I’ve been very busy making gifts for Christmas.

necklaceSorry for the blurry picture. The light was low. The necklace is made from PMC, precious metal clay. PMC was invented in the 1990s. Silver or gold is combined with a binder and can be worked like clay. Then it is fired in a kiln. The binder burns off and what remains is nearly pure silver.

I keep meaning to get back into writing and I don’t know what is holding me back. It’s not even that I have nothing to say. In fact, the problem may be that I have too much to say. Worse yet, it feels complicated, or at least different. If someone else expresses feelings similar to your own, that makes life easy. You can reference it. Even if it is only part of what you want to say, it cuts down on time. It also makes it less likely that you’ll be misunderstood.

So, I went to a movie tonight and got home feeling very sad and glum. It was strange because I enjoyed the movie, but it left me feeling oddly nostalgic. The movie was Gimme Danger, a documentary about The Stooges. As a film, it’s not good enough to enjoy if you don’t like the band. Last year, I went to go see the movie Amy and although I barely knew Amy Winehouse’s music beyond a handful of songs my mother enjoys, I liked the movie. Gimme Danger is not likely to engage anyone who isn’t already a Stooges or Iggy Pop fan. I’ve always really liked the band, so I enjoyed the movie. Luscious and I always used to argue about Iggy Pop. She always used to insist there was something sexist about him, although I could never get her to articulate exactly what that was. It seemed to blend into a general tirade about men dominating rock and roll, but she liked the Dolls, she like the Sex Pistols, the Clash, the Ramones, so I’m not sure what it was about Iggy Pop and the Stooges that bugged her.

The down feeling was definitely a side effect of nostalgia, although why the movie left me feeling quite so nostalgic is beyond me. The Stooges were before my time, almost, and I actually found out about them a little bit late, after The Stooges were defunct, although Iggy Pop was still very active. Still, there were some shots of New York City in the seventies. Certain types of New York scenes, especially downtown, definitely make me feel the loss of the era.

One odd thing about the movie is that it really doesn’t give you a feel of the time period well. The only sense of danger is in the title. We’re told that they were an influence on other bands that came later, but somehow the movie just doesn’t convey how different this sounded at the time.

Anyway, I paused from writing this to poke around on the internet and I listened to some songs I haven’t heard in a while. I was going to go off on some of those complicated feelings I’ve been unable to express, but I’m looking at the clock and I think I’ll have to skip it tonight. What follows is unrelated to the film I just mentioned. It was just some music I first heard back in the early to mid nineties.


Last week, I made myself pumpkin stuffed with corn and beans. It was so good, I went out and got myself another pumpkin. This time I stuffed it with rice because I once read a recipe like that. That was good too. I know this isn’t a cooking blog, but if you haven’t tried it, I recommend it.

What I did:

First, I cut up some bacon into little bits and cooked it to render the fat. While the bacon was cooking, I sliced some shallots and put them in with the bacon. Leaving that on the stove to turn golden brown and turning off the heat later, I cut a top in a pumpkin and scooped out the seeds and strings. I used to love doing that as a kid, but now it’s a chore. Where’s a mess loving kid when you need one? Turn on the oven to 350°F (180°C). Chop some cheese into small dice. Drain the excess fat off of the bacon. Since the pan had cooled by this point, I used that instead of dirtying a mixing bowl, but I wasn’t cooking in it. So, if the pan is still warm, use a mixing bowl. (The English teacher’s daughter in me is feeling uncomfortable about mixing tenses here. Sorry, Mom.) Mix together corn kernels, beans, the diced cheese, ground pepper, nutmeg and whatever herbs you have on hand with the bacon and shallots. I used tarragon because it was the only fresh herbs I had on hand. Other choices might be better. I had to eyeball the amounts. I wanted approximately equal amounts of corn and beans and the whole thing should fill the pumpkin. You can pack it in if necessary. Pour about a quarter cup of heavy cream inside. Put the top back on the pumpkin. Bake for about an hour and a half to two hours.

I liked the corn rather than the rice. It seems to me to be a nice variation on succotash. I don’t know if people outside of North America know succotash, but it’s basically corn and beans, usually lima beans. It looks like it can be a nice dish for Thanksgiving. The whole pumpkin can be brought to the table and the food scooped out from inside. You have to scrape the spoon against the pumpkin itself when you serve it. The only downside for Thanksgiving is that I usually try to make all the side dishes on top of the stove because the oven typically has a turkey inside taking up all the space. After all, Thanksgiving dinner is all about coordination. What goes in when, for how long and at what temperature. What’s on which burner. It’s very filling and can be a meal in itself, which is how I ate it.

