Sunday, August 19, 2018

Behold, the Scroll of...um...

I kind of wish the news would quit giving me ideas for blog posts.

This week, it's a little gem of the-opposite-of-tautology uttered by former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani on one of the Sunday morning gabfests earlier today. A tautology, to refresh your memory, is a statement that cannot be false. "Bears are bears" is one example. "1 + 1 = 2" is another.

One could be excused for believing "Truth is truth" would be another tautology -- but according to Giuliani this morning, truth isn't truth. Social media derision immediately followed. The phrase reminded a number of commenters of George Orwell's Newspeak -- specifically, what he referred to as doublespeak: "War is Peace," "Freedom is Slavery," and so on.

What Giuliani meant to say, though, I think, was this: People remember things in different ways. Two people can be at the same meeting, say, and remember the events of the meeting differently. Another way to put it would be to say that truth is relative.

Except it's not.

For everything that has ever occurred, there exists somewhere an objective account. That's the capital-T Truth. But people have faulty memories; in addition, they bring their own beliefs and points of view to situations, and those may color the way they remember the event. And as time passes, people's memories become fuzzy. Moreover, sometimes the spin doctors get busy and the "official" account of the event in question gets bent out of shape. By then, we've gotten pretty far from objective Truth.

Which is why we have investigators and lawyers, judges and juries. Their job is to find and/or listen to all the evidence -- all the different recollections of the event from everyone involved. From that mountain of evidence, they reconstruct the capital-T Truth to the best of their abilities and mete out justice, if required.

I don't want to get into how "truth isn't truth" is awfully close to the concept of "alternative facts," because -- all together now -- This Isn't a Political Blog. You've gotta admit, though, the two concepts appear to be very similar.

Anyway.

The show's host, Chuck Todd, suggested Giuliani's statement would instantly be turned into a bad meme. Here at hearth/myth, we are nothing if not helpful.


***
I swear I'm gonna write about writing next week.

***
These moments of truthy blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Maybe hate won, after all.

You may have heard that we were anticipating a little dust-up here in DC today. Thank the gods that things didn't get out of hand in any way. But I don't believe we got off scot-free.

As you may know, this weekend is the one-year anniversary of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, VA, just a few hours away from DC. The event was organized by a bunch of white nationalists and fellow travelers, ostensibly to protest plans to remove a statue of Civil War Gen. Robert E. Lee from a city park. Hundreds of people on both sides of the issue showed up to protest and to counter the protestors, sparking numerous violent incidents while police basically stood by and watched it all happen. Then on Saturday, August 12th, a white supremacist rammed his car into a crowd of counter-protestors, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others. Police arrested James Fields, Jr., and eventually charged him with first-degree murder and several hate-crime-related counts. His trial is set to start in November.

Things have not gone all that well for white supremacists since then. Many of them lost their jobs back home after being identified as participants in the rally. One fellow, Christopher Cantwell (no relation, thank goodness), became known as the "crying Nazi" when he posted a video of himself freaking out after learning the police were after him for the trouble in Charlottesville. Cantwell turned himself in shortly thereafter and has been in jail ever since. Last month, he pleaded guilty to assault and battery, and the judge reduced his sentence to time served; however, he is barred from entering the commonwealth of Virginia for five years.

More infamous white supremacists have also had a rough year. Rally organizer Richard Spencer, who last year moved into Old Town Alexandria, VA, to the horror of his liberal neighbors, has apparently broken his lease and moved out. And the host of InfoWars, Alex Jones, lost the vast majority of his social media platform when Facebook, YouTube, and Apple banned his accounts for violating their terms of service.

But the other organizer of last year's Charlottesville rally decided to do it again anyway. So Jason Kessler applied for a permit for an anniversary rally in Charlottesville. When city officials there were less than accommodating, he decided instead to move the rally to Washington, DC. Perhaps he thought a big rally in Lafayette Park, in full view of the White House, was just the shot in the arm the movement needed (never mind that the President wasn't going to be home). At the same time, organizers went ahead with plans for a commemorative march in Charlottesville, and counter-protestors again made plans to show up and shout them down.

Here in DC, we have seen our share of protests over the years. Besides the big marquee events -- the Million Man March, the Women's March, and so many others -- rallies and protests are practically a daily occurrence in Lafayette Park. The city had to issue Kessler a permit -- and they had to issue a permit to the coalition of counter-protestors who intended to demonstrate against Kessler's group. And then they had to figure out how to keep the two sides from killing one another. Extra security was scheduled; road closures were announced from Foggy Bottom to the White House. A proposal by the board of the Washington Metropolitan Transit Agency to reserve a special train for the Unite the Right ralliers fizzled when the transit workers' union, whose membership is 80 percent people of color, refused to run it.

In the end, it was the rally that fizzled. Fewer than 30 people showed up. Facing a heavy police presence and thousands of counter-protestors, Kessler stayed just long enough to make a speech. Then, as rain began pouring down, they left -- half an hour before rally was originally scheduled to start. The counter-protestors gave them a hearty chorus of "Na na, hey hey, goodbye" as security officers loaded them into vans and drove them away.

It's tempting to be giddy over Nazis turning tail and running from a crowd of thousands arrayed against them. But I'm reminded of some of the cautionary comments made in the days after 9/11, when security measures were being ramped up all around the country: The point of terrorism is to terrorize -- not just to blow things up, but to make people afraid. One guy gets aboard an airliner with an explosive in his shoe, and suddenly all of us are unpacking and undressing in order to get on a plane -- or paying the government a hundred bucks for the privilege of not having to undress and unpack. The goal isn't the bomb. The bomb is only a means to an end. The goal is to make people afraid.

This weekend, in both DC and Charlottesville (where the police seemed more sympathetic to the Nazis than to the counter-protestors), city officials scrambled, platoons of police were mobilized, money was spent on security, and normal people rearranged their lives -- and in the end, it was for no good reason. Sure, we had to be prepared. But no matter how few white supremacists showed up, they still got what they wanted. Even before the event was over, the damage was done.

***
These moments of bloggy incitement have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Knitting is like - say what?

Dana Loesch, who shills for the NRA, said this week that 3D-printing -- even 3D-printing a gun -- could be a fun hobby. You know, like knitting.

We'll return to her comment in a few moments. But hey, how's that for a topical segue?

It appears I haven't done a knitting post since February. That was six months ago. Going so long between crafty posts seemed unlikely to me, until I remembered how hectic our spring was, what with the unexpected move due to construction woes at the old apartment building. (By the way, I stopped by there yesterday to check out a package receipt notification that I had received in error. Nothing's changed. I'm still glad we got out when we did.) I got rid of a ton of stuff in preparation for that move, including some yarn I knew I'd never knit up into anything. So while I was doing yarny things, I wasn't doing a lot of knitting.

In addition, we'd had a problem with moths at the old place. Actually, we'd had all sorts of weird problems with bugs at that place. The first time I turned on the bathroom light, a cloud of gnats flew out of the exhaust vent, circled a few times, and then all died at once. Then there was the time I found a daddy longlegs hiding in the shower curtain. I never did figure out how he got in. Lest you think the bathroom was Weirdness Central, we also had a plague of ants for a while; how they got up six floors and into our dining room still mystifies me.

