Thursday, November 30, 2017


Ran across the following phrase today, and realized I haven't done an "aside" post in a VERY long time. This rates it:

thoroughly half-baked

Okay, carry on.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017


How much fun is a good debunking? Particularly one that goes after those clickbait farms that so adore spreading BS which, unfortunately, people seem to lap up like creature-milk. Please enjoy ... the true history of gruesome Victorian photography of the dead! Not. Heh. (The click beyond: tear catchers and the phrase "each of us can choose our own belief." Maybe meant to be funny; but YET another symptom in the hardening American resistance to *facts*. And now sigh.)

Ummmmmmm(ami) - women's emansoupation - here is a tale of tasty seasoning, which I now feel the need to go buy so I can put it in my new spice rack.

Dominick Tao, an American veteran, is a great writer ... with a meaningful story.

Do you remember Powers of Ten? Here's another great animation, graphically representing just how far humanity has gone into the Earth.

And finally, the old two-space. I trained myself out of this habit over the space of a few days just in the past four years or so. My resistance to change (apart from being a Virginian) was seething irritation at the single-spacers' screaming insistence that ye olde River of White was apparently horrifying to them, and that has always struck me as a ludicrous stance. My feeling is, what is so damn gorgeous about a giant, unbroken wall of text? Ahh, but: count on the Arrant Pedant to produce a detailed, and MUCH more cogent discussion on the subject. (Also: yay, he is back!)

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Squees and Thanks

Thanksgiving didn't turn out as planned, but oh I do love the quiet holidays that are just me, mom, and my stepfather. He has been ailing for seven years now, but the point has come where doctors are starting to recommend stopping recurring procedures, and the slowdown he is in now feels somewhat different from previous periods when he has felt low. So, though I'd invited them to my house, at about 1:30 on Thanksgiving day, when I was pulling the turkey breast out to tent it for its final phase, grabbed the broccoli and sweet potato dishes, and went to their house.

When your mom is in tears, the dishes you've twice-washed and spot-inspected lose all significance.

But our day, which is possibly the last quiet-holiday time the three of us will share, was lovely. He was up most of the time I was there, and dressed even. We had a few little laughs; his grace is at times the greatest blessing for others, in the face of his pain. I deeply love my stepfather. Another blessing, and one I did not see coming eleven or twelve years ago.

As much as those I love must endure, my own life is richly blessed and comfortable right now. I still miss Mr. X. But there is someone that remarkable in this world, for me to miss. That is inestimable.

At four years in, my "new" job is now entirely mine. I love the work I do, and I like and respect the people I get to work with. It was scary to leave public service, but I have learned that a form of service that is much more direct has great rewards, and what we do is honorable, sometimes fun, and gives to our community in ways that are new to me and mean so much. All this, and at four years there's a bump in vacation accrual, so woo!

Gossamer and Penelope are still the finest little monsters anyone could ask to live with. Goss is soft and gentle - and preternaturally forgiving of his great lummox of a human. Pum is soulful and warm, both magnificent and insouciant. They make me laugh every day, and then they warm my heart.

Writing ... I'm doing that. Not enough - but is it ever enough, in any writer's mind? What is happening with it is good. That counts.

Christmas: we are looking forward to my brother and BOTH nieces coming for a visit.

And homeownership ... ahhh, homeownership! Here may be the most immediate squee for today. In three days from now, I will have a new run of five kitchen cabinets. One wall has always been the home of every bit of storage in this 67-year-old house - and it's not too bad, actually; lowers, as well as uppers all the way to the ceiling, and I have eleven-foot ceilings, so storage is significant.

So 'long about my birthday (suffice it to say, this was over half a year ago), I went to the Habitat for Humanity Restore a couple or three times, and found a pair of midcentury cabinets which will coordinate nicely with the originals. Since, then, I have poked now and then at all of them - removing the old black hammered hinges from mine, spackling and repainting the uppers (white), throwing around a bad paint job (black) on the lowers, re-hinging all of the uppers including the "new" ones.

Today is the day to remove the lower doors and old hardware, give them a spackle and sanding, and tomorrow paint 'em black.

MONDAY ... comes the handyman. He will cut the crown molding and patch the circa-1950 hole in the wall that was all we had in the kitchen for a vent back then. Install the cabinets, AND the ventless range hood. And all the drawer and cabinet handles. He's even going to tidy up a spot of water damage (long since resolved) that predates my 16 year ownership. The tile I ordered isn't here yet, but we'll call this guy back. Or cross fingers it'll arrive today! :)

Oh my gosh. In three days, I will have new kitchen cabinets. I'll be able to put away my crock pot, cookie jar, lots of things. So exciting!

