Sunday, May 19, 2019

A travel post.

You would think a person who has been gone for two weeks on a European river cruise would come home rested and refreshed. And you might be right, if the person hadn't come home with a sinus infection -- which, to be fair, probably originated far in advance of her departure date, but achieved its full flowering on the trip home.

Several days later, pumped full of antibiotics and a full day's worth of sleep, I'm nearly ready to rejoin the human race. But first: pictures!

Our adventure began in Amsterdam, where we boarded the Monarch Countess and cruised down the Rhine River to Basel, Switzerland. From there we went on to Luzern by bus. I've posted some of these photos on Facebook already, but a couple of them are new. Hopefully I won't bore you.

Copyright Lynne Cantwell 2019
Amsterdam has gotten rid of nearly all of the iconic windmills within the city limits -- but they've left this one so tourists can get a shot of Rembrandt's statue with it.
Copyright Lynne Cantwell 2019
One of our excursions was to Marksburg Castle, which has stood for 800 years overlooking Braubach, Germany. In olden times, the castle garden flourished partly because the privies were directly overhead. Thank goodness no one's sitting on those thrones these days.

Copyright Lynne Cantwell 2019
Also in Marksburg Castle. I'm sure the instrument on the left is a hurdy-gurdy and the wind instrument standing at the back is a recorder, but I'm stumped on the others. The one on the floor might be a vielle, and one of the two on the right bench could be a rebec. Anyone have a better guess?

Copyright Lynne Cantwell 2019
I really like the moodiness in this photo.

Copyright Lynne Cantwell 2019
It's not just Amsterdam -- a number of cities we visited had old towns crisscrossed with canals. This is in Colmar, Germany.

Copyright Lynne Cantwell 2019
This guy is an Alpine chough. We met at the top of Pilatus, near Luzern, Switzerland.

The trip wasn't all castles and churches -- we got some culture, too. I can heartily recommend a visit to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, if for no other reason than to see the his "Sunflowers."

On our last night in Luzern, we attended a concert with the Chamber Orchestra of Berlin and Vienna, with solo violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter. They played an all-Mozart concert, which was very nice. But you can go here to for a clip of her in a new recording that might be more of a crowd-pleaser.

That's it. Back to real life tomorrow.

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

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Everything you know about haiku is wrong.

I know, I know -- the title is clickbait. I'll get to that in a minute. But first, some news:

  • Rivers Run got a lovely review this week at Big Al's Books and Pals. My favorite part is the reviewer's last line: "However, then she lays down a sentence like this, 'Her mournful rasp sounded like the barest trickle of moisture in a desert creek bed.' And minor imperfections are quite forgiven." Did I really write that? Huh. I guess I'm not half-bad, after all...
  • The first draft of Treacherous Ground, the next book in the Elemental Keys series, is very nearly in the can. I have fewer than 1,400 words to write in order to win Camp NaNoWriMo, and I'm pretty sure I'll wrap up the story line at that point, too. Hoping to do that tonight before I go to bed. We'll see how it goes.
And now, about that haiku thing.

Every year, the Golden Triangle Association in DC runs a haiku contest. The Golden Triangle is the designation for the part of downtown DC that the office for my day job happens to be in, and so every spring I see some of the winning entries posted around town. This year, I posted a photo of one of them on my Facebook timeline -- and several people complained that the poem wasn't really a haiku, because it didn't have the 5-7-5 syllable scheme we were all taught in school: five syllables for the first line, seven for the second, and five for the third.

Turns out we were taught wrong. That format is not what makes a haiku a haiku at all.

Just as fiction writers have National Novel Writing Month, haiku enthusiasts have National Haiku Writing Month, or NaHaiWriMo. And they have covered this very topic on their blog, because it comes up every year. It stems from a misunderstanding about the Japanese language -- which counts sounds, not syllables, when crafting a haiku. For example, as I learned at the link above, English speakers consider the word haiku as having two syllables. For a Japanese speaker, though, the word has three sounds -- ha-i-ku. In fact, most Japanese words have more sounds than we would count syllables. So a five-syllable line in English would have far more words than would a five-sound line in Japanese. 

Moreover, haiku's emphasizes the content of the poem, not simply its form. A proper haiku, or so the article says, includes a kigo -- a word indicating the season in which the poem occurs -- and a kiregi, or cutting word, that divides the poem into two parts. Ideally, one part of the poem will be a juxtaposition of the other, and both parts will focus on concrete images that allow the reader to feel what the poet felt when viewing the event.

Here's the photo I posted on Facebook earlier this week. It doesn't look like a haiku under the rules we were all taught, but with our new understanding of the process, I think it qualifies. And I think blackbird is the kigo and turn is the kiregi. What do you think?

One more bit of housekeeping: I'll be on vacation for the next couple of Sundays. Alert hearth/myth readers know two weeks is an unusually long hiatus for me. I'll try to put up a post on one or another of those days, but I can't promise, as wi-fi access is liable to be spotty.

And now I'm off to put a lid on Treacherous Ground. Wish me luck!

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

Sunday, April 21, 2019

The love of money.

New cars today have a lot more bling than they did when I bought my last car in 2008. Remote door locks were just becoming a thing, and you had to pay extra for high-end stuff like cruise control. Now, it seems, electronic keys and cruise control are pretty much standard.

