than fantasy” by Justin de Court. There was another lady with an Anglo-Saxon persona, and I hope we can talk more. Another fellow was a drummer who remarked: “At Pennsic you hit a drum twice and belly dancers fall out of trees” (Toni Lay). What does the SCA have in common with SF? Well, there are costumes, and there’s role playing, and romantic adventure- (kind-of). It’s not surprising there’s a lot of over-lap.
The other panels I went to on Sunday included “Myth and Folklore in Fantasy”, “Extremophiles”, “the Future of School”, “Organ Transplants”, “the Future of Religion”, “Magick Systems” and “Risk Assessment”.  In the Myth and Folklore panel they covered many examples of how myths work in societies- for example Santa is a popular myth in our culture. Another fascinating idea one of the panelists (Greer Gilman, I think), suggested a “personal Tarot”- images that carry a huge freight of layered meanings to a person. (I feel a workshop coming on….) Extremophiles was a pure science panel- they are life that pushes our understanding of the universe by living where we think conditions should preclude life- from bacteria living in Chernobyl to giant tube-worms in the bottom of the ocean trenches, they can live in high or low heat, high radiation, low oxygen, and other places we’d expect to be inimical to life. As with history- no speculation is needed to make the topic fascinating and bizarre. The Future of School and the Future of Religion panels both shared one fault: the panelists spoke about current conditions and didn’t discuss how they might change and develop in the future. The school panelists talked about how the current system is in crisis because it was developed to serve the needs of the culture of the time when it was developed, and our needs are different now. One of the biggest things it does is to create a safe space- read, babysitting, and creates the ability to share tools like sports equipment and musical instruments. Before we can figure out how to design a school, we have to first figure out what we want it to do. Similarly, the Religion culture was somewhat stilted by what seemed to me defensiveness on the part of some of the atheist/agnostics, and, as I said, they never got to looking at what could happen in the future.
The Organ Transplant panel was fantastic, although they kept putting off stuff for the medical ethics panel directly following, which I couldn’t get to because it was at the same time as the “How Culture is shown with food” Panel I was on. Actually that was one of the best panels I was on either side of the table – for the whole con. VERY exciting, involved, and both panelists and audience were full of great thoughts. After that (and dinner at Jane’s room) I went to one where they (mostly authors) talked about whether or not a magickal system needed to be consistent- the consensus was that it shouldn’t (as it isn’t in the real world) but it should be applied consistently, and decisions about how magick works should NOT be made in order to overcome plot holes. Making a magick user too powerful was one big issue they had (at least one of them didn’t like Butcher).
The last one I caught was about the Law and Risk Assessment. I thought it was going to be about things like SCA and LARP (Live Action Role Playing) fighting, but it was more on getting sued for copyright infringement, or what might happen at a conference. (Somehow Jane and I need to find money for liability insurance for CTCW!) Another thing they said was that there are computer tools searching for images on the web (the way the computers on NCIS look for suspects pictures), just so they can slam a cease and desist order on the little artists like us who may be making otherwise unavailable goods and one at a time pieces using their “protected” images. They pointed out that the companies that do this lose by it. When Paramount got the rights to Star Trek back in the nineties, and started stomping on all the fans, the fans turned their attention to Star Wars. Still, that doesn’t help the little guys. (Look at Galen who named Hobbitronics from combining hobby and electronics back in the seventies, but after Jackson’s movie, when United Artists started looking for people infringing on their money making property, they started pressuring him to change his shops name.) This reminds me of the way that people thought radio would hurt the sales of records and sheet music, but in fact, it turned out to promote their sales.
This week there’s been a great brough-ha on the internet about the SOPA and PIPA bills. (Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect Intellectual Property Act). Basically, people are all for protecting intellectual property, but at the same time those bills were so badly written it would essentially set up automatic computer procedures to shut down access to any website that included any images people share- things that would almost certainly fall under fair use, and block a whole lot of innocent stuff with the pirated stuff. Not surprisingly, people object to the idea of setting up rules that would essentially cripple the internet. But to wind up my report on the con….
I mostly avoided the vendors because I didn’t have money I felt like spending. I DID buy two books from fellow panelists- one They called me Mad, about scientists through history, and one, Unconventional, a group of short stories all set at conventions!  But then on Sunday, on the table next to Jane’s,  there was beautiful teapot. I actually liked another one with a bigger spout better, but this one had stuck to the kiln shelf and was slightly “second”, so it was half price, and she took more off because she was packing to go home. Since I understand how discounting stuff because it did or could get damaged makes me feel a bit guilty for taking advantage of her- I’m sure it was just as much work, and it’s nearly as beautiful as the full priced one. But I also feel guilty for spending the money that I didn’t have to spend on buying in (that’s how I justified it to myself), on a hand crafted teapot. We do use a lot of teapots around here. At any given moment Kat, Willow and I probably have one full, or recently emptied. We go through a lot of tea. I don’t think this pot will go up and down stairs for personal consumption- I will be treating it carefully.

