musings, thoughts, and writings of Barbara W. Klaser


August 29, 2009

Heat wave

We’ve had temperatures at or near 100F for three days now. I say “at or near” because it hasn’t quite hit three digits at our house but has very nearby. We happen to be on a hillside that catches just a tad more breeze than some other parts of this little town.

It’s been a good Saturday to spend indoors watching DVDs, even though there was work to do in the yard. (Yeah, right.) Right now I’m watching “The Kid” again and wondering why Lily Tomlin hasn’t made more movies. She’s the best part of this one.

We’ve been lucky, with fairly bearable weather most of the summer until now, so I don’t have all that much to complain about — provided this heatwave ends soon. Please?

— Barbara @ rudimentary 6:34 pm PST, 08/29/09

May 25, 2009

There’s no such thing

as a good war. Soldiers die, civilians die. Too many deaths. Why? How does this prevent terrorism? Stop it already.

— Barbara @ rudimentary 3:35 pm PST, 05/25/09

May 15, 2009

It’s that time of year when I’m like a bee

flitting from flower to flower, exulting in the color, shape, and scent of spring. Each one is more beautiful than the last. I needed to worship someone for making flowers, so I looked up Flora, the Roman goddess of flowers, and found some amazing artwork to worship as well. (Uh-oh — she’s worshiping graven images!)

Flora by Botticelli

From Botticelli to Rembrandt, many people before me have felt driven to seek out a higher power responsible for flowers, and to give thanks. Rembrandt painted his Floras as plump women who appear pregnant. Others have painted her with one bare breast. Always she’s surrounded by or bedecked with flowers.

Botticelli’s Flora (above) looks a bit gaunt to me, and worried. Does she fear Mellona will be late sending the bees this year? (Mellona was the Romans’ name for the protector of bees.) Flora needn’t worry if she’s in my neighborhood. The bees are out in force, ecstatically worshiping flowers all over the place.

Bee Joh Sullivan

Note: The photo of the bee is by Jon Sullivan and made available by him to the public domain via PD Photo.org. Thank you, Jon! Thanks to Wikipedia, too.

— Barbara @ rudimentary 6:47 pm PST, 05/15/09

May 3, 2009

Office Cat

OfficeCatclick to enlarge

Our home office is in the second bedroom, where we’ve removed the closet doors and added storage shelves. As soon as she was big enough to jump that high, Tara began insisting that one particular spot, on a shelf at about my eye level, was hers. She started pushing things out of the way, and wouldn’t leave it alone. Finally I gave in and cleared a space for her. (The shelf doesn’t really sag, that’s a trick of the lens.)

She’s asleep there right now, so shhh!

Cats always know their place. Humans can only get out of the way.

— Barbara @ rudimentary 5:04 pm PST, 05/03/09

April 20, 2009

Catnip anyone? No?

My strange little cat, Tara, doesn’t like catnip. But she loves valerian root. I never knew until she came along that some cats like that. I saw it mentioned on a humane society site and decided to try it — based on her love of dirty socks, which smell about the same. She goes nuts over it. Valerian root is the one thing she’ll sit up and beg for. Catnip? She reacts to that about the same way some kids react to vegetables. It’s just not for her. But she has learned the sound of someone opening the cabinet and bottle that hold the valerian root. She can be in an entirely different part of the house, but as soon as I reach for that bottle she materializes beside me.

Thanks to Sarah for the post prompt.

— Barbara @ rudimentary 8:13 am PST, 04/20/09

April 19, 2009

Local festivals

Today is our local Avocado Festival. I don’t plan to go this year. My spouse went very early, before the crowds arrived, for some fresh produce and a carne asada burrito.

I would’ve titled this post with the name of the actual festival we had here in town today, except that I’m going to criticize it a little bit, and I don’t want to cast a shadow over that particular event for any locals who otherwise enjoy it. My criticism isn’t about just our Avocado Festival.

