Monday, October 31, 2011

In which the devil builds a church...or not

You might have noticed there were more saints than usual this month.  That was, in part because I can write the saint posts when I have time & then queue them up.  It was also because October, being that month of spooky-ookiness just lends itself to saints.  I don't care who you are, most of those people are downright not-quite-right in the head.  I mean no disrespect, crazy people are pretty much the only people who get big things done (big goods things & big bad things).

For Hallowe'en, it seemed only right to end the month with a guy I had never heard of (although his miracle runs on a very popular theme), Wolfgang of Regensburg.  C'mon, how can you resist a Hallowe'en saint named Wolfgang?  The only thing that could be better would be Saint Vlad.

Wolfgang was a person, a child & then a man in the usual way.  He was a scholar, an educator & the ultimately a bishop in his own part of the world (my guess would be greater Regensburg).  Eventually he retired from his bishophood & went to live as a hermit (shocker!) & so on in so forth in that bishop to hermit to canonical candidate way.  Despite being a hermit (seriously, I am beginning to think that word does not mean what I think it means), he had an active political life, did a bit of traveling & some light construction work (he built his solitary cell where G*d directed his axe to fall; seems an impractical method to me, but the axe remains a relic in the town of Ste. Wolfgang).  He was known locally as a man of great goodness & after his death many churches adopted his name.  All very standard stuff.  But you know there had to be something to catch my eye (or more accurately my typing fingers) & that was the story of how Wolfgang of Regensburg beat the devil. 

I think we are all fond of stories of beating the devil, even if you don't believe in the devil, even if you believe the devil is in all of us.  We all like to beat him, in Moscow or even Georgia.  When I was in school I remember loving the Stephen Vincent Benet story "The Devil & Daniel Webster", maybe in part because I spent a lot of my youth up in Daniel Webster country & have visited his birthplace on more than one occasion.  I have just learned there is a movie that I somehow missed completely, but scenes still look familiar.  I cannot tell if I saw it once & forgot or of all movies from that period look a little bit alike.

Either way, there is no movie about Wolfgang of Regensburg beating the devil (actually there probably the tourist kiosk of the Town of Ste. Wolfgang, but whatever) which is a damn shame because Wolfgang beat the devil & got him (the devil) to build a church.  The story itself, without further ado:

I could not find it.  I looked & looked & looked & all I found was this painting which some sources say is actually Ste. Augustine being presented with a book of vices (how handy!).  How Wolfgang came to meet the devil, no idea.  What the devil offered him, not a clue.  How Wolfgang roped the devil into doing good works, great big mystery. 

& so I leave you with this, a man who pulled a Tom Sawyer on Satan himself.  Then somehow got assigned October 31st as his feast day. 

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Little cedar tree

Phew.  So.  Well.  I guess I don't have to say "I am way behind" although "I'm sorry I am so behind" would not be out of line.  The bad news about being behind is that the deadlines keep coming, washing over me & moving on.  That is also the good news, because there is something liberating about admitting I'm going to be late.

Yesterday was the deadline for the Facebook Quilt Block Swap 10-2011 swap block.  It was one of the deadlines that rolls on up whether I am ready for it or not.  Not only was I not ready, I had not done most of the prep work either on-line or in my own house.  Samples of the block were made eons ago; I put up three swaps worth at a time, which is six months worth of swaps & I do this at the end of the previous swap soooo pictures of this (& the next & the previous) swap block went on-line in June.  Good thing, too because there is no way I could have cranked them out between the end of the last swap & in time to get them here today.  I didn't even get the packages that have been arriving all in one place until this past Friday, which is BAD.

One missed deadline does not seem to have mattered so much.  There was no last call for the block(s), but we got plenty anyhow.  I have been calling this "one cut of the cut glass dish" because, well, it is one component of that more complex & much larger block.  It is also a block in its own right, which I had planned on noting but....but...

