July 2012

In the midst of a momentary reflection as to whether I wrote much when I was a kid, in addition to ruining my eyes by reading all the time, it just came to me what all this social networking is: passing notes in class.  I did a lot of that, so I guess I did write.

We’re all supposed to be “on task” and paying attention to the teacher (boss, work, kids, whatever) but what we’re doing is passing around electronic notes.  Can you imagine us voluntarily writing as much in school as we do on blogs or at Google+ and Facebook?

I don’t know if the teachers would be thrilled about what we were writing, but one or two might be pleased to see us scribbling away.

I can’t write about my fiction because, first off, it’s not yet published and that makes the stories difficult to promote.  They are accumulating, but the process is slow.  I also can’t write about my fiction as that would decrease the pressure I’m feeling to have it published.  Telling you that my heroine will be doing this, that or the other thing soothes my itch to tell her story.

I have drafts of general-interest blog posts, but they languish on the hard drive because the very act of writing them to demonstrate my superior way of thinking about the topics showed me I was right.  Once I’d shown myself the validity of my thinking, I didn’t need to tell everyone else about it.   (you’re welcome)

All the reasons I have for not writing leaves me with a problem — a blog needs entries to keep it from being Just Another WordPress Blog.  To keep things active, I’ve put together a list of Other Peoples’ Writings for your reading enjoyment.  I found these blog entries either amusing, illuminating or fun (and yes, Scalzi’s the outlier, but so worth it).

Happy reading!

In other news, I am presently enjoying Donna Leon’s latest book Beastly Things.

Decaf tea still tastes like steeped fish scales.  I’d have thought that in over twenty years of production that manufacturers would have made some improvement.

  (1994, tea on the patio with May-ree)

That’s all.  Just letting off steam after breakfast.

Heat, heat, go away.

Let the rain come back to play.

I understand the people in Arizona and Texas routinely tolerate this kind of heat in the summer, but this isn’t the Southwest.  This is the temperate part of the western Midwest — see the trees in the background?  (they still look green, but they’re already losing leaves and I’ve seen dead trees among the stands of woods along the roadways)  The beige on the lower edge of the photo is the parched grass shaded from the midday sun by a pretty tall oak.

Please consider this post an official complaint to The Management — wherever that Management resides.  The humans may be deserving of divine wrath, but our trees didn’t do anything to anyone (other than the sweet gums planted in the wrong places and are ruining sidewalks, but they didn’t plant themselves).

Management, spare the trees.  Consider the wildlife.  Have mercy on the livestock.

We’re off for a short adventure from one side of the state to the other.  Yesterday morning we were west of the Mississippi, by supper we were east of the Mississippi.

After sitting all day, the grandkids were full of energy — I think they leached it from Poppa and me.  To burn it off, I ‘gave in’ to the pleas to go swimming.  I’d have joined them in the pool, but when I searched for my bathing suit while packing the suitcase, I couldn’t find it.  How does someone lose a bathing suit from a drawer?

Because of the lack of a suit, I played lifeguard from the side of the pool, prepared, at any moment, to fling caution to the winds and leap into four feet of water to pluck floundering children from the water.  I’m happy to say that me getting wet was never necessary.

But that doesn’t mean that me getting wet didn’t happen.

Today we’re off to see relatives and museum.   It might not be life in the fast lane, but, so far, it’s not life in the parking lot.

It’s about as dry as Arizona, 90F at night, and what are the people doing?  Shooting off exploding skyrockets in an area with houses and trees.  It’s enough to make you question whether they should be allowed out without keepers.

My sprinkler is on, but I don’t know about anyone else’s.

Whether I’m writing or not, I love research.  Or maybe I’m entranced because it’s just as Robert Louis Stevenson said, “The world is so full of a number of things, I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.”  In any case, I’m off on a ‘characteristically’ new adventure — learning about spirits.  No, I’m not delving into the modern trend in spirits with vampires and such, but rather indulging the traditional writerly spirits — booze.