The positive side is, I’m eating a strawberry. That’s always a good thing. In fact, I’m rich today, with three little baskets of strawberries and a good week or two’s supply of avocados. Not only that, we got some of the avocados for free, from a local business near one of the avocado packing plants. Presumably they’re cast offs from the preparation for the festival, since they aren’t very pretty ones. But they’re still delicious, and dead ripe, so I already got to enjoy some for breakfast. My favorite way to eat avocado is mashed with salt and pepper and spread on toast. Since I live with my favorite bread baker, this is the ultimate easy (for me) and delicious breakfast.

My rant is not about the immense crowd that will be there later today, even though I’m not a crowd person. I can handle crowds, and even enjoy them, in small doses. My rant is not about the local vendors who show up each year. It’s not even about the non-local vendors who show up there. After all, everybody’s got to make a buck, right? Some of the vendors are wonderful.

You can get the best local tacos, tamales, and burritos at our Avocado Festival that you’ve ever eaten, and there’s always a nice supply of fresh avocados, of course. Then there’s the standard fair fare, funnel cakes and lemonade and . . . well, the list goes on. We don’t buy most of that standard fair food, so I’m not even aware of what it all is. We usually go for the Mexican food. Some of it’s not available year round, even here, because it’s from groups or businesses that put out a special effort just for the festival. It’s a rare treat, and one of the great draws of the festival for us in the years we attend.

In the years that we attend, we’ve learned to walk there early, as soon as the booths are opening. That way we avoid the biggest crowds and the worst heat.

I’m not sure why, but the day of the Avocado Festival is always hot, even though we can get some pretty cool weather in April. Three days ago we had a high of something like 67 degrees Fahrenheit and the nighttime temp dipped into the low 40s. I wore long sleeves all day, and sometimes a sweater. Yesterday the high was over 80, and today promises to be at least that. (Update, it got up to 93 in town today!) But as usual, of those two weather patterns, the festival happens to fall on the warmer day. Or should I say the warmer day happens to fall on the festival day — the festival was planned well in advance.

Because of the heat and the larger size of the crowd later in the day, and some combination of those factors that seems to make everyone tired and cranky by afternoon, the feeling of the late day crowd changes in a way that becomes distinctly unpleasant for me. So if I don’t go early, I’m not likely to go at all. In fact, I’d just as soon the booths opened at six in the morning rather than nine.

What bothers me about the festival is now fairly universal, I suspect, to local festivals and fairs all over the country. There are very few locals selling handcrafts and artwork anymore. Many of the vendors that sell non-food and non-produce items — and some of the food vendors as well — have traveled from other places. Some of them make the rounds of, possibly, every local festival and county fair in the state, and maybe more than one state. Some are from industry, manufacturers’ representatives selling things like secure mailboxes and automatic sprinkler systems, the sorts of things you expect at home shows and trade fairs, not unique to an Avocado Festival. Some are selling manufactured clothing and home decoration items that I can buy at a department store or a swap meet. The traveling vendors have always been around, but lately they seem to be the only ones. Where are the locals? To me this trend of increasing numbers of non-local vendors is like finding the same chain restaurants everywhere you travel. That used to disappoint me when traveling on business. If there’s any perk to having to take business trips, it’s discovering local eateries that are unique to the city you’re visiting. But if you travel to another place only to eat at Outback or Chilis, you might as well have stayed home. Why go to the local festival to buy the same items that will be sold at the county fair two months from now? More importantly, why go to find items you can buy at the department or hardware store? The point of a local festival, I thought, was to find things that can be found in only one place, to celebrate that location’s unique qualities and products.

I’m glad that we still have some local businesses that sell food and a few other items there. In the years I attend, if I go early, I can pick and choose which places to visit, and I usually enjoy myself. But I miss the kinds of things we used to see more of and that I always loved festivals and fairs for: handcrafts, local artists’ work, and those really unique and unusual items that once were only found at local fairs. They seem be rare these days, almost extinct.

