4-8-2015 Draw a Bird Day

DSC01824 We lost a lot of snow this week, and saw some (comparatively) warm days. I wouldn’t think there was enough snow left to ask to burn off the brushpile- oops. It’s been a study in white and brown, with the white being rather dirty, and shrinking, and the brown becoming more varied as it spreads- now there are a range of beiges, with the occasional flash of green. There are green ferns- but…. it’s before fiddleheads come up, were these ferns still green when the snow covered them last fall, and didn’t freeze all the way, or are they just early?
We have crocus- four of them anyway. (One purple, three gold.) Also the beginning spikes of the daffodils and hyacinths are poking through.  I’ve done the first (partial) raking of the garden to clear away the leaves so the bulbs don’t have to push up through them. I tend to think that leaves are good for the soil and should be allowed to rot, but these are oak, and I figure they could make the soil too acid. Also, a think mat is more of a mulch than a fertilizer, the poor leaves get bent. It’s important to rake early so that I don’t shred the flowers with the rake while getting the old leaves out. The herb garden is still snowy, since that’s where the driveway snow wen’t during the winter.
Another sign of winter being over is that my Happy Birthday balloon that has been floating over my bed since February 8th is now starting to deflate! How balloons have changed since I was a kid!

The big “fun” this weekend, was the girls going down to Anime Boston. Thursday night all the people who’d applied for Artists Alley were emailed with the news that there had been cancellations, and those tables would be filled on a first-come basis, so Willow put her IMG_0897stuff in the car. They didn’t get there in time (I bet there was a lot of competition). On the other hand, since there’s a cap for occupancy, and they hadn’t pre-reserved there was a chance they might not even get into the con, so they were happy that they did check in. They shared a room with three other people, so it wasn’t too expensive, although not only does selling give them a place to people-watch from, it also pays for the expenses of the con.
I get the impression people-watching is the point, at least for my girls. As they once remarked about CTCW: “what’s the point if there are no costumes?” This year they didn’t have any spectacular new costumes, IMG_0868but they have a wardrobe sufficient that they were able to dip into without making new ones. This is a picture of Willow’s Rider/Alexander the Great, in a Kingdom Hearts group, and Kat in a Dr. Who shoot. (I think you can see people cos-playing the Beatles from Dr. Peppers Lonely-hearts Club in the background). There is apparently little limit to the range of costumes people do. After all, you can see a girl dressed as the Tardis in front of Kat (as the third Doctor.) Kat had spent all her available time since January working on the Loli commission- then Thursday, while they were packing the car, the customer called to say she wouldn’t be there, her car had broken down. Sad. Not having to pack the boxes holding it (it includes a dress, bonnet, and several accessories) gave them more room in the car.
Raye and Joanie ABThey saw Douglas down there, and had their traditional meal at the Cheesecake Factory with Joanie and Raye.  Apparently Joanie was some sort of Zombie, and still looked spooky even after taking off most of her cos-play to go eat. (That’s Joanie in the spooky mask.) They seem to have had a good time except for a few minor glitches- for one thing too much walking. AB is in a convention center and in an attempt to deal with the crowds, the organizers decided to route foot traffic all in one direction, which meant to return to the main area from Reg, you had to go all the way around the hotel, part of which route was outside, and up two flights of stairs, rather than just walking back twenty feet. They even wanted Raye, who had the official “handicapped” tag, to try to deal with the extra distance and stairways- not cool. Willow and Kat did cooperate, and discovered that the “out-door” section was being used (illegally) as a smoking spot, and had a worse than usual allergic reaction to the tobacco smoke, so bad that the volunteer medical folk were called, took their vitals, wrote up a report, but didn’t have (and delayed) them getting to the benadryl they needed to deal with it, and had been trying to get to.  Also not cool. Time to let the organizers know so they don’t mess that up again next year. (Apparently they DID get the smokers to stop contaminating the area.) Also, poor Willow wore a skirt without leggings for the first time since last summer, and all the walking led to some amazing chafing, and a blister behind her toes, and some other weird something that’s left one heal swollen and hot. Weird. I can see why they prefer staying behind the table and only venturing out for the occasional snack and photo-shoot.
Sadly, after having a lovely time, Willow too had car troubles! Something seems to have happened during the driving around and trying to find parking (she heard something happening), then when she was leaving, the brakes died. Luckily, she’s very good driver, did the shifting, using the emergency break (which didn’t actually help), everything you are supposed to- and avoided hitting both cars and pedestrians who ran in front of her. This was stressful enough to, as she said, distract her from how much the parking in Boston cost. (appreciate small blessings!) She pulled into the first spot she could find- the hotel valet parking, and when she explained the problem they let her wait there. Sadly, AAA was busy, and estimated that they couldn’t get there for an hour and a half, and while our coverage will get her car to Winkles, it couldn’t get all three of them (she was giving Douglas a ride home). They called me, thinking maybe Steve could come pick them up from Malden and bring them home. Sadly, he had just arrived here to have dinner with me! He did go get them anyway. Apparently it’s an hour and 20 minutes from here, and he beat the AAA truck. Willow was also not thrilled to abandon her car, with all the goods, so she stayed and rode up with AAA. Since we were expecting three of them, I stayed behind and made a Passover “dinner that couldn’t be beat” (to borrow from Arlo), and after dropping Douglas off, they’d just gotten in when it was time for us to head over to Winkles to pick up Willow (20 minutes from here to Milford, 20 minutes from Nashua to Milford). Finally we ate (and the girls got to decompress).
(By the way, if you’d like to read a first person account in Willow’s inimitable style, it’s on her fb page on April 5th.) It includes the story of the car rolling back off the truck when the driver set the brake that she told him wasn’t working., which is just one of those things.

