Tuesday, February 24, 2009



Happy Fat Tuesday, y'all. Or ShroveTuesday or Mardi Gras if you're French or Carnivale if you're just about anything else.

As those of you who have read my prior calendrical musings probably know, Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Vernal Equinox. Tomorrow is the start of Lent, a period of 4o days of fasting, interrupted by Sundays, leading up to Easter. So today you have your last chance to eat up all the meat and fats in the house so you don't accidentally backslide and get found with bacon rind or a quarter-pound of butter in your maw.

Some of us just give up for Lent. Some of us try to figure out if we qualify to pass (pregnant women, folks with diabetes, etc.) on the fasting. Some of us are just glad we belong to denominations that don't insist on fasting. Maybe the Muslims have it right: their fasting at Ramadan only lasts from sunup to sundown. Makes it a lot easier physically for the long haul.

Anyway, there was a race this morning: the annual international competition between the ladies of Olney, England and Liberal, Kansas, USA. The Kansas winner and Overall Champion was Ms. Tasha Gallegos of Liberal.
The race involves running down the street with a skillet in one hand. During the course of the race, the runner has to flip a pancake and catch it in the skillet three times. I don't know if there are Olympic style tryouts, but on the other hand, no one has (so far) been accused of doping-unless you count extra syrup.

The word of the day for February 24, 2009 is "pancake" — Pronunciation: \'pan-,kāk\
Function: noun
Date: 14th century
: a flat cake made of thin batter and cooked (as on a griddle) on both sides.

Our quote for the day is from Antonin Scalia, recalled on his appointment to US Supreme Court, Newsweek 30 Jun 86:
[In a big family] the first child is kind of like the first pancake. If it’s not perfect, that’s okay, there are a lot more coming along.


Saturday, February 21, 2009



Sorting through the last year's paperwork for supporting tax evidence, I ran across last year's Valentine's cards, a ten-year-old check register that had escaped the search and destroy mission I did a couple of years ago and a letter responding to my Christmas letter about Lloyd's circumstances. I did find all the W-2 and 1099 forms and the 1098 forms, although I will have to call the company that holds our second mortgage again. They won't send out a 1098 unless I insist. I have a handful of thank you's from charity and the personal property statements. I'm all set to get started with my taxes, right?

Wrong. Along about October, TurboTax sent out my 2008 disc(s), which I laid aside unopened until needed. Now the TTax package lies somewhere in the flotsom that lines the floor of my computer room. Now I have to sort through the detritus: sort, shred, file and re-pile—at least until I find the discs.

Logically, the room is finite. There cannot be infinite material inside. Yet, I don't seem to be able to clear more than enough space to walk into to room for more than two days at a time. If I had more space elsewhere in the house, I would move everything out (putting it all in logical, logistical piles) install file cabinets and bookshelfs, and then herd everything back in in logical order. Oh to have Mr. Spock as my organizer.
The word of the day for February 21, 2009 is "impetus" — Pronunciation: \'im-pə-təs\
Function: noun
Etymology: Latin, assault, impetus, from impetere to attack, from in- + petere to go to, seek — more at feather
Date: 1641
1 a (1): a driving force : impulse. (2): incentive , stimulus. b: stimulation or encouragement resulting in increased activity. 2: the property possessed by a moving body in virtue of its mass and its motion —used of bodies moving suddenly or violently to indicate the origin and intensity of the motion.

Our quotation is from Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (1825–1911), U.S. suffragist and rights advocate. From her 1893 speech at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago: “Woman’s Political Future,” as quoted in Black Women in Nineteenth-Century American Life, part 3, by Bert James Loewenberg and Ruth Bogin (1976):

So close is the bond between man and woman that you can not raise one without lifting the other. The world can not move ahead without woman’s sharing in the movement, and to help give a right impetus to that movement is woman’s highest privilege.



Saturday, February 14, 2009



A few weeks ago, I picked up Appaloosa, a western starring Ed Harris, as Virgil Cole, and Viggo Mortensen, as Everett Hitch, because Lloyd likes a good western. What with one thing and another, we hadn't watched it until today. The movie certainly qualifies as a "shoot-em-up" as three people are shot dead before the opening credits and several more before the movie's end. However, there's plenty of time for some interesting introspection.

Renee Zelweger, as Mrs. French, certainly plays a very different character than she did in Miss Potter. There is evidence that the town fathers partake of the same character traits as Mrs. French. Jeremy Irons, as the villain, did not chew scenery—a refreshing relief. The town is gritty with no glaring anachronisms, and no Peckinpah dwelling on the blood and guts. The hero, if that's the right term, rides into the sunset at the end.

