Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Missing the obvious

I was in the Woman Cave doing some sewing the other day. As usual, the radio was on WGGL, the NPR station from the Michigan Tech campus. They carry a 2-hour talk show, "On Point," from 10 to noon every day. It being only a couple days after the event, it was no surprise that the first hour was devoted to a lot of bloviating about the bomb detonated in the Chelsea neighborhood in New York City. Two things struck me.

First, the complete sense of self-delusion and denial in the repeated statements that the U.S. will not give in to fear, we're going to respond with resolve and courage and general bravery. Bullshit. Osama won 15 years ago. Ever since 9/11 as a country we've been running scared. We see terrorists and potential terrorists every time we hear an Arabic name. We freak out when we see a woman wearing a hijab -- if head scarves scare the crap out of us, just how brave are we? We collectively agreed to treat a handful of fanatics as though they posed as existential threat, which is nonsense, and have been paying the price ever since. We're more risk of being shot by accident by a toddler who found a parent's unsecured handgun than we are of being the victim of a terrorist attack. Nonetheless, we talk a lot about how brave and courageous we are while behaving like the world's biggest cowards.

Second, the complete cluelessness about motive. Lots and lots of bloviating about the influence of on-line recruiting and the possible impact of trips the man made back to Afghanistan, as if all it takes are words from an outside source to inspire someone to turn radical. Neither of the so-called experts said one word about the fact that for words to have much impact they have to land on fertile ground. At the same time that news reports discussed the fact the man's family experienced harassment and discrimination on a pretty steady basis for years because they were Muslim, the experts were musing about what could possibly have turned someone who'd been in this country since he was 7 years old into a "terrorist." The stupid it burns.

The big question isn't what might have motivated a 28-year-old man who'd been in this country for 3/4s of his life to turn radical. What turned a person described by the neighbors as an "ordinary kid" into someone buying bomb components through Ebay was a whole lot of little incidents that eventually hit some trigger point. And it wasn't stuff happening in some Arab country -- it was what was happening in New Jersey. It was day after day, week after week, month after month of Islamaphobic neighbors calling in bullshit noise complaints, it was the city hassling his family's restaurant if it stayed open one minute too late but ignoring other restaurants in the same neighborhood doing the same thing, it was being repeatedly being accused of being a jihadi or called a raghead simply for looking Arab -- although Afghanis aren't Arabs, but most Americans are too dumb to know that.

There's a well-established principle in sociology and education: if you label someone and if you label them over and over again, sooner or later they're going to decide to live up (or down) to the label. Tell kids they're smart and they start to behave as though they are. Tell them they're dumb and before long they can't walk and chew gum at the same time. Tell young men they're not wanted because they're terrorists and, what do you know? They start buying 6-quart pressure cookers and filling them with shrapnel.

Of course, it's a whole lot easier to blame videos produced by Da'esh than it is to do some serious soul-searching here at home. Experts aren't going to get booked on to talk shows if they're honest enough to say we're fucking ourselves -- everyone wants a scapegoat after all -- so we're going to keep right on fucking ourselves. Once again I'm really happy I live in a rural area.

Been there, done that

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Pulitzer Project: House Made of Dawn

When I read a brief description of the 1969 Pulitzer winner for fiction, House Made of Dawn, my first thought was that we were sliding back into exotica, the romanticized Indian as portrayed in Laughing Boy. I was wrong, sort of. The author, N. Scott Momaday, is Native American. He's Kiowa but grew up on the Jemez Peublo in New Mexico when his parents taught school there.

Momaday was born in 1934 so was too young to go off to fight in World War II himself but was old enough to notice what happened to the guys who did. They left the reservation knowing who they were and where they fit into the overall scheme of things and came home lost between two cultures: gone long enough that they no longer fit in comfortably at home but not able to assimilate into the dominant culture either. Momaday's main character, Abel, is an orphan who was raised by his grandfather, Francisco. The book opens with Abel running, his face smeared with ash (a sign of mourning), and a traditional Navajo prayer going through his mind:

In the house made of dawn.
In the story made of dawn.
On the trail of dawn.
O, Talking God!
His feet, my feet, restore
His limbs, my body, restore.
His mind, my mind, restore.
His voice, my voice, restore.

