Monday, October 29, 2007

Vietnam vets receive medallions

The state of Missouri is stepping forward to honor vets of the Vietnam War, giving them the recognition they were denied when they came home. Sam Blackwell of the Southeast Missourian has the story.

More good movies

A Circle of Quiet recommends a couple of movies. The first I'd never heard of, but the second is one of my favorites.

You just never know...

Saturday I heard peculiar noises out back. Peeking out the window I saw, I kid you not, a hot air balloon taking off from the vacant lot that adjoins our back yard.

Ah, ha, says I, I've heard those sounds many times before, on television, on footage showing hot air balloons. I've even heard those noises in person a time or two, while watching hot air balloons getting filled or replenished with hot air at one event or another. Silly me, that I couldn't figure out I had a hot air balloon in my back yard without seeing it. Those distinctive bursts of whooshing could have told me, all by themselves - if I'd merely been able to imagine that I'd have a hot air balloon out back.

Which I couldn't. Not without seeing it.

That sort of thing has simply never happened around here. The old brain couldn't make the leap, I guess. (At any rate, it didn't.)

The balloon was tethered, and was giving rides as part of some celebration associated with the opening of the new Chamber of Commerce office, or so I'm told. Somehow I'd missed the PR run-up to it. (On the whole, the small town grapevine is highly overrated, folks.)

I didn't go for a ride. I saved my money and stayed on the ground, enjoying the spectacle for free, and laughing over the fact that a birds-eye view of our little ramshackle house was temporarily part of a tourist attraction.

I took some short walks, too, going up and down the way to give myself the good fun of seeing other people noticing the balloon for the first time. For my small trouble, I was treated to kids jumping up and down. Balloons seem to do that to kids. OK, I saw some mighty cheerful and delighted adults. Balloons seem to turn a goodly percentage of adults into kids, somehow. Me included. Ahem.

They gave rides Sunday, too. So I had two mornings full of unexpected fun brought practically to my doorstep. Such a deal.

Parochial intellectuals

Frank Wilson nails it on the head, I suspect:

I don't think a TV ad is good evidence for a "dominant idea" in the U.S. or anywhere else. As for "the quantity of uppers consumed" - could we have some figures, please. Most ordinary people I meet are neither consumed by melancholy nor obsessed with pumping up their enthusiasm - nor consuming quantities of uppers. But then, I live in an ordinary neighborhood populated with ordinary people. Most writers and intellectuals hang with other writers and intellectuals and project their parochial outlook onto the rest of society. That explains why so much that is written is such a bummer...
At least I think this is true of many of our 'elites' of today. It sure seems like it, at any rate. I would include many people in the news industry in this group, by the way.

For that matter, I think it's time for an encore for this commentary by John McWhorter. It's related. Sort of. Kinda. Maybe.

hat tip: Phil at Brandywine Books

More on Bella

Matt Barber's Oct. 22 column was on the independent film Bella, which he compares to The Passion of the Christ. Barber also participated in an audio interview with Leo Severino, co-writer and co-producer of the film. (Note: The column perhaps needs a borderline spoiler alert attached. In the audio interview, Severino is careful to not reveal too much of the plot, but there are audio clips from the film at the front and end of the interview, which give away a bit of the storyline, but which increased my desire to see the film. I thought it was an interesting interview.)

Did anyone get a chance to see the movie this weekend? What did you think?

Previous related post: Good news out of Hollywood

Our ever-changing world: migrating land masses

From a packet of Instant Quaker Oatmeal:

Q. On what continent did dinosaurs first appear?

A. Trick question! All the continents were joined together during the Early Triassic period in one big continent called Pangaea.

Source: Encyclopedia Britannica

I think one of my favorite memories from school days was the day we got to Pangaea in our textbook. You could look at a globe, or even a map (if you were good at adjusting for the distortions in map projections) and see how continents fit together if you scrunched them back together in your mind. I didn't even need the further evidence of matching rock formations along different shorelines to make me believe this theory.

