Pig Day

dsc02757The weather has continued what I consider unseasonably warm. I worry a bit about the trees, and think I should get out and rake off the gardens, which are now pretty much clear of snow. Maple sugaring has started I hear, but we’re not doing it this year ourselves. It has gotten up to the sixties- which means the hi-lo thermometer by the door is reading in the 100s because the inset doorway serves as a heat scoop. The cats love it, but it reduces the utility of the thermometers readings. Clearly the melting snow means that it’s been warm. When it went back down into the 40s, it sort of took us by surprise, even though it was February. Saturday it was windy, and we had three hours of blackout, but it started at around 10:30, so we just went to bed.
(I made a dumb mistake last night- I thought I’d grabbed my water bottle, and took a swig of contact lens cleaning solution- mostly peroxide- instead! Argh! Nasty! Took about half a day for my throat to stop burning. Did I feel dumb! That bottle has a flip top, the water bottle has a pull out to release top and is much larger. I must have been really tired!)
On the good news front- we’re all over the cold, and regaining our strength. (Although Willow is still really tired, I don’t think that has anything to do with the cold we passed around.)

hufflepuff-prideThis week is school vacation week in Milford, so Willow is doing full time supervision of Kalen and Bianca. It sounds like she’s doing a great job with them. She’s created a chart so they get stickers when they do things like their homework, or brushing her own hair (a problem for Bianca- it’s probably really thick like her mothers), or staying clean and dry for Kalen. She has taken them out to the library and on errands, and is teaching them that they don’t always get bribed for good behavior. The school has commented on how much better they are doing with her being there to get them to do their homework. Kalen actually tested out of his remedial math. (Bianca is frustrated that just as she gets good at one thing, they start something new that she has to learn.) Willow found Kalen a bike that fits him at Goodwill for $15. He’s outgrown his last bike, and takes them out to ride them (and catch poke balls with Pokemon go). While watching them she’s also made a gorgeous Queen sized bedspread for a friend’s birthday. (Ordered by her mother, I think.) It’s huge! But really gorgeous.

Last week I had my acupuncture on Thursday, (Paul had been at a fair), and back to Tuesday this week. While talking to him that as many people have commented on, I talk a lot, but I realized that when I do that, I’m “modeling” the behavior I want to encourage. You know how it is, if you want people to speak more quietly, you speak more quietly, and then they want you to speak up, so they get louder… that wretched phenomenon. I LIKE sharing information. I like knowing what my friends are up to, “what you think, what you like, what you know, what you want, what you see…” and I realized that when I talk (or write) I am showing people what I think is fun and good. Paul said that he didn’t want to “babble”, and certainly I’ve been accused of babbling, because much of what I am saying isn’t of deep importance, but I don’t see it as babbling. Babbling implies a certain level of speaking just to have something being said. I truely enjoy learning things. I wouldn’t have a dangerous level of books looming over my pillows if I didn’t. And what’s more interesting than people? People act like talking about people is gossiping, and yes, if you distinguish between gossip and malicious gossip, I enjoy gossip- which would be talking about other people’s lives. I also like talking about politics, religion, philosophy, sociology, and history- which are also all about people’s lives. I guess I’m feeling a bit defensive. I dislike feeling that people find me and what I say annoying, and I find it sad that they may not realize that I really like listening as much, if not more, than speaking, but it’s hard to get people to talk. It’s supposed to be an exchange, although I don’t want to pressure people. There are so many demands on people’s time and attention, I know that a lot of people don’t feel up to correspondence. Hence the popularity of facebook and twitter, where people can be brief, I expect.
I suspect I shall brood for a while about whether I’m bothering people when I speak. I am so bad at reading what people are feeling, I have to simply assume the best. I believe it’s better to assume that someone thinks well of you than thinks badly of you.

