Sunday, November 29, 2020

More on the Facebook page hack, plus another NaNoWriMo win.

As this is ostensibly a blog about my writing, I'll put the writing news upfront: I have won NaNoWriMo once again. Go me! 


This makes ten times I've attempted a NaNo event, either NaNo or CampNaNo, and ten times I've won. NaNo gave my avatar a cute laurel wreath to commemorate my tenth win. (The halo is for being a donor to NaNo.) I've had the wreath previously, and it has been growing bigger with each win; the info on the winner's page this time seemed to indicate I'd maxed it out.



Oh, you want to hear about the book? Well! It's a standalone (at this point) that I've been calling Janis, but the title is definitely going to change. When November started, I thought I would be writing a thriller, but no -- several curve balls later, it appears to be either a straight fantasy or a paranormal romance. Probably straight fantasy, as there are no shapeshifters. It's still about a couple of middle-aged folks who get together, after many decades apart, to act against an authority figure who hurt them both when they were kids. One of the themes of the book is that the choices we make have consequences.

Anyway, it needs a ton of editing, as well as a cover and a new title. I'm hoping to publish it this spring, but probably not right at the equinox, as the temp job will be wrapping up at that point. So I'll shoot for publication in April and hope I don't have to push it back.

***

So about the hackers.

First, I have control of my Facebook page again, so yay for that. The IP people pointed me toward the "I think I've been hacked" people; their Help Center info on the subject talks a lot about how you should just talk to your fellow admins about why they booted you, like I was buddies with these people. There's a link for filing a report if you actually were hacked, but it's not obvious; I probably overlooked it four or five times. Anyway, once I filed my report, Facebook promptly booted the hackers and gave me back my page.

I have now asked them twice about getting the charges reversed for the boosted posts that the hackers took out without my authorization, and I have not received a useful response. I suppose that means I'll have to go spelunking at their Help Center again. UPDATE: I asked Mama Google just now about where to request an ad refund from Facebook, found the proper place to make a report, and... Facebook doesn't think I have an ad account. Which I guess means I won't be charged for those boosts? Stay tuned!

My third concern is the slew of emails I've received over the past few months, each with a bogus account recovery code that I supposedly requested. Here's an example:


I get these nearly every day. Facebook's Help Center says someone probably typed their account name in wrong. Somebody's doing it every day? Really? 

Another thing: While getting my page back, Facebook had me reset my password. I noticed the email I received from them -- from the same email account -- provided me with a six-digit password recovery code. The bogus codes I've been receiving have all been eight-digit codes.

Clearly something's dodgy here, but Facebook doesn't seem inclined to do anything about it. Which brings me to the other thing that bugs me: This whole misadventure started because the hackers sent me a Notification from within Facebook. I gave away my personal info because nobody but a legitimate Facebook department had ever reached me that way before. I was so spooked by the situation that when Facebook logged me out and made me change my password to log back in, I didn't want to do it. How did I know the hackers hadn't gotten control of my account again?

Anyway, I have my author page back and all is well. My message to you guys, though, is to be very, very careful if you receive a message from Facebook -- either in an email or on their platform -- because it might not be Facebook trying to reach you.

***

These moments of anxious blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Social distance! Wash your hands! Don't become a COVID statistic! 

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Another knitting post, but first: I've been hacked!

lollok | Depositphotos.com


I promised you guys another knitting post this week, and I'm going to get to that in a sec. But first I wanted to let y'all know that my Facebook author page has been hacked.

A couple of weeks ago, in a moment of inattention, I responded to a notification within Facebook that looked like it came directly from Facebook. It said someone had complained about the content of one of my posts and could I verify some stuff for them. Again, without thinking, I gave away some info that would allow somebody to get into my personal Facebook account. And somebody did.

By the time I realized what was going on, a business entity called Ivo Fidriyani had claimed ownership of my page and installed someone named Linda Chhay as an admin. I played cat-and-mouse with these people (and a couple of other names that never showed up as admins on my page at all) until they bumped me down to Analyst -- the lowest possible permission setting, which doesn't allow me to change anything on my page at all.

I tried deleting the page, but there's a 14-day grace period. Every time I'd set it for deletion, the hackers would undelete it.

In addition to all that, any Facebook ads purchased for my author page are charged to the banking info attached to my personal Facebook account. And the hackers have already started to boost some of my old posts. I've set my budget to $1.00. That ought to slow them down.

I think you can understand how freaked out I've been about this. I've reported the intrusion to Facebook as a violation of my intellectual property rights. Hopefully they will do something about it ASAP. 

In the meantime, if you, Dear Reader, happen to see something posted on Facebook from my page (in my author photo, I'm wearing a lavender t-shirt, if that helps), please report it to Facebook as...whatever you think will get their attention. Fraud, if you can. Bullying or harassment will also work. If you get an option to report it for an intellectual property violation, that would be ideal. And thanks in advance.

I'll write more about all this later. Maybe next week, if I'm not crashing on NaNo then -- which I may be, given the amount of heartburn this whole mess has given me this week.

***

Okay. On to happier topics, a.k.a. knitting.

I completed a couple of projects while I was on sabbatical last spring. One of them was this variation on the Vortex shawl. I made it smaller than called for because I intended it to use it this winter as a table-topper for my altar. 


Of course, I have the altar set up on one of the built-in bookshelves in the new place, so now I have a lovely tablecloth with nowhere to put it. Maybe I'll use it to hide the washing machine.

Next up is my well-traveled Traveling Companion shawl. I bought the yarn a few years back at a yarn shop in Boulder, CO, that has since closed. It sat in my stash until I decided to use it for this pattern. A lot of the knitting got done on my Amtrak trip out here in June to find an apartment. I'm sure I'll find somewhere to wear it eventually.


On one of my last days in Virginia, I stopped by my favorite yarn shop, fibre space in Old Town Alexandria, to pick up something for Amy -- and found a cotton yarn that I knew would be perfect for this vest. I finished the knitting after I moved in here. It's called the Brookdale. I like the bottom-of-the-armhole detail.


And finally: Back when I was a fairly new knitter, I made a shawl called the TGV. It was stupid easy -- crescent-shaped, with garter stitch for the crescent part and three or four inches of knit-2-purl-2 ribbing on the long edge. The pattern designer released a variation this year called the TGV Smooth Ride, with stockinette (stocking stitch, for you Europeans) in place of the garter stitch. I had some copper yarn left over from the Level shawl that went fabulously with a variegated skein (a blend of wool, yak, and I forget what else). The point was to use up the yarn, so the shawl is bigger than the pattern called for. but I think it turned out really well.

All knitting photos copyright Lynne Cantwell 2020

In other crafty pursuits, I took a Zoom class yesterday on spinning and tapestry weaving. I learned a couple of tips on Navajo-style weaving and I reacquainted myself with how to use a drop spindle. Here's hoping I won't lose this newfound knowledge before I get around to picking up a drop spindle again, because I have a NaNo novel to finish. In all the times I have signed up for NaNo, I have never not won, and I don't intend to lose this year, either.

***

These moments of stress-relieving blogginess (and boy, do I need it!) have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Mask up, wash your hands, and save the big holiday celebrations for next year, mmkay?


Sunday, November 15, 2020

Knitting in color.

How about a knitting post?

