Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Vegas Connection

Right now my internet connection is based on Las Vegas logic:  just a tiny blip every few minutes, just enough so you'll sit there and keep punching away at it instead of getting on with your life.  It sucks.  I hope they get it fixed over the holidays.

Friday's news was bad.  Is still bad.  Isn't likely to stop being bad for a while.

Y'all take care, and if I don't get a chance to say it later, Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Note to Evangelical Bloggers: Become Better Storytellers

I recently had an invitation to follow an Evangelical Christian blog whose posts consist of out-of-context verses from the Bible strung together in a rambling fashion that did not form a coherent story.  Blogging is storytelling.  If  your posts don't tell a story, even if it's just the story of how your day went, they're not ready to publish.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Best Black Friday Ever

I haven't spent a dime on Black Friday in over 10 years, since Wal-Mart stopped putting practical clothes on their Friday-after-Thanksgiving sale.  I'm neither an adrenaline junkie nor a pleasure shopper, and I like to buy Christmas presents early.  The biggest reason though is that the Christmas shopping period long ago became a making-money time of year rather than a spending-money time of year.  When jobs were scarce I worked my butt off at Christmas and made enough money to live on until the end of March, when hiring would pick up again.  That's why I'm puzzled by all this fuss over working on Thanksgiving.  Twenty years ago whenever I did seasonal work I worked Thanksgiving every year except when I was a paid Salvation Army bellringer.

But this year we actually spent a fair amount of money on Black Friday.  Some of my husband's students are Afghan War vets with pickup trucks.  We paid them to haul furniture from the old house for us, a task we previously hadn't been able to organize.

They brought down the piano and a lot of the older case goods -- mostly mid-twentieth century mass-produced junk, but better built than you can find in all but the fanciest showrooms today.  The only known antique is the wardrobe my great-great-grandmother brought from England.  She was a mail-order bride whose hand in marriage was sold to pay some of her family's debts, and the wardrobe served as her trunk when she crossed the ocean.  The dresser and the cabinets have little value save utilitarian and sentimental, but after two years without a place to put my socks I missed them.

Best money I ever spent on Black Friday.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Boo Hiss CBS! Thanks For Ruining the Thanksgiving Day Parade.

After 15 years of living without a connected TV, I looked forward to showing my children the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.  We had CBS now, and CBS aired the parade.  All we had to do was turn on the TV and we'd see it, right?  Wrong.

What we found was a morning talk show being broadcast outdoors while all sorts of interesting parade-type things went on in the background where you couldn't see them, while the hosts chatted inanely with people whose bodies were blocking the view.  Doubtless they were important entertainment-type people, but right then they were in the darned way.  Clowns, dancers, and marching bands could be barely made out behind the guests legs, as could the balloon-wranglers whose balloons dangled frustratingly just out of camera range, cruelly teasing us with a flash of color at the very top of the screen.

After 10 minutes the children were begging us to turn it off.  I couldn't blame them.  I'd never seen worse coverage of an outdoor event in my life.  CBS needs to give the job to experts who actually know what they're doing.  It's a parade, not a blooming chat show!

Thursday, November 08, 2012

There Will Be War By 2015

The Republicans lost bigtime this election, and watching them work through the various stages of shock, anger, and denial has been highly entertaining.  But as the hangover fades in the cold morning light, the few remaining sane people left in the GOP are taking a hard look at the facts:

FACT 1:  The only groups that voted Republican were old white people and blue collar white men.  One of those groups is dying, and the not-yet-old white people are pretty Democratic.

FACT 2:   The current wave of young people, the Millenials, turned out in large numbers in 2008 and 2012 (half of them voted Tuesday, and they made up 19% of the total vote, 2% higher than senior citizens) and overwhelmingly voted Democratic.  The typical pattern is that if young people vote for the same party in three straight Presidential elections they'll vote for that party for life.  If the Republicans don't convince a lot of Millenials for vote for them in 2016, they're toast.

THEREFORE:  The Republicans are going to have to come up with some way to convince young people, especially non-white young people, that conservative, patriarchal values are necessary, relevant, exciting, even sexy.

Why?  Because in their mind there's a:

GIVEN:  It can't possibly be the MESSAGE that's wrong, only the MARKETING of the message.  "We do not need to change our values, but we do need to find ways to communicate them in an engaging and welcoming manner." (Morrissey)  Every reasonable individual (as they see it) will surely become an authoritarian, conservative Republican if the package is only sold to them in the right way.

The HELP WANTED sign is already up.  Ed Morrissey is looking for "men and women who can think creatively, produce a positive agenda that isn’t defined by an oppositional nature, and who can eloquently communicate that agenda and the values that drive it."  There's a gig for an out-of-work colllege grad with a Creative Writing degree.

But this solution runs up against

FACT 3:  People who can "think creatively" and "produce a positive agenda" tend to be progressives, not conservatives.  It's going to be hard to find a genius who can take a worldview that's defined by an oppositional nature and sell it as something else, and even harder to find people who would buy that argument under normal circumstances (more on that later).  It's a long shot.  The very fact that it's a long shot runs up against

FACT 4:  The 1% lost a ton of money backing Republican candidates who lost.  Ralph Reed was given $10 million, Karl Rove $400 million, and that's not counting Adelson,  the Koch brothers and all the other conservative SuperPacs.  Rich people don't like losing money on what they had been promised was a sure thing.  (The fact that they could stand to lose it is irrelevant. They still don't like it.)  There's a lot of very wealthy, very angry white guys out there who want to make sure that a progressive Democratic landslide never happens again on their watch.  They're not going to want to back long shots.  They're going to want to back sure things.

FACT 5:  There is only one sure, time-tested, tried-and-true method to tilt the country to the right -- war.

THEREFORE:  Some foreign grievance against the US is going to be carefully cultivated for the next year until it erupts sometime in 2014 or 2015 to frighten this country into seeking solace in the jingoistic propaganda of the Republicans, just like so many people did after 9/11.  It'll happen just in time for Obama's "incompetence" in dealing with it to become a rallying cry for the Republican presidential candidate in the 2016.  It'll happen because it's the only guaranteed way to scare that many people into changing their worldview (and subsequently their politics) that fast.

Does my conjecture sound callous to you?  It does to me as well.  Only a cold-hearted cynic would do something like that, and only a blind idiot would let them.  But lest you think the Republicans wouldn't do such a thing, consider

EXHIBIT A:  Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney.  Romney made his vast fortune as a job destroyer, closing down factories, shipping the jobs to China,and leaving vast swaths of the country (including the town I used to live in) that had been healthy, prosperous communities full of starving, destitute people bereft of income, jobs, and hope; yet Candidate Romney was sold to the American people as a "job creator".  Only a cold-hearted cynic would try to pull such a con game, and only a blind idiot would fall for it.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Halloween 2012: The Good, the Bad, and the Terrifying

Halloween was a little better for us this year.  We were a little more settled into the new house, and had a little more time and effort to spend on decorating the place.  Our neighbors didn't do that much.  The college students who went by on the hayride said we were the only house that put up lights and decorations, and my husband could only find four houses to take the children to in two towns.  The seller I bought some decorations from said people were under a lot of pressure this year from the churches to be "good Christians".  Apparently "good Republicans" too.  But there's nothing like oppression to breed resentment, so there's a probably a fine crop of angry teenagers coming along wanting everything they weren't allowed to have.

Only two kids came over this year, as opposed to the two dozen we had last year.  Still, it's better than the twelve years we went without a single trick-or-treator before we moved.

When the children got back, I put on How to Train Your Dragon, a wonderful movie that we hadn't seen before.  Now everyone is eager to see the cartoon Dragons:  Riders of Berk.

But all the ghosties, ghoulies, and goblins were only a momentary respite from the true horror of -- the election.  I've never been so stressed over a vote before.  I know what kind of a nation Romney would turn this country into, a nation where every state is governed just like Mississippi.  I don't think y'all want that.  I know for a fact I don't.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Go, Rabbit. Go!

The toddler is currently enthralled with a collection of the first three Raymond's Raving Rabbids games on the Wii.  The mini-games frequently ask the player to move his or her arms up and down to simulate running in a way the Wiimote can detect.  Owl prefers to move the remote and the nunchuk up and down by hopping in place.  It accomplishes the same job in a way that he finds more satisfactory and the rest of us find much cuter.

Monday, October 15, 2012

"No Raymond on Lesson Days!" or 3 Weeks With a Wii

We've had the Wii plugged in for three weeks now.  I hope this box can take heavy use, because with three children it's getting it.

