Friday, March 31, 2006
The canning is going along as smoothly as I could expect. Because the fruit has sat in storage for a week, some of it was beginning to spoil and had to be tossed. But the vast majority was just fine and firm. There are three more batches of jam to make with the remaining fruit (for a total of five batches out of one wheel barrow minus the spoiled). I hope to get at least two done tomorrow. I have seven half-pint jars and three pint jars sealed. And there's still a whole bunch of grapefruit on the tree. At least twice what's already been picked... And thank goodness it stays on the tree for up to a year without falling off... I have a while to let it just sit there if I need to.
I heard back from the Small Business people. They want me to make an appointment to discuss my ideas at my earliest convenience... Well, unfortunately for expediency that won't be until the second week of May... School comes first, technically one class or not, and I'm too easily distracted by shiny things to deal with worrying about setting up a business while studying... It's strange because most of the time I multi-task very well, but it looks like when it's a major thing, only one thing at a time will do.
We've ordered three more Honeysweet roses to plant in the front yard because the first one did so wonderfully. ::crosses fingers that it continues to do so and that the new ones will be just as pleasing::
School is going tolerably well. I can't really complain about the class, just all the other stuff I'm going to have to deal with in April getting all my ducks in a row for next year... which will, G-d willing, be my last undergrad year of education. But I can't think about that right now... in a few weeks when I can actually sign up for classes is soon enough...
Also, just to prove that it really is spring here, my dad and I went to a Spring Training game yesterday afternoon from 12:30 to 4:00. He got the tickets free from his boss with instructions to take the afternoon off. How nice! :) So we went and it was a great game! Yankees v. Devil Rays at Legends Field. There were several hundred people there... maybe upwards of 1,000? Almost all were Yankees fans... Now, I have no problem with Yankees fans... I just happen to like the Devil Rays much better. Besides being the home-town team (if not the "home team" at that particular venue), they have pretty team colors that I don't mind wearing (I *am* a girl, even when it comes to baseball). So I was somewhat disappointed that there were so few cheering for the Rays. But despite lack of fan support (though us few fans in attendance did our best), the Rays pulled out a win in the 9th by scoring 3 runs for a total of 6 and then shutting out the Yanks in the bottom of the inning. There were several drunk Yankees fans who were bordering on bringing what I can only call "baseball hooliganism" to Legends before the last out was called... They really should stop selling beer after about the 3rd inning rather than the 7th... By the 7th, far too many people have had far too much alcohol... I brought my knitting along with me and got a bit done there in between the chicken strips, fries, lemonade and diet Pepsi... Didn't really interrupt the game watching... This is the lovely thing about knitting.
Monday, March 27, 2006
Solution - Topsy-Turvy. Don't know if you've seen the movie or not, but, to remind or inform, it's about Gilbert & Sullivan and the first production of their operetta "The Mikado" in late 19th century London. It being set in the late 19th century, the ladies of the acting troupe were scandalized at the thought of appearing on stage without corsets. The solution for the costume mistress (played by Alison Steadman, "Mrs. Bennett" in the Pride & Prejudice A&E mini) was to make the obis effectively into corsets that mimicked obis by making them pre-tied with hidden laces, so that the actresses could still have shape and some support. One actress bemoaned that there was no whale bone, but she had to live with it. (And I simply have to mention - in case one needs more incentive to watch the movie - Andy Serkis plays a choreographer who apparently believes himself to be a chicken...)
Anyway, I'm wondering if I could rig up something like that... A long, rectangular length of fabric, three layers - "China silk" on the outside for shimmer with cotton drill or something underneath for the requisite stiffness lined in a cotton that compliments the "China silk" - tied like an obi, sewn in place so it won't come apart, cut open near the knot where people wouldn't see, couple of pieces of wire ties to keep it from gaping, lace it, finish it up, et voila! Something like that? I think that's closest to how they did it in Topsy-Turvy. I need to watch the movie again (or just that part), but I think I could do it... Although, I could also have two separate pieces - one that wrapped around the torso with ties and another piece with the decorative knot. There are Japanese obi that come in two parts... Anyway, another thing to add to my to-do list, growing longer by the day.
Sunday, March 26, 2006
Saturday, March 25, 2006
We no longer have Road Runner and BrightHouse at my house anymore... This week we switched to Verison because they gave us a really great deal. We're trying it free for a month to see if it really is a great deal... Now our TVs and wireless internet are run on Verison's fiber optics line. It took a team of three guys two days to set it all up. They had a problem dropping the line in the attic to set up the internet hub thingy... don't ask me why or how or what because I'm not that technical, but they couldn't figure it out and had to come back a second day. They were really nice guys... Asked me all about making jam and why and how and about my roses and my spinning wheel... They seemed to think it was all really cool. I like personable people.
I've been out in the garden pretty much all this week. Joe and I are revamping the herb garden which was slowly being taken over by weeds after the winter die-back. Joe's discovered a coriander and a peppermint hiding among the weeds. And Joe has seen several ring-neck black snakes hiding in the cool mulch. That's good, they'll keep away bad snakes and rodents. The revamp should be finished in a few weeks and then we can start planting all the new herbs that I started in pots many weeks ago. I was able to get the corn sprayed for worms (corns the only thing I can't get around spraying with chemicals. there's no organic deterrent in the world that will keep them away from sugary, yummy, melt in your mouth corn). I also sprayed the squash, zucchini and cucumbers with an organic soap-based concentrate to keep the powdery mildew down before it ever gets going. I have beer traps in place for when the slugs come out to play. I planted sunflowers along the pool screen edge. We planted azaleas in the side yard to block the view of the finely clipped hedges in the neighbor's yard... There's nothing wrong with them. I just prefer a flowery, wilder look than neat hedge rows provide... And azaleas do that with very little maintenance. So yay! Joe and I also planned and laid out beds around some of the new construction side of the house to cover the base where house meets ground. We're going to put in two trellises with wisteria, blue daze as a ground cover and a custom-made flower box in front of the master bedroom window later this summer when the herbs and veggies are all in place, producing or already done for the season. And at the same time, we're going to tackle finally finishing up the pond. I have a whole plan laid out with native Florida water plants, grasses and flowers. It should look very nice once it's done.
