Elizabeth Moon's Blog, page 9

August 28, 2015

Closing in on the end of the main draft of the new book, another Vatta book.  As usual at this stage I like some sections a lot--they came out doing what I wanted them to do, and they read well (not perfectly--more drafts to come--but well for this point in the process.)  Other sections are OK but in the wrong place.   Other sections represent blind alleys--something I thought belonged in this book but, on consideration, doesn't.  Some that seemed OK as I was writing do not do what I wanted them to do.  And some sections are...not there.  I jumped ahead, which seemed like a good idea then, but the gap is too big for any reasonable transition.  It's going to take one or more full scenes.

The way I work, I have a strong idea of how the story begins,  a sortakinda idea of how it ends, and some probable things that will be somewhere in between.   None of this may survive to the final draft (exactly where the story begins may shift back and forth in time.  In first draft I may start too early or too late; the ending may be similar to, but not exactly, what I thought it would be, and the events in the middle may change sequence, with some dropping out.)  So this current draft, still quite messy (messier in some places than others), is "normal."   Normal for me.  Not for every writer.

First to main drafts are often partly fun--the story is galloping ahead strongly, full of its own energy--and partly maddening, frustrating, and downright difficult.  Again, that's my experience.   When a story hits a bad patch and bogs down, I have to figure out why (did I go charging into a blind alley?  Did I misunderstand a character's motivation?  Something else?) and then figure out how to fix it.   The techniques for fixing first-to-main draft problems are somewhat different from those needed for revision, where the story itself is fixed, but needs work to make it better.

This particular book has uneven energy levels; the story is much "slower" in some places than others.   Some of those things will have to wait for revision, when the story itself is set (or I hope it's set)  because the energy needs to feel more intense in some places and exactly where will depend on the whole story being out there for me to see as one piece.   "Where" is not only a matter of what percent of the book, front to back, but "where" in terms of depth: which layer of the story(and how many layers)  is carrying the energy.   The energy of motivation shifts within characters, and between characters:  A may be acting out of a different level of motivation than B, not merely in opposition to B.    But other places may need an "energy boost" even before revision, if I've failed to show a character's complexity early enough.

For me, a good main draft, growing out of the first awkward lunges into the story,  puts more in than it needs--more of everything--as if making the block of marble from which the statue will eventually freed, as revision "just cuts away everything that doesn't belong."   So it needs bulk, made of everything that occurs to me while working on it: incidents, thoughts, motives, characters, arguments, long later-defined-as-boring sections of musing by this character or that, descriptions, straight narration, the dreaded (by rule-makers) "as you know, Bob" explanations, backstory for everyone...all piled up into a vast file (these days), supported by another file of notes from research (and the books that accumulate on or on the floor by my desk, so I trip over them sometimes when I get up), files of names that appeared and were used in the book, and so on.  And on.

And still it never quite has everything, so there's first-drafting inserted into the second main draft, to be shaped and chiseled and sanded into place, and then a complete front to back for the third main-draft, and additional partial drafts, and...one day suddenly the thing is done, for good or ill.  It's sick of me; I'm sick of it. It gets another run through the spell checker and another fast read and check that the header is OK and there's not a hidden [needanameforthisguy]  note to myself somewhere in the middle.  And it's off to Editor, who will find things to say that require more revision.  But in the meantime I will take three days off of that book, one day at least completely off, on which I should (but don't always) get all the research sources for the book off the floor (at least) and off my desk.   Then start the next.   Sometimes with a couple of hours of actual first-drafting, sometimes with a walk outside to let whoever is carrying most of the story in the next book talk to me.

I'm not there yet, with this one.  But getting the first/main draft down, enough bits of this and that compressed into something large enough to hold the story I want to carve out of it, is the longest part of the process.   And I am almost to that.  Best get back to it.
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Published on August 28, 2015 16:30 • 77 views

August 20, 2015

Reversing the position of red and blue on the 4th of July socks produced this:

This image was taken in the kitchen during a rainstorm, so the colors are not as "clean" as they should be, but you get the idea.  (If it's sunny sometime in the next few days, I'll replace the picture above with one taken outside .  The overall impression is, to me, quite different than that in the 4th of July socks.   Where the color is makes a bigger difference than I expected--but this may be just my perception of it.