We had a lot of fun, as I recall, playing with the mental gymnastics that naturally followed from the idea of one bigger land mass breaking up, with the parts heading off in different directions. For starters, animal and plant populations would be severed. And then the following generations of plants and animals on each traveling continent would have to adjust to the slow, slow, but big, big changes that would occur. The latitude as well as the longitude would change, and with it seasons and daylight and temps and who knows what all? Plus, the ocean currents would have to change as the land masses moved around, moving the blockades, as it were. This would, as I understand it, make for big changes in weather patterns.

And then, when you also started factoring in the growth of new land, thanks to volcanoes, etc., it got really interesting. For instance, the evidence pointed to North America and South America not being joined at first, but being linked after volcanoes in what is now Central America built up the land bridge that is there today. Can you imagine what a difference that had to make in climate, not to mention to ocean plant and animal populations? I mean, the Pacific and Atlantic oceans were linked there, and then they weren't. I've been led to believe that this happened slowly, but still... I saw a television documentary on this once, and it showed an animation of ocean currents swishing through there, and then being blocked and therefore totally, drastically rerouted. I hope it was an accurate rendition, because it made a big impression on me. The oceans got cut in two, but land animals had new lands made available for migration. Such a deal.

For another instance, where I live used to be practically a rain forest (you should see our fossils around here - what a fascinating story they tell), but ever since the Cascade Mountains grew up, this part of the world has been in a rain shadow (that is, we don't get much rain because of the mountains to our west). And I'm sure the wind patterns are different, too. Certainly the seasons are more extreme than they used to be. And...

But you get the picture, I'm sure. To try to approach a comprehension of reality, start with the above and start factoring in everyday sorts of erosion, not to mention drastic changes from earthquakes and floods, and then try to factor in the natural evolution of ecosystems as soils mature, and then...

Well, you get the picture, I'm sure. The histories of the physical and biological worlds can be hard to get one's head around. But it can be fun to try.

Have you ever tried to map what's happened to the spot where you live? How it's (probably) migrated over the globe over the eons? I don't know of any computer games or models for this, but I think they'd be fun to play with. At a guess, you could set your imaginary self down in the tropics and travel to the temperate zone without ever standing up, if you factored in enough time, and picked the right starting point.

OK, yes, perhaps it might be somewhat-geeky fun, but I like somewhat geeky fun. Heh.

Nicely said: 'quilting with fishnets' edition

Do you ever run across a turn of phrase that you hadn't heard before, that is so vivid and laser sharp that you wish you had a use for it right now, just off the top of your head?

How about this one from a post critiquing the use of data by a pro-abortion group:

This is like stitching a quilt from fish nets.
Well, yes, now that you put it that way, a lot of reports and/or conclusions based (or supposedly based) on statistics are exactly that.

I wish I'd come up with that. It makes the problem so clear. At least to me.

Now comes the hard part. Now I have to be careful not to use it where it doesn't fit, just because I want to use it for something...

hat tip: Happy Catholic

Heads up: Meth marketed to kids

We just got an email about 'candy meth' being marketed to kids, which Snopes says is partly true. Read the whole article for latest updates.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Beyond past dreams, via a grocery list

I've read a fair amount of history, and I've read quite a few older books, so one of the things that I routinely fall back on when I think I'm having a bad time is to compare my life against that of even the richest or most powerful people of not all that long ago, or the lives of folks in poor countries today. It's hard to feel altogether sorry for yourself when you have access to a well-stocked grocery store, for instance, just for starters. Kings couldn't have dreamed of the meals I can fix, and I'm a frugal shopper and cook.

I find Jennifer F. has come to much the same conclusion, but she says it better.

For me, reading about people who broke the ice in the water basin in their bedroom when they got up in the morning so that they'd have water to wash their face with, and who took it as a matter of course that ice would form inside the house in winter, has a tendency to remind me that I'm embarrassing my ancestors if I happen to get impatient for the hot water to reach the bathroom from the water heater in the other room. That would be the heated bathroom. The heated, indoor bathroom. With electric lights. And a water-flush toilet that takes germs and smells right away at the flick of a lever. The bathroom that's near a kitchen with a refrigerator. The refrigerator/freezer, to be more precise. The kitchen that also has a garbage can that can be emptied into a dumpster which is emptied once a week, taking the germs and the smells right away...