Anyway, the moths. In an effort to kill them, we bagged up all our fiber in vacuum bags before we moved and left everything in those bags for several weeks after moving to the new place. All of which goes to explain why I left on vacation in June without a project in my carry-on.

Not to worry, though; they had yarn shops where I was going. And the first shop I stopped in -- Longmont Yarn Shoppe -- was a winner. As I browsed the pattern books, a clerk asked if she could help me. I told her I was on vacation and had left home without a project because things had been a little nutty before I left. I believe that was when she suggested that I have a seat at the table to look at the book further, and even brought me hot water and a basket of teas from which to choose. Talk about service!

After that, I could hardly leave without purchasing anything. So I picked up the pattern book -- aptly titled Road Trip -- and materials for the Rivulet shawl in the book. The pattern was not at all complicated, which suited me for that trip. I made it bigger than the directions called for. Here's the result:


The yarn is a soft silk/cotton blend. I'm looking forward to wearing this shawl when it cools down a little.

I was glad to have a simple project to work on because my previous project was definitely not simple. The pattern for this sweater is the Killybegs, designed by Carol Feller. Believe it or not, the hardest part of this was the I-cord cast-on at the bottom, which took me three sessions to finish. (For those of you who don't knit, I-cord is short for "idiot cord," a term coined by Elizabeth Zimmerman for a super-easy knitted cord made on double-pointed needles. She said the process was so easy that even an idiot could do it.)

Anyway, here's the sweater.


I took the photo in the bathroom at work, hence the tunnel-mirror effect.

As usual, I couldn't leave well enough alone; I installed a zipper instead of the gazillion hooks and eyes the pattern called for. Getting it in place took some trial-and-error. But it zips, and that's the important thing.

Since finishing the Rivulet, I've cast on a couple of projects and set them both aside. I'm thinking now that I may wait until it cools down before I pick up one or the other to finish it.

Which brings us back to Dana Loesch, who says she "knits all the time." I get how it might be fun to use a 3D printer to make stuff. But I just don't see how printing a gun would be like knitting. Knitters do kid around about how they're armed with sharp sticks, but needles aren't nearly as lethal as a firearm.

***
I did a thing today: I posted last week's post at Medium. This is the first time I've ever posted anything there, so I'd appreciate it if you would stop by and give me a clap. Thanks!

***
These moments of stabby blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

The Fourth Estate.

So there's this phone app called HQ. It's a daily online quiz where they give away real cash money if you can correctly answer a bunch of multiple-choice trivia questions. The kids got me into it, and for a while we were playing every day. Sometimes the questions are easy for them because they're young; sometimes they're easy for me because I'm not so young.

Anyway, one day, one of the questions was something along the lines of, "What is the Fourth Estate?" Easy peasy for me -- it's journalism. The kids told me later that they'd never heard of the term before. That's when I realized I'd never heard it until I went to journalism school.

Just in case you've never been to journalism school, I will explain: The news media are the fourth check-and-balance on the U.S. system of government. The other three "estates" are the three branches of government you're familiar with from civics or history class: executive, legislative, and judicial. Journalists are not part of the government -- and that's what makes them so valuable. Being outside the system, they can report objectively about what's going on inside the system; they don't have to keep anybody in any branch of government happy in order to keep their jobs.

With me so far? Okay. That brings us to this meme, which I have seen in a couple of different forms recently on Facebook:


I agree with the spirit behind the quote, but I'm not sure I agree with all of its implications. Because it is, in fact, the journalist's job to quote them both -- and if someone says it's not rain, but drizzle, they should be quoted, too. All sides should be presented. It's the news consumer's job to figure out which one is true.

I've talked about this before on the blog, in connection with the Keystone XL pipeline. In that post, I mentioned Edward R. Murrow, who went up against Sen. Joe McCarthy of Minnesota, a demagogue who pursued a personal vendetta to ruin everyone he didn't like by claiming they were Communists. Murrow devoted several episodes of his news show to McCarthy, explaining his methods objectively. He didn't hurl invectives or call Sen. McCarthy a liar; he simply showed his viewers what was going on and allowed them to draw their own conclusions.

Once the shows aired, Murrow had reason to attack McCarthy; the senator got mad at Murrow and accused him of being a Communist himself. Why didn't Murrow call him out as a liar? Because in attacking Murrow, McCarthy showed his true colors. Murrow didn't do editorials. He was a journalist. His method was to give McCarthy just enough rope to hang himself.

The framers of the Constitution realized how important a free press would be to our nation; that's why the First Amendment guarantees us freedom of speech and of the press. But for the Fourth Estate to do its job most effectively, news consumers have to be aware of all sides of the issue. They cannot be expected to decide what's true when presented with just one side of the story. They definitely cannot be expected to know what's true when they're constantly being told that the journalists at major news outlets -- people who believe strongly in their role as part of the Fourth Estate -- are purveyors of fake news and enemies of the people.

On July 20th, New York Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger met with President Trump at the White House. The meeting was supposed to be off the record, but the President tweeted about it this weekend anyway. Trump said the discussion centered on "the vast amounts of Fake News being put out by the media."

That prompted Sulzberger to break his silence. In his statement, he said, "I told the president directly that I thought that his language was not just divisive but increasingly dangerous." And he said, "I warned that this inflammatory language is contributing to a rise in threats against journalists and will lead to violence." (You may recall that five people were killed in a mass shooting at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, MD, last month. Police say the shooter didn't like something the paper had published about him.)

President Trump doesn't appear to care. In a speech last week to veterans, he told them, "Just remember: what you're seeing and what you're reading is not what's happening." Don't believe the journalists, in other words; believe only me.

I've talked about gaslighting on the blog before, too. You may recall I said that the gaslighter's ultimate aim is to convince his victim that the only person telling the truth is the gaslighter.

Feel free to draw your own conclusions.

***
These moments of Fourth Estate blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Results of the great date experiment.

The ingredients (except for the squash, which I didn't use).

As you may recall from our last exciting episode, I had just received 12 oz. of fresh dates and asked for recipes to use them up.

I'd forgotten how many foodies I am friends with on Facebook. I received a ton of ideas, some involving equipment I don't own (a high-speed blender) and foods I'd never heard of (Lebanon bologna, which it turns out is sort of like salami).

And then I forgot about the project until this morning.

In the meantime, I'd eaten some of the dates by themselves (which a few people suggested -- good call!). I ended up with just 14 dates -- not nearly enough to make date squares or a walnut-date cheesecake crust. So I narrowed the project to just date-based appetizers. Then I bought the ingredients you see here and began to combine them in logical ways. Or ways that seemed logical to me, anyway. I surrendered to the bacon-wrapped brigade and set aside five dates for hot appetizers; another three were set aside to be enrobed in chocolate (sans rum bath, sadly, as I'd run out of time). That left six dates for room-temperature treats. I steeled myself as I de-pitted each date, knowing that if I ate any now, I'd have even fewer for the test. Then I set to work.

And then, when they were done, I ate them all -- in the spirit of science, you understand.