Here are the ingredients:

  • 1 small pumpkin
  • 3 or 4 strips of bacon
  • 1 shallot
  • Corn kernels
  • Beans or peas
  • Cheese
  • Heavy cream
  • Pepper
  • Herbs

I would use a milder cheese with the corn, but you could probably go with a stronger taste with the rice. Eliminating the bacon and sautéing the shallot in oil is probably easy.

It was good with the rice, too.

As some people know, I like to pretend to play the piano sometimes. What I don’t think as many people know is that my mother came from a family of musicians. Her grandfather was a violin maker from Poland. Her uncle learned his father’s profession and also played violin in the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra. The musical ability in our family is unevenly distributed, but those who have had it have tended towards classical music. My grandfather, however, was always the black sheep of the family. When he was young, he played drums with jazz bands. I’ve been told he was terrible and only performed if someone was sick. Still, his taste was eclectic and when he died I went through his record collection. One of the records was Carney, by Leon Russell.

If you’ve read Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum, then you have heard of the Musee des Arts et Metiers in Paris. The Museum of Arts et Metiers in Paris “was founded in 1794 as a repository for the preservation of scientific instruments and inventions.” It is housed in the buildings of the former Priory of Saint Martin des Champs. Some dramatic scenes take place in what had been the former church adjacent to the monastery. Here are some pictures I took there a few years ago.

I may have posted some of these before.


I hope that gives you a little feel of the building.

That number jumped out at me since it was higher than I would have thought. It’s National Adoption Month. I came across that fact more or less by accident, though in this case the notion of “accident” is relative since, being adopted myself, I have a tendency to click on adoption related headlines. According to the website of National Adoption Month, there are over 400,000 kids in foster care and 100,000 of those kids can be adopted.

One thing that might be worth clarifying is the phrase “special needs.” Many of the children available for adoption are listed as “special needs” and I would have assumed that that meant children with severe emotional, intellectual or physical handicaps. Although the term does encompass those children, it also means kids that are older, from “a particular racial or ethnic background” or who are part of a group of siblings who need to be placed. They prefer to keep siblings together.

There’s a lot of useful information on the Adopt US Kids website.

Some studies have shown that LGBT youth are over represented in foster care. Furthermore, once in foster care, they are sometimes poorly serve. In an article in USA Today, Eric Charles-Gallo writes,

The reality faced by LGBT youth— fewer accepting, inclusive foster homes than are available to their non-LGBT peers, and the heartbreaking consequences — is revealed in two important studies.

In New York City,78% of LGBTQ youth were removed from their foster homes or ran away because of hostility toward their sexual orientation or gender identity, and 70% reported experiencing physical violence in group homes. And a 2014 study by the Williams Institute shows that nearly 1 out of 5 youth in the Los Angeles foster care system is LGBTQ. That same study found that LGBT youth in Los Angeles foster care, like Darnell, were bounced around much more than non-LGBTQ youth, were more than twice as likely to be placed in group homes, and experienced homelessness and hospitalization for emotional reasons at far higher rates.

Further down he adds:

In fact, the federal government believes that the issue of LGBTQ youth in foster care is so critical that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a historic call to child welfare agencies to guarantee that every child has access to a “safe, loving and affirming foster care placement, irrespective of the young person’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.”

Since I know a disproportionate number of my readers are atheists, agnostics or otherwise not orthodox members of an established religion, I thought about covering that subject when I saw on article about National Adoption Month use words like “God,” “miracle” and “blessings.” On the other hand, since National Adoption Month is intended to raise awareness of kids in the foster care system in the U.S., it would seem to be less relevant. Since I was adopted by non-religious parents, through a secular agency and my biological mother requested that I not be placed with a highly religious family, the religion-adoption connection some people seem to have, especially since prominent pastors like Rick Warren started promoting adoption around the year 2007, really is not established in my subconscious. There was an article on the subject of adopting as an atheist in Salon a couple of years ago by Veronica Chenik Gilmore. Unfortunately, her description is unclear in places. She seems to indicate that she felt some discrimination as an atheist when she was fostering children, but I wasn’t clear what group she felt was discriminating. Was it a state agency or a private group? However, she does mention finding Adopt US Kids to be a useful resource.