Another thing that was brand new in 2008 was satellite radio. Back then, I thought it was a crazy idea -- why would anybody pay for radio when they could get it over the air for free? But then the radio business changed and stations seemed to switch formats all the time, and I couldn't find an oldies station that played more than the Beatles and a few other hits I'd heard a million times before. (This phenomenon is worse for people who worked in top-40 radio. Each radio station used to have its own music director -- an actual human who decided what songs to play. Now stations are programmed by consultants who use committees called focus groups. Members of focus groups always give high ratings to songs they recognize, and in the case of oldies, they recognize songs because they got a lot of airplay. But even now, the guy who gave them all that airplay is heartily sick and tired of them. Like retail-workers-at-Christmas-carol-season tired of them.)

Anyway, I had pretty much quit listening to the radio in the car, except for my own CDs. And then I got Eli, who came with a trial subscription to Sirius XM. Once I found the '60s and '70s channels, it was all over. I'm hearing songs I haven't heard in decades -- including this one by the O'Jays from 1974.

For a moment, let's leave aside the irony of hearing a song about the evils of money on a radio station I'm paying to listen to, when I first heard it over the air for free.

It did, however, get me thinking about morality and how things have changed. Wikipedia says what spawned the song was a Bible verse, specifically 1 Timothy 6:10. It's the one about how the love of money is the root of all evil. I've seen a few truncated versions of the verse -- most often, "Money is the root of all evil" (the Monkees had a sampler on the wall of their pad), but also the snarky "Money is the root of all."

But the original text is about the love of money, a.k.a. greed. I'm no biblical scholar, and maybe a Pagan shouldn't be sticking her nose into this at all -- but my understanding has always been that simply having money isn't the problem. Money is neutral -- neither good nor bad. What's problematic is grabbing and hoarding as much money as you can.

I find it interesting that back in the mid-'70s, this song got a lot of airplay. Not long after, though, we started to see wealth, and the pursuit of wealth, put on a pedestal -- and some of the biggest pushers of the idea were megachurch pastors who told their faithful to send money to fund their big church buildings in order to glorify of God. I guess their mansions and fat bank accounts were meant to glorify God, too.

This idea that wealth is okay as long as you're not a miser seems to have fallen by the wayside, though, in this new Gilded Age, where the top 1% of earners in the US make, on average, 26.3% more than the bottom 99% combined. That's higher than the income disparity in the last Gilded Age. In 1928, just before the Great Depression, top earners made 23.9% more than the rest of the work force. What's more, income inequality has risen in every state since 1975. That's right about the time the O'Jays were singing about the dangers of the love of money. What a coincidence, huh?

A certain faction of the American public talks about making America great again. I think going back to those mid-'70s values, when the top 1% of earners made just 8% of total US income (compared to 22% in 2015), would go a long way toward that goal. I'm not saying America was perfect in the '70s. It wasn't -- not by a long shot. But at least the middle class had a decent standard of living back then.

I'm moving right along with the first draft of Treacherous Ground. April has been a busy month, but I'm happy to say that I'm at 40,000 words as of tonight, so I should have no problem making it to 50,000 words by the end of the month. That puts the book on track for publication in mid to late June. As always, I'll let you know how it goes.

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

Sunday, April 14, 2019

On press freedom and Julian Assange.

And why the two are pretty much mutually exclusive. At least in this case.

Gerd Altman | Pixabay

Julian Assange founded WikiLeaks -- a shadowy organization that calls itself a publisher. He has been holed up in Ecuadorian Embassy in London since August 2012, avoiding extradition to Sweden to face sexual assault charges that have since been dropped. As you have probably heard, on Thursday Ecuador withdrew its protection of Assange, allowing the London Metropolitan Police in to arrest him. He faces trial on the bail-jumping charge in London -- but his biggest concern is whether England will extradite him to the United States, where an indictment was unsealed on the day of his arrest, charging him with conspiring with convicted spy Chelsea Manning to hack into a Pentagon computer.

Ecuador has given a number of reasons for rescinding the sanctuary it extended to Assange for seven years -- among them that he didn't wash often enough and he didn't take care of his cat. (The cat, we are told, was relocated to friends of Assange's months ago.) Perhaps the biggest reason, however, was their claim that Assange continued to direct WikiLeaks' activities from inside the embassy, using a cell phone he wasn't allowed to have.

There has been quite a hue and cry amongst Assange's supporters and others, saying his arrest and potential prosecution in the U.S. will have a chilling effect on press freedom. The New York Times has gone so far as to say that "most of what he does at WikiLeaks is difficult to distinguish in a legally meaningful way from what traditional news organizations, like The New York Times, do every day: seek out and publish information that officials would prefer to be kept secret, including classified national security matters, and take steps to protect the confidentiality of sources." And these same people say that prosecuting Assange for that type of activity could lead, down the road, to charges against any journalist who publishes government secrets -- thereby weakening the press freedoms enshrined in the First Amendment.

But Assange isn't charged with publishing any government secrets. He's been charged with conspiracy to commit computer intrusion -- in other words, he's accused of helping Manning break into that computer at the Pentagon in March 2010. Manning, who was working as an Army intelligence analyst, had already given WikiLeaks hundreds of thousands of classified documents, including information on conditions at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. According to Assange's indictment, Manning was having trouble cracking a password that would have helped her access more documents, and provided the partial password to Assange; Assange later told her in a private message that he was working on it.

It's true, as a number of news outlets have opined, that investigative journalists thrive on leaks of documents and information that they shouldn't otherwise have access to. The classic example is the Pentagon papers, in which Daniel Ellsberg got hold of classified documents indicating the Johnson Administration had ramped up the Vietnam War and lied to the American people about the extent of our involvement there. The New York Times began publishing the papers in 1971, but the Nixon Administration issued an injunction against the paper -- whereupon the Washington Post picked up the baton and began publishing its own series of articles. Nixon sought an injunction against the Post, too, but a D.C. judge -- and quickly thereafter, the Supreme Court -- ruled against the administration. The ruling was hailed as a victory for press freedom. (The 2017 movie The Post tells this story better than I ever could.)