It looks like I haven't done one since April. On my personal timeline, that would have been early sabbatical,  pre-retirement, pre-relocation, and definitely post-virus shutdown. (That is, post-virus shutdown #1. Here in New Mexico, shutdown #2 starts tomorrow. But only for two weeks, hopefully. We'll see how the infection numbers play out.) I did finish several projects over the past several months, but I think I'll write about those next week. (Two knitting posts in a row! The world is going mad...)

This week, I'd like to talk about my work in progress, which is a pullover sweater called the Community Tunic by Joji Locatelli. (That link will take you to a yarn manufacturer's page where you could buy a kit to make your own version if they weren't sold out. Here's a link to the sweater on Ravelry -- I'm including both because non-Rav folks have had trouble getting to Rav from my posts in the past.) This sweater features a Fair Isle or stranded colorwork yoke, which means in that section, you're knitting with two colors at once. 

Alert hearth/myth readers may recall the post I did on my last stranded knitting project -- the Endless Colorwork Shawl of WTF Was I Thinking -- in which I said I'd never do anything like that again. (Apparently "never" is about three-and-a-half years long.) The reason I said that was because I always have trouble with tension in stranded knitting. Usually I knit Continental style, with the working yarn in my left hand; in English style, you hold the yarn in your right hand. Here is a video that explains the difference. (Apologies -- the video is by Red Heart.) The way I learned stranded knitting is to knit Continental style with one color and English style with the other. But the tension on my English style stitches is always lousy. 

Then I ran across a gizmo called a Norwegian knitting thimble. It allows you to hold both yarns in the left hand. Here's what it looks like in action:

It definitely solved the tension issue, so yay! But it was a little fiddly to get it going, particularly when it comes to catching floats. 

What is a float, you ask? In stranded knitting, you carry the yarn you're not knitting with on the back side of the work. That's fine if you're switching colors every two or three stitches. But as I got closer to  the diamonds, I realized I'd be carrying the purple for, oh, 17 stitches. Not only can such long floats cause your work to pucker, but barrettes and jewelry can get caught on them when you're taking the sweater on and off. So I had to figure out how to catch the floats while holding both yarns in the same hand. That took some trial and error. 

Here's the back side of my sweater. You can see here the difference between doing floats (toward the top) and catching them (at the bottom):

Oh - you want to see what the front side looks like? Sure! 
All photos copyright Lynne Cantwell 2020
That yellow-green, frankly, is a problem. You can see how it blends in with the gray, and trust me, it's even worse in person. I am probably going to go over it with a darker green. I am definitely not ripping it out.

Anyway, the Norwegian knitting thimble gets a thumbs-up from me. Someday I may even do my own YouTube video for how to use it. The ones I found all seemed to be 30 minutes long because they included instructions on how to knit Fair Isle. Yo, I already know how to do that -- I just want to see the gizmo in action! 

I'm now past the yoke and need to knit the rest of the sweater. I'll post a photo or two when it's done.

***
NaNo update: We are at the halfway point today. Once I publish this blog post, I'll dive in and write my word count today for today; that will bring me to 25,000 words. I'd be done with today's words already, but I spent the entire freaking afternoon sleying the reed on the ginormous loom. At least that's done now and I can start the actual weaving, which should take nowhere near as long as warping the loom has...

*** 
These moments of knitting blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Stay home and stay safe!

Sunday, November 8, 2020

How not to heal a wounded America.

(Stolen from a Facebook post. Happy to credit the artist 
if someone can tell me who it is.)

Our longest Tuesday ever finally ended yesterday, when major news organizations called the 2020 Presidential election for Joe Biden. We here at hearth/myth are pleased with the outcome. We're super grateful that millions more Americans voted for Biden than for President Trump, and that Biden's Electoral College lead looks solid. And to be honest, we'd be okay if President Trump spent the rest of his term rage-tweeting and golfing, as both activities can be easily ignored.

As the election is over, I plan to go back to vagueposting about politics -- starting right now.

This post-election world is very new for all of us, and now that the euphoria has worn off, a lot of folks are sort of feeling around the edges about how to proceed. This past four years has been an eye-opener for many of us, particularly when it comes to how far down the rabbit hole our conservative-media-obsessed friends and family have gone. It's not so bad when senile Uncle Ern goes off on a Breitbart-fueled rant at Thanksgiving dinner -- you only see the old codger once a year, after all. It's much harder to ignore when Uncle Ern friends you on Facebook and then starts shitposting false conspiracy memes on his own timeline and insulting your friends on yours. 

But he's still your Uncle Ern. So maybe you should forgive him his belief that Pizzagate was a real thing and gays shouldn't be allowed to get married and the virus is a Democrat hoax and All Lives Matter. In fact, you'll probably run into folks who will tell you that you'll be sorry if you don't forgive him. 

If you're looking for permission to tell those well-meaning folks to take a hike, here you go: Tell 'em to take a hike.

We've already been over my views on forgiveness. To recap: As a Pagan, I see no moral value in forgiving someone who has neither asked for it nor atoned for the hurt they caused. Anger is a legitimate emotion. It's okay to be mad at someone. In fact, you can continue to be mad at them for as long as you need to be. You don't have to forgive anyone who doesn't deserve it.

Moreover, if Uncle Ern rants about All Lives Matter in front of your biracial children, or if he spouts off on gays when he knows (or should know) that you're gay, or if gives you a hard time for wearing a mask, do not shrug it off. That's verbal abuse. He's hurting you with his words.

We have all spent the past four years being gaslit by the President. He has told us lie after lie after lie -- more than 20,000 lies by mid-July, and tons more since. Hello, that's abusive behavior! It has taken a toll on every last American -- even those of us who haven't yet figured out they've been abused. 

Yes, America is horribly divided. Yes, our country needs to heal. But healing doesn't equate to sweeping bad behavior under the rug. Don't do it. Don't let people who behave badly get away with it in the name of forgiveness. And for the love of the gods, don't listen to anyone who tells you our best path forward is to turn the other cheek.

***
NaNo and stuff: As of last night, I was right where I need to be on the new book -- which is kind of a miracle, considering I spent all day yesterday on social media. I haven't written anything yet today because I spent more than four hours this afternoon warping the ginormous loom, and it's not done yet. This project is going to be nearly the whole width of the loom -- 360 thread ends, in case you know anything about weaving -- and each end has to be threaded through two parts of the loom: once through a heddle and once through the reed. (On a rigid heddle loom, the heddle and reed are one thing.) I finished threading the heddles this afternoon. Because I'm doing NaNo, sleying the reed (that's what it's called -- don't ask me why) will have to wait for another day.

***
These moments of advisory bloginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Wash your hands! Social distance! Wear a mask and do it right! And thanks for voting!

Sunday, November 1, 2020

A hodgepodge for our scattered times.

It feels early to me. Does it feel early to you? (For those across the pond, Daylight Time ended for North America last night. Nearly all of us set our clocks back an hour -- as if any of us need another hour of 2020.)

There's a lot going on this week at La Casa Cantwell: 


For starters, NaNoWriMo began today. I kicked off the month with about 2,400 brand-new words in a brand-new book that's tentatively titled Janis after one of the two protagonists. It's definitely going to be a fantasy and maybe a paranormal thriller, depending on how things shake out. For sure, I'll be aiming for readers who say they like reading Young Adult books but would love to read a fantasy with a kickass old woman as the main character. 

In the part I wrote today, Janis is joined by a man from her past. Each of them has a paranormal ability that complements the other -- she can view past events and see why people behave the way they do, and he can see the future in all its complex and probabilistic glory. They'll be teaming up against a shadowy organization they were once a part of. And the future of the world is at stake, of course, because that's how I always roll.