From this introduction, the novel goes backwards through a series of flashbacks and vignettes, scenes from Abel's childhood, his life with his grandfather, his experiences in combat seen both through his eyes and through the eyes of his fellow soldiers, and eventually ends up back at the beginning with Abel running. As the narrative progresses, we're shown pieces of Abel's life through the eyes of the local priest, a white woman staying in the area to visit the hot springs that reportedly have therapeutic value, Abel's friends in Los Angeles, and even his social worker from the Indian Relocation program.

My initial impression of the book was that it was rather disjointed, but the more I read, the more it all hung together. Momaday has a way with words. He's also published poetry, and the poet shows. This book isn't the best of the Pulitzer winners I've read, but it's definitely in the upper half. Reading it did not feel like work.

I was intrigued by the fact the book came out a few years after multiple covers of this song were released:
So did Momaday feel inspired to write his first novel after listening to Johnny Cash? Who knows. Unlike the sad fate of Ira Hayes, however, Momaday holds out the possibility that by coming home Abel may actually find himself again. Would I recommend the book? As usual, yes, with reservations. It's easy reading except it's not easy reading. Because it's not a straightfoward narrative and it employs multiple voices, some readers could have trouble following it.

Next up on the list: Collected Stories by Jean Stafford. Once again, it's going to be an Interlibrary Loan Request so here's hoping it comes in quickly so I'll plenty of time to read it before we make our escape from winter. 

Gun ownership

There was an interesting report on the news the other day about who owns all the guns in the U.S. It's not exactly news that despite all the debate over things like open carry and the Second Amendment that the vast majority of American do not own a gun of any sort. One of the reasons the National Rifle Association (the primary lobbyist for the gun manufacturing industry) works so hard at trying  to convince the public that their right to bear arms is in imminent danger of being revoked is because the market for firearms has been steadily shrinking for years. Fewer people are hunters, and, with some exceptions, most people recognize owning a gun doesn't really make them safer. This study confirmed that trend in ownership. Turns out that most of the guns are owned by a tiny percentage of the population. According to the study, a mere 3% of the population collectively own over 50% of the guns.

There has been a lot of noise in the news about that 3%. The media spin seems to be that those gun owners are like the fearful soul pictured in the cartoon, a tinfoil hat type huddling in his basement and waiting for some unspecified apocalyptic event: hordes of immigrants pouring across the border, jihadist terrorists attacking the grain silos in his remote rural town, Hillary Clinton personally kicking his door in to snatch his beloved AR-15 from his hands. Oddly enough, that isn't what the study actually mentioned as an area for concern. It's the people who own maybe only one gun.

Why was the study concerned about the people who own only one gun? Suicides. We hear a lot about gun deaths and violence, but many people who die from gunshot wounds aren't shot by anyone else. They shoot themselves. Apparently among the people who do decide to kill themselves, something like two-thirds of them use guns. Over 30,000 people kill themselves annually; health professionals would like to lower that number. Public health professionals aren't actually too worried about the 3% with the large gun collections.

As for why they're not worried about the potential for problems with the gun owners who average 17 or more weapons per person, the study quite rationally points out that it's actually totally normal consumer behavior. It doesn't matter what the product is, whether it's firearms or Precious Moments figurines, there will be a handful of people who are devotees and own a gazillion while most people will purchase only one or two or none at all. Granted, there are few gun owners who have slid over the edge into tinfoil hat territory, but most of the people who own multiple weapons just happen to like guns. Owning a lot of weapons doesn't automatically mean a person is at risk of turning into a mass shooter or a bunker dwelling survivalist.