Here are my creations and my ratings from 1-10, with 1 being "never again" and 10 being "why didn't I make them all this way?":


On the paper towel are the warm treats. I baked them at 375 degrees Farenheit for about 22 minutes. Williams-Sonoma suggested putting a wire cooling rack on a rimmed cookie sheet and putting the dates on the rack, so I did that and it worked pretty well. I used turkey bacon instead of the regular kind; that may have been a factor in my results. Clockwise from top left:

  • Cream cheese, fresh chive, walnut quarter and bacon: 4. Too much going on here, I think.
  • Manchego and bacon: 8. I loves me some Manchego, and it melted better than I thought it would.
  • Goat cheese, slivered almond and bacon: 5. Couldn't taste the almond.
  • Goat cheese and bacon: 7. I would make this again.
  • And in the center: goat cheese, fresh basil and prosciutto: 9. The fresh basil made it stand out for me. Prosciutto is ham cured to within an inch of its life and sliced paper thin. Technically, you don't have to cook it, but it sure didn't hurt.
On the platter are the room temperature treats. I got lucky with the perfectly ripe cantaloupe; I don't think the results would be nearly as good with the pathetic, mostly-green ones we get at most other times of the year. Clockwise from the point on the platter at the top left:
  • Cantaloupe and fresh mint: 10. Using fresh herbs makes all the difference. Next time I might put the mint leaf inside with the cantaloupe, instead of pinning it across the top.
  • Goat cheese, fresh basil and slivered almond: 8.
  • Cream cheese, walnut quarter and fresh basil: 9.
  • Manchego, fresh chive and prosciutto: 6. The fresh chives just didn't do it for me, and the Manchego is clearly better warm and melty.
  • Goat cheese, fresh mint and prosciutto: 7. Again, the mint makes it. I think I prefer the prosciutto baked, although this was pretty good.
  • Cream cheese and cantaloupe: 9. On the sweet side, but quite tasty.
  • In the middle are the three dates dipped in dark chocolate. I'd give the plain chocolate-dipped dates an 8; I found the chocolate upstaged the flavor of the date. However, I'd shoved a fresh mint leaf into one of the dates before the chocolate bath -- that one earned a 10. 
So there you go -- some variations on the bacon-wrapped-date theme. Anything with a 7 or up would be worth making again, I think. And simpler is better -- one or two ingredients inside the date got the best results.

And of course, your mileage may vary.

***
These moments of scientific blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

In search of date recipes.

Alert hearth/myth readers will recall that some months back, I signed up for a service called Hungry Harvest. Every other week, I receive a box full of produce that would otherwise have gone to waste -- either the wholesalers bought too much of it, or the item is the wrong size or has surface blemishes that would make grocery shoppers pass it up. And it's all been perfectly fine, and perfectly delicious, so far.

For instance, this week's box included two green bell peppers and a seedless cucumber. I knew exactly what to do with those, thanks to a recipe I'd spotted in the Washington Post for Jose Andres's gazpacho. Gazpacho is a perfect summer soup -- a tasty alternative when it's too hot to cook and you're sick of salads. (Also, it's not spicy. Most Spanish-from-Spain food isn't spicy. You're thinking of Mexican food -- some of which is also not spicy. But I digress.)

I also received some apples and oranges, a bunch of kale (homemade kale chips, yay!), a broccoli crown, some little carrots (not baby carrots -- these are unpeeled and about four inches long each), and a pomegranate. Most of those will go in my lunch bag over the course of the coming week, but I think a bunch of the pomegranate seeds will end up mixed in with Greek yogurt as a snack. 

By the way, getting at the seeds inside a pomegranate is easy. Amy saw it on Facebook -- you make lengthwise cuts along the ridges on the outside of the fruit, then cut off the top, reach into the middle with your thumbs, and pull it apart. Presto! (See? Facebook is good for something, after all.)

Sometimes, however, the selections have me stumped. This week, it's my fault.

Gazpacho, pomegranates in yogurt, and those darned dates.
In addition to the regular box (which varies every time, depending on what's available), you can select add-ons. This week I bought a couple of avocados and an eight-ounce package of Medjool dates. The avocados aren't a problem; I use them in place of cheese in omelets, and there's always avocado toast. (I tried making guacamole once. It didn't end well.) 

The dates, though. I'm not sure what to do with them.

I checked through some of my cookbooks and didn't see anything date-related that floated my boat. I also asked Mama Google, but she wasn't much help. I'm seeing a lot of dates with coconut (which I'm not a big fan of), dates with bacon (honestly, you bacon people...), dates and pomegranate seeds (hey! I have those!) as a salad topper, and dates in various types of cookies and quick breads.

So dear hearth/myth readers, I turn to you: Anybody got a good recipe for dates? 

Thanks in advance. I'll report back next week.

***
These moments of bloggy inventiveness have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Transcendence giveaway winners! And some news.

I have been hard at work today on the new series which still doesn't have a name. I got started on it last weekend and then realized I didn't know where I was going with it. So I took a few days off, did some more research, wrote my typical rough outline-ish thing, and went back at it.

This new series is going in a slightly different direction than I originally thought. There will still be river gods. The rest is morphing -- for the best, I hope.

But enough about a book that's not even been written yet. I know you're all here to find out who won the contest. And I am here to tell you that the winners of the paperback copies of the Transcendence trilogy are Cassandra Darensbourg and Suzanne Given. Congrats, ladies! I've sent each of you an email. Please check your spam folder if you haven't received it. 

Thanks to everyone who participated. I can't tell you how happy I am to be getting these books out of my house.

***

Quickly, some other news:

* Mom's House is getting some recognition. I had two positive reviews that I forgot to mention last week (bad author! No donut!). In addition, this past Thursday, the memoir was featured on Book Doggy for 99 cents. Hint: it's still 99 cents through tomorrow at Amazon's US site, and also through tomorrow, it's 99 pence (that's how y'all do it, right?) at Amazon UK. So if you haven't had a chance yet to pick up a copy, now would be a good time to do it.

* I keep forgetting to mention that I'm going to be at an author signing event in Las Vegas on November 8th from 3pm-5pm. I'll be one of 100 authors in the same place, signing books and meeting readers. This is a free event for fans, and you're welcome either to bring your own books or purchase some in person (although I won't have a ton of inventory, so bringing your own copy might be better - just saying). Three lucky fans of all those who attend will win a Kindle Paperwhite!

The place is Sam's Town, 5111 Boulder Hwy, Las Vegas, NV, in the Sam's Town Live! room on the main floor. If you live near Vegas or if you happen to be in town that day, come on by. Hope to see you there!


***
These moments of promotional blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. (Vegas, baby!)

Sunday, July 1, 2018

The Great Transcendence giveaway.

I promised last week that there would be a giveaway this week. So here we go.

It's hard for me to believe that so much time has passed since the idea for the Transcendence trilogy germinated in my mind. It started with a random stop at the Great Circle Earthworks in Newark, Ohio, in the summer of 2016, and ended at my desk in our old apartment in October of last year. During that period, the events I wrote about in Mom's House came to a head. You could say the Transcendence books were as transformative for me as they were for Maggie.

