Sunday, October 2, 2022

It's coming on comfort season, and that's okay.

 I bet you thought I forgot about Mabon, didn't you? Well, you would be wrong.

vika-mermaid | Deposit Photos
(I wish I could say it was Tigs in this photo, but it's not. My cat would never be so cooperative as to pose on a plaid afghan with a carefully arranged book, leaf, and cup of coffee nearby, and he certainly wouldn't be so chill as to fall asleep while so artfully posed. Tigs will never be a model.)

Mabon -- also known as the autumn equinox -- was a little over a week ago. It coincided with a fairly abrupt change of season here in northern New Mexico of the sort that rarely happened when I lived in the mid-Atlantic. Today, the DC area is shaking off the remnants of Hurricane Ian -- the one that caused so much damage and misery in Florida last week. I remember what that kind of weather feels like: sticky and dreary. Here, monsoon season is just about over; we had a thunderstorm this afternoon, but the high temperatures are forecast to be in the 60s this week, and people I chatted with today complained about how cold it felt.

Maybe that's why I've been in the mood for comfort TV these past few days.

I've recently picked up the habit of watching television nearly every night, after decades away. It used to be that I'd turn on the TV only when there was something I definitely wanted to watch. My excuse was that after working for many years in broadcasting, I knew too much about how the sausage was made to watch TV for fun. 

But lately, I've been turning on the tube (although I guess it's not a tube anymore) even when I'm not looking for the latest episode of a specific show. Oh, sure, I'm keeping up with certain series; right now it's She-Hulk, Rings of Power, and The Great British Baking Show. And I'm eagerly awaiting the new seasons of several shows, most notably three Star Trek series: Discovery, Picard, and Strange New Worlds. Then there's Ted Lasso (I assume another season is coming) and season two of Good Omens. I've also watched a couple of series that didn't get such great ratings but that I'd like to see more of: Upload and Moonhaven, both on Amazon.

I dunno if you noticed, but there's not a lot of serious drama in that list. There's definitely nothing that counts as a thriller or a police procedural (okay, I did watch Dark Winds -- it bugged me). My list is also missing grimdark fantasy other than Rings of Power. I'm skipping House of Dragons -- I didn't watch Game of Thrones past the first episode, and I expect House of Dragons has the same charming features (sex and violence for the sake of sex and violence) that turned me off of GoT

I've been hunting up lighter fare in movies, too. Some have been pretty terrible. (There was this one absurd flick set in a ski resort town with a woman who falls into a job as a housesitter for a guy who turns out to be a European prince. Of course he abdicates for her.) But I've also watched Roxanne with Steve Martin and Darryl Hannah for the first time. And I saw a movie the other night that I'd never heard of: Elsa & Fred. It stars Shirley MacLaine, Christopher Plummer, Marsha Gay Harden, Scott Bakula, George Segal, and James Brolin, among others. Prime viewers gave it a 4.4, but it got just 32% on Rotten Tomatoes. Screw Rotten Tomatoes -- I liked it. It came out in 2014. What was I doing in 2014 that I missed it? Who knows?

Anyway, it strikes me that my chosen fare these days is what GoT creator George R.R. Martin has called "comfort TV". I don't think he meant it as a pejorative, and I'm not taking offense. In fact, I'm embracing the term. This is a good time of year for comfort TV, as we turn to the darker half of the year. It's maybe even a good time of life for it, what with the country's political mood and the continuing conservative sideshow.

That's not to say that politics aren't important -- they are. (Roevember is coming, y'all.)

But it turns out that these days, I'm okay with kicking back in the evenings with my knitting and watching some compelling -- and sometimes some completely ridiculous -- TV. 

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These moments of comfy blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Stay safe!

Sunday, September 25, 2022

A calming noise.

ifee | Deposit Photos

You've heard of white noise, I take it? Well, there are other colors of noise, too.

A couple of days ago, the New York Times ran a story about brown noise. I had never heard of it, but apparently it's been a thing for for several years. Like white noise, brown noise is a combination of every frequency that the human ear can hear. The difference between white and brown is that white emphasizes higher frequencies and has a hissing quality to it. Brown noise, by contrast, emphasizes the lower frequencies and is more of a rumble. Think of the sound of heavy rain, strong wind, or a waterfall. 

What's the deal with the colors? That's thanks to engineering. Somebody decided to base the hierarchy of these types of noises on the rainbow. Brown, which emphasizes the lowest frequencies, is akin to the red end of the rainbow; red light has the lowest frequency of light waves. On the sound scale, after brown comes pink, then white, then blue (which sounds like the static you get on an FM radio between stations). You can hear short samples of these different noises here. (The New York Times article also lists violet noise; there's a sample of that at the link in the second paragraph.)

White noise machines have been around for many years, of course. People use them as sleep aids. I've also seen them placed outside of therapist's offices, the theory being the white noise will drown out whatever confidential conversation is going on inside the office and keep people in the waiting room from eavesdropping. But the Times says brown noise is now becoming popular with those diagnosed with ADHD. Reportedly the rumble helps them focus.

The jury is still out on whether brown noise -- or any color noise -- can help alleviate anxiety. Some people may find that having such noise gives their brain something to do other than dwell on anxious thoughts. But others might find the constant background noise distracting or even irritating.

By the way, a survey done two years ago of scientific studies about the efficacy of white noise's use as a sleep aid found it's...not all that helpful. There's no harm in using it, but the reason it's helpful may be more about masking other annoying sounds that are keeping you up at night -- such as a significant other's snoring.

In fact, there doesn't seem to be any harm in using any of these types of noise on a regular basis. So if you believe it helps you sleep or concentrate better, have at it. I'm not really a fan of any sort of noise -- I prefer silence, especially when I'm writing. But if I had the choice to listen to either a rushing waterfall or FM radio static, I know which one I'd pick.

In fact, sitting by a waterfall sounds like a good idea any time. 

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These moments of noisy blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Stay safe! The pandemic may or may not be over, but Covid isn't leaving any time soon.

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Speak up!

This past week, my friend Kim and I attended a presentation at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture here in Santa Fe. The speaker was Diane Bird, an archivist for the museum and one of the curators of the revamped "Here, Now and Always" exhibition. Since its inception in 1997, the idea behind the exhibition has been to explain to museum visitors that Native Americans didn't disappear when the Wild West ended -- they're still here, and their history and culture are way more interesting than those old Westerns ever let on.

Bird is a member of Cochiti Pueblo, and among her responsibilities during the revamp of the exhibition last year was to plan the portion dealing with Native survival, both in the past and today. Tribes and nations from across the Southwest were consulted in the creation of the entire exhibit, and they had input into what would be displayed. Several times during her talk, she mentioned that some of the Pueblos didn't want the Pueblo Revolt mentioned anywhere. 

kieferpix | Deposit Photos
Quick history lesson: Spanish conquistadores first came to New Mexico in 1540, searching for gold (which they never found) and causing a lot of trouble with the Natives who were already here. Coronado and his men eventually departed, but about 60 years later, Don Juan de Oñate brought settlers up from Mexico. Oñate put down a particularly bloody rebellion at Acoma Pueblo, killing or enslaving hundreds and ordering that all men of the pueblo who were 25 or older have one foot cut off. Missionaries came, too, and forced the Natives to convert to Catholicism. By 1680, the Puebloans had had enough. In that year, an Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo leader, Po'pay, led a revolt against the Spanish. It was coordinated by sending runners to each pueblo to give the leaders knotted cords. One knot in each cord was to be undone each day; when all the knots had been untied, it was time to attack. The result was bloody but successful -- the Spaniards were forced to abandon Santa Fe and retreat south to present-day El Paso. The Natives' victory lasted twelve years, at which point the Spaniards returned (how peaceful that return actually was is a story for another time).

