Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Poem for Wednesday

The Effects of Sunset
By C. Dale Young

Iron Shore, Montego Bay, 1974

At the edge of the yard, the grass thinning
to white sand speckled with the shadows
of late afternoon, the insects-waxy, black

heretics with beetle-like shells-could be found
avoiding the surf, and who but that small boy
could summon such a scream, that lion cub

in the desert, that whimpering Prophet in training?
In Judea, the insects bandaged the rotting wood
(or were they devouring it?), their slick

carapace without even a trace of sand.
One might say these insects swarmed,
but they were not bees, they carried

nothing sweet in their husks.
Exoticism, the late light, O summer—
a foot away, the water was dark, getting darker.


My kids and I had a fairly low-key vacation day, joined for much of the time by younger son's best friend, who was here from lunchtime till dinnertime. They were playing the new Wii and Gameboy games, reading their new books, and building their new Bionicles. I had laundry to fold and put on Gladiator, which never gets old -- at all, I was completely breathless waiting to see what would happen during scenes I've seen many times before! Then Paul came home with a family Chanukah present, a Casio keyboard -- the kids often play with the piano in my parents' basement and the keyboard at my in-laws -- and younger son spent a lot of time playing the songs in the book that came with it as well as the melody line of songs he knows from the violin.

The Dahlgren Chapel in Washington County, built by the widow of the inventor of the Dahlgren gun, open for Frederick Museums by Candlelight.

The altar of the small chapel, which is now rented for weddings and other ceremonies.

Most of the "stained glass" is painted on, not embedded in the frames.

The ruins of the barn at Gathland State Park in winter...

...and the park's most famous feature, the War Correspondents' Arch.

George Townsend, a Civil War correspondent, wrote this biography of Lincoln's assassin, on display in the museum housed in Townsend's house.

I posted photos from the Brunswick Railroad Museum; now here is a photo of the railroad, which was the center of Brunswick's economy for more than a century.

The pretty town sits on a hillside above the Potomac River.

Our evening TV was erratic and oft-interrupted, but in between impromptu musical performances, dinner, phone calls, and various computer issues, we watched: 1) the Maryland Terrapins win the Humanitarian Bowl against Nevada's Wolf Pack at Boise State's stadium with the blue grass, which was particularly fun for us because we visited it this summer en route to the Boise Zoo; 2) the Doctor Who Christmas Confidential, which in some ways I enjoyed more than "The Next Doctor" itself, particularly the clips of the Davids singing and dancing together on Blackpool which I really, really must watch; 3) the Kennedy Center Honors broadcast on CBS from the time the Who was on through the Streisand tribute, which I enjoyed enormously though I was thinking that they really needed someone like John Barrowman -- they had Idina Menzel representing Barbra's importance to Jewish women, they had several performers (including the terrific Beyonce) representing her popularity among African-American singers, how could they not have an openly gay singer or a drag queen singing "The Way He Makes Me Feel"? And finally 4) The Holiday Bowl, which hopefully Oregon will win in a few minutes!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Poem for Tuesday

By Richard Wilbur

O Egypt, Egypt—so the great lament
Of thrice-great Hermes went—
Nothing of thy religion shall remain
Save fables, which thy children shall disdain.

His grieving eye foresaw
The world’s bright fabric overthrown
Which married star to stone
And charged all things with awe.

And what, in that dismantled world, could be
More fabulous than he?
Had he existed? Was he but a name
Tacked on to forgeries which pressed the claim
Of every ancient quack—
That one could from a smoky cell
By talisman or spell
Coerce the Zodiac?

Still, still we summon him at midnight hour
To Milton’s pensive tower,
And hear him tell again how, then and now,
Creation is a house of mirrors, how
Each herb that sips the dew
Dazzles the eye with many small
Reflections of the All—
Which, after all, is true.


From this week's New Yorker. The contrast between this and Hermes in the Futurama movie discussed below is really rather hilarious.