I’d asked Steve if there was anything he actually missed from a Passover dinner (we had a lovely lamb roast- I thought there’d be enough leftover, with only the three of us, for a good curried lamp after, but since the girls got home for dinner, not so much), anyway Steve said he missed home-made gefilte fish, the stuff in the jars wasn’t that good. Being confident in my own skills and Claudia Roden’s The Book of Jewish Food, I figured I could do that. Sadly, it seems to be making something not unlike a salmon croquette, only with a white fish, and rather than frying, poaching it in a lovely fish stock. One cannot get fish-heads around here, so I couldn’t make the lovely fish stock (which gels around the balls/patties). They tasted pretty good, but didn’t hold together at all! No pics because I tend to show pictures when I’m showing off, and this wasn’t worth that! I will try them again, when I can get fish-heads.  I also asked Steve if there was anything else I could do to thank him for saving the girls, and all he asked for was “evil brownies”.  Not bad. We are currently SO happy to have AAA and friends. Because sometime you need both.
While I was clearing the dining room table (Willow had been sewing on it, going with our plan to have that room be dual purpose- sewing and dining) I brought down my CD player/radio to listen to Wait Wait, don’t tell me! One of their stories (about 30 minutes in, if you want to listen) was about a new program that “cleans up” the “naughty words” in your e-books changing any word referring to “below the waist” euphemisms to “bottom” so your children will not expand their vocabulary in a way that they think inappropriate. They pointed out the effect that has on other uses of the word bottom like “fruit on the bottom yogurt” which suddenly becomes disturbing. I’m just thinking of all the confusion that could arise if you’ve gotten used to bottom meaning penis, and it suddenly means vagina, or even butt vs. balls. Sadly, I forgot to bring the player back upstairs and haven’t gotten anywhere on the Empires of the Steppes audio course. Ah well
Have you thought recently about how much technology has changed out lives in the last half century or so? Long distance calls used to be something that was either terrifying or a huge indulgence, now we don’t think about talking across the country. Information, at least part of it, is available instantly, at our fingertips. In my lifetime I’ve seen music go from vinyl to tapes, to cds to mp3s. I was thinking about that today as I walked- I used to do my language lessons when I walked and it didn’t work well because CDs tended to skip when you jarred the case- which happens a lot when walking. Heck, we’re used to the player in the car skipping every time we hit a frost heave. Steve told me that he’s thinking about getting rid of all of all his CDs since he’s now got all his MASSIVE amount of music on the computer. I’m still nervous about not having hard copies of things. I’ll get e-books, if it’s something I know I’ll probably only read once.
For example, I’m currently reading The Mammoth Book of Roman Whodunnits on my kindle. It’s a collection of short stories, many of which are by authors of series about Roman Detectives. (I also got the Mammoth Book of Historical Whodunnits which includes some Amelia Peabody, ancient Egypt, Brother Cadfael & Sister Frevisse, medieval, up to the gaslight period.) I thought they’d help me check out the many Roman mysteries that are available, on the other hand one by Phillip Boast had a great pair of characters that I can’t seem to find any books for. So much for my clever plan! I read the next couple of the Roman Mysteries series: Secrets of Vesuvius and Pirates of Pompeii. These stories did actually cover the explosion of the volcano, including a lot of deaths of people they knew (which I wouldn’t have expected from a juvenile series). Caroline Laurence handled it really well, including not just the immediate problems of falling rocks and flame, but ongoing problems of dust (and asthma), buried farms and what happens to the economy, and less pleasant people taking advantage of the chaos. I was both amused and impressed. I will probably read the whole series. I finished Germanicus, the second book in David Wishart’s series. I will be reading the next book Sejanus, because I like the way Marcus Corvinus works out what’s going on in first century Roman politics, because it’s a lot like the way historians try to put together the bits and pieces that have survived and try to figure out what really went on. If you don’t know what was going on in Syria, or whether Pannonia is on the way there from Germania, and who’s married to who in the Imperial family, and what the patron-client relationship meant, you aren’t going to understand that period of history. Meanwhile, in an attempt to make it appeal to modern fans of the mystery genre, Corvinus, a Roman aristocrat, talks like a Mike Hammer. It really put me off in Parthian Shot, but he didn’t speak like that in Ovid, but apparently started in Germanicus. If he’d started in Sejanus, I would probably deal with it better, because 10 years passed between the two books, and someone might change his speech, but I find it off-putting. Why learn so much about a period, then have your characters talk as if they were from a different period?