And on the first day of The Big Holiday Family Visit, I also will have a brand new chair. Mom and I recently went chair (s)hopping at a couple of stores, and on my own time I tried at least one more place, on a quest to find The Chair. The chair you come home to, that will welcome you and take care of you all evening after work. The chair that is kind of foxy, but also comfortable. And one we saw on the day she and I sallied forth was all that, but also had remarkably good BACK SUPPORT. It was the chair that stuck in my head through a few more chairs and another shopping trip. And it will be mine.

This is the kind of chair that makes a big difference in a home. It's the kind of chair that makes a big difference in most days, too. So, with this, and the major changes in the kitchen, some really big improvements for the holidays. After The Great Bookcase Project of the summer of 2017 (three. seven-foot. bookcases, y'all. Don't even tell me you're not jealous), and the final completion of the it-seemed-neverending basement job, this is going to make for one HECK of an organized domicile. And just in time to clutter it all up with Christmas decorations!

Still life with much clutter

Hoping everyone had a splendid, blessed, and joyous Thanksgiving, and that the best is yet to come.

Are you ready ... ???

Wednesday, November 22, 2017


Turn of the century Worcester Mass in pristine portraiture by William Bullard - not only a great record of people of color living there around the turn of the 20th century, but a pretty remarkable testament to photography itself at that stage (some of the images are stunning in detail and clarity) and a trove for history or costume enthusiasts. Certainly a wonderful sort of neighborhood genealogy; the detail regarding who is who is stellar. (You can exit the slide show for a bit of background, but I'd recommend NOT scrolling down to the comments section. Just enjoy Mary E. Price's glorious traveling ensemble, Edward Perkins' garden, or the many joy-inducing kids' portraits.)

When we were freaking out about Trump's election a year ago, my brother and I clung to certain things. Awareness that we were less likely to suffer, and still have more power by way of this privilege, than others ... the ignorance we still had to some extent back then (though little faith in that famous "pivot" they used to go on about, even as they prognosticated Ivanka would save us all). And infrastructure. Trump's dedication to infrastructure looked GOOD, so we invested in the idea of his investments there. He's a real estate guy, it was something to get behind, right?

Well, if this has anything to do with his administration, hope may yet have reason to spring eternal. And this click isn't even political at all, actually! Go forth, if only because architecture is pretty durn cool, and apparently can be made to smell really good, too. Mmm, Douglas fir. 'Tis the season!

The click beyond: NOVA's recent look at the earthquake-readiness of China's Forbidden City. Engineering is extraordinary, but replica "re-enactment" experiments are the stone cold bomb diggety!

Dr. Art Evans, entomologist, is a regular part of my evening commute. And a favorite part!  This week, he did a segment on an internet CREATURE sensation. The clickbait vibe reminded me of the keywords I chose for this (failed :() flash fic post at Hallowe'en.

The historian Henry Adams was being metaphorical, not medical, when he described power as “a sort of tumor that ends by killing the victim’s sympathies.”

The Atlantic looks at the brain science studying the debilitating effects of power. Per Spock: "Fascinating!" He must've had a toe holder ... or all of Vulcan culture was a toe holder ... !

Also fascinating, but in more of a car-wreck kind of way, is the second time this week I have witnessed The Atlantic using the term GALS and mentioning a "lady problem" in a political piece. The byline is a woman writer, and it seems apparent that this is a gendered sort of informality - because, you know, girlies talk like that. Either that, or you can't expect journalistic standards out of GALS.

In my entire life, I have never known a friend or coworker to use this term except in sarcasm. Most often, it's been a comedic prop, this word. See also: 'lady' - which is a queasy joke for a lot of us in my generation, because it is so often wielded by oily guys who think they have a way with The Ladies.

These words are diminutizations. They're inappropriate to a serious piece looking at an important dynamic, and they chip away at the very power of the feminine vote by subtly dismissing it using joking terms. It also erodes the influence of reportage which has set a certain standard of reliability, and negates an article which clearly involved a lot of research and legwork - there are interviews, there are stats and links and sources. There are conclusions, too. And there are "gals" and a "lady problem" (not in quotes used in the article, but in the writing of the reporter herself).