Okay, back to the presentation last week. After the curator had said a couple of times that some pueblos didn't want any mention of the Pueblo Revolt, I asked her why. Why wouldn't they want people to know that their ancestors fought back against the invaders and won? 

Bird said it was because people didn't like to talk about it. That first Spanish occupation was a horrible experience; for hundreds of years, it was never spoken of. It wasn't until the pueblos began organizing an annual commemorative run in the late 1990s that Native kids began learning about the Pueblo Revolt.

Then another attendee spoke up. She was Jewish, and she said she was raised to never speak of the Holocaust for the same reason: because it was so painful and horrible and because so many people were killed. 

So many of today's ills are exacerbated by people not speaking up. From the burning of Black Wall Street in Tulsa in 1921 to incidents of domestic violence, heinous acts committed by humans against their fellow humans are hushed up. Sometimes it's deliberate -- those in power don't want the stories of their cruelty to spread. But too often, it's the victims who refuse to speak up, because of fear or embarrassment or pain. They don't want to relive the experience, so they don't. They try to forget. And so, succeeding generations never learn.

But as writer and philosopher George Santayana once said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." 

Humans have ugly impulses. We commit atrocities on a regular basis. 

It's so easy to forget that. We are routinely lulled into a false sense of security about how good and just and peaceful we are. 

But we can't fall for the lullaby. We should strive to keep all of humanity's behavior in perspective -- even the heinous parts -- and that involves a regular acknowledgement of how awful we can be to one another. 

Because otherwise it will happen again.

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These moments of bloggy remembrance have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Stay safe!

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Not everything is a sign.

 First, a couple of housekeeping things:

  • After I shared last week's post about Medicare, folks who've been through the gantlet reminded me about a couple of things:
    • Not everybody pays the same monthly premium for Part B. It's tied to income, so some folks pay more. But I think a majority of folks on Medicare pay the base rate, which is $170.10 for 2022.
    • It's a really good idea to shop for a Part D (prescription) plan every year. Insurance companies change their drug formularies at the drop of a hat, so the plan you have this year may not cover your meds next year at the same rate -- or at all, even. You can only change your Part D plan during open enrollment, which runs from October 15 through December 7 every year.
  • Today is the 21st anniversary of 9/11. If you're interested in reading (or re-reading) what I experienced that day, here's a link to the blog post I wrote a couple of years ago. (Linking to it saves me from having to type it all out again.)
Okay, onward.

PxHere.com | CC0

If you thought, by looking at the photo, that I was going to write about politics again, you're forgiven. I'm not, though.

A couple of nights ago, I attended a small gathering of fellow Pagans at someone's house. She's kind of out in the country, with a good-sized chunk of land around her house, and so she gets a lot of local fauna roaming through. She also has a permanent labyrinth set up just the other side of her driveway, which is a cool feature that I wish I had enough room to do myself.

We were sitting outside in lawn chairs, socially distanced, next to the labyrinth. And as we talked, various critters made their way around us. This has happened before; during our get-togethers, we've seen a lizard and a few types of birds. It's their land, too, right? They were here before humans got here.

This time, as we chatted, a tarantula trucked across the labyrinth behind us, making for a copse of trees on the far side. It was a good-sized critter, about the size of your hand with your fingers extended. Some of the women got up to get a closer look, but I stayed in my seat. (Now I wish I'd gotten a photo; if I had, I wouldn't have have to resort to a stock photo for this post. Hindsight is 20/20, etc.)

Here's the thing: Our host was convinced that the tarantula was a sign -- for her. She'd never seen one on her property before, and here it was, crossing her labyrinth. And during our meeting, too! She was both fascinated and kinda scared, I think. 

This group tends to talk about animal sightings and What They Could Mean anyway, so I'd brought along my copies of Ted Andrews's books, which I mentioned in a post not too long ago. I looked up tarantulas and found them mentioned in the section about spiders. Andrews says the bite of a tarantula is poisonous, but the effect on an average human is no worse than a bee sting. He also says tarantulas don't weave webs, per se. Rather, they live in holes in the ground and catch food that comes near the rim of their hole. Of spiders in general, he says, their keywords are creativity and the weaving of fate.

A few of the other women at the meeting told our host that autumn is mating season for tarantulas. The females stay in their holes, and the males go walkabout in search of them. They said there was probably a female in a hole in the copse, and our boy was just heading over for a little boom chicka wow.

But our host would not be dissuaded. That tarantula was meant for her. Never mind that there were nearly a dozen of us at the meeting, so it could have been for any of us -- except that it stayed well away from our circle.

As I said last time this came up on the blog, "The biggest trick...is to not read too much into what you're seeing." It was cool to see a tarantula in person. But given the season, I'd say this was a spider doing spider things -- not any sort of message from the Universe.

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These moments of spidery blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. The omicron vaccine is available -- get boosted!

Sunday, September 4, 2022

Medicare For All? Forget I said that.


I used to be a big proponent of Medicare for All. But I will be turning 65 in a few months, and now that I'm running the Medicare gantlet*, I have changed my mind. 

Nobody should have to do this -- certainly not anybody who has spent 40 or 50 years of their working life having their health insurance choices dictated to them by their employer. Medicare, as the system stands today, is overly complicated -- very possibly by design. It's also weighted toward private insurance companies. And if things keep going the way they've been going, Medicare as we've known it for generations will very likely cease to exist, only partly because it will "run out of money".

First, a quick primer. Everybody's eligible for Medicare once they turn 65. It has four parts:

  • Part A covers hospitalization. It's free, and everybody gets it.
  • Part B covers outpatient stuff like doctor visits. It is not free -- this year's premium is $170.10 per month -- and you don't have to get it. But most people do. Together, Parts A and B constitute "Original Medicare".
    • Parts A and B don't cover every expense, though, so a lot of people also pick up a Medicare Supplement (a.k.a. Medigap) plan. These are designated by letter (I'd like to get hold of the genius who decided that both Medicare's Parts and Medigap Plans should have letter designations), and while these plans are sold by private insurance companies, the government decrees what's covered under each lettered plan. In other words, if you buy a Plan G, no matter who you buy it from, it has to cover the same stuff as every other Plan G. Below is a chart that I cadged from Medicare and You, the handbook that the government will send you when you enroll. (Ignore Plans C and F; if you turned 65 after January 1, 2020, you can't get them.) Most folks go with either Plan G or Plan N. Now despite that the coverage in each plan is mandated by the feds, premiums vary -- sometimes by a lot. The highest premiums are usually charged by the companies that do a lot of advertising (AARP, I'm looking at you).