Currently the two girls homeschooled for several hours a day on weekdays, while the 4yo gets a few minutes of lessons.  I allow video games before breakfast and after lessons.  In addition, the girls get two 20 minute "game breaks" one third and two thirds through their lessons to refresh their brains, although in practice they usually take one break around lunch.  The preschooler sleeps until around 10 in the morning and gets pulled off the console in the afternoon to play outside.  They're still undecided on if they'd rather watch TV or play video games at night.

The most obvious change can be seen in the mornings.  No more lazing about in bed for the girls.  The earlier they're up the longer they can play without the toddler.  Owl has limits on his playtime, but at 4 he's trying the "scream louder to get your way" stunt.  The fact that it hasn't worked so far hasn't deterred him yet.

I can see the appeal of mini-games.  In practice I've only got 15-20 minutes/day to play a game and gosh darn it, I'd like to see where I've made just a teeny tiny amount of actual progress in that time.  I've heard the appeal of immersive games is to "lose yourself" in them, but I'd have to "lose" the children first.

As for the games themselves we're currently playing Mario Kart Wii, Boom Blox Bash Party, Active Life Explorer, Just Dance Kids, and Raymond's Raving Rabbids Ultimate Party Collection.

Mario Kart is the children's favorite, especially for our truck-crazy 4yo.  It's fun and very well-designed.

Active Life Explorer is their second favorite.  It lets you be Indiana Jones.  Who doesn't want to be Indiana Jones?  You can really work up a sweat having fun stopping runaway trains and diving for treasure in this game.  I haven't tried it yet as my knee is acting up, but the children love it.  Unfortunately it works with the GameBoy ports and a special mat that can't be plugged into the latest model Wii, so the series it's a part of is going out of print, and the remaining games are selling for insane prices.  Even more unfortunately, it doesn't look like any more of the series will be made.  :(

Boom Box Bash Party is third on their list and first on mine.  The toddler just likes to throw bombs; but dh, the preteens, and I appreciate the intricate puzzles that many of the games present.

Just Dance Kids comes in a distant fourth for the children.  They like it more as a change of pace or a morning exercise program, although their interest has perked up after I showed them you can make playlists.  Yes, the scoring weights toward the arms, but with my knee acting up I can stand still and get a good upper body workout without my score tanking so I shan't complain about that aspect.

Raymond's Raving Rabbids is very fun is a gross, preteen sort of way; but you have to finish huge chunks of it before you can record any progress in your overall score.  For this reason it's confined to weekends when the girls can spend an uninterrupted hour or two with it.

The Wii has done a lot for promoting cooperative play amongst them, although Owl's patience wears thin on occasion.  We weren't able to play board games or card games without all the pieces being lost or destroyed, so this fills a huge gap in that regard.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Everything is Relative -- And Brighteyes Hates It

Brighteyes (13) is pretty cool with most of the world having relative values as long as math does not.  Math is where she goes for certainty.

Yesterday she found out algebra has statements with varying levels of truthfulness.  The resulting explosion was not pretty, and she wasn't happy the rest of the day.

We backed off on that topic.  She's buried herself in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court for solace.  I've never met a bigger Mark Twain fan.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Changes are coming.

I'm not happy with the new layout, as I've lost the links in my sidebar.  It'll be a pain to rebuild those.  But the old format was no longer supported the way it used to be.

Monday, October 01, 2012

The Terror of Peace and Quiet

After a bumpy period my life is settled now.  There's no problems current or on the horizon, and everything is going just fine.  Objectively I know this based on the evidence around me.  Subjectively I know this because I feel like I'm coming apart at the seams.

Welcome to life with PTSD.

It's not really about nightmares, in spite of the popular mythology.  People who don't have this "coping strategy" usually don't understand it.  It's not a disease because it doesn't kill you.  At some point it saved your life.  If you have it, at some point in your past you feared for your life and/or safety, and PTSD sprang up to help you cope with your fear.  You were terrified, and you couldn't deal with your fears and do what you needed to do to survive at the same time.  PTSD put a time lag on your emotions.  As long as danger has your adrenaline up, you can't feel any emotions.  They're all safely locked away until the danger is past.  Once things calm down and your adrenaline falls, you get your emotions back.

All of them.

Especially the fears, terrors, anxieties, and angers.  They tend to swamp out everything else.

"Calm, peaceful, and quiet" is the most terrifying state I know.  Many with PTSD run from it.  I used to do that, but it only makes things worse if you don't allow yourself some peace and quiet Terror Time.

The real kicker is that I've been this way since I was a small child.  I was three when I got chronic depression.  The PTSD started a little later.  I don't know what it's like not to be this way.

No one knows how to turn it off.

Still, at least I know what it is now.  For 40 years I had it and didn't know what was causing these bizarre reactions.  That confusion and the fear my ignorance caused made things much worse.  These days I know the name, the shape, the pattern, and the cycles.  That helps.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Banging and the Clanging of the Bells, Bells, Bells....

A lingering head cold has given me three straight days of tinnitus.  I'd rather have the head cold, thanks.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

House Update, Autumnal Equinox, 2012

I've got a nasty cold that started yesterday.  I hate being sick on a holiday.

As the den nears completion, we've gone back to work on the sheds.  The lower one now has the inner walls in place.  The upper one is getting the extra insulation it needs.

The den now has the stairs, the floor, all the shelves and most of the trim.  The antenna is up, and we hung the TV on the wall and hooked up the antenna last week.  We now have access to two states' worth of public television signals (Mississippi and Alabama) and some junk.  Reception is intermittent, but we're still working out the optimal combination of position and equipment.

The toddler would watch PBS Kids all the time if he could, and we've had to start finding out-of-reach places to leave the remote.  The preteens are more laid-back about it, although the 11yo never misses a chance to watch anything that's on.  We're still mostly watching our DVDs and downloads, although Nova was a spectacular hit.

Today we hooked up the Wii for the first time, with Mario Kart, Boom Blox Bash Party, Just Dance For Kids, and four Wiimotes.  Thank Goddess I didn't start them off on any more complicated control system.  The toddler threw a temper tantrum whenever anyone tried to put on a non-racing game, and the 13yo threw a tantrum because she insisted on understanding everything inside and out before she made a single move.  She complained that her siblings were pushing buttons at random.  I pointed out that was a legitimate form of experimentation. The resulting explosion was not pretty.

Both girls sworn up and down they're going to get up extra early in the morning to master the Wii before the toddler wakes up.  We shall see.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Oh noes! Am I a good/bad woman by Republican standards? :P

Conservatives tend to have unwritten rulebooks that supercede what they say out loud.  But unwritten rules can contradict each other.  Case in point -- me.

For various reasons I'm currently homeschooling my children as a stay-at-home mom.  Traditionally conservatives have loved women who stayed home with their kids instead of getting jobs.  Traditionally they also favored homeschooling.  They think such women will vote for them.  So even though I'm an elitist Green Party Pagan snob and one of Santorum's "smart people (who) will never be on our side", their first inclination is to see me as a good person.

But because I am a stay-at-home mom, I don't earn enough to pay federal income taxes.

Oh noes!  Suddenly I and every other SAHM (including Ann Romney) are bad people!  We don't pay taxes!  We rely on handouts!  We'll never vote Republican or be invited to join the country club!   Unless of course our husband owns the damn club....

And I'm bad because, since I'm not paying federal income taxes, I'm not taking personal responsibility for myself!  Because I'm doing frivolous things instead like -- taking personal responsibility for my children's education?

So good woman, bad woman, which am I by Republican standards based on my occupation?  I don't personally care, but it shows how seriously Romney is out of touch even with his own party, let alone the country as a whole.

And to the senior citizens I heard today who said, "He didn't really mean us," yes he did.  And the disabled, the veterans, the students, and the soldiers as well as the domestic partners.  He really did mean us all.

"I'm Dreaming of a White President" - Randy Newman

Randy Newman's latest satirical song contains more truth than most of us would like to admit.  Why else would poor people support a man who dismisses them as part of the 47% who aren't "real" Americans?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Hurricane scale note

Isaac is still in the Gulf headed for the Mississippi/Louisianna border.  It's hours from landfall.   We live on the opposite side of the state, on the Mississippi/Alabama border.  We're already getting bands of rainfall from the storm.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Last Night I Dreamed of Frankensteins

Three madmen labored in adjacent cubicles to assemble giant monsters out of piles of rotting garbage that had long ago outlived their usefullness.  When they were satisfied with their work, each zapped them with fire, trying to bring the worn-out dead parts into some semblance of wholeness and life.  All they accomplished was to scorch their stack.  The garbage piles weren't dangerous, unless they fell on you or set fire to you.  But the madmen who believed they could breathe new life into these dead things were very dangerous as they sought more extreme ways to reanimate what should have been allowed to decay in peace, cannabalizing anything they could find for their project.

