Sunday, January 07, 2018

Loathsome Diseases

This time of year people are posting uplifting things on Facebook about magically ridding themselves of negativity and drama to face the new year which will bring nothing but uplift and positivity.

What I find is that the new year is laying in wait with its own new store of negativity and drama. Such as, say, two-thirds of the family getting strep, some of them in places one did not even know it was possible to have strep.

Apparently Duchess actually had it last month and I didn't notice. Well, she did complain her throat was pretty sore a time or two, and one day she felt bad enough to stay home from school, which is pretty bad in her world, but I made her some tea and figured it would pass. I tend to take after my grandmother who reputedly refused to believe my father was particularly ill when, as it turned out later, he actually had polio. She made him go out and play anyways. The doctor later told her he probably was all the better for it.

Then DOB was ill, but DOB generally is ill this time of year to some degree or another. His sinuses do not care for winter.

Then Deux and Dot had the first week of school derailed by mysterious and unpleasant symptoms. Unfortunately things reached a head just when I was scheduled to take Rocketboy to a endoscopy appointment in the early morning, so DOB had the fun of dealing with miserable children overnight and emergency doctor appointments in the middle of court while I was semi-guiltily enjoying a ferry ride all by myself and order-in ramen and other such luxuries of city life with Rocketboy and Bookworm.

But I returned home with lots of books from Bookworm and everybody has medicines and ointments and after a few days are starting to feel semi-human. And I cleaned the fridge.

Chesterton on Being a Lawyer

" . . . we should always be much more inclined to trust a solicitor who did not talk about conveyancing over the nuts and wine. What we really desire of any man conducting any business that the full force of an ordinary man should be put into that particular study. We do not desire that the full force of that study should be put into an ordinary man. We do not in the least wish that our particular law-suit should pour its energy into our barrister's games with his children, or rides on his bicycle, or meditations on the morning star. But we do, as a matter of fact, desire that his games with his children, and his rides on his bicycle, and his meditations on the morning star should pour something of their energy into our law-suit. We do desire that if he has gained any especial lung development from the bicycle, or any bright and pleasing metaphors from the morning star, that they should be placed at our disposal in that particular forensic controversy. In a word, we are very glad that he is an ordinary man, since that may help him to be an exceptional lawyer."

~G. K. Chesterton, Heretics

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

First Post

Well, it is the new year and I have started the Aeneid. Turns out I actually really like it. It's not as gruesome as the Iliad, and not as discursive as the Odyssey, and spends less time on the sunrises.

It's still about the Trojan War, though. Apparently it took several centuries for everyone to get over that one. Only this is the story of the losers. History may be written by the winners, but poetry is written for the losers--or in this case, the current winners who want to remind everyone how they started out as losers.

Besides Troy, the thing these books have in common that is almost impossible for modern retellings to recreate is the sense of the gods as the primary actors. Moderns may try, but we cannot entirely take it seriously; we think they must just be putting it on and revert to cynicism as soon as they are offstage. But it's not really about the adventures of Aeneas; it's about Juno's and Venus's plans to check and counter-check each other and poor mortals just get caught in the middle.

Maybe they were wrong, but then, maybe they had a better appreciation of their limits than we do.

I'm not great at reading epic poetry--there are a lot of allusions to other places and people that I certainly don't want to bother digging out, so then I start skimming and then I realized I missed a key clue as to who is talking or doing something because they will use three or four names for the same entity. Poetic variation is overrated.

In other readings, I'm still finishing up Heretics by Chesterton and Napoleon's Buttons by Penny Le Couteur. And I just got Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency in from the library, but I haven't started it yet.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Back to the Classics Challenge #1: The Aeneid

Taking a cue from Uglemor, I will be rolling a D12 to determine the sequence of my Back to the Classics Challenge reads.

(Exception will be Swiss Family Robinson, which I will start whenever we finish Watership Down.)

And my first roll is . . . 11. I'll be starting with the Aeneid.

Well, get the tough stuff out of the way first has always been my motto. Starting tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Hounded

We had a picture-perfect Christmas, complete with an inch of snow on Christmas Eve *and* the Christmas tree falling over in the middle of the candlight service, and I don't think you can get much better than that.

My main obsession, however, remains keeping the puppy in.