So what's the difference between Julian Assange on one hand, and The New York Times and the Washington Post on the other?

Here's what it comes down to for me: In 1971, the newspapers didn't actively help the whistleblower. Assange did. If the charges against him are true, he actively assisted Manning with attempting to break into a Pentagon computer. He didn't just publish the stuff Manning handed him -- he tried to help her get more. That has nothing to do with the First Amendment. That's not investigative journalism. That's espionage.

WikiLeaks has published secret documents that have blown the lid off of a number of questionable incidents. In some cases, it has been a force for good; in others, its motives have been iffy. But in no case should WikiLeaks be disseminating documents it broke the law to get hold of -- and if it has, then whoever was involved in breaking the law should go to jail.

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

Sunday, March 31, 2019

A forever home.

The concept of home -- specifically, the concept of a forever home -- is intriguing me this week.

SergeyNivens | Deposit Photos

We talk about how home is where the heart is. Going home for the holidays is idealized. When we discuss adopting a pet, we talk about giving them a forever home.

But home is also where you find it, as your adopted pet can tell you. And home may not be where the heart is if the heart was badly hurt there, through abuse or neglect.

Lots of people have become nomads. It's estimated that 40 million Americans move every year at least once. That's 40 percent of us. Some may move for work and some for retirement or other reasons. And certainly, many of them may have an idealized vision of their forever home in their heads -- maybe they lived there once and want to move back, or maybe they believe, or at least would like to think, they're moving there now.

And sometimes you think you've found your forever home, but things change and you find yourself moving on.

Home is sort of a sub-subplot in Rivers Run. Collum Barth is a gnome -- an Earth Elemental -- whose family has lived in (or near) Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, for centuries. He has put down roots there, as an Earth Elemental would. He is the family home, and by extension the region surrounding it.

But he's the only one left. His brother left for college and when he returned, he settled nearby -- but not in the old family home. Collum's parents, too, have moved away (we'll explore their new home in the next book, Treacherous Ground). But Collum identifies with the old place -- the one that straddles our world and the Otherworld.

By contrast, Raney Meadows spent her youth on the run. She's an undine -- a Water Elemental -- and at home in fast-flowing water. Her mother constantly moved them from place to place, sometimes at a moment's notice.  Now Raney is an actress with a beach house in Malibu, but she doesn't talk about it as if it's her dream home. It's a place to hang her hat -- and submerge herself in the soaking tub and the swimming pool. But a forever home? She may not have one.

I'm not sure I have one, either. Unlike Raney, I didn't move around a whole lot as a kid. But unlike Collum, I haven't lived in one place all my life, either. When I was in radio, I moved around a lot -- from Indiana to West Virginia to Tidewater Virginia to the DC area. Then we lived in Denver for a few months. For many years, I thought Colorado would be my forever home; now I'm not so sure. My current candidate is Santa Fe, but it occurred to me last week that I might not stay there forever, either.

And tonight, I learned that whole rural villages are still for sale in Spain. I'd read a few years ago about one village up for sale, and figured that was the end of it -- but no, apparently that one was the vanguard. There are lots more now. And they're cheap. I don't know how difficult it would be to retire there -- the EU has rules about letting Americans move in, after all. But...hmm.

As for Raney and Collum, I'm not sure where their relationship is going. Raney's career is in LA, and I doubt Collum would move there for her. I guess we'll all have to wait and see.

Camp NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow, and I am rested and ready. I punched up the outline this evening and am ready to hit the ground running. I'll let you know how it goes.

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

Sunday, March 24, 2019

RIVERS RUN is live.

I know I promised last week that Rivers Run would be available for purchase this past Thursday -- but Amazon was speedier than I expected. The Kindle version actually dropped Wednesday. Thanks to everyone who has already bought a copy of the book -- you're all my best friends forever. For the rest of you, here's the Amazon US link, and here's the one for Amazon UK. (I'm terrible about remembering to post links for the non-US Amazon stores. Sorry about that.)

I was hoping I would have good news tonight about the paperback edition. Alas, it's still in process. The explanation requires a bit of "inside baseball," so bear with me.

Up until now, I've been using CreateSpace for publishing my paperback editions. But Amazon has decided to shut down CreateSpace and bring all of its indie publishing operations under the KDP banner. I tried the KDP paperback setup for the hard-copy version of the Pipe Woman Chronicles Omnibus (a steal at just $18.99!), but the system was in beta then, and it was almost exactly like publishing via CreateSpace. So I figured getting Rivers Run through it would be a piece of cake.

Oh haha. KDP is using a different cover creation process.

I forget what my favorite CreateSpace cover template was called, but basically you took your cover image from your ebook, created a back cover image, and dropped both images into this template. The template had preset parameters for the spine -- the number of fonts and colors was limited, true, but I was always able to find one that worked, and that I could carry across a whole series.

That template is now gone. KDP has a sort of similar one, where you can drop in your ebook cover art and put the text of the blurb and bio on the back. But this time -- unlike nearly every other time, when I've forgotten to make the back cover image until I was uploading the book to CreateSpace (whoops!) -- I'd actually created the back cover art ahead of time. And I really liked it. I wanted to use it. But the only way I could see to do that was to download one of KDP's cover templates and -- shudder -- make my own spine.

For the paperback edition, of course. I still have an actual spine installed in my back.


I downloaded the template Friday night, threw together the paperback cover image, and uploaded everything. When I woke up this morning, I had an email from KDP saying there was a problem with my cover. Which I could have predicted, as this is the first time I've made a full cover from scratch in, -- oh, since SwanSong, I think, in August 2011.

