4-12-2017 National Licorice Day!

The snow is finally gone (except for small piles where there used to be huge berms. Yesterday the weather was in the high 80s, and Kat was remembering how much she hates the summer heat. (Zoloft went out and caught a flying squirell and was playing with it. Ah, sweet little kitty cats!) It was 74º this morning, and John hung the screen door. Willow spotted the first black fly! Time to dose the cats with anti-flea drops, and stop eating peanuts and bananas (both of which attract biting insects). The bananas I will miss, but no peanut butter in the summer is a real hardship!  Willow, on the other hand, is loving the warmth, and went out to rake the garden. The crocus have dared to show their heads. The hyacinth (years of potting forced bulbs have resulted in a great collection in the garden- not perfect, but fragrent and quite welcome. They are poking up- not blooming yet. Our solitary snowdrop did bloom, but was lost in the raking. And Monday I used the first of the fresh chives in the dinner, YAY!

A while ago the store had a huge range of different sausages and this week I got to the Greek Loucanico. Being unfamiliar with it I looked to the internet for a recipe and found one that looked good. It was a casserole or fritatta made of shredded potatoes with scallions (and chives), eggs and a sauce made of cream cheese melted into milk. (Rich!) One browned the slices of sausage and mixed that in. That’s when I discovered that it contained orange peel. No really. I hoped that the potatoes would dilute it, but Willow and Kat couldn’t eat it, and John and I didn’t like it. After a couple of pieces I pushed the sausage bits to the side. How’s that for odd? Why would they put orange into innocent sausage? There are some mysteries I will never understand. I hope I remember the name and don’t buy them by accident again.
Last night we had Coq au vin because Avi had bought some single sized servings of red wine that turned out to be better for cooking than drinking and sent the unused one home with us. She seems to be enjoying working from home. She has weekends off, which is wonderful. Willow comes over and keeps the kids away from her from after school (and gets them to do their homework) until dinner time, but she can stop at 6. Woot! With the coming of good weather, the kids are riding their bikes, so Willow has gotten herself a helmet to wear while riding with them so she’ll be a good example. Sadly, when it arrived, it was a medium, not the extra large she ordered, so she’s going to have to return it. At least she doesn’t need it today.

I have been finally getting my act together with the art commissions I have outstanding. The auction winner from last year is a clockmaker, and my problem is that he is hoping to get a lot of his stuff “half me, half the stuff”. I feel frustrated because “the stuff” is more detail. On the one hand, he had to wait while I got over the Lyme, so I feel like I should give him a bit extra. On the other hand it’s like when I was doing 15 minute charcoal sketches and people wanted their costume detail or face painted designs for the same price. This was a donation to the Public TV auction, so I’m getting nothing, but he’s already paid. I have this horrible feeling when I do these that they got bargains- because that’s what people go for, and that he wants a thousand dollar painting for a hundred bucks. Or two hundred. Still, it’s not his fault. I should probably ask to see the copy again and make it clear what they get. I like the idea of putting items in the painting to represent the client’s livelihood, and think that he does clockwork is very cool. But I can’t paint miniatures of each clock, and I’m afraid he’s going to be disappointed, even if I do a good portrait of him. Sigh.

Lynn has asked for another book cover- the last one had vikings fighting off a pack of wolves. This one has one fighting a bear. This time I won’t design it for a wrap around cover- last time they just shrunk it way down and put the whole thing on the front- very tiny. Grr. The joys of doing cover art.
Grizzlies are pretty darned scary looking.