I woke up and decided I was watching way too much Republican election coverage.

House Update, A New TV, and An Anniversary August 27, 2011

We finished the ceiling trim and the middle ribs, the latter a necessity in a room that has walls made of tongue-and-groove paneling, bead board, sheetrock, and plywood.  That's one of the reasons we chose a rustic "Western" theme for the room, that and the need to find something playfull enough for the children and palatable for grownups.

We've installed 22 shelves, including a video game case, a Doctor Who book-and-DVD case, and extra wide top shelves for puppets and stuffed animals.  There's also another 16 shelves in the pantry we built.  There's another DVD case to come, but it's far enough away from where the TV will sit that we shouldn't have to worry about the TV being damaged.

We tried to buy some linoleum at Lowe's but even though they've previously delivered the next day for free, now they want $79 to deliver in two weeks -- maybe.  We found an indie hardware store that sold us a better product $80 cheaper and was willing to deliver the next day for $15.  Guess who got our money?  But with all the extra running around it won't be installed until this week.

The TV arrived Saturday, our first new one since 1996, which means the first new one the children have ever seen, and our first flatscreen.  It's a mid-size LG, according to the reviews not considered good enough for those used to high quality HGTV, but we're not and our jaws dropped just fine.  It's currently screwed into the carpet in the living room, waiting for us to build it a proper base in the den.

My husband was concerned about the fragility of the screen, and had me prop it up under the edges with hardcovers.  "Now make a barricade of books around it to keep the children from getting close."

I raised an eyebrow.  "If I build a book fort, they're going to play in it."

"Oh, right.  That's out.  Can we put up an electrified fence?"

We got out our old DVD player and hooked up it.  It had a Clannad CD in it, the same one I'd been playing the day before the worst of the burgularies, when we realized the best locks we could buy would no longer work.  I flashed back to that night when we packed up the children and what little a theif might value, and fled the house right before the predawn light.

Clannad began to play.  My husband looked up.  "It's working!"

I grinned.  "You bought me a really big tape deck."

He grinned back.  "And a really expensive one, too!"

We got out My Neighbor Totoro.  The first break-in had been a few days before Owl's second birthday.  Here we were, a few days before Owl's fourth birthday.  It was the first time in two years that we had had the opportunity to sit down in our own house to watch our own TV and feel safe while doing in.  As we oohed and aahed over the picture, I may have shed a few tears.

Later, as Owl lined up flowers from the back yard on the table and we installed yet another shelf, my husband asked.  "Was that nice?"

"Uh, no.  Not exactly."

"Hmm?  Was it fun?"

"No.  It was -- cathartic."

He was silent for a while, then said, "Yeah, me too."

Sunday, August 26, 2012

August Weather

Southern summers are always hot, but August heat is in a class by itself.  In theory after the summer solstice the heat of the sun begins to diminish, but no one notices because there's a hot new player on the scene.  After months of constant heating, the Earth itself has begun to radiate heat.  Now instead of heat just raining down on us from above, it boils up from the ground at the same time, catching us in a fiery pincer.  The air is stifling.  Air conditioners strain.  Breathing is difficult.  Sleep is impossible.  The short reprieve granted by a rare rainstorm turns into a hot, humid sauna as soon as the rain ends.

But now a gentle breeze blows, dispelling the stale heat.  Mild rains break up the heat, and afterwards the gentle breeze still blows, keeping the air from heating unbearably.  It can only mean one thing.

There's a hurricane in the Gulf headed right for us.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Sunday, August 12, 2012

House Update August 12, 2012

The den is starting to look less like a jumble of other people's abandoned projects and more cohesive.  The pantry is functional and stocked, which means the canned food is no longer in banana boxes scattered over the den floor.  It needs the door installed and some touch-up work, but it will do for now.

The insides of the cabinets and the counter-tops are painted, and the counter-tops are installed.  We're almost finished with the ceiling trim.  We've begun putting up the side trim and the shelf brackets, including some curlicue brackets my husband cut out of scrap.

To-finish:  the trim, and the shelves.

To-do:  clean up, paint, and install the recycled cabinet doors and drawers; install linoleum; and decide how to install the TV.

Most Important Job:  get some sleep!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

House Update July 31, 2012

 All other work is pretty much suspended as we race to finish the den. The deadline for having the walls finished, the floor laid down, and the TV installed (not to mention the futon carried down) is August 27, the start of the Republican National Convention, thus providing (hopefully) conclusive evidence on the raging debate in our house, "Is the Republican campaign strategy more motivated by cynical manipulation or by blind arrogance?"

We lost three days due to paint already. Lowe's house brand, Valspar, has worked for us so far, but when we tried to paint the trim a dark color ("La Fonda Earth" aka melted chocolate) the paint came out thinner than milk, ran everywhere, and stained everything. What should have been a one-day job turned into a four-day job, and ruined any chance of us buying more Valspar paint. The trim that hasn't been installed yet will be painted beforehand, and we're reconsidering painting some of the installed trim.

 Instead of building walls for the pantry and then adding shelves to the walls, we built extra-sturdy floor to ceiling shelves whose extra-thick backs form the "walls". After much searching, we finally found someone who would sell us a skinny door for the pantry; for a while we thought we'd have to make one. We finished the cabinet facings at 2 am.

Next up is the pantry door frame, then the pantry walls, the cabinet drawers and doors, the upper shelves, the book and DVD shelves, the trim, the paint, and deciding what to build for the TV: table, shelf, or frame? Then the flooring, the TV installation, and we're done. Knock on wood.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Discovering Smoothies

I finally got everything together to make yogurt. Since the new kitchen is bigger than a postage stamp we now have a blender for the first time in 15 years, which means we can make smoothies. I haven't had very many smoothies, as there's been a lack of: a) smoothie bars in the area, b) money, and c) blenders, so I'm only vaguely acquainted with the process. Blending the fruit to a pulp before serving fruit yogurt seems to help most of the family eat it faster, although the two youngest children are resisting. So far I've experimented with fresh blueberries from the neighbor's garden, leftover sauteed apples, bananas, cantaloupe, and fresh peaches. So far so good, although there's still some pulp left over; it doesn't blend smooth. Oh, and grapes. I found if I add a handful of white grapes I don't need any sugar even with the tart yogurt.

I'm not sure how exactly I'm supposed to get it really cold. The recipes say, "Throw ice, fruit, and liquid into the blender and blend it smooth." That doesn't work. If I blend it at the top speed to pulverize the fruit pulp, the ice is crushed to nothing. If I don't blend it at top speed, I end up with a lot of pulp. Obviously I have to add the ice later. Apparently some people prefer frozen fruit, both because it's colder and because the ice crystals break down the pulp in the freezer. That's fine as far as it goes, but it doesn't do anything about melons (which shouldn't be frozen) or grape skins.

Hmm. I'm told smoothies call for three main ingredients: liquid (to protect the blades), ice, and smooth-blending fruit. Obviously some people are doubling up with the frozen fruit. If I use yogurt for the liquid I don't need liquid fruit juice. What if I freeze the fruit juice and use that for the ice? I know lemonade freezes at a lower temperature than water; I bet it's true of fruit juices as well. I'll try that. I'll also try adding some chocolate milk powder to the smoothies of the two youngest children. That might improve their opinion, as they belong to the "everything is better with chocolate" camp.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Life, With (Optional) Video Games

It's so hot I've largely ceded the computer to my children for gaming, but that and the fact that we should have the Wii hooked up in another month* have me thinking quite a bit about computer games: my own past with them, what my children think of them, and how they'll fit in our homeschooling household.

(*The target date for finishing the den and installing a TV is the Republican primary.  My husband wants to see just how much they think they can get away with up close.)

I loved computer games in the 1970s and 1980s but my coordination is lousy, and it was even worse as a teenager.  I could handle the "shoot" button, although I'd never be a high scorer.  Then Nintendo invented the "jump" button, and I washed out of arcade-style games.

That left PC puzzle games which I preferred, up to a point.  The entire trajectory of my life as a abuse survivor had been about realizing I don't have to do what other people want me to do.  It's served me well in general, but not in puzzle gaming.  I'd get stuck in a game and think, "Why am I expending all this energy pleasing someone who isn't even here?  This is not who I am.  This is not what I do."  At that point it was easy to walk away.  I still liked the concept of computer games though, and I got excited over the developments of RPGs and motion controls.

Our children have no such hangups, and enjoy playing PC games.  When we moved into a bigger house and prepared to get an up-to-date TV it only made sense to pick up a Wii.  Now I'm wondering how I can incorporate this console into our homeschool.

Turns our other people are wondering the same thing.  New Mexico University has an entire department researching how to integrate games in education, especially exercise games.  They summarized their findings in a video, the presentation drags but it has some useful ideas.