Monday, November 20, 2017

Drafty (hah) Excerpt

Usually, I am un-prone, in writing this blog - or, more often, composing it, compiling links and commenting just briefly - to excerpting my own work. But, as it cools down (and as I remind myself I *am* an author, at all), this little moment caught me and dragged me backward ... to my work ... to the way the end of summer feels ... to characters who still keep me curious.

To summer in Ravanna, in the wee hours of the sixth century.


Zeniv was too hot.

The heat was so that even the touch of clothing was importunate, every sensation a molestation; odd dreams plagued and would not release her—temptations of floating in water, or hanging weightless in the open vacuum of the sky, without so much as slippers nor linens, naked as the day of her birth. Lying with the wind, moving, moving.

The swamp, the whole city, smelt of the still greenness of water, and every shimmering, muggy breath of summer seemed almost a swallow; the atmosphere touchable, rather than empty air.

And she dreamt of empty air. Her mind swirled constantly with ineffable thoughts of somehow reaching a state of touching nothing. No ground to carry her, no clothes to enclose her, no heat—no heat—no heat.

The city roiled as it cooked, Arians and Catholics finding fault in the Jews for poor weather, for dwindling stores, for slackening winds and slowing trade.

Why it should be the Jews’ fault was unclear to Zeniv; made no clearer in the conversations around her. She was privy to much of religion; but little of politics. And Christians' concern with Jews, that must be politics, or perhaps the religion percolating around her was distilled somehow. Not thick and mixed, like the water—the air—all around.

Took the water, though, to mix up the atmosphere, to roil, to topple the carefully distilled beaker that was the Court.

Deep in the morning before the longest day of summer, the loss of a ship, down with which the fortunes of a dozen Ostrogoths’ families sank.


I have to write the pogrom. One of the first pogroms in Christian history. It's been lurking at me for the longest time.

It touches me like a dank, smelly, humid miasma.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017


(T)heir guy isn’t well known enough, that the stories are now so plentiful that offenders must meet a certain bar of notoriety, or power, or villainy, before they’re considered newsworthy.

I told you it's not just powerful, rich men. Here's a reporter to tell us that those're the only guys who'll get any ink.

Here is the thing about this lengthy piece, about what we "all" have to reckon for: I've reckoned before. When I worked at The Federal Reserve, and a contractor who knew I worked till 5:30 p.m.  himself stayed late one dark evening, and held out to me on a napkin a cherry stem, tied in a little knot, and said only "No hands" ... I was revolted. The next morning, first thing, I spoke with a manager - not mine, and a woman at that. And she essentially dismissed me as a hysteric. I chose to put the issue to bed, moving forward, concerning myself only with my future and my feelings.

Much later, when I saw from a strong physical reaction to him, by a woman with less power than I, it was clear to me that I was not the only person he had "made uncomfortable" (see also: repulsively harassed). I thought about the issue again, and discussed it with one or two trusted people.

Later still, when The Stem decided to apply for a permanent position, I instantly - I mean, within five minutes - went into my boss's office and phoned him while he was travelling. HE took me deadly seriously, and HR had an executive meeting with me almost immediately.

I thought about this guy's kid. Yep. But I also thought of that woman I had seen squirm. The Stem took his risks, knowing he had a kid. He behaved execrably, knowing he had a kid. Oblivious as he was socially (this is a man who discussed with me on scant acquaintance the extreme gruesomeness of his ex-wife's labor in bearing said son; he was ALL kinds of awkward, this guy). If, in his book, the "no hands" approach seemed even POSSIBLY valid - never mind potentially impressive - he needs a new book, and I'm not responsible for reading the text he was working from. Nor am I responsible for his son.

I was, in my knowledge, responsible for that woman I had done nothing to help. I was, too, responsible for the reputational risk to my own employer, who would have been exposed to legal risk by allowing a serial harasser on board. My employer: who kept me in mortgage payments, and that woman's family as well.

The woman manager, who dismissed my concerns? She didn't dismiss me because she was covering for a valued or powerful colleague, she shut me down for thinking what he'd done was an issue at all. His power, in the moment he flummoxed my pungent personality to the extent of an awkward joke and sheer befuddlement, was transient. And, in the end, mine was greater: my report had more power than his resume.

I have often thought about the background and experience that leads to attitudes like that manager's, though. These days, I imagine she's scoffing a great deal about all the precious little daisies enduring Weinstein's casting couch, so-called "consenting" to Louis C. K.'s displays, and on and on and on. Blaming them for being so sensitive. And maybe she has dismissed other women, too. Very possible.