The big adventure of the week didn’t last too long. I lost a contact on Sunday. While I was getting dressed I had it in my mouth (checking to make sure it didn’t have cleaning solution on it and sighed- blowing it out into the bedroom. After looking myself for about a half hour, I called Willow, who looked for nearly an hour until she had to stop because the space between my bed and the dresser isn’t big enough- even when she took out (and examined one by one) the stacked books.  So I cleaned some more, put away laundry, folded stuff, and thought a lot about living without being able to see clearly for a month. I’d lost the other contact in January I think, and made an appointment to see the eye doctor. I guess there aren’t enough in Southern NH, because it takes two months to get to see him. I could read, and wash dishes and many chores, but not paint (how will I tell my clients who are already waiting!?), nor use the computer, nor drive. Luckily Willow went back in and was able to find it (without me being there, sorting and rechecking the books and distracting her.  I cleaned it, put it in, then wrote a blog on it. Things a man can do, and things a man can’t do. We just have to manage with what we’re able to do. But expectations change the equation so much.
So I knew I had an appointment coming up in April, but when? I couldn’t find it on any of the calendars. Finally, I found the slip with the time in the bottom pocket of our pocket calendar. It hadn’t gone up  because the calendar only covers 2 and a half months at a time, so it was set aside to be added when the date came up in rotation. (When we moved here in `95 I made a cloth with a series of pockets into which we can stick appointment cards and we rotate through numbered index cards. Originally we still had kids in school and the cards showed whether it was a school day or not, but we don’t do that anymore. Still, sometimes I’ll write an appointment down on the calendar by the computer. Sometimes I write things down on the one on the back of the front door. There is a problem with having too many calendars!) I was reassured that I hadn’t missed the appointement, then I realized today that my appointment was on the same day I was going to drive Mark down to the Burlington. I checked on rescheduling it, but the next available appointment was mid June. Once again, Willow bailed me out, and she will be driving Mark down so that I can get in without another 2 month wait. I’m afraid I got nervous about having no back up. With Willow, I could probably get away without driving- after all Kat does. But no computer for two months? I think not. Yes, I could make many things larger- but I can’t see the keyboard to make corrections if my hands aren’t positioned correctly for touch typing.
Why don’t you wear glasses? people always ask. It’s because my brain is so used to contacts that when I try to wear glasses I get dizzy and nauseous and walk into things. Just as I can’t drive without my contacts, let’s just say that if I walk into stuff when walking, you don’t want me on the road. I expect my brain would eventually adjust, but I’d have to wear them until it did, and last time I tried, I just gave up and lived in a fog.

You can get a lot done when you’re avoiding doing something else- while I was resisting buckling down and getting the paintings done (I really dread trying to find a place to set up the easle)  I have been doing small fixes, repairing and putting the door back on the potato bin, fixing my mirror, lots of small things. Repairing the holes that the cat has chewed in things is practically a full time job. We are very fond of him, but don’t watch the cats all the time, and never catch him doing it. At least now I’ve started the process.
We took the stuff from Bruces old office in Mark’s place off to the recycling center,  and found homes for some of it by offering it on facebook. It is so sad to see how much stuff that Bruce had five years ago (whether or not he was still using it) just has to go to landfill. Old technology is hard to use because it doesn’t transfer. He had a digital camera that was probably state of the art- but the memory cards were not the size we use now. The things that can be used are stuff that doesn’t have “cutting edge”- like binoculars and slide rules. One thing was a “wire wrapping” device. Apparently in the old days before circuits were soldered, they wrapped wires around the connections, and this gadget did that tiny motion- saving your fingers. I guess that was the 70s, but that doesn’t seem that long ago to me. There was an old monitor and CPU, an answering machine and tape recorder. and heaps of cords. Also stuff I didn’t recognize. Bruce, like Ælfwine, did both hardware and software. No wonder they liked each other.
 Over the weekend I had the vicarious pleasure of watching Kiaya’s progress that she posted on fb. She was embroidering pearls and goldwork on a velvet bodice for a Cranach gown (from the painting of Judith and Holofernes) at SCA event. The Golden Seamstress challenge. I think it was a challenge for teams to make a complete outfit from the skin out in one weekend. I got my first hint when more than one of my friends changed their profile image to the picture of the Cranach painting and wondered what was up with that. I think they got to start Friday night end end in time for Judging Saturday night. I think the House Strangeways ladies were also in on it. It’s nice to know that the SCA still does really cool stuff even if I’m not getting there. Hmm. Better reserve for Panteria!