And since schoolteachers put everything online, it didn't take long to find free exergame lesson plans.

Indoor exercising in the only way to go in this heat, that's for sure.  And it might be a good idea to keep a dance game pulled up for between-lesson breaks to help "get the sillies out."
The temperature is finally staying below 100F most days, but the rains have  moved in.  While this is good for the garden, the air is so super-saturated with moisture that the air conditioning can't remove the water.  The air flowing from it just blows on the sweat on your body, but it doesn't remove it.  We're going outside as little as possible during daylight.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

House Update July 2012

I haven't posted much lately largely because I've been tired out from remodeling.  (Dh just told me to write, "My husband has the summer off, so no one got a vacation."  It's true.  Last-minute Pell Grant "reforms" killed over 2/3rds of the summer school classes and left him little to do but carpentry.)  It's been over 105F for two weeks now, so we're doing a lot of the outdoor prep work between 9pm and midnight.  Here's what we've finished since the last house update in January.


The electrical outlets have been refurbished.  The facings of the upper cabinets are complete except for the decorative bit and the tricky bit.  The paint's been retouched.  The vent hood is installed, so now we can fry food for the first time in almost 2 years.  The drawer slides are here and hopefully we can get on to making the drawers soon.  I need a safe place to store my candy thermometer so I can make homemade yogurt. It's too hot for anything but a cold breakfast, cornflakes get old fast, and it's even too hot for homemade baked goods first thing in the morning.

(Have you seen what yogurt costs in the stores?  Yeah.)


My husband has taken great delight in turning the gloomy former mancave into a sunny playroom.  ("Mancaves are for pathetic losers who can't do anything.")  We finished priming the walls and painted the ceiling.  Extra outlets were added.  The pantry floor is in place right over what was apparently once the garage shed, and the framing has begun.  The built-in cabinets are framed, floored, and have their sub-counters on.  We saved the doors and drawers from the former kitchen lower cabinets, scrubbed them out good, and we'll recycle them here.  Still, the cost of the lumber to finish the room was the biggest expense after the mortgage this month.

I'm slightly annoyed by the work, as I use the den to exercise in and all the commotion has thrown my schedule off.  The 12yo is extremely annoyed that we haven't made the den a priority since we're going to wait until it's finished to buy a new TV (our first since 1995, and our first flat screen) and set up the Wii we got last Christmas.  I pointed out that the delay has given us time to round up extra games, remotes, nunchucks, and a charger, but that only placates her so much.

We haven't been able to buy anything else for the new house or to bring anything large down from the old house, except for a bookcase full of baby and children's books that is now in the girls' room.  They were happy to become reacquainted with old favorites and to introduce them to the 3yo.

The sheds

Much of the outdoor work has been spent finishing one shed and refinishing another.  One shed was left unfinished over a decade ago.  The material to build it was piled behind it and left to weather outdoors for at least 12 years.  Only one wall was completely finished; it held a warped but intact set of 1950's knotted pine upper kitchen cabinets taken from a neighbor's house during their remodeling.   We finished the outer facing, the wiring, the insulation, and the inner facing.

The other shed looked like it had been set up at one time for children's crafts, probably during the house's "day care" era.  It had since been turned into a storage building for at least one other damaged set of upper kitchen cabinets (and possibly part of another set), some lower cabinets, and a huge pile of interior finishing remnants at least 12-15 years old that don't match anything we've seen in the house.   We've cleaned and sorted it out,  The damaged sheetrock was chopped up for Predator bandages flat casting molds. The walls are being prepped so we can install the upper cabinets and return it to it's former function.  If necessary we can run pipes out to it and turn it  into a cabin, should we find ourselves needing to house extra adults in a few years.  We've also scraped the carpet off the ceiling (a 70s fad) and painted it.

The gardens

Last  year's site for the vegetable patch turned out to be a bog, so we're trying a dryer place this year.  Of course that means we're having a drought.  Still, the site has been a good one.  We're just growing enough to eat fresh this year.  We don't have time to can anything.

The flower beds are doing good.  The 11yo likes to birdwatch, so I've pitched the flowers towards butterflies, hummingbirds, and birds, with a lot of red and pinky-purple wildflowers all arranged in drifts according to height, just like they would be found in Nature, provided Nature had the aesthetics of a school photographer.  It's produced a bumper crop of butterflies and dragonflies, and one tiny hummingbird.  The bird feeders we cleaned up and set out, and the bluebird houses the girls made, have also brought us bluebirds and cardinals to watch.

One odd bit came from a cheap bag of "daffodils" we planted out last fall that turned out  to be giant ornamental alliums instead, a much more expensive plant that I never had any fondness for.  (I love to look at alliums while thinking how good they'll taste on my plate.)  Still, we've got them and the butterflies like them, so I'll find a place for them in the back row this fall.

The azaleas are on Year 2 of a 3-year plan to prune them into shape.  They can only be pruned by 1/3 at a time, and they started out as monsters threatening to eat the house.  This year I've got them down to the right height, but they're still spread out everywhere.  I've also started pruning the rest of the shrubs this year.

The floirbunda rose we planted last year did well, so this year it was joined by 15 David Austens:  Harlow Carrs, Braithwaites, a Sharifa Ousma, and a Scentimental.  The Scenitmental and one of the Carrs died, but the rest are doing fine.

We also planted a pear tree and a Japanese persimmon this year.  The persimmon had been sitting in it's pot for two years when we bought it, and had naturally acquired a "bonsai look".  It's doing fine and has even set fruit.

The herb garden has long since outgrown it's spot by the kitchen door and spread out in all directions.   Depending on how you count them, I've now got between 30 and 60 different varieties, including 9 different mints, 6 or 7 different thymes, and IDK how many different dianthus and bee balm.  The regular lemon balm I planted last year is now "golden leaf" lemon balm, which doesn't seem to take the sun as well unfortunately.

While pineapple sage loves my yard, regular sage doesn't.  I've planted three different varieties so far, and two have already died.  Grey-leaved plants don't take to the South, so I'm currently trying a gold variegated sage to see if that will do better.  I wish someone would make a green or golden leaved lavender that would do well down here.

Everything else is doing well, by which I currently mean "hanging in there in spite of the heat".


The people who had this house before us knew a lot about wiring and about heating/cooling installations, but not so much about plumbing.  One problem took out the entire front half of the house (including the laundry and kitchen).  The plumber took one look at it and disappeared for three weeks.  After three weeks of doing dishes and laundry in the bathtub I called him up and fussed at him because I'd had to cancel a talk I was supposed to give at (the UU) church.  He came out to fix them the next morning.  No service provider can afford to be bad-mouthed at church.

Immediately after that the bathroom sink stopped up, and while trying to fix it we found that the house had extra pipes for nonexistent rooms that had never been properly capped -- when it started raining inside the house.

In between those two mishaps the stove element blew, and in the process took out the rest of the wiring in the stove.  (Remind me why we need a computer in a simple appliance.)  After a week of trying to fix it we realized that the cost of all the new parts we needed exceeded the cost of a new stove, and replaced it.

The good news is that it looks like we're about to get a break in the weather.  The forecast is saying that we'll have a big storm next week which will knock the highs down to 95F, which is currently the temperature at midnight.  It's due to arrive on Thursday, the same day the lumber gets here.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Computer Geek's Question Time: Nook Tablet

I want something that will connect with wifi when I travel, basically so I can check into a hotel, hook up the wifi, surf local restaurant reviews, and get directions to obscure places the front desk has never heard of.  Anything that relies on the cloud for storage, like Kindle Fire, is out because I also go to places in the countryside that don't have any wifi access at all, but I'd like to still be able to use what's stored on my machine.

I tried a Nook Tablet in B&N, and immediately ran into problems with the browser.  I couldn't scroll past the bottom of the screen to see what was on the rest of the webpage, and I couldn't get the keyboard to pull up every time I wanted it.  Both problems are sale breakers.

Is there any way I can either fix these problems or install a workable browser on the Nook Tablet?  Or is there some other machine I should be looking at instead?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Poltergeists Explained

My 11yo middle child is in the throws of puberty, and the changes occurring in her body have turned her into a complete hypochondriac.  Since New Year's Day she's had a complaint about some ache or pain every few minutes from when she wakes up until she goes to sleep.  She's been known to wake us up in the middle of the night, or at dawn.  No amount of reassurance or scientific information has made a dent yet, although more books on puberty from a child's perspective are on the way.  Giving her a daily 10 minutes of uninterrupted "complaint time" when she has my undivided attention hasn't worked.  Debunk one complaint and show how that can't possibly happen, and she'll use the same complaint again in 10 minutes.  Exercise hasn't worked.  Sending her out to play with other children hasn't worked.  Mockery hasn't worked.  Nothing has worked. Her ability to drive us all bonkers has gone through the roof.

