Sunday, November 29, 2015


My brother has found some curious artifacts in his house; I have found none, but am leaving a few here and there, with an amused eye to the archaeologist who might dig up the place centuries down the road ... but nobody I know ever found two hundred grand worth of anything in their home that wasn't the home itself. Another of those Antiques Roadshow stories that gets people gnashing their teeth asking, "Why doesn't this happen to me!?" (Note to the HB that will never be seen: I love pre-Code movies too!)

On a vase that never met an ax - the crystal vessel most famously associated with Eleanor of Aquitaine, but with a history extending centuries before her ... and after.

Squirrels. In "Up", they are the subject of comedy without ever actually even appearing. In the Pacific Northwest, I know a certain girl who befriends and shares peanuts with them. On the other coast, though, there are an awful lot of people with no love for squirrels. And then there are those who might love them, but can't, due to lack of sleep! I hope you'll get some good rest soon, Donna.

And, of course, more from the History Blog, because it is OSUM. First, not only do we have a new word for the day (codicologist), but a look into the mystery of the "unborn sheet" - writers who read here, if you aren't intrigued by these two things, you should be! The Learny Stuff of History, brought to you by the Staedtler eraser company - neato spedito. And second, for the bauble-lovers among us, the oldest known gold jewelry, found in Bulgaria and dating to over six-thousand years old. Y'all know I'm a sucker for vintage jewelry! I'm also tittering at the comment by Celia, because her suspicion about "ritual object" is EXACTLY correct. Hee.

And, in closing, a note about the weather and migraines. I've been putting this post together for at least a full day now, maybe even two, I'm honestly unsure. It's been unseasonably hot, but with days here and there of normal cold, and so my sinuses have been in a bit of a riotous state. This has been a consistent issue with my sporadic blogging over the past couple of months, and the failure to provide Tom Williams with a guest post. Pointing this out is NOT a plea for sympathy - headaches are old hat for me, and no cause for pity; only a programming note, and maybe a cheap opportunity to kvetch about said weather.

But even a too-warm Thanksgiving is still a Thanksgiving, and I have been grateful for so much this four-day weekend. I am grateful for my job, two years old now - my beloved friends and family - my beautiful Penelope pup, and my sweetest Gossamer the Editor Cat.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

I Am A Part of the Rhythm Nation

... I really NEED to get a copy of "Rhythm Nation" on CD.

I actually like 2Legit, but if you prefer to watch only the OUTSTANDING tribute to Miss Jackson if you're Nasty, it comes at exactly the 2:00 mark.

And if you prefer the lady herself (though, seriously, the lip synch is worth it if only for LL Cool J's reaction shots), here is the original. I loved this album from the moment it came out, it's been too long since I gave it a listen.

Saturday, November 21, 2015


Ahhh, sweet memories of the rockin' 80s (and OH YES, I know precisely how cheesy that sounds; it's intentional, y'all). Turns out heavy metal attracts sharks. No surprises there!

One of the problems with my being slow to blog, and particularly with my lack of online presence recently, is that among other things I have been unforgiveably slow to congratulate Donna Everhart on her upcoming release! No excuses ... but felicitations, Donna!

After the fires in the state of Washington: growth. Mojourner Truth brings you BLOODY LUPINES. And don't miss the hauntingly beautiful juniper, too.

(C)alling Frenkel’s hypothesis “a highly controversial theory among other academics” is like saying that alchemy is a highly controversial theory among chemists...

What's this quote about, you ask? Only the beautifully bigoted idiocy certain media are only too happy to propogate carelessly ... or ... how Australians' accent is indeed NOT the product of national drunkenness. What people will buy into distressingly boggles the mind, but this is a glorious takedown and deconstruction. The Arrant Pedant is one of my favorite writers.

Now, you didn't think I was going to make it through a Collection post without linking to The History Blog, did you? Of course not. In closing, I give you: The HB's piece on NPRs Great Thanksgiving Listen.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Oh My Darlin'

I never bought them for years, but not so long ago my mom and I shared a clementine orange, and I realized what a great little snack these are. Mom eats the whole thing, peel and all; sometimes I do, sometimes I don't; but either way, this is a very MOM thing in my mind.