I have also continued reading the Trials and Tribulations of Little Red Riding Hood. Jack Zipes writes about Fairy Tales a lot, and this book starts with a long (72 pg) essay on the development of the tale, followed by 38 different versions, presented chronologically, ranging from 1697 to 1990. I think I probably picked this one after watching The Company of Wolves a couple of weeks ago. It does have the 1979 story on which the 1984 film was based, and frankly, the one was as beautiful and weird as the other. I’m not sure how far I am through it- I’ve read most of the recent ones, then went back and started reading the older versions in order, while also reading a section of the larger analysis daily as well. Perhaps not the best way to read it, but that’s the way I’m doing it.
I finished watching Upstairs Downstairs. As I mentioned last week (while I was brooding so badly about current events), I could see our modern problems reflected in the tensions of 1938, as Hallam and the diplomats had to cope with the rise of German aggression, and the people just wanted to get on with their lives, not worry about war, or unemployment, and not think about what might be happening elsewhere in the world. I guess it was “compassion fatigue” then as well, but they didn’t have a word for it.  I’m afraid I got rather mired in it last week. As days passed it does look like some of the furor has been stirred up by the press, and internet people trying to get peoples attention. At the same time, if you look at the news much, it can really be overwhelming. In the “can the “religious liberty restoration act” be abused, I have two thoughts. The first is that any law or regulation can be abused, especially when those who are enforcing it have an agenda, and checks and balances are too weak. Second, under the influence of watching fiction set in that time,  I keep reminding myself of Godwine’s Law [“As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.” Wikepedia] and it’s corollary, the one that says whoever reaches “Reductio ad Hitlerum” first, loses. But I
have been thinking that the anti-semites of pre-war Germany almost certainly had religious feelings about the Jews. The thing is, that you are allowed to have any religious feelings you want, but you aren’t allowed to ACT on them if those actions would violate someone’s human rights. There is nothing about motivation being based on religion that makes it more valid than any other motivation. I know that those who think all morality comes from religion argue so, but I think they’ve lost that argument. As far as I can see, it’s simply a version (eeps, hitting Godwin again) of “I was just following orders”.  We are perfectly willing to say that if “God tells you to hurt someone”, for an individual, that’s probably an indication of mental/emotional imbalance. I think it’s clear that the same can be said when large groups of people use religion as an excuse to hurt others, whether we’re talking Muslim extremists killing Christian students in Kenya, or extremist Christians wanting to not provide support services for things they consider against their personal religious practice.
A the final note on Upstairs Downstairs– it did finish in a satisfactory, if depressing way. One could see that their lives would go on, but at the same time, most of the story lines were properly tied up. A couple of people recommended that I check out Call the Midwife as another dramatic series set in the past “a bit after Upstairs Downstairs. I suppose, it was 1939, and Midwife is set in the fifties. I’ve watched the first three episodes, which I suppose set the characters and situation. As characters, I actually prefer Chummy to Jenny. I relate to her being “too big”, and the “reverse class discrimination” with which she has to deal. I also like Doctor Turner, who seems much more relaxed and happy with the nurses than I’d expected.
John accidentally ordered Monster Camp from Netflix, “For one weekend a month, die-hard gamers leave the real world for the fantasy of live-action role playing.” Well, that does sound not unlike the premise of Knights of Badassdom which was a comedy adventure. This was actually a documentary on Nero, and the people who invest their time, energy, money and creativity to make it so important to so many players- and sometimes get burned out. I can relate so much to the idea that you are making something wonderful, and want to make it better, and letting it get so big that you need more help than is available. I also now see that much of Badassdom comes from Nero, not the SCA.
I also watched Mr. Peabody and Sherman, once again, they take an old kids classic and turn it into a feature length (92 minute) film. I was actually pleasantly surprised. It was charming and witty, and had much the same feel of the adventures from Rocky & Bullwinkle only with a plot grafted on, tying the various adventures together. It’s not great, but it doesn’t need to be. The worst thing about it was that I watched it on Coffee Cake Day, when I made a coffee cake for Willow, and forgot to set the timer, so it baked for an hour, not the half hour it should have baked. Luckily, it wasn’t too dried out- probably because coffee cakes tend to be moist. Probably because they have so much sugar in them.