I'll keep you posted on how it goes. I've always won NaNo and I expect to win again this year, although for the first time I'll be writing while starting a new job. Yes, I know, I just retired. But I've picked up a temp job as a proofreader for the New Mexico state legislature, and training starts tomorrow. I expect 7:00 am will come awfully early tomorrow morning -- but at least I gained an hour last night, right?

The other big thing happening this week -- you might call it the elephant and donkey in the room -- is, of course, the US presidential election. I cast my ballot a couple of weeks ago and you already know who I've voted for (Joe Biden, for those just joining us), so now I'm at the nail-biting stage. Like a lot of Americans, I'm hoping for a big, blue blowout on Tuesday night, but expecting that the final results will take much longer. 

Assuming Biden wins, he's going to have a big job ahead of him. Regardless of how often he says he'll be president for all Americans, the fact is that our country is as divided as it's ever been. I'm left wondering how successful he'll be in bringing us together -- or even where to start. 

timbrk | Depositphotos.com

A couple of Louisiana State University researchers have been surveying Americans over the past four years. Mason and Nathan Kalmoe say we're in the throes of what they call "lethal partisanship." Forty percent of study participants see the other side as "truly evil," and a scary number on both sides think the country would be better off if a lot of folks on the other side of the political divide just up and died. However, the study also found that when participants heard a pacifying message from their presidential candidate of choice, their attitudes became less violent.

Which brings me to this week's episode of Star Trek: Discovery. If you haven't seen the episode, you might want to skip the rest of this paragraph. In this latest episode, Discovery returns to Earth and finds a lot of things have changed -- among them, Earth has dropped out of the United Federation of Planets and is now under attack by marauders. The two sides are at loggerheads. There has been no attempt at peace talks or any sort of truce. So Burnham and Saru force the leaders of the two factions to meet -- and lo and behold, once the two sides set aside their hatred for one another, they come to an agreement.

This is kind of a staple plot line for Star Trek: the Federation acting as peace broker between warring factions. And of course it's a lot easier to get people on either side of a dispute to meet when you can beam them in by main force. But still -- the key is getting people to stop talking past one another. I don't know if that's possible in today's America, but I hope we can get there soon.

***

I nearly forgot! We did get snow here in Santa Fe this week. It's all gone now, but it was pretty while it lasted. I promised photos. Here you go.


Snow on chile ristras at the Historic Plaza.
Emergence - Michael Naranjo
State Capitol, Santa Fe












***

These moments of scattered blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. We're all virus-weary, but keep wearing a mask and washing your hands anyway.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

SNOOOOOOW!

Looks like I'm about to get a taste of how my new hometown copes with winter weather. The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning for Santa Fe. We're forecast to get between 10 and 15 inches of snow between tonight and Wednesday morning. If that forecast is right, we'll get about half of our average annual snowfall in this storm alone.

This guy lives in Iceland. I bet he's never had a snow day. 
David Mark | Pixabay
I'm of two minds about this. Alert hearth/myth readers know I grew up in northwestern Indiana, where it was routine to get half a foot of lake-effect snow in a single storm. Life rarely came to a stop. Snowplows would make pass after pass throughout the storm, and if you were smart, you shoveled your sidewalk just about as often. Why, I remember standing on the street corner in a dress, with drifts all around me and snow still falling, waiting for the school bus. No snow days for us, no sir!

Then I moved Huntington, WV, and then to Norfolk, VA, and from there to the DC area -- and in all those places, I learned about the concept of "solar snow removal": everything grinds to a halt until the sun has melted the offending white stuff. DC adds an extra element of fun; as soon as snow is even mentioned in the forecast, everybody rushes to the grocery store for bread, milk, and toilet paper. No one knows why. Someone once suggested the bread and milk are for making snow-day French toast, but then why isn't there also a run on eggs? And cinnamon? And how does toilet paper figure into the menu? 

To make it even more frustrating, DC appears to sit in a "snow hole." In winter forecast after winter forecast, the weather guys would say we were going to get socked with multiple inches of snow -- and then? Nothing. Maybe a coating, but usually blades of grass would still be visible. Again and again, we'd go through all that angst for no reason at all.

In short, when it comes to human coping mechanisms for snow, I've experienced the good, the bad, and the ugly. With the ugly still fresh in my mind, I have some trepidation about this forecast.

On the other hand, I'm retired. I have a package to pick up at the post office, but that will keep for a few days. It's semi-arid here, so the snow should melt pretty fast once daytime temperatures get above freezing on Wednesday or Thursday. And gods know we could use the moisture.

Anyway, I'll report back next week. Probably with pictures.

***

Between now and then is Halloween, a.k.a. Samhain, the day many Pagans celebrate as our New Year's Eve. Apparently I've never done a whole post devoted to the holiday in all the years I've been keeping this blog. I should rectify that. In fact, I believe I will, next week.

***

And once we get past Samhain and Día de los Muertos, it'll be Election Day in the United States. Millions of us have already voted, but if you haven't yet and you want to vote early, time's a-wastin'. Go to iwillvote.com to find out the process in your state. Then make your plan and get it done.

***

Oh, right -- NaNoWriMo starts next Sunday, too. I'll be starting work on a new series this time. Stay tuned!

***

These moments of anticipatory blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Wear a mask, wash your hands, and VOTE!

Monday, October 19, 2020

Whither the Hispanic vote?

I love political posts, don't you?

The good news, for those who answered "NO!", is that I won't have a pressing excuse to do them much longer, as the US presidential election is just a titch over two weeks away. Plus I've already voted -- I put my completed ballot in the dropbox at the county clerk's office the same day I got it in the mail -- and as I mentioned last week, there aren't a whole lot of voters who are still undecided. So I'm becoming less interested in the horse-race aspects of this election and more interested in making sure everybody votes, and that everybody's vote counts.

Which leaves me a little room to think about what future elections in this country will look like.

tdoes1 | Deposit Photos

One of the things driving Republican voters, if the pundits can be believed, is a fear among rural whites that minorities will take over America. It's common knowledge that the minority population in this country is increasing while the white population is decreasing. Right now, the American population is 59.7% white, but the percentage has been dropping since the 1950s and it's projected to keep dropping until, by 2045, the population of whites will drop below 50%. To be sure, whites will still be the biggest demographic bloc in the United States, but we won't be a majority-white country anymore. (By the way, all the numbers I'm using are from the US Census Bureau.)

So who will be number two? With all the news coverage of Black Lives Matter this year, and depending on where you live, you could be forgiven for thinking Blacks will be the next largest demographic group. But you would be wrong. Hispanics* will be the second-biggest. In fact, they already are -- they make up 18.73% of the US population this year. In 2045, their percentage is projected to grow to 24.6%. That's right -- in 25 years, nearly a quarter of Americans are expected to be of Hispanic descent.

Blacks are and will continue to be the third largest group. And while their numbers will grow, their percentage of the population is projected to stay pretty stable -- 12.54% this year and 13.14% in 2045.

(What about Asians, you ask? I knew someone would. They're at 5.83% today and are projected to be at 7.85% in 2045. There's a nifty interactive chart here that projects population percentages for all these groups, and more, out to 2060.)

The thing that struck me about this is the emphasis placed by both of our political parties on the Black vote. If you've followed the "horse race" at all, you've seen the speculation from the punditry: Can Biden rely on the Black vote? Is Trump making inroads on the Black vote? 

