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reading at home
As I noted a while back, the City Council here in Huntsville, AL, normally opens its meetings with an invocation, and they got a cease-and-desist letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation asking them reasonably nicely to stop doing that, with the not-too-veiled threat of a lawsuit if the city declined to comply.

This being Alabama, of course, there was never any serious consideration of ending the practice.  However, the City Attorney here actually knows how to do his job, and opined that while the practice up to that point (which had the individual members of the City Council offering Christian invocations in rotation, or occasionally varying that by inviting a favorite Christian minister to say some appropriate words,) was almost certainly not constitutionally defensible, there was a court-approved alternative.

There is no governing Supreme Court ruling on the issue of clergy-led invocations at the opening of local government meetings, but here in the 11th Circuit our Court of Appeals has held that an invocation offered by a member of the clergy selected from a roster of volunteers which represents the full spectrum of religious diversity in the community is not constitutionally objectionable, especially if the selection of which person will give the invocation on any given evening is left to a non-denominational agency that is independent of the city government. 

So the city here turned to the Interfaith Mission Service, which we work with on occasion as Lark and I are about the only Pagans in the area who are secure enough to be out of the broom closet, and who think that putting a public face on what we are is important.  And me, well, I went and volunteered to get on the City Council invocation roster, because, as I pointed out to the person running the roster, if they want to demonstrate they are being inclusive of all religions, having a witch give the invocation would go a long way toward proving their point.

So this afternoon after I left work I went to the gym, took a shower, put on my Minister Suit, and hied myself down to the City Council chamber.  Where I was introduced to the Mayor and Council Members.  Then the meeting was called to order, I read my invocation, we said the Pledge of Allegiance (amended in my case to say "...one nation, before the Gods, indivisible...") and then slipped out while they were doing the ceremonial reading of resolutions to honor various persons deemed worthy of such a distinction.  No torches or pitchforks were waved, nor were any tar and feathers in evidence.  And I was given to understand that I may well be invited back in several months, as non-Christian clergy willing to stand up and do this periodically would seem to be a bit thin on the ground around here.

And here is the text I used:

"O gentle Goddess and loving God, we pray tonight that You will bless this Council with wisdom and judgment so that they may make sound decisions for the governance of our city.  And further, we pray that You will visit upon these chambers an atmosphere of comity and peace, so that all who are here tonight to make their views known may do so in an air of civility and respect, without needless rancor or hostility.  These things we ask of You as children do of their loving parents, trusting that You will give unto us those gifts that we truly need." 



Earworms...

Brock at 40
OTHER PEOPLE get popular music:  Lady Gaga, or the Everly Brothers, or Springsteen, or the Supremes, or gawd'elpus, the Archies singing "Sugar, Sugar."

What do I get for an earworm?

The Non nobis Domine, from Brahnagh's film of Shakespeare's Henry V.

Where DOES the time go?

reading at home
I see it's been something over a year since I posted an update here.  Sorry about that.

My health is about as good as I could expect, all things considered.  The leukemia is what it is, though as one of my doctors points out, CLL is a disease that you die with, but not usually one that you die from.   In February, Lark and I signed up for a medically-supervised weight-loss program offered by Huntsville Hospital.  I've taken off a bit more than 70 lbs, and am now back to roughly what I weighed when we got married in 1978.  I've been taken off cholesterol-lowering meds entirely, and I've had the dosage of one of my blood-pressure meds reduced by 75%. 

Work continues to be work.  Well, it does when the Congress isn't being more stupid than usual.  But I'm giving some thought to retiring sooner rather than later.  Sooner being likely sometime after May of 2017, as opposed to five years after that, which had been my original plan.

In other minor details, I was initiated 1st Degree in the Gardnerian Tradition last night.  Details available privately to those of you who know me well enough to ask.

We're at it again!

Brock at 50

So we’re doing it again.  Lark and I are on vacation in Europe, including a cruise on the National Geographic  Explorer that begins in Copenhagen and ends in Lisbon.  And because neither of us had ever been to Denmark before, we flew in to Copenhagen a couple of days early, got a hotel room, and went to look at interesting stuff.

So, it turns out that Charles DeGaulle airport in Paris is Europe’s equivalent to O’Hare in Chicago: you have to fly through there all too often, but you never enjoy it.  This visit only reinforced my previous opinion that Terminal 2 was designed by a demented psych major who liked making mazes for rats.  Oh, and Air France managed to break our airplane by whacking the tail assembly with a piece of ground support equipment.  So they made us deplane, sat us in the terminal for 30 minutes, then loaded us into buses and drove us what seemed like half the distance to the Belgian border in order to load us into a spare airplane, after which they finally delivered us to Copenhagen, two hours late.  In the process, they lost one of our bags.  I filed the requisite report with the lost luggage office, and the very efficient Danish clerk informed me that she had located the bag at DeGaulle, there was a flight it might possibly make that evening, but that it would certainly be delivered to our hotel in central Copenhagen within 24 hours.  In fact, we had it in hand by about 11:00PM that evening.

Alright, I know, you’re wanting to know how we celebrated Talk Like A Pirate Day (Sept 19) when we were sitting around in Denmark.  Well, I don’t know about what you, but we got on the train, and went out to Roskilde, to the Viking Ships Museum.   Back in the 1960’s, near the town of Skuldelev, the Danes discovered the remains of five ships that had been sunk to block one of the channels leading into the southern part of Roskilde Fiord at some point in the around the 10th or 11th Century C.E.  So the National Museum excavated the five ships, preserved their timbers, and created a museum around them, that is now devoted to preserving and studying the art of making and sailing clinker-built wooden ships and boats.

This is “The Seastallion form Glendalough,” the VikingSkibsMuseet’s replica of a 60-oared Viking longship that was based on one of the ships recovered in the excavation.  When the Seastallion was completed in 2008, the Danes decided that because the original had been built in Dublin, nothing would do but to put a crew aboard her and sail her to Dublin via Orkney, then come back to Denmark through the English Channel.  And the big building in the background is the VikingSkibsHalle, where the preserved timbers of the original ships are displayed.

