Saturday, May 29, 2010

Mother Madeleine Sophie Barat

Today is assigned to many saints, including both Conon the Elder & Conon the Younger, a father & son who were both hermits which interests me for all the wrong reasons; John de Atares, another hermit & possibly the first I found way-back-when-I-first-started-with-the-saints-in-my-blog who managed to die of natural causes; Raymund who may or may not be several different men, it really was not clear; two different men named Maximus, one of them must be the subject of an obscure-or-not Monty Python sketch; Richard Thirkeld who I actually kind of remember from studying Tudor England; the Martyrs of Toulouse; two different inquisitors; the list goes on.

May 29th gives me plenty to choose from & I choose the one that does not belong: Madeleine Sophie Barat. The day of Madeleine Sophie Barat is actually May 25th but for a very long time, the calendar has had her listed on May 29th.

Madeleine Sophie Barat dedicated her life to the cause of educating young women after herself having been discouraged from becoming a Carmelite nun.  So instead, she founded her own order.

In the interest of protecting her from the worldly-world, her brother brought herself with him to Paris. Strange choice, I agree. Especially when you factor in this was closely following the La Terreur. According to every source I found, her brother had an unusually strong influence on her life. Eleven years her senior, he was a professor & also her godfather & was directly responsible for her being an educated person herself.

Mother Barat was the patroness of the school she founded, but was neither a mother, Mother, nor the patron saint of anything at all. At least officially. Unofficially she is widely accepted as the Patroness of School Girls. She shares this seat with other founders of orders, such as Saint Ursula, who actually covers all juvenile students, in general, which she (Ursula) has to share with Thomas Aquinas, who oversees students of all ages. & presumably all genders, although I doubt he saw it that way.

But let us get back to Madeleine Sophie Barat. I cannot get past her first ambition: to be a Carmelite, being thwarted & deciding to actively recruit (members & sponsors) for her own order. Carmelites, for those who do not know (which included me, until I started to look into this) are not what you would describe as 'outgoing'. They are 'retiring', their big calling is to contemplative prayer, not fund raising. That she was successful in her empire-building is proof that Mother Barat probably would have been an unhappy Carmelite.

It gets stranger.  I usually ramble on & on about Roman era saints- so much less documentation so I can embroider as I like OR Medieval saints -so much conflicting documentation which is kind of better.  Mother Barat did her recruiting, cloistering  & educating during the French Revolution, in France.  Of course the French Revolution was in France; I mean so was she.   According to the sources I found, the Reign of Terror was particularly hard on the church, & maybe it was.  I would have thought it was rather harder on wealthy landowners.  Oh wait, I see it now!

I had a history professor who lamented that we (USAmericans) did not study the French Revolution more closely.  We treat it like a footnote in our own history.  He thought we, as a culture, had a lot to learn about sending more & more people to a centralized, rarefied location to govern making only cursory visits to the countryside & vastly underestimating the variety of opinions outside of the Beltway.  I mean outside of the court of Louis the four-thru-sixteenth.

So, Madeleine Sophie Barat, today is not your day.  Today is not the day we should, according to the calendar, honor her memory & sacrifice by promoting education for those with less access to education & in her day that meant those with vajayjay.  We should have been doing that four days ago, but we missed it & now there is nothing to do but wait until next year.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Full flower moon

It will surprise no regular reader of this blog that I am a big big fan of the the Old Farmer's Almanac.  I like the planting schedules for vegetables I do not plant, I like the stories about flowers that will not grow in this climate, I like the tide charts & the folklore & of course, I like the names of things.  Tonight, for everyone who lives an almanac-free life, is a full moon.  & because it is the full moon in May, it is the Full Flower Moon.

The name "flower moon" is a translation of the Native American name to English.  The English would have called this the Milk Moon.  Many other cultures have names for the moons, but we don't.  Our months are centered on paydays, week-ends, that sort of the thing.  The moon is not so obviously important as it has been.

This year, the Full Flower Moon is the last full moon before the summer solstice.  June's full moon (the Strawberry Moon) occurs just after, so it will still be the shortest full moon of the year, but this Full Flower Moon will also be brief.  Here there will be less than 11 hours of darkness & that darkness will hardly be dark.