Monday we got up even earlier than we’d been doing so we could be all checked out by 10. Cathy and Sean had a movie they wanted to go to, and I went down to take a quick peek at the art show (as I’d forgotten to do before- next time Saturday- half the pieces were packed up)! I was able to tuck my suitcase and bedding (and now empty comestible bags) under Jane’s table. I caught two more panels- “Settings as Characters”, and “the Future of Old Age” (again we aren’t that good at looking into the future). I did find one bit of trivia- if you lose a lot of weight (as our friend Tish has) and have a flap of skin that used to encase your belly hanging down, the Shriners burn hospital will remove it for you free of charge so they can use it. It would be wonderful to have that option (although Tish says she is not interested in un-necessary surgery even if it’s free).
The girls arrived, as scheduled to pick me up at 3, and brought me back home. They were tired too- not only had they dropped me off, they’d been back down to Boston on Saturday for a Cosplay (in costume) skating party on the common.

Kat was able to give Joanie the shirt she made her last week. It’s fine cotton, lined, and then encased in lace, beautifully detailed and trimmed, and it matches the hat and skirt she’d made Joanie last year.

When I got home we had a quick meal, I had a long bath, and fell in bed- falling asleep while writing in my journal- before 9. I guess excitement had gotten me up over the weekend, I slept 15 hours straight through to catch up.
Well, maybe not quite straight through. I’d woken up during the night to go to the bathroom, and when I came back and flung myself onto the bed, some books toppled from the bedstead onto my head. “Ow,” I said, “that hurt.” and pulled up the blankets rubbing my head. I could pick up the books in the morning. Then my hand felt damp. I turned on the light- and discovered I was bleeding. Oh well, I remembered that scalp wounds are supposed to bleed a lot more than seems reasonable- so I figured the best bet for it was to keep pressure on it- and since I was rubbing it anyway, rolled over and went back to sleep. In the morning I had to wash the blood out- apparently I had a couple of dribbles coming out onto my forehead, but there was no bump, and we can’t find the cut, so I guess sleeping through it was OK.

Having finished the lacy blouse, Kathryne has been working a few hours each day on refinishing an old cupboard that used to hold Ælfwine’s toys when he was a kid. She’s put a new back on it, and is putting new hardware on and a new drawing surface so she can use it for a drawing desk in her room. She’s painting it white. She learned two things much faster than I did- one is the importance of safety mask and goggles, and the other is that getting the surface properly prepared makes the final product much better and pays for all the effort you put into it.

John, it turns out, likes baths a lot better than showers. (There will be no picture of this!) Instead here’s a picture of Freya, our “old” cat. Recently her eyes have been going very dilated off and on (and not contracting for brighter light), which is somewhat disturbing. More so is the internet information that this might be due to her being poisoned, or having a brain tumor. (And if she did, would we get the brain surgery for whatever amount of extra life it would get her?) She’s a dear old cat, and we don’t want it to be anything serious. But it sure does look weird! Meanwhile John is writing a story where the villain’s pupils are shaped like a crescent and an hour glass. I think an hourglass pupil might work- like a snake or a goat’s square pupils, but unless the crescent was like a moon crescent- and could spread to, if not a circle, at least a half circle, I don’t think it would work. And that’s what happens to you when you spend a weekend at a science fiction convention- you try to figure out how to make it work!

I worry a little about whether the way I’m getting my news is digging me deeper into my already arbitrary (semi-arbitrary?) attitudes. On Facebook, people share news items they feel worth sharing. I read the ones my friends have shared that catch my interest. This is two layers of sorting right there- my “fb friends” and what can penetrate whatever preoccupation I’ve got going. Even if I went back to listening to news every day, I’ve already seen that the station to which one listens determines what news is covered and how. (I like the BBC- it gives somewhat of an outsider’s perspective, and certainly leaves out all the celebrity, and most of the sports, foolishness.)