On the RW&B socks, the red is the same red as the 4th of July pair:  Ella rae Classic red #31, same dye lot.   The blue is Ella rae Classic navy blue, #85 (no, it's not black.  Fiddling with the adjustments in my photo software never got both the red and the blue to show "right" but I'll bet they do better with an outdoor image on a sunny day.  It really does match pretty well, considering different brand and almost 50 years of age between the two blues.)

This completes my project "2015 Short Socks" on Ravelry.  And because I am happy with them, and want to show off,  here they all are, one picture after another (on a brighter day outside, I'll arrange them in a group and swap out these pictures plural for that one singular.

        Summer Beach                                           Attitude Adjustment                          Summer Sunshine

    4th-of-July3           Mother"s-colors-2
                 4th of July                                                                             Mother's Colors

Mountain-vacation-shorty-1432                            Red-white-blue-socks-8-20-15
       Mountain Vacation                                                                Red, White, and Blue

Since making the "crew" socks (taller ribbed cuffs) from new balls of yarn results in leftovers, the making of striped socks will probably never end.  I foresee a lot more stripes in my future.  And maybe some fancier colorwork too, though stripes are a lot of fun.   I've made two pairs of the crew socks with stripes:

blue-green-striped-socks002    red-blue-socks-final

The blue & green ones had a solid blue cuff, but the red and blue ones had striped cuffs as well as feet.
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Published on August 20, 2015 15:36 • 48 views

August 6, 2015

I had very little navy-blue yarn.  I needed more, to complete the Red, White, and Blue socks that would be the color inverse of the 4th of July socks.   (Need is a relative term...knitter's need, we're talking about here.  Having conceived of a design, it's necessary (!) to make it.)

This is what I intended to order when I looked on the website for yarn last Thursday:

Yarn-Aug2015-navy1This is ALL I meant to buy when I looked at the site.
The package arrived today.   It looked bigger than those two neat balls of Ella rae Classic navy yarn needed.  Also looked beat-up, with tracks where something with narrow tired ran across it.

It looked bigger because somehow, between going to the site to buy "just two balls" of navy yarn, "enough to finish the Red, White, and Blue socks" and handing over the wherewithal to pay for them,  the yarn on the pages spoke to me.  Maybe, it whispered, the Ella rae yarn isn't a true navy.  Maybe the Cascade 220 navy is a better navy.  And maybe that other dark blue yarn is even better.  Maybe you should try all three.  You know you like blue yarns, and you don't have any other good dark blue yarn since you used up all that Bernat "Sesame" from your mother's stash.  It wouldn't be a waste, the ones you don't use in this pair of socks.  You have other socks to make.  Think of one of the dark blues striped with dark green, a nice winter sock.

So...those went into the shopping cart.  Just six balls of yarn.  I've used up more than six balls of yarn in this year already.  (Ignoring the yarn I bought in April. Or the yarn bought at The Happy Ewe in June when they didn't have the white I wanted but they did have a luscious purple.)   But then...there was a beautiful aqua, just the shade I'd been looking for, and I wanted to try the Cascade color "Blue Hawaii" and what if they ran out of the Ella rae "RoyaltyBlue" that I really like...and haven't used up the ones I have yet...but no matter...wool keeps.   And some nice autumnal colors I need to in order to tone down the weird yellow-orange I ended up with because it wasn't the same color in hand as on the monitor (which isn't unusual.)

And so this happened.
Photographed in the kitchen, by mixed artificial lights, in late afternoon--only the royal blue is really the color it is.
Eleven pairs of socks can be knit from this collection (two skeins or balls per pair.  Not counting the leftovers that will go into other socks or mitts or hats or scarves or something.  I have a nice collection of greens in another place.  Lots of bright red.  Some lovely deep rose flecked with other colors.  I probably have five years' worth of knitting, at my usual leisurely pace, and maybe more, in the stash, with some still not excavated of my mother's.   It's all bagged now in new Ziploc bags.  The Red, White, and Blue project was moved earlier this week into second place (may end up as a travel project to/from DragonCon) and a friend's pair has moved forward--using an earlier purchase of the medium brown heather (Cascade 220 "Walnut Heather") on the upper right in this photo.  It was cast on yesterday, the ribbing on both socks already more than an inch.   Tomorrow, in late-morning/midday daylight, I'll pick the navy for the RW&B socks, and put those balls into the right project bags.

