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Okay, I've got it figured out

I'm looking at volcanoes in Pinatubo and earthquakes in the Himalayas and reports of a previously unsuspected magma reservoir in Wyoming, and I conclude that the Yellowstone supervolcano is gonna blow any minute now, and it will split the planet in half, and we're all gonna die. You heard it here first. (Well, second. After Harry Turtledove.)

On the plus side, we won't have to worry about filing taxes on time.


I believe him.

Him, in this case, being Robert Bates of Tulsa, OK, who pulled a gun instead of a taser and wound up killing a man. He says he thought he had the Taser in his hand.

I believe him, and this is why: Three times now, I have attended the Writers' Police Academy, which until this year was in Guilford, North Carolina, at the facility where police, firefighter, and EMS trainees are trained. The faculty are police, firefighters, Secret Service, FBI. They provide writers with the opportunity to see exactly what it's like to be handcuffed (and shown how), they see a burning building response, they watch police do a vehicle stop and ensuing firefight, they participate in a building search, and--specifically to the point--they have the chance to do a firearms simulation, the same one that police trainees train on. And I have done the firearms simulation twice.

In the simulation, you have a real weapon, modified to shoot laser beams so you can see exactly where your shots have gone. You see--on film--several scenarios. You are encouraged to respond verbally to what is happening on the lifesize screen in front of you, and it is amazingly easy to engage in it. You see, for example, a kid in a classroom threatening other kids with a knife. Or you "follow" the camera into an office, complete with scared employees and the sound of screaming getting louder in front of you, until you see someone being held hostage, again with a knife. Or you try to defuse an argument between a man with a van parking in a handicapped slot and another man in a wheelchair.

And I found myself, more than once, reacting with "and STAY down", firing multiple shots at the perpetrator, shaking with stress and adrenalin. And I was told each time that what I had done was absolutely wrong, illegal, and would not be acceptable in any good police department in the country.

Note the difference, please, between the situation in which Robert Bates found himself: running in pursuit of a suspect, and the situation with Walter Scott, who cold-bloodedly stood there and deliberately fired eight times at a retreating suspect and then, as far as I can see, equally deliberately planted a Taser beside the body to justify what he had done. I have no sympathy whatsoever for Mr. Scott, and as far as I can see he ought to spend the next thirty years, or perhaps the rest of his life, in solitary confinement. But Bates? I can see the situation unfolding exactly the way he described. I think he really did think he had the Taser in his hand. And note, please, what HIS reaction was: I shot him. I'm sorry.

In both cases a man is dead, and in both cases justice must be done. But I believe Bates. I know a little bit what that situation is like.

Crap, crap, crap, crap, crap

My Hay Guy has just informed me that he's made a deal with a neighbor to convert his hay fields into cropland.


Guess I'm going to be scrambling for a new supplier--who is not going to be as cheap or as accommodating re: unloading and stacking. I expect my costs to at least double.


I am not, for a change, going to get into/continue/drive into the ground a debate which is happening in an email loop, but it does drive me nuts to be called a liar.

Someone asked about pricing a book for sale in a foreign venue. How should it be priced in dollars, she asks, in order to achieve a specific price point in euros?

And I commented that the question really didn't make any sense to me, given that currency exchange rates fluctuate on a daily, nay hourly basis, and no matter how you price your book, the exchange rate will be different by the time you upload it.

I was then informed that there was no exchange rate involved, that there were no banks involved, that the vendors took the aggregated sales from all points and sent the authors a lump sum of cash. In dollars.

While I'm sure the vendors do exactly that, I wonder what those authors think HAPPENS to all those sales in pounds, euros, and rubles for all I know. Gosh, do you suppose that maybe they DEPOSIT THEM IN A BANK? Which converts them from their varying currencies into dollars? And then transfers the aggregated, CONVERTED lump sum into the author's account?

Nah, couldn't possibly happen that way.

Good... grief.

Is there something in the water in South Carolina?

The only upside to this that I can see is that it would force certain members of the Supreme Court to face the actual consequences of their knee-jerk originalist view of the Constitution.

Hope springs eternal

So, came home from seeing A Woman In Gold (I liked it VERY much) and met Oliver at my front door. Oliver waits until I've turned off the engine and opened the car door, and then hops onto my lap for skritches. Once he's been properly greeted, he'll hop off and explore the rest of the car.

Which is fine, but when I went back out to pick up the rest of the Stuff I needed to haul into the house, Oliver came in with me, and dived under the couch. Nimmi (or possibly Shadow) stuck her nose under as well, trying to figure out who the hell this strange cat was; next thing I know Oliver's out again and being followed around by Samisen, who was also trying to figure out the newcomer, who was figuring out this new place with so damn many cats. Every time he comes in he meets somebody new! No snarls or yowls involved, just confusion and sniffing.

I finally got my hands on the invader and poured him out the front door, whereupon he complained to the whole neighborhood that he was being abused and abandoned. This did not prevent him, a few minutes later, from meeting me out at the barn and purring. Poor baby. He wants to be a house kitty SO bad. And I SO wish I could accommodate him.


Mildly smug

So. Around 3 pm I looked outside: sunny, clouds, no big deal. But things felt funny.

So I looked at Aha. Really mean line of storms, that. The weather alert didn't name any of the ittybitty towns around here, but still... funny.

So I went out a couple of hours early to the barn. Let Dare out on the pasture--Mae, bless her, is already resigned to being stuck in the paddock for the foreseeable future. Put the halter and fly not-a-mask (it's a browband with strips that hang over the horse's eyes and face) on Mae--which she is not resigned to, and I expect to be finding it Somewhere In the Paddock for the, er, foreseeable future--cleaned out stalls, dumped manure, filled water, put away the extension cord and tank heater, put out feed. Let Dare back in. Put out hay. Put out food for Doofus and Oliver--Doofus dives in, Oliver barely tastes it just to be polite. Looked at horizon.

Oh, as they say, dear.

