Friday, December 31, 2010

Much to be Grateful for in 2010

Our house is the biggest change since the beginning of the year. It took a lot of patience and most of our carefully-gathered savings, but we now have a home that suits us. If we are careful, we'll have it all paid off by the time Kris retires, and then we can sit on our porch and just flick our fingers!(Not that we will, but the point is, we could if we wanted to!)
Our neighbors and our families are working out pretty well. We've even accumulated a full set of cats
I'm also grateful for the chance to work with Leigh Franklin Associates on several interesting projects that I hope may bear fruit in 2011.
Here's a collage of my 2010 Facebook statuses; it's automatically generated by an app, but I was surprised to see that it fairly accurately depicted my mood this year:

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Rosemary Christmas Tree!

Rosemary bush as Christmas tree
Christmas Cactus, Christmas Rosemary,
and Christmas Candle!

For a Christmas tree this year, we got a live rosemary bush. It looks fine, smells great, and the cats leave it alone.
(We'd all had cats before, and knew that they loved to toy with Christmas trees. As a child, I always assumed it was normal to guy trees to the ceiling with wire, because if you didn't the cats climbing the tree would bring it down.)
Now that the holiday is over, we're moving Rosemary outdoors where she'll be more comfortable throughout the year. We hope she'll be able to come inside to celebrate Christmas with us every year, as a decoration that's appropriate, environmentally responsible, and fun!

Our first Christmas in our new home!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Donating Blood Was Easy!

I saw a "Give Blood Today" sign on the way to the Post Office, and couldn't think of a reason not to.
Randy donating blood
Not my most attractive picture,
but something to be proud of
I used to give blood regularly (it's a free and easy way to do a little good in the world, and to get cookies on the side!) but between one thing and another, I'd gotten out of the habit. This seemed like an easy way to get back to it.
The location was a Catholic Church in West Seattle, probably Holy Rosary; the blood drive was staffed by the Puget Sound Blood Center.
I went into the basement and found that the procedure was pretty much as I remembered. The main difference was that there was a lot more safety information, e.g. information about Crutz Jacobs disease. They'd also dealt with a couple of questions such as "Are you pregant?"; I had the choice of answering "Yes", "No" and "I am male". I suppose they'd gotten tired of silly questions about it!
The nurse who did the interview and blood iron test was, like me, an avid thrift store shopper; the guy who actually hooked me up to the blood bag was also friendly and we mostly talked about my new rain barrel; the crowd of donors sitting in the "Wait Here 10 Minutes" table seemed to be parishoners; we discussed the new archbishop and also the need for living wage jobs. 
I'm glad I took the time to give blood; it didn't take much time and I enjoy talking (as I always do!)
Talking it over this evening, I was amused to learn that Mother-In-Law had attended Holy Rosary while living with Aunt May. I wonder if we went through the same door!

Comics: This Modern World

This Modern World is a sharp, funny weekly comic strip by cartoonist and political commentator Tom Tomorrow (real name Dan Perkins) covers current events from a liberal point of view. This jester says what the courtiers dare not!

I was going to go into more detail, but this review from "Comics Worth Reading" is spot on:
"These strips parody consumerism, politics, and media in an insightful, funny way. Even when the events in the older ones are dated, the point behind them still rings true. Although a corporation’s economic strategies for pretending there’s no recession might change, for example, the fact that they attempt to manipulate the public and the government doesn’t.
Although overtly political, Perkins takes on targets regardless of their affiliations; his reactions are based on actions, not labels. The names may change but the same interests are behind the scenes, and he points them out no matter if the President is Bush or Clinton. One of his main themes is class warfare, whether it’s the rise of temp jobs while corporations downsize, the unbalanced taxing of the rich and the poor, or generous corporate welfare in contrast to restrictive welfare reform policies.

He’s fond of letting politicians and political commentators hang themselves on their own quotes and of pointing out manipulation and misuse of statistics. He presents the bizarre behavior of crowds in fresh ways, whether they’re Rush Limbaugh dittoheads (remember them?), WIRED’s target audience, OJ Simpson watchers, or stock market investors.

The reader moving through the volumes gets an overview of politics over the last decade, including the Gulf War, George Bush, health care reform, Bill Clinton, the rise of information technology, Newt Gingrich, the booming stock market, Monica Lewinsky, and school shootings. Plus there’s the ever-popular government hypocrisy, lazy journalists, overwhelming consumerism, uninformed non-voters, and racism.

The look of the strip is based on Fifties-style character clip art assembled in a collage effect. Clipped heads of suburbanites appear against patterned backgrounds, and at times images are used just because they’re odd. Originally a single panel, the comic now most often appears as a rectangular grid, usually made up of four panels.

Newer cartoons involve more action; a greater variety of images, including more caricatures of real-life figures; and more textures and background shades. There’s also more use of media parodies, including Star Trek, Twilight Zone, Dr. Seuss, and The Mask. He also does the occasional “homage” in the style of Dilbert, Little Nemo, Family Circus, or the Fantastic Four.

It’s wordy, presenting lots of information, and the pictures are there to support and enhance the ideas. Still, the art is needed. Most of the human characters are relentlessly cheerful regardless of what they’re saying, which backs up the idea that the general public is manipulated and rather brainless. The chirpy characters make the reader more inclined to question what they’re reading, which teaches people to think, not just accept, what they’re presented with.

The closest thing to a continuing character is Sparky, the sarcastic penguin wearing visor shades. At first he was there to parody lovable talking merchandised animal mascots, but he became the voice of reason — and the author.

The art gives the comic a unique look, but fundamentally the appeal is the ideas. Perkins covers stories that don’t get enough attention elsewhere and provides a valuable alternative perspective on familar stories. You can’t solve problems until you recognize them, and he’s trying to get our focus enough to point them out. The cartoon is educational, full of justified righteous anger at our cultural hypocrisy and greed. He deals with the difficulty of how to satirize what’s already unbelievable with talent and creativity, so the cartoons are humorous even if it’s your ox getting gored...."
You can ead the whole review, or just go right to the comic - highly recommended:

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Eggnog from the Farmer's Market on Boxing Day

Is That Golden Glen
Behind the Counter?
The season of eggnog became much much better this year, as we discovered
While we can drink only a little eggnog straight (it is crazy rich!), but it is the perfect additive to our morning coffee. Who needs "Creamer" when you can get eggnog at insanely better quality?
Plus - it's made locally - and from ingrediants one can actually spell (e.g. "cream"). The only downside is that it's a seasonable product. We tried to persuade the seller that Irish Cream is a traditional St. Patrick's Day staple but I'm afraid sales slack off after the year-end holidays.
What a pity! Can we invent a use for eggnog for each month's holiday?