I didn’t get out to get any pictures this week, but I note that this is the 1250th letter, as close as I could track it, and that is, I think, of note.
The weather this week has been great! It’s been running in the 70ºs and 80ºs, and mostly we get some light rain at night- although there was one good thunderstorm several nights ago. The iris and phlox have started, and the lilac, lily of the valley, and bleeding hearts are gone. I nearly missed them. Willow planted some dwarf lilac out front and that is apparently later than the standard lilac, so we got to bring a few of those inside. I’ve kept the lilac I put in my room because I can still get a whiff of it when I brush against it even though it’s dried out. I love lilac. In theory roses will come this month, but we don’t have any real good ones.
Ah for the days of livestock- currently having only three cats- all of whom seem to have developed serious antipathy for each other to the point of physically fighting if they get into proximity- Gretel is STILL sequestered in Kat’s room which must be kept closed so that Zoloft doesn’t sneak in and chase her around, causing damage to Gretel, Kat, and her room! If we try to push the issue by taking Gretel out, the fighting (and hiding, and promiscuous elimination) don’t seem to resolve themselves. Even our “cat whisperer” is stumped.
The rhubarb has come up in the raised bed- and I got some strawberries to make a pie, but haven’t mustered the energy to make it yet. I will plead that I’m putting my returning energy into trying to catch up on cleaning!
I am breathing deeply and easily again, thank goodness. The one week estimate seems to have been optimistic. I suppose I might have been able to go “back to work” to an office, although I’m sure any co-workers would have not been happy to share air with me, but aside from coughing, my strength has been coming back far too slowly. I am very grumpy. You’ll remember that Kat came down with it when I was on day 4, then I think John started coughing three or four or so days after that, and Willow started last Thursday. He says he’s feeling better today, and has gone out for a walk for the first time in a week. But let’s just say no one in the family was thinking fast or doing much this week!
For me, it was a major accomplishment to actually make something other than chicken soup for supper! I tried a variation on pot roast in which we cooked it until it started to fall apart like corned beef, then I made gravy and put the bits of pot roast back in, and served the mess with/over mashed potatoes. Luckily I don’t consider making mashed potatoes work. Another ’low effort’ supper is waffles, although it does require a couple minutes standing, or sitting on the stool. I’m up to stir frying (which still has a good deal of time when I get to sit to chop things up). I am concerned that we’ve been eating too much prepared food while we’ve been ill. How could anyone tell if it’s being sick or not getting good nutrition that makes things seem worse recently?
I think we realized that Willow had gotten it when the mail came in and she ended up in tears. Her bridesmaid dress arrived and even though it was made to her measure, it doesn’t really fit, not so she can move her arms. Kat hopes she can make appropriate adjustments, but frankly, as I recall Willow’s shoulders have always been an issue with how they think women are shaped in the clothing industry. On top of that, the phone case arrived for her replacement phone, and it wouldn’t fit on. Luckily, returning was easy- we told them we wanted to and printed out a return label. Then ordered another, which has come and does fit. But when the world all comes down on your head and you can’t deal, that can push you over the edge. Or maybe coming down with a nasty cold puts the edge much closer.
I think the most annoying thing was that I wasn’t really able to concentrate on any reading of any value. I guess hurray for cozy mysteries, but I doubt I’ll remember them, and am very happy that I can borrow them on my kindle. A few days ago I proclaimed myself well enough and changed all my pillow cases, and took another look at my phone- which has stopped ringing, although it is in it’s charger and power’s going to it. Willow came in to help me and noticed the book Wilding (a book about how a couple in England wasn’t able to make money with their farm, so they simply let it go wild, and the environment has gradually restored itself- becoming habitat for many endangered species.) and has started reading it. At any rate there’s not much that we’ve done worth mentioning this week.