Yarn is seductive in so many ways.  The colors.  The feel of it.  Most of all the endless possibilities, both for single yarns and for different combinations.  It reminds me of when, as a child, I fell in love with dictionaries...all those words.  All those words, and their histories, and the way meanings shifted around them as colors shift a little when placed next to other colors.  I wanted all the words in my head (they aren't, of course) and I wanted to play with them--their sounds, their flavors, their meanings and the way "blue and white" evoked a different mental image "white and blue,"  the inertial power of assonance and rhyme and on and on.  Yarn is tickling the same itch in my brain now.  Color's always been important to me, and yarn--more in socks than in other garments, at least for now--lets me play with colors in a way that other things haven't.  I never enjoyed sewing, though I did some, so quilting--beautiful as it is--wasn't going to be my thing.

I should go knit now.  Work my way through another two balls, for my friend's socks, finish up the RW&B socks, knit the replacements for the turquoise pair and the purple pair that wore out (or are about to wear out.   So far this year I've finished seven pairs of regular socks, six pairs of short ones, and plan another four. regulars.
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Published on August 06, 2015 20:33 • 82 views

August 1, 2015

Yesterday, July 31, I finished the sixth pair of "sporty-shorty" summer socks for 2015.  One to go, before going back to longer socks.  This pair combined two "leftover" yarns from longer socks.  The green is Ella rae Classic, color #90, which is actually more emerald than the picture shows.   The blue is Cascade 220 Paints "Isle of Sky," unfortunately a discontinued color.  The white, bought for striping, is Cascade 220.

The variation in "Isle of Sky" shows up better from this angle: it's subtle, and lovely.

Mountain-vacation-shorty-2                         Mountain-vacation-shorty-1432
L: subtler variations of non-matching stripes.                                R. Closer look at the "Eye of Partridge" heel.

I still need to finish weaving in the yarn ends in these.  Their name is "Mountain Holiday" because they express the opposite of the Summer Sun socks: cool meadows and forests, water, crisp air.  We are living in Summer Sun times now (grass crispy and brown, very hot, water restrictions...) so Mountain Vacation socks will remind me of the two times I got to go to the mountains in summer for awhile.   This pair gave me problems--the second sock cast on, I attempted to do the heel turn in the evening when tired and also watching TV, and bollixed it so badly the only thing to do was rip everything back--and then I couldn't get a "clean" pickup of the live stitches.  So I cast on another one--which also gave me problems but something I could fix .  This is the 43rd pair of socks--and the 13th of the short socks--that I've knit; you've think I'd be able to do it easily and without problems.  Nope.  I'm not that good yet and may never be.  (Also--it's really not smart to try turning a heel in inadequate light while watching TV or otherwise distracted.  More experienced knitters than I have said that.)

The last pair of these shorties for now is about to be cast on (after a nap--this weather!!)  and will be the opposite of the 4th of July pair:  top, heel, and toe will be red, and the stripes on the foot will be blue & white.  Reading the colors from the top, it really will be "red, white, and blue" so that will be its name.  Why that?  Because, having made two pairs of solid red socks earlier in the year, I have plenty of leftover red yarn to use up.  I had quite a bit of green, so...these were "framed" in green.

Then it's immediately on to taller socks.   One for me, one for a friend, the more for me later.  Counting socks finished this year  (though two pairs were started late last fall) I've knit seven pairs of crew socks with taller cuffs (six for myself, one for a friend) and six of the shorties.   And socks have worn out since the start of the year, too, from the first year and half of sock making.  Pretty much expected.

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Published on August 01, 2015 12:23 • 44 views

July 9, 2015

First, congratulations to the South Carolina state legislature for voting to remove the Confederate battle flag from display on the Statehouse grounds.   Any moral deed, whenever it occurs, deserves recognition and a pat on the back.

Now we've got that taken care of...on to the larger issue, the one that's been carried like a giant pus-filled abscess in the body politic for a century and a half....a mix of racism and treason that has frustrated repeated attempts to heal the wounds caused by the treason of a region addicted to buying, owning, and selling human beings even after a war they lost, even after a lenient post-war attempt to repatriate the traitors and restore them to a right relation, as citizens, with their country.

