4-15-2015 “That Sucks!” Day

DSC01896The first crocus have passed in the strip garden by the living-room, but another batch of crocus have started blooming in the herb garden, and the daffodills have started, and the first hyacinth! The chives have re emerged, and the herb garden is in desperate need of clearing. I am loving the crocus.
I didn’t used to plant flowers unless they also had some herbal utility, but I’ve decided that cheering us up is worth some investment, and in the spring we need those flowers. I’ve also picked up a flat of pansies- those velvety, nice smelling, many colored, hardy flowers that keep coming if you pick them! I love pansies!
The snow is finally gone except in a few places where it was piled very high and is in shade. We’ve had the front door open a couple of days, letting out the winter air, and letting in the spring. As soon as we see a bug- up will go the screen door, but meanwhile, the cats are enjoying it.

DSC01866This weekend I went down to MithraCon. As in previous years it was small, but friendly. Unlike many conferences, this one is centered on going to the Yale Library to do research. Friday evening there’s usually a dinner at a restaurant, and we’ve been doing pot luck Roman feasts in the Con Suite on Saturday night, while sharing our research.

DSC01882Sunday traditionally includes a visit to the Mithraum at the Yale Art Museum. the Friday night meal I missed partly because of everything I had to do beforehand, and partly because I got lost once I hit New Haven…again. I also got lost on the way out. And this time, I carefully printed out and had with me the directions for both ways. The problem is, sometimes I couldn’t find the street signs, and once you’ve missed a turn, you don’tDSC01893 know where you are, and New Haven has a lot of one way streets that makes it really hard to get back to where you were on the right route. Luckily, even my “stupid phone” (no GPS) allowed me to call and not wait for me.
I did have a lovely time once I got there. Cassius had come down from Maine, and he brought presents: Mithracon cups and T shirts for us all! Also some of the artifacts he sells. Jane got some samples of his most recent find: Imperial Porphery! Apparently it is a very hard stone that comes in several colors, and the Roman Emperors found a mine in Egypt that had it in purple, and restricted it to use by the emperors. The mine was lost at some point, so, for example, when Napoleon wanted a casket of it, he had to settle for red. At some point Cassius decided to try to find some. The mine has been found, but is a national historical site and not producing any more, and that seems to have been the only place on earth that had it. He contacted someone in Egypt who said they had some, but after sending the money heard nothing back- could have been a scam, or the seller might have been one of the casualties of the Arab Spring. Finally recently he found another person who claimed to have some, and was willing to ship first, and take payment after. Now he’s got these three purple boulders of “the rarest rock in the world”, and he’s having it sliced into usableDSC01878 pieces, and looking for a jeweler who can make it into something small enough for people to afford to buy. It’s tempting to just get one of the edge trimmings, but I’m trying to clear the house of stuff I’m not using, not get more. Maybe if someone makes jewelry for him, I’ll get a pendant.

Patricia also brought something really cool. She’s built and set up a Mithraum in her house, and brought DSC01874the pieces down to her hotel room and set it up there. It was really marvelous. I think she had 7 altars, and several shrines. Really cool.
When I first started to go to Mithracon the Yale Mithraum was being restored, so I didn’t see it, and we’d spend a lot of time making Xerox copies of books you couldn’t get from anywhere else. DSC01869Now while they do have copy machines, we don’t insert money, or credit cards, it’s free now, but you insert your flash drive and if you want to print out the book, you can do it at home. We can also use their internet library system to get books sent from other Yale libraries to the main one, if we do it in advance. I didn’t so I just went up to theDSC01847 stacks. I was a little amused that I now know where the Anglo-Saxon section is. Mostly these days I flip through books I don’t recognize (since the publication year is in the code on the spine, it makes it easier to find ones I don’t have) and jot down the names of ones I want to buy. It was cooler up in the stacks, so I used the student desks up there to look through the books… and fell asleep. Woke up with a crick in my neck, and an arm that had gone to sleep, oops. We’d talked until midnight, then Jane and I had talked another hour after we got into bed, so I guess I know why!DSC01853