Plus, of course, if you live in a rural area and happen to hunt, it's real easy to slide into owning what can seem like an outrageous number of weapons to a nonhunter. After all, you don't use the same caliber of ammunition to hunt rabbits that you do to hunt deer, and you're probably going to want something different for going after turkeys or ducks. Pretty soon you've got everything from a single shot .22 rifle (which is how a lot of kids start off target shooting) to multiple shotguns, a deer rifle or two or three (because while you may have inherited a good 30/30 from your Old Man, you really want something that's not an antique), and then you get interested in black powder because it's a way to extend the hunting season. . . and the next thing you know you're looking at the 36-gun capacity safe at Cabela's.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Thinking about food

I've been reading Jane Goodall's book, Harvest for Hope: A Guide to Mindful Eating, for the past few days. The book came out about ten years ago so what she's saying isn't exactly new: eat local as much as possible. If you can't, avoid the conventionally grown produce that's either (a) traveled the farthest or (b) is known to be particularly bad for having pesticide or herbicide residue.

She also advocates eliminating dead animal flesh from a person's diet, but she doesn't push it, just notes that large-scale livestock and poultry operations can lead to some horrific conditions, both for the animals and the people working with them. If fewer people ate meat, the market for it would contract; fewer cows, turkeys, whatever would suffer; and the impact on the environment from liquified hog shit and other pollutants would be reduced.

Goodall might be right, but the average person isn't going to give up pork chops or steak because they're concerned about conditions at feed lots or in slaughterhouses. They don't care. They don't see Babe or Wilbur when they look at a package of pork chops; they see pork chops that for all they know or care were picked from a tree. Nope, if they cut back on the amount of dead cow they consume it's more likely to be because of sticker shock. Every time I go grocery shopping I find myself wondering how people with larger families manage to include much animal protein in their meals. I can remember when chuck roast was the cheap cut of meat. Not anymore. It costs as much per pound as t-bones did not many years ago. The S.O. and I are still carnivores, but we have indeed started including more meatless days in the monthly menu. Not because of some deep love for lentils that we've suddenly discovered but because we're on a fixed income and there's a definite cap on how much I want to spend at Larry's.

In contrast with beef, the prices on pork have remained comparatively low, with the exception of bacon. Bacon prices spiked during The Great Hog Shortage of a couple years ago and never did come back down. Pigs reproduce a lot faster than cattle so a piglet die-off one year is a short term problem, not one that lingers for years. There's only one problem with the pork at Larry's. It carries a Smithfield label. I was trying to avoid Smithfield before it became a Chinese company -- they had an appalling record when it came to how employees were treated, even worse than the usual dismal conditions in food processing -- and now they're a Chinese company I really don't want anything to do with Smithfield products. China has a remarkably poor record when it comes to food safety. I don't care if the packages are labeled born in the USA, slaughtered in the USA, as long as the company has any connection with China I won't buy it.

For what it's worth, I refuse to buy any sea food that originates in China or Southeast Asia. Between the allegations of human rights abuses (extremely young children working as virtual slaves on shrimp farms, for example) and the wretched sanitary conditions, I won't buy anything that's fish farmed in Asia. When I worked at the CDC. I edited a few too many research papers about parasitic diseases found on shrimp and fish farms in Vietnam. I've been thinking I'd like to have a pet again, but I don't particularly want it to be internal.

So, yes, Jane Goodall, I am practicing mindful eating. I read labels -- no high fructose corn syrup for the Mannikko household -- I try to avoid buying foods that are not in season, like grapes in the middle of the winter or pomegranates in June. We garden. I can. I have contemplated getting a few chickens (the coyotes would love me) and have thought about looking into buying a share in a beef steer locally. If we weren't being sort of seasonal residents, I might invest in some feeder calves myself. Food doesn't get much more local than when you grow it yourself. Would I be as mindful if we still lived in Atlanta? Sort of. Maybe. Does it count that when I bought fresh fish at Publix I wouldn't get the trout unless it came from a U.S. fish farm?