A potent, comforting mythology developed--was allowed to develop unchecked--and poured into the ears of the young, a toxic mythology that framed the South as the gallant, brave, victim,  slavery as a misunderstood benign institution that might slowly lift "savages" from Africa into civilization,  and the real issues of the Civil War a matter of cool, rational "states' rights" rather than the hot desire to own and use other humans, and spread that practice of slavery abroad.   A mythology, reinforced in books, in movies, which the young were told justified slavery, segregation, Jim Crow laws, virtual slavery after slavery was illegal,  false accuations, physical attacks on African-Americans, including lynchings.  A mythology that spread easily from fear into hatred, and from fear and hatred of African Americans to fear and hatred of all persons of color.  A myth.  A lie.  A string of lies, one little dram of poison at a time, until the children grew up believing it all, mouthing the same words in the same tones, including the excuses they used to cover their lies.

That flag was first of all a symbol of treason.  "Heroes of the Confederacy" who had been officers in the United States military--such as, for example, Robert E. Lee--educated at West Point,  who had taken commissioning oaths in which they swore to uphold the Constitution of the United States (not public opinion in their home state), broke those oaths and accepted service in the army of an enemy--of the Confederacy.  That's treason.  They were traitors.   They may have been--some of them were--brave me, generally honest men, competent men, men who felt they were moved by genuine necessity...but they chose to betray their country, and the foundational ideals of their country, to support slavery and deny the humanity of those who were enslaved.   They were wrong to break their oaths, and they were wrong to support such a bad cause.

That flag was second of all a symbol of slavery.   The proximate cause of the Civil War was not "states' rights" becuase the only rights the rebel states wanted was the right to own slaves, use slaves however they wished, extend slavery into new territories, and deny African Americans any human rights whatsoever.   Andrew Johnson, the Confederate Vice-President, said as much at the beginning of the war.   The Texas declaration of secession said it.  Others said it.  Slavery was the institution to which they were addicted, and slavery required--in the form then used--assuming the inhumanity of African Americans.  (It is still assumed by white supremacists, who still say things like "You can take the African out of the jungle but you can't take the jungle out of the African," who still argue that "all black people lie/steal/rape/riot" and so on.)

There was a time, at the end of the Civil War, when slaves had been freed, that the former racist traitors might have changed their minds (some of them probably did) and agreed that they had been wrong to secede, and wrong to hold slaves, and that black people were in fact fully human and deserved the same rights as white people.  They might have been grateful that the victors let them keep their guns and their horses because, as Lee said, they would need them to plow the land and shoot snakes and things.  They might have given some thought to what they had cost the nation.  But that's a hard lump to swallow, when you've grown up in the comfortable belief that you're superior simply by birthright of white skin.   The occupation didn't last that long; the Union troops didn't really manage to eliminate reprisals against freed slaves, and it didn't take long at all for the mythology--that melange of lies and wishful thinking--to take form and begin its inexorable work of poisoning Southern minds.  It was much more comfortable to blame someone else, much more comfortable to make a villain out of the opponent, and nurture hazy dreams of the South Rising Again while meanwhile treating the African Americans as badly as they could.

It can be argued that the cause of the long-unlanced abscess was the leniency of the Union, which did not make a thorough job of convincing the defeated white South that yes, they'd asked for it, and they'd gotten it, and they'd get it again if they didn't straighten up.   But what's done is done, and what we have now to do is tell the truth and shame the racist devil, the secessionist devil, by insisting on that truth over and over and over until everyone's heard it and understood it.  No excuses, no coverups.  The issue was slavery, pure and simple.  And slavery, in this country, was racist--was coupled with a conviction that those who were enslaved weren't really human, didn't need or deserve respect or freedom.  And that racism depended on a mix of fear and contempt and hatred for the supposed "lower" race.

