Monday, February 25, 2013

Beet Head Ned

Pen-NED-oh-peez just came up with a new nickname.  As I have told her, her head is round-o, round-o, like a beet.  Well there you have it.  She's my Beet Head Ned.

That is all.

Encompassing Pen

Getting a new pet is no less enthusiasm-inducing and perspective-whacking than getting a new love or home or car or even computer.  July started me on the track of in-love-with-a-new-pet experiences, but October made it a revelation.  Pen isn't the first dog I've adopted on my own, of course - and I have been the sole and joint adopter of four cats now, over twenty-odd years.  But she has been the single most obsessively absorbing pet adoption experience I've ever had, and make no mistake that's been a positive for both of us.

Losing Sweet Siddy La didn't damage my focus nor expectations.  I had been blessed in her for three months shy of a decade; so, knowing that I wanted to have a dog again after she died, I knew too that I wanted to adopt mature again, a dog willing to relax and lie down, a dog of similar traits and temperament to her.  She was, after all, the Best Dog in the History of Ever.

Of course, the magic of dogs is:  they all have that in them.

Pen will be a best dog, too.  But not because she is so like Liddle La was.

Her puppyhood has been massively trying; I've blogged about how literally dispiriting it has gotten at times, living in a toilet, despairing of communicating with her - the harrowing horror of her running away.  I keep the faith and adore her to pieces, but this past couple of weeks since she came home from the shelter has gotten worrying.  Once last week and again today, she's had enough stomach distress to cause the most profound and pitiful regression, both times in her cage while I was at work.  This results in a remediation effort of task upon task.  Today's special was exceptionally liquid, so I put on clothing meant only to be worn long enough to get her bathed, laid out her shampoo and put away some things I didn't want getting splashed, and finally physically carried her filthy body upstairs.  She was such a good girl, but HATES a bath so.  And this wasn't a cursory dunking, either; I spent a good long time on her, lathering up everything possible, squishing the soap between her digits, rinsing her as well as possible too.  Bless her, she behaved for it, though the fear and loathing did stop her long enough to pee on the bathroom floor.  I didn't even scold her, poor baby.

The bath, of course, is only the beginning; then it's time to clean the cage.  Then it's time to clean the floor in the room where Goss's litter is - because while I've been doing all this, she's gone in there and messed again. She is clearly in distress, and I need to get her in to the vet.  In every way she appears normal and healthy - even eating her kibble with average appetite.  But two iterations of bath, cleanup, disinfection, and all the attendant bathroom scrubbing and me scrubbing and the sheer back pain and excess of effort is one too many to tell me I need to take care of this girl, and I'm ashamed I didn't think "vet" sooner.  I'm a little bit flailing, and a whole lot alone, and sometimes I allow the overwhelming to paralyze me too easily.

The fear, of course, is that she caught something nasty during her three days at the pound.  The hope is that she's just sensitive to something about her diet.  Whatever the case, the prayer is that she can be happy and well and un-marinated in her own excretions in future.

But tonight she's had to go outside twice already, and it's a little pitiful how long she "tries" to be a good girl outside.  I'm not quite sure how to manage tomorrow, but maybe I'll have to get her in sooner rather than later, and just take the afternoon off and hope she can make it the morning.

For me, for now, it's bed pretty darn early, and acetaminophen first.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Thank You and Welcome ...

... to new follower Xina Uhl!

Space Heater

Pen-Pen has learned how to hog the heat from the space heater.  She has a canine cousin who'd probably be so proud.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Irritant of the Season

Cold and allergy medicine advertising has lost the proper usage of one of its own key phrases, and it drives me damn near mad.

The phrase, people, is TIMED RELEASE.  Not TIME RELEASED.  The latter pair of words has no meaning.  The former means that a drug is formulated with inactive ingredients which control its release into the body, so that its effectiveness is measured across a longer period of time.  It is, in short, TIMED.  Time released would just be time let out of prison.  Since we can't constrain it in the first place - we can't actually release time itself.  It might make a catchy title for a story or novel, linguistically - pharmaceutically - it really has no meaning.

Just saying.

Coinage and Portraiture

Following on the previous post, I'm often struck especially with female rulers at the distinctive differences in conventional imagery between portraits (painted and/or bust - or even mosaic, the more I look at of that form) and royal images on coins.  Female rulers who may be portrayed stylistically or idealized in other portrait forms often come across in coin reliefs looking very different indeed from the more widely seen imagery from their rule.

Amalasuntha as queen regnant

I'm fascinated by this difference, which spans MANY centuries indeed.  To the modern eye, the coin portrayals appear both cruder and "uglier" by our standards, and it seems clear there must have been some sort of purpose in the portrayal of women as heftier, stranger, less idealized than in other media.

