Friday, November 23, 2012

Compendium of Links #34

So I went back to figure out what number of the Compendia this should be… and realized I haven’t posted a Compendium since August. No wonder I’ve got like 50 tabs open. So here are a smattering:

I want to buy this computer. I think I really will.

The American Chesterton Society has virtual meetings!! And they’re on Mondays! I might have to participate one of these coming months… (Kudos to my sissy for the link!)

What kind of book reader are you? The Atlantic Wire will tell you. I think I’m a chronological reader:

You are the tortoise to the promiscuous reader's distracted-at-any-turn hare. You buy a book, you read it. You buy another, you read it. Perhaps you borrow a book at the library. You read it, and then you return it, and you get another, which you will read. You may not remember where you began, what the first book that kicked it all off was, and you likely have no idea where you'll end, but the point is, you will go through each book methodically and reasonably, until it is done. You might discard a book, but only if there is very good cause, and it will bring you a sense of deep unease, so you'll probably pick it back up and finish it anyway. You are very good at puzzles, and the most reliable of all your friends.

A friend of mine directed me to the blog How to Talk Evangelical. It’s fascinating: A writer unpacking some of the “Christianese” we tend to toss around so freely within the church. (Sometimes without quite understanding it.)

Forbes can tell you five signs an amateur is lying. (I don’t know what would give away a hardened liar.)

Amen to this: Let’s all find the courage to put away our cameras.

In our amazing era of digital immediacy, I can tell the world where I am and what I’m doing while I’m doing it. I can present myself as a busy man living a rich and full life. I can take pictures of my meals, log my locations, snap photos of the people I’m with, and weigh in on what’s happening around the globe 140 characters at a time. But none of these things mean I’ve been paying attention.

This church welcome message is worth duplicating.

How to pick your vacation reading: An infographic, via a friend of mine.

Via my old editor: A bunch of journal pages expressly designed to prompt writing (and they’re free).

A writer I respect very much wrote this book review of “The Jane Austen Guide to Happily Ever After,” so I went out and got the book from the library. And enjoyed it very much!

Elizabeth Kantor has taken the trouble to think through a serious answer—to wit, Jane Austen “is the cure” for our modern disillusionment about happiness in marriage. Specifically, what keeps us coming back for more is the dignity, elegance, and sheer competence of the Austen heroine’s pursuit of happy love.

And for your video pleasure: A clever public service announcement.

You know I’m a good stalker, right?…. *evil grin*

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Time machine 1812: Dancing in the lantern-light

If you’ve met me in person, you know how much I hate the cold.

I like socks. I love coats. I adore blankets, gloves and hats. I’m best friends with my scarf. But surrounded by all these bosom buddies, I’m still a pitiful mess if subjected to temperatures below about 58 degrees.

So what do I do when it’s cold outside at a reenactment? Well, my usual go-to solutions are out. (They’re all made of non-period-correct materials in non-period-correct patterns using non-period-correct machine stitching.) So I wear an old wool tablecloth that doubles nicely as a wrap/shawl thing. It’s adequate, but not ideal, to be sure.

So at the reenactment’s evening dance, I was happy to be someplace – at last! – where the heat was trapped enough to provide about 68  degrees of temperature.

And then the dancing began. I was supremely happy to be almost sweating.

So you know how guys are always reluctant to get up and ask a girl to dance? Apparently that transcends time. But one of my cousins did decide he’d ask… me. OK, maybe not the most intimidating of tasks, but he’s an introvert! We’ll work him up to asking non-relatives eventually.

We danced these circle dances first. that just means each couple is part of a circle, somehow, and through an inexplicable series of steps makes its way around the circle and back to the beginning position… or close to it. That is, if the inexplicable steps are made halfway intelligible by the “caller,” or the person up front who’s telling you what to do.

Then there were square dances. You’ve probably watched square dancing at a county fair, or at least seen YouTube videos of it. If not, go watch some square dancing. Like this:

This is what nerds consider fun.

So, lots of that happened, too. I participated in much of the dancing, but as always, gals outnumbered the guys, so some of the time I was a “guy” myself for a little girl accompanying my reenacting family.

Hey, at least I wasn’t getting hit on by 15-year-old reenactors. My poor cousin must’ve looked at least three years younger than she really is.

My newly-made red dress positively glowed in the dim lantern-light, an effect I was highly pleased with.

