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20150517 Pear Blossom

Pear Blossom

20150516 Spurge

Spurge

20150511 Pasque Flower (for real this time)

On second thought, what I posted earlier was an early spurge. THIS is a pasque flower, blooming seven weeks late. See the two-tone anthers?


Pasque flower

20150510 Wild Tulips

Wild Tulips

20150428 Purple Crocus

Purple Crocus

20150427 Red Crocus

Red Crocus

20150426 Pasque Flower

Pasque Flower

Yes, exactly this, and less A in SFWA. Now, to be fair, there is no country whose history is more driven by technology than America. To visit the American History museum in Washington, DC is to visit the Museum of the History of Technology, and rightly so. Science Fiction's heartland is the USA, but the USA we have today is not the exceptional child of the frontier and Walt Whitman, but a world-flung culture that is absorbed and riffed upon as much as it absorbs and riffs.

There is always a reactionary backlash after a major revolution, but the Hugos kerfluffle is only a microcosm of the reaction to the Internet that created IS(I(S|L)/Daesh and the Tea Party. A symptom of this reaction is the insistence of framing any institution that is dissolving into a global perspective within the historical and cultural context it was created, and that includes treating outsiders to SF's heartland as "foreigners", whether they are welcome foreigners or despised immigrants.

There's a lesson to be learned here, and I think it's that to preserve a thing, you have to let it grow, and the desire to preserve a thing as it was, rather than what it is becoming, is a kind of violence, that can express itself in thought or word or deed. It's the myth of Saturn eating his children, and the genre community has been through it before: The community eventually allowed Fantasy, Horror, and all the other little genres into their camp and the community was enriched by it, even though SF was irreversibly altered by those very genres.

And I, as a Canadian that can totally pass as an American and even have the papers to prove it, fully welcome the centre not holding, things falling apart, and would like to see what Bethlehem this rough beast is slouching towards.

20150415 Crocus

Crocus

OK, I'm just going to say one thing about the Hugos: It's all about WorldCon, just as GRRM says, in his recent discussion where he gives very good reason why this is not something trivial, but is the ending of something that he and many had every right to consider special. It's a stupid and pointless bit of drama which has just happened, and the entire process has cheapened everybody. I also agree with his solution, which is to soldier on and treat your voting seriously, because that's the honourable way of acting. Go down with the ship, I say.

But (and I have no gloat in me when I say this at all) he was talking about something that for me is already in the past: he already had a Hugo at his fourth (?) WorldCon when, by contrast, I was teaching myself assembly code on 6502 chips and "Wargames" was playing in the theatres. From my personal perspective, what happened here was that the Hugos were pwned, and the moral of this lesson is that any institution anywhere can be attacked from anywhere else on earth at any time because we communicate in networks now, and institutions are made of thought and word.

In my lifetime, since "Wargames" popularized this problem, every democratic institution, every nation, and every religion has been transformed by communication and commerce at a distance. The Hugos are just one more of these. Rather than trying to save them, or perfect the voting method, or firewall them in some way, let them be what they have always been, with all their capriciousness and fallibility, and eventually the perverse seriousness that the "shrieking hunters" have placed on them in this current cultural battle will fade away, and they'll still be there for the people who value them for what they are: a selective celebration of our art and craft.
Somewhere along the line I'd hoped to post something about the story that came out last month. It was the only serious fiction writing I did last year, so I really should have said something when it came out. I wanted to write a realistic speculative fiction story about the near future, and I wanted to explain a phenomenon that's been dogging me all my professional life, and I wanted to show where I think the Internet is really headed.

Not sure if I succeeded. "Too much jargon" is pretty much all the feedback I've been getting. And that's fair. I pointed out that particular problem in the associated interview. And I think that's the rub of it: the real world of computers and networking is entirely virtual. Not "virtual reality", but it really does exist in our brains in exactly the same place language does. It's a thinky thing, not a thing that has an objective shape that we can investigate and take away our own subjective impressions.

