Blog returns March 1, 2018

Life has gotten a little hectic lately. I’m being pulled in a lot of different directions by a lot of little projects and plans and things I’m telling myself I’m “supposed” to do. I’m getting stressed out, and at the same time, I’m getting less done in the areas that really matter.

I decided yesterday that there are four main things I care about: my family, my friends, my editing, and my writing. I need to focus on those, and even within those categories, I need to simplify as much as possible. I need to put on hold (or cut out entirely) the stuff that’s making me feel like I never have time, like I’m always behind. I need to spend time with Betsy and Evan, and I need to get back to work on Crane Girl.

Of course I still care about things like how the US is doing and how the world is doing — news about humanitarian crises like what’s happening to the Rohingya in Burma and Bangladesh, and all the ways our own president is corroding our democratic institutions. And I’m still going to stay informed. But I donate to Doctors Without Borders and the ACLU already. Instead of worrying and dissipating my energies on a hundred different things, which helps nobody, I need to focus on doing what I do best, and let them focus on doing what they do best. At least for now.

The upshot is that I need to take a break from the blog for a while. Writing these posts is fun, but it also gets to feeling like an obligation sometimes. When the sense of obligation outweighs the fun, it’s time for a change. In about four months, I’ll be back to give this thing another try.

See you in 2018, hypothetical reader! If you’re American, don’t forget to vote on November 7! Happy Halloween, happy Thanksgiving, merry Christmas, and happy New Year!


And do thou likewise

Luke 10:36-37 (KJV), conclusion of the Good Samaritan parable:

[Jesus said] “Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?”

And he [the lawyer] said, “He that shewed mercy on him.” Then said Jesus unto him, “Go, and do thou likewise.”

Commentary by John Wesley, writing in the 18th century:

Let us go and do likewise, regarding every man as our neighbour who needs our assistance. Let us renounce that bigotry and party zeal which would contract our hearts into an insensibility for all the human race, but a small number whose sentiments and practices are so much our own, that our love to them is but self love reflected.

This has been on my mind today.

Let’s talk about sauce

Sauce comes from the Latin salsa, which means salted food, deriving ultimately from the root sal, for salt.

The Spanish word salsa, nabbed directly from the Latin, simply means sauce in a generic way. But the Spanish salsa has entered English as a word separate from sauce, referring to the chunky condiment we dip nachos in.

Salsa as a style of dance apparently picked up its name in the 1970s. The connection seems to be that it’s a mix of many pieces of different styles, and/or that it’s spicy and hot — either way, it derives from the earlier, food-related meaning.

You don’t often hear people described as saucy anymore — at least, not in American English — but you see it in older books sometimes. Someone who’s saucy is impudent, bold, irreverent. The person, like a sauce, has a strong and striking “flavor.” This branch off the sauce tree emerged around 1520; before that, saucy just meant, well, related to sauce.

Saucy sounds a lot like sassy, and sassy means … let’s see … impudent, bold, irreverent. About the same meaning, about the same sound. Could it be … ? Yep. Sure enough, sassy is nothing more than an American variant of saucy, formed sometime around the 1830s.

So whether you’re dancing the salsa, or giving somebody sass, it’s really all about the sauce.

After all, sauce is also internet slang for source. Appropriate, no?

Most of this information comes from the always helpful and endlessly fascinating

In case you ever wondered what a McDonald’s in St. Petersburg looks like

Just browsing Google Street View — here’s a link to the spot above.

Have a good weekend!

Whatever happened to Andrei Amalrik?

A few days ago I found a Time issue from 1973:

Flipping through, I came across this:

First of all, that opening sentence …

After three years in Siberian prison camps, writer Andrei Amalrik, 35, was looking forward to going home.

… would be hilarious if it weren’t so sad. As if he’s thinking, y’know, these Siberian prison camps, they’re okay, but truth be told, I’d kinda rather be sleeping in my own bed, if you don’t think I’m rude to say so.

It’s strange, though, reading news from the past. These past people, they somehow don’t know what’s coming next. These 1973 people, they have no idea what 1974 holds. Don’t they have history books? Don’t they realize it’s all been decided already, and 2017 is the real frontier?

Back to Andrei Amalrik. As the article says, he had spent three years in prison camps, and just when he thought he was done, Soviet authorities sentenced him to three years more. He was weak from meningitis and general bad health (Siberian prison camps will do that to you), and on top of that, he had begun a hunger strike. Nobody knew if he would survive.

I had never heard of him, but I had to know how his story turned out. I didn’t have much hope for him, given his dire situation, but I looked him up.

According to his Wikipedia page, his second prison sentence was commuted to one year, due to “his poor health … and protests from the West,” although even after release, he remained exiled in the same remote region of the country. In 1975, he was finally able to return to Moscow. Then, given an ultimatum by the KGB — leave the country, or face another prison term — he and his family moved to the Netherlands in 1976. They later moved to the US, and then to France.

A (mostly) happy ending, after all. Except …

In 1980, on his way from France to Madrid, he was killed in a car crash at age 42. His wife, who was also in the car, was not seriously hurt.

Can you imagine — surviving four years in Siberian prison, only to die in an auto accident?

Who, in 1973, would have predicted that?

Babies got opinions

A little slice of Evan’s world:

  • Touchin’ trees and bushes — LOVE IT
  • Lookin’ at smoke detectors on the ceiling — LOVE IT
  • Gettin’ hugged — Ain’t nobody got time for that
  • Readin’ books — Pretty nice
  • Turnin’ pages in books — LOVE IT
  • A gap of five or more seconds between seeing a bottle and drinking from bottle — HATE IT
  • Splashin’ in the bathtub — LOVE IT
  • Gettin’ hair combed after bath — Bearable, but be swift
  • Bein’ left alone — Ditto
  • Watchin’ Daddy mow the grass — LOVE IT
  • Holdin’ a hammer — NICE
  • Someone takin’ away a toy — Surprisingly okay
  • Not bein’ allowed to touch stuff — Surprisingly okay
  • Getting’ crud wiped from my ears and nostrils — I do not understand why this happens and you people are walking a fine line
  • Mommy and Daddy sayin’ “Good job!” — LOVE IT
  • Teething — HATE IT
  • Naptime — I have at last negotiated an armistice with this perennial foe
  • Eatin’ puffs — LOVE IT
  • Gettin’ rained on — It’s an adventure!
  • Lookin’ at stuff in Kroger — LOVE IT
  • Gettin’ diaper changed — I’ll allow it
  • Suddenly gettin’ upset for no discernible reason — HATE IT
  • Seein’ a sign with a grammatical error — Will tolerate for now
  • Mommy or Daddy pickin’ me up after a nap — LOVE IT

Can’t even *pretend* to be surprised anymore