Road Trip, 1919

I’m not especially fond of travelogues (except for those written by Bill Bryson) and I have no interest in reading about motorcycles, but when Number One Son (a.k.a. “Hippie”) recommended Across America by Motor-cycle by C. K. Shepherd I thought it might be interesting because this trip across America took place in the year 1919. It was definitely worth reading.

First of all, I must say this book will give you a new appreciation of paved roads, even poorly maintained ones. A great deal of the book consists of complaining about the state of the roads but there are also, motorcycle repairs, encounters with friendly and helpful small town people, and wonderful descriptions of scenery. My favorite part was the description of Arizona’s Petrified Forest. I’ve seen pictures of the place before but reading about it gave me even more of a feeling of what it’s like.

The most amusing part, to me, was the author’s confusion upon finding that the Arkansas River had no water in it. We in Tulsa and the surrounding area are quite familiar with the varying water levels of the Arkansas.

I downloaded the Kindle version with images. There are only a few small photos but I was glad for the chance to see them.

Back to the Everyday

I like holidays and vacations; I think most of us do; but sometimes I think one of the best things about major holidays and vacations is that they make us appreciate our routine, everyday lives. Much as I love the Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year season, it’s a relief and a pleasure to get back to normal and enjoy just an ordinary day. It’s cold and gloomy outside but I don’t mind. I did what little shopping I had to do yesterday and I have nowhere to go today.

Speaking of “normal”, my weird cat is back to her normal level of weirdness (I know you were all beside yourselves worrying about that, right?) – eating six times an hour as long as there’s food in the dish and yowling like she’s dying whenever her humans are out of her sight. [sigh] Why do the prettiest ones always have personality issues? Actually, she doesn’t really yowl every time we’re out of her sight, just randomly at times, most often at 3:00 AM.

Quotes From Here and There

I don’t much do “resolutions”, because it always seems slightly unrealistic to suddenly expect to adopt an entirely new approach to life or something based merely on the flipping of a calendar page.here

One of the gifts I gave the DC* for Christmas was a low-temperature Stirling engine kit that, much like us, runs off a cup of tea.there

Happy New Year, people. And animals. Okay, yeah, and sentient plants and ghosts and any alien stopping by for a quick read before it’s time for a probing appointment. Let’s just get ‘em all in so no one writes to me, calling me a “species-ist” or something.here

My friends R, JC and I have always preferred to set a theme for the upcoming year rather than individual goals. Themes like “Expand Horizons”, or “Take Chances”.there

One Day After Yesterday

The Earth circles the sun continuously, with no starting point and no end point but we humans, who so love to measure things, decided to divide time into years and decided that each year would start approximately ten days after the northern hemisphere’s winter solstice. Of course, other humans have used different systems to measure the years, starting the year on different days.

Today is just one day after yesterday. Like every other day of the year, it has no meaning except the meaning we decide to give it. The idea of a “new beginning” is appealing – useful even. So today we begin again. We make big important resolutions and small, perhaps even silly ones.

I don’t formally make resolutions. I don’t get very excited about the new year. This is just the day I get to start a new calendar. But even I can’t entirely keep from thinking about “what I’m going to do this year,” what I want to accomplish, what I want to do differently. And it’s always pretty much the same – eat less, exercise more, spend more time outdoors, read more, sew more, clean out closets, get rid of some junk. Will I actually do those things? Probably not any more than I did last year but it’s good to think about it. But not too much. After all, today is still just one day after yesterday.

One of Those Silly Year-End Review Things

Everybody does it: a big Year-End Year In Review post. Well, I thought about going through each of my categories and picking one favorite post from each but then I thought, “That will take a long time.” So I settled on just two favorite topics: Books and Sewing Projects. Then I thought, maybe a few favorite quotes of the year. And then I thought maybe… but no, I’m getting into too much work. It’s a lazy time of year. So, anyway, here we go.

Favorite Books Read in 2014

When I think about all the books I have read this year I am a little disappointed that I did not manage to read more. I normally spend only about 15 to 30 minutes a day, before bedtime, reading so it takes me a couple of months or even longer to get through a book but in the last few months of the year I have been reading more, maybe an additional hour a day and I hope to continue that trend in the coming year. But, even though there have been relatively few books read, it is still hard to pick just a few favorites. They were all good. But there are a couple or three that stand out.