This is not John Wayne or Hopalong Cassiday, much more in the noir vein with a deserved R rating. Ed Harris directed the Robert Knott/Ed Harris screen-play based on a novel by Robert B. Parker. An excellent movie, but not light-hearted.

SPOILER ALERT: Everett Hitch killed the wrong person at the end—of course, if he'd killed the right one, he couldn't have ridden off into the sunset.

The word of the day for February 14, 2009 is "thrasonical" — Pronunciation: \thrā-'sä-ni-kəl, thrə-\
Function: adjective
Etymology: Latin Thrason-, Thraso Thraso, braggart soldier in the comedy Eunuchus by Terence
Date: 1564
: of, relating to, resembling, or characteristic of Thraso :
bragging , boastful

Our quotation is from Harris/Knott, Appaloosa, Phil Olson, played by Timothy Spall:

Evidently, Bragg's claim of association with our president wasn't just thrasonical.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009


I wrote to my cousin in Australia about the Victoria bushfire that has taken so many lives, livelihoods, and living spaces. Specifically, I asked what we could do to help. This is her answer:

Dear Jan,

Thank you so much for your concern.

This is the worst natural disaster that has ever occurred in Australia, and our worst loss of lives outside the World Wars.

We will be making a donation today. We've been tossing up between the Salvos (Salvation Army) or the Red Cross for immediate action. They say they need money for people to go and buy clothes, but the government is giving immediate grants. We also hear that mountains of donated goods are already arriving in the affected areas. A lot of aid will be required to help people start to rebuild their homes, and in some cases, entire towns. And the medical aid for the burns victims will be ongoing as well. Any of these organizations are good for immediate relief as well as follow up services.

Here are the email addresses for the
www.salvationarmy.org.au/donations and the
Red Cross
http://www.redcross.org.au/, as well as for the
Commonwealth Bank's Bushfire Appeal
commbank.com.au. Just specify 'The Victorian Bushfire Appeal.'

When we first came to Australia, Paul had an uncle (since deceased) living in an area called Healesville, which is under threat today. He loved Australia and the bush so much, and introduced us to its beauties. It was a lovely area; I just can't imagine how it must look now. Thanks so much for getting in touch.




Sunday, February 8, 2009


the corner kitchen cabinetMost of yesterday I cleaned out the under-counter corner kitchen cupboard. Because of its inconvenient construction, I keep only things that are infrequently used in that cabinet, except for a rack, usually filled with broiler pans and trays, that just fits through the cupboard door. At some point in time during the past month, we entertained a mouse or mice in that cabinet. They had apparently gotten in through a gap in the sheet rock where the 220v electric line comes through. I also noticed that I had stored mouse poison in that cupboard the last time we had mice. The baits were entirely consumed, so I'm probably lucky I didn't find a dead mouse in the cupboard.

I'm not afraid of mice; they are just disgusting. When I was a child I noticed that Daddy would set the mouse traps, as my mother didn't have the knack or strength to do it; Mother would empty them (throw the full ones in the trash) because Daddy was too tender-hearted—a perfect partnership. At my house, I get to do both offices.

some of the things from the cupboardSo I emptied out the pans, etc., vacuumed and pulled out shelf paper. (Yes, I used a filter mask and rubber gloves. No sense in courting Hanta virus.) Next came a bath of the entire cupboard—chlorine bleach in water. A thorough drying was followed by a good spray of disinfectant.

my excellent patchI filled in the access hole with some silicone grout—I couldn't find the spackle, apparently used on some other project or shuffled under the mass of garage detritus. The grout, however, just filled the hole before the tube ran out, so I figure it was meant to be.

drying timeDuring the drying periods, I threw out everything I could of the cupboard contents and washed the rest in hot water with chlorine in the rinse and then ran everything possible through the dishwasher on the sanitize cycle. New shelf liner went in and then a very few salvaged items that I do use once in a blue moon. Last of all the above described rack and the pans and trays. Next I need to clean out the cupboard under the sink. No mice, but I've certainly accumulated a lot of things under there.all finished

The word of the day for February 8, 2009 is "
rodent" — Pronunciation: \'rō-dənt\
Function: noun
Etymology: ultimately from Latin rodent-, rodens, present participle of rodere to gnaw; akin to Latin radere to scrape, scratch, Sanskrit radati he gnaws
Date: 1835
1 : any of an order (Rodentia) of relatively small gnawing mammals (as a mouse, squirrel, or beaver) that have in both jaws a single pair of incisors with a chisel-shaped edge. 2 : a small mammal (as a rabbit or a shrew) other than a true rodent.