We live on a street with no streetlights (we live on a street with no street, if you want to be precise) so I need to watch for full moons carefully.  These are the nights the dogs will be able to see clearly all the nighttime prowlers, if I do not remember to close the curtains.  Given the options, dog will stay awake all night barking at possum & raccoons & rabbits; a picture window in a country house is a dog's big screen television.

This full moon, when I am woken by the dogs, I will be able to look out & see the white confederate jasmine, in full bloom for several weeks now.  The small white flowers will look like stars trapped on the vine, more clearly visible than the stars in the sky.  If I left the house & walked out to the horses, larger white, still star-shaped flowers would warn me to keep away:  the tread-softly is abundant this year thanks to the late freeze & the timely rain.  Finally, if I wanted to put on real clothes & walk across the former farm to the west, I could see the large white platters of the native morning glory, aptly named Moon Flower.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Blogger's Quilt Festival: Something Yellow

I made this quilt primarily from scraps from a quilt I made my mother.  I made that quilt to match her room, which is primarily soft blues & corals, as is that quilt.  Then I took those scraps, mixed them with other scraps (the leftover triangles from churn dash blocks, if you must know), & still more scraps & I am not sure how it happened... because I have never made... but I got Something Yellow.

The block is a famous one, if only I could remember the name! It is a 9-patch in which each patch of the nine patch is made up of a 4-patch of 1/2 squares triangles, except for three across the center, corner-to-corner in a tic-tac-toe style.  Yes, the name of the block would be easier.  Soooo I made nine of them (9-patch again) & they make a good sized lap/nap quilt. 

The back of the quilt is a surprisingly similar color-way:  a goldy brown background with fleur de lis of yellows, oranges & powder blues.  I have no idea why I bought it, if you asked me I would have said it was not my thing at all, but apparently it very much IS.  As you can see, the quilt back precisely matches my dog.

As for the quilting:  because it was made from scraps & because I elected to go borderless a certain amount of yanking around was needed to get this sucker to lay flat.  As a result, while the whole thing is pretty damn close to square (I swear, it is just being floaty in that picture up there), there are hardly any straight lines.  I was sick to death of all over meander designs (they start to get me in the neck), So it was quilted from one corner to the other in lines that are neither straight nor evenly spaced.

I do not care so much how not accurate the parts are as the quilt itself turned out just fine.  So just fine that I have started another one (not with scraps but with fabric actually chosen for it) & I plan to quilt in the same side-to-side-but-otherwise-no-thoughts pattern.

& this is my submission for the Blogger's Quilt Festival.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Mii, myself & I

Sunday will be the fourth week I have been a WiiFit junkie.  I love everything about that silly toy & I am kicking myself for not buying one sooner.  Ever since it arrived, I get out of bed, I have my coffee & I weigh in.  I warm up with something light, I do stretches & I do yoga before getting on the elliptical (an actual elliptical, alas Wii has no such machine tie in or I would own it).  After the elliptical interruption I get back on that board for another 45 minutes or so.  I am addicted & mostly it is a good thing.

You should know that I have never been one of those exercise people.  I have taken a few classes, mostly of the Pilates variety (I am unbalanced, no really) because I am more interested in what a fit body can do (stay on a horse, for example) than what it looks like.  A flat stomach would be truly wasted on me & good thing , too, because it is never going to happen. 

I am also not temperamentally suited to public work-out environments.  I listen to books on disc when I ride, often deliberately choosing books I dislike; they make me so angry & I work harder.  This also means I shout things like "you stupid, stupid whore" or "do the f*cking math, asshole" which can be alarming to the people around me.

Finally, I really only have two speeds:  I don't want to be here & let's get this over with.  V** refers to my exercise personality as Crazy Chihuahua & more than once I have looked up to see A laughing at me.  So you can see how the stay-at-home Wii is a win:win.