Cleopatra bust

Image:  LA Times
Cleopatra coin

It seems likely that the literal currency of coin portraiture made these images important as a way to send a message about female rulers; did it undermine the prejudice against a woman in power to reduce her feminine appeal?  Some images appear positively masculine - Elizabeth I's coinage has always seemed to me so contradictory to her painted portraiture, in fact giving an appearance of corpulence which, whether accurate to her appearance or not, tends to recall powerfully (literally) her father's image.

Image:  Wikipedia
Elizabeth I - The Darnley Portrait

Elizabeth I coin

If anyone knows of a paper looking into the portraiture of currency, especially of female rulers, I would love to know about it.  This idiosyncrasy has interested me for years, but I've never actually researched it.

Character Decisions

When I first became inspired to think about what is now my WIP, it was during the course of research on The Ax and the Vase, as that research exposed me to Clovis' sister, Audofleda, and her daughter, Amalasuntha.  The WIP itself is still in research mode, so it is not merely possible but likely that its shape will change a lot, but I have always found when I talk about it that Amalasuntha tends to be my focus (in some ways, I still leave open the possibility that the novel will focus on Audofleda, Amalasuntha, and Matasuentha, the third generation of this matrilineage), but Ama is definitely prominent, and has been the subject of the few actual scenes I've written.
Image:  Wikimedia

The research spanning both works included not only reading, but images, and there are several available images of Amalasuentha available online.  When I first encountered them, the peculiarity of her eyes was perhaps the most striking feature.  I thought at the time that this was not reflective of a stylistic convention, and wondered whether she might have had what we now call Graves' disease (the condition which gave Marty Feldman his distinctive appearance).  This actually appealed to me, as it was a dead-cert against turning Ama into any sort of a Mary Sue, and gave her a built in obstacle to work against.

More recently, of course, I've seen other prominent period work with similarly prominent eyes, and begun to question my assumptions about contemporary art.  Here we have an image which appears definitely to be a different person, and is attributed as most likely being Theodora, the notorious empress, wife of Justinian I, who had some fascinating issues with Amalasuntha:


The face and features are far too long to be a portrayal of the same woman shown in the first bust above; there's nothing in common between then but the noticeably wide eyes.  (For a truly fascinating partial reconstruction of the human face this stone image could have represented, take a look here.)  More importantly, there's nothing in the source material to point to such a notable condition in Ama's health.

The time it takes to work on a piece of historical fiction (at least the time *I* seem to take) provides time for ideas to change, and this can help a work and even change the nature of a character.  This can be disillusioning, sometimes - when the expectations you go in with are contradicted or reversed.  It can also be exhilarating, if in writing you embrace chance, change, and following the leads.

For my writing readership:  has any of you ever experienced a reversal in your work - whether due to your research, due to the story itself, or for some other reason?  I'm fascinated by the turns writing takes; tell me about your own unexpected "plot twists" ...

On the Matter of Supper in February

The History Girls have a good view of the slenderness - or variety - of food available by the end of winter in centuries past.  It gives a nice idea of how to write scenes set just before spring without depending too heavily on salted meat and dried grains.

Seven Attempts on Victoria

Did you know that Queen Victoria received seven assassination attempts through her reign?  I didn't.  This fact is a fascinating starting point for the book Shooting Victoria, reviewed here (and reviews at Amazon look good as well, but those tend to be take-able with a grain of salt often).  Just what we ALL need - more for the TBR pile!


Friday, February 22, 2013

Adverbial Adversarial Again and Wonky Strunky Grammar

I won't rewrite my own post on this, but these two essays were so good I felt the first was worth a revisitation and the second worth the new post!

Cats On Books

By the way - this irresistible link and image, from the "Cats on Teh Intarwebs" post.  Double charming!

Image:  The Atlantic

Ah!  More here.  I love the curse on the cat - in part:  "Cursed be the pesty cat that urinated over this book" - fantastic.

Hilary Mantel - Bringing Up the Royal Bodies

I'm sure my headline has been used, so ascribe to me no delusions of wit.  Still, it is apropos.  A speech Ms. Mantel gave recently has caused the sort of uproar anything does when it's larded with de-contextualiz-able sound bytes well calculated to offend many but intelligent (and well-written) enough to provide defenders.

In posting this, I meant to do so without comment; but this is the internet, mine is a blog, and that is damned near impossible.  Suffice it to say:  I think the analysis of the Duchess (why do people still refer to her as Kate Middleton, by the way ... ?) is clever enough to in fact avoid the *personality* judgments a lot of people choose to perceive and become horrified by, but the piece provides an interesting critique of the mechanism of royalty-watching, from a higher brow than so often we see such commentary.  More to the point:  the piece really isn't about Kate.  Though it takes some time to get to the point, the piece is about her own subjects (the Tudors, if not Cromwell) and about the institution and how we treat it.