This year I really enjoyed (and took lots of pictures of) the wonderful architecture at Yale. In one corridor the sculptures at the base of each arch showed students doing different things- I really related to the one who was dozing in his books. But the stonework, the vaults, the wood work, the stained glass, the floors, the wrought iron, they were all gorgeous. Does anyone ever do that sort of work any more? Possibly- it looked like some of the students were wearing headphones, and possibly using computers- and a sign said it had been renovated about 20 years ago, so possibly there may still be stoneworkers out there. Or I have no idea what I was looking at.DSC01885

While we were having Dinner, Mockingbird and Elizabeth came to join us, and we signed him up to speak at CTCW next year, and to be my guest on the New Normal this week. He knows a huge amount of stuff about symbolism, folklore, and has developed theories about how ancient symbols are manifested in nursery rhymes. We’re talking about his interpretation of the “There was a Crooked Man” rhyme.
Did I mention that I got lost again on the way out of New Haven? I don’t think the Genius Loci of NH likes me. I did enjoy listening to NPR on the way back up- tripped into a show I hadn’t heard before:  Ask me another a quiz show. In one round the contestants kept getting all the answers right and it looked like they were going to run out of questions! I got home and kind of zoned out- except that the computer connection wasn’t working. Finally, in the morning I called TDS and they sent a guy out who changed our modem. Come to think of it, Thursday when we went to the store it was because the power went out, and we figured we could at least do errands rather than sit around and wait for the power to come back (although it did, almost as soon as we left).  I have to say that while I didn’t miss it while I was gone, and don’t much miss it while I’m at events, When I’m home, and used to it, not having “instant access” to any bit of information that it occurs to me to want is frustrating. It also bothers me that it frustrates me.
I’m in the last week of the EdX internet course Spirituality and Sensuality. This past week was about Bread, and this last week is about Spirit. It only takes about four hours a week (whereas the audio courses have you listen to 30 minutes a day, plus whatever reading you choose to do). Not a lot of investment, but I wanted people to think well of my answers in discussions. I worry that I was more interested in expressing my perspective than learning about that of my fellow students. I have been really pleased to notice the high percentage of fellow pagans in the course.
I’m not really sure how useful this sort of class is. I figure the student learns what he or she chooses to learn, but I’m highly dubious about how much that might be, and by extension the value of any certificate that they give saying you’ve completed the assignments. Still, when Honour posted links to more on-line courses on Ancient and Medieval History, I looked at them and signed up for a few. I could happily take all of these, but I don’t want to sign up for one that goes across Pennsic and miss two weeks. Whether I think the grades mean anything or not, I still don’t want to blow the grade by missing assignments. (I did enough of that in college.) I have signed up for Magic in the Middle Ages (although I frankly think I could probably teach this subject- I still hope I’ll learn something); also Hadrian’s Wall: Life on the Roman Frontier, and Greek and Roman Mythology.
One of them sent me a questionnaire asking why I was taking the course. That’s a good question. Why do I? At the point I realized I wasn’t going to get a degree (for years I’d always meant to go back and complete what I’d started at BU), I’ve been glorying in the amount of material that’s out there and just taking advantage- like the audio courses from the library and Great Courses. I’ve looked at the reading lists from the classes from Cherry Hill. I tend to think I get more from the reading than from the lectures, but of course, the course directs the reading. At some point I convinced myself that it’s not the degree that’s important, it’s the knowledge. So much of what I want to know: history, art, parapsychology, Complementary and Alternative Medicine, is not something I can use to make money anyway.
Come to think of it, very few people I know actually got much directly from their degrees: Ælfwine got a degree in archeology. I think having a degree from MIT helped him get jobs in computers, although it had little to do with it. Liz got a degree from Colby, but couldn’t get an entrance position anywhere until she got a certificate from Katy Gibbs to enter as a secretary. Dan got a degree in Theatre- but developed his career as he worked at MIT. Several of my best paid friends never got a degree, or work at something that has nothing to do with it. My mother told me that a degree has nothing to do with employment, all it means is that you could finish something (which, since I didn’t, may prove her point), it means you’re an educated person.
My education, never-ending as it is, is not defined by papers I’ve written, or tests I’ve taken. I considered taking courses in herbalism and other CAM techniques, but figure that if someone doesn’t believe in them, a diploma isn’t going to impress them (as some people still don’t believe in chiropractic, acupuncture, or homeopathy), and if they believe it works, they’ll be trusting me already. Since I never wanted to treat strangers, but simply be sure I knew the best healing techniques when I help friends, it wasn’t an issue. I think it’s the same with history- most of what I know I learned because it’s so freaking interesting. Admittedly, I use information about  6/7th c. Anglo-Saxons in the SCA, and I have people to talk about Ancient Rome in the Mithraic groups (and Nova Roma), but what else am I going to do with history- I’m not sure they’d pay a living wage teaching in anything under college (I think you have to start as an assistant and work up). In school, you teach whatever the school board thinks you should so the bits I like best probably wouldn’t be included, and I know how little control the School Board has- it’s all about which text books are available that they can afford, and which Standardized Tests decide how much funding help they get. It’s depressing. Art, as my parents pointed out, is not something to put food on the table, nor is parapsychology.  I am like those people in the Jane Austin novels who somehow have an income they can survive on and spend their lives studying. Only without the income. Oh well.
I think I mentioned Willow’s car is back- it turned out to be that the brakeline had broken (probably in the parking garage) and didn’t cost too much. Most importantly, she got it back in time so that they had a car while I was gone. As we’re four miles out of even our tiny town’s center, and there’s no public transportation, I wasn’t comfortable leaving them with so little ability to get help in emergencies. I suppose there are phones, and ambulances, and such, so maybe worrying about it was more an excuse than a real reason not to go.