Today I discovered the Wii's big drawback.  It seems all this cavalier careening off of cliffs, only to magically reappear safe & sound has had a negative effect in my driving.   I am singing along with the radio "oh I tried to make it Sunday but I got so damn depressed" -there is no radio in this town- & I find myself drifting across the lanes.  Whoops!  Apparently I need a cartoon-a-scape & maybe a clown car across my windshield just to keep things interesting.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Mao & the sparrows

Earlier this month (the first actually) it was May Day - one of those holidays very big with more than 20% of the world's population & as good as unheard of in the US.  May Day has a long pre-christian history but for whatever reason, none of the big mono-theistic religions picked it up & made it their own.  That was left to to no-theist religion:  communism.

There is a lot of talk about communism these days & even more about baby communism, also called socialism.  To hear some people tell it nothing good can come from people banding together to help the weaker, less fortunate members of our society.  The most entertaining bit about these speeches is how many of these people identify themselves as christians.  Go figure.

Back to May Day.  Ancient rites & feasts aside, today it is most celebrated as International Workers Day & the two big places it is celebrated are the former USSR countries (almost all of them still call this a major national holiday) & China.  I think it is interesting how many of these countries, having returned to their former states of chaos with varying success still celebrate a day that looks, from the outside, like a symbol of their oppression.  Before I get too mocking though I remind myself that celebrating the birth of George Washington with temporarily reduced price bed linens probably looks odd from the other side of the world.

More interesting to me than not-USSR though, is China.  First, I know a lot more Chinese people than I do no-longer-USSR people, despite having married into a family of them.    Chances are good this is true of many other readers of this blog & the reason is a solid one:  population is decreasing in almost every no-longer-USSR country.

Also there is something about Chinese style communism that has just the faintest whiff of one of my favorite sideways-religions: cargo cultism.  Let me tell you the story that really brought this one home for me.  Once upon a time, China had a powerful, all knowing leader.  Let's call him Mao.  This leader looked out over his land & then he looked at other stronger lands & he made an observation.  These other stronger lands exported more grain than they imported.  This, he said, is what it is to be a great land.  & so Mao decided that his land was going to do the same.

So Mao toured the graineries, barns & fields of his land & he made a horrifying observation.  The sparrows were stealing the grain!  He knew right then that his country would never be great until the sparrows were eliminated. Mao directed his people to drive them off the fields using pots & pans to make noise if that was all they could do.  & it worked!  Sparrows flew until they dropped dead from exhaustion.  Everything about this was wonderful, of course, until the people realized that in addition to the grain, the sparrows were also eating locusts.  Unchecked locusts did a helluvalot more damage than the sparrows ever did & people starved.  But Mao exported most of the grain & this was what it was to be a great nation. 

Back to the present where things are much more useless:  the rest of Fladidah has been spending a lot of time spill watching.  Not so here in our little world.  The redneck brain-trust I have written about before has purchased a small cannon which he fires from dawn til dusk to keep those damn birds off his blueberries (I could be wrong, but it entirely possible someone in the neighborhood turned him in for shooting at the endangered cedar wax wings).  If only the rest of the farms would follow his example & we could recreate one of the great moments in Chinese history, right here, for everyone experience.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Armed Forces Day

Today, as you may or may not know, is Armed Forces Day.  I know because Florida State Parks honor Armed Forces Day with free admission for everyone (except in particular parks that do not even offer free admission with a Florida State Parks pass-I don't get it either).

Armed Forces Day  is actually observed in many different countries, albeit often on different days.  It is specifically intended to honor current, active military personnel, not veterans -except in that a veteran may also have been reactivated, especially now-  & not military dead.   With the exception of the Florida State Parks & a few other events, mostly within the military itself,  Armed Forces Day does not get much press, despite all of the "Support Our Troops" rhetoric.  I can only speak for life in this country since the end of the Vietnam War, but I have lived in three different regions, two of them much more militarily inclined than I am & it still looks like "out of sight, out of mind" to me.

Soooo, in the interest of supporting troops that are still above ground & still fighting for us, I thought I would list a few organizations that support the troops every damn day:

American Red Cross:  we have started to think of the ARC as an emergency relief organization, but they are also the go to emergency relief organization for military families.

Quilts of Valor:  this group makes quilts for wounded personnel, which makes most people think "veteran" but the drop dead truth is wounded personnel are recovering & returning to active duty.