Even with the controversy, there is agreement it's beautifully written, and that alone makes it worth reading, even if the cult of royal celebrity leaves you cold.  This is more than the latest snark.  (Even so, it is somewhat long - for internet reading-  so give yourself fifteen or twenty minutes, if you care to partake.)


Cats? On Teh Intarwebs? 'Stroo!

Globalization - and epochization! - how the Fort Vancouver National Historical site in WA spans time & the globe.

Twice today I've seen a version of the pearl-clutching facetism, "Cats?  On the internet??" - once in an email from my brother, treating me to this article (one's reminded of this too) - and once in a post on one of the blogs I follow.  That one led here, and to it I say:  "Hee."  The article my brother's email brought forth, though, was pretty interesting.  I actually researched bricks a little in the course of writing The Ax and the Vase, and most of the things I read about in that vein still attract my attention.  In this case, the sheer path of travel of an artifact is perhaps the most fascinating part.  So thanks to my big brother - an interesting sojourn indeed.

And, to quote him - "Plus, a kitty."  You know their paws are made of jellybeans in velvet, right?  *Snuggling the Gossa-monster*

Caustic Cover Critic

I was actually going through the list of posts tagged "Tutus" on the CCC (recommended if you would like to spend ten minutes or so laughing at some of the most baffling book covers ever not at all conceived, but executed anyway - find the whole lot by clicking the tag on this post), but the one I've linked is the single post that had me cackling out loud and scaring the animals.

"The Alaskan" is easily my favorite, but "Wessex Tales" is probably the actual BEST of the bunch ...  Please go and enjoy, because I cannot begin to convey the true awesomeness and hilarity.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Pen Elegante

I adopted this silly, cute puppy in October.  But lately she's developing an almost noble appearance.

Oh, she'll always have her insouciant underbite.  Her energy is hardly the stuff of aristocratic bearing.

Ahh, but she is getting PRETTY, my Penny.

Thank me now for avoiding the obvious titular pun.

And even as I type this, she starts having a wrestling match with herself - target The Cute Curly Tail!  Ah, but she is a little beauty, this girl.  Muscular legs, worried wrinkly head, inquisitive eyes, and gorgeous coat.

Tune in next time, when we'll extol the awesome kitten again ...

Work, With Music on the Side

Today started off with "For Those About to Rock" ...

I had that revolting experience today where something went wrong and there was NOTHING for it but to say I'd screwed up.  We all do it, I know that - but since December or so, at work, I've been trying to improve upon a slump in performance that came after the Summer O' Stress, and what's truly awful is that I feel like I *have* made such strides and that I've been doing well - but hell if any error I make isn't going to be the one the boss has to see.  Simultaneously ameliorating the pain and actually making it worse is the fact that my boss's response today was not "you screwed up" but to address me with the concern that there is too much on my plate, or some distraction causing problems in prioritizing.  I basically said, I don't think there's any excuse to lay this on, this was pure screw-up.  Still, it must be said, "it isn't a problem with attitude or aptitude" is one of the best sentences bestowed upon me for a long time.  I only wish it were really true.  (My attitude is dandy; but I really do question my aptitude.)

Most of the errors any of us make in a day come in little things, miscalculations that aren't disastrous - and even this one we got worked through okay.  But it was a hugely visible problem - not just to my bosses, but to our entire management team.  I *LOVE* my team.  They are smart, good people, some of whom I've come to be friends with on the personal level (not a typical mode of operation for me in any job), and they don't stint in professional recognition, support, and gratitude.  I am blessed beyond my own gratitude that I get to have the job I have.  So when I screw up, it feels almost like INgratitude, and it drives me absolutely crazy.

Also frustrating is that I have BEEN able to do this job.  Even before I'd fully learned it, taking it on was never too much.  Once I felt like I'd come into ownership, the pride of my position never suffered because there was so much to do.  So it irks me that stress has made a dink of me.  I've been trying so hard to put stress *behind* me (at least the particular stress that got me distracted several months back), so evidence there's still some out front makes me mad.

My dad would have told me to take the energy of that frustration and direct it.  The little kid living inside my ageing carcass, however, just whines, "I've BEEN doing that!  It isn't WORKING!" and stomps off impolitely, selfishly.

Inevitably, my performance is always selfish.  Most of us are probably like that.  Yeah, the pride of a job well done.  Well, nobody benefits from my pride but me, so - still selfish, really.

At the end of the day, I got less selfish and just nose-to-the-grindstone.  And, by end of the day, I mean that at the moment I might take off if I had everything done, the phone rang - and it was my boss.  Who had travel tomorrow, taking him into the path of the storm bearing down on such a huge swath of the continent.  Time to look into that.