Flipped a coin to see which barn door to close. Went back to the house and thought, hmmm, I wonder if that ebay package is waiting beside my mailbox at the foot of the hill. So grabbed purse and keys and zoomed down the hill (zooming is much easier now that the potholes have been filled in) (well, all except the one on MY section of the road, of course!), grabbed my mail, and zoomed back.

And just as I backed the car into its accustomed space, the heavens opened and there was darkness upon the land.

But I am in my house. My animals are fed and cared for, and I don't have to go out in this. So there.

As I say: mildly smug. Reading valuable. Paying attention to funny feelings: priceless.

Happy Spring Solstice, y'all.

Although there are those in the NE who probably want to slap me upside the head for saying so, it's true. In mere moments it will officially be spring.

That's what we get for paying attention to "official."


Terry Prachett

Too damn soon.

Unlike so many in the sf/fantasy writing community, I never had the privilege of meeting the man, but I loved his books, and will miss him, and them.

There is no justice in the universe.


That's no excuse.


paging Camille

KF:TLC Season 2 is scheduled for release at the end of this month!


The great cleanup begins

High today of 55, and the ground had dried out sufficiently that I felt I could maneuver a loaded muck cart down a 30-degree slope without wiping out.

So the little muck bucket (70 quarts) went first, and then I started on the stalls. It took three trips with the big cart to clean them out, so I figure something like 450 pounds of manure. (I am grateful for: having only two horses, and having a large muck cart, which was ridiculously expensive but pretty much paid for itself today, because one load in that cart is three or four of the smaller cart.)

Next up is cleaning up the overhang, which is manure and fouled hay. I estimate four or five trips for that, and because of all the hay, it's going to take a lot more effort. I may not be getting in my walking practice, but I will by gods be burning calories. Soggy hay is HEAVY.

And then the paddock itself. (And meanwhile, of course, the horses are merrily re-cluttering as I go.) I'm thinking two weeks. We'll see.

Chris Hemsworth. And a chicken.

I think I'm in love.

Not so science fiction any more

I subscribe to the Washington Post online for their Optimist feature, a summary of news articles that are NOT gloom, doom, and terrorism. One this week, though, is straight out of science fiction, and really kinda cool.

I know better, really I do

But I have this compulsion to try to explain to people that "proud bleeding heart liberal" is not consistent with using the kind of techniques that Karl Rove invented.

And that there is nothing liberal about the idea that Congress must slavishly follow a President's agenda or be guilty of treason. Because surely as night follows day, the next time it will be a Republican president and a Democratic Congress, and where will be your theory then?

But no, I must not "twist the narrative." *sigh*

But honestly, did any of these people take a civics class?


For the mystery fiends among us --The March Bloodstained Bookshelf is up. Traditionally-published mysteries through December 2015.


Well, *I* think it's interesting

Yet another NYTimes article, this one on the Navajo Nation law against same-sex marriage, and the fact that even if the Supreme Court rules that the 50 states must recognize gay marriage, the Navajos--and the Cherokees, and any other tribes that have passed laws against it--are not required to recognize the ruling, because "tribes were not signatories to the United States Constitution and are therefore not bound by it."

Now, contrary to some uneducated individuals' beliefs, American Indians are, in fact, U.S. citizens, and have been since 1924 (yes, a bit late to the party) under the provisions of the Snyder Act, aka the Indian Citizenship Act. Still, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court determined that the Indian nations were "domestic dependent nations" (if I am not mistaken, this is the ruling (Worcester v. Georgia) to which Andrew Jackson responded, "Mr. Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it!" and proceeded to create concentration camps, forced marches, and ethnic cleansing. This is the same the-only-good-Indian-is-a-dead-Indian Jackson who was more than happy to use this same Cherokee Nation as cannon fodder in the War of 1812, but I digress).

I cannot help but wonder how this is going to work out for the tribes involved. (Disclaimer: So far as I know, the Muskogee (Creek) Nation hasn't passed any laws about this. Yet. Don't tell my sister.) I can envisage a situation where someone can be married in New Mexico, but as soon as they set foot on the Rez they're not married any more. (This has probably already happened. A LOT.) But more than this, if the tribes aren't bound by the Constitution because they didn't sign it, does that mean they're not bound by the Bill of Rights either? Or the other 17 Amendments? Are tribal members citizens of the US as long as they're not on reservation lands? What about the tribes that don't have reservations?

I'm beginning to understand better the drive to create a Constitution for the Muskogees now. I'm also beginning to understand the let's-not-look-at-this-too-closely-without-aspirin-to-hand impulse....


My father, a career military man, died in 2002. I mentioned this once in an email loop, and sure enough, someone popped in with "Thank you for his service."

I was surprised at the depth of the anger I felt at that remark.

There were so many reasons for that anger that I still, more than a dozen years later, haven't untangled them all. For one, I deserved no thanks for my father's career choices; for another, my experience as a military brat had some shining high points, but also some devastating lows; and for a third, I felt that the military had screwed over my father, and to thank me, as a standin for him, for that was a bitter icing on a sour cake.

But you can't say that, can you, when someone pipes up, "Oh, we thank our servicemen for their sacrifices!"

Finally, someone more articulate than I has addressed this ambivalence in this NYTimes article. The line that really hit home for me was "thanking without having the courage to ask whether the mission is even right." We thank our service personnel for obeying orders, and deftly avoid the issue of whether those orders have any real connection to "protecting our freedoms." (It also manages to avoid the issue of how those freedoms have been eroded in the name of protecting them, but that's another rant entirely.)

I would venture to say that most military personnel, particularly enlisted personnel, do not enlist with visions of service and protecting our freedoms. For many of them it's a job with a guaranteed wage. For some it's a chance to play FPS games in real life--and discovering that the reality of being shot at and seeing your buddies killed in front of you is nothing like the video version. For others it's a chance to be macho. My father accepted a commission because it helped pay for his education, and it was a job, and it gave him a chance to travel. It gave him something to belong to. It even gave him some status. It was not his fault that he did not have the flexibility to play politics or kiss the right asses; maybe it was not even his fault that he took his frustration and unhappiness out on his family.

