Sunday, February 23, 2014

Presidents and Denim

We've been working on taking President's Day Weekend as a weekend getaway, thanks to Their Majesties (possibly assisted by Walt Disney and Maxwell Smart). We've done it three years running now, which is pretty impressive. It's a better time than our anniversary, which is in early September, a time when whole-family trips to the beach sound like a good idea. In February, cabin fever makes everyone happier with a break from each other.

It's always been President's Day Weekend with us, back to when we were first courting. We don't do that mushy Valentine stuff. We sit around and talk about dead presidents, as we have done from the first. Indeed, I am reminded of a chat early in our acquaintance. I forget how the topic came up, but DOB asserted that he had learned valuable lessons from each and every president.

"Oh, really?" I replied, "So what did you learn from William Henry Harrison?"

"Don't make a speech in the rain without your hat," he replied.

This year we didn't actually go anywhere--we stayed home and bought flooring while it was on sale at Costco. And we went to used bookstores and I found the entire Kristin Lavransdattr trilogy for $6 and a beautiful copy of Robin Hood and many other fun things.

DOB decided he had better stick to his usual exercise schedule, so while he was at the Y on Monday morning I went to Target and decided to spend some time learning how to find jeans that fit. Someone recently posted a link on how not to buy mom jeans, which I read without much enlightenment. Since I wore grandma jeans as a pre-teen (technically my great-aunt's, but I think that counts), just wearing mom jeans is fashion progress for me. Still, I tried a number of different ones on to see if it would enlighten me.

What I have found is jeans in two categories: the ones that seem to fit OK in the dressing room, but are pinching unpleasantly by the end of the day, or the ones that seem to fit OK in the dressing room, but are sliding down awkwardly by the end of the day (and usually finding somewhere to pinch along the way). Trying on a dozen or so did not reveal any that seemed likely to defy this categorization, but I did definitively decide that jeggings are not for me. (Duchess looks quite good in leggings and long tops, but then, she is nine and streamlined and I am neither.)

Anyway, after all that trying I didn't buy anything, but later we went to the thrift store and I found two pairs of jeans that seemed to work pretty well. One of them pinches a bit at the end of the day and the other one slides down a bit at the end of the day, but they will do. They may or may not be mom jeans. I'm still fuzzy on that concept.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Thing That's Been Keeping Us Up Lately

Because it's always something else's fault that we can never get to bed on time . . . this one, at least, doesn't cry or mess up the carpet.

It's Lutheran Satire. If you're not Lutheran, then you probably won't find it quite as funny. (Indeed, being a different flavor of Lutheran, we don't laugh quite as hard as a few of them. But hey, that's what satire is all about.)

Still, I think almost anyone could appreciate How to Have an Official Position. Or How to Start a Cult. And I am sure it is not only Lutheran pastors who suddenly find themselves part of the Feast of 156th Fruits.

If you're Calvinist, you probably shouldn't watch this one.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Democracy on Sale

Democracy the game, that is.

I've never posted about a game before. This is not about my favorite game (that would be the late and much lamented Glitch), nor is it about the game I play the most (that would be Magic: the Gathering in its various forms).

However, this is the first game I've encountered that seemed to have sufficient non-gamer interest to warrant a blog post.

It is, as you might suspect, a game that simulates politics. You get a country with taxes, policies already implemented, policies you might implement, voters with various degrees of commitment to various philosophies and interest groups. And you have to try to keep the country going and make yourself popular enough to get reelected while taking into account that every policy change will have all sorts of consequences, and they're never all good.

You can adjust the philosophy of your voters on two continua: economic (socialist--capitalist) and social (liberal--conservative). You can also adjust the difficulty level, which is good because on the normal setting you start with everyone hating you and a large deficit.

Of course analyzing the accuracy of the simulation is half the fun. Compared to real life, it's way oversimplified. And you never get a chance to get up and explain to everyone why your wonderful policy would be such a great idea (or even make up your own policy, unless you know how to do mods, which I certainly don't).

Still, there's plenty of things that seem pretty accurate. Such as the way *nobody* cares that you balance the budget. I'm so good at balancing the budget, and no one even notices. Except those nasty credit rating bureaus. However, debt spiral is no fun at all. And it's pretty hard to keep the budget balanced and the socialists happy.