Sea Stallion

This is the interior of the VikingSkibsHalle, showing the preserved ancient ships displayed in wrought metal frames that show the original shapes of the hulls.

Hall Interior

And one of the things they allow visitors to do is to go sailing on Roskilde Fiord in a replicated Viking-era boat.  You KNOW we couldn’t go out there and not go sailing on the fiord in a “real” Viking ship.

Here’s a picture of the volunteers from the Museum getting the boat ready.  The boat itself is very similar to Skuldelev 6, the smallest of the ships preserved in the museum.  That boat is thought to have been a fishing vessel crewed by 8-12 men

Making Ready

And here’s a couple of pictures taken out on the fiord.

On the water 1

On the water 2

And that same day we also saw Roskilde Cathedral, where many Danish monarchs have been buried  since Harold Bluetooth.  Including every Danish king and queen since Margarethe I. You can see the spires of the cathedral in the lowermost picture above.  But more on that at another time.

Cancer Update

Brock at 40
Recap - About 16 months ago, I was diagnosed with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia.  As I pointed out at the time, this is hardly a death sentence.  My doctors continue to assure me that I will almost certainly die of something OTHER than my leukemia, many years from now.  And there are some promising developments in developing a definitive treatment for this particular form of leukemia.

So, in June of this year I had my 1-year-post diagnosis consult with my oncologist, at which I learned that it had taken roughly 13 months for my WBC (whitle blood cell count) to double from 24,000 at initial presentation to 51,000 (in June,) which more or less confirms the genetic assay which suggested that I have a slowly-progressing form of the disease.  A CAT scan indicates no current problems with my lymph nodes.  All well and good.

In early August. I went in for a routine check-up with my primary care physician, and he ran the usual sorts of labs (because of my CLL and a family history of diabetes he wants to pull fasting labs every time I come in.)  My WBC came back at 42,000.

This past Friday, I went in for my regular every-four-months checkup with my oncologist.  WBC was 37,000.
I've no idea what's going on with this, but I'm not complaining.  Since WBC is the primary means by which we track progress of CLL, a reduction in WBC is not really a bad thing.

In other news, work continues to be work.  But at least there IS work.

Finally, I will note that we are leaving on vacation tomorrow.  Lark has all the details over at her LJ,  

More later.

Brock at 40
So, we have here in the Huntsville area this odd place that is entirely unlike the rest of Alabama most of the time, mostly 'cos most of the people that live here aren't originally from Alabama.  So we have two synagogues, several mosques and masjids, a Hindu temple, several different Orthodox Christian congregations, two different Buddhist institutions (one Zen, one not-Zen,) a Taoist something or other, and a pagan community that gives new meaning to the concepts of "formless" and "chaotic."  Plus the usual mass of Christian congregations of various stripes.  Not to mention plaids, polka-dots, and too many garish shades of purple.  (It's Lent.  Purple is de rigueur during Lent.  Even for some Baptists)  Somewhere in the middle of all of this there is something called the Huntsville Interfaith Mission, a group which oddly enough actually thinks that interfaith work involves finding common ground among people and congregations of all sorts of religious persuasions. and not (as is all too common among "interfaith" programs here in the South,) just among those people who practice "real" religions.

Among other things, the Huntsville Interfaith Mission sponsors a program called "One Huntsville," which brings together people of all sorts of faith groups once a month for supper and discussions of matters of faith.  Lark and I have been attending these dinners, and we've had some fine conversations, what with there being a mixture of Christians and Jews and Muslims and Hindus and us Wiccans as the token delegates from the pagan community.  At the last such meeting one of the Muslim women with whom we were talking was pleasantly surprised by the fact  that Lark was reading her way through the Q'ran (in an English translation,) in order to better understand Islam.

While all of this is gong on, Lark is doing her practicum / internship in chaplaincy for her Cherry Hill Seminary MDiv program at the Pastoral Care Department at Huntsville Hospital.  There she is totally out of the broom closet, and her boss, a Presbyterian, is so tickled by the fact that he has seriously competent non-Christian chaplains available (Lark and a couple of local imams,) that he spilled the beans about it in a recent newspaper story about the spiritual resources available at the new branch hospital here in Madison that open this month.  At the hospital Lark is handing out copies of Carl McColman's When Someone You Love Is Wiccan like they were bingo cards in a Catholic church hall on Thursday night, and the local pagan community can't decide whether to shit a brick or have apoplexy, because heretofore they seem never to have figured out that "out of the broom closet" was an option.

So, right in the middle of all of this, the Freedom From Religion Foundation sends a letter to the Huntsville City Council, in which it is pointed out that it is the custom of the City Council to begin each session of the Council with a prayer, and that the prayers are offered by the councilors themselves in rotation, with a different member offering the prayer at each session.  And since all five councilors are good God-fearing, Bible-reading Christians, all of these prayers up to now have been of a Christian nature.  The letter went on to observe that this sort of thing had been ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of the United States a number of years ago and suggested that the City Council really ought to cease this whole prayer thing, while hinting about dire consequences if they did not.  ('Twas patently obvious that the FFRF was threatening to sue the City Council in Federal court on behalf of one or more disgruntled citizens to force an end to the prayers.) 

Naturally (this is Alabama, after all,) all five of the City Councilors plus a whole passel of Concerned Citizens got up on their high horses (some of the horses being rather higher than was really prudent,) and adopted a position of "Prayer in the past, prayer now, prayer forever."  Whilst all this was going on the City Attorney thumbed through the various legal precedents and opined that the present practice of prayer offered by the individual City Councilors was probably not constitutionally defensible, but that a program incorporating a prayer offered by a member of the clergy selected in rotation from a roster maintained by an outside agency would likely be upheld, especially if a reasonable number of of the clergy on the roster were not Christian.  The City Attorney further opined that the Huntsville Interfaith Mission or some similar body might be an appropriate body to manage such a roster.  The Huntsville Times, our local daily newspaper, published an editorial this morning echoing what the City Attorney suggested.