None of that matters, in the long run, when your country has been invaded and you are fighting to drive those invaders out. (Ask the Ukraine what the difference is between a terrorist attack fourteen years ago and tanks rolling down your main street today, if you want a definition of invasion.) In that case, it's not "thank you for your service," not "thank you for obeying orders," it's "Thank you for standing between them and me. Thank you for shooting back. Thank you for killing them before they kill me."

And all that's fine, I guess. But please, please, don't thank me. And if you're going to thank someone wearing a uniform, know exactly what you're thanking them for.

The man is a saint, I swear

So at 9:30 pm last night I call Handyman Guy, apologize profusely to the recording, and leave a message that the repair to the shower handle did not take, and I've had to shut off the water again.

This morning at 8:30 he calls me back, tells me he'll pick up a new handle at Lowe's, and be there before ten.

Meanwhile, it continues to snow like the proverbial. I had shoveled the front porch, and you couldn't tell. How he managed to get up the hill I do not know.

The handle he brought is a size too small, so we swapped out the handle in the front bathroom, and he will be back Monday.... Monday-ish.

So I went out and shoveled my way to the barn, said hello to Oliver and Doof, politely asked Dare NOT to kick at me, please, because the snow is NOT my doing. Mae, meanwhile, is following me up the shoveled path, and every time I pause for breath she sticks her nose in my ear, companionably. Horse breath is very warm.

By the time I finished in the barn, I had to re-shovel the path back to the house. (I rejoice in the fact that I don't have to feel guilty about missing the gym.) I figured that it's a good time to go back to bed, so I do; it's still snowing.

Four o'clock, having napped and read, I grabbed the shovel and cleared another six inches from my path, g0t out to the barn, and fed the horses. Oliver ventured outside, decided that no cat in its right mind would go out in snow deeper than said cat is tall, and went right back into the tack room. Doofus came in for a few seconds and then went out again; I'm hoping he will use the shoveled path to get up to the house and the heated water dish, because otherwise he's going to have to eat snow. I put out some wet food with a lot of hot water in it (which promptly cooled), but he ignored it.

And by the time all that was done, there was another two inches of snow in the path. We've got well over a foot of the stuff now. Enough, already.

The world is bigger than we know

I think I've already mentioned that the power went out this morning at 3:30. By the time I got back from running my necessary (as in, I must get the kitty litter out of this house before the next storm hits) errands, it was back on. I didn't know that, of course, when I backed into my parking place in front of my front door.

But I was not surprised to see Oliver, the brown tabby, waiting for me as I opened my car door. Oliver recognizes the sound of my car's engine (he also recognizes the sound of the car belonging to his putative owner, as it happens), and if he's nearby, he always comes to greet me, because he knows that as soon as I open the car door, he can jump into my lap and get skritchies (and more to the point these days, WARM UP). Generally, after providing the obligatory praise and cuddles, I can say, "Go meet me at the barn," and he'll jump down and disappear. I go into the house and take care of putting things away, go to the barn, and there he is again.

This time, though, he outsmarted me. (If you're beginning to think this is not difficult, you may be right.) I put things away, noodled online for a few minutes, then donned the Big Coat and opened the back door to head for the barn.

At which point Oliver dashed into my living room and started exploring.

And the first thing he encounters is WhoDat, who is also a brown tabby (with immaculate white vest and dribble down his nose). And the encounter went something like this:

Oliver: Hello.

WhoDat: Who--WTF--Do I know you?

Oliver: Nice place you've got here.

WhoDat: I don't think I've ever seen you before. In my LIFE.

Oliver: Nice and warm, too. Feel like sharing?

WhoDat: There is... there is ANOTHER CAT in the house.

Oliver: Lots of chairs and things.

WhoDat: Where did he COME from? Is there no END to these invasions?

Oliver: I wonder if... oh, hi, Mom. Why are you picking me up?

Oliver: Outside? Again? But I was just getting acquainted!



Timing, they say, is everything

So I wake up at 3:30ish in the morning because my CPAP has stopped working, along with everything else electrical. Yep, power outage--something at the substation. This triggers low-key panic, because with no power, there is no water for the animals, and this is a prescription for colic. Besides, we have a winter storm warning starting at midnight tonight, through Saturday and to 6 a.m. Sunday, with 8-10 inches of snow and 1.5 inches of ice forecast.

But there's nothing I can do about it. So eventually, I go back to sleep.

Around ten, the high wind warning and concomitant wind chill warning has expired, so I get up and go to let Oliver out of the tack room, which is down around 32 degrees. This is much better than the minus 12 or so outside. More hay for the horses (they're tearing the bales apart looking for the timothy, ignoring and scattering and befouling the orchardgrass, damn them), and I go to fill my gas tank and return some library books and get some food.

By the time I get home, the power is back on, thank all gods. Now if it will just STAY that way... and it's time to go feed again. It's sunny and 16 degrees out there, and I'd better enjoy it while I can.

If I were rich

... one of the things I would do (just added to an already impressively long list) is install a CCTV in the barn. So I would not arrive back at the house, having slogged my way through drifting snow (and come damn close to losing my balance three or four times), take off my snow shoes and my socks, and then think, "Did I close the door to the hay room? Did I put the big cart away or leave it in the middle of the aisle?"

Because I have, on occasion, forgotten to do both those things (hence the duct tape wrapped around the cushioned handle of the big cart, to fix where Mae decided to sample same). The last time, Mae not only pulled down a couple of bales and gleefully scattered them all over the barn aisle, fouling about half of the hay in the process, but also pulled out and dismantled the small bookcase where I keep various tools, too.

I really, really, REALLY don't want to go back up to the barn tonight. Because I probably DID put everything away and close the door.

But maybe I didn't.

This is what happens when routine replaces rational thought.

ETA: I did.


Forecast for Saturday is 5-8 inches of snow, high of 36 (above freezing! Hurray!). And Sunday? RAIN. with a high of 48.