This is Southern heritage.  This is what Southern pride is about.  Pride in the Confederacy is pride in slavery and segregation and racism.  Pride in the South as a region is pride in slavery, inequality, and racism.   Pride in that flag is pride in slavery and racism.  That flag has never stood for freedom for all.  That flag has never stood for justice for all.  That flag has never stood for civil rights for all.  It has been displayed in defiance--a traitor flag displayed in defiance of the nation which has continued--in spite of all--to grant its states a place in national government, to spend federalmoney to build roads, bridges, dams, power generation, airports in those states, to guard the coasts and fisheries and shipping of those states, and much more.

When some person insists that "It's not hatred, it's heritage" (a man in north Texas)...he's factually wrong.  Because the heritage IS hatred.  When a man in South Carolina said he was brought up to revere the Confederate flag, that it stood for the South...he was factually wrong.  It stood for the bad South, the south of traitors, secession, slavery, lynching, injustice.   I'm sorry his parents and grandparents taught him lies, but that doesn't make them any less lies.  When a guy in Iowa flew Confederate flags from his truck that was pulling the Marion County Republican Party's float in the 4th of July parade, and then tries to argue that he wanted to honor all the Confederate veterans--that not showing that flat was "an insult to all veterans"...he is factually wrong.   Confederates soldiers were not US soldiers,  were not US veterans.   They were enemies, whose bravery and skill can certainly be recognized, and whose deaths can be mourned...but they were not US veterans.   I'm a veteran; it's an insult to me, and to all United States veterans, to pretend that the Confederates were not traitors. 

Here's a litmus test.  Here in Texas, a student proposed changing the name of a holiday dedicated to the memory of Confederate soldiers who died in the Civil War...to the memory of Civil War dead.  Someone who is not a racist, a secessionist or addicted to the mythology of the gallant South will have no objection to the same holiday commemorating the deaths of both sides.   But someone who insists that the Confederate dead need their own separate day--is caught up in the mythology, intentionally or unintentionally.

What kind of person flies a Confederate flag?  A racist.  Someone who hangs an effigy of the President from a tree in his front yard because the President is African-American.   Someone who makes vile racist jokes about the President's wife because she is African-American.   The KKK displays a Confederate flag.  White supremacists display that flag.  Secessionists display that flag.    Quite a few Tea Partyers fly that flag.   Traitors.  Racists.  Bullies.  Thugs.  Terrorists.  Still burning black churches.  Still putting burning crosses here and there.  Still dressing up in bedsheets and pillow-cases to terrorize anyone who disagrees with them.  Still lying about black people (and brown people, and white people who don't agree with them.)   The Texas Textbook Committee has once again pushed (and been even more successful) in whitewashing American history to make it conform to the lies of the Southern Mythology--an action clearly approved by those in the state government who appoint members of the Textbook Committee.  The goal is to indoctrinate more children--nationwide, since our buying power is enough to slant the textbooks used in other states--with lies.  To try to put a pretty dress on that stinking sack of pus and hide it from view.

But it won't work.   There is no way to pretty up the heritage or conceal what's under the snowy white sheets.   Racism and injustice and cruelty were there from the beginning, and are there now.   More and more people see and smell the pus, recognize the infection.  People of color always have--they had to; the hatred and fear were aimed at them.   We need to get it out, and clean it up.  One by one, with every person we meet--confront the lies, counter them with the facts.  No shortcuts will work; shortcuts have been tried.   You can't teach kids math by slanting the facts--agreeing that pi = three because it makes calculation easier.  You can't teach kids geography by making all the political divisions square because squares are easier.  And you can't teach the history we don't want to repeat by pretending it was something else that happened.   The only possible healing is dragging out all the mythology and exposing it for the tissue of lies that it is, and then conveying the reality until everyone gets it.

For those still living in the myth: Grow up.  Open your eyes.  Face the facts, accept that 2 + 2 really is 4, that pi is not a whole number and the fraction isn't going to work out nicely...and that your ancestors were wrong (however brave, however charming, however much you loved them) and the myth is just that--a myth, a fantasy, a story made up by people in previous generations to make themselves feel better.   If you still choose to fool yourself, if you still think maybe secession and another Civil War would make the world better and confirm you in your superiority as a white guy...well, I'm not going back on my commissioning oath. 