I finally found the canning equipment I needed for a water-bath canning system and should be able to start that as early as Tuesday. I don't know yet if I'll be able to sell it... but at least it will be made and preserved and I can give it as gifts to everyone I know for the next year if necessary.
I'm also continuing to work on the knitting projects I've already mentioned. The sontag is coming along, not as quickly as I'd like, but it's coming... I cannot remember if I mentioned that I finished the Mrs. Beeton cuffs from knitty.com yet or not, but they are both finished as of about a week and a half ago. I think I'm going to do some knecklaces with the fine silk/angora yarn that was left over from the cuffs. I have to double-check the gauge, but I think it will work. I also haven't decided what I want to do with the knecklaces once they are done... Gifts? Sell? Keep one for myself maybe? Don't know... But I *do* want to make them. I haven't decided what to do with the bit of Rowan Cashsoft that's still in my stash. It's maybe a little less than half a skein.
I'm also being very bad right now taking time away from my historic knits to make Starsky. I have found that my natural gauge in Peaches n' Cream is 4 sts to the inch, instead of 5 sts to the inch as it says on the package (This was my problem with Cinxia and Belle Epoque apparently and will teach me to start a project without checking gauge first!), and that's the gauge that Starsky is made in... I have a whole bunch of Peaches n' Cream of same color and dye lot (what I bought to make Belle Epoque with), it's enough for Starsky and I've always wanted a cool sweater coat, so I'm making it... and I'm more than half-way done with the back section already.
Right now, I have to go look up my homework for Monday night and do it. We're covering the Vikings (only in one night - boohoo!) and I want to have interesting questions to ask and annoy the rest of the class with... perhaps even make a few as interested in the Vikings as I am. The only issue I have with the way Medieval History is taught at USF (and from the impression I get in most universities in the country) is that, unlike other parts of history, it is still taught almost exclusively from a French/English/German/Italian Christian perspective, and if the people weren't in one of those countries and Christian, the only time you hear about them in class and in the books is when they interfered in some way with the Christian people in those countries. ::sighs:: So I have to do all my study outside of class if I want to find out about what the Vikings were *really* up to and what the Jews were doing and why during the early Medieval period... Most disappointing... I want to talk about them in class, darn it! At least the Medieval History classes at USF include curriculum about peasants and women of France, England, Germany and Italy... They used to not even do that!
Thursday, March 23, 2006
I checked with the Hillsborough County Cooperative Extension Service to see what you have to do to be able to sell fruit preserves to see if it's even worth it. Their website doesn't entirely exist, it's all links to other county sites and to the University of Florida( in Gainsville!) which actually hosts and runs the Hillsborough County Cooperative Extension. ::rolls eyes:: All information seems to be about how to be a good consumer and about how to start and operate large-scale agricultural businesses... no info about home-based stuff. But there was a link to the Hillsborough County Small Business Development Center... Also mostly geared to the larger small businesses. I just want to sell a few jars of jam, some soap and knitted stuff! And there isn't very much online about specifics or regulations, just general information. Everyone has to do this, everyone has to do that, everyone must obtain a... I wrote them a letter, since they are supposed to offer free small business start-up counseling, telling them about my specific situation and what I want to do and asking what of all this info applies to me, since I'm not renting a store front, not offering a service, not selling anything at this time in the state of Florida or in Hillsborough County... Hopefully, they will answer my questions in a meaningful and helpful way, instead of just giving the standard bureaucratic answer of "fill out these forms in triplicate, file them in such-and-such an office located downtown in a bad neighborhood with the nearest public parking three miles away, get approval for a RC3PO-18 and bring it back here... and by the way, we're closed tomorrow."
If the information on the site is correct and applies, it doesn't seem to be a matter of health regulations... not that I can find any info about selling things like soap or preserves - Why would someone living in Florida need to do that? We don't live in Arkansas... We have grocery stores... (that was sarcasm) - it's a matter of taxes and zoning regulations. I have to get approval to operate a business, even a very small one, from the permitting and zoning departments downtown (2 separate entities and I have to get approval from both independently). Then I have to get an occupational license. To do that, I have to already have state licensing documents, location address, and a description of the business... Lucky for me, apparently there's like 6 places in the county where I can "walk-in" and get a license and one of them is only 6 miles from here on the way to USF... I just have to get all the state stuff first and I haven't even looked into that. Then there's the tax information... not only would I need to worry about Federal and State income tax, which I've never needed to pay before because I've never had a significantly paying job, but also sales tax... 6% to the State of Florida and 1% to Hillsborough County... and then there's the "Tangible Asset Tax", which I guess would have to be assessed... even though the only stuff I'd own is wool, knitting needles, a spinning wheel, spindles, a soap pot, a dye pot, some spoons and various kitchen utensils, molds, jars... I don't even own the tree I'd be getting my fruit from or the plants for dyes... technically they are on my parents' property... and all of that would not even be used exclusively for the business... But if this website is correct, it all has to be listed and registered apparently as business-related assets. There is also the possibility of ambiguous "additional fees"... ::rolls eyes again:: For pity's sake...
I want to do this and do it right... play by the rules, in good faith, and make sure I won't suddenly get in trouble for "forgetting" to check into all this before starting one of these days... I think... But I don't want to spend all this money (I don't have all that much to begin with) if it's going to turn out to be impossible... and I don't even know how much longer I'll be living in Florida or how much time I'll have for all of this after this summer with finishing up school next year... I hope... It's turning into a big pain in the ass, as much or more of a pain than dealing with the bureaucracy at USF (don’t even get me started on that, I’ll cry), and that pisses me off 'cause I thought this could be fun, low-key, and maybe even profitable, and did I mention fun?... but it's all just turning into a big tangled mess... And not even a mess of my making, more like a mess (of red tape) that an uninvited guest (the government) made, stuffed under a rug (my dream of a fun, small, probably short time business venture) and then left for me to trip over. ::sighs:: This sucks... If I didn't want to do this so badly, I'd just say "fuck it!" but I do...