It should not always come as a surprise, but does seem to, that to do something, one must forgo doing something else. I can read or watch something or sleep, but not all at once. At the same time, there are activities that use my mind, and my hands get bored. That’s why I like doing dishes or cooking, because I can do that while listening to a show- two things at once. (Most of the story is carried forward by the dialogue. This is also why I still haven’t watched Birth of a Nation, since it’s a silent film, it would require actually sitting and watching.)   I have come to the conclusion that when I watch something on the computer I still need to do something with my hands and the mouse movements are aggrivating my wrist discomfort so I need to keep knitting or art or something beside the computer so I don’t play solitaire while watching the news. It’s a plan. We’ll see how it works out.

I finally finished American Nations; what was left was the section from the Civil War to this last century. Having explained how each region was founded, and why it developed the characteristics it did, this part of the book explained how the other sections interacted over the next century. In a highly abbreviated form: Yankees are all about Equality (and making the world a better place- in their worldview, of course), New Amsterdam (settled by Dutch Merchants in the NYC area) is about Tolerance (founded and continuing with merchants, they will put up with anybody to do business with them), Midlanders (settled by Quakers) were about Humanity or getting along (although I wonder if that wasn’t simply because they were between the Yankees and the Appalachian and Souther regions), the Appalachians (settled by Borderers from Ireland and Scotland) were all about Freedom, and the Southerners were trying to recreate thier image of the Roman Empire with Representative Government “Justice”  for the elite, and slaves supporting them. The French in Canada and New Orleans and the Spanish in Mexico mixed with the Native Populations and were much more easy going, the Pacific Coast was colonized mostly by Yankees and idiologically is closely bound to them. What I found confusing was the great Western States, founded by immigrants from all the other regions developed a separate culture that mostly consisted of trying to survive in a region where control was divided between corporate and government interests. The corporate interests came in to take any available resources, and government gave it to them, whether it belonged to Native Americans or the USA, but since they were trying to bring in lifestyles and techniques of industry and agriculture not suited to the area, they can’t survive without subsidies, which they want to keep, and at the same time want the government to leave them alone. Both the Yankees and Southerners want to make the world into their view of utopia; the Southern Utopia is based on the Roman Empire- which requires slaves and conquest, the Yankee Utopia is based on Germanic tribal villages and puritan Christianity. The book followed interactions through the Civil War (during which some southerners actually said that they thought ALL the poor, black and white, should be enslaved. Another thing I hadn’t heard before that was that white kids weren’t allowed to call blacks sir or ma’am, Mr. or Miss, just Boy or Girl. This was ettiquette they were taught.  If they liked the black person, they could call them aunt or uncle. That sort of blew my mind. I thought it was more subtle than that.
While reading this I realized I read slowly because I stop to integrate what I read as I go. I file each new piece of information in the old stuffin my head. How does it relate to what’s already there? How does it change it? Like putting in links on a computer. No wonder it takes me so long to read something mind blowing. I thought about the difference in cleaning if you stop to put everything where it belonged as you clean, as opposed to setting it aside to file later. I wonder if that’s what note-taking is supposed to do, to keep you from thinking during the lecture. Recent politics has made it clear that many people still think that blacks and poor should be kept down “in their place” (certainly not vote!). I find that hard to wrap my mind around, although I can see that if the black majority voted, it could be bad for the white minority. I think it’s a pathology, they probably think I’m controlled by a devil.
The book ended with talking about the First Nations in Canada (although they didn’t mention the USA First Nations at all, except to say that they were exterminated and moved to reservations).  Their land title “prevents it from ever being sold to an individual or exploited in such a way that deminishes its value to future generations”. We should try to get at leat the last part of that put in for all land use! This week the song the Downeaster Alexa has been going through my head. Individually, it’s really easy to feel sorry for miners and fishermen who want to work to support themselves, but when they’ve (collectively) used up the resources instead of leaving enough to sustain the system, my sympathy falls flat. Woodsmen, and farmers who try to use the high plains like the lowlands and empty the aquifers and create the dustbowl that blows away the topsoil- the Sahara wasn’t initially a desert, all these groups created lifestyles based on using the land as a resource to be used, not as a place to live. The difference between corporations and families is that the corporations do it on a larger scale, then move out, leaving the mess to the people they’ve employed. They should never have been allowed to become so powerful. We fought back at the turn of the last century, we need to do it again.
American Nations was a disturbing book, but now I can go back to the Daily Life in America series (currently on 1960-90). I’ve just started, but they’ve already touched on the Civil Rights movement, with two stories I want to share. One was James Meredith who decided to take a March against Fear from Memphis TN, to Jackson MI, and two days out some white jackass shot him from the bushes. What makes someone think that’s an acceptable idea? Yes, I know that if they couldn’t lynch and abuse blacks with impunity for being “upitty” (acting equal), that they’d stop being subservient.  That’s their problem, but they think it’s right, and I have a really hard time getting that. The other story is that in 1964 when the Equal Rights Ammendment was up, the word “sex” was inserted into it to “kill the bill”. While Northerners might not get segregation, (although Jim Crow laws indicate that they did), the assumption was that no one considered women equal to men, and that that would doom the legislation. That really shows the depth of masculine sense of superiority. As a matter of fact, many senators did leap to object because the women “needed to be protected” from equal rights. Self delusion is so much more powerful than any other kind!