Among other inconveniences of this whole remodel business was that we decided to put in the same new floor throughout the kitchen, dining room (which is effectively now part of the kitchen), the front room (which was the living room/tv room but has been sort of drifting in purpose since we made the old florida room a year-round part of the house & moved the tv etc. in there), & hallway (which is still a hallway, no real change there).  This meant packing up the books in the front room (maybe we could start calling it the library, hmmmm) & that meant packing my Brackman & that meant I had no idea what this block on its own was called.

Well, the Brackman came back out early last week & now I know.  It is called Little Cedar Tree & it is Brackman #1311a.  .It is a charming little block really.  & with five of it's fellows & three "blank" squares, makes one of my most favorites.  Good thing, too because you would not believe the pile of envelopes waiting to be swapped!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Broken dishes from years ago

I thought about sitting out this Blogger's Quilt Festival, mostly because we have been in the throws (& I do mean throws) of a kitchen remodel & I have nothing new & nothing I have not already blogged about &....&...

I was wrong.  This month, over on the Block Lotto, I submitted three Broken Dishes blocks for the October Sampler Lotto.  & then I went hunting through my blog for photos of the Broken Dishes quilt I made my step-father.  It turns out I have no blog entry & no complete photos of it at all, YIKES!

This quilt hung in a Veteran's Day 2006 quilt show before it went on to it's final home.  For reasons I am not clear on, it was hung upside down, so that instead of the label being in the lower right corner (& oriented correctly when folded up in the usual way of looking at quilt labels on hanging quilts), it was folded over itself.  No other quilt in the show was hung this way (including another I made with a similar label right-side-up when you lift the corner type deal).  Anyhow, it means the only picture I have does not show the whole quilt top.  

Trust me though, it is the same all over, Broken Dishes alternating with Snowballs to make a woven sort-of criss-cross pattern.  I used the same fabric for the center of the Snowballs, the corner squares of the outer border & the narrow inner border.  All the others were scraps in shades of blue, light & dark meeting in the center.

This quilt was made especially for my step-father & happened to coincide with a quilt show honoring veterans, so I made a label with photos of him in the service & more recently fishing & a blurb of how he spent his time, specifically building quonset huts during the Korean War.  I don't usually go in for such elaborate labels, but this was a special case. 

Nowadays the quilt lives in my parent's den, over the back of the rocking chair he sits in every night to watch Pardon My Interruption, college basketball & what-have-you.  I see it every time I visit & have never thought to take a better picture.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Adopt a Shelter Dog Month

Yes, I get kind of tired of these faux-holiday months:  eat a pig month, don't beat your wife monthtake your rabbi to luinch month, & so forth.  Hmmmm, that was a complete accident but maybe you should almost slap your spouse & then take the rabbi for a pork chop...?  No, probably not.


All these months can get stoopid.  What I think I  like most about them is how stoopid they are.  Until I am just fed up & then they aren't even stoopid-fun anymore. But the thing about these months is there is always one that means something to you, or in this case, me.  I am only marginally interested in National Cyber Security Awareness or Downs Syndrome Awareness & maybe just a bit more interested in Breast Cancer Awareness or Lupus Erythematosus Awareness (not to be confused with general Lupus Awareness Month which is in May).  But there is a big one for me:  October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month.

There are so many stories, so much alike & so uniquely heartbreaking about shelter animals that I am just not going to enter that now.  Instead I am going to give you a taste of what a foundling dog can be, if someone just takes him home:

When I was a kid it was all about Benji, or Higgins actually becasue that was his name-at-home.  Higgnins was indeed found at a shelter & once this was learned the American Humane Society reported a HUGE uptick in adoptions from shelters.  The subsequent Benji was Higgins's son, who obviously did not come from an animal shelter; Higgins was so beloved by his owner that when the dog died he was cremated & then buried with him (the owner) when he (the owner) died.

Later it was Murray, or Maui a border collie mix also found at an animal shelter, around whom the life of two very busy NY professionals revolved just about the time we got our first dog, Megan-also-called-Piglet.  Her shelter name was Denise & I wanted to name her Dodie & I still think she would have made a fine Dodie, but all the yuppies were naming their daughters Megan so Megan it was.