I shall continue to mostly avoid politics. On facebook it’s clear that people are having problems maintaining freindships with people who disagree with them on various issues, and our multicultural society doesn’t have any clear rules on how to deal with this. We just all continue to assume that the way we and our friends handle it is the “right way”, and whatever makes us uncomfortable (doing it differently) is not. Is this much different than historically, except that we pretend we have an homogenous culture?
I had one discussion on my page about the North Carolina/ Texas trans bathroom bills that got a lot of thoughtful responses. I asked how many trans folk people knew, and got numbers ranging from a low of one, to a couple hundred (if you are in the “movement” you’d know more). I expect that people who didn’t know any, just didn’t weigh in. There must be some. The general consensus seemed to be that public bathrooms, like private ones, should be gender nutral, and it’s nobody’s business what gender you are. I tend to agree with those who say it’s a smoke screen for more important issues. But it is smoke indicating the fire of hostility for those who want to make the world into the one they “remember”, where people and things that bothered them could be safely kept away from where they’d have to notice them. I remember Linda telling me about visiting Texas and seeing the young white men hanging around the theoretically integrated restrooms, to make sure that the blacks didn’t use them. I’m sure that eventually, as years passed, young people would find better things to do with their time than look for opportunities to beat up other people, but so far I guess that hasn’t happened yet.
It also occurred to me that there are certain subsets of our society who use public restrooms as social gathering places, and that may color the issue. I’m thinking about the girls rooms where they go to smoke and talk about boys and teachers, and the “pissing contests” at urinals of which I’ve heard, and seen referenced in movies, but luckily not experienced personally. Like men’s clubs and all-girl events, some people seem attached to having a place where they can say nasty things about other people without being taken to task for it, and doing so in a public place gives the illusion that “everyone” agrees with you.  I still feel that this is one of those things that would only be enforced in a very biased way. IF, somehow, they got transgendered people to use the restrooms assigned at their births, there’s be a lot more uncomfortable women getting alarmed when bearded guys came in to use the ladies room because they were afraid of being arrested for using the gents. The ladies using the mens room would probably be trying to figure out how to relieve themselves without getting beat up by the men who’d otherwise have no idea that they were trans until they chose which room to go to. Yes, unisex bathrooms are probably the best bet. Can men give up the convenience of using urinals? Will women accept that sometimes when they go into a stall, the seat will be up? Or will we stop wasting our energy on such stupid stuff?
Yes, I am concerned about more political issues. One thing that has happened is that I’ve become more appreciative of the New York Times, the Washington Post, and other solid news outlets, like the. BBC, MSNBC (you know “fake news”). Sadly, I have exceeded the number of articles that the Washington Post shares free on FB and now they want me to subscribe. 99 cents for the first three months, but $4 a week after that, and I can’t find anywhere how long one is obligated to keep that going. I’d be happy to pay a buck a week, and accept that they have to pay the reporters who are searching for the hard information, but there’s how much I can afford, and then what I can’t afford.
It certainly looks to me like part of the fall out from the election is that people are paying more attention to the news. My friends certainly are, and now people are discussing how we can know what is factual news and what isn’t. It’s a given that the source always tells as much about itself as it does about the subject it’s covering- whether in history or in news. There are many who assume that anything that disagrees with “mainstream” or current popular opinion must be wrong, yet as a fan of medical literature, I know that there’s always a big lag between when important discoveries are made and when they reach the mainstream. We feel glad about it when it turns out there are dangerous unknown effects, and frustrated when possible cures don’t reach our loved ones in time to help (presumably the dead are beyond regrets). There is nothing harder to overcome than assumptions that what you know is wrong. But while I accept that sometimes the mysterious “they” keep the truth from coming out in case it causes panic or economic downturns, by and large I think news reporters seek the truth, and doctors want to help people be healthier. And yes, we all want freedom and democratic ideals, but we’d rather not work that hard for them. I have to include myself in that.
This past week, on the new moon, there was a call for magick users to put a binding on the damage Trump is doing. I encountered several variations of it and always counciled people to only put out what they’d want to get back, because that’s how it works as I understand it. Intellectually, I wouldn’t mind being kept from hurting people, but boy does that get complicated! I’m sure that’s what the people who oppose Roe v Wade think they’re doing. It’s always a balance of who’s getting hurt and how much, isn’t it? It’s not a quesiton of what technique you’re using, or even of your motives, but of what you do.