My kids are off this week, so I am not getting a great deal accomplished besides a load of laundry here and there. We went to Bagel City for lunch -- we had bagels in the house, but no lox spread, which had to be remedied -- then went to Barnes & Noble and Best Buy because everyone had gift cards and a wish list for them. Adam wanted the new Warriors manga book, Daniel wanted the Futurama movie Bender's Big Score, I wanted a desk calendar that could be hung on a wall -- those new deluxe Page-a-Day calendars can't, which makes them useless to me, and I'm still irritated that there's no Audubon Page-a-Day calendar this year. I am making do with the Irish countryside. *g*

When Paul got home, he suggested going to see the winter light show at Seneca Creek State Park on the theory that it was less likely to be crowded Monday and Tuesday than Wednesday and Friday. We ate dinner first, since it had only just gotten dark, then drove to Gaithersburg and got to see all the new displays (more penguins, reindeer, Santa) on a very clear dark night, unlike last year's overcast evening without the sharp reflections in the lake -- we had a lovely view of Venus over the light-swans in the water.

We watched Bender's Big Score late in the afternoon, which has some fabulous cameos (Al Gore, Sarah Silverman) and an amusing storyline about internet scams, but Bender's Game, which we watched after we got back from Seneca Creek, is an instant classic that I wanted to watch again the second it was over. It's a parody of pretty much all the sci-fi/fantasy that the series didn't get around to skewering while it was on the air, mostly centered on The Lord of the Rings and The Matrix, but with plenty of Disney and Star Trek and Star Wars thrown in, plus dozens of other franchises.

Spoilers: The line that made me laugh the most was George Takei's to Scott Bakula during a gratuitous redneck spaceship race, in which their ships look like the Excelsior and the NX-01 respectively: "Way to kill the franchise, Bakula!" And, later, a fake narrator intoning, "In the end it was not guns or bombs that vanquished the aliens, but the humblest of God's creatures...Tyrannosaurus Rex." Farnsworth explains the fantasy universe in which the characters gets trapped as, "Instead of science, we believe in crazy hocus pocs. It's like Kansas." Plus he tells the three idiot sons of the villainess, "Knowing you three are of the same genus makes me ashamed to call myself 'homo.'" Plus Nurse Ratchet makes a return appearance, and there's an ent, and Morks, and in the Dungeons and Dragons-type AU in which the characters get trapped for much of the episode, Hermes becomes the centaur Hermaphrodite, Amy is Queen of the Water Nymphos, and "Frydo" is Gollum with a dodecahedral die he calls the dodecalicious. Oh, and there's gratuitous hot girl-on girl-action!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Poem for Monday

Applesauce for Eve
By Marge Piercy

Those old daddies cursed you and us in you,
damned for your curiosity: for your sin
was wanting knowledge. To try, to taste,
to take into the body, into the brain
and turn each thing, each sign, each factoid
round and round as new facets glint and white
fractures into colors and the image breaks
into crystal fragments that pierce the nerves
while the brain casts the chips into patterns.

Each experiment sticks a finger deep in the pie,
dares existence, blows a horn in the ear
of belief, lets the nasty and difficult brats
of real questions into the still air
of the desiccated parlor of stasis.
What we all know to be true, constant,
melts like frost landscapes on a window
in a jet of steam. How many last words
in how many dead languages would translate into,
But what happens if I, and Whoops!

We see Adam wagging his tail, good dog, good
dog, while you and the snake shimmy up the tree,
lab partners in a dance of will and hunger,
that thirst not of the flesh but of the brain.
Men always think women are wanting sex,
cock, snake, when it is the world she's after.
Then birth trauma for the first conceived kid
of the ego, I think therefore I am, I
kick the tree, who am I, why am I,
going, going to die, die, die.

You are indeed the mother of invention,
the first scientist. Your name means
life: finite, dynamic, swimming against
the current of time, tasting, testing,
eating knowledge like any other nutrient.
We are all the children of your bright hunger.
We are all products of that first experiment,
for if death was the worm in that apple,
the seeds were freedom and the flowering of choice.


