Thursday, December 21, 2006

Two Memes

Why? Because I am endlessly fascinating.
Alternate answer: My ego demands it.
Real answer: I'm bored (because I'm boring--yes, yes, I know.)

One-Word Answer Meme

I found this meme on Lilith Parker's blog. The rules are one-word answers and no explanations.

1. Yourself: off-beat
2. Your significant other: husband
3. Your hair: long
4. Your mother: unbalanced
5. Your father: uninvolved
6. Your favorite item: paper
7. Your dream last night: bizarre
8. Your favorite drink: tea
9. Your dream car: dependable
10. The room you are in: computer
11. Your ex: forgettable
12. Your fear: litigiousness
13. What you want to be in 10 years? healthy
14. Who you hung out with last night? husband
15. What you're not? extroverted
16. Muffins: homemade
17. One of your wish list items: audiobook
18. Time: nighttime
19. The last thing you did: breathed
20. What you are wearing: clothes
21. Your favorite weather: cool
22. Your favorite book: un-determinable
23. The last thing you ate: soup
24. Your life: wasted
25. Your mood: glum
26. Your best friend: husband
27. What are you thinking about right now? waste
28. Your car: reliable
29. What are you doing at the moment? shirking
30. Your summer: humid
31. Your relationship status: contented
32. What is on your TV? nothing
33. What is the weather like? rainy
34. When is the last time you laughed? today

Forty-two Questions Meme

1. FIRST NAME? Suzanne.
3. WHEN DID YOU LAST CRY? Don't remember, but tears came into my eyes during last Sunday's mass; they often do during mass.
6. IF YOU WERE ANOTHER PERSON WOULD YOU BE FRIENDS WITH YOU? If I could get to know me, yeah...probably.
7. DO YOU HAVE A JOURNAL? [looking around furtively] Who wants to know?
8. DO YOU STILL HAVE YOUR TONSILS? Yes and no; I have part of one.
9. WOULD YOU BUNGEE JUMP? No. Well, maybe if my or my husband's life depended on it.
10. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CEREAL? Old-fashioned oatmeal for hot cereal, raisin bran for cold.
11. DO YOU UNTIE YOUR SHOES WHEN YOU TAKE THEM OFF? Not always. I'm not proud of it.
12. DO YOU THINK YOU ARE STRONG? Physically, I'm a pack mule.
13. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ICE CREAM FLAVOR? Chocolate. Haagen-Daz for a preference, but I don't say no to store brands.
14. SHOE SIZE? US women's 10.
15. RED OR PINK? Red!
16. WHAT IS YOUR LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOURSELF? I am not as icy cold as I'm told I sometimes appear to others.
17. WHO DO YOU MISS THE MOST? I don't miss anyone; it would be nice to see my sister more often.
18. WHAT COLOR PANTS, SHIRT AND SHOES ARE YOU WEARING? I refuse to answer this question on grounds it would make me sound like a slob.
20. WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW? I was listening to EWTN audio, but I turned it off, so now nothing except ambient noises.
21. IF YOU WERE A CRAYON, WHAT COLOR WOULD YOU BE? Dark purple; what do they call that crayon--Royal Purple or Deep Violet?
22. FAVORITE SMELL? My husband. But coffee is a pretty good smell too.
24. THE FIRST THING YOU NOTICE ABOUT PEOPLE YOU ARE ATTRACTED TO? Hmm, people generally? Something about their manner, I guess; I think I'm quicker to notice things that repulse me. But if it is men particularly and it's attracted, instead of attracted, then it is whether they are tall and have a big build or not.
26. FAVORITE SPORT? I don't care for team sports, either as a viewer or a participant. I don't watch sports, period.
27. EYE COLOR? Green.
28. HAT SIZE? I don't know, but I have a big ol' head.
29. DO YOU WEAR CONTACTS? Not now, but I have done.
30. FAVORITE FOOD? Depends on my mood. I love lots of different foods. I feel best--i.e. most energy, fewest mood swings--when I eat meat or eggs with non-starchy vegetables.
31. SCARY MOVIES OR HAPPY ENDINGS? Happy endings, but they don't have to be syrupy and bittersweet is fine. I don't watch slasher movies at all, but I am not averse to "psychological" scary.
32. SUMMER OR WINTER? I live in a *!%&#!% swamp, what do you think?
34. FAVORITE DESSERT? Whatever it is, it involves chocolate--possibly more than one form of chocolate and one of those forms preferably dark. It's hard to beat a warm walnut brownie with a scoop of ice cream, and hot chocolate sauce. I love cheesecake, even when it doesn't have chocolate and I must note it is the only dessert that remains delicious even when it is sugarless.
35. WHAT BOOKS ARE YOU READING? P. D. James' Original Sin and Peggy Noonan's When Character Was King.
36. WHAT’S ON YOUR MOUSE PAD? I use a trackball.
38. FAVORITE SOUNDS? It's hard to beat my husband's heart.
39. ROLLING STONE OR BEATLES? Who cares? Really, I don't have a preference.
40. THE FURTHEST YOU’VE BEEN FROM HOME? A town just across the Mexican border.
41. WHAT’S YOUR SPECIAL TALENT? I am very good at biting back words, although I'm not so sure that is a natural talent so much as decades of practice. And some people might justifiably point out I'm not so good at it as would benefit me.
42. WHERE WERE YOU BORN? Mississippi.

My Simple Knitted Cotton Kerchief

I've crocheted kerchiefs in the past, but I've not been entirely happy with them. I think a filet crochet (which I've never yet tried) kerchief has potential, but in the meantime I prefer the knitted one that I finished a few days ago to the crocheted ones.

Although when you get right down to it, I should probably just have fabric ones; I don't because I have trouble finding scarves I love that are the right size, because I haven't actually undertaken to sew any yet for no reason I can fathom, and because making something relatively practical out of all that yarn keeps seeming like a good idea.

Anyhoo, this knitted one is nice enough. It is easy to make, drapy, lightweight, and doesn't look too hokey (a highly subjective judgement, obviously).

Aunt Lydia's Fashion Crochet Thread (a size 3 cotton thread);
size 6 knitting needles (personally, I'd go a size bigger before I'd go a size smaller);
crochet hook or hooks (I used an E and an F, I think)

Cast on two (2) stitches.

Rows 1-2: Knit across.

Row 3-4: Knit across, increasing one stitch on each row by knitting into front and back.

Row 5: Knit one, yarn over, knit across.

Repeat Row 5 until kerchief is the size you want. Bind off, but do not cut yarn at the end.

Take crochet hook and chain about 50--more or less depending on size needed. Turn and in second ch from hook, slip stitch across chain. When you get to the body of the scarf, single crochet across the top of the kerchief. When you get to the other end, ch 50. Turn and begin slip stitching in second chain from hook. When you get back to the scarf, slip stitch and bind off. (Where the two crochet hooks come into it, is that you, like I, may prefer to use a smaller size hook on the ties and switch to one a size larger hook for the finishing on the body of the kerchief; this makes the ties a bit tighter-looking.)

OR, if you'd like a more finished edge, you could at that point single crochet down the side of the kerchief, do an extra couple of single crochets at the point, sc up the other side, and ss shut when you get back to the first tie.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

A Mini-Update

I mentioned not quite two months ago that I'd just learned to knit. Well, after doing a number of practice swatches that I immediately frogstitched, I now have completed three dishcloths (with increasing and decreasing--yay!), a pair of Mary Jane slippers from directions on Craftster, and a "non-rolling boyfriend scarf" that is about as long as I am. Okay, so the first dishcloth was really lopsided--I was trying to loosen my tension as Elizabeth Zimmerman recommends in the Knitting Without Tears I'd skimmed and I guess I started to have success with that on the decrease side--and the next two aren't perfect. And I still haven't sewn the buttons on the Mary Janes, so it's not really honest to say they're completed, and I can point to several imperfections in my scarf.

But so what about those imperfections? For me it's not about the finished objects, it's about the pleasure. Knitting is pleasurable. Much more so than crochet. For some reason I can't explain, I find the motion of knitting--and even purling--to be more pleasurable than the motion made in crocheting; now when I crochet I like it far less because I'm comparing it to knitting. I also like that I can really watch TV when knitting; there's much less looking down than there is with crocheting. The main thing I want from either of these handicrafts is something to occupy my hands with while I watch TV (actually DVDs, as I almost never watch TV anymore), and knitting does the job better than crocheting--or for that matter, better than handsewing, which was the previous thing I'd tried.

I'll never be a really accomplished knitter--or crocheter--because, well, my main goal is just to have something to do while I watch TV, nothing more. But I am going to keep up the knitting at some level because I like it. And because I don't plan to stop watching DVDs anytime soon.

Speaking of DVDs, I recently got around to watching Firefly and Serenity. Finally. I'd sort of intended to try it when it aired--UP actually caught an episode or two--and since then I've seen a number of eye-catching references to it or crafts made from it, John Derbyshire commented favorably on it, and there was this:

Your Ultimate Sci-Fi Profile II: which sci-fi crew would
you best fit in?

You scored as Serenity (Firefly).You like to live
your own way and don’t enjoy when anyone but a friend tries to tell you should
do different. Now if only the Reavers would quit trying to skin you. [from]

I liked Firefly a lot and am sorry it didn't last longer; I would have liked to see how the characters' stories developed. The ship's crew were likeable and interesting and the interactions were fun to watch, but I think the world itself was what I liked best. The Asian-Western fusion felt right for the future, I liked a future of multiple frontier worlds rather than a lot of highly polished ones, and it was all refreshingly different from other science fiction shows that have been on TV.

