Saturday, January 30, 2016

January Books

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver: I did finish it, and barely in time for the church book club discussion. Really, really good. I was relatively isolated in liking it, though. It's definitely a dark read and much longer than I was expecting. I was most impressed from a literary perspective by the kaleidoscope of impressions as the same story is told from five different points of view--the mother and four daughters--all distinct, all with their own strengths and limitations. The story is of a cult-of-one renegade Baptist pastor who decides to take his woefully unprepared family to Belgian Congo--just as Belgium pulls out and the family is left to fend for themselves in a land that has been exploited for centuries by white people.

The Long War by Terry Pratchett and Steven Baxter. Somehow I had fallen behind on this series and came across the third book at the library, so of course I had to go back and read the second. What I love about this series is how it feels exactly like it could happen--like tomorrow I might open my Facebook to see a link to making a homemade "stepper" that would allow crossing into infinite alternative dimensions of non-human-inhabited Earth, ready to be explored. And then, of course, the difficulties and changes that would ensue. Highly enjoyable speculative fiction.

Paradise Lost by John Milton, Books I-III. This is for an online book club; I read it on my own a couple of years ago and it is definitely much more comprehensible the second time around, and with discussion. It's much easier this time around to follow Milton's convoluted sentences and appreciate the majestic roll of his phrases.

For family read alouds we have done By the Great Horn Spoon and now are in the middle of Five Children and It. Both have been big hits.

Saturday, January 09, 2016

New Digs

One of the big projects of the past month has been moving our main business location from an overcrowded spot at the other end of the county to a roomy (currently cavernous) location a few miles from home.

This means for the second year in the row, the Christmas season has been dominated by remodeling. Fortunately a lot of it was able to be done by volunteer or in-kind labor, but DOB still put quite a bit of time in himself. He found that crawling along the floor and taping things up was actually a pretty good stretching routine. I only showed up for a day or so, but I did add an extra layer to my already stiff as a board painting jeans.

The new location looks quite amazing, though. Like *real* lawyer offices. We are hoping to sublet a number of the offices to other attorneys, and have a couple of them spoken for. DOB reserved the biggest office, and now we no longer have to climb over his various mobility devices and rearrange them for every client meeting.

My office is small, since I'm only in two mornings a week, but we're going to put custom shelves up so I can stand or sit as the spirit moves me. I am not very good at staying in one place for long, and I expect this to be much more comfortable for me than a standard desk setup. It's a cozy, not-too-office feeling space with antique chairs (from my great-aunt) and table lamps.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

The Way of Things

Like most pithy statements, it has coalesced into a Facebook meme, but it certainly floated about the ether before that:
The most dangerous thing to say is, "That is the way we've always done it."
It's the quintessentially modern approach (and by modern I mean the past 200 years or so, it's a short time in human history). Always we should be blazing trails, innovating, rejecting the old and outmoded ideas of five months ago.

Our pace of technological innovation and information generation mandates it. We must be ever adapting and embracing change. Enough of life is in flux automatically that flux itself is considered a necessary or desirable state.

"Way" is a beautiful word, though, with far more meaning than we usually notice in it. It is a path, a road. Something that is both the sequence of steps between here and there and an entity in itself. "The way we have always done things" isn't just an arbitrary list of procedures; it is a path that has been tested and refined through the experience of much time and many people. To preserve it inviolate is not the nature of a way; a way adapts over time to changing circumstance. But to always be ignoring it and starting over is to waste a great deal of information that has had the opportunity to coalesce into wisdom.

What we have instead of ways is random data points. I saw an article recently, one of hundreds like it, about "9 Things Insanely Healthy People Do In the Morning." Individually, most of the things were reasonably likely to have been proven to be healthy in one regard or another--like drinking water, or exercising. Collectively, no mortal under the constraints of the space-time continuum could have accomplished them all, even if they lacked such common accessories as children and a job. It was most certainly not based on the actual practices of healthy people, but on this study over here and that study over there.

It is the nature of current scientific inquiry to be primarily concerned with isolating one factor and trying to find its causes and effects. Which is well enough as far as it goes. But at a human scale, factors do not live in isolation. This thing we are doing here influences four things in sixteen different ways which then influence each other in other ways. One small change that fixes one small problem may set off dozens of larger problems. A six-month study looking at three things has only the smallest of insight on how to actually live. Which is why in another six month another study will come out saying the exact opposite and there will just be more fodder for the wars of We Have Everything Figured Out This Time.

It takes the actual experience of many lives to find ways of living, and they will never be reducible to individual factors. They will be ways, the way we have always done things, and if you try to poke at the individual parts they will always be full of flaws or opportunities for theoretical improvement.

Speculative fiction tends to split on whether our technological innovations will usher in apocalypse or paradise, with apocalypse the more popular outcome. Odds are against extremes, but if we are to have progress and not just change, it will be because we have found ways of being through lifetimes of experience, because we are willing to pay attention to the whole picture not just the data points, because before we throw out the old ways as relics of an unenlightened past we are willing to pause and find out why they were where they were.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

A Last-Day-To-Remember-This-Year's-Books Post

Hmmm, hmmmm. I kind of tapered off this fall. Doing more work-work and that tends to leave me with less mental and emotional energy for imaginary problems.

The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving. This was for the church book club as part of the library's fall selection for the whole community. Chosen mostly on the basis of being a local author, I suspect. It was mostly just depressing. Inept people trying to cope with senseless tragedy and not a smidgen of hope anywhere. Not badly written, but pointless.

Sky Raiders, Rogue Knight, Crystal Keepers. Another Brandon Mull series the kids insisted I read. Lots of fun.