  • Part D (I'm going out of order intentionally) is drug coverage. It's provided by private insurance companies, and the premiums vary widely. Plus each company has its own formulary, or tiers of drugs they will pay for; just like with the drug coverage you have now, generics are cheapest and brand-name drugs can be hella expensive. Medicare.gov has a search function where you can plug in your prescriptions and your favorite pharmacies, and it will generate a list of Part D plans available to you, which you can then sort by cheapest combined premium and drug costs. Most people who do Parts A and B also pick up a Part D plan.
You can see why people might get bewildered by the choices: You don't just get Medicare, poof! done! You get Parts A and (maybe) B, and (maybe) a Medigap plan, and don't forget your drug coverage. There are a lot of moving parts. Even folks whose employers served up a cafeteria plan might find this overwhelming.

There's another choice, though: You can leave all this confusion behind and go with Part C, a.k.a. Medicare Advantage. You've probably seen lots of ads for MA. It sounds like a terrific deal. Many policies include drug coverage, just like the insurance you have right now. Some policies include dental, hearing, and vision benefits, which Original Medicare doesn't cover even if you buy a Medigap plan. (I'd like to get hold of the genius who decided that Medicare shouldn't cover dentures and hearing aids.) You can even get a policy with a zero premium! How can that not be a great deal?

Well, here's how:

Medicare Advantage is regular old insurance. The vast majority of plans are either HMOs or PPOs, which means each plan has a network of doctors, hospitals, and other healthcare providers that they want you to see. Maybe your primary care doc is in-network, but what if she wants you to see a specialist? You're back to the game of "Do I need a referral?" and "Do they take my insurance?" -- games you don't have to play with Original Medicare.

There's also the matter of out-of-pocket costs. Your MA plan may not charge you a monthly premium, but your maximum annual out-of-pocket cost could be thousands of dollars higher than Original Medicare's -- to the tune of as much as $7,550 in-network or $11,000 out-of-network per year, compared to $233 per year for Original Medicare. (I saw this bullshit with Obamacare over the past couple of years. A whole lot of plans on the exchange have cheap premiums and insane annual deductibles.)

But here's the biggest problem with MA. You see, Original Medicare pays per service: Your doctor provides your care, and Medicare pays the doctor a set price for that care. But MA insurers are paid by the government per customer. Most are for-profit insurance companies, so they have an incentive to pocket as much of that fee as they can -- which means they have an incentive to deny care, sometimes even care that would have been covered without question under Original Medicare. Also, the government pays more for customers with certain diagnoses -- the more diagnoses, the better. So these insurers have been discovered combing customers' health histories and having their customers complete "health risk assessments" to find diagnoses to add to their charts, thereby bilking the government out of $12 billion in 2020 (and, by the way, making their customers look sicker than they are). All of this came out in a hearing held in July by the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. The subcommittee also heard evidence that many MA customers in their last year of life switch to Original Medicare -- an indication that MA plans aren't providing the best care for their sickest customers.

In addition, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, is looking into possible deceptive advertising practices by insurers that provide MA plans. Wyden says the federal government received twice as many complaints about MA plans in 2021 as it had in 2020. He's seeking information from 15 state governments about complaints they've received about MA plans.

The percentage of older Americans enrolled in MA plans is expected to top 50 percent within the next couple of years. MA was supposed to save the government money on senior healthcare. But some MA plans cost the government more than they should, and some aren't providing the level of care that Medicare requires them to provide. 

I'm mindful of the fact that conservatives have wanted for years to get rid of Medicare (and Social Security). And my inner conspiracy theorist is urging me to say that it's no accident that Original Medicare is so confusing while MA plans seem so simple. My rational mind is holding my inner conspiracy theorist back. But I will say this: I've set up a spreadsheet for my Medicare choices, and none of them are MA plans.

And when I said before that Americans should have Medicare for All? What I meant was single-payer insurance -- like Medicare's Parts A and B, but better.

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There are a ton of websites and YouTube videos purporting to help you through this process. This video has a good summation of the pros and cons with MA plans, but in linking to it, I'm not endorsing her company in any way.

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*Before somebody says I misspelled gauntlet: A gauntlet is a type of glove. A gantlet is the thing where people form two lines and have you run between the lines while they try to beat the crap out of you -- which is a pretty accurate description of the process of picking Medicare coverage.

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These moments of bloggy clarification have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Stay safe out there!

Sunday, August 28, 2022

On violence in the media.

Apparently I've been inadvertently assigned to the George R.R. Martin beat. Earlier this year, I blogged about his appearance at the inaugural Santa Fe Literary Festival. This weekend, I attended Bubonicon, a science fiction and fantasy convention in Albuquerque, where Martin was given an 80-minute slot for connecting with his fans. A lot of authors will use such time slots to do a reading of their work, particularly if they have a new book out or one is coming out shortly. Eighty minutes is super generous -- usually an author gets maybe a half-hour or an hour. Only one other author got that much one-on-one time this year: Stephen R. Donaldson, who is my all-time favorite fantasy author. Donaldson did a reading from The Killing God, the final book in The Great God's War trilogy that will be out this fall, and answered questions. Of course, I very much enjoyed it.

Martin did neither of those things. He hasn't had a new book out in several years, although he assured us that he's continuing to work on The Winds of Winter, the long-awaited sixth novel in the series on which the TV show Game of Thrones is based. And he didn't take questions (probably because a lot of the questions would have been about The Winds of Winter). Instead, he spent a few minutes bringing us up-to-date on his various TV and film projects, including House of the Dragon, a GoT prequel that has just begun airing on HBO, and he mentioned that he'd caught COVID and had to skip the premiere as well as some other promotional events because he was quarantining. Then he spent the rest of the time talking about violence.

Andrew Martin | Pixabay

He started off talking about how violence was portrayed on TV in the '50s and '60s, when he was a kid. In kiddie Westerns, the gunfight always ended with the hero shooting the gun out of the bad guy's hand, a trick shot that in real life would be unlikely at best. In prime-time Westerns, the hero shoots the bad guy once and, bloodlessly, he falls down dead -- which never happens in real life.

From there, he went on to his early career in TV writing, which included the show Beauty and the Beast. I admit that I was a fan of the show, and had in fact blocked out any memory of the final season, when Laura Hamilton quit (Martin didn't say why she left; Wikipedia says she was pregnant). Martin told us the censors gave them a hard time -- Vincent (played by Ron Perlman) was a noble lion-man who went berserk when angry, but the censors wouldn't let him tear anyone apart. So he was only allowed to throw bad guys across the room. (I'm tempted to find out if the show is streaming somewhere to rewatch it and see if that looks as goofy as it sounds.)

Anyway, it's quite a jump from Vincent growling and tossing bad guys around to the red wedding in GoT. Decades passed between them. And besides, you can get a lot more of everything on cable -- more sex, more drugs, more cursing, and more violence.

Martin acknowleged that he's gotten a lot of flak for the violence in GoT. And he knows there have been studies about how many violent scenes kids view these days. But he reasons it this way: If you want to watch what he calls comfort TV, which contains nothing that disturbs you, that's a valid choice. And it's a valid choice for content producers who only want to make comfort TV. But he says if you're going to choose to include violence, it needs to be realistic -- not the bloodless Old West shootings of the '50s and '60s.

I have Opinions.