She used to always put one in the toe of our Christmas stockings. The present-frenzy of Christmas mornings always ended with a few in-the-shell nuts and a clementine, and so now when I begin to peel one, the scent takes me not to sunny summer thoughts, but to the holidays. The tradition began when *she* was a child, and getting an orange was a special holiday treat. Of course, when I was a kid, I half rolled my eyes but more just didn't care at all, about the old tales of family dorkiness born out of the backwash of The Depression.

This morning, The Friendly Neighborhood Coworker came by and offered me one. I had three on my desk and had just offered one to another teammate, who's been having a hard week. And she already had one (possibly courtesy of Friendly). Friendly and I agreed: that is Christmas.

They're also just yummy, a perfect serving size (with or without peel), pretty to have around, and the smell when you peel a clementine is wonderful.

This season, I've been feeling the holiday thing a bit - not necessarily possible every year, and not always a stress-free emotional state. Two years ago on the Friday before Thanskgiving, I was interviewing for my now-job. I remember sitting in the lobby beside the fire (we have a big 360-degree fireplace in our lobby), sweating because it was not cold yet, in my interview suit, talking with the HR executive I had known in a previous life. While I was sitting there, the coordinator who'd been working with my executives was calling my home to make the offer. I had not even left the building after my interviews.
I had two business days to make the decision, and had to beg for that much. They'd wanted to hear by Monday. The speed of the process concerned me; I was used to employers taking weeks, even a month or more, to get to decisions, never mind actual onboarding.

I announced to my friend Zuba, and my mom and stepfather, that I was leaving my old job AT Thanksgiving dinner.

Our family is not given to that kind of dramatics, but the timing was all to perfect. And I wanted it to be a reason *for* Thanksgiving.

Was it ever.

I hated to leave my last job. There are still things going on with my friends from that employer that break my heart, precisely because they have proven I did the right thing for myself. I was proud, working there, being a public servant, and I loved my team. I still do.

But I have been blessed again, and the work I do here is the best suited to me I have ever had, I think. Or maybe I am best suited to my job, after all these years. It helps that to some degree I have been able to create this job hand in glove with my executives; they had not had an admin before, so I have been able to "train" them, and use my career maturity to all our advantages.

There have been some pieces of good news and bad news from that world, of late. The woman I turned to for advice when I got this offer: is about to be a grandmother for the first time. Someone I loved working with is coming away from a long period of poor health. Someone else has had bad news. And in my world right now, there are those suffering because loved ones are in distress.

Like the holidays themselves, the days right now are light and darkness.

Last night, I stood in my boss's office, before the sun had entirely set, looking roughly eastward so the sun was not in sight ... but its light was, for the first time in days. The sky, thickly overcast all day long, had begun to clear just over my head, and out in front of me rose a thick, white cumulonimbus, painted golden by light I could not otherwise discern. Below the mound of cloud, it was still wet and grey, and to see the edge of blue sky above I had to lean over and look up.

Today, it is wet and clear and golden and bright. Cooling, at last (yesterday's rain was 70 degrees, dankly misty, and muggy and too-warm). It is Friday, and pay day, and next week I'll work three days. And there will be time for work and time for rest.

And, hopefully - reason for thanksgiving.

Friday, November 13, 2015

"I Was Raised Literalist."

 Last week, Janet Reid gave her readers a quiz. She acknowledged that all offered answer choices were incorrect - but the idea was to choose the least-wrong answer, and to state why.

This turns out to be a surprisingly difficult proposition for many. For me, it was impossible:

(Edited for clarity)

In kindergarten, they gave us an aptitude test in which one of the questions was, "If a white cow gives regular milk, and a brown cow gives chocolate milk, does a pink cow give strawberry milk?" I toddled to the front of the room and explained to the teacher that I COULD NOT COMPLETE the question, persistent in my attempt to impart to her the knowledge, "There are no pink cows!" She kept trying to insist I answer the question on its own terms. I could not come to such terms, I was raised literalist.