And suddenly I understood poltergeists, because this almost-pubescent child is so annoying as to make even dead people want to throw things at her.  Gah!

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Reading Pratchett's The Bromeliad Trilogy, Fromm's The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness, and Lakoff's Moral Politics at the same time makes for quite a word cocktail:

Most people are not especially sick in the head or especially healthy either.  Most people are just people translates as Most people are somewhat sick in the head but still functionalDeal with it.

New Neighbors

Earlier this spring the girls made bluebird houses, and we mounted them where they could be seen from the house.  Saturday morning bluebirds moved in, and we enjoyed watching them build their nests.

Saturday afternoon we realized we had another new neighbor -- a young copperhead snake that was trying to move into our yard.  It found a much less friendly welcome at the end of our shovel.

I don't mind new neighbors, unless they bite.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The War Against Western Youth

This is one of the most disturbing articles I've read lately, and that's saying something.  I'm not sure how to prepare my children for a world that eats its young.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A-Day Redux

We celebrated the one-year anniversary of our first trip to Tuscaloosa with another trip to Tuscaloosa, this time sans tornadoes. Technically it was a year and a day, as we didn't want to get caught in the A-day traffic again. We went to a Target for the first time, which was underwhelming; and to Los Tarascos restaurant for the first time, which was overwhelming (great food but none of us are ever ordering a full-size lunch there again).

But the main event was the UA Arboretum Spring Plant Sale. I wanted a golden lemon thyme, a perennial celery (lovage), a Madalane Hill mint, and a ginger mint. I found a golden lemon thyme, a wild celery (smallage), a curly mint, and a berries and cream mint, so no complaints. I also scored a couple of asters and a yarrow for the flower bed.

We wanted to check out a local park, but the 3yo wasn't feeling well. Still, we saw where there was a playground we could visit on future trips.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Adventures in Decorating

Around the time my husband and I married, while we hashed out the guidelines of our future life together, we decided that debt and credit cards were a scam and we would avoid them as much as possible. This led us to buy a 70s-era mobile home and fill it with hand-me-downs and castoffs, but we dreamed of dream houses where everything was "just right". Which, being poor but creative college students looking for cheap entertainment, led to a lot of talking, library book-reading, and window shopping.

We were immediately attracted to Art Nouveau and the Arts & Crafts movement, especially when we realized that the graceful, well-designed houses our older relatives lived in were the Craftsman "bungalows" we read about. In terms of utility, design, aesthetics, comfort, and convenience they were so far ahead of the modern "ranch" houses I and most of our age-mates grew up in that they might as well be from another planet. (I could spend thousands of words ranting about the "ranch" house, but writing time is too precious to rant about anything small. Suffice to say it's impossible to overstate the role of the "ranch" house in the death of the Cowboy Mythos for my generation.)

(And before anybody makes any remarks about being attracted to everything and hating to be categorized, keep in mind it saves a lot of time if you know what bin in the record store you're most likely to find music you like in so you can look there first.)

(And I just realized I dated myself terribly by even knowing what a record store was.)

Last year we bought a 1920 Bungalow and set out to upgrade some of our decrepit furnishings. We soon realized there were some things we didn't know:

1) Craftsmen replicas are hideously expensive.

2) They're very brown. We'd been looking in old books with black-and-white illustrations, and we'd grown up seeing Southern, Colonial-style bungalows which have lighters colors than the older bungalows made up north and out west. We're summer-toned Southerners, we like brown as an accent color but never as a dominant color; and we like jewel toned-accents even more than brown.

So I set about looking for something with Craftsman sensibilities but a more vibrant color scheme. The goal was to find something eyeball-friendly, without the overwhelming, eye-bleeding patterns of the Laura Ashley look or the vast, anxiety-inducing expanses of white of the Modernists. I wanted to give the eye something interesting to look at when it's bored and some blank spaces to gaze into when it's tired.

The "cottage" or "shabby chic" look had potential, when it avoided looking like vast expanses of Modernist white punctuated by puffs of pink. (As with fashion, it turned out the more sedate interpretations of experienced amateurs look much better than the more extreme interpretations of attention-seeking professionals.) I kept hearing the same code phrases parroted over and over again, and I knew there had to be a guru out there somewhere. Turns out she's Rachel Ashwell, and apparently she sells ice cream-colored furniture (WTH did that come from?) and linens through....Target?

Uh-huh. Until we moved, the nearest Target was 3 1/2 hours away. (Now it's only 1 1/2 hours away, but we still haven't been there yet.) No wonder I wasn't aware of the latest trend in "country" decorating. I lived too far out in the country!

Oh, apparently the ice cream-colored furniture is something rich people did in their vacation homes in order to disguise the fact that the their furniture was originally stained *gasp* different shades of brown! Oh, the horrors! Aren't rich people simply too precious for words? I'm not fond of brown, but I don't have a problem with furniture that comes in different shades of brown. It looks more interesting that way.

Besides, I suspect Target is really selling ice cream-colored furniture to disguise the fact that it's probably particle-board crud that will fall apart as soon as it hits the hot, humid Southern air. Cynical, moi?

Still, I could see painting the occasional piece that was too badly damaged to restore. I found a couple of banged-up old tables in the shed out back. I can give those to the girls to decorate, and get at least two weeks worth of art lessons down as well as new furniture. Win!

One of the other things cottage style has going for it is that it's pack-rat-friendly, which is inexplicably rare in contemporary styles. Isn't everyone a pack-rat these days? Er, I mean "collector" of course. I've been collecting decorative boxes (They're both pretty and they organize messier collections) for years, and I love displaying them.

I've seen cottage style photo spreads highlighting just about every collectible you can think of -- except one. The one thing I've never seen photos of collections of in cottage style, or any contemporary style, are books. You have to go back to the old Arts & Crafts layout to see pictures of libraries, yet private book collections are more popular now than ever before in history. I wonder what's behind that disconnection? Whatever the reason for other people's hangups, I realized by age 7 my primary interior design challenge would always be having enough bookshelves.

(Pet peeve time -- if you're going to put up a picture of a room you call a "library" or even a "study" there damn well better be some bookshelves in it. If it doesn't have any bookshelves it's not a "library". 'Nuff said.)

Even with Ashwell I'm hearing something regurgitated from somewhere older, and I suspect, less enamored with vast expanses of Modernist white punctuated by puffs of pink. A bit of digging turns up the Bohemian style, of which Ashwell is an anemic, watered-down descendent.

Apparently the contemporary Bohemian style is a particular outgrowth of the Arts & Crafts movement that started in the 1920s and accreted around the painter Augustus John and his friends and lovers. Hmmm, I wonder how many of the fans of "shabby chic" realize they're following in the footsteps of polyamorous proto-hippies?

Further research shows that boho fashion has apparently been in and out of favor in Britain for several years now, although it gained little traction in the US. Pity that, it's my favorite form of dress. Then again, I've been too busy to dress up any in the past few years.

One of the Immutable Laws of Fashion (don't laugh, a handful really do exist) is that anything that's been fashionable in clothing for over five years becomes a form of interior decor. After a decade of on-again, off-again Bohemian fashions there had to be Bohemian decor, so I googled up some pics.

Ooh, I see color. Lots of color. Sometimes, quite frankly, too much color, but at least there's plenty of jewel toned-accents.

There's also plenty of bookshelves. I approve.

My husband looked at the Google pics over my shoulder and said, "Those look so comforting. Even if I don't like a particular room, it's comforting to see people confident enough to express their individuality like that."

This is starting to look like a win. Of course the fact that I could probably achieve "the look" by simply tossing my scarf collection around the living room is a plus.

The trick is to use strong color while avoiding looking like a rainbow clown wig. Then again, at the craft fair earlier this month I passed up tons of multi-colored pottery and bought an arched tree branch that had been formed into a candle holder. It is easier for an item to be "just right" when it is simple instead of fussy.

I could go with a Colonial Bungalow style with touches of Bohemian. And since one of the other Immutable Laws of Fashion is that when grown-ups become successful enough to dress as they please they invariably head for whatever was in fashion when they were young, as soon as the children of the 90s get some money they'll make sure Bohemian fashion (and by extension Bohemian decor) stays around for many years to come.

This looks like the start of a beautiful relationship.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Contraception: The Breath of Modern Life

Much fuss has been made lately of the contraception fiasco, especially the statement by Republicans that contraception is not a big issue for women. But if that were true, why doesn't the issue go away? Why does it continue to dominate women's thinking and actions in a way that no other political issue has come close?