I haven't watched GoT -- or rather, I watched the first episode and never went back. The degrading sex scenes grossed me out, but the thing that really did it for me was when Jamie Lannister nonchalantly pushed little Bran off a wall a couple of stories off the ground. I'd read all the Song of Ice and Fire books and I knew it was coming, but seeing it was too visceral for me. And because I'd read the books, I knew it would only get worse. So I bailed.

I'm not trying to be a paragon of virtue or a snob, mind you -- I'm only speaking for myself and my own taste. There are so many movies and TV shows that are supposed to be great that I haven't watched. Taxi Driver. The Sopranos. Breaking Bad. Graphic sex and violence just don't interest me. And I don't think either one is necessary to tell an intriguing, complex story.

This kind of reminds me of the time years ago when we began to discover that entertainment stars had feet of clay. Back in the heyday of the movies, the big studios had publicity departments that were in charge of the stars' images. They'd encourage the idea that a starlet and a leading man were dating, for instance, or quash any rumors about an actor's drinking or sexuality. When the publicity machines went by the wayside in the '60s, we began to learn that our favorite actors and musicians got drunk, got high, and did all sorts of scandalous stuff. The entertainers always say they're entitled to live their lives however they want. They aren't up there to be a role model for anybody. They certainly aren't responsible for teenagers who try to walk on the wild side -- that's the parents' job.

To be clear, Martin didn't explicitly say he had a right to produce anything he wants, the opinion of society be damned. But he didn't really address it, either; he mentioned the abundance of violent programming available for people to watch today and just kind of shook his head. Never mind that numerous studies have shown that viewing violent media content can increase aggressiveness in both children and adults and desensitize viewers to violence.

I'm not saying Martin should dial it back; he's free to make whatever programming he likes. But in a society where gun violence was the leading cause of death for children in 2018, maybe a little less realism on TV wouldn't be a bad thing.

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These moments of visceral blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Stay safe!

Sunday, August 21, 2022

Yarn to dye for.

"So what have you been up to lately, Lynne, since you haven't been writing?"

Welp, y'all know about the cataract surgery. Then a few weeks ago, I racked up my knee by stepping up onto a curb (urgent care took an x-ray and said it wasn't broken -- yeah, thanks, I could have told you that); I have an MRI scheduled for the end of this week, but my money's on a sprained ligament, given that it's much better now.

And the element of Water keeps springing up. It's still monsoon season and we're getting a lot of rain -- yesterday was an all-day soaker. Then a couple of nights ago, I walked into the office/craft room and discovered water gushing from the ceiling in two places. Something had gone wonky in the bathroom of the unit upstairs. The plumbers had to cut a big hole in my ceiling to find the leak and fix it; they'll be back later this week to patch the drywall.

Today, though, I spent the day playing with water of a different, and way more fun, sort: yarn dyes. I was part of a class being trained at the dye shed at El Rancho de las Golondrinas, the living history museum here in Santa Fe where I've been volunteering this summer. 

The yarn I got to take home. Lynne Cantwell | 2022
The museum doesn't run the dye shed all the time -- only for certain festivals -- so it was a treat to get to work out there today. Just like the rest of the ranch, it's pretty rustic. 
Lynne Cantwell | 2022
We have a number of big pots for the dye, a hearth that fits maybe three big pots, and a cast iron cauldron for a fourth color. Today, we worked with indigo, which makes a deep blue; osage orange, which makes a bright yellow; cochineal, which usually makes a brilliant red, but today we turned out pretty pinks; and in the iron pot, snakeweed, which usually makes yellow, but it reacted with the iron to make a sage green.

How did we get the other colors in my photo above? Overdyeing. You put your yarn in one pot of color, then in one of a different color. For example, the turquoise on the left was dyed yellow first, then overdyed with indigo. The terra cotta colored skeins in the middle were dyed yellow first, then overdyed with our pink cochineal. The teal on the right was a gray heathered yarn (the rest were all white to start with); I put it in the green, then overdyed it with indigo.

Basically, you don't know what you're going to get until to give it a try, which is what makes it so much fun. And if you hate the color you get, you can overdye it and make it a different color. 

After the yarn is dyed, it's hung up to dry. Then it's rinsed to get any excess dye out and hung up to dry again. There was a class yesterday, too (in the rain, those hardy souls). Here's what our two classes combined did this weekend: 

Lynne Cantwell | 2022
We'll use the lighter weight yarn for colcha embroidery and the heavier weight for weaving rugs and things.

There's a lot more to the process, of course, and you can fall down quite the rabbit hole while learning all this stuff. Why, just now, I thought I might add some info here about mordants; I quickly realized the subject could be a reference book, and one I'm not yet qualified to write. So for now, I'm going to wrap up this post. Then I'm going to sit back, relax, and think about something less complicated -- like what I'll do with my new hand-dyed yarn.

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These moments of colorful blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Get vaxxed and boosted!

Sunday, August 14, 2022

What does it all mean, animal kingdom edition.

I'm taking a break from the news this week about FBI raids, attacks on authors, and all that serious stuff to talk about...birds and bugs. You're welcome.

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Amongst Pagans (and New Agey folks), there's sort of a parlor game in which, when you see an animal or insect that you've never seen before, or that you haven't seen in a while, you wonder what it means. A couple of authors have written dictionaries or guides explaining what such sightings might mean to you. Steven Farmer wrote Animal Spirit Guides, first published in 2006; Ted Andrews wrote two books on the subject: Animal Speak, first published in 1993, and Animal-Wise, first published in 2004. Both authors have various ancillary items and volumes for their work (for example, Farmer's has an oracle deck; Andrews has a pocket-sized edition of Animal Speak). Both authors give advice on how to tell if a particular animal (or bird, fish, reptile, or insect) is your totem animal, there to guide you along your path and whose most important qualities you should practice in your own life. But it's also possible that the animal (etc.) has shown up with a special message for you.

Take the hummingbird, for example. I have a feeder on my porch, and I've been seeing a number of these little guys. Here's my best photo. I think it's a female black-chinned hummer. 

Lynne Cantwell | 2022
I don't have a copy of Farmer's book, but I do have both of Andrews's books. His entry for the hummingbird covers a lot of ground that many folks already know: they fly fast and can even fly backwards, they may eat 50 or 60 meals a day (mostly nectar, from flowers and feeders, although some eat bugs), and the migration routes that some species follow are thousands of miles long. But then he takes it personal: their flight "reminds us that if we truly enjoy what we're doing, we become light as a feather, and life is rich with nectar." He says their migratory routes make them "a symbol for that which seems impossible."

Here's another example. While Amy and I were at a spa today, a grasshopper hopped up onto the side of our hot tub, then jumped onto a wooden slat next to the tub. 

Amy Milyko | 2022
Grasshoppers, as most of us know, have an amazing ability to leap away from danger and into better situations. They have tympanic organs on their front legs that allow them to sense which direction a sound is coming from, and that helps them make decisions about which way to go. The message, Andrews says, is to "take a chance; take a leap forward."

Then a couple of days ago on the porch, I spotted this tiny drama: an ant, carrying a dead bee. (The photo's not great, but trust me: The ant is on the wall above the bee and has hold of the bee's wing, and the bee is definitely dead.)

Lynne Cantwell | 2022
Ants, Andrews says, are "the promise of success through effort." In this case, the meaning could also involve teamwork; right after I took this photo, another ant showed up and began helping the first ant carry off the bee carcass.