So I fussed around with it and uploaded it this morning. I'm hoping this version will pass muster. Here it is -- isn't the back gorgeous?

Fingers crossed that KDP accepts it. I tell you what, every day's a new adventure for an indie author.

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

Sunday, March 17, 2019

The run-up to Rivers Run.

I've just a quick post tonight, as I've been working on Rivers Run all day and I'm kind of tuckered out.

The good news is that we're on track for publication this Thursday, as promised. I still have to finish the formatting and write the author's note. But here's the cover, which I finalized today:

And here's the description:

The last thing Raney Meadows needs is more notoriety. She has come east from Los Angeles to escape her life as an actor by getting back to nature. But while hiking the Appalachian Trail, she finds a body in the Shenandoah River -- a drowned kayaker who was neither a kayaker nor a drowning victim -- and the river's goddess tells Raney she has to make it right. Why Raney? Because she's a Water Elemental. Her mother is an undine.
Before long, Raney discovers she's not the only Elemental in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia – Earth, Air, and Fire are here, too. Moreover, these four Elementals have been brought together for a purpose: an ancient evil has awakened, and only by joining all of the Elements together can the earth be saved.
Raney wants to help, but she is torn, because getting involved would put her mother in danger. Her very human father has been looking for his undine – and he may be involved with the ancient evil that aims to destroy the earth.
Once the Kindle version is live, I'll put notices in all the usual places: Facebook, Twitter, and my mailing list. I usually aim to get the paperback out at about the same time as the ebook, but I suspect it will be next weekend before I can get that done. I will let you know.

The other good news is that I signed up today to do Camp NaNoWriMo next month -- during which I'll be writing book 2 of this series, which now has the working title of Treacherous Ground (oooh!). Stay tuned for more on that.

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

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Eli's here.

Among my excuses for not finishing up Rivers Run is that I've been car shopping. Last weekend, I bit the bullet and bought a new car.
Eli's on the left, Fitzy's on the right.
My old car was a bright blue 2008 Honda Fit (a Jazz, for you Europeans). He was named FitzPetey, which means "son of Petey," and yes, therein lies a tale. My all-time favorite car ever was my mother's 1967 Mustang, but for a long time my favorite car I ever owned was the beige Chevy Chevette I bought used when I lived in Huntington, WV. I've always been in the habit of naming my rides -- the car I owned prior to Fitzy was a 1974 Plymouth Fury I dubbed Sherman the Tank -- and when contemplating the Chevette, the name Petey came into my head and stayed. So Petey it was.

I loved that car because it was all the things Sherman was not: It was small and cute and fun to drive; it got pretty good gas mileage for the '80s; and it could carry a four-drawer dresser when I dropped the back seat down. It was, in sum, a perfect car for twentysomething me.

Petey was succeeded by a series of sedate sedans of the Toyota Corolla variety. By 2008, the year my mother died, the kids had gone away to college and I wanted something less sedate. So I scoured the Consumer Reports car issue and discovered they loved the Honda Fit. It was small and cute and fun to drive, especially in a 5-speed; it got terrific gas mileage for not being a hybrid; and thanks to the back seat style, I could move a kid to college without renting an SUV. And I could get one in bright blue. So I test-drove one. It was the most fun I'd had behind the wheel since driving the Chevette. So I bought it and dubbed it FitzPetey.

Eleven years later, Fitzy was still rolling along. And he was still fun to drive. But he was getting to the point where I was pretty sure I would have to sink some money into him. And too, I wasn't crazy about the prospect of driving a ten-plus-year-old car when I retired. So I started thinking about what I'd want to drive as I got older, and researching my options. The first thing I learned was that Consumer Reports was no longer so crazy about the Honda Fit -- which was okay, as I was thinking of going a little bigger anyway. But not too big. I flirted with the idea of buying something with enough towing capacity for a small trailer (not a tiny house!), but they seemed like a huge step up from my little Fit.

Then I started looking at crossover SUVs, which weren't a lot bigger than Fitzy -- but it appeared the manufacturers were all trying to out-muscle each other in body style. (I sat in a Hyundai Kona, which most of the car ratings sites love, and felt like I could be warming up for a stock-car race. I'm sure there's a market for them, but it's not me.)

And then I started looking at hybrids, and that's when I found the Kia Niro. It's bigger than Fitzy, but not by that much. It's got more cargo space than Fitzy, and better gas mileage than Fitzy ever had. Kia is marketing it as a crossover SUV, but it's a lot friendlier-looking than the tough-guy vehicles the other guys are selling. Here, take a look. This one is a 2017, but the front of my car looks the same.
Mr.choppers | Wikimedia Commons | CC 3.0
So I bought it and named it Eli, which only makes sense if you know anything about 1960s singer-songwriters. See, the car model is a Niro, which is pretty close to Laura Nyro, who wrote a bunch of hits in the '60s and '70s before dying of ovarian cancer in 1997. Among the songs she wrote is Eli's Comin', which was a hit for Three Dog Night in 1969. (She also recorded her own version, but this is the one I remember.)

The one thing I may regret about buying this car is that my kids can drive it. Neither can drive a stick shift, so Fitzy was mine, all mine. I believe I'm about to learn the joys of sharing a car again, as Kat drove it last night and appears to be hooked. But I've already made it clear that I have dibs on putting the first scratch on Eli -- and that it won't happen for a long, long time.

I admit, the wait for Rivers Run is getting ridiculous. So I'm committing now to a release date of  Thursday, March 21st -- just a week and a half from now.

That will clear the decks for me to finish writing Book 2 during CampNaNo in April, with publication probably around the solstice in June -- let's call it Thursday, June 20th.