For women, contraception is like oxygen. In our day to day lives we don't think about it much. How often do you think about the air you breath? How many millions of breaths do you take without thinking, expecting the oxygen to be there for you when you need it, one thoughtless inhalation after another? The oxygen is there doing it's job, allowing you to focus on your life.

Contraception is like oxygen for women. As long as it's there it allows us to focus on our lives. Whether that focus is currently on furthering our education, our careers, figuring out what we want to do about an aspect of our lives, or on the child or children we already have, contraception gives us room to breath.

And just like the air we breath, contraception is not something women focus on all that often. We don't want to focus on it. We don't see why we should have to focus on it. It should be there in the background so we can make other things a priority.

But what happens when something threatens your air supply? Suddenly nothing is more important than drawing that next breath. Nothing focuses a person's attention so swiftly and thoroughly as not being able to breathe. Panic sets in, followed by an adrenaline surge. Nothing is more important than removing the obstacle which threatens your breathing. And nothing makes you angrier than the possibility that someone took away your ability to breathe deliberately.

That is the kind of reaction a threat to contraception sets off in modern women (and smarter men). And that is why women won't stop until the threat is ended, and until they can once again breathe freely and get on with the rest of their lives.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012


Please tell me that somewhere they still make a refrigerator with a freezer that has shelves instead of pull-out drawers. I'm so tired of not being able to stack anything efficiently, everything spilling out on the floor anytime I go to get something, and all my freezer storage boxes breaking.
Reading Moral Politics : How Liberals and Conservatives Think. Most interesting. Will have to blog about sometime when the 3yo isn't pulling on me.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Squee! My Little Pony blanks!

It's hard to say who loves My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic more, my 12 and 10 year old girls or their 3 year old brother. But we're all going crazy over Hasbro selling Decorate Your Own Pony blanks.

Genius marketing move, that.


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Health Update Part 2 -- The Jock Stuff

The first time I tried an individualized morning exercise program was in college 25 years ago. In order to help me get up and get to the gym, I turned on Mississippi Public Radio and promptly discovered Morning Edition. That scuttled the exercising, but I've been a fan of the show ever since. These days I keep the radio and the exercise equipment in the same room. It works a lot better that way. :)

Anytime you're doing a solo fitness routine the first question is, "How do you measure your progress?" I'm fit enough that I can't tell any immediate benefit from exercising. My body type doesn't lose weight easily, if at all. There's no spasms from muscles that have never been asked to do "that" before which clear up in a few weeks.

I'm not yet lifting heavy enough weights to feel it the next day. I buy another set when I can, but that's usually monthly. So far the best indicator I have that I'm actually making progress is that I can do certain exercises, like pushups, and certain dance moves, like "walks" and "layers", for twice as long without straining as I could six months ago.

As far as the cardio goes, I doubt my ability to reliably self-monitor. This month's fitness purchase is a heart rate monitor watch which should arrive tomorrow. I needed a new watch anyway.

Following the recommendation in Coopersmith's book, I've folded the yoga into the daily warm-ups and cool downs to make more room for cardio and strength training. This means longer sessions. Unfortunately the day isn't getting longer to compensate. I'm just doing the most basic yoga poses. I might well be ready to try some more advanced ones, but I'd like to have a trained spotter around the first few times. Living in the middle of nowhere stinks sometimes.

Brighteyes (12) loves getting me up in the mornings to exercise, which helps keep me motivated. She prefers jumping rope to dance. Sunshine (11) prefers to sleep in.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Health Update Part 1 -- The Geek Stuff

The good news is that my knee joint is fine. It's the ligaments that are damaged, apparently from picking up a screaming toddler and carrying him away from something he shouldn't have been on. Since the ligaments heal slowly, I simply have to avoid picking up toddlers or walking up long staircases for about six months and I'll be fine.

Right. Like I can avoid picking up Owl for as long as sixty minutes. I heard James Levine speak about the importance of non-exercise activities the other day. If he's right I already have the greatest exercise machine known to man -- a three year old. I don't know if I've lost any weight pulling him out of trouble, but I can do a full pushup for the first time in my life.

And about that weight, apparently I've lost quite a bit of it in the past six months. I've always refused to own a weight scale on principal. (I'll break that principal for the Wii only for the exercise games.) However, the scales I have been on show that I'm within 10-20 pounds of where I was a few years ago when I exercised every day. Back when I exercised every day for two years I lost two inches off my hips but I didn't lose an ounce of my weight -- the fat converted to muscle which weighs more. So, you know what I'm going to call that weight my baseline weight and not worry about dropping below it, and I don't care if BMI calls it "obese" because they're too inaccurate to be trusted. I'm just going to be concerned about getting back to it.

I'm continuing with my fitness program, although not today. A long staircase sidelined me and gave me the time to write this post. Being a geek I'll start a post about jock things by talking about -- books.

BTW, is it just me or are books written by fitness experts terribly flighty? The ones I've read tend to be poorly organized, and not just because they're "how-to" books. I own over a thousand "how-to" books and none of them are as bad as the average fitness book. I have to sit down with a notebook and annotate them so I can find the information I need, just like I was taking a class.

Let's start with my baseline book, Geralyn Coopersmith's Fit and Female: The Perfect Fitness and Nutrition Game Plan for Your Unique Body Type. It's a good starter book with plenty of entry-level information, well collated if not well organized. As is common with fitness books for women, it begins in a "confessional" style designed to do three things:

1) convince the reader that the writer is a "real girl",

2) convince the reader it's not her fault, it's society's fault for having unrealistic expectations of women, and

3) convince the reader that her genes will set hard limits on the amount of weight she can lose safely.

It's 2012, are there still women who don't know these things? Don't answer that.

I must give the writer credit for acknowledging that different women's bodies have different needs, and for devising different diet and exercise plans for those different women. Her plan for my body type (endo-pear) appears good so far, although her weight training exercises are pretty wimpy. She's got some youtube videos (apparently an exercise DVD is coming) but I haven't watched them all yet.

Fortunately for the strength training I've got Karen Andes trilogy, A Woman's Book of Strength, A Woman's Book of Power, and A Woman's Book of Balance. Andes has written 5 very good books and made two dozen exercise DVDs, the ones that I've seen have been good quality with an emphasis on fun and many have won awards. It's a pity Andes has no respect for her own work or for her fans. Once she finishes something, she shrugs, says "I'm done with that", and moves on. There's no compilation of her work and no consideration for a young woman who might need the information she's "done with" and "moved on" from, she makes no effort to keep anything in print, won't even keep a list of her prior works on a website so we can look for them, and on top of all that changed her professional name after 20 years in business to "Aruna"(!)


I love the writer's work, but there's simply no excuse for that level of managerial sloppiness. The underlying assumption I'm getting is that she assumes no one respects her enough to want to follow her career, and that she has a similar lack of respect for her audience. The former is not true. I don't know about the latter.

Meta-rants aside, she's got some very good and very fun strength training exercises, which I have to annotate before I can thoroughly use so I'm not having to stop in mid-session to look up something that might be in one of three books.

But this is fitness, you don't want to know what I'm reading but what I'm doing. That will be in the next part.

The War on Women Comes to DC Comics

For those of you living under a rock or working for DC Comics, Wonder Woman is a superhero invented by a psychologist to help women and girls feel good about being women and girls. That is her prime directive.

Anything that makes women and girls not feel good about being women and girls does not belong in a Wonder Woman comic. Simple, no?

Even with literally dozens of misogyny articles appearing every day, this crap came the closest to making me want to throw up.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A Bright Spot Amidst All the Madness

For those of you playing offshore, here's Rachel Maddow with a concise (if incomplete) synopsis. She's missing that Kansas is about to pass a law that will cause it to lose it's ability to train acredited OB/GYNs or that Colorodo is trying to pass the "personhood amendment" a third time against the vigorous opposition of the voters who have slammed it down twice in increasingly resounding defeats.

I read a quote from a statistician on one of the major news outlets saying that the number of young women voting in the Republican primaries was "statistically negligible". That's what, less than 2%? No young women, no future. Which leads to this lovely PSA from

I wonder if the Ad Council will do a radio version to play on Rush's show, since free PSAs are the only things you hear between his rants these days.

There is a bright side. The backlash against this could be so fierce that it could sweep enough feminist politicians into office that we could finally pass and ratify a new ERA.

It's a personal fantasy of mine.

ETA: Just after I posted this entry, a piece came up where Romney tells a woman who wants mammograms and HPV vaccines (so she doesn't, y'know, die a painful lingering death from cancer) to "vote for the other guy".

If I tried to make this up, y'all wouldn't believe it. Does he think women don't count? Does he think we have no menfolk who love us and will vote with us? Does he even think at all?