I’ve been thinking that maybe I should be a bit more honest about sharing negative stuff. Let’s face it, the traditional Christmas Letter always seems to make everyone elses life seem more exciting, their kids seem more brilliant, and generally leaves us wondering whether the problem is with us or them- could it be clever editing? Well, of course, when one puts the highlights of a year into one page, all that’s going to be covered is achievements which could imply that the whole year was like that- and we know it wasn’t. Also, who wants to be a downer and say that they are miserable, especially during the holidays.

faking wellThen I saw a macro on fb where the sender said “hands up” if it’s you, and I figure I have to admit that I probably am included in the millions of depressed people in the country. “That’s just what happens when all four people in the house are depressed” is something that has gone through my mind a lot in the last months, although I usually think of myself as “coming out of it”, and John rarely mentions it. He just soldiers on, and finally mentioned that he would like some recognition for his low feelings as well.

I will say that many of the things that have gone wrong in the last months are probably because I “haven’t had the energy” or attention, or brainpower to handle them the way I usually would expect to. So, this is me being honest and coming out of the “depression closet”- although I still think I’m getting better, whether I’m fooling myself or not; whether this is just a natural effect of a long cold winter, and none of us having commitments outside the house. I am re-thinking the “take a year off from selling” I was planning.

Last week, knowing that MithraCon was coming up, I just wanted to curl up in bed and read, rather than go- but while I was emailing Jane with excuses, a peculiar form of divination I’ve noticed: random signiture lines, accumulated. I have around a hundred quotes that the computer adds to my email randomly, and I’ve often been struck with how pertinent each is to the subject of the note. This time these accumulated:

 “Te nisi oblectas, perperam facis.” (If you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong.) Sir Ernst

“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” – J.R.R. Tolkien

“Iron rusts from disuse, stagnant water loses its purity, and in cold weather becomes frozen, even so does inaction sap the vigors of the mind.”  Leonardo Da Vinci

“Friends are people who help you be more yourself.” Merle Shain

“Tell the people you love that you love them, at every opportunity”. – George Carlin

The accumulation of sig lines was especially noticeable at the bottom of the page under my responses. Anything random can be turned into a system of divination, which comes from the human mind spotting the patterns in randomness that are pointing to something. I figured these were saying: “Stop making excuses, and get out there and socialize!” So I did.

