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Sunday, December 30, 2007

The worst news I've had this year

For most of my l ife I couldn't pick one author for my favorite. I could give a top five, or top ten, but not one single author whose work I loved above all others. This year I found one: Terry Pratchett. His Discworld series should live forever. It has a seamless blend of subtle social commentary, humor that ranges from the wry to the laugh aloud, and dazzling, character-driven fantasy. I can reread them a hundred times and always find something I missed, and laugh at the humor all over again.

Just before Christmas, I read the 59-year-old Terry Pratchett has been diagnosed with a rare form of early-onset Alzheimer's.

There aren't enough swear words on the entire planet to express how I feel about this. This horrible disease, which steals the mind and then the personality long before it kills the shell of the body, has come to one of the best minds on the planet. His brilliant books will cease, long before their time. It makes me sick. It makes me want to scream. It fills me with rage that has no outlet.

There's no punchline here, folks. No resolution for this one. Just sorrow and anger, and helpless frustration.

A solitary fantasy can totally transform a million realities.
Maya Angelou

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Not often do I stop reading a book before it's finished

...But once in a while there's one that's just so completely god-awful that I just don't want to waste my time. This time, the culprit was Real Vampires Have Curves - I forget the author.

Now, I barely read chick-lit anyway. The variety with vampires or other occult characters is mildly more interesting, but frankly I just can't relate to big-city twenty-somethings with fluff for brains who spend 1K on designer shoes on a regular basis. They just have absolutely no relation to my life, now or when I was twenty-something. I find them pea-brained and annoying. I picked up this one because it had a vampire, she wasn't living in New York City, and she was a Large-Size woman. As she was 500 years old, I figured she'd have her shit together.

Not so. Even though as a vampire she'll look like she does forever, and she had men telling her constantly how beautiful she was, and she had 500 YEARS to come to terms with her body - not to mention that size body has been stylish up to the last century - she whined and moaned and obsessed on every single page about her weight. Over and over and over. Yawn city. Hell, if I can accept the fact I'll never be smaller than a size 18 for the rest of my life in less than a century, how come she couldn't do it in five? Especially since she had plenty of men telling her they liked her body! That's just stupid. And I don't read books about stupid people. There are enough of them walking the streets.

I read 40 pages, and put it on the freebie shelves at the library I work at. What a waste of paper.

Quote of the day: Of course truth is stranger than fiction – fiction has to make sense.
Mark Twain

Monday, October 8, 2007

Who do they think they're kidding? Themselves, of course.

I thought a Mennonite came into my place of work. She had the dress, the hose, the shoes, and the little white cap. I was pleased, having grown up in a state where lots of them live, and having had some as friends back in school. Knowing they're unusual here in New Mexico, I went to ask where she was from, intending to ask if she was enjoying her trip here. "Oh, I'm not a Mennonite," she said. "Just a Modest Christian Woman." Yep, I could hear the capitals.

Excuse me?

So I go online and do a little research. Evidently the newest fad among some "fundamentalist Christian" women is to dress like Mennonites, and call themselves Modest.

Honey, you're not being modest. You're being a show-off. And frankly, adopting the garb of a religion and culture you do NOT belong to is offensive.

Mennonites dress the way they do, not only to be modest, but to establish a community. If you aren't part of that community, following that religion, you have no right to wear their clothes. And modest? If all you want is to wear plain clothes that don't show skin, there are a lot of clothing choices that will do that, while blending into the community you do belong to.

Modesty also means not drawing attention to yourself. For a non-Mennonite to wear the garb is to be screaming "I'M a better Christian than YOU are! NEENER neener NEEner!" Otherwise, why aren't you just wearing a plain suit and high-necked blouse like the nuns do when they're out of habit? Because modern modest clothing wouldn't get you noticed, of course. You WANT to make a spectacle of yourself. And that is the exact opposite of modest, even if you don't show any skin.

To quote the Bible they claim to follow perfectly (and we all know what complete BS that is): Matthew 6:1: "Do not make a show of your religion, or it will be in vain." You might not be showing skin, honey, but you're definitely making a show.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Fundamentalist religions are deadly to civilization

I am not singling anyone out here. History has seen the following happen in every modern religion.