Somewhere Obama's ad agents are scampering with joy.


I'm sorry I haven't had time to post anything longer or more personal lately. Right now with the 3yo, homeschooling the girls, and spring gardening/cleaning I can barely find time to sit down. I've got one chunk of free time when my brain is halfway active. I can either blog or exercise. I'm trying to exercise. Hopefully the time crunch will clear up and I can blog more.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

World Ending Sign #2: Republican Congressman Proposes Taxing the Rich

(I normally don't run this much political commentary even during a Presidential election, but this year is off the scale.)

Freshman Republican Rep. Rick Crawford will propose a surtax on millionaires Thursday morning, a crack in the steadfast GOP opposition to extracting more money from the nation’s top earners.

Crawford will propose the additional tax— expected to be north of 2.5 percent — on individual income over $1 million as part of a broader fiscal responsibility package.

“He’s watched the Gangs of Six and 100 and deficit commissions, as well as leadership’s budget and tax plan, and he feels there will never be a deal that will pass the Senate without a revenue component,” a Crawford aide said, describing the legislation without attribution because it has not yet been officially announced.


According to a source close to the Arkansan, the lawmaker “feels that if were going to make any progress in addressing the deficit and the debt eventually, then we need to find compromise.”

What's next, a Republican Gay Pride Parade?

ETA DH's comment: "What did you expect? An Arkansan knows you can't bring home the pork without slaughtering some pigs."

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The World Is Ending: Ann Coulter Compliments Democrats

There's been a lot of signs lately that it's the End Times for the political world as we know it with Santorum, birth control, Rush et al; but none surer than this one: Republican hate-monger extraordinaire Ann Coulter said the Democrats are better than the Republicans at something important -- keeping con artists and charlatans from stealing the limelight.

At a Lincoln Day Dinner event in Florida, she was asked about the possibility of a brokered Republican convention.

“One of the ones promoting that is Sarah Palin, who has suggested herself as the choice,” Coulter replied. “I think as long as it’s between us girls, I’ve been observing something about her. I don’t think it’s likely to happen. I don’t know what these people are cheering for.”


“And just a more corporate problem is I think our party and particularly our movement, the conservative movement, does have more of a problem with con men and charlatans than the Democratic Party,” Coulter continued. “I mean, the incentives seem to be set up to allow people, as long as you have a band of a few million fanatical followers, you can make money. The Democrats have managed to figure out how not to do that.”

“Dennis Kucinich, he’s a nut, he has fanatical followers, [but] he doesn’t gets a show on MSNBC. He doesn’t get any kind of gig on MSNBC. He’s road kill. Howard Dean doesn’t get a show. Howard Dean was fairly respectable for a Democrat. No, you embarrass us and drag this thing out, and you are finished in the Democratic Party.”

She noted that Republicans had been asked to sign a number of controversial pledges, such as Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge and The Family Leader’s marriage pledge. But the only pledge, Coulter joked, that she would support was one that said: “If I lose the nomination, I pledge I will not take a gig with Fox News or write a book.”

Looks like a death match is brewing between the Randian Republicans and the Fundy Republicans. Coulter has picked her side.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Don't Step On My Jaw

After all I've been through it takes a lot to gobsmack me, but good old Sara pulled it off:

Palin: Obama Seems To Want To Return To The "Days Before The Civil War" When People Were Not Considered Equal

So, Barak Obama wants to return to the days when he, his wife, and his daughters would have been slaves? Facing legally mandated rape and torture with no recourse every day? Is that what she's saying?

You figure it out:

I know the Paul Revere remark should have been fair warning, but....

Sunday, February 26, 2012

This Shouldn't Need to be Said.

There is only one place in government where sick perverts who force doctors to rape their pregnant patients should be, and that's under the federal penitentiary.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Valentine's Day Spyware Surprise

On Valentine's Day we found spyware on our computer. It was a huge, nasty, keystroke-collecting thing apparently installed year before last by hand when someone broke into our house looking for our medical insurance records (and audio-taped themselves doing it, the dorks) and set it to auto-download on V-day. We don't think it activated last V-day because we weren't doing much online then as we were still busy moving.

This is an infuriating, intolerable invasion of our privacy.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Sometimes the Gods Are TOO Helpful

Here I was wondering how to start a conversation with my preteen daughters on non-reproductive sex (They know where babies come from) when an obsolete and insulting attempt to hobble enslave devalue force women into a second-class status through taking away their contraceptives drops right into our laps. Hoo boy.

With all the poverty going around, you'd think they would concentrate on that issue, but nooo, they gotta find one that hits even closer to home, an issue that literally gets under the skin of every woman. This is evil work attempted by people who can't be bothered to care about the lives and well-being of the majority of the world's population. It will not succeed, of course. But that it was even attempted is a moral outrage.

Part of me wants to make the most of this wonderfully appropriate "teachable moment". The rest of me wants to do whatever it takes to make sure no such idiot-fueled "moments" ever happen again.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Spring is here already?

The South's native tiny purple violets have flowers about the size of the big end of a chopstick. They are the most conservative indicator of spring, never blooming until all danger of severe cold weather is past. Their flowers began covering my yard in the first week of February. This is ridiculous. It hasn't even gotten cold enough to knock the leaves off the bushes, which has played havoc with my pruning schedule.

More worrisome to Southerners is that it also hasn't gotten cold enough to kill most of the insect larva. Popular opinion is that we're going to be eaten alive next summer.

The other surefire indicator of changing weather has also surfaced. For some reason a warming trend tears my stomach up. This put a dent in my exercise schedule for a few days, but I'm trying to soldier on. More about that later.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

House Update January 2012

We've been concentrating on getting the kitchen cabinets completed, and the shelves are finally done. The stovepipe's in place, and the vent hood is almost ready to install. We still need to make the cabinet facings, drawers, and doors, but the hardwood's been ordered to start that. But we can use the shelves to spread our stuff out. My Christmas present, a Kitchen Aid, in unpacked and in use. Estimated completion date -- early spring.

In the den we've installed extra windows and put primer over all the walls so it looks like a room and not a dark cave. We've started laying out both the pantry and one of the built-ins. We still have to finish of those and put down flooring. Estimated completion date -- late spring.

The handyman finished putting up the trim in our bedroom, the kitchen, and the hall. He also did enough of the living and dining room that we can start moving in our furniture. When we can afford movers, that is. He took a bite out of the budget.

We painted a shed in the color scheme we're thinking of. It's okay, but needs work. It'll be a while before we can afford exterior house painting anyway.

The herb garden is going good. The tender perennials are all down for the winter, but they look like they might return come spring. The bee balm went down, but it's coming back. Everything else just slowed growing but haven't stopped.

Last year's vegetable patch was too wet. Next year we'll try it in a drier place, but I worry about how much sun it'll get.

No plants died except for a juniper that had been planted too close to its neighbors by the previous owners. The junipers on either side are so big I doubt it'll be missed once the stump is removed.

We found some old bird feeders in the back. I need to get them cleaned and out where my junior birdwatchers can see them.

I'm supposed to have some roses coming in the mail in a few weeks. I hope they do well and the deer don't eat them all. They nibbled on both the rose and the fig tree earlier, and deer have to be mighty hungry to eat fig leaves. The deer population is exploding faster than the hunters can kill them. At the rate it's growing not even a widespread cull may make a dent in their numbers. Nobody wants to think about the kind of ecological damage that will cause.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Past vs. Present

I don't talk about my childhood much. It wasn't a happy time, and the further I get away from it the happier I become. I would rather not think about it, but that option hasn't been available lately.

Most of you probably already know that I was abused as a child, and that I have chronic depression and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result. I first became aware that I was what I now recognize as clinically depressed while thinking about my upcoming fourth birthday. I can't remember back to a time when I didn't have these conditions which plays havoc with my sense of normalcy.

The suicide planning started around ten. Every night when I went to bed I reviewed my options for killing myself. Every night I came to the conclusion that I couldn't be absolutely sure they would work. Then I went over my list of reasons for living. I joked to myself that the first one was finishing whatever book I was reading at the time. One night that was the only thing on the list.

I still haven't written David Brin that thank-you letter.

The runaway planning started in my teens and followed the same routine. I had no backup, no resources, and no illusions about my ability to survive on the streets. I always came back to the same conclusion -- tough it out, get a scholarship, and get out.

I say this not to garner sympathy, but perspective. You need to understand the significance of my next statement.

I was the lucky one.

I just came away with a chronic depression, PTSD, and suicidal tendencies. My little sister came away with anorexia nervosa and a slew of addictions.

One difference between us was in how we responded to our adopted* mother. Mom was a big factor in making our childhood Hell.

