Monday, August 24, 2009

Pillage your village

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I wouldn't have much minded pillaging something today. Planned Parenthood was running an attack ad on the Cheezburger site against a candidate, and I almost wrote and sweetly thanked them for introducing me to someone to vote for... but Jonathan pointed out they'd probably turn me into a statistic saying precisely what I didn't mean, so PP got away with it. This time.

I'm still a little bitter that they run ads for expecting mothers on Facebook.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Overheard at the breakfast table

"If worst comes to worst, we can always shoot them out of a trebuchet or a very large crossbow. 'Aiee! Refried beans, my only weakness!' That's quite a weakness."

Saturday, August 15, 2009

A good library is hard to find

What makes a good library? How do you go about setting one up?

I can tell you some of what a good library is, and does: it's the sort of place where, every time you go, you can come across something new and fascinating, that brings you nose-to-nose with a world you never knew existed. A good library, one suspects, is one where pretty much everything in there is worth reading, even if it doesn't happen to be the sort of thing you care for.

A library, I am further convinced, should primarily have good books. I don't mind movies and CDs and computers and magazines; I got a lot of use out of the Purcellville library's CD collection. But if the library doesn't have books worth reading - or hides them among the nonsense, so you can't find them - I think it has seriously failed in its librariness.

I ask, because we went back to our closest branch library today. Sigh. It's - it's - I went and I couldn't find anything to read! Again! Or any movies to watch! Also again! And they don't have music CDs at all, as far as I can tell. So I sat and read a magazine that the good doctor used to keep in his waiting room.

I'm genuinely not sure if they absolutely don't have much I would want to read, or if they just hide them really effectively. It's a large new building. They have a lot of new books, a lot of computers, a big budget. I know I've got peculiar and somewhat conservative tastes, but still, I like a fairly broad range of reading-matter. I'd read children's, teens, adult sci-fi and fantasy, adult literature. I'd read fascinating and beautiful non-fiction books. You could probably talk me into reading philosophy and theology and plays and poetry. I would read ancient books, preferably in good translations. I'd read history or biography, or gardening and cooking and all manner of housey and crafty things.

So why does every book I pick up there seem to be soul-sucking drivel? Can someone explain this to me??

Bookish miscellany

My chief amusing anecdote from this week, once again, came as I was jellying my morning toast. One of the programmers demanded to know why all the jam was concentrated in the top of the jar, with a lovely air-bubble beneath.

"I think it's because I stored it upside-down," I said.
"That's not a good reason! You should come up with a better story than that! Just make one up!" (This programmer is like that.)

So I meditated, and Zahn came to my rescue. "I think it's because of the Van der Waal's forces, attracting the jelly to the top..." This was apparently a good answer, as one of the other tech guys started ribbing him about having to Google Van der Waal's forces. :-) It amuses me that The Green and the Gray can make someone sound scientifically literate.


In other news, Jonathan and I tracked down another library branch and raided it. I found a collection of essays by A.A. Milne and Meditations on Middle-Earth, by a rather impressive line-up of fantasy authors.

The essays by Milne were, for the most part, airy and readable, often hilarious, but not brilliant. Come to find out he wrote for Punch. No wonder his Pooh books have such a charming style! These essays are more like longish blog posts than anything else. Quite a lot of them have to do with a funny incident with him and his wife Celia.

Possibly the best of the collection was a satire purporting to be an account of a Poetry Reading. He set it at the perfect cusp of British poetic awfulness, that era when earnest fluttering women wrote embarrassing rhymes about Life, and gentlemen of vast proportions wrote galumphing verses about places in England (a send-up of Chesterton, possibly?), and very ugly young men wrote vers libre about ugly modern subjects. The hostess's husband was present in the story, making sardonic comments throughout. It was quite something, especially because, well, I've read a lot of that poetry. Unfortunately.

The Middle-Earth book, as might be expected, was rather a mixed bag. Its worst crime was its truly lousy editing: they let through such howlers as "Sargon" instead of Sauron, and "Owyn" instead of Eowyn. Gah. I suspect "tribute" books usually are mixed, but they should have at least let a fan proofread it.

A lot of the chapters are of the "I discovered Tolkien in the spring of 1967, read the entire trilogy in one sitting, and that's why I'm a fantasy author today" variety; which is of some interest, especially if you know the author and can say, "Ah! So that's why he does such-and-so in his books." Most of these authors do Tolkien the courtesy of not allegorizing him into the dust, and just loving his books for themselves. I can appreciate that.