My favorite books that took me somewhere I was interested in but knew little about was This is Not That Dawn by Yashpal and Daughters of the River Huong by Uyen Nicole Duong.

Well now, if I started listing every book that I enjoyed this year I would soon have listed all of them but there’s one more I have to mention. I read less science fiction and more history and travel books this year than ever before but science fiction is still my favorite genre and of course the book I must mention is the one written by one of my cyberspace neighbors, the closest I’ve come to reading a book by someone I actually “know” – I’m talking, of course, about Stardancer by Kelly Sedinger. Was it my favorite of the year? That’s hard to say; I have a hard time picking favorites and I have read several very good books this year, but this one is definitely good and definitely one of my favorites.

Favorite Sewing Projects of 2014

Oh my! I have made some lovely clothes this year. I love them all. Well, maybe not all. There are a couple that I don’t love quite so much and a few that I really do love but for some reason have not worn very many times but we won’t talk about those right now. I’m here to list favorites. So, first of all, there was this paisley top. Love the colors, love paisley, love the rick rack. In May, I made the lovely roses and lace dress. Then in early June (or perhaps late May and I only got around to posting in June?) was the simple dandelion dress, one of my most often worn dresses of those made this year. In between those I made this adorable romper for my granddaughter. Honestly, I love this so much I have been tempted to make a blouse or something for myself with this fabric and eyelet trim. I bought it at a local store and I know it’s still available.

Oh, so many. You need to just go look at them all again. Okay, okay. Just two more. My true favorite dress to wear, this orange and teal batik dress and my most complimented garment of the year, the brown gingham shirt. (Darn, I wish hadn’t screwed up those buttonholes.)

And finally, Favorite Quotes of 2014

All is well, but nothing is complete. It goes on forever and I can only stand, watch and wonder. (link)

I personally have always considered committees as proof that human beings evolved from animals that had tails and liked to chase them. (link)

My theory with dresses and fashion is all about everyday is a celebration, everyday is worth dressing up for, everyday is awesome. (link)

…“if you cannot walk more than a block in your shoes, they are not shoes; they are pretty sculptures that you happen to have attached to your feet.” (link)

I thought I wanted a pair of trousers with a fly front, but turns out I don’t have man parts that necessitate a zipper in the front. (link)

Why do we want to celebrate our main events with foot sprains and blisters? (link)

If I had a dollar for every time a middle class, white, lesbian with a Women’s Studies degree tried to tell ME how to appropriately respect MY OWN CULTURE AND HERITAGE, I could probably buy a goddamn reservation and turn it into a theme park. (link)

I hope that it’s not just me who thinks that having speed bumps in front of a JoAnns is funny! (link)

Okay, this is getting to be more than just a “a few” and I’m only halfway through the year and I haven’t even had breakfast yet. You people – bloggers – write too much profound and quotable stuff.

Happy New Year everyone.

There Is No “Privilege”

Pardon me for getting serious for a moment. Adam Savage posted a link to this lengthy whine about “male nerd privilege” on Twitter. I have to confess, I tried, I really did, but I only managed to read about half of it before I decided, “I can’t take this nonsense anymore.” I am so very, very tired of “my suffering is worse than your suffering” screeds.

Listen boys and girls, suffering is always individual and very personal and is not necessarily proportional to the sufferers actual situation and the injustices suffered. What one person can easily shake off might be a deeply personal and hurtful attack to another and telling someone that “your suffering is nothing compared to mine” is just as hurtful as actual bullying.

Sadly, even with all our technology and sophistication, underneath it all we are still just educated apes. (Who was it who said that?) We form hierarchies and if we try to take away the hierarchies and make everyone equal we just form different hierarchies. We have alpha males and alpha females and the alphas and non alphas behave almost exactly like alphas and non alphas among our ape ancestors. More than 100 years of feminism and more than 200 years of democracy has not changed that and one thousand more years will still not likely change it very much. I don’t think that means we should just accept our ape nature though. We, as individuals, can behave like the higher beings we like to believe we are.