It's one thing to call the alien rabbit in your SF story a flufflebeest, but you're still thinking of a rabbit when you do so. But what about something like The Freenet Project, which creates a self-replicating reality, similar to the cryptosphere in Feersum Endjinn, in that it contains all the information put into it, and as that information is accessed less and less often, it fades away to the "bottom" of the cryptosphere. So it's always topical. Now, if you use cryptographic methods to contain chain-of-trust connections between users of a freenet, you can make a wholly separate "darknet" where only trusted members and those who are trusted by those members can exchange information (drug cartels, child pornographers, and similarly criminal or paranoid activities are already conducted in darknets that use one or more of these components, so this is not so much the SF side of things). It's not anything like a rabbit. It's a concept that can't really be given a form or a familiarity, because it is an unobservable activity, like the interaction of subatomic particles. But it's where I think cyberpunk, now long distant from William Gibson, needs to go if it is going to have any verisimilitude in our heavily networked realities.

Gibson knew that the actual technology is boring, so he made his virtual reality have physical aspects to give it the visual candy needed to tell a story. But the thing, this closed culture which I based on a short article in IO9 about how political societies develop out of filters on the web is where the action is. I actually wrote a paper about how this phenomenon was going to be the inevitable outcome of social networking (based on my experience of Usenet) back in 1990, and I sincerely think that this continues to be where the Internet is headed, the thicker, and more divided, and more politically charged it is. So I took a page from Gibson and married it to a "black box" technology that taps on the body's ability to dream a different physical existence than the one it is existing in. That, at least, gives immediate physical cues as to what's going on.

From there, it's a simple story, really, about a friendship that continues despite lifetimes of very different political views, but both with the conviction that opening the doors is better than closing them. I hope you like Marvin and Andrew. They're based on some of the nicest people I know.

But actual story aside, what I found interesting in writing it was how it showed the conflict in my own brain about whether more privacy and more power over your own communications may be wonderful for the individual, but it may create a completely unworkable world, since it allows political partisanship on a level not seen since the days before the era of global exploration and colonization. In which case, the flood caused by the Internet has only just begun to swamp us, because we're definitely already caught in a cryptographic arms race with many entities that may or may not answer to anyone.
Posted this elsewhere extemporaneously, so I'll just cut-and-paste here.


Very sad about Terry Pratchett. When Cara Sposa and I first started living together, he only had three Discworld novels out, and we had no money and no other entertainments, so we read a lot, and those three books over and over. We had to wait for them to come out in paperback, of course, and they were published in the UK much earlier, but we didn't really know that at the time. The only online way to learn about what was going on with Terry Pratchett was on the usenet group alt.fic.pratchett, which you could only access from the computer lab during working hours.

But every year there would be one, or sometimes even two, and as the years went by, we would play the game of who got to get the next one for whom at Christmas. It was always me, because I could count on her to start reading in the morning and be done by evening.

After we had full-time jobs, we even started buying the audio versions on tape. Nigel Planer (from the Young Ones) was the unabridged reader and Tony Robinson (Baldric on Blackadder) did the abridged ones. The tapes are so overplayed now that they screech. We moved to audible eventually.

But for years, when we had horrible jobs and I was working 12-14 hours a day on thankless things like sending faxes to uncomprehending newsmen about Bosnia or Rwanda, or the Horrors of the West Africa civil wars, or the minefields of Cambodia, or whatever, and she was being undercut for being a woman without political connections although she was carrying her department on her back, we'd come home, and we'd listen to a half-hour while falling asleep. I can probably recite Guards, Guards by heart now. Well, not really, but pretty close.

Pterry kept us sane, kept us looking at the twisty little side of human nature with humor, but not a dismissive humor, a kind of uncompromising understanding of the rising ape and the falling angel. In that way, he was kind of a rock, a reminder that no, we weren't crazy, it was the world that was trying to make us that way, and there really is a decency at the bottom of people that's worth preserving, whatever their shape (ook).

That viewpoint grew and matured, and then became nostalgic, but always interested in people, in what makes them tic, and in telling their stories—not necessarily the way they would want them told, but the way the story really tells itself.