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Published on July 09, 2015 22:27 • 88 views
My mother liked soft mid-green (either warm or cool-tone), dark green, rose, and burgundy together; the living room carpet was rose, the drapes burgundy (with white sheers that quickly became cream with age between them), walls painted an interesting cream (I got to watch the painter mix the paint),  sectional sofa upholstery in a mid-green with slip-covers in summer (that my mother made herself) out of a slightly lighter green with pattern elements of rose, burgundy, and cream.  I didn't have any burgundy yarn, but as I was looking at a full skein of Bernat Sesame in "Bottle Green" (from my mother's stash, yarn at least 50 years old)  I thought at once of making  a pair of socks in "her" colors.
The "frame" (back and front) of the socks are the old yarn; the rose-purple with flecks of other colors is Plymouth Yarns Galway Nep (discontinued, drat it--it's a good heavy sock yarn and a great striping yarn.  The lighter green and the light beige/cream background are both Cascade 220; both were bought for use in striping colors I already had.   The ecru/cream/pale beige softens the other colors and mutes the whole sock--white would have made the colors more vivid.  The lighter green looks bluer here than it does to me in most lights, but that's emphasized by the warm-tone background neutral (instead of white) and the warm tone of the dark green.  These were cast on July 1, 2015, and came off the needles this morning, July 9, 2015.  I think that may be the fastest I've ever knit a pair of shorties.

Although my mother would have liked these colors, she would not, I think, ever have made a pair of socks with non-matching stripes.  I like playing with the variable and non-matching stripes on sock feet, even though that means more yarn ends to weave in.  These are just off the needles, the insides still furry with unwoven ends (worn just long enough to take the pictures--they're already off my feet.)

If I'd had a good burgundy yarn available for a few stripes, that would have livened the sock feet...but I like them as they are.

This is the 12th pair of short summer socks I've knit overall  (7 by the end of last year, 5 so far this year with a goal of 7 to give me a two-week rotation.)    Now to finish these by weaving in ends.  And cast on another pair.  After I do the stuff that was pushed back to let me finish these.
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Published on July 09, 2015 07:34 • 25 views

July 6, 2015

It's not wet now--things are drying up rapidly--but the frequent soaking (and sometimes flooding) rains have really made a difference to our summer after five years of stark drought.  The creek is running.   Fish fry are back--tiny almost glass-transparent minnows a half inch to an inch and a half long are swimming happily in the shallows.  Dragonflies I haven't seen for years (the American Rubyspot damselfly, the Great Pondhawk) are back down at the creekside.  Scat reveals that the fox and coyote are eating meat and bones again, not just cactus fruit, berries, and someone's dogfood.  We lost a lot of mature and very young trees, but some of our prairie transplants (root divisions from grasses saved from construction sites)  hung on and are taking advantage of the moisture.

That green clump right in the middle of the picture is big bluestem, Andropogon gerardii, one of the four dominant tallgrasses of the southern tallgrass prairie (switchgrass, Indiangrass, and Eastern gama are the others) and that clump was only about six inches across when planted.  It's started putting up its flowering stalks (not flowering yet; the stalks go up first.)  This is the one I worried most about, and...it survived and now it's spreading.

Robber flies aren't the prettiest of insects, but they're large and they're interesting.  They usually look "bearded", like this one.  Somewhere I have a shot of a robber fly that caught a smallish dragonfly.  I think I have a shot somewhere of a large dragonfly with a robber fly, but I don't remember for certain.

This fellow landed on a tall stalk of grass right beside me...so I took its picture.

Prettier are the odonates, and here's a lovely one:Great_Pondhawk1343
Great Pondhawk Erythemis vesiculosa

Again, this one cooperated by landing within a few feet of me and holding still.  Below are some whirligig beetles.
They may not look impressive, but they form rafts (about half the raft is shown here) on the surface of slowly moving water and whirl around madly within it.  They're very shiny, so the "white dots" I saw at first turned out to be just reflection.  A couple of them on the left have dived to the bottom (only a few inches deep here.)   This is the first photograph I've gotten of the whirligig beetles, so it's a new record for us.

I may add more pictures later as I get them cropped & resized.