So what all this means is that IF the City Council decides to go with the "invocation-by-clergy-critter-from-a-rotating-roster" plan, and IF the management of the roster is handed off to the Huntsville Interfaith Mission, Yours Truly is going to apply for a spot on the roster.  Am prepared to be personable, respectful, but assertive.  I'm already prepared to point out that the more non-Christian clergy they have in the roster the better the Federal judge will like it, and it don't get any more non-Christian than having a Wiccan in your lineup.  We'll see what happens.  But I'll bet the local pagans will turn forty shades of puce when they hear about this.  I'll just tell them to think of it as a learning experience...

Drat! Bad news comes after good.

Brock at 40
I'm informed, though a reliable source, that science fiction author Anne McCaffery passed away yesterday.  That's the bad news.  Or at least it is for many, many fen of my generation.

The good news is that we have a contract to sell the house and land in Tennessee.  We took less money than we really wanted, but the buyers had financing already approved for the full amount of the offer when the offer was made.  So we don't expect a problem completing the deal.

So there's an end, at last, to that little bit of bother.

Unless, you, gentle reader, might know someone who wants to buy a tractor?
Brock at 50
Faithful readers of this collection of drivel will remember that almost exactly three years ago, I hied myself to Atlanta, six hours away from my nearest and dearest, in order to keep myself gainfully employed.  And that we have been living largely separate lives since that time.  I spent 27 months in Atlanta before taking a new (and permanent) job at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama last November.  And we committed to being here permanently, and we built a lovely new house, which we closed on back in April.  And since that time Lark and I have been driving back and forth between the farm in Woodlawn, TN, and the house in Huntsville, hauling the various bits and pieces (plus 27 years worth of accumulated books,) that were packed in boxes we were capable of lifting.  And as of this writing, better than three months after we closed on the house, we're still not living under the same roof full-time.

Howsomever, we are now informed that on 10 August, the proverbial large truck with several husky young men will descend upon the house in Tennessee and load up all the remaining stuff, rubble, and impedimenta.  And two days later, on 12 August, said truck and husky young men will deliver same to the new house in Alabama.  And we will finally, almost three years to the day after I left Tennessee for Atlanta, be back living together full-time. 

Address and telephone number for the new manse may be requested via e-mail.

Bemused Brock is, well... ...bemused

reading at home
I seem to have acquired a student. 

I went to the Huntsville Area Old Ways Association meeting on the 30th, (we meet over dinner on the 2nd and 5th Wednesday of each month, and occasionally for coffee and conversation on Sunday mornings,) and I gave a little talk on the theoretical aspects of religious and magical ritual.  The talk was well-received by a number of the listeners, and a few listeners seemed to be left somewhat glassy-eyed by the whole thing.  And one of the seemingly appreciative listeners asked for some contact information so that she could ask some follow-up questions.  So I gave her my e-mail address.

Well, one of the follow-up questions she asked was whether I would be willing to consider taking her as a student.

[insert curmudgeonly "HARRUMPH!" here]

Aside from workshops at random Pagan Pride events, a couple of presentations to HAOWA, and the odd bit of counseling given here and there on the Intarwebs, I've done no real teaching since we dissolved Tangled Moon at Midsummer three years ago.

But if one is going to invite questions one has to treat them with all due seriousness, even if they are questions that one does not expect.  So I sat and considered taking the young lady as a student.  And after I'd been sitting and considering for a spell, there was this gentle nudge in the back of my head and I was suddenly aware of the regard of the Goddess to Whom my devotion is given.  And She spake unto me, saying:  "Do you remember that old saw about 'When the student is ready the teacher shall appear?' "

I admitted to remembering something like that.

"Well," She went on, "you just appeared.  Any questions?"

"No," I said, "not really.  And even if I had questions, odds are I already know the answers I'd get."

"That's why We like you so much,"  She said.  "You don't make Us waste Our time explaining why you have to do stuff you're going to do anyway.  And cheer up:  We wouldn't be laying this on you if you weren't good at it.  In fact, if you were a lousy teacher We would not be having this conversation in the first place.  Besides, you asked for it."  [exit Divine Presence, stage right]

I suppose that I did ask for it, at that.  In the Tradition in which I was trained, at Third Degree you give yourself back to the Gods as a tool for Their hands.  And I let Fox elevate me to Third, even after she offered to let me back out at the last minute.  So if I were to decide to be less than happy about all this, I have no one to blame but myself.

And in a lovely display of synchronicity, I come home to find that Thorne Coyle has published a marvelously evocative essay about the ways that leadership and service to others intermesh,

In the actual event, my student turns out to be the sort of student one hopes for.  Or so my initial impression leads me to believe.  I expect that teaching her will be a somewhat-less-than-onerous task.  We'll just have to see.

[Watch Certain People laugh uproariously at the following statement:]

However, no matter what else happens, I am not going to let this turn into a coven.  Not even a little living-room coven.





Helpful Visit with the Oncologist.

Brock in Iraq
So, I had a follow-up visit with my oncologist today.  They drew the usual half-dozen vials of blood for various tests.  The key bit of data for today was my white blood cell count:  21K/ml.  A month ago, it was 24K.

This is really good information.  CLL patients tend to fall into two groups: those with a rapid increase in their white cell count, who have a generally poor prognosis, and those with a gradual increase in the WBC, who generally have a good prognosis.  The increase is essentially linear in both cases, although human bodies b being the imprecise systems that they are, the actual test results will vary to either side of the line.  But all of the evidence we have at this point seems to indicate that my peculiar condition has a gradual rate of increase in the WBC.  Which directly correlates with a longer life expectancy.  My oncologist mentioned today that he has one patient whose condition is very similar to mine whom he has been following for ten years, and the patient has as yet required no treatment for his CLL, and aside from an elevated white count, is in otherwise perfect health.  

So, at the moment, it looks as though I'm going to be around for some time yet. 

