4-18-2018 Velociraptor Awareness Day

Spring is sprung, or at least the snow has retreated again. Between the melting and rain, the pump is on in the cellar (thank goodness). It’s still chilly, but I think that’s to be expected. Spring seems to be like the rising tide, coming in and going out- but getting closer each time. The forecast doesn’t seem to have us expecting freezing weather for the next week or so. Still, time to get the tiny garden beds ready- to decide what I’m going to plant this year. There are surviving piles of snow where it was piled up. We actually got about three inches Sunday night, but then it rained Monday and turned to nasty slush, and now it’s pretty much gone again. We have croci, and the daffodils are sprouting, but not blooming yet.  I have come to appreciate the hardy spring blooms. Actually, I have come to appreciate flowers more than I used to do. I think I’m more aware of the need for cheering up.

I can prove that spring is coming though- we had to open the window in the pantry to keep it down to 40º in there. And there’s no snow, nor freezing weather in the forecast (not that this isn’t New England and we don’t put out the soft plants until Memorial Day).

This week Willow picked up a couple of mini chimes so now we have “cat door bells” on both sides of the door- good for when we can hear them. I think the cats preferred the giant hawk bells (jingle bells) they have been using before. We had some hanging from a ring at Christmas- I think it’s an official Christmas Decor item, but Ambian taught us to open the door for him when he rang the bells. I’d already hung a string of bells on the outside doorknob in an attempt to teach them that trick, so we left it there. I added some mini chimes (easier for me to hear) although he doesn’t like those as much. Now the round bells are destroyed (they hung from ribbon, which made them fragile, so we replaced them with the mini chimes. Ambian and Zoloft are fine with the system, although Zoloft uses her tail, but Pyewacket and Peripegelium think it’s beneath their dignity.

I am afraid that the biggest thing I can think of that we did this week was Clean the Refrigerator. (I actually think that deserves caps.) All last week Willow was sick in that way where you feel-like-hell-but-keep-doing-what-you-need-to-do-anyway, maybe a little slower. She finally decided that she was well enough to tackle the refrigerator which was really heroic. I’m not saying that we haven’t cleaned it since I came down with Lyme, because I know we’ve done the produce bins and done other spot cleaning, but still, this time we did the whole thing. She took the meat and put it in a cooler and sat a chair in front of the beast and kept emptying into a series of boxes. John ran the boxes over to me and and washed off every jar, emptied the Tupperware into the compost and washed those, and changed the water in the bucket Willow was using to was the interior. I also did the shelves. Let’s just say it took the three of us three straight hours non-stop and another hour of jar washing after for me when it was mostly done. There is no longer a Cyberman on the refrigerator door. I’m not sure what it was doing there, but it’s back up with the Dr. Who figurines in Kat’s room now. We have three colors of olives (black, red and green), many peppers, condiments, 3 jars of sauerkraut, and many fewer jars of moldy jam. I have no idea how it all fit in there, because after throwing scads of stuff away, it was still hard to fit it in. 

My feet had gotten mostly recovered from the fasciitis, but the four hours on my feet pushed me back again. I’ve tried to stay off them since, and today they seem mostly recovered again. I have been reminded. Keep off them well after I think they’re better! Willow seems mostly recovered, but Kat has been having problems. We are looking up irritable bowel- I don’t think that’s it. I think it’s just her reaction to stress, but I feel badly for her. I’ve been trying to make simple, comfort food like Mac and cheese and other pastas, chicken nuggets and fries, stew and biscuits, chicken and rice, etc. but what if it’s starch that’s doing it? I’d feel pretty dumb then. She did OK with simple meat and potatoes when Steve came up over the weekend.

Willow finished Steve’s quilt. She says it will keep him warm- as two layers of fleece would do! It’s two full widths of fleece, so 4 yards for each layer- about 4 times what one of her usual ones weigh. I hope he likes WEIGHT on him while he sleeps! It looks good though. I still prefer the theme music for Voyager, but prefer the Galaxy Class over the Intrepid starships, visually, but when you have something made for you, you get what you want.