Our quotation is from Robert Burns (1759–1796), Scottish poet. repr. In Poetical Works, vol. 1, ed. William Scott Douglas (1891). “To a Mouse,” st. 7 (1786):

The best laid schemes o’ mice and men Gang aft agley;
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain, For promis’d joy!



Thursday, February 5, 2009


Kath's (Mother Hen) latest post is a cute rhyme about her trip to a thrift shop. She has a pensioner's free pass to travel. What a wonderful thing to have.

A free bus pass wouldn't work very well in most of the United States because the bus systems here are such a joke. In most small towns there is no bus line. Small to medium cities may have a bus line, but to keep costs down one has to go to the central transfer station for most trips to the other side of town. Most folks won't put up with a 2 hour bus trip that only takes 20 minutes by automobile.
Also for inter-city trips, Mid-western and Plains states towns with bus stations are so much further apart here than in Great Britain. Plus, if there is a bus stop it is usually on the highway—nowhere near shops—with no guarantee that there will be intra-city transport once you get to the town.

Admittedly, in some places in the States, where the population base is large enough, or where they are dedicated to the Green principle, the intra-city systems are better developed. Portland, Oregon, for instance, has a good light rail transport in conjunction with a bus system that really seems to work. Still, my son (who lives in Portland) has a pickup to take when he goes junking for his art materials. If he wants to visit friends in California, he rents a car. If he comes to visit us, he flies and then rents a car when he gets here.

Our word for the day is "municipal" — Pronunciation: \myu-'ni-s(ə-)pəl also myə-, mə-, -'ni-sə-bəl, ÷,myü-nə-'si-pəl\
Function: adjective
Etymology: Latin municipalis of a municipality, from municip-, municeps inhabitant of a municipality, from munus duty, service + capere to take — more at
mean, heave
Date: circa 1540
1: of or relating to the internal affairs of a major political unit (as a nation). 2 a: of, relating to, or characteristic of a
municipality. b: having local self-government. 3: restricted to one locality.

Our quote for the day is from Charles, Prince of Wales, on Peter Ahrends’s design for an office building housing additional space for the National Gallery, address at 150th anniversary celebration of the Royal Institute of British Architects, NY Times 12 Oct 84:

[It’s] a kind of vast municipal fire station … a monstrous carbuncle on the face of a much-loved friend.



Monday, February 2, 2009


Happy Groundhog's Day. Or Candlemas. Or Imbolc. Or whatever holiday you're celebrating today. The groundhog saw his shadow, the day dawned bright and clear. So we'll have six more weeks of winter instead of just a month and a half.

Lloyd and Speedy at the Mound City rest area

We finally made the trip to Omaha that we had been planning. The day was sunny, but not too warm. If it hadn't been for the shimmy in the left front wheel, the dog getting sick and Lloyd insisting that I wasn't using the most direct route, it would have been a great drive.

Lloyd, Speedy and Claudia at her house
Claudia and her son, Mitchell, are doing fine. She's thinking of moving to Arkansas, where her mother and step-father live. It would be a great move for her. All of her family except for a couple of Lloyd's cousins, with whom she has little contact, have moved away. Her best friend moved to Texas last year. So now she's decided she needs to be closer to her mother and her nieces and nephews. She will actually be a couple of hours closer to us, as well.

Welcome to the Flint Hills

Coming home was a much better trip. We had a cloudy sky, but no rain. No construction zones slowed us down. The wheels all stayed on the car. When we finally got home, Lloyd told me, "I don't want you ever to drive me all over the map like that again." Not a problem. In spite of what Lloyd tells everyone, I do not like to drive.

Lloyd says that the Flint Hills are full of nothing.

The word of the day for February 2, 2009 is "Candlemas" Pronunciation: \ˈkan-dəl-məs\
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English candelmasse, from Old English candelmæsse, from candel + mæsse mass, feast; from the candles blessed and carried in celebration of the feast
Date: before 12th century
: February 2 observed as a church festival in commemoration of the presentation of Christ in the temple and the purification of the Virgin Mary.

Our quote for the day is from Robert Herrick (1591–1674), Ceremonies for Candlemas Eve:

Thus times do shift,—each thing his turn does hold;
New things succeed, as former things grow old