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Today's lesson in humility/being humble/being humbled.

Every time there's a natural or man-made disaster, politicians everywhere fly like moths to flame to claim that the victims and their families are "in our thoughts and prayers." Such hypocritical bullshit, if those thoughts and prayers don't turn into votes and dollars to rebuild communities and overturn or enact laws that might prevent the next tragedy.

I have held little to no regard for this phrase through most of my life, but, having just lived through a significantly negative event, my perspective is changed, humbled. Humbled by you.

"Thoughts and prayers" are utter bullshit, empty words uttered in front of cameras, to make one seem compassionate. Unless they are offered to you by those you care for and those who care for you, and even those you have little thought of, those with genuine concern. When you're alone, in pain, suffering, and someone for whom you are on little more than a first name, nodding basis with tells you "I'm praying for you to get better", it doesn't matter if you don't truly believe in any God. They just told you that they do, and that you're worth their time and effort for them to bend a knee to their God and ask Him or Her to help you out. This is not because *you*, laying there suffering, are great or worthy, but the person who is praying for you surely is. You may deserve it, or not, but it is their kindness and love, freely offered, that is the important part.

This is vastly humbling.

That so many of you, my good friends, my distant friends, my acquaintances, you who are only my friends because we hit each other with sticks one time 30 years ago, have reached out to me and expressed your hopes that I heal, I mend, I fully recover, is a gift I never knew the measure of before. It's tiny. Even if all you do is spend the muscular effort to type out "I hope you're well soon", very little effort is needed, however, it is also Archimedes Lever. Archimedes, the man who could move the whole Earth, given a long enough lever and a place to stand. Tiny words, but so very meaningful to the one on the receiving end.

Many many of you have kept me in your thoughts, prayed to your Gods for me, called, written, visited, cooked me food, and any number of small services that you could do. Small services for you, infinitely vast services for me. I cannot thank you enough for your kindness, but I will try. I will try to be worthy of it, and extend it to others. Thanks.


Oct. 18th, 2016 03:39 am
cathyn: (Johnny!)
Short recap. In 1990 I moved to Calontir, and immersed myself in their Anglo-Saxon culture. In 1996 I won their Crown, the first and only Fyrdman to do so. While I was Crown Prince, they made me a Huscarl, and then I reigned as King. In 1997 or 1998 I moved back to the Outlands, met a girl, got married. In 2005, heard about the 940th Anniversary reenactment of the Battle of Hastings, planned for October 14th, 2006, and bent every effort to getting there. Got divorced instead. You're probably aware of the rest of the story to this point.

Last year we heard about the 950th Anniversary reenactment, and again bent every effort to get there, and this time we succeeded. Spent a couple days in London (my favorite food outside of New Mexico), before heading down to Battle. No, that's the name of the little town. Had reservations in the Abbey Hotel and Pub, which, as the name suggests, is a pub, with rooms for let upstairs, conveniently located directly across the street from the gate into the site. THE SITE. Current information holds that this is the place where the invading William the Bastard got amazingly lucky and won the Crown of England from the rightful King, Harold Godwinson.

(If you don't know the full story, the best book I've ever read on the subject is "1066: The Year of the Conquest" by David Howarth. Amazingly well researched read, and the saddest book I've ever laid eyes on.)

As a Calontiri and Huscarl, I've dreamed, since 1990 or thereabouts, of standing on that Hilltop, defending England from the Bastard, and this last weekend, I did exactly that. It was everything I'd dreamed of, and more. In the SCA, we never, ever, face cavalry. Being charged by horses is its own special terror, but knowing my brothers were beside me with their Dane Axes to punish those foolish enough to charge our lines made me stronger. They charged, we beat them back, time and time again. Their massed volleys of arrows were dreadful to witness; even though in the reenactment there were only about 50 archers, and they didn't exactly darken the skies, it was easy to imagine what it must have been like to have your shield over your head as the arrows fell like rain, and each time the sound died off, lowering the shields to laugh at the ineffectual enemy, exactly as happened 950 years earlier. At this point, to lighten the mood of our troops, I sang to them a Calontir song, which they had never heard, "The Song of the Shieldwall", which was rather well received.

Eventually, as this is a scripted reenactment, Harold advanced through our lines to taunt the Norman, and by "pure chance" (he held the broken stump of an arrow in his hand), a volley of arrows fell upon his personal Huscarl guards, and one pierced his eye. We rushed to guard his body as the cavalry and infantry stormed his position, and I died within ten paces of my King. I lay on my back, just as the rain started to fall, completely overwhelmed in the moment. Twenty-six years of longing and planning fulfilled, I died on Senlac Hill, with the last of my Saxons around me, holding the land I'd been given to hold, King's blood and mine running in the grass. I broke protocol at this point, as the dead are supposed to lay still and quiet, but instead, I sang. (Hey, we're Calontiri, we're a singing Kingdom, not a dancing Kingdom. It's what we do!). My good friend Steve Boyd (Master Andrixos Seljukroctonis) wrote my favorite Huscarl song of all, "Requiem for a Huscarl", and as I lay on my back, the raindrops hid my tears as I sang his song, our song, and thought of my Huscarl Brothers and Sisters, and wished that someday they, too, would be able to come here and experience this great event.

The battle over, the Normans cried out many times "Guillaume Rex!" for a good long time, and then we were ordered to arise, and received the adulation of the 10,000+ member of the audience. That, too, was pretty neat. I got mobbed by about a hundred kids, in ones and twos, each asking questions and wanting pictures, and it was very gratifying to be their hero.

(And just when you'd thought the singing was over, there was more!)

The following day, the wife and I returned to site for the second show. Essentially the schedule is arrive around 10AM, as the crowd has been filtering in since about 9:30, putter around until 3PM, strap it all on and go kill Normans. There were some really cool lectures during the day, which we got to sit in on a few, bought a book or two, and watched the utterly amazing falconry display, with the particular highlight of watching a Gyrfalcon take down a radio-controlled Crane in a stunning dogfight. Too awesome, in fact, to be able to describe.

After the lectures ended, we walked out of the ruins of the Abbey, and I went to find the Stone which marks the place where it is believed that Harold fell. His body is not there, but the stone is. I reached inside my shirt and took out the Huscarl medallion sent to me by my friend Halidor Arkellson, and my own, laid them on Harold's marker, and sang "I Will Mourn My King" by Sir Andrew Lyon of Wolvenwood. I first sang it in Old English, so Harold would understand my words, then sang it in English, for the small crowd of about 20 that gathered to watch an old man in mail sing to a rock. Singing it in Anglo-Saxon was tough, but I was able to focus on pronunciation, and such, and made it through. The second time, in English, I lost it. It is remarkably difficult to sing while crying, but I muddled through, and was not applauded when I finished, but was met with stunned silence, the assembled crowd having never given as much thought to it as Andrew did, and their silence seemed to me to be the perfect response, that of people for the first time really realizing how much the immediate death of a King means.

We refought the battle later that day, and it was just as good as the day before. Still more singing ensued. While playing everyone's favorite pre-battle game, "Hurry Up And Wait!", I was again minded to sing. Long long ago, Duke Conn wrote a song about his friend and fellow Calontir Luminary, Master Pavel Yosevich, (who has recently passed away), and his exploits at one of the Pennsic Wars, sometime back in the teens. One of the men in the company behind ours, clearly an Englishman from the North, sang a song or two to lighten the passing of time while we waited, and when he wound down, I struck up "Pavel's Song", the punchline of which goes "Oh, do they flee for fear of death, or do they fear dishonour? More likely still I think the thing they fear, is the odor of his armour." This cracked them up, particularly my new Northie best friend.

All in all it was a fantastically fulfilling weekend. Made friends with a great number of the Vikings guys who made up the majority of the fighters, got to salute a bunch of the French, especially the actor playing the Bastard, and got some really nice compliments from the guy who played Harold. Too bloody cool!

(EDIT: I was asked in the comments about my kit. Here are a few pics.)

The sword, a Paul Chen Practical Viking, scabbard wrapped in forest green pigskin, hilt wrapped in twisted brass wire, quillon and pommel drilled and filled with brass brazing rod, Quiet Press Chape and hand-formed throat.


The belt. Patterned after period designs. Hand-made brass shackles. The belt was further tarted up with small Quiet Press plaques, but I didn't have them on when this photo was taken.


My full turn-out, on the actual field:


And another shot:


cathyn: (Johnny!)
This Presidential cycle we have four candidates who, to their supporters, look like the saviours of the Nation, and to the supporters of any of the other three look like varying degrees of corrupt, evil, uninformed or insane. Of these, two have an actual chance at succeeding, and the other two have a small but fantastically vocal cadre screaming "If you'd stop thinking they didn't have a chance, and just vote for them, they'd win!" As this is not a piece on who I'm voting for and why, nor is an attempt to get you to vote for the same candidate I'm supporting, I'll eschew discussing why this particular line of thought won't work.

What I am here to say is that the Presidency is a terrible place to start your political movement. It is akin to attempting to put a roof on a house before the foundation has been poured, and the walls framed. Should, against all odds, Stein or Johnson win the Presidency, I can guarantee a few things. They will get absolutely nothing, whatsoever, of their platforms accomplished, as the entrenched parties that hold the legislature will do nothing to diminish their brand. You thought Obama faced harsh obstructionism? To quote Al Jolson, "You ain't heard nothing yet!" The Congresscritters in either major party will refuse to support anything which could then be called a "victory" for the third party President, which will lead to the second prediction: That Third Party President (TPP) will absolutely, positively, beyond a shadow of a doubt, be a One Term President. They will lose the 2020 Election in the biggest landslide ever seen, for having been the most utterly ineffectual person to have ever held the Oval Office. Book it, done.

Here's the biggest, most frightening part about that defeat. In 2020, when that TPP is drubbed out of the White House, the Third Party Experiment will be DECEASED. Never ever again will a third party candidate get elected, as it will be a simple exercise to say "What? Vote Libertarian/Green?!? Do you remember how well that worked out last time?!?" DEAD. Green Party: DEAD. Libertarian Party: DEAD. Any other party that crops up: DOA.

Getting back to the house-building analogy, starting with the roof is so very wrong that no builder, anywhere, ever, would consider doing it. How do you build a house? Prepare the site. Layout the foundation. Lay out the inlets and outlets for plumbing, water, electrical. Dig the trenches. Build the steel network that will reinforce the foundation, then pour the foundation. Frame the walls. Et cetera, you get the point. You start from the ground up.

It's EXACTLY the same with a Third Party. You support a Third Party more than you support the Elephant or the Mule? Great. Run for local office, school board, city, county, whatever, and run BIG, BOLD, and BUTCH! Run as your Party's standard bearer, and support others who think like you in their runs. Win some, lose some, and keep running. Two years later, support others when they run for State positions, run for State positions yourself! Make a strong foundation for your Party. At every turn, however, bear your party's flag, and make yourself and your party's ideas the news, and the GOOD NEWS. Do good things for your constituents, "build your brand", make a good name for yourselves and your party. Then run again, for Congress. For the House, for the Senate. Maybe become Governor of your state. Build a good building, a solid building. Then, and only then can you consider putting the roof on the building. The best part of this is, of course, having done all this work, WHEN you, or your guy, wins the Presidency, that Presidency will have the support of the strong foundation you built, the good building you've erected, and when they bring forth the Party's Platform, and ask Congress to make that Platform THE LAW OF THE LAND, there will be members of the Third Party in the House to work on the Federal Budget to fund the proposed measures, and there will be Third Party Senators to pass confirm that Budget, and to Confirm Third Party Justices to the Supreme Court and the other Federal positions which require the Advice and Consent of the Senate to fill.