Liz, on the other hand, had quite an adventure! She got up last week and went to get her annual mammogram, and they told her she’d been in the day before. She figured that it was some sort of paperwork glitch, as when a doctor explained to me that he’d talked to me about being worried about my weight, and it turned out that he was simply going by the chart- and it was another Virginia Taylor! These things do happen. (That he insisted that he remembered talking to me about it bothered me, as it shouldn’t since I’m not good at matching names and faces either.) However in this case, the office staff proved to her that even though she remembered going to bed Monday night, then coming for her Tuesday appointment, that she had indeed already done so- and that this was Wednesday. She literally couldn’t remember anything about the day before- as if it didn’t exist. They say it’s Transient Global Amnesia, meaning that you lose a block of time completely, but it’s a one shot deal that they don’t know why it happens, but it’s unlikely to happen again. It sounds like one of those science fiction movies, where it turns out to be time travel, and since it isn’t one, rather terrifying. It’s one thing to get screwed up by the long weekends and not know what day it is all week (which seems to happen to me every time!), but to actually get up, go to an appointment, get a freaking mammogram, come home etc. and not have the least memory of it? That’s disturbing. As you may imagine, I spent some time doing internet searches about it, and I assume Liz did too. Apparently her doctors don’t think it’s a problem with any of her meds, I expect they’ve gone over those files carefully. She’s decided to just put it behind her since there’s not much she can do about it. I suspect that I would worry it like a dog with a bone.
Again, while we were worrying about exhaustion and phlegm, Mark had chest pains and went to the Emergency Room, as you are supposed to do. And as expected he was told he was OK, and see his doctor, which he did and was told that nothing happened. Oh the blessings of having good insurance so that when nothing happens you can afford to get it checked out. (That reminds me that I have now finally heard what John Paradis died of- he had a heart attack and passed away in his sleep. I suppose that’s the best you can hope for.) I guess that’s why at my age we start checking on our friends periodically, just in case.
The most exciting thing that happened this week was that we picked up Willow’s car, so now we have two again. If you are going to be down to one car, it’s good for it to happen when you don’t want to go out anyway. And Gary seems to have found me another car and is getting it in shape for me. As long as we were out- Kat and I went over to the library, and the grocery, and Willow who’d headed out to Costco to pick up prescriptions, discovered that she’d left her purse at Winkles, so Kat and I had to swing by and get it. Luckily Robert was working late and we were able to get it. Robert also has another idea for fixing our old wood stove- I think he’s going to need to see it before he can really say. After all how is body work on a stove that different than body work on a car? I tell you- I have no idea. This is why he’s a mechanic and I’m an artist.
Frankly, it makes me very greatful for having had such an uneventful week. What have I done? I’ve read. I’ve been sleeping until past noon, sometimes reading longer, getting up and checking Facebook, posting the holidays, updating the CTCW website, and putting some token food on for my sick family. We have gone through a LOT of chicken soup, orange juice and oranges this past week. There may have been a week there where I didn’t even bother making supper, and I know the kids did supper when I was at my worst. Nice to know they can do it if they have to. Very basic stuff like hot dogs, or grilled cheese sandwiches. Or roast beef. It sounds funny, but a beef roast you just stick in the oven and wait an hour, and meanwhile make some masked potatoes, so it’s really easy- although it does require chewing. One should not get so tired that chewing is too much trouble, but apparently it happens.
The first job I undertook when I felt recovered was cleaning the refrigerator. One shelf at a time, and I was sitting on a stool while washing the dishes. I fear we lost track of some of the stuff that was in it- and a refrigerator is not a stasis box, no matter how much we would like it to be one. The bit of wisdom I took from that exercise is that it’s hard to convince your subconscious that you should heal if the “reward” for it is to do a job you really don’t like.