 

I have come to the end of another journal (I use plain, blank books). I started the month after Mother died, and I have hers, so our family is chronicled pretty well as far as hers go back anyway. This one had the back page fall out- and it has my copy of my contract with my apprentice tucked in it as well. I should count them, I think I’m well over 20, but do I have 30? So if someone asks me what I had for dinner on some date in 97, I would probably be able to tell him. Breakfast, not so much. But I tracked when we bred the various animals, and anything I thought I might want to know about later. I use them to remember “a whole week back” when I’m writing the letter. Weeks like this don’t take up much space.

The funniest story of the week is a bit embarrassing. I have been working on the book cover. I think I’m nearly done. But at some point I misplaced the cup I use for my Sansodor (like turpentine, only it doesn’t stink up the kitchen), and found a shot glass and was using that. Thursday morning Willow came down to take a picture of Steve’s blanket and discovered something pink and sticky scattered over the table. She found a bottle of Raspberry liqueur under the table- standing up, thank goodness, as it was (still) nearly full. Later she found the lid in the drawer of the hutch. It’s a screw off cap, so it’s unlikely that the cats got it off and knocked it down without knocking it over. Mysterious! Then I when I was picking up my painting that night I remembered. The shot glass I was using was one we’d often used to give offerings to the house spirits. And before we moved the altar to the secretary by the front door, it used to be attached to the kitchen windowsill. I was putting the cup of paint thinner on the windowsill (to keep it from being knocked over) in the cup we’d often put out for the housewights- in the place we’d put offerings. Can you imagine the poor hob who found what looked like an unanticipated offering only to discover that it wasn’t booze, but was paint thinner? No wonder he’d go looking to help himself to a deserved treat, and to make his annoyance at our “bad joke” known! Some people don’t believe in the good people, “but as for me and grandpa we believe”. I hope I can convince the wight that it was a simple mistake, no discourtesy intended. At least I didn’t lose a cow over it (like the woman who buried the butter in the Christmas porridge).

What else has happened this week? We got an invitation to my niece Kate’s wedding this fall.  Liz tells me that my aunt Amanda feel and is now recovering from a broken leg. I still am enjoying pictures of her tiny dog (who I think weighs less than any of our cats!). I finally got around to registering my car- having not been up and out but once since February. Well, I’ve been getting a lot of reading done.

I finished And the Rest is History, and the last book in the Chronicles of Saint Mary’s: An Argumentation of Historians which came out on April 15th, and I’d pre-ordered it (Kindle). I have to admit that most of what I did on April 16th was read it. I do like the series, but now I have to wait until she writes another. That happens when one discovers a new series. Luckily, there are several I like, so it shouldn’t take long until another comes out. I have got Doomsday Book to finish. I’ve requested the next Lindsey Davis book from the library, I’m looking forward to that. I found the Haunting Danielle series in January, about the same time as I discovered the Chronicles of St. Marys, but didn’t really start that until I finished the Danielle books. I also read the last story in The Long and the Short of It.  That’s a collection of short stories about the St. Mary’s folk. I’d left it unread as it started with a reference to a trip to Constantinople they hadn’t gone on yet. So now I’m fairly well caught up with St. Mary’s. (…and pretty desperate to find someone else who’s read it so I can talk with them about it. I have not been able to bully any of the kids into it.)

Meanwhile I’ll continue reading more than anyone wants to read about vampires, upirs, , (it’s already getting rather repetitive). My major task is to sort out what SCAers will want to know (for Pennsic, and I’ll probably do a dry run at GNEW again), and then for the CTCW folks. This week I started working on the map. I have to have a map. I’m sure most people don’t know the difference between Transylvania and Carpathia, Bulgaria and Romania, Moravia and Lithuania, the Balkans and the Baltic. And it gets more confusing when empires take over other  back and forth over the centuries. Heck I have trouble with it, and I’m pretty good with maps and history. I’m trying to decide what information is most important, and that can be hard. So far I’ve finished, Banes’ the Encyclopedia of Vampire Mythology, now I’m running through Melton’s The Vampire Book, which is also an encyclopedia. I read How to Kill a Vampire; it was pretty much a run down on how literature has influenced what people think about vampires. For example, while vampires were primarily nocturnal, it was Murnau’s Nosferatu (enjoying the “fade away” special effect) that came up with the Sunlight kills vampires rule. The bit about them being repelled by mirrors and crosses pretty much came from Stoker and the 1931 Lugosi movie.  The “sleep in his native soil” thing was all from that. Actually, coffins were pretty rare for anyone not rich, and most vampires were from among the peasants who didn’t have them. A great deal of Stoker’s Dracula was playing on fear of foreigners and in the film there was a considerable social pressure around how dangerous it was for girls to get friendly with men from outside their immediate circles. I hadn’t thought about where the word vamp came from, but it was based on the idea of a bad girl (Theda Bara) destroying a good man. But I could go on, and on…

