Monday, December 31, 2007

What do knitting pirates say? Yaaaaarrrrrn!

I have committed yarn.

I spent the day so far with a friend driving around town to various yarn shops. I'd made up an itinerary of 4 interesting knitting shops (unfortunately 3 of the shops I wanted to visit are closed Mondays) and we went around to all of them. We didn't actually get into one, as it turned out to be closed Mondays too, despite what its website said. But I bought yarn at all 3 of the places on the list we got inside of.

There's some sock yarn for when my friend teaches me to knit socks, in pink/blue/grey. Grey mohair and blue/green thick-and-thin wool for a shawl. Pink/white/black novelty stuff (not really ribbon or eyelash) to mix with a skein of pink silk/mohair for a scarf. Two balls of wine-colored wool as the basis of a muff (my hands get cold in the car). Two balls of intense blue merino for some fingerless mitts. And a skein of variegated cherry-colored wool that I don't know what I'll make into, but I wanted it badly so it came home with me.

This is the most selfish yarn trip I've made: all this is for projects for me. But I spent most of last year knitting for other people, and I've had some projects for myself lurking around behind my thinking for a couple of months now--and now I have the yarn for them.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

I came, I saw, I bought.

My brother bought a house a couple of years ago, and for his wintergift he asked if I'd get him curtains. So I drove out there this morning, he fixed me breakfast, and we talked about what he wanted to accomplish and I talked about what his options were.

Then we drove to IKEA. He hadn't been, so we wandered the whole place instead of going in the back way to get to the curtain area. We each saw things we liked: I'm always in the market for bookcases, and I fantasize about redoing my kitchen, while he needs a bed frame and a wardrobe (new house has no master bedroom closet). We stopped in the cafe so he could get some coffee, then scampered through the housewares downstairs to the blinds and curtains.

I think he picked some excellent curtain panels; they're white with a brocade pattern of branches and leaves. We got the plainest, least expensive curtain rods and hardware. Then we drove back to his place and put them up.

Now I'm home and tired, too tired to go to the party I'd planned to attend. All that driving and exercising interspersed has left me a bit stiff, too. My husband and I are planning to go to our first yoga class tomorrow, and I'm glad.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Holiday-ish

Kami did a holiday meme, and I'm adapting it to my needs.

1. Egg nog or hot chocolate?
Embrace the power of and. I like both. My favorite winter drink, though, is a Tom and Jerry.

2. Wrap presents or just stack them?
Wrap! I enjoy wrapping creatively.

3. Colored lights or white?
I like all kinds.


4. Do you hang lights?
Yes, I have some with plastic shades shaped like menorahs and magen davids.

5. When do you put your decorations up?
Usually a couple of days before.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish?
Latkes!

7. Favorite Holiday memory?
The first time the boys were old enough to light their own hanukkia.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about the miracle of the oil?
Since I'm a convert, I learned it in conversion class.

9. Do you open a gift every night of Hanukkah?
The kids do; grownups not so much.

10. How do you decorate?
The above-mentioned string of lights, on cuphooks set into an arch between the living and dining rooms; a windsock embroidered with a hannukkia; 5 or 6 hannukkias of different shapes and sizes.

12. Can you spin the dreidel?
Yup. Some of them I can make spin upside down.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift?
Not really. It's not so much about gifts for me, although of course I enjoy them.

14. What's the most important thing about the Holiday for you?
I'm a contrarian and subversive, so my favorite thing is telling people that it's the holiday when we celebrate killing the people who tried to make us celebrate *their* holiday.

15. What is your favorite holiday dessert?
Chocolate gelt, of course.

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition?
Hmm. Eating latkes.

17. What kind of candles do you use?
I like the ones made of hand-rolled sheets of beeswax, but oooh they're expensive.

18. Which do you like best giving or receiving?
Giving a gift that shows I know the person well enough to pick something they like.

19. What is your favorite Hanukkah Song?
Hanukka oh Hanukka. Or maybe Judah Maccabee.

20. Do you like latkes?
Oh yeah. With applesauce or sour cream. Or both. But what a pain to make them!

Link dump

You might have seen some of these already, but for me they are today's discoveries.

For my friends who enjoy steampunk, a green man sculpture.

Nine intriguing doors. My favorite is the bookcase/secret door, unsurprisingly.

The Diplomat Knows. This one's on my mind right now: The party who cares least has enormous power.

Things of which I am suspicious.

Sockthulhu.

Evolution of alphabets.