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Wild optimism at the museum

The Politics and Voting exhibit came down the other day, and with it out of the way the S.O. and I started tackling what's left in the attic. With nothing up against the wall in that part of the museum, it was possible to remove the lattice that screened the loft and get things down without having to go through the office.

And what did we find hiding up there? A couple huge boxes, the kind in which toilet paper used to get delivered to stores, stuffed full of hats. I'd been curious about those boxes because I could see them through the lattice but couldn't get at them until quite a few smaller boxes got moved out of the way. The ginormous hat boxes did cause me once again to think dark thoughts: there were loose cards in the boxes giving identifying information (e.g., "donated by. . ." or "worn by. . .") but none of them were attached to any particular hats. More artifacts with no known provenance. I'm not sure just how many face palms that calls for, but I'm thinking Multiple. And of course they were all just dumped into the boxes. No attempt whatsoever at providing any padding or tissue wrapping or anything at all to protect them. You know what happens when you pile hats a couple feet high in large cardboard carton? The ones on the bottom end up looking like pancakes. Okay, so maybe it calls for a "The Stupid It Burns."

Obviously, the hats were not the source of the title shown above. Nope, the wild optimism comes from another attic find, the smaller boxes blocking access to the hats. When we started clearing out that attic, I got asked about various things that had been donated to the museum over the years and I kept telling people they might be in the attic. Lots of boxes I hadn't gotten to yet.

Well, now I can tell people that I don't have a clue what happened to the missing objects. Turned out most of the boxes in the attic were filled with pageant books, or the equivalent thereof. Back in 1969, the Historical Society sponsored a history pageant. As part of that pageant, they put together a program book that included the script for the play and a few essays on local history, most of which focused on the history of the missionaries, especially (no surprise here) Father (later Bishop) Frederic Baraga. They had several thousand copies of that book printed. The following year, they did another pageant (same script, one assumes). Had another book put together for it. And then L'Anse and Arvon Township celebrated their centennials so in 1971 yet another book got printed. And in 1972-73. There was a long hiatus, but then in the early 1980s some of the people who been involved in the original pageants decided it would nice to try again so they put together an ethnic pageant. Naturally, it included a book.
Why the actors in the pageant got stuck looking like extras from "F Troop" is a mystery to me. Loin cloths were made from Naugahyde; shirts and leggings were faux suede.  

I've been told by some people that the 1972-73 book, also known as "the one with the red cover," is the best of the lot. I don't know. It does have a good description of the archeological work done at Sand Point. Still, I kind of lean towards the ethnic pageant: it's got a nice essay by Matti Kaups about Finns in Baraga County, there's another interesting article by Myrtle Tolonen (former KBIC tribal chairman) on Native American history. . . to me, the ethnic pageant book seems to have the highest quality of writing. Too bad more people didn't think that way at the time it came out. And this is where the wild optimism comes in.

Turns out most of the boxes in the attic were packed full of pageant books. Hundreds and hundreds of pageant books. I already knew we had a lot of copies of books that our now deceased president had told people we were sold out of. Over the past 3 years as I've worked my way through various boxes and file drawers and the more accessible stuff I kept finding more copies of all of them. And then I pulled 11 cases -- eleven!! -- of the ethnic pageant books down from the attic. Each box holds between 80 and 100 books. We've got over 1,000 copies of a book that if we're lucky we sell maybe one a year.