Incongruity Report

Grasping the Obvious
So, [info]tn_lark and I are out on the Outer Banks for the weekend, mostly because my sister is (finally) getting married to the guy she's been living with for like the last ten years. And we're staying in the local Hilton, which is also hosting like five other weddings this weekend, and one of the other events on the hotel's dance card for the weekend is:


(wait for it)


the 2011 Voodoo Reunion.


Why this is happening at a Hilton Garden Inn at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina escapes me.  But maybe I ought not to be trying to think deep thoughts after a 16-oz margarita and crab cakes.  (Attending family events means having to deal with my mother, which entitles me to extra booze above and beyond that which I would normally be consuming.) 

Over to you.  Odd speculation and random observations are encouraged.

On the night shift again.

Brock at 40
For the third night in a row, I'm the Directorate of Logistics duty officer at the Redstone Arsenal operations center on the night (6:00PM to 7:00AM) shift. I've been promised that some other person will get stuck with this duty have an opportunity to excel in this job for Sunday night and probably Monday. It's kind of like a critically necessary job, but I've had just 9 hours of sleep since last Thursday morning. The problem is that I don't have anyone else to do stuff for me like making food-like things and waiting in line for gas and going looking for ice, so that part of the time when I really ought to be sleeping I'm engaged in necessary life-support activity.

I'm coping, but my eyesockets feel like they're lined with sandpaper.

To relieve people's concerns:

Brock at 40
Yes, I was in Huntsville on Wednesday when the storms went through. I am safe, and the house is undamaged. Everything tracked north and west of our location here. No power, but there is adequate water. TVA restored full power to the Huntsville water plant and both hospitals today. I have food, and was able to get 20 lbs of ice this morning for the limited amount of perishables I still have on hand.

I'm posting this from the Restone Arsenal Installation Operations Center, where I'm holding down the logistics desk on the night shift again.

Living in Interesting Times

Brock at 50
The last several weeks have been "interesting," in the same sense that the word "interesting" is used in the ancient Chinese curse most often translated as "May you live in interesting times."

Briefly, I had a physical exam at the end of March, which included the usual blood samples and such.  There was an anomaly on the blood tests:  an elevated white cell count.  My new primary care physician here in Huntsville was almost apologizing that he found it necessary to refer me to an oncologist as a result of our first meeting, but I assured him that I'd much rather know things than not know.  Now, three weeks later, we have a definitive diagnosis.

I have Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia.  It's sometimes referred to as "old peoples' leukemia," and my oncologist tells me that at this point it is far more likely that something else will cause my death, many years from now, than that the leukemia will kill me.  We know it is of relatively recent onset, but we do not yet know how fast the disease is progressing.  So I go back to the clinic in a month's time for more blood tests to check progress.

There are some positive notes:  after a rather thorough CT scan there is no significant involvement of my lymph nodes or spleen.  My white cell count did not change significantly over the last two weeks time.  The genetic fluorescence assay indicates that I have only two of the mutations commonly seen in CLL, and one of those correlates with long survival times.  I do not have the mutation on chromosome 17 that can make this condition into a dangerous, fulminating one.

CLL in many cases is a condition that is monitored, but not treated.  When treatment is required, in most cases it is oral chemotherapy that lacks the pernicious side effects we commonly associate with the chemotherapies used for more acute cancers.  So at this point I have every expectation of going on for a good many more years.

At present, I am told that all I need do is live my normal life, but that I do need to start being a little more careful about the possibility of infections, since a major part of my immune system is now compromised to some degree.

As I said, it's been an interesting time.

I'm not upset about having my mortality rubbed in my face.  No, I got over that long, long ago, after a chilly January morning in 1979 when a parachute jump went bad.  I even got to meet the Morrighan that morning, (which was years before I consciously became pagan and realized just Who it was that had been laughing that horrible braying laugh in the back of my head that day.)  These days, I figure that every day is a gift.  There's even a trite bit of doggerel about that in the animated film, Kung-Fu Panda:

"Yesterday is history,
Tomorrow is a mystery.
Today is a gift:
That's why they call it The Present !"

So tomorrow morning I'm going to get up and open up my present and see what it's like.  And the day after that, I'm going to do it again.  And again, and again.  And I expect to keep doing it for a good long while yet.

Now, the rest of you, go off and do something fun.  And no moping, dammit! 





Only in America...

Brock at 40
...and for that matter, only in the South, will competing human imperatives interact with laissez-faire commerce and free enterprise to produce juxtapositions such as the signs shown below, which are visible from I-65 a few miles north of here:



I  know Spider Robinson once asserted that "God is an Iron," (on the premise that if a felon is a person who commits a felony, then, obviously...) but this is getting a bit blatant, don't you think?
reading at home
If you read the pagan blogosphere you already have a fair idea as to what I'm talking about here.  If not, I suggest that you read the the material here, and here, and possibly here.  Once you've done that, you may read the formal statement from CAYA Coven regarding this matter.

What follows is based on a comment I made to a post at
Erynn Laurie's Live Journal.  I owe her my thanks for having inspired me to finally get my thoughts in order on this.

I was very pleased to read Lady Yeshe Rabbit's apology for the problems surrounding the Lilith ritual at Pantheacon this year. It's been fairly obvious for several days (at least, it has been to me,) that the proximate cause of all of this turmoil was a failure in communication. We are human, and prone to error, and so these things do happen from time to time. Which is why we have things like Hanlon's Razor to remind us how to approach such matters.

Much of the asshattery in the pagan blogosphere about this incident is far less excusable.

Despite the genuine anguish and the impassioned rhetoric that has been generated by this incident, I continue to believe that there is nothing wrong with creating rituals or workshops at public gatherings where the intended audience is a limited subset of the membership of the gathering. The failure of the Amazon Priestess Tribe was NOT that they offered a ritual to which only women born as women were to be admitted. Rather, their failure, as Rabbit acknowledged in her apology, lay in not having clearly and unequivocally explained in advance who comprised their intended audience.

I won't presume to argue with any group which says it needs a private space in order to feel safe and secure in seeking a spiritual experience, whether it be a group of women born as women, or a group of gay men, or, for that matter, a group of left-handed Jewish jet pilots. Nor am I likely to feel deprived in any way by such a happening, because a ritual focused on the needs of a group to which I do not belong is unlikely to be of much benefit to me.