Kat has been making bonnets this week- to the point that she got a blood blister on the finger she uses to push the needle through the hat. And she’s been using many other techniques to avoid such damage- using a thimble, pushing the needle against the table once it was inserted, or grabbing it with plyers to pull it through. Willow’s bought her some millinary needles- and we hope that will help. They are working on their stock for upcoming summer shows.
She also, with great patience, helped John set up his new computer. I am bemused because he often is playing a game on his kindle, while watching a movie or something else on his computer. Apparently he developed the habit of opening a dozen tabs and windows at once because the old computer took so long to open them. Perhaps with the new one he can relax on that count. Sadly, his old keyboard just had the connection break off the USB wire, so we may need to get him a new one.

dsc02755Looks like Easter is late this year. Mardi Gras was only last night. This year as most years, we take this opportunity to once a year eat a LOT of home made jelly donuts (ever since we got the recipe for them in that add a few pages a month recipes by subscription back in the 80s. I really miss them, and have no idea at this point what it was called!) I tend to expect Mardi-gras earlier in the year; Chinese New Year bounces around as well. I read somewhere that the average American eats 63 dozen doughnuts a year. That is pretty ridiculous. That’s more than two per day. Given that we probably eat half our annual doughnut consumption on fastnacht (Mardi-gras), and given that fried dough pastries are delicious, and given that we live in New England, (and the next reasonable sized town, Milford, has 3 Dunkins), and that this figure may be based on the number that manufacturers say that they make (thus some may be thrown away not eaten), that figure would mean that SOMEONE out there is eating a lot more doughnuts to balance off our 2 dozen a year.
In an attempt to not make too many this year, I got a Paczki recipe off the internet that said it only made 18. When I made the first six they were enormous- bigger than softballs! Maybe that’s how big they’re supposed to be, but I prefer smaller ones- more tennis ball sized- so it still made more than we could eat. Kat tried one of the big ones, and couldn’t make it all the way through. Well, that’s our grease allotment for this year… until Hannuka of course. (I may not be part of the religion, but I’m all over good food, no matter the reason.

I feel it shouldn’t be worth mentioning that we went to the dump this weekend, except that we hadn’t gone while we were sick and the weather was awful, so for about a month. The back hall was packed! So many recyclables! So much trash! Our local Market Basket lets you carry your food home in boxes- which is great if you have a wood stove. Sadly, we’d gotten ahead on boxes obtained, but not yet burned. As we emptied the back hall, we tossed them into the corner in front of the pantry. That night, I made tuna noodle casserole just so I wouldn’t have to get into the pantry past the pile of boxes- until John broke them down and rolled them up into cardboard “log” firestarters. It’s good to have that junk gone!
Steve came up for breakfast on Sunday. I made a coffee cake. He hasn’t been up for a month. We’d kept warning him off as one at a time we got sick- he didn’t need to catch the Birka cold!  Also, I finally found the Fountain Tarot. I’d found it at CTCW to give him for Yule, and “put it away somewhere safe”. The images are very cool. (Also, it’s hard to find him a tarot deck he doesn’t already have!) The weather was so good that we took a walk. Not a long one, we’re getting old and haven’t done much walking lately, but it’s a good start. Mark came over and read to me again this week too.

I think I mentioned that Willow got me coloring books for my birthday. She’s trying to ease me back into doing art. I have been coloring- at least partly when I’m at the computer listening to news clips. Or when I’m too tired to do my housework (and probably in denial about still being tired). As the weather is better, perhaps walking would be good- although it’s not easy to combine it with keeping up on political shenanagins. She got me a pack of sharpies, and flairs (for Christmas). I tend to be dissatisfied with how you can’t get a smooth area of color with markers. You can always see where your arc of how far you hand reaches as you swing it back and forth meets the next block of color. Then this week I tried her huge box of crayons on one page. As I recalled, it’s hard to get a good saturated color with crayons. (and I am reminded that I am not good at staying inside the lines!) This week I picked up some colored pencils I saw on sale to see how those would work with the most delicate designs. Nope, there’s a reason I don’t use colored pencils. I think maybe it may depend upon the brand and quality. I got some that were supposed to be super saturated- good for “black or white paper”, but I still couldn’t get a good color out of them. Still, I am sliding back into the appeal of laying down colors. Is it relaxing? Yes. Do I need that? I don’t know. As far as I can tell, I’m using it as an excuse to sit. It would probably be more productive to knit.