I only saw it in its entirety a few months ago and I was ever so slightly blown away... Not about international conspiracy, aliens or even mutant creatures in a small town no one has ever heard of... No, rather it's an episode about the possibility of reincarnation and a Jonestown-like cult in middle America. In the episode, Mulder and Scully are investigating a cult in Hamilton County, Tennessee. Mulder comes to believe that one of the cult leader's wives, Melissa (not Scully's sister - different Melissa), and he were sweethearts during past lives, perhaps even soulmates. During past-life regression therapy, he remembers details about a life in Nazi-controlled Poland and in America during the Civil War... It is the Civil War life that is particularly important to the investigation because the cult owns property bordering a field that was once a battlefield... where Mulder, as "Sullivan Biddle" died, after the US Army pushed through the Confederate lines at this unnamed battle, in the arms of his sweetheart nurse, "Sarah Kavanaugh" (Melissa). Scully was his sergeant, also killed in the battle.
At the very end of the episode, Mulder is in the field, looking at Sullivan and Sarah's photographs taken from the county's archives. Melissa had just killed herself when the rest of the cult committed suicide using Kool-Aid laced with Potassium Chloride. There's a voiceover of Mulder reading part of Robert Browning's poem "Paracelsus," and that's what blew me away:
"... At times, I almost dream
I, too, have spent a life the Sages' way
And tread once more familiar paths. Perchance,
I perished in an arrogant self-reliance
An Age ago; and in that act, a prayer
For one more chance went up so earnest, so
Instinct with better light let in by Death,
That life was blotted out not so completely
But scattered wrecks enough of it to remain
Dim memories, as now, when seems once more
The goal in sight again..."
Maybe it's just the way David Duchovny's voice sounds when he says the words, but I have got to get a copy of this poem! I can't find one on the web. It's apparently very long.
How come they don't teach this stuff in high school? I might have a better appreciation for 19th century poetry if they had... Instead, we only glossed over Shelley and Byron, and went right on to Poe with only one Elizabeth Browning and one Emily Dickinson poem each to get "the female perspective," as if it were a token thing... Not that I have anything against Shelley, Byron or Poe... They were just a bit... out there... in ways I can't really relate to on a personal level anymore, since apparently, I'm mostly past my gothic, morbid, and excessively tolerant of dangerous weirdness stage. I never got into any of their work very much anyway. Not like Shakespeare or Whitman... whose work I appreciate greatly but could know better. I don't know... for the most part, I could take or leave most poetry. (The only poem I ever memorized was "Nothing Gold Can Stay" by Frost - it was an assignment in 7th grade. The only poem I can clearly remember my initial emotional reaction to is "The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner" by Randall Jarrell, which I read in 11th - it was like a punch to the gut that leaves you queasy. The only poem that never fails to make me cry every time I read it is "Legacy of an Adopted Child" by anonymous for obvious reasons. I don't count epic poetry so much in with this whole "don't relate to or like poetry much" thing. Epics are in a category all their own.) But this poem "Paracelsus" by Robert Browning seems very interesting to me, going by what I've been able to find on the web.
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
I have found that I've got a ton of plants used for natural dyes in my own backyard: pokeweed, red cedar, marigolds, dandelions, lichen, oak, roses, mint, grass, and nettle. That just what I know is in the yard right now without actually looking. Could very well be that there's more. Down the street, there's a willow tree, and I might just have to go ask our neighbors if I can have a branch and start one of my own after it goes dormant this next winter. Willow is a very useful plant... Not only will the leaves and bark dye wool and natural textiles green and yellow, but the bark is also medicinal. And I could plant some onions and beets and use those for dye as well. And I won't likely be allergic to all or most of these things. I love natural dyes...
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
How sick is that?! Wrong, sick and wrong! First off, that he'd come up with such an answer. And second, that he suggests that if the woman is promiscuous or even just not a virgin, if she's not religious, and if the rape isn't horrifically heinous, it's somehow less of a bad thing that she's raped... and somehow, perhaps, more her fault? And third, that he implies by this statement that a woman who chooses to engage in sexual relations before marriage, as is her right according to modern American mores, is inherently worth less than a woman who does not. There is even more than that that is WRONG! about his statement, but I really don't care to analyze it further. It is clear that he obviously does not think of women as even generally being socially, politically, or spiritually equal to men... Not that he is a man himself because he is not. No, he is merely male. A real man would never, even in their most inebriated state, say what he said while sober and on television... making a horse's ass of himself in front of America and the world. If he's your representative and you're outraged, I do suggest you write or call his office and tell him so. Wouldn't be a bad idea to make this statement come back to haunt him on Election Day too, while you're at it!
Similar bans are currently being considered in Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Ohio, Mississippi, Missouri, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia. If you live in any of those states and care about your freedom or the freedom of the women of your state, I do suggest you go to NARAL's website, prochoiceaction.org, and write your officials. And even if you don't live in those states, it wouldn't be a bad idea to remind your elected officials (including your governor!) that you don't want any of these crazy ideas becoming reality in your state. You can find their contact info by typing in "[your state] State Legislature" into any decent search engine and puttering about the official site 'til you find e-mail contact info.
Most importantly, do not "forget" to vote in November! It is very important that everyone who is informed vote in the mid-term election (I qualify with "informed" because people who aren't informed tend to rubber-stamp whoever the incumbent is whether or not they've done a "good" job). If we can end the far-right's control of the House and Senate in 2006, we might stand a chance over the next 2 years until we can elect another President.
Looking forward to hearing other people's thoughts on this...