The movie, Serenity, wasn't as good as the TV show, but I'm glad they got to do it.

For both the TV show and the movie, I'm glad Ron Glass was getting work; I liked him on Barney Miller. (Here's how warped I was as a little girl: he was a close second to the character I liked best, the over-educated, intellectual guy.) As for younger men, Jayne was attractive in a purely physical way and a fun character. The captain was attractive; I think that's not just the character as written, but the actor, because he had a certain masculine charisma even when he was playing a thoroughly disgusting villain on the final season of Buffy. And, although I shouldn't admit it, I liked the one-shot character Jubal Early. He was clearly warped in the kind of way that leads to very bad things, but, God help me, I liked him. Jubal Early is the kind of man that some writer once said you can use to gauge the level of the society by--primitive societies kill men like that, societies in the second stage make use of men like that as torturers and executioners, third stage or advanced societies try to rehabilitate them, and really advanced fourth stage societies kill them.

Anyway, although there are some problems with the show--most notably the Alliance not being depicted realistically enough--it was highly enjoyable and I am giving it the official Auntie Suzanne Seal of Approval. Okay, I'm actually just recommending it, but that sounded more impressive, didn't it?

As long as I'm at it, I'll recommend a movie I meant to recommend when I watched it a two or three months ago: Tristan and Isolde (or is that Tristan + Isolde, like Baz Luhrman's Romeo + Juliet?) I have never particularly cared for the Tristan and Isolde story, and I dislike movies and books about adulterers as a rule. But I saw Card's review when this was in the theaters in--what?--January, and was interested enough to get the DVD from Netflix. I still don't approve of adultery, but this movie shows their adulterous relationship causing problems and it does what it can to make the temptation understandable. What I most liked was that they made Isolde's husband likeable. How easy it would have been for the moviemakers to make him a brute who deserved to be cheated on, all to make some point about how adultery is okay, because "the heart wants what it wants" or some such nonsense. Instead we get a more complicated and better story. Good for them. We are also given some really good acting and some great costumes and scenery. This movie deserves to have more of an audience than it had in its theater run. Rent it.

Oh, and we--it's probably congenital stupidity or something--acquired a new cat a while back. Maybe I'll do a "Meet Mr. Foofy, the Cat Who Lives With Us" post later.

We lead decidedly uneventful lives--a blessing really, when you consider that most events worth relating are disasters of one kind or another and adventure is just another name for trouble--so that's really about it.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Reduced Sugar Gingerbread Muffins

If you've ever had gingerbread and wondered what the attraction is, you need to find a copy of Laurie Colwin's Home Cooking (which I've recommended before on this blog) and check out the chapter called "How to Make Gingerbread". The Gingerbread Cake in there is delicious. It tastes great plain, dusted with powdered sugar, served with a little applesauce or whipped cream, or--believe it or not--iced with the chocolate icing recipe the author includes. It tastes great warm or cold. It is also easy to make and fills the house with a smell that is better than any commercial air freshener or, for that matter, any other baking cake I know.

This recipe is adapted from that and I freely admit it is not as good as the original. But it cuts the sugar some, it makes a smaller amount--always good for one or two person households--and muffins are a bit easier to carry along for breakfast on the go than cake. (Yeah, I'm re-e-a-ally health conscious.) And it smells just as good baking.

Reduced Sugar Gingerbread Muffins

4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) butter or margarine, softened
1/4 Cup Splenda in the bag
1/4 Cup Steen's Cane Syrup
1 egg
3/4 Cup plain flour
1.5 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
1/8 Cup dry milk
1 scant Tbsp ground ginger
1/2 slightly rounded tsp ground cinnamon
dash ground cloves
dash ground allspice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 Cup water

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 6-muffin muffin tin or spray with non-stick spray. Cream butter and Splenda together. Beat in cane syrup and egg. Add dry ingredients and mix. Stir in vanilla and water. Pour batter into muffin tin and bake until a knife or toothpick comes out clean--about 20 minutes.

Notes: I think Steen's Cane Syrup is a regional brand, so substitute some other cane syrup or molasses if it's not available to you. You can regard the vanilla as optional; I've accidentally left it out and it was fine, due no doubt to my using so much ginger.

Also, if you like try this and like it--or even if you don't--buy a copy of Home Cooking. It's available on Amazon and its writing has given me much pleasure.

Making a Snood, a Lackadaisical Quest

(What is a snood, you ask?)

I posted previously about sewing a snood from mesh fabric and doublefold bias tape: One Way to Make a Snood

As I haven't found additional mesh fabric since then, I figured I was going to have to crochet my own. (Well, either that or order from the no doubt excellent Lady MacSnood whose definition is linked above.) Online searches this summer revealed a scarcity of snood patterns. Of those, half were ballet-type bun covers, a couple made weird little purses that sat at the nape of the neck and strapped over the top of the head, and the few that were left either weren't appealing or didn't have photos. One or two patterns were for knitting, which I hadn't learned to do. I also found some directions for solid fabric snoods, which, while they might have history and might serve a purpose for some women, weren't what I was looking for or even what I think of when I think snood. But despite this lack of suitable patterns, I was not energetic enough to make my own pattern.

Then in The Golden Hands Complete Book of Knitting and Crochet (ISBN 0394485696), I found a pattern for a simple crocheted snood. I made it and, as I suspected, it was only a bun-cover, but I jotted down adaptations to make the pattern a full-size snood. By the time I'd bought new size 3 cotton thread and dyed it to the colors I wanted, I was out of the mood for snood-making, but recently in a spirit of winding things up for the year--and maybe getting a purple snood for Advent--I got out my yarn and pattern and went for it. Or at least I went for it after I spent ten to fifteen minutes deciphering my jottings; apparently I am past the age when a couple of cryptic notes are all I need to recall something entirely to my mind. A couple of versions later, I can provide a basic pattern to anyone who's interested and is willing to read poorly written instructions.

I am including it here, although it is an adaptation, because 1.) the book it is adapted from is out of print; 2.) my understanding is that stitch patterns, nearly all of them being traditional, can't be copyrighted; 3.) my adaptation is a different size from the original, is arguably a different item (full-size snood v bun cover), uses different yarn, uses a different size hook, and is rewritten in my own words, although admittedly there's not a lot of ways to reword a stitch pattern. If you want to see the original bun-cover directions, find a secondhand copy of the book.

Honeycomb Mesh Stitch Pattern

Make a chain divisible by 4, plus 11. (Or so the original stitch pattern says and I've done, but you might want to try plus ten instead.)

First row: Work 1 dc into tenth ch from hook, *ch 4, skip 3 ch, 1 dc into next ch, rep from * until end. Ch 8 and turn.

Second row: Work 1 dc into first ch 4 space in the previous row, * ch 4, 1 dc into next ch 4 sp, rep from * until end of row. Ch 8 and turn.

Honeycomb Mesh Snood

Supplies for the basic snood: about 1/2 to 2/3 ball of Aunt Lydia's Fashion Crochet Thread (a size 3 thread); E hook; a length of either round elastic cord or narrow ribbon long enough to tie around your head (nape to top, not crown)

Ch 47.

Work the honeycomb mesh stitch pattern (there will be ten spaces in the first row), but increase one space at beginning of each row by working one extra dc and ch 4 into the first sp. Do this until you have a row with 18 sp, then work 4 rows without shaping; this will give you a total of five rows that have 18 sp. Then begin decreasing one space each row, by simply skipping over the first space in each row. Keep dec until you have a row with only 10 sp in it. Do not turn. Take your hand and smooth it out--it makes a shape like a Chinese lantern while flat--before proceeding.

Finishing: You will begin working your edging down the side right by where you made your last dc. * 2 sc into next sp, 1 sc into next sp, rep from *all down that side and around to wheere you started. (If when you get down to where you left a tail of yarn from the foundation ch, you pick it up and work it together with the working yarn, you won't have to weave it in later.) Join with ss to first sc. (At this point, you may want to try it on to make sure it will fit before proceeding.) Work two rounds of sc, one sc per st. Fasten off. Weave in tail.

At this point, you can thread elastic cord through the edging, or you can thread a ribbon through and tie your snood on; either works, although the round elastic cord is a bit more difficult to thread through, due to its shape and not wanting it to show. Alternatively, you could tuck the edging inside some doublefold bias tape or folded over velvet or ribbon and sew it down, leaving a small opening, then run some 1/4 or 1/8 inch elastic through the tube, and secure the ends; I haven't actually tried this yet, but there's no reason why it wouldn't work. You may want a few bobby pins to secure the snood while wearing, even if you use elastic.

Ideas for Embellishments. I like simple styles, but some possibilities for fancifying the basic mesh snood might include: adding some beads to your crochet; working with two differently colored threads held together (two strands of size 10 thread held together can substitute for size 3 thread, although it's actually a bit smaller); possibly holding a metallic sewing thread with the regular crochet thread; or stitching a crochet motif, felt shapes, or tiny artificial rosebuds to the mesh. If you'd like to use a wider, more decorative ribbon in the edge of your snood, you could try substituting a row of double crochet for one row of the sc to give you more space.

Notes on size: I have a big head and waist-length hair and this size snood just fits me; adding one or two rows at the maximum space-count in the middle wouldn't hurt me, but might be a little loose for people with average-size heads. My first version--foundation ch of 55, with 12 sp on the first row, and 27 total rows with 11 of them at the maximum space-count of 20 sp--was too big when I simply slipped it on, but when I added a ribbon, it gathered the excess to my head and fits nicely. The smaller size snood doesn't drape as I would like, but the larger one does; however, the smaller size might well drape properly on someone with a smaller head and less hair. The larger version took me about 3/4 of a ball of thread.