Most recently it is the dogs formerly know as Bad Newz.  I confess I have not yet read the book about their rehabilitation, but as a person who lives with a pitbull I know that they are individuals just like every other breed & some want to patrol their territory & some would rather eat pizza on the couch.

Sooooo, it's Adopt a Shelter Dog Month.  Chances are your shelter dog won't make you rich, or even pay his own way.  Still, there are lots of wonderful dogs out there who have already been thru the horrible puppy stage & just want someone to rub their bellies.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The New & Improved Very Large Array

You remember the hullabaloo (or maybe you don't) between The Colbert Nation & NASA. The gist is NASA had a contest to name....something. I think it might have been a room on the space station.  Whatever it was, NASA had suggestions & the rest of us were supposed to choose fom among them.  & then Stephen Colbert started campaigning that the room (I looked it up, it was a room) be named for him.  & the rest is history.  Or not, actually.  Apparently NASA reserves the right to override any winning suggestions & may or may not have exercised it.  I don't know.  Google it your damn self.   Alright, I did google it.  NASA conceded & named a treadmill after Stephen Colbert instead.  

Well, forget NASA, this time it is the NRAO renaming their Very Large Array.  First let me say how much I already like NRAO's naming style over NASA's.  Apparently the COLBERT treadmill is really the Combined Operational Load Bearing External Resistance treadmill.  This refusal to choose the voted on name because it doesn't fit their vision & then backwards engineering the choosen name so the letters first letters of the elobarota NASA-name spell it tells us all a little something about NASA.  On the other hand we have the NRAO, who apparently took a look at a very large array & said "Let's call it the Very Large Array".

& the Very Large Array it remained, so-named in the movie Contact & right up through Terminator Salvation although they called it SkyNet.   It was the backdrop for way-too-many music videos, documentaries, comic books & on & on. 

The Very Large Array is located in New Mexico, more or less out on it's own.  It is in a county with a population somewhat less than 20K people; 6 towns, villages & localities; 11 ghost towns & 49 listings on the National Register of Historic Places-10 of which have restricted addresses; in other words yes they are historic but the public cannot know exactly where they are.  Before you start thinking Roswell (actually in another, non-adjacent county),  I checked, they are all archeological digs & I know from talking with people in the biz there is quite a black market for artifacts from same.  Or maybe that is just the cover story.

So there it is, the Very Large Array, getting all upgraded & shiny & new.  & here is your chance to name it.  Unlike NASA they are offering no suggestions, except that they just might keep the Very Large Array & add a prefix.  As in The New & Improved Very Large Array.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Today, a dwarf

I freely & unequivocally admit I choose today's saint because of his name.  No, not the Juan part, the other part:  Juan the Dwarf.  I know if you follow the link you will find JOHN the dwarf, but you will also find painting after painting of white Jesus & you all just need to get over that. 

Okay, is everyone forming a picture of a Latin Lord of the Rings thing?  Yes?  Good.

Juan was born to a poor family (surprise, surprise) in Egypt (Juan?).  He had a famously short fuse (waka waka) & while his temper never really went away, with spirituality came humility (so not 21st century, right?) & he stopped getting quite so worked up about offenses, imagined & otherwise. 

So we have a dwarf, who has left his parents hovel to live in an underground cave he dug himself.  It just gets better & better doesn't it?  Lived for a while as a hermit, offering himself as a disciple.  For reasons known only to ancient villagers with ancient pitchforks (in this instance Berbers with swords), he was driven away, wandered a bit & then settled on Mount Qolzum, over in Anthony's neighborhood, to hang with the other hermits.

In the end, the most interesting story about Juan, in my view, is he was directed (by Saint Pambo, a most excellent name) to plant a piece of dry wood & then traveled uphill in both directions twice a day to water it for thirteen years until it sprouted.  The reason I like this is that one of my favorite movies: Enchanted April.  It has nothing to do with dwarves or saints or mountains or anything really, but a dead bit of wood that sprouts does come into it.  & I guess there are some sort-of hermits living together.