50 greatest fictional weapons.

Another reason to get a Wii. Like I needed another reason! I want a Wii. May yet get one, it depends.

Which are you?

Someone is applying for a job at a newspaper, and the owner asks: "Are you a journalist or a reporter?" The applicant responds, "What's the difference?" And the owner replies, "A journalist makes himself the hero of the story. A reporter is only the witness."

Watching an old black-and-white move with Humphrey Bogart, this exchange strikes me as worth further thought. This is a journal, and I am the hero of my story. Confirmation bias shapes how I tell the story, and it rarely reflects poorly on me. However, I've had a lot of help identifying my flaws and the ways I contributed to things going badly in my past--and fixing them, for the most part.

In your writing, are you a journalist or a reporter?

The movie is Deadline U.S.A., from 1952.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Movie: Charlie Wilson's War

I saw Charlie Wilson's War yesterday with my younger son. I rather liked it, but it's hardly a classic.

There's very little depth to this story, and that little is mostly provided by Tom Hanks as Charlie Wilson--he's the only character that even approaches fully-fleshed-out in the film, despite glimpses of lots of interesting people. I wish there had been more of something: more of Charlie's office staff (all girls, and in the end titles you find out they were called "Charlie's Angels," but there's nothing in the film about it), more of the rich Texas feminist played by Julia Roberts, or more to the frequently-on-screen yet never really revealed CIA agent portrayed by Philip Seymour Hoffman.

But there's not, and the film turns into a recital of dates and facts lightly decorated with brief anecdotes and snapshots. I liked it well enough: I don't want my money or those two hours back, and if I noticed it while channel-surfing I might watch part of it again (on delay through the TiVo so I can fast-forward the boring parts). I wanted to love it, it came very close; in fact on our way out of the theater my son remarked that there must be the rest of the parts of a very good film on the cutting room floor, you could tell because the dialog was good.

So I recommend it, but not strongly.

Finding old favorites

I'm pleased to discover that Greg Hlatky is blogging again, after a hiatus of about a year. He wrote an excellent blog mostly about owning and showing dogs until then. He and his wife own and show borzoi, an elegant dog that used to be called the Russian Wolfhound.

The new version of his blog seems to be more varied, with entries about literature and politics as well as dogs. I still enjoy his writing and you might, too.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

What they know

My younger son is here for the long weekend; actually he's not here right at this minute, because he's at a friend's Yule party. But his arrival this morning made me think about how much the postal worker who delivers the mail knows about this household.

He or she probably noticed the divorce, when I stopped taking mail for my ex-husband. (I still occasionally get some, ten years on.) And when I remarried, and mail for my new husband started arriving. When I changed my name, too.

The person who delivers the mail has seen a lot of other stuff. The magazines I've taken over the years: Parents, Mothering, Analog (sf/f), Bitch (feminism), Ms. (also feminism), Tikkun (Jewish Progressive), The Week (news), Sunset (lifestyles: cooking, gardening, home decor and design, travel). The bills I get, and the catalogs. The occasional holiday or birthday card. Postcards from traveling friends.

We've obviously got a high school senior in the house this year, because we started getting mailings from all branches of the armed forces addressed to him. And yet we don't really: my younger son lives in another town with his dad, 100 miles away from here. Some of the other mail doesn't tell a true story about us, as well.

But still, the idea that someone I've never even seen (probably more than one someone--I'm pretty sure our Saturday delivery person is different from the weekday, and they must take vacation occasionally) might be constructing a fantasy image of the family who lives here based on the mail is amusing. We all do it, we all make up a fantasy about people who tangent or intersect our lives, and it's all based on not enough information, no matter how much information you have.

Do we ever really know another? Is it possible? I know I am not the different people each of my friends thinks I am, by varying amounts and in varying directions--at minimum I am more than they know. I ascribe motive and choice to lots of things I observe, and I doubt I'm right very often, so my friends and family are also more than I know.

I deeply desire to be known, and loved for who I am. I'm not sure it's possible, though.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Learning about aggression and violence

I've plugged my friend Chiron's blog before; he writes about violence and martial arts training. And generally about learning things--I don't have a guru but if I were trying to find one, he'd be in the running. I am lucky to be blessed with his friendship.

He has a lot to teach. You can read some of it on his blog, where he posts about the problems of training law enforcement officers to deal with real violence, and the traps martial arts training can set, and the way criminals think and act. You can also read about him at his website. And if you're very smart, you will buy his book, Meditations on Violence: A Comparison of Martial Arts Training & Real World Violence. (That's an Amazon link; feel free to buy it another way, I don't get a commission or anything.) It will be published in June 2008, and I am really looking forward to it.