There are many various goals to seek, extremes of one policy style or another. This is a lot of fun. "Bwahahaha! I've turned Germany into a police state! I gave everybody school lunches and nobody blinked at the universal wire tapping!" "I've diminished the Canadian military to "ceremonial" status. They don't need a military, do they? Isn't that what the US is for?" (Note: Do NOT try to eliminate the US military. It's too big of a chunk of the economy and the whole country falls apart.)

The people who do know how to create mods have created models for even more countries, such as Greece and Albania. However, for now, it's plenty hard enough to govern Canada and Australia.

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Well at the World's End

If folk tales can be divided by age group, then The Well at the World's End is definitely a "youth" tale: the king's youngest son sets forth on a quest, finds a bride, and returns home in triumph.* Only it's a whole lot longer than the longest fairy tale.

The Well at the World's End (the location, not the book) is a surprisingly modest goal: it doesn't convey immortality or invincibility. Some people, apparently, have made the journey and returned home only to get promptly stabbed in the back. At best it conveys, in role-playing terms, a bonus to all stats: those who drink of it are stronger, healthier, longer-lived, healed of all past hurts, more loved by their friends and feared by their foes, better-looking, and just plain luckier. If you go when old, it will make you young again. But given the rigors of the trip (which, after all, takes you out to the world's end), few can make it in old age, so it seems safer to go while young. (Technically you can go back indefinitely, but few seem to manage that feat, even should they wish it.)

 Ralph himself seems to be luck's darling before the trip begins, not to mention so handsome he practically has to beat women off with a stick, but that's the way of it. You can't even make it to the well unless you already have a lot of advantages. The Well is not an equal-opportunity quest. (Ursula, though not royalty, is certainly not without advantages either.) The question is not, can everybody get there, but what do those who get there do with it?

At one point on their journey, a sage who has made the trek himself gives them a caution before guidance:
"I will say this much unto you; that if ye love not the earth and the world with all your souls, and will not strive all ye may to be frank and happy therein, your toil and peril aforesaid shall win you no blessing but a curse. Therefore I bid you be no tyrants or builders of cities for merchants and usurers and warriors and thralls . . . But rather I bid you to live in peace and patience without fear or hatred, and to succour the oppressed and love the lovely, and to be the friends of men, so that when ye are dead at last, men may say of you, they brought down Heaven to the Earth for a little while."

In other words . . . don't let this quest go to your head. Come back home and live a good life. And in the end, that is what they do--Ralph returns to his little home kingdom, clears out the robbers, and takes back on the tasks he fled from at the beginning of the book. In the end, what the great quest equips him for is simply to do his duty.

At the same time, there's a subtle counterpoint story that is more of a midlife tale. At the beginning of his quest, Ralph is given a set of beads that will serve as a talisman to guide him, a gift from his "gossip" Katherine. ("Gossip" is, apparently, an obsolete word for "godmother," and Morris won't use a modern word when he can dig up an obsolete one.) Katherine is no elderly fairy, but the middle-aged wife of a local merchant, who held Ralph as a baby when she was a teenaged bride, and retains for him an affection that is a trifle too warm to be strictly maternal. She's had no children and although she and her husband are fond of each other, there's a hint that the humdrumness of their life is wearing on her. She's still pretty and strong and active enough to take her turn on the walls when the city is threatened, but you can feel the big 4-0 is staring her in the face.

When Ralph comes back in triumph with his new bride, she tells the story of the beads . . . how she obtained them, how she was to give them to a man not of her blood in need and they would lead him to the Well at the World's Men. She'd tried to give them to her husband, Clement, a few times, but he thought the whole thing was a myth (though he later gave much help to Ralph in his quest) and preferred to stick to his regular merchant runs. And so they were saved and given at last to Ralph, who was young and crazy enough to think the tales true.

After the great battle when Ralph sweeps away the invaders and restores the kingdom, he runs to tell her the news.
Quoth Ralph, "Rejoice, gossip! for neither is Clement hurt, nor I, and all is done that should be done."