When a fundamentalist religion takes control of a country, here's what inevitably follows:

Science and medicine first grind to a standstill as new developments and discoveries are deemed anti-religion, then begin to regress as old ones are re-evaluated in increasingly strict religious lines. First birth control, then vaccinations, then most surgeries are deemed ungodly.

Education in general becomes devalued, then softened as religion restricts and censors science and literature. Education of women is first deemed a luxury, then unnecessary, then anti-religion. All fundamentalist religions marginalize women. At best, they are kept in their "place" which is the home making babies. At worst, they aren't even considered human, just a dirty necessity to propagate the race.

Other cultures and religions in the country are first discouraged, then demonized, and then God-mandated to be wiped out.

Wars increase in frequency as the new state-mandated religion looks beyond its borders to wipe out or convert the rest of the world.

We've seen this happen in the Middle East, as the Arabic countries went from world leaders in science and medicine to third-world countries with huge illiteracy rates and virtually no science or medicine. We saw it when the Catholic church set out to convert the world by sword, and during the Inquisition when so many women and men were put to death for being "witches" that many villages were left with no women alive. We are seeing the beginning of this in America as the increasingly strident evangelical Christians are attacking science education by insisting creationism (or its new euphemism "intelligent design") be taught next to evolution despite the fact no one has devised (or can devise) a scientific test for the hypothesis (not theory, because it hasn't been tested and there are no data or hard evidence to study) of an intelligent being who created the universe. We are seeing it happen in medicine as fundamentalists seek to outlaw not only abortion but birth control, as if microscopic cells have souls.

Do we want America to regress to the point where half our children die before the age of ten? If the rollback in medicine continues, that's what will happen, as increasing numbers of parents are refusing to have their children immunized against the once-common killers such as diptheria, whooping cough, and polio. An epidemic is just around the corner.

Why fundamentalist religions appeal to some people:

People who are weak of mind want to be told what to do. They can't cope with gray areas and conflicts of ethics. They want a rule book and must have everything laid out for them in black and white. Fundamentalist religions do that. They relieve their followers from having to think for themselves. Many fundamentalist Christians haven't even read the Bible they think is infallible. They just parrot phrases taken out of context without understanding them, and only obey the parts they want to. The only people who are even close to obeying the whole thing are the Amish.

Poor people are easily converted to religions that promise "pie in the sky by and by" to anyone who just toes the line. As the fundamentalist religions devalue education, they're increasingly appealing to people who can't afford it anyway. Uneducated people are less able to recognize the inconsistencies in their religion and are more likely to have larger families. Not surprisingly, fundamentalist religions value large families and regard birth control as sinful and unnatural.

As the lack of science, medicine, and education send the culture back to a primitive status and the economy fails, the fundamentalists look to a reason for their misery. It cannot be their religion, which is perfect and infallible. It cannot be their lack of faith, which is extreme. So they look outside the true cause for a scapegoat and blame anyone not practicing their religion, anyone of their faith who isn't as rigid as they are, believing if they can only rid the world of all unbelievers, their god will make everything perfect.

And here comes terrorism. It's already started in this country, from 'Christian' fundamentalists who beat up gay people who have hurt no one, who kill doctors and bomb abortion clinics, who set up compounds for The Faithful loaded with ammunition, and one who bombed a building in Oklahoma City. There are fringe groups gaining power who want to establish the law of Leviticus, where a man can kill his own children for talking back, and it isn't regarded as murder, and people are stoned to death for adultery or being gay. Am I the only one who thinks this sounds exactly like fundamentalist Islam?

"Thou shalt not kill." Period. It doesn't have clauses for disobedient children, gay people, adulterers, or anyone you happen to disagree with. If you call yourself a fundamentalist, you should at least obey the Ten Commandments, or you're one hell of a hypocrite.

And for those of you who are thinking, well, I wouldn't go THAT far, but a Christian country could only be a good thing, right?

Well, which denomination? And what makes you think that after all the non-Christians are 'removed' from America, that the denominations wouldn't begin fighting for supremacy just like the Sunni and Shiite Muslims? Only instead of two factions, we have hundreds. Now wouldn't THAT be a civil war for the history books, if anyone survived to write them.