If you're a fiction writer, you will learn useful stuff about real-world fights and violent attacks, and the emotional responses to them. If you're in the field of law enforcement, you'll read his insights about dealing with jail inmates and other violent people. Martial artists might want to argue with his ideas on how your training can handicap you in a real-world fight (and they do, on his blog--but my money's on Chiron). For anybody, this book will give you a perspective you probably don't have about casual violence, the monkey dance of group violence, the blitz attack of the mugger or rapist, and what is possible in response and after the event for your survival and recovery. I recommend it highly.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

TAB Privilege

TAB stands for temporarily able-bodied. It's a rare human being who isn't physically disabled at some point in their life, so most of us are TAB. I'm not sure why but I'm really sensitive to noticing the privilege lately: I'm seeing it on blogs a lot. And I have just spotted it in a funny op-ed at the New York Times.

Seth Stevenson wrote it to criticize people who travel with roller bags, those suitcases with a pull-out handle and wheels or casters to make tugging them along behind you easier.

People, you never need more clothes than you can comfortably carry in a shoulder bag. Soldiers in ’Nam got by with less gear than the average executive now packs for a two-day trip. Unless you are a deep-sea diver or, maybe, an iron-ore salesman, your luggage really shouldn’t necessitate load-bearing wheels.

Or unless you are someone with a physical disability.

Or a person who needs to appear in clothing that a soldier in the field wouldn't wear. Or someone bringing gifts for loved ones. Or someone who is easily bored and brings lots of books and knitting (like me).

Of course, Mr. Stevenson will no doubt respond that he didn't mean disabled people, and that should be obvious. But it's not obvious, and denying your privilege is one of the perks of having it.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Money and Murder

The amount of money given to Palestinians is closely correlated with the number of murders committed by Palestinians.

Rubicon3 links to an article with a graph that illustrates the correlation between aid and murders. Murder is defined as numbers of people (both Israeli and Palestinian) killed by Palestinian militants. The article makes no pretense about a causal relationship:

These statistics do not mean that foreign aid causes violence; but they do raise questions about the effectiveness of using foreign donations to promote moderation and combat terrorism. The graphs reveal that the increased budgetary aid to the Palestinian government after the start of the second Intifada in September 2000 was accompanied by a corresponding increase in the number of Palestinian homicides in 2001 and 2002. After mid-2002, Israeli counter-measures against suicide bombers began to reduce the number of Israeli dead. By August 2003, the first portion of the security barrier was in place, leading to a rapid decline in homicides in 2003. While Israeli counter-measures reduced the number of Israeli victims, factional violence increased the number of Palestinian victims. Thecorrelation between increased aid and violence thus continued.

In that article there's a link to another article with a graph showing the reverse correlation between aid and the GDP of the Palestinian economy.

While it is not proven that the aid played a direct role in causing the economy to decline, clearly the increasing aid was unable to improve the Palestinian economic situation absent improvements in the political situation. Yet aid to the Palestinians has only increased. 2006 saw record levels of foreign aid and continued deterioration of the Palestinian economy. 2007 promises far greater aid. The increased aid may yet prove successful where past aid failed, but only because of better linkage to promoting political change. A recent announcement by the Palestinian government to reduce security forces by more than 30,000 is a welcome step in the right direction.

The assessments of none other than George Abed, a Palestinian and senior IMF economist, and of James Prince, a consultant to the Palestinian Investment Fund, offer an important summary of the phenomenon of increased aid correlating with economic deterioration. Abed recognized the futility of providing donor aid, asserting that it was counterproductive. What was needed, he said, was investment. This view was echoed in Prince's conclusion that, "many of the donor programs have not only been ineffective, they have harmed the economy."

Blood for oil: bad bargain

A great graphic presents the prices per mL of various liquids, including blood, penicillin, and crude oil. Unsurprisingly printer ink is the most expensive by a considerable amount--almost double the next most expensive fluid, blood.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Time for class again!

The Caucus (at the NYT, might require registration) wants to know why the politicians have such a fuzzy definition of class. Of course, I've been working on the problem of defining classes in the US for a while, so I found some interesting stuff in the entry.

We know what we mean by poverty, more or less; the federal government defines that by income ($20,650 for a family of four at the moment), and about 14 percent of Americans qualify. But you might be surprised to learn — I certainly was — that there is no recognized definition of what it means to be middle class.