And time for everyone else to do the same.

The chain of on-hold-ness became pretty hilarious during the course of the hour it took to shift his connection out of the nasty zone (though his ultimate destination may not even escape the issues!).  United had our travel rep on hold, he had me on hold, I was on another line with my boss, who had me on hold trying to call his own colleague ... Or something of that telephonically preposterous nature.  No wonder it took us an hour - and never mind the thousands of other travelers also staring down the barrel of flight cancellations.

My own soundtrack to this - "Let's Go Crazy" by Prince.  If I wrote that in a story, it'd be too on the nose to ever work.

To be truthful - during that hour of fiasco-ery, I stressed pretty seriously.  But, for whatever reason, this afternoon I did remember my dear dog and my kitten, remembered how fortunate I am in my job and my team, remembered those I love (and those I'll never even know) who would be blessed to complain of something at work - if only they had jobs - and was able to relax.

And the drive home was relatively un-crowded and un-stressful.  I put in "The Gathering" on random, and first got the song *I* think of as being deeply tied to me and Mr. X ("Third Chance") and then got the one he first proffered to me as being like us ("Nighttime Birds").  I turned off the stereo after those, and just drove.  I didn't get home until nearly 7:30, but it is quiet here, warm - and life is so sweet.  Kit is on the coffee table, and Penelope beneath it.  A gleaming green pair of widely dilated eyes is glancing my way, as white velvet sneaker-paws play in a stack of papers I have brought out to force myself to deal with some personal filing.  And "Big Bang Theory" was on tonight.

It's after nine, but I get to sleep in a comfortable bed, even if I am the only human soul in this house.  At least I know whom I love; that is blessing and content - even if not the fullness of satisfaction.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


"A gurgling dog that wants to go out ... gets to go out EVERY TIME."

Wisdom courtesy of mein bruder.

Quotes from the Bemused Writer

Thanks to a certain Sarcastic Broad for some thoughts today:

For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin—real life.  But there was always some obstacle in the way.  Something to be got through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid.  Then life would begin.  At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.
   — Father Alfred D’Souza 

Finish each day and be done with it.  You have done what you could.  Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can.  Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.
   — Ralph Waldo Emerson 

The second one reminds me of a favorite prayer.

Cute Shoes Alert!

One of my favorite blogs is having a giveaway - take a look here and see what you think.  The shoes are Edwardian, but have a certain "Downton Abbey" feel to them too.  Me, I happen do adore the 23 Skidoo shoes they also have (complete with how to customize them, and images of some dazzling deco heels), but the Gibsons are quite lovely.  Share the contest and American Duchess online if you want to try for the giveaway yourself!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Early Color Motion Pictures

Thanks to those at the Absolute Write fora for these fascinating links - incredible early color movies!  Don't skip this one, which is a great look at beauty and fashion in 1922, with the interesting addition of the COLOR we've never really been able to see before.  Some of these models would have been about my paternal grandmother's age; an interesting view into the bobbed-haired girls of her heyday.


On the beach and out on the town in France, 1912!  Again, for some of my readers (Cute Shoes, I'm looking at you!) the dresses in the final scene here, apparently filmed on a stage, are a fascinating study.  This is how we looked 100 years ago!

These films don't suffer if you use the full screen view, either.  Give it a try for better detail!

Almost A Year

Last year, I was hit from behind on my way into work on a Friday morning, and got a sprained neck, a migraine, and what appears to be a fairly permanent weakening and en-sore-en-ing of my back for my troubles.  The other driver paid her fine out of court, and I settled with her insurance for $1000.  Considering the issues I've had ever since, and expect could last me a lifetime, I let 'em off easy, but the fact is I wanted the hassle over with, and don't really regret not being more punitive at that time all that much.

Even so, this weekend I did myself a number, indulging in that favorite pastime I learned from mom when I was a kid - moving the furniture around for the season.  "It's cheaper than redecorating," she always used to say.  And, even more practically, it also provides different climate control benefits for different times of the year.  In winter, the furniture moves closer in, circling around the center of the room, making the most of sunlight encroaching farther into the living room, and giving a sense of coziness.  In spring and summer, I pull things back and take advantage of this space, opening up the couch and chairs, and eventually making the most of cross-ventilation.

The thing is:  my coffee table is made of stone!

The demands we put on our backs just in every day work can be quite enough, but dragging a big sofa around, shoving a big coffee table--and just bending and shoving and reconnecting everything, plugging in the lamps, all that stuff, tell on me as I get older.  And there's nobody but me to do it.  So when that need for change comes upon me, it's not like I have kids or a spouse to help out.  And the kit and pup, marvelous creatures as they are (and Penelope's so strong!) are poorly equipped with thumbs, bless 'em.