What has utterly appalled me in all this is the degree to which so many pagans who have been publicly commenting on this matter have presumed that one or more of the affected groups here was acting in bad faith or with malicious intent. It makes me wonder how much of this nebulous "pagan community" we talk about so often exists only in our minds. On the other hand, it says much that the public discussion of this matter that took place at Pantheacon on Monday was evidently conducted in a civil, respectful, and responsible manner, despite the high levels of emotion being experienced by all who were present.

Hopefully, we will all learn from this, and do better in the future.

The Bibliophile's Lament

Brock at 40
So, it starts with the fact that Carol and I like to read.  On a lot of different topics.  Yes, we both read science fiction and fantasy for fun, but we're just as likely to read  history or political commentary.  (Bought a t-shirt last month, which reads "History Buff:  I'd find you far more interesting if you were dead.")   And we do genealogy research too, and have bought a lot of references over the years for that.  Not to mention the pagan and magical texts.  And then there's the books for her embroidery and the other SCA-related stuff, and the textbooks for the M.Div she's pursuing in her copious free time.  And the 1943 edition of the Encyclopaedia Brittanica.  The problem is, after reading these books, we tend to keep them.  Because we might want to reread them some day.  Or consult them again.  Anything else I can toss into a midden without a second thought.  But not books...

And then there's that "years" bit.  Come this June, we'll have been living on the farm 27 years.  Seems amazing when I stop to think about it.  Half of my life near enough.  The problem, he said knowingly, is that a pair of happy bibliophiles can accumulate a LOT of books in 27 years.  Our house has one bookcase for each of those years.  And we're in the process of moving from northern Tennessee to Huntsville, AL.   And books are heavy, and movers charge you by the pound/kilogram...

So, we decided to move most of the books ourselves.  I drive a pickup truck, and it's only a three hour drive, with no time-zone changes and minimal traffic issues.  Every time I drive up to see her, I can haul a load of stuff back.  Seven standard 1.5 cu-ft bookboxes of miltary history, (and that's after we dontated at least that much to the library at Fort Campbell a number of years ago.)  13 bookboxes of religious, magical, philosophical and pagan texts, (excluding the books she's still using for her M.Div, of course.)  12 boxes of genealogy papers and references.  14 boxes of SF&F, and that's after we decided that 40% of the stuff on those shelves weren't worth keeping and were set aside to be offered to used book dealers.  (The discards haven't been boxed yet, but I'd estimate it as needing another 7-8 boxes.) And we haven't even begun to attack the five full-sized bookcases of paperbacks, or the two cases of cookbooks in the kitchen, or the Brittanica.

And in the meantime the boxes are stacked eight feet high, four wide, and two rows deep in the storage locker in Huntsville, we're working on making that three deep, and there's more to come.

And my back is killing me. 

The only saving grace is that the locker company provides a very nice cart to help you schlep your stuff from the front of the building back to your locker.  I have a lot of real nice things to say about whoever it was that invented the wheel.  Really good it idea that was, man.  If you ever get to Huntsville I'll buy you a beer or twelve.

And my back is killing me.


House Update - Week 01

Brock at 50
I went out to the lot about 9:00 AM Saturday.  They had finished the forms for the slab, and evidently had completed installing all of the various bits of house guts (mostly plumbing, but some electrical conduit, too,) that runs under the slab. 



And a view from the backside of the lot, toward the street, with the trusty Great White Heffalump in the picture:



I'm pretty sure they will actually be pouring the slab this week:  the weather is supposed to be OK, and they've got rebar installed down in the bottom of the trenches for the footings at the edge of the slab.  Viz:



Being as I'm driving up to Tennessee to spend the weekend with tn_lark   on Thursday after work,  the next installment will probably be reporting progress for Week 1.7, as I'm planning on driving over there at lunchtime to see what progress has happened.  What with the holidays and all, and the time needed for the slab to cure before they start working on top of it, it's entirely possible that they won't actually start doing the framing until the New Year is on us.  But we are at least underway, and they have set the closing date for 14 April.

House Update

Brock at 40
The builder broke ground on our house this week, pretty much as soon as the nice people at the bank let them know that the mortgage had been approved.  We went out to the lot on Saturday, and this is what we saw:



From the rear of the lot, where my workshop will be eventually, it looks like this:



And, of course, the all-important building permit  placard:



More as there is progress.

Farewell to Atlanta

Brock at 50
Yesterday morning I finished cleaning up the last grungy bits in the apartment in College Park, Georgia where I have been living for the past 27 months or so. About 9:00 AM I turned in the keys at the leasing office and got on the road to Huntsville.  Allowing for the time-zone change, I got into Huntsville about 12:30, ate some decent barbecued brisket and sides for lunch, checked on some stuff at the Arsenal for Monday when I officially start work there, and signed the lease for my new apartment, where I'll be living until we get the house built.  The which is supposed to be finished in mid-April.  One problem:  it's a much smaller apartment than the one in Georgia.  I suspect a lot of stuff is going to wind up in the storage locker for lack of a good place to keep it in the apartment. Oh well, it's just for six months.

The furniture/household goods are supposed to be arriving Tuesday.  So is the cable/internet stuff.  Telephone is likely to be held up until the end of the week.

In useful news, over toward the side of town where we're building the house, have located a decent Asian grocery, an Indian grocery, a Vietnamese restaurant, the source of the aforementioned brisket, and a Japanese restaurant that allegedly will prepare sukiyaki at tableside. 

In not-so-useful news, my Jawbone Prime earpiece that I use with the Iphone got losted.  Have ordered a replacement, but that will not get here for a few days.  So picked a cheap substitute.  Will see how it works.

Am staying in a hotel (Embassy Suites,) at the Govt's expense until furniture arrives.  The rest of the hotel seems to be rented to players in a junior ice-hockey tournament being held here this weekend.  (Ice-Hockey?  In ALABAMA?  Who'd have thunk that one?)  Is also the joy of having an interior-atrium hotel full of overexcited tweenage boys. 