The "quest", lackadaisical though it is, goes on.

Although this snood pattern works and I like the simple look of the honeycomb mesh, I'm not 100 percent satisfied with it. I have about four ideas about different ways to get what I want, but I'm not keen to work on any of them. What I'll probably end up doing is just crocheting a flat, openwork fabric that is roundish and gathering it into a fabric band, as I did with the snood I made from purchased mesh fabric.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

I think I've discovered a universal law...

I am, for some reason, really amused by the Helsinki Complaints Choir, in which the complaints of Helsinki residents are set to choral music. There is also a knock-off of the idea done by singers in Birmingham, England. The universal law I think I've found is this: Complaining sounds a lot better when you don't understand the language.

Here's links to a few other interesting things I've read online recently:

"Let's Stop Stereotyping Evangelicals" -- A short article urging exactly what the title says. The money quote:

"Even the Moral Majority in its most belligerent form amounted to nothing more terrifying than churchgoers flocking peacefully to the polls on Election Day."

"How to Cheat at Art" -- The text of an illustrated speech on art "cheats" such as the camera obscura; it even talks about some contemporary artists thinking that not leaving in preliminary, "feeling your way" lines is a cheat. We can't see the slides that would have accompanied this speech and the speech hasn't been copy-edited quite so well as it might have been, but it has some interesting tidbits.

"Scientists claim computer has solved mystery of Shakespeare's 'missing play'" -- Newspaper article I read a month ago that I still had in my temporary folder. Two professors claim their computer analysis shows conclusively that Arden of Faversham was written by Shakespeare. I have to confess I had never heard of this play, but its Wikipedia entry sounds interesting enough I might check it out someday.

Something About Underwear in an Article About Something Else --Here's the quote:

"Mine is only the second generation of males in my family to wear underpants. I wear them, and my Dad wore them. Neither of my grandfathers did, though. They wore shirts with long tails. Before putting on their pants, they tucked the shirt tails round underneath to establish the desideratum — apparently universal in pants-wearing cultures — of having something between pants and fundament."

I'd just been thinking about something along those lines when I read this. I think I'm the third generation of women in my family to wear both underpants and bra. According to my mother, when she was a small child (she was born during WWII) country women commonly did not wear bras and some of the very old women did not wear underpants. On the underpants question, bear in mind this was not just a poor part of the country, but a very humid climate; not having an additional layer underneath your dress and slip--or even just under a dress and apron--had some advantages, even if it wasn't the fashion to go without in other parts of the country.

As for bras, though, it's amazing to think how recent the modern bra is in human history. Stays may have provided some support in some eras, but Guinevere, Isolde, and Eleanor of Aquitaine never had any "cross your heart", "lift and separate" type support, and whatever Anne Boleyn may have done as a maid, she didn't "do it in her Maidenform bra". History is full of, if you'll pardon the expression, bouncing boobies--not that any of us ever think about that when reading Jane Austen.

And all of this means--I don't know really. I just found it interesting to think how recently my family, among other families, have taken to underwear. Something most of us regard as a necessity can be a relatively recent addition to people's lives. I was surprised the first time I saw a medieval illustration of people warming themselves near a fire, tunics hitched up and genitals showing, but it was apparently a not uncommon sight then, just as women nursing babies was a common sight before we decided that bottlefeeding was more "scientific" and hygienic than breastfeeding. Anyway, like I said, I'm not going anywhere with this, I'm just musing out loud. Also, I thought that shirt-wrapping thing was kind of cool, although it sounds rather awkward.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Veteran's Day

St. Crispin's Day was October 25, but Veteran's Day (Remembrance Day to Canadians and British folk) is also a good day to listen to this speech. Another memorable recitation of this occurs in the movie Renaissance Man.

And for a reminder of what some of our veterans have endured for us, see this testimony from a POW. Page down and look for the program dated 05/29/06, that interviews Captain Guy Gruters.

One of my favorite characters in the Gospels is the Roman soldier (see Matthew 8:5-13) whose words we echo in every mass, "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed." Jesus, who had not disdained to visit the man's house where his servant was dying, was amazed at the man's faith. Any Christians who may be inclined to disdain our military personnel should remind themselves of the Roman centurion whose faith impressed Jesus. We should all pray to have his ability to recognize Jesus; and it's an excellent day to add our soldiers, sailors, and airmen to our prayers, if they aren't there already.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Face and Stamps

The Face: Jesus in Art

If you like visual art, you'll probably enjoy this DVD even if you aren't a Christian, but if you are a Christian with an interest in art, this will be doubly interesting to you. It is an overview of the way Jesus has been depicted from the early catacomb days to twentieth century depictions, such as Warner Sallman's famous depiction. The Face was originally a PBS program and no one expects a TV program to be extremely thorough, but as an overview, I think it's good. The average viewer may have seen many of the works, but seeing so many organized together is informative and there are apt to be a few new things--for example, how many of us have seen Latin American triple-faced Jesuses?

For me, the most wonderful was a painting I've probably seen a picture of before (I used to enjoy spending lots of time looking at art books) but which, if I had, I'd never really noticed before, namely Chagall's White Crucifixion. It is amazing. Just having The Face bring this painting to my notice made it worth viewing for me. I'd like to think The Face could help do more. I long to see more Christians painting Jesus and other figures and themes from Judeo-Christian tradition, and who knows, maybe seeing this DVD could spark an interest in making religious art in the heart of an artistic young person. I can hope.

About the only problem I had--and it is a very minor one--was that in the final segment they called Hunt's The Light of the World the depiction of Jesus most influential on, if I do not misremember the wording, twentieth century art. I am not sure that is true. It certainly hasn't been reprinted as often as the Sallman's picture and I don't think the people are familiar with it, the way they are, say, DaVinci's Last Supper; I've look at lots of artbooks in my lifetime, and I don't think I'd ever seen it until four or five years ago I've look at lots of artbooks. Something can be influential without the average AuntieSuzanne on the street having heard of it, but I'd like them to have given some support for their statement and they didn't. Anyway, this is still well worth a spot in your Netflix queue.

FWIW, my favorite portrait of Jesus is Rembrandt's Head of Christ, which you can see here or here.

Holiday Mail

Speaking of art reminds me of something I just found out: the US Postal Service will be releasing a Madonna and Child stamp this year, and, wonder of wonders, it actually says Christmas across the top. (You can see all of this year's choices here.) If you remember, last year there were some complaints about the USPS releasing no Madonna and Child stamp as in years past, or any religious Christmas stamp at all, only a "holiday cookies" stamp. I don't think last year's grumbling had any effect on their decision, as these things are picked well ahead of time; the 2007 lineup--which includes a Madonna and Child--is already selected and viewable on the USPS website. But Christians and tradition-minded people generally can show support of traditional Christmas imagery by requesting the Madonna and Child stamp over the Snowflake or other stamps for your mail this season.

A Small Update

Just as an update to my post of a few days ago, here's a link to a Wikipedia article on the metric system in the USA.

I note it says that construction has been the industry slowest to adopt metric units. I guess that explains why, when I wanted metric measurements on something I was looking at in Home Depot, I could not find a single measuring device with metric units on it.

Anyway, it sounds as if we're going to see more all-metric product labels in the near future, so I guess that's some progress.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

In Which We Dip Our Toes Into the Depths of Auntie Suzanne's Psyche and Draw Back Quickly

The other night I dreamed I found or was given a piece of paper that had a design of letters with spaces written on it and if you folded the paper at the several spaces--kind of like the old MAD magazine puzzles--it would spell a word. It spelled meshuggeneh. When I woke up and remembered this, I had some vague idea that meshuggeneh meant crazy, but I hadn't heard the word in over twenty years and hadn known for sure what it meant then. So I looked it up. And discovered that it means specfically crazy woman. From this, I conclude that my subconscious knows Yiddish and uses it to insult me.

And that was even before I got to the part of that night's dreams where I decided to get into the room-sized hot tub--actually more of a warm tub--and "they" turned off the bubbles, so I decided to crawl over the threshold into the gymnasium-sized pool and they turned out the lights, to indicate they were closing. Ai yi yi, what a mind.

It's like the mule Faulkner talked about, who would faithfully serve a man for ten years, just for the sake of kicking him once. Except without the ten years of faithful service, especially nowadays; on that front it's more like a dog I knew who went for walkies with a great deal of enthusiasm, but if she got a little tired would flop down wherever she was for resties. Nowadays my mind is all kickies and resties and shoddy service, but I guess it can get away with it, being the only game in town (body?)

Sunday, November 05, 2006

And I Think the British Have Some Sort of Celebration Today

Obviously, I'm talking about Guy Fawkes Day, or Bonfire Night. You can read more about it here or read more about the event it commorates in Antonia Fraser's Faith and Treason: The Story of the Gunpowder Plot; I recommend that book because it's interesting reading and is, moreover, the only book I've read on the subject. [insert eyeroll at my lack of history study here]

Or here's an even briefer introduction to the subject, in the form of a joke from an old BBC radio program:

" I've often wondered, who exactly was Guy Fawkes? Was he a Prime Minister?"
"No, no. Mind you, he should have been. He had more good ideas about Parliament than anybody else."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, he tried to blow it up."

In these days of rampant terrorism, I should hasten to add that I am NOT in favor of blowing up Parliament. But I appreciate the joke as speaking to that "hang 'em all as a warning to others" frustration that I think all of us have sometimes felt when looking at our politicians.