Then, and only then, will your better ideas have the support required to make the Nation the Libertarian/Green Party Paradise you envision. That's how it's done, and, the ONLY way it's possible to get it done.
cathyn: (Johnny!)
Over on Facebook, I got into a discussion with a friend, and I asked him to explain the Libertarian Platform on reducing Government Regulation, specifically how that would apply to Intellectual Property Rights. He graciously provided me with a link to an article on the subject written by an IP Attorney who happens to be a Libertarian, and an author of a large body of work on Libertarian concepts. He is a good writer, well educated, and presents his ideas well. I read it, carefully, twice, before crafting this response:

"OK, I read through the link you provided, and find the ideas therein regarding intellectual property abhorrent.

As an example, an entity (let's call them Company A) spends vast resources creating a thing, say a unique medicine, which cost $500M to research and perfect. Presuming we live in a Libertarian Utopia, Company A doesn't need to spend even greater resources to pass through Government Regulations, but the cost of process was still astronomical. According to the argument of the author, upon completion of that process, the minute Company A brings that product to market, and releases it for sale, at whatever price they feel is fair, as there cannot be any regulations on such a thing. there is nothing whatsoever to stop Company B from purchasing a small quantity of it, reverse-engineering it, and selling it themselves.

Without the need to both sell the product, and pay for the Research and Development required to bring it to market, Company B can charge significantly less for the product. Company A has a need to charge more, which is the mechanism by which Company A would recoup the $500M investment required to create the product. At this point, Company A goes out of business, not because they were weak, poorly managed, or unsuccessful, they were simply bankrupted by spending money to "create" a product, the specifics of which were then taken by Company B (which spent virtually nothing to develop the product), and they are profiting on the works of Company A. Company A, according to the author, has no Property Rights to the creation at all. Under the stated Nonaggression Principle, since Company A still owns everything they physically have in hand, their research, their product inventory, and such, nothing it being "taken" from them, therefore Company B is complying with the Nonaggression Principle perfectly, and therefore is doing nothing wrong when they choose to take their own resources and make a product identical in every conceivable way to that of Company A's product, but at a much lower cost of production. Company B is successfully participating in "pure competition", nothing more, nothing less.

This very idea completely disincentivizes invention, and in fact abjectly penalizes anyone and everyone who spends even the tiniest resource to invent anything whatsoever, by allowing the latecomer to take whatever ideas are out there that they feel like producing, and boldly claims that the reason IP rights do not, and should not exist, is that a Government Entity would be required to enforce them."

The author also presents ideas regarding "ownership" of one's own body, and I fully understand why many individuals would like those ideas, but can't imagine how anyone could read this full article and not realize that such policies as applied to IP would essentially demolish a nation's economy over time.
cathyn: (Johnny!)
I think you all know who I am voting for in 2016. Bernie was my guy, and still is, and the odds he'll be the nominee are kinda astronomical against. However, many of the things he supports have been adopted by the DNC Platform Committee. A vote for the Democratic Candidate, whoever they are (Hey, a Bernie guy's gotta dream, right!) is a vote for many of the things that earned him my support in the first place.

A vote for Trump is a vote for hate, a vote for racism, a vote for sexism, and a vote for a return to an imaginary time where white men were the only thing that mattered. Fuck that!

I'm not voting for Hillary. I am voting for 3-5 Supreme Court Justices that will ensure that progressive policies continue forward, that the progress we have made towards equality for all humans is not erased, that our environment is not first sold to individual billionaires, and then raped by them for their personal profit.

Who's getting my vote in 2016? Not Hillary, but all Americans. The happily married same-sex couples across the country who have earned the same rights and privileges as the rest of us. The poor, and even the average wage earners, the rapidly vanishing middle class, who could really use for Corporations to pay their fucking taxes instead of stashing all their wealth in off-shore accounts. The people who identify as a different gender than what's on their birth certificates who'd just like to take a fucking piss in peace and privacy without being threatened with arrest of murder. The students nation-wide who are drowning in student loan debt and held hostage for the rest of their lives by the corporations who hold those loans. The big green Lady in New York, who beckons to the tired huddled masses in other countries, who used to come here and infuse their desire for better lives into the American bloodline, and make us a unified nation of mongrels who could not be stopped by any force on Earth, not the Kaiser, not the Nazis, NOBODY. I am not 100% certain exactly when we went from being the bravest nation on Earth to being the most frightened, but this change is not a good thing, because, as Yoda says, "Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering." Once upon a time we were better than this. No longer.

We were a great nation because we never let the hate that always existed dominate the social fabric of our country. Surely, every new wave of immigrants faced the wary eyes of the previous wave that had arrived, struggled and eventually prospered. Surely hatred for those of a different skin color, religion, and nation of origin always existed, and still does, but it seems to me that that hatred always had voices screaming against it, and people standing with the oppressed, and we still do. We've always had these things in this country. What we haven't had so prominently in this country is such vehicles for spreading the hatred, such an echo chamber that allows those who hate to find like-minded others to reinforce that those hatreds are valid and good. We haven't had such support for a political candidate who espoused such hatred rise so very high that we might well see such bile in the Oval Office. We may have had some who harbored such thoughts, but I don't think we've ever had someone who gave every dark thought a voice, and somehow, completely failed to be castigated for that hatred.

We are in an immensely difficult place in our history/future. It is so easy to manufacture hatred and lies. It is so easy to manipulate large numbers of people, so easy to spend money to manufacture that manipulation (Operation Swiftboat!). We've got to get money out of politics, and stop selling our nation and its political system to the highest bidders. We've got to stop thinking us and them, and start thinking us and us. Religion cannot be allowed to govern us, because it's just too bloody hard to answer "Which one?", and so, as a mixed nation of immigrants, "none of the above" is the only possible answer. Money cannot be allowed to govern us, because so very very few of us (.01%, really) have the kind of money that can effectively buy national influence, and that kind of money only buys the kind of influence that benefits only those who are spending the money. Hatred cannot be allowed to govern us, because we have so very much amazing ability to bring mayhem and bloodshed upon our fellowman, and while these terrors are too gruesome to even contemplate delivering upon our enemies, we should trebley avoid visiting them upon our own neighbors.

I am not voting for Hillary. I am voting for love, and all its delightful glory. I am voting against hatred and all its brutal power. I will be pulling the Blue lever, but I am voting for ideas, not people. That idea that Love is more worthy than Hate, that is what I am voting FOR!
cathyn: (Johnny!)
Behind a cut, because I care )

After that it was off to the fruit stand for some healthy snackage, and then on to our lodging. When looking for a place to stay for this adventure, several ideas were tossed about, and somehow the subject of "glamping" came up. A little bit of Facebook #1 stock in trade, advice, netted us a recommendation that we check out Safari West, which we did. Yet another delight, Safari West offers big tents, on wooden platforms, with indoor plumbing, NO PHONES and NO TVs in the rooms. Talk about a perfect venue for a getaway! Also, cell signal out there is virtually non-existent, unless you have AT&T, so, really, completely, detached from the outside world. So peaceful. We tucked into bed about 7PM, ate much of our delicious picnic, and then read books until we fell asleep. It was utterly delightful!

In the morning we woke up, had a tolerable breakfast with very mediocre coffee, and then WENT ON SAFARI! We hopped aboard these huge jeep things, built on what used to be late 40s Dodge Power Wagons:


Our hilarious tour guide drove us around for about three hours, where we say a couple dozed species of African antelopes, giruunes, rhinos, ostriches, and a ton of other animals. We had a great time riding around, cracking jokes, and learning all sorts of stuff about both our venue, and the animals we were viewing. After returning to the main area, the last hour of the tour commenced, where our guide walked us around the bird and smaller animal exhibit. I've got two words for you to sum up how cool it was "FENNEC FOXES!!" Cutest little guys in EVER!!


After the hours of animal viewing excitement, we took the long slow ride home, filled with glee at how our weekend had gone, and looking forward to skritching our cute little kitties. I well and truly have the best wife ever, considerate, smart, gorgeous, tough as nails and funnier than you'll ever know!
cathyn: (My arms)
I had a great day today at Mists Coronet. I went five rounds, after a very inauspicious fight in the first round. I died very stupid, made a drastic mistake which my opponent MASHED me for. After that, I tightened up, up to and including getting past a fighter who smashed my steel buckler to pieces. No, seriously, he hit it so hard, he tore it off the handle, bounced it off both my fore-arm (I have a knot), and my JUNK. Nothing quite like being hit hard in the cup by a flying steel disc. I still feel the pain, just a bit. I borrowed Helga's shield and went three more rounds.

I was telling people after I fought that I had "won Coronet", going to explain that, while I had been eliminated in the 5th round, I had met every single goal I had set for myself that day. I made it to round 5, which I consider to be the minimum good outing for a Knight and Royal Peer. I took everything that hit me, and was told by more than one source that my calibration was too low. I didn't get angry (I've been having a significant problem with this the last few times I was in a Crown or Coronet Lists. I think it's fixed now.) I didn't get hurt. So, total victory!

I also fought several matches in "Roses" (it's a Western tradition where the fighters who are eliminated from the lists go off to the side and keep fighting challenges, and the loser of a match goes to petition the Princess or Queen for a rose to then bear to the Consort of the victor of said match. The Roses fights did not go well for me, I had 4 three fight matches, and in each, I fought poorly, without enough aggressiveness, and lost the first two fights in each match, before then realizing I was in a swordfight, and knocking the fuck out of my opponent.

I received many compliments on my kit, which made me feel good. I had just spent the last 2-ish weeks having completely disassembled and then reassembled my lamellar breastplate, eliminating all the knotted cords inside which shredded my skin every time I wore it, and tarted it up a bit. When I laced the rows of plates, I used alternating lines of red and black cording, instead of a single color. When I laced the bands of plates back together, I switched the overlap from "cavalry" (where each band, from the bottom up, is inside the lower band), to "infantry" (overlapped from top to bottom, like shingles on a roof), and laid hand-scallopped decorative strips of red leather between each row. Now, it just looks nigh perfect, and many people noticed, most particularly other fighters who also wear lamellar.

The whole day was very good, but I was amazingly stiff and sore, my right ankle in particular is troubling my, and I gassed out easily. I had plenty of endurance for my fights, which surprised me a little, but as the temperature climbed, I just couldn't go on. I have no idea how to train for that.

I had started training February 1st, not for this tourney in particular, but just to get back into fighting. I noticed several things overall. I think too much, and get hit a lot for doing it, I'm not aggressive enough (though sword and buckler isn't the best style for aggressive, and I am glad of how I played the range game when I was using it), I most definitely did not move enough, but on the good side, several times, after doing things that were familiar, which didn't seem to be working, I would, mid fight, change everything, and go back to how I had been fighting for the past two months while doing my pell drills. Every time I did so, I stood better, I moved better, and I killed my opponent with a flat snap (see above comments about how my Roses matches went). As for brutal self-assessment, I do not yet have much confidence in my skill and technique, which is leading to me being far too tentative in my fights. I allow mo opponent to dictate every detail about a fight, range, tempo, etc., which is getting me killed a lot. My targeting and accuracy were far better than I expected, and it turns out that throwing 2600 shots at my pell in two months seems to be helping in that respect quite a bit. I need a good footwork drill. I need to revamp the mindset to get me into the "Time to make the murder" mode of approaching my fights rather than a "Well, let's see what my opponent wants to do today..." approach.