On other hand, get to see Carol later this evening, and all day Sunday.  It evens out.

More later.

133 Sage Willow Drive

Brock at 40
Madison, AL  35756

That is going to be the address of the house that tn_lark   and I have contracted to build.  I haven't even started my new job, and we've already committed to build a new house!  My head is swimming.

The location is a small development on the west side of Redstone Arsenal.  The development itself is surrounded on three sides by land that is part of the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge, so that once the existing sites are sold and built upon, the community is never going to be surrounded by other similar communities.

Our lot (see below) is on the outside of the development, and backs up on the Wildlife Refuge.  The trees in the picture are on Refuge property and aren't ever going to be cut down.



The house, when completed, will look like this:



Here's an oblique view.  The dormer over the garage is for the bonus room that will house tn_lark 's quilting and embroidery studio.  ( My workshop will be built later, after the house and land in Tennessee gets sold. )



Our kitchen will look pretty much like this, with some minor differences in the appliances and the stain on the cabinets:



And our bedroom, will sort of look like this, given that our bedroom furniture looks nothing like the furniture in the model home where the interior shots were taken.



We're intending that this will be the last move for us, and that this will be the house we grow old in.  With the exception of tn_lark 's studio, everything is on one floor, and there's more than enough room for us, our hobbies, our massive library, and the cats.  With a little luck, we're expecting to be able to move in before our joint birthday next May.

The job looks like it's going to be great:  I get to work for people I know, and who know me, doing work I'm good at.  All I have to do now is get all the stuff in the apartment in Atlanta moved to Huntsville in time to start work on 6 Dec...

Job And Moving Update.

Brock at 40
So, today there finally was a callback from the Civilian Personnel Office at Redstone, confirming that the security clearance people have agreed that I am insufficiently evil to pose a threat to the national security, and that therefore I r can haz job naow.  Really...

I will be taking a slight pay cut (~$900/year or so,) but Huntsville is a much lower cost of living area so it should balance out.  Officially, I'm not taking a pay cut at all, even though I'm actually going to get less money, but that's the vagaries of the civil service for you.

I have a reporting date of 20 December, so I've got about seven weeks to get myself packed and find a place to live and get moved.  Have a line on an apartment complex where a friend of mine lives that may prove suitable.

Lark and I are going to be in Huntsville next week house hunting.  We've a short list of houses we want to look at, but we're also giving serious thought to building.  We plan on this house being the LAST house for us, and it might be worth it to be house-poor for a time in order to have a house that is perfect for us.   Or as perfect as we can contrive, anyway.   

We have also prequalified  for a mortgage, though to be honest I'm still a bit mystified as to how that happened.  I contacted a mortgage officer at the bank we've used for the last ten years or so, filled out one form and answered a few simple questions,and then I'm suddenly possessed for a letter saying that the bank is willing to lend us the money to buy a house.  All this between lunch and quitting time, huzzah!   Evidently my credit rating is better than I think it is.

More later as events unfold.

Finally!

Brock at 40
About four years ago we figured out that the nice Civil Service job that I was working in at Fort Campbell, KY, would eventually be turning to vapor.  So I started looking for something else with a little more permanence.  And after a number of months of looking, I was eventually offered a long-term temporary assignment with Headquarters, First Army, at Fort Gillem, GA.  Which, while it beats being unemployed by a whole lot, has necessitated that I live apart from my sweetie, tn_lark  , for the past 26 months or so.  Which, to be quite frank, has sucked big green rocks.  If we're lucky, we get to actually be physically co-located so that we can touch, and hug, and gaze soulfully into each other's eyes, and otherstufflikethatthere, about once a month.  It is somewhat difficult to maintain a relationship under conditions like these, but we somehow seem to be managing.

About a year ago, I started actively looking for another position, because the headquarters where I am currently employed is relocating to Rock Island Arsenal, IL in the second quarter of 2011, and I have no real interest in going with it.  I used to live in that part of the world a few decades ago, and I just have no interest in living anywhere that has that much winter anymore.  So another position in a warmer climate seemed in order.  In the past thirteen months, I have submitted 146 applications.  This week, I got a tentative offer of a permanent Civil Service job at Redstone Arsenal, in Huntsville, AL.  The offer is tentative because a firm offer is contingent on a validation of my present security clearance.  The paperwork to support that inquiry was received, completed, and returned to the personnel center at Redstone the same day the offer was made.  So I'm expecting a firm offer some time next week.  After four years, more or less, it's going to be very welcome.

So, unless something unforeseen happens to screw this up, I will be moving to the Huntsville area probably in early December.  We're likely to be up there looking for a house in the second week of November.  We may buy, or, we're giving serious thought to building.  This is going to be our last move, to the forever house.  So building the house that we want is making a lot of sense.  And once we have a house, we'll start moving stuff down from Tennessee.  We've been in the Tennessee house for 26 years at this point, and there's a lot of clutter that accumulates over that long a time.  So we may wind up discarding a certain amount of stuff.  Our objective is to be fully moved no later than the fall equinox next year, and sooner than that if it can be contrived.

This also brings up the point that this also means that our 75-acre tract in Tennessee will be going on the market sometime around the middle of next year.  It includes a 200-year-old farmhouse in need of some serious restoration work, several other outbuildings in varying degrees of decrepitude, more deer that you can shake a stick at (the farm has not been hunted in more than twenty years, and the deer mostly ignore us as not being a threat any more,) and a myriad of other wildlife.  Roughly half of the property is in mature second-growth hardwood forest, with oak, maple, and hickory being the predominant species.  So if you know anyone who might want to purchase a chunk of ground like that, feel free to put them in touch with us.
Brock at 40
Been largely offline since midday on Wednesday, Sep 1.  So have missed all of the drama over the "features" in LJ's latest codepush.

There are no words to convey my disdain for LJ at the moment.  I could wish that their pubes be infested by the fleas of a thousand mangy camels, but PETA would likely be after me for cruelty to fleas if I did so.