It got worse. That book with the red cover? At least a dozen cases of it. The L'Anse-Arvon centennial? Not quite as bad, but still multiple boxes. Multiple cases of unsold calendars. Two cases of a postcard book that I think we've sold one copy of in the past 4 years. Just who was the incurable optimist who thought that the fact that a mountain of unsold publications was not a sign that maybe it wasn't such a hot idea to subsidize Globe Printing by ordering thousands of copies of a book at a shot? By the time they did the ethnic pageant, they already had dozens of cases of unsold books from their previous four publishing attempts. I've dealt with printers. I somehow doubt Globe told the Historical Society that the minimum press run had to be thousands of copies of anything. What type of rich fantasy life did the person who suggested that as the order have? There are barely 7,000 people in the whole county -- who did they think was going to buy all those books?

Bottom line is that the attic that I'd been assured was full of stuff that people had donated was actually half full of unsold historical society publications. Words almost fail me. I wish I possessed the fluency to curse in Finn (my mother's curses were always way more colorful than anything I can come up with in English).

You want to hear the best part? We sell these books in our little gift shop for $5 each. In a typical season, we'll unload a couple, usually purchased by people who recognize a relative in one of the pageant photos. However, there's a used book store in another U.P. community that gets more tourist traffic than we do. The owners come into the museum about once a year, buy a few pageant books, and then resell them at $20 per copy. It amazes me. I guess they get the tourists with money to burn on weird souvenirs and we get the locals wondering if it's worth $5 to get the copy of the book with their grandmother on the cover.

Oh, and that "rifle" the pioneer woman is holding? It's a toy single shot cap gun manufactured by a company in Kentucky.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

How long before Patriot Day turns into an excuse for a sale?

Today is Patriot Day, the annual remembrance of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. The S.O. and I were having lunch at the Cue Master in Baraga the other day when the subject of 9/11 came up in conversation. Two of the televisions were tuned to ESPN's "Outside the Lines." Topic of discussion on OTL was how Colin Kaepernick's decision not to stand for the national anthem has led to other athletes showing their support by also not standing. A number of people were saying that because game day, Sunday, was also Patriot Day the athletes should skip the protest. After all, it's a solemn day and everyone must show respect.

This led we folk in the bar to ask the question if it's such an important solemn day why are there still going to be football games? It's okay for the teams to play and fans to get drunk and rowdy, but it's not okay to protest? If it's a national day of remembrance amd/or mourning, shouldn't some effort be made at not having it be just another Sunday game day? Good question, and obviously not answerable. Conversation moved on to how it's now been enough years that there are getting to be more and more young people for whom September 11 is just another date on the calendar. For them it's not real, it's just something old people talk about.

Which in turn led to speculation as to when the commercialization of 9/11 would begin. When will we start seeing sales flyers that include lines like "prices are falling just like the towers?" Okay, so maybe that one is far enough over the line into outrageously bad taste that it'll never happen, but a Walmart in Florida recently got into public relations trouble for stacking Coke products into a model of the World Trade Center. The store may have claimed it was a tribute, but the public saw it for what it was: a remarkably tacky effort at peddling Coca Cola. Whoever designed the display made the mistake of being a few years too early with the exploitation. Ten years from now odds are no one would bat an eye. Stores advertise Memorial Day and Veterans Day sales, why not Patriot Day?

Well, maybe not. It does fall really close to the start of the school year and Labor Day, two occasions that already generate a lot of consumer hype. What's more likely to happen with Patriot Day is that it fades into obscurity as times passes and memories fade. It'll become like Flag Day, one of those dates that's noted on a calendar but almost no one remembers still exists -- or why.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Native or Invasive?

Definitely native to Michigan: blue-eyed grass
One of my side projects at the museum involves creating a flower bed that will feature only flowering plants and shrubs native to Michigan. It's been a challenge. Many of the wildflowers we all take for granted and maybe even like a lot, like Queen Ann's Lace (aka chigger weed aka wild carrot), originated in Europe or Asia. Daisies were brought to North America from England. Even the lowly and ubiquitous hawkweed (aka devil's paintbrush) isn't native.

