Lord have mercy on Grandpa Odin

by Andrea Elizabeth

Earlier this year, sometime after the deep freeze, we cleared the front part of our woods perimeter in about 6 feet. The brush has always been too thick to penetrate, so we never noticed that there is a very old oak tree back there probably twice as big around as our other biggest oak trees.

We found it before its leaves came in. Post oak trees leaf out later than many other kinds of trees. It has a very interesting gnarly trunk, and its branches go out wider than our other trees which tend to either point up or slant down. These go straight out and then up very nicely.

But to our dismay, the leaves came in yellow, and did not green up. I’ve noticed a few other oak trees around here that are yellowish as well. Maybe the freeze stressed them. I’ve since read that many trees are still suffering from the 2011 drought which sapped (I always notice puns after I say them) their stored energy in their roots.

So we called our local arborist, and he came out Saturday and was concerned that it looks more like a ginkgo tree than an oak right now. He said to clear out the encroaching elms around its base, and that he would inject some special fertilizer a couple of feet below the dirt level, and aerate the soil, which he came out to do yesterday on Mother’s Day. I think its a little greener maybe today.

EGO chain saws are lighter, and have a battery that’s easier to change so that a girl can use them. We also have a pole trimmer and edger now, which all use the same battery. When our weed eater battery dies, we plan to get an EGO one of those too. The latter three all use the same handle too. I spent the morning clearing out about 3/4 of the necessary trees. Here’s some pics. Hopefully the eventual after ones wont be of a dead tree.

It’s behind the volunteer cedar elm trees. The big one on the right is their momma.
Meet Grandpa Odin, who was probably around during the Civil War. Wish a person was there for scale. It’s probably six feet under the branches and two adults side by side in diameter.
3/4 cleared

Ambivalence about deep convictions

by Andrea Elizabeth

The problem with most people is that they take their deep convictions too seriously. It is important to have deep convictions, however. I am convinced, similar word, that to not (not to) have convictions is the worst sin, but what do I know? I am not the first to come up with this. I am ashamed to align myself with President George Bush’s compassionate conservatism. We believe, but… Mercy and truth have kissed each other? People without convictions ask, “What is truth?” and “It depends on your definition of ‘is’ is”

I just listened to a podcast dialogue between Jordan Peterson and the author of Braveheart. While listening I was trying to figure out my quibble with the movie. Freedom, self-sacrifice, cunning and courage in battle are all good things to feel deep conviction about, and not that they aren’t worth martyrdom, but Wallace’s/Gibson’s reasons seemed more about a defense of himself, rather than his convictions. It’s the whole justice vs revenge argument.

Angels are not supernatural

by Andrea Elizabeth

“Angels and archangels, although spirit, are not supernatural. God alone is supernatural, for he alone is uncreated. Like us, the holy angels are created, natural beings, as much a part of our world as we ourselves. “Yes, in him all created things took their being, heavenly and earthly, visible and invisible…” (Col. 1:16).”

– Mother Alexandra, The Holy Angels


by Andrea Elizabeth

George and I like most of Netflix’s foreign produced series. It is interesting to see native actors, customs, values, philosophy, legal system and scenery. There’s one set in Iceland (The Valhalla Murders), France (Black Spot), Germany (Dark), and most recently Poland (Signs) and Sweden. Beware of nudity however. Supposedly you can censor your content with Vidangel, but I haven’t checked it out yet as it requires casting I think, and that can be dicey with our reception.

Quicksand is set in Sweden, and is a well-done character analysis of a high school shooting.

Ted Bundy, The Incredible Hulk and St. Paul

by Andrea Elizabeth

The reason Ted Bundy, the Incredible Hulk and St. Paul are sympathetic characters is because they have split personalities. In Romans St. Paul is constantly talking about the spiritual man and the fleshly man, the man under grace and the man under the law. Ted Bundy was an unusual serial killer in that he did seem to have and empathetic “side”. This was the personality that did not abuse his girlfriend’s daughter and who wanted a normal life. He could not admit that he was the one who committed the murders, but referred to himself in the third person when talking about it. Of course the Incredible Hulk in the Marvel movies referred to the Hulk as the other guy.