But enough about me. Here's the scoop on the contest:

I'm giving away two -- count 'em, two -- sets, signed (naturally), of the trilogy, which is comprised of:

Maggie in the Dark
Maggie on the Cusp
Maggie at Moonrise

Down below is the Rafflecopter thingy, which you all know how to operate by now. The contest is live as we speak; you have until midnight Saturday, July 7th, to enter. I'll announce the winners next Sunday, July 8th, at the usual time. Anybody anywhere can enter -- I'm pretty sure I can front postage to wherever in the world you are.

The question I want everyone to answer is a sort of preview of the next series, which is on my mind because I wrote the first words of the first draft of the first book today. Alert hearth/myth readers know this series will have something to do with river gods. But my initial idea is expanding as we speak, and may end up involving more than just the element of Water. So please let me know in the comments what your favorite element is -- Earth, Air, Fire, or Water -- and maybe a little bit about why, and I'll see whether I can work any of that into this next series of books.

Oh! The prizes!
One each of these can be yours! Enter below!
As always, the usual and customary rules apply:

1. Friends and family may definitely enter.
2. Winners of previous contests may win again.
3. There will be a winner. I am getting these books out of my house, one way or another.
4. As always, the judge's decision is arbitrary, capricious, and final.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

***
These moments of bloggy Transcendence have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

To opinionate or not to opinionate?

TPHeinz | CC0 | Pixabay
When I was a kid in the '60s, my parents used to watch the news on Channel 5 out of Chicago, partly because Dad liked their anchor, Floyd Kalber. Then Kalber began delivering commentaries at the end of some of his broadcasts. It turned out he was kind of a liberal, or at least more liberal than my father was. Dad kept watching, but he often complained that he'd liked Floyd Kalber until he started giving his opinion about things.

I'm telling you this to illustrate that the argument over celebrities airing their opinions didn't start with Twitter. It's been going on for decades. Maybe centuries. In fact, it's probably been happening ever since Caveman Og developed the sort of standing in his community that worked best if he maintained his neutrality -- which meant keeping his personal opinions to himself.

The subject pops up in indie author circles every now and then, but it has been an almost constant topic of discussion since the 2016 U.S. presidential election. A lot of authors contend that we, like celebrities and sports figures, shouldn't make political posts on social media, lest we turn our fans against us. And they have a point. I follow a few traditionally-published authors on Facebook and/or Twitter, as well as a few actors; whenever they post political stuff, they get haters and "I really wish you'd stop posting so much about politics" right along with the people who agree with them.

However, despite the complaints, none of the authors and actors I follow have dialed it back.

As for independent authors, many of us have developed work-arounds. Mine, for a long time, was to separate my author persona from my personal stuff -- that is, I would post only writing-related stuff on my Facebook author page and my Twitter account, and keep my personal views confined to my personal timeline on Facebook. That worked pretty well until Facebook started limiting the organic reach of business pages to encourage us to buy ads. At that point, I started setting all, or nearly all, of my timeline posts to public. I've had the occasional troll by doing this, but now that Facebook is getting a handle on its Russian bot problem (ahem...) the trolls have dwindled to very nearly zero. (Of course, now that I've said that, I'll probably get a rash of 'em this week.)

I do think that, like my father and Floyd, some readers are surprised that authors they admire hold the opinions they do. A lot of us are liberals. A lot of us are very liberal.

Here's the thing: Fiction readers -- particularly those who read literary fiction, often develop a finer sense of empathy. And writers are big readers. Plus it takes empathy to get inside the head of a character and write convincingly from that character's point of view. And studies have shown that liberals tend to have higher levels of empathy than conservatives (hence the term "bleeding-heart liberal"). So it really shouldn't be a surprise that authors (and actors, who also have to get inside the heads of the characters they portray) are often liberals politically.

As a journalist, I wasn't comfortable with offering commentaries on the air. I was a reporter, and as a reporter, I believed I needed to view the stories I was covering as objectively as possible. So like Caveman Og, I kept my opinions to myself. Now, though, I'm free of that constraint. And anybody who's read the Pipe Woman Chronicles has a pretty good idea of my political leanings anyhow. So I expect I will continue to offer my opinions on social media -- although I will still keep them off my Facebook author page. And I'm still not going to turn this into a political blog.

***
I said I was going to do a giveaway for the Transcendence books this month, didn't I? And here it is, the last Sunday of the month, and I'm not ready. Let's do it next week.

***
These moments of opinionated blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

A Pagan perspective on splitting up migrant families.

I'm trying really, really hard not to turn this into a political post. Really hard. Because I said I wouldn't write about politics on this blog, and so far I haven't.  I've skated close to the edge a few times, but I haven't done it.

So let's talk about morality. Specifically, Pagan morality, and how it relates to what's going on at the borders of the United States right now.

I'm not going to talk much about Christianity in this post, tempting as it is to do so, what with U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions mentioning a Bible verse this past week as justification for coming down hard on undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers. First, I'm not Christian, or not anymore, and I don't feel comfortable lecturing followers of other religions on whether they're doing it right. Second, over the past few days, I've read plenty of criticism of Sessions' comments by people much better versed in the Bible than I. So a Pagan spin on things it is.

First, a quick primer on Pagan morality. Basically, we have two...let's call them "words to the wise," shall we? Pagans aren't really into rules, and anyway these are more along the lines of "do this and karma will bite you in the ass."

1. The Wiccan Rede, which is best known in its pseudo-medieval phrasing: An it harm none, do as ye will. Translated into normal English, it means you may do whatever you want, unless your actions hurt someone.

2. The Rule of Three, also known as the Threefold Law, which states that whatever energy you put out into the world will come back to you threefold. Put out positive energy, and all will be sweetness and light. Put out negative energy, and see karma mentioned above.

With that in mind, here's a quick recap of recent events: The US government has begun implementing a zero-tolerance policy for undocumented immigrants, particularly those from Central and South America. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents seem to be using this as an excuse to act like the Gestapo, boarding buses far from any border and demanding that passengers prove they're in the country legally. But that's not all. In one recent case, ICE picked up a Mexican man who has been in America legally for 50 years because of a 2001 misdemeanor conviction whose sentence he had successfully completed.

Immigrants who apply for asylum are the latest football. Immigration attorneys say asylum seekers are being subjected to delay after delay, and in some cases the government is losing the background documentation that supports their claim.

Most recently, Border Patrol has begun splitting up families. Undocumented immigrants and those applying for asylum are being detained -- put in jail, in other words -- and their children are being housed elsewhere. Often in another state. The children are sometimes taken under false pretenses -- the parent is told the child is being taken away to have a bath -- and hours later, the parent discovers the child is gone. I've seen one estimate that the government is holding two thousand migrant children whose parents have been detained.

Anyone with an ounce of humanity would agree that this is inhumane. And a whole bunch of people -- me included -- have said this is not what America stands for. We're better than this, aren't we? After all, we've never incarcerated people based on their race before, have we?

Oh, wait. There was that time during World War II when we put Japanese-Americans in concentration camps.

But we've never split up families this way before, have we? Taken children away from their parents so callously?

Um, well, yeah, we have. I'm sure you've heard of slavery. And then there was the practice of stealing Native American children away from their families so they could be sent to boarding school and have the Indian "educated" out of them, one way or another.

