Dear Charlotte: February 26th, 2014
We’re still getting snow flurries occasionally, and there’s still plenty lying around, but in the morning, before I get my contacts in, I look out and wonder if we’re having another blizzard, because it’s usually pretty foggy. I think this is an indication of warming. Not that I’m feeling particularly warm, just now. It’s bloody 0º C. out there, and I think it only got up to 4º, and was -10Cº last night. (That’s 32º, 39º and 14º for Americans.) John is good about setting the thermostat back when he goes to bed, but forgets to set it back up to 15ºc/60ºf in the morning. The kitchen was 10º (50º) when I got up, and while I don’t mind my bedroom being 7º (after all, I’m in bed or quickly getting in or out), I’d like to be able to raise bread in the kitchen. I have gotten VERY used to cooking on the woodstove this winter. (Tonight beef stew and popovers.)
We’ve been having some problems with the furnace, having to restart it occasionally. We even had a furnace man come check it. *I* think our oil was low, even though the gauge read 1/4, & the repairman who came said that my banging on the tank and hearing it echo that it wasn’t any indication that it was empty. On the other hand, it just got filled today (I don’t remember the house filling with the smell of diesel from previous oil deliveries), and now the gage reads 3/4, and it sounds totally different. No echo at all. I think banging on it is more accurate than that gauge! (The repairman came, the gauge wasn’t screwed on right- but doesn’t that mean it was supposed to be “half full” when it was reading 1/4? I still think it’s not working correctly). Anyway, we had to keep restarting it even after he changed the clogged nozzle (when the tank gets low, sludge from the bottom of the tank gets in the lines), so we had them coming over today to do the “annual” cleaning. I thought I was on an automatic schedule for that, but it turns out it the company doesn’t have one. They don’t have records of our having filters changed etc. in several years, so today’s the day. Now to put a note in my computer reminders to get it done every year.
I think I have been baking more recently. We had cherry pie last Thursday for National Cherry Pie Day (half way between Washington’s birthday and Presidents Day), we had sweet potatoes on Saturday for Sweet Potato Day, Monday was National Cupcake Day, so I did make cupcakes, but we missed Clam Chowder Day, (albeit unintentionally), and I plan to do Chili Day tomorrow. Kat made some “Poor Knights” (french toast) with a loaf of old bread, and when it crumbled, made bread pudding with the crumbs. We’ve been going through a lot of eggs- makes me wish we still had chickens, although I’d be worrying about them in the cold.
Today as I posted the holidays I felt like there should be one called “OMG the Month is almost over!” How can I be so busy, and at the same time “not get anything done”?
Monday Kat and I donated blood. I’d been signed up to give “double red cells”, but they said “You’re A positive! We want your platelets!” (I ended up giving whole blood, as usual.) That’s really nice, but the reason I wanted to give double reds was because when they take out twice the red cells, and won’t let you give for four rather than two months. This would save me the time it takes to travel to donate. I don’t mind the 10-15 minutes it takes to make the donation and take the history, but I hate waiting, and begrudge the time it takes to get there (about 20 minutes each way). Unfortunately, they don’t carry the machine for separating out the platelets out to collection centers the way they do with the red cell separator, and so not ONLY would I have to lie there for 2 hours while they sieved out the platelets, but I’d have to spend two hours traveling (to and from Manchester) as well. It would probably end up being nearly five hours out of the day by the time I added parking and histories and all that, and I rarely have anything to do in Manchester that would let me combine trips. I feel like a real selfish jerk- here I am with something that could save lives “You can give platelets every three days!” the phlebotomist told me, and I’m thinking about how much of my time it would use up, and how much I’d have to spend on gas. I love the idea of helping save lives, but I hate that the hospitals charge the patients $300 for the blood I have to spend $18 to give to them. If I lived in Manchester and had the time, I’d love to give platelets every week, but I can’t afford the time or expense. I suppose this is one more thing to throw into the large category of “you can’t have it/do it all”.