Thank goodness I bought a heating pad after that accident.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Tech Trouble

Laptop is on its last legs, I may not be around much.  Amazed I am right now ...  Here's hoping I can stay tuned.

More Louisa

It's a revelation to rediscover what a great writer Louisa May Alcott really was.  Her nimble language in "Hospital Sketches" is excellent and propulsive - and VERY funny indeed.  Take a look at the menu of a hospital in the American Civil War:

(I)s not the following bill of fare susceptible of improvement, without plunging the nation madly into debt? The three meals were "pretty much of a muchness," and consisted of beef, evidently put down for the men of '76; pork, just in from the street; army bread, composed of saw-dust and saleratus; butter, salt as if churned by Lot's wife; stewed blackberries, so much like preserved cockroaches, that only those devoid of imagination could partake thereof with relish; coffee, mild and muddy; tea, three dried huckleberry leaves to a quart of water—flavored with lime—also animated and unconscious of any approach to clearness.

Most remarkable is her skill in conveying the reality of that war, at least from the vantage point of one of its medical facilities.  Without the pathos which eventually ruined M*A*S*H for instance, she manages to lay down a foundation of humor and to counterpoint it with painful reality.  Her command of the language and of emotion is magnificent, and the piece is relatively short.  Recommended most highly.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Not *#@! Yesterday

Another thing we didn't invent during the 20th century, kids?  Trashy mouth and name-calling.  Witness ye heretofore:  Martin Luther.  Pottymouth.

You are like (a?) mouse dropping in the pepper!

While I Was Out ...

... my ex husband called to wish me a belated happy birthday - and to call me Pucky-Schnuckem-Tops.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Wonder of Modern Technology

... although, of course, by some definitions, Craigslist is hardly the leading edge in "modern" ...

I had looked for ads on CL yesterday, encouraged to do so by some brighter bulbs than myself (people at the animal hospital and pet store), but being a noob I somehow managed to navigate exactly around the ad with Penelope's picture.  Fortunately for me, another CL member emailed me and pointed me toward it.  Then another.  This morning, someone who saw both my ad and another friend's posting on Facebook emailed me; she works at the city shelter, where Pen was taken on Friday, and gave me her personal cell number.

So many people want to see happy endings - and so many people try to reach out, to make connections, to encourage, to HELP.  And help they all did, and I am so grateful.

The shelter is closed today, of course, but having reached out directly to the woman who actually did Penelope's intake, I know I can go pick her up at 10:00 tomorrow.  After that, I don't intend to leave the house until I must, except to walk with her.  She'll probably get a bath (she'll hate it) but bless my soul, she'll be home, my baby girl.  Such an interesting bookend to such a strange vacation.

In the meantime, I have failed completely to work on my ghost story, but today the Sarcastic Broads come to my house.  They always tend to light a fire under me; and there is time before they come, too, so who knows what I might get done.

What I'm *not* getting done is the seeing of family and going to my mom's church, which had been the plan for the day.  Having not slept well since Penelope ran away, last night I was plagued by dreams of her in the shelter - and this morning I slept right on almost until ten.  Oops.  But mom will be surrounded by family, celebrating the church's 50th anniversary; not much in need of me, and probably little surprised by my absence.  I feel a little bad as I did want to see family, but certainly feel better having gotten at least some good if late-breaking sleep.  Between today and tomorrow, though I'm still on my mini vacation, there won't be much chance to catch up on sleep.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

This Now Concludes ...

... the saga of the missing Penelope.  She was picked up perhaps as quickly as within minutes or an hour of wriggling out of her harness, and taken in.  An ad was put on Craigslist but I was not savvy enough to check CL, so the next day (the lady who rescued her has a rehabilitated fighting pit and it looked to her like there were some issues) she went for a stay at the city shelter.  Sadly, I didn't get savvy in time to save Pen some trouble, BUT I will pick her up as soon as I possibly can on Monday.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog.


Lost Penny

Penelope ran away from home day before yesterday in the late afternoon.  I have called animal control for the county and for the city, posters are up, word is out in the neighborhood.  I've slept downstairs just hoping to hear something.  But she has probably been taken in.  I only hope that whoever has her will be honorable - and will return her.

Gossamer and I miss our puppy.  I feel like somehow I did this.

Just an hour before she was gone, I was sitting with her, holding her head and staring in her eyes, telling her how I was going to fall so in love with her over the years, but I love her so much right now.

Worried.  What can I do?

Further Reading

Perhaps the one thing people agree on, even those who like to snub Wikipedia for its own content, is that it is a marvelous place to find sources and other materials.  Me, I don't feel the need to pooh-pooh the 'pedia and make a show of superiority to it - maybe I'm Just That Confident in myself that publicly snipping on websites seems pointless to me.  Whatever the case, I do sometimes read the 'pede. 