Towards the end, that voice got a little harder to follow, and then sort of petered out, and became more Stephen Briggs voice, but it was more like listening to the son take over from Dad: a different sort of storyteller, with different emphases, but still the same kind of heart behind the stories.

I'm really going to miss Pratchett. Already do, and I'm not looking forward to yet more of the same madness coming down the pipe without somebody sane in that same mad way that he shared with his writing.

20150224 Frost Worms

Frost Worms

Some writing news, for a change. I have a story, "The Ogre's Brown-Eyed Daughter" in Lackington's 5, along with long-time Anticiworkshop Comerade-in-Arms acwise. It's the first time we've shared a ToC and I'm really happy with that, with the issue, the artwork, especially the piece for my story.

I wish I had the rights to show it to you. It's eerie how much the person in the photo matches a person in real life I modelled the character on. The story is a pastiche of the lives of a couple of people I know, and my own, and some stories about growing up with self-centered parents who tangle you up in their personal drama. I actually sat on it for over a couple of years before submitting it, which broke a rule for me, since I try to get stories out the door ASAP. It was hard to write, and it's still hard to read, but I'm glad it's out there now, having a life of its own.

They Never Died We Only Lost Their Number

Another CSA skill: Preserving food indefinitely without refrigeration. At this time, there's lots of root vegetables. In particular, I've got nearly a bushel of beets, lots of onions, carrots, and some turnips. Garlic and dried herbs to spare. I also have a large quantity of mutton shoulder cut into stewing pieces. So... Muttony pseudo-borscht it is! Begin:

[Mandatory warning: pressure canning is dangerous and potentially deadly if you don't know what you're doing. Educate yourself thoroughly before trying at home. You have been warned.]

1. Taking 3Kg of the mutton out of the freezer for browning @ 350˚F for 1/2 hour (to break it up) and 450˚F for 15 mins. to brown it.

2. Meanwhile, peel all those damn root veg.

3. 1/2 the Onion & all the garlic in butter until translucent.

4. Add stock and a few handfuls of cooked rice for thickening, and blend until smooth.

5. Add more stock and all the veg, chopped, including a chopped head of cabbage for leafy stuff.

6. The meat is browned. Toss it in and cook for 1/2 hour.

7. It's soup, but much of the veg is still a little crunchy. Since we're canning, this is a good place to stop.

8. Putting the hot soup in canning jars and loading up the pressure-canner.

9. This one takes two layers of litre cans, stacked on an aluminum brace between the layers.

10. After 45 minutes @ 10lbs of pressure (235˚F—high enough to kill botulin bacteria), cooldown and pressure down to sea level, the cans are still boiling inside their vaccuum.

11. Even 1/2 hour later, the low-pressure soup continues to boil. Leave it overnight, then another day to make sure the seals are secure. Then wash the cans, dry completely, and store.

This came from asakiyume on an auspicious day where I felt exactly like the boundary between frame 8 and 9:





I haven't been able to discuss it, because it's yugen, but thank you!

Adventures in Toaster-Oven Cuisine

I had some fun with this over the holidays. I had some leftover apple chunks after creating all the mincemeat, so I thought I'd use them to test just how versatile a toaster oven can be. This is my take on Tarte (des demoiselles ) Tatin, aka apple upside-down tart.



  1. Take a 15cm/6" cast-iron omelette pan, grease it heavily with butter and sprinkle raw sugar on the bottom:



  2. Pack it with a layer of small chunks of apple arranged roughly in a crysanthemum pattern (I'm using a mix of Russet and McEwan here, but sour apples like Spartan or Granny Smith are better:



  3. Put it in a preheated toaster oven for 30 min, on bake, on the hot (200C/400F) setting. Once that's done, turn the timer for another 20 minutes, and pound out some pastry.