That done, I turned to more restful reading- at least for a while, although soon I’d better start gearing up for Pennsic workshops. One night my kindle wouldn’t reach Netflix so I started a silly book I’d gotten free called The Girl in the Box. It’s about a girl who discovers that she is a Meta humans and that means different groups are going to try to take advantage of her. That’s as far as I’ve gotten, and may not go much farther unless the writing gets better. I also picked up The Witch Family, a book I think inspired a friend to look into the supernatural when she was young. It’s a kids book from the 60s, and takes me back to other books from the same period. On the other hand, I read a lot of older books (Swiss Family Robinson, Wind in the Willows, the Bookhouse series) when I was that age, and there’s something very innocent about the late 50s kids in it. I’ve started Conversations with Rabbi Small which hasn’t had a mystery start yet, mostly he’s just talking theology. I also hit a Jewish Shaman in Traveling Between the Worlds, Conversations with contemporary Shamans, which resonated with that. I am increasingly convinced that people are calling anyone who uses altered states as a shaman, but maybe not. Maybe it’s people who to that AND serve a community. I shall continue. I’ve started The Autoimune Epidemic. So far, no surprises. Guess what, there’s a lot of pollution in the world and our bodies find it hard to handle. The preface indicates there’s some suggestions at the end, I may just skim the book and skip to them.