As my brain “came back on line” I’ve been thinking about a lot of stuff (reading more non-fiction and more news), for example women’s history. We really don’t think much about what life was like before the parts we remember. I wrote a post A Fate worse than deat, mentioning how in the old days (which apparently some of the southern states would like to return to, if a woman was raped, she was pretty much blamed for it. Even today we know that rape is horrible. It’s assault, and theft of bodily autonomy, and all sorts of bad, but it’s followed up by being questioned to suggest that you’d done something to deserve it (“How and why did you entice this nice man to beat you up?”) It’s so bad now we find it hard to imagine that it was worse before. The rumination may have started with “Old Maids Day” which happened last week. People don’t get that a woman who had to try to support herself, other than having a household to run for her family was probably living in poverty, near starvation, and probably given no credit for having given up chances to have one to take care of her parents or younger siblings. To learn about history is to have your nose rubbed in the fact that through out much of human history, many people have simply accepted unfair situations for various classes of people without questioning why it should be acceptable. Of course blacks, or indigenous people, or women, or Jews were considered inferior and untrustworthy and not given the rights men were. I’m surprised that no one seems to point out that with all the BS the forced-birthers are spouting about babies having rights inside women whose very lives may be threatened, that the thing they are protecting is the impregnator’s rights. Why has no one pointed out that if the baby is born female, that she too becomes a commodity with no rights under this strange viewpoint? But as I said, people have somehow managed to accept a great deal of foolishness simply because they have left their societal customs unexamined. I think another factor may be that we simply don’t want to waste time worrying about what we can’t fix.
For most of the last couple of weeks I have not started the day with checking the news: I expect the articles I read are not unlike my parents looking through the newspaper each morning, and listening to the radio through the day. Most of mine is from various papers who send links to articles I read on line. I get Good morning from CNN, the (Washington) Post Most (I actually subscribed to the Post- which is annoying because I can only access it through my computer. Since I’m paying for it, I figure I should be able to read it on my kindle as well, but since I don’t know how to fix whatever the link is, once I’ve read the allocation of articles per month, they tell me to subscribe, which makes me very cross since I already have!), NPR Breaking News, and Mother Jones (also subscribed) in my email. I feel I should attempt tp stay current about what’s going on. Frankly I prefer the stories I see shared on Facebook that mention good things happening, for example, other countries making advances that I wish we could be making. (I guess I just say “not my problem” when I hear about horrible things happening in Brazil and elsewhere.) I expect that Canada is going to discover that it’s going to be challenging to do without single-use plastics, but they’ll figure out how it used to be done. There wasn’t so much of it even two or three decades ago, we can do whatever we did then.
This week was Loving Day, remembering how it was only in 1967 that the laws against interracial marriage were ended. We have made progress, and I’m pretty sure that this anti-woman backlash is simply the last gasp of the dying patriarchy being terrified that if women get equal rights they’ll treat the men as badly as they treated women. I have not seen that happen when people got rights in my lifetime, so they are acting out of irrational terror. (It’s worrying to consider that they may be thinking “what would I do in their place”?)
Other random thinks that have popped up have included on the celibacy issue. Does being celibate when you aren’t naturally asexual create an urge to invent a justification to do what you know is wrong? Historically it’s pretty clear that it started not with celibacy but with ’no marriage’, meaning that the church would be a meritocracy and bishops and priests sons wouldn’t get their see. That’s a reasonable goal. On the other hand, over the centuries they redefined no-marriage as celibacy for the priest hood. There are many types of sexuality, and I guess the Catholic Church decided either that asexuality was an achievable goal for a godly man. While it’s likely that an asexual might be attracted to such a job-description, I think it unlikely that all of those who felt a religious calling were asexual. Some would have been homo-sexual, bi, pan or other variants. I doubt that men went into the priesthood because they were pedophiles, is it simply easier to shut kids up (even more easy to hide homosexual or perhaps consensual relationships)? Is it the usual “power corrupts” thing, and a priest had power over his victims and their families? Just what proportion of priests did physically express their various sexual feelings, and what effects did that have on the institution, except to instigate the horrible avalanche of corruption that follows suppression of natural feelings when “protect the institution for the good that it does” comes into play. My feeling is that any time cover-ups happen, it’s bad for those doing it, as well as those victims who are denied justice. The Church has a huge problem that it would take Solomon himself to figure out.