And we can start by holding our heads up and not whining quite so much no matter what our position in the hierarchy. We can show sympathy to other people who are suffering instead of belittling their feelings. We can refuse to play the game that keeps some people down while protecting those at the top.

And here’s one more thing. Each of us can choose not to suffer, not to be victims. To say, “just grow a thicker skin” sounds like exactly the opposite of what I said above. A lot of people would say it’s “blaming the victim” but it’s a fact that bullies pick on people who are the most fun to pick on so you can definitely help yourself by being less fun to pick on.

Bullies should definitely be severely punished when caught but punishing bullies will make other bullies more subtle and clever and harder to catch. It’s like fighting cockroaches and terrorists – there will always be more and you can’t ever stop fighting them. But the best way to help victims is to help them be tougher and the best help may come from other victims saying, “I understand; I feel your pain,” instead of, “Ha! you think you suffer? You don’t know suffering.”

Post Holiday

I usually enjoy the week after Christmas. It’s quiet, relaxed, everything is getting back to normal. But I always feel like I should be doing something but, at the same time, not at all motivated to do anything. Including blogging and blog reading. To be honest, after about 12 years of blogging I think I might actually be ready to give it up – at least the nearly-every-day blogging. I think I will always want to have some site where I can connect with people and social media sites like Facebook and Twitter just don’t suit my style. I might switch back to a free platform like Blogger later in 2015 though and just do intermittent blogging and I might also start a couple of single topic blogs – one for sewing and one for collecting recipes. This week might be very intermittent because, as I said, I’m not feeling motivated.

We got our first snow of this winter Saturday. It wasn’t much, only just enough to cover the ground and more than half of it melted yesterday. That’s the kind of snow I like – here and gone in a couple of days. Unfortunately it is going to stay cold and possibly rain later in the week, which means ice. [sigh] I was hoping for an unseasonably warm winter. We are due for one.

My weirdest cat has suddenly become even weirder. She won’t eat her cat food – same brand she has been eating and it is a high quality, grain free brand – and prowls around the house eating any crumbs she can find on the floor and she tries to eat out of the dog’s dish. (Usually the dog doesn’t leave anything) She has also started jumping on countertops, something she has never done before. She is driving me absolutely around the bend. Fortunately, she still sleeps most of the day. It’s only in the evening when we are all here trying to relax and watch TV that she goes nuts.

I have some sewing related stuff to share and books and maybe TV and current events but I might not get around to it until next year so don’t go away. I promise I will quit being lame soon.

The Day After

We had a pleasant little Christmas, as usual. Nothing exceptional to report but I might have things to say about some of my gifts later on. Right now I am in “What now?” mode. I’ve been “getting ready” for Christmas and thinking about Christmas for the last month and now all that’s done; it’s over and now it’s time to… what?

The Christmas tree looks a little sad and purposeless now, as it always does the day after Christmas. I want to take it down and put all the stuff away but at the same time I’m reluctant. It’s only one day after Christmas. When I was a kid we always left the Christmas tree up until New Year’s Day so part of me feels like that’s the way it’s supposed to be but another part of me is impatient to get it out of the way. I had planned to take it down Sunday but I might do it tomorrow.

The house if full of food, fantastic, delicious food but I’m tired of eating. Right now I feel like I might not want to eat again for two or three days. But we have all this food… I made the Sweet Potato Cheesecake. It’s really really good but, I ate a piece, one of my sons ate a piece, my daughter-in-law, ate a piece; they went home and didn’t take any of it with them, and now nobody else wants any except me. I still have over half of it left. To eat. All by myself. It’s good but I really don’t want to eat it all by myself. And I’m really afraid it’s going to dry out before I get around to it and I’ll have to throw some away. There’s also apple pie and fruitcake and cookies and ham and some other stuff.