St. Elizabeth's Day

Today is the day we remember St. Elizabeth, whose story we read in the first chapter of Luke's Gospel. (RSV vailable online here or KJV here.) It's a good day to reread, if not the whole chapter, at least the beautiful story of the Visitation, which for Catholics is the second of the Joyful Mysteries to be meditated on in the rosary.

Here it is:

In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, and she entered the house of Zechari'ah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord."

And Mary said, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm, he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts, he has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity for ever."

(Luke, 1:39-55)

Friday, November 03, 2006

Why, Oh Why, Can't My Life Be A Smidgen More Convenient?

I know as a conservative, a neo-Luddite (so UP says), and a Southern girl, I'm supposed to be in favor of the quaintly old-fashioned, nostalgia, and traditional things in general, and for the most part I am. But it is increasingly irritating me to have to convert metric measurements to the imperial measuring system. Why doesn't the US just switch? When I was a little girl in the seventies, "they" said we were going to switch. I saw things about the coming change on TV. In later elementary school we were required to do a section on metric measurements and do rows of tedious conversions from imperial to metric, because we'd be going to metric soon. As far as I can tell, the only thing that ever got done about it was that they started to make soft drinks in 2-liter bottles. And apparently this exhausted "them", because those early '80s textbook questions were the last I ever heard about it.

Oh, we were expected to know a little along those lines for some high school science classes and Coca-cola eventually released a 1-liter bottle. And of course people of various professions have to get comfortable with some metric measurements, which some of them no doubt had to do even before the government said we were going to switch. But the average American has no intuitive understanding of what most metric measurements stand for, the way we intuitively understand about what amount a cup of flour, a gallon of milk, or a footlong sandwich is. You have to have frequent contact with a measuring system to get that intuitive idea of how much a particular unit is. If you don't have those daily life type connections, the measuring system will always seem foreign to you.

Why don't we switch? Our not switching creates problems even in simple online situations, with US people not understanding non-US people's recipes--and sewing, craft, or DIY instructions--and vice versa. This is aside from any international business or government & military interaction problems that might be caused and which are probably more important than my petty dithering over dowel sizes and fabric bolts but which, OTOH, most of us, don't have to deal with as often as we might a foreign recipe.

It's not as if the American people are too stupid to switch. We've gotten used to the only metrically-measured thing most of us commonly see, the 2-liter bottle. We have no problem talking about mega this and giga that and health nuts or people with medical conditions necessitating reading food labels don't crumple when some of the nutritional information is given in grams. Our cultural heritage is predominantly British, and the British adapted to using the metric system just fine. (Although I have heard a few English grumblings about decimilizing their money when watching old TV shows.) Everybody else does it, why can't we? And it's not even as if it's a newfangled thing. Surely even conservatives can embrace something that's been around since the late 1700s.

I realize I could just start using it myself, but to be honest I'm lazy. I don't remember all of the formulas I "learned" as a kid, and I'm not going to go out of my way to use metric when everything around me is set up in standard US measurement. (Thanks to sewing, I have learned approx cm to inch and roughly how a meter relates to a yard, but I kind of had to and it's not so ingrained I couldn't forget.) And even if I did my own personal switchover and I wanted to, say, give a coworker a recipe, I would have to translate "my" measurements for other people. Better we should all be on the same page.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

All Hallows--We Are Not Alone

All Hallow's, the day that All Hallow's Eve is the eve of, is a day set aside to honor all saints (hence the modern name of All Saints Day), but perhaps more important, it is a day that reminds us we are not alone. Catholic teaching says that people alive on Earth, trying as best we can to live holy lives, are not alone in our efforts to come closer to God, but are surrounded by "clouds of witnesses"--people alive in heaven who wish us to succeed. They are all the people who have gone before us and made it to where we want to be. They are "a great multitude,which no one could count,from every nation, race, people, and tongue". The Church teaches that they will pray for us to God, if we ask them; of course you never need ask them if you don't want, but can it really hurt to have someone else also praying for you? Some of us--that would include me--need all the help we can get. When we are struggling and think we are struggling alone, we can not only ask God for help, but also ask a saint to ask for help for us too; I guess it's sort of like being in a big family and getting your brothers and sisters to join you in your requests to your father, although in this case the siblings are on Dad's side and probably aren't going to help you get ice cream for breakfast [lol].

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Random Thoughts

It never fails to amaze me how many very proudly progressive types think nothing of badmouthing blue collar workers--the skilled laborers right along with unskilled. After all, we all "know" that plumbers are stupid, mechanics are men who couldn't get "real" jobs, etc.


On a Harry Potter site, I saw a reference to a non-book character Rowling created, "Honest" Willy Wagstaff, purveyor of questionable wands. Really, can you imagine a character who it'd be more fun to costume as at a convention? "Psst, wanna buy a wand?" [open robe to real rows of them]


Considering St. Jude is the patron saint of lost causes, St. Jude's Day (that's today) may be a good day to pray for Americans and British people to start acting less rude and crude in public. Or, better yet, to pray that more children are born into homes where mommy and daddy considered each other worth marrying.


If it's considered arrogant for Americans to tell people in other countries how they should run their governments, why isn't it considered arrogant for us to tell them they should use contraception?


When you walk by a girl in Best Buy, notice her hair, and think "boucle yarn", you may have spent too much time on Craftster.


In fall in south Mississippi, when people say "beautiful weather we're having" they mean just one thing: "Thank God it's not so hideously hot today!"


The capacity of humans to not learn from our mistakes is truly amazing. By which, of course, I mean my capacity to not learn from my past mistakes is truly amazing.

Still, I prefer living with my own incompetence to having the government step in and run things for me.


Even dogs--though a nigh-on infinitely superior animal--have trouble rivaling the safe, cosy feeling that can be brought on by the sight of a peacefully sleeping cat. Which is not exactly the feeling the sight of these cats arouses.


I saw something that said Protect Mother Nature. Would this be the same Mother Nature who dumps tsunamis, hurricaines, and earthquakes on us? The same one who buried Pompeii? I'm pretty sure that bitch can take care of herself.

Something to Amuse the Over Thirty-five Crowd

Recently a young co-worker of Uncle Pookie's, who's not long out of school, confidently told UP that he would still think about things the same way and have the same opinions the rest of his life. This amused UP enough to share with me, and I out and out laughed. (If you're under twenty-two or so and don't understand why this is funny, wait ten or fifteen years.) It may sound mean to laugh at youth's naivete, but I like to think of it as one of the consolation prizes we get in return for all of the things middle age takes away from us--things such as good eyesight, the ability to remember what we were just talking about, and the ability to go to work or school fresh as a daisy on under three hours of sleep.

For the record, when I was this fellow's age, I was an Utne reading, pro-choice, NOW-supporting, straight-ticket Democrat voter, who "knew" that all Republicans were racists; that all Christians were ignorant, gullible, and frightened of the big, wonderful universe we live in; that social conservatives were either tyrannical, sexist, reactionary men or their female dupes; that men just want to oppress women and women are somehow nobler than men; that anyone who didn't share my sexual mores was obviously repressed and joyless; and so forth. I don't think I was ever silly enough to say I would always hold the same opinions, but I wouldn't bet money I didn't think it--after all, why would I ever want to change, when my vast intelligence and two decades of experience had made me so obviously right about everything?

Something I've Wondered--Pro-life Grammar?

This is a very small thing and I am not trying to make fun of anyone by mentioning this, but I listen to EWTN radio or audiotaped TV pretty often and I sometimes hear something that I find grammatically odd. A fair number of people now use "pro-life" as a noun. They will say that someone "is working for pro-life", instead of saying that "So-and-so is doing pro-life work" or "So-and-so is a pro-life activist". Or they'll say things like "I try to talk to people about pro-life" or "She's involved in pro-life." Why not "I try to talk to people about pro-life philosophy/thought/concerns" or "She's involved in pro-life work." I don't understand why people would word things this way; it just does not sound like common usage. And how widespread is this? I accept Catholic teaching on life issues, but I am not involved in the pro-life political movement, so I don't know if this is something common to the movement as a whole or just something certain EWTN listeners/viewers use. It's not something that is keeping me up nights, but if anyone has an idea of what's going on here, I wouldn't mind hearing about it.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

36 Things You Don't Know About Me

A long time ago I saw where a blogger or two had celebrated her birthday by giving a list of "X Things You Don't Know About Me", where X equals the number of completed years since you were born. It is not my birthday, but, as I think it says on my profile I'm a Scorpio, it will be no surprise that my next birthday is soon. Soon I will no longer be able to claim I am in my mid-thirties. At thirty-seven you've pretty much made it to your late thirties, and even if you do keep saying mid-thirties you have only one more year to do it, because thirty-eight is definitely late thirties. So here's my list, before I have to add another item to it.

1. I have never gotten a traffic ticket. (But I have been pulled over--twice when I first started driving, once a couple of years ago; the first two were due more to excessive caution than youthful exuberance.)

2. Number of high school classes I deliberately failed: two.

3. Three is probably my favorite number. (For another candidate see below.)

4. The smell of fresh gardenias always seems pleasant to me at first whiff, but a moment later makes me feel faintly nauseated.

5. Secret shame: I actually like that old Bette Davis movie, Now, Voyager, and have seen it twice.

6. Gin and tonic is my favorite drink.

7. I have been known to utter the phrase "the hegemony of the American lawn" on multiple occasions. And always in rant mode.