After which, of course, the highs slide back down to the thirties again. Which means you really, really, REALLY want to avoid driving anywhere.

The wind has filled in the path I shoveled to the barn.

Oliver was glad to get out of the tack room, but Doofus decided to beat him up, and it was still damn cold (it's eight degrees out there right now, at 1:20 in the afternoon), so he went right back inside. He's no dummy--he knows where the space heater is. I run it while I'm in the barn and unplug it when I leave, but it does make a huge difference. Even Doofus ventured in for a few minutes before having another oh-gods-I'm-trapped seizure and running out again.

And for the record, the long down coat from Lands End was one of the best buys I've made in a long, long time. (I don't think they offer it any more; otherwise I'd provide a link.) It even keeps me warm in this mess.

Getting real fed up with February, me.

Polling the hive mind

I want to find a wall thermometer for my tack room which will record the lowest (and I suppose highest) temperature reached, as well as the current temperature. Does anybody know of such a thing? I can find lots of wall thermometers but so far none that record the lowest temperature reached in a given period.



Handyman Guy struggles up the hill--got sent into the ditch only once, and thank Ghu it was NOT at the point where it drops off thirty feet into the pasture down below--stomps the snow off his boots, walks in and looks at the shower, pops the label off the shower handle, tightens a screw, and that was it. Fixed.

I asked him how much I owed him, and he said, "Oh, whatever you think."

Best fifty bucks I ever spent. Not only do I have somebody reliable, but he shows me how to fix it myself next time, and offers to fix the shower head the next time he comes up. Because there WILL be a next time, inevitably.

Oliver is trapped in the tack room. Doofus declined, but he has heavy, heavy fur, which Oliver doesn't--his fur is thick, but short. Temperatures are in double-digit negatives, and the high tomorrow is only in the teens.

I'm supposed to have a package delivery, but it's down with the mailboxes at the foot of the hill, and I am not going to try to excavate my car just to go get my mail. (Neighbor Uphill, blessings on him, plowed my driveway last night, but the car is still encased in snow and ice.)

I am beginning to see the appeal of Costa Rica. If it weren't for those darn hurricanes...


For the record

I am beginning to really dislike snow.

Especially when my go-to Handyman Guy tells me that he's going to have to wait until he can get his four-wheel-drive vehicle back before he can come figure out why my shower refuses to cut off.

I suspect his son has the truck and is off on another call.

So I have to shut down all the water, to house and barn, until he can get here.

Snow. Feh.

So, today

I hauled myself out of bed at an ungodly (for me, anyway) early hour to go check on critters. As predicted, most of the snow had been blown away.

The horses were grateful for the additional hay; there was nothing under the overhang but dust and rocks. All the hay had blown up against the fence. The hay in the stalls had been sampled; they don't like being in the barn when one side of it is closed off, even when that shuts out the wind. Horses are not cave critters. It had also been befouled--horses may not be cave critters, but they're not completely crazy, and that wind was awful.

Doofus was fine--very glad to see me, asking for skritches. Oliver was not willing to leave the tack room (which did not, thank heaven, freeze solid; sometimes it feels like the insulation does a better job keeping the cold in than out).

So I cleaned stalls and refilled buckets and put out hay and made sure there was dry cat food available, and went back to bed.

Late this afternoon I went back out. Oliver was ready to leave the tackroom. The horses were more than ready for their evening feed and LOTS more hay. The cats got fed.

I feel a little better about them this evening, because we don't have a high wind warning. Tomorrow we're supposed to get a foot of snow. (I can hear the entire state of Massachusetts from here: "OPB!")

February is rapidly becoming my least favorite month EVER.

However, I do have a recent propane delivery, and sufficient hay and cat food, so I have met the criteria for Siege Conditions. I even have chocolate!

All I can say is

it's a good thing February is a short month.


Weather. And movie.

So I'm listening to the wind. We have high wind warnings through noon tomorrow, with a wind chill factor that will take us down to -22 degrees F, and I'm worried about my critters.

They've got a barn to go into; there's hay in the stalls; there's crannies in the hay bales. But I'm still worried. I wish I could bring Oliver, the shorthair, into the house, but that would be A Very Bad Decision Indeed. (Doofus has the equivalent of a couple of fleece overcoats, so I'm not as worried about him.)

We got some snow--a couple of inches, tops. Most of it, I think, will be blown away.
The next couple of days will be grim. February seems to be the core of winter here; last year at this time we had a foot of snow. I just wish we could get it over with.

Yesterday, before the real bitter cold hit, I went with friends to see KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE. From an interview with the director, Matthew Vaughan, this movie was supposed to sweep away the trope of the gentleman spy and replace it with the origin story of the new! improved! young! spy. (If that is indeed the case it is very odd that the n! i! y! spy recreates himself in the image, manner, and action of his mentor in the last scene, but never mind.)

From the previews, I felt that this was the movie that the MUNCLE movie should, perhaps, have been--and for the first half, I continued to think so. Then

SPOILERS, for those who would prefer not to know

they (1) introduced the SS pet test*, which frankly pissed me off, and (2) they killed off Colin Firth, who up to that time had been doing a really excellent portrayal of Napoleon Solo. I don't know about the first, but the second was very deliberate. They knew exactly what they were doing. They even made the Sekrit Entrance to HQ through the dressing room in a tailor shop. And then they threw him away, without so much as a farewell closeup.

And I really think that was a deliberate Fuck You to the fans of classic MUNCLE--it's no coincidence that the Round Table of the Kingsmen were all, without exception, older white men (and the younger initiates were white as well, with a token female), and the cream of the crop who were supposed to be the Survivors of the world (and how were all of these folks supposed to save humanity, when their average age was about fifty?) wound up with "heads go 'splody now" in fine and literal fashion.

And then there was the final scene in the prison, where Our Young Improved Hero claimed his utterly unnecessary and frankly rather obnoxious reward. I mean, really? His best incentive to save the world is just... sex?