The biggest trick in any of these situations is to not read too much into what you're seeing. The hummingbird, for example: I put the feeder out there with the intention of attracting them (mainly to entertain Tigs, to be honest). So the fact that hummers are showing up at the feeder regularly is kind of a given. The hummers are doing what hummers do. No message there.

The ants-and-bee drama is also likely a case of critters doing regular critter things. I was surprised to see the ant lugging the bee, but Mama Google tells me that ants feed on dead organic matter, including other insects. So those guys were taking a feast back to their colony.

That grasshopper, though. Amy saw it first, and she has a job interview tomorrow, so I'm taking it as a sign that applying for this job was a good idea and that the interview will go well.

On the other hand, we also saw this today: One of a group of young women spilled some sort of coffee drink into a pool where they were all sitting and chatting. After they moved on, a wasp was attracted to the spill and ended up drowning itself in the pool. Andrews talks about the wasp representing "dreams fulfilled through practical efforts" -- but if I were to take any message from this poor critter's fate, it would be to be careful about what you're attracted to.

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These moments of observant blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Get vaxxed and boosted!

Sunday, August 7, 2022

A much clearer view.

 

Lynne Cantwell 2022
So the cataract surgery -- for both eyes -- is in the rear-view mirror. And as you can see from the photo above, which approximates the post-surgery view from my right eye, it went pretty darned fabulously well.

I had a fair amount of anxiety about the procedure ahead of time, given that somebody was going to be, y'know, cutting open my eye. But when I asked friends who'd been through it what to expect, they mostly just said, "You'll love it!" Which didn't really answer my questions. So I thought I'd write a post about my experience while it's all still fresh in my mind, so that I can refer other folks to it later.

I had my surgeries pretty close together -- July 20th for the right (worst) eye and July 25th for the left eye. Usually the procedures are scheduled at least two weeks apart, but my original surgeon ended up needing surgery and so I was rescheduled with a different surgeon whose calendar then had to be worked around. The shorter time frame between eyes didn't seem to make a difference.

The information sheet I received before the first surgery said, in part, "You will be able to see out of the operative eye during the first 1-2 weeks of healing, but your vision may be blurred throughout this period of adjustment." I'll be able to "see", huh? What, specifically, does that mean? Well, here's what it meant for me: 

At the post-op appointment the day after the first surgery, I had 20/50 vision in my right eye. Everything was brighter; I felt a little like I was in one of those old laundry soap ads where your whites are whiter and your colors are brighter. Best of all, the cataract that had been clouding my vision was gone, so I could see things at a distance with startling clarity. And I had my depth perception back, which was really nice.

They took the right lens out of my old glasses, so I kept wearing them -- and I kept relying on the reading-glasses part of my bifocal lens for close-up vision. Here's a thing that is probably obvious to opthalmologists but wasn't to me: our brains are remarkably adept at relying on one eye when the vision in the other eye goes screwy. I had basically been relying on my left eye for months, and that continued to be the case after the first surgery.

Then I had the second surgery, which also went well. At the post-op appointment on the day after the second surgery, I had 20/40 vision in the left eye and almost 20/15 vision in the right eye. I was cleared to drive -- yay! 

Here is the annoying part, though: I am constantly switching glasses back and forth. I bought a couple of pairs of reading glasses before the second surgery, and I find myself wearing them around the house, so my vision is still blurry a lot of the time -- it's just that now it's my fault. Also, I really miss my photogrey (a.k.a. Transition) lenses, which I've worn for the past several decades. I'm required to wear sunglasses outside post-surgery for about four weeks total, so I still need glasses to drive -- it's just that they're sunglasses. Plus any time I need to see a price tag or a menu, I need to swap the sunglasses for reading glasses, or put the sunglasses over the reading glasses, and keep track of them all, and well. It's annoying, that's all. 

The final thing the info sheet warned about: "After your eye heals, you may need to wear glasses for your best vision." The vast majority of folks will need reading glasses -- your original lenses probably didn't focus close-up as well as they did when you were a kid, but the new equipment doesn't change focus at all. And for those of us with astigmatism, the new lenses may not compensate for it. Replacement lenses for astigmatism do exist, but my insurance wouldn't pay for them. So for my best vision, I will need to wear glasses.

But that's actually good news! Because once I have my final appointment in a couple of weeks, I can get a new pair of bifocals with photogrey lenses. I'll be able to ditch the sunglasses and reading glasses, and go back to having one pair of glasses that rules them all. 

And unless something goes really screwy with my vision later on, I'll never need a different prescription for glasses again. Now that's something to look forward to.

***
These moments of bloggy clarity have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Get vaxxed and boosted!

Sunday, July 31, 2022

Still taking a break.

 As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I'm out this week. See you back here next Sunday, August 7th.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Taking a break.

 As I mentioned last week, I'm out this week and next. See you back here on Sunday, August 7th.



Sunday, July 17, 2022

Through a lens blurrily.

So for starters, I wanted to let y'all know that I'm going to be taking a blogging break for the next couple of weeks. I'm having cataract surgery on my right eye on Wednesday and on my left eye next week, and I don't know whether I'll be able to see well enough to write a post either next Sunday or the Sunday after that. 

This picture approximates what I'm seeing out of my right eye (the blurriness, not the crosshatching or other imperfections) right now.


As you can imagine, I'm pretty anxious to get this done.

I anticipate I'll get back to blogging Sunday, August 7th. If things don't go as planned for some reason, I'll put up a short post on the 7th to let you know.

***

So to while away the time until I can see properly again, I've been watching A Discovery of Witches. The book was recommended to me many years ago, and the show has been recommended to me since then, so I figured I ought to give it a try.

I have so many problems with this show.

For starters, hereditary witches aren't a real thing in our world; witches are simply humans who practice magic. The magic they've been doing in the show so far (I'm about halfway through season two) is pretty well divorced from reality, too. I can maybe see using five candles (for the points of a pentagram?) instead of four (for the cardinal directions) when you cast a circle. But why is Aunt Em not inside the circle herself? Casting a circle puts up a magical barrier, creating a safe space in which to work. It makes no sense to cast a circle that leaves the magic wielder outside it, and therefore vulnerable to interference. Besides, magic almost never results in the sort of special effects that you see in these sorts of shows. Rarely do you get whizbang pyrotechnics. At best, a spell will nudge something or someone toward the outcome the magician desires. 

To be honest, these kinds of depictions of magic set up unrealistic expectations, both for would-be magicians and for regular folks. When the "powers" on display in TV shows are so outlandish, it makes it difficult for newbies to tell whether their spell worked -- and easy for doubters to dismiss magic entirely.

Second, how can there be only three categories of "creatures" in the world? Vampires, but no werewolves? Demons, but no ghosts? No chupacabra? No La Llorona? There are so many different types of magical beings in folklore, but this series has, for some reason, narrowed them to just three.

Leaving aside all that: The main character is Diana Bishop, a normal young woman who eventually twigs to the fact that she's a powerful witch whose natural magical ability has somehow been suppressed. Regardless of her powers (or lack of same), though, she's still just a babe who needs to be protected; her favorite vampire, Matthew, is constantly trying to "keep her safe," no matter how many times she tells him to knock it off and no matter how many times she proves that she can take care of herself. It's such a tired trope that I've been about to hurl something through my TV screen multiple times.