The material below came from beltainelady  :  (Yes, is signalboosting.)

Originally posted by beren_writes at LJ Facebook/Twitter work around to get rid of the annoying boxes
stolen from pombagira who pulled it from someone else who pulled it from yet another person :) Yes, this is signal boosting.

Passing this along from my flist.

Thanks to midniterose , here is how to stop the crossposting of comments/entries from LJ to sites like Facebook:

There is a way to disable everything. Here is what you have to do:

1. Go to your "Journal" menu, and select "Journal Style"
2. To the right, you'll see what theme you're using, with a link stating "Customize Your Theme". Click that link.
3. Scroll down a little ways, and you'll see that on the left side of your screen, you have multiple options to modify your theme. Click on the "Custom CSS" link, and it should load the options for doing Custom CSS.
4. From here, all you have to do is go to the "Custom Stylesheet", and put in that line.

.b-repost-item {display:none}

once you have it pasted in there, save changes.

Feel free to PASS THIS ON!!

ETA: This prevents the "repost to FB/Twitter" ticky boxes from being displayed when someone comments on one of your posts. It seems to work, UNLESS the person is viewing your page in their own journal style, in which case it might not work.

ETA2: Inserting the code below in your custom CSS box reportedly works for more kinds of journal styles, including custom ones (this courtesy of xnguard):

.b-repost-item, FORM#qrform > TABLE[style="border: 1px solid black;"]:last-child TD[style="vertical-align: top; text-align: right;"]:first-child { display: none !important; }


On a personal note:  I don't do Twitter and while I may in fact have a Facebook account I have no idea how to log on to it.  If you're reading this, about the fastest way I can think of to make me get out the banhammer would be to repost any comments you've made here to any other site.  If I wanted my stuff in hose other places, I'd have active accounts there.   Just sayin'

And on an entirely unrelated  note, I have DreamWidth invite codes.  Contact me if you wants one or more.

DW invite codes

Brock at 40
I have recently received a number of invite codes for Dreamwidth.

If any of my readers needs a code, or knows someone who does, please get in touch.
reading at home
...has to be the long version of Nancy Wilson's opening riff to "Crazy on You."  Yes,  the one that incorporates the semi-classical instrumental prelude for guitar that Heart has titled "Silver Wheels."  Watching Heart perform it live at Chastain Amphitheater last night has done nothing to disabuse me of this notion.

Local conditions were up to what I'd guess were at least seven or eight Helens inside the amphitheater by the time the show actually started.  It hadn't occurred to me before last night, but the fact that since the 1970's Heart has consisted of two lead performers, Ann and Nancy Wilson, plus an assortment of semi-anonymous backup musicians seems to be the sort of thing that attracts a significantly larger female audience than would a band, like say, Poison.  At these summer concerts about 40% of the capacity of the venue is set up with tables and seating for six, and patrons are allowed to bring coolers and picnic meals to enjoy before and during the the show.  I saw a good many of these tables where all of the attendees were women, all of whom seemed to be having a rollicking time.  Again, not something I was quite expecting, but upon consideration, that probably says more about the narrowness of my own preconceptions than it does anything else.

The opening act I had expected to see, Neko Case, had been replaced without explanation by a gentleman named Edwin McCain, who is evidently popular with some people.  He noted as part of his stage patter that he mostly writes the sort of songs that people choose to have played at their weddings.  All well and good for some people, I suppose.   But Carol and I, had we bothered to have a DJ and dancing at our wedding, would have been far more likely to have danced our first dance to "The March of Cambreadh," than to something like "The Greatest Fan Of Your Life." 

Heart's performance was spectacular.  They even started the set with some taiko drumming.  Which, alas, did not figure into any of the other songs in the set.  Their present tour is in support of their new album, Red Velvet Car, which is evidently to be released toward the end of this month.  Their set was about 80% old material, and about 20% material from the new album.  Will probably be thinking about getting it when it comes out.

Oh, and yes, I DO think the opening riff for "Crazy on You" is better even than Clapton's stuff on the opening riff for the Derek and the Dominoes version of "Layla."  So there!


reading at home
I have not posted anything here in some time.  That happens.  In this case, it has been in no little part due to my having been passing through one of those long dark nights of the soul to which St John of the Cross so aptly gave a name.  The whys aren't particularly important, when they are compared to the fact that I seem to see a faint glimmer on the horizon, which might be the beginning of the dawn of a new day.

I shall pointedly ignore the fact that it might just as easily be the headlamp of an oncoming train.

I was inspired to sit down tonight because I went to the movies.  I had intended to go see Salt, the new action film starring Angelina Jolie, more because I like Angelina Jolie as an actress than because I needed to see another action film.  But then I opened the newspaper and saw that Alejandro Amenábar's new film Agora was showing at the Midtown Art Cinema down near Piedmont Park.  So much for Ms. Jolie. Well, for this weekend, anyway.

For those of you who have not been following the trials and tribulations of Amenábar's latest work, the film tells in a somewhat fictionalized form the story of Hypatia of Alexandria, philosopher, teacher and mathematician, who was ultimately murdered by a mob of Christians in 425 C.E.  The role of Hypatia is played, most fetchingly, by Rachel Weisz.  The film includes several little bits of historical detail about the real Hypatia, such as the incident where she discourages an ardent suitor by presenting him a cloth stained with her menstrual blood, and remarking that she saw "nothing beautiful" in the desires of the flesh.  As a contemporary, Socrates Scholasticus wrote about her:

"There was a woman at Alexandria named Hypatia, daughter of the philosopher Theon, who made such attainments in literature and science, as to far surpass all the philosophers of her own time. Having succeeded to the school of Plato and Plotinus, she explained the principles of philosophy to her auditors, many of whom came from a distance to receive her instructions. On account of the self-possession and ease of manner, which she had acquired in consequence of the cultivation of her mind, she not infrequently appeared in public in presence of the magistrates. Neither did she feel abashed in going to an assembly of men. For all men on account of her extraordinary dignity and virtue admired her the more."