I'm pretty sure I would have done all right as a pioneer woman. But I'm glad I wasn't one, all the same, thanks.

Beyond increasing my gratitude for what material comforts I have, I find that doing comparisons with the old days is also is a good trick for helping me cope when times do get tough. I can't tell you how often I've told myself something like 'good grief, up until a couple of generations ago nobody had this convenience/product/service/whatever, therefore it's obviously possible to live just fine without it.' Since I grew up in a culture that didn't generally draw sharp distinctions between needs and wants, this little mental trick has been very useful indeed. It's helped me to keep my life more simple than it might have been, I think, and has kept me from wasting money, too. Such a deal.

hat tip: PalmTree Pundit, who credits The Paragraph Farmer

A day in the life of a mother...

... set to The William Tell Overture. No, really. Heh.

The piece is by Anita Renfroe.

I'm glad the stolen painting has been found...

... and the story has some nice twists, but... it's thought the painting might bring one million dollars at auction? That painting? (Tres Personajes by Mexican artist Rufino Tamayo)

I think I've said this before, but the folks who float around in the upper-range collector circles are beyond my comprehension. I can't see spending that much for a painting (with, possibly, a few exceptions, but only for the very best, most beautiful, most inspiring masterpieces of all time), but why, for pity's sake, would you spend big bucks for something that's ugly?

I know, I know, when you're talking about modern art, it's (supposedly) not the painting that counts, it's being in the know about what is hot just now, and what is yesterday. The art is just a token of your worldly sophistication and a way to flaunt how dripping you are with wealth, not to mention a prize to be captured away from other collectors. Still...

Good news out of Hollywood

There's another company devoted to making good films, this one called Metanoia Films.

LifeSite has a joint interview with Eduardo Verastegui, a former Latin American soap opera star who converted to Christianity, turned his life around, and is now dedicated to making films that stress family values; and Leo Severino, producer of Bella, due for release in the U.S. this weekend. Bella is being rolled out like Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, so if you are willing to sponsor a showing, or can get large groups together to see it, or are willing to help promote it, please check the website for more information. Bella won the People's Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival, and has gone on to more acclaim from there.

From the interview (Eduardo):

One day, I did this soap opera where I was playing a drug addict and the consequences and then at the end, let's show the guy goes to rehab. OK, but the first three or four months of that story was really attractive - I am riding in this convertible car with two beautiful girls and guys doing drugs and I remember after that show, I was in Miami one day and this guy from Venezuela came and approached me and said, "I love your show - it was amazing. I was watching every day. I can't believe that I am meeting you - and I have to tell you, my favorite scenes were when you were getting high to the point where I started doing drugs because of your show."

That was the first pin right into my heart. Can you imagine someone telling you, "Thank you - because of you, I started doing drugs." That was when I really realized the power of the media. How, one guy is changing his life only because of what he saw - so either for good or for bad. Then, as an actor, producer or writer, sometime we don't assume responsibility. Sometime we just do it for the career, for the fame, for the opportunity, but we forget that whatever we are doing - we are going to be affecting somebody out there.

Knowing all these things, the purpose of the company is to make films. We want to be able to make a difference in society - we want to be able to touch people's hearts - and make a good influence - no matter how tiny. We know that people are going to be imitating art - well then, lets create the right art so that whatever they are imitating is going to be the right thing, you know.

Update: Via Lars Walker, here's more on Bella, from Rebecca Cusey (New Film "Bella" Rejects Latin Stereotypes, The American Culture, October 24, 2007)

Nutty landscaping

If by chance you are thinking of planting a walnut tree in your yard, may I suggest you think twice? Our neighbor has a walnut tree in her front lawn, which sheds branches year round (sometimes quite large branches, they seem to be rather brittle and break a lot) and which rains walnut fruits in the fall. If you are thinking of the little dried walnuts in the store, you don't have the proper picture in your head. This is the still-moist walnut in its casing, altogether heavier than the lightweight nut with which you are familiar. (But it's somewhat padded, to be fair.)