Saturday, March 18, 2006
Also, 'twas watching Lou Dobbs on CNN (I think it was Lou, although it may have been Situation Room which is on right after) two nights ago and he was talking about the national debt. He or one of his guests said that right now, the national debt is approaching 9 trillion dollars. Seems pretty insurmountable, doesn't it? But they said that that's only about $28,000 for every man and woman (legally) living in the US. It got me to thinking... 28,000 is a lot more manageable than 9 trillion. What if everyone who could afford to do so, paid their portion of the national debt back? And I'm not talking those who think they could afford it, but rather those who actually could. I know that most people would insist that they didn't have the cash, that they were strapped as it was. But for a number of those people who I know would have that reaction, a number of whom I'm sorry to say I've known, it would mean taking the $28,000 and paying back a portion of the national debt for the sake of their children's future instead of buying a new BMW, Cadillac SUV or some other ridiculously expensive automobile to replace the two-year-old one in their garage. They could maybe even do a payment plan or something to pay it off just like they would that damn car! And just to get a bit crazier here, what if the insanely wealthy paid for the portion of the people who couldn't afford it... as much as they could, as a civic project for future generations and the good of the country? I'm sure Bill Gates could cover quite a few people...
You know, the Ancient Romans... and I'm not even talking about the Republican Romans, who were really totally all about living for the good of their fellow citizens, but the Imperial Romans... Wealthy Imperial Romans would actually vie for the right to pay the taxes that the poor of their district couldn't pay. They actually wanted to be allowed to pay the difference between what the tax rolls said should be paid and what was actually paid by the citizens of a particular parish. This could have been astronomical amounts, certainly as much if not more than what would equal $28,000 in today's currency because these guys were ridiculously wealthy from what I understand. The prestige and acclaim they would get from their fellow citizens (and, truth to tell, the favors they could get for it, whether political or social) was more than worth the amount of money they would fork over to the state every year (it wasn't a one time thing, just in case you're thinking that). Apply that to present day for a second. Why don't we do that? Why don't people want to do that? Where has the zealous love for our country gone? If not the actuality of our country, then at least for the ideal of it...?
Finally... after almost three months of thinking all of my photos from Christmas in the Carolinas were ruined ('cause that's what the photo girl told me two days after I took them in the first week of January when I went to pick them up... she said they were all blank rolls of film - bs!), I got a call from CVS telling me that they had found one of the three roles and that I could come pick them up... ::sighs:: Anyway, so I got there and they were relatively wonderful! Some of them were out of focus, obviously my fault, but they were pretty good over all. CVS had not made the photo CD that I had paid for, so I had them do that. (The girls who work in that particular CVS's photo processing center are not very good at their job (and seems to all be addicted to using *way* too much mascara). I've gotten answers out them that don't make any sense, like that my photo rolls were blank or that a 24 exp. roll was really a 12 exp. roll... but I digress.) The girl did a pretty crappy job scanning the photos. They have dust all over them, the resolution is horrible, the grain is very visible in a way that it is not on the printed copies, and there was a black margin on several of them that screwed up the contrast. I had to fix all of them in photoshop as best I could. But at least I can share the gist of the photos. It's the black and white role that I took the first several days I was in N. & S. Carolina. So I've got the Red-Neck Christmas Parade, some tomatoes on Jason's windowsill at the Burough and one photo of Rachel & Heather learning the Oompa-Loompa dance from the "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" DVD.
Here's the ones that were pretty good despite scanning or too important not to share:
The rest of the photos are in my photobucket.
Thursday, March 16, 2006
In related news, Stoneyfield Farms of New Hampshire, one of the world's leading organic dairy products companies, has already done what it can to fight global warming. The farm has installed a 50 kilowatt (kW) solar energy system atop its 120,000 square-foot manufacturing facility as a way to fight global warming. The solar panel array is the largest of its kind in New Hampshire. Yay, for Stoneyfield!
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
It wasn't always a Jewish holiday though. During the Persian Period following the Babylonian Exile, it was actually adapted from a popular Persian festival, celebrating the Persians' defeat of another ethnic people that had been trying to oppress them at some distant point in history before they became the great empire they once were. Esther is the Jewish representation of a Persian goddess who was said to have assisted the Persians. "Esther" simply means "of the east." Hamen represents the deities of Persia's enemies. That's the much abridged explanation. I could look it up in my class notes for a much more detailed version, but I really don't feel like it at the moment.
There were social and political influences on the Jews who wrote the Jewish version of the story, of course. Why would the Jews of the Persian Period adapt a non-Jewish holiday for their own? Well, probably for several reasons... Here's what's coming to me out of general knowledge: The Jews of the Post-Exilic Period *really* liked the Persians, for obvious reasons. The Exile did not even last 100 years, only a few decades really, and there were still people living who could remember being ripped from their homes in Israel when the Exile ended. The Persians freed them from the Babylonian Exile, and not only allowed them to return to Judea but also paid the expenses of travel *and* financed the rebuilding of the Jerusalem Temple. There's a lot to like there... Also, Judaism was just beginning to form as such during the Persian Period. Before that time, "Judaism" did not historically exist. The religion it developed from was simply the religion of the Israelite people, an ethnic group and political unit. The Israelites' religion did not exclude other religions' validity, only that, though other gods may exist, Israelites were only to worship their one G-d. While the new identity of the Jews was forming, a lot of outside influences effected the final product. The names for the months of the year of the Persian calendar became the names of the months of the Jewish calendar. Zoroastrian monotheistic ideas and their ideas of good and evil left a definite mark on Jewish thinking in what became the Second Temple Period, and in many different ways, the effects remain strong to this day. And, not least of all, the Persian Purim festival was adapted to the new Jewish identity. At the same time in Post-Exilic Period, Judaism became very separatist. Where before the Israelite religion had been an extended tribal religion, Judaism became the religion of the Jews' national identity. For a time, if one could not prove a Jewish genetic history on *both sides* of their family, they could not reside in Judea. For a time, in reaction to the violence and trauma of the Exile, Jews strictly enforced religious laws of all kinds and at this point, Judaism began to officially deny the existence of other people's gods. Jews who remained in the Diaspora had issues with some of this... They were living in a foreign country that they felt a part of, but at the same time, they felt the separate identity of being Jews. Stories like that in the Book of Esther try to bridge that gap in identity. Esther could be a good and righteous Jewish woman despite the fact that she was living in the Diaspora and married a non-Jew. There's more... about the danger of destruction and genocide and all those issues in the story as well because that was part of the psychology of Jews living in the Post-Exilic Period... but I don't want to go into all of that right now.