It was a ridiculously warm December Sunday -- nearly 70 degrees -- and our original plan was to drive down to the Botanic Gardens, but apparently a great many other people had that idea because traffic and parking were extremely congested. So we headed across to Pennsylvania Avenue, then up to National Geographic's Explorers Hall to the wonderful Whales - Tohora exhibit, which examines whales from their evolution from land mammals. The first part of the gallery has dozens of skeletons of whales and their ancestors, mostly bones found in the South Pacific; then comes a section on how whales use sonar and the different kinds of hunting and digesting of the different kinds of whales; and finally there's a section on whales' interactions with people, with items made from whale bones and ambergris, a history of whaling, and a display on how human changes in the environment are affecting whales. There's great stuff for kids -- a life-size model of a blue whale heart that you can crawl through, a short film showing how sperm whales hunt giant squid, and lots of interactive exhibits to "design" an ideal whale and learn how Maori culture appreciated whales.

No photos were allowed inside the Whales exhibit, which is on loan from a museum in New Zealand.

These photos are from the entrance, which introduced the importance of the animals to Maori islanders and the global ecosystem.

Animal sculptures were also on exhibit. Here is a tree frog from the front of the building...

...and, inside, a mountain silverback gorilla.

Some drive-by photos: Here is the Capitol Building with a crowd playing out front near the Christmas tree.

The clock tower on DC's Old Post Office Pavilion, now a mall and eatery.

The side of the J. Edgar Hoover building, celebrating the FBI's 100th birthday.

And the Newseum, also celebrating the anniversary with an exhibit, displaying the First Amendment permanently on its side.

In the evening we went to the annual family Chanukah party at my cousin Stephanie's house, which I always love because I get to see relatives I see too rarely and some of their friends whom I've known since I was a child -- two of my cousin Debbie's friends used to come to the beach with us when I was younger than my kids are now, so I've known them for longer than any of my own friends. I had a blinding migraine by the time we got home from DC and was afraid for a bit that I wouldn't be able to go, or that I would have to leave early if I did, but Imitrex saved me after an hour or so of incoherence and I even felt well enough to eat the salmon, latkes, salads and fabulous desserts.

Then we came home to celebrate the last night of Chanukah, having twice gotten a glimpse up River Road in the direction of the flooding -- the road is still closed near where we live, with the asphalt clearly missing in large areas. We were happy to learn that the Ravens had put themselves into the playoffs and the Eagles had knocked Dallas out, even though the Redskins lost their season-ender. Older son got I Can Has Cheesburger? and the last season set of Futurama, younger son got a penguin game and a manga novel, everyone was happy!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Poem for Sunday

The Feast of Lights
By Emma Lazarus

Kindle the taper like the steadfast star
Ablaze on evening's forehead o'er the earth,
And add each night a lustre till afar
An eightfold splendor shine above thy hearth.
Clash, Israel, the cymbals, touch the lyre,
Blow the brass trumpet and the harsh-tongued horn;
Chant psalms of victory till the heart takes fire,
The Maccabean spirit leap new-born.

Remember how from wintry dawn till night,
Such songs were sung in Zion, when again
On the high altar flamed the sacred light,
And, purified from every Syrian stain,
The foam-white walls with golden shields were hung,
With crowns and silken spoils, and at the shrine,
Stood, midst their conqueror-tribe, five chieftains sprung
From one heroic stock, one seed divine.

Five branches grown from Mattathias' stem,
The Blessed John, the Keen-Eyed Jonathan,
Simon the fair, the Burst-of Spring, the Gem,
Eleazar, Help of-God; o'er all his clan
Judas the Lion-Prince, the Avenging Rod,
Towered in warrior-beauty, uncrowned king,
Armed with the breastplate and the sword of God,
Whose praise is: "He received the perishing."