This tree, unfortunately, is enough to this side that it also sheds branches and nuts into our yard. Worse yet, it is far enough forward to make the sidewalk a danger zone, too, especially this time of year. The fruits can make you fall if you step on them, and the chances of being conked are pretty good, if you forget yourself and turn that direction instead of (ahem) jaywalking to get to the other side of the street, which has no walnut tree. I'd also strongly advise against parking in front of that house for a few days yet. (This year's 'harvest' is nearly over, thank goodness.) The sound of a fresh walnut hitting a hood is probably not something you want to hear if it's your hood.

No, I haven't been conked yet. Nor have I fallen. But I figure it's only a matter of time, since I'm in the habit of going that way on most of my errands, and habit is a curiously powerful thing...

Woodstove advice sought

Headmistress is looking for information on small woodstoves selling for less than $300 - where to look and what to buy.

Alphabets do tend to evolve...

... except when they don't. Heh.

(And would Gudson be better than Judson? No, wait, under his plan it would be Gadson. I think.)

Update: Another mother has a son who is trying to correct the alphabet (but in a much smaller way).

Funerals, etc.

The United States of America, for better or worse, has so many funeral traditions it isn't funny, plus people are always coming up with innovations, also for better or for worse. Recently, for instance, we had a funeral around here for which people were told to show up wearing cammo clothing because the deceased was an avid hunter. Even the minister was in cammo, he told me the other day. Ummm. I tend to appreciate a bit more formality than that, speaking strictly for myself. Let us say I have mixed feelings about such innovations, and leave it at that.

The memorial service for one of my relatives - who had died in midwinter, weeks before the memorial gathering - was an April Fool's Day get-together at a community theater, which the invitation stressed would feature multi-media presentations. Ummm. I hope it brought comfort to his widow and children, etc., who planned the affair. And, no, he wasn't an actor. He was a lawyer. Ummm. Let's leave that at that. Well, no, let me say that although I hadn't been a big fan of April Fool's Day, this didn't make things better. It does make the date easy to remember, but... would you really want your family to remember you every April 1, specifically? (And, yes, he was a 'liberal.' Why do you ask?) I don't wish to sound harsh, here. For all I know, the date had significance for that family. I hope it did. I don't want to think that they meant it as some kind of joke. Perhaps that was the only day available at that theater, and that theater was dear to his heart? I've been afraid to ask, to be honest with you. I prefer to think that his immediate family got pushed into a corner, and did the best they could under the circumstances.

When my maternal grandfather died, I somehow managed to scrape together enough money to travel more than halfway across the country to Tennessee in hopes of finally getting to meet some of his friends from his days before he moved to Florida. To my surprise and dismay, my aunt had already announced in the newspaper that it was to be a family-only affair. We few who had come stood in a small cluster in a graveyard, with an urn of ashes, which we stuck in a pre-dug hole in the ground, and the aunt asked if anybody wanted to say anything. Nobody having been told this would happen, nobody had much to say - and pretty much the whole assembly being atheists or agnostics (at that time, at least), there really wasn't much to say, at least as far as the big picture went. Very sad, that was. Pathetic, really. On the plus side, it was so family-only that not even anybody from the funeral home was with us, to see us being inept, alone, embarrassed, and mumbly.

My paternal grandmother's memorial service, on the other hand, was so big I'm not sure everyone who wanted in could get in the church, and it was a big church. People lined up to give tributes: long, friendly, loving, glowing, lively tributes, as I remember. She had lifted us up in life, and she did so in death, too. It was wonderful to get together in her name, and to meet others who loved her.

All in all, funerals do seem to be all across the board, don't they? (That's when there is a funeral. Off and on we seem to have mini-runs of deaths without gatherings. I tend to wonder, on the non-funeral deaths, whether at least sometimes it's because there's a fear of no one showing up?)

The subject comes up because this week I was talking with a friend, and somehow it came out that he was related to a young woman who was murdered recently, not around here. It appears the young lady had gone to someone's apartment to use the phone, and so just happened to be there when a drug dealer showed up to mow down someone he thought had crossed him. She was, my friend said, not into drugs, was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time and got killed in the crossfire. She had a three-year-old daughter (I think he said the daughter was three - she was quite young, at any rate), and the family decided for the little girl's sake to have an all-white casket on which people at the funeral could leave colored handprints.