I read a few chapters of The Vampire Diaries, since the book’s apparently the inspiration for the TV show. It seemed fairly innocuous. I thought it was a bit better than the Princess Diaries. Having done that, I looked at the first disc of the TV show, and as expected, there’s as much similarity between the book and TV show as existed in True Blood, or other adaptations. They used the names of the main characters. In the book Elena was blonde, but the actress reminded me so much of Sarah Michelle Geller (Buffy) that I think there would have been comments if she’d been blonde in the show. The Vampire love interest Stefan really looks a lot like David Borianis (Angel from Buffy). Her best friend seems to be turning into a witch (a subplot that hadn’t started when I stopped reading), which of course, reminds one of Willow in Buffy. I think this is just Buffy 2.0 for the next generation of vampire fans. Nothing wrong with that I guess, but I don’t know that it will be able to live up to its predecessor, as the Time Tunnel didn’t become America’s Doctor Who.

I finished American History Revised: 200 Startling Facts that Never Made it into the Textbooks,. and I can only say that using that in tandem would be a great high school history curriculum. The stories chosen are generally more interesting than the “memorize these facts” version they give you in text books. More importantly, the author is all about context, making connections, relating the past to the present in a meaningful manner. I’ll admit I find his frequent description of a situation without names irritating because, yes, it does sound like what’s going on now, and then he springs the names and dates on you and we can see where it happened before. (Darn it!) The book is heavily referenced and footnoted as he suggests people keep looking at it.  In his afterward he suggest that “in-depth learning of one or two subjects is more valuable than scattershot familiarity”, and then immediately suggests  “making connections and seeing the large picture”, which seem at least a bit contradictory. Still, I think it’s a great book and highly recommend it. I took about two or three months reading a few sections a day. (Now I’m doing the same with the book The Scientists: a history of science told through the lives of its greatest Inventors. Clearly I’m of the make connections through scattershot familiarity school.) Another non-vamp book I’m reading is The Culture Code: the secrets of Highly successful Groups. Because of it I know why they are taking Steve’s cubical away. In theory when people are working face to face on tables without walls they develop better connections, and do better work. I’m not sure this is the way to go in all systems. Certainly I doubt the management types are giving up their personal offices any more than the Republicans are divesting themselves of the money they’re making through changing the laws to make their contributors richer. The one image I will probably take away from this book is of Navy Seals learning to carry around telephone poles together. I also think about how they are taking music out of the schools, and how better can you teach kids to be aware of each other and work together than with music? 

I watched a movie I’d never heard of before last week: Valerian and the City if a Thousand Planets. It starts with a space station and astronauts from different countries greeting each other, then people from different planets doing the same as the technology gets better. They tell of how the space station has gotten so big that it’s mass is endangering the earth, so send it off to be it’s own city in space, something like Babylon 5 I guess. Only for reasons of “wow-look-what-we-can-do-with-special-effets” there are thousands of types of beings, all working together and sharing knowledge to everyone’s benefit. Except that they are, of course, all like us. There’s an idyllic planet full of peaceful blue people in tune with Mother Nature, and they get pretty much wiped out by humans (if other species are on the other side, it’s not mentioned) fighting near enough to trash their ecology. The good guys look like a pair of pouty teenagers, (reminded me of Luke Skywalker in the first Star Wars) but are apparently the greatest fighters in the police/army. The “bad guy” is the dislikable commander who feels that death is better than humiliation, and innocent civilians dying is acceptable as long as they can’t force the government to pay reparations. The coolest effect is a little beast that eats pearls and then seems to poop them out again- or they may leak out of it’s scales, I couldn’t tell. It’s called a converter, and seems the key to restoring the Mül ecosystem, or making black-marketers really rich. That’s where the plot goes. Basically it’s an adventure with a romance, and a shipload of special effects. So worth watching if you like pretty fluff!