Despite the importance of the category to rhetoric.

The median household income in America, which should be a useful guidepost here, is something like $48,000. But Third Way showed—convincingly, it seemed to me, though Warren attacked the methodology—that if you remove single teenagers and senior citizens from the equation (not the people we generally think of as “middle class families,” after all), the median income is actually about $20,000 higher than that.

Ooh, that's a useful distinction. I'm not sure I'd agree: I think retired people count as "middle class" but teens might be worth segregating in the analysis. Their situations are more labile.

I think we're onto something with the choice factor. Income allows access to more choices, for sure, but so do some other things, like good health and smarts.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Labeling issues

I just took one of those "who's your candidate" quizzes. Of course I still don't know who to vote for: this quiz didn't measure relative importance of issues, so all three of the people suggested differ from me on some of my most important issues, while agreeing with me on the minor stuff. Weighting is an important design element here. (I have previously taken weighted quizzes, but my politics are quirky and not well represented in aggregate by the two major political parties. I don't think there is a viable US presidential candidate who agrees with me on all three of abortion, gun rights, and the "war on terror.")

Then I read some political stuff; apparently some Iowa teacher has been politically active in ways that make other people suspicious. He asked a difficult question of Clinton and then his 11-year-old kid asked a question that cast aspersions on another competitor of Obama. What I don't understand is why labeling something "a _____________ talking point" (where the blank is filled by the name of the opposite party from the candidate's) means you no longer have to address it. It's a talking point, so poof! We don't have to have an answer to it! The accusation that someone's question is a "talking point" seems like an ad hominem argument, and is irrelevant to the question whether the issue is important and deserves discussion.

I also note that recent ridicule of the many elected officials who have strongly opposed human rights for homosexuals being caught soliciting partners for homosexual sex probably qualifies as an ad hominem tu quoque. Bad argument offends me; there are plenty of good arguments to be made in favor of removing the artificial, unethical and society-damaging denial of human rights to people who are homosexual, as if that were the most important thing about them.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

I had a nightmare this morning. I'm trying to work out whether to make it important. It might be just a really good story I told myself, but it also might be that the reason it feels important is because I need to make it important, I need to attach a meaning to it. If I can figure out what the meaning is, and why I want to use the nightmare to emphasize it, I can skip that part and go straight to exploring the concept.

So this rambling brain dump is to help me figure out the meaning.

Being held hostage by my past. Being too worn out to change it without help. Feeling trapped by selfishness and fear. Being unable to acknowledge my own strengths. Being bespelled by invasion of my boundaries. Beginning to assert my will over it, but fumbling as if coming out of a drugged stupor. Weakened and slowed but not stopped any longer. As I begin attempting to make the change, help from unexpected sources.

Yeah, there's something in there. The story is still good, though. Maybe I'll try to write it up.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Changing nutritional needs

I had a set of blood tests done a couple of weeks ago, and I am deficient! In potassium and Vitamin D. I hadn't put together my recent episodes of muscle cramping with the potassium, but that's probably why I've had the pain.

I have *no* idea what's up with the Vitamin D. I don't even know why my doc requested to check the level. But I have to take some high-powered heavy-duty one-a-week pill for 8 weeks and then have the level re-checked.

By coincidence (or maybe not) Vitamin D is in the news. Apparently a lot of us aren't getting enough sun for our bodies to make adequate Vitamin D. The doc in the article recommends sitting in the shade during the middle of the day, although he doesn't say for how long (an hour? ten minutes?).

Vitamin D, when absorbed through the skin from UV rays, has been found to help prevent various cancers, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease.

“People are constantly saying ‘don’t expose yourself to the sun too much’ and ‘don’t go outside between 8am and 5pm’,” Dr Turnbull said.

“My research says the best time is in the middle of the day, if you sit in the shade.”

“In the middle of the day you get more radiation from vitamin D because the sun is directly overhead and has less atmosphere to pass through.”

By sitting in the shade, harmful UVA rays that were linked to skin cancer, DNA damage and immune suppression could be filtered out, Dr Turnbull said.

“In the US, between 50,000 and 60,000 people die each year because of issues relating to not getting enough sun exposure,” he said.


I also wonder about that last line. What exactly are "issues relating to not getting enough sun exposure?" And what do you suppose dermatologists and oncologists who treat skin cancer think?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

I am The One to Save You All!

My other significant other sent me a link today, to a story where some guy complains that his radio show got canceled.