Why all this emphasis on Black voters, when Hispanics are a larger percentage of the population? I kind of knew the answer, but an article I read in The Atlantic today underscored the particulars: Latinos don't all vote the same. Blacks, as a bloc, have voted reliably for Democrats for the past several decades. With Hispanics, though, it depends on where they're from. Cuban Americans in Florida have family members who fled Fidel Castro's regime; as a result, they have an antipathy toward anything that looks like socialism. They mostly vote Republican. On the other hand, Puerto Ricans who live in Florida tend to vote Democratic. And Mexican Americans, whose families settled in the Southwest (and elsewhere in the country), tend to vote Democratic -- which is one reason why states like Arizona and Texas are beginning to turn purple. But the author of the Atlantic article, Mike Madrid, says young Mexican American men without college educations appear to be emulating their white cohort by turning toward Trump. However, he says young Mexican American women appear to be supporting Biden.

Another interesting thing: Mexican Americans make up the majority of the Latino population in the US. But remember what I said last week, about how certain states -- like Florida -- are more important in presidential races because voters are split pretty evenly between the two parties. That gives Cuban Americans the biggest Latino influence on US presidential politics, even though Mexican Americans outnumber them. Politics is indeed a curious business.

As a recent transplant to the Southwest, I find myself invested in how it all plays out -- not just this year, but in political races to come. 

***

*I'm using the terms Hispanic and Latino interchangeably in this post, although technically they are not. Hispanic refers to anyone of Spanish descent, including Spain and its former colonies; Latino covers those from Latin American countries, including in Central and South America and the Caribbean. And I decided against using the alleged generic term Latinx because a lot of Latinos don't like it. That's the hearth/myth style guide and I'm sticking to it.

By the way, if you ever have an hour or two to kill, looking up the nuances of the term Hispanic will lead you down quite the rabbit hole. (Are Filipinos Hispanic? Kind of! But also Asian and/or Pacific Islander...)

***

These moments of demographic blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Mask up, social distance, and vote!

Sunday, October 11, 2020

The time has come for majority Presidential rule.

Here I go, talking about politics again. Well, kind of. 

Every four years, Americans go to the polls to elect a new President of the United States (or re-elect the current one). At least that's what most people believe. But we don't, in fact, elect the President directly. Instead, we elect Electors, or people to represent us at the Electoral College -- a once-every-four-years group that gets together solely to vote on who will be the next President.

The number of Electors a state gets is equal to the number of its members of Congress. Every state has two US senators, and every state gets at least one member of the US House of Representatives. So each state has at least three Electors. States with big populations get a lot more. California, for example, has 55; Texas has 38. (Land area has nothing to do with the number of electors a state gets; Alaska is our biggest state by area, and it has only 3 Electors.)

It's not a terrific system (nor was it when it was first devised), but it would be sorta kinda fair if each state apportioned its Electors by its popular vote result. But that's not how it works. Nor has it worked that way since about 1832, by which time most states had gone to the winner-take-all system that persists today. In the meantime, our biggest cities have grown huge, outstripping anything the Founding Fathers could have envisioned in their wildest dreams. The result has been that states with the smallest populations have an outsized influence in the Electoral College. Here's an example: Wyoming has 3 electoral votes while California, as I mentioned above, has 55. Wyoming has something over 565,000 people total; California's population is 66 times that. Each of Wyoming's Electors represents 188,000 residents. But each of California's Electors represents about 677,000 residents. Wyoming's influence in the Electoral College is therefore much bigger than California's.

You might think that would give Wyoming a big influence on the actual Presidential election, but that's not how it works. Instead, because most states give all of their electoral votes to the popular vote winner, candidates concentrate their campaigning on only a handful of battleground states, where voters are closely divided and the race could go either way. This year, right now, all the hoopla is concentrated in a baker's dozen states


from https://www.nationalpopularvote.com/map-general-election-campaign-events-2020-presidential-candidates

The numbers on the map represent major campaign events in each state since the end of the Republican National Convention in August. So if you live in California or Texas, or Wyoming -- or most of the rest of the country -- you're not seeing many ads for either Trump or Biden and you sure aren't seeing the candidates stopping by your hometown.

Because of this concentration on battleground states coupled with the outsized Electoral College influence of states with smaller populations, there have been five elections in our history in which the Electoral College has selected the candidate who didn't win the popular vote. It's happened twice in the past six elections -- in 2000 when George W. Bush won, and in 2016 when Donald Trump won.

The thing that annoys me most about this convoluted system is that for just about everything else, Americans are all about majority rule. It's a hallmark of our democracy, right? You bet it is -- but not for electing our President. We're told we need to protect small states' rights or the big states will run roughshod over them! But as we've seen, the current system protects rights of smaller states (if it actually does) by violating the rights of people who live in big cities, and who make up the majority of the population. How is that fair? Shouldn't the majority rule?

So how can we fix this goofy system? Getting rid of the Electoral College outright is a non-starter; it would require a constitutional amendment, and the political will just isn't there. But a bipartisan non-profit called the National Popular Vote has come up with a sort of end-run around it. It is collecting pledges from state legislatures to award their states' electoral votes to whichever candidate wins the popular vote nationally. 

Don't let anybody try to tell you it's illegal. The Constitution allows for states to apportion their electoral votes as they see fit.

The pledge will only kick in when states with a total of 270 electoral votes agree to participate. So far, 16 states and territories, with a total of 196 electoral votes, have signed on, so it won't be a factor during this year's election. But it's something to shoot for before the next presidential election in 2024.

***

These moments of fairly representational blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Have you made your plan to vote yet? 

Monday, October 5, 2020

About time, warped.

Here's a weird thing I've discovered about being retired, now that I've been at it for a couple of months: A whole lot of my routines and habits were structured around my working life.

To be clear, I'm not talking about setting a morning alarm, commuting to and from work, and all that stuff. Those are the most obvious trappings of a working life and and we're all used to shedding them when we're on vacation. 

Well, assuming we actually go on vacation when we go on vacation, instead of simply scheduling fewer meetings and phone calls than we would during a regular workweek. You laugh, but I just got done working for twenty years for attorneys who would do just that. One guy always spends a week with his family every summer at a resort in the Adirondacks where there's no wi-fi, and no cellphone signal unless you get in a canoe and hike up to the other side of a mountain or something. A few years ago, I learned he's begun driving into the closest little town during this nominally unplugged week to get some work done. 

Come to think of it, that's about when I started keeping an eye on my work email when I would go on vacation.

Anyway, back to my original point: It's easy, and obvious, to turn off the alarm on the weekend. More insidious are the hidden compromises on your time. For instance, I got into the habit of doing laundry very late on Sunday nights. For several years I lived in an apartment building with shared laundry facilities; if I started my laundry late enough, I wouldn't have to wait for a dryer. I considered a 1:30am bedtime on Sunday nights a small price to pay for that luxury. Besides, I could sleep in on Saturday and Sunday in preparation (assuming the cats would let me).

Another example: My go-to time for grocery shopping gradually became 8:00pm on a Monday night. The produce section would be kind of picked over, but almost nobody was in the store then and the checkout lines were non-existent -- and shopping in an empty store became much more important once the virus hit and the mere thought of leaving the house could fill one with existential dread.

I don't need to make those compromises anymore. Moreover, if I don't get something done one day, it isn't a big deal if I let it slide to the next day. Or the day after that. Of course I have certain deadlines -- the rent is still due on the first of the month -- but it doesn't matter if I don't get up in time to go to the farmers' market. There's always next week.