  4. Use a tea saucer of roughly the same size to cut out a circle of pastry:



  5. Dip your finger in a little vanilla extract and paint the pastry circle with it:



  6. The apples should be slightly charred on top, and sitting in a puddle of caramel (but not be sticking to the bottom):



  7. put the pastry directly on the apples and tuck in the edges:



  8. Put it back in the oven for 15 minutes, still on the same high temperature (don't worry about tiny cracks):



  9. Place a small plate on top of the pan and flip it over so that the pan is now face-down on the plate:



  10. Once the pie has settled, lift away the pan. Ta Da!:




This one could probably have used another 10 minutes before the pastry, but better a little mushy than stuck to the pan.

Once more with feeling before settling back into curmudgeonland: Science doesn't "know" anything except what it doesn't know. That's the point.

When you say X is true and Y is false because X is scientifically proven, you're not doing science. You're doing the same thing as Y.

When you say X makes more sense and Y is makes less sense because everything we know makes X a simpler, more supportable argument, you're ALMOST doing science.

When you say if Z is a fact, and it logically contradicts Y, but doesn't contradict X, so I'm going with X until proven otherwise, you're NEARLY there.

When you say X explains a lot more than Y, including this Z that we've not been able to show is not a fact, you're finally doing science.

Science doesn't "care" what's true, what's real, or what's a fact. It's a hunt for more failures in an ongoing explanation that nobody can entirely fit in their head.

But we all have to build pictures of the world in out head if we're going to interact with it, and Science provides some damn fine pictures. But so do things other than Science, like religions. The problem is not which ones are "True". They're all "True" for the people that use these pictures to explain their worlds. Truth is a personal assertion, nothing more or less.

The PROBLEM is violence, which always fails to find the truth, whether it's a waterboard, a saber across the neck, a cruise missile, an online shitstorm, or simply shouting at a child until they say they agree with you.

Thus ends the sermon. Hopefully with coffee.

What to Do With My Mother's Book?

Louis_vii_and_alienorWhat to do with my mother's book? She died seven years ago, on Halloween. I'm finally at peace with it, and I feel like doing something meaningful.

Before the dementia made it impossible, she wrote a novel. A whopper. 330,000 words. "Isobelle", set in the time of Eleanor of Aquitaine. Isobelle is launched into life in France, and as is appropriate to a woman of high breeding, goes through several husbands in her life, and has adventures in which she is taken by Barbary pirates and sold into a harem, then more travels, and eventual retirement at a satisfactory old age.

It's not the kind of thing I read regularly, so I'm not the right person to judge its merits. Looking at it as a manuscript, I see plenty of room for edits, taking out some florid info-dumpery, for example, and it breaks into several parts, so breaking it into separate novels is an option.

But I got thinking.... A lot of you out there in f-list land know this stuff better than I. What do YOU think I should do with it?

That Fire T'Was Led Me On

Last night, I went to a concert I'd been waiting decades for. Loreena McKinnett came to Kingston, purposefully in a small venue to play many of her earliest songs from the eighties, which is when my wife and I started listening to her. Her voice hasn't changed. I'd have to say, in fact that it may be richer and more melodic than ever.

She started in busking in the early eighties and her early music reflects that: she was supported on stage by her old-time companions, Brian Hughes and Caroline Lavelle on guitar and cello, and did many of our old favourites, like Bonny Portmore, Greensleeves, The Bonny Swans, The Wind that Shakes the Barley. But my favourite, was the W. B. Yeats poem set to music, "The Stolen Child":

I remember one cold winter's night in Washington, after I'd held a dinner party for some of my work-mates. We had been working 12 hours a day for weeks because of what was going on in Rwanda, and I played the song for a colleague because she asked me "yes, but what do you really want to do?" and I explained the lines:

We seek for slumbering trout
And whispering in their ears
Give them unquiet dreams;
Leaning softly out
From ferns that drop their tears
Over the young streams.

Because that's it, really. Sometimes the world is too full of weeping, and nothing else is worthwhile. Here's the rest of the poem, if you're not familiar.

No Fear, No Hate, No Pain, No Broken Hearts

No Heroes, No Costumes, No Gaming, No Drama, No Problem.

Life is complicated enough without indulging it.