John’s birthday was Friday. We went out to the Texas Steakhouse (his choice), lovely lovely steaks. I had one with garlic and portobello mushrooms, and John had his steak with bacon wrapped. John had a egregiously large hunk of cheesecake, and the girls ate a chocolate Stampede (over the next few days- they’re huge!). We were hoping to go to the movies afterwards, but we hadn’t gotten out in time. There seems to have been a power-outage that morning before I woke up, and the clocks in the kitchen were not reset. They all matched each other, ( I guess the analogue was used to reset the microwave and stove, or vice versa), so when we got on the road we discovered we were an hour behind. So we had a lovely dinner, and then (rather than going to a 9:30 showing), went home.
Saturday we had another lovely dinner, at home- with cake and candles, and went out to a matinee. John wanted to see the remake of Robo-cop, and since we ladies like to sit down front- where the screen fills most of your vision, and he likes to sit way up in the last row, we don’t sit together anyway. So we had been going to see Pompeii on Friday night (I was even willing to give 3-D a shot.) If you’re going to be watching something on the BIG screen, having flaming boulders coming right at you seemed reasonable. But that was what was playing against Robo-cop Friday evening, Saturday morning they weren’t lined up, so we saw Frozen instead. It was as bad, and as good as we’d heard. The snowman was unnecessary and annoying. The plot seemed like it had been strung together by a committee (as in the scene in the beginning of the Majestic). At least they didn’t claim that it was The Snow Queen. As usual, we waited through all the credits to see if there were going to be a final joke or clip. We got to see a couple little girls- pre-schoolers- go by in costumes, one was, I think Snow White but the other was an Elsa gown. And yes, at the very end of the credits, was a disclaimer saying “The views and opinions by Kristoff in the film that all men eat their boogers are solely his own and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The Walt Disney Company or the filmmakers.” And then there was another couple of seconds additional clip. We also had a little revelation. Sitting on the other side of me was a family with what I’d identify as a four year old and a six year old. Admittedly, in the theater, you keep your voice down, but people near you MIGHT be able to hear if they are tuned in, and that sensitized me. So when Kat asked “WTF was something or other” and Willow at another point said that she “didn’t give a F” I noticed, whereas ordinarily I probably wouldn’t have done. Their reaction was like mine- they’d had no idea they’d dropped the F bomb, wouldn’t have done it in public, and hoped they could get it under conscious control in future. We finally gave up on the old printer. I felt that it was new, but realized that we’ve actually had it for about three years. This week there was one with a large scanner (for our artwork) on a big sale, so I got it. It is mostly set up, but I’m not sure whether it’s hooked up as a fax machine yet. Today I participated in a lively discussion on fb about why can’t we get things repaired these days, why if you lose the handle on your refrigerator does it cost as much to replace it (if the part can be found) as to replace the whole refrigerator? Etcetera, etcetera. Everyone agrees we don’t like it, but we can’t figure out what to do about it. We are at the mercy of the market place. It doesn’t help much to remember that we used to do without an in-house printer, computer, cell phones, TVs in every room, and all the things to which we have become accustomed. We do want them, we just want them for less. How would we feel if we COULD get them repaired, but had to pay far more for the original item? I think it would be a better way to do it, but don’t think most people would go along with me on that.
Steve came up to visit for the first time in a while. We watched Everything’s Illuminated (by the past), a very strange movie about looking at things through other people’s eyes, had supper, and had a quiet evening. I LIKE doing nearly nothing- with friends. (I’d love to play board games, but Steve doesn’t do that.) We talked about Dr. Who and Star Trek- I’ve continued watching the occasional episode of Voyager, and am getting very fond of the French Horns in the theme (not to mention the characters).
Liz is slowly recovering from hurting herself shoveling last week. It’s a shame when the injuries last longer than the snow! I sent her some flowers. She makes me aware how much I would HATE being alone in a house.
I’m starting on Jane’s book-cover (again, the first time just wasn’t working). Also, my first project with my new (used) sewing machine that was my birthday present. A denim skirt. I am sure there’s another quilted one around here that I’d REALLY like to get done and start wearing!