In order to keep from dualism, I wonder if we can legitimize the other guy a bit. This person lives under the natural law of pleasure and pain. We turn into masochistic legalists if we say all pleasure is bad. Perhaps we need to understand the balance between sacrifice and reward, giving and receiving. Most people just need to put themselves on a schedule and count the cost of certain pleasures, like so many hours of exercise for a bite size Snickers, etc. But certain things are forbidden and not rewards, and it is sad if one has an appetite for such things. I suppose they need to think of other lesser things that give them pleasure and content themselves with the proper dose of them. For most things there is a time and place and season. Happy Lent. Forgive me.

Siskin update

by Andrea Elizabeth

Two Saturdays ago I was dismayed to see pine siskins perched on the trees closer to the front of the house looking west from where I heard their departed friends’ morning song in the distance. For a few hours they took off in groups of 15 or so in that direction. Fatone (Fat One, pronounced Fu toe’ knee, borrowed from the Back Street? Boy) ended up staying behind with about 10 other ground feeders. I assume she is heavy laden with eggs. It seems they do not like to leave anyone behind, so for this past week stragglers up to about 25 came back and ate a bit. I had cut back on their food because at least 25 huge white wing doves and five or so squirrels were bullying them away from the seven or so spots I was dropping it, and I didn’t want to encourage them. Siskins, especially fat ones, like to eat on the ground, so I kept feeding them by the deck under the computer-room window.

Later last week I started hearing them gathering and singing their morning to noonish song in the north, but still within ear shot. The remaining ones were still kind of timid, but a second not as fat one, Fattwoie (Fat two, pronounce Fu too’ ie) joined Fatone. The doves also dwindled to the original two or three that usually get the crumbs falling from the elevated feeder. Concerned that the doves were also snacking on the Siskins, I looked up dove bullies and found they are quite aggressive at feeders, but stick to seeds. The general advice is to provide enough food for everybody so that they are nicer to each other.

So since I had bought a 50 pound bag of small black sunflower seeds, which everybody loves especially my 5 or so new male cardinals and probably as many shyer females, they may be siblings and parents as they are usually quite territorial, early Tuesday morning I decided to be more liberal again with my castings. I put up a second feeder over the deckside area, from a high branch with Bird Trail Mix, that includes dried meal worms, black sunflower seeds mixed in and also spread below, black sunflower seeds in the original pole feeder as bigger things clog it up, on the ground at the edge of the woods where the dogs can’t reach, and back beside some of the trunks I seeded when it was snowy. Finches and pine siskins also love small black, smaller than rice thistle seeds, and the bigger birds and squirrels don’t. But they mix too easily with dirt, and their shells clog feeders, so I put them on the compost bin lid, and on some of the stepping rocks that have convenient divots for them to enjoy, competing only with each other. This overwhelming abundance has hearkened everyone back. Or a lot of them anyway. Every now and then I let my bigger dog, Mercy, shoo the bigger animals away, plus they aren’t as comfortable close to the house as the finch type birds.

Just today in addition to our usual chickadees and titmouses, I have seen a male (more yellow) and female goldfinch, a male (red) and female house finch, a male and female very small downy woodpecker, who like the cylindrical feeder above the deck steps, and the at least three times larger female redheaded woodpecker who contorts herself to grab onto the pole feeder. I’ve also seen the more dramatically redheaded male in the last few weeks. It’s all quite the show, especially since the siskins are so numerous and gregarious and so close to the window, even with cats transfixed on the sill.

The sad news is that in total I found 32 dead pine siskins and one dead cardinal, but none in several days. I had buried 29 siskins in a mass grave somewhere around our original Corgi, Pippin, two Sundays ago, before I found the 4 other birds in the next couple of days. They are still in my freezer.

Memory Man

by Andrea Elizabeth

Memory Man is a crime novel by David Baldacci, who is a refreshing author after Stephen King as his language is much cleaner but not too schmaltzy. I think he is Catholic. Wish You Well, an atypical Baldacci apparently, was my first introduction to him and found he could imitate some of Mark Twain’s style in a pretty natural way, except that I’ve never heard people with an Appalachian accent drop articles.

Back to Memory Man. I wish however that people would label abusive behavior as bullying across the board instead of when the victim can be classified as a sexual sinner or member of a purportedly disenfranchised group. If an abuser hurts a sinner and uses the sin in the taunt and as a justification for the abuse, then it is politically correct to label that person as an ignorant fundamentalist. This automatically labels all fundamentalists/traditionalists who have a problem with justifying sinful lifestyles as abusers and enablers of criminal actors. Abusing a sinner is different than believing the sin a dangerous affront to God, those affected, the rest of humanity, and oneself, even if committed in private or by consenting adults.