Which is partly why it took me two months to figure out how to use my ginormous new loom. 

Alert hearth/myth readers will recall that I took a two-day weaving workshop a couple of years ago. I had to buy a rigid-heddle loom for the class, and I've used that loom for a couple of projects since then. But the cloth my little loom turns out is only 15 inches wide, max. I figured out pretty fast that there were only so many 15-inch-wide projects I was going to be interested in making; if I wanted to weave something more practical, like cloth for a garment, I would need a wider loom.

So when my attorneys asked me what I would like for a retirement gift, I suggested they get me an 8-shaft table loom. After several rounds of negotiations, plus consultations with the retailer when it was clear I didn't know as much about table looms as I thought I did, we settled on the medium-sized loom. However, that one was on backorder; the largest-sized loom was not. And that's how I ended up with a ginormous loom.

There are a number of differences between a rigid heddle loom and a table loom, but one of the biggest is the way you warp it. This has nothing to do with Star Trek. If you look at a piece of woven fabric -- say, a dress shirt -- you can see the threads that make up the fabric go in two directions. Let's call them up-down and right-left. To make fabric, the up-down threads have to be tied onto the loom; the right-left threads are then woven through the up-down threads. The up-down threads are the warp and the right-left threads are the weft. Tying on the warp threads is called warping the loom

With me so far? Okay. There are a few methods for warping a loom, but they basically fall into two camps. One is the direct method, which is what I've always used to warp my rigid heddle loom. The other is the indirect method, which requires the use of a thingum called a warping board. I asked for a warping board along with the loom, and the guys bought it for me. 

The order came in several shipments, some from the retailer and several directly from the manufacturer in New Zealand. Once I got everything, I put it all together -- loom, stand, and warping board -- and there it all sat, silently rebuking me, for about a month and a half. I was intimidated by the thought of warping that ginormous loom. It was easy to put it off for another day, and another day, and...

Finally, a few weeks ago, I set myself a deadline: Either get the loom warped by the end of September or fold it up and admit you're never going to do it. So last week, I sucked it up. I dug out a pattern for a small project I'd made on the rigid heddle loom, spent a bunch of quality time with YouTube videos, and figured everything out. Of course I screwed up a couple of times, but I made it work. The loom was warped! 

And now that I've done it once, I feel confident I can weave a full-width project. Maybe I'll even try something more complex than a plain weave. I'll keep y'all posted.

***
Speaking of deadlines, the folks at NaNoWriMo have been sending me emails every few days, reminding me that I can announce my November project any time now. Yeah, thanks for nagging me, guys. 

Actually, I got an idea for the new novel today. I need to roll it around in my mind a little more, but I think it'll turn out to be a fun read -- and gods know we could all use a fun read right about now. Stay tuned...

***

These moments of bloggy warp and weft have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Stay vigilant -- the virus is still out there. Social distance and wear a mask!

Monday, September 28, 2020

How Gene Roddenberry made me a progressive.

One of the things I've been doing since retiring is re-watching all the episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation. I bought a boxed set of all seven seasons last winter and I'm now, finally, getting around to binge watching the shows. I haven't seen the early seasons in decades.

I consider ST:TNG "my" Star Trek. My father watched the original show, and I watched it with him (because in those days, kids, families had only one TV and you watched whatever Dad wanted to watch). But I was eight years old when the original series debuted in 1966. 

In fact, I just figured out that Star Trek debuted four days before The Monkees. Clearly I was at the developmental stage where long-haired singers made a bigger dent on my psyche.

Anyway, when ST:TNG began in 1987, I was at a much different stage of life: married with a six-month-old. My then-husband was a big sci-fi fan and many of our friends were into speculative fiction, too. And I was working in radio news, and beginning to meet people who had been dealt a lousy hand in life and who were never going to get long enough bootstraps to pull themselves out of their misery. 

The original series was kind of like a Western, with lots of action along a frontier and definite good guys/bad guys. ST:TNG had all that -- plus a society where money had become obsolete. The reason? Replicators.

Shisma | Wikimedia | CC3.0

Oh, there was a big explanation about how humanity had nearly snuffed itself in World War III and had evolved, as a result, into a caring and compassionate race. But come on -- if you can walk up to a machine on the wall and say, "Tea. Earl Grey. Hot," and the machine fabricates it for you, you don't need to go out and buy cups or tea. Or clothing. Or anything else, really.

In "The Neutral Zone," the final episode of season one, Capt. Picard explains what that has meant to society. The episode opens with Lt. Worf and Cmdr. Data boarding a 21st-century ship that contained a number of human bodies that were cryogenically preserved at death, the idea being that they would be brought back to life once science developed cures for what killed them. Of course the cryogenics company had gone out of business and the ship had gone adrift. Most of the preservation units had failed over the intervening centuries, but three people were able to be saved: a middling popular country singer, a tycoon, and an average mom whose husband couldn't bear to lose her forever. The tycoon insists that Picard put him in contact with his bank or his lawyer or someone who can get him to his money. Picard tells him how pointless it would be: "People are no longer obsessed with the accumulation of things. We've eliminated want, hunger, the need for possessions. We've grown out of our infancy."

Because people lack for nothing in the 24th century, they don't have to work for a living -- and yet they do work. They still strive for excellence, but not for money; the striving is its own reward. Without the need to support themselves, they have the freedom to pursue whatever activity interests them: education for its own sake, the arts, or even traveling to the stars. 

That all sounded pretty good to me. It still does. Which I suppose is why the progressive proposal for single-payer healthcare caught my attention a few years ago. Why should we be tied to a job just to be able to afford healthcare? 

Today we're in the midst of a pandemic, and not only do we still not have single-payer healthcare, but our economy is being remade while we watch. The very landscape of our big cities is changing. As office workers do their jobs from home, their employers are wondering how much longer they can afford to pay rent on their pricey high-rises with ventilation systems that will have to be retrofitted to bring in more fresh air. Public transit is losing money, airlines are laying people off, hotels are closing, and restaurants that catered to both the lunch crowd and special events are locking their doors for good. Office workers may go back to the office eventually, but some of those jobs will probably cease to exist. And their neighborhood will never be the same.

Gene Roddenberry created the Star Trek franchise with the original series. ST:TNG was the last in the franchise that Roddenberry was directly involved with, and his optimistic vision of the future is largely gone from the later series. I guess that's understandable -- viewers today seem to want darker, grittier shows. 

But life itself is pretty grim these days. We could maybe use some hope. And here's the thing about watching ST:TNG right now: it's profoundly hopeful. The crew of Picard's Enterprise is smart, resourceful, and above all, upbeat. Humanity has survived its darkest hour and is better for it. But humans had to put aside hate, injustice, and the meaningless striving for things to get there.

Seems like a decent template for our own future.

***'

These moments of hopeful blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Mask up and wash your hands! 

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Moving into autumn, Ruth-less.

Yurumi | Depositphotos.com

In early August, not long after I arrived in New Mexico, I posted about all the things I planned to do this fall. I was going to design new covers for the Pipe Woman Chronicles omnibi and start working on audiobooks for all of my novels and I forget what else.

So here we are at Mabon -- the autumnal equinox -- and I've done none of those things.

I did start writing a new short story. It's about half done. Haven't finished it.

I could beat myself up over it, but what's the point? Guilt has never been one of my stronger motivators. I'm more interested in why it's happening (or more accurately, not happening). And I think it's because I'm just flat exhausted.