Somebody suggested buried chicken wire. I tried that with what I had on hand, and although it didn't work, it seemed to require him to go around the edges, which suggested that it might work if done sufficiently. So I bought three big rolls and we spent all day one Saturday with me digging and spreading and DOB tying the edges to the fence and the kids chipping in with shovels and stomping things down.

This held for two days. And on the third day, he escaped again.

The weak points this time appeared to be at the points where the fence joins to the house--one one side he had actually chewed an enormous hole in the shed in order to get through and play with the cat, and on the other side he had scraped enough away from the foundation to make the addition on that end look in similar peril. Even with our best efforts, he managed to pull things apart at both ends to get through. So he had a few more days of running free until the following Saturday.

DOB suggested we try cement next, so Deux and I filled in the holes, stretched the wire back out, and poured cement on top. It wasn't pretty, but it might hold. The real challenge was keeping the dogs away until it dried (i.e., inside, and they are not used to being inside and get very restless and certain nameless offspring find it exceedingly stressful). This, on the day that was also supposed to be the one day I had to clean and prep for Christmas. (We had a very big case that hit a critical point the middle of the week before Christmas, and at some point I hope to be able to tell more about it.)

That held on one side, but on the place next to the enticing kitty-filled shed he managed to rip the cemented chickenwire and the fence apart one more time and Christmas Eve he was running loose again. So I went out and wired the chicken wire and the fence together in a bond of peace and goodwill that should last for the ages.

At least, it's lasted so far.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

That Kind of a Day

We have one very complicated case going right now that involves coordinating things with several different groups. I had promised someone a drafted document to see if they could sign off on it by ten in the morning.

Naturally, this was the time my brand-new (refurbished) computer that I had just gotten everything set up and downloaded onto went on strike and started freezing up every few words or clicks or attempts to download. 

I did finally manage to get my document off by eleven, and meanwhile had contacted our tech guy, who decided the best course would be to just send his closest available person to bring a different tower for me to try out. The closest available person happened to be his girlfriend, who has tried to tell him that she should not be given technical tasks. But it was simple, right? Just swapping out the tower and pressing start.

Except the wireless had to be connected, and somehow when she pushed the buttons that were supposed to connect the computer with the router, instead what happened was our entire internet went down. So now I couldn't even work on someone else's computer, and neither could anyone else. For awhile we didn't even have phones.

A more technical tech person was dispatched, our internet was eventually restored, and I had my second new computer allllmost set up just in time to leave to get the kids. 

That let me start in on my second exercise in futility of the day, which was trying to patch the fence so the puppy could not get out. This issue dates back to last spring, when it turned out Panther, the puppy we got last year, went into heat so young we didn't have her fixed yet.

Natural selection favors dogs who can dig under fences. Judging from the variety of color and fur in the litter, maybe a few of them. So in June we had a litter of eight puppies--puppy midwife was not a skill I had planned for, but personal experience with mammalian reproduction let me roll it at a +3, and everything went well. Although in the throes of nursing difficulties, DOB and I vowed to each other that we would not, under any circumstances, keep one of the puppies.

You know what happened then. One of the homes we had lined up fell through and it just happened to be the home for the puppy who most adored Duchess and whose affection was requited. And reflecting that crushes on puppies seemed a safe outlet, we caved.

Unfortunately, Mammoth takes after his father in the fence-evading department. The past several months have been an endless round of filling in holes only to have them dug out again, like a slow-motion game of fetch. Last weekend we dealt with a particularly warped section of wire fence by barricading it with a giant section of wooden fence. We went in, certain he would have trouble getting through that, only to see him out again the next day. A little investigation revealed that he still had enough room to simply slide through his old hole and behind the wooden fence section. 

I tried placing a second section of wire fencing, partly buried, right behind the first one where the big gap was. That seemed to hold well, enough that he had to trouble himself to dig a new hole.

Which leads us to the current project, which is that someone told me that chicken wire lying on the ground next to the fence and covered with an inch or so of dirt would catch in his claws and deter further digging. I happened to have enough lying around left from a previous owner to cover the current favored spots. So we'll see how well it works. 

After that I took a long, hot bath and ate cookies. 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Tardiness

Apparently the children (I can't really call them ducklings anymore, they are not short and fuzzy enough) are supposed to have an excuse slip from me to get out of being marked tardy should they, in fact, be tardy. I don't understand how this works. Surely if I am running so late they are tardy I am also too late to write four notes about it?