And yet, as you so rightly observe, I continue to watch the show. 

I guess I'm invested at this point. I want to see how it all turns out. So I guess on that level at least, A Discovery of Witches works. Just don't expect to learn anything about magic from watching it.

***

These moments of blurry blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Get vaxxed and boosted! See you back here in two weeks!

Sunday, July 10, 2022

Complicated winds.

You may recall that a few weeks ago, I attended a Q&A with the force behind the Game of Thrones TV series, George R.R. Martin, at the Santa Fe Literary Festival. He talked about the series he was developing with Robert Redford (yes, that Robert Redford) based on Tony Hillerman's series of mystery novels set on the Navajo Nation. And I said I was very much looking forward to seeing the show -- Dark Winds -- when it showed up on AMC.

Well, I've seen it. The sixth and final episode of the first season dropped today. And I'm torn. I want to like it -- I really do. The production company took pains to make sure Native Americans were involved in all aspects of the production, from showrunners to cast. That's a good thing. In addition, the show was shot on location here in New Mexico. Tesuque Pueblo, just up the road from Santa Fe, has converted its former casino building into a film studio, and Dark Winds was shot there, as well as at other locations around town. I was tickled to recognize Loretto Chapel (with its "miraculous" floating staircase) in downtown Santa Fe standing in for an Indian school run by nuns.

And I know that Hollywood does crazy things to novels to make them into properties that will bring eyeballs to either the big screen or the small one. But... wow. This show is so far afield from the world that Hillerman invented that pretty much the only things that are the same are the setting, the names of the characters, and their job titles (and even that last is not quite true).

The first season of the show is based pretty loosely on the third novel in the series, Listening Woman. I read the book probably 25 or 30 years ago, so I was pretty hazy on the details. But I checked out Wikipedia's plot summary this evening, and it confirmed my suspicion that not much of the book's plot made it into the TV show.

Oh, the framing of the story is more or less the same: Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn of the Navajo Tribal Police investigates the deaths of an elderly man and a young woman. The man had sought advice from a Navajo healing woman -- the "listening woman" of the title of the book; the young woman is the listening woman's niece. The listening woman steps away to ponder her advice to the man, and when she returns, both he and her niece are dead. They were murdered, of course, and Leaphorn eventually ties in their case with one a few years earlier, in which crooks blew the back off of an armored car in Santa Fe and escaped with the cash in a helicopter.

I won't go any farther with the plot because of spoilers -- not for the book (it was first published in 1978!) but for the TV series. I will say, though, that the showrunners had to do a major overhaul to bring in the other two main characters: Jim Chee and Bernadette Manuelito. You'll note that the cover of Listening Woman is billed as a "Joe Leaphorn Mystery"; that's because Hillerman hadn't invented either Chee or Manuelito yet. Chee first appeared in People of Darkness, the next book in the series. In his autobiography, Hillerman wrote that he created Chee because he thought Leaphorn was too hardened to fit the plot he had in mind for that book. But that's not what Martin said in May; he said Hillerman had signed an option to make the first three novels into a movie, and the document turned over all rights to the character of Joe Leaphorn to whoever owned the option. It didn't matter that the film was never made; Hillerman simply didn't own his character anymore. (Hillerman must have eventually gotten the rights to Leaphorn back, because he does show up in later books.)

In any case, Chee's not in Listening Woman, and neither is Manuelito. She doesn't show up until The Fallen Man, the 12th book in the series, published in 1996. After Hillerman's death, his daughter Anne has continued the series and has put Manuelito at center stage, along with Chee. (Leaphorn's now retired.)

In the novels, all three of them -- Leaphorn, Chee, and Manuelito -- are good cops. Their lives are as  complicated as anyone's, of course. But morally, there's no question that they believe in the work they do and in the Navajo way of life. And that's not always the case in the series. There are things that Leaphorn and Chee do in the TV series that they simply wouldn't do in the books.

I get it; moral ambivalence is the fashion now. Protagonists these days are messy, with complicated motives -- it makes them seem more real, or so the thinking goes. And if I'd gone into the show with no preconceived ideas about the main characters, I expect I would have liked it a lot.

But what I wanted from Dark Winds was a story about heroes and bad guys, and I didn't get it. Nobody here is a hero. 

***

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These moments of complicated blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Get vaxxed! 

Sunday, July 3, 2022

Local news takes on the Supreme Court. Will it win?

In broadcasting, one mundane but essential task is to check your sound level. It involves speaking into the microphone at approximately the volume you intend to use when you're on the air, while eyeballing a little meter in front of you to adjust your mic level. 

An analog meter features a graduated scale, soft to loud, with a pointy indicator that bounces with your sound level. The scale is mostly black, but it has a section in red on the far right end. The idea is to keep the pointer bouncing mostly in the black, with occasional peaks in the red zone. If the pointer swings all the way to the right and stays there, your mic is way too loud. The technical term is "pegging the needle."

As it happens, it's also an apt description for a ruling that came out of the Supreme Court this week. 

Stolen from Facebook | Creator unknown

No, not that one; that was last week. This week's travesty came in the case of Kennedy v. Bremerton School District. You can read a pdf of the ruling here. But basically, the majority opinion, written by Justice Neil Gorsuch, reverses a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision. The appellate court had held the Bremerton, WA, school district was correct to discipline its high school football coach, Joseph Kennedy, in 2015 for staging public prayers at midfield after the team's football games. The Supreme Court says the disciplinary action violated Kennedy's First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

The problem with the ruling is that Justice Gorsuch gets nearly all of the facts wrong. This column by Danny Westneat in the Seattle Times explains how Kennedy wasn't engaging in "a brief, quiet, personal religious observance," as Justice Gorsuch claims. In fact, Kennedy had made a big deal out of praying at the 50-yard line -- and he'd been incorporating prayer into team workouts as a motivational tool all season. Players weren't required to participate in the postgame prayer rallies, but of course eventually all the players did, at least partly due to fear that Coach wouldn't let them play as much if they didn't participate. (Y'all have been to high school, right? We all know how that works.) Eventually, Kennedy held a news conference before the school's homecoming game, announcing he would give his post-season prayer. He got a lot of press out of it -- Good Morning America even interviewed him -- and as a result, it wasn't just the players out there with him after that game; more than 500 spectators left the bleachers and jumped fences to join them on the field for his 15-second "quiet, personal religious observance."

The general opinion is that the court reinvented the facts here in order to have an excuse to overturn Lemon v. Kurtzman. In that 1971 opinion, the court laid out a three-pronged test to determine whether something violates the First Amendment's "establishment of religion" clause. We do not have a state religion in the United States, and it's unconstitutional for a public employee to promote a particular religion as if we do. In an objective reading of the facts, that's what Kennedy did -- he promoted Christianity, hard, with his very public prayer meetings. But the conservatives on the current court wanted to strike down Lemon, and Kennedy's case was a handy vehicle.

That's scary for those of us in America who aren't Christian. But that point has been made elsewhere. My point is different.

I've opined here before that local journalism matters. Six years ago, I wrote about how just ten companies control a frightening percentage of the news and information business. Three years ago, I cited figures indicating that one in five local newspapers ceased publication between 2004 and 2018; that decline has continued since then. 