I've been working for 40 years -- first in broadcast journalism, then as a legal secretary. Sure, there have been times I wasn't showing up at a job every day, but during those breaks I was: on maternity leave, which is so not a vacation; or laid off and looking for a new job; or going back to school for my paralegal certificate. Even when I was on sabbatical from WilmerHale, work was still on my mind. On my first sabbatical, I got a call from work asking me to take on additional duties when I got back. On my second sabbatical this spring, I couldn't hand in my work laptop and phone because the office was closed due to the virus.

And then in July, when I was supposed to be done working, I got talked into staying on for another three weeks. By the time I mailed all the equipment back, I had just enough time to pack the car and hit the road for Santa Fe.

On top of that, for almost the past ten years, I've been writing and publishing three books a year. 

And on top of that is all the political upheaval of the past four years. 

Long-time hearth/myth readers will recall that back in 2016, right after the last presidential election, Amy and I created a dumpster fire ornament. We hung it on our Yule tree that year, never dreaming that things could get worse than 2016 had been. But then 2020 looked 2016 square in the eye and said, very clearly, "Hold my beer."

This past week, we surpassed 200,000 Americans dead from COVID-19. We have a decently-performing stock market, but a limping economy in all other respects. We have a president who is apparently incapable of making any of this better. And now we've lost Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, one of the Court's stalwart liberals, and it looks like the Republicans in the Senate will gleefully break their own rule from 2016 and replace her ASAP -- regardless of the fact that we're only 43 days out from Election Day and early voting has already started. 

I'd make another dumpster fire ornament, but honestly, who wants a 2020 keepsake? 

For Pagans, the equinoxes are all about balance. Day and night are of equal length at this time of year, and that encourages us to find balance in our own lives. Now is the time to begin to take stock of our personal harvests and set aside what will sustain us through the winter.

So I'm taking stock. 

I think when I announced those goals in August -- Write ALL the things! Make ALL the book covers! Record ALL the books! -- I was still in go-go mode. I didn't realize how tired I was. Now, I'm beginning to. And to be honest, I'm relieved to be off the damned clock for once.

Eventually, the book covers will get made and the audiobooks will be recorded. Eventually, I'll finish that short story I started. 

And eventually, we'll have a vaccine for the virus.

What's most important to me now -- and especially so, since Justice Ginsburg's death -- is to see Joe Biden elected as our next president

And by the way, the Constitution doesn't specify the number of Supreme Court justices. We have had as few as six and as many as ten -- and there's no reason we couldn't have ten again. Or more, even. Merrick Garland could still get a seat on the Court. And additionally, I think Justice Barack Obama has a nice ring to it.

Blessed Mabon, you guys.

***

These moments of balanced blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. For the love of all the gods, VOTE!

Monday, September 14, 2020

Will 9/11 ever be over?

 

Stolen from dcist.com

Yesterday on Facebook, I mentioned that I was grateful all of the 9/11 stuff was over for the year, meaning the social media posts and news coverage of the memorial events. Someone took issue with my phrasing. "For some people, 9/11 will never be over, " she said.

You're telling me.

I guess I've never told my 9/11 story here on the blog. Maybe I should save it for the 20th anniversary next year. But I think I'll write it now and just re-run it next year.

***

When people talk about 9/11, they tend to focus on New York. That sort of makes sense -- the collapse of the Twin Towers was a dramatic and horrible tragedy. But two other planes went down that day. One of them slammed into the Pentagon. That's the one that affected me.

We lived in the West End of Alexandria, VA, in the rental townhouse where I later set the Land Sea Sky trilogy. That September morning, the weather was beautiful. The heat and humidity of the typical DC summer was over and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. The girls and I went through our usual morning routines. They went off to school -- Kitty was in ninth grade at Minnie Howard School and Amy was in seventh grade at Hammond Middle School -- and I went off to my job. I caught my usual bus, which took me to the Pentagon where I changed from the bus to the subway, and went in to work. 

Our office was at 24th and M Streets Northwest in those days. I sat next to a secretary who worked for a partner with a corner office. He had a little TV in there and a great view of the skyline south of DC, and he was traveling on business that day. So when the first plane went into the World Trade Center, about an hour after I got to work, Debbie went into his office and turned on the TV. Her boss had a bunch of clients in the World Trade Center, and she was worried about them. Then the second plane hit and the towers collapsed. 

And then we heard about the plane at the Pentagon. 

That was pretty much it for work that day. I'd left the news business just two years before, so I had some inkling of what the reporters were going through. I spent the morning going back and forth between my desk, where I kept refreshing the news coverage online, and the partner's office, where we could now see smoke rising from the Pentagon crash site. 

Then we heard about the fourth plane -- including the speculation about the hijackers' planned destination: the U.S. Capitol, maybe, or the White House. Our office was just a few blocks from the White House. Now, everybody in DC is pretty much a fatalist; I've heard the route for the Capital Beltway was chosen because it marks the outer edge of direct damage from a nuclear bomb blast on the White House. If you live or work inside the Beltway, you figure you're not going to survive an attack. But still, this made that threat a little too real. 

Our office manager sent everybody home at lunchtime. This was before cell phones were ubiquitous and people were worried about their families. My usual bus was a commuter bus that only ran during morning and afternoon rush hour, but I knew that if I could get to a different station, farther down the Blue Line, I could catch a bus that ran all day. The question was whether the trains would be running to Pentagon Station or whether they'd be turned back. I got lucky; the wedge of the Pentagon where the plane went in was far enough away from the Metro station that it wasn't affected. The station, however, was closed. My train went through it without stopping. I caught my alternate bus and got home okay.

Not long after I got home, Kitty came in the front door and cried with relief when she saw me. The teachers at her school had told the kids about the attack. Of course, she knew my transit route and was worried I'd been at the Pentagon when the crash happened.

The teachers at Hammond didn't tell the kids anything, but the school is only five miles from the Pentagon and the kids felt it when the plane went in. There was a big construction project at the school and the kids wrote it off to that. It wasn't until later that they found out what had happened. 

Going back to work the next day was surreal. The Pentagon transit station was still closed, and would continue to be for the next three months. Buses that usually stopped at the Pentagon were rerouted to Pentagon City, just across Interstate 395. The new bus stops were makeshift affairs, and when we got off the bus we could smell the smoke from the smoldering fire. In addition, the platforms at Pentagon City are too narrow for the crush of commuters that typically got off at the Pentagon. The station managers were constantly yelling over the intercom, telling people to move down the platform instead of bunching up at the bottom of the escalator. I was sure that someday, somebody would get pushed off the platform by the crowds and into the path of an oncoming train.

Once on the train, it was more or less fine. But once we got to DC, things got surreal again. Armed troops in Humvees were stationed at major intersections. Walking past them to get to work was both reassuring and frightening.

The attacks changed a lot of things in DC. Of course, air traffic was halted right after the attacks. Living in an urban area, you get used to the noise from airplanes flying overhead -- but now all we heard were helicopters flying to and from the Pentagon. Other things changed, too. For example, we had to start carrying an ID card at work to get from one floor to another. Bag checks were instituted at public buildings, including museums. 

And of course, we all know how airport security was stepped up once air travel resumed. It was worse for DC residents -- initially there was a rule for all flights out of Reagan National Airport that nobody could leave their seat for the first 30 minutes of the flight.