This quiz has me sitting, paralyzed, in my little orange plastic chair, peering in squinting turns at the purple mimeograph ink before me, and at Mizz Reid, unable to explain to her the quiz is impossible to deal with, and dreaming wistfully of pink cows.

Image: Janet did it!!

Janet seems to have enjoyed this story (though, again, it needed editing!), and quoted it in her Week in Review post on Sunday. Aww!

Amusingly (to me, anyway), this post got some attention this week. It is much the same story, in a way (and as much in need of editing), but ends with a good point and question.

I may not be able to cope with the concept of an imaginary bovine, but I seem to have a smidge of imagination anyway.

Friday, November 6, 2015

New Hair?

My fifth grade teacher used to comment excitedly, when one of the kids came in after a haircut, "New hair! New hair!" It was one of her mildly unexpected turns of phrase that came off as comedic because it was nonconformist.

Miss A. never married, because she was a career woman, and her concentration on her job and her kids was such that there was not room for other such encompassing commitments. Miss A. wore polyester skirt and pants suits in purple, neon lime green, pink, and red. Miss A. had the blackest of black hair, and Snow White pale skin. Miss A. is, very likey, no small part of my own sense of style, even if I don't express it in Visa of Dacron double-knit polyester.  Miss A. had a post-retirement career in the movies, working as an extra in quite an array of Hollywood and independent productions; I shared the background with her once, in the 90s, and it was fun to see her after twenty years or so.

I can see her rocking this kind of thing (rocking its bobby sox off):

Thursday, November 5, 2015


We are all captives of the picture in our head — our belief that the world we have experienced is the world that really exists.
Walter Lippmann

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Happy Late Anniversary, Henry

I am too often late to observe anniversaries on the blog, but it's worth the blush and apology to share a 600-year-old hymn in tribute to Henry V's victory at Agincourt. Fascinating for many reasons, not least of which is just the sound of these rather wonderful human voices in song.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Personal Collection

It just started with a search string. Someone on AOL ended up on my blog with a set of words that intrigued me, so I looked where their search had led. It took me to some three year old posts.

And then I remembered The Sweet La's last month.

And I remembered remembering summer.

I found myself writing about Mr. X. In less than a month, I'll have known him thirteen years.

It took me to some feelossy-fizin. "Rejecting an ism, even knowing its actual face, because others find it ugly condones the perception of ugliness.  "Yes, that is ugly - whoo - that's not me!""

And a nice thing Cute Shoes once did. Cute Shoes is a lovely and thoughtful friend.


Dare ya not to click on this: the stunningly weird Freudian DaVinci Code. This even steals the cake away from the one I saw today where Jar Jar Binks is actually the evil mastermind behind all the scary stuff in Star Wars.

A life of reaction is a life of slavery, intellectually and spiritually. One must fight for a life of action, not reaction.
--Rita Mae Brown

With thanks to Cute Shoes and a sock in my quibbles about the old poison makeup saw - take a look at 5000 years of makeup! Well, financially comfortable white women's makeup, anyway.

And, as to this:

Is there ever any particular spot where one can put one's finger and say, “It all began that day, at such a time and such a place, with such an incident?”
--Agatha Christie



It's no surprise that, in the general sense, "Westerners" (I'll refrain from defining THAT, if I may) find the concept of a wet nurse ooky, if not outright immoral. I have been a little surprised, though, at some of the specific folks who've recoiled a bit when I've brought up research for the WIP.

Personally, the idea of milk-kinship in particular intrigues me, particularly in the context of American slavery and the biological use of women. Reading historicals, as I almost always have, wet nursing wasn't clear to me early on, but once I understood it, it's possible I've known about the practice for more of my life than most, and so have never much questioned it.

One of the most important characters (in a multi-generational novel, and as the story grows, I am more and more hesitant to describe anyone as a "main" character) in my WIP starts out as a midwife and becomes a wet nurse. I am fairly confident in the whys and wherefores of this latter situation; setting up not only her physical ability to lactate, as well as its cultivation, but also the job itself and her position in the household. Less confident is my providing her the transition from midwife to wet nurse, and research on this sort of job shift in Late Antiquity Ostrogothic Italy is not easy to find (suggestions welcome!), but I hope it can be believed, because her being both is important as the novel is developing so far.

