3-21-2012 Kite Month

The weather is SO gorgeous! Yesterday it was in the eighties much of the day and in the fifties at night. We’ve had the front door open most of the time. Yesterday when I went out for milk, I heard the peepers singing in the pond down the street as I passed!

Freya's buttFreya continues to have trouble seeing, and having trouble with incontinence. She’s an old cat. She spends most of her time sleeping near the food dishes. Kat takes her upstairs to her room, but she comes back down. We think she’s putting on a little weight since we’ve been “babying” her (with soft food, and brewers yeast treats, and making sure Zoloft doesn’t steal her treats). Zoloft is loving the wonderful weather, but we’ve been checking her more often, and she’s getting a generous supply of ticks- flea treatments notwithstanding. The news tells us that this is going to be a banner year for Lyme disease- not because of the mild winter, but because we’re in a high point in the acorn cycle, which means more deer mice, which means more deer ticks, which means more Lyme disease. So everyone, wear socks when you go out, and check for ticks. Sadly, the dangerous ones aren’t the big ones we find on our pets, but tiny ones the size of a period. I guess when a cat gets old, you just try to enjoy them as long as they last, and make them comfortable. Sadly, this is not reciprocated. If picked up, Freya immediately scrambles onto Kat’s shoulders which are now a mass of scratches.

Our first daffodils are coming in. I never seem to remember to divide them when they aren’t blooming so they are really crowded. We have our first crocus, and one snow drop remains. The hyacinths that we’ve planted over the years are sticking their sprouts up, and I’m looking forward to them. When we were down at Lunacon, I did see some forsythia, but the beginning of the “green haze” that marks the leaves starting to bud on the trees was not yet in evidence. Mostly we could see broken branches and trees- probably from the Halloween blizzard, but maybe leftover from the 2008 ice storm. I’ll also mention that the carnations I bought two or three weeks ago are still looking and smelling great, keeping my spirits up until the spring flowers bloom. My balloon has finally sunk, and I have to throw it out, although Star’s is still valiantly floating (somewhat slackly) over his computer. While I worry about their not being recyclable, I love the way mylar balloons last the way gas balloons never did when I was a kid. (I was always confused- probably because of the balloon chapter in Mary Poppins- why most balloons didn’t float, and why people acted like they were supposed to. When did they start making balloons float?)

This weekend the girls and I went down to Lunacon, one of the conventions that may have started out focused on Science Fiction, but which now includes fantasy, gaming, anime, steam-punk, and many other contingents of nerds, geeks, dorks and other free thinkers. There was a Regency Ball on Friday, which, had Willow know about it, she could have attended as she has an appropriate gown. On the other hand, both she and I remembered they have a pool with a hot tub at one end, and packed our bathing suits, intending to use it, and never got around to it. They have round-the-clock rooms for gaming, movies, filking (singing folk songs many of which are inspired by sf stories or even fan culture). There’s a “Masquerade”, which is not a costume ball, but a costume competition, (on stage, with lighting, music, etc.). It’s so popular that most other activities shut down while it goes on. The vending room, on the other hand, was shut down at 8 pm Friday, 6 pm Saturday (so venders could participate in the Masquerade I expect), and 3 pm on Sunday. We are more used to being open until 10 or 11, and only just broke even on Sunday. There’s also an art show (which I missed, but the girls caught)

I plunged into the panels, and didn’t have to come out as they run all day from 10 to past my bedtime. While the girls manned the table (and Willow worked on her blankets for Anime Boston), I dashed from panel to panel. This one was organized in hour long blocks, and I have come to the conclusion (forced on me last year by Jane) that putting a short break between each to get from one to another, grab a bite or something from your room, use the facilities, etc. is a good idea. Luckily for you, in recording the joys of workshops over the years, I have learned not to write something on each of them, because there was a new one each hour, and I barely stopped to eat. I was in my element! Panels differ from workshops by having several people sharing their perspective on a given topic. I think this may have originated as cons created a venue with many different authors (as well as artists, publishers, and editors), and by having panels, the fans could have their questions answered without having the poor writers answer the same questions over and over. Now each serves as a forum where the writers can compare thoughts on fascinating subjects. Not surprisingly, there are fifteen rooms with things going on simultaneously, I had to choose ones to miss as ones to attend. (What a pity!)