I still don't love my new helm. I vowed that today would be the last time I fight in it until I get the padding fixed. Today, I also vowed that it would be the last I fought in my Haroun legs as the left knee-cop keeps pinching the hell out of my thigh against the plastic cuisse, so when the fighting was ended, I gave the legs away to a friend on the promise that he would give them to a newby fighter in his area to get them on the field.
cathyn: (Bacon)
Something to keep in mind whenever someone points out something in history that was done by one of America's political parties or the other: Once upon a time, it was the Republicans that were the environmentalists (T. Roosevelt), the Republicans that were (at least in the limited way allowable in their era) the ones moving towards racial equality (A. Lincoln), and the Republicans that were essentially pro-worker and anti-Military Industrial Complex types (D. Eisenhower). Then along came Lyndon Baines Johnson. There had already started a shift, where some Democrats and started adopting liberal ideas, and promoting racial equality and such, with JFK proposing the Civil Rights Act. LBJ bulled this through Congress, along with the Voting Rights Act. This pushed a large number of racist Democrats to switch parties, and join the Republicans.

There was what amounts to a polarity shift in the parties, and, while this is a broad and sweeping generalization, it largely invalidates giving credit or assigning blame to either party on some subject or another. I have seen image posts (rightly) claiming that the Democrats opposed freeing the slaves. I have seen image posts (rightly) claiming that the Republicans created the National Park System. Then along came LBJ, and now it's the Democrats who promote equality, and the Republicans fight it. It's the Democrats who promote improving environmental responsibility, and Republicans who believe corporate profits trump the public good.

Neither is, nor has been, always and invariably right; neither is, nor has been, always and invariably wrong. My deepest wish is that we as humans realize every other person we see, regardless of skin color, hair color, faith, gender identity, sexual preference, whatever, even those who exclusively rely on Fox News for their views on world events, we're all the same humans. Let's all try, just for a day, to treat each other as welcome guests in our tiny little worlds, and see how it feels. You might like it, and want to try it again tomorrow. Give it a shot.

Five years

Jul. 14th, 2015 10:33 pm
cathyn: (Johnny!)

My friend Bill.

Five years ago, give or take a day or so, my friend Leif was killed in an industrial accident. I wrote a poem then, inspired by a photograph taken at Lonely Mountain Defender, when his friends build him an effigy Longship, and his wife brought us his ashes and we gave him a proper Scandinavian Funeral. Yesterday I was reminded that five years had gone by. On Facebook, I changed my profile pic to best photo of him I have, which prompted a friend to message me privately and ask about him. I wrote, and more words came out than I thought I had left. Not wanting to waste them, I'll transcribe it here.


Duke Leif Ivarsson. Mundanely Bill Hammond. We came up together, he started a few years after I did. I started in Carlsbad, he started in Santa Fe. He was a few years older than me.

We were hammer and anvil in dozens of tournaments, finishing 1-2 more times than I can count, mostly with him taking the #1 spot.
When the Outlands became a Kingdom, he would have been the first Knight, but he wasn't a paid member, and thus was 3rd or 4th. We were very close friends, we drank together, we confided in each other, we helped each other, We were close. He had squires, and friends, but none like us.

Do you have a favorite story about him?

This next part is weird, but when we saw each other, we kissed on the mouth, not like lovers, but like more. Men without shame, men for whom friendship went so deep there could be no embarrassment.

I get that.

You, and very few others, would.

Sadly true.

There was a time, after a Crown Lists, which he eliminated me in the semis, and he went on to win, that someone watched the video tape of, and rumours went out that he had cheated me. The story few from one end of the kingdom to the other. He called me and asked me how I felt, asked if I wanted him to vacate the victory. I told him he'd won, fair and square, that I threw a shot, he said it didn't land, and he was my friend, and that's all that mattered, the video could go fuck itself.

We agreed to watch the tape together. He said if I wanted him to, after watching the tape, he'd still resign the Victory. I said "Not a prayer", but we still watched, alone, drinking beer. There was the shot, I thrust over his shield, his head snapped back, and he said "I didn't feel it." We watched it frame by frame, and it was clear that he had seen something, my knee bend, a lean, something, and had on instinct, thrown himself backward as the thrust came in, and I'd never touched him. He'd made the right call, but was willing to give away a Crown for friendship.

At his Coronation, I asked to speak, and I laid light shame at the feet of anyone who had spoken against his clean victory, thanked for their faith in me, but declared he'd won fair and square, and that he was my undisputed King. That cemented our friendship forever.

Five years ago, he was working in a factory in Arizona, and through some stupid as fuck accident, he got too close to a running conveyor belt, which tore his arm off, at the shoulder. He bled out on the floor in a couple of minutes.

If you look around on Facebook, there's a photograph of him, leading the army at Pennsic. Running ahead of his troops. This he did at my advice. He came to me after one of his Coronations and said "He man, I'm getting a lot of bullshit from the peers about the War, telling me how to run things, blah blah blah. I just want to go fight. What would you do?" I said "Fuck them all. No army likes to be driven into battle, they want to be lead. Hire a good General to give us strategy. Let him run the show, while you LEAD THE TROOPS." And that's what he did.

He was a great fighter, a great man, and a great friend.

Love it man.
Thank you for sharing.
Wish I had known him.

You'd've liked him. He was tough, kind, and good.

Definitely sounds like my kind of guy


This conversation I just had with Brion of Bellatrix, another great man. That he asked me about this opened doors I'd long since closed, behind which are the best kind of painful memories.

I miss Bill every day.

cathyn: (Johnny!)
So, once upon a time there was a thing that went around on Live Journal, the “False Memories of Me” meme. The rules were simple, your friends would tag you, or somesuch, and you would write a memory you two shared, which never actually happened. I really got into this meme, and wrote a good number of them. They are mostly short, mostly genre pieces, some which are wholly original, some of which you might offer you a seed you recognize. I saved all of mine, and now I have gathered them into a single document, which I hope you enjoy reading. I am rather shy about my writing, and trotting these out in this format is as much an exercise in conquering a fear I have as it is a chance for some digital housekeeping.

What follows under the cut is my work. Some published here in 2005, some in 2010. Mine. Probably not technically copyrighted, but it's mine. Show some respect. :)

Behind a cut, because, otherwise, giant wall of TL:DR. )

I hope you enjoyed taking this stroll with me down False Memory Lane!
cathyn: (Johnny!)
Having followed the method described in my previous post, I am pleased, very very pleased with the results.

Lots of text, and photos, too. Should be behind a cut, for politeness sake. )
cathyn: (Bacon)
Today I started (and, as of this writing, am currently working on) my second batch of Hot Process soap. I couldn't be happier so far.

Having made the observation last time that adding the lye solution while the oil temperature is above the boiling point of water was a recoverable yet painful mistake, I put the lesson into action with this batch. I Decided on an all-vegetable-oil recipe, and almost every ingredient was a liquid, so I figured I was safe. Olive oil, almond oil, castor oil, coconut oil (oops, solid at room temperature, but low melting point), and beeswax (double oops, solid at room temperature, and with a much higher melting point than coconut oil). Weighed each carefully, and melted both the coconut oil and beeswax in the microwave. Problematically, when I poured the liquid beeswax into the only slightly warm oils, it hardened on contact. Looked pretty, but a problem nonetheless. Turn on the flame, heat up a bit, beeswax melting, I mixed up the (once again, very carefully weighed) lye solution, remembering that you ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS NO NAY NEVER NO EXCEPTIONS ALWAYS add the dry lye to the water. I then checked the temperature of the oil, which was 190*F, so, looking at my blistered hand, I went and got my welding gloves, put them on and poured the very hot lye solution (almost boiling, certainly steaming, DO NOT BREATHE THE STEAM!!!) into the likewise almost boiling oil. Temperatures matched this time, and I had no caustic water flashing to boiling, and it was a beautiful thing.

If you've ever made Cold Process soap, you know it can take a good long time for the soap to "trace". Not so with the Hot Process. Mixing 190 degree lye solution with 190 degree oil guarantees almost instant "trace", which is super cool! Also, while the first batch looked at each point kinda like the pictures on the webpage from which I learned this method, this second time around, the pictures look EXACTLY like what's going on in my pot.

Also, if you're reading these, and you've never made soap before, but you're getting excited about checking it out, DO! Soap making is fun, rewarding, and kinda magical. Keep one thing in mind, though. No matter which Process you use, no matter what recipe you're making, prepare your molds first! Ensure that you have molds enough to hold the soap you're going to make, then get them ready to accept the product. There is little worse in this hobby than getting to the end of a batch, your soap is lovely, ropey, perfectly colored and scented, and then you have to put your molds together, grease them, and otherwise get them ready, meanwhile, your soap has set up in your mixing vessel or your pot, and instead of a bunch of lovely bars, you have one big one. (Insert huge frowny face here). It's not a disaster, it's even recoverable (just re-melt the soap, and pour it), but it's just so much better to be prepared.

Anyway, it's time to give this batch a stir and add heat again, so I'll let you know later how it turned out!
cathyn: (Johnny!)
So, Beloved Readers, I mentioned there still being plenty of room for Mr. Cockup in my latest soapmaking adventure, and more prophetic words are rarely spoken. I had a brief conversation via Messaging on Facebook with Max, another veteran soapmaker, who asked when I planned to remove my new soap from the molds, that being one of the big benefits of the Hot Process, the soap is essentially "done" right before you pour it into the molds. I mentioned I'd probably wait a week, which is what I have always done when using the Cold Process.

His comments however aroused my curiosity, and so I unmolded one of my two molds the same day, and he was right, it came out so nicely that I decided to immediately unmold the second one. I then grabbed my trusty burgundy bottle (it turns out that the 3" ID PVC pipes I use for my molds almost perfectly fit a burgundy bottle, so I always use one to force the soap out) Set it neck-first on the floor, put the mold over it so I could apply my body weight to the mold and extract the soap, and just before beginning to push, I lost my grip slightly, and the mold, which was very full of soap, came out of contact with the bottle, which fell over and broke most spectacularly, 750ml of red wine all over the kitchen floor, and, of course, me. Bugger.

The good news is that I have been snooping the hell out of Pinterest for craft ideas I can pick up with little additional initial investment (read "start doing with the tools I already own"), and maybe make a little money while saving my sanity by working with my hands making art. I saw a fantastically cool tool for cutting soap into uniform bars, so I built one, and tested it on the first pipe full of soap. It's a simple open top box, roughly the same size across as my soap mold, and just about as long, with a deep notch cut in the walls at 3/4" from the positive stop screwed onto the end of the tool (probably should properly be called a soap cutting jig), With a length of 28ga Stainless Steel wire screwed into it to make the cuts, and it works like gang-busters!

(Like this, only, as one would expect, mine is twice as long.)

The success of this tool gives rise to the next tool I will build, as soon as I find a local friend with a lathe. I will build a 3" dowel, screwed to a set of crossed boards which will act as feet, to make getting soap out of the molds easier, and far less likely to spill delicious wine all over my kitchen. Seems I might be getting into production levels of soap making! I even have secured my first vendor!
cathyn: (Johnny!)
I've been making soap since 1996 or thereabouts, when I bought a book on soapmaking at Pensic. Since that day, I have not purchased a bar of soap, and have been very very happy with the soap I make. Always wanting to expand my art, and the knowledge thereof, today I made soap using the "Hot Method". The cold method is simpler, by far. Get your oils melted, whatever, and get them to 90-100 degrees. Mix your lye into your water, and let this cool to somewhere under 120 degrees. Mix these, stir until they "trace", stir some more until it thickens, pour into molds. Let sit for a while (a week or so), remove from molds, cut (if necessary), and cure the bars by letting them sit loosely stacked for a couple of weeks. The longer it sits, the better. Use to your heart's content.