I’m sure there’s a reason for this. Perhaps it has to do with the process of arranging to sell at one of these events, that it’s become so business-oriented that it shuts out local artists and craftspeople. Perhaps people don’t have time anymore to make things themselves and arrange to sell them locally unless that’s their full time business. If it is their full time business, they likely have to travel from fair to fair to make it pay off year-round.

We see some of those traveling vendors selling beautiful things, like handmade herbal soaps, stunning hand-carved gourd art, and some unique pottery. It’s great stuff, and I’m glad it’s there. But, whatever the reason it’s not there, I still find the lack of local handcrafts and artwork at these events sad. I know some of the vendors hate it when I ask, “Are you from around here?” But I continue to ask. It doesn’t mean that I won’t buy what they’re selling, if I love it and can afford it. But I can’t help being more enthusiastic about finding local goods that I love at our local festival.

The only other rant I have is, where are the hats? This is the time of year our warm weather sets in. In the past I’ve arrived at the festival only to wish I’d brought a hat. I can’t be the only one. There used to be hats for sale all over the place there. I usually bought my hat there to use for yard work or walking around in the sun for any reason, because it was the right time of year and they had a nice selection for good prices. Last year I hardly saw any hats. Maybe they were there and so few that I never came across them. I hope at least the hats were back this year.

Last year, too few local handcrafts, too few hats. This year I’m not going to the festival. Can anyone connect the dots?

Maybe the real problem is that I’m not like other people who attend. Maybe most people prefer mass-manufactured, universally available things. Who knew that would become the major draw of a local festival? Maybe it’s just me.

In any case, I’m happy for the strawberries and avocados. It’s a good day.

— Barbara @ rudimentary 11:09 am PST, 04/19/09

April 13, 2009

I know there’s something good happening out there

I’ve been in a horribly bad mood, mainly due to family troubles of the kind that make me feel helpless and small — the news of the death of my oldest brother, and my dad’s loss of independence due to a stroke. I’ve also had some just silly bad luck at home, little things like stubbing a toe so hard a few days ago that I worried it was broken (it’s still sore), straining my back lifting a bag of cat litter yesterday, frustration over the economic crunch that everyone is feeling, when I really could use a newer more reliable car. Why is it that bad news and events seem to come in these overwhelming groupings that feel as if they’ll never end — or, if that isn’t what’s happening, why is it that my mind seems to make even the small problems feel big, once it starts on a downward spiral?

Today I knew I needed to crawl out of this hole I found myself in. I’ve been avoiding the news, because that usually just makes me feel worse, and worse was definitely not what I needed. I know some people think that’s an unrealistic attitude, but I find the news unrealistic, in its focus on everything bad and very little good except nonsensical news about the personal lives of celebrities — people who would likely just as soon be left alone when it comes to personal matters.

I decided to search for some positive news on the Internet, and I found this story on a blog called Great Pet Net that I thought I should share in case anyone else could use a lift: Jasmine the Mother Theresa Greyhound. Dogs tend to have a healing way about them, all around, in my opinion. But this one is exceptional. She certainly had a distant healing effect on me.

It’s a beautiful spring day here. Flowers are blooming, in spite of the gopher that keeps eating them. (Our gopher loves California poppies and nasturtiums. What does yours like?) The The Hooded Orioles arrived early from Mexico, and one almost flew right into me yesterday, maybe because I was wearing green and blended with the plants. Later I watched three Red-tailed Hawks circle the sky above our house. Clouds sail across the sky today in a stiff, delicious ocean breeze. My cat Tara is always up for a game of chase or a tumble with toys. Someone I care about is playing Bach on the piano in the next room.

Yesterday I spotted a long, sinuous cloud in the western sky that looked like a Japanese dragon. I didn’t get a picture, but if you’re familiar with the animated film, Spirited Away, it looked a lot like Haku in his natural form as a river spirit.

Now that I’ve set my mind back in its more customary direction, at least for the moment, good things are beginning to happen inside me again, too.

Every now and then I find it necessary to keep a gratitude journal, to find at least three things each day that I’m grateful for to write about. I think I’ll take up that practice again for a while.

— Barbara @ rudimentary 4:30 pm PST, 04/13/09

March 27, 2009

Crane flies and a flying cat

We have crane flies like crazy here right now. I’ve always called them mosquito hawks, but apparently they don’t eat mosquitoes (and we’ve already had a few of those).

Tara’s pretty good at catching bugs. She loves to chase the crane flies that get into the house. I’m not sure which is worse, though, pesky crane flies, or a flying cat. She’ll leap, climb, or fly wherever in the house she needs to go in order to catch one. She got so busy hunting them a few nights ago that she didn’t even eat the chicken I gave her. They must be very tasty bugs.

Fortunately I stowed most of our breakables away when she was smaller, because now she’s a force to be reckoned with when she goes flying through the house after a bug. It’s almost like having a monkey on the premises. An eight-pound fur ball flying at you is no laughing matter. She proved that a few days ago when she knocked over my office chair. I wasn’t in it, I just came running when I heard the crash from the other room, and found the chair lying on its back on the floor with one of its adjustment knobs broken off. I think it had something to do with a running, flying leap into it from front to back. A few days later she tried to knock me over, seated in the chair, with an unbelievably football-like tackle for one so small. No claws were used, it was all in fun, of course, but what a cat. I think her Siamese is showing.

Mice beware. Do not enter here.

— Barbara @ rudimentary 11:57 am PST, 03/27/09

March 21, 2009

Premio Dardos Award

Eric Mayer at Byzantine Blog has honored me with the Premio Dardos Award. Eric is author, with his wife Mary Reed, of the John the Lord Chamberlain Mystery Series set in the Byzantine Empire of the 6th century.

Now don’t be too impressed with me, because I keep trying to type the award name as “Permio” today. I’m not sure whether I should get to keep an award I can’t spell. I’ll try to be more worthy and at least post a blog entry now and then. In any case I’m grateful to Eric for thinking of me.

Premios Dardos Award

Premio Dardos means “prize darts” in Italian and is awarded for recognition of cultural, ethical, literary and personal values in the form of creative and original writing. The rules are:

1. Accept the award by pasting the graphic on your blog along with the name of the person who granted the award and a link to his/her blog.
2. Pass the award to another 15 blogs that are worthy of acknowledgment, remembering to contact each so they know they have been selected.

I’m fudging on the rules a little. I’m paring down my list to award three writers, poets, or artists who blog. All of them are one or the other, and two of them are all three — creative writer, artist, and poet. Don’t ask me why I separate out poet as if it’s not also a kind of creative writer, but poetry is near to my heart. Here’s my list of award recipients:

1. Bev Jackson at Jackson’s Actions
2. Catherine Kerr at Beyond the Fields We know
3. Susan Gibb at Spinning

— Barbara @ rudimentary 5:57 pm PST, 03/21/09

January 19, 2009

What’s the appropriate response to this?

I received a link to this news article in an email:
Melbourne writer jailed for insulting Thai royals

“FOR writing three ill-conceived sentences in a novel that sold fewer than 10 copies, Melbourne man Harry Nicolaides was yesterday sentenced to three years in a Thai prison.” (click to read entire news story)

Consider what would result in the world if everyone reacted to a perceived insult in this manner.

Imagine the silencing effect.

Even more disturbing, in another article on this topic — Thailand sentences writer for insults — it seems clear that this is probably a case of a writer getting caught in the middle of political maneuvering that has nothing much to do with insulting the royal family or with three sentences in the writer’s self-published work of fiction that only sold 10 copies. It has much more to do with someone else’s power play, or their fears about what will happen when the current Thai monarch dies.

Still it’s enough to make every writer in the world think hard about what freedom is and how much freedom of expression he or she really has. And on the Internet, we’re all writers.

— Barbara @ rudimentary 10:25 am PST, 01/19/09


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