Slightly OT: At one point Gilmore says:

People celebrate adoption and many celebrate their own atheism, but the two worlds rarely intertwine. Both worlds are filled with rejection, intolerance and misunderstanding. There are angry atheists and there are angry adoptees. We are, however, on the happy end of both spectrums.

I felt this was very dismissive of the feelings of adoptees, especially since a common complaint adoptees have is that no one wants to hear their side of the story. I find the “angry adoptee” categorization to be especially annoying. First of all, anger may very well depend on context. Normally, I have a very positive attitude about adoption. On a couple of occasions friends who were thinking of adopting wanted to talk to me about the subject, I found myself being very encouraging and even getting choked up while proclaiming what wonderful parents they would be. On the other hand, just the other day I found myself getting quite annoyed at some highly religious people who were busy applauding themselves over what wonderful people they were because they adopted kids from overseas. Emotions are changeable and are often in response to a stimulus. One complaint adoptees have is the expectation that we display permanent gratitude, well beyond the degree expected of biological children. That is simply not a realistic expectation. Feeling like you were a pathetic thing that needed to be rescued is not healthy. Anger is a normal human feeling and feeling angry occasionally doesn’t make you an “angry adoptee,” but the fear of being an “angry” or “poorly adjusted” adoptee sometimes causes adoptees to avoid being forthright about their feelings. I’m sure Gilbert didn’t mean it that way, still, I felt the need to add that.

Oddly, I only went a few pages down on the search results, but I haven’t been able to find any information about atheist kids in foster care. Logically, they must exist. However the search only turned up atheists who are foster parents. I also found a couple of posts in forums from atheist birth mothers.

Well, I got a bit off-track there. The upshot is that if you’re looking to adopt and you’re considering adopting an older kid there are probably more children out there available for adoption than you think. If you’re adopting from the foster care system, it probably costs less money than you think (described on the website as minimal or free), and they are willing to consider non-traditional families.

I wasn’t sure whether or not to post one of the videos on the subject, but here is one.

Is it just me, or when people use words like Baroque or Gothic do you wonder whether or not if the words are used to indicate a specific historical style or if they’re used in a more vernacular way.

Now that Halloween is over, I’m back on my castle kick. I will probably, sometime in the near future, take a trip to Europe with a particular interest in Medieval structures. My particular interest is in the early Middle Ages, but since there’s less from that time period, I will probably wind up including sites that are a little bit later in time. When I was at that late childhood age that kids develop a fascination with knights in shining armor, I happened to go to the library and find the relevant King Arthur books checked out. Instead, I wound up reading the Song of Roland. My romantic knight fascination therefore has a decidedly French feel to it. It’s also a little bit more historical, and very much rooted in the early Middle Ages. I think it’s something in my fastidious brain (as opposed to body – remember, I’m the sexy sloth) that mixing up different historical eras has always bugged me a bit. I guess that’s why I’m always asking, “Do you mean Gothic or gothic?”

If anyone has any historical sites worth seeing, I’d love to hear about them. My main direction is France, but that’s mainly because I’m comfortable enough with the language that I feel at ease going places that might not be a main destination for foreign travelers. My first trip to Europe was to Austria and Italy and it was very poorly planned and was very stressful. Later I went to France and there’s such a dramatic difference when you can ask complicated questions – and understand the answers! If I go places outside of a Francophone or Anglophone area, it needs to be well planned. For France, I could just get on a plane and worry about what happens when I get there.

It’s funny, when I was younger, I didn’t have that strong an interest in traveling. I did a little bit. That trip to Italy and Austria I mentioned was my first opportunity to go overseas and I jumped on it. I wanted to go places earlier, but finding a traveling companion was always a bit of a problem. Now, I’ve got three trips in mind. One is a hiking trip to Utah. Another is this early Medieval Europe trip. I’ve been looking at the cost of flights to Nairobi. Oh, yeah, I have a trip to Florida planned as well. So that’s four. I feel that as I get older and know more about the world, there’s more that I want to see. I also have gotten a better idea of what is really good to see in person as opposed to reading about or looking at pictures. I still think the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen was Venice. The thing that was so impressive about Venice is that it’s 360° beauty. It’s not one picture or one sight. You really do get more from being there than from seeing a picture. That’s why people say things like the Eiffel Tower is a disappointment. It’s not really any more impressive than it is in photos. In fact, it’s exactly like it is in photos. Now, there are lots of great things about Paris. I think it’s a wonderful city, but the big monuments that you see on post cards are not really what makes it enjoyable. One convenient thing about Paris is that the big monuments are located at major crossroads and you can almost plan your trip and see them by accident. But I don’t really care to see the major monuments. It’s the smaller revelations, like: “Golly, the Seine is a lot smaller than I thought.” Or standing along the Cap Gris Nez, looking out towards the water as the sun is setting and saying, “What’s that white line out there? Is that… no, it can’t be. Can you see England from here?” (Yes, you can.) It’s almost hard to predict what will strike you, but you probably haven’t seen it on a postcard.