As an avowed communist, atheist and civil rights activist who is pro-choice and anti-war, it would take me a while to win the respect and affection of the Rush Limbaugh-Sean Hannity fans who made up much of the WABC audience. From the start, I decided not to mimic from the left the nasty, contentless name-calling of right-wing talkers.

Notice the disparaging comments about other talkshow hosts. They're all contentless and nasty, but not this guy!

The format guaranteed that each listener disagreed with at least half of what was said, all of the time. But no matter how many people pounded the dashboard over something one of us said, listeners always heard the other host forcefully respond. The audience felt vindicated by the exchange because their side had its say. Listeners were able to sharpen their own rhetorical skills by hearing their arguments given voice, challenged, then affirmed or refuted.

Because only he can help them sharpen their rhetorical skills! And I'll bet you didn't know that there are only two sides to every question.

Apparently he didn't fit the business model, though: the radio network wanted the same content all day, idealogical consistency, not somebody arguing with the listener (after all, they might tune out and miss the ads). But that's bad, because it means he got fired! No wait, it's bad because it robs the listener of the chance to learn what he has to teach....yeah, that's it.

Programming radio stations along ideological lines, whether right or left, insults the intelligence of the listeners, deprives people of what they need to hear and retards the development of critical thinking.

Listening to what you want to hear insults your intelligence, because you aren't smart enough to pick what you ought to hear. And your thinking will be retarded, because only this talk show host can teach you critical thinking. Not school, not a book, not a television show, not a newspaper or magazine. Not even casual conversation in the lunchroom at work.

What an arrogant jerk. Typical elitist: only I have the truth, and if you'll just shut up and listen to me, you'll agree.

Oh noes, they're out to make us fat!

Courtesy of The Common Room, an article at Reason Magazine discusses the demonization of fast food chains like McDonalds.

Fast food makes such a savory scapegoat for our perpetual girth control failures that it’s easy to forget we eat less than 20 percent of our meals at the Golden Arches and its ilk. It’s also easy to forget that before America fell in love with cheap, convenient, standardized junk food, it loved cheap, convenient, independently deep-fried junk food.

During the first decades of the 20th century, lunch wagons, the predecessors to diners, were so popular that cities often passed regulations limiting their hours of operation. In 1952, three years before Ray Kroc franchised his first McDonald’s, one out of four American adults was considered overweight; a New York Times editorial declared that obesity was “our nation’s primary health problem.” The idea that rootless corporate invaders derailed our healthy native diet may be chicken soup for the tubby trial lawyer’s soul, but in reality overeating fatty, salty, sugar-laden food is as American as apple pie.


Eating lots of flavorful food (and remember, flavor=fat, it's fat that carries the flavor) is not new, not even eating so much of it that somebody decides to define you as obese.

Gaming MIT

This year's prank (or one of them): setting up games at MIT.

My favorite is Settlers of Catan, complete with robber, but the Scrabble game is cool, with words like infinite, nerd, and engineer. There's also Risk, chess, Mousetrap, and Cranium.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The mayor resigned.

At Rubicon3 a reminder that rockets fall daily in Israel. It's so bad that the mayor of Sderot, Eli Moyal, has resigned.

Moyal has been the mayor of Sderot for just over nine years, and the city has been battered by an estimated 6,300 rockets over the past six years. The residents' ongoing suffering began when Sderot was first shelled with mortars by Arab terrorists from Gaza in April 2001, and the first Kassam rocket hit the city less than a year later.

"I don't want to be around when a rocket hits a kindergarten and kills 20 children," he said with great emotion. "I have been losing sleep over such a scenario for years."


That's an average of two rockets a day, for the last six years.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Great Fire

Cafe Unknown has a large, picture-full post about the Great Fire of Portland, Oregon.

In 1873 Despite dirt streets, wooden sidewalks, saloons and livery stables, the frontier character of the city was rapidly vanishing. In downtown, brick and cast iron were replacing wood as the building materials of choice. There were one hundred eighty-nine street lights in place; ninety four gas fired, ninety five oil. The Fire Department comprised of five volunteer companies, each with their own station house. The department had thirty-six cisterns with a combined water capacity of five hundred seventy two thousand gallons. There were twenty-two fire hydrants.
The city had a gas company and telegraph service. There were thirteen churches, two synagogues and six public schools (including a “Chinese Night School”). The library had 334 members and 5,448 books.