Well, we’ll be switching our prescriptions to Costco. Wal-Mart is no longer partnered with AAA, and they had helped with a large hunk of the cost with the girls prescriptions. I am not unhappy about losing the major reason we went into Walmart. I disagree with their policies in almost every respect, and what I’ve heard about Costco is good. Sadly, Walmart is 30 minutes away, and Costco is about an hour. Sigh.

The New Normal podcast had technical problems again last week. I feel like it’s sheer laziness that I’m not looking for another venue, but I’m not sure how (other than “it must be on the internet somewhere” I should look for a different… I’m not even sure what it’s called. Station? Platform that hosts podcasts? There are so many technological things I use, and I don’t know how they work. And it could be that we no longer have the best available internet, since that requires a satellite connection, which we do not have. Perhaps if I didn’t have a “prime time” show….  This week’s (with Jane) is here.

What have I read and watched this week? Probably too much. I mentioned The Year of the Flood, by Atwood (who wrote the Handmaiden’s Tale). This week I finished Oryx and Crake and Madd Adam, books one and three, a series set in another  distopian future world run by corporations, and destroying it’s resources for the benefit of the 1%. The characters were good, and I liked the different ways they dealt with the problems. I’m not quite ready to go back and re-read Handmaiden’s Tale, but I will finally watch the 1990 movie, and if it’s not too depressing, I’ll try to stream the upcoming mini-series. I think it’s significant that they are re-making it now. The fact that it was written in the 80’s shows that we knew this stuff was coming, and it’s depressing that we haven’t protected ourselves any better. Two of the things I liked in the books were that they’d tried using pigs as hosts to grow spare parts for people, and after the bio-engineered plague, those pigs turned out to have human level intelligence (although without opposable thumbs- how frustrating!), and the people had to learn to deal with that. Also I liked their philosophy about people who were depressed, they called it being in a fallow state. I like that concept (and there was an article today talking about something like that). I am a great believer that things have a reason for existing. One thing I didn’t like was that they didn’t address the problem that the bio-engineered humans were designed to avoid old age by dropping dead at 30, if I remember correctly. Although they did seem to be able to breed with the normal humans, so some balance might be achieved in their offspring. Unanswered questions are frustrating.
I finished the other near future novel I was reading: Retrotopia. As I mentioned last week, it was sort of short on plot- the protagonist did come to see that “Progress is the Enemy of Prosperity”, otherwise expressed as “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Toward the end, he got a girlfriend, the satelites that were bumping into each other hit a terminal cascade (“How can you do that kind of math without computers?” he asks, and they show him a slide rule.), and war breaks out between two of the oil producing countries, who bomb each other’s oil platforms in the Carribean. Oddly, no ecological disaster was mentioned as a result of that- perhaps because they were supposed to be sucking the “fumes” at that point. I like novels where there’s a potentially happy ending.
When I was done with that, I “tripped and fell into” another book on my kindle: Library. I get notifications from Bookbub  about books that are available free or for less than a dollar on Kindle, and this was about a detective solving generation spanning murders in a Library with the help of ghosts. Totally mind candy, but sometimes that’s what you want.
Similarly, I got a copy of the Graphic Novel of the Rick Riordan Son of Neptune, and was reminded what a great series the Heroes of Olympus books were. Next time I was at the library I picked up all the Graphic Novels in that series that they had. I love graphic novels, but I feel sorry for people who don’t have the facility for reading to enjoy the depth of character and plot the books have. I can hardly wait for the third book in the Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard series. (I’ve pre-ordered it, and it’s not coming out until October!) Still, it’s March, so if I’m going to re-read a great fantasy book, it’s Tolkien Month.  Meanwhile I have the latest in the Medicus series Tabula Rasa, that I’ve started.