I hadn't heard of that before, and I'm still not altogether sure what I think about it, to be honest with you, but today, out of the blue, I couldn't help wondering what archaeologists of the future are going to make out of what we're leaving behind us now.

Not that I think anything was funny or ridiculous about the handprints on the casket idea, because I don't - and I applaud their wish to reduce the trauma of a funeral for a toddler who has lost her mama - but when I try to guess what archaeologists down the line might come up with to explain a white casket with handprints of all sizes on it, I had to chuckle. I wouldn't be surprised if it were along the lines of Here, my dear Dr. Jones, is evidence of a society which placed its faith in the magic of handprints, able to carry the dear departed into the next world, which, of course, was thought to be ruled by an eight-armed goddess, as you can clearly see from the arrangement of the prints on the casket, and this squiggly smudge over here, which Jenkins, et al, identified in 2084 (i.e. 117 BCE) as indicative of a female deity believed to have some control over global climate... The scientists would be wrong, of course. In this case, it was a Christian who died, and it was a Christian funeral, and the handprints were merely there out of love for a little girl too young to understand what was happening in her ripped-apart world.

But, then, I suspect that some archaeological theories/conclusions about past societies are sometimes as far off the mark as that, based as they are on such often-random and always-incomplete findings as they seem to be, and seen as they are through the prism of the scientists' own experiences, education and worldview. But I could be wrong about that, of course.

Staying connected

I was having so much trouble getting on - and staying on - the internet, and I've been so busy offline, that I just gave up on online life for a while. I pretty much avoided television, too. (That is nothing new. Overall, I barely watch television. I can't see where it helps me to watch it.) All in all, I'm currently horribly uninformed as to "news" of the wider world, but I'm better connected with people in my community. This I consider not such a bad thing, all in all.

I've also read quite a bit (not a bad thing), and I'm up to 40,000 words on a novel I'm writing (also not a bad thing).

The only thing I consider a really bad thing about my recent blog lull is that I'm feeling ashamed of myself for not fighting my way online somehow to let you know I was off concentrating on other things, and not, say, languishing in a hospital or something. My apologies.

We are still having some interesting connection problems, plus I will need to spend less time online while I work on other things, but I'll try to hop on now and then until I can blog regularly again. In the meantime, please consider "no news" to be "good news." I'd hate for anyone to worry about me simply because I'm spending more time with local friends and in church activities and at my computer keyboard writing a book instead of blogging.

A side note on the connection problems: It could be worse. The other day we got a phone call and the caller ID said it was from a local doctor's wife, a lady we know but hardly expect to call us about anything. Upon answering the phone, my husband found it wasn't the doctor's wife at all, but another friend of ours. The friend said that ever since some work was done on the phone lines, the doctor's wife's phone number got attached to her line somehow, and she'd been getting their phone calls. The doctor, we hear, was not amused, and was assuring her that the problem would be fixed very soon (if he had anything to say about it).

Well, yes. Having your phone line swapped with someone else's phone line could be a problem, I guess. And no, I don't know how, or if, our friend was able to get any phone calls that were aimed at her during the mix-up.

On the other hand, it could, possibly, be worse. Talking with my inlaws not that long ago, we found that they'd been without phone service for several days, because both their landline and their cell phone managed to go out at the same time. So, here they were, with a backup line that couldn't provide back up. They were none too happy about it, all the more so because they had just had a phone installer in their house, who didn't speak English, cut holes in the floor where he felt like it, and seemed to be casing the joint, as far as they could see, since he stuck his head into nooks and crannies that didn't concern him. And then left them with phones that didn't work.

As I understand it, they now have phone service from another company, having lost faith in that one. (Isn't competition good?)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Boyhood in the BL era

Via Robert, to Robert, to this comment, I got to the resurrected The Diplomad blog (tagline: Continuing the Conservative Underground Revolution in America's Most Liberal Institution, the State Department), which has a post that begins:

The Diplomad has just read The Dangerous Book for Boys by the Iggulden brothers.