Today, catching up on some of the Ricardian goodness, I ran across a quote which interested me and got the creative (speculative, if not defensible) brain churning.  The quote was from Welsh poet Gut-or Glen, telling of Sir Rhys ap Thomas, the Welsh soldier who may have struck Richard down, and it goes like this

"(K)illed the boar, shaved his head" 

Clovis I, as I have mentioned before, was perhaps the most famous of the reges criniti, the Long-Haired Kings.  The depth of power invested in a king's hair was explicit, public, and a strong enough part of the charisma of rule, during Late Antiquity, that tales are told of tonsuring and shaving those who held or wished to hold Frankish thrones.  These make great legends, and the Frankish dynasties which eventually became France were unsubtle for centuries upon the point of emasculating any pretentions to rule by whacking off the hair (perhaps not scrupling to take heads) of those who presumed to crown themselves with more than their own hair. 

So, because I am a writer and not a historian, and have the freedom for such musings, I'm struck (less than Richard was ...) by the phrasing above.  Spoken just a few centuries earlier, its import would have been equally as punnish, just as deadly, but layered with a sense of royal outrage and retribution.

Friday, February 8, 2013

TODAY? Seriously?

Okay, Penelope went missing yesterday and hasn't returned.  I fear she's been taken in and won't be given back.  Then the cat pooped on the bed.  And, not for nothing, but the memory of my dad's death isn't exactly a perk-inducer, even if I don't want it to be a bid melodramatic "thing" anymore.

So just now I'm looking at my stupidly flawed stats and this is one of today's strings:  diane majors obituary.

GOOD LORD.  Like things aren't depressing enough??

No More Preciousness

For ten years now, particularly online, I have refused to enter my birthday in any profiles.  At jobs, I try to act as if I have no birthday.  I'm proud of my age, have earned every second of 45 years ... but ...

Ten years ago, my father died on my birthday.  And for ten years, it's been an awkward revelation and conversation every time.

In the state he was in at that time, I would not have had my dad live one single more day just to clear off "my" little day.  The fact that the two things share an anniversary is not a point of sadness for me; I was already at an age where celebrating a birthday like a five-year-old was silly, and in our family birthdays are anything but a religious event anyway.  But our culture encourages birthday parties for middle aged people, and office culture in particular enforces expectations of celebration and recognition I can tell you (particularly/even as the admin) it can be surprisingly difficult to get around.  And I really don't give much of a hang about happy birthday stuff, on its own merits.  But when you tell people what else happened that day - it is incredibly embarrassing for them.  It is also, if not emotionally painful, simply an unpleasantry I would prefer not to bring into public awareness.

So for this past decade, my strategy has been to take time off on my birthday.  This year being the tenth, I took off a lot of time in fact.  From yesterday through Monday (the anniversary of his memorial service - and, though I won't get too personally-identifiable-information about this, the birthday of someone else in our family).  Yesterday, I spent alone - the first time since dad died.  With the two of us in the same town, most often I spend the day with my mom.  We talk a bit about dad, sometimes we get sad, usually we laugh at some point.  But it's not as hard as it was the first few years, and last year we didn't talk about him a lot.

This year, we hardly mentioned him at all, and spent today together instead of yesterday.

So the secrecy or at least evasiveness about my birthday, over time, has become itself as much of an embarrassment as the conversation that usually makes other people regretful and embarrassed and contritely sympathetic when they find out.  I hate doing that to people, but yesterday I realized that over time the balance has shifted for me off of "this is about me" and wanting to just avoid it to "the not-telling is as stupidly dramatic as the telling, and I've gotten good enough at deflecting other people's at-a-loss emotional reactions to this accident of facts that I'm going to stop not-telling."


Yesterday was my birthday.  And the day I lost my dad.  He was peerless and funny and wildly intelligent and the best dad in the business.  I was blessed to have his gruff, warm voice in my life for 35 years to the day, and say prayers of thanksgiving for him perhaps every day of my life.  He was a parent to be grateful for, and I am sorry that in his name I have to make people awkward from time to time.  But it is time to stop the game playing.  My name is Diane - and something truly awful happened on my birthday ten years ago.  And that is not about me.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


It's not today.  It's just near.

I miss you, Dad.  So much.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Baby Girl Growing Up

The more I have read about Carolina dogs, and looked at their pictures, the more sure I've become since adopting Penelope that she is a charming example of this breed.  Her body is getting thicker and very muscular indeed, and her feet are growing into what appears closer to a classic Dixie/American Dingo shape.  She is still a fairly lithe dog, but the tuck of her belly is less pronounced as she has a regular diet (and I felt when I adopted her gaining at least some mass, if not fat, would be good for her).  She's got more control over a pair of prodigious ears, which still have  fold but are I think less "trembers" than they were when she was still really more puppy; she holds them up more than she used to.