Other movies I watched this week were mostly vampire movies, that I’d become curious about from my reading (it may be too easy to request them from the library), the Horror of Dracula, was a Christopher Lee Hammer classic.  The Curse of Frankenstein with Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee as the Creature was another. Are there any Frankenstein films where the creature is not pitiable? Lee’s was the MOST pitiable I’ve seen so far. His expression is one of such confusion, and he is no where threatening, although many look at his “ugliness” and scream. The two earlier versions of Phantom of The Opera with Lon Chaney (1925) and with Claude Rains (1943) came. Lon Chaney did make a scary Phantom, an between his madness and his looks, you can understand him being called a monster. ( I watched the specials, and apparently his appliances frequently caused him to bleed.) Claude Rains phantom was far less scary; I found myself annoyed that the girl would shriek at his face. Indeed the extra material explained that they’d scaled back on the disfigurement in deference to men who’d come home from the war burned and feeling badly about themselves. Another thing they did was to remove the scene where it was explained that the phantom loved Christine because he was her father who’d deserted her and her mother in order to pursue his musical career. They said it was because at one point the fiancee says it’s clear that the phantom is in love with Christine, and they worried about the audience thinking it was incestuous. I doubt they would have done. In an earlier scene (they inexplicably left in), the director of the company tells her that she has to choose between her fiancee and her career (which she seems to do at the end- deserting both the men who’ve been courting her). I have a feeling that that theme may have been directed at the women in the audience who may be considering careers. It’s OK for men, but not women. I liked that they had a phantom with an incredible voice. I would watch almost anything with him in it. I was surprised to hear that was originally a cockney with a speech impediment. I wonder if he ever did any cockney roles? I was very impressed with the silent version, more than I’d expected. The sets were incredible, and I don’t know if I was aware that they had a color process back in the 20s- not full color, but I’m sure it was impressive at the time. I also “re-watched” some other old vampire movies Innocent Blood, one of my favorites. The theme is about it’s not whether you are a vampire that makes you bad, but what you do. Don Rickles as a vampire was about the scariest one I’ve ever seen! While overtly the theme of Fright Night is since a teenager can’t convince anyone of anything hard to believe, he has to handle things on his own, I’ve always thought that the real story was that of Peter Vincent, who’d acted a hero, but had to force himself to actually be one (as in Galaxy Quest). They made a bigger deal of it in the remake, but had to add the revenge motivation too, which I think weakened it. This film has the trope (seen also in Lost Boys) that if you kill the maker, that unmakes the vampire (if they haven’t killed anyone yet). This is another movie idea- probably because of the emotional need to “save the damsel”. I also sort of watched Urban Legend, another cheesy 80s horror movie that was packaged with Fright Night. Since I had them on while I was painting, I really didn’t catch enough of it to remember it well. When I’m painting what I need is radio plays – or movies I’ve seen enough that I no longer need to look at them.

Well, darn, sniffles, sore throat… I may be getting Willow’s cold. I’ll close up and try to do something more interesting next week.

Tchipakkan

“To have compassion for those who suffer is a human quality which everyone should possess, especially those who have required comfort themselves in the past and have managed to find it in others.”
–from “The Decameron” (1350-1353) by Giovanni Boccaccio

Thursday 19 Humorous Day, Garlic Day, Amaretto Day, Bicycle Day, Hanging Out Day

Friday 20     Pineapple Upside-down Cake Day, Cheddar Fries Day, Look Alike Day

Saturday 21 Tea Day, Chocolate Covered Cashews Day, Husband Appreciation & Bulldogs are Beautiful

Sunday 22    Mother Earth Day, Jelly Bean Day, April Showers Day

Monday 23   Cherry Cheesecake Day, Picnic Day, Talk Like Shakespere Day, Book Night, Lovers Day

Tuesday 24  Pigs in a Blanket Day, Teach your Children to Save Day, Firefly Day

Wednesday 25 Zucchini Bread Day, Penguin Day, Stationary Day, Telephone Day, Mani-Pedi Day, Hug a Plumber Day