So, The Book of Esther wasn't very popular as scripture, but more as a folktale, since the religious content is practically non-existent, and it was almost left out of the canon of ancient Jewish scripture. There is no evidence that Esther, her husband, her cousin or Hamen were ever historical persons, or that the threat of genocide during the Persian Period ever happened. The king Esther was supposed to have married *may* have existed, but he had a different name, and he did not have a queen named Vashti... although, he may have had a woman in one of his many harems by that name. No Jewish woman was ever the honorary First Wife of the King of the Persian Empire. Sad, but true... But it is kinda neat to know that the symbolism of the Purim festival today is very similar to the symbolism of the Persian festival 2500 years ago and it was celebrated in similar ways - good food, song, dance, games.
Anyway, so on Monday, I made Hamentashen. They're traditional triangular shaped Purim cookies that are filled with some type of fruit filling. It’s kinda like a fruit-filled shortbread cookie. Here's my recipe:
4 cups of all-purpose flour
3/4 cup of sugar (or Splenda for baking)
1 cup margarine (or butter, or butter-like substance of your choice)
1 Tbsp. Orange juice
1 tsp. Vanilla extract
2 tsps. baking powder
pinch of salt
Depending on how big or small the cookies are cut, this amount of dough will yield 2 - 4 dozen cookies. For the filling, prune butter, poppy seed pastry filling, or simple fruit preserves of any kind can be used.
Place all ingredients in a large bowl and mix it all together. You may add more juice or more flour, depending on the consistency of the dough. Divide the dough into 4 or 5 roughly equal parts. Refrigerate the dough until it firms up (about 1/2 an hour). Roll each piece to about 1/8 to 3/16 of an inch thick. Use a circular shaped cookie cutter to cut out the circular cookies (a biscuit cutter would work just fine). If the dough can not be moved easily, chill it again before transferring it to the baking sheet. Place about 1/2 tsp to 2/3 of a tsp of filling in the middle of each circle (less is sometimes more so that the filling doesn't boil over in the oven). To shape into a triangle, lift up two opposite edges of the cookie and press together along part of the edge. Lift the third edge of the cookie up to meet the edges of the other two and press together. (It should look like the cookies in the photo.) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Brush the cookies with beaten egg. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Enjoy!
Well, what kinda ruins it for me is this (and I didn't notice this until I started taking college science classes)... We find out at some point that the creature can only live in sea or at least very brackish water... As long as the water is fresh, they're safe. Well, the deputy develops a fever of 106 degrees. If they don't get his temperature down, he'll die. So Scully has him put in a bathtub of cold ice water (what a wonderful way to shock his system!), and he gets attacked by the creature and dies after a box of Epsom salt, conveniently perched precariously on the rim, falls into the tub. Mulder even says that that's what killed the deputy at the end of the episode... ::sighs:: Epsom salt, despite being called "salt," doesn't have sodium in it... It's magnesium sulfate! And it might contain practically non-existent trace amounts of arsenic, cadmium, cobalt, mercury, nickel, lead, selenium and zinc... But no sodium! Or chlorine, calcium, or potassium... All of which it would need in significant amounts in order to create sea-like salt water... ::smacks forehead and sighs:: I suppose the writers of The X-Files and their fact-checkers had to screw up at some point...
And another thing I noticed when I watched it this time was that the hurricane wasn't a very bad one... or shouldn't have been (only a Cat 1) and seemed to be moving awful slow for a hurricane. Also, the airport was open and the police were on the streets way too long for being in the middle of any technical hurricane. And, if that wasn't a bad enough goof for people who live through these things seasonally, Arthur waited out the storm in his *single-wide trailer*, and after it was over, there was no damage to it... or to any of his neighbors' trailers... Just a few palm fronds scattered about... Ha! Yeah, right!
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
Alexia Oven Fries and Alexia Oven Reds (which just means they're using red potatoes)... Alexia makes other things too, I'm sure, but this is all I've tried. They're all natural, there's nothing difficult to pronounce in them. It's what you'd probably use if you made oven-roasted potatoes at home. They're in the frozen food section. Check 'em out. They're yummy and really easy to make. And the company is owned in the USA and they make their food and package it in the USA too! Good company, far as I know. I like 'em!
In looking at old samplers from the 18th and 19th centuries, I noticed how often girls would include prayers, or Bible excerpts, or quotes with religious orientation. The samplers available to see on the web are invariably done by Christian girls because there are very few extant samplers by Jewish girls left in the world. Jewish girls did make samplers... Fine sewing was the same for them as for their Gentile neighbors, but for some reason few survive to be displayed today. All I've been able to find out is that they often included Hebrew letters and Jewish design motifs (menorahs, lions of judah, trees of life, seven spices, festival icons, etc). Much of the information was found at http://www.needleworksamplers.com/ , but not all of it.
Anyway, so I wanted something or several somethings to write on my sampler too... Something meaningful and unique... Or, at least, to me. It finally came to me. Some of the sayings of Rabbi Hillel! Duh... So obvious, if it had been a snake, it would have bitten me.