The fire was so big, a call went out to neighboring areas for help to fight it. Fire engines were brought in by boat and train from Salem and Vancouver, WA.

The fire may have been started by a group that was opposed to the use of Chinese laborers. Although there were no deaths reported, there were serious injuries. Damage was huge:

Losses would eventually be calculated at $1,182,325 with only $258,000 insured. To give an idea of the scale of the loss, the Portland City Treasury had closed out the previous year with a balance of $2,247 in the General Fund.

Remember Athens!

Reviewing some old email I found a broken link to a story that was forwarded to me by my other significant other; I searched for the story and found an account of an armed rebellion against the fraudulently-elected government officials of McMinn County, Tennessee. Returning World War Two veterans, "GIs" disgusted with corrupt local politics and dismayed at the lack of response to pleas for state and federal election monitors and investigation of the forged ballots, secret ballot counts and intimidation by armed sheriff's deputies, ran a slate of non-partisan candidates promising to clean up local politics.

The primary election was held on August 1. To intimidate voters, Mansfield brought in some 200 armed "deputies." GI poll-watchers were beaten almost at once. At about 3 p.m., Tom Gillespie, an African- American voter was told by a sheriff's deputy that he could not vote. Despite being beaten, Gillespie persisted. The enraged deputy shot him. The gunshot drew a crowd. Rumors spread that Gillespie had been shot in the back; he later recovered (C. Stephen Byrum, The Battle of Athens, Paidia Productions, Chattanooga, TN, 1987; pp. 155-57).

Other deputies detained ex-GI poll-watchers in a polling place, as that made the ballot counting "Public" A crowd gathered. Sheriff Mansfield told his deputies to disperse the crowd. When the two ex-GIs smashed a big window and escaped, the crowd surged forward. The deputies, with guns drawn, formed a tight half-circle around the front of the polling place. One deputy, "his gun raised high...shouted: 'If you sons of bitches cross this street I'll kill you!'" (Byrum, p.165).

Mansfield took the ballot boxes to the jail for counting. The deputies seemed to fear immediate attack by the "people who had just liberated Europe and the South Pacific from two of the most powerful war machines in human history" (Byrum, pp. 168-69).

Short of firearms and ammunition, the GIs scoured the county to find them. By borrowing keys to the National Guard and State Guard armories, they got three M-1 rifles, five .45 semi-automatic pistols and 24 British Enfield rifles. The armories were nearly empty after the war's end.


According to contemporary news stories listed in comments, this was not the only town where machine politics and corruption were fought by vets, in some cases without the need for violence.

As the story points out, the lessons of Athens are important illustrations of the need for the individual right protected in the Second Amendment:

Those who took up arms in Athens, Tennessee, wanted honest elections, a cornerstone of our constitutional order. They had repeatedly tried to get federal or state election monitors and had used armed force so as to minimize harm to the law-breakers, showing little malice to the defeated law-breakers. They restored lawful government.

The Battle of Athens clearly shows how Americans can and should lawfully use armed force and also shows why the rule of law requires unrestricted access to firearms and how civilians with military-type firearms can beat the forces of government gone bad.

When I climbed the stairs

My earliest memory is of leaving our apartment and climbing the stairs to the neighbor above us. I do mean climbing: on hands and knees. I wanted to see the goose she was cooking for Christmas.

My mother told me that this took place in San Francisco, when I was 17 months old.

RIP Anita Rowland

Blogger and fan Anita Rowland has passed away. Although we had read each other and exchanged comments for years, we only met earlier this year.

Her husband has a memorial page up for her if you want to leave condolences or memories of her.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Language difficulty

I keep reading "sundered wife" instead of "surrendered."

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Snow...or alien invasion?

I went out to get more firewood, and was struck by small, cold, hard capsules. They seem to have snowflakes inside, but coated with a clear, tough outer layer, rather like a cross between hail and snow.

These are the good times

I made a fire in the woodstove this morning, and the hypnotic yellow glow let me think about the good things in life.

Working on character creation yesterday with my husband and son, for a game I'm playing in starting in two weeks. Sipping hot tea while reading a book in front of the fire, with my son reading his book in the next chair. Driving a friend home from the airport while she gushes about her trip. Talking and listening at a party, learning more about a person I have met but don't really know yet. Listening to a bird call in the cold when I dash out for more firewood.

All I have to worry about today is some basic household chores: meal planning and grocery shopping, a little cleaning. I want to wash and block some knitting. I am enjoying the fruits of my labor.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Will you take tea?