The final dance of the night was the “broom dance.” At first I declined to participate, since I had no partner, but another acquaintance urged me to get on up there, and so I did. Only then did I learn exactly how a broom dance worked.

There’s no YouTube video to assist me here, so simply imagine a long line of women on one side of an aisle, and on the other side a line of men; everyone is facing the front of the room, as if they were lined up to march two-by-two out of Noah’s Ark.

Except, where the ark’s door would be, there are three hay bales. The head of the men’s line takes the middle seat, and then the first two ladies sit on either side.

A broom magically appears in the man’s hand. (OK, so he was given it before he sat down. Whatever.) He’s supposed to hand it to whichever lady he doesn’t care to dance with, while then taking the other lady’s hand and promenading down the aisle until they each reach the end of their respective lines.

The poor lady stuck with the broom moves to the middle seat – and to make amends for her rejection, she’s given the privilege of choosing which of two men she’ll promenade down the aisle with. The two heads of the men’s line sit on either side, and just as the first man handed her the broom, so she must hand another the broom before promenading down. Then that poor man gets the same recompense.

And so it goes until everyone is tired, laughing and full of cheer. (They saw a little girl toss the broom to the next woman in line, choosing a third option: Go down the line with both. The two boys she went down with actually picked her up and ran down the aisle carrying her. I think she ended up a little frightened.)

Happy Thanksgiving!

This is my favorite holiday. It’s all the family togetherness and gratefulness to God without all the stress of Christmas.

This year, I’m mainly thankful for my family and my best friends from college. I could have the best job and the most awesome possessions, but none of it would mean anything without them; but with them, I could be working at a school supply warehouse all my life and living out of a basement and still be happy!

But I’m also thankful for:

Peanut butter fudge

Sweet potatoes


Christmas lights

Guitar music


Car wax


Back pillows


The internet

Sewing machines


Card games

Facebook (never thought you’d see that on my thankful list, did ya?)

…and lots of other trivial things. But I digress.

Since the Thanksgiving holiday has officially come, I allowed myself the inaugural Christmas gesture: I put up my Christmas tree this morning before going to work!


It’s a Goodwill find, and it’s all intact and it even came with that tinsel hidden in the box. (The same day, I found the lovely angel tree topper you see in the photograph.)

At night, it shines through my Christmas-tree windows looking like this:


Isn’t it so pwetty? Smile

See, I didn’t want to do so any earlier because I hate the Christmas creep overtaking my favorite holiday. But at the same time… well, I bought this tree like three weeks ago. I really was kinda eager to get it out and dress it all up!

And I couldn’t wait for Saturday  morning. Oh, no. That would have taxed my patience to the uttermost.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

I went to Washington: U.S. History Museum

Back when I was mulling my art gallery choices – the modern art gallery or the portrait gallery – the hotel concierge had confirmed my inkling that the modern art gallery charged admission, but entrance to the National Portrait Gallery was free, as it was a portion of the Smithsonian. Or, I had already paid for it, he clarified, by being an American.

Well, if tax dollars are going to support part of the Smithsonian, they must’ve paid for some high-end museum planners, because the exhibits were enthralling.

Of course, I went in and saw The Flag – you know, the one that flew over Fort McHenry as the British bombarded it, inspiring Francis Scott Key to write the ballad that would become our national anthem. At least, I like to think of it as a ballad. It tells a story, if you’d only learn the rest of the verses.

I also saw a Stradivarius violin and Abraham Lincoln’s pocketwatch. And Howdy Doody.

And here’s where I began to think that historical narratives would be so much more interesting if kids could hear them for the first time in a place like this, surrounded not by six-inch-square pictures of objects, but the objects themselves in all their 3-D glory, that so-and-so used or that permitted such-and-such to come about. A reenactment is about as good as it gets outside the Beltway, unless you’re lucky enough to live near a quality local museum. (The Ohio Historical Society was good, and so was a museum in, I think, Canton, Ohio – where I remember strolling down a recreated Main Street in awe.)

The transportation exhibit in the American History Museum was my favorite, by the way. There’s just something about trains, cars, planes and the like that fascinates me.

Just before leaving that museum, I ventured down into the “Stars and Stripes CafĂ©” for a late lunch. Yeah, it was overpriced, but so is everything in the touristy part of town (unless you’re lucky enough to find a Subway). But the food I got was pretty decent, and not something I’d make at home: a tamale, a Mexican food wrapped in plantain leaves and stuffed with starch and chicken. It’s traditional to eat them at Christmastime.