These are the ones I want to use, really his most famous:
"If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? If I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?" Rabbi Hillel, Pirkei Avot 1:14, Mishnah
"That which is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. That is the whole Torah; the rest is commentary. Go and study it." Rabbi Hillel, Shabbat 31a, Babylonian Talmud
"Judge not your neighbor till you are in his place." Rabbi Hillel, Pirkei Avot 2.4, Mishnah
Now, it's quite true that until the last, oh, 50 years or so... maybe less... it was against the rules for women to study the Talmud and the Mishnah... This comes from the exemption of women from fulfilling the commandment to study the Torah or attend services (connected to the "traditional role of women," as keepers and caretakers of the home), as set out in these same writings. See, some people take it a bit too far... Technically, it is an "exemption," as in "they don't have to, but they can," not a "prohibition." Some, for reasons that are beyond me, turned it into the latter, rather than the former. So women of the 18th and 19th centuries would have been unlikely to have been familiar with the sources of these quotes. I would venture to guess, however, that fathers when teaching their daughters about Judaism would have mentioned something of Hillel, since he is one of the cornerstone Rabbis of the last 2000 years of Jewish thought, and they would have to have been taught because Jewish girls had to know about Judaism to keep a good Jewish home... and that was pretty much their entire reason for being until recent years. And besides this, I have the example of my great-grandmother, Miriam. Her family lived in the little shetle of Zvenygrottky, Russia (now Ukraine) in the 1870s and 1880s. They were reasonably well off because her father held a local government job. She was sent to the local Orthodox Christian school to learn arithmetic and how to read and write Russian. At home, she learned to read and write Yiddish, and when they moved to America, when she was 18 in 1889, she taught herself to read and write English, while working as a seamstress in a Detroit sweatshop. My grandmother said that Miriam knew a lot about the history of Judaism for a woman in those days, and she often surprised their Catholic neighbor lady with her knowledge of Christianity (as I said, she went to an Orthodox Christian school). I know that Miriam's story is a fairly unusual one, but it does prove that Jewish girls *could* learn a lot, despite the restrictions placed upon their education by tradition. And besides... I'm not trying to recreate a 18th century sampler... just the style of one. So I think those sayings will do fine.
So all this I got me to thinking about Hillel's most famous saying, "If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? If I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?" This has been in my head for a very long time. When I was very young, about 3 years old or so, I had a cassette tape with a song on it about Hillel. This is what I remember of it:
Hillel was a rabbi and he taught us what to do.
The first part of his lesson said you must be true to you.
You have to love yourself if you expect that others should.
Having self-respect is something special, something good.
Im ein ani li, mi li?
If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
Ukh'she'ani l'atsmi, mah ani?
If I am only for myself, what am I?
V'im lo akhshav eimatai?
And if not now... if not now, when?
There were several other verses, one for each part of his saying, but I can't remember them now. But I want to find that tape now! It's in my head and driving me crazy. I can't find it online. I doubt I could find it even if I could remember the name of the tape. It's really old. The first song has the Alefbet sung out so that kids can learn it. I still remember the entire thing. It's how I remember all the Hebrew letters to this day. We used that song through 4th grade to remember them in Sunday School. And on the B-side, it had the Chanukah and Purim stories by people who did all the different characters with different voices and dramatic music. The last time I know I had that tape was when I came across it when I was in high school. Amazingly, it was still working as good as new. I don't think anyone would have thrown it out. It's just misplaced.
For general interest: Rabbi Hillel lived from approximately 70 BCE to 10 CE. He grew up in an affluent family of Babylon and moved to Jerusalem when he was of age so that he could devote his life to the study of Torah. He did this against the will of his father and lost the significant inheritance that his father would have otherwise left to him. To support himself before he gained a following, he worked as a servant in the households of rich Judeans. The title of "Rabbi" was ascribed to him almost a century after his death, during the early days of Rabbinic Judaism, when the Mishnah and Talmud were being compiled. He was sometimes referred to as "Ha-Nasi," meaning "the prince," because this was the title held by the elected president of the Sanhedrin, the judicial body of ancient Judea. It is said that Hillel served as the "Nasi" of the Sanhedrin during the last decades of his life. (Hillel's grandson Gamaliel was the teacher of Paul, mentioned in Acts 22.3. Hillel's son Shimon [or Simon] was probably Nasi of the Sanhedrin when Jesus was crucified.) "Rabbi" was used as a title in Judea, first as the title of the head of the Sanhedrin, then by those ordained by the Sanhedrin, and finally for those ordained as religious scholars and community leaders, beginning in the mid-to-late 1st century.
Sunday, March 12, 2006
Blood on the red carpet
Annie Proulx on how her Brokeback Oscar hopes were dashed by Crash
Saturday March 11, 2006
The Guardian (http://www.guardian.co.uk/)
On the sidewalk stood hordes of the righteous, some leaning forward like wind-bent grasses, the better to deliver their imprecations against gays and fags to the open windows of the limos - the windows open by order of the security people - creeping toward the Kodak Theater for the 78th Academy Awards. Others held up sturdy, professionally crafted signs expressing the same hatred.
The red carpet in front of the theatre was larger than the Red Sea. Inside, we climbed grand staircases designed for showing off dresses. The circular levels filled with men in black, the women mostly in pale, frothy gowns. Sequins, diamonds, glass beads, trade beads sparkled like the interior of a salt mine. More exquisite dresses appeared every moment, some made from six yards of taffeta, and many with sweeping trains that demanded vigilance from strolling attendees lest they step on a mermaid's tail. There was one man in a kilt - there is always one at award ceremonies - perhaps a professional roving Scot hired to give colour to the otherwise monotone showing of clustered males. Larry McMurtry defied the dress code by wearing his usual jeans and cowboy boots.
The people connected with Brokeback Mountain, including me, hoped that, having been nominated for eight Academy awards, it would get Best Picture as it had at the funny, lively Independent Spirit awards the day before. (If you are looking for smart judging based on merit, skip the Academy Awards next year and pay attention to the Independent Spirit choices.) We should have known conservative heffalump academy voters would have rather different ideas of what was stirring contemporary culture. Roughly 6,000 film industry voters, most in the Los Angeles area, many living cloistered lives behind wrought-iron gates or in deluxe rest-homes, out of touch not only with the shifting larger culture and the yeasty ferment that is America these days, but also out of touch with their own segregated city, decide which films are good. And rumour has it that Lions Gate inundated the academy voters with DVD copies of Trash - excuse me - Crash a few weeks before the ballot deadline. Next year we can look to the awards for controversial themes on the punishment of adulterers with a branding iron in the shape of the letter A, runaway slaves, and the debate over free silver.