Why do I keep making a big deal about local journalism? Because without it -- without local newspapers like the Seattle Times -- there would be no way, when public figures on the national stage lie, for us to learn the truth. 

Support your local independent journalists, guys. They're going to become more and more vital as we bring our country back from the brink.

***

These moments of scrappy independent blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Get vaxxed and boosted! And subscribe to your local paper!

Sunday, June 26, 2022

What would Aunt Lydia do?

 

Stolen from Facebook / Artist unknown
Well! It certainly has been a week. 

On Thursday we learned from the January 6th committee that five or six sitting members of Congress had asked for presidential pardons for their roles in former President Trump's attempted coup. 

That headline was very shortly superseded by a Supreme Court ruling that makes it easier for gun owners to carry their weapons in public. Within hours, that headline was followed by the news that Congress had approved (and President Biden signed into law yesterday) a gun control bill for the first time in decades. Even though most Americans would view it as weak sauce, it's better than nothing. Among other things, the new law: requires background checks for 18- and 19-year-olds who want to purchase a gun; closes a "boyfriend loophole" that allowed some convicted domestic violence offenders to get hold of guns; stiffens penalties for people who buy guns for those who wouldn't pass a background check; and provides money to states for mental health treatment and for confiscating guns from those who've been deemed dangerous by a judge. Notably, it doesn't ban assault weapons like the AR-15. But hey, baby steps, I guess.

But even that news was overtaken on Friday by the release of the Supreme Court's ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, in which the justices overturned Roe v. Wade and then promptly left for the weekend. Liberals and progressives weren't surprised by the ruling -- after all, somebody at the high court leaked a draft in early May. But they were shocked -- okay, we were shocked -- by Justice Clarence Thomas's concurring opinion, in which he said he'd like to see decisions that legalized gay marriage and access to contraceptives reconsidered, too. The majority opinion attempted to reassure everyone that the court didn't intend to go after those decisions -- but the three justices nominated by former President Trump swore during their confirmation hearings that Roe was settled law, making this most recent claim somewhat less than trustworthy. (Observers have noted that Thomas made no mention of overturning Loving v. Virginia, which legalized interracial marriages. That's especially interesting, given that he's Black and married to a White woman -- with whom, by the way, the January 6th committee would like to have a chat, due to her involvement in Trump's coup attempt. But I digress.)

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I'd attended a lecture -- a Q&A, actually -- given by Margaret Atwood, the author of The Handmaid's Tale. It occurred to me then that I had never read the sequel, The Testaments, so I did. I read the first book shortly after it was published in the '80s; it describes an America that has descended into a fundamentalist hellscape, with women forced to either submit to an arranged marriage or produce babies for the men running the place. The Testaments has been out since 2019, so the statute of limitations on spoilers has probably run; still, I'll try to avoid giving away the ending. Suffice it to say that the prime mover of this second novel, Aunt Lydia, remembers what America was like before Gilead, and is secretly doing everything she can to overturn the regime. 

I find today that The Testaments gives me hope. I don't believe we've hit rock bottom yet; things are going to get worse in the United States before they get better. But women are smart and resourceful. We won't tolerate attempts to make us give up the independence we've had for fifty years. To those who think Dobbs is the beginning of the end for liberal ideals, I say this: 

Just wait.

***

These moments of bloggy upheaval have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Get vaxxed! And if you value your freedom, for gods' sake, VOTE!

Sunday, June 19, 2022

In which I admit to being a snowflake.

Or a flake, at least. I had every intention of posting last Sunday night, as is my usual practice, but somehow the day got away from me. When I realized what had happened, I told myself I'd just post the next night. I've sometimes skipped Sunday and posted on Monday night instead. But that didn't happen this past week, either. So I apologize for flaking out on you last week, and I hope not to do it again (too many more times). 

Clker-Free-Vector-Images | Pixabay | CC0
Now about my snowflakery. 

As a retired person, I have the luxury of being able to watch the House January 6th committee hearings -- even the daytime hearings -- in real time. This past Monday, one of the topics was former President Trump's fundraising efforts after he lost the 2021 election to Joe Biden. Here is the scam in a nutshell: First, Trump lied that the election was stolen. That's been dubbed the Big Lie. Then he sent millions of emails to his supporters, asking them to donate to something called the Official Election Defense Fund to help fund the legal fight to "stop the steal." And his supporters did donate -- $250 million total, $100 million of that in the few days after the election. 

But the Official Election Defense Fund never existed, and none of the donations ever went to pay lawyers to challenge the election. Instead, the donations went to a political action committee Trump had just created, a charity begun by former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows, a conservative organization, Trump's hotel company, and the outfit that organized the January 6th rally that preceded the insurrection at the Capitol. In short, Trump raised a quarter of a billion dollars on a lie, and then lied about where the money went. During the hearing, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) called it the Big Ripoff.

Moreover, more than half of the small-dollar donors to this scam -- that is, people who donated $100 or less -- listed their occupation as "retired". When this came out during the committee hearing, I got a little choked up. I felt sorry for the folks who got conned into giving money they probably didn't have to such a shyster. And I said so in a Facebook post.

I got pushback. 

A whole lot of people I know have zero sympathy for anyone who has gone along with any of Trump's lies. They believe it's his fans' own fault that they got taken in, and they deserve to lose their money.

But here's the thing: If you've been scammed, you've been victimized. It doesn't matter if the scammer is a guy claiming to be Nigerian prince, or someone who tells you to pay a bogus bill by sending them gift cards, or Donald Trump. It's still a crime, and crimes have victims. Making fun of a victim, or telling them they should have known better, doesn't solve anything. And it sure as hell doesn't help the victim.

Did Trump's victims have ample opportunity to wake up from the lie? Maybe, maybe not. Depends how deep into the rightwing media ecosphere they've been. Sure, they could have stepped away from Fox News and QAnon videos like their family members pleaded with them to do -- but keep in mind that Fox News has been in operation since October 1996. Trump's hardcore followers have been marinating in this stuff for more than 25 years. It's been said that if it hadn't been Trump who captured their slavish devotion, it would have been someone else (and we should count our blessings because that person might have actually been competent).

My friends think what Trump and his true believers have done to the country is so damaging that they should never be forgiven. I've written about my view of forgiveness before, and I've gotten pushback on that, too. I don't believe in forgiving someone who has done nothing to deserve it. However, when it comes to gaslighting, it takes a lot to wake someone up to what's going on. Seeing the violence at the Capitol on January 6th woke up some of them. Maybe the hearings will wake up others. And it seems to me that the realization they've been had is the first step toward remorse -- and feeling remorseful is the first step toward earning forgiveness. 

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying the originators and perpetrators of the Big Lie should be forgiven; on the contrary, I hope they all rot in prison. But for folks like small-dollar donors who got sucked in? If they realize their mistake now, and take steps to undo the damage they've done, we shouldn't turn our backs on them. In my view, they deserve not ostracism, but compassion.

If we ever hope to bring this country together again, we need to find ways to breach the divide. Seems to me that compassion is a decent place to start.

And if that makes me a snowflake, so be it.

***

These moments of flaky blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. The pandemic isn't over yet -- get vaxxed and boosted!

Sunday, June 5, 2022

Carding and spinning and weaving, oh my.