By way of background, since I’m not known for my taste in alcohol, I set off on this adventure because I was browsing a sale email from The Teaching Company (I am known for my taste in Teaching Company courses).  I was looking at the history, science, religion and museum courses when The Everyday Guide to Spirits and Cocktails (pictured above), caught my eye. “Hmmm,” I thought to myself, “that’s different.”

I read the description, but wasn’t sure I wanted to make it a permanent part of my collection as the last cocktail I drank was in 1975 — a Tequila Sunrise which, I found out in this course, is just a tequila screwdriver with grenadine.  I also learned that Tequila is a place, and that the heart of the agave plant from which the liquor is distilled is called a piña (which has nothing to do with a piña colada).  My research is already paying off.

I bought two courses I wanted more than this one, budgets being what they are, but the idea of learning what many adults already know wouldn’t leave me alone.  I was pleased when I checked the library’s website to find that the course was there.  I put it on hold, and it arrived quickly.  I took about a week or so to get around to watching it, but once I started I found the episodes engaging and watched them all, yesterday and today.

The one downside to making the course “interactive” was tasting the spirits. I tried whiskey yesterday and even though I only tasted the liquid still clinging to a spoon I dipped into each spirit, it seemed that the flavor stayed in my mouth for hours after.  I was surprised at the pervasiveness of both the smell and taste especially since the whiskey I had was Canadian and not one of the peaty brands.

Despite the clinginess of the flavor, I wanted to continue my education.  My husband and I went to a liquor store and bought a selection of the tiny bottles of liquor such as airlines use.  I’m not sure if the clerk believed me when I said I was buying all those little bottles for research.

Not all the recommended liquors were available in sample-sized bottles — to get potato vodka I’d have had to buy a 3-pack of fifths — but there were more than I expected.  I was lucky in that I do like cooking with some liquors (Calvados in apple crisp lends a sophisticated depth to the homey dish, and Wild Turkey gives pumpkin pie new flavor notes) so I already had a selection to taste — the taller bottles in the photo are my cooking liquors.

As for the character research, I now have in mind a sophisticated gentleman as a supporting character.  I’m looking forward to finding out whether his coworkers appreciate his cocktail gatherings and dinner parties. He is probably also knowledgeable about wine. Luckily, that course is still on sale.

An article at the Huffington Post puts into perspective something I wondered about, but didn’t know the particulars of — in Baden-Württemberg, our landlord’s father had a strong non-German accent because he was from Czechoslovakia.

The Expulsion Of The Germans: The Largest Forced Migration In History, R. M. Douglas, 25 June 2012

R.M. Douglas is the author of “Orderly and Humane: The Expulsion of the Germans after the Second World War” (Yale University Press, $38)

I always had a devil of a time when Herr E. would come over to the house to do some kind of maintenance.  His German was heavily accented and my conversational comprehension was a challenge to us both.  Luckily for me he was a nice man.  Our family jokingly called him the “garden gnome” because he was always weeding or planting, and he was a skilled gardener.  (the lawn mowing, though, was left to us)

I’m fascinated by other languages and have tried to learn something of any language I thought I’d need but, unfortunately, fluency in languages other than English is not my talent.  German is my ‘best’ language, but to go by the laughter of the nurse-nun who I called to complain to about my pain after being discharged from the hospital (and the grinning of my German-linguist husband who was listening in), no one will ever be asking me to make speeches to German audiences.  (the pain was transient and I only needed to wait it out)

Because Herr E. was retired and therefore acted as his son’s go-between with the renters, and because I was usually the person at home during the day, he and I were stuck with each other for household matters.  Conversations between us were sometimes a game of Charades as he tried to tell me whatever it was he needed to inform me about, and I listened as hard as I could to instructions about door handles, the furnace, and bleeding air from the radiators. To my credit, I don’t think I ever used the tactic of shouting to make myself understood, and I know he never did.

I’m saddened, now that I find out that Herr E. was probably deported under less-than-pleasant conditions from the place he considered his homeland.

Expulsion of Germans from Czechoslovakia (1946) Czechoslovak Film Chronicle  [YouTube]

He married and raised a family in Baden-Württemberg, but getting there can’t have been the happiest time in his life.