Anyway… a couple of things about the sweet potato cheesecake, in case anyone out there wants to try it. I made it in a spring-form pan instead of a 9″ X 13″ pan. I used a 9 inch, as recommended even though I thought that seemed too small. (I have a set of 3) I was right. It was almost too small. I think the 10 inch size would have worked better. I used two medium sweet potatoes (peeled, diced and microwaved) not canned. (My immediate reaction when I saw the recipe called for canned was something like this: “Canned? Really? Is there even such a thing? Oh yeah, I think maybe I’ve seen that. Ewww.) Also, I don’t know (if I ever make it again) if I will put marshmallows on top again. I’m not terribly fond of marshmallows. They’re okay if they melt, like when I put them on baked sweet potatoes and heat them in the oven for a few minutes, but I toasted these under the broiler, as recommended and they didn’t melt hardly at all. So, I might do something different. If I make it again.

Christmas Music

I understand that some people really hate Carol of the Bells. I love it. It has always been one of my favorites. I do have a problem with it though. I am extremely picky about it and acceptable performances of it are rare. This arrangement does not quite match the magical, perfect Carol of the Bells that I have in my head but it is lovely and wonderful anyway. These boys do a great job. Not to mention that they are adorable.

And then there’s this. They have managed to arrange virtually all the Christmas out of it but, aside from that, purely as music, this is really good. Strange… I didn’t even know I like Metallica.

Christmas Music

Generally, I am a strict traditionalist when it comes to Christmas, especially Christmas music, but I find Mannheim Steamroller’s unique versions of traditional Christmas carols irresistible.

Gift Wrap

Someone on Facebook expressed a strong dislike for wrapping Christmas presents. That surprised me a little bit. I know it shouldn’t. It’s obvious that not everyone would but it just never occurred to me that some people might not enjoy it. I’m not very good at it but it’s about the third or fourth most fun thing about Christmas. So, what about you? Love it, hate it, or somewhere in between?

I also wanted to mention, but never got around to it, that gift wrap is becoming more attractive again. I mentioned the gift wrap ugliness/attractiveness cycle during some previous holiday season. For a decade almost all of the gift wrap you can find is ugly and then it starts getting more attractive until one year you look around and think, “Wow, there’s some really pretty gift wrap this year!” and then it starts to decline again. Last year I managed to find some that was not totally hideous and this year, a few rolls that I actually like. I like the new double sided rolls, or at least I like the idea. I only found one that I liked both sides of. (I know, I know! Shut up.)

I might need to buy more. I’m almost done with wrapping gifts and almost out of gift wrap and wondering if I have enough or if I will have to go buy more and end up with nearly a full roll to start next year.

Christmastime, Lazy Blogging, Christmas Music, etc.

I get the feeling that hardly anyone is reading this anymore. That’s okay. I understand. It’s Christmastime and you’re all busy, as you should be. I am too and I’m not so inclined to put much effort into this for the next week or two. That doesn’t mean I’m going to completely disappear but you might not get anything but Christmas music and maybe an occasional brief comment that could almost fit on Twitter. Well, anyway…

I heard this on the radio yesterday. (a different recording) The Huron Carol was written ca. 1642 by a Jesuit Missionary living with the Huron tribe in Canada. He changed some parts of the Christmas story to make it more accessible to the Huron tribes people. (click link for lyrics)

Random Linkage

Everybody Happy – Interesting. I haven’t fooled around with it very much.

Old 7-Up Ads – Mostly from the early 70’s. I don’t remember any of these.

Bionic Bra – Anyone else a little creeped out by this?

Gemstones, through the microscope

Holiday Sweaters – I have never understood why so many people claim to hate Christmas sweaters but after seeing these pictures I think I get it. It’s not really the sweaters; it’s the people who wear them.

Christmas Suits – Oh, you thought the sweaters were bad? (Actually, I think the idea is pretty cool and I would secretly admire anyone who had the nerve to wear one of these in public.)

Science Fiction Christmas – Vintage Christmas themed sci-fi covers

The Myth of The Twelve Days of Christmas

6 Things We Never Want to See Lists of Again

Nicole asked for it so you got it. Sorry (no, I’m really not) I don’t know how to create one of those annoying slide shows but to be as authentic as possible I present these in reverse order of annoyingness. (Yes, it is so a real word. I know because I just made it up myself. Shut up, Firefox spellchecker.)