They who had camped within the mountain-pass,
Couched on the rock, and tented neath the sky,
Who saw from Mizpah's heights the tangled grass
Choke the wide Temple-courts, the altar lie
Disfigured and polluted--who had flung
Their faces on the stones, and mourned aloud
And rent their garments, wailing with one tongue,
Crushed as a wind-swept bed of reeds is bowed,

Even they by one voice fired, one heart of flame,
Though broken reeds, had risen, and were men,
They rushed upon the spoiler and o'ercame,
Each arm for freedom had the strength of ten.
Now is their mourning into dancing turned,
Their sackcloth doffed for garments of delight,
Week-long the festive torches shall be burned,
Music and revelry wed day with night.

Still ours the dance, the feast, the glorious Psalm,
The mystic lights of emblem, and the Word.
Where is our Judas? Where our five-branched palm?
Where are the lion-warriors of the Lord?
Clash, Israel, the cymbals, touch the lyre,
Sound the brass trumpet and the harsh-tongued horn,
Chant hymns of victory till the heart take fire,
The Maccabean spirit leap new-born!


We had a relatively quiet Saturday -- chores, unpacking, taking care of poor neglected cats who only got wet food once while we were away. It was very warm, nearly 60 degrees, ridiculous for December but since we didn't have a white Christmas, this is an acceptable substitute as far as I'm concerned. In the afternoon we went to Great Falls, where the C&O Canal had been drained but the river was very high -- huge waves, no herons, a couple of ducks in the rainwater collected in the canal -- and it was quite crowded in spots.

The Potomac River seen from Olmsted Island at Great Falls National Park, where it separates Maryland and Virginia.

The water was high as well where the water comes across the island...

...particularly at the first bridge from the C&O Canal towpath.

It was a fairly gray afternoon, but unseasonably warm.

The water was surging where we hiked down... the lower falls where the river has washed up many shells...

...and the kids climbed up the boulders above the smoother water.

The ducks seemed to be enjoying the weather, though I wonder if they can find enough food with the canal so low.

Yesterday's The Friday Five: Books!
1. Do you enjoy reading?
Since I was a very young child.
2. What is the first book you remember reading? Ludwig Bemelmans' Madeline, though to be fair, my mother had read it to me so many times that I may have been able to recite it before I could read it.
3. Who is your favourite author? William Shakespeare.
4. What is your favourite book? Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle In Time is probably the one I've reread the most in my life.
5. What is the last book you read and the first you'll read next? As soon as I finish Richard Zimler's Guardian of the Dawn, I'm going to read Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortensen, which my in-laws got me for Chanukah.

Yesterday's Fannish5: Name your 5 favorite families, from any fandom.
1. The Murray-O'Keefes
from Madeleine L'Engle's Time Quartet and subsequent books.
2. The Drews from Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising series.
3. The Next-Parke-Laines from Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series.
4. The Smiths from The Sarah Jane Adventures.
5. The Bennets from Heroes.

Which Torchwood Character Are You?
Your Result: Gwen Cooper

You most resemble the team's second-in-command and ex-police officer. Empathetic and stubborn, you tend to grab the bull by its horns and have difficulty admitting when you're wrong, though you always mean well. You are inconsistent in your relationships, wanting stability but also craving drama, and sometimes end up putting yourself first.

Ianto Jones
Captain Jack Harkness
Toshiko Sato
Owen Harper
Which Torchwood Character Are You?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

My parents came over for dinner -- we had fondue, as has become a Chanukah tradition since it's Adam's favorite meal, though now that he's been to the Melting Pot, he thinks it should include a cheese and a chocolate course as well as the poultry-and-seafood course. We had lots of leftover desserts from being at my in-laws' house. Daniel insisted on showing them the Colbert Christmas special, though I don't think they were as impressed by it as he is. They brought him the latest Futurama special and brought Adam a penguin sleeping bag. I got my father the Mel Brooks DVD box set and my mom a glass-and-brass dreidel and some books. After they went home, we watched The Poseidon Adventure -- hey, it's a holiday season movie!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Poem for Saturday

By Adonis
Translated by Michael Beard and Adnan Haydar

To faces shrunk under a mask of sadness
I bow down. To the paths where I forgot my tears,
for a father who died green, like a cloud,
a sail still unfurled in his face,
I bow down. To a child who has been sold
so he might pray and shine shoes.
(All of us in my country, we pray. All of us shine shoes.)