Recommended reading : speculative fiction books Native Tongue by Suzette Haden Elgin, and The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood.

Nonfiction: American Fascists by Chris Hedges, and It Can Happen Here by Joe Conason.

Quote of the day:
The idea that there is one people in possession of the truth, one answer to the world’s ills or one solution to humanity’s needs has done untold harm throughout history.
Kofi Annan, United Nations Secretary-General

Friday, September 21, 2007

State Fair time

I love the New Mexico state fair. I've gone every year I've lived here. It's pretty much the same every year, but in a way that's comforting. There's the African American area, the Native American area, the Hispanic Arts building, the Fine Arts building, and all the old-fashioned 4-H and traditional state fair exhibits of animals and crops. In the animal building is a vendor that sells the absolute best cotton candy - one of my favorite things, that now you can only rarely get fresh. That drek in the bags isn't worth eating. This place, you pay for a small, medium, or large, and get a ticket to take to the man making it. He rolls it onto the paper cone and hands it to you, warm and fragrant. I always get the medium. It's bigger than my head and darn near as big as my torso, and takes an entire half an hour to eat, slowly. Best stuff on the planet. When I was a little girl I'd pretend I was eating a cloud.

The other traditional must-eat is a corn dog. This year I tried the spiral fries, which weren't as good as I thought - kind of like potato chips. Not bad, though. I also love funnel cakes, with only powdered sugar and cinnamon on them. In the Native American area you can get a delicious, enormous Navajo Taco. I didn't get one this year. We didn't have much money, and I don't have enough appetite to eat all that.

We did go through the huge indoor sales area. This has vendors from everywhere, and people doing demonstrations of household gadgets like on informercials. Most of these, when you get them home, don't work very well. Exceptions were the sushi-roll molds and the salsa chopper, both of which we bought in the past. And yes, we eat a lot of sushi and salsa. Not together. I lusted after a cheese grater that would even grate hard-boiled eggs, but no money. All I bought were six finger puppets for $5, made in Peru. There were some clothes I wanted, but couldn't afford. Maybe next year.

As the sun goes down and the vendor/animal/assorted cultures parts close, the lights come on at the Midway. A lot of Albuquerqueans won't go there, especially at night, because in the past there's been problems with gangs. I haven't been bothered at all in the years I've gone. There are a LOT of cops walking around, and such people who looked rather gangy were with their families, and didn't look like they wanted to make trouble. I'm wussy about the rides. I can't take being whirled around in circles too fast, and have no desire whatsoever to be shot from a giant slingshot or dangled upside down. There's a hang-glider ride I like, and the ferris wheel, and a roller coaster if there is one. There wasn't this year. I like the scary-house rides, too. But as Dear Husband has a handicap and can't go on any of them, and it's no fun to go alone, we just looked. Believe me, watching people get cranked up a 20-story pole and then dropped is much more fun to watch than to experience. We didn't try any games this time because of lack of funds, but I usually will try a couple. Never win anything larger than the small prize.

Every year there's one stuffed animal at the games I fall in love with, and I never get it. This year it was the dragons.

The bumper cars always make me think of my Dad, who passed in 1983. Once when I was little, he took me on the bumper cars, laughing his head off. Someone hit us from behind, and his false teeth flew out and (fortunately) landed on the floor of our car! He loved a joke on himself as much as anyone and we both laughed our heads off.

We listened to parts of a couple of concerts, and watched one animal act with bears, and considered the day enough. They have these foot massaging machines all over, that cost a quarter. I used three of them during the day. When it starts, it tickles mercilessly, but then it really does stop your foot from hurting for a long time. We just plain wore ourselves out, but it was worth every minute. I don't have pictures, because our blasted cheap camera decided to die on us.

Today's Quote:
Both optimists and pessimists contribute to our society. The optimist invents the airplane and the pessimist the parachute. ~~G.B. Stern

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Britney Spears train wreck runs over fan

Alas, Britney, who is just another victim of the fame machine. Self-serving promoters take a talentless, not-too-bright beauty and put her on the treadmill, overdubbing her vocals on albums, dieting her into a size zero and promoting the bejeezus out of her. And then when she cracks, abandoning her to a nervous breakdown and the worst "comeback" of all time. I don't think she looked fat. She looked normal. Her post-baby curves would have been lovely in pretty much any other costume. The glittery bra, undies, and fishnets just made her look like an overage showgirl squeezing into a ten-year-old costume. At least now I can tell her from the rest of the bleached-blonde mechanical singer pop-tarts.