The problem is letting loose on someone. It seems that everyone can think that they have appropriate righteous indignation. Each political group has their list of unjustifiable sins. Even in prison pedophiles reportedly get what’s coming to them by fellow inmates.

Letting loose on someone gives a pleasurable pressure-like sensation in my soul, which I locate slightly to the left of and a little above my heart, from another’s perspective. The hero, Amos Decker, in Memory Man eventually lets loose on someone and then seems to have no remorse afterward because the perp deserved it. Baldacci even describes the relentless drive in the hero and his physical sensations. It was revenge. They say justice should be coldly met out, but if we didn’t have that bit of rage inside, would we be as effective? Don’t soldiers have to ramp themselves up in battle? I wonder.

Ambivalent about women in first distinction between the sexes

by Andrea Elizabeth

From The Icon and the Axe, “III The Century of Schism”, 1. “The Spirit Within”, by James H. Billington

“The most passionate and irrational defenders of fundamentalism were women. Indeed, without the initial support of influential noblewomen, no coherent movement of schismatics would probably have emerged from the religious crisis. The attachment of women to the old ways was more deep and purely spiritual than that of the men; for they shared none of the earthly rewards and glory that Muscovy had to offer. Left to the isolation of the upper chamber and relegated to an inferior position in every aspect of Muscovite life, many of them nonetheless developed passages in all of Old Believer literature are found in the letters of Avvakum’s feminine supporters in Moscow, such as the Boyarina Morozova, widowed scion of the wealthy Morozov family. Avvakum was indebted to his own mother for his religious upbringing; and the most moving figure in his Autobiography is, in may ways, his long-suffering wife, who accompanied him on all his arduous missions. The greatest retrospective artistic study of an Old Believer theme is, appropriately, Surikov’s large canvas of the black figure of Morozova on a sledge taking her to martyrdom, with her hand extended upward in a defiant, two-fingered sign of the cross.”

Hmm. Irrational, passionate, isolated, inferior yet coherent, martyristic, most developed literature on the subject, influential in child rearing, moving, and long suffering.

I bristle at sweeping claims of the illogic of women vs men. I need more proof that women didn’t understand the logic of how two fingers differ from three.

Also regarding the Old Believer schism, why are people who want to keep doing the same things that have served them well for 700 years called the schismatics? Why is hierarchy more important than tradition?

I don’t roll my eyes at the Old Believers or the Amish. I deeply respect them. I feel that to live a harder life like that though, one needs extra skill and community resources, which are sadly only in isolated pockets. I am also not enough of a purist to change my manageable, more permissive existence.

The Queen’s Gambit

by Andrea Elizabeth

After binge-watching The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix, I am wondering how possible it would be for there to be a female world champion. Turns out there are a few that have given the best male players a run for their money. There are several female Grandmasters, but none of them originally from the US that I can see glancing through the flags and clicking on the US names. It looks like they are all Eastern European or further that direction, except for Sweden.

This article (I don’t think the author is a native English speaker) is ambiguous about if women’s brains are suited for it, but it does list cultural reasons as contributing to the best players so far being male. I think a lot of it is cultural. Western women my generation and older have a deep sense of the moral obligation to be deferential and submissive to males. This is not a chess-winning frame of mind. I don’t think western European women have this socio religious mindset as much as the more religiously conservative US, so maybe it could also be the heritage of western romanticism that keeps us in check in our passive ivory towers. I think eastern educated women are more matter of fact about gender and not as ideological. I remember when we went to the country of Georgia, which has produced some top female chess players, that they said they mainly use gender neutral pronouns. One of their founders was King Tamar, a lady.

So why hasn’t the East produced a female world champion? I think there are still a lot of masculine feminine stereotypes even in the East such as you can hear from the above article on gender differences, so I don’t think that female chess or engineering capabilities have been completely maximized yet. If a woman does become World Champion one day, I would also want to explore if the current psychological denigration of white males in particular also made them perform worse.

Doing their morning Pine Siskin we survived song

by Andrea Elizabeth