The final two books aren't much more than a glimmer in my eye at this point, but surely I can get the third one out by the fall equinox -- say, Thursday, September 19th, although I may have to push that forward a week. Then the fourth and final book would drop sometime around Yule.

Wish me luck.

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

Sunday, March 3, 2019

As promised: a knitting post.

Knitting, they say, is a great stress reliever. They often say this just before throwing their current work in progress across the room in frustration, but anyway.

Since we last chatted about knitting back in October, I've been flying through projects like the hounds of Hell were after me. I'm not sure why. I think it's partly because I've had weaving on my mind since taking that two-day workshop in November and would like to get the loom out again -- but I had several knitting projects queued up, with patterns and yarn purchased, that I wanted to finish first. Too, the queued projects all use wool yarns, and I'd like to finish them all in time to wear them before the weather gets warm again.

First up: a cardigan. The pattern is called Old Growth and it's in the Tin Can Knits pattern book that I bought in Colorado last summer. I loved the design as soon as I saw it -- the button bands are offset from the center front, which allows for a tree-shaped lace panel on the wider side. That panel, I knew, would not only look awesome, but would keep the boring torso portion of the sweater from being too tedious to knit. I even found buttons with a nubbly surface that looks like tree bark. Here's how it turned out:

Next, I resurrected a shawl project called Sepia. I don't typically have many UFOs (UnFinished Objects) lying around -- I tend to start one project and stick at it 'til it's done. But this one I started and put aside. The pattern calls for increases along the center ridge of the triangle and at either end -- pretty standard stuff -- but in this case, the designer used backwards-loop cast-ons for the increases, which are super easy to do but I'm not nuts about them. To make matters worse, you're supposed to pay attention to the slant of the loop -- so you'd twist the loop one way for right-leaning stitches and the other way for left-leaning stitches.

I ripped out and started over a couple of times, trying different increases, but in the end I gave in and did what the pattern said to do. Mostly. I also gave myself permission to not stress about whether I'd done the correct slant for each cast-on stitch. I'm sure a fair number of the increases are slanting the wrong way, but it doesn't seem to matter much.

My third project was another sweater -- a pullover called the Pavement. You start at the top and knit down in stockinette, in the round, except for garter stitch at the collar, cuffs, and bottom edge. There were short rows in the collar back and for the shirt-tail hem, which kept things interesting. In all, it was a surprisingly quick knit -- partly because I was rushing to finish it and shorted the sleeve length by an inch or two. Ah well. It looks fine with a turtleneck underneath.

I might pull out the garter stitch and lengthen the sleeves someday -- but not right now, because I've moved on to my fourth and final queued project. It's another shawl, called the Level, and it's my third Nancy Whitman pattern -- she designed the Eden Prairie and the High Street shawls that I've enjoyed knitting and wearing. This one has her characteristic blocks of color, but this time they're narrow lines on a plain background, with a lovely wide border.

I'm not very far into it yet, as you can see.

Eventually I'll have three copper-colored stripes and three blue ones. It's been going pretty fast, but the rows get progressively longer. And then I get to knit the border. Let's see, it's the beginning of March...spring will be here in two and a half weeks... Hmm. Well, at least I got the sweaters done in time to wear this winter.

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

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Let there be more light!

I went out adulting today. I bought myself a new lamp for my bedroom and some seriously bright light bulbs.

Why is this a big deal? Thereby hangs a tale... 

The story starts about a year ago, when the kids finally convinced me that we needed to move out of the construction zone that was our former apartment. We toured a bunch of apartment communities -- and when I say "a bunch," I mean nine or ten. The list of potential apartments took some serious research and planning, nearly all of it done by Amy. What made it tougher than your typical apartment search was that we were looking for a three-bedroom place -- or at least a two-bedroom with a den -- so each of us could have a real door we could shut. (In the old place, we'd used Japanese screens to make a bedroom for Kitty out of the dining room.) A second bathroom was also on our wish list, as well as access to public transit and a short commute.

After all that work, after touring all those properties and looking at our preferences...we had zero properties that all three of us liked. We reconsidered our criteria and decided to go back to a couple of places that could work if we worked at it. One of them was this place, which was awesome in nearly every way -- except that the den, which someone would have to sleep in, was an interior room with no window. (Which is why they couldn't call it a bedroom, I suspect. Bedrooms have to have two means of ingress and egress in case of fire.) Other than that, it was a great apartment. I mean, the location is stellar and the kitchen is to die for.

So guess who fell on her sword and said she'd take the den?

I didn't think having no natural light in a bedroom would bug me as much as it does. But I recently realized I've been doing a lot of knitting -- way more than I've been writing. And it's partly because the knitting chair is by the big window in the living room, and my desk is in my bedroom. Once I figured that out, I realized Something Needed to Be Done.

I think you'll agree when I show you these. Here's the before picture, a.k.a. The Cave:

And here's the after, a.k.a. Sunshiny Day:

The extra lamp made a difference, but the real key was the type of lightbulb I put in it. I picked up a pack of GE's Refresh LED bulbs, which are billed as providing energetic daylight. "Recommended for home offices," the package said.

"Sounds good to me," I said.

I expect I would be less thrilled with this "energetic daylight" thing in the lamp next to my bed. But at least now I'm looking forward to sitting at my computer. Who knows? Maybe I'll even get some writing done.

I'll bore y'all with a knitting post next week.

Oh, one piece of housekeeping: Google Plus is being dismantled, and one of the first casualties is the G+ comment plug-in on blogs like mine. So hearth/myth is back to the native Blogger comment system, which has never worked particularly well. Apologies for that.