But that performance! She was always more of a dancer than a singer, and she just sleepwalked through that routine. It was clear she felt uncomfortable and absolutely did not want to be there. She was more interested in keeping the fake hair out of her face than dancing, and after covering her mouth when she forgot the words to lip-sync, gave up and just didn't bother. She basically walked back and forth among the frantically gyrating dancers who, rather than distracting from her non-performance, just called more attention to it. Her career is very likely over, as she hasn't got the talent or the cajones to pull off a real comeback. I hope she saved a lot of money, but I'd bet not.

The saddest thing about all this is the poor kid whose tearful myspace video is now the laughing stock of the nation. We've all been that age, people, and we've all had crushes on celebrities that made us do embarrassing things. Back before anyone had access to media, the worst we could do is mail our idol embarrassing letters and poetry, obsess till our best friends and parents were sick of the topic, and gush into a paper diary that eventually got lost or destroyed. No one else ever knew. Think back, and thank God that you didn't have myspace!

This poor schmuck has filmed his angst and unrequited love, and put it out there for millions to laugh at. He will regret this the rest of his life, and never know when it's going to come back to haunt him. He is very likely to be the Britney Boy long after we've all forgotten who Britney was. That clip will assume a cyber-life of its own, and now even if he erases it from his myspace site, it'll never be gone.

Unlike, and again I thank God, my diary from the David McCallum (Man From U.N.C.L.E) or Mark Lindsey (Paul Revere and the Raiders) crushes. I remember them well.

Today's Quote:
Once we give up searching for approval, we often find it easier to earn respect.
Gloria Steinem

Friday, September 14, 2007

The word for that isn't marriage

There's another Mormon fundamentalist who believes in what they like to call "plural marriage" in the news, for forcing a 14-year-old girl to marry some old fart. Sorry, dude, that's child abuse, not religion. I have no quarrel with any individual Mormon. Most of the ones I've met have been perfectly nice people. Although I'll admit I could never believe in a religion that decrees you have to be married to get to heaven, and that promotes overpopulation.

On one hand, it'd be nice to have a second wife to handle all the housecleaning and cooking while I attend my career. The main problem I have with "plural marriage" is that it seems inevitably to lead to sexual abuse of young girls. If you believe the only purpose a female has on earth is to service men sexually and incubate babies, then what's the point of sending them to school, and what's wrong with shoving them into their life's purpose the moment they hit puberty? This seems to be how the reasoning goes. And that's what all these "plural marriage" colonies seem to wind up doing. As the girls are raised from birth to believe this, they're pretty much brainwashed into believing they have no choice. Arranged marriage is a world-wide custom, after all, with the women/girls rarely having any say in the matter.

But this is America, not Iraq. Women here have a say, and girls have the right to grow up and choose their own mate without any religious coercion. And so, every time we catch these abusers, we are going to try them. May they all be found guilty and have the book thrown at them. They deserve every single bit of abuse they'll find in jail.

And by the way, the term "plural marriage" is a crock. There is a word for that practice, and it isn't marriage. It is HAREM. Practitioners are only a veil away from becoming the thing we're fighting overseas.

Today's quote: Trying to build a marriage without respect is like trying to build a home on quicksand.
~~ Kerry and Wayne Horton

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Cat Shows

Cat shows are a lot different from dog shows. You can't get a bunch of cats on leashes to parade in rows. Here, the cats are in rows of cages until they are judged, plush cages with food, water, litter box, and bed. Toys, too, and the breeder standing by to talk to people. Most breeders have cards and brochures to hand out, because a great deal of their livelihood comes from selling purebred kittens.

Below is a GORGEOUS rosetted Bengal in a glass case. Next is a Household Pet in a lovely cage, and the last, a satin-black Bombay in a hammock bed. His cage was more of a tent.