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Published on July 06, 2015 20:05 • 30 views

July 2, 2015

Way back in Bible times, Jesus recognized the potential conflict between religious belief and civic duty when--asked if Jews should refuse to pay Roman taxes--he held up a Roman coin and said "Whose face is this?"  Caesar's, said the crowd.  And Jesus said "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's, and unto God what is God."  In other words, pay your taxes, and then treat other people well: feed the hungry, house the homeless, visit the sick and imprisoned, care for each other.  When Roman soldiers or officials came to ask him what they could do to be saved, he didn't tell them to leave the army or their job, but to do their duties faithfully, without cheating, and without using their status to extort money from the people over whom they had power.

In other sermons, Jesus told his listeners not to show off their religion--neither in open acts of charity, nor public prayer, nor (even in private) long extended prayer as if God didn't know what you needed.   He told them not to judge others, not to assume they were perfect and others were not. 

Later Christians have had a problem with the actual words of Jesus, including on the subject of how to reconcile their religious belief with their duties as citizens--their secular duties.   To bring it to the present (skipping over the intervening history for the moment) too many of today's Christians in this country see their duty as mistreating fellow citizens on the grounds that they are the righteous ones who are truly following Jesus.   When it comes to civic duty, they assume imposing their own narrow theological views on everyone (regardless of others' beliefs) is the same as being a good citizen.  And it's not.  And Jesus never said it was.

This country was founded by those who did not agree on religion.   The Puritans and Pilgrims of New England didn't all agree, and they certainly did not agree with the Dutch Protestants in New York (or back in the Netherlands--remember that the Pilgrim Fathers had been to the Netherlands after they first fled England), the Catholics in Maryland, the Scots Calvinists in the Appalachians, the Anglicans in the southern coastal colonies.  Not all were Christians.  Some were Jews.  Not all were deists.  Some were frank atheists.  Not all were members of any defined religion, and of those who were, they were scattered among many different versions of those religions. That--and experience of religious wars and persecutions in Europe--is why this country was founded as a secular nation--a nation that had no established religion (as England and many other European countries had, as other Mediterranean nations had) but founded its organization and legal system on a mixture of English Common Law, elements of Roman law, and the hammered-out compromises of the Constitutional Conventions.    A secular nation in which religious people could live in a society both theologically diverse--each could follow his/her own conscience up to the point of interfering with others following theirs--and legally secular, free from governmental oppression on the basis of religion.

Each individual was free to make rules for herself/himself; each religious group could make rules for its members: but it could not make rules for those not of its membership.   Catholics could not make Presbyterians eat fish on Fridays.   Jews could not make Christians give up pork or shellfish.  Episcopalians couldn't make Baptists use the Book of Common Prayer, and Baptists could not make Episcopalians give up drinking and dancing.  If you wanted to impose a weekly or quarterly or yearly fast, fine...but others need not observe it.  If you wanted to insist on a certain style of clothes, fine...but others need not observe it. The system was not perfect, and the majority in each area often overreached in pushing its agenda on those who didn't agree ("dry" counties, blue laws, etc.), but the law provided a recourse.

And the good citizen's duty, as a citizen of a secular nation, is to accord those of different beliefs the courtesy of allowing them their beliefs.  To uphold the Constitution of the United States, including its secular nature.  To understand "religious freedom" as a responsibility to protect others from religious domination, not freedom to dominate other religions.  In Texas, as in other states and the federal government, appointed and elected officials take an oath to that effect.  The wording may vary slightly from state to state, but the central issue--that of upholding the Constitution and laws of the United States--is the same.  Here's the version used in Texas, taken from the website of the Texas Secretary of State:

It reads like this: “IN THE NAME AND BY THE AUTHORITY OF THE STATE OF TEXAS, I , ______________, do solemnly swear (or affirm), that I will faithfully execute the duties of the office of the State of Texas, and will to the best of my ability preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States and of this State, so help me God.”

What this means to a person who has sworn or affirmed it is this: there is no wiggle room in deciding which of the "duties of the office"  the person chooses to execute.  Either you abide by your promise to execute the duties of that office, whatever it is, or you back out and go home and do something else...or, breaking your oath, you're self-convicted of dishonesty, of breaking your promise to do the job.   Fish or cut bait--or get out of the boat.