So, Thursday, while we were out, I got the ingredients for Posca (a Roman drink: originally very cheap wine, highly watered, and sweetened  to counteract the sourness. We use red grape juice with wine vinegar to replicate the wine, and add honey and water- I keep intending to try adding spices. Also I baked, which I find wonderful because it’s all in expectation of good times, and I tend to get a lot of positive feedback for my baking. I made some pastry dough (using butter, although they didn’t usually DSC01868in Rome) and two kinds of bread- the round loaves they have recovered in charcoal form at Pompeii, and a longer form- also pre-divided, I saw on a you tube video. One was plain wheat and rye, the other I put olives and feta in, then, accidentally, I added currents, because this was the first time I’d gotten to baking in months, and I hadn’t made hot cross buns this year- and I tossed them in the wrong bowl. Oops.
The pastry I made in dove shapes and stuffed with dates, and made some pear tarts with marzipan, and started some poppy seed pastries, but the seeds I had were all too old. A lot of people don’t know that nuts and seeds can go bad, but it makes a huge difference in taste. I also made some cheesecakes from Apicius. Probably more than we needed, but showing off is something I do, like talking to much. They all got eaten anyway.
Thursday morning I’d spent playing catch-up. Wednesday after the show, I’d suddenly realized that it was April, and the deadline for Pennsic merchant applications is traditionally the end of March. Argh! I emailed Cindy, to see if we could still get in, and tried to wrap my mind around a Pennsic without selling, and no Ælfwine (we used to do it like that). Jane called her to put in a good word, I wouldn’t have thought of that, and Cindy got back to me Thursday morning and we are signed up, handling it all with the internet, and only slightly more stressed.

Friday morning, we went out first thing and picked up Willow’s car from Winkles, then ran Kat over to her psychiatrist- since she’s changing her meds, she is plugging visits in when she gets a cancellation. Then I did this week’s EdX assignments, packed, my clothes and the food, and headed off. Stress? A bit.

Kat’s computer keeps crashing on her, which is incredibly frustrating; we took it to the Apple Store (last month?) and they pointed out that it is 7 years old, and suggested a new cord, which we got, and it helped, but now it’s at it again again. We were already thinking about a new one for her birthday next month. Willow had the brilliant idea of looking into financing. Sadly, Macs are a lot more expensive, but she needs them for her art. It’s a tool, and also her way of staying in touch with the outside world- we decided to get it today and save stress. Willow drove her to Nashua to visit the Apple Store. The plan was to get a new one, and get the old one refurbished for John.
They found one, although since they tried to get it through Kat’s name and history, they couldn’t get financing. Ouch. They checked and figured her backup drive would be fine for putting everything back on the new computer, and wiped the old one so John could use it. That was apparently a mistake. A BIG mistake. When she got home it turned out that it did in fact NOT have her photo and music files backed up so those are ALL GONE. Years of work. Wouldn’t you thought that they’d have checked before they wiped the old one? Especially after my experience last year when I thought my computer had been backed up and it wasn’t?
We didn’t know what stress was until that happened. Although I want to say a thing or two here about the hour we spent trying to simply make an appointment at the Apple Store. The first thing they ask when you go in is if you have an appointment, so we try to call in to get one. But I don’t think we will any more. When I called the number for the store, first I was subjected to a minute of ads for their newest gadget (a watch), then you get the answering system which cleverly mimics a human, and even when you’ve responded to it’s question generates the sound of someone using a keyboard, to indicate something is happening. However, sound aside, it is no better than any other voicemail, and worse than most. It makes suggestions that have nothing to do with what I asked for,  specifically- to make an appointment to come in. This is not among their options, so you have to exhaust the options they are pushing (which generally consist of telling you to try the website, which we’d already been on, and why we felt the need for a human we could talk to), before they give you an associate.
Sadly, even then, the guy I got seems not to have understood what I was asking, even though I said I wanted an appointment at the store, he sent me to AppleCare- also giving me the number in case the call was dropped, (I guess that must happen a lot, and they expect it) and it was. Not knowing what AppleCare means, I called the number he gave me and discovered it leads to another answering machine that would not let me speak to anyone alive unless I paid $30 (because the computer is out of warrantee). I’m pretty sure Apple Care isn’t what I wanted.
Willow heard me making crazy sounds- the last straw was when I was put on hold with some horrible metallic, jangling, techno musak that seems designed to raise both pulse and blood pressure. Willow says that a lot of people prefer that to easy listening, but it set my teeth on edge like fingernails on a chalkboard. So Willow took her turn: I then listened to Willow negotiate the verbal maze until she finally secured an appointment. I cannot imagine why they would design a system that is so likely to make their customers angry. I looked on-line to submit my feedback, and discovered dozens of similar reviews from people who’ve had to deal with it, so it’s not just me (even if some customers do prefer the techno musak). Argh! Breathe. Breathe…. Better now. Happy thoughts.
Pansies, Daffodils, Hyacinth.