It Is So Strange, the Way Things Turn

As a new Canadian... Well, it's been over nine years since I became a citizen, but it still feels new to me... I am fiercely proud of how the current aberrant incidents of violence have been treated. Violent, disturbed individuals must never be allowed to drive the political engines. Once we let them do so, we forfiet that very thing that makes our nation work: a trust in the whole of basic humanity to work towards our common good. Halting, often confused and working at cross-purposes, but still determined to make it better for everyone. That's why I chose to become Canadian. Hoping the rest of my countrymen continue to feel the same.

20140817 Peach Slices

Peach Slices

Impunity. There is a machismo to the word "impunity".
It means you are too important to fail.
Like some belovéd boy-child who can do no wrong,
who affirms life by acting out in the way he does,
like Hercules strangling snakes or Krishna stealing butter.

It means that no matter what you do,
someone will find an excuse. Someone will say
"You know what, that must have been difficult for you.
I know it was, because you felt you had to do
[this out-of-line thing]. By doing such a thing,
you proved how important it was to do that thing."

And once that out-of-line thing has been done,
it's equally important to enshrine its permanent sanction
in history, so that, in the future, people will say,
"Oh, yeah, that was then, though. We did stuff like that.
No point in going back to that. It's over and done with."

When people are not punished for crimes,
Those crimes become norms.
And when crimes become norms,
Injustice is institutional.

People say racism is "I hate you because you are
[fill in skin color, nationality or creed here],"
but that's not racism. That's simply personal prejudice.

Racism is when you let impunity create a system where
[fill in skin color, nationality or creed here] is denied justice
permanently. Institutionally. Because
"that's the stuff we did/do/will do."
We do this. Because we can,
because nobody will punish us for doing so.

I hate the Daily KOS. I hate it because it is one-sided
and often stupid, and doesn't check its facts,
and although I am generally a left-wing nut,
I do not feel comfortable with one-eyed kings.

So it pains me to say
that the Most Important article I read this year...

...was on the fucking daily KOS.

Here it is: "Most of you have no idea what Martin Luther King actually did"

Read it. Seriously, do. It's short. I know you're busy.

Anyway, it's because of impunity
that I'm probably related to the subject of the article.
My great-great-great grandfather's son was a rapist
of, well, rapacious proportions. Because he could be.
Because nobody told him he couldn't.
Because he held the whip over anyone who challenged him.
And nobody challenged him in return.

Because the crimes that happened under slavery.
Went unpunished to this day. Even in Ferguson.
Part of me wants to add: "Even in Erbil, Even in Gaza, even in...."

But that's a distraction from the point:

Impunity is the keystone of injustice.
The only person who can break the power of impunity.
Is the oppressed. Nobody can do it for them.

"That is what Dr. King did—not march, not give good speeches. He crisscrossed the south organizing people, helping them not be afraid, and encouraging them, like Gandhi did in India, to take the beating that they had been trying to avoid all their lives."

20140810 Black-Eyed Susans

Black-Eyed Susans

Musing on cultural appropriation. Here's a very good example, a series of TV lectures for KQED San Francisco. Alan Watts, in his time, used the teaching of "Oriental Philosophy", in which case he meant his own interpretation of certain schools of East Asian thought and practice, to introduce "The West" by which he meant his own WASPy sort of people, to ideas that, at the time, had a great deal of appeal.

It was a time of extreme anxiety in the U.S., where, like today, people were looking for enemies under the bed and expecting Nuclear Conflagration at any time. These TV shows were recorded Before: The Cuban Missile Crisis, Martin Luther King's march on Alabama, the Birth Control Pill (just barely), psychadelic drug culture, and all the associated events that were associated with the counterculture of the Sixties. He was doing this in the centre of a Western School philosophy in finally pinning down the nature of experience (in vast volumes that were to thinking what the mummified corpse is to the living man).

What's wonderful about them is not that he was point-of-fact accurate (he's better than some, like Rexroth, but oversimplifies far too many things) or gave proper context to the concepts he was talking about (thousands of years of variation over history are entirely absent from his discussions), but that he uses a Western craving for reductionism combined with an Eastern appreciation for the indefinability of the Numinous. (see, I'm doing that cultural oversimplification right there, just trying to talk about this!)