An official who finds out after she or he is in office that some duty is against her or his convictions (religious or otherwise) has but one honorable choice: resign.   Resignation is honorable.  Maltreating citizens, refusing to execute the duties of the office as they serve citizens, because you don't like something about them is not honorable.  This applies to all citizens, not just those in office, but those in office have sworn an oath and are therefore formally and publicly called to account if they do not execute their duties faithfully and equally in the service of all citizens.   It does not matter what your objection is: whether it is race, religion, sex, gender identity, whatever:  failing to execute the duties with equal diligence toward all citizens is a breach of the oath of office.

And this is what makes the action of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton in telling county clerks they could disobey the Supreme Court's decision that gay marriage was now legal nationwide, if they had a religious objection to gay marriage, so wrong.  This is what made the action of various county clerks who refused to provide marriage licenses to gay couples on the basis of their own religious beliefs so wrong.   It is not legally wrong for someone to hold the opinion that gay marriage is a sin.  What is legally wrong is for a government official--who has sworn an oath to "preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States"--to disobey those laws by refusing to execute the duties of the office and thereby deprive citizens of their legal rights.   What is legally wrong is any government official placing his/her own personal opinions (on anything, not just gay marriage) above the law of the land to the detriment of citizens. 

Such persons should not be appointed or elected to office.  They should recuse themselves before taking office, or resign if in office, and if they do not--they should be removed, summarily, on the first evidence that they will break any law they don't want to obey.  There is no functional difference between the criminal act of law-breaking while in office and one that is claimed to be religiously motivated: both harm the citizens whom the official is supposed to be serving. 

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Published on July 02, 2015 22:41 • 109 views

June 30, 2015

And naturally, with a convention and travel coming up, I needed something to knit.  I hoped to get these mostly done by the time I was on the train back,  but someone said "You'll never finish those by then," so...I did.

4th-of-July3 and another view    4th-of-July1

Four different yarns, ranging in age from "just bought" to 40 years.   Blue: Bernat "Sesame" from my mother's stash.  Red: Ella rae Classic, maybe a year since I bought it, leftover from making solid red regular socks.  White: Cascade 220, purchased online, arrived the day before I left.   Cream-white: Cascade 220, purchased earlier this year or maybe late last year from yarn store: it's the ribbed stripe near the top.

Ignoring the narrow white "filler" stripes top and bottom, there are 13 red and white stripes (7 red, 6 white between them) of equal width, as on the flag.  I have lots of leftover red yarn (and balls of red yarn waiting to become pairs of red socks) and bought the white because I didn't have enough cream-white.

Naturally this pair is named "Fourth of July"  and is the fourth pair of shorty socks I've knitted this year.  I put them on only for the pictures; they won't have their first day of wear until July 4th.  Since I have more red extra yarn than any other color, I'm also going to make a pair with red framing (where the blue is on these) and blue stripes.  I don't have enough of this blue to do two socks, but I have other blue yarn.
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Published on June 30, 2015 15:54 • 58 views

June 23, 2015

Fifty years ago, more or less, my mother was knitting me sweaters with a lovely yarn, Bernat "Sesame".  100% wool, permanently mothproofed, colorfast, it came in 2 oz sacks called "Pull Pouches", with a little plastic cllosure at the top that the yarn could feed through. The wool stayed safe and untangled in the plastic bag, and it was very convenient packaging.   When I dug past the acrylic stuff at the top of a box of my mother's yarn stash, there were some of the bags of "Sesame" in various colors, the perfect opportunity for striping socks.   The wool was as soft and "bouncy" as I remembered, a lovely feel in my hands, and I tried it first in very narrow stripes (1-2 rows...and then in the "frame"  of a shorty sock.  This is what the packaging looked like:
The plastic has discolored a little with age, but the yarn colors I've used have been just as pretty as I remembered.   The dark blue here is a deep navy and will be the "frame" of a red/white/blue "July 4th bunting" shorty pair. The dark green, on the right, called "Bottle Green" will form the "frame" of another shorty pair, blending a medium soft green, dark lavender rose, butter yellow, and cream.

What I mean by frame is the top of the shorty socks (the ribbing stripe is a contrasting color)  and heel flap...and the toe.  The sock foot may or may not use that color, but the heel and toe always match.  Since the stripes are often non-matching between R and L sock, having the top, heel, and toe match "frames" the sock pair.

There's a lot of other interesting old yarn I should photograph and show as well.
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Published on June 23, 2015 21:09 • 53 views

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