8. I used to have a snake phobia, and I was cured of it in a dream.

9. My sister and I are always recognized as sisters and have even been mistaken for twins. We don't think we look alike.

10. I wear a size 10 shoe and a size 10 ring. But not a size 10 dress.

11. I have a charm bracelet and the charm I chose to represent my husband is a knight in shining (more or less) armor.

12. People who see me with Uncle Pookie and ask how long we have been married inevitably express surprise at the answer--twelve years in December; apparently we talk to each other too much and hold hands too often to look like the bitter old married people we are.

13. I find Benny Hill hilarious.

14. I prefer to carry a golf umbrella, rather than a normal or small one.

15. I don't like to wear pants, skirts, or dresses without pockets; it seems the older I get the more annoying it becomes to have to carry a purse.

16. I always put my keys in my right pocket and my wallet in my left pocket, on the grounds that I need ready access to my keys but it's not a bad idea to have it take a moment to get to my money.

17. In my early teens, when I read about boys and girls carrying books differently, I immediately began carrying mine like a boy. I have made other, occasional experiments with using "male" body language.

18. I think the so-called white chocolate is an abomination before God. (Okay, not really, but it is foul and unnatural.)

19. I joined Mensa twice and let my membership lapse both times.

20. My favorite of the "big three" haijin (haiku poets), Basho, Buson, and Issa, is probably Issa; Basho might be the best, but I feel much closer to Issa.

21. I feel sorry for every ugly dog I see and part of me wants to adopt nearly every one.

22. I'm the only non-gamer I know who refers to a normal die as a D6--this is from hanging out with a gamer for, let's see, sixteen years now.

23. If we leave out desserts that involve chocolate, the most delicious dessert I've ever had was sweet potato cobbler. It's something my mother bought from a local woman a few times when I was a teenager. I've never encountered it anywhere else, but it trumped even cheesecake, which is my top dessert nowadays.

24. I love the smell of almond flavoring so much I've considered wearing it as cologne.

25. I was prone to carsickness as a child, and every once in a while now I will get a faint touch of it--or every few years a full blown case of it. It's not pleasant or something I would want to pass on to a child, but on the plus side, I threw up so much as a child I can do it without pain and with only minimal discomfort; I figure vomiting comes up more often in most lives than any astronaut-type activities which the motionsickness rules out, so I'm ahead. (Yes, that nasty pun was intended.)

26. I try to keep crystallised ginger in my glove compartment for nausea, but I find I want a sweet-with-bite taste far more often than I get nauseated.

27. I am unaccountably fond of the number twenty-seven.

28. I am blessed with an excellent digestive system, which I have abused mightily for over thirty years.

29. I used to be able to read French well enough to enjoy French haiku online, but these days I'm doing good to remember what Parlez-vous anglais? means.

30. I have a St. Martin de Porres medal on my keyring, which is a simply designed Bacardi Limon freebie; I have never actually tasted Bacardi Limon.

31. I was baptized on the Pentecost vigil (i.e. the eve of the Feast of Pentecost). Coincidentally, I was recently asked if I'm a Pentecostal, which surprised, then amused me. I guess it was because my hair, which could now be considered waist-length, was hair-sticked into a huge bun, and I appeared to have no makeup on.

32. I ascribe to the "if somebody compliments your makeup, it's no compliment" school of thought, at least in most situations. But I did have some fun with dramatic, '80s style eye makeup back in the '80s.

33. Like Gilda Radner, I base most of my fashion sense on what doesn't itch--also, what doesn't cause pain or more than very minor discomfort. So no pointy-toed shoes, no tight clothes, and no eyebrow plucking. I'm also anti-excruciating boredom, so no tanning and no endless filing, buffing, and painting of my fingernails.

34. I sing very badly, but I enjoy singing, especially filk and novelty sing-a-long type songs; I know all the words to quite a few songs like "I Shot Bambi's Mother" and "The Scotsman".

35. What's in my car CD player: Aaron Neville's Believe. Near Christmas I like to put in a Handel CD I have, that includes extensive selections from his Messiah.

36. I've seen every Ranma 1/2 TV show and OAV, and the Ranma 1/2 movie.

If 36 items just isn't enough Auntie Suzanne for you (which I find very hard to believe), try this list. Oh, and BTW, my mentioning I'm a Scorpio should not be taken as an endorsement of astrology; besides the fact that astrology is a pseudo-science, divination is forbidden to Jews and Christians and so as a Catholic I usually try to avoid even the appearance of it. But that doesn't change the fact that I can remember things I picked up years ago or the fact that, if you give Blogger your birthdate, it enters the astrological signs in your profile automatically. It also doesn't mean I don't still smile at certain jokes, such as, Q: How many Scorpios does it take to change a lightbulb? A: Why change it? We LIKE the dark.

[Edited a few entries 10/28/06, but I'm confident I left in enough typos, questionable grammar, and rambling to leave it obvious I needed sleep when I wrote this.]

The Bad Catholic's Guide to Good Living (and another recommendation for better Catholics)

The Bad Catholic's Guide to Good Living, by John Zmirak & Denise Matychowiak. ISBN 0-8245-2300-8

Growing up I remained untouched by anti-Catholic prejudice. I did hear the merest handful of mildly anti-Catholic things, but for one reason and another--I was a child and liked the Easter bunny, I thought one story was logically inconsistent and so must be a misunderstanding, etc.--they had no effect on me. But I did develop a kind of stereotype of Catholics all on my own--namely, an idea that Catholics were apt to have a sense of humor about their religion. As best I can remember, I first got this notion as a teenager while sitting in a hospital waiting room in Jackson one day. A Catholic priest came in to talk to some people who were waiting and after some chit chat I overheard him tell them the joke about the drive-thru confessional (motto: toot-n-tell or go to hell), which made me have to suppress the urge to giggle behind my magazine. Now, I can't say I ever thought much about this notion of mine--it was just a sort of general, vague expectation that got some confirmation now and then. And I don't think it's any more accurate than your average stereotype; in other words, I'm sure I'd have no problem finding plenty of joyless Catholics who'd be right at home delivering a hellfire and damnation sermon in a James Joyce story, if I went looking for them. But who wants to look for them?* Let's just remind ourselves that Merrie Olde England was Catholic England and move on.

The writers of The Bad Catholic's Guide to Good Living obviously have a great love and respect for Catholicism and seem to be orthodox Catholics, but they don't mistake that as necessitating going around all po-faced and somber.** They have a sense of humor about their religion and about Catholics, especially perhaps the bad Catholics of the title--which is most of us. (Though I personally prefer to call myself a malpracticing Catholic--as in, I do it badly, but I keep at it anyway.) Most of us, when we're not actively commiting obvious sins, prefer coasting along in a kind of happy mediocrity, rather than answering an inconveniently demanding call to holiness; that is (fallen) human nature. The Guide's authors are always wryly aware of this, and they bring that awareness to their celebration of the sometimes weird world of Catholic feasts and fasts (mostly feasts), saints and sinners (mostly--well, we've covered that already). They made me laugh out loud multiple times and smile to myself on, I think, every page.

The book's purpose, as the authors state in the January 6th entry ("Epiphany and Carnival: The Work Ethic Be Damned"), is "to dig into the Catholic past and unearth an unending supply of pre-texts for parties". They do this by laying out the book from January to December and giving plenty of saints and events to celebrate in each month, interrupting seven times to give "executive summaries" of the sacraments. Most days have a suggestion or suggestions for celebration and many have recipes. Some of these suggested celebrations will get you branded as an eccentric by friends and family, one or two will have the neighbors looking oddly at you, and at least one has the potential to get you arrested. Most of them also sound like a lot of fun. Mostly innocent fun, such as the Easter egg fight or the St. Hubert's Day suggestion, although I'm not so sure the glee with which I imagine the consequences of inviting my maternal relatives--WASPy, Germanic types who fight by not talking to one another for years on end--to a Proxy Penance party (see Shrove Tuesday entry) is entirely an innocent thing. And the Guy Fawkes Day (obviously NOT a Catholic holiday!) suggestion is in questionable taste--fun, though.

As for the recipes--from smothered squirrel to Cheese Pascha, from Flaming Spinach Salad to German Honey Cakes for Bears--they sound delicious; I think I may start with the Soft Olive Oil Bread from the Not Particularly Penitential Recipes for Lent, although Uncle Pookie expressed some interest in having the dessert Nun's Farts (which sounds a lot nicer in untranslated French, provided you're not a native French speaker). As befits a book about life in a church that tries to be catholic (i.e. universal), the recipes are drawn from multiple ethnic backgrounds.

This book would make a good gift for Catholic friends and relatives, especially with Christmas coming up. (Do note that if you buy it for your relatives, you won't be able to use the advice about getting out of hosting future Christmas dinners.) There's no need to wait until Christmas to buy a copy for yourself. If you're so gauche as to have reading material in your bathroom, you can leave your copy there to amuse guests who wouldn't normally read a Catholic book--really, who's not going to pick up a book with a cover photo of the Pope making funny faces? Depending on your fastidiousness level, you might want a second copy for the kitchen. Upshot: Highly recommended.