In that, though, I think he came up with a hybrid philosophy that was at the same time attractively simple and incredibly subversive.

I like to think of him as one of America's great philosophers, in the same way that Leonard Cohen is one of its great poets (never mind that niether of them were born in the U.S., it's where you hang your hat that counts). He just chose to use the media at hand to do what Philosophers should do: allow life to continue by supplanting the dross of the past.

So, that's my challenge to the question of cultural appropriation: When you fail to subvert your own culture when appropriating another, you are performing cultural appropriation, and deserve to be called out on it. If you don't, you are performing synthesis, and in so doing, allowing both to continue in a new direction.

But take a look for yourself—If you only have half an hour, take a look at the first one, "Man and Nature":

20140809 Hosta Blossom

Hosta Blossom

Don't Surround Yourself With Yourself

This is my worried pup, my friend and companion for nine years, until she passed away last January:



She was badly abused when she was in her first years, and as a consequence, walked with a limp, and had no friends other than humans. The dog rescue owner tried to get her to socialize with other dogs, but she spent her entire time after being rescued in a box, cowering and trembling at the noise of the other dogs.

But one day, she finally overcame her fear. With anger. She learned to lash out at the other dogs, tear their throats, and beat them into submission. Somewhere along the line, she never learned to recognize the moment, so important to the social hierarchy of wolves, that you have defeated your enemy. She took on all dogs, from terriers to mastiffs and injured them and was injured in return, and would not stop until she was forcibly restrained and removed from the presence of the other dog.

The rescue owner believes this is because her previous owner took her from her mother too early and put her in a situation where other badly socialized dogs were encouraged to attack her. Whatever the reason, we took her on because we didn't want more than one dog and we worked at home, so we didn't need to worry about her getting out and attacking other dogs, and we could kennel her herself, or find somebody to watch over her if we were away.

In the picture above, I think it's pretty clear to make out the worry on her face. She's got her ears up and her eyes pensive (even though she's blind at this point) because there's a dog barking in the distance, and she's preparing for an encounter. Most of all, she's just plain anxious. Anxiety ruled her life.

This is a 10 Litre food-grade plastic bucket:



On the rescue farm, there were a lot of these about, and horse buckets, and things like that. Horse buckets, she loved to eat. She would sit down with one and bite off a tiny bit, swallow it, and move on to the next. As far as we can understand it, it was because the chunks made the butterflies in her belly go away. It was a sort of destructive self-medication. But, as the rescue person said "she passes them well, so it's not much to worry about". We had to keep soft plastic things away from her when she moved in with us.

But the other habit she developed out of her anxiety was to run around the paddock with one of these food-grade buckets on her head, barking at the top of her voice. Whenever she saw a bucket free, she'd tip it over her head and run like a mad thing barking barking barking. She did this compulsively until the buckets were taken away. After a while of owning her, we discovered that she was slightly deaf in one ear. I suspect this was the ear that was deepest in the bucket.

So why did she do it?

Well, the way I see, when she did that, she couldn't see any other dogs and her voice was so loud it could drown out all the others. There was a comfort for her in that, to be affirmed that her bark was the loudest and the strongest and could conquer all the others. At that time in her life, she needed that kind of assurance.

She was the closest thing I've ever had to a child, and I like to think that she taught me a lot. In this case, she taught me about anxiety, anger, and social media. I try to remember that no matter how I feel I'm right in some matter of opinion, when I get a visceral reaction to the stupid, wilfully-ignorant, violent bullshit that I'm reading... the reaction of surrounding myself with my own opinions, through re-posting and re-tweeting of people who agree with me, and by artificially amplifying my own opinions.

This has been a particularly bad month for that, because the Israel/Palestine conflict is very near to my heart.

So it's times like this where I try to remember my old friend. I think about that dog that runs around barking with a bucket over her head, and I try to not be that dog.