Back to our man of the day; he is the patron of nothing, nada, zip.  Not even dwarves.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Curried eggs

It has been a while since I had a recipe & I don't know about you, but when it gets hot I have trouble eating anything meaty.  Alright, I am not a big meat eater at the best of times (I had a cheeseburger a year ago October & by a year ago October I mean 2009), but the simple truth is I need protein just like everyone else.  In the summertime, the best way to get it is with eggs.  & yes, by the way, it is summertime here again in Fladidah.  This week, it is hard-boiled curried eggs over leafy greens (because it turns out I realllly need more iron & spinach is my new best friend).

First hard-boil some eggs.  However many you want.  Six eggs would last me a week; A could eat that in one sitting.  Lets say six:  hard-boil six eggs.  Then drain them & take make them easier to peel, drop them gently into cold, cold water.  Set aside for a minute...or an hour.

When you are ready, return to the eggs & peel them.  I roll them around for a bit until the shell cracks & then try to peel it in one piece like an apple.  No, I have never been successful, but it is good to give yourself these little challenges, don't you think?  Cut them & remove the yolks.  Set aside the whites, keeping them as intact as you can, but don't make yourself crazy, this is not deviled eggs after all.  Mash the yolks with a fork.

In a small bowl -a really small bowl, I use a teacup- combine 1tsp cardamon, 1 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp red pepper. 1/2 tsp turmeric.  Generally these are already ground but if not, grind them now.  Grind them together, even.

Finely mince one or two or three cloves of garlic.  Three is probably too many, so if you really like garlic, use two.  If you buy minced garlic in a jar, try to scoop as much liquid as actual garlic & go for a teaspoon or so total.

Take your smallest pan, ideally a pan with some sides to it (i.e. a crepe pan would not cut it) & put in as little of a light oil as you need to coat the bottom.  Any light oil will do.  The idea is not to cook anything in oil but to make the temperature more or less even throughout the pan.  If you have a gas stove & snazzy cookware, you might be able to get away without the oil.  If you are feeling adventurous, or it is the morning after bookclub, you could try a bit of red wine, just covering the bottom of your pan.

Heat the oil, add the spices.  Stir.  & stir.  Do not stop stirring.  Add the garlic & stir some more.  The spices may smoke a bit, just keep stirring & use your nose.  When they "release" add the mashed egg yolks & stir, stir stir for as long again as you stirred before adding the eggs.  It is almost impossible to under-cook them, but the longer they heat up together, the more flavor the eggs will take.

Never stop stirring, never ever ever.

When they are done remove from heat, remove from pan (or they will keep cooking, even if the pan is not on the stove) & set aside.  Slice the whites into smaller-than-bite sized pieces.  I like to put them in a bowl, whites on one side, yolks on the other & spoon it over my salad instead of dressing.  Other people scoop them up on pieces of bread or mix it in with rice. 

& for those of you who like a media tie-in, I give you Cool Hand Luke.  I bet he couldn't have eaten those eggs curried...maybe he could.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Talk about talk

Today in 1881 an ancient language was reborn. Wait, let me back up.  Did you know languages are like sharks?  No really, they are.  Keep moving or die.  & languages happen in more ways than you might think:  American Sign Language began as a way for a hearing teacher to reach a deaf student.  Noam Chomsky would say this conversation starved girl was just the right age for her language switch to be flipped on & the language exploded.  & then there is Klingon; they needed a few syllables to match up to subtitles for a television show.  A few cult member later, a movie is made & the producers decide to hire a linguist to reverse engineer into the existing noises & grow something from there.  The rest is linguistic history; last year Shakespeare was performed in Klingon & the Book of Mormon was translated.  I am not suggesting there is a huge market, but how many people have to speak a language for it to be a language?

Which brings us to today's phoenix.  In 1880 there was no such thing as conversational Hebrew.  Yiddish, yes, but outside of ceremonial uses, there was no Hebrew.  So, if no one uses it in every day living, is it still a language?  Eliezer Ben-Yehuda said yes.  & then to hedge his bet, he began speaking it.  Alright, he probably began speaking it because it mattered to him that this language come back into common usage; gambling had nothing to do with it. 