What all these horrific actions have in common is the belief that the "other" is not quite human. White Americans believed Indians were savages and slaves were stupid. Japanese-Americans were suspected of being spies. And now, a lot of people believe that Hispanics are rapists and murderers and members of MS-13, or here to steal our jobs, or all of the above.

For Pagans, this is inconceivable. Many of us are animists, who believe everything has a spirit, including trees and rocks. And if those can have spirits, surely all humans do, too -- no matter the color of their skin. All beings have innate dignity. All deserve to live without harm.

As for those who are participating in this ongoing atrocity -- from those who are incarerating children to those who are defending the government's actions, as well as those who could stop it but aren't, for the sake of political expediency? If they won't listen to their own religious teachings, they might consider heeding the Rede and the Threefold Law. Because people are being harmed by their actions, and the energy they're sending out is clearly negative. And karma's a bitch.

***
These moments of karmic blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

The #escapevelocity trip.

My Facebook friends may recognize the hashtag in the title of this post. Over the past several months, I've occasionally posted a status update having to do with my plans for retiring from the day job. (It's 544 days 'til I'm eligible, for those of you following along at home, although it's more likely I'll stick it out for 752 more days.) Hence, #escapevelocity.

Of course, I'll be moving to Colorado. But where? The state is so big and so breathtaking that I knew I'd have to simply put my boots on the ground, so to speak, in a number of places and see which one felt like home. So a couple of weeks ago, I set off on a clandestine trip to spend a few days in a several cities to see where I felt most comfortable. 

The candidates: Longmont, north of Denver; and Buena Vista and Salida, two towns in the "banana belt" of Colorado, which means they're up in the mountains but thanks to a geographical quirk, they don't get a lot of snow. (I know, I know, I'm a wuss. But it's been decades since I lived anywhere that got a lot of snow in the winter, and while I'm sure I could adjust again, why not make it easy?) I briefly visited all three locales last year -- I had lunch with a friend in Longmont and drove through Buena Vista, and while I stayed overnight in Salida, I didn't like the place I'd rented and thought the town deserved another chance.

Also last year, I drove through the tiny village of Twin Lakes, about which more later.

Longmont is a small city of about 93,000 people. It has all the common comforts you typically find in an urban area -- public transit, restaurants, movie theaters, Target, a lovely little yarn shop -- but it's nowhere near as crowded as, say, DC. Plus the city has a state-designated Creative District. It even has its own symphony orchestra. I stayed at the Thompson House Inn and loved it. I could totally see myself settling in Longmont.

Copyright 2018 Lynne Cantwell
Salida has maybe 6,000 people. This time, I stayed at the Palace Hotel, a boutique hotel in the historic district, which was fun. My suite was lovely and a fellow in a chef's toque delivered my continental breakfast every morning. Salida also has a state-designated Creative District. And it sits on the Arkansas River, which is well-known in whitewater rafting and kayaking, plus it's picturesque. 

However, the town is lacking in a lot of things that would make day-to-day life easier.

Buena Vista is about a half-hour north of Salida. It's even smaller -- maybe 3,000 -- and it also sits on the Arkansas River. Tourism is this little town's bread and butter; it's pretty much the gateway to the Browns Canyon National Monument, which is all about whitewater. You can't beat the scenery: besides the river, you have a bunch of hot springs nearby, and the snowcapped Collegiate Peaks (which include Mt. Harvard, Mt. Yale, and Mt. Princeton) to the west. And the people were friendly and welcoming. But I'm not a rafting person. And alas, if a town of 6,000 didn't have enough amenities for me, you can imagine how I would feel about having to drive an hour and a half from Buena Vista to get to Target. (Walmart is much closer -- there's one in Salida -- but to be honest, being in a Walmart makes my teeth itch.)

So it didn't take long to exhaust the stuff in Buena Vista that I'd come to see. As a free afternoon stretched before me, a little voice in my head said, "Let's drive up to Twin Lakes." So I got in the rental car and headed north.

Twin Lakes is a bend in the road on the eastern downslope from Independence Pass. It has maybe 200 people. And it is not in the banana belt -- it averages 116 inches of snow every winter. But it's got the lakes and the mountains. When I drove through last year, I thought to myself, "This is pretty."

This year, I got out of the car, toured the tiny historical area, walked a little way up a trail, surveyed the landscape, and...well. That's the place. Totally impractical, hell and gone from everything, and my spiritual home.
And this is a bad picture.
Copyright 2018 Lynne Cantwell

There are a bunch of reasons why I wouldn't want to settle there permanently. For one thing, the county won't let you put just a tiny house on a piece of property, let alone live in it full time. So I'm good with just visiting for now. And anyway, I've got 752 days to sort it all out.

***
All this talk of whitewater rafting got me thinking, though. While I was on vacation, I sketched out an idea for a new series. River spirits figure heavily. I'll let you know if anything comes of it.

***
I was hoping I'd be able to tell you this week that Mom's House was available in paperback, but I've been slacking since I came home and only got around to uploading the manuscript to CreateSpace today. I'm sure I'll have more news next week.

***
These moments of bloggy boots on the ground have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Gone walkabout.


As I promised last week, I have gone away. Check this space again next Sunday.

In the meantime, you could be reading your very own copy of Mom's House. Just sayin'.

Regardless, I hope you have a great week!

***
These moments of bloggish rest have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Mom's House has been released - almost.

I guess I should have picked a release date for the memoir sooner. Mom's House: A Memoir is now available for pre-order. If you sign up now, it will be delivered to your Kindle bright and early on the morning of Thursday, June 7th.

The cover. Copyright Lynne Cantwell, 2018.
I haven't talked much about the subject matter, other than to say it's a memoir. Basically, the story covers the period from early 1998, when my mother was first diagnosed with cancer, through her death in 2008, and the final resolution of her estate and the family home early this year. The main characters, if you will, are Mom, my brother Larry, and me; and the story is about our relationships, which are as messy as most other families and which include verbal and emotional abuse.

The house is the MacGuffin: the thing that drives the plot. Mom lived there until she died; afterward, I had to take drastic action to get my brother to buy out my interest in the place.

I see Amazon isn't providing a "look inside" during the preorder period, so here's a snippet. This one is about the kitchen, which could be considered the hearth -- however quirky -- of our home.

***
The kitchen work area was in an L-shape. The fridge was along what used to be the back wall of the house, with the sink bang up against it. In the crotch of the L was a rectangular counter that ran alongside the sink and extended to the stove. That eighteen inches of counter space between the stove and the front edge of the sink was the sum total of the workspace in the kitchen, excluding the dinette table, because on the other side of the stove was a squat 30-gallon water heater in a counter-height, sheet-metal cabinet. Mom could have used the top of the water heater cabinet for food preparation, but she didn’t – it was a catch-all space for mail and other stuff.

Mom had two floor cabinets and five wall cabinets in her kitchen; the wall cabinets over the stove and fridge were half-height, and the cabinet next to the sink was half-width. There was a single drawer for silverware between the stove and sink. And that was it.

