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Archive for June, 2008

Pie redux

No, I didn\'t bake this.  My beloved used her grandma\'s recipeI had mentioned the making of rhubarb pie to some of my friends, and though you should see the final result.

It was very tasty.  It’s gone now.  We were supposed to eat it with vanilla ice cream and forgot to get that part.  This is probably because we can pick up gelato by walking to the local greengrocer’s, but ice cream requires a drive. [ I last tanked up at $3.98, and am in NO rush to have to do that again soon.]

One of my gardening goals is to locate a good variety of rhubarb so that we grow our own, rather than have to use the store-bought kind, which isn’t as reliably wonderful as what you can get out of your own yard.  The rhubarb is one of the things I wasn’t able to get out of the ground from the old Chez Rethoryke:

Later this weekend, expect pictures of the first lillies blooming in our yard, and tales of Cat Chess.

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Now, we know we’re not the target audience, and we also know that many of the final results of these programs are really very tasty.

Burn, baby burn!

But it can’t escape our notice that much of the language used during “Primal Grilling” is only a few steps away from a very different kind of discourse.  Secrets are shared by “pit masters” around the world, one of the goals is to “really force that marinade into those holes”, meat is deemed done when “juice just oozes out” at the slightest touch, then “absolutely explodes” in someone’s mouth.

After the third or fourth time we were exhorted to “really try to marinate that meat for four to six hours, or even better, overnight” for the best effect, it occurred to us that it was perhaps more tragic than amusing that the meat was getting significantly more tender loving attention than I suspect many people get from their significant others. It’s like those TV ads where the husband has dropped 4K on a television setup in the master bedroom, and only some small fraction of that on the bed he shares with his wife. [Dan Savage has the correct response to that imbalance, by the way…]

Of course, the meat isn’t able to compare notes on the experience with its friends after the event, so the man in this barbecue fantasy world doesn’t have to consider anyone’s satisfaction but his own. [Dan has the same recommendation for that situation.]

If you stop by that Barbecue website, you’ll see that the basic rules are “Keep it Hot”, Keep it Clean”, and “Keep it Lubricated”. That’s apparently part of the Barbecue Bible, which just adds a whole new level of kink, really…

Y’know, given time, interest, and a few references to Theory, I bet I could get a paper for the Popular Culture Association outta this….

Please note: I do not feel personally injured or insulted by this barbecue language. I’m pointing out a pattern that overlaps a different pattern, and I am amused.  I am also a carnivore who sincerely appreciate a nicely done barbecue!  Do NOT go complain about the scriptwriting quality of that program; I don’t think that’s a useful expenditure of time or indignation.

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This currant bush is much older than I am....I was sorting through some old papers and came across some excerpts from student placement bluebooks. These were responses to short comparison/ contrast prompts… Did a high school senior think option A or B was preferable? Could they marshal three reasons to explain their choice? Could they rub two neurons together and spark a coherent argument?

Some attempts were more successful than others. We did get the occasional student who actually placed out of Intro Comp, and some students got into an Honors section. But of course we had a goodly portion of people who had only recently made the acquaintance of the English language [thanks to an Admissions office that didn’t want to require the TOEFL], and others for whom one needed to channel the patience of Mina Shaughnessey [Note: These days, I do not have it. Yea, verily, I am sorely lacking in that manner of virtue. I realize that many of the errors I get exasperated about do have roots in language struggles that deserve respect, genuine challenges, and TLC. Perhaps I should be back in the trenches, rigging out life preservers. But that is not currently my calling.]

“There has been a noticing decline…”

Why, you’ve noticed, too? Declensions are so much more aware than they used to be. I think that’s because the English language is gradually realizing that it will have to defend itself. Now where’s my eau de vie on the rocks?

“These changes, though huge in their ability to drive the revolving world, have in time, averted our attention towards smaller components of society.”

This is an example of someone stringing together phrases in a way that gets fairly close to an academic argument — setting up an idea, and then saying “despite this, X is still a problem” or “X distracts us from the real issue of Y”. And honestly, I suspect this pattern would fool the ETS scoring system, since it uses a multi-phrase structure, and some upscale words. But we didn’t ask the students to tell us that the world was still spinning round [right round, like a record baby], and the actions of human beings aren’t what propel it anyway.

“Today’s teachers are hard to come by.”

This is partly because we run away quickly, and partly because there have been lawsuits about inappropriate behavior [and even when there haven’t been lawsuits, I think many of us have witnessed the ugly fallout of student-faculty affairs, even when everyone’s supposedly a consenting adult].

“The teacher must be firm and hard yet understanding.”

What was I just saying about inappropriate expectations and behaviors?

“This is why home schooling produces such a developed minds due to the appreciation of the teacher towards developing one mind. But that is another topic.”

So the minds are developing, but the essay, not so much. We gave points for the student striving to remain on task, but would have been happier with some clarity about what was being appreciated, whether it was really the teacher or the student doing the appreciating, and who owned the one mind.

“The parents and child switch roles, only to see that the child realizes parenthood is not what it’s to be and radically changes into the ‘knowledge’ child.”

I suspect that there are several missing words that would have helped turn this sentence into something easier to understand. “Meant to” or “Cracked up to” or “Easy as it seems” spring to mind. But that does leave us with the radical changes in the second half of the sentence, and wondering whether I should be hearing trumpets a la “Thus Spake Zarathustra” in 2001: A Space Odyssey

“Anger overthrows the lonely Mrs. Johnson and her hair stands on end.”

I don’t know what to say; there wasn’t a literature excerpt used in these prompts, so I don’t have a good explanation for why the poor woman’s hair is on end, although I certainly sympathize.