So, my firends, here is my advice: Just don't be that dog. Okay? And if you see me with a bucket over my head, feel free to call me out on it.

Suggestions for cat toys?

Any good suggestions for TOYS for entertaining NOCTURNAL CATS? Like the kind that hide under the bed all day but go for an eight-hour extended chase each other around the apartment every night kind of cats?

So I've got my foot wrapped up and lots of ibuprofen in my system, and I'm sitting down in the basement of a church registering people for archery classes when a notice comes in that an anthology, The Sea has just been released from Dark Continents Publishing, which is an interesting little publishing house with an international cast of characters, including Nerine Dorman, who is a South African writer and editor.

In it, I have a retelling of the Marie Celeste myth, "A Cruel Intemperate Sea" which works on the theory that of the casks of alcohol in the hold, the leaky, empty ones, have a role. As do vengeful spirits of the sea.

By co-incidence Dark Continents also just published a book, Erased by Liz Strange, who is also a Kingstonian, and her editor was also Nerine. Perhaps it's something in the water.

Anyhow, it's out now and available at the usual suspects:

20140627 Peony

20140619 Rose

White rose, with flies

20140617 Columbine

Columbine

Nochd's gur fuar i, o hi ibh o

One for wasabi_poptart. A little tedious to watch at first, but it has an interesting payoff:

Eat the Invasive

This recipe is only really of interest to people living in the Northeastern America, from Maryland through Minnesota, including most of Quebec, Ontario, and Manitoba, or so I understand. Reason being, that's where Garlic Mustard is considered a dangerous invasive weed. It makes zillions of seeds that will mature even on dead plants and is extremely hard to kill. It takes over forest undergrowth and strangles the native species, and it is also biennial, so you have to come back for at least two years after you've attempted to exterminate it to find the next round.


The reason it's here, however, is that it was a potherb, and one way of destroying those seeds is to cook and eat them. So when you've uprooted a bunch of plants (try to get them in the early spring before the white flowers open, since that's when they're the least bitter) give them a good wash:



Then you can hold them by the root and with the crook of the index finger and thumb, strip away the leaves and the flowery crown and/or seedpods:



They're tastier with some onion or garlic already in the soup. In this version, I'm going totally gathered-food, with wild leeks and wild garlic as well. Beware picking wild garlic, though, because white death camas. This is stuff I let somebody else gather for me:



Chop and fry, in butter naturally, the whites of the garlic and leeks:



Add leftover cooked rice as a thickener, and enough water to start cooking the garlic and leeks together. Add salt and/or stock to make as much soup as you want to make, proportional to the greens:



Chop the garlic-mustard leaves and flowers and the green parts of your garlic and leeks, and put half into the soup.



With 1/2 the garlic mustard cooked (about 20 mins light simmer), I like to use a hand-blender to smooth out the base and the rice:



Then finish with the other 1/2 of the garlic mustard and greens to give the soup some texture. Sour cream is a good addition.


20140524 Tulip

20140518 Bladder Cherry

Bladder Cherry

20140517 Allium

Allium Opening

20140514 Giger Papaya

Giger Papaya

20140513 First Geranium

First Geranium

20140520 Yellow Crocus

Yellow Crocus

One of my personal heroes (yes, despite my heart two sizes too small and mummified, I actually have a few), Roméo Dallaire, was given the Elie Wiesel award last week. For me, he'll always be that high, timorous voice clipped by audio artifacts on the satphone. Here's a quote from one of his books (Shake Hands with the Devil—well worth reading) that he wrote while "recovering" from those awful days that speaks directly to something that has been a touchstone in my real® life:

"Many signs point to the fact that the youth of the Third World will no longer tolerate living in circumstances that give them no hope for the future. From the young boys I met in the demobilization camps in Sierra Leone to the suicide bombers of Palestine and Chechnya, to the young terrorists who fly planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, we can no longer afford to ignore them. We have to take concrete steps to remove the causes of their rage, or we have to be prepared to suffer the consequences."


And that's the thing and the much of the whole of the thing. Our shadow is large, and may eat us.