The hot method is similar. Make your lye-water solution. Melt your fats in a stainless steel pan over a low heat. Add the lye water to the warmed fats and stir until boiling. Set a timer for 20 minutes, and stir constantly. Remove from heat, let sit ten minutes, return to heat, and stir. Lather, rinse, repeat for several iterations, until the stuff in the pan goes from looking like a nice foamy beer, to something looking like a giant pan of oatmeal, until quite suddenly, the "oats" will seem to melt into each other and form a goop. Goop into molds, and prepare for the easiest clean-up of your soap-making equipment you've ever had. I followed the instructions found on this brilliantly illustrated page.

The author leaves out at least one serious point. MAKE SURE YOUR OIL IS NOT HEATED ABOVE 212 DEGREES FAHRENHEIT. Unless you greatly enjoy having your VERY CAUSTIC lye-water solution flash instantly to boiling, and in addition to making your pan almost overflow with proto-soap, and big volcano like glops of liquid roughly 250-300 degrees, which are both very hot, and very caustic, and when they burst forth from the surface of your very hot oil which is scaling the inside of the pot looking for the escape hatch, the boiling, chemically active, and somewhat sticky liquid might very well go BLOP, directly onto your hand, where it *will* stick, and *will* linger, until you've gotten your hand into the sink and under cold running water.

All turned out well, especially once I went to the garage and got my welding gloves, so I could pour the rest of the lye-water solution into the pan. Followed the rest of the directions, the stuff in my pan did what the stuff in his pictures did, and I feel I have won a major success. At least I have until I have removed the soap from the molds, anyway. There's still plenty of room for Mr. Cockup...
cathyn: (Johnny!)
I wish I could say I understand rape culture. I can understand it exists, and do. I can understand some of the symptoms, and I do. What I cannot understand is living in it from a woman's viewpoint. Herein lies the rub. She is upset with me for thinking the steps she has to take to protect herself, day to day, from the threats of our rape culture are "paranoid". I honestly think this way because, when one contemplates all the ways in which danger could come at a woman, and they are vast any myriad, they sound a great deal like paranoia.

However, I have no fucking idea what it's really like. I am not a woman, never will be, and I don't live this day to day. The closest I have ever gotten was growing up a white kid in a very ethnic and very economically depressed neighborhood, wherein I was constantly in danger of being beaten up, robbed, and/or worse, simply for being a 10-year-old white kid, and on several occasions, did. This lasted for about two years before my mother moved us from this dreadful place, to Carlsbad, NM, most of the way across the country. Yes, it seemed (and still does seem) like a long way, and yes, we escaped the constant, incessant threat of senseless violence.

Women can't do that. They can't move to escape the constant threat of violence. It goes with them wherever they go, 24-7-365, and all across the globe it goes from Threat Level 7 to Threat Level 10, depending on where one is, and certain other factors which we humans have used to create the rape culture. Read the news, you'll see it, maybe. Nothing I can do can fix it, and in honesty, there is nothing I can do to internalize it. I can't learn it, I can't really experience it. I can fight it, and do, and will continue to do so, without any real hope of success.

What I must do, however, is not be an asshole about it. When the car is running low on gas, and the wife mentions it, I need to not trivialize the situation, which for me *is* trivial, but for her can rapidly escalate from minor inconvenience to life threatening situation in seconds flat, as can EVERYTHING ELSE IN HER LIFE, thanks to rape culture. I am a beast, and very little threatens me. That can never mean there are no threats out there, as much as I want that to be the meaning.

I am learning to adapt to reality, a reality that I can see only tiny slices of, yet one that I *MUST* acknowledge exists, and which I must work to both be sensitive to, as well as make accommodations for, all without being an asshole, like I have been for the last couple of days.

I'm sorry, Laina. In many ways I am a completed adult, but that in no way means I don't still have a million things to learn. This lesson is probably the hardest one I will ever encounter, as its very existence is an insult to me and my masculinity, and I will stupidly resist learning because of this. I didn't cause it. I have striven to stamp out its symptoms in myself. I do acknowledge that even with my every effort, I am still part of the problem. I will continue to work to improve, but my sensitivity, and my attitudes towards your fears. I will continue to actively work against the perpetrators of rape culture, even when they're me. Especially when they're me. You deserve better. I will strive to be better.


Mar. 29th, 2013 11:40 am
cathyn: (Johnny!)
Last night I went to see Anthrax at the Regency Ballroom in San Francisco. In good news, Joey Belladonna, their original singer, was still back (everyone they've had sing with them since they fired Joey has SUCKED). In better news, having seen Anthrax last year, they announced that they would be playing "Among the Living" in its entirety. At least three of the tracks they would be playing had never been performed live before. Color me stoked!

There were three opening acts, the first of which, High on Fire, we missed as we thought getting a slice of pizza across the street would be more important. The second, Municipal Waste, was largely unremarkable. Cookie Monster vocals, shitty mixing which prevented hearing the guitar for the first 4 of their 6 songs, meh. Exodus played next, and they were tight, energetic, and really stirred up the action in the pit. While they were playing, I saw the most metal thing I've ever seen. A guy in uniform (Black concert T, jeans, regulation long hair, black boots) IN A WHEELCHAIR, being pushed around the pit by a similarly dressed metalhead, THRASHING HIS ASS OFF, giving and taking hits like a champ! BAD ASS!

When Exodus finished up their set, the lights came up, their gear was removed, and the roadies scrambled to set up Anthrax's gear. Allow me to say, the stage was small. Very small. We were up in the balcony, I shit thee not, ten yards from the stage. Also, it should be noted, this venue fits 1000 fans. End of story. Intimate show, not a bad seat, or SRO place in the building.

Then the lights went BLACK. With a fury they played the first side of the album. Yeah, "Among..." is old enough to have first been released on vinyl. The title track led to "Caught in a MOSH", which lead to the highlight of the evening for me, I AM THE LAW! I think this song is among their best work. And the crowd was into it with a vengeance! They then crushed out "Efilnekufesin (N.F.L.)" and "Skeleton in the Closet", wrapping up Side 1. I was sweating like a demon, having sang and thrashed my ass off.

They took a short break, water and Red Bull (Joey drank about ten cans during the show. Well, half cans. He'd chug about half, then toss the half-full can to someone in the audience) dumped in, sweat toweled off, and they came back out to play...Not "Indians", first track on Side 2, but "At the End" a tribute to Ronnie James Dio and Dimebag Darryl. Then out comes a surprise guest. Scotty is talking to the crowd about their Cover Album EP they released a few months ago, and that his favorite track is really guitar-heavy, and he was gonna need some help. Enter KIRK HAMMETT, stage right. They played AC/DCs "T.N.T." and KILLED IT! Joey's voice was perfect. At the end, Scotty said "Oh, that was Kirk Hammett. He plays guitar in some local band. Truth be told, I think those young kids have a bright future..." Then they launched into "The March of the S.O.D."*

More talking, a song from one of the post-Joey albums (meh), and then "INDIANS", "One World", "A.D.I./Horror of it All", and "Imitation of Life" wrapped up Side 2. Amazing! They left the stage, but the house lights stayed down as the "ANTHRAX! ANTHRAX!" chant shook the rafters. They came back out and did the song to which a whole genre of music owes a bow of thanks, "I'm The Man!" Linkin Park, KORN, and a couple dozen Rap-Metal bands owe royalties on every dime they've ever made to Anthrax and Public Enemy for "I'm The Man" and "Bring tha Noize". They wrapped up the show playing "Antisocial", said ten minutes worth of thank-yous to the crowd, tossed guitar pick, drum sticks, Red Bull and Gatoraid into the crowd, took a bow and left.

One of the best concerts I've ever seen!

* If you know anything about Anthrax, all good, if you don't, 3 or 4 of the 5 guys in Anthrax started out in a New York City club band called The Stormtroopers of Death, or S.O.D., who had a fantastic debut album in "Speak English or Die!"


Feb. 14th, 2013 11:38 pm
cathyn: (Johnny!)
Valentines day started like most others. Kissed my wife and made her brekkies in bed. Packed her lunch and sent her off to work. Looked for a job for a couple hours, and fielded a few calls from recruiters, at least one of which sounds promising (wish me luck). At 10AM, I dumped 1.5 cups mixed dried cherries an cranberries in a pan and boiled them in sweet white wine, and let them cool. At 10:30, I roasted two heads of garlic for 30 minutes. Folded laundry, ran the dishwasher, and looked for more jobs. Oh, yeah, FUCK FARMERS INSURANCE*. At about 3PM, I made couscous with cranberry juice, and added the wine-rehydrated cranberries and cherries. Meanwhile, I sauteed half an onion and a whole shallot in a thimbleful of olive oil. I mixed the couscous into the onion mixture, and painstakingly extracted the roasted cloves of garlic from the heads, and added them to the proto-stuffing, which had been cooling on the stove. I then cut two strips of bacon into .5" slices and dumped them raw into the stuffing. I then realized when I was packing the ducks, geese, and cranes I'd shot last fall, that I failed a bit on the sorting, and had put two crane breasts in with four goose breasts. I pocketed them all anyway, laid a fresh sage leaf on each one, wrapped a strip of bacon around each breast, laid them in a pan, poured on a little red wine, covered with foil, and popped the pan in a 325 degree oven.

When the lovely wife texted me to say she was on her way home from work, I started on the veggies. Sauteed a single coarsely chopped leek in another thimbleful of olive oil, heavily salted this, and added pignoli. When the leeks were a little soft, I added two chopped broccoli crowns, and a bit of the same white wine I'd used with the dried berries, covered the pan, and let the broccoli steam in the wine. When the boiling sound became a frying sound, I tossed everything to get the leeks intermingled with the broccoli.

By now, the crane had been braising for about 90 minutes, the broccoli was ready, and the wife came home. I served dinner, to the roaring adulation of the crowd. Well, crowd being me, her, and the much-yowling Mr. Cody Cat, who was appalled by the lack of crane breast he noticed in his bowl while we were so obviously enjoying food meant for kitties.

After dinner, I baked cookies, and we settled in on the couch and watched one of the most romantic Valentines day movies of all time, Rocky Horror Picture Show. That's how we roll....

* About Farmers. I updated my resume and contact information on CareerBuilder two days ago, and noticed that I had never made my information searchable, so I changed that. For less than one day. Within hours of making my profile searchable, I started getting emails suggesting that a job that perfectly matching my qualifications was available, and that I should send my resume immediately if I wanted to be considered for a position in the fabulous and exciting world of Insurance Sales. After the first two emails, I went to my profile on CareerBuilder, and made it unsearchable again. Since that time, I have received, on average, one email of this nature per hour from Farmers, and they've started robo-calling my cellphone. Very creepy-stalkery, too. Can't find any information about the phone number online, so I call back (the first time) to see who called me, because, after all, it could be someone looking to hire me. The robot picks up and says "Hello Cathyn, Farmers Recruiting Center has recorded this message especially for you..." Motherfuckers. Thanks, Farmers, for making an entire career website useless to me, by abusing the features that might let employers actually looking for a Project Manager, so I turn them off entirely. Goddamned assbags.
cathyn: (Default)
EDIT: Thanks for the help, everyone! I just turned it in! All nine PDFs and 18-ish pages. I did it all in one day, too!

Inaction and a smattering of depression. I have three very short essays to write for my portfolio, 1-2 pages, shouldn't be a biggie. They comprise about 60% of the portfolio, and the other 40% is done. After that, one Finance paper, and one final project.

Inaction/depression/writer's block. BLEH!

I am currently blocked on the first paper, which wants me to "Write an essay (suggested length of 1–2 pages) in which you do the following:
1. Evaluate your top five strengths in relation to your chosen career.
2. Provide examples from your personal life, work, or school activities that support your

I am having trouble thinking of my five strengths. I guess posting this here is in fact a way of saying "If you know me really well, particularly if we have worked together, please send me a suggestion or two about my strengths." Yeah, that's it.