She moved but little, but the tears came into her eyes and rolled down her cheeks.

"What, gossip?" quoth Ralph, "these be scarce tears of joy; what aileth thee?"

"Nay," said Katherine, "Indeed I am joyful of thy tidings, though sooth to say I looked for none other. But dear lord and gossip, forgive me my tears on the day of triumph; for if they be not wholly of joy, so also are they not wholly of sorrow. But love and the passing of the days are bittersweet within my heart to-day. Later on thou shalt see few faces more cheerful and merry in the hall at Upmeads than this of thy gossip's."
Behind the scenes of Ralph's youthful triumphs, Katherine must come to terms with the end of her own youth; that fairy-tale romances and quests out of dreams are past for her, but she can take it with good grace and pass on what she could not use herself. She puts off meeting Ursula at first, but in the end, it says, " . . . she loved and cherished Ursula and lived long in health of body and mind."

* There are also midlife tales, which tend to be about losing the magic of youth, and elder tales, which I think are about dying. And, although I've never seen anyone else use this classification, there are nursery tales, which, in contrast to the message to the youths: "Go forth and seek your fortune," convey the message to smaller children: "If you go out in the world, things are going to try to EAT you."

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Color Me Incompetent

I come from a line of women who can decorate. You know, the kind of people who can take a room and make it look like everything is supposed to be there, instead of like some random furniture was taking a walk and paused to catch their breath. The kind of people who can make colors who weren't on speaking terms sit down to tea together. And take eclectic and turn it into a style.

I wouldn't say I completely missed out on this talent. At least I got enough to be discontent when the walls are plain white. But somehow things never come out on the walls they way they do in my head. When I put a bunch of mismatched furniture together, it doesn't look "eclectic," it looks "bunch of mismatched furniture." When I put colors together, instead of reinforcing and highlighting, they just glare sullenly at each other.

But hope springs eternal and every house is a new chance. I wasn't going to paint anything at the new house just yet, as the walls are in good shape and resources need to be devoted to the flooring and door widths, but then I realized that the room that is ideal for the schoolroom is also painted powder blue. While I can tolerate plain white with sufficient stuff on the walls, powder blue I cannot tolerate anywhere for any length of time. So I'm going to try again, and see if this time I can get a color on the walls that doesn't turn into something else as soon as I get it up there.

I try reading books about color design, but they all start out with the first-grade color wheel, and then they start talking about how colors next to the main color can coordinate, or colors on the opposite side, and then my eyes glaze over when they start talking about hue and saturation and I go away with the impression that you can put together pretty much anything and it will look great in a decorating book and terrible in my living room.

One thing I haven't actually tried yet that I do have some hope in: I'm going to try matching my paint chips to the curtains and pictures I already like. It doesn't require me to read about hue and saturation, for one thing.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

We Interrupt Our Regularly Scheduled Programming . . .

If the words “Bill Gothard,” “IBLP,” or “ATI,” don’t mean anything to you, skip this and I will return to the regularly-scheduled programming of kid quotes and domestic disasters tomorrow.

If they do, then let me preface this by saying I know that many good things have come out of this program. Hey, I’m one of them. There were many good people involved who sincerely wanted to serve God. There were some teachings that, on their face, sounded helpful. And I know there’s a place for private confrontation and private repentance and not spreading unnecessary gossip.

But when someone has engaged in a pattern of abusive conduct for decades, unmarked by any genuine repentance, despite countless attempts to confront them privately, and when, at the same time, their core teachings are a false gospel that has been destructive to many lives . . . then it is time to speak up and put a stop to it.

If my parents had been aware, back in 1980, of the true scope of the scandal that was hushed up then, I don’t think they would have continued their involvement. Unfortunately, it was successfully hushed up and now there are dozens of witnesses over multiple decades to the same pattern of misconduct. Thousands of witnesses to the damage of the false gospel. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.

I’m including two links. One is one (of many) victims of the misconduct—with corroborating testimony by someone I know personally. (There are many, many more parallel stories on the site—this is not an isolated tale-bearer.) The other is my own testimony of the effects of the bad teaching. (And again, there are many, many more on the site.)