End Spoilers

So. Lots of things I liked very much about the movie, and I'll be interested in seeing the proposed sequel, set in the US (perhaps Donald Trump's wig will be the villain). But a lot of things were huge disappointments, too.

*for those who don't know, one of the elements of Schutzstaffel training, at least in one brigade, was to assign a puppy to each soldier. They'd train the dog, feed the dog, sleep with the dog. And the very last test was to report to the commander with the dog, and the commander would tell them that the Fuhrer ordered them to break the dog's neck.



Watching Wheel of Fortune, which is doing the show from Hawai'i. A couple just won a Prize Puzzle, which means they won a free trip.

To Boston.

... you can't make this stuff up.
The Great and Sovereign State of Alabama (which is neither quite as great nor as sovereign as it likes to think it is) is a bit confused these days. And understandably so.

First, Alabama decides that gays cannot marry within its borders.

That decision is challenged.

A Federal District Court judge ruled that the law is unconstitutional.

Alabama asks that gay marriages be put on hold until the ruling can be appealed.

The Supreme Court (that would be of the whole US, not just the Great and Sovereign) says it's not going to review the District Court ruling, which means that gay marriages can go ahead.

Not so fast, says the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. Chief Justice Moore takes the whole Great and especially Sovereign thing seriously. He tells the probate courts in Alabama, which are responsible for issuing marriage licenses, that "they could not “issue or recognize a marriage license that is inconsistent" with state law."

Reports of shouts emanating from the Alabama Supreme Court of "heterosexuality now, heterosexuality tomorrow, heterosexuality forever!" could not be confirmed at this time.

I feel sorry for the poor probate judges.

Read the article here.


Watching the BAFTAs

I cannot help but feel a bit sorry for Imelda Staunton. She is a brilliant actress, but there isn't a Harry Potter fan alive who's going to see her in anything at all without thinking, "DAMN YOU DOLORES UMBRIDGE!"



Well, theoretically, I was going to go to the gym today--with a possible detour past the library and McAlister's, because as long as I have to drive thirty miles to get somewhere, I should consolidate my errands, right?

Instead, I meditated on the weather report--mid fifties today, below freezing tomorrow--and decided to stay home and declare war on the forsythia, as well as That Damn Tree Thing that's growing up through both aforesaid yallerbush and the holly.

It took all afternoon, and that was with using the Cadillac of Manure Carts, temporarily pressed into service as branch recipient. Turned out this worked really well; I filled the thing twice, and was able to chop the branches into bite-size pieces, and fill a couple of contractor-sized garbage bags.

But Oh, my back is sore!

On the additional plus side, though, the Propane Guy showed up. Last year at this time propane was $2.69 a gallon; this time it was $1.89.

Also, the FedEx guy showed up, with 20 pounds of horse supplements. Which, come to think of it, I need to get into the house instead of leaving it on the front porch.

And I unpacked another box! Only 34 or so to go!

I think all that makes up for a sore lower back. I'll count it a win.

Any Master Gardeners out there?

I need some plant advice!

The neighbor to the west of me, across my pasture, decided he liked things Neat and Tidy, and he cleaned up the weeds'n'stuff (aka The Hedge: vines, thorns, multiflora rose, probably blackberry brambles) along his property line. Unfortunately he also got really generous and also ripped out the rest of the hedge, which had grown up between the property line and along my fence line, so now I have a really terrific view of his house and his thousand-gallon propane tank. He and his wife just can't figure out why I'd object to the removal of the hedge (or why I'd object to his putting in a wire across the alley on my property which, he thinks, is going to stop his teacup Yorkie from chasing various cats). I don't think he quite gets the MY PROPERTY part of all this, but oh well. Everybody he talked to (which did not include ME) thought I would be just so grateful to have all that mess cleaned up!

So now I am looking for suggestions on something that he can plant along the property line which will restore the privacy hedge. He's thinking trees. I'm thinking hedge. We'd both like to avoid bloodshed (and to give him credit, he did take me up on my request to please come up to my back porch and look at what my view looks like now, and I think he understands a little better why I'm so upset).

I've got a holly something bush in my front "garden" (oh, stop laughing) and I'm wondering if that would work--I need something that will grow tall but not too tall, fairly quickly, and can be called "neat and tidy" by the neurotic.

Any ideas?


Judging by the Youtube trailers, KINGSMAN really IS an updated Man From U.N.C.L.E. With Colin Firth playing Napoleon Solo. And Michael Caine as Mr. Waverly.

I cannot WAIT to see this.


Accomplishing sort of day

It's been an accomplishing sort of day; all the things that were on my list for yesterday got done today (yesterday was one of those days where you wake up, look outside, and say, "Screw it, I'm retired," and go back to sleep).

The car has been fed. I have acquired fudge (they know me there. They know how much and what kind I order. One of these days I'm going to call in an order: "This is Woman In Search of Fudge. I'll be there in an hour." And they will have it boxed and ready). I've had passport photo taken. I've picked up a prescription. I've been to the library. I've dropped off the vacuum cleaner for its annual service and cleaning. I've picked up more kitty litter. I've even had a Potato at MacAllister's.

And this evening I filled out the passport renewal application. Tomorrow I'll drop off the prescription and mail the application. I may even buy some more horse feed. The passport application has pretty much blown the month's budget, unfortunately; I don't recall it being quite that expensive before. Even though I have no plans ever to visit Mexico, and it's unlikely that I'll get to Canada or the Bermudas, I signed up for the passport card as well; it's the completist in me. (LJ does not like the taste of "completist". Tough, LJ.) I suppose I could have saved myself twenty bucks, but hey, that would require sticking to a budget.

There should be enough left in the exchequer to pay the last outstanding bill this month, though. At least, there is tonight. And I'm almost halfway through the month; this is a win.

So. Accomplishing day. Go me.

Upcoming movies

I'm not sure I actually want to see American Sniper, but from the previews, wow, has Bradley Cooper upped his game. It looks like he's going to do an amazing job.