(*The first thing my husband-to-be said to me after meeting her was, "Thank God you told me you were adopted. If I thought you were blood kin to that woman I'd head for the hills.")

Mom was a former schoolyard bully who never emotionally matured past the age of 13. The best way I know to describe her is to describe her funeral. There were no flowers. A lot of people came to the viewing just to look in the coffin. The preacher's eulogy (no one else spoke) was a masterpiece of it's genre -- "She always had strong ideas about Heaven. I'm sure she's learned a lot since then," and "When her Sunday School class heard she was in the hospital a fight broke out among the ladies over who would go see her." Even at that the back row was ducking for cover, afraid the Lord would strike him down for lying from the pulpit on her behalf. (I always wonder why people pay good money to see black comedy. Don't they have families?) No one will repeat what she said about me and my family on her deathbed. All they'll say is to go on with my life and think no more about "that evil, selfish witch".

I got real mad at that last bit. It would have done me a world of good if somebody had had the nerve to call her that to my face back when I was a child trying to understand why the center of my universe, her, was so off-kilter.

Because if adults who didn't live with her reacted that way, then you can imagine what life with her was like for her children.

I first concluded that it was my fault and I should do everything I could to please her, but that only made things worse. Resentment was Mom's default state, so if you succeeded at anything in an attempt to please her she resented you for that success, unless she could use it against someone else. This is a woman who bragged about standing up and cheering when she heard the news of JFK's assassination. And RFK. And MLK. She never spoke an uncatty compliment except through gritted teeth.

My fallback position was to reject everything. I rebelled against everything, including the stereotypical forms of rebellion which looked like traps set up by TPTB to ensnare those who tried to escape.

Sis tried to please her longer.

Mom hated herself of course. She took that hate out on everyone else for every excuse that she ever heard. She hated Blacks, Jews, Catholics, Hispanics, et al, but most of all she hated women. She was the biggest misogynist I've ever met. She made white Southern men of the 1970s look like die-hard feminists in comparison.

Of course she hounded us to be extreme versions of stereotypical femininity: dumb, charming, graceful, completely self-negating and yet somehow accomplished. And skinny. Preferably skinnier than Twiggy.

I tried to be skinny for her sake, but I'm a) an endomorph, and b) a pragmatist. Skinny is not in my DNA. Neither is tilting at windmills. So I sat out to be a healthy, curvy girl.

That wasn't good enough for Mom of course, and I got an earful of abuse over it on every occasion. I did what worked; I labeled everything she said as garbage and rejected it. But I still heard it.

Sis is an ectomorph. It didn't take her long to develop full-blown anorexia nervosa. She got skinny enough for Mom to use her to berate me about my weight, but somehow that was never skinny enough.

(After one too many remarks from Mom about how "healthy" Sis looked in comparison to me I said, "She's two years younger than me and looks ten years older! People who knew us as children keep getting us mixed up. You can see ever bone she has; she has fur on her arms, sunken eyes, and cauliflower ears. The next stage is for her teeth to fall out!"

"Oh, she's got a good dentist. He'll take care of her teeth. You should get a good insurance plan like she has."

See what I mean about black comedy? Why do people pay for it when lines like that are for free?)

When I reached adulthood I had a lot of health issues to work on, starting (obviously) with mental health. After 25 years I've got most of the mental ones in line at least. I've accepted that they're chronic conditions, can recognize the symptoms, and know how to avoid the triggers. I've buried a lot of ghosts and come to terms with a lot that happened. That's the hardest work I've ever done in my life. I think I can safely say it's harder than many people ever attempt.

When it came to my physical health I encountered two stumbling blocks. One was the extraordinary amount of misinformation, much of it from "official" sources, about women's health issues. Sometimes it seems like as much as 99% of what our culture thinks is true about health, especially women's health, is actually false. Coming from a background involving mental illness, a field long subjected to all sorts of snake oil, only exacerbated this awareness. I doubt I need to go into detail; other people have ranted about this issue before and this post rambles enough already.

All that misinformation only got distilled and concentrated by the second stumbling block, Mom. Whenever she got the chance she did it in person, but now that she's gone her mental construct lives on in the back of my head ready to nag 24/7. This means that on those occasions when I have tried to diet I have to deal with her ghost nagging me about it. Dieting feels like I'm giving in to her, following down my sister's path of self-destruction, being sucked into one of Mom's many traps, negating all the hard work I've done to become my own person and losing myself in her hateful image issues. That sets off my well-honed anti-Mom response, overwhelming fury at whatever load of crap she was pushing this time, and I act out my rage by -- breaking my diet.

Hey, that response literally kept me out of the insane asylum. But right now it's doing nothing for my weight.

That's not to say I ignored my diet. I relabeled it. I practiced healthy eating with a menu high in protein, fresh fruit and veggies, and low in pre-packaged food. I ate only at regular, pre-planned intervals. I hardly ever ate out. I exercised -- for stamina and to control my depression. As long as I didn't think about it as weight control or do anything overtly associated with weight control (weighing often, counting calories, and so forth) I was all right. While I never got skinny I never had any health problems either.

That worked until I reached middle age and Baby #4 came along. Between taking care of him and dealing with that nonsense I had to deal with recently I gained a lot of weight. While pulling a tantrum-throwing toddler off something he shouldn't have been climbing on I injured my knee. Having to repeat that act on a regular basis hasn't helped it heal.

There's a lot of areas where I can debate anti-fat bias in medicine, but joints are not one of them. It's lose the weight or lose the knee.

Actually taking weight off comes up against some difficult physiological realities. My body type holds on to weight the hardest. Simple portion control won't do the job, I'll actually have to count calories. As far as exercise goes, a few years ago I exercised every day for two years in a balanced routine of stretching, cardio and strength training. It converted the fat into muscle so while I shrank two dress sizes I didn't lose an ounce. That would strengthen the muscles of the knee, but it's not the muscles that are the problem. That means more overt weight-loss activity than I've been successful with before, and that gets triggery.

Exercise at this point in time comes up against some practical problems. With three kids constantly underfoot it's extremely difficult to find the time, and I'm almost always exhausted. I have no TV to play my exercise DVDs. The space in front of the computer to exercise in is taken up with building supplies for the remodeling we're doing. It'll be three months before that's available, up to a year before we're ready for the TV. I did get a Wii this Christmas (an older model you can hook a dance mat up to), but it's in the closet for now.

There's no local exercise classes. We spoke to the PE instructors at the local community college about non-credit night classes, but there's no telling when or even if that will come to anything. The nearest classes are over an hour's drive away, and I have small children and no day care. That's also the problem with walking outside. So I'm dodging construction material in our unfinished den dancing and doing yoga to music CDs. Still, it's hard to stay motivated.

And then there's that damn trigger. I've been slowly working on this for a month now, easing my way into setting up an exercise area, cutting back on portion size, and starting to examine my diet, and it's already making me fretful. To my surprise I haven't done anything to give the trigger a good whack yet, but it's still there.

So here's the question, is there a place online where women gather together to motivate themselves to lose weight in a pro-feminist manner, without descending into language that self-loathing, anti-fat and anti-woman? I've measured my bones and my skeleton, with no meat on it whatsoever, is a size 14. That's as skinny as I can get unless some dress manufacturer cooks the numbers (Which has been known to happen, but that's a separate rant.) I'm never going to be a size 8. I'm always going to be what our society considers plus sized, I'm always going to look "fat" to ignorant eyes, and I'm okay with that. I just want to improve my health. But if I have to listen to other people carry on in stereotypical "dieting" language, I'm going to lose my cool.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Third-World Muslims Are Smarter Than Ric Santorum

Ric Santorum doesn't believe birth control should be used under any circumstances, even to prevent the death of the mother (except when it's his wife). Contrast his attitude with that of conservative Muslim clerics in one of the world's poorest and least educated countries, Senegal.

Guardian UK:

On the poor outskirts of Dakar, Senegal, we sat before six imams in an airy mosque. They are holy men, respected community leaders, and, lately, birth control champions. "Family spacing," they called it, as they cheerfully explained why Islam supports it. "What's good for a woman is good for her family, and for her society. We want healthy societies."

Voice of America:

...more and more, families are seeking contraception to space or limit births despite the associated taboos in the country, which is more than 90 percent Muslim.

"Some people say Islam is against family planning, but life is getting more and more difficult," said Mamy Diop.

Historically, the only acceptable application of family planning has been birth spacing for the health of the mother and the child. But religious leaders increasingly are invoking the Quran's message of financial responsibility.

"Islam has discussed this," said Imam Niasse. "If resources are limited and the family size is too large, there will be problems for the family. We are already living a situation of scarcity and we should talk openly. We have many children here, but what kind of children do we have?"

'nuff said.