Mom reduced her puny kitchen workspace even further by stacking a bunch of junk on the one working counter: a breadbox that held junk instead of bread (the breadbox that actually held the bread was on a stand-alone wheeled cart, halfway into the family room), a coffee canister, and a pile of salvaged food containers which she used for leftovers. Mom contended that she wouldn’t have had so much junk out if she had more cabinet space; Dad said if she had more space, she’d just fill it with more junk. And so it went, on and on, year after year.

As I got older, I figured out that no matter how the bickering between my parents started, it always ended up being about the kitchen cabinets. I called them on it once as they were getting warmed up: “Why don’t you just cut to the chase and start arguing about the kitchen cabinets now?” I said. “It would save you a lot of time.” They laughed in guilty acknowledgement. And then they argued about the kitchen cabinets.

Dad eventually relented and bought more storage units, which he sort of scattered about the family room: a metal shelving unit, six shelves high; two sheet-metal cabinets with drawers; a huge double-door cabinet with a Formica countertop and two drawers. He had Uncle John come back and build another wall cabinet above the washer and dryer, and hung a doorless three-shelf cabinet next to it. Mom filled them all with stuff: cake mixes, canned goods, cookie sheets, spare sets of dishes we never used, more salvaged food containers. And still she complained that she didn’t have enough space.

Yes, Mom was a packrat. Dad used to threaten to buy another house for us to live in so that Mom could use ours for storing all of her junk. As I got older, I’d sometimes wonder whether I’d open the newspaper one day and read one of those stories about some little old lady that the county had to get after because her place was stacked floor-to-ceiling with so much trash that it was a fire hazard – only this time, the little old lady would turn out to be Mom.

I’d tell her this, and she’d laugh at herself. Then she’d save more stuff. At one point, she had a dresser drawer full of the red plastic handles that used to come on a gallon of milk, back when gallons of milk still came in waxed-cardboard containers. “I’ll use them for a craft project,” she said. What craft project, Mom? She had no idea. They were just too nice to throw away. “Save it!” she would say, making fun of herself. “It’ll be good someday!”

That’s what growing up in the Depression will do to you, I guess. Dad saved stuff, too, but his collection was out in the garage.

***
If that whetted your appetite for the e-book, click here to pre-order. There will also be a paperback edition, released on or about June 7.

And with that, I'm taking a one-week break. See y'all back here Sunday, June 10th.

***
These moments of homey blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

The final moving post.

Are y'all as sick of our move as we are?

I bet you're not!

Kitty, Amy and I spent all afternoon at our old apartment, getting rid of all the stuff we didn't take with us and doing the final cleaning. And not a moment too soon.

I don't think I've ever blogged about why we were in such a hurry to move. The building we've just left is currently undergoing renovation. Now I've lived in rental complexes that were under renovation before, but this is the first time I've ever experienced a renovation of apartments while people are living in them. And we're not just talking about swapping out appliances. Our unit was slated for a premium upgrade -- installing a washer-dryer, opening up the kitchen to let in natural light, swapping out the old appliances for stainless steel, swapping out the old bathroom vanity, tearing out and replacing the radiators in each room. The only thing they're not doing in occupied units that they're doing in vacant units is ripping out the wall-to-wall carpet and putting in vinyl plank flooring.

Sounds great, right? Except installing the washer-dryer has involved drilling through concrete to run the water and drain lines and multiple entrances of our unit for installation of everything. This started over the winter and is not yet done. In fact, there was a notice stuck in our door when we got there today that the building management plans is just now ready to do the final wiring and plumbing and put up drywall. Between the workers' access and the county inspections after each step (necessary, but still), we counted four entrances to our unit over the next two weeks. And we still wouldn't have a washer-dryer -- installation is yet another step that won't be done 'til sometime this summer.

And that's only part of the reno, as I said. The kitchen redo involves knocking out a wall and moving the breaker box for the whole apartment, among other things. And it's supposed to take two weeks. While we're living there. (As I observed to the resident manager, couples who choose to renovate their kitchens sometimes get divorced over it.)

This is apart from the leak in the hallway near our apartment from who-knows-where: maybe another unit, maybe the laundry room. The carpet has been wet for months.

So we gave our notice and moved out. Our new place has a washer-dryer, a much bigger kitchen, two bathrooms (we only had one in the old place), a balcony, and vinyl plank flooring.

I admit I didn't want to move. I'd been in the old building for eight years and I loved the location. And the packing/sorting/packing/giving away/unpacking/cleaning is such a huge hassle. But this new place suits us better. And going back over to the old place today emphasized what a good decision we'd made. Old place = depressing. New place = new home.

***
If I don't pick a release date for the memoir, I'll never get it out the door. So let's say Thursday, June 7, is the day I'll unleash Mom's House on the world. More to come next week.

Also, I still need to do a giveaway for the Transcendence books. Look for that to happen in mid- to late June.

***
These moments of bloggy renovation have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Mothers with feet of clay.

In case social media somehow missed out on informing you: Here in the United States, today is Mother's Day. What started simply as a day to honor all mothers has become ridiculously commercial. Hallmark started it with Mother's Day greeting cards, but soon the florists, restauranteurs, and spa owners got into the act. Nowadays, you're not supposed to just tell Mom thanks for all she's done for you -- you're supposed to gather the family to wine and dine her and shower her with gifts.

I'm not the sort of person who would turn down flowers and a meal I don't have to cook. But I'm mindful of the folks for whom this is kind of a lousy day: women who want to be moms but aren't, for whatever reason; women who are no longer in contact with their children; women whose mothers have died; and women who have learned, or who have come to realize, that their mothers weren't exactly the Hallmark ideal.

It's late enough in the day that we can talk about imperfect mothers, right? Brunch is long since over and the grandkids have gone to bed. It's just us grownups. We don't have to sugar-coat the holiday tonight. We can admit that not every mother is perfect.

My mother died in 2008 at the age of ninety-three. She was born before the Depression, one of six kids in a family headed by parents who were immigrants from what was then Czechoslovakia.

As a child, of course, I thought she was perfect. Then I got older, and became certain I would raise my own kids differently than she had raised me. But she was still Mom to me.

Then I had kids of my own, and yes, I did a lot of things differently -- but not everything. And now she was Grandma as well as Mom -- but I still didn't think of her as anything else. I had long since stopped considering her to be perfect and I got annoyed with her a lot, but it didn't occur to me to think of her as a person apart from the relationship I had with her.

It wasn't until she began losing her memory in her final years that I could see her as a separate person. A woman. Human. Imperfect. A product of her time, yes, and of the family she had grown up in -- and of ours, too. All the things she had experienced in her life had made her who she was. And then dementia began to take them away.

Given time and perspective, I think, we are all capable of reaching a point where we realize that everyone we meet is doing the best they can with what life has given them to work with. It may take us longer to realize that about some people than others.

So today, I can say, "Thanks, Mom. I know now that you did the best you could with what life gave you to work with."

That's not a bad epitaph, all things considered. I hope someday my own kids will say the same of me.

***
Speaking of families of origin: Progress on Mom's House, my memoir, has been suspended since we began packing for the move. We're in the new place now, and while we still have some stuff to wrap up at the old place, I am just about ready to pick up the book again and -- at long last -- get it out the door. Look for the launch in the first or second week of June.