I want to see Blackhat, if only to compare pulchritude with Swordfish. Something about pretty Aussies hacking into computers, I don't know...

No interest whatsoever in seeing Mortdecai. Does Johnny Depp HAVE another character in him?

Really want to see Kingsman: The Secret Service. It's hitting all my Man From U.N.C.L.E. buttons.

And then of course there's Avengers. Of course.

What looks good to y'all?


Let it not be overlooked

I have heard some "news" reporters claim that the Muslim community worldwide has been silent on the murders in France, and that they are therefore somehow complicit in those crimes.

It is easy to make those claims if you ignore what's in front of you. But the response of the Muslim community worldwide should not be ignored.

Unless you are in the business of fomenting hate for the sake of hatred--in which case, you are no better than the thugs who used religion as an excuse for murder--you cannot ignore this response.

The actions of the people who murdered cartoonists to "avenge" their prophet bring shame on their religion and are being denounced accordingly. I do not think they will find a welcome in their paradise.

Note to self

Don't drink caffeinated drinks and expect to be able to sleep that night.

Don't decide to take a "quick nap, just 30-45 minutes" at 3:30 pm when you've been awake most of the night. You're lucky to have awakened at 5:30. The sun's already set, it's getting dark, and you've got an hour's worth of work ahead of you in the barn. IN THE DARK, YOU IDIOT.

Freedom v Fear

Originally posted by jimbutcher at Freedom v Fear
I don't make statements like this a lot, and I don't really feel like engaging in a huge debate. But there's something I need to say regarding Charlie Hebdo.

God knows I have little in common with the folks who died. I doubt we'd have agreed on very much. Looking over some of their work, I find myself rolling my eyes a lot.

But I do agree on at least one matter with them--they should be free to speak their minds without fear.

I saw this tweet attached to one of the cartoons responding to the massacre:

"Still mortified about our fallen cartoonist colleagues, but free speech will always win."


No it won't.

The history of the human race demonstrates /very/ convincingly that free speech is the /exception/ to the human condition, not the rule. For millennia, those who spoke out were imprisoned or killed. Hell, you could say something that wasn't even subversive, just inept and stupid, and be destroyed for committing the crime of lese majeste.

Make no mistake. What we have today is a level of freedom and self-determination on a scale unparalleled in the history of our species. We live in what is, in many ways, a golden age. So much so that we give tremendous credit to the adage, "The pen is mightier than the sword."

But everyone always forgets the first half of that quote:

"Under the rule of men entirely great, the pen is mightier than the sword."

I'm not sure I know of anyplace that's ruled by anyone "entirely great." That adage wasn't a statement of philosophy, as it was originally used: it was a statement of irony.

Don't believe me? Look around. Notice that everywhere you go in the world, whoever happens to be ruling seems to have a great many swords.

Still, the idea contained within the quote is a powerful one--that intangible ideas, thoughts, and beliefs can have tremendous power. And that's why we should be paying close attention.

After all, intangible fear can be mightier than the sword, too. Hell, it has been for quite a while now. Don't believe me? Try getting on an airplane without taking your shoes off in the security line. While you're doing that, try cracking a joke about having a knife.

That's the power of fear, guys.

We. Are. In. Danger.

The threat isn't aimed at our government or our borders or our resources. It's targeting something far more precious--our identity. It's changing us, who we are, how we live, and not for the better.

The Western world has got the biggest and sharpest sword the planet has ever known, yes. But the extremists are armed with a weapon just as powerful: Fear. And these nuts are really good at using it.

There is /one/ way that freedom, freedom to speak, to choose, to grow, to believe, to improve, survives in the face of violent attack.

Free men and women defend it, violently if necessary--or it dies.

It's that simple. It really is.

If we forget that, if we forget that there are predators in the world who very much want to destroy those freedoms in the name of their god, their philosophy, their politics, if we forget that our freedoms /can/ and /will/ be taken away if we sit staring and do nothing, they are as good as gone.

Freedom doesn't defend itself.

We have to do it.

Okay. I'm convinced. It's cold.

According to the online weather report, it is 8 degrees out there, and with the wind chill, it is -9 degrees.

I believe this. And why, do you ask?

Because I just put my down coat on over my nightgown and went out to the barn to make sure that I had not condemned one of my barn cats to freezing to death in the tack room, which is insulated, but not against temperatures like these.

The barn is maybe 100 yards from my back porch. Going out was not too bad. I opened the tack room door, and the cat shot out, as cats will. The tack room was surprisingly still rather warm, comparatively speaking, so I called the cat back in and shut him in again.

By that time the wind had picked up, and the little flashlight I was using to make sure I didn't fall flat on my face on this little expedition--which would have had, let us say, seriously unfortunate consequences, even though yes, I was carrying my cell phone--as I was saying, the little flashlight pretty much froze itself to my hand.

It is goddamn fucking cold out there.

(Oh, and the horses? Were they in their insulated stalls, with the heated water buckets and the piles of hay? Hell, no. They were standing out there in the wind. The barn door is open. If THEY freeze to death, it's because they damn well CHOSE to, and I refuse to feel guilty about them.)


What does it mean to be male, or to be female?

The recent suicide of Leelah Alcorn and subsequent attention to transgender issues makes me wonder. Once upon a time I remember, the argument was that there was no difference between men and women. The debate then was about “women’s liberation” and has survived today as a debate on feminism: what is it, who is one, what does it mean?

But if gender isn’t about what genitals you’re born with, what does that mean for feminism? What really is the difference between male and female? Why do some people feel they “are” one gender while their DNA and plumbing indicate otherwise? Where, if anywhere, is the line between “feeling” a sex and “being” a sex? Clearly what one feels is important, important enough to die for. But how do people know that what they’re feeling means that they’re really female, or really male?

I’ve never felt particularly female. I was born female, I was socialized (not very successfully, according to my mother) female, and I’ve never felt conflicted about it, so I’m operating from blank ignorance. If what I feel is what it means to be female, I know a lot of women who aren’t what I am. They’re “more female” than I am. Or less. I can’t use myself as a standard. I don’t know what it means to feel female; I just feel like me. And apparently that matches some standard, so I'm lucky. Very lucky.