6. # Superfoods You Should Eat More Of – Actually, I sort of enjoy these good food lists a little bit because I like seeing that something I already like is “good for me” but at the same time the benefits they attribute to the listed foods are always way out in space. If it was really that easy to prevent cancer, lower cholesterol, improve memory, and live 20 years longer the medical profession would have gone out of business centuries ago.

5. # Books you must read before you die – I do like book lists but when they frame it as “books you must read” it’s a bit of a turn off. There are more books than any individual can possibly read in a lifetime and you have to choose according to your own tastes and interests. How about simply “Books Worth Reading” instead?

4. # Places You Must Visit Before You Die – You know, that “before you die” phrase is pretty silly isn’t it? You’re not going to do these things after you die are you? Anyway, on to my main point… What if I never get to visit these places? Does that mean my life is empty, wasted? And you notice that these lists never include places like Branson, Missouri or Eureka Springs, Arkansas. They’re always heavily biased in favor of exotic, expensive, and hard to get to places. Someday maybe I will make a list of “Things You Must Do Before You Die” that includes things like, “Enjoy a stupid TV show with your family” and “Sit outside on a summer evening listening to the night sounds and watching fireflies.”

3. # Things You Should Never Eat – We don’t need to be told what we shouldn’t eat. I think most people have figured out which foods are bad for you. We are told often enough. And even though it changes somewhat from year to year – sometimes things that were bad turn out to be good and vice versa – two things that will always be on the list are fat and sugar. But even these are not so bad in small amounts. The oldest advice is still the best: “All things in moderation.” We don’t need a list; we just need to remember that.

2. # Items Every Woman Should Have In Her Closet – Let me point out that “Every Woman” does not live in New York city, work in an upscale office, and attend fashionable parties every weekend. One item you always see on these lists is “the little black dress.” I have never in my life owned a little black dress. Where would I wear such a thing? Chili’s? Even if I did go to the kind of places where one wears a little black dress I probably wouldn’t because that’s what everyone else would be wearing, right? That’s what I call a uniform. Besides the LBD, there is usually nothing else on such lists that I either own or feel that I need.

1. # Things You Should Never Say To […..] – This is my top list pet peeve. There are dozens of different versions of it – Things you should never say to parents of young children, Things you should never say to a Teacher, Things you should never say to a woman, Things you should never say to a man, and so on. Honestly, there are a few things that you should never say (or that a polite person would never say) but these lists always go beyond the limits of what a polite person wouldn’t say and into the “Things we just don’t want to hear because we know it’s true but we don’t want to believe it,” and “Perfectly legitimate opinions that we disagree with,” categories. But it is really the whole idea of this type of list that is wrong. You can’t tell other people what not to say. To the makers of these lists and the members of the groups they represent I say, get over yourselves. You are not special and you don’t have any special right to be protected from the opinions of others.

Dustbury also has a list.

The Cutest Christmas Song

I first heard this song, Christmas Bells, the same year I first heard So This is Christmas, but, while John Lennon’s gloomy guilt trip continued to play on the radio year after year, Christmas Bells soon disappeared from the air waves.

I was never a big fan of Peanuts as a kid and I especially disliked Snoopy’s Red Baron fantasies but during the first 13 years of my life we only got one TV channel so when Peanuts was on we watched it. Now, however, I have this odd nostalgia for the Peanuts holiday specials and it actually disappointed me that my kids didn’t like them either.

What I really like about this song though, is not that it’s about Snoopy and the Red Baron; it’s the Christmas spirit in it – bitter enemies putting aside their hostilities for just one night and enjoying a moment of Christmas cheer together. To me it seems that there is a better lesson in this song (if you happen to be looking for such lessons) than in the more popular So This is Christmas. And besides, it’s just so darn cute it’s irresistible.

Real Women Don’t Need Your Advice

Here’s one of those things I bookmarked, hoping I would get around to it one day. (See? See? Sometimes I really do “get around to it”.)

9 Things Middle Aged Women Should Stop Doing Immediately. First of all, stop telling your elders what they should or should not do. “Middle aged” women have been there, done that. We’ve seen fashions come and go and we’ve tried silly fads and we are so over it. We know what we like; we know what looks good on us; and we know when it is okay to just not care and do whatever the hell we want to. That said, I have to admit that I agree with most of these. In fact, DO NOT WAIT until you are over 45 to stop smoking, tanning, wearing too much make-up, and comparing yourself to other women.