I chose several because I hoped to learn something useful at them: Conrunning in the 21st century, Herding Cats (also about conrunning), Marketing and Promotion, and How to Sell what you make. I also went to the Pagan Meet-up and Give me that Old-time Religion to promote CTCW, figuring that it would be a natural audience to which to distribute our flyers.  Actually I didn’t learn much that I could use, and decided from now on I should go to the ones that sounded enjoyable instead. Those included Economics in Fantasy Worlds, the Ecology of Fantasy Worlds, Neuroscience Fiction, the future of Medicine, Food and Drink in SF, Creating Believable Fantasy Animals, and What Makes Y.A. (young adult)? I’m not the only one who finds that the more realistic things are in a speculative fiction piece, the better the whole story holds together. I have a little notebook I carried with me and write down the names of books and movies I hear about and want to read or see.

One book that was recommended repeatedly was Ender’s Game, then when I got home it came up again- in the news. Apparently some parent complained to his child’s school because Ender’s Game was one of books in their 14 year old’s English class. Briefly, it is about a very smart kid who’s being bullied in a military school and comes up with clever ways to retaliate during war games. Now I feel I’ve got to read it, and have requested a copy from the library (I LOVE being able to do that!). Not getting the response they wanted from the school administration, the parent went to the police, describing the book as pornographic. There’s a rule that says that all reports of possible criminal activity (such as distribution of porn to minors) have to be reported to the police, and now the school is in trouble, and the teacher has been suspended. Nothing I’ve read gives me any indication that it is pornographic, but once the trigger words have been fed into the machine, it begins to grind people up. Phooey. (I do have a theory: in the SF story the insectoid enemy are called Buggers (possibly to differentiate them from the “Bugs” the enemy in Starship Troopers and the parent just feels that bugger is always a naughty word, no matter the context). I have to admit that I hope the teacher makes a counter suit for wrongful prosecution or frivolous litigation be made against the parent, or at very least that the school rethinks the policy so this travesty of justice doesn’t repeat.

Willow has written an essay that’s on her Tumblr about the inherent dangers in allowing anonymous accusations to have weight. In the “court of public opinion” the protections that have been established in courts of law are totally missing. A clip posted on the internet many have no context, or only the biased context included by the person who posted it. If you do Tumblr, you might look at her Unpopular opinion Wednesday entry.

Kat spent much of the week writing an essay (much to her own surprise). It’s about the relationships often seen in fiction between immortals and mortals and how that simple difference is going to have a major impact on the relationship. Let’s face it, people often get creeped out when there’s a 10 year difference between a couple ages, so whether it’s Dracula/Barnabas/Edward/Angel, or Dr. Who and a companion, or the Goblin King and Sarah in Labyrinth, quite aside from the cultures, the age differences are going to make a huge handicap in any such unequal relationship. Also, let’s face it, a huge part of what makes pedophelia wrong is the same reason that we don’t allow teachers and students, bosses and employees, or officers and enlisted having romantic relationships. When the power difference is so huge, whether the participants acknowledge it or not, the possibility of coercion is too great to set aside. She read us bits as she wrote, but I haven’t read the full essay yet, although I’m looking forward to it. As she was in the throws of creativity, that’s why she didn’t bother with the indoor croquet or anything else at the con.

I did go out to take a peek at the Quiddich game on Sunday: the brooms don’t fly, and the hula hoops you toss the quaffle through are only a few feet from the ground. The snitch was represented by a ball in a sock hanging from the belt of a person in a yellow shirt; but everyone ignored it because grabbing the snitch ends the game. The sun was bright, the grass was green, and the participants had a blithe lack of concern about the rules. The participants ranged in age from three to middle aged, and a great risk was getting a broom in the face when the littler kids faces were about the same height as the brooms held between adult legs.

I wish now that I’d chosen “fun” over “useful” in the panels I attended, and gone to How to Survive the Apocalypse (zombies optional), or Magical Middle Class instead of Low Tech Future. That one had more to do with the Singularity than being intentionally Low Tech, and the panelists were as surprised by the description in the booklet as the audience. I probably learned more from that than the “running cons” panels- give your panelists the full information early. I went to one on ending a story arc in Role Playing Games by accidentally reading the schedule wrong, and yet found it fascinating. Of course, I do like role playing, I just don’t have time to dedicate a day a month to it, as these gamers appear to do.

Friday night we went out to a local Chinese restaurant for supper, but we had a pizza delivered on Saturday, and stopped at Cracker Barrel on the way home. I could wish it had been more profitable, but we got to see friends, and have a good time, and it didn’t cost us what it would to “just go”.