Books for Soldiers:  pretty self explanatory, this one.  You will often see collection boxes at the local library or used book stores.  The application process is a bit involved (the application needs to be notarized) but not all that tricky really.  Just a little FYI-if there are no mailbox stores near you (The UPS Store or Mailboxes Etc. or whatever), in the olden days, many pharmacists were also notaries & in small towns like ours, often still are.  Even if a notary knows who you are, they need to record what form of ID you presented, so remember to bring your drivers license or some such.

There are slews of local programs, too.  Not round here, but in other parts of the country there are foster-pet groups that take the dogs & cats of deployed soldiers.  No doubt there are national programs that I do not know about, so feel free to include a link in the comments.

& maybe think about celebrating Armed Forces Day without flags & parades (because let's face it- they mostly won't happen anyway) & instead reach out one person to one person & do one small thing.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Cuckoo for "The Cuckoo's Egg"

The second Tuesday of the month. 75% of the year is bookclub dinner night.  The books really can be all over the map & for April 2010 our book was The Cuckoo's Egg by Cliff Stoll.  This book was actually one of my offerings way back in the mists of time when our bookclub first started (for the record, it was edged out by Nancy Drew & The Secret of the Old Clock & then by Pink Slip & did not get offered up again until this year).

But we did finally read The Cuckoo's Egg & it was very much enjoyed.  Some enjoyed the way-back machine to a time with computers but before the interwebs, some enjoyed the lost hippie in a world of spooks, some enjoyed the cookie recipe & we all enjoyed the cookies.  We were ready to give this book a thumbs up review & then we happened to notice that the newer edition (some of us were reading older copies) was dedicated to a new WIFE!  Completely unacceptable.  A second bottle of wine was opened & the tide turned.

We worked our way through the default list of questions for non-fiction, but under it all there lurked a feeling that we were just not as happy as we had been before.  Previously we could have forgiven the hair, the casual work ethic (I also know a few physicists who have been known to snooze under the desk)-not that we all agreed on what needed to be forgiven, but we could forgive.  Now, though....

The upshot is we cyberstalked him & called him & asked him a very personal question (what happened to your first wife?).  He was very nice about the whole thing, answered the question, & even gave some updates about other people who appear in the book.  It probably helped that while it was 11-ish here, he was in a time zone that was not quite such an uncivilized hour. 

So, let us recommend this book highly & this author even more highly.  Your local library probably has a copy (or can get one) or it is pretty easy to find other places too (I happen to know there was one on paperbackswap not two weeks ago- no that is not my copy).  For everyone's sake though, do not open that second bottle of wine & do not call the author to find out what happened to Martha.  Just trust in happy  endings all around.  Except for the bad guys, they get what they deserve.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

What would Yogi do?

When I ask what would Yogi do I do no mean Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (although that might be an interesting post for another day) & I don't mean Yogi Bear (we all know that one anyhow: flummox the ranger; steal the picnic basket).  I mean the oracle second only to Bullwinkle in my pantheon: Yogi Berra.

A quick cruise through the official Yogi Berra web page gave me a few insights into the man I did not have before.  I knew his name was Lawrence & would have guessed he already had a nickname, what I did not know was it was "Lawdie". There is no further explanation of the name "Lawdie", it really only comes up on the way to "Yogi", but I for one would like to know more.  Alas it is not to be.

Although he played baseball (& was signed by the Yankees as a  triple-A player) before World War II, he enlisted when the war came & like so many others, he was on Omaha Beach on D-Day.  I find if you picture Yogi Berra during the opening scenes of Saving Private Ryan it is more bearable & somehow more awful.

After the war, Yogi returned to baseball & his first stop was not far from my original back door:  New London, CT.   It is here we get the first official Yogi Berra style story. The short version is the Giants wanted to buy his contract; the Yankees general manager did not have a clue who Yogi Berra was but if the Giants wanted his contract he wanted to keep him.  & so Yogi was discovered, again, by the Yankees on their own farm team.

The rest is easy to know.  Yogi Berra was a catcher-the short man's position.  It helps if you are already bow-legged.  & he could talk.  Man, could he talk.  Baseball does not have many points of contact between opposing teams, most of the game is played at an arms length or longer, but every batter has to deal with the other team's catcher.  The catcher has the first chance to confuse & maybe that's where it started.  Or maybe he was just a natural.  But few men can claim more famously confusing quotes than Yogi Berra.