I am in the middle of American Nations: a History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America. Some years ago someone described North America as being divided into nine nations- nine subcultures, but I never got around to reading it- I may have to at some point. The difference with this one is that it’s based on the people who founded his eleven regions, and why. This seems to have made a big difference in their ultimate cultural expression. For example, the New England Puritans wanted to create a religious utopia for themselves, and kept out as many divergent religious as they could. The Tidewater was populated by cavaliers who wanted to recreate medieval England (upper class) or Ancient Rome. The way they treated indentured servants was appalling. The French looked upon the indigenous population as simply the local people and interacted with them that way. Wow, is that different from most of the other Europeans. The Spanish mission system was set up to “save” the Indian’s souls- while exploiting the land. So easy to get corrupted that way. As a history buff, I am enjoying it immensely, and looking forward to finishing it. (Sadly, I’ve had it for a month and need to turn it back in.)
This week I finished The Giver; for the first half of the book I was very excited. It was speculative fiction, creating an future utopia that one gradually realizes is a distopia. Both world and characters were beautifully realized. Then at the end, after framing the problem, the book fails. It turned into yet another juvenile fiction where the theme is “When you grow up, you’ll discover that life isn’t fair and there’s nothing you can do about it.” The ending is sufficiently ambiguous that teachers could probably pursuade disappointed 4th graders that the protagonist actually had actually won, but I didn’t have that safety net. Growl, grump.
I did enjoy a new series from the library: Rites of Passage, Feasts and Festivals, Living with the Gods from a series by Jacqueline Dineen, excellent highly illustrated non-fiction books for children. I would love to do books like that.
As I start to do art again, I watched Bend it like Beckham, not what I expected. I’d heard of it, but didn’t realize it was about girls. I took out The Song of Bernadette, I don’t think when I saw it as a kid that I noticed the cynic was played by a gorgeous young Vincent Price. As an adult I saw it as an exploration of the stated them. “For those who believe in God, no explanation is necessary, for those who don’t none will suffice.” It was a wonderful exploration of who believed in what and why, and at the end, you really felt sorry for those who claimed to be men of science, but really were refusing to look at the evidence that contradicted what they needed to believe. I watched The Contract, with Morgan Freeman and John Cusack (it was good, but I’m not sure why I put it in the cue). I am still waiting for the fictional Krakatoa East of Java, but watched a fascinating documentary about Krakatoa. I cried when they showed the story of the lighthouse keeper who kept to his work through the disaster. Human beings are so capable of acts of selfless heroism! I think there’s another documentary out there about it I’ll have to track down. (There’s also apparently a Russian version of the Snow Queen I need to find.) We got a copy of the second Percy Jackson movie Sea of Monsters, pretty good, but not as well done as the first movie, and sadly, very disappointing when compared to the book. Some series are so rich in characters and so well done that it’s almost impossible for a movie to do them justice. I’m afraid Rick Riordan’s books may be among these. On the other hand, I got a copy of the remake of The Pink Panther, watched about 20 minutes and couldn’t keep going, it was that bad. I have no idea why people thought it was funny.
On a much happier note, I found the four film series: The Hollow Crown, a BBC production of Shakespere’s historical series: Richard II, Henry IV (parts one and two), and Henry V. I am SO going to get a copy of this set for my collection! The cast included Patrick Steward as John of Gaunt, Ben Wishaw as Richard, Tom Hiddleston plays Henry the fifth, and Jeremy Irons Henry the fourth. And many other stars as well! I’d never even thought to see a production of Richard the second before, but it was incredible.
I am VERY happy to report that my Wednesday night live podcast mostly worked tonight. At least the studio computer let me on. Sadly, it then told me that the New Normal was 15 minutes. While Baba Charles and Mambo Fancy talked about the Orishas, I madly messaged the producer, who was able to figure out that it was still recording. Thank goodness! The last couple of weeks I couldn’t get to the studio, so this was not as bad as it could have been, and the subject matter was wonderful! Anyway, that was good. Then Brian and I worked on the website for Changing Times, Changing Worlds, and we think we’ve fixed some of the problems with the workshop submission forms.
As I said, I seem to fill the available time, without accomplishing anything. It all depends on what you consider worth accomplishing.
And oh yes, we seem to have come through Ragnarok last weekend, unscathed. (Must we have a new apocalypse every year?)
Until next week,