Almost impossible to find is any resource discussing what a worship service in the Arian Christian church looked like - but that is another post for another day. (Suggestions welcome!)

Perhaps the most modern literary reference to wet nursing is Rosasharn, in The Grapes of Wrath, whose gift of her milk is not presented as creepy or gross in any way. Less modern, but much more recently written, is Mirabilis by Susann Cokal, in which the main character nurses an entire population, in a historical set in France. I can't think of any movie depicting wet nursing, except perhaps in the most passing way, and Juliet's Nurse is less identifiable to most high-schoolers flogging their way through Shakespeare by her biological function than by her indecipherability, where she is supposed to be the comic relief and few really get that, any more than the rest of the language.

Wet nursing isn't much addressed in memoir, science fiction, fantasy, nor by category of audience. We have issues with the breast as a source of nutrition. The idea of sharing bodily fluids wigs people out for one reason or another - fear of disease, fear of being replaced as a mother or as a spouse, fear of intimacies unfamiliar to the nuclear family model, religious morality, name the parameters. I can still recall a scene from The Last Emperor, in which an eight-year-old Pu Yi nurses from his extraordinarily beautiful (and exotic; coz, yeah exoticization) wet nurse, and the way people responded with shock and titillation. I can recall The Big News story of its minute when an American woman nurses her child after it's old enough to be walking, talking, and training in the essential sexuality of the breast, which even still we are not comfortable seeing as the source of nutrition and bonding.


If my blog were more widely read, here we would have the onset of commentary on the fact that I have never procreated nor lactated myself. Let's consider my ignorance as read and remember I don't know what it's like to be an ancient Frankish warrior either, nor have I ever experienced life in Ravenna nor Paris, never mind 1500 years ago. I am an author, and "write what you know" is, frankly, horsefeathers.

Beyond milk-kinship and the fascination of a world not my own, the transactional nature of wet nursing is a deep draw for me in this writing (as the similar nature of sex has been). This character has traded on her body in a different way than many modern people might think of a woman "using her body" to get ahead or to support herself. The moral and the practical considerations, for this time, are vastly unfamiliar to our mindset, if not entirely inconceivable. Putting aside the objections my society, indeed even my friends and my family, might have to the idea of wet nursing, and exploring it not just as an institution but also at the individual level, where my characters meet, is exciting to me, an opportunity once again to leave my skin and leave the air I breathe and sounds I live with, and to imagine living another way, in another place.

This, for me, is what writing is *for* - because "the story", whatever else it is, is always a projection out of the familiar, out of the present. To me, "the story" is sacred space, takes place in sacred time. It's outside my workday and yours, outside what we know, outside, perhaps, even what we ACCEPT. Whether it is acceptable in its own terms, acceptable at all - these are the tricky fascinations of telling a story, the rabbit holes we bolt down, following its plot. Do I accept a world of dragons and palaces, where everybody's white and royal? Do I accept dystopian tales, where young people are imperiled? Do I accept these images of faith, of life, of relationships and of distances between my characters?

I'm a writer; I get to decide what to describe and where to go. You get to decide whether you'll come along, down the rabbit hole ...

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Quiet Time

The blog has been a little slower than usual of late, partly because I have been researching and writing, but also because life has been busier than usual of late.

Since July, there have been Big Doin's at the office in particular, but at home it's been hopping too - or, if not my actual house, at least in my personal life. Though, yes, the house has had its share of attention. This week, it'll see a wall guy, a plumber, an electrician.

The two huge meetings I have had a hand in managing are over, the smaller one comes on Tuesday and I am sanguine it will go well. The greatest initiatives of the past two years are in hand. Financial year end is in the summer time.

I wonder whether calendar year end will settle down; it might be nice, but I hold no breath.

It is Sunday, and we got an extra hour this weekend; I have nothing much to show for it. Things are hard sometimes. Things are hard for someone I love once again. For more than one person I love.

It is hard to watch the fight against death, as hard as it is to watch death, sometimes.