To show the cats, their number is called, and the breeder takes the cat to the showing ring. It consists of a U of cages, the showing table front and center. Each cat is put in a cage, and as two males can't be next to each other, it's boy-girl-boy-girl, with empties if there aren't enough girls. The males are usually intact for breeding purposes, and if two are next to each other, they'll pick fights or spray.

Above you see a judge putting a cat back into her cage. The second picture is the judging process. They feel the cat all over to make sure that it conforms to breed standards, and swish a toy in its face to get a hint of its personality. Between cats, the table, the cages, and the judge's hands are all disinfected. That's what the bottle is, on the left of the table.

Above is another judge. As this was an international cat show, there were dozens of judges. There are also people selling cat-related merchandise. I bought some cat toys. I have in the past bought jewelry and clothing, for me not the cats. Below is a long shot of some of the vendors.

This lovely girl had the most gorgeous blue eyes. The picture doesn't do her justice. Her breeder is holding her .

The last three pictures are of the handsomest Maine Coon kitten I ever saw. I just fell in love with him. As he won second best kitten in show, I'm not the only one to be enthralled. I don't know which kitten won first. Just look at that noble face, those tufted ears, and that incredible fluff of a tail!

Only cat lovers know the luxury of fur-coated, musical hot water bottles that never go cold.
~~Susanne Millen

Saturday, August 25, 2007

To knit or not to knit

I wanted to put the pictures after the text, but it inserted them and I can't seem to edit their location. C'est la Vie.

This is the turtle I knitted for a baby gift. The mom said she loved it.
I knitted the above sweater for myself. Love it, get compliments on it whenever I wear it. Below is the doll I knitted for another baby gift. I haven't had the nerve to send it yet.

I love knitting. I've never been sure, however, that when I give the things I've knitted away as gifts that anyone really likes getting them. Usually they thank me, and seem to like the item, and I've seen most of them use it. There's one notable exception, but she never liked anything I ever gave her so I wasn't really surprised, and we're no longer friends. (Not for that reason.)

But then I see an article on, about the 10 worst Christmas gifts. One was a hand-knitted sweater.

Now, sweaters aren't the only thing I knit. I have given away tons of mittens, scarves, hats, dishcloths, shawls, and have begun knitting stuffed animals. But after seeing that article, I'm hesitant. I'd been thinking of these things as special because I made them especially for the person, but maybe they see them as silly. I also saw handmade gifts as a way to avoid the intense commercialism and spending frenzy Christmas has turned into. But maybe I'm just a joke, and I should give in and conform.

This year I've knitted one pair of mittens for a Christmas present, several dishcloths, a stuffed turtle for a baby gift, and a doll and her dress for another. I'm working on another pair of mittens, and some heavy-duty leg warmers for my husband - pajama bottoms, really - because his legs are always cold in winter. When I finish that, I might just knit a sweater for myself. This is a slow year, knitting-wise.

Quote of the day:

Before plastics, only rich people could afford to have poor taste.
Donald Featherstone, creator of the pink flamingo lawn ornament

Friday, August 24, 2007

The first entry: August 24, 2007

My two favorite things in the world are cats and books, not necessarily in that order. I've been trying to get a book published for decades - not the same one, a lot of different ones. Either I've had wretched luck, or I'm a real slow learner, or I'm just a crappy writer. Pick one. At any rate, I'll keep trying. What else am I going to do? If I just let all these people and stories sit in my brain I'll go nuts.

Currently I'm struggling through the first draft of a romantic suspense novel, called Against Her Will. It's going fairly well. I have a finished fantasy, called For the Seven Kingdoms (though I really don't like the title). I'm running through my writing group. I've finished several novels, but as soon as I get them done I'm convinced they're no good. I think I've just gotten too many rejection letters. Now I can't bring myself to send them out.

I tend to read several books at once. I just finished First Warning by Anne McCaffery and Elizabeth Scarborough. Before that, Blue Dahlia, Black Rose, and Red Lily by Nora Roberts. Right now I'm reading Wyrd Sisters by my favorite author, Terry Pratchet - that book lives in my purse. On the dining room table is Affaire Royale by Nora Roberts.

Quote for the day:

A writer is like a bean plant – he has his little day, and then gets stringy.
E.B. White