I pity that woman more than myself. But, for her initial reaction to me and my opting for silence, I am GUILTY: about the other woman who worked there, who transferred away from our location I suspect to get away from The Stem. Whose price to pay I do not know, and is among the debts on my own soul. I pity the manager, whom I did not name but did talk about in that meeting with HR. But the other woman lives with me in a much more direct way.

I will leave this post with the following excerpt from the link ...

I struggled a lot internally about whether to name the Harasser at my former job. I decided not to, largely because I understand something about how things have turned out. In a rare outcome, I — along with some of the women he pestered — now have more power than he does. He is, as far as I know, short on work, not in charge of any young women. And so I decided, in consultation with former colleagues, not to identify him.
But here’s a crucial reason he behaved so brazenly and badly for so long: He did not consider that the women he was torturing, much less the young woman who was mutely and nervously watching his performance (that would be me), might one day have greater power than he did. He didn’t consider this because in a basic way, he did not think of us as his equals.
Many men will absorb the lessons of late 2017 to be not about the threat they’ve posed to women but about the threat that women pose to them.

This is not a gotcha. This is: manning up.


This is a short, but achingly clear essay about the forced intimacy of disability (author's word choice). It's both obvious and something most of us probably never think about. And it's heartbreaking. Go read it - please.

Shrew are you? Super neato-spedito piece about the winter shrinkage of the shrew. Because shrews' heads were not NEARLY small enough. Amusingly written, and may provide some excuses for human seasonal lassitude as well.

Why do men who have never experienced this form of attack get to define what an attack is?

Like great writing? Funny, but honest - the humor that comes not merely from that certain kind of anger that engages us, but also reaches out to consider the anger together? Click here. Yes, it talks about sex. It also talks about things that definitely are not sex.

I have neglected this blog's penchant for fashion, style, costume, and beauty of late, so here is a curious look at (sniff of?) Commes des Garçons' strange brews. Personally, I love sandalwood. But did you know that concrete is absolutely devastating to the environment? Won't buy. Might sniff ... if I ever actually go to a department store.

Question for my writer pals, Reiders, readers, and anyone generally a nerd for a word: HOW COME NONE OF YOU EVER TOLD ME ABOUT THE OED BLOG??? Because I am mad at each and every one of you. Y'all going to make me caterwaul, I'm all tears and flapdoodle I never saw this site before. Another sample: litbait. Hee.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017


Last Year

I set out my clothes for the next day, after I get home from work every day. The ritual is this: come in, greet Penelope and Gossamer, put down some kibble for them, put my cell phone on the couch so I won't miss important messages from my boss. Check the mail. Pen's done eating by now, or has had enough to start following me around, so she goes in the yard. Goss and I go upstairs. On the best days, he races me, and he ALWAYS wins.

In the bedroom, I put down the things of the day, take off the jewelry - always a nice moment, a physical relaxation - change clothes, check the weather, and decide on what to wear the next day.

I rarely dither, in this wardrobe selection. But last night, instead of weather, that local channel served up two campaign ads in quick succession, so I forwent the forecast. And laid out shoes, pants, and a short-sleeved blouse. It took me a while to pick something, even the purse to carry. But it had to be something with red in it - to remind myself: "tomorrow is election day."

Wearing red/white/and/or blue is rather on the nose, but I am all for obvious symbolism for any occasion. (On 11/9 last year, I wore cream and pale aqua - laid out the night before - meant to be a celebration of our freedom from the long, stressful campaign ... things did not turn out as I had hoped,of course; but I wore the cream and aqua anyway.) (And I wore brown on 11/8; good fall colors - and a locket with my dad's picture.)

So yesterday I had my nod to patriotism ready - but when I came up for bedtime, I saw the weather forecast at last, and found (hurray!) it was not expected to be short-sleeve weather. Time to rethink.

Today I am wearing a soft sweater, light beige.

So far this morning at the office, I have spotted: two red sweaters, and another work pal in royal blue.

Seems I am not the only one who goes in for symbolism - whether they did this consciously or not.

Accessorized to the nines.

How do you observe election day (even if today is not one for you)? Some do it with a memento, I know. We often respond to participating in democracy with something less concrete - prayers, even tears.

Do you carry something with you? Do you find yourself wearing a color or a shirt that gives you confidence, makes you feel bold?

Do you vote?

I voted today. Whatever else comes, that is a magnificent privilege still to treasure. That is a blessing to be thankful for.