Saturday night we went to the gaming room and I saw a new game called Fresco that was terribly complicated, but looks like fun. (The images are drawn from the lives of artists in the Italian Renaissance trying to juggle deal with materials, portraits, apprentices, patronage, and all sorts of things. My necklace watch stopped working (it needs a battery I think), but Tish at Alchemy gave me a new one at cost, sweetie that she is. I have spent the last year going back and forth between feeling jealous of and worried about her because she’s been losing weight very successfully, but, I felt, too quickly. This time when I said I thought that she’d lost too much, she told me that her gall bladder had gone septic, and she’d had to spend a week in the hospital. I’d still like to lose weight- even more than she did, but will remember her example and try to be more gradual (if I can figure out a good way to do it). She’d been drinking only vitamin water type drinks for quite a while (these had protein too), although she’d begun eating again when I saw her at Arisia. Yikes. Lose weight- but gradually, with healthy food and exercise.

Since we’ve gotten back, Willow’s been working on the cosplay she’s been doing all that embroidery for. She did fabric painting on the skirt (as embroidery would make it more stiff than it looks in the manga). It’s very impressive. Aside from the embroidery, painting, and sewing, she’s making a cord with Kumihumo. This is going to be a very impressive cosplay!

Since I’ve gotten back, I’ve been on the internet- working on the con, the websites, the talk show. Tonight I may have made a mistake. I thought a show on gardening and plants would be good, and I’ve got both Raven Kaldera and Raven ap Tower on the same show- maybe not a smart thing. Lyrion ap Tower will also be on, and I’ve got to wrap this up and get my notes prepped for it.  I’m also going to be a guest on Corbie Mitleid’s show Fire Through Spirit  on Thursday. She’s on Empower Radio, whereas I’m on LiveParanormal; I’m beginning to think hers is more organized. My show is still not posted on their website, sigh. I guess that’s what happens when the producer is doing it in his spare time around his day job and family.

Since writing that, I have done this week’s show- it went pretty well, except that I was trying to figure out a way to call Lyrion and Raven (this week’s guests), and they were sitting by their phones waiting for the call, and I kept sending them emails saying to call (probably producing dead air), but luckily Raven (the other one) called in and that went great, and we did get our first “stranger” call in with a question, which was cool.

What else has gone on this week? Sandy tells me that she’s just finished a ten week comedy class.  I didn’t know anyone in Mexico during the earthquake, but I noticed people on my groups asking for updates from their friends. What a blessing to have this sort of instant response available when something like this happens.

I noticed this week that my hands have a lot more blue and red (veins and knuckles) in them than the pinkish white I think of them as. I think my body is like some of my favorite clothing- you know the coat or dress or other outfits you have that you just love and it makes you feel good to wear them? Then one day, after they’ve been your go-to outfit for whenever you want to look really good, you suddenly realize that your beautiful garment is threadbare and warn, maybe stained, possibly stretched out of shape. When did this happen? The last time you looked at it, it was gorgeous. It still is the same garment- the same cut, color, trim, fabric. It probably still feels good (or maybe it is a bit too tight). My body is like that. When did I get lumpy, and mottled, not to mention grey and frizzy, and saggy and weak? I certainly didn’t notice it happening. It’s not like no one warned me it would happen, everyone does. But it still snuck up on me.

I think about disasters- like an earthquake, a fire, a break-in, or a sudden diagnosis of a dread disease, and how they can totally reset your priorities. All the things I spend so much time and effort on can really be dropped if I had to. Sometimes I look at my life and think “I’ve done a bunch of stuff!”. Most of the things I’ve done, like getting peacocks to being queen because I decided to do it. (Of course, I’ve started a bunch more projects than I’ve finished. At some point (I’m guessing in about 30 years) I’m going to wake up dead and realize it’s all over, and none of the stuff I’ve done recently is worth more than the stuff I did years before, and very little of it matters much, but I’ve made huge numbers of small differences that I hope will have helped a lot of people.

As Ælfwine said- if what he went through with the Guillaume Barre convinced people how important nutritional supplements were to faster healing, it would be worth having gone through it. It would probably have been the most important thing he did in his life, although it was one of the least intentional. I expect any good I’ve done has probably been mostly unintentional as well.

As the light grows (and we’re halfway there now, boys and girls), we seem to have magically started reacting differently. Sleeping less, being more active, wanting different food. Like the swallows returning to Capistrano or the Buzzards to Hinkley, Ohio, or chickens starting to lay again, there are reactions of our inner clocks to which we respond without intent.