I have managed to achieve my tea dream, thanks in part to my dear husband's Hannukah gifts to me (tea, tea strainer). It was a pleasure to take out these beautiful things, arrange them on the tray, brew a good pot of black tea, and sit down to take tea in luxury.

Drinking hot tea from a thin china cup is completely different from using a mug. I didn't know that sugar cubes sigh when you put them in the water, and release a short stream of bubbles.

Consuming versus participating

When you read this blog, you are a consumer.

When you comment, we enter into a conversation. You participate in the creation of a moment of communication.

Working out why move

With my other journaling site, I was part of a community, but it is a community that doesn't meet my needs and reinforces a response that I'd rather were different. This is an issue about me, not that community.

I had the sense of peering, peeping almost, into the lives of people in a way that isolated me instead of connecting me to them. They weren't writing to me, not the way a private letter or a direct conversation communicates (and likewise for the most part I wasn't directing my thoughts at them), anymore than the author of a book I like has written it to me. The response I have is internal: they don't know about it despite having contributed to it, unless I share it. They are not obligated in any way by my response.

Because I already tend to choose to feel isolated over feeling connected (this is a choice I am just barely aware of at a conscious level despite years of work on it), this false sense of community that I created by imagining my responses mattered to the people whose work I was reading damages my ability to connect to real friends.

This is my issue because I read a lot of blogs and journals, and I easily fell into a one-way relationship with people who are unaware, or barely aware, of my existence. I have dear friends whose lives I follow online, but the model and terminology used especially by Livejournal helped me blur the distinction between them and the relative strangers, the objects of my one-way friendship fantasy. Because I don't like the results of that, I'm changing how I read and how I communicate.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Fooling myself

One of the many reasons I started blogging here was to be able to delude myself that I am the only one reading.

Another was so that anyone who wasn't actually reading me, but hesitated for whatever reason to "unfriend" me, was off the hook. Yes, you have my permission to not read me; while sometimes I write for you, I always write for me.

Writing here feels much less like a social act. I don't feel like part of a community, here. And I like that.

Equal Rights

This comment at Alas, a Blog suggests thinking about abortion and different rights for men and women using the model of contract law.

[A] man’s choice is made at the time of intercourse. A contract signed at different times is still valid. Women have an additional “right of rescission” in abortion, but that’s neither here nor there.

It's also useful to discuss the differing risks and thereby justify differing remedies.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

When I had chicken pox

When I had chicken pox, I was 8. We lived in a little house a block off a major street, near where Mom had grown up. I walked to school 4 blocks every day. I loved school; I remember learning to read the letters of the alphabet in kindergarden, the teacher showing us a picture of an apple and saying "A is for apple." Being bumped up to 2nd grade for math, because I was that far ahead of the other kids.

I didn't wear glasses yet; we didn't know I needed them. Everything further away than a book was a blur. My sister and I played on the train tracks nearby, and ate blackberries growing along the railroad right-of-way. There was a hamburger joint on the other side of the tracks that we hung out around quite a bit, starting when I was 6 and she was 4. Also a foam rubber manufacturing plant; one time the manager gave us a piece of foam rubber, about an inch thick and 4 feet tall, cut in a silhouette of Snoopy from the Charlie Brown comic strip. We didn't have much. Mom used to take the government surplus meat or cheese (whichever we had that month) and grind it with pickle relish and mayonnaise to make a sandwich spread.

Mom tended bar at a place called The Barn or the Farm, something like that. I think she must have left us alone at night when she went to work, because I don't remember any babysitters, and she was always home after school. But she was gone mid-day, too, so maybe they let her work a split shift.

Sometime during the year I was 8, my sister broke both her legs and was in a wheelchair. I don't remember how it happened. Mom tried to make me push her wheelchair to school, but part of the walk was on gravel and I just wasn't strong enough. I remember raving at her angrily inside my head, while trying to push the heavy wheelchair over the gravel. I was so angry and frustrated. Didn't she know I couldn't do this? It only took the once for her to figure out, but I felt very put-upon.

When I had chicken pox, she just left me alone all day in the house, tucked up in her bed. I was scared and felt very sorry for myself. Nothing bad happened, though.

Small scale horrors

One of the reasons I moved to this blog was because I want to write myself some stories of my childhood. Some of those stories will be ugly. Not all, fortunately. And not that ugly.

But still, be warned.