The other two short papers are on:
B. Write a career outlook report (suggested length of 1–2 pages) in which you summarize a
specific career field that interests you.
1. Provide information such as salary range, employment outlook, types of positions
available, and education required.

C. Write an essay (suggested length of 3–5 pages) in which you reflect on how your
education and past work and life experiences have prepared you for your future in the

I'm pretty sure I've got those ones down, but the first one's kinda killin' me.
cathyn: (Default)
I passed my two hour Humanities class! This was the class for which I had to write two papers, one a rather fun work where I selected two periods of Art History, and wrote a compare/contrast piece for them, presuming the reader had no idea what either of them was, so I also had to describe them in some detail, as well as the sociopolitical climates in which they flourished.

The other was my three weeks of agony. Those who read my complaint on facebook are free to skip ahead. This assignment required that I select a written work from their list:

    The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1925
    The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1850
    The Call of the Wild by Jack London, 1903


    Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy, 1886
    The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells, 1897


    “The Package” by Kurt Vonnegut, 1952
    “Johnny Mnemonic” by William Gibson, 1981
    “The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson, 1948
    “A Small, Good Thing” by Raymond Carver, 1983
    “Silver Water” by Amy Bloom, 1993
    “The Third and Final Continent” by Jhumpa Lahiri, 1999
    “The Lost ‘Beautifulness’” by Anzia Yezierska, 1920
    “The Veldt” by Ray Bradbury, 1950
    “The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World” by Gabriel García Márquez, 1968


    “That the Science of Cartography is Limited” by Eavan Boland, 1994
    “A Brave and Startling Truth” by Maya Angelou, 1995
    “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley, 1888
    “If” by Rudyard Kipling, 1895
    “Praise Song for the Day” by Elizabeth Alexander, 2009
    “Let America be America Again” by Langston Hughes, 1935


    “A Talk to Teachers” by James Baldwin, 1963

Having selected a single work from this list (I chose Garcia-Marquez' "Handsomest Drowned Man...") I was then to select two works from these three genres, 2d Art, Film, Music, which were ostensibly unrelated, which is to say I could not select Jack London's "Call of the Wild" as my written work, Ted Nugent's "Call of the Wild" as my musical piece, and and the 1923 movie "Call of the Wild", starring John Thornton.

Once I had selected my works (I chose "Won't Get Fooled Again" by The Who, and "Persistence of Memory" by Salvador Dali), I then had to create a PowerPoint presentation wherein I identified the works, and described their creating and the elements thereof in detail, write an objective analysis of each, a subjective analysis of each, analyze the relationship between the works, and, my favorite part:

Reflect on each analysis presented, by addressing the following:
1. How the themes, moods, and meanings you have identified in the works shed light on the human condition
2. How you relate these themes, moods, and meanings to your profession
3. How knowledge of the humanities is valuable in relation to your profession

So I did it. Keep in mind that this is a 2 Competency Unit (credit hour) class, which is also as close as one might get at WGU to an elective. I opened PowerPoint, and followed the assignment guidelines, creating blank a slide for an introduction, 3 for naming and describing the elements of creation of the works, 6 more for describing the subject matter of each, 3 more for the subjective analyses, 3 more for the objective analyses, 4 slides for the relationships, 3 slides for the reflection, 3 slides for the summary and conclusion, and two slides for the APA-formatted citations. 28 slides. I then wrote the slides. Did a pretty good job (I thought), and submitted.

Then I got the first "Needs revision" message, telling me I had failed to include a bunch of data they had not mentioned in the assignment, but was crucial to a passing grade. I love finding out after the fact that there are things you are being graded on that are not in the question, especially in something so subjective as Art Criticism. So, I made the requested additions, about 4 slides worth of additional data, saved and resubmitted.

Then I got the second "Needs revision" message, telling me I had failed to include the moods and themes of each piece, which, you guessed it, were actually addressed in the slides, but clearly not thoroughly enough, nor the first "needs revision" report. So I addressed their requests, about two more slides worth, saved and resubmitted.

Then I got the third "Needs revision" message, telling me my conclusion did not support my thesis, and I had still failed to address moods and themes, and additionally, I had failed to demonstrate the personal impact of the pieces on me, nor addressed how the humanities are valuable in my profession. Strangely, I had in fact addressed each of these points, so I went after my presentation with a vengeance, remembering this was supposed to be a 2-hour elective, and I just created labels for everything. I deleted 2/3rds of my thesis, and bullet-pointed it, then copied and pasted it on my conclusion slide, slightly re-worded. I chopped my analyses up by creating new slides, writing the words "Theme:", "Mood:", and "Conclusion:" on each slide and c-n-p-ing the relevant parts into the new slides under each heading, without changing a word. I simplified my "reflections" on the works with a chainsaw, cutting it from 4 slides to two, completely writing down to my reader as if I was writing for a room full of nine-year-olds rather than the business professionals I was supposed to be pretending to write for. Gritting my teeth, I saved and resubmitted.

I passed, getting a "The themes and moods are linked well to the works, and business. Well done!" from the grader. Apparently writing nuanced analysis for adults is not what they wanted. They wanted me to scribble everything out with a crayon, which I reckon I should have presumed when they requested a PowerPoint presentation rather than a paper.

All that for a "Pass" on a 2 credit hour Pass/Fail elective. Reminds me of being in a regular university...
cathyn: (Default)
Got everything turned in for my Ethical Situations in Business class yesterday, and am now (quite im) patiently awaiting the results. Got started on my next class, a 2 credit thingy they call "Literature, Arts and the Humanities: Analysis and Interpretation". Task one involves reviewing a single chapter of material, covering the topic of identifying various periods of art and the sociopolitical environment which fostered them, with an eye towards then selecting two of them and writing a 3-5 page compare and contrast. Sounds simple, no?

So, I click the link which is supposed to take you to chapter 10 in the online resource, and it seems to do so, but what I notice, and at the same time fail to notice, is that the web-based material does a lot of branching. Read a paragraph, click a link to get more information on the terminology, etc. What I don't notice on page 2 or 3 of Chapter 10, is that it links back to something around section 1.03, and so I just keep clicking, watching the "percent complete" indicator increment one percentage point at a time every couple of pages. I'm reading, doing exercises, matching drills, reviewing digital flash cards, and more than anything else, watching videos. Start with ten minutes on Paleolithic art, 8 minutes on Mesolithic, 12 minutes on Neolithic, and so forth, until I am seeing a 23% complete on the indicator, and notice that I'm viewing a video on Carolingian Architecture with the curious labeling of "3.28" FFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUU!!!!!!

Yeah, that link early in Chapter 10 took me, unnoticed and unawares, back deep into Chapter 1, and I had painstakingly worked through three whole chapters of material I HAD NO NEED TO REVIEW WHATSOEVER, without any obvious link back to the place in Chapter 10 which brought me there. I have wasted an entire day! From roughly 0830 until just now, WASTED!!!
cathyn: (Hammertime!)
This morning, finding ourselves back in Reykjavik with little on our agenda save breakfast, I thought it might be nice to go to the local Harley dealer and grab a t-shirt. Google maps said it was a short 3.7 kilometers away (that's like 300 yards, right?!?), so off we went. With all the trouble I've had with Google directions in the past, oftentimes within 10 miles of their headquarters, you might think I'd double check things. Yeah.

So, we got very near the dealer, and took the right turn we were supposed to take on Grensásvegur, where the shop was supposed to be on the left, in about half a block. Nope. Not two blocks later, not six blocks later, so, like any abnormal man, I stopped and asked directions. Wait. "Stopping" implies we were driving, but as I mentioned, this was T-SHIRT DEATHMARCH, and that means walking. After about a kilometer out of our way, we turned around, walked to the 1011, which is clearly Icelandic for 7-11, a convenience store that's open for an hour every day.

The right we were supposed to take at Grensásvegur should have been a left, and as we were crossing back over Miklabraut, [livejournal.com profile] lifeofglamour said "Did you check to see if they're still in business?" "Their website sure looks like they're still in business." I said in reply, and I was RIGHT! Sorta. Bastards. They were still in business. They had, however, moved, a few kilometers further on. My sweetie-pie decided after much whinging and moping on my part, to continue our walk. It was noon at this point, and they hours on the door of the now-departed location reported that they'd be open between 1300 and 1800, s o we thought about getting lunch between here and there, to give them a chance to open.

Two things. 1) There is no place between location A and location B to get lunch. 2) It took almost an hour to walk there. 54 minutes to be exact, but fortunately, they were already open. We went in. We bought a t-shirt, which, like EVERYTHING here, was quite expensive, but, we were informed, it was eligible for refund of sales tax, which knocked 2000 ISK off the price, bringing the shirt from ludicrously to ridiculously expensive.

We picked up a free map and started walking back to the hotel, when the rain began. Real rain, the kind that melts New Mexicans in a minute or two. We smarted up almost quickly, and grabbed a cab, which surprised us by emerging from a parking lot at just the right moment. Well, more like twenty minutes after the right moment, or if one defines the right moment as "the rain has just soaked through my clothes and my knickers are now wet." After a surprisingly direct, yet surprisingly long (distance-wise) cab ride, we made it back to City Center, were shocked to see a Belgian Waffle Truck, so shocked we had to get waffles, and walked drippingly back to the hotel.

I am blessed by the most patient, yet most sarcastically funny wife on the planet, who in fact did not leave me bleeding in a canal for suggesting the T-SHIRT DEATHMARCH.

* "Unparalleled" means "over three hours long in moderate to heavy rain", right?
cathyn: (Default)
I like lists.

  • The people seem less friendly than we were told to expect. Not one single person has yet said "How do you like Iceland?"
  • Finally made it to Reykjavik, and it's pretty cool. Good food, good for walking, decent shops, high prices. Too many rude people, though, like those who will see you dragging your suitcase down the street, intentionally change their course to be on a collision path with you, expecting you to jump into the street to let them by. Imagine their painful surprise when I don't move, and their knees slam into my suitcase. After the first two, I didn't even bother to apologize, applying the "James Bond Rule."*
  • I presume it's because every so often, volcanoes erupt and cover everything historical in layers of rock, there are very few old things here, buildings, swords and armor, Settlement-era jewelry, all that sort of stuff. Oddly, many books survived, and even survived a great library fire (14th century? not sure), but tangible items are few and far between.
  • The girl keeps thinking that the various figures from Iceland's history were jerks. Eirik the Red, Egil Skallagrimsson, Skalla-Grimm Kveldulfsson, all jerks. I kinda disagree. Eirik had a neighbor kill some of his men for "deliberately causing a landslide", which may or may not have happened, but, Eirik then justifiably killed his neighbor. And got in big trouble for it. Egil was a hard-ass, full-on, but what could one expect from someone who was egged on by a cousin into killing another kid when he was 7, then a year or so later watched his best friend have his brains dashed out on a frozen lake during a hockey game before coming after him, and closing out the day murdering his nursemaid with a boulder**? Eirik was misunderstood, Egil was a product of his environment, but it is true, Skalla-Grimm was an asshole!
  • I was strongly exhorted by J/S with the phrase "Bitches better bring back some viking shit or I'll plotz!" Sorry man, there isn't any. Raymond's Quiet Press has better Viking stuff, seriously, so much so that I thought I should recommend they get in touch with him to buy some of his stuff, but they probably wouldn't take such comments with grace
  • Tomorrow we go to Greenland!
  • While almost everywhere we've stayed has abundant supplies of geothermically heated water for their showers, the shower stalls are generally tiny
  • THE LICORICE HERE IS AWESOME! I hate licorice. With a passion. It's foul. Sort of. The artificially flavored crap sold in the States SUCKS, out loud. The natural stuff sold here in Iceland is sweet, salty, subtle, and wonderful. After 46.4 years of avoiding it like the plague, I has voluntarily sought it out, every single day we've been here. I will truly miss it when I get home.