If you're looking for a gift for Catholic relatives whose sense of humor might be missing through inaction, another possible gift is Edward Sri's The New Rosary in Scripture. It's a book about praying the rosary, with reflections from the Scriptures on each mystery and JPII's letter on the rosary. I'm not all the way through it, but it is good so far. Of course, if you're feeling like pointing out the mote in their eye, you could remind them of the Oscar Wilde line about how the Catholic Church is only for saints and sinners, that nice, respectable people will just have to be Anglicans.*** Or, more subtly, you could include a handmade bookmark with the following Hilaire Belloc verse:

Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine,
There’s always laughter and good red wine.
At least I’ve always found it so.
Benedicamus Domino! ****


*I grew up among Baptists who, no matter how fun-loving people they might be in general, tended to be utterly humorless when it came to religion (their own, anyway; I recall a couple of Methodist jokes); laughter anywhere around the subject of religion would be interpreted as laughing at it, and any kind of pleasure other than hymn-singing (with body held very still, so no one would think you were dancing) was banished from both church and heaven, as far as I could tell. Frankly, after that I've always found a little light-heartedness--even irreverent lightheartedness--much preferable. (Please, please, note I am not slamming Baptists, only reporting my own impressions as a young person. I once heard a Catholic priest say that Baptists are some of the best friends Catholics have on the pro-life front, and I really do think we Christians and religious Jews need to make common cause against a culture--or cultures--that would destroy us all. Also, as these were white Baptists and their church-going behavior did not even match that of Baptists in predominantly black Baptist churches right across town, I see no reason to think they were representative of Baptists everywhere.)

**Actually, I seem to recall reading a snippet from St. Thomas Aquinas, in which he said that being humorless and cheerless could, at least in some cases, be considered a sin, as it pointlessly makes your company a trial to others. Anyone know the quote?

***No offense intended toward Anglicans. From what I've heard, you guys have done a much better job of hanging on to traditional church music than we have.

**** "Let us bless the Lord!" is the translation I've seen, but I think we can use the more Bible Belt-friendly, "Praise the Lord!" I await correction by Latin scholars, if any is needed.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Random Thoughts

Does anyone ever refer to the largest box of condoms as the family pack?


You have to wonder about the elven economy. They seem to be more into frolicking than into the whole Protestant work ethic thing or building factories, or even doing much in the way of cottage industries. Where do they get their stuff? My theory is they go to the dwarves for most non-food items, but the dwarves aren't going to give things away, so what do the elves barter with? UP suggests dwarves pay the elves not to frolic near them, but that would suggest an extortion economy that doesn't seem very Tolkien-esque.


I wish even half the people who claim to be worried about the decline of mom and pop stores, would spare some concern for the decline of the mom and pop family.


When we see a shamrock we're reminded of St. Patrick (or Ireland followed by St. Patrick's Day festivities), but I think St. Patrick would prefer we were reminded of what he used it to illustrate--the Trinity.


It's good for adults occasionally to watch teen romance-focused programs--good, because it reminds us of how very glad we are to be past all that angst.


It's even better for married people of the 35 and up crowd to listen to their same age single friends talk about dating. Nothing makes you appreciate being married quite like hearing about what it's like starting your evening out being scrutinized by a gimlet-eyed nine year-old who thinks you're trying to usurp his daddy's place or how hard it is to find any man over 35 who isn't an eternal bachelor, a freak, or heavily involved with his ex-wife.


It's a little odd that on all those crocheted cross bookmarks little old ladies make (or used to make?) you have to turn the cross upside down to use them.


Funny misspelling I saw: for expatriate, "ex-patriot". Well, I guess some expatriates are ex-patriots.


Maybe I'm sophomoric, but there's something bordering on hilarious about the idea of The Reader's Digest Bible. Wikipedia says it cut 55% of the OT and 25% of the New. No word on whether it was conveniently sized to fit on the back of the toilet.


Flaws can produce benefits. Thanks to being absent-minded and (since adulthood) near-sighted, I've read many amusing signs, seen a "unicorn" in a field with goats, and learned what cinnamon tastes like on lettuce.


What if you spent your whole life trying to "find yourself" only to discover that you're just not that interesting? Wouldn't you wish you'd spent that time trying to find Truth--or Beauty, or God, or even other people?


What exactly is WRONG with vacuuming in a dress and pearls?


All too often when reading the news these days, I'm reminded of Chesterton's The Flying Inn; it's not a great novel (Chesterton's fiction is inferior to his nonfiction and this is not his best) but a story about Islamic sensibilities/law being sneaked into a Western country stealthily, bit by bit, seems kinda relevant nowadays.


Jack Chick puts out some pretty hateful and inaccurate literature about my religion, yet I have never had the urge to riot in the street, march around with placards that say "Behead those who insult Catholicism", or shoot any of their distributors. Nor, as far as I can tell, have any other Catholics.


Recently a mother and father in Maine tied up and kidnapped their nineteen year-old daughter, allegedly to force her to have an abortion. Whatever happened to parents threatening their young daughters with simple homelessness if the girls don't abort the illegitimate grandchildren? The Maine couple had duct tape and a gun in their car. Oh brave, new world that has such people in it!

Friday, October 13, 2006

Knitting Rhymes,Old and New

Uncle Pookie has had to be away a lot this week, and I have trouble sleeping without him, so I pulled out my homemade knitting needles to learn to knit with. Night before last I learned the double cast on and the knit stitch with the help of the wonderfully clear instructions at KnittingHelp.Com. Last night I learned to purl--badly; KnittingHelp made it very clear, I was just clumsy in my execution. Tonight when I tried practicing it again, I was actually worse at it, and I wondered if a purl rhyme might help.

I already knew the traditional rhyme for the knit stitch

In through the front door,
Once around the back,
Peek through the window,
And off jumps Jack!

This is for English knitting. KnittingHelp/Amy Finlay modified that, to make a Continental knit stitch rhyme:

In through the front door,
Up over the back,
Peek through the window,
And off jumps Jack!

I've enjoyed reciting that one many times already, and I think rhymes can help people learn.

Googling for a purl rhyme I came across a few knit rhymes, all slight variants on that first one I gave, except for this one:

Jack goes in,
Puts on his scarf,
Comes back out,
And takes it off.

As for purl rhymes, I found the generic knitting rhyme

Under the fence,
Catch the sheep,
Back we come,
Off we leap!

It's generic because it can be used for either knit stich or purl. I also found the similar

In front of the fence,
Catch the goat,
Back we go,
Jump off the boat!

I don't like this one. Not only is it similar and generic, I can't figure out what the goat's doing on the boat--I mean, really, what's going on on that boat that they need a goat and a fence and why would it drive someone to jump off?

The only purl-specific rhyme I found was the charming

Down through the bunny hole,
Around the big tree,
Up pops the bunny,
And off goes she!

That's cute, but I thought the second line made it sound a bit more suited to English knitting, so I decided I'd make my own. My wanting to emphasize the backwardness of purling, led me to start off with "In through the backdoor", which I'm afraid stalled me for a bit, as I have a somewhat soiled mind, and that line has, well, connotations. But here's my Continental purl rhyme:

In through the back way,
Then rope the hog,
Back out the gate,
And jump off the log!

Okay, so it's not actually so Continental-specific as I was thinking earlier tonight--remember I'm somewhat sleep-deprived--and it's not going to appeal to little girls the way the bunny rhyme would, but I like it. It's easy to remember and I think it's already helped improve my purl stitch; I don't know, maybe that was inevitable when I practiced a little more, but the rhyme, especially the second line, did make me slow down and focus on what I was doing. Anyone who wants to emphasize the ease of purling--obviously, I wouldn't--could modify it to have themselves (and the hog) falling off the log. Of course, PETA is probably against the roping of hogs, even in verse, so I came up with some other purling rhymes, involving scarves and wharves and such, with nary a swine in sight, but I don't like them much, so I'm sticking with my hog purls.

I'd enjoy reading any knitting--or for that matter, crocheting or sewing--rhymes, that others have heard or written.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Maybe "Get Over Yourself" Can Be a Koan?

If I never hear another pretentious American talking about "the Zen of this" or "the Zen of that", I will have had my fill. "The Zen of X" always comes down to something like, "I've found that such and such activity is relaxing" or "I do this seemingly simple thing, but I pay attention when I do it, so I'm more spiritual than you non-attention-payers". Yes, yes, repetitive physical activity is relaxing and allows the mind to quieten down and come up with creative ideas; you, I, and our elderly Aunt Edna all know that, but Aunt Edna never applauded herself for it or attribute its effect to a religious/philosophical system she didn't practice. And paying attention to clipping your toenails may give you a greater quality of experience, but in the end, you're still just clipping your nails. And, if I may go so far as to contradict any number of women's magazines, clearing the clutter out of your living room doesn't make you or your living room Zen--the room looks better and it may be easier to be in it, but odds are that while you sit looking at your empty table, enlightenment will remain as elusive as ever.

If I were Buddhist , whether Zen or not, I think I would find it a bit offensive that non-Buddhists think they can become Zen masters just by deciding whatever they're doing anyway is Zen--and coincidentally they can sell books about it to others who want to think their pleasant hobby is deeper for them than for other of its practitioners who haven't bought the book. I think if I were from a Buddhist-heavy country, I think I'd petition the UN or something to stop this. But maybe they're all being philosophical about it--i.e., rolling their eyes and getting on with their lives, like sensible people. They can probably find some inspiration for that by studying American Indians, who've long had to endure Americans of European heritage enthusing about how they're "genuine Native American shamans" because they once attended a weekend seminar on it and got a certificate; selling "authentic" plastic dreamcatchers; lecturing Indians of Tribe X on how to build an X sweatlodge; channeling Indian spirit guides, etc.

Me, I'm not so sensible. I think I may start involuntarily channeling Lewis Black when I hear "the Zen of showering/embroidering/soldering/licking popsicles/whatever". And that can't be good for my blood pressure.