What have I been watching (as I peel potatoes and watch dishes?): I watched Mandela and Invictus, luckily in the right order. I think I would have liked to know Mandela. I wish they’d have a movie about the Truth and Reconciliation commission, that was an amazing concept. When they started it, I never thought it would work and it really seems to have helped. I suppose being honest about what you’ve done helps. I was surprised to hear the song Shosholoza in Invictus,  I recognized it from listening to Clam Chowder, but I’d always assumed that it was Russian or some other eastern European song. That’s what happens when you don’t know the lyrics and can’t find them anywhere! I have to wonder how many other stupid things I think I know but I’m wrong about! I also  started watching Tsotsi, but it dragged, so I looked up the plot on Wikipedia, so I’d know the ending. It was majorly depressing so I didn’t finish it. I’m a wuss. I much preferred The #1 Ladies Detective Agency , which is about a detective agency run by a woman in Botswana named Precious. Except that she’s not rich, it reminds me of the Miss Fisher stories- as she uses a women’s perspective (but not a large purse) to solve mysteries. I will look for more seasons. I’ve continued watching more West Wing (I’m in the third season), and also the Newsroom. Both shows deal with (mostly) good people doing their best to negotiate tricky situations to support the good and the truth. I like to think that’s what it’s like, and that it’s only people with different perspectives and the occasional greedy person playing the system that cause the trouble. I keep telling myself that in fiction they have to have a bad guy every episode to keep the story interesting. (Then I go watch I watch Rachel Maddow, Steven Colbert, Trevor Noah, the Last Word, and the GQ guy, and remember that even if there are only a few, they can sure cause a lot of problems. Trump and his policies are attacks on the core pillars of democracy—like fair elections, a free press, and an independent judiciary. This week the Senate Republicans changed the rules to negate balance of power. They broke established procedures to elect a judge to the Supreme Court. I’m sure they felt they were protecting unborn children, but they turned around today to put in a bill for negating all same sex marriages, as far as I can tell just because they want the world to work the way they want it. Can I say that I, or the DAESH are motivated differently? I want a kinder, more sustainable world. They want a Christian one where they get to treat other people like slaves. Environmental protections are shut down, and schools being dismantled. Every day I get requests to donate to forign schools because only if we are educated can we function in this world, but neither ISIS nor the Southern Christian Leadership Conference wants girls – or blacks to be educated. The uneducated are easier to control. Trump’s popularity was down, so of course he had to got to war- and he got to make money while he was at it. They’ve put all our information on the Internet for sale. When anyone can get it, and irrational bullies are making the rules, then next thing you know they’ll be randomly dragging people off planes (to protect their profits). Oh, wait, they’re doing that. I do believe that more people will object than they expect and will push back this Right Wing Push Back. The thing that really worries me is how much irreperable damage can be done to the environment. We are already in a fragile place, and each link in each interlocking ecosystem can collapse bit by bit. We lose more every day, and a lot of it we are really going to miss.
More “brain candy” I enjoyed this week were the movies Tales from Earthsea, a James Bond movie The Living Daylights (although I haven’t quite finished it yet), and Superman- Man of Steel. Both the Miyazaki anime, and the spy film had the very yummy Timothy Dalton. I have thought that since I first saw him in Lion in Winter in 1968, and I will say that from what I saw of Penny Dreadful last year, he’s aging very nicely. On the new Superman, I continue to concider Christopher Reeve the best, but Routh wasn’t bad. I just have an old person’s objection to people messing with the background stories of my youth.
Finally, I watched the last of the bunch of classic westerns I sent for this winter: The Outlaw (1943) was about Billy the Kid and Doc Holiday, and how their friendship pushed Pat Garrett over the edge. I figured that since it’s all based on historical characters, there aren’t going to be any big surprises, (although I never heard of Holiday knowing Bonny), but thoroughly expected to see Garrett shoot Billy by the end. Apparently putting accuracy first is a modern thing, as we saw in Tombstone. There was a really pretty girl who turned out to be a young Jane Russell in an early role, and I was surprised I hadn’t seen Jack Buetel in anything else. Apparently it was one of those studio feud things. I thought he was pretty good and really cute in an emo sort of way. By and large, it was only interesting to compare to other films using the same characters. On the other hand, the movie
Deadly Companions (1961) I found very good. Maureen O’hara is a widow who works at a dance hall, and Brian Keith is a man out for vengeance on the man who once scalped him. While trying to shoot some men robbing a store, Keith’s character accidentally kills her son, and feels awful about it. She decides to bury the boy beside his father, although it means traveling through Indian territory, and he goes along to protect her. Problems arose, were dealt with, and they fell in love- gee what a surprise. But during the course of this, both of them realized just how wounded they were, him by his desire for revenge, her by her resentment of the women who looked down on her and assumed that because she let men kiss her, she let them do more. She was caught by that horrible problem that a woman had no rights, only those the men (father, husband, brother, son) gave her, and no way to support herself and keep her respect. Money always is a good pad for preserving a reputation. It is perhaps not surprising that this could be expressed so clearly only 3 years before the Equal Rights Amendment was passed. My cut on the story was that in trying to justify their lives to the other, who they didn’t want to look down on them, they came to accept themselves enough to go on, while they’d hated themselves before. This one I could see being a classic western, if not in the top 10, still in some top number.

I really need to find another venue for the New Normal. Tonight Jane and I were talking about spring herbs and the connection kept dying. It is too frustrating. Well, that’s it for this week.


“The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem. Do you understand?” Jack Sparrow