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So I’ve been pleased to discover that the electrical work needed at Chez Rethoryke was much simpler [and thereby much less expensive] than originally anticipated. Cheaper + up to code = happy homeowner.

But of course, value isn’t always determined that way. There’s plenty of research to demonstrate that people will value something that cost them dearly more than something that was easily gotten, no matter the overall quality of what they receive [Where would “EST”, The Forum, or Scientology be, otherwise? And for that matter, do those really differ from long-term Freudian psychoanalysis in that respect?]. There’s evidence that the sugar pill that costs $2.50 is somehow more “effective” than the identical pill priced at 10 cents.

[sigh] Perceived value trumping actual utility, social obligations formed from trivial gifts, needing to do increasingly stupid things in front of others to increase ones social status [see “The Dew Tour”]…. it’s amazing society works at all….

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Courtesy of http://www.newmanveterinary.com/feline.html:

Some litter contains baking soda or other additives which “fizzle” when moistened. Many cats do not like litter that “talks back”.

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Pie pie pie pie

Yesterday featured the sort of weather that makes you look at the coconut custard pie you just bought and say “Well, here’s dinner!”Petrea arborea (Queen\'s Wreath) blossom, from my aunt\'s garden in Guatemala

Today’s weather is much the same, although I might try something else for dinner — say, a can of chilled tuna, some fresh strawberries, and a splash of balsamic vinegar….maybe roasted red pepper hummus on bread for the starch.

Whence the strawberries? Our next door neighbors have chosen to grow LOTS of strawberry plants in their front garden, and told us to take whatever we liked [we will supply them with figs later in the season]. Taking a walk down to the bookstore and pausing to rinse off a few strawberries for an ambulatory snack is just a marvelous, blessed thing.

Now, about the lovely thing on the right: that’s a blossom and two calyxes (sp?) from the Petrea arborea in my aunt’s front yard — the vine grows over the carport and down the sides, like a wisteria, although the blossoms are obviously very different. Hummingbirds like them, and when the central flower drops off, the remaining parts are still pretty for a while before the seedpod finishes developing
and the whole thing spirals to the ground like a little tan helicopter. For more information, or if you think you can grow one, look here.

For the rationale behind the title, look here.

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It was not a normal Sunday.

For starters, I was at church for the early service, and my task was to assemble rainbow ribbon pins. In between fighting with right-handed scissors and stabbing myself with safety pins, I was listening to the musicians practice from inside the sanctuary, rather than from my office window.

Plonk-a plinka chinka, plonk-a ching!
Plonk-a plinka chinka, plonk-a ching!

The band, such as it was, gamely tried to find a key in which the novice guitar players and drummers could operate AND still not trash the range of the main singers, whose adolescent altos had not settled yet on which notes could make consistent appearances. They were all trying their best. Then there was the matter of the lyrics that needed singing, and that was the point at which my jaw dropped, because it was clear that none of the people in this band knew them unless they were reading the printouts.

…Chances are, if you’re in the target audience for this blog, the mere snippet of lyrics in the post title and the banjo riff have been enough to evoke the earworm.

All together, now: 1, 2, 3 —

Why are there so many
Songs about rainbows
And what’s on the other side?
Rainbows are visions
But only illusions
And rainbows have nothing to hide… [Paul Williams, 1979]

We don’t think about where to take a breath, or which words fit to which strum in the music: you hear the intro, you inhale, you sing.

No, this isn’t usual church music. The early service is a casual event, with kid-friendly music, a short sermonette, and sometimes communion. The week’s theme was a celebration of this church’s inclusion of gays, lesbians, bisexual, and transgendered folk in the congregation….

The service starts, and we work out a system for getting as many programs and ribbons handed out as possible. Rainbow stoles decorate the sanctuary and assorted people in the pews. The music is joyful. Then the pastor calls for everyone to form a circle outside the rows of pews for communion, and the elders move forward down the center aisle to collect the elements.

Two elders. I know they need four to carry everything.

A third elder taps my partner on shoulder, and gestures: Come with me!

And off they go down the aisle, probably before she realizes what’s she’s been summoned to do. I can’t hear her protests, but I know exactly what they are: “I’m not a minister!” [as would be proper for her home tradition…] “I’m not even a member here!” [which you think might have let her off the hook…] I explain this to the person standing next to me, who asks if I wanted to go switch places.

“No,” I say, “I’d just start to cry.”

The service and the actions wouldn’t be emotionally charged for me if I didn’t take them seriously, and yet I want the church to change enough to let me serve ‘legally’. That’s the big contradiction in a nutshell. For me the rituals matter, even if we’re just pretty much passing around mini-shot glasses of grape juice. My parents have served as elders for decades. I used to help train youth delegates for major meetings [my tradition is very fond of Robert’s Rules of Order]. Despite my skepticism about many things, I have occasionally considered attending seminary. [There are obvious overlaps here with “If I didn’t take marriage seriously, it wouldn’t be such a big deal whether or not the law recognized the genuine structure of my family.”]

The specific tenets of religion don’t always ‘work’ for me, but I do believe that while human organizations have set up elaborate iron gates between me and service the supposed Gatekeeper keeps right on smiling and pointing to a wide open entryway that the organizations are trying hard not to notice. “Over here! Come with me!”

It was a wonderful upside-down moment to watch someone who didn’t think she had the right to serve Communion do so at spontaneous invitation.

I don’t think I’d stretch the scripture to say “And a little Frog will lead them”, but the song fit the spirit of the day beautifully.

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