Hawkweed and daisies. Both were brought to New England from Europe to plant in colonial flower gardens.
At the library yesterday I spotted a guidebook to Michigan Wildflowers. Aha! thought I, That'll help me a lot as I plan for spring plantings.

Musk mallow. Super common throughout the U.P. Introduced from Asia.
Pshaw. No such luck. The book is a guide to stuff you and I might see growing wild in Michigan, but when it includes plants that give natural resource specialists heartburn, e.g. spotted knapweed and purple loosestrife, it's not exactly the guide book of my dreams. Including those invasives would not be a bad thing if the authors had at least noted they were invasive species, but they don't. The only nod they make to classifying flowers in any way other than by color is to note which ones, like trilliums and Indian pipe, are protected species.
Coreopsis. This is one I was sure was introduced but is actually native.
It also doesn't bother to mention that seeing some flowers blooming apparently wild can actually be a good sign that location used to be a home site, i.e., is the location of an abandoned farm or someone's house. There are some plants, like day lilies (which are in this particular wildflower guide), that simply do not spread particularly well on their own. If you see a patch of day lilies, odds are that someone planted them.
Day lilies. Neither native nor wild. Not even feral.
Oh well, at least I now have a nice visual guide to help me identify the wildflowers I'd forgotten the names of, like cinquefoil. I used to be a bit of an expert on wildflowers -- I did Wildflowers as a 4-H project for a couple of years -- but the only ones I remember really well these days are the ones I never see, like turk's cap lilies and turtleheads, or the super common ones like goldenrod and Joe Pye weed.
Asters and goldenrod, both native to Michigan
Now that it's September I need to start collecting seeds so I can try starting some plants that way. I'll just have to hope the chipmunks and field mice don't beat me to all of them. I was waiting to collect the seed pods off the nodding trilliums growing under one of our apple trees but when I checked the other day there was nothing there -- the chipmunks beat me to them.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Any day now

Slanting the news

Has anyone else been paying attention to the protests over pipeline construction in North Dakota? Native Americans have been trying to stop construction without much luck -- the pipeline construction crews keep right on moving, which appears to be standard operating procedure even when there is litigation in process that could kill the project. The philosophy seems to be that if they can manage to build enough of the pipeline, any court findings against it will be moot because the pipeline will already be in place.

Anyway, glancing at the news this morning, it appears things got interesting yesterday. A friend asked a question on Facebook about news coverage -- basically nonexistent despite the thousands of people involved in the protests in North Dakota and in Washington, DC -- so I did a quick search to see what was new.

Well, the list of search results was also a really nice illustration of the way the news can be slanted.

First up on the list was a link to an Associated Press article.

Four security guards and two dogs injured; protestors were obviously the aggressors.

Maybe. A couple other news sources had a different perspective. 

And then there's the perspective that focuses on that most American of values, money:

Although the Fox News article does indicate one of the reasons why the Standing Rock Sioux and other tribes are protesting the route in addition to fears about potential contamination of the watershed or the Missouri River.

I am curious to see if this finally makes the news on NPR. So far there's been dead silence on "Morning Edition," not a single word as far as I can tell. I also do not recall hearing anything on "All Things Considered." NPR has become as vacuous as the television morning "news" shows.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Speaking of weirdness

I've been indulging in two hobbies -- quilting and pen palling -- for decades now. Pen pals since I was in the 8th grade (long, long ago in a galaxy far away) and quilting. Quilting is slightly more recent. I got into it in the early 1970s. Occasionally the two hobbies overlap.