On a much smaller scale- Texas has decided to criminalize kids setting up lemonade stands. <y guess is that this comes from the pincer action of more virulent communicable diseases (or is it just that we find out about them more these days?), and the very normal bureaucratic paranoia that thinks that covering every option is the way to get control of a situation. At some point someone needs to say that the problems being dealt with are not worth the remedies imposed, and that’s an impossible argument when one can posit a flesh eating bacteria or virus mutating into a deadly form, which is how these minds work.
Vikki and Steve are back from Europe, as she says “puttering in the garden, bicycling the byways, and swimming in the pond.” Sounds like a great life, especially when interspersed with world travel! As with so many who get a chance to see what the civilized world is like, they are dismayed at the changes inflicted by the current administration on the American political scene. I will miss her letters telling of life in whichever part of the world Steve is teaching in at the time (most recently the Czech Republic. I will admit that as Ramadan progressed this past month I thought back to her stories of living in the United Arab Emirates. The daily interaction with other people in a neighborhood gives such a superior perspective on what others are like than any amount of book or internet research. I’m not sure that I’m not simply to lazy to deal with the effort involved to get this most excellent education.
What have I been reading this week?
In my usual fashion I’ve been reading several books at a time (I feel it’s like the way we pick up information from just living life.) I like to read a few chapters of one, then a few chapters of another. I am currently reading Throughout the Centuries Famous Inventors and Inventions, Owen progresses century by century, last night I read about the eighth. The seventh talked about the development of Chess and Backgammon and developments in horse harness, sadly the while they mentioned the spread of Arabic numerals, all they could think of was the attack on Lindisfarne heralded the changes brought by “Vikings” to England. For goodness sakes, what about the various arts at the court of Charlemagne? How Uncial lettering made writing so much more legible? It wouldn’t be that they were concentrating on England, because they did mention the South American quipo knotted recording system. Frankly, if they are going to talk about that, they should have mentioned the huge changes that came from the spread of Islam, but no, they went on about Greek Fire! They mentioned the effects of the writings of Augustine of Hippo in the 5th century, and the effects that had on Christian thought. Argh! I guess you can tell that I am enjoying being cross about it. I’ve picked up Cariadoc’s Legal Systems Very Different from Ours, again. I’m still in the section on Imperial Chinese Law. So far the biggest distinction is the argument between the legalists and Confucians about whether the law should be equal for all, or consequences adjusted to person and circumstance, both of which can be argued. Perhaps the most interesting philosophical arguments are whether motivation should make a difference or only the effect created.
I read a few pages of 853 Hard To Believe Facts: Better Explained, Counterintuitive and Fun Trivia from the Creator of RaiseYourBrain.com between fiction. I actually don’t find most of them hard to believe, for example 282. There are no reptiles in Antarctica. Well, why would cold blooded animals live where it’s cold? Or 261: A UK filmmaker shot a movie that shows a freshly painted wall drying for fourteen hours. Why? He had a gripe with the British Film Board, all of whom are obliged by law to watch all films that are to be screened in the UK. Sounds like a normal human to me! I have not yet checked 257: Empty batteries bounce when dropped, charged ones do not. Have you? I think that one’s pure fun. Slips in Time and Space by Rosemary Ellen Guiley (darn I hate when autocorrect changes a name! She’s not R E Guilty!) is a collection of information about inexplicable incidents that seem to tell of people slipping through time, or occasionally from other worlds. I suppose it’s hard to distinguish. Guiley has written several encyclopedia of folklore, on ghosts, demons, fairies, vampires, werewolves, angels, witches, UFOs, saints, the unexplained.… What a way to make a living! I’d like to grow up to be her, except I think I’m rather older than she is.