Agora
is a film that at its heart is about the tension between rigid belief on the one hand, and the willingness to question and inquire, on the other.  It is not, strictly speaking, what I would think of as a "pagan" film, although I do urge my pagan acquaintances to go and see it if they are lucky enough to have an opportunity.  It is not in wide release.  Here in Atlanta it is playing on one screen, in our one serious theater that showcases "art" films.  I misdoubt that you will find it at your average suburban mutiplex, and many of you will no doubt have to wait until it is released on DVD to see it.

If you value thought and reason undertaken for their own sakes, see this film.  If you share Jefferson's "...eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man," see this film.  If you're one of those odd folks who've always been a bit disgruntled because all librarians don't look like Rachel Weisz, well, this film won't help you all that much, but go see it anyway.

On a side note, for those few of my readers who are in the Atlanta area, allow me to put in a short plug for the Midtown Art Cinema, an 8-plex off Monroe Dr between Ponce De Leon and the bottom end of Piedmont Park.  They show films you literally will never be able to see at any other cinema in Hotlanta, and their prices are no more extortionate than any other multiplex that is not out in the suburbs.  In addition, there are a whole host of restaurants within a short walk of the theater, with a broad range of cuisines and price ranges.  This evening, I ate at Nam, an elegant little establishment serving wonderful food inspired by the cooking of Viet Nam.  The Gỏi cuốn (Vietnamese spring rolls,) at Nam are a thing of beauty but will not be a joy forever because I ate the entire serving.  The lemongrass chicken was delicious as well.  If you are in the area and want a nice meal, give Nam a try.  I am informed that they are now doing pho and Ventnamese style sandwiches at lunch, and that they are part of the Fixed Price Wednesday group, and offer a 3-course dinner for $25 on Wednesday evenings.  Give them a visit and you will not regret it.

Job situation update

Brock at 40
MY job here in Atlanta was always a long-term temp sort of thing.

I found out a couple of weeks ago that the term slot I'm holding down now isn't going to be reauthorized when First Army relocates to Rock Island Arsenal next year.  And all three of my co-workers in the Movements cell ARE moving with their jobs.  So at best I've got twelve to fifteen months left in my present position.  I'm free to apply for any positions at First Army that are going to become vacant as a result of the move, as long as I'm willing to move to Illinois.  But I spent too many years already living at that latitude, and I 'd really prefer to not have to get back to being used to that much winter.

Fortunately, I currently have referrals for five different positions in the Federal service:  one in El Paso, TX, three in Huntsville, AL, and one in Atlanta.  This means that the person making the hiring decision for these positions will actually get to see my resume.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Gummint's two-step hiring system, allow me to explain:  a Federal agency wants to fill a vacancy, so they advertise the opening, using a verbose format that makes it pretty clear what the job actually entails, and what they consider to be experience that would qualify an applicant for that position.  They announce that they will be accepting resumes for a given time window.  7-14 days is pretty typical.  People send in resumes in response.  Once the application window is closed, a personnel clerk reads all of the resumes that arrived before the closing of the application window, and discards all of the applications where the applicant is not actually qualified for the position.  (This can be a fairly high percentage of the pile:  80% or more is not uncommon.)  The resumes that remain are assembled into a list sorted from "best-qualified" to "least-qualified."  Using an arcane formula first created by a former Ibo witch-doctor turned bureaucrat, a small number of resumes (never less than three) are taken from the top of the list and are then sent to the person actually making the hiring decision, and it is from these resumes that he or she is required to make a choice.  This last bit is called "being referred to the Hiring Authority for consideration."  If you don't get referred, the hiring authority never sees your resume.

I have, as I have said, five active referrals as of this morning.  Odds are, one of these is going to wind up being a permanent job offer.  If I were a betting man, I'd bet on Huntsville being the place.  But we'll just have to see.

Aside from that, I have concluded that "normal" for my life evidently includes doing joinery in the living room on Sunday morning while listening to a repeat telecast of the previous evening's edition of Prairie Home Companion.
 

Enjoyable day out.

Brock at 40
So, here in the Atlanta area we have this annual event known as The Pagan Marketplace of Ideas, which offers people on various paths an opportunity to showcase what it is that they do, by leading a public ritual, or by offering a class, or by manning a table and handing out flyers.  I'm vaguely acquainted with one of the organizers, and so agreed to show up, even though I'm not actively seeking something other than what I have at the moment.  Which, it turned out, was a good thing, because elorie   had come down from Athens to do a presentation, which turned out to be a fascinating description of Feri, and the interesting ways it intersects with traditional American folk magic.  And oakthorne   was also there with several of his friends and covensibs, and he offered an instructive tall on the Alexandrian tradition.  And there was also beltainelady  , whom I've known online these ten years or more, but whom I've never before met face to face.  Somehow I expected her to be taller...

And there were enjoyable conversations with these worthies and others, and some work at the end returning the venue to the state it was in when the organizers arrived that morning.  And after there was supper at a Greco-Italian sort of restaurant, which did tasty appetizers (flaming cheese with lemon juice rocks!) and tolerable entrees.  And then the others went east to oakthorne 's abode, and I fared south, looping around the airport, and so came safely home.

Growf!

Brock at 40
My friend [personal profile] elf turned me on to Stanza, an e-book reader for the iPhone.  Nice piece of software, and so far seems to work well.  There's even a free e-book version of E.R. Eddison's  The Worm Ouroboros, a book which I love, and which I think is in many respects a better work of fantasy than LOTR.  ( Worm, by the way, appears to have passed into the public domain when I wasn't looking.)  The problem is that the people at blackmask.com who evidently scanned a copy of Worm to produce the digital text did not then proof the text against the original to eliminate the OCR-induced errors.

Hates it we does.  Doesn't we, precious?

I'm not going to rant about people with low (or no) standards for what constitutes an acceptable level of performance.  I just wont.  At least, not right now.   But this is not what I think of when I think in those terms.

So now have to go through and edit the entire text so I have something I can stand to read.

Mumble.  Growf.  Rowerbazzle.  Other bad words...