These moments of well-lit blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

A distraction-free weekend.

Every Presidents' Day weekend, my daughters attend Katsucon, a massive anime convention across the Potomac River from us in National Harbor, Maryland. (When I say massive, I mean massive. They have 21,000 attendees this year.) Kitty is the assistant head of Video Operations, so my kids get there a day earlier and stay a day longer than the regular attendees.

Which means I've had the apartment to myself since I got home from work Thursday -- or (checks the time) approximately 76 hours. And counting.

Creative Market

Yesterday, Kitty texted me to ask whether I could run something over to her in a few hours, after she got some sleep. Sure, I said. Then she offered to send me a reminder text.

"I think I'll be okay. There's not much here today to distract me," I said.

She LOL'ed and offered to text me earlier, "if you wanna cut the boredom sooner."

And I replied, "I said 'no distractions,' not 'bored'.''

"Same diff," she said.

But it's not the same diff. At work, I sit in a doorless cubicle in a hallway. My phone has twelve active lines. There's always background noise -- conversations, phones ringing. Then to get to work, I take public transit, and there's always background noise there, as well -- announcements over the intercom, other commuters' conversations, trains and buses starting and stopping. It's distracting.

And at home, our schedules are different enough that someone is always coming or going, or listening to music, or sleeping, or having a conversation.

It gets to the point where it's hard to find a minute to think.

This weekend, though, I've had oodles of minutes to think -- and to do other stuff, too. I've made headway on an editing project and spent lots of time knitting. I haven't been bored at all. In fact, it's been very relaxing -- so relaxing that I'm weighing whether to send the girls somewhere for a few more days. If I feel this relaxed after 76 hours, imagine what it would be like to have the place to myself for a whole week...

These moments of laid-back blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

On blackface.

I cannot tell you how disheartening it has been to be a Virginian this week -- standing by and watching our top elected officials' careers implode.

First it was Governor Ralph Northam. After he made a statement about an abortion bill that abortion opponents deemed too soft, a conservative website got hold of his 1984 medical school yearbook and found, on his page, a photo of two people, one in blackface and the other in a KKK hood. Immediately, folks on both sides of the aisle began calling for Northam, who's a Democrat, to resign.

First Northam apologized for the photo. Then, in a stunning reversal, he said neither of the people in the photo were him and he didn't know why it was on his page. He did, however, wear blackface to dress up as Michael Jackson in his youth. Moreover, he wasn't going to resign.

Then on Wednesday, attorney general Mark Herring, who's also a Democrat, met with members of the General Assembly's black caucus. When the meeting was over, Herring admitted that he too had worn blackface -- at a party in 1980. In a you-can't-make-this-stuff-up twist, before the announcement of his own transgression, Herring had been among those calling for Northam to resign. Now there were calls for his resignation.

Normally in Virginia, if the governor resigns, the lieutenant governor would step up and become governor. But Lt. Gov Justin Fairfax -- a Democrat and the only actual black man of the three -- is now embroiled in his own mess. Two women have accused him of sexual assault. And of course, there are calls on both sides of the aisle for him to resign.

(It's not lost on anyone that if all three men are ousted from their positions, next in line would be the Speaker of the House -- who's a Republican.)

You would think sex assault charges are the more serious. But this is Virginia, the capital of the Confederacy. This is Virginia, where in the late 1950s, under Massive Resistance, the governor ordered public schools in several localities closed rather than submit to court-ordered integration. This is Virginia, where in August 2017 a bunch of white boys brought tiki torches to Charlottesville and one rammed his car into a crowd of counter-protestors, killing one of them.

This is Virginia, where racial prejudice still runs deep.

So this isn't just about blackface. But for the record: blackface is unacceptable.

Library of Congress | Public Domain
The practice of white folks donning makeup to appear black has been occurring for hundreds of years (you can bet Shakespeare's first Othello was a white guy under the paint). It became especially popular in the United States in the 19th century, during the heyday of the touring minstrel show, in which white performers would don blackface with clownish red lips. Wikipedia says, "Stereotyped blackface characters developed: buffoonish, lazy, superstitious, cowardly, and lascivious characters, who stole, lied pathologically, and mangled the English language. Early blackface minstrels were all male, so cross-dressing white men also played black women who were often portrayed as unappealingly and grotesquely mannish, in the matronly mammy mold, or as highly sexually provocative."

The practice continued well into the 20th century, moving from vaudeville to movies (Al Jolson appeared in blackface in the first-ever "talkie," The Jazz Singer) to radio's Amos 'n' Andy.

African-Americans see blackface as demeaning, and they're right. Blackface implies all blacks are like the caricature -- shiftless, lazy, cowardly buffoons -- when of course they are anything but.

In an interview yesterday with the Washington Post, Northam said he believes there's a reason why this has all come out now -- a higher-purpose-type reason. He intends to stay on and finish the rest of his term, and he's adopting as his mission an effort to make Virginia come to terms with racial equality and white privilege. "There are still some very deep wounds in Virginia," he told the Post.

No kidding.

I wish him the best of luck. It would be great to be able to say someday, without embarrassment, that I live in Virginia.

These moments of head-spinning blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Games night.

I hear there's some kind of sportsball thing happening tonight. Which means some of y'all will soon be really happy, some will be angry and/or sad, and some will be too stuffed from the buffet to care.

Then there's the contingent who suffer through the game just to watch the halftime show. From what I'm seeing in my Facebook feed, those folks are already regretting their life choices tonight.

Well, fear not! I have here a thing that everyone can win.

Do you guys like word searches? I loved them as a kid. I was already good at spelling, and it turned out I was also good at spotting letter combinations in word search puzzles. You wouldn't think that would be a useful life skill -- but then I became an editor.