* The "James Bond Rule" comes from "Goldfinger", who encounters James several times with unfavorable results, each time, and warns his henchmen that Bond is up to no good with the following phrase, "Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Third time is enemy action." I suppose I should re-name it the "Goldfinger Rule", ya think?

** To be clear: Egil killed a kid after a hockey game. Months later, Egil's father murdered Egil's best friend, tried to murder Egil, then murdered Egil's nursemaid with a boulder.
cathyn: (Default)

  • Iceland is a place of such beauty, it would take two or three lifetimes to experience it all.
  • Iceland has had an established culture since about 900AD, but there are precious few exhibits/examples/signs of it, at least on the southern coast, that are older than 100 years. I suppose this is not to be unexpected in a location so geologically active, volcanoes burying important stuff all the time and all.
  • I LOVE THE MILK PRODUCTS HERE! They have this native yogurt/creme fraisch sort of stuff called Skyr that is wonderful. The cheese is among the best I've had. The ice cream is better than any I've had anywhere. Even the licorice ice cream is TO KILL FOR.
  • Tour bus drivers are jerks. This may well be universal.
  • I tasted glacial ice today! Thousand year old ice is harder than new ice.
  • My culinary adventurism is getting a work-out here, though I still haven't eaten anything but skyr that I've never had before. The buffet dinner tonight included cod cooked four ways, smoked duck, dick confit, goose liver pate, reindeer pate, whole baked halibut, arctic char (think ocean trout), red fish (not snapper), uncooked marinated lamb, chicken tikka masala burrito, butter grilled plaice, and yet another meringue-based dessert
  • There are far fewer American products on the store shelves here than in many other places I've visited. This is surely a good thing.
  • It seems that the national dish here is none other than the lowly pylsur, or as we in the States call them, hot dogs. Theirs, as you might expect, are mostly lamb, with some pork and beef, and served the three sauces entirely unlike those in America. Pylsursaus, which sweet, brown, and somewhat oniony; remoulade, simple mayonnaise with finely chopped sour pickles and onion; and something I could not identify, coming in a yellow bottle like mustard, but utterly unlike mustard, but quite delicious. You are offered these sauces, and your choice of finely chopped Bermuda onion or crunchy fried onion, like unto Durkee Fried Onion. YUM CITY, and really cheap!
  • We haven't yet found a Starbucks here, and it is possibly because the government fears what might happen if Icelanders finally get a-hold of a good, full-sized, strong cup of coffee
  • GAS IS FUCKING EXPENSIVE HERE. IK243/l. 243 Icelandic Kronur per liter. 123 IK per dollar. 3.9 liters per gallon. Roughly $7.71/gallon. Yeah.
  • That's enough for now

    More observations as I make 'em!
cathyn: (Default)
My wife writes a blog in which she comments on weight-loss issues. She is an amazing writer, and an inspirational figure in this field, having, as the name of the blog indicates, not just lost 200 pounds, but kept them off for over nine years. Total success story. But enough about how amazing she is, this is what she said about me today:

"When I met my husband, one of the things that intrigued me immediately is that he’s a monster of a man. As a giantess of a woman, it takes a lot for a man to make me feel dainty and feminine. I’ve come to the realization over many years that I’m built on a bigger scale than most other people – not just women, but men too. At 6 feet tall and 200 pounds, I towered over most potential dates when I was single. The man I now call my husband is an inch taller then me and built like an ox. He has big calloused hands that make mine look child-sized, I call them his monster-paws. His forearms rival Popeye’s – magnificent, vein-covered slabs of granite. His neck measurement actually made me gape when I heard it. He can pick me up and carry me if I’m incapacitated (he had to once when I was sick). This is a man that used to win bar bets by lifting trucks off the ground. Or, as he says, “Mostly Ford Rangers, so it’s not all that big a deal.”"

SHE LOVES ME!! Me and my gnarly, calloused meat-hooks.
cathyn: (Johnny!)
Yesterday, my love and I spent most of the day in formals, 1910's era dress for her, tux and tails for me. There was even a costume change, it was perfect!

First we attended the wedding of Karen and Chaz. An outdoor affair at the Rengstorff House, it was gorgeous. The scenery was complimented by the number of attendees who dressed appropriately, as the wedding had a mild steampunk theme. The food was AWESOME, and the company was even better!

Around 5:30 we departed to travel to our next destination:

Last night we attended the "Last Dinner on the Titanic", which rumor has it served the same menu as the ship did. For reasons quite a mystery to me, the organizers of the event came and asked me specifically to offer a toast. I don't know why. At 9:19 PM, the band ended a song, and my great good friend [livejournal.com profile] zoccolaro called the assembled guests to order and exactly 9:20PM I spoke, noting that it was at that exact moment 100 years ago that the stern of the Titanic slipped beneath the waves. I called for a moment of silence, and then offered a toast to the bravery of the crew and passengers who helped the survivors onto the lifeboats, the survivors who had to struggle on, and the victims. Apparently the ballroom we were in got a bit dusty right about then.

We got tired, went home, and I dreamed.

A friend owned a sandwich shop. He had been called away for some minor emergency, and I jumped behind the counter and began making sandwiches. I am very kind, and instead of rushing through things and slinging out orders quickly, I'm customizing the food, chatting with the customers, and falling way behind. The fresh out of the bar rush had started, and I was getting stomped. Fortunately for me, one of the first of the bar crowd to come in was my friend Morris. He saw the situation, jumped behind the counter, and we started hammering out orders. At some point we caught up, and a couple others came behind the counter, and we started playing around in the kitchen, as talented chefs will do when presented a clean professional kitchen and a well-stocked pantry. We then started COOKING. And drinking.

We were tossing out crazy stacked up appetizers, split lobsters flambe, all sorts of stuff, dozens of dishes, created and set out for anyone to try. It was fantastic.

Note that no-where in here did I say anyone at all was doing dishes.

It was at this point that I dreamed we kinda fell asleep in the restaurant, and were awakened by my friend the sandwich-shop owner returning to the mess we'd made. Wow, ugly scene indeed. Fortunately I woke up, and in miracle of miracles, didn't have to wash any dishes!

The reason this stuck so firmly with me is as I was waking up, Morris was telling me, quite stridently, that even though I was waking up, I should not forget the dish he'd invented. Maybe this dish exists in reality, I haven't checked in any of my books. Maybe I saw it on TV, but I'll bet not. This is Morris' Lamb and Marrow Bones, which may even be able to be prepared here on Earth:

Take cubes of a tender cut of lamb, put them in a large steel bowl with salt, flour, pepper, and toss them to lightly and evenly coat the meat with the flour and spices, being careful when adding the flour to make sure they just get a light coating. Then deep fry the lamb chunks until the outsides are crisped, trying to time it so you get crispy outsides and warm tender insides. Set these aside. Cube up potatoes to roughly the same size as the lamb chunks, salt and pepper these, and mix about them with the lamb chunks to roughly even volumes, so you end up with a 50-50 lamb-potato mix, and place these in a big deep casserole, filling it to within an inch of the top. On top of these, tightly pack marrow bones, cut 2" thick, so the tops of the bones stick up out of the pan like little chimneys. Bake this forever, until the marrow has rendered, leaving succulent lumps in the bones, but much of their oily goodness has mingled with the lamb and potatoes, infusing everything with that creamy marrowy loveliness.

There you have it. In the dream he made this dish, didn't actually serve it, so I don't have any instructions on how one would do so, and I don't even know if the marrow would render in the way mentioned.

Perhaps it would all melt, and you'd be left with empty chimneys?

Perhaps it wouldn't melt right at all, and you'd have a pan of perfect marrowbones sitting on top of hard dry overcooked and ruined lamb and potatoes?

This seems to be an encapsulation of many of my marrowbone fantasies, in that I love their flavor and creaminess, and how that would spread to other foods, I love digging the goo out of them, I love lamb, I love well seared meats, and I love how potatoes sometimes act as flavor sponges, and think lamby marrowy potatoes would just make my heart sing, sing the song of the joy of hardened arteries.
cathyn: (Default)
I just booted someone on FB. He had it coming, as he is a fanatic, which I have seen defined as one who will not change their mind, and cannot change the subject. Abrasive and prone to using logical fallacies, most especially ad hominum attacks, he had to go when he directly insulted the intelligence of a good friend of mine.

This put me into a very introspective mindset for a few minutes, and I want to get these things out in public. If you're bored, feel free to move on and find pictures of kittens playing with string, I really won't mind. :-)

So. I hold many viewpoints and opinions quite strongly, having formed them, discussed them, defended them in debates, and refined them where I found them lacking. That is one of the important parts. If you find yourself arguing something stupid, and when the words are leaving your mouth, they sound stupid to you, or when your interlocutor says "Yes, but why?" and you have no good answer, you probably need to DEEPLY examine that opinion, and either develop good defensible support, or change it.

I change my mind all the time. When I can't defend something, or closer scrutiny reveals my thoughts to be stupid, intellectual honest REQUIRES that the most factual and provable thing be internalized, which sometimes really sucks, and challenges your very humanity, but you have to always move towards the truth, and perceiving the truth through verifiable, provable, fact-based methods.

I used to be a Reagan Republican. I still hold him in very high esteem. But a friend did me the great favor once of breaking my brain. We were discussing politics, and he was questioning me on my embrace of Reaganomics, when he posited a question that forced me to IMMEDIATELY, on the very spot, concede the discussion, and change my mind. He said "The government is going to be in your pocket no matter what, taxing you in every way they can conceive. Would you rather they use the money they take to buy an arms merchant another mansion, or a guy on the streets of Philadelphia a cheeseburger?" I stopped, examined his question for certainly more than a minute, in complete silence, and replied "You win. I can't reconcile that question with my ethics, at all. Thank you very much." Yes, I thanked him for changing my mind. I believe this exchange helped me become the man I am today, one who questions everything, and applies the scientific method in delving for answers to those questions, and then accepting the answers I get, until further refinement either changes or reinforces them.

That, I hope, is critical thinking, and the polar opposite of fanaticism. That, too, I hope, characterizes me, and is not just my arrogant justification for holding on to whack-a-doodle ideas. This, too, is an invitation to challenge me on any position I hold to that sounds stupid. Make me defend it. If I can't, I'll very likely change my position to one I can defend. For my part, I promise I'll try hard to stick to facts and provables, and never say "Because Thor says so!"


It seems, based on comments here and on facebook, that I have given the impression that this post has a political leaning. It does not, the citation of example above was just that, an example of how easy it should be to change a deeply held opinion when presented with a counter-argument that's better than your reasons for your opinions. This, in my opinion, applies to everything, not just politics.

Let's try another example. Two nights ago, my wife commented to me "I can't see why you hate the Detroit Red Wings so much, when it seems to me that they have followed similar policies regarding their players and the management of the team as your beloved Pittsburgh Steelers. They draft well, pay fairly, perennially compete for Championships, and if a player demands a King's Ransom, they let him go seek his fortune elsewhere and replace him with someone else who values victory and excellence over money. Why are the Steelers right for doing this and the Red Wings wrong?" I'd formed my opinion about the Wings in the Reagan years, when the Soviet Union was THE BAD GUYS, and Detroit seemed hell bent on taking the best players Central Army had and offering them jobs. This was evil (in my opinion at the time). The more I thought about it two nights ago, the more I realized she was right. The Wings are like the Steelers. I love Russia, but still hate the U.S.S.R., but the hockey players who defected and joined the NHL probably didn't deserve my wrath, and the team that did the best they could to remain winners probably didn't deserve it either. She won. She presented an argument that blew the legs out from under mine. I now no longer consider the Wings to be evil dirtbags. I'm still not a fan, and never will be, but I have allowed in my own mind, that they are Worthy Rivals, a team to be respected while rooting against them, not one who should have a meteor strike their arena during a home game. She changed my mind with a better argument, and rewrote an opinion I've held for over 30 years with logic. That is intellectual honesty.
cathyn: (Default)
We made soap!