Three months after the attacks, as I said, the Pentagon Transit Center reopened. It was due for a redesign anyway, but I believe the plans were modified after 9/11. It used to be that you could get off the train at Pentagon Metro, cross the lobby, go through a set of glass doors, and take an escalator up to the Pentagon itself. I'd done that a few times to buy a bus pass. But when the station reopened, that entrance was sealed off. Now nobody can get into the Pentagon without an ID or an official tour ticket. 

Also as part of the redesign, the bus bays were moved farther away from the building, and the transit center entrance facing the bus bays was redesigned. It's shown in the photo above. The line below Pentagon Transit Center might be hard to read in this photo. Here's what it says: 

In Memory of Those Whose Lives Were Forever Changed by the Events of September 11, 2001

I cried the first time I saw it. All of our lives had been changed by 9/11, in ways large and small.

***

Nearly 20 years on, it's easy to forget how much has changed. Americans came together right after the attacks, sure. But prejudice against Muslims ratcheted up, and it has never gone away. 

I know my own memories of the days right after 9/11 are no longer as sharp; until I looked up the dates tonight, I thought the temporary bus transfers to Pentagon City lasted a lot longer. And it's harder to remember how much easier life was before the attacks. I'm reconciled to the fact that we have to pay the government money now for the privilege of not having to undress and unpack to get on a plane. And I've gotten used to having my backpack searched when visiting a museum.

To me, the most worrisome change is that the Department of Homeland Security, cobbled together from several other federal agencies in the wake of 9/11, has become an easy tool for a president with fascist tendencies to exploit.

I think it's time for our nation to re-examine some of the post-9/11 changes that we've begun to normalize. I think it's time to look at whether, maybe, we went too far. That may be what it will take for us to be able to put the events of 9/11 behind us at last.

***

These moments of bloggy remembrance have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. You know the drill - wash your hands, social distance, wear a mask, and make sure you're registered to vote.

Monday, September 7, 2020

Do you really want to meet your Inner Goddess?


luidger | Wikimedia Commons | CC3

This week, I ran across an article on the Patheos Pagan channel about the idea of women having an inner goddess. The author, Astrea, is a polytheist witch, and she has some strong opinions on the subject. 

But first, let's meet our charming lady to the right. She is Coatlicue, the Aztec mother goddess. Here, let me excerpt myself; this description of Coatlicue is from A Billion Gods and Goddesses, my mythological companion volume to the Pipe Woman Chronicles.

***

You have to give the Aztecs props for one thing: They don’t have much in the way of cuddly deities. Two serpents, facing each other and made of blood, form Coatlicue’s head. Her skirt, too, is made of serpents, and She wears a necklace of human skulls, hearts and hands. Her taloned feet clutch a root of the Aztec world tree.
Coatlicue was a sacrificial mother figure: the goddess who birthed, or rebirthed, Huitzilapochtli, the god who led the Aztec people from their original homeland of Aztlán to Mexico. As Coatlicue was sweeping out a temple at Coatepec in Mexico, She caught a ball of feathers and tucked it inside Her shirt. When She was done sweeping, the feathers had disappeared, and She realized they had impregnated Her. Her other children – four hundred sons and a daughter – were so upset with Their mother that They plotted to kill Her. But when They cut off Coatlicue’s head, Huitzilapochtli sprang from Her body, dismembered His sister, and killed nearly all of His brothers.
Experts speculate this tale of the rebirth of Huitzilapochtli may relate to the ascendance of a new, very human leader of the Aztecs who may have been seen as the second coming of the god. But it also shows Coatlicue as a figure in the spirit of the Hindu goddess Kali – both creator and destroyer. Just like the Earth itself.

***

Wouldn't you just love to have Coatlicue as your inner goddess? With her responsibility for birth, death, and rebirth? Snake heads and all?

I admit I'm being snarky. Indulge me while I unpack this.

The concept of human women having an inner goddess has been around for quite a while. I can't find anything online to back this up, but my gut tells me it started as part of the backlash against patriarchal religions like, say, Christianity. According to New Age theory, Woman embodies the Divine Feminine, in all her Jungian archetypal glory -- from  Maiden to Mother to Wise Woman, with stops at Warrior, Lover, Queen, and yes, Goddess. The idea is that every woman contains each of those archetypes, and integrating them all into her Self -- embracing both the Light and the Dark, and manifesting them all -- is the only way to self-actualize and self-integrate and basically become the best woman she could be.

And then the author of 50 Shades of Grey got hold of the concept and "inner goddess" work became nothing but a BDSM romp. Imagine -- our inner goddess had been Aphrodite all along!

When that happened, the marketers saw an opportunity. This is one of the arguments Astrea employs in her post, and I think she's on to something. Any time someone can sell you on the idea that you're not quite perfect -- no matter how hard you have tried -- they can sell you on the idea that only they can get you where you want to go. And if they can't, well, the problem isn't with them -- it's with you

That, my friends, is the recipe for low self-esteem in a nutshell.

I asked Mama Google for info on finding your inner goddess, and she gave me So. Many. Listicles. And. OMG. Quizzes. (I'm told my inner goddess is a Sphinx, by the way). There's even a WikiHow listicle on "How to Find Your Inner Goddess," complete with two methods: through balance, or through doing nothing. Number two on the "balance" list is to smile often. Gee -- which of us hasn't had a guy tell us to smile more? Maybe they're on to something! But then the do-nothing (or Taoist) approach says that to allow your inner goddess out, one thing you ought to do is "drop your false smiles." Hmm. So which is it -- smile more or smile less?

Are Coatlicue's snake heads smiling? 

Which brings me to Astrea's other main argument: The gods are real, and they don't live inside us. 

I know a lot of folks aren't going to buy this, but if you're a polytheist it ought to at least give you pause. If the gods are real, they're independent beings with their own agendas. They may ask us humans (or demand) that we do what they want us to do. They may even take over a specific human in a ritual setting. But they don't leave crumbs of themselves behind. 

And if you're on the fence about whether the gods are real? Or what if you've decided they don't exist at all? No problem -- because all those Jungian archetypes inside you are human. There are certainly sound, healthy reasons to integrate all the parts of your personality, and to embrace the Dark along with the Light. But the idea that we are flawed from birth is a myth, guys. Excising that myth is actually part of the self-actualization process.

The idea that we've been created in God's image is a Christian belief. The idea that we're all born with something lacking is also a Christian belief. There's no idealized Someone inside of us that we need to let out -- or live up to. We're all just human.

Personally, I find that a great relief. I wasn't nuts about finding either Coatlicue or Aphrodite lurking inside me. Or, for that matter, the Sphinx.

***

These moments of archetypal blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Social distance! Wear a mask! Wash your hands!


Sunday, August 30, 2020

Why I'm voting for Joe Biden.

Yes, folks, it's finally happening. After years of protesting that hearth/myth is not a political blog, Yrs Trly is finally writing an overtly political post.

Don't get used to it. This is the only one I intend to do this year. Honest!

But with the party conventions in our rear-view mirror and with the political climate in this country getting crazier by the minute, I feel like it's time to tell y'all where I stand. And that is with the Democratic ticket of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.

Annalise Batista | CC0 | Pixabay

Now, alert hearth/myth readers know my political leanings lay at the progressive end of the spectrum. I voted for Bernie Sanders in the 2016 primary, and this year I voted for Elizabeth Warren. I'm definitely for Medicare for All and I think the Green New Deal is a great idea.