I could at this point, list a bunch of Yogi-isms but as usual the Yankees have already done it better.  Damn Yankees.  As for the question what would Yogi do?  Well, whatever it is he is still doing it & probably talking  about it, at length & in a convoluted way. 

Thursday, May 6, 2010

I stand corrected; investigative journalism is not dead

Soooo, it turns out that 50% of the state of Florida's professional testimony team in the "lets spend oodles cash we do not have fighting gay adoption" campaign is well, not entirely straight.  The newspaper story can be found here, but I can give you the highlights:

George Rekers is a compensated expert witness for the Florida Attorney General's office, who claims that homosexuality is a mental disorder, etc. & that homosexuals are not appropriate adoptive parents.  Specifically, homosexuals make lousy parents because homosexuality is a mental disorder, that should be treated etc. & mentally disordered people should not be (adoptive) parents.  Recently his testimony has not carried as much weight as it used to, but for years his influence went unchecked.

Even more recently Rekers vacationed abroad with a professional male companion.  This companion advertises his services on & only on  Rekers hired him to assist with luggage etc. is he is himself not permitted to lift anything heavy for medical reasons.  This would carry more weight (ba-dum-dum) if Rekers were not photographed bringing luggage through Miami International Airport while his professional male companion walked unencumbered. 

Did I mention Rekers is himself both a foster & an adoptive parent?

I told you that story to tell you this one.  I was once asked what I thought of profiling & I said I thought it was a GREAT IDEA.  The specific context was black drivers pulled over for speeding.  Every republican at the party was surprised but please at my response, until I continued.  I said I thought the problem was profiling did not go far enough.  At that time, the majority of large-scale terrorist attacks committed on US soil had been committed by white men in their 20s - 30s with very specific interests (militias & white supremacy), so it probably made sense to audit all purchases of fertilizer made by this demographic.  Further, of the five people I know who have been sexually assaulted by someone they knew, three of them were assaulted by the family minister or priest.  As I understand it, outside of a  family member (think funny uncle) the person in that role IS the most likely child-predator if there is one in the child's life, so more stringent third party back-ground checks should be the norm, right?

I think we can add another profile to that list:  if you are a vehement anti-gay crusader chances are looking better every day that you are yourself gay.  No need to thank me; I just hope to save you & everyone you try to ruin in your attempt to prove you're not gay some heartache.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

National Lab Day

I know you have been looking forward to it for months & months:  National Lab Day.  No, not labrador retrievers, science places.

When is National Lab Day exactly?  Well...apparently that is a secret.  & I am sorry to say secretiveness is a big part of what keeps citizens away from science guys.  They have a reputation for liking to make things harder to understand just for the sake of it & I am here to tell you some of them do do that.  Most of the time though, it is because it is just that hard, the first time.   & so it was with National Lab Day, once I tooled around the  sight a few times I found a link that implied it was May 5th, but then I found a sentence that stated it was May 12th. 

Thus we have a window into why science education is falling behind in the country. No I do not put the blame on the guys who thought up National Lab Day, I put the blame on the guys who are responsible for the marketing & administration of science.  & no I do not think marketing &/or administration are evil or bad; I DO think they should be subordinate to the actual mission of science, but they never are.  Frankly, I think marketing might be the reason science has any life left; English took the academic high road & has not been heard from since.

I recently sat through almost the whole speech by a state legislator bemoaning the fact that USschools in general & Fladidah schools in particular are unable to keep the science teachers they have, never mind acquire the teachers they need for the future.  I had so many problems with this speech it is hard to know where to begin.  I should perhaps start at the outer rings & work my way in:

Even if Fladidah had science teachers camping out overnight for the chance of a job, they could not hire them-the schools have no money. In addition to having no money, they DO have a myriad of hoops that a potential/current/future teacher needs jump through every day (more on specific hoops in a moment) that make the job very, very unappealing. 