In a post a number of years ago I mentioned that one of the ways pen pals used to (and still do) find new pals was through the exchange of friendship books, aka fbs. Most people call them eff bees; I tend to refer to them as fibs, possibly because Pen Pal Land has always had its fair share of fantasists. Long before the Internet came along to provide people with a platform for fictionalizing their lives, people did it in Pen Pal Land. But that's normal human behavior and definitely not what I'm thinking about today.
Shady Lady hand applique quilt block

In addition to the fbs, people swap exchange slips, i.e., short form chain letters. Instead of going through the whole rigamarole of "Send $1 to the first name on the list, cross it off, add yours to the bottom, make six copies and pass them on" an exchange slip will just say "2 Viewcards Exchange - 6 copies" (often abbreviated as 2 VC - 6 c) or "Sheet of Seals Exchange - 6 copies." Name an item and somewhere out there exchange slips probably circulate for it, like tea towels or dishcloths.

Or quilt blocks or fabric swatches. I used to do 12-1/2 inch square friendship block exchanges (pieced or applique), tumbler exchanges (a tumbler being a polygon shaped sort of like a drinking glass) done to a standard template, and a few others. At one point I had quite a few blocks other people had sent me. There was no standard pattern for generic friendship blocks, although there were a few exchanges for specific themes (Sunbonnet Sue, pinwheels) or holidays (Christmas). I must have really been into the whole blocks/swatches/whatever exchange thing for awhile. I made two Christmas wall hangings using Christmas blocks people sent me -- my standard Christmas block was one that mimicked a wrapped package -- as well as one full-size quilt top. I do still note in fbs that I'll "swap f/s blocks, 12-1/2 inches sq., pieced or applique" but no one's offered to swap in years. I think all the old ladies I used to get quilt blocks from have died off and no one's replaced them.
Christmas pinwheel, 12-1/2 inch square
Anyway, I'm at that point in the Woman Cave where one quilt just got finished and I have no idea what to do next. I have some vague ideas, but nothing solid. So I've been going through the stash: the multiple Sterlite bins and Rubbermaid totes and the dresser drawers. I'm pulling out odds and ends and kind of inventorying what I have. Do I want to do a quilt that is done from just one or two fabrics or do I want to do another scrap quilt? Maybe I want to take some of the odds and ends of extra blocks and parts of blocks and just sort of start in the middle and work out and see what happens? Not exactly a framed medallion, but the same general idea.
Grandmother's Flower Garden segments

In the process of inventorying, I discovered I still have quite a stash of stuff obtained through exchanges: ordinary blocks, some Christmas-themed blocks, some sets of hexagons for a Grandmother's Flower Garden (I didn't even remember ever getting into swapping those), some humongous butterflies ready to be appliqued on to something. Tumblers, lots of tumblers, enough tumblers sewn together to qualify as an extremely colorful table runner if I felt like putting a backing on it. Most of the finished blocks were quite good; one of the appliqued blocks, a Shady Lady (shown at the top of this post), is so nice that I don't want to put it into a quilt. I want to put it in a frame and hang it on a wall.

Cow pie? Lily pad? Or just plain weird?
And then there's the cow pie. Or perhaps it's supposed to be a lily pad. A kidney bean? Just what was the point? The blob is hand-appliqued so whoever sent it took her time assembling it. But, wow, it's weird.The fabric isn't bad. . . but the execution is definitely strange.

My standard f/s block pattern, for what it's worth, was Rolling Stone. We moved so often that it felt appropriate.
 You know, maybe that's what I should do next -- cut enough pieces to do an entire Rolling Stone quilt. It would be an especially apt project to work on this winter when we're on the road in the Guppy. Definitely something to think about.

Politics and other weirdness

As usual when I wake up at an hour when I really don't want to be awake, my mind is wandering off on odd tangents. Like Hillary Clinton's colostomy bag.

Yep. You read that right. Colostomy bag. Now, I know that there's been a lot of bizarre speculation by some right-wing commentators, radio talk show hosts, and others, including The Donald, that Hillary's health is Not Good. The usual speculation falls into one of two categories: she's suffering from some unspecified neurological disorder that goes back many years or she's never recovered from a head injury she incurred when she fell a couple years ago.