But, if you know me you know which one I have to say something about: “Mom jeans”. Now the really funny thing about this is that most of the rest of the list is all about “stop acting like a teenager” but about the jeans the author says: “Once a woman hits the age of 45, it doesn’t mean she has to start wearing unflattering, high-waisted jeans.” That’s right, ladies; you can show off your butt cleavage until you’re 90+. Okay, okay! I know they don’t necessarily have to be that low to escape the dreaded “mom jeans” title. (Do they?) But what is so wrong with jeans that come up to one’s natural waistline? Unflattering? That is always, always, always a matter of opinion and varies from person to person.

Personally, I actually don’t think high-waisted jeans look good on me but neither do the low-riders or the in between jeans. That’s why I never wear tucked in blouses with pants. Pants that fit at my natural waistline are simply more comfortable so that’s what I wear. Frankly, anti-mom-jeans articles make me want to get a t-shirt that says, “This Is What a Real Woman Looks Like” and tuck it into my properly waisted jeans and proudly walk down a busy city street. I generally don’t care what other people wear, however, I really don’t want to see your underwear or your butt crack. Sorry, (no I’m really not) I’m just old-fashioned that way.

The articles says, “Ladies, have a little pride!” Indeed. Do have a little pride. Have a lot of pride. Wear what you like; wear what you feel comfortable in and wear it proudly.

Random Linkage

Scientific Paper by Maggie Simpson and Edna Krabappel – Gotcha!

Burt Reynolds’ Stuff – Burt’s auctioning off a bunch of his stuff. So far some of the bids are not out of reach of the average person. Still got Christmas shopping to do?

10 Common GMO Claims Debunked

Archi/Maps – Oooo! I love this. An excellent historic architecture Tumblr.

Tasmanian Tiger: Extinct or Extant?

Snow Fort for a Cat – I think my cat would actually like something like this but I’m hoping we won’t get enough snow this winter to try it.

Leonardo da Vinci’s To-Do List

100 Shades of French Fry – a tasty exhibition. Well, maybe not so tasty, since you can’t actually eat them.

Film Summary T-Shirts

Christmas Ornament Dioramas – How to make your own

Sweet Potato Chili – Ooooo this looks SO good! I don’t think anyone else in my family would agree though.

11 “Unhealthy” Foods That Really Aren’t Bad For You – The key is to eat them in moderation, which means nowhere near as much as you want, and without all the unhealthy accompaniments that are a big part of the reason you wanted to eat them in the first place. So, nothing new here.

Quotes From Here and There

…it’s amazing how many years a big chain business can be “circling the drain” and still hang on.here

I’ve come to the conclusion that there is a point here, about synchronicity and serendipity and the strange and magical nature of the creative mind of man.there

Schlitzie was a ray of sunshine, and his smile and unconditional love shined on all those around him.here

Mythology offers multiple explanations of the origin of the cornucopia.there

I had no idea it would be this exciting and charming and funny and delightful and really, just utterly incredible, watching someone learn to talk.here

Litotes and bathos wrapped in a subjunctive mood hidden inside a false indicative: my regular manner of imparting information, either verbally or typed into an email’s oblong box.there

And More Music (not Christmas this time)

I saw this video of young Vince Mira on Ellen on Facebook yesterday. This was in 2007 so I’m a little late to the party as usual. Surely by now everyone has heard of Vince Mira and his remarkable voice. People all over Facebook and Youtube have been saying he sounds “just like Johnny Cash”. He does not. Seriously, people? When was the last time you actually listened to Johnny Cash? Obviously not recently enough. (Yes, I do like Johnny Cash but I’m not here to talk about him today.) Hopefully this amazing young singer will be able shake off all of these comparisons and someday people will be saying of some young singer of the future, “He sounds just like Vince Mira.”

There are also videos of Mira singing songs by Bob Dylan, Elvis, and an original song of his own. But after listening to all of those I decided to embed this one because… well, because I like it of course.