***
These moments of familial blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

We have winners!

It's nearly moving day for us here at La Casa Cantwell, and we have all hit the stage where we are so totally over it.

The old place looks like a disaster area, but nearly everything is packed. Today (and yesterday -- long story, don't ask) we finished assembling the wardrobe at the new place. The movers will be here bright and early tomorrow morning.

And you, my friends, are the most awesome ever, because I will not have to move those two sets (13 books each!) of the paperback editions of the books in the Pipe Woman Chronicles universe.

Please help me congratulate Stephanie Grant and Amanda Smith, the winners of the giveaway! Ladies, I've emailed you for your addresses so I know where to send your books. (If you don't see my email, please check your spam folder.)

I'd love to write more tonight, but I still have to pack up the kitchen (aieeeee...). Thanks to everyone for playing -- you're the best!

***
These moments of bloggy winning have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Moving sale.

Moving. Ugh.

I mentioned last week that we're moving to a new apartment. Along with the usual packing and sorting and packing, we spent several hours yesterday at IKEA. I spent most of today at the new place, assembling the wardrobe I bought yesterday. Good times.

Anyway, there's a lot of packing still to be done, but one thing I would like to not have to pack are a bunch of paperback books in inventory. I bought several copies of each of the books in the Pipe Woman Chronicles last year, intending to run a giveaway on Goodreads...and forgot. The good news is that I now have two -- count 'em, two -- full sets of the three series to give away to you, faithful hearth/myth readers.

Sorry that the photos of the prizes are so awful. The lighting was bad and I've already packed my book stands. But all the books there! In order, they are:

The Pipe Woman Chronicles
Seized
Fissured
Tapped
Gravid
Annealed

Land, Sea, Sky
Crosswind
Undertow
Scorched Earth

Pipe Woman's Legacy
Dragon's Web
Firebird's Snare
Spider's Lifeline
Turtle's Weir

And the second edition of A Billion Gods and Goddesses: The Mythology of the Pipe Woman Chronicles.

The fun starts tonight and ends Saturday night, May 5th, at 7:00pm Eastern time. Unfortunately, I can only afford to ship these sets to folks in the US and Canada. (I also have a couple of sets of the Transcendence series that I meant to give away in this contest, but I realized I'd already packed them. So I guess I'll be giving those away next month -- and since there are only three books in that series, I'll be able to ship them anywhere.)

Of course, the usual and customary rules apply:

1. Friends and family may definitely enter.
2. Winners of previous contests may win again.
3. There will be a winner. I am not moving these books!
4. As always, the judge's decision is arbitrary, capricious, and final.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


***
These moments of contested blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

We may have a book problem.

There's lots more where these came from.
You may have noticed that hearth/myth took a break last week. Frankly, I didn't have the energy to write a blog post; we'd spent several days driving around town, looking for a new apartment, and made the final selection last Sunday.

Go us! Right?

Except now we have to move. Which means packing. Which is not my favorite thing to do ever.

Back when I was in radio, I moved approximately once every two years -- and not just to a different house or apartment, typically, but to a different city. I traveled a lot lighter in those days.

Over the past ten or fifteen years, though, I've only moved a couple of times. And then my mother died and I ended up with a bunch of her old stuff (although not nearly as much of her old stuff as I could have taken -- that woman was a packrat from way back). In any case, packing for this move is likely to be no fun at all.

In particular, my daughters and I have gone kind of crazy collecting books. We took nine boxes of books to our favorite used bookstore this afternoon and brought the empty boxes home. Those have now been refilled, and another sixteen have also been filled with books (and some DVDs). And we aren't done.

A lot of the books I'm keeping are mythology-related. I collected a whole bunch of material for the Pipe Woman Chronicles and I'm not quite ready to part with it. I mean, if I follow through on my threat to move into a tiny house when I retire, I'm going to have to cull the herd again, and a whole lot of those mythology tomes will have to go. But not yet.

One thing I may cull shortly is my inventory of paperback editions of my own books. I stocked up some time ago, intending to do a Goodreads giveaway or several, but never got around to it. Now that we're moving, though... Hmm. Watch this space next week.

***
I'm getting pretty close to being done with the memoir. We take possession of the new apartment a week from tomorrow; it sure would be nice to have this project out the door before then, but I do need to pack. So we'll see.

***
These moments of herd-culling blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

My Ghibli education.

Update: It turned out the USB Pet Rock I talked about last week was, in fact, an April Fool's joke. It's just as well. I'm not sure I need more tchotchkes.

***
I suspect if you mention Studio Ghibli to most Americans, you'll get a blank look in return. But the movie studio is famous in Japan, as well as among American fans of Japanese anime (pronounced AN-ih-may). Founded in 1985 by directors Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata, it has released 21 animated feature films. The studio went on hiatus a few years back when Miyazaki retired, but he has since come out of retirement to direct a new film called How Do Your Live? It's due for release in 2020.

However, this past week, Takahata died at the age of 82.

My daughters Kat and Amy have been fans of Studio Ghibli's work since they watched My Neighbor Totoro at a friend's house when they were kids. Recently, they've been purchasing Blu-Rays of their favorites, and since I'd only seen a couple of the studio's films, I've been watching them along with the girls.

Although Disney has the rights to release these movies on disc in the United States, these are not Disney-type films -- and not just because of their distinctive animation style. Some are kiddie movies -- My Neighbor Totoro and Ponyo come immediately to mind -- but in many cases, the story lines are richer and more complex than your average Disney flick. And while the protagonists are often youngsters, the movies can certainly be enjoyed by adults.

Tonight, for instance, we watched Castle in the Sky, Studio Ghibli's first movie, directed by Miyazaki and produced by Takahata. A young girl falls falls from the sky into the arms of an engineer's apprentice. The girl, Sheeta, wears a magical crystal that protects her. That crystal is the McGuffin that everyone is after -- the military, a family of pirates, and a shady fellow who may or may not be working with the government -- because it's a link to a legendary floating castle called Laputa. Lots of hair-raising action ensues, much of it high in the sky. Think of it as a cross between Indiana Jones and steampunk.

Studio Ghibli's movies are decidedly Japanese. The Wind Rises is about an aviation engineer who designed the Zero fighter plane that Japan used in World War II. Of course, he was a hero in Japan -- not so much in the US. A lighter example is the No-Face in Spirited Away, a stock character from kabuki theater whose cultural relevance I'm still trying to figure out.

We have a few more Studio Ghibli Blu-Rays to see, including their version of Ursula LeGuin's Tales from Earthsea. I'm looking forward to seeing them.

***
One more update: My memoir project is moving ahead. Mom's House went out to my editors and beta readers this weekend. Stay tuned for more updates.

***
These moments of animated blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell


Sunday, April 1, 2018

Time to rock, baby.

Guys! I am so excited to tell you about this thing I discovered earlier today.

Here at hearth/myth, we remember the '70s like they were yesterday: the hairstyles, the bell-bottom hip-hugger jeans, the music, the fads.