Naturally, given the nature of Internet rumors and weirdness in general, somehow one or both of those conditions have resulted in her (a) wearing Depends, (b) wearing a colostomy bag, or (c) both. WTF? I can understand the mental gymnastics involved in going from "unspecified neurological disorder" to Depends. After all, one of the things that happens in degenerative disorders like ALS and Huntington's chorea is that as nerves die a person loses control over various bodily functions, like bladder and bowel control. But a colostomy bag? Is this projection because everyone knows all politicians are full of crap and it's got to go somewhere?

I don't know. It just struck me as more than a tad bizarre, like maybe the person (or persons) indulging in that particular fantasy have no clue what a colostomy bag is -- they just know it can't be good. And it is a step up from the Hillary wears Depends line. Let's face it. The woman is less than 2 months away from turning 69. If she wears Depends, she's got a lot of company. Have any of these people looked in the personal care section of Walgreens or Family Dollar lately? Thanks to the proliferation of aging baby boomers, adult diapers are a growth industry. Companies that make "feminine hygiene products" have finally figured out there were a lot of women in their 50s and 60s who were buying mini and maxi pads as sneeze protection. Always has joined Depends and Poise in marketing pads that protect against bladder leakage. And older women aren't the only ones with aging bladder issues. If they were, Depends wouldn't sell "Man Guard" pads. Slight digression (as usual). I love that name. It's like they're not just selling a pad, they're selling armor, a super comfy jock strap.

In any case, the whole Hillary has one foot in the grave fantasy is classic magical thinking. Her opponents can't come up with a good argument against her policies (it's hard to when the woman is farther to the right than Eisenhower was) so they're hoping people will start worrying about how old and frail she is.

The problem with that line of reasoning, of course, is that The Donald is two years older than her and bears a startling resemblance to an Oompa Loompa, except a lot less healthy. He's an overweight geezer who has trouble speaking in complete sentences. Maybe. It hit me when I heard part of his press conference when he went to Mexico yesterday that he really has been playing his supporters for fools. He used actual polysyllables when he did the press conference. There was none of his usual speaking at maybe a 3rd grade level and repeating catch phrases over and over. I had heard this version of Trump emerges occasionally, that he can be an articulate adult, but yesterday for some reason it registered with me. Holy wah, he really is a remarkable con artist. I don't know if that quote that kicks around about him saying that if he ever got into politics he'd run as a Republican because the typical Republican voter is so easy to fool is true or not, but based on Trump's performance, it should be.

So what, I wonder, did he and President Pena Nieto chat about? Did The Donald tell him to relax, the talk about the wall was pure b.s. just to keep the rubes happy? Why did The Donald go to Mexico at all?  And, even bigger mystery, why would Pena Nieto want to do a a face to face with The Donald when his own popularity is tanking? And does anyone really care?

But back to the subject of The Donald's health. In his case, the speculation tends to be about what's between his ears. In a way it's similar to the speculating about Hillary's unspecified neurological problems, except The Donald's has a name: dementia. Lots and lots of speculation that he's in the early stages of some form of senile dementia. Could be Alzheimer's, could be one of the various other types caused by things like atherosclerosis, whatever. The man has always had a giant ego, but now, at least according to the speculation, he's slid over the edge into borderline psychosis with his megalomania and narcissism. I don't know. I have days when I say he reminds me of the some of the patients I dealt with long, long ago when I worked in a nursing home. You know, if he wasn't rich (or assumed to be rich), his adult children would be looking into getting him into assisted living or a memory care unit. But if a lot of his public persona is based on what he thinks is going to play best with his audience, who knows? Can't really fault him for the megalomania and narcissism -- they're part of the job description for most politicians. You've got to have a humongous ego to go into politics to begin with, and then to think that you can be President? That's ego on a size most people will never know. Unlike most politicians, though, Trump has never played the game of pretending to be nothing out of the ordinary. So is he crazier than anyone else currently in politics? Or is he just crazy in a way we're not used to seeing quite so blatantly revealed?