If only I could meet some of these people, I could sneak up behind them while they're doing their Zen thing and whap 'em upside the head. It would make me feel better, and I'm sure, being Zen, they'd appreciate my efforts on behalf of their enlightenment.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Also This Past Week--Two Feasts

St. Francis' Day

Wednesday (October 4) was St. Francis' Day. St. Francis is the one post-Biblical saint that everybody knows and likes, whether they're Catholic or not. Everybody has at least a vague idea of who the brown-robed figure preaching to the birds is. Something a lot of people don't know, however, is that Francis once set out--probably foolishly; certainly in the sense of "being a fool for Christ"--to convert Muslims. Unsurprisingly to a cynical person such as myself, he didn't have much success with that. Still, I've wondered for several years now why we don't ask him to pray for the conversion of Muslims today; I know some contemporary American Catholics now consider it taboo to suggest that Christianity is something non-Christians might want to convert to, but personally I'd think Francis might like having a crack at it from Heaven. I mean, I don't want to interfere with the custom of taking animals to church to be blessed on St. Francis' Day, but if all the non-pet-owner Catholics, Anglicans, and others who recognize St. Francis were to pray for conversions to Christ on that day, it could only work to the good, right?

(Re praying to saints, for any non-Catholics reading this: Catholics believe that it is beneficial for people to pray for one another. We also believe that the pool of people we can ask to pray for us is not limited to those currently alive on Earth, but that people who are alive in heaven can also pray for us. When we pray to a saint we are asking that person to pray to God for us. A saint is anyone in heaven, not just famous ones like Francis whom the Church officially recognizes as such. You can ask anyone you believe to be in heaven to pray for you; for example, the priest who baptized me said he frequently asks one of his aunts, who was a very holy woman, to pray for him.)

Remember Lepanto!

The day before yesterday (October 7) was the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. Why it is the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary may be unexpected to some--it commemorates a coalition of Christian forces, gathered at the Pope's request, turning back the further incursion of Turkish forces into Italy. The Pope attributed the victory to the rosaries prayed for the Christian forces--although I'm sure the soldiers and their weaponry had something to do with it; "trust God, but keep your powder dry", as the saying goes--and instituted this annual feast to celebrate. This was the 1571 Battle of Lepanto, and you can read more about it here and here.

Why I think we should remember Lepanto is that it shows that people in those parts of the world formerly known as Christendom--we'll just call it the West now--can band together to defeat an enemy who does not share our values and who would enslave us.

If you'd like a literary remembrance, you can read The Battle of Lepanto at G. K. Chesterton's Works on the Web here or at Bartelby here. (Although I must admit that, much as I like Chesterton, I have trouble reading this poem's lines about "Don John of Austria" without thinking of Don John from Much Ado About Nothing--another bastard--which rather spoils the effect.)

Of course, it's probably un-PC of me to suggest that we should remember Lepanto, that Western civilization might be worth fighting for, that Christianity might have anything worth converting for, etc. A nice, tolerant person would remind you that all cultures are equally worthwhile--except for ours, which is tyrannical and fascist; that all religions are equally wonderful--except for Christianity, which is always and in every way oppressive, and Judaism, which unforgiveably contributed to the creation of Israel; that only poor, ignorant people would join the military; and that only "prey-ers" would pray for victory or even for the safety of our troops. What can I say--I'm not a nice person.

Some Thoughts Around the Amish Mass Murder Last Week

Murder is murder but somehow it seems even more despicable to target people who may be more vulnerable because of their relative isolation and lack of ready cell phones.


Maybe they would have been less vulnerable had anyone in that schoolhouse had effective weapons.


Although as a Catholic I can not condone or promote suicide, it is hard not to agree with Dennis Miller that, if you get so twisted up that you fear you can no longer stop yourself from hurting children in that way, that it might be time for you to stick your chin out and "take one for the team". You just need to do it before you go into the schoolroom with the K-Y jelly and the ropes, not wait until you think you're going to be caught.


Right or wrong, the people I pity most in all of this are not the family of the girls who were murdered, but the children of the murderer. Even if their mother moves them away from this small area, so that they can be relatively anonymous, I can not imagine how horrible this knowledge will be for them to live with.


I don't know the details, but I was heartened to hear in Rod Dreher's good opinion piece that the Amish were collecting money to help the widow and children of the murderer.


NRO's John Podhoretz, mentioning Rod Dreher's saying elsewhere he wished to become the sort of person who could stand over a murdered girl and say not to hate the murderer, said that some people we should hate. (I hope I'm not oversimplifying what I read days ago.) Yesterday Jeff Jacoby had a column saying "hatred is not always wrong, and forgiveness is not always deserved". I think both men are failing to distinguish between hating an action and hating a person. You can hate very much a despicable action and hate the attitude or philosophy that led to that action, and yet not hate the person who committed it. It is hard to explain why or how this can be so, but it is. A human person is more than one or several despicable actions he has committed; even the most depraved person still has some human dignity and worth left about him, no matter how much he has done to deserve our scorn, simply because he is still human. We punish the despicable action and we try to prevent other such actions, but we don't have to hate the person to do it--although anger is inevitable and hatred is sometimes thoroughly understandable.

Jacoby goes on, "I cannot see how the world is made a better place by assuring someone who would do terrible things to others that he will be readily forgiven afterward, even if he shows no remorse." And, "The murder of the Amish girls was a deeply hateful evil. There is nothing godly about pretending it wasn't." Forgiveness does not mean we will not punish the wrongdoer's anti-social action in a just way. Forgiveness does not mean we will fail to protect our society from other such attacks, both by that perpetrator and others. And forgiveness certainly does not mean we will say what the wrongdoer did was right. It does mean we will let go of our anger and our resentment against that person; we will refuse to let resentment eat away at us, destroying our lives.

I personally have trouble forgiving--I'd much rather sink an ax in the chests of people who've deliberately hurt me or my family, then (in certain special cases) dig up the bastards' graves and dance on their corpses--and I used to argue much the same line Jacoby does with my husband, who is a much better person than I am. My husband used to tell me that forgiveness does more for you than it does for the person you're forgiving. Age and--please God--maturity have brought me around to thinking he's right; holding on to our anger and resentment may or may not hurt the other person, but it definitely does a number on us. I also finally came to realize that forgiving someone was not the same as saying what they'd done didn't matter, that it wasn't wrong. And THEN I became a Christian, with an obligation, not only to forgive, but to pray for my enemies; nobody who's tried that ever said this was an easy religion.

One place I would agree with Jacoby--besides believing that the murders were an evil, godless action--is that forgiveness is not always deserved. But Christians such as the Amish are still called to forgiveness, whether the wrongdoer deserves forgiveness or not. And we're required to pray for those who do evil against us, whether those people deserve our prayers or not--probably especially when they don't deserve them. It's rarely pleasant or easy to do, but it is a requirement. And what is the alternative--a society dominated by vengeance and inhumanity?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Old Biddies and Mother Hens Trying to Look Like Young Chicks

Women have always had a desire to look good, especially to men, and as anyone who's worked in a nursing home or around old people in a hospital can tell you, that desire doesn't go away with age. It's why you'll see 70-somethings sitting under the hairdryer at the salon and 80-something ladies with a smear of bright red lipstick. But in the past most women aged more or less gracefully and didn't try to look twenty when they were well past forty. They recognized that to do otherwise was futile and a bit silly and they had a term for women who tried, through dress, to look like girls--mutton dressed as lamb.

Nowadays it's different, and many women think they really are supposed to look like twenty when they're forty--or at least that they're supposed to try their darnedest. Fifty is supposed to be the new thirty, we're told.* So exercise classes are filled with middle-aged mothers trying to attain the relatively flat bellies of their teenage daughters, diet books are always on the bestseller list, and info-mercials abound for wrinkle creams and makeup that will "turn back the clock".** Thirty-something mothers sport tattoos, forty-five year old redneck grandmothers wear low-cut jeans and belly-baring shirts to show their belly button piercing, and fifty-something women with breasts not far shy of wrinkling wear plunging necklines--all in the name of looking young. Wealthy women come closest to achieving the new goal of eternal girlhood, thanks to the "miracle" of plastic surgery. But, aside from the sometimes creepy results, look at the cost they pay--not just the money, but the physical pain. Cutting, pulling, puncturing, and bruising their flesh. Burning it with lasers or injecting it with poison. All so they won't look as old as they are.


The worship of youth that boomed with the boomers, but probably goes back to the Romantics or further. Boomer narcissim. A culture of shallowness. Better nutrition and health care that, while providing actual improvements in appearance and function, may create unrealistic expectations about what else is possible.

But personally I wonder if the breakdown of marriage doesn't have something to do with it. Back when marriages could reasonably be expected to last forever, a woman could age gracefully. Her husband wasn't going to leave her because she had wrinkles. Neither was he going to divorce her because his secretary was better in bed or because he'd decided he wasn't "fulfilled" and the answer must be returning to bachelor life. For that matter she wasn't going to leave him for those reasons, only to discover she's now having to date men her own age who have--sorry, but it's true--a natural, biological preference for youthful-looking partners. Divorced women (and those in shaky marriages) can get used to sleeping alone or compete with college students for unattached males. What a choice. Women were, in this one sense anyway, more secure in the past. So a fifty year-old woman in the past could do the basic grooming that comes from the natural desire to look good and otherwise just let herself be a fifty year-old woman. There's a kind of freedom in that.

*These things really escalate. It's less than a decade and a half since we were told that thirty was the new twenty-one. I guess the next slogan will be "Seventy is the new forty" or "Life begins at eighty".