Like the Pet Rock. It was genius! It came in its own cardboard carrier on a bed of straw, together with a 32-page manual of care and training instructions.

And it did absolutely nothing. That's right! People in the '70s actually paid four bucks for a rock. Makes those of us buying designer bottled water sound almost brilliant, when you think about it.

I mean, it was a perfect pet. It didn't eat or drink. It never ran up outrageous vet bills. It was never disobedient. And it never pretended to be anything other than what it was. Authenticity was a big deal in the '70s, let me tell you.

Anyway, pet rocks weren't around for very long. Some parents -- including mine -- refused to buy them for their kids, saying any old rock would do. So I never had a pet rock.

But today I discovered that pet rocks are back! And they've been updated! ThinkGeek -- which, if you've never seen this retailer's website, you owe it to yourself as a geek to check it out -- is now selling Bluetooth Pet Rocks. They come with their own charger and they pair with your phone or tablet. ThinkGeek says they last eight hours (standard use) on a single charge. And they're ethically sourced! You can't beat that with a stick!

I mean, I guess you could. But I'd advise against it. You might put somebody's eye out. Or break a window.

Now I know what you're thinking: "Oh haha, Lynne. I've seen the calendar. I know what day it is. You're a little late with your April Fool's joke."

And I say to you, unbeliever: click that link above. And then get ready to pony up $19.99. I haven't bought mine yet, but I fully intend to -- as soon as I'm sure the item is still for sale after April Fool's Day is over.

***
This moment of Pet Rock blogginess -- connected via Bluetooth, naturally -- has been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Healthy harvest.

Everybody wants to eat better, right? I've found one way to do it. I signed up for a cool produce delivery service called Hungry Harvest. We received our third delivery today, and it's working out really well.

Today's harvest. Note the teeny-tiny butternut squash at left.

This isn't a Blue Apron meal-in-a-box thing. As you can see, there's nothing in the box but fruits and veggies -- which I suppose could work if you're a vegetarian, but even so you'd need to supplement with spices and stuff.

Nor is it community-supported agriculture (CSA), which is where you buy a share in the harvest from a specific small farm. Every so often during the growing season, they deliver a box of whatever's ripe. It's a great way to eat local and to support local farmers. But at least at its inception, you couldn't pick what you got in your box, which is a problem if your family includes some picky eaters.

This is a food rescue service, if you will. About 20 percent of fruts and vegetables never make it to the store for a variety of superficial reasons: the produce isn't a preferred size, or the wholesaler ordered too much, or something. This company collects those foods, packs them into boxes, and sells them to subscribers for less than you'd pay at the grocery store. Everything in the photo above cost $15. They offer bigger boxes, too.

Our first shipment.
This photo is of our first shipment, which also cost $15. There's an eggplant lurking in the back, right in front of the box. I'd never made anything with eggplant before, but I used this one to make ratatouille.

Box number two, which I forgot to take a photo of, included a couple of odd-sized beets, one small and one ginormous. I'd never made anything with beets before, either -- in fact, my acquaintance with beets was limited to the canned variety my mother used to serve occasionally and the one time I had borscht at a fancy luncheon place. I ended up boiling and peeling them, and then making a brown-sugar glaze. I thought it was pretty tasty.

By now, you're sensing a theme: we're getting more variety in our veggies than usual. But more than that, this outfit claims each box sold keeps ten pounds of produce out of landfills. And they've also donated more than 700,000 pounds of food to organizations that help people who don't typically have access to fresh produce.

And unlike with a CSA, you can customize your box. You can even add some stuff, if you like. Last time I ordered a dozen eggs, which we dyed on Ostara last week.

Hungry Harvest doesn't deliver everywhere -- it covers the mid-Atlantic and part of Florida right now. A similar organization called Imperfect Produce operates in San Francisco; Los Angeles; Seattle; Portland, OR; and Chicago. (I found out about Hungry Harvest after a friend in Seattle signed up for Imperfect Produce.) If you live in any of these areas, check 'em out. I've found it to be a tasty way to do a good thing. If you know of any similar organizations, let me know so we can spread the word. 

***
These moments of delicious blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Why we do what we do.

This is not a knitting post, although I'm going to talk a little bit about knitting.

I spent part of the past week attempting to knit a zipper into a sweater. Yes, this is a thing you can do. I even took a class with knitting designer Ann Weaver to learn how to do it. For the knitters, I'll explain the technique (and save you the $60 or whatever it cost me to take the class); the rest of y'all can skip down past the photo to the rest of the post.

The trick to knitting in a zipper is a gizmo called a knit picker. If you were ever into making latch-hook rugs, you will recognize the design right away: it's a teeny-tiny hook with a latch that pivots to open and close the hook. The knit picker also has a fairly sharp tip. You take your knit picker and poke through the zipper tape at even intervals -- Ann recommended making them a quarter-inch apart. You grab your yarn with the hook, flip the latch shut, and draw up a loop, which you then put on a knitting needle. Hey presto, you've now got a stitch. Keep doing that 'til you run out of zipper tape. Then use a different needle to pick up stitches on your garment. Now you can do what amounts to a three-needle bind-off to join the zipper to the garment.

Here's one side of my zipper partly loaded onto the needle. The knit picker is in the middle of the photo. (Yes, there's a squirrel on the edge of my yarn bowl. The Groot mug doesn't have anything to do with the process; it's just there for fun.)


As it turned out, knitting in the zipper didn't work for my sweater as I'd hoped it would, so I'm hand-sewing it in place instead.

Why a zipper for my sweater? The pattern (it's the Killybegs by Carol Feller, for those who care) calls for a bunch of hooks and eyes, but I think a zipper will work better. Why not use a sewing machine? Because the presser foot can catch on the stitches in the sweater, among other reasons.

But why not just, I dunno, go out and buy a sweater?

The answer to that question is more complicated.

I recently read a book by Leland Dirks called The Hermitage at Ojito Creek. It's a compilation of blog posts he wrote while building his own house in southern Colorado. So I'm reading along, and when he starts talking about building this house, I'm envisioning a small place -- a cabin, essentially, with maybe a couple of rooms and indoor plumbing. But then he mentions a guest bedroom. And the library. And eventually he admits that his house is 1,800 square feet. That's twice the size of my apartment. 

And he built the thing from the ground up. By himself. Well, he had some help, but it wasn't like it was a crew of twenty guys -- it was mostly him.

My mind boggles. I can't even imagine building a doghouse myself, let alone a house to live in. Part of my fascination with tiny houses is that someone else would build the thing and drop it on my lot. Poof, instant house!

So why didn't he just, I dunno, go out and buy a house? He talks about that. He wanted it to be as energy-efficient as possible, for one thing. He wanted to make sure he was living as lightly on the land as possible. There's a lot of waste and a lot of reliance on fossil fuels in traditional building methods -- he wanted to avoid that. Bottom line: he wanted to make sure his house was built exactly the way he wanted it.

Why didn't I buy my sweater? And why am I putting in a zipper instead of sewing in a half-billion hooks and eyes? Because I want to make sure it's done exactly the way I want it.

We humans are just crazy that way, I guess.

But if I ever decide to build my own house? Two words: general contractor.

***
These moments of handcrafted blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell