Sturm Und Drang

The long drought is over!*

We’re having thunder and lightning and wind and heavy rain right now, and you all know what that means: our Internet connectivity could be flushed away without warning at any moment. So if we disappear from view for a while, you’ll know why.

It could also be full of sound and fury, but signifying nothing — you just never know.

*   Residents of the Piedmont and coastal areas in these parts understand the irony in that statement. We haven’t gone more than 36 hours without rain in the past two months. The rivers are swollen and the ground is sodden. We’ve had at least fifteen inches (40 cm) of rain since the beginning of September, which is probably four times the average for the whole month.

I can’t imagine what those folks in coastal South Carolina are going through right now.
 

Gremlin Attack

Late last night, when I was just starting to put together the news feed, our Internet connection was suddenly attacked by gremlins. Or it may have been djinns, or even kobolds — I get all those species of imps confused.

Anyway, our Internet connection mysteriously disappeared. There was no wind, no lightning, no rain, no ice storm — nothing that you would expect to affect the connection. Maybe a skunk sprayed the phone company’s server box. Who knows?

We waited awhile to see if it would come back, and then gave up and went to bed.

That’s why there was no news feed last night. Rather than try to compile it this morning, I decided to collect any material left over from yesterday and put it into one big news feed, which will be posted tonight.

If the gremlins don’t come back.

Stormy Weather

UPDATE: The mighty darkness and storm rolled through, shutting off the lights momentarily. Disconnected our wifi. Left over three inches of rain in a half hour or so. And then moved due east, even as it faded…

Ah, August rains. My flowers thank you, but ask for a morning drench instead. Me, I’m happy for what we got.

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It has gotten quite dark, even Lear-like, outside. The storms are coming down from the direction of our electric company in the next county.

…will we lose our connection? It remains to be seen…

If all goes quiet, it means (the) Gates are closed for the moment. We’re home, but disconnected.

Taking a Breather

Most of you already know that we just wrapped up our summer fundraiser. As promised, here is the final tally of places from which donations came:

Stateside: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, North Dakota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and Washington

Far Abroad: Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, Thailand, and the UK

Canada: Alberta, British Columbia, Newfoundland, Ontario, and Saskatchewan

Australia: Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, Victoria, and Western Australia

The amount was a little thinner than usual, but we’ll definitely have enough to squeeze by for another three months. And the number of gifts was considerably higher than it normally is, with a lot of first-time donors in addition to the usual suspects. There were just lots of modest donations, and those add up. The turnout pleased me, because it means we have a robust, distributed funding base.

Anyway, now I can relax for a few hours, and maybe catch up on my sleep…

Dymphna and I are very grateful to you all for your generosity, both the recidivists and the first-timers.

We’re Not Dead, Just Doing the Backstroke…

Our internet connection failed sometime Saturday night. It was the culmination of a week-long community event, with lashings of rain turning this plateau into a swamp.

All that water eventually moved down toward the river, leaving behind drowned server boxes (or whatever they’re called, those boxes dotting the landscape here and there, some of which can be seen from the road). Whatever genius designed this beta model of internet via phone lines planted those boxes smack dab on the ground, thus ensuring heavy rain would drown them. At least that’s what we suspect.

So we can keep our phone service during heavy rains… but the internet goes down in the deluge.

“How much water?” you ask. About five inches in the course of two days or so. But before that, it had been raining steadily for a week so; by Friday the runoff was impeded by the previous soaking. That box just drowned for a while.

[Due to some other glitch, we were without phone service for five days last week…yes, we’re a captive audience out here, ain’t no competition to improve this system. Satellite internet is too unreliable and expensive. The electric cooperative is working on a version that would come through their wires, but what with lines failing due to snow accumulation or trees falling on them, they go out of service right much during the winter, so probably not.]

We did try to have someone log on here and leave a notice, but our proxy firewall prevented their access. And also prevented the bad guys from using us for target practice while we were outside in our wellies, measuring the rainfall.

Anyway, we’re baaack! The sun is shining as though that grey wet week never happened.

Thanks for your patience, dear readers.

Did I Miss the Fundraiser?

This post was a “sticky” feature that was first published on April 2 and was on top for a week. Scroll down for more recent posts, including the first part of an essay on the AfD by Hans-Peter Raddatz, a fake ID scam at the Nigerian embassy in Rome, Viktor Orbán’s election victory in Hungary, a thwarted terror attack in Berlin, a Russian report on Malmö, and Algerians busted for gang-rape in Prague.

Spring Fundraiser 2018, Day Seven

Update from the Baron: Gratitude

This is the final update for this week-long fundraiser. Tomorrow morning I’ll take this post off “sticky”, and it will gradually scroll down the page and into the archives of oblivion.

Tip jarAt the end of this quarterly bleg, I feel a profound sense of gratitude. Gratitude that it’s over at last — Fundraising Week is a grueling, sleep-deprived time — but more than that, I’m profoundly grateful that so many readers have shown up to indicate their generosity by hitting the tip cup on our sidebar.

[If you haven’t yet made that cup clink yet, there’s still time! It’s just to the left of me here; you can’t miss it.]

Our theme this week has been Virtue, and since last Monday we have discussed various virtues, in our own idiosyncratic meandering fashion.

Gratitude is a virtue, to my mind. Or more fully: maintaining a sense of gratitude as one’s basic approach to this veil of tears we were born into. Remembering that every moment is a gift from the Lord, in all its glory and fullness.

It’s difficult to maintain a sense of gratitude on a routine, quotidian basis. I know I struggled with it for decades, but mostly failed. What changed my attitude fully and finally, however, was the onset of wet macular degeneration in my left eye, which happened just over five years ago.

Those first few weeks were horrible. I had to fashion a makeshift patch to put over the left lens of my glasses, to keep the ugly, animated blob in the middle of my vision from interfering with my work and my daily routine. Reading anything, but especially the printed page, became a nightmare if my left eye remained uncovered.

It’s my habit to make coffee using our espresso machine when I first wake up in the morning. Normally I’m by myself when I do it, which is good, because I love mornings, and being able to enjoy the quiet smell of coffee and the light through the kitchen window gets my day off to a good start.

During that grim time in March and April of 2013, I noticed that my eye wasn’t bothering me much during the coffee-making ritual. I didn’t wear the patch then, because I didn’t have to read anything. And I could just kind of drink in the colors of things, and the reflections from the window, and the pleasure of executing the small tasks involved with making coffee happen.

And I was content.

A calm settled over me, and I was grateful for what I had, what was in front of me. Not angry that my field of vision would go SPROING! whenever I turned to look at something complex or patterned. Not resentful that ill-fortune had sabotaged my eyes.

Just glad that I could still see the early green of spring peeping through the window, and watch the reflections dance on the water in the pitcher in front of me.

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The Planet of the Skunks

Peace reigns once more at Schloss Bodissey. But it sure took a pile o’ money to secure the borders and enforce The Peace.

Our readers may remember that our crawl space was breached by various wild critters. It could have been worse — at least our invaders were small. They also simply holed up for a bit, rather than hibernated.

We posted about all this foofaraw last November, as you may recall. That was when we became aware of the extent and seriousness of our skunk problem.

This mess began earlier than we knew: a woodchuck (a.k.a. groundhog, and known in the local dialect as a “whistle pig”) dug the hole under the footer, running from under the side porch into the crawl space. Had a skunk not come in through the hole made by the woodchuck, we might have gone on for quite a while without knowing about that hole underneath the foundation. But once the skunk joined the party and started feeling a little anxious, the upper part of the house began to fill with noxious fumes.

The B was upstairs in his office when the odor hit, while I was directly above the skunk spray. Suddenly awakened from a sound sleep, my first incoherent thought was that there was a fire in the kitchen, that somehow rotten garlic bulbs, dirty gym socks, and coffee grounds were blazing away on the gas range. But the kitchen was quiet and empty. Evidently the smell had yet to make its way to the stairs leading to the B’s study, so I did what I customarily do in such situations: I went to the bottom of his stairs and yelled “Nnneeeddd!”, which always sends him hurtling down the steps. At that moment he could smell it he identified it: skunks in the crawl space.

Our question at that point was whether the skunk’s residence was temporary, or whether this was momma skunk who had a den of babies to care for under our house. The second question was how to make sure she left and didn’t return.

So began our saga of animal-proofing our underneath. We called an exterminator, but found out he only did post-damage clean-up; the fellows who could capture whatever was under there had to be registered. Wouldn’t you know it: another government regulation! But he referred us to the man who came out to make sure he captured any stray wildlife under our house. If it was a momma, he had a trap. And if there were babies, he’d be going in to get them. He and his mean came and set up the trap, showing the Baron how to check it, and also came by every morning to check the trap themselves.

The skunk must have lit out for Dodge that first night, because the only critter he caught was a feral cat, one so hungry it ate the whole peanut butter sandwich in the trap — three or four nights in a row. The final trap — a “cage trap” — caught the poor creature. That morning the man opened the trap door and the feline made a beeline for our woods.

Thus concluded the job of the skunk-trappers. Enter the Crawl Space Wizard.

The contractor we had called first returned to the scene of the crime. He and his crew inspected the area underneath the house and declared it empty, though they said the woodchuck hole had been there under the steps for a good while, since there was much evident damage to insulation and our HVAC ductwork. The latter had been torn in various places. Plus a lot of urine and feces — but the less said about that, the better.

The contractor, who specializes in sealing crawl spaces, suggested that we opt for a full encapsulation. That meant:

1.   Cleaning out the old plastic liners and removing roots and various detritus before leveling the ground surface.
2.   Removing the insulation, both the skunk-compromised parts and the undamaged parts.
3.   Cleaning the mold that had formed on the wood above the insulation.
4.   Treating the joists and the floor to prevent new mold from forming.
5.   Replacing the damaged ductwork.
6.   Repairing and improving the shoddy, makeshift parts of the cinderblock walls that enclose the old part of the house.
7.   Lining all of the walls with thick foam insulating panels, with no gaps.
8.   Sealing the floor and the support pillars with two-mil vinyl sheets, and burying animal-proof wire baffles underground along the walls.
9.   Installing lighting, new crawl space doors, and a new dehumidifier.
 

We signed the contract. Work got underway in mid-January. During the worst weather of the year, which delayed everything.

Then, when they got to the front part of the house, they discovered that the part that had been jacked up 25 years ago needed to be jacked up again — the old cinderblocks had settled into the dirt, and in some places they no longer made contact with the joist they ostensibly supported. So we had to agree to an amendment, which meant additional expense.

However, as you can see from the photos below, the final result (completed in late February) sure was worth it:

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An Equinoctial Blizzard

Well, it’s not really a blizzard. But still…

Spring arrived last night, but you wouldn’t have known it by looking out the window this morning here at Schloss Bodissey. We’ve had snow-covered daffodils quite a few times in the past, but not usually so much, nor so late in the season.

It was quite warm at ground level as the snow came down, but the temperature up there in the empyrean was frigid, so the snow was actually dry until it hit the ground. Nevertheless, by lunchtime it was melting rapidly. As I write this it’s still snowing fitfully, but melting faster than it accumulates.

From what I read in the news, people to the north and west of us got it much worse. I read one prediction saying that Garrett County, Maryland might get as much as two feet (60 cm) of the stuff. Ugh!

Bad Moon a-Risin’

Looks like we’re in for nasty weather.

There’s a nor’-easter coming up the coast right now. We’re not in the crosshairs for the snow and heavy rain — Boston and New York will get those — but we are supposed to get strong winds tonight and tomorrow, with gusts as high as 50-60 mph (60-95 kmh). I can hear the howling starting outside the window even now.

The weather alert is warning about widespread power outages, so if we disappear from view for a while tomorrow, you’ll know why.

Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks!

Saint Valentine’s Day

My first blog, The Neighborhood of God, has been defunct for some years now. Occasionally, however, I go back to it to reclaim an essay. This one, on the history of Saint Valentine’s Day, was written in 2006.

If you visit the original, you can see the Baron’s card to me that year. [This year he gave me a Burma Shave card he drew up in his office where mere mortals do not tread.]

During the latter part of the third century A.D., Claudius was Emperor of Rome — Claudius II, that is. In what has to be one of the dumbest edicts ever devised, Claudius decided to outlaw marriage, thinking it would be more efficient to raise troops if he didn’t have to tear them away from their families.

On paper, this decree must have looked good to Claudius, and it’s doubtful anyone was willing to tell him how sand-poundingly stupid his idea really was. After all, what happens when you outlaw normal human behavior? Of course: normal human beings sneak around the corner and do it anyway.

Thus, young couples started showing up at the Bishop’s house — this was in Interamna, now Terni, Italy— asking to be married. The news quickly spread and Valentinus was called before Claudius to explain himself. At the time, Christians were not considered persona grata, so Claudius wanted to deal: if Valentinus would renounce his faith and his bishopric and stop this marriage business he could escape unharmed. Needless to say, Valentinus wasn’t having any.

Claudius ordered the Bishop to be martyred in three stages. I will spare you the details. While awaiting execution, it is said that he fell in love with his jailer’s daughter and that his love cured her blindness.

There are at least two martyrs named Valentinus, so parts of the legend probably have some fact. One of them is buried on the road to Rome, and one of the smaller gates leading into the city was called for many centuries St. Valentine’s Gate. It has some other name now.

Eventually — about 200 hundred years later, a brief period in ecclesial time — Valentinus was canonized. He was made the patron saint of lovers, of epileptics (he perhaps suffered this disorder), and a regular grab bag of other ailments or past times. He is, for example, the patron saint of beekeepers — no doubt because of pressure from the beekeeper’s lobby.

Saint Valentine is not only the patron of lovers; originally he was appealed to as the savior of troubled love. The old people swore he could save marriages. Hmmm…

Maybe when it ceased being Saint Valentine’s Day and just became candy and flowers…maybe then, the divorce rate began to rise?

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Bracket Creep Fundraising

Early Winter Fundraiser 2017, Day Six

Today is the final day of our quarterly fundraising week. For those who have been tardy about clinking the tip cup, there are still 24 hours left! After that, your carriage will turn into a pumpkin drawn by voles.

On my good days — which come and go — cooking and gardening are my favorite activities. With December coming in, my time outside is more limited, though I’m still planting spring bulbs. The skunks don’t eat bulbs, thank Heavens, but the voles sure do. So one of the things I do is bury each one with bone meal (for the bulb) and a healthy dose of cayenne powder in the hole to discourage the voles. Doesn’t hurt the bulb, but it sure does cause the voles some pain. Liberal sprinklings of powdered coyote urine also make them feel unwelcome.

As for cooking, it is the one thing I can do with almost no effort. I’ve been the supper cook in my house since I was ten years old: my mother worked, so I cooked. It was a matter of self-defense, because otherwise she’d come home and fix poached eggs. It wasn’t long before I was doing the weekly shopping. It was a long, hot haul from the grocery store to home.

The B claims I can take a pickle and a glass of water and make a meal for six. Okay, that’s hyperbole, but it’s also the reason why I chose this cartoon: I like to celebrate unlikely food. In this episode, Fat Freddy’s Cat knows darn well his Furry Friends don’t like mouses — he’s releasing them for his own future dining entertainment.

[Remember the late B. Kliban’s cats? My favorite was the one who did the BB King imitation, here. After reading the legalese on that site, it seems one daren’t quote it directly, but that’s still one of my favorite little ditties on cats’ favorite food. It must be the juxtaposition of the lyrics with that BB King-esque blues guitar.]

Tip jarThese quarterly fundraisers are much on my mind when I make my grocery list. How well we do in a given quarter decides the menus for the coming three months. But I’m used to that: being married to a starving artist taught me to make do. In fact, one of our first arguments was in a grocery store: living on very little (I was job-hunting then) meant watching every penny. So we came to the crucial moment of deciding whether to classify parmesan cheese as a necessity or a luxury. The Baron thought it was something we could live without, while I made the case for: “What is the point of living without parmesan for flavor?” Neither of us can remember who won that ‘discussion’. Probably moi — the B is ever a pushover for women’s wantings. Smart man.

I love the things Americans often consider the nasty bits — you know… those tasty entrails. For years I didn’t cook tongue or kidneys or sweetbreads because family members would flee. Now I cook ’em when I can get em’ while still maintaining a standard diet for the Baron and assorted relatives/friends. I love braunschweiger, and I know the difference between it and liverwurst; no one else will eat either one. Oh, well — more for me. Chicken foot broth, anyone? Actually, I prefer to combine the feet with the stripped carcass of the chicken; it makes for a more deeply-flavored broth. I’ve never had prairie oysters, but I’ll bet they make good eating, too.

It was too cold today to work outside so I stayed by the stove, making oxtail soup and pondering this post, this fundraiser… Pondering is a by-product of food preparation in my experience. When the broth was done, I removed the bone and gristle, skimmed the fat for other uses, and made a beef vegetable soup, roasting the vegetables first.

As long as I remove the bones and gristle, the Baron likes it just fine. I saved half the broth to make sweet and sour cabbage later this week. That’s one dish the B really likes, and it’s always better the next day. Once a guest of ours said, with tears in his eyes, that the sweet and sour cabbage I’d served for supper was as good as his Bubbe’s. I was touched by his declaration but made him promise never to tell her that; what grandmother could forgive such a betrayal?

Of late, the flavors of Indian foods don’t appeal as they once did. I’m returning to the comfort food of my childhood, which means that oxymoron, Irish cuisine — or what passed for middle-class food in Ireland when my mother was growing up. Back then, “Irish food” was cabbage, ham, lamb stew, beef brisket. Or shepherd’s pie [these days, I cut the starch by blending mashed potatoes with pureed cauliflower]. We seldom had roasts; they were too expensive. But my mother could wax eloquent on the size of the roast in her childhood. Or her mother’s recipe for trifle.

One time her youngest brother, my Irish immigrant uncle who lived with us for a while when he first came to America (my mother was his sponsor), brought home a steak and asked me to prepare it. I cooked it the same way I did every other piece of beef: braised in a thickened broth. In other words, a flatter version of stew. Ummm…it wasn’t a culinary hit; I’d committed the sin of “ruining a nice bit of beef”. To his credit, my uncle ate it anyway and the next day he came home with another steak and showed me how to prepare it properly. My first taste of rare beef! Who knew such a bloody thing could be so good?

Though she was an indifferent cook, my mother took to American foods with gusto. We could (and did) get buckets of fresh shrimp for ten cents a pound. And she loved collard greens with fatback. Grits with eggs and bacon on Sunday mornings. The point of ketchup was lost on her, though. Since it was decidedly American she’d buy a bottle…and after a year or so in the Florida heat it would gum up and turn dark so we’d throw it away and she’d buy a fresh bottle. To this day I’ve never figured it out either; I only use ketchup to make the red seafood sauce the Baron likes. The commercial kind has way too much sugar and high fructose corn syrup.

It must be hard for families today to maintain supper routines. Often both parents work, the kids have sports activities, everyone is connected to a device of some kind. I hope (and literally pray) that children are learning the loving routines involved in breaking bread together every day. Those habits are the mortar that will cement their lives as they grow up and look back fondly at the family of their young years.

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Saturday’s generosity came in from:

Stateside: Alaska, California, Colorado, Georgia, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Tennessee, and Texas

Near Abroad: Dominican Republic

Far Abroad: The Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, Thailand, and the UK

Canada: Ontario

Australia: New South Wales

The Baron will post a wrap-up of the week (featuring a full list of the places donors came from) sometime tomorrow.

Saturday’s update from the Baron:

Continuing with the Furry Freak Brothers theme, the image at the top is the famous poster of Freewheelin’ Franklin with his big fat doobie.

In my senior year in college there was a guy in our dorm who was a dead ringer for Franklin, right down to the hair and hat. But his schnozz wasn’t quite as big as the Freaker’s.

Those were the days. Sigh…

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After long acquaintance with the New Testament, especially the Gospels, it becomes clear that some of the parables that Jesus told must have been quite humorous to an audience immersed in the language and context of first-century Judea. For example, consider the Parable of the Unjust Judge, as told in Luke 18:2-8 (New International Version):

“In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’

“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”

And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

The widow and the judge were probably both recognizable character types in the context of the time. Widows had very limited rights under Jewish law in those days; that’s why the judge didn’t have to rule in her favor. So she would have been portrayed as pushy and loud-mouthed, and the judge was probably vain, pompous, and haughty.

Who knows what facial expressions and hand gestures Jesus used to mime this story? Did he put on the voices of each character in turn?

It was probably quite a hoot for those who heard it; that’s one of the reasons it was remembered and passed down. But it had to migrate from the original Aramaic into spoken and then written Greek, losing its original flavor in the process. And we English-speakers get yet another translation.

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Happy Thanksgiving, Y’all


Wild turkeys at Schloss Bodissey, Thanksgiving 2007

A double-barreled gratitude for us at Schloss Bodissey: not only is it Thanksgiving, but today is also the Baron’s and my wedding anniversary. How truly fortunate we are!

Every family has different holiday traditions. Entering into marriage, each of the partners brings ‘the creed, the cult and the code’ of those feast days from their own family of origin and from there the two people begin to negotiate what will constitute their holiday ritual(s). An example: during most of my life, a roast turkey was the main feature of this November feast. As the years wore on it dawned on me how much I truly loathed that bird. Except for the beautifully browned skin and the giblets, there was nothing to love. Thus began my search for a substitute.

Back in the time when there was still a small specialty butcher shop in town, I could order capon (and lots of other meats that have since gone out of style. Sweetbreads, anyone?). With the coming of Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods into the area, that store was squeezed out. These two big stores that were responsible for the demise of The Carriage House don’t even know what capon is, much less how to order one. Like other craftsmen, real butchers are disappearing. The only capon I could find was online, in Missouri, and far beyond our budget. Sigh.

Determined to stick with poultry, we moved on to duck. One year I even learned how to spatchcock one and what to do with the lovely rendered fat. Spatchcocking is a nice strategy for almost any kind of poultry. But not for this year’s Thanksgiving supper. Since the future Baron is our only guest, we’ll be having quail, marinated in the fB’s mixture. The fB is always happy to eat, and as accommodating to my peccadilloes as his father has always been.

Time to turn the quail in their marinade again. Not only do I love the flavor but sans stuffing they cook in twenty minutes or so. I’ll probably cover them lightly with buttered parchment paper so they don’t dry out.

Sides? Roasted potatoes, a relish tray, homemade cranberry sauce, and haricots verts with slivered almonds. I had planned on carrots and/or sweet potatoes, but virtue and sloth won out over the carb load those would provide.

Funny how life minimalizes everything as one approaches the gates of infinity. Someday, when I have more energy and there are no quail awaiting their turn in the oven, I will tell you the story of holding my very first brace of quail in one hand and a French cookbook in the other. The latter unveiled the mysteries of plucking feathers, cleaning out the innards, and roasting one of the most memorable meals I ever prepared. I was eleven years old at the time; that experience was to define many years of culinary adventures.

But I forgot: this is a day for gratitude! Besides, my good fortune in finding the Baron, in raising my children, etc. there are particular ones for this year. The main gratias I offer to the universe? That Hillary Clinton isn’t president. Another? That during our Thanksgiving supper there won’t be any smartphones or politics. Just good food, a wine picked out by our sommelier son and lots of laughter.

We will raise our first glass to toast you, the readers of Gates of Vienna. May God bless you all.

Here Comes the Sun

Note: This post was a “sticky” feature for Fundraising Week, and was at the top throughout that time. Newer items from Monday through Sunday, including Sunday night’s news feed, are posted below it.

Summer Fundraiser 2017, Day Seven

Update from Dymphna: And Then They Rested — Day Seven

Each fundraiser has its own rhythm and rhyme. This one took a while to get going but then the jokes (and donations) started coming in at a good clip. The donations are crucial to our ongoing project here, but I now realize that laughter is indeed good medicine. I’ve even gone looking for jokes this week, just for the fun of it. From now on the theme of our Quarterlies will be jokes. More than ever do we need laughter to keep going.

Tip jarThe Baron keeps a careful log/graph of donations through each and every quarter going all the way back to the first Fundraiser in 2008. There was one year — I forget which — where we simply missed a quarter entirely. We simply forgot to ask for money, and yes, that inattention on our part did indeed pinch; the consequence was a period of beans but no ammo. We didn’t make that mistake again.

Sometimes events push these fundraisers early or late: who wants to compete with a presidential election or Christmas The Winter Gala Season?? But mostly we’re on time if a little breathless. Even then, y’all inevitably come through, for which we remain most grateful. When you’re depending on the largesse of donors, nothing ever becomes routine or taken for granted.

For those of you who’ve been procrastinating, there’s the tip cup on the sidebar to the left of my words. And for our readers who not only subscribe but give extra during the Fundraisers, you are atop the pyramid for sure, up there with those genius DNA folks.

Now for my joke, especially for the Baron and serendipitously sent in by Col. Bunny. [I was considering doing one on virgins, given the Aztec image the Baron chose for this post. Maybe next time.]

A fellow consults his rabbi.

“Rabbi,” he says, “my cow is useless. She won’t show any interest in the bull.”

“Give me an example,” says the rabbi.

“Well, if the bull approaches her, she moves away to the left. And if he approaches her again, she moves away to the right. This goes on forever.”

“Hmm,” says the rabbi. “Is your cow from Minsk, by any chance?”

“Why, yes,” says the farmer. “How did you know?”

“My wife is from Minsk,” says the rabbi.

Heh. That’s my Bleg gift to the Baron. Better than a bag of cashews; jokes don’t cause weight gain.

Thanks to all you generous readers, including the ones who are bypassing PayPal to send their donations by snail mail. You have to go out of your way to do that… and, yes, you lurking IRS employee, the mail donations go down on our income, you gummint busybody.

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Where the Sun Don’t Shine

So we had our rural version of the 2017 solar eclipse. And a great time was had by all, including a friend who dropped by with some of her garden harvest but stayed to use the Baron’s pinhole box.

At the height of the eclipse here (about 90% coverage, we figured from looking at the shadow) the light was occluded, strange. Think of a Magritte painting, say a version of “The Empire of Light”. This occluded light was most obvious when you looked at shadows, which I did for a while with the tall Rose of Sharon bush-becoming-a-tree. The edges of things seemed sharper. The diminished light made the remaining Japanese beetles sluggish, so I was able to grab quite a few from the blossoms.

We all noticed the welcome dip in temperature from the mid-90s down perhaps about ten degrees for a short while.

So here is Susie with her head in the Baron’s Pinhole Box, watching the eclipse a bit more than half-way through. Beyond her is the hickory tree I’d planned to sit under to watch the leaf patterns display many eclipses. But then the B pointed out that the grass broke up the image too much; he said you’d need a city sidewalk to really get the multiple image effect. The nearest sidewalk was fifteen miles away.

As usual, he came up with a solution: a piece of painted wood that captured the magic of the moment as well as any sidewalk could have.

We hope all the travelers to South Carolina made it home safely. I tripped going up the stairs as we returned to our dimly lit house, but that doesn’t count as a travel accident. That’s just Dymphna Walking…