In fiction, I finished the last of the Maddie Graves series. Now that the lovers are married, I have no idea if the author is going to continue writing about them anymore. I wish someone would realize marriage is a beginning, not an ending! I’m reading Pies and Potions (having finished No Shoes, No Shirt, No Spells: a Magic Baking Cozy Mystery.)The Mystic Cafe series is another fluff series about a girl finding romance and having magical misadventures. In this case the chaos is pretty much the result of being told that she has magick and to use it, but work it out on her own, no instructions. Talk about a recipe for disaster. I also finished If Fried Chicken could Fly, and am reading If Mashed Potatoes Could Dance. This series has the benefit of including the recipes mentioned in the text. Other than that it’s formulaic. The girl has left the big normal world to go back to the small town where she grew up to discover that her grandmother- and she- can see ghosts. The town lives on tourism, her best friend is a historian, and she and her grandmother run a cooking school. Her high school love also returns, and they find the attraction is still there. They solve crime. Yup, fun ‘read once’ers. I do want to try some of those recipes.
I also tripped into a deal on Terry Pratchett’s Raising Steam, and I’ve been reading that too. It’s a little harder to stop since there are no chapters to get to the end of. I love the goblins, and their expression “hang” meaning to endure. The fact that they are a fantasy race and cannot be easily forced into the role of, let’s say “indignity”, while the trolls are blacks- or would that be dwarves? No, the brilliance of Pratchett is that his races are what they are- they are trolls and dwarves and goblins, not some substitute for our abused classes. We can learn from how Disc World’s races treat each other, and learn to get along, but it unfolds, and is not forced on us. Our family has, I think, all of Pratchett’s books in paper back, but I won’t mind having them on my kindle any time I can get them for $3 or less. I’m pretty sure when they do those offers it’s a promotion, but I like to keep my eye out. That’s why I am on a couple of “free ebooks” lists, where I noticed a new title by Lindsey Davis: Invitation to Die for only 1.99 yesterday. Although I couldn’t remember which book it was, I got it. It turns out to be a new short story about the Camellia brothers, it’s set in 89 c.e. and I’ve just started. I also found several other of the Falco books for 2.99. I see that a new Flavia Alba book is coming out while we’re at war. While I’m tempted to pre-order it, I’m not sure it would show up on my kindle away from a normal wi-fi, and moreover, I don’t need any excuse to stay up late at Pennsic. The older I get the more I discover joy in rereading books I’ve enjoyed before, even though it cuts into the time I have to read new ones.
I actually got sick of watching musical comedies- maybe just ones I hadn’t seen before and couldn’t sing along to. I’ve been watching old favorites- National Treasure, Sorcerer’s Apprentice, most recently. I also did 3 episodes (one disc) of Quantum Leap– quite fun, sadly only available through Netflix as discs. (The Tony’s were this week. I would like to see Hadestown)
Now that I’m actually getting back to trying to get stuff done (arranging classes, sewing, cleaning, cooking, bills (yuck), maybe a little gardening, I will have to cut down on reading what I have to admit is eight or more hours a day. I am reading a few hard-covers: I’ve started Food, Eating and Identity in Early Medieval England, which is about Anglo-Saxon eating habits, and how we can learn about them from archeological and written sources. I was rather bummed to discover that while I spent $90 for my copy, I could have gotten a paperback from boy dell for $26(+S&H)
I’m also still working my way through It Can’t Happen Here. While it’s good, it’s still hard. Since it’s a library book, I’ve got little stickies on which I’m tracking the many characters. The hero seems to be Doremus Jessup, a small town New England newspaper editor, who considers himself indolent and optimistic, but is appalled by the election of the tyrant-to-be Buzz Windrip. I have to admit that I was hoping that it might have some useful observations to help us in the current situation. Since it’s fiction it could have a happy ending; since it’s well written, I’m hoping for insight into why humans do horrible things.
The beginning was disturbingly familiar: Jessup “could not explain his power of bewitching large audiences. The Senator was vulgar, almost illiterate, a public liar easily detected, and in his ‘ideas” almost idiotic, while his celebrated piety was that of a traveling salesman for church furniture.” Sadly, the suggestion in the book is that he was an amazing orator that mesmerized his audiences into feeling good about him. I have not noticed that in any of the clips I’ve seen of Trump’s rallies. He seems more to simply play to his crowd and their worst impulses. One way the book has reassured me is that Trump did not create his own private militia like the Minute Men. He is favoring his millionaire friends not his fearful followers. So we don’t have young men beating up their political rivals like uniformed street gangs, although this decade certainly has issues with groups of armed bigots. Our most dangerous ones tend to act singly or in fairly small groups, although I am concerned about the bigot infiltration of the police resulting in natural unfair violence toward people of color, women, and GBLT.