And to rocks where my hunger engraved a message:
This rock is really rain rolling under my eyelids, it's lightning.
And I bow down to a house whose soil I carried with me
when I was lost. These all are my homeland. Not Damascus.


We got up late and ate leftovers for brunch -- more Swedish meatballs, chicken, latkes, lingonberries, cheese, desserts, etc. Then we went to Gettysburg National Battlefield, to the new visitor center, where we had visited the museum when it first opened but hadn't seen any of the multimedia additions. We went to the movie A New Birth of Freedom, which is about the causes of the Civil War and the events leading up to the Battle of Gettysburg narrated by Morgan Freeman, then upstairs to the Cyclorama -- a massive painting of Pickett's Charge that makes a circle around the large gallery, with miniature cannons and trees in the foreground and a light and sound display to recreate the battle. After that, we took the kids to climb on the rocks at Devil's Den before we drove home for dinner with my parents.

The Gettysburg battlefield memorial for the 14th New York Irish Brigade, many of whom died at the Bloody Angle. I love the Celtic decorations but it's the mournful dog that makes this my favorite of the monuments.

An overlook set up on the hill at Devil's Den.

The tree at the top of the hill.

Little Round Top from the Slaughter Pen.

The Cyclorama portraying dawn at Gettysburg on July 3rd, 1863...

...and late in the afternoon, during the midst of the carnage.

A cornet in a display of battlefield instruments.

The Christmas tree near the entrance to the visitor center.

After dinner (chicken soup, sweet and sour meatballs, chicken sausage, taquitos, mmm), I fought with my computer for a while and finally achieved a watchable copy of Doctor Who's "The Next Doctor." I really need to watch it again, but my first reaction is that while I liked it better than "Voyage of the Damned," I didn't like it as much as "The Runaway Bride" and not nearly as much as "The Christmas Invasion" -- yes, I have a bias toward Rose- and Donna-centered stories, but I also love Harriet Jones kicking arse, and in general I think the Doctor needs to spend more time around awesome women instead of alternately rescuing them, mourning them, or finding excuses to destroy them.

Spoilers: I doubt it will surprise anyone that Mercy Hartigan is one of my favorite women ever on this show or, well, a lot of others -- the evil Edith Keeler who looks like Glenn Close as the Marquise de Merteuil and is just totally hot, and I need to see everything else Dervla Kirwan has ever been in, any recs? I'm sure there is much squeeing over the slashy potential between the Doctor and Jackson, and I did have my moments of being entertained by that, but when the slashy bonding is so much at the expense of dead or absent women, it usually leaves me cold in the end -- "Hey, my wife is dead and your companion is gone, let's console each other, whoo!" If I wrote fic based on this ep, it would be to bring Hartigan back, have her spend thirty seconds lamenting her wicked ways, and send her off in the TARDIS. Possibly with Sarah Jane Smith.

I mean, fine, go ahead and blast me for not singing Rosita's praises for throwing a single punch, but she's hardly even a character -- more a broadly drawn type who takes orders from both Doctors after being saved by one, who proves her worth as a nursemaid by rescuing a bunch of dirty-faced Dickensian poppets, who has no will or agency of her own that we get to see in the midst of the "Doctor on high" worship (I HATED that line). Whereas Mercy is all agency and passion and power -- a woman who can't be absorbed by the Cybermen as Jackie Tyler could, as Lisa could, as untold numbers of throwaway characters were -- how can the Doctor not adore her just for that, and want to save her just to understand how her mind works!

