Time to End American Exceptionalism

I’m beginning to think the underlying flaw in the United States is a kind of schismogenesis rooted in American Exceptionalism. Schismogenesis is a term for the way groups – including countries – define themselves against other similar groups or countries. The classic example is Athens and Sparta in ancient Greece.

The United States has always defined itself as different from every other country in the world. So when someone looking at our current political mess mentions, say, Weimer Germany, the response is “we’re different,” followed by a list of differences.

We’re “special,” which is just another way to say “it can’t happen here.”

Sinclair Lewis’s novel of