It is a very nice book, and one which injects fresh air into our stale socio-political debates about gender. It is a polite plea to let boys be boys; it is a cry of loss over the old days when boys could be boys without fear of being sued, expelled from school, or otherwise reprimanded for harmless pranks. While I read the American version, it remains largely a British book; not all of it is relevant to Americans, but still it brought back all sorts of memories of living in America in the old days, in the BL era, the Before Lawyers era.

Toys. I thought of the toys I had and compared them to ones my kids had. Mine were crude, positively dangerous, and absolutely wonderful...

Read the full post

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Food history: Tabasco sauce

McIlhenny's Gold by Jeffrey Rothfeder, a former BusinessWeek editor, takes a look at the legends and history of Tabasco Sauce. Mark Robichaux's take on the book (and its subject) here.

Bookish history

See Albert Mohler's Books, Libraries, and the Ideal of Christian Scholarship for a look at how books used to be reserved for the rich and powerful, and how and why that changed.

In his post, he cites Megan Hale Williams' book, The Monk and the Book: Jerome and the Making of Christian Scholarship (University of Chicago Press, 2006), and provides some short excerpts.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Another mistaken "scientific consensus"

John Tierney's Diet and Fat: A Severe Case of Mistaken Consensus (New York Times, Oct. 9, 2007), has some good examples of how scientists and doctors and the media (etc., etc., etc.) can get caught up in an "informational cascade," which leads them to wrong conclusions.

The article cites Gary Taubes' new book which examines diet myths, “Good Calories, Bad Calories” (Knopf, 2007).

hat tip: Frank Wilson

My "fall color change" Japanese adventure

A few weeks ago we had a visitor who had lived in Japan as a boy, the son of missionaries. We fell to swapping "my life in Japan" stories. We soon found out that we'd both had some interesting experiences simply because we'd been in areas that didn't see non-Japanese people all that often, and more specifically because we're both blond.

In his case, for instance, the neighbors expressed concern because he had blue eyes, and to them that meant blindness. I guess if everyone you know who can see well has dark eyes, and people you know who are blind have light eyes, that sort of concern would be logical. It's not correct when you start applying that rule of thumb to the world population, of course, but it would be logical to worry if you didn't know better.

In my case, I was a twenty-something woman a few years into a newspaper career when I got an invitation from a childhood friend who was over there teaching English. She offered me a free place to stay, and guide service, and local transport, if only I'd come over and give her a native English speaker to talk to for a few weeks, and, as much to the point, an American to chat with. She was going a bit crazy, she said, being essentially the only resident foreigner in town, not to mention an American with no countrymen within visiting distance.

I got a leave of absence lined up, and then found out how unbelievably large the Pacific Ocean is. Yinga.

At long last, after flying (and flying, and flying), and train rides and more train rides, I was in the town where she taught, and was immediately adopted by various and sundry folks wanting to try out their English skills, for one thing, and to hang out with an American newspaper reporter for another (that I represented a small, regional paper didn't seem to matter all that much), and also, I think, just for the excuse to go play tourist themselves. At any rate, I was taken to all sorts of interesting places, sometimes by one group of people, sometimes by another.

One day, a group of young ladies took my friend and me to a place called, if I remember correctly, The Hawaiian Center. At any rate, it amounted to something along the lines of a mall combined with an entertainment complex, and the overall theme was decidedly the Hawaiian Islands. There were shops and eateries, and public baths, and a regular swimming pool or two, and a looped pool with a current in it, that you could either float in, going around and around, or else get a workout in, by swimming against the current. I don't remember what else.

After you changed into your swimsuit but before you got into a pool, you were supposed to shower under a nozzle set up outside the dressing rooms, in full view of people on the two or three levels of this mall (I can't remember how many stories it was, but only two or three I think). So I got into my swimming suit - my brand new, bought especially for the trip, sophisticated black swimming suit which I'd never worn anywhere before - and stepped outside to the shower and went under the spray. I heard gasps. I heard strange murmurings. I looked around and people were staring at me, from the upper balconies as well as ground level, and my hostesses looked like they would faint and some of them were crying.