Here's what it looks like:

Boring pics, but the smell is great! I definitely have a couple bars each for [livejournal.com profile] mediea and [livejournal.com profile] mad_duchess who contributed oils to the mix.
cathyn: (Default)
Today, [livejournal.com profile] lifeofglamour and I are making soap. For future reference, and that of my beloved readers, here's the recipe:

31.08 oz Beef Tallow
15.8 oz Pig fat (from [livejournal.com profile] mediea!)
1.78 oz Beeswax (from [livejournal.com profile] mad_duchess!)
6.25 oz Coconut Oil
3.66 oz Palm Oil
3.65 oz Castor Oil

My spreadsheet calculated the Lye and Water solution to be 8.84 oz Lye and 20.7 oz water, which sounded very very lye-rich, but after polling friends on FaceBook, and plugging the oils into a second recipe calculator, those quantities were confirmed, and so the lye and water were mixed, and now we wait for temperatures to normalize, then blending will happen!

Soon, SOAP!!
cathyn: (Default)
The amazing [livejournal.com profile] lifeofglamour has finished the Shirt of Glory, damn she does great work. She then took pity on me, having been in the sewing room since about 9:30, only taking breaks to go grocery shopping and to cook dinner, and she sewed my codpiece on to the pumpkin pants, and stitched on a hook-and-eye set so it will hang straight. She is made of awesome!


I got the false sleeves done. I know I said no preview pictures, but I have to flash a small sample.

What an epic ass-pile of work, compounded by having to work a small miracle, wherein I did not have enough material to make the sleeves properly, and so had to take a very time intensive long-cut to make them look like I had enough material. Something like the loaves and fishes in brocade and wool. I estimate the false sleeves alone took ten hours, total, and very little of that was dithering.

I fixed the massive headache with the overcoat and its lining, having stupidly tried to mix patterns, one for the shoulder hole, a different one for the sleeve. Yeah, all of you who have ever set sleeves are cringing right now, and rightly so. Miracle #2 for this outfit, as through patience, hard work, and cursing up a ultraviolet streak, I fixed the problems, and now the fit like they're supposed to.

Through yet another miracle, I discovered I was able to create trim from thin air to do the three stripes of trim around the circumference of the coat, and that trim is now awaiting attachment. Miracle #3, I am now qualified for Sainthood. I also dug out the fixins for the yoke, and in doing so, discovered a previously unrevealed roll of the exact trim I need to make the yoke match the false sleeves.

UPSHOT: A few hours of work ahead of me, and my faithful-ish copy of the 1547 coat of Maurice, Prince Elector of Saxony will be completed.

The jerkin has sat aloofly on its hangar all day, and still needs a few minutes of handwork to finish connecting the lining to the shell at the wrists, before it is also done. I will have it done tomorrow, thanks in great measure to my loving wife, without whom, I'd be wearing all this finery over an old store-bought shirt (store==Sebastian's Clothiers).

UPSHOT: Jerkin is >< close, and I can totally see DONE from here!
cathyn: (FoodPorn)
I have in the past opined that after the gong sounds, Tetsujin and Chosenjah walk away to be interviewed by Otah-san, and the completed dishes are rolled away for Tasting and Judgement, they should re-start the clock, and just given what the two chefs have left behind, I could make a competitive set of dishes. I AM IRON CHEF WHATEVER'S LEFT!!

Today my lovely wife said she might want cookies. She asked me what kind of cookies I'd make if I were to go to the kitchen. I gave the ingredients on hand a good thinking over and said "Coconut Date Cookies". We're out of chips, the only chocolate in the house is Abuelita, and there wasn't much else. She decided against cookies, and I put it out of my mind.

Twenty minutes ago, in response to me whinging about wanting ice cream, she whispered "I want a cookie. Just one." "OK." says Your Humble Narrator, and toddle off to the kitchen, her words "No coconut, please..." hanging in my ears.



1 stick Butter
1 Egg
3/4 cup Brown Sugar
1/2 tsp Cream of Tartar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp Real Vanilla Extract
1/4 tsp Kosher Salt

Pre-heat oven to 375°. Start with the butter and your blender, creaming the butter, add the sugar and keep creaming, the sugar, etc., until all ingredients are creamed. Mix in:

1/2 cup coarsely chopped Dates (Medjool, Deglet Noor, whatever you have on hand)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped Maraschino Cherries *
1/2 cup Sliced Almonds

Get these mixed in thoroughly and add:

1 3/4 cups Flour

Stir/fold this in as gently as possible, we're making cookies, not bread.

Spoon the dough onto a parchment covered cookie sheet and bake at 375° for about 10-12 minutes, remove to plate and serve to deeply appreciative spouse. Makes 12-15 cookies, it's a small recipe, designed to not fatten me up by putting four dozen cookies in front of me.

* Hey, we had a cocktail party last night, and the jar was just sitting there. What's an Iron Chef supposed to do?
cathyn: (Default)
A small piece of history has died with me today. I have had in my possession a light bulb that used to be used as a night light in my grandmother's house. A light bulb that she allegedly purchased at the World's Fair, maybe the 1924 Fair, possibly the 1918, maybe as late as the 1939, or as early as 1908, but that's not too likely. This bulb burned continuously in her house from time of purchase until some short time after her death in June 1975, so somewhere between 36 and 58 years of continuous work. After that it went to my mother's house, where it performed the same duty pretty much until she died in 1989, so add 14 more years to the total. After that, it saw sparse use in some of the places I've lived, but, frankly, I have always been too scared to keep it out of its protective enconsement in a tissue lined box in the cabinet for fear of it getting smashed. I took it out a few months ago to photograph it and send the photos to Westinghouse to see if they could identify it, any markings it had having long since vanished. For some dumbfuck reason I failed to put it away, and so it sat on my workbench, and every time I saw it I'd think "I should put that somewhere safe..."

Today ends the worry. Working on some small thing on the bench, I bumped my cordless drill, which fell onto the bulb. It looks like this now:

I've never seen anything like it. The researcher at Westinghouse was unable to identify it. Searching for anything like it on Google Images is fruitless. It had burned continuously for somewhere between 50 and 73 years, and now it's gone. Smashed. And that's how I feel about it. Logic says it's just a thing, maybe a valuable thing, maybe an irreplaceable thing, possibly even a unique thing, but just a thing. Emotion says something else entirely.
cathyn: (Milkman Dan)
Over the last week or two we've been watching the most interesting show, FlashForward, a brilliant (though sometimes slightly dragging) sci-fi piece, with a far better than one might expect cast, originally run on ABC. If you're really interested, the plot synopsis on IMDB tells about the story itself. Yeah, whatever, that's not why I'm writing.

I'm writing because the decision makers at each of the major TV networks are shit-gargling dickbags who should all die in the slowest, most painful fire on Planet Torturous Death. Think, oh ye my Faithful Readers, think back to that astoundingly brilliant show you loved, with the great cast, magnificent writing, favorable time slot, Emmy nominations, and a loyal following. Remember how it got cancelled? Yeah.

Their names are countless, stretching back far longer ago than the original Star Trek, continuing through Firefly, American Gothic, Arrested Development, The Adventures of Brisco County Junior, and through to FlashForward and beyond. These treasures (and, to be sure, some just slightly better than average, but way outside the sitcom norm) get smothered in their cribs while Seinfeld, ThirtySomething, and so fucking many other mediocre shows get a decade or more to tell their stories, most of which DON'T ACTUALLY HAVE A FUCKING STORY AT ALL.

It seems that's the true deathknell. Have a story to tell that takes longer than 22 minutes. Have a story to tell that takes longer than a season. Have a good story. Babylon 5 is the exception, not the rule, and that's just fucking wrong.
cathyn: (GIR Marches)
Yeah, this should go behind a cut, to save bandwidth for the uninterested.

I finished the machine sewing today, and have nothing left but handwork. 13 small buttons, 17 large buttons, and stitching down the sleeve linings. I am rather pleased, though if the other night is any indicator, I cannot watch movies while sewing buttons. We watched "Usual Suspects", and I managed to sew nine buttons over the course of the film. Maybe if I put on something less interesting...

Anyway, here are the pictures! )

Wig-crafting tonight, and then the event this weekend, from which I am certain there will be a fantastic number of pictures posted, both here and on facebook.
cathyn: (Hammertime2)
I am making a 1750 English officer's uniform. I am taking WILD liberties with some aspects of the authenticity, in that it is emphatically not red, and I have no documentation that in this era they wore anything but red with various colors for the lapels, as determined by the unit they were in. They also had not yet invented rank insignia, though in the near future I will be adding Colonel's Crown and Stars to it, in the form of hand-made brass shoulder-boards with much hanging cordage.

The work is based upon a painting I posted earlier, but since that post is locked, I'll re-post here:

I am using Janice Ryan Pattern JPR-202, which I found on the Smoke and Fire website, a pattern my lovely wife made for me for the waistcoat from the sloper she'd drafted for me a couple years ago, and I found the most interesting selection of period appropriate buttons on the Military History website. As an officer, it is proper to use gold buttons rather than pewter ones, so I chose the gold plated 8th (or King's) Regiment of Foot buttons, large size (~7/8") for the coat, and small (~1/2") for the waistcoat.

My progress so far is the coat is completed, save for hand stitching the sleeve linings into the cuffs, and sewing on the rest of the buttons, as I currently have about half of them done. The waistcoat is also mostly complete, needing only to be hemmed, trimmed, and ~15 buttons attached.

The coat looks like this:

So far I am *very* pleased with the results, and will post more pictures after it's done.


Mar. 11th, 2011 10:01 am
cathyn: (My arms)
So, last year, at Erinwood, Duke Steingrim brought a bunch of armor and stuff to display, among which pieces was a lovely blackened Norman peaked helm, and I fell in love. I've been fighting in the same 16th Century English Lobster Pot for so long I've caught it coming home from the bar, having gone without me. I don't remember its exact date of manufacture, but I remember having owned it for a few years already when I moved to Calontir in December of 1990. call it 23+ years old. Recently I had a discussion with a friend who mentioned that, while my helm looked fantastic, it had many projections, the tail, the brim, and such, that made it a shot collector, causing me to take shots that were certainly not good, but because my opponent's weapon caught on something away from my actual head, the helm moved like all hell, and I died when I shouldn't have. A lot. He suggested a new helm, so I was already in the mood when I saw this midnight black sexxxy thing Steingrim had made, and I would have bought it on the spot if it hadn't been made for someone about Bryndis' size. Not a Cathyn-sized helm at all. So H.G. and I have been working in his shop the last few months on the lovely thing you'll find behind the cut. It's almost finished, needs a face plate and I can get it all padded and strapped and start fighting.

No, it's not gonna have a coronet. I hardly wear the ones I have when I'm not in armor, why would I wear one *every* time I am in armor?