The Democratic Party platform lacks both of these. Harris signed onto Bernie's Medicare-for-All bill several years ago, but Biden prefers adding a public option to Obamacare. And while Harris released her Climate Equity Act this summer -- which calls for greenhouse gas reduction as a form of social justice for low-income communities of color -- the party has yet to get behind all aspects of the Green New Deal.

Biden is the moderate's moderate, and even though he's been consulting with Warren on financial policy, including on student loan debt, Social Security, and economic recovery post-pandemic, he hasn't gone full-tilt progressive. While Harris's views are more liberal than Biden's, she is nowhere near the progressive end of the party.

So why would I vote for a ticket that doesn't reflect my core values? Why am I not holding firm to my beliefs this fall?

Simple: Because our current adminstration is a clear and present danger to the continued existence of our nation.

Donald Trump and his administration have flouted every norm at every turn. He has lied to us every day, multiple times per day, starting with the size of his inauguration crowd. He has refused to release his tax returns. He has cozied up to dictators while alienating our traditional allies abroad. He won't talk to Russian president Vladimir Putin about reports that Russia has offered to pay the Taliban for killing American soldiers, much less tell him to knock it off. He also refuses to talk to Putin about reports that he plans to interfere in our presidential election this year, as he did in 2016.

I could keep going. But perhaps the three most egregious actions Trump has taken against Americans are these: he has sent federal troops into Washington, DC, and Portland, OR, to crack down on peaceful protests in order to create video for his re-election ads; he has taken steps to weaken the US Postal Service at a time when mail-in voting is expected to surge thanks to COVID-19 - and has admitted he's doing it to keep Democrats from winning this fall; and speaking of COVID-19, he has famously denied responsibility for the US response to the virus, which has resulted in nearly six million US cases and 183,000 deaths to date - one of the worst records in the world. (India has surpassed us in the number of new cases over the past two weeks. But we have three times the number of total deaths than India - and India has three times the number of people we do.)

And yet Trump blames all of this on the Democrats -- even though it has all happened on his watch.

And he has talked repeatedly about how he deserves a third term, which is expressly forbidden by the US Constitution. Why? Because, he says, the Obama administration spied on him. Does he have evidence to back up that claim? Of course not. It's yet another of his attempts to gaslight Americans, which I have written about here before

We cannot keep this man in office. 

Joe Biden may not become the most progressive president we've ever had, but at least he will have America's best interests at heart instead of his own. You can cast a purity-test vote, if you must, in 2024. This year, we need to make sure there will be a presidential election in 2024.

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Whether you agree with me or not, please make sure you're registered to vote (here's how). And then please, please, please -- whether you mail your ballot in or vote early or stand in line (wearing a mask!) on Election Day -- make sure you vote this year.

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These moments of overtly political blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Wash your hands! Wear a mask! Practice social distancing! And register to vote!

Monday, August 24, 2020

The dining chair redo.

 It appears it's Sunday night. That means I owe y'all a blog post. What to write about, though? 

My brain is full of politics, what with the Democratic National Convention last week and the Republican National Convention this week. But this isn't a political blog, so I'm not gonna write about that.

The part of my brain that's not full of politics right now is full of setting up La Casita Cantwell. One big advantage to a 500-square-foot living space is that it doesn't take long to set up. I've unpacked all the boxes and put up all the pictures (except for one -- the glass broke during the move). I've even assembled the ginormous loom that my attorneys gave me as a retirement gift. Now I'm down to doing little chores to make the place, y'know, perfect. Or as close to perfect as one can get in a rented apartment.

So today, I began working on recovering the dining room chairs. As I have nothing better to write about, I'm writing about that tonight. And since I know some of y'all like those step-by-step things with a million pictures, well, here you go.

First, a baseline photo. The bench is built in. I'm borrowing the dinette set -- the table and two chairs -- from the apartment building. I'm told the furniture is the same vintage as the building, which was built in '85. If the chair seats have been reupholstered since, it's been quite a while -- the foam has deteriorated to the point where you feel like you're sitting on a board. Also, you might have noticed that none of the upholstery matches. The blue material is from the second chair; I'd already removed it before I thought to take the photo. (I'm really bad at this.) Taking the old cover off took forever. Whoever did the upholstery job really liked using the staple gun.

Here are the tools I'm using for this project: New upholstery fabric, a couple of screwdrivers, pliers, staple gun, Sharpie (neon green was the only one I could find), rotary cutter and self-healing mat, 6-inch chef's knife, fabric shears, pins, and your choice of beverage. (You may not need the hammer. I'll explain in a sec.)

Not shown: two paper bags, regular scissors, and two squares of 2" thick high-density foam rubber.

So we've skipped ahead a couple of steps here. (I did say I was bad at this.) 

For these types of chairs, the seat is typically held in place by four long screws, inserted in the corner braces on the underside of the chair. I've already removed those screws and set them aside. I've also removed the old upholstery and foam by pulling out all the staples holding the fabric in place. That involved prying them up with my smaller screwdriver and, where necessary, pulling them completely free with pliers. I do kind of wish I'd taken a photo of the sad remains of the original foam rubber. Suffice it to say it was gross and I threw it out. 

What you're seeing here is the wooden seat base. This particular one is particle board. The circular gunk is some kind of adhesive they used to keep the foam rubber in place. No clue why they did that -- once the fabric is on the seat, that foam is going nowhere.

I mentioned that I tossed the foam rubber, but I did not throw out the original fabric. Instead, I used it as a pattern for the new upholstery. I cut open a couple of grocery bags, taped them together, drew the outline of the old fabric on them, and cut it out with regular scissors. DO NOT USE YOUR GOOD FABRIC SCISSORS ON A PAPER BAG. I hope I didn't actually have to tell you that, but just in case.

Now I've folded the fabric in half, pinned the pattern to it, and am cutting it out. I'm using a rotary cutter, but you can use regular scissors if you'd rather.

Now that the fabric is cut, I've moved on to cutting the new foam rubber. I've drawn around the wooden seat with my Sharpie but I've left the seat in place -- it makes a nice straight edge for the chef's knife. A number of online sites said to cut your foam with an electric knife that you might use for carving your turkey, but I don't have one, and the chef's knife worked just fine. DO NOT use scissors -- they'll compress the foam and you'll get a weird jaggedy edge. (I don't even know why the scissors are in this shot. Ignore them.)

So our foam is cut and our fabric is cut. We're ready to assemble the seat. Yay!

First, I put the foam on top of the seat and laid my fabric out on top with an even amount sticking out on all sides. I centered one of the stripes by measuring the front and back of the chair seat, dividing that measurement in half, and marking that measurement on the edge of the foam. Then I centered the stripe on the mark, front and back, and stuck in a pin to keep it in place. Then I turned the whole thing over and stapled the fabric in place, folding the corners semi-neatly. My staple gun wasn't behaving, so I kinda had to hammer down the staples so they'd stay. You probably won't have to do that.

Now I've removed the straight pins and put the seat back on the chair frame, and I'm using those long screws to reattach the seat.

Oh, right -- try not to cover the screw holes on the seat with your fabric. It's easy to screw through the fabric, but it's easier to see the screw holes when you're putting the seat back in place if they're not covered.

(That pinkish diamond on the floor is part of the carpet design.)

It's done. And when I sit down, I can't feel the wood anymore. Go me!

The other chair's not done yet because I stopped to write this blog post. It won't take long to do, once I get the 1,001 staples out...

I also need to sew the seat cover for the bench cushion, but that's a project for another day this week.






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These moments of how-to blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Wash your hands! Wear a mask!