What I’ve been reading and watching this week- well, not much while I was out, but I’ve got several books on the art of ancient Rome, especially at Pompeii and Herculaneum- as we hope to get down to the Pompeii exhibit at the Science Museum. I’ve gotten up to Scandal Takes a Holiday in the Falco series. While I was gone Cowboys and Aliens arrived and I watched that while I began to get back into the normal rhythm (I am still experiencing the usual disorientation I feel after a long weekend- it feels like Wednesday). I liked it- not enough to buy a copy and watch over and over, but it was fun. It’s kind of interesting to see Harrison Ford play an old guy, and it strikes me that really there’s not a huge improvement in technology between cowboys guns and modern guns. It’s the brains behind them that makes things work. Willow knows the story already because it apparently started as a graphic novel. It’s actually one of the cooler things about the con- suggestions included movies, books, TV shows, graphic novels and any kind of media without discrimination about type- only quality. It’s a good thing. (I have four pages of suggestions written down- I hope that most of them can be dealt with through the library.) I also finished watching the first season of the Borgias, I do like the way they balance the real piety with ambition and ruthlessness, not just in the Borgias, but all the characters. I started wondering what Jeremy Irons looked like when he was young, so I looked on Netflix and found The House of the Spirits from 1993 available for instant streaming. It had an all star cast, and was about a woman who is very psychic, so I thought it would be just up my alley. On the other hand, Jeremy Irons role was as an old man (through make-up and acting) for most of the movie, and the psychic part was so natural and thoroughly integrated, it couldn’t count as supernatural at all. Moreover, it was rather depressing, as it was the story of a family in South America during the mid 20th century when the rich could justify (to themselves) treating the poor very badly indeed; Irons plays a man quite comfortable with playing Patron to his peasants, casually beating and raping and exploiting them, only gradually become aware of his previous shortsightedness when the military he had supported took over the undesignated South American country in which the story was set, and did not defer to his assumed authority. I am reminded of the stories of the scientists in Germany in The Demon under the Microscope, who were so involved in their personal quest for antibiotics, that they seem to have ignored the building up of the Nazi state as not applicable to their lives. I have to wonder if the people who don’t worry about politics these days, who won’t be bothered to worry about infractions of rights for Other groups and individuals will feel confused and disoriented if (when?) the developments that have been going on around them finally force themselves on their consciousness, and ask themselves- should I have done something? What? When?

I have finished the first discs in the Yao to Mao course. This is a subject in which I’m not particularly interested (yet). Worse, as they try to cover three thousand years of history in only 36 lectures, the professor is skimming so quickly across the various dynasties and kingdoms that he rarely has time to look at the people, only the big movements. It’s the people that make any history fascinating. I find myself wanting a costume book showing the history of Chinese clothing.  Certainly they were no more “the same” over all that time, all that continent, and all those cultures than European clothing was over the same time period. If I had images perhaps that would help me to cement the stories and names into my head. There were exciting times- I’d never heard before about the Burning of Books and Burying of Scholars in the Qin Dynasty (3rd century bce), where in order to simplify the Hundred Schools of Thought to create “unity” the state not only burned all the books except the ones they decided were the “truth”, they also buried all the scholars who knew what was in those books alive. Apparently this is pivotal image in the Chinese tradition. I expect it may be the one bit I never forget from all of Chinese history. (At this point, I’ve gotten as far as the invasion of the Turkic people- equivalent of the Huns in Europe- 4th century ce.

As is pretty evident, I didn’t get the letter out on Wednesday, as I’d hoped, and really not on Thursday either. Today Mark got back up here. He’s taken a medical leave of absence, as he’s dissatisfied with the doctors down in Florida. I am reminded of when Grammies’ doctors told her “what do you expect? you’re 78!” So she changed doctors, and gave them a birthdate a decade later, and they started treating what was wrong with her. I don’t think Mark could get away with that in this day of computer information exchange. Still, New England has some good doctors. Today we all went over and helped him carry his stuff up the stairs to his apartment (he’s done something to his foot), and he took us out for a lovely steak dinner. Frankly, I feel we got the better of the deal.
Also today, Jane went over to physically look at the hotel I’d found on the internet last month. She likes it as much as I did, and if they can offer us a decent price (even the same as UMass hotel) I’m thinking we’re going to change to this one. Tomorrow, I should be finishing and sending off the cover for the Birka booklet, and getting to work on Jane’s next book cover. Then there’s updating the websites, and making new sculptures, and,… and…. (How can anyone so unemployed as I am have so much to do?!)

And I saved for last the biggest piece of news of the week because it’s depressing. Niles Ford, husband of Jenny Taylor, (who’s the daughter of Steve, Ælfwine/Nick’s older brother), died Saturday. Apparently he had a heart attack during the night and just didn’t wake up in the morning. I suppose that’s a good way to go- for him, but it’s got to be hard on Jenny and their boys. Willow told me when I called over the weekend to see how things were going at home, but there seemed no benefit to anyone for me to go home. I’m glad we got a last chance to see him after Christmas this year.

Here’s his obituary from the New York Times.



“Winter must be cold for those with no warm memories.” – Terry in An Affair to Remember

“I like these cold, gray winter days. Days like these let you savor a bad mood.” Bill Watterson

“Winter must be cold for those with no warm memories.” – Terry in An Affair to Remember

“I like these cold, gray winter days. Days like these let you savor a bad mood.” Bill Watterson

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