Dreaming about myself

I don't do a lot of dream analysis, mostly I just enjoy my dreams, or get over them, depending. Last night/this morning right before waking I had a dream that made me feel particularly good. I was at work, and several of my co-workers (including some of the partners--and all recognizably my co-workers, not like sometimes when they are complete strangers but in my dream they are my co-workers) approached me with affectionate greetings. One of the partners gave a little speech about how wonderful I was, and handed me a huge check (like, half my annual pay).

Then the alarm went off. Granted, I like my work a lot, but this was over the top--not during the dream, it all seemed just surprising and wonderful during, but I did laugh a bit when I woke up.

When I think about analyzing my dreams, I only have two tools that have made sense to me in the past: a house in a dream represents your body, and all other people in your dream are really you, somehow. Each of these models or filters have given me useful insight from various dreams.

I think I'll stick with just enjoying this one.

A failed hunt

I spent my lunch hour yesterday striding around downtown at top speed trying to buy a few things. I managed to get the parts of a gift for one person at two stores and a sandwich at my favorite lunch spot, but the other three stops were all rule-outs. I don't mind ruling out when it's medical stuff (who wouldn't rather have a test show you're fine?) but when I'm shopping, it's frustrating.

I haven't bought new yarn in months (been stash-busting) and I had budgeted a goodly sum for it, but my favorite yarn store (which sells almost nothing everyday or plain, only extraordinary and extravagant luxury yarns) didn't have anything that I had to take home and knit right away. Likewise the luxury fabric store (which carries incredible silks--some embroidered and embellished, satins, laces, Liberty cotton, beautiful wool suitings) didn't have anything suitable for the project I have in mind that really blew me away. That is, they had the right weight, but not in a color or pattern that thrilled me. Life is too short to work with ordinary materials, at least in my hobbies, so I left everything on the shelves and the money in my pocket.

The third store (no mystery) was an office supplies store, and they didn't have the metal index card box I wanted (just plastic or folded cardboard). Oh well, at least I got some exercise; I had to walk fast and hard to follow the circuitous couple of miles of downtown it took to visit all these stores in an hour.

There are only four yarns of a ball/skein or more in my stash, and I have tentative plans for each of them. Some of the plans are for items I'm not skilled enough to make yet, but I'm learning and improving all the time. It might be that my failure to find inspiring yarn at the store means it's time to try one of these things that I think I'm not ready to do.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The weather

I didn't realize how big our stormy weather/state of emergency was playing across the US until last night, when the in-laws called from Virginia to make sure we were okay. We haven't really been affected at all. There was a lot of rain, and the wind was loud, but we didn't lose power, we're on a slope up to a hill, and we're not near any creeks that might reach flood stage.

Not an emergency

My office is full of county sheriff deputies. I have to keep repressing the urge to mess with their heads.

Chag sameach!

Last night I lit one candle on my hanukkiah in honor of, as my good friend puts it, the time that we Jews celebrate having risen up and killed people who tried to make us celebrate their holidays. You know, like Christmas."

Then this morning I did a little Judaism 101 (as a convert I get asked for this seminar a lot) for the guy who delivers our mail, who wanted to know what exactly a dreidl was for: was it a ritual object? a game of some kind? So I explained the gambling game that uses the dreidl, and he laughed. (The office has a hannukiah and a dreidl out in the reception area, along with the Christmas decorations.)

On being oneself.

Here's a scary thought for anyone who knows me: I'm actually pretty inhibited around other people. I'm alone in the house this morning, and I've just realized I'm behaving completely differently from how I behave when the spousal unit is asleep in our bedroom, or tinkering in the kitchen, or somewhere on the premises. Or when anyone is around, within earshot or view. Except that like for most people, alcohol loosens those inhibitions. So if you've been around me when I'm drinking, that's about half of what I am when sober and alone.

I've got the satellite radio on here in my den, and the same channel on the living room set. However, because the LR set is a TiVO, it's delayed a second or two. I'm really enjoying the echo effect, especially when some song drives me to my feet to dance around the house and I transit from now (in my den) to the past (in the rest of the house, where I can hear the delayed feed). In the last hour the station has played a few of my favorite songs from my high school years, and I've jumped up to dance through each of those songs. And sing along. A good way to start the day!

Fracas at LJ

Although I adore the individualized RSS feeds that LJ gives me, I'm moving my writing over here. While I'm sure Blogger has its issues and its unhappy users, the last two years of kerfuffle and fracas at LJ (and each concomitant transformation of my flist into one-subject argument space) has increased my resistance to using it.

Watch the skies! I mean, watch this space.