Penelope has a very velvety coat with only a bit of wiry fur along her back, and a thin wiry coat but smoothly laid down along her belly.  Her forehead wrinkles, but when you touch her you can feel "extra skin" across most of her torso; she's built to shed heat, I think, lots of surface area.  Her eyes, when you photograph her, might "squink" and look almost like she's in a rictus of laughter, but in person they tend to appear very very round, and she has "people eyes" too - you can see her whites, and it makes her expressions very strong indeed.  (Pen's pathos is not to be believed!)  Along the "back" of her tail (the dorsal side, which is most often curled up and therefore not as highly visible as the ventral side) she has a good bit of black hair, so when she is unnerved or unhappy, you see a dark tail.  When she's at ease or excited, of course, her tail is curled pretty tightly upward, showing cream fur even lighter than most of the rest of her coat.  So most often, she's a very light colored dog indeed.  To date (having adopted her later in October), she hasn't shed to speak of, but I will not be surprised if her output in that area is similar to Siddy's; though Sid was a husky mix, she was very short-coated, and if Penny is a southern-bred dog this velour finish she's sporting is probably thick enough to let a lot go when the temps go higher.

Penny "Squinking"
Gossy Lookin'

Her ears are a marvelous literal barometer.  Very pink when she is excited or happy, they stand up and tell you how she is feeling.  Pen *rarely* lets her ears go down, and they are thinner and wider and less cartiligenous than Siddy's (who didn't often prick up her ears entirely; I used to joke it was too much heavy lifting for anything but special occasions or interest).  So she doesn't have the sometimes sad look about her Siddy did, with her extremely dark, glossy, brown, almond-shaped sad eyes.  Pen can do pitiful as well as any dog, of course, but her face is just too insouciant to stay that way as a default.

She has black skin around her muzzle, so when it rains she gets "freckles" on her nose.

She has lighter brown eyes; not as light as mine, but a very very warm brown compared to the deep, dark, almost-black color Siddy had.  This adds to her expressiveness, too.

Her wrinkles and extremely mobile ears and eyes make her charmingly funny-looking, in the best possible sense of the phrase.  Siddy had a little bit of a droop to her lips, but Penny has an underbite.  Give me a more impossibly insouciant feature, c'mon - I dare ya.

Her cranium is extremely round and her nose has a well-defined break, straight lines both vertical and horizontal, and a nice length of muzzle.  The proportions are in fact almost exactly like the bulb and stem of an old-fashioned incandescent bulb.  Siddy had a head like a Volvo - it was boxy, but it was good.  Penny has a head that is round-o, round-o, like a beet (anyone naming the Tom Robbins reference there wins ... recognition on the Diane L. Major blog - whee!).  Her head, like Siddy's was, also tends to be warm, and her ears even warmer.  She must let off an enormous amount of heat from those things in summer time.  She has what I call "a head full of teeth" - some of the largest, whitest, and strongest dog's teeth I've ever seen, scissoring outward enough that along with her underbite it's as common as not that she's showing them, even without any aggression.  Pen-Pen's teeth remind me of nothing so much as Aku, from Samurai Jack.  And the late, great, vocally inimitable Mako played Aku, so that's cool beans.  Apparently both my "kids" have to have cartoon associations of some kind.

This weekend, the first two of three fencing companies came out to look at the back yard and provide estimates, and I am pretty excited about that.  Penny plays frisbee, and to hang out in the yard with her, and to run with her without being leashed together, is going to be great.  If I am an extremely lucky and industrious doggy mommy, the fence will be up before some of my family come to visit in spring, which will be good for the visit in helping to burn off some of her New Friend Excitement/Greetings issues.  She is of course not to be worried about, but it can be wearing paying attention to nothing but her when she's a bit overwhelming, and it will be nice too to have a place to stow her where she'll be deliriously happy rather than nervous and shouty.  Putting her in the cage when people are over has proven all too imperfect, and I hate to do it to her (and to guests).  Having enjoyed "I got a new baby pet" twice in the past six months, now I'll get to enjoy a bit of "I got a neat new backyard" too - and Penelope certainly will.