Ben-Yehuda made major changes in his & his family's life to bring back this language,.  His son was barely exposed to any other language as a child & is credited with being the first native speaker of Hebrew in a thousand years.  Today, it is the official language Israel & regardless of how you feel about whether Israel should exist there is no doubt it is the home to almost 8 million people, more than 60% of whom identify Hebrew as their primary language.

So Happy Rebirth Birthday, Hebrew Language.  Alas all I can say in conversational Hebrew is "I have a song that irritates people" over & over & over again.  Feel free to blame the counselors at Camp Ramah circa 1981.  Wow, exactly 100 years after the whole thing began again!

In a related story, Michael Chabon came to write one of my favorite books (actually he wrote several of my favorites books, but I am only referring to one of them here) because he got to wondering about Yiddish & how it is a dying language, only to learn that it isn't but by then he had started down a whole alternative history concept in which instead of the Middle East the Jewish homeland is settled in Alaska.  & all of this was before he rest of the country ever heard of Sarah Palin.  I am talking of course about The Yiddish Policeman's Union.  Do yourself a favor, get the audio version read by Peter Riegert.  It is a jewel.  & now I see the book has been optioned for a movie by the Coen Brothers...I can hardly wait.

Back to the birth of Hebrew....& ASL & Klingon & Esperanto & so on.  While waiting for that movie that now I really must see, also get a copy of In the Land of Invented Languages.  The people of language are some of the most interesting people to read about.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Pelagia AKA Margarito

I backed into Saint Pelagia, not in a parking lot or anything but through the Boris Akunin series about Sister Pelagia (which I backed into because of my deep & abiding love for all things Erast Fandorin, also a Boris Akunin character).

There are a few different Saint Pelagias, conveniently celebrated on the same days (today or later this month, depending on which calendar you go with, but all together on whichever day):  a virgin who jumped from the roof of her house rather than be raped by soldiers, another who drove one man to suicide & his father to burn her alive for refusing to marry either of them, & a nun who saw a vision of Mary that told her where to find buried treasure, but today we are taking a look at Pelagia also known as Margarito the Courtesan.

Our Pelagia lived in Antioch (as did the roof-jumper, who is known as Pelagia of Antioch) & had quite a following as a dancer & professional mistress.  She was known for her outrageous costumes & public spectacles (think Lady Gaga) & was out one day with her entourage when she happened to hear Saint Nonnus preaching in the street.  In an unusual twist, as far as I can tell part of what got Nonnus the saint gig was baptising Pelagia & then getting her to renouncing her sinful ways.  Pelagia was a very big fish (imagine Lady Gaga; now imagine her joining Westboro Baptist Church).  She had a very public, very well compensated life of sin.  She was a walking-talking repudiation of be good & good things will happen to you, be bad & you get my point.  This was most excellent PR for the christians.

But Pelagia does not stop being interesting.  She was casting off her worldy goods & worldly life & really wanted to get to Jerusalem & live as penitent without attracting undo attention.  So she went disguised.  As a man.  No where else have I come across a saint who went cross-dressing to redemption.  I am just going to beat this Lady Gaga thing like a rented mule.

Pelagia spent three years disguised as a man, shut away in a monk's cell.  When she was found dead, she was buried without above ordinary ceremony.  I wonder what they thought of the babe in monk's clothing but maybe everyone secretly knew.  Also things were hopping in the Holy Land right about then.  In more scandalous death-news, the wife of the emperor also died- yes they die all the time but this particular wife had been banished to Jerusalem because of her adultery.  There were also a lot of religious schisms, the results of which are still seen today, hence Pelagia being a widely recognized saint in some churches & not so much in others.

That's it for our Pelagia really.  The second go-round of the hooker with a heart of gold story.   For another story about another Pelagia (no more holy than our saint & no less interesting, frankly) let me recommend Sister Pelagia & the White Bulldog.  It has everything:  religious schisms, sexual intrigues & behind the scenes look at champion dog breeding in Tsarist Russia.  Also, the sister wields a deadly knitting needle, what's not to love?