It's Sunday night, which means I owe y'all a blog post. But I'm tired and my feet hurt, so I'm going to try to keep it short.

The reason I'm tired, etc., is that I've just completed my first weekend as a volunteer with El Rancho de las Golondrinas here in Santa Fe. Yesterday, I sat out in the placita (the little plaza in the part of the museum depicting 17th century life in northern New Mexico) in the shade and learned how to card wool and use a Navajo spindle. I even got my picture in the Santa Fe New Mexican, the local paper -- click here for the article, then click through to the third picture. (There's a typo in the caption, by the way. We were carding the wool, not carting it.)

Carding involves taking the washed, dried, and matted wool fibers that have been shorn from the sheep and combing them to get the tangles (and other junk -- sheep live outdoors, you know) out and to get the fibers to lay straight so that they can be spun. The carding combs sitting next to me on the bench are adult-sized; we also have some smaller combs for the kids. And yes, kids carded wool back in the day -- even toddlers were taught how. After all, it's not like you could have popped down to Target to buy a new shirt; if you wanted one, you had to weave your own. And it's labor intensive work, so everybody had to contribute.

The wool comes off the cards in a little roll. Here it's called a lamb's tail; I've also heard it called a rolag. A spindle is then used to make the rolags into yarn.

There are a bunch of different types of spindles, but the one everybody used in 17th century New Mexico was called a malacate (pronounced mah-lah-CAH-tay). It's also known as a Navajo spindle. Now, just like a lot of other terms, there's some question about whether "Navajo spindle" is politically correct, but I'll link to a video in a minute that was shot in 2020 and features a Navajo woman calling it a Navajo spindle. So there you go. 

Here's what a Navajo spindle looks like:

 Photo shamelessly stolen from woolery.com

It's a supported spindle -- that is, the tip of the spindle rests on the ground (or in a bowl), so the yarn you're spinning doesn't have to support the weight of the spindle the way it does when you use a drop spindle. It's hard to tell from this photo, but a Navajo spindle is about a yard long, which is two or three times longer than a typical drop spindle. You spin the yarn by rolling the top of the shaft against your thigh. (Video of that Navajo woman demonstrating it is coming up in a sec.) 

I am not proficient either at carding or at spinning on this kind of spindle, so here's that video I've been talking about. First you get to see some Navajo churro sheep, which are the kind we have at Las Golondrinas; then come the demonstrations on carding and spinning. The whole video is about 20 minutes long. She starts carding the wool at about 37 seconds in, then she picks up the spindle at about 9:10 and talks about the technique and what weaving means to the Navajo. If you want to skip over that and just watch her use the spindle, start the video at about 12:26.


So that was yesterday. Today I was in the demonstration loom room, letting guests try their hand at weaving. Of course I didn't get a photo of the demo loom because pockets are anachronistic, so my phone was in my shorts underneath my skirt. But going back to the article in the New Mexican, if you click to the fourth photo, you can see a couple of the other looms we have: the jerga (YEHR-gah) loom takes up a good bit of the front of the photo, and behind the guy in the red shirt you can kind of see the loom used to weave sabanilla (sah-bah-NEE-yah), the cloth that's used for colcha embroidery (which is a whole 'nother craft that I have yet to try).

I was commiserating today with a guest who both knits and weaves that while knitters have a big online home in Ravelry, there's no comparable website for weavers. So I'm happy that I've landed here in New Mexico, where weaving is part of the culture. I met so many experienced weavers this weekend -- more than I ever have in the years since I started learning the craft. I'm happy to keep learning, and to keep sharing what I learn.

And now I think I'll go and put my feet up.

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So much for keeping it short...

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These moments of fiber-crafty blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. The pandemic's not over, guys -- get vaxxed and boosted!

Sunday, May 29, 2022

Spanish Colonial me.

I promised y'all last week that I would post a photo of my rebozo when I was finished weaving it. Alert hearth/myth readers will recall that the rebozo is part of my costume as an interpreter at El Rancho de las Golondrinas, a living history museum here in Santa Fe. 

Lynne Cantwell 2022
Well, it's done. This week, I fixed a few blips in the weaving and washed it. I realized y'all would probably want to see the whole costume, though, as it's a whole lot more interesting than just seeing a long, rectangular piece of cloth. So here you go, and please excuse the unmade bed in the background that I only kinda sorta managed to crop out. 

Under the rebozo, I'm wearing a peasant top. It's from Lands End, and drapier than it should be -- I thought it was mostly cotton when I ordered it, but it turns out it's a blend of cotton, modal, and -- whoopsy! -- spandex. The skirt is all cotton. There's a sash that's hard to see in the photo -- I'll get to that in a minute -- and you almost can't see the shoes at all, which is a good thing because they're brown suede flats and they are not historically appropriate. The shoes we're supposed to be wearing are called tewa boots. Don't bother googling the term; Mama Google will think you mean boots made by Teva, the shoe manufacturer. I'm a big fan of Tevas, but they don't make anything like the boots that everybody in Northern New Mexico wore in Spanish Colonial times. You can click here to see what the footwear looked like in those days.

Anyway, I'm hoping the rest of the outfit will be sufficiently convincing that nobody will notice that I'm not wearing the right kind of shoes.

Now, about that sash: Surprise! I wove that, too. The yarn is a cotton/linen blend that a friend gave me last year. I decided to attempt to weave a twill pattern for the first time ever. Here's what it looked like on the loom (yes, that's Tigs on the floor, and you don't want to know what he was doing when I took the photo): 

Lynne Cantwell 2022
To make plain weave like the rebozo, you go under one warp thread and over the next, all across the fabric, and then reverse it on the next pass, so that you go over the thread you went under the last time, and under the one you went over. But for 2/2 twill, you kind of think of your warp threads in groups of four. You go under the first two warp threads and over the next two on the first pass; then on the next pass you move over one warp thread, so that you go over one, under the next two, and over the last one, and so on. That's what gives you the diagonal slant. With any luck, you end up with fabrick that looks like this: 
Stolen from https://www.gistyarn.com/blogs/how-to-weave/basic-weave-structures-twill
If the pattern looks familiar, it's because you've seen it on your favorite pair of jeans. Denim fabric is a 2/2 twill.

Anyway, it was an interesting experiment. The end result looks a little rough in some places, but I think it will pass for the costume. Next weekend is my first volunteer gig. I'll let you know how it works out.

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I had intended to do a split post this week and address the recent rash of mass shootings, particularly the one in Uvalde, Texas, that put the lie to so many of the NRA's talking points. For example, the army of "good guys with guns" in the school parking lot didn't stop 21 people, most of them kids, from being shot to death.

Rather than keeping you, however, I'll point you to an interview I read in Politico earlier today. A couple of researchers have studied a whole bunch of people who committed mass shootings over the past several decades. These researchers have identified a profile that fits such individuals -- one that would make it easier to stop such incidents before they start. The question is whether the political will is there to implement their suggestions, which, for one thing, would require a huge investment in mental health screenings and treatment. So far, the will has not been there; for all the bleating conservatives do about how troubled these individuals are, they are also quick to scuttle any actual funding for mental health treatment. Still, I found it an interesting and balanced read, and I recommend it to you.

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These moments of balanced blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. The pandemic's not over yet, folks -- get vaxxed and boosted!