I can see some equivalencies in the polarization of the parties, as well as the abortion, and anti-vax issues that may well be the result of Russian trolls. The issue of controlling the media is unfolding differently. Our “Chief” has taught his followers to not trust any sources but his favored ones. I’m sure that the news fed to the two sides is slanted very differently. I am appalled by the audacity of re-using Fort Sill, where Japanese Americans were interned during WWII, to house the refugees imprisoned at the border because Trump wants to keep the “bad hombres” in their place- working for half price for his corporate pals. Have his followers even heard about the deaths and lost children in his camps, or the profits his cronies are making? In Lewis’ book Windrip’s followers “had blessed capacity for blindness, and they were presently convinced that (since the only newspapers they ever read certainly said nothing about it) there were no more of blood-smeared cruelties in court and in concentration camp; no restrictions of speech or thought.” That was in 1935 prescient about Hitler’s camps, but pretty much true now, and given that Trump will simply dismiss any criticism of himself as “fake news”, they seem to accept it. I’m still waiting for them to wake up and notice that he’s keeping none of his promises, not lowering taxes, not increasing jobs, not “winning”. Sure, HE and his friends are winning, and those who are trying to defend White Christian America are making temporary gains.
Now the proof of his perfidy is accumulating. The biggest risk at this point is rushing things so that impeachment is avoided and he uses that to claim proof of innocence. As I say, I am reading It can’t happen Here, and enjoying it (by some definitions of “enjoy”)- but it’s a hard pill, and I need “a great deal of <whatever> to wash it down”, in this case, lots of cozy mysteries, and historical trivia. It’s an important book, like All the King’s Men, and well written, but at the same time, I feel the need to protect myself from the starkness of what fear can do to men. I loved the wonderful description of Doremus’ study, and I’m sure it makes many readers and lovers of history identify with him. I loved the description of his cousin James who “called himself “agnostic” instead of an “atheist” only because he detested the street-brawling, tract-peddling, evangelism of the professional atheist.” How sad that so many of those who cannot find the arguments of religion compelling feel, even today, the need to evangelize their disbelief in the god of whoever alienated them, as if there were only one version of truth. But I am unsure of whether the fear Lewis describes having overtaken most Americans during the depression isn’t what we are still dealing with now. We’ve lost “the privilege of planning”. Doremus felt “the sense of futility in trying to do anything more permanent than shaving or eating breakfast”. The book described how families worked and planned to get advantages for their children and grand-children. That they would be able to save “in a mere five or six years more- to buy that complete Dickens with all the illustrations- oh an extravagance, but a thing to leave to my grandchildren to treasure forever!” Since there was no reason to expect improvement, there is no reason to save, or even breed. Put your resources into experiences, at least they can’t take your memories! When corporations can take the very water you need to survive in order to sell it back to you- or whoever can afford it, there is no future you can plan for. This is, indeed, the sort of universal expression of understanding people that I was hoping to find. I did notice that after Windrip won the election, Jessup withdrew from public life to read the classics, only to find himself drawn to the books he’d enjoyed as a youth. Oh, boy! Do I identify! Not just to prefer being taken away from modern problems, but also to return to the familiar woes of Ivanhoe or Elizabeth Barret. I hear you! I grok.
Ah well, didn’t get this off on Wednesday because I was a good invalid and turned the computer off and went to bed when midnight hit. I’ll admit that I’ve only finished very slowly, stopping to read articles and look at nature pictures. Still, I will accomplish something today- there’s a CTCW meeting tonight, and I’ve talked to the organizer for RI PPD. And the letter makes three, so I can feel I’m on the way back to productivity. Hope to have something more exciting (but not TOO much more) to talk about next week!
“Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen [pounds] nineteen [shillings] and six [pence], result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.” Dickens
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