I can’t share that recipe, but I did try another this week that was fairly good. It was for chicken, wrap your seasoned boneless chicken breasts in bacon, bake them on a bed of sliced onions. (The recipe said salt, pepper, paprika, etc. I figure each family can do it to taste.) The onions should be just covered with water- I think I used to much because the recipe said a cup, but it also mentioned that she used a sheet pan, not a baking dish, so that would probably make it spread more. Bake one side for 20 minutes, turn them over, 20 minutes on the other side, then a final 5 minutes having added cheddar cheese to the top of each. (I didn’t say it was low fat!) I think you should use a strong sharp cheddar, ours turned out very bland, and you don’t want than in a Cheddar-Bacon-Chicken, now do you? Actually, it reminded me of my baked onions. The sliced onions really should be scraped up and put over the chicken when you plate it.
I saw a funny thing on the internet- a gadget that turns off all the electronic gadgets (well, one hopes just the wifi games etc.) to get people to get to the table. Admittedly, it was suggested, I think, as a joke, and that when families were disconnected they reconnect, which I do believe. But at the same time, this one was designed to look like a pepper grinder, and no one but the mother knew. I think it would work better with an appropriate warning indicating that in 5 or 10 minutes it would turn everything off so the people doing games, or writing or in the middle of a chat could save, shut down, say goodbye, etc. Family time is important, but so is respect, and it’s really inappropriate to send the message that “s/he with the greatest power over the technology gets to control it”. Not being given a chance to save is really rude!negative15
What else? Well, James/Tom shared some pictures from the early SCA, dance practices in Citizens hall, pictures of us in the old house- I’m thinking about 1986 or so. The one of Ælfwine with Patri (oh, so young!) shows a crutch, so I’m thinking it’s about the time he had his first knee surgery- the Christmas break after he got knighted. He was walking when he got knighted, he’d played “the Turkey Knight” in the Masque at the Carolingian Patri-Aelfwine crutchMasqued Ball, then reprised it at 12th night. In the masque he did the Pease Bransle while on his knees, then while at a fighting practice, he started to stand up from sitting cross-legged, and the knee went out. I remember he was on Demerol, but couldn’t remember it when it had kicked in, so we had to write it on his hand so he could tell people what he was taking. He was on crutches for about a month. This looks like he’s swearing fealty- perhaps it was at a Valentines Day? I guess modern technology that puts dates on pictures is a good thing.
What else is going on? Up at ASP, Auntie Shema got more baby goats. Kathryn Goodwyn’s cat Spooky came back, which is nice because he’d been gone for about two weeks. Speaking of which, Mouse came for a visit and actually stayed in over night, which he hasn’t done for a couple of years.  Julia finished the amphora, I am eagerly awaiting images of it coming out of the kiln. The full moon on Saturday was the Full Pink Moon or the Full White Moon, but it was also called a Blood Moon as well, associated with a really quick eclipse which was only seen over the Pacific. (I pouted briefly.)
Photo on 2015-04-05 at 13.59This week I cut my hair in bangs for the first time in a while, so I have the forehead curls I’ve had so often before.
Finally, tonight Jane is joining me for the New Normal, and we’re talking Magick and Medicine because her book is almost done. I have got to finish up her book cover painting! Gotta go- the kids are calling me to dinner!

Tchipakkan

(I’m going to hit you with a rather long quote this week because I like it so much!)
“It has generally been assumed that fairy tales were first created for children and are largely the domain of children. But nothing could be further from the truth.
From the very beginning, thousands of years ago, when tales were told to create communal bonds in face of the inexplicable forces of nature, to the present, when fairy tales are written and told to provide hope in a world seemingly on the brink of catastrophe, mature men and women have been the creators and cultivators of the fairy tale tradition. When introduced to fairy tales, children welcome them mainly because they nurture their great desire for change and independence. On the whole, the literary fairy tale has become an established genre within a process of Western civilization that cuts across all ages. Even though numerous critics and shamans have mystified and misinterpreted the fairy tale because of their spiritual quest for universal archetypes or their need to save the world through therapy, both the oral and the literary forms of the fairy tale are grounded in history: they emanate from specific struggles to humanize bestial and barbaric forces, which have terrorized our minds and communities in concrete ways, threatening to destroy free will and human compassion. The fairy tale sets out to conquer this concrete terror through metaphors.
― Jack Zipes, Spells of Enchantment: The Wondrous Fairy Tales of Western Culture

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