Oh, right, speaking of Venice, the Venice Carnival is something I’d really love to go to. Of course I’ll make a costume. There are days I think I should have learned Italian. You may be thinking that, if I know French, Italian should be easy. However, I once tried taking a Spanish class and it was almost like there was a short-circuit in my head. Everything came out French. The teacher actually thought I was French because of the sorts of mistakes I was making.

It reminds me of the time I had an Anglophone Canadian compliment me on my English. Since I was living in Quebec at the time, he assumed I was a French speaker. Yeah, my English is so good I sound as if I come from New Jersey. I still can’t help wondering what he was assuming about my accent.

Getting back to where I started, it seems that the large portions of the Český Krumlov Castle are indeed Baroque, which is just as well since the Czech Republic is not currently on my itinerary. I mean that as no disrespect for the country. It’s just that I already have four trips planned and haven’t yet figure out how to pay for those!

Although I say that my interest is in the early Medieval period, I confess a special fascination for those towns whose roots go far back enough to disappear into prehistory.

Enough rambling for one day!

So, my man cave has a sewing machine in it. You want to make something of it?

Right now, my living room has been turned into a temporary man cave as I desperately try to get something entirely fabulous and over-the-top done for Halloween. Obviously, blogging has fallen by the wayside. Housekeeping? Coding? My never ending novel? Dead armadillos one and all.

I’ve been reading a bit in various places and had some off-web discussions about the whole “cultural appropriation” brouhaha and with Halloween coming it seems like the perfect time to write a couple of posts about it. Unfortunately, Halloween is the closest I come to having a religious holiday, so I’m up to my neck in fabric and led lights. I’m hoping to have animatronic flappy wings this year, but the skeletal framework bent when force was applied. Last night, I glued some reinforcement to the frame, but I’m not feeling hopeful that it will work. The concept is sound. The problem is always in how to fabricate it. I know one day I’m going to wake up and find the hidden door that leads to the real man cave, the suburban garage fully outfitted as a workshop that is attached to my itty bitty Manhattan apartment. Ooh, the fabulous things I will make!

Please pardon me it this post is a little disjointed. I’m writing it during costume making breaks. Personally, the only costumes I find offensive are store bought ones. There’s a side of me that I don’t want to entirely deprive the overworked and undercreative of any fun whatsoever, but, to me, Halloween costumes are a little bit like Christmas cookies. A large part of the point lies in the making, not the wearing or eating.

I’m not a big fan of the sexy whatever costumes. Halloween is supposed to be about dressing up as something you’re not, so, obviously me dressing up as sexy totally undermines that point. 😉

My most humiliating costume is when my sister forced me to dress up as one of the members of Kiss. She and her friends liked Kiss (And you wonder why I insist on writing anonymously. It’s not so I can insult people. It’s so I don’t get beat up by my big sister.) but they were only three. They needed a fourth. Somewhere, my mother as a photo of me with my face painted like Ace Freely. Now you all know my deepest, darkest secret. I have nothing left to hide.

Do you remember a few years ago when the big Halloween panic wasn’t over cultural appropriation but over costumes that were too sexy? Suddenly they look like such innocent times.

Well, I hate to say it, but I think the wings aren’t going to flap. I’m having a little too much difficulty simply physically making the object. I think it would work if I could physically make it. Since I don’t have a man cave, I try to make things that can be fabricated with exacto knives and small hand tools. I seem to have mislaid my Dremel during my last move, so I don’t even have that at the moment.

Since Halloween is only a few days away, and according to my schedule the flappy wings had to work today or not at all, I’m going to have to regroup and just try to make it look good. It will have wings, but they won’t flap. I throw a few leds on it and call it a day.

For now, I need to sit with my coffee and relax. You know how when you’re working on something small and you’re whole body gets hunched over and all your muscles tighten up… well, that’s how I am at the moment.