After a good deal of standing around admiring dresses and sucking up champagne, people obeyed the stentorian countdown commands to get in their seats as "the show" was about to begin. There were orders to clap and the audience obediently clapped. From the first there was an atmosphere of insufferable self-importance emanating from "the show" which, as the audience was reminded several times, was televised and being watched by billions of people all over the world. Those lucky watchers could get up any time they wished and do something worthwhile, like go to the bathroom. As in everything related to public extravaganzas, a certain soda pop figured prominently. There were montages, artfully meshed clips of films of yesteryear, live acts by Famous Talent, smart-ass jokes by Jon Stewart who was witty and quick, too witty, too quick, too eastern perhaps for the somewhat dim LA crowd. Both beautiful and household-name movie stars announced various prizes. None of the acting awards came Brokeback's way, you betcha. The prize, as expected, went to Philip Seymour Hoff-man for his brilliant portrayal of Capote, but in the months preceding the awards thing, there has been little discussion of acting styles and various approaches to character development by this year's nominees. Hollywood loves mimicry, the conversion of a film actor into the spittin' image of a once-living celeb. But which takes more skill, acting a person who strolled the boulevard a few decades ago and who left behind tapes, film, photographs, voice recordings and friends with strong memories, or the construction of characters from imagination and a few cold words on the page? I don't know. The subject never comes up. Cheers to David Strathairn, Joaquin Phoenix and Hoffman, but what about actors who start in the dark?
Everyone thanked their dear old mums, scout troop leaders, kids and consorts. More commercials, more quick wit, more clapping, beads of sweat, Stewart maybe wondering what evil star had lighted his way to this labour. Despite the technical expertise and flawlessly sleek set evocative of 1930s musicals, despite Dolly Parton whooping it up and Itzhak Perlman blending all the theme music into a single performance (he represented "culchah"), there was a kind of provincial flavour to the proceedings reminiscent of a small-town talent-show night. Clapping wildly for bad stuff enhances this. There came an atrocious act from Hustle and Flow, Three 6 Mafia's violent rendition of "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp", a favourite with the audience who knew what it knew and liked. This was a big winner, a bushel of the magic gold-coated gelded godlings going to the rap group.
The hours sped by on wings of boiler plate. Brokeback's first award was to Argentinean Gustavo Santaolalla for the film's plangent and evocative score. Later came the expected award for screenplay adaptation to Diana Ossana and Larry McMurtry, and only a short time later the director's award to Ang Lee. And that was it, three awards, putting it on equal footing with King Kong. When Jack Nicholson said best picture went to Crash, there was a gasp of shock, and then applause from many - the choice was a hit with the home team since the film is set in Los Angeles. It was a safe pick of "controversial film" for the heffalumps.
After three-and-a-half hours of butt-numbing sitting we stumbled away, down the magnificent staircases, and across the red carpet. In the distance men were shouting out limousine numbers, "406 . . . 27 . . . 921 . . . 62" and it seemed someone should yell "Bingo!" It was now dark, or as dark as it gets in the City of Angels. As we waited for our number to be called we could see the enormous lighted marquee across the street announcing that the "2006 Academy Award for Best Picture had gone to Crash". The red carpet now had taken on a different hue, a purple tinge.
The source of the colour was not far away. Down the street, spreading its baleful light everywhere, hung a gigantic, vertical, electric-blue neon sign spelling out S C I E N T O L O G Y.
"Seven oh six," bawled the limo announcer's voice. Bingo.
For those who call this little piece a Sour Grapes Rant, play it as it lays.
You go, Annie Proulx! Sour Grapes it may be, but there was a good bit of truth in there too. And can I just say, I thought Three 6 Moffia and their song was awful too! All glitz and smoke and mirrors, very little *actual* talent... and the talent was used to sing of the *poor* *unfortunate* pimps who exploit women's misfortune on a daily basis! It won and it was disgusting! I nearly puked... I was also disgusted that Crash won best picture... Honestly, just about anyone but them... I realize that half of LA was in it or somehow involved with the project, and that it was about racism so it was "controversial" and "serious"... but didn't we already cover all of the issues dealt with in Crash during the Rodney King and OJ days? It's about racism and the LAPD for pity's sake?! Could you get safer for a "controversial" film at this point? Everyone already knows that there are racist cops in the LAPD... I'm sure there are racist cops in just about every PD in the country, let's not make all of the LAPD feel bad and stereotyped just because they happen to live and work were the movie makers do, huh? And *no one* saw it! As much as I follow films, I would have known if they had. And poor Jon Stewert. He was looking a wee bit uncomfortable after his jokes kept getting lukewarm, "polite" reception... And it wasn't that they weren't funny, 'cause they were, just in case you missed it... It was just that the jokes were mostly about either Jews or self-deprecation (typical Jon), inappropriate things that the winners did while on stage (typical Oscar host), or pointing out through satire the myopic, out-of-touch, insulated film industry in Hollywood today (which totally confirms why Crash won)... Apparently, a lot of folks out there don't quite like using the mirror *that way*. And Lord, save us from the Scientologists...
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
To start, the only woman ever to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, Dr. Mary E. Walker (1832 - 1919). All of the following is copied from http://www.mishalov.com/Dr._Mary_Walker.html , for the purpose of preserving the information should that site ever disappear from the web:
DR. MARY E. WALKER
Rank and organization: Contract Acting Assistant Surgeon (civilian), U. S. Army.
Places and dates: Battle of Bull Run, July 21, 1861; Patent Office Hospital, Washington, D.C., October 1861; Chattanooga, Tenn., following Battle of Chickamauga, September 1863; Prisoner of War, April 10, 1864 - August 12, 1864, Richmond, Va.; Battle of Atlanta, September 1864.
Entered service at: Louisville, Ky.
Born: 26 November 1832, Oswego County, N.Y.
