October 4th, 2008


Question meme, round four

dichroic asks:

1. If you had the power to make one person widely heard (say, a column in every newspaper or in a place online or on TV where multitudes would find their words and thoughts difficult to ignore) who would you choose?

Carl Sagan. Here is what I mean: I would want to find a modern equivalent, someone who has successfully worked as a scientist but has a genuine gift for explaining not only what's going on but why it's awesome. We have some really good science journalists out there, but we need more.

2. Somewhere or other not long ago, you mentioned the religious denomination you belong to. [She then tries to remember etc. and clarifies that she understands that being a member of a particular denomination does not mean you agree with each and every point someone else in that denomination makes.]

My one-word religious self-description has been "Haugean," but you won't find churches listed in the phone book as "Christian - Haugean" or "Lutheran - Haugean." This is what happens when you have a group full of cranky and antisocial Norwegians with a theologically individualist bent. Hans Nielsen Hauge was a reformer in nineteenth-century Norway when the state church there was getting pretty moribund. Like many reformers, he was startled at the way people took his ideas, which he sort of assumed to be purely spiritual early on, and ran with them. Hauge's ideas led pretty directly to the bønder rebellions (bondereisning/farm peasant uprising) and to the establishment of labor unions in Norway. He spent a lot of time in jail for things that sound simple to us, like advocating that believers could (and indeed should) have Bible study without a pastor to supervise. (Which we all know is equivalent to kissing Thor's hairy red butt.) The state church of Norway at the time was a lot clearer on what the implications of additional religious freedoms might be than Hauge was. Now he's distant enough to be safe, like various figures who upset the Catholic church are distant enough to be safe with that group, and the state church of Norway has noticed that he might have had one or two virtues.

3. What countries would you like to visit, that you haven't already?

Iceland and Hungary are probably my top two. There are all sorts of places I'd enjoy with the right company and in the right circumstances -- we've talked about Ireland for a trip with my grands once I'm steadier, for example, and my parents had such a fabulous time in Australia and, on a separate trip, in Germany, the Netherlands, and Belgium, that I'll bet it wouldn't be hard to convince them to go back and show me why.

I will not be much for Third World travel, I'm afraid. Even once we get the vertigo smoothed out, I've had to think in those terms for long enough that I sort of prefer places with comparatively abundant medical facilities.

4. Is there a book you'd like to write that you're just not yet ready for, in terms of current skills?

That's how you do it. You come up with a book you're not ready for, and then you write it and rewrite it and ask your smart friends to tell you how to rewrite it again, and you ignore half of what they say and take another quarter of what they say in a completely different direction. And eventually you get there, and the next book is something else you're not ready for.

There are books I'm just not ready for in terms of research, but that's a different problem. And one I'm working on, a bit at a time.

5. If the vertigo were to vanish, or mostly vanish, tomorrow (my mouth to God's ears) what would be the first thing you'd want to cook?

Well, you notice I've been easing into doing more cooking as things improve. So the thing is not cooking. It's shopping for food. What I cook when I'm steady again will be what I walk into the produce department and smell and build a meal around. That's how I cook when I'm steady. I smell what's really really fresh and good, and then I think what goes with it. And that's what I miss. We've been ordering groceries online, which is convenient but not the same.

Question meme, round five

sam_t asks the last round of questions for the moment:

1) If you had to pick five books from your bookshelves as examples of the things you like in books, what would they be?

Steven Brust, Dragon
Octavia Butler, Blood Child and Other Stories
Vilhelm Moberg, A History of the Swedish People
Katherine Paterson, Bridge to Terabithia
Dorothy Sayers, Gaudy Night

There are still gaps like crazy, but that's the closest I can get to coverage. Now I am entertaining myself trying to arrive at formulas for my other books based on these: D'Aulaire's Norse Gods and Giants would be about 4/5 Moberg + 1/5 Paterson, for example, and trying to get the proportions just right to get The Dubious Hills from here is kind of amusing. I only got Dragon by getting the other four and then sniffing around what I couldn't get from them.

2) If you had to pick five books to be your only reading material for a significant period of time, what would they be? (I'm assuming this is from my current bookshelves as well.)

The Complete Works of W.H. Auden: Prose
The Sagas of Icelanders
The Complete Works of Shakespeare
Radical Enlightenment: Philosophy and the Making of Modernity, 1650-1750 by Jonathan Israel
Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson

3) This question has intentionally been left blank for you to fill in with any interesting things you might have to say about whether the answers to 1 and 2 are the same, and why/why not.

Heh. Oh, not even close. Because the first is about constructing a holographic representation of sorts, and the second is about what's going to keep me occupied for quite some time. I could read any of the books from question 1 except possibly Gaudy Night between now and going to the symphony tonight, without even reading through dinner with my folks. That would be immensely unsatisfying in a book that was 1/5 of my reading material for a big chunk of time.

I'm more of a rereader than some people, but what I am not is someone who can comfortably reread soon after the initial reading. Even The Nine Tailors, which I love, was not enjoyable to me five months after I'd last read it; I had to wait significantly longer than that. So if I have to pick five volumes to hold me for quite some time, we're looking for the tissue pages, the wrist-wreckers.

(For some reason I now want to write a sort of Sayers-LeCarre-Megan Lindholm thing called The Nine Tinkers. If I ever propose this seriously, I expect some of you to make me lie down until the sensation passes. Or else make helpful suggestions. One or the other.)

4) What distinguishes a Minnesota Autumn from anyone else's?

From anyone else's? Lakes and Ingebretsen's. The smell of the air and the leaves is different with the abundance of lakes and sloughs than when you're in a place with different geography. Also you can go buy a dozen pounds of Swedish meatball meat that's mixed just right so you don't have to fuss with mixing the different ground meats by hand, and that makes fall so much nicer than if you were trying to get the meats to mix evenly with your fingers. We're going to have to do that soon. If I didn't have dinner plans for tonight and tomorrow, I might be pushing markgritter towards the shower so we could get up there yet this afternoon.

But really, the Bay Area's autumn is not the least bit autumnal, to my way of thinking; what distinguishes a Minnesota autumn from that, or from a Miami autumn, is approximately everything.

5) What's the most unusual thing you've ever cooked?

You know, I'm really not sure. When the "one hundred weird foods" meme went around, I was very surprised that spaetzle was the thing from the list that I'd eaten and the most of my friends hadn't. Spaetzle strikes me as incredibly normal. My great-aunts eat spaetzle. My great-aunts also eat pickled pigs' feet, though, so possibly I should have stopped using them as a gauge of normalcy years ago. Despite the fact that I live around other Minnesotans now, I'm going to guess blueberry soup? Maybe? With mango and cardamom. Apple-crab-curry soup might also qualify. Speak up if those sound alarmingly normal to you.