A couple of the essays, on the other hand, have been quite intelligent discussion, the sort where you can say "Wow, I'd never noticed that, and that's very true." The chapter from Ursula K. Le Guin was like that. She sat down and analyzed how Tolkien used meter in his prose and rhythm in his plot and wound up with his particular special effects.

Orson Scott Card talked about why, perhaps, "serious" literature critics dislike Tolkien. He argued that it was because Tolkien wrote the story to be a story, and not merely a vehicle for interpretable symbols. The Lord of the Rings is something to get emotionally involved in rather than a literary crossword puzzle. He made the distinction between wild story and domesticated stories, i.e. Literature. It's an interesting argument.

And then there was Lisa Goldstein, whom I've never heard of, but she made the intelligent observation that Lord of the Rings is powerful "because we need myth. Not just because myths are entertaining stories, or because some of them come attached with a moral. We need them, the way we need vitamins or sunlight." I think Tolkien would agree with that. Goldstein has obviously been reading Tolkien's other works, On Fairy Stories and maybe "Mythopoeia." And referring to some of the derivative fantasy that tried to follow him: "Some of these books were so bad they wouldn't even make decent landfill."

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Finnish summer soup

Tonight we tried a recipe for Finnish Summer Soup from that website I like, and it was a resounding success. I substituted rather more homely ingredients -- ordinary brown potatoes, an ordinary white onion, black pepper, broccoli instead of cauliflower -- and we liked it very much. I also added some extra water, salt, and pepper, and halved the peas, on the grounds that two cups of peas were excessive. It made plenty of leftovers. Yummy!

To be sure, almost anything with half-and-half and butter would be good!

Monday, August 10, 2009

I don't understand

There's nothing quite like coming home from a long day of work and being greeted by a missive from Social Security, reminding you just how much of your paycheck has been directed to said Social Security over the past eleven years, not to mention Medicaid. This particular edition included cheerful information on the fact that at the current rates, the program's benefits will overtake income in 2017, and that I'm eligible for retirement benefits if I work another four years (!!), and how much my husband would come in for if I died or was permanently disabled today.

I guess these are good things to be told about? But, but, but -- why????

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Roasted figs

My new favorite food website had a really pretty recipe for roasted figs with honey and rosemary. So I thought I'd try it.

They were all right. But I was using preserved figs instead of fresh, and dried rosemary instead of fresh, and I didn't really have the kind of cheese they recommended.

Of the cheeses we did have, mozzarella and Swiss did better than Dubliner, which really wiped out the figs' flavor. I tried it with both crackers and bread. I do think rosemary, honey, and pepper improved the figs overall, and I might try it again if I get fresh ones sometime.

We went for the ultrasound...

And it looks like we're going to get a daughter for Christmas!


Sunday, August 02, 2009

Mawwiage is what bwings us together

We spent yesterday going to Anne and Gabe's wedding! We had a pretty rough drive up and back (going: so much traffic, we averaged 35 mph all the way from Richmond to Maryland; going back: nightmarish late-night heavy rainstorms), but it was definitely worth it.

The bride and groom looked super-happy, and they'd done a beautiful job. It was a traditional ceremony with a dinner reception and dancing afterward! They actually got Macaroni Grill to cater it, and I hadn't gotten to swing dance or do the Virginia reel for ages, probably not since Ben and Lisa's wedding.

I'm not sure who put together the slide show, but it was hilarious, and Kenny makes an excellent MC. The toasts were really sweet and blessing-ey. I also liked all the country music. We learned three things: you don't mess with the photographer's camera, the Gabe's cowboy hat, or the Gabe's Anne. These are not in order of importance. :-)

We got to chat with lots of friends, including Mandy Red-Hand, who flew out from Minnesota for the occasion. Afterward, we got gloriously lost in Maryland cornfields taking her back to Emily-Rose's cottage. Jonathan and I were reaffirmed in our hatred for the GPS's evil direction-giving skills. We saw lots of dark woods, took a ferry over the Potomac, and did a little four-wheeling across a patch of grass masquerading as a driveway. (Whoops. Olwen had had a long day, too.) Emily-Rose even lent me a book on Anglo-Saxon. Bliss. We made it home, somewhat draggled but quite intact, about 2 a.m.

Santa Fe

There's nowhere quite like Santa Fe. I've been playing with my new photo software, and came across these great old shots.