I also thoroughly enjoyed Thursday the Rabbi Walked Out. As with the others in the series, it consists of interlocking scenes about a huge range of people in the small Massachusetts community, and how what they do affects other people- including Rabbi Small, who’s always there to point out one or two things that may or may not have been noticed. I am beginning to really sympathize with my mother’s complaint about writers who don’t give you all the information during the book so you can figure it out if you can catch the clues. If they withhold the information (as the detective discovers it), you don’t get that cleverness feeling I enjoy so much. (I also enjoy on line quizzes, which always say that only some small % of people will get these questions right, and I do and worry about people who don’t. Of course, if I took sports quizzes, I’m sure I’d fail horribly. I probably only like them because they make me feel clever.)
I continue reading Dark Ages America and Daily Life in America 1960-1990. Gosh, it’s weird to read about the world I lived through and ignored! It makes so much more sense now that I’ve read about the earlier periods that led up to it. On the Civil Rights movement it talked about how the TV brought bloody scenes into American homes “The spreading outrage provoked by those scenes [of hostile & abusive treatment] forced the federal government to take sides, and there was clearly only one side it could take.” this history text says. That’s a hopeful view. They say that in the elections in the 60s “both Parties prompted ordinary citizens to ask themselves where they stood on matters of race, access to jobs, housing, and social opportunity.” If we came through the sixties, I can hope that we can get through current events. Certainly people are thinking about what it means to be American a lot more than they did even a year ago.
Do you remember I mentioned watching a series called Civilization, the West and the Rest? As I recall I found it frustrating. So I sent for the series Civilization with Lord Kenneth Clark. I had the book since I was in college, and loved it, but now I’m finding it nearly as irritating as the other series. I’ve learned enough to spot several historical errors, which I’m sure I wouldn’t have at the time. And his logical fallacies are horrible. He seems to accept both literacy and Christianity as a precondition for Civilization. (there were “no civilizations in the Americas before the whites got there” and appears to have dismissed the Eastern Civilizations, (although there is an apology which indicates that he just hasn’t got time to cover them in this series). I’ll admit that large stone structures are durable, but certainly durability is not the key to civilization. Still, I’ve only just begun, and intend to watch it through. Perhaps once I’ve seen more, it will be less annoying.
I watched two of the most depressing movies I’ve ever seen. I thought Maggie was going to be a dystopian SF movie. It had zombies and Arnold Swartzenegger protecting his daughter from the government “bad guys”. I know the tropes- it should turn out that her blood contains the key to curing the zombie plague. Nope, this one is all about the distress of a father who can’t help his dying daughter, and her distress about the distress she’s causing him. A zombie bites you, and then you die.  This is NOT entertainment. I go with Miss Prism in The Importance of Being Ernest: “The good end well, the bad end badly. That’s what fiction is about.” The performances were great, but I want my happy ending! The Homesman was not quite that depressing. Tommy Lee Jones plays a man who’s helping a good hearted woman bring three women who’ve got mad from the strain of the pioneering life (a farm failing, losing three children to dyptheria in three days, etc.). They talk about how people don’t want to talk about madness, and I think that’s a conversation that needs to happen. I’d have liked to see the women begin to recover a bit in the month long trip, but I suppose severe mental illness doesn’t just get better by taking you away from the stresses that pushed you into it, as much as we’d like that to be the case.
Kat sent for Desperatly Seeking Susan, which was apparently big in the 80s, although I hadn’t seen it. I put it on while making dinner one night. It was vaguely amusing, but only one step above “I want my 90 minutes back”. Had I dropped everything to watch it in a theatre, I think it might have fallen into that category. On the other hand, The BFG (based on the Roald Dahl story) was utterly charming, and I would totally recommend it to anyone who wants to see a “feel good” fantasy. It’s not Dark Crystal or Labyrinth good, but it is really good! I loved the way it broke the trope of adults not believing kids. Penelope Wilton was great as the Queen.

So as you see, although I have taken a great deal of words to say it, I have really not done much this week. I fear I have read and colored too much and should get back to work!

Following another’s path leads to who they are, not to who you are

~Harry Palmer