Here's a quote from Elie Wiesel himself, though, and I think it's equally relevant for writers, and caps off this thought:

"No one may speak for the dead, no one may interpret their mutilated dreams and visions."

"If you write, you need to know how to cook, because being poor is bad enough without balogna sandwiches."

I don't know who said that, but it's true. I don't have any suggestions on how to write, because as far as I can tell, everyone has their own method once you get past the basics, and the basics are covered better by a whole lot of other people who are better at it than me. So let me tell you about something I do know, which is how to eat well for cheap.

Here's how to make soup like the Soup Nazi does, using a piece of meat called mutton breast.

cut for animal bits cut upCollapse )

20140424 Interloper of some kind

Some kind of anemone-like thing coming up next to our Chinodoxa and pretending to belong there.

20140424 Siberian Squill

Siberian Squill

I know you've been here before: You're talking to a friend about her long-term, borderline abusive relationship. He hasn't really done anything illegal, but he just has this tendency to be hurtful, controlling, making himself out to be the victim in any argument, making her into the bad guy with the kids and otherwise being manipulative, mendacious, etc., etc... You believe he's cheating on her and you don't want to say so because it would just add one more thing to her long list of worries about him. So you let her talk and get it off her chest, and give some advice about setting boundaries, and eventually, she goes back home feeling a little better, a little more confident and assertive...

...until the next week when she's back on your couch again doing the same thing. This goes on and on for years, until it finally dawns on you that... YOU'RE PART OF THE PROBLEM. If you weren't there to let her blow steam and talk it out and have a bit of a cry and so on... She would have dumped that asshole years ago. You're just enabling her to maintain a crappy relationship, and not only is it wasting her life, but she's wasting yours with this codependency bullshit.

After a while, you even start to tally the hours and the pots of tea and the going out to the pub that you've been doing to make her feel better, and you see that it's costing you money, not just time. And there's all those lost opportunities that you have because you were at home on the weekend consoling her rather than getting to know people and do interesting things. And all this builds up into a huge festering pile of resentment. Eventually, you stop seeing this friend of yours, you cut her off, you let her sleep in the bed she made.

Is that being a friend? I don't think so.

But what can you do?

I realize, perhaps while thinking about the period twenty to ten years ago, that I've spent the decade between ten years ago and now doing this social networking thing. I've been both the woman with the abusive relationship and the longsuffering friend through all this time, and I'm thinking.... This is not working. Not for either of us.

What kind of brought it to a head is YET ONE MORE BULLSHIT EVENT FROM THE SFWA.

It's not a particularly bad one. Some bigots rallied around a bigot and got him some votes. Happens every election in every European democracy. There's always the token skinhead member of parliament, and most everyone seethes to see him there, and the minority rejoice to get one up on the system.

But here's the thing: I've begun to notice how much time I devote to this codependency. I'm beginning to see how there's this one country, and this one country has these serious problems with equality. Race, gender, and economic equality. And this broken relationship it has with equality manages to inveigle itself into every. single. online. issue. ever.

I'm also noticing this because someone (I won't say who, because she'd resent me for bringing her into this petty argument) said that one thing you need to know about Americans is that "we assume everyone is just like us." And it's true. I know because I was raised American and it took twenty years of marriage to a non-American for me to get a full grasp of the enormity of how this is true. We Americans (and possibly all humans, but being raised American biases me) try to put all things into our own context rather than try to understand someone else's.

To the point where we actually have the fucking gall to tell other people how to run their societies, when we're so abysmally bad at running our own. The hypocricy is STAGGERING. [But that's my own bugbear. Being raised as a Foreign Service brat makes me put everything into the context of international relations. See? AMERICAN!]

So I am going to try (AGAIN, because I've tried before, and even closed down an earier LJ account to prevent myself from sucking at this bilious teat) to stop enabling this relationship. Now... back to pretty flowers.

20140422 Emerging Hyacinth

Emerging Hyacinth

20140421 Red Crocus in Sunset

Red Crocus in Sunset

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The God That Marks The Fall Of Every Sap
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