Hartigan's also very nearly more a caricature than a character, almost no backstory, no explanation of what happened to her at the hands of those snooty "charitable" men that made her hate them so much that she began to hate everything they touched, including the children, but I'm very willing to love her in spite of that. If we must be given half-formed women, please let more of them be so fierce and proud and independent. "I am new, the might of your technology combined with my imagination." Yes! Surely if he admired her mind so much he could have found a way to save her -- to use her guilt and horror to destroy the Cybermen without destroying her in the process. After all, Jackson's guilt and horror didn't destroy him in the end; I think we're supposed to think his runaway from reality made him stronger.

Wonderful nonsense, very silly, that's what Jackson said about the TARDIS and that's how I feel about the episode -- screeching fun when Jackson shows off his Tethered Aerial Release Developed In Style, though I was ready to dislike it just because he told Rosita to get back to the TARDIS on the grounds that breaking into a house is hardly work for a woman. I was so very relieved when we learned that THAT was never the Doctor. I guessed right away that he lost a child when the Doctor said that he his amnesia was self-triggered; there had already been talk about children being taken, and we all know from this series that losing the great love of one's life is not itself a good enough reason for a full nervous breakdown.

I really appreciated all the references to previous Doctors, the photo album of previous incarnations, the sonic screwdrivers, the attempts to use the fob watch to find a hidden Time Lord's memories. And I enjoyed the pace of the episode, the manic comic chase at the start, the sleigh ride while being pulled by the cyber-bear or whatever it was across the floor, the glaring, the snobbery of Jackson-Doctor (how come absorbing the Doctor from the infostamp didn't require that his brain be reset at the end so he didn't overheat like Donna? grrr, I'm still angry about that). Did the Doctor ever know how to use an infostamp as a weapon? He says, "Only the Doctor would think of that," yet so far as I can tell from the episode, Jackson came up with it from imagination rather than borrowed memories. And, as the Doctor says, he built a TARDIS, even if it's just (just!) a hot air balloon.

I know this is incoherent -- I jotted down largely incoherent notes like "Sorry but I'm totally rooting for the villainess" during her speech about her will being stronger than the Cybermen, but no exact lines, and I haven't read anyone else's comments because I wanted to get my own down first. Though I also wrote stuff like "She's the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man" and "Iron Giant Cyberman blows up houses." And "Yet again the Doctor is Jesus for Christmas, who needs a Nativity!" I just don't have it in me anymore to sniffle when he gets going on how some of them find someone else and some of them forget him and in the end they break his heart. Been there, done that, this year and last and the year before, with Jack Harkness too, and all I can say is that that's the price for wanting to be messiahs, boys.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Poem for Friday

Courting Forgetfulness
By Robert Bly

It's hard to know what sort of rough music
Could send our forgetfulness back into the ground,
From which the gravediggers pulled it years ago.

The first moment of the day we court forgetfulness.
Even when we are fully awake, a century can
Go by in the space of a single heartbeat.

The life we lose through forgetfulness resembles
The earth that sticks to the sides of plowshares
And the eggs the hen has abandoned in the woods.

A thousand gifts were given to us in the womb.
We lost hundreds during the forgetfulness of birth,
And we lost the old heaven on the first day of school.

Forgetfulness resembles the snow that weighs down
The fir boughs; behind our house you’ll find
A forest going on for hundreds of miles.

Robert, it's to your credit that you remember
So many lines of Rilke, but the purpose of forgetfulness
Is to remember the last time we left this world.


I have had a very nice Christmukkah in Hanover, where my parents joined us at my in-laws' house for a huge dinner with food from both traditions -- potato latkes courtesy my husband, carrot souffle and knish-type hors d'oeuvres courtesy my mother, meatballs, herring, chicken, cheeses, nuts and lingonberries courtesy my in-laws, plus peppermint bark, Russian tea cakes, cinnamon fingers, various Swedish cookies, and undoubtedly several other things that I am forgetting. My parents left with the arrival of one of Hanover's glorious winter sunsets -- the nearby paper factory puts some kind of particles into the atmosphere that turn a spectacular red-gold-orange along the horizon even when there are few clouds, and there was a flock of Canada geese honking across the sky just below where Venus appeared.