Anyway, below you will find a word search puzzle. The word list consists of the names of some of the deities in the Pipe Woman Chronicles universe, as lifted from the table of contents of A Billion Gods and Goddesses, 2nd Ed.

I used an online word search generator for this puzzle, and I haven't tried it myself yet. The words can go in any direction -- up, down, across, forward and backward, and diagonally. The generator wouldn't take a word that was more than 15 characters, so White Buffalo Calf Pipe Woman has been shortened to "goddess," which is what Naomi calls her most of the time anyway.

Also, the graphic is a .png converted from a pdf. I hope it's clear enough. If not, Adobe owes me fifteen bucks.


These moments of bloggy fun and games have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Netflix and take notes.

I had every intention of getting a ton of stuff done this weekend. But this past week turned out to be pretty wrenching for me emotionally. (Fun Fact: Growing up with a bully, and then having to deal with a succession of narcissists and sociopaths later in life, can give a person Chronic PTSD. And watching a bully hold 800,000 federal employees hostage financially for no good reason, and apparently with no remorse, can be a trigger for that person, especially when it happens close to the first anniversary of resolving a similarly pointless financial hostage situation with her original bully.)

Anyway, I ended up tossing most of my original plans for the weekend and giving myself a day off. Yesterday, I stayed in my jammies, knitted, and watched a bunch of episodes of one of the Great Courses.

Stolen from their website. I hope they don't come after me.
Some of y'all may remember when I groused on Facebook a few weeks back that this company appeared to be stalking me. First I received their full-color catalog in the mail, and then, without ever searching for their website, I started seeing their ads on Facebook. They weren't really stalking me, of course; I suspect they're just really good at targeting their potential customer base. Anyway, they were running a deal on a bunch of courses for $35 each. So I bought several to try them out.

These are college-level courses, and the production is about as low-tech as you would expect from a college course: Mostly it's the professor lecturing, with some maps and photos. The episodes are about a half-hour long apiece -- not quite long enough to start nodding off, unless you're very tired on a Friday night and you watch a bunch of them back-to-back (don't ask me how I know).

One of the courses I purchased is called The Celtic World. I decided to try that one first, as I already knew a bit about the subject and figured it would be a good test to see whether I was wasting my money. Not to worry. The professor -- Jennifer Paxton from Catholic University -- was engaging and knew her stuff. I never felt like arguing with her. Well, maybe once or twice: I would have liked more information on the Celtic pantheon (of course!) and a little more technical information about the ornamentation in Celtic music. (Fun Fact: Ornamentation -- all those extra little notes -- were added by bagpipers first. Most wind instruments are played by the musician blowing directly into the instrument; the musician differentiates notes of the same tone by using the lips and tongue to stop the airflow. But a bagpipe has to keep the airflow moving for the drone -- that sustained note that runs under the whole song -- so bagpipers had to come up with another way to separate the notes in the melody from one another. They hit upon adding in grace notes, and the practice became more elaborate over time. Because that sounded cool, other melody instruments, like the fiddle and harp, added them to their repertoire. Another Fun Fact: Those extra notes aren't written in the sheet music. You're just supposed to feel where to put them in, which isn't a hell of a lot of help when you're first learning to play Irish music. I never got the hang of it.)

But for a survey course that covered a ton of material, from the ancient La Tene and Hallstadt civilizations to Riverdance, it was fine.

My initial impression, after this first course, is that the Great Courses are college-level introductory classes you can take for the fun of it -- no tests or homework. If you're the sort of person who used to look through your college catalog and drool over the classes you couldn't fit into your schedule, it's something to keep in mind.

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

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Tidying up, or: The simple living backlash.

Shofuso Japanese Cultural Center, Philadelphia
Copyright 2018 Lynne Cantwell
This past week, much was made on social media of advice supposedly given by Marie Kondo. Kondo, who is Japanese, has been described as a decluttering guru. She has made a career out of helping people get rid of their excess stuff. She now has a reality show on Netflix in which, I'm told, she visits couples who need to make their living space more livable and makes suggestions on how they could do it. She brings a Shinto aesthetic to the process, thanking the house for providing shelter and thanking each individual thing for its service to the household. And then, she says, if you hold the thing and it doesn't spark joy in you, out it should go, to someone in whom it would spark joy.

The thing that set people off was a comment about her view of books. She says she has gone through her collection and now keeps just 30 books. Total. She says that feels like the right number to her.

To which the booklovers of America collectively retorted, "You'll get my books when you pry them out of my cold, dead hands." 

Well, words to that effect, anyway.

I saw someone on Twitter sniff that Americans' criticism of Kondo stems from racism. I don't agree. I do think she comes from a culture where living spaces are smaller and where extremely spare decorating schemes seem to be the ideal. In the Indie Wire interview that I linked to above, Kondo admits that. And she also says her book-collecting advice is practical in Japan, where the humid climate rapidly damages books. There, if you're not going to read a book, it's better for the book to be passed along.

Also in that interview, she says, "The question you should be asking is what do you think about books. If the image of someone getting rid of books or having only a few books makes you angry, that should tell you how passionate you are about books, what’s clearly so important in your life." And if you're that passionate about books, and you have the room, then by all means, keep as many as you want. In other words, when you're decluttering, keep only things that are meaningful to you.

That's advice that's not specific to any culture. I first heard it twenty years ago in a book called Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin. Their idea was to pare your living expenses to essentials while building up your savings and investments, with the aim of retiring early. Paring your expenses necessarily means bowing out of most of the consumer culture that's so prevalent in the West. Besides, the more stuff you own, the more time you have to spend cleaning and maintaining it. Pretty soon, your stuff owns you.