I don’t feel male, certainly. I don’t know what it means to “feel male”. I have difficulty even putting myself in that mindset to write men, because if I consciously try to “write a man,” it turns out to be a caricature, and not much like any man I’ve ever met. I have to just write, and hope that the reader more or less agrees with me.

I wish I understood this better. I wish I understood what it means. I get the idea of social roles, but my impression is that social roles are not exactly what people are talking about when they talk about gender. Besides, social roles are changing, and roles that used to be firmly assigned to one sex or the other are now competently enacted by the other without much more than a raised eyebrow from the observer. It’s not the idea of sexual attraction, I don’t think. I went to school with someone who started out as a lesbian, had surgery, took hormones, and identified as male, but was still sexually attracted to females. Was he ever a lesbian? Is gender defined by who you’re attracted to, and if so, can we change genders over the course of a lifetime?

I don’t get it. I’m sorry. For the time being, at least, this issue goes with a number of other things in this life that I don’t really understand.

What I do understand is that there are people for whom this matters desperately, for whom it is vitally important that society recognizes them for what they believe they are, and my bewilderment is not an excuse to add to their pain by insisting that my perceptions about their lives and experiences are more important than theirs are. Because while I may not understand gender identification, I understand pain. Less is better.

Weather or not

It is cold and wet today, and that's playing hell with my legs, particularly my hips. Normally I'm a fan of grey-ish days--for some reason I have more energy--but this one was just too far into the cold/wet side of the spectrum. (The high was around 44.) I did get a couple of errands run, but when it came time to feed and muck out, the mucking part got a pick and a promise. I plan to do a lot of sleeping in tomorrow, and possibly Thursday. (The high tomorrow is supposed to be 60, which figures, but with "rain and thunder".) I've got that "I'm not exactly sick but feel definitely bleah" thing going on. And arthritis.

My neighbors to the north decided to scrape their paddock after realizing exactly what they were asking the farrier to slog through a week or so ago. They now have some mini-mountains of remarkably rich garden stuff along the side of their paddock. This did not prevent one of their goats from getting out day before yesterday and standing in my side yard, looking at his buddies and bleating forlornly, unable to figure out how to get back to them. Sufficient incentive (rattle of grain pan) provided enough inspiration that he figured it out, though.

Oh damn. I meant to buy tape.

Tidying up

... which, when I look around this house, is the very definition of irony, but never mind.

Things I still have to do:

Return a pair of sweat pants to Duluth Trading Co.
Go get new wrapping paper and a couple of cards.
Print out and organize the last few NINC records.
Find a Very Large Box into which to put said records.
Wrap some prezzies.
Think about what to do on Thursday.
Keep fingers crossed that deposit shows up in time.
Maybe make some cookies.
Mail out the records. (followed by huge sigh of relief, tempered by realization that in some ways I will actually miss the angst. Or maybe the dealing with the reasonable people.)

I'm certain there are other things to do, but right now I don't have the money or the inclination. It is a cold grey day and I don't want to go anywhere.


Horses of the Moon

Still a couple of hours left to help fund Judy Tarr's latest project, Horses of the Moon. It sounds like a cool project (and boy would I love to read that third novella). Go check it out!

Sunreturn! Sunreturn! Ra! Ra! Ra!

(sorry, just had to say it.)

Happy Solstice to all, and a fabulous new year!

What I Did On My Winter Vacation

I have to remember that this whole thing, including hotel, is set up specifically to bleed as much money as possible from the people who come.

So, several months ago a dear friend from Albuquerque lost her husband, and another friend decided to do something for her for Christmas to help her, a bit, through the holiday season, at least giving her something else to focus on. So she proposed that we all go to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando, Florida. And we all agreed that that sounded like a neat thing to do, so Sue set it all up, and got, I have to say, an absolutely fabulous deal: hotel for four nights, early park admission, transportation from and to the airport, breakfasts at the Leaky Cauldron and the Three Broomsticks, two-park passes (Diagon Alley and Hogwarts are in two separate parks), express passes for all the rides. We all chipped in for Bobbi, as well, and it came to $900 apiece.

I was delighted to see Bobbi and Sue again, and meet Char (I may have met her before, but I'm not sure. It's been a while!). The hotel was... average. No microwave, no room in the fridge unless you pulled out all the minibar stuff--and a large bottle of Fiji water was more than seven dollars. Comfortable, though. One night I decided to get room service. The menu prices for what I wanted added up to $40. Fortunately, I asked what the total would be, and it came to more than $60! I cancelled and went to one of the (five!) hotel restaurants, and had a meal in the bar that was just over $35, including drink.

There's a water taxi from the hotel to the Citywalk, and then you cross over a bridge to get to the Islands of Adventure. They had rides for Despicable Me (which was fun), Transformers (okay, but not really a fan), Disaster (I skipped that), and that was just on the way to Diagon Alley. I also went to the Universal Horror Show Makeup show, which was... lame.

At Diagon Alley, you could buy stuffed owls at the Pet Emporium, robes at Madam Malkin's (pretty good quality, too, from what I could see), crystal skulls at Borgin and Burke's, ice cream, joke stuff at Weasley's, breakfast at the Leaky Cauldron, and of course wands at Ollivander's. I did get a wand (Luna Lovegood's), and there are places all over Diagon Alley where you can stand and wave your wand and something will happen--a Quaffle will rise up out of its case, a flower will grow, things like that. Then there was Gringott's, with really neat animatronic dwarves, a pretty good ride, and a dragon wrapped around the top of the building which belched fire at random intervals.

You could go next door to King's Cross, which was a not-bad recreation of a London train station, and take the train to Hogsmeade. This is in another park, so you had to have a multi-park ticket to do it, but that came with our package. They set up a trick with mirrors that made it look like people were walking through a wall at Station 9 3/4. The train ran scenes in the window that made it look like you were going through the English countryside, past Malfoy Manor, and on the other side of the compartment you could see silhouettes of Harry, Ron, Hermione, a dementor, and the trolley.

I didn't do the ride at Hogwarts--I was told I probably wouldn't fit in the seat--so I walked through the castle, which had the advantage of not having anyone else doing the same thing. So hundreds of people were waiting in line for the ride, and Sue and I strolled past, stopped to look at the scenes of talking pictures and Dumbledore's office, and were able to take our time. I wasn't supposed to use my flash, though, so only one really came out.

Hogsmeade had all the shops again, plus of course Honeyduke's, and I got a Chocolate Frog and a couple of other things. We had breakfast at both the Cauldron and the Broomsticks, and I came back for a dinner at the Broomsticks later by myself; the food was surprisingly good. Sue kept insisting that we had to take advantage of our early park admission, so we had to get up early; I wound up getting about three hours sleep a night until I rebelled (much to the relief of the rest of them, because I was so very slow--my hips were killing me) and told them to go do their thing and I would do mine, on Sunday. That worked out really well for everybody.

We also went to see Blue Man Group. Have you ever tried to explain Blue Man Group to someone who hasn't ever heard of them? "Well, they're blue. And they play drums. And there's paint--lots of paint...."

So that was my winter vacation. It was fun; I enjoyed it; and now I really, really, REALLY want to go to England and see the sets!

Book review

I just finished reading "The Brother" by Sam Roberts.

Does anyone (other than Woody Allen) immediately recognize, any more, the name of David Greenglass?

I didn't. I had heard of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, the last spies executed by the United States (and Ethel the only woman executed for espionage). I had no idea who David Greenglass was.

David Greenglass was a machinist who worked at what would become Los Alamos National Laboratory. He worked on focusing lenses used in the atomic bomb, and he turned them over to Julius Rosenberg for transmission to the Soviet Union. He was arrested in 1950, and immediately confessed and implicated Julius. He was convicted and sentenced to fifteen years in prison, and was paroled after ten years.

He was Ethel Rosenberg's brother. And based solely on his testimony--which was a recap of something his wife Ruth had told him, that Ethel had typed up the notes which he gave Julius--Ethel Rosenberg went to the electric chair.

In the book, Mr. Greenglass admitted that, to spare his wife from prosecution, he had testified that his sister typed his notes. In fact, he said, he could not recall who had done it.

“I don’t remember that at all,” Mr. Greenglass said. “I frankly think my wife did the typing, but I don’t remember.”

He said he had no regrets. “My wife is more important to me than my sister. Or my mother or my father, O.K.? And she was the mother of my children.”

In a 2008 interview with Mr. Roberts, Mr. Sobell admitted that he had given military secrets to the Soviet Union, and concurred in what has become a consensus among historians: that the Greenglass-Rosenberg atomic bomb details were of little value to the Soviets, except to corroborate what they already knew, and that Ethel Rosenberg had played no active role in the conspiracy.

Ruth was never prosecuted. David was sentenced the day after the Rosenbergs. The difference in the sentencing is striking, to say the least.

David Rosenberg died on July 1, 2014.

His wife Ruth died in 2008.

“You know, I seldom use the word ‘sister’ anymore; I’ve just wiped it out of my mind,” Mr. Greenglass continued, adding: “My wife put her in it. So what am I going to do, call my wife a liar? My wife is my wife.”

Aside from the frankly horrifying character study of David Greenglass, the study of the political weathervanes of the times is fascinating. The argument that, in 1945, the Soviet Union was actually an ally and deserved to have the knowledge of the atomic bomb, has been echoed in the recent past in the conviction of Jonathan Pollard, who stole secrets to share with Israel. (The fact that a country is your friend today doesn't mean it won't be your enemy tomorrow; we never seem to learn this lesson. Guess who originally armed Osama bin Laden?) The testimony of various scientists about just how damaging the stolen secrets really were, and how competent Greenglass was to actually understand and transmit secrets anyway, was subject to debate at the time.

So why did the Rosenbergs die? The fact that Roy Cohn, one of the prosecutor's team, afterward went to work for Joseph McCarthy probably had a lot to do with it. But the real reason, I think, more likely had to do with the judge in the case, Irving Kaufman, who was obsessed with the idea that death was the only possible sentence (in fact, the only alternative sentence available for the charges against the couple was thirty years in prison). It's pretty clear that yes, Julius Rosenberg was a spy, a leader of a spy ring, although hardly a master spy. But it also seems clear that Ethel Rosenberg was, if not innocent, at the very least not deserving of death. She certainly never deserved a brother like David Greenglass.

Things for which I'm thankful

First, foremost, and always, good friends.

But specifically, today, I'm grateful for Handyman Guy, who left the job he was on ("nothing was going on; they were going for some stuff we needed") to come out and solve The Mystery Of the Recurring Puddle on the Kitchen Floor.

I admit, for some time I was side-eyeing the cats, who in most cases were, in fact, guilty as hell. But Wednesday night, as I was cleaning it up AGAIN, I realized that this was, in fact... just water.

So I left an incoherent message on Handyman Guy's phone, asking if he might be free Friday or Saturday, and then rolled up a towel and stuck it under the lip of the cabinets.

By last night, the towel was soaked. I did not sleep well last night; didn't get to bed until after one a.m., woke up at three, read until six, woke up at 8:30, and called Handyman Guy again.

He thought it was a roof leak, but no. Turns out that a connection for my new dishwasher was leaking like a good'un, fostering a nice crop of black mold while it was at it, and staining and buckling the facing of the cabinets where they met the floor. The dishwasher had to be pulled out, the connection re-connected, and the whole thing re-installed. (And a *very* strong bleach solution applied to the mold, too.)

Cost of repair: $50.00.

Cost of having reliable Handyman Guy: Priceless.

I went out to find a fan to dry out the cabinet and floor--do you know, it's darned hard to find a fan on Black Friday, end of November!--but succeeded at last, came home, plugged it in, and went the hell back to bed.

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