A dreidel and a dalahast displayed on the tabletop Christmas tree.

A glass angel from Jorvik Glass at Castle Howard in Yorkshire.

Tomtens from Sweden...

...and a straw goat.

This is a close-up of my holiday present from DementorDelta -- a bag from the Pennsylvania Renfaire with the Tree of Life as the Wheel of the Year.

A glimpse of my father-in-law's not-yet-complete train layout in the garage.

Here is my extended family -- Paul (who can never keep his eyes open in photos), Adam, Cinda, Roy, Clair, Daniel, Linda.

A spectacular sunset faded to dusk.

The kids watched A Christmas Story at least once all the way through, and my father and father-in-law had on the nostalgic baseball clips currently airing on the MLB network, which goes live in January (we won't get it at home because we're not paying for Comcast's sports package but both our fathers will!). Daniel was itching all day to watch the Colbert Christmas special with his grandparents but we didn't get to it till evening. Meanwhile, Adam played my mother-in-law's keyboard, teaching himself songs from Phantom of the Opera, then got her to teach him how to knit! Which he learned (at least the basics) in under an hour, though no one has ever succeeded in teaching me! So I am very impressed.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Poem for Christmas

The Crossing
By Gerald Stern

Not to forget that we had wooden guns once
just as the Germans did when they invaded
the Ruhr in 1936 and likewise
we abandoned wallpaper for paint
and there was an army of 500,000 monkeys
who carried wooden rifles over their heads
when they crossed the Delaware and how
the Hessians applauded and how George Washington
ordered grog for everyone there and since it
was a Christian holiday they built
the largest fire in New Jersey history
and even burned their beautiful boat whose curves
anticipated the helical waves and whose bottom
unfolded, as it were, or shot through water
something like a bottle or just skimmed
the surface like a stone and everyone sitting
stood up, not only Washington, and shouted
just above Trenton almost the shortest night
of the year and we spoke Deutsche and everyone hugged
the person to his right although the left was
not out of the question and we said, "Peace," we
always say it, the way they said it on the Rhine,
the way they said it on the Danube, and now the
Ohio, and now the Mississippi, the Batsto,
the Allegheny, hug your monkey, kiss
the nearest Romanian, kiss the nearest Greek.


Merry Christmas from Hanover, Pennsylvania, where we are visiting Paul's parents. We got a late start because there were ice storms forecast both here and at home, though we only got rain in both places. It was a pretty drive even without snow -- dim, muted colors with fog on the mountains, horses and cows grazing on the farms we passed. We brought in Red Lobster for dinner and lit our menorahs, and the kids got gift cards and money sent from various relatives, plus some chocolate and a big barrel of chips.

Here are some of the holiday displays at Ostertag Farm from Frederick Museums By Candlelight a few weekends ago.

The large central room was decorated with trees and had local carolers performing.

The large model train that encircles the middle level of the building was running.

The staircases, fireplaces and lamps were all decorated for the season.

Upstairs, there were displays like this little town...

...and these peacocks. I'm not sure what they have to do with the season, but they're pretty.

And speaking of birds, here are some of the chickens in the barn at South Mountain Creamery, which we visited the same day.

The creamery wasn't officially part of the holiday museum tour, but we stopped to get fresh eggnog.

The internet here is screwy (I'm on dial-up) so I will keep this short -- my in-laws are at church right now while one son is doing Sudoku and the other is playing the piano, doing some pretty impressive sight reading considering that he's never studied the instrument. My parents are coming up Thursday to have Christmas dinner with us, then going back before it's dark to feed our cats. Hope everyone is having a lovely holiday, whether you celebrate Chanukah, Christmas, Yule, Kwanzaa, Midwinter, some combination, or something else entirely!