I was active in the simple living movement for several years, but gradually drifted away. It got harder and harder to keep a lid on my expenses; something always seemed to throw a monkey wrench into my plans to save. These days, I know it was partly because while prices have kept going up, wages have been stagnant in this country for the past four decades -- basically my entire working life. 

Anyway, my point is that Ms. Kondo is simply the face of the newest iteration of a philosophy of living that has been around for a long, long time. It's not a bad idea to consider, every now and then, whether you own your stuff, or whether your stuff owns you. 

And feel free to own as many books as you like. I do.

These moments of sparsely-furnished blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

We have #Snurlough.

I was skeptical last week when the weather forecasters started rumbling about snow in the forecast for DC -- and with good reason. In the almost 30 years since we moved here, I can't tell you how many times big snowstorms have been predicted for the region, but very few of them have amounted to anything. The immediate DC area seems to sit in a snow hole -- often areas around us will get measurable snow, particularly to the north and west, but where I live, we'll get skunked. And I expected this storm to follow suit.

I was wrong. 

It began snowing here yesterday around three in the afternoon. It's still snowing.

I went out around three o'clock this afternoon to see how much we had. My ruler showed about 5 1/2 inches of snow in the courtyard of our apartment building -- a long, narrow space that's fairly sheltered. So I shouldn't have been surprised to learn that Reagan National Airport, which is a couple of miles from us and is the official weather reporting station for Washington, DC, had more. A fair amount more.

As of 7:50pm, the airport had 9.8 inches of snow. 

Have I mentioned that it's still snowing? If we don't get at least 10 inches out of this storm, I'll be very disappointed.

I know 10 inches seems like chump change for a lot of folks, but Washington prides itself on acting like a Southern city when it comes to stuff like this -- which is to say we don't have the kind of snow-removal equipment a city farther north would have. Plus we don't get decent-sized snows that often, so people here aren't used to dealing with it. I saw a comment from somebody this afternoon who was kind of laughing at their condo maintenance crew for shoveling sidewalks earlier today. The commenters' reasoning? They'll just have to do it again after the snow stops. Someone sane then pointed out that it's easier to move six inches of snow twice than to move a foot of snow all at once. I thought about mentioning that shoveling multiple times for a single storm is standard operating procedure in a lot of places, like in northern Indiana, where I grew up. But I decided it would be pointless, as it likely wouldn't make a dent.

The big question now is what will be open tomorrow. Every school system in the area, I believe, has already thrown in the towel. My daughter Amy works for a nonprofit whose snow closing policy follows what the federal government decides to do -- but as you may have heard, the federal government is in the midst of a shutdown and a lot of federal employees are furloughed anyway. (Hence the unofficial name for this storm: Snurlough, a contraction of snow and furlough.) Now all those employers are going to have to decide what to do on their own. Amy's employer didn't wait; they've already announced they'll be closed tomorrow.

I expect whether my day job closes will depend on whether public transit is running. Right now, Metro says the subway will be operational but there won't be any buses in my neighborhood. I guess I could slog a mile on an unshoveled path to get to my closest subway station. And then sit in wet clothes all day at work. And do it all again at the end of the day. Gee, that sounds like fun.

Here's hoping I get a Snurlough...

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

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Grown women aren't girls.

Copyright dimaberkut |
Few things get me worked up quicker than hearing a man call a woman a "girl."

I even wrote about it in Mom's House. On this occasion, my brother was mad at both my mother and me because of something that had happened earlier in the day. He felt the need to retake control of the situation, so first he needled Mom about her clutter, and then he declared we were going to the grocery store to get boxes in order to pack up some of her stuff:
So we all rode in Lar’s car to Al’s at Karwick Plaza. “You girls stay in the car,” he said. “I’ll go in and ask.”
I bristled. “I know you didn’t mean that,” I said warningly. He pretty much ignored me.
Later, Mom asked me why I was upset about Lar calling us “girls.” “We’re girls, aren’t we?” she asked. I just stared at her, speechless. How to explain thirty years of women’s liberation to an eighty-seven-year-old woman? 
I know there are women who, like my mom, don't see a problem with grown women being called girls. But trust me when I say that in this instance, my brother was not using an endearment. He was emphasizing that because he was the man, he was therefore in control -- something we had no business trying to be.

I bring this up because this has been an extraordinary week for the U.S. Congress. For the first time ever, 102 out of 438 members of the House of Representatives -- nearly a quarter of the membership -- are women. Eighty-nine of these women are Democrats; of those, 35 were elected just this year. They are diverse. Two are Muslim; two are Native American. And one is under the age of 30: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.

Perhaps you've heard of Ocasio-Cortez. She stunned politicos last spring by staging a primary upset, upending the career of a Democrat who was rumored to be in line to become Speaker of the House. Then she went on to win her seat in Congress. She gets a lot of criticism from the right, and when it happens, she claps back hard. She's more than capable of handling her trolls herself. But I saw red on her behalf when I heard today that GOP strategist Ed Rollins had called her a "little girl" with a mouth on her.

Rollins is 75 years old. He has had a long career in national politics dating back to the Reagan administration. In short, he is just the sort of old, white guy who would see a young, smart, popular woman as a threat. And it's clear that in this instance, he did not use "little girl" as a term of endearment.

Ocasio-Cortez wasted no time in responding. She tweeted, "If anything, this dude is a walking argument to tax misogyny at 100%" and followed it with a winking emoji. I'm glad she can laugh it off, but I'm tired of making excuses for men who are old enough to remember Women's Liberation but would rather ignore it.

Stop with the misogyny already. Grown women aren't girls. Knock it off.


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