I don’t know if it’s one of those reactions, but I’ve started seeing out news more- on the radio and internet. I think it may be something in the seasons, since the girls also started writing essays about things, which indicates that they are thinking slightly differently. For example, I’m pretty annoyed about the house bill (HR347) that makes it a felony to protest anywhere someone the secret service is protecting is present. First of all, I don’t like the idea that a bunch of individuals (the Secret Service) get to decide that what’s normally not a felony, suddenly is a felony, just because they say so. Another thing is, that it insulates the people in power from the protests that constitute one of our basic protected freedoms- right to petition the government for redress. There seems to be a creeping destruction of our liberties, and I don’t care for it.

I read in some recent discussion of universal health care coverage, that 5% of patients represent 50% of the cost of health care in the country (and as I recall, most of that is “end of life” care, that does little more than extend the lives of the very old and very ill a few more months). That doesn’t really seem good economy to me. Also given that a significant portion of health problems are lifestyle based- heart disease, diabetes, etc. then it seems reasonable for the people who are putting in the money to health insurance to object to having 50% of what they are paying for, going to cover people who are not bothering to maintain their health, or are just going to die anyway, so what is that last few months worth? They say that if it’s YOUR life, you’d want it, but I’m not sure that that’s necessarily true.

On more positive notes, other interesting stories I’ve read were on the benefits of being bilingual and reading novels.  I had noticed in the last year or so that I am able to remember strings of directions much better than I used to be able to, perhaps it’s studying languages that is responsible. Here’s the study about neurological benefits of reading fiction.  See, I told my parents that reading SF/Fantasy (speculative fiction) was good for you!

In thruth, I’m not reading much “great literature” right now. I’ve been re-reading the Borrowers books, and the first of the Barsoom books (Fighting Man of Mars) I was able to get my hands on. I’d forgotten the wonderful language in the Edgar Rice Burroughs books! It’s “heroic”? Perhaps “high flown”? I think when I was younger I would have called it “elevated”. Certainly Burroughs was going for the language in the tradition of Mallory and the other romantic epics. The vocabulary is much above what’s expected today, and the imagery vivid, although there is virtually no introspection or complicated characters. The maidens are pure, the villains are evil, and the heros are bold and noble. As for the Borrowers, I think other than the concept, that what made those books special is the illustrations. They are pen and ink with lots of detail, and you have to look really hard to find the borrowers in the picture- as you’d have to in “real life”.

For non-fiction, I have been reading Fairy Tale Rituals, a strange book from Llewelyn. Klein, the author, discusses the meanings of traditional fairy tales, and then proposes Wiccan/ceremonial magickal type rituals using the characters in the tales as the symbols in the ritual. Given that many of these images, whether the wolf, the hag, or the gingerbread house, are sunk deeply into our subconscious minds, he’s right that they make great symbols to use for doing magick, but I’m just not a fan of doing magick willy-nilly, just because you want something, I’d rather just look at what the tales have given us for symbols and how that impacts how we think. Why are the fathers so often absent? Why is Snow White helped by dwarves? (Speaking of which, I just saw an ad for a new Snow White movie coming out in June that looks GREAT!) I’ve also been reading more articles in the Magic, Witchcraft and Religion Anthropology textbook, including a wonderful one on the separation of science and religion, talking about when the Pope said that evolution was accepted as fact by the Catholic Church. Of course, he can’t tell the Protestants not to decide that the Bible isn’t the literal truth, but it was interesting to hear it.

I’ve caught another couple Borrowers movies- the 1997 one with James Broadbent (I think they ‘borrowed’ a little of the imagery from The Littles TV show, which I never watched because it seemed such a rip-off of the Borrowers), and the 1992 one with Ian Holm. I’m still hoping to find the Eccleston version. Each has something to recommend it. While I didn’t mind the way the `97 movie brought the borrowers up to the modern world (so did the World of Arrietty), I didn’t care for the insertion of the John Goodman evil lawyer. I did like that they had a Spiller- he was a great character and shouldn’t be left out.

In movies I watched something called Affliction, which was supposed to be about a cop in a small town in northern NH trying to figure out if a hunting accident was really a murder, but it was just another dysfunctional family story. I thought the best part was that the poor guy had a toothache that he couldn’t afford to get fixed, and surely watching him wince when he’d take in a breath of cold air was a masterful addition to his litany of woes. It’s hard to think when you’ve got a toothache. On a somewhat lighter note,(?) I watched the Flesh and the Fiends, a 1960 movie about Burke and Hare with Peter Cushing. The camera work was incredible!

That’s it for this week. I have to wonder what the weather is going to do next?

Tchipakkan

*Every person, all the events of your life are there because you have drawn them there. What you choose to do with them is up to you. 
Richard Bach

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