Time machine 1812: Chicken-kitties and rain

I’m such a nerd, I wanted to dress up like I was back in Jane Austen’s time.

Well,  maybe not for that precise reason. I wanted to participate in a reenactment, and conveniently, my cousins were planning on going to one they’ve done for the last five years that’s not too far from my new home. It was set in the War of 1812 time period – like much of Indiana history is – so I was tasked with sewing myself a period-correct dress, complete with all visible stitching done by hand.

So there I was, perched on a Windsor-style wooden chair in my bright red linen dress. (Side note: I hate empire-waist dresses, but I suffered through this one all weekend for the sake of faithfulness to the period fashions. Would I ever do something like that for modern fashions? Nope. Call me inconsistent.) My cousins were all around, likewise attired in an oh-so-obsolete manner. We had two chickens trapped in a period-correct, reed-woven chicken cage.

Then the kiddies came along and wanted to pet the chickens. Who pets chickens? They’re farm animals, not kitties.


(Let this be a warning to you. Beware what search terms you plug into Google Images.)

Eventually I got to handle the chickens to let passersby pet them. (Such city-dwellers. Some of the kids had never even seen a chicken up close.) And I narrated the history of these chickens. They were Mil Fleur breed chickens, a kind of Bantam, and the one was so docile (letting hundreds of people pet her without so much as a nip at a child’s finger) because this particular breed had been domesticated by the Romans, it’s thought. The longer a breed is domestic, the more docile it becomes.

I repeated that schpiel, oh, five hundred times for the astonished little passersby. They were so cute. Some of them were even afraid to touch the chicken. What, these are things you eat. It’s not going to eat you back.

Also, at one point I handed the chicken off to a cousin and pulled out a dulcimer. Then a guy came by with his family and hung back to listen. I think he may have been smitten.

But after the chicken, there was the rain. Just as the big river battle was set to begin, drops began sprinkling from the sky. So I and my little camera stuck it out through the drizzle in the shelter of a tree.

Without a spill please....

No, silly. That’s not me. I’m not a guy.

After the river battle, it was still raining. But I had not seen the epic Great Field Battle reenactment, occurring at 11:30 a.m., 1:30 and 3:30 p.m. Or some times like that. It was multiple times a day, so how I’d missed it all the rest of the day I’m not sure.

One of my cousins – armed with his nifty DSLR camera – and I walked across the reenactment site to the battlefield. It wasn’t a short walk, either, and rain kept falling.

By the time we got to the battlefield, my wool-tablecloth-cum-shawl was rather wet, but I was still relatively dry. (My feet, however, may not have been.) We found a spot pretty close, about 20 feet from one of the cannon, and kept our cameras as dry as possible while still capturing the excitement.



All hope for my hair was gone after that battle, but my camera still worked.

Making our way past the port-a-pots to our campsite – at least we didn’t have period-correct outhouses – we debated the relative merits of going shopping a bit in the rain, or finding shelter in the tent. We opted for the tent. And then we pulled out a pair of tinwhistles to play period-correct music!

In fact, we did venture out into the rain for a shopping excursion later, just before all the merchants closed. I was very wet, but I got lots of ideas for next year.

(Yes, already planning for next year….)

More to come: The ball! Dancing! Music! Not having to wrap myself in wool to stay warm!

Life on my own #33: Live blogging the apartment

Two or three guys enter the hall to the upstairs apartment. I, the innocent little downstairs-dweller, am sitting here. This is what I hear through the thin wall.

“That smells like poop.”

Some rustling.

Mumble, mumble, mumble.

Keys unlock the upstairs door.

Sniff, grunt, mumble.

(What, are they drunk or something? It’s too early.)

“Yeah, that’s what Brian’s like…” and some strange groaning.


Dragging some sort of tarp-sounding thing upstairs.

A chime or something.

Singing. Yes, singing.

More speech I can’t make out.

A large burp.

Whistling. And it’s not me.



No response.

“What? Where’d he go? There it is.”

“Yep, it’s still there.”

More tarp rustling.


“No they’re not.”



More mumbling. These guys have communication problems.

I think I hear a TV or something.



“Whoa, juice!” (Well, that’s what it sounded like.)


No joke. I really did hear that in the last three minutes. I’m not making any of it up. (And yes, these are the same guys who watch Friends a lot.)

Not only that, one of them started singing “Dust in the Wind.”