Carolina dogs, it seems, do suffer separation anxiety (check), but operate in many ways as a pack - rearing of the young, hunting; they are cooperative.  Penelope has a pack with me and Goss, but it has its imperfections.  Carolinas apparently can be very suspicious of strangers, and as wonderfully open as she is, she's shown me more than once her willingness to protect us - she has a good instinct for who is friend or family, and who is visiting us for some impersonal reason - she can be friendly to the contractors who've come to the house, for instance, and will be subdued - but her approach is completely unlike her overwhelming adoration and sometimes urinary submission.  Ahem.  She is wary to the extent of taking three days just to get over the fact there was a jolly snowman-shaped sign in the neighborhood for the winter party here; she eventually submitted to discovering its inanimate nature, but never converted from extreme submission to her wonted friendliness.  On a smaller scale, particularly when it's dusky or dark out, she evinces paranoia at shadows, tree branches, cars she hasn't seen before, and the like.

Fortunately, with living creatures she tends to be far better socialized.  Stillness - particularly the inert presence of things not in a given place previously - irks her to no end, but people and animals she's generally game to put up with very nicely.  She dislikes walking on the busier street in our neighborhood, and will go along well behaved but with her tail down and more liable to get her back up.

And she gets her back up very distinctly.  Sid could "ruff" at the neck, and her agitation was very aggressive when she was protecting our home (never out of control, and I usually thanked her on the occasion she felt she had some reason to bark, as that's not an instinct I want to quell completely), but Pen's fur ridges very high indeed, unevenly down the length of her spine including her tail, and actually makes her coloring change - when she gets her back up, her fur looks darker.  I think that is more because of light and shadow than because of any actual color change in her coat closer to her skin, but it's a clear and definite change.  Pen also has a much harsher, louder, higher bark.  When she does use it (not noticeably more than Sid ever barked), you just have to stop whatever you're doing and wait, because she makes it difficult indeed to concentrate on a phone call, or writing, or the computer or TV.  A piercing bark, as is her "singing" - the sounds of excitement she makes, for instance, when she sees our next door neighbors - whom, much like her predecessor, too - she is hugely in love with.  Be it doggy mommy or doggy, she doesn't care, she aches and pines to get attention from either one of them.

Pen was supposedly about six months when I adopted her, but then she was also "almost there" with house training and was listed as a lab mix.  Her vet thinks she's more likely at least a month older than that, so she may be about a year old now or very soon.  Even so, I've given her the birthday of April Fool's Day - as much as anything so I can count her age, as birthdays are not exactly massive celebrations around our pad.  (Gossamer is May Day birthday boy, and though he may be a hair older than estimated at adoption, too, the difference there is more likely to be the matter of a week or so.  If he was not eight weeks, but nine or ten, given that I adopted him July 12, the first of May could be accurate for him.)

The pair of them get along very well indeed.  Though she shows acute interest in squirrels of a less buddy-oh-pal variety, I've never yet seen Penelope react to any cat with great interest, and her play with Gossamer is, if not particularly gentle, well within my comfort zone (and Goss's) for the two of them.  If Pen-Pen's energy isn't properly used up with walks, attention, and play, she gets more irritating to him, but there's never any more issue with that than the annoyed yowling - and it's extremely easy to tell when Goss is fully participating and instigating their fight-play.  I still like to throw around the occasional "touch not the cat" her way, and she knows the meaning of The Evil Blue Water-spraying Bottle of Doom, though it never quite dissuades her for long from whatever she's trying to do.  She's a good girl, but can be immensely jealous, which means she tends to get more attention than Gossamer - but then, Gossamer gets to sleep on my bed and she isn't allowed up much at all, so I hope the little grey guy doesn't feel as jealous as she so ostentatiously does.

What we have is a good little pack, with smart and sweet beasties, and a human slowly learning the proper ways of the animals.  I'm grateful and fortunate, and hoping - one of these days - they'll be as fortunate as I am.

Richard III - the Answer is Yes

The announcement is out, and the news of a few weeks ago is confirmed - and Richard has been given a new take on his old face.  Take a look at the careworn face of the king in the earliest known surviving portrait (no contemporary portraits survive, which makes the post-Tudor images all the more interesting):

Wikipedia Commons

In a portrait about 200 years after his death:

Wikipedia Commons

And in the very, very late death mask we have attempted to reconstruct using modern technology:

Channel 4/
He looks so young.  Richard III was only 32 when he died - and the body we know now to have been his had been scarred severely by a lifetime at war.  By scoliosis, too, yes.  But the eyes of all these portraits speak to the depth and weight of responsibility; of not only his own reign - and its loss - but of his brother's, Edward IV - and even of that of Henry VI, whose weakness made for such an interesting period in the Wars of the Roses.  He looks so young to me.

Sunday, February 3, 2013


Windows crash today.  SO grateful I'm back up and running.  Not holding my breath this is a forever state.  Hmmm.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Because Twitter's Size Limit is Too Small ...

... and I don't feel like resizing a dang photo, darnit.

The eye makeup has a bit of "end of the day" fatigue on the paint job, but generally speaking, apart from the lack of a winsome smile - not actually too bad, all told.