Duchess suggests I could create a preprinted sheet and then just check the appropriate box. Something like this, I suppose.

Dear Teacher:
Please excuse [Name] for being late for the following reason:
  • The cat got in.
  • The dog got out. 
  • The cat and dog were locked in mortal combat.
  • One of the wheelchairs broke down and we had to rearrange all the cars and which piece of equipment was in which car in a sequence so complicated I could not possibly reconstruct it. 
  • A child who has survived a decade or more on this earth somehow forgot until we were actually in the car that shoes were an essential part of public attire. And also that the absence of food is a common cause of hunger pain.
  • We passed through a field of time distortion on the way here.
  • Nobody knows the trouble I seen.
  • The next season of Grimm had to go back to the library today and therefore the parents had to stay up late to watch it. 
  • Gremlins, most likely.
  • My own abject failure to be a responsible adult. 
  • Other:___________________________________________________________ 

Somehow I still feel like I'm missing something here.

Oddly, we were almost never tardy last year. We must be getting too slack.

Monday, December 11, 2017

2018 Back to the Classics Challenge



This blog needs a reboot, and I need some inspiration. For the last few years, life has thrown enough challenges at me that I've just tried to keep my head above water. But I'd like to at least try to choose some of my own challenges this year.

So I'm going to try the Back to the Classics Challenge. And just to make it more interesting, I'm going to restrict myself to books I already own--as much as possible, books I own but have not read or at least have not finished. (According to the rules of the challenge, it doesn't count if you start before 2018, but I assume it's OK if I go back to the beginning.)

And, as part of the rules, I have to post reviews of each book, so that will top my posts this year as a start.

Let's see how it goes:


1.  A 19th century classic - any book published between 1800 and 1899.

The Master of Ballantrae, Robert Louis Stevenson. Picked up at a library sale sometime. Never read.

2.  A 20th century classic - any book published between 1900 and 1968. 

The Fall of Arthur, J. R.R. Tolkien. Recently published, but definitely written before 1968. Gift from a co-worker last year, haven't really gotten to it yet.

3.  A classic by a woman author. 

Unless I think of something else for this slot, Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley. I started it last year but didn't finish.  I'll have to start over, which will be annoying. Don't remember where I got it; it's one of those nice Barnes and Noble editions, but I'm sure I didn't buy it new.

4.  A classic in translation.  

Kristin Lavransdatter, by Sigrid Undset. I've read it before, but it's been about a decade. Also I think this translation might be different than the one I read first, from the library. Picked it up at a used bookstore a few years ago.

5. A children's classic.

Swiss Family Robinson by Johann Wyss. This will probably be a family read-aloud. I think I read it once as a child, which was about the least number of times I've read any children's book on the shelf. We have a nice annotated one I found at a library sale.

6.  A classic crime story, fiction or non-fiction. 

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Can't get much more crime than that. No idea where this one is from; the print is tiny but the book looks new.

7. A classic travel or journey narrative, fiction or non-fiction. 

Two Years Before the Mast, Richard Dana. Bears all the hallmarks of a long-ago library sale.

8. A classic with a single-word title.

Ivanhoe, by Sir Walter Scott, because I don't think I've ever actually finished it.

9. A classic with a color in the title. 
I was going to pick The Red Badge of Courage, Stephen Crane. I think I tried to read this about the age of 10 and didn't really get it. But then I realized that the copy I have is a Watermill, and my experience of those is that not only are they abridged with a machete, they then lie about it. So not that one.

I'll do The Scarlet Letter instead. I've read it before, but not since my early teens.

10. A classic by an author that's new to you.

Jude the Obscure, Thomas Hardy. I probably won't like Hardy. But I've never given him a try. Probably library sale.

11. A classic that scares you.

The Aeneid by Virgil. Somehow I've never been able to get into it--not even a retold version. I shall try again. Part of my Great Books of the Western World, which was a wedding gift.

12. Re-read a favorite classic.

Orthodoxy, G. K. Chesterton. I got in the mood for reading Heretics after watching a Murdoch Mystery in which H. G. Wells featured, and once I finish it I'm sure I'll want to do Orthodoxy. Long-ago Christmas present. I have a lot of Chesterton.