Citation: [below are the words of President Andrew Johnson]
Whereas it appears from official reports that Dr. Mary E. Walker, a graduate of medicine, "has rendered valuable service to the Government and her efforts have been earnest and untiring in a variety of ways," and that she was assigned to duty and served as an assistant surgeon in charge of female prisoners at Louisville, Ky., upon the recommendation of Major Generals Sherman and Thomas, and faithfully served as contract surgeon in the service of the United States, and has devoted herself with much patriotic zeal to the sick and wounded soliders, both in the field and hospitals, to the detriment of her own health, and has also endured hardships as a prisoner of war four months in a Southern prison while acting as contract surgeon; and
Whereas by reason of her not being a commissioned officer in the military service, a brevet or honorary rank cannot, under existing laws, be conferred upon her; and
Whereas in the opinion of the President an honorable recognition of her services and sufferings should be made:
It is ordered, That a testimonial thereof shall be hereby made and given to the said Dr. Mary E. Walker, and that the usual medal of honor for meritorious services be given her.
Given under my hand in the city of Washington, D.C., this 11th day of November, A.D. 1865.
Dr. Mary E. Walker, M.D., a Civil War physician, was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1865, upon recommendation of Major General Sherman, and Major General Thomas. Men who remembered the early defeats of the Army of the Potomac in 1861 and 1862, whereas Washington itself became a hospital complex treating 20,000 plus wounded union troops.
Horse-drawn ambulance-trains pressed a never ending demand for new facilities to convert into hospitals. The military used public buildings, including one wing of the Patent Office, which became known as the Patent Office Hospital from 1861 to 1863.
Field hospitals abounded, in which the most common surgery was amputation and embalming. As assistant surgeon, Dr. Mary Walker no doubt experienced her share of horror at human suffering. When captured, she became a prisoner of war in a southern prison in Virginia.
Dr. Mary Walker's Medal of Honor was rescinded in 1917, along with 910 others. Today, some believe her medal was rescinded because of her involvement as a suffragette. Others, discredit that opinion as 909 medals rescinded were awarded to males. The stated reason, and credible one, was government's effort to ". . . increase the prestige of the grant."
For whatever reason, former POW Dr. Mary Walker refused to return the MOH, and wore it until her death in 1919. Fifty-eight years later, the U.S. Congress posthumously reinstated her medal, and it was restored by President Carter on June 10, 1977. Today, Dr. Walker's name is on a plaque in the Pentagon, and she is the only woman of the Civil War, or any war, known to have been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Monday, March 06, 2006
Politicians really have *no* place enacting such a law. Reproductive decisions should be left the individual women, their doctors, and anyone else *they* choose to include in the decision. No one else... that's it... period.
If a woman does not have the right to an abortion, her freedom and right to control her own destiny under the Constitution of the United States is in danger. A woman can with relative ease become pregnant against her will through rape, incestuous relations or simply by accident. A man does not face the same danger, though he too could technically become a parent by accident or by some morally reprehensible action on his part. While I do think men should get *some* input in *most* cases (ultimately, it's a woman's body, health, well-being, peace of mind, and future that is in question), I do not think that a man should get to declare what shall be law for all women in this country... or even in an individual state. To not have a legal and safe way to terminate such a pregnancy is utterly unthinkable. Without the right to get an abortion, a woman is not a free and equal citizen any more than she was without the right to vote prior to the ratification of the 19th Amendment. Without the right to get an abortion, a woman is once again relegated to being the chattel of men, to use for their procreative purposes, as they see fit. Her body is no longer truly her own. I maintain that a man could not possibly understand the seriousness of living in such a state because there is no comparable condition to which a man can fall victim, except for slavery, which under the Constitution of the United States is illegal.
I am heartily glad that I am not a citizen of the State of South Dakota. If I were, I would encourage all women of reproductive age, married or unmarried, to abstain from sexual relations with all the men of South Dakota until this abortion ban is overturned (or, if possible, leave the state)... No, seriously, I would... And in fact, if anyone living in South Dakota happens to be reading this, I encourage you to spread this idea around and actually do it! It might be the oldest trick in the book, women using sex or withholding it to get what they want, but it's the world's oldest trick for a reason... It tends to work... Can you imagine if the women of South Dakota collectively went through with such a plan? Can you imagine the social upheaval and chaos after several months, perhaps years of it?... After all, women can be perfectly happy going without. If all women refused to have sex with men, as a whole, as a nation, we could probably rule the world... In the meantime, I will be discouraging travel to South Dakota among my friends and neighbors, and I will actively boycott all products and services which originate in South Dakota until this ban is overturned or canceled.
I know that the idea in the entire above paragraph is probably simply a result of how young I am and there would be some nonsensical "grown-up" reason why it's impractical, wrong, and ridiculous... just to save anyone the time of telling me that...
I realize how unseemly this might all read, considering that I am most definitely the product of an unexpected, unplanned pregnancy. All I can say to that is that I'm glad I'm here, but I couldn't possibly say that every woman in America (or South Dakota) has to make the same decision to carry a child to term or should have that decision made for them by judges or legislatures. The option should be there.
I think it is quite interesting that during the Feminist and Hippie movements of decades past promiscuity was touted as a liberating way to live... That women could have as much "fun" as their male peers without social censure... I think I much would have preferred if it was not that women could be sluttier without the social stigma it once carried, but rather that society stopped sanctioning promiscuity in men and the stigma were equally shared. I guess it makes me terribly old fashioned, but there you go... And yet, at the same time, I think the right to a legal and safe abortion for all female citizens of the United States should be enshrined in the Constitution.
Friday, March 03, 2006
Check out my Cafepress store, linked by the little button that says "Whimsicality" toward the bottom of the right-hand column. I can make bumperstickers and t-shirts and messenger bags and magnets now... And not only that, but I figured out how to write the html to make that little button. And it works! I've impressed myself again... :D
There isn't much in "Whimsicality" yet, but I'm working on some more bumperstickers and some other stuff. I just had an impulse the other day... I was inspired if you will, by Lou Dobbs and his editorials about the UAE issue and Outsourcing and all the other crap that the government is apparently getting away with right now.
Enjoy and be glad. I particularly like the bunny "Highlander."
(Oh, and btw, the "Brokeback Mountain" bunny reenactment really *is* the entire movie in 30 seconds, just like all the other movies that they've done. If you haven't seen it and don't want the end spoiled, do not watch it.)