** NASA should really look into that. Think of the benefits for long-range space travel.

A Little More Food for Thought, Offered Almost Without Comment

Looking for something else, I came across EWTN's Christ in the City, 2006, a series of talks by Father George Rutler. One of the episodes is about art and here's a bit that struck me:

"Every inspiration that is blocked by pride is an offense
against God. There are incalculable numbers of great works of art that never
were produced because of human pride--fear of criticism, the domination of the
ego which wanted to impose one's own desires rather than serve a higher truth."
(Father George Rutler)

Katherine Patterson, a novelist who deserves to be better known among adult readers, has an interesting line in her book Come Sing, Jimmy Jo. The eponymous protagonist comes from a family that performs mountain music and, although he has the family gift in spades, he will only sing at home because of his shyness. Early in the book his grandmother tries to convince him he should sing for others, because (I don't own the book, so this is from my middle-aged brain's memory)

"God doesn't give private gifts."

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Recommended Reading Containing Deep Thoughts About Art and Craftsmanship

JPII's Letter to Artists

I read Pope John Paul II's Letter to Artists during my conversion and was impressed by its respect for art and artists. Among other things, the Holy Father said that artists have a special vocation and are needed by the Church, he spoke of history and the goodness of God's creation and said that we need beauty; there's no surprises there, but it was something I could not imagine any of the American televangelists writing.

When Pope John Paul II died, some commentators remarked on how, because JPII's body had been encumbered by age and disease for over a decade, we tended to forget he had been a good-looking, athletic man when he first became pope. Some of us may also forget (or never have known) that he was involved in the arts (actor, playwright and poet) before he became a priest. It may be that his personal experiences informed his Letter. But it's not reflective only of his personal views--the Church has a long and great history of supporting art (if that statement surprises you, where did you think all of those magnificent cathedrals, requiem masses, and religious paintings & sculpture came from?); I think this may be because of the incarnational way Catholicism views the world, but that's a discussion for another time. Right now, I recommend people with an interest in art and craft (obviously they overlap; an interesting question for people who liked to argue arts vs crafts is whether Bezalel and the others God had Moses get to make His sanctuary--see Exodus 25-31 and 35 on--were artists or craftsmen) check it out. As I haven't read it since back then and as I'm now afflicted with middle-age brain (something like what I once heard a pregnant woman call "preggers brain", except it doesn't go away), maybe I'll even take my own advice and re-read it.

Shop Class as Soulcraft

I've only read three or four New Atlantis articles, but every one of them was thought-provoking and Shop Class as Soulcraft is no exception. In it Matthew B. Crawford talks about manual labor and craftsmanship, questioning assumptions that manual work is mindless (a relatively recent notion, I think) and white collar work is automatically mentally stimulating, giving a little of the history of vocational classes and factory work, and thinking about the relationship of craftsmanship and consumerism. I'm probably going to reread it later, to make sure I've gotten everything I can from it.

Some quotes to whet your interest:

"The satisfactions of manifesting oneself concretely in
the world through manual competence have been known to make a man quiet and
easy. They seem to relieve him of the felt need to offer chattering
interpretations of himself to vindicate his worth. He can simply point: the
building stands, the car now runs, the lights are on. Boasting is what a boy
does, who has no real effect in the world. But craftsmanship must reckon with
the infallible judgment of reality, where one’s failures or shortcomings cannot
be interpreted away."

"Being able to think materially about material goods,
hence critically, gives one some independence from the manipulations of
marketing, which typically divert attention from what a thing is to a back-story
intimated through associations..."

"The craftsman’s habitual deference is not toward the New,
but toward the distinction between the Right Way and the Wrong

"...trafficking in abstractions is not the same as

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Super-Simple Crocheted Dishcloths

I know there's a lot of dishcloth patterns out there, but many of them seem too fancy or impractical to me. Some of the slightly more complicated stitch patterns look nice and making a dishcloth would be a good way to practice a new stitch, but some designs seem too frilly for use; personally I don't think, say, lace edgings or or a big flower motif belong on something that will be used to scrub dishes. YMMV. I prefer my version of a crocheted dishcloth to any I've seen. It is so simple it would make a good first or second project, and it can actually be used to wash dishes. You only need to know some very basic stuff, it is mindless enough to do even while reading subtitles on an anime program, and it makes a dense fabric with ridges that I believe--rightly or wrongly; I've not actually done any remotely scientific testing of my notion--help with rubbing the dishes clean.

Super-Simple Crocheted Dishcloths

Skill level: Absolute beginner. (If you've really never crocheted before, see below for some helpful links.)

Materials:Worsted-weight cotton yarn, such as Peaches & Cream or Lion Cotton.*
H hook
Scissors and a large-eyed needle for weaving in ends of yarn


Chain (ch) 25.

1st row--Single crochet (sc) into second ch from hook and into each ch until end. Ch 1 and turn.

2nd row--Sc into the front loop (that is, the loop nearest your body) of each stitch (st) of the previous row. Ch 1 and turn.

Rows 3-20--Repeat 2nd row.

21st row--Repeat 2nd row, but at the end of the row do not turn.

Finishing--Add two additional sc at the end of row 21 and continue making sc in each st down the side and all the way around the dishcloth, making sure there's 3sc in each corner. When you get back to where you started, make a slip stitch (ss) to finish off. Optional: Instead of finishing off right there, ch 9 to make a loop for hanging the dishcloth and then ss to finish off. Weave in any loose "tails". (Actually, for the "tail" of yarn left from where you made your foundation ch, you can avoid having to weave it in by holding it over the edge of dishcloth and sc your border over it.)

Variation: Ch 27 and make 22 rows for a slightly larger dishcloth. (Obviously, these are sizes that work well in my hand; vary according to your hand-size and preferences.)
Variation: Use an ombre yarn for the main body of the dishcloth and then use a solid-colored yarn in one of the colors of the ombre for the border and optional hanging loop. For example, a yellow and white ombre yarn body and a solid yellow edging.
Variation: Add another row of border sc to the edge, either by continuing around again or by turning and going around the other way.
Variation: After the first row, make a normal sc--i.e., sc in both loops--for the first two and last two stitches of each row. This makes the ridge you get from crocheting in only the front loop not start at the edges. It looks nice, but because the yarn twists to go from the normal sc to the front-loop-only sc, you will have a bit of fabric all round the edge that feels a bit harder than the main fabric or the edging.
Variation: Use your imagination! Crochet is easy to frogstitch, so if you start something and don't like it, just pull it loose and start over--no yarn wasted.

*(Actually, you can use cheap acrylic yarn, such as Red Heart, for dishcloths if you want; acrylic yarn dries quickly--always a plus in a humid kitchen--and I'm not aware of any health reasons against it. Cotton is the standard, though.)

- - - - -
If you've never crocheted before, Lion Brand Yarn's Learn to Crochet pages have some good, basic help to get you started. (You may have to subscribe to the site to see this site nowadays, but subscription is free and you then have access to lots of free patterns.)

If you want to see someone doing these things, (now subsumed into Annie's Attic) has short Quicktime videos. See
Chain ,
Single crochet ,
Crocheting into front loop only ,
Slip stitch ,
and Color change .

Monday, August 14, 2006

A Feast Day and a Book Recommendation

Today is the feast day of St. Maximilian Kolbe, who was executed by the Nazis. Maximilian Kolbe was a Polish Franciscan who led an interesting life, including founding a monastery in Nagasaki, before he ran afoul of the National Socialists and ended up in Auschwitz. At Auschwitz, when ten prisoners were selected for death by dehydration and starvation in retaliation for an escape, Maximilian Kolbe voluntarily took the place of one of the selected, because that man was married with children. You can read more of his inspiring story here and here.

This is a good place for a book recommendation I've been meaning to make: When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, by Judith Kerr. I came across this three or four weeks ago while looking for another book in the juvenile Ks. I'd never heard of it before, but I was intrigued by the title and took it home. It turned out to be better than what I'd been looking for. (Escape to Witch Mountain, FWIW.) The book is written for children, but it never talks down to them and is such a well written account of refugee life that it will appeal to adults. Briefly, it is about a little German girl named Anna, whose father is a prominent writer who opposes the Nazis. On the eve of Hitler's being elected to power, they leave the country before their passports can be taken and Dad imprisoned; they think they will be able to go home again but are soon disabused of this idea. The story is about how the family must adapt to refugee life, first in Sweden (where at least they speak the same language) and then in Paris. In addition to language and cultural problems, the family must for the first time learn to get along with little money and no housekeeper. Their situation may be rooted in a particular historical time, but their efforts to make a life in a new and strange place could apply to people in many different situations and time periods. The details of the way they adapt will interest a variety of people; personally I found the process of language acquisition especially interesting. It all rang very true to life, possibly because the story was at least partly autobiographical. I also liked the illustrations; in fact, the only thing I think isn't particularly good about the book is the title, but I suppose that has the virtue of making people notice it.

For the "Knitting in Fiction" file, there's an amusing passage where the mother, who'd never been trained in any kind of housewifely arts, tries to knit a sweater to save money. She knits very tightly, stabbing the wool with the needles so that every stitch is an attack. (It sounds like the way Akane Tendo cooks.) The final result is a functional sweater, but one that looks as if it's made of tweed.

Anyway, the ISBN is 0698115899. It was originally published in the early 1970s and reissued in 1997 and seems to be in print, so I encourage people to buy it or look for it at the library. Caution to people buying the book for young children: Although the focus is refugee life, there are a couple of bits that could (and should) be upsetting. The suicide of a gentle, harmless family friend is touched on briefly, but it is given in such terms that many small children would not understand what had happened, only that the poor man had died. The most disturbing part of the book is when Anna overhears the story of a distinguished professor who was chained up and driven mad by the Nazis. It disturbed her and it should disturb everybody. May God have mercy on us all for allowing such things to happen.

(Now I think of it, maybe it's not coincidence that the Divine Mercy chaplet came into being in the 1930s.)