My first thought - relatively modest American that I am - was that I'd had a wardrobe malfunction with the never-before-worn swimming suit. I'm of an age that I grew up with the occasional swimsuit that got baggy when wet, sometimes with excruciating consequences. (Bikinis, especially those made for rail-straight pre-adolescents, should never have been made of such fabric, in my humble opinion. But I digress.) But, of course, a baggy or shifted swimsuit wouldn't have shocked the Japanese people in that mall. It might have prompted giggles or rude comments, but it wouldn't have shocked people - and people were definitely stunned. And I was definitely the center of attention.

Their distress had knocked what English they knew clear out of my companions (and my bi-lingual friend was nowhere to be found, naturally) so there was much use of hand gestures and stabs at finding a Japanese word I knew that would convey something about the calamity. Finally, by pointing at my hair and using a Japanese word for the turning of the leaves in autumn, I was made to understand that my hair, subjected to Japanese shower water, had, unbelievably - and they were horribly, horribly sorry about it - my hair had gone not-blond, and was now a different color.

Having grown up with hair that always goes dark when it gets wet, it took me a while to understand what the problem was. But then I realized that black hair stays black when it gets wet, so of course if you only knew about black hair, to see hair that was altogether different when wet would be a bit on the supernatural or calamitous side.

I assured my hostesses that my hair - all blond hair for that matter, as far as I know - goes dark when wet and it would undoubtedly return to the usual color when dry, just like always. This was a huge relief, and after confirming it with me three ways from Sunday to prevent spreading false reassurance, they announced to all and sundry within polite yelling distance that everything was all right, that the foreigner's hair always changed color when wet and would be just fine when it dried - as surprising as it seemed, everything was normal.

People stopped being statues, and stopped being unhappy, and laughed a bit (or a lot, depending on how it struck them), and bit by bit people stopped pointing at me, and soon everything was back to normal, on the upper decks and down at ground level, too.

Not that stories need to have a moral attached, of course, but to me this one rather dramatically represents the concept: You don't know what you don't know.

Bill's wife's favorite tree

Over my blog break, we got fresh snow on the hills around town, and fall color has started in earnest down here in the valley. This brings to mind...

Every year about this time I get a colorful reminder of one of the main things about a town you've lived in for a while that makes it different from a town you don't know, besides the people. It's the associations. The stories to go with things. For instance, if I stand out back and look across the vacant lot, I can see a certain tree, currently deep red on the fringes. Years and years ago now, I caught an old man looking at that tree in fall color, and Bill told me that it had been his wife's favorite tree, that she loved how it changed color, and how deep the colors were. He was a widower, and I hadn't known his wife. But every year in autumn I think of him - dead several years now himself - and her, and how he liked to look at that tree because it was her favorite tree. In a way it has made it one of my favorite trees in town, too.

I hadn't thought of Bill in a long time, but today I stood looking at that tree and let the memories wash over me. It was nice.

It's a little thing, I know. Like how in my old hometown you either knew which was Ritter's Hill and which was Ashby's Hill, etc., or you didn't, because you sure couldn't find them listed on a map. You could only know if someone told you, and for that you pretty much had to live there. And talk to people. And listen.

Such little things, and yet how connected they can make you feel to a place.

We get results: Thanksgiving Day poem

Some of you will remember that way back when I put up a notice that a gentleman we know was looking for a poem he remembered from years and years ago.

My husband found it this weekend, thanks to Google, which has posted The Indiana School Journal of 1896. Specifically, it's Recitation - The Thanksgiving Dinner, on page 787.

This rhyme is just one of several in the "Program for Thanksgiving Day" section which begins on page 785.

The journal was published by the Indiana State Teachers' Association. The original used for the digital image came from Harvard. No author was listed for this particular poem.

There are other editions of The Indiana School Journal online. I'm having a bit of trouble navigating the searches right now, but from what I could pull up, the earliest one I saw was from 1858, and the latest one I saw was from 1900. They look like they could be really good resources, from what I've seen so far. (They'd be even better if someone's fingers didn't block the view on some pages, but perhaps I'm being too picky?)