My birthday balloon is still up.

The kids understand computers better than I, and I understand better than I did last year, or even last month.

And oh, yes, We’re going down to see Colonial Williamsburg which we’ve been wanting to do since I guess the eighties. I signed up for it last year, responding to a time-share promotion. They cover everything but the travel (we’re estimating about $300), and we just have to sit through their sales pitch. I got the call reminding me that time was almost up, and we’re just going to do it.

I finished reading Sejanus, and started The Lydian Baker (next in the series). Actually, when it came time for our “presentations” at MithraCon, since I hadn’t prepared one, what I shared was my perspective, recently acquired, of the various fictional Roman series, Falco, Libertas, Medicus, Corvinus, and even the Flavia Gemina books in the juvenile Roman Mystery series. That kind of embarrassed me, (after Cassius’ incredible story about his quest for Imperial Porphyry), so I tossed in a Readers Digest version of my class on the Justinian Plague  which certainly was the death blow for the Roman Empire. How can trade survive when almost everyone who worked in shipping (knows how to sail) and about half of those who made the ships are dead? How can historians ignore the effects of plagues and climate change? I’ve continued reading the Trials and Tribulations of Little Red Riding Hood, and a couple of ebooks: Breaking the Mother Goose Code, which tied in with my show tonight, and a silly book Every Day is a Holiday, by an English writer George Mahood who seems to do what I do: collect and post holidays, and this book is a collection of his blog as he attempted to do what I intentionally do NOT do, do something to commemorate each holiday on that day.  Apparently he doesn’t find as many as I do, which I’m sure was a blessing as he attempted it.  For Appreciate a Dragon day he bought his kids a stuffed dragon, which he was able to borrow later when he attended a St. George’s Day event (coming up on the 23rd), where the published intent was to gather a record number of men named George- and they’d each get a free cup of tea (and something extra if they had a dragon with). He was the only one who showed, except for the camera crew who’d also fallen for the promotion.  If I had ever had any urge to celebrate the holidays (people have asked if I actually cook the dishes for the food holidays- the answer is only if I feel like using it as an excuse) this book would have convinced me of the foolishness of such an attempt. I had rather hoped it might include some I’d missed, but I seem to be ahead of the curve on that one. I have more holidays than Brownielocks.
I haven’t watched much this week. I put on Ben Hur while I was baking- I was going to watch 1938 the Last Days of Pompeii, but it turned out to have a crack in the disc. I looked for I, Claudius, I was sure we had the set on VHS, but couldn’t find it, so I settled for a really good chariot race. I also finally got to watching  Big Hero Six, which was as good as the girls had said it was. And I’ve watched more episodes of Star Trek Voyager. The theme music still gets me un a way I can’t explain, and I’m up to the fifth season.

I guess that’s about it for this week. I’ll close with news of friends. Megan and Dennis are back in the Narrowboat in England- they must have left as soon as they’d cleaned up after his birthday party! Starwolf’s got a new job. There may be more, but I’m making an effort to not spend too much time on fb (of course, being GONE for three days, and having no internet for another helps).
Sarah’s Grandfather has reached the last stages of dying. This has been an incredible, moving story, as she stayed with him through the last years, collecting stories, even getting a matching tattoo. A friend in House Strangeways has created an account for her on a site that helps organize friends who want to help schedule gifts of food for the bereaved so that they don’t get it all at once (which can be a real bitch to store); I think this is brilliant.

And to balance that: Rachel and Morgan had a baby: Ruby, over the weekend. I didn’t even know they were pregnant. Sweet!IMG_1942 - Version 2

That’s it for this week. Love you all!


“Slanders, sir; for the satirical rogue says here that old men have grey beards, that their faces are wrinkled, their eyes purging thick amber and plum-tree gum, and that they have a plentiful lack of wit, together with most weak hams; all which, sir, though I most powerfully and potently believe, yet I hold it not honesty to have it thus set down…” Hamlet

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