I think it was Erika Christakis, ironically, who wrote something a number of years ago about how our societies anxieties get projected onto Halloween. When I was a kid, it was neighbors who might try to poison you with tainted candy. For a long time there were stories about people putting razor blades in apples, although I don’t know that that had ever happened. (I looked it up, and there were no cases of poisoning, but there have been a few cases of people putting pins or needles in candy.)

Since Halloween, with its ghouls and ghosts, is obviously about confronting anxieties, it’s not really surprising that it becomes a vehicle of society’s other anxieties as well. A few years ago, it was overly sexy Halloween costumes. An obsession of 2011, by 2012 we were getting think pieces about how criticizing women for sexy costumes was also bad. Last year, seemed to be a high point of hysteria over culturally appropriative costumes.

From an article from Psychology Today by Kit Yarrow:

Costumes are a way to explore who you aren’t. For example, it’s unlikely a waitress will dress up as a sexy waitress – or any other type of waitress for that matter. Okay, yes, there has to be at least a tiny bud of interest in the persona and character behind the costume chosen, but that doesn’t mean there is a secret wish to become that character.

“Young adults are in the stage of psychological development where trying on different roles has strong allure – it’s their job to figure out who they are. Halloween is the ultimate role play day, so it’s no wonder nearly three-quarters of 18-24 year olds plan to wear a costume. The percentage of adults dressing up dwindles a bit with every age cohort. It slides to half of 35-44 year-olds and down to one-quarter of 55-64 year-olds. By that age people know who they are and role play feels less exciting.

The writer goes on to say:

Choosing and crafting a costume takes imagination and creativity. It’s strutting around your mental assets and interests rather than your abs or cleavage – though it’s possible to do both.

I confess, that’s a big part of my motivation. It’s why I wanted wings that flap in the first place.

According to another article about the psychology behind Halloween costumes,

They reveal hidden personality traits, reflecting our inner urges on the one day it’s okay to abandon societal rules and regulations.

“It’s an opportunity to express things we’re normally not allowed to express,” says G. Dennis Rains, a psychology professor at Kutztown University in Kutztown, Pa. “It’s permission to let your underside or dark side come out. We can release what we normally keep under wraps.”

The writer, Angela Haupt, continues:

Sally Foster, a recently retired psychology professor and dean, organizes a Halloween party each year at MiraCosta College in Oceanside, Calif. More fun than the requisite trick-or-treating? Analyzing student and faculty costumes. “The adults who wear really sexy costumes are usually the ones who are mild-mannered in their daily life—modest people who aren’t overtly sexual,” Foster says. She recalls one such woman who dressed as a black cat, purring her way through the night in a body-hugging costume. “Everyone wanted to touch her. Her costume was just so luscious,” Foster says. “She got to live out an aspect of herself that she ordinarily wouldn’t show.”

Which might explain why I’ve never gone as a sexy sloth – a tad too close to home, I suspect.

She also quotes J. Buzz Von Ornsteiner, “We can finally unleash them—incognito. It makes us feel like we can do whatever we want, without any consequences or repercussions.” However, she adds, “Cautionary note: Halloween isn’t always repercussion-free. Photos of controversial costumes have made their way onto Facebook, costing the wearers their jobs.”

It’s not surprising that Puritans of all eras dislike Halloween. Another holiday the Puritans didn’t like was Christmas. Maybe I can figure out how to make flappy wings on an angel by the end of the year.

I’m not going to be able to write for a full hour today since I need to get up early tomorrow and I absolutely must get to bed at a reasonable time tonight.

In addition to trying to write regularly, I’ve also set about the task of programming regularly. I found that I had gotten very much out of practice. Right now, I’m just making myself some simple little games as sort of exercises. It’s amazing how quickly one forgets, but I’m remembering quickly, too.

I’m also cleaning my apartment for one hour each day. It had gotten badly out of control. I’m making progress.

In addition to the rhinestone zipper that I photographed and posted online the other day, I ordered some other notions from another site. They haven’t yet arrived and it’s now been a week. I’m going to have to contact the vendor. That’s the sort of thing that makes me freeze up. I don’t know why. I’m sure it’s some little problem that can be fixed. Still, I have a sort of strange anxiety reaction about having to deal with people in that situation. I’ve ordered the fabric from yet a third source. However, I’ve ordered from them before so I’m confident there is no problem. Furthermore, I’ve spoken on the phone to them about other problems in the past and they’ve always been very friendly and fixed whatever the problem was.

Still, I’m eager to get my hands on the neoprene to see how it goes.

Well, that is all for today.

I know, that was really boring, wasn’t it?