Once the science teacher does get hired, there are the third party requirements (& no I do not think the legislature should dictate the standards because they pay the bills, they don't pay the bills.  I don't just mean that in a leaving a check on the table kind of way -which happens- I also mean it in a it is not the legislators' money kind of way.  They are the trustees, not the beneficiaries).  This is all before the teachers even make contact with their students.

Let me give you an idea of what these requirements involve:  physicists are being asked to include creationism in their teaching of the physical world & laws; biologists are being asked to compare & contrast evolution with creationism; ditto botanists; & so on.  Is it really such a surprise that hoards of individuals that hold the tenets of their fields close to their hearts are choosing not to teach in Fladidah public schools?  I would like to see classes in evangelical schools interrupted & the instructor asked to give equal time to animism; to compare & contrast funereal rites of ancient Egyptians with our own (after all we have no proof they were wrong, do we?), etc. 

Actually what I would really like is an explanation of how homosexuality is decried by the bible & therefore evil, despite references being subtle & few, but money lending has apparently been rehabilitated.  Every bible I ever came across was clear-as-crystal on money lending being a bad thing; money lenders were driven from the temple remember?  There is no passage describing driving all the single adult men with exquisite fashion sense from the temple.  I am not saying I am going to give up credit cards, I just do not understand how they are not an abomination but gay marriage is; I am quite sure credit card debt ruins more families than same sex marriage ever could.  But I digress....

Where was I?  National Lab Day, that's right.  Well today might be National Lab day or it might be next week. In this house, every day is Lab Day, so it is hard to get all that worked up.  Also I am not sure the cookie-cutter day adored & reviled by secretaries, wept over by mom's, acknowledged by dad's....& who ever else gets singled out for a "day" is really the way to attract people to science.  but unlike almost everything else being done, it can't hurt.  At a minimum, it might help science teachers feel less alone.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

"You Are Out"

First, let me say my Project Runway viewing has been quite spotty the last few seasons.  I am never good with programs that need to be watched in order.  I think this stems from the olden days when I traveled just-a-bit & could never figure out which time zone I was in & what channel the program I wanted to watch was on & if you do not know where you are, WHEN you are, what you are is kind of screwed when it comes to getting episodes in order.  So:  I have never seen a single episode of Survivor, The Amazing Race, American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance, etc.

Still somehow I usually know who is who.  Once a week/month give-or-take I get allergy shots & then I have to hang around for 45 minutes & since I am not interested in planning my Florida Wedding & I know I look like a fool fighting with the kids for the puzzles in Scholastic, I read a lot of People.  & US Weekly.  & so forth.  It turns out that really is as close as I want to get to many of these programs, even now when I do know where/when I am.

All that being said, I used to make an effort for Project Runway.  & then I stopped, no reason, really just got busy & couldn't figure out who was who & never really jumped back in.  The last thing I remember thinking was I wish that little upstart would stop saying "fierce".  Flash forward to the middle of last month when I learned there was a Project Runway game for Wii.  Well.  That was something.  Yes, they go on to say it is kind of "meh" BUT I have paid that much to get into movies that made me sick to my stomach & not in an intellectual way.  As for what they say it takes to make it good:  alcohol & friends with no personal boundaries, that I have.

The last time we Wiied, A***** & A (he really is a good sport) boxed while me & M****** worked our way through a family size bottle of Pinot Grigio.  After several close rounds, A***** won, A said he was robbed (good sport, not great sport) & A***** went out & bought her own Wii.

Yesterday, my poor husband had to be in Tampa (we will make him play next time), so it was just us three.  & the dog, all of the dogs, of course but there is the one...  Have I told the story of Farley-Boy during Wii?  He gets very excited & would run around barking except he is quite elderly so he stands there shifting from foot to foot barking & if you get close enough, he bites you in the tush.  It adds an unexpected element to Wii tennis  Also, now when I invite people over to Wii, I have to ask if they have had their shots.

Last night, we popped the champagne (it was left over from C*****'s 21st toast) & opened the door to my new addiction: Project Runway for Wii.  Everything the Fug Girls said is absolutely true.  But they left out how much fun being complete fools with a high tech version of paper dolls can be, because it was too much fun.  & not just because of the champagne.  A got home in time to take some very incriminating pictures & A***** took the disc home for the rest of the week to work on her skills.