Castle Hangnail, Ursula Vernon. Totally hilarious tale of a castle that needs a new Evil Overlord and an aspiring young witch trying to fill some very big shoes. My birthday present from Bookworm. Duchess also loved it.

The Golden Dream of Carlo Chuchio. Apparently this was Lloyd Alexander's last book, a simple but satisfying fairy tale romance set along the Silk Road.

Seems like I must have read other books, but I'm drawing a blank.

In progress, hoping to finish soon:

The Secret Lives of Codebreakers. Ron and I came across a miniseries called Bletchley Park about some former code-breakers trying to catch a serial killer. It was so engrossing I couldn't resist the urge to find a book and read more about the real story.

The Poisonwood Bible. This is our church's book club selection for January. I'm not sure whether I'll love it or hate it or what but it's extremely well written and engrossing.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

White Christmas

A rather obscure beloved book of my childhood, called Wu-Han of Korea if memory serves me right, depicted an idyllic pre-war but post-Catholicism Korea with its traditional customs and folkways.

One of the lines I remember vividly explained how in Korea, white was the color of mourning, and there was a rigid procedure for how many years it must be worn: so many years for the death of a parent, grandparent, sibling, spouse, child. The result of these customary long years of mourning, the book explained, was that adults pretty much only wore white. Only children and an occasional young adult would still be wearing bright colors.

As a child, I figured this must be because people died a lot more in the olden days.

Well, perhaps they did die a bit younger, but the death rate is, of course, the same. Because the grownups in my life didn't wear mourning, I could not see the loss that walked with them. A once-met uncle or great-aunt was just a name to me. I did not remember the hands who had written the recipes, the faces in the faded pictures.

Now I know that they did. Now I have my own loss that walks with me. And now I realize it is simply part of life, in the past, the present, and the future. The longer you live, the more dead people you know. The more Christmases you celebrate, the longer the Ghost of Christmas Past shines his light backwards to places and people forever gone.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Winter Storms

This year is the clear winner for Least Posts Ever.

Starting a business is just about as exhausting as having two new babies, and it uses a lot more words.

Business has been going well enough, all things taken into account, but the star of Murphy has been in the ascendant and when things can go crazy, they have. El Niño has given us an endless succession of rain and wind and power outages. One case goes crazy, and then another does, and then they push something else out of the way which takes three times as long to fix as it would have to have done right in the first place, but mind and body do break down at some point.

Still, we've been in our own business for nearly a whole year and we haven't gone broke or had a malpractice claim yet.

Beginning the first of the year we are moving to a location only seven minutes from home. We are keeping a satellite office at our old location at the other end of the county, but we will all be relieved to avoid the daily bottleneck and hopefully spend more time working (or possibly even sleeping) and less time driving (and, in my case, carsick). Our new location is also much larger and we will be subletting to other attorneys.

I gave the kids and myself an extra week off school for Christmas. I haven't exactly used it to relax yet, but we did do a massive purge of the playroom and bedrooms. They decided they had outgrown most of their toys--trains, toy food, most dress-up--so we are down to Legos and a zoo's worth of stuffies. They may have made up for quite a bit of it when they went Christmas shopping for each other at the variety mall--they were flush with cash after we hired them to stamp numbers on the documents for a trial--but they mostly got more stuffed animals which, if somewhat space-hungry, at least don't hurt to step on.

This year, Christmas dinner is going to be gourmet frozen pizza. And cookies. Surely I can still manage a couple of batches of cookies.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Things That Keep Happening

I went to the conference and it was not only highly informative and a chance to meet lots of people from the blogverse, there were cookies freely available at all hours of the day and night. It doesn't get more restful than that. And I met up with some new people who were interested in joining us for park day!

Also, light-saber dueling over Shakespeare adaptations:

Then, of course, Real Life returned. At work we have a trial coming up at the end of the month, which is a pretty big deal in our mostly transactional and negotiations practice, and we have to hunt up things like how do you impeach a witness, anyway? And what is with all these deadlines?

After a few days, though, Real Life got even more fun when Duchess came down with a stomach flu. She got over it in a day, but I was just waiting for round 2. I sent everybody to bed with towels beside their beds and metal bowls. Nothing happened.

Another day, nothing happened.

I was afraid we would miss our newly-revived park day, but everybody was still quite well, so we went ahead.

Then His Majesty went into the hospital with what initially looked like some loathsome disease but turned out to be an allergic reaction to his blood pressure medication. But he was pretty sick for a few days.

And in the middle of that, Deux finally came down with the stomach bug.

Then he got better. And I waited for the twins. And waited.

Finally, on the next Park Day, Dot started in. But she started early in the morning and I didn't want to cancel and she seemed to be perking up so I committed the unpardonable sin and we went to the park anyway.

She threw up as soon as we got there.

And no one else showed up anyway, probably because it was Columbus Day and some, not-self-employed people have this strange concept called Days Off.

And I kept her on a towel in the middle of a field of grass while the other kids played, so I don't think she really spread any germs. And the sunshine was nice.

Then she got better. And then, finally, finally, Dash got sick. And DOB got sick (maybe. Grownups seemed to have different symptoms.)

And then . . . I got it. I think. Again, different grownup symptoms.

Anyway, today I am recuperating while trying to face reality and it's not a pretty combination. I'm really only writing this blog post because it gives me an excuse not to get up and face lunch.

My apologies to anyone we unwittingly exposed over the last two weeks. I really tried to do better. But what kind of 24 hour bug doesn't infect everyone at once? That's just not playing fair.