Eleven shots of the helm, in two stages of construction )
cathyn: (This is all I have)
I am in love with my wife, and that love, even after more than three years, it grows greater every day. She is wonderful, beautiful, talented, replete with charm and elegance. She makes me feel alive, makes me feel wanted, sexy, loved. I have no idea what I'd do without her, nor do I ever want to find out. We are a perfect match, equally content dressed to the nines at the symphony as we are sitting on the couch watching 30-Rock on DVD. My life could not be better, and it's largely due to her.

I love you, Angel mine.
cathyn: (Default)
Or those wishing to relocate to the area:

I was just pinged by the recruiter who got me the job here at $COMPANY. Details are sketchy, but there seems to be a need for Project Managers with Data Center Migration or Creation experience. I don't know the salary range, but I can say that getting paid beats not getting paid, and that I believe that for my skill and career levels, I am being paid rather adequately, and working a bit below my normal place on the Org Chart. Your mileage may vary.

If you're interested, drop me a note, we'll exchange contact info. The bright spot is the recruiter is on LinkedIn, so if you have a profile, I can just send you both an introductory email, and then he can read all your recommendations.

I think I need to ask him what my referral bonus is...
cathyn: (FoodPorn)
[livejournal.com profile] lifeofglamour had to go to another meeting in LALALand today, which very suckily means getting out of bed at 0430 to shower, eat, and get caffiened-up for the day, before dropping her at SJC before 0600. It also fortunately means that since it's in LA, it is totally conceivable, and in fact always results in, her flying home later the same day, and sleeping in our bed, right beside me. This is a Good Thing, I assure you.

It does make for long days, and much exhaustion by the time the dinner bell rings, and a great gob of indecision between us as to what to do about food. Tonight we had a discussion that went kinda like this.

Her: What's for dinner?
Me: No clue. What are you in the mood for?
Her: No clue. What do you feel like making?
Me: No clue. I was hoping you'd have an opinion, so I wouldn't have to decide.
Her: OK. What do we have in the house?
Me: Blah blah men talking blah.
Her: OK. Can you make salsa from that?
Me: What?!?
Her: Salsa. And broiled salmon. That's what I want.
Me: {Dead silence as the gears slowly cogitated upon the concept}
Her: What's that smell?

We stopped at the grocery store and bought the salmon and the salsa ingredients not already in the Kitchen of Glory, and whipped up a little something like this:

2 poblano chiles, roasted, peeled and seeded, chopped coarsely
2 serrano chiles, chopped finely
1 mango chopped coarsely
1 papaya chopped coarsely
1/2 vidalia onion, minced fine
2 avocados
3 large tomatoes chopped coarsely
handful of fresh cilantro chopped coarsely
4 cloves garlic, minced superfine
juice of 2 lemons
salt, pepper

Chop the stuff in the finenesses listed, and put in the bowl in more or less this order: Tomatoes, Onions, Mango, Papaya, Chiles, Garlic, Cilantro. So the Avocado wouldn't have even the tiniest chance to oxidize/brown, I first sliced the lemons and set them aside, then cut the avocados, scored them inside their skins, scooped out the results into the big mixing bowl, and immediately squeezed the lemons onto them, through a strainer to catch the seeds. Start stirring, add Salt and Pepper. Get it kinda evenly mixed and you're done.

Before chopping the first thing, turn the oven on to BROIL. Make the salsa. Line a shallow baking pan with foil or parchment, for no other reason than easing clean-up. Place the salmon fillets skin up (you won't be turning them), salt and pepper the skin (mmmm Crispy Charred Salmon Skin), place these in the broiler until they're done, a little rare-ish. The skin will be fairly crispy, almost burned.

Plate these, and GENEROUSLY cover with the Salsa.

Enjoy, possibly pairing the dish with a nice Lambrusco, which will hold up well against the bold flavors without being overwhelmed.

The above recipe, as with all recipes published here and not otherwise credited, is an original creation of Cathyn McKenna, who reserves whatever passes for copyright.
cathyn: (Default)

My friend Bill

A philosopher once said
“It's no different than
diving into a very cold pool
and swimming out the other side”

Bill dove into that pool
like so many before
but instead of swimming
he rode in a boat of frost and air

We stood on the edge
and watched him sail
some right near the fire
some quite far away, yet still close enough to smell the smoke

He stood at the rail
Young and old all at once, and strong as always
and watched us drink his name
his fame, our love, our pain

And he waved from the rail
as he sailed away
knowing we'd all meet again

cathyn: (Dr. Jayne)
So, here's another weight-loss success story, which by now should sound terribly familiar to any who've been reading my journal (or [livejournal.com profile] lifeofglamour's) for any length of time. To sum up, let me itemize the important points:

  • Increased exercise
  • Supportive partner
  • Celebrate victories, learn from mistakes

Exercise alone is never enough. You cannot undo the damage done by drastically overeating with exercise, there simply aren't enough hours in the day.

Diet alone is not really enough. Exercise burns calories directly; builds muscles which, while they weigh more, burn more fuel too; and increases your metabolism somewhat to burn a bit more fuel.

Having a partner who supports your health/lifestyle choices is probably the biggest boon to successful weight loss one can have. You may want to make the wrong choices, might be fighting a losing battle against the absolute demon of bad habits like french fries, and then partner brings home figs or asparagus, and relishes them with you, and goes for walks/runs/swims with you, and the odds of you both having successful results increases by far more than double, because when you're weak they'll likely be strong. When they're weak, you can be strong for them.

Make sure you notice that Chris Dolley's overall success WAS NOT immediate, but that she had small victories early that gave her the strength to win the war. If you start, do not get discouraged by how much you have to lose. Do not get discouraged that you didn't lose all of it this week. Do not get discouraged that you only lost .5 lbs this week or even gained a pound, be glad you are still making good decisions, or figure out how to avoid the bad ones , stick to your plans, advance upon the enemy with relentless determination, and achieve TOTAL VICTORY in due time.

Maybe [livejournal.com profile] americanknight said this and I'm quoting, or maybe I invented it in his voice, but "Don't make excuses, make progress."

Ganked directly from CNN, posted here instead of linked as I don't want the content to vanish )
cathyn: (FoodPorn)
The wonderful [livejournal.com profile] compassstarlady and her fantastic husband came over for dinner. Tonight's simple menu consisted of:

Duck Confit Rissoto (thanks [livejournal.com profile] j_i_m_r!!)
Baked Tomatoes stuffed with Duxelle and Jarlsberg cheese
Broiled Pork Chops (Simple, but not overcooked!)

Paul brought a FABULOUS red wine, which has risen to the top of my Best Red Wines list, replacing 2002 Cline Cellars Ancient Vines Mourvedre, which up until tonight was the finest red I'd ever had. I don't have the bottle handy, so you'll have to wait til later to find out the name of this mysterious contender, but really, when you learn its name, you should go buy a bottle or six. Trust me.

Dessert was the weak point of the evening, store-bought cherry cheese cake. Not cheesecake, spongy baked cake, with delightfully sweet/tangy/salty sour cream/cream cheese frosting. With cherries. Yummy, but still store-bought, so it didn't really go along well with the rest of the home-made goodies I served.

There are no pictures, as the delightful repast was demolished by the gleeful guests.
cathyn: (My arms)

For the record, HE Richard de Camville hits like a girl. A girl made of tons of bricks. The images below are the result of a single blow, upon a leg that hasn't bruised in over 20 years. This leg is now swollen all the way down to mid-calf, and bruising is heading in that direction. Some of this might be the result of another problem, but I won't be sure 'til I talk to the Doctor tomorrow.

Inside thigh:

Back of same thigh:

Remember if you will that this shot landed Sunday, March 7th. Well struck brother, well struck!
cathyn: (My arms)
In lieu of our normal Sunday Fighter Practice in front of [livejournal.com profile] leohtulf's house, we drove out to De Grendelus for the day. What an awesome day we had! About four solid hours of drills and free fighting, wherein I got about as much as I could grab hold of. AWESOME STUFF. The shot of the day was Sir Richard de Camville setting me up then busting my thigh with a straight drop shot, catching me just after I had set up what I call a "strong gun platform" which, among other things, means my leg was rigid and unable to move when struck, so maximum force was transmitted, and Richard don't hit light. The swelling will go down in a day or two...

Among my issues recently, other than the "Sat me on the sidelines for six weeks" chest cold, has been a confidence issue, or something like that that I can't put correctly into words. I'm trying to up my game, figure out the things great fighters so easily put into words, like the idea of applying pressure to an opponent's defence to get them to open something I want to hit without actually throwing feints, just leaning or looking, or mentally probing their defence pointedly. I'm not there yet, but I'm kinda feeling it. I got to have some passes with Count Gemini, who gave me some very good instruction, but could not answer my biggest question. When I fight him, something about our interaction, the way we move, the way I move in response to his set-up and movements, make me unable to direct good shots at him. Today, somewhere between 60% and 80% of what I threw at him would not have even touched him had he bothered to stand still and lower his guard. In science fiction terms, he has a jamming pod, and can jigger up my targeting computer but good. Problematically, he doesn't know if he has this pod, nor how he activates it for me, but I just can't target him.

I'm learning to generate more power, and be comfortable throwing it. I'm learning where the holes in my defense are, and getting better about covering them. I am even seeing that I need to go into drastic aerobic training to get the energy to stay on top of my fights for longer, as when I get tired, I lose the ability to stay in good stance and maintain proper habits far more than I used to, and I no longer have blinding teenager speed to correct for the mistakes I make. I am even learning that I need to fight with the system in my hand, rather than system I fought for the last 20 years. Sword and wankel shield requires different ranging than sword and center grip round, and thanks to Gemini for reminding me of that. 44 year old fighters do not usually have the speed and reaction time of 23 year old fighters, but at this age, I have "skill enough to afford to be a little patient, to let my opponent make the mistakes I know he will make, and to make them make the mistakes I want them to make". Gemini reminded me of this, and said I just need to let myself do this thing I already know how to do. I must study this intently.

Thanks again to everyone I fought, and to all who have inspired this upsurge in my desire to excel at this game, most particularly my thrice-radiant and thrice-beautiful wife, [livejournal.com profile] lifeofglamour.
cathyn: (FoodPorn)
The lovely [livejournal.com profile] lifeofglamour and I are driving around today, and found ourselves at the corner of Campbell and Winchester. Off to the side was a sign for PSYCHO DUNUTS, who promise their coffee will shock you. It being early afternoon, we decided afternoon coffee was in order, so drove around a bit, then returned to PSYCHO DONUTS.

Totally the right decision.

It's a regular shop, but with a small padded room off to the side for photo-ops, and the girl behind the counter was wearing an old-skool nurse's uniform. Eclectic art (all for sale) covers the walls, and the flat screen tv is showing Weird Al videos. Then there's the donuts. Big donuts. Big unusually shaped donuts. Triangular "Feng Shui" donuts with green tea icing sprinkled with chocolate chips. Big square "Manic Malt" donuts with slivers of malt balls stuck to the top with chocolate icing. Huge triangular "Strawberry Fields" donuts with strawberry icing, sliced strawberries, and strawberry Pocky on top. Filled, glazed donuts with dead guy faces drawn on next to filled sugared donuts with dead guy faces drawn on. "Headbangers" and Headbanger's Ugly Twin Brother" donuts.

Sadly we were too late to get the donuts with Cap'n Crunch with Crunchberries (CALLED "CEREAL KILLER"! WHAT'S NOT TO LOVE?) iced to the tops, which seem to go very fast, but we took a couple of cups of coffee (not "shocking", but absolutely the best coffee I've ever gotten in a donut shop!), a Manic Malt, and the BIGGEST FRITTER EVAR with us. But wait, it gets even better. It was an Apricot Fritter! Nothing here was normal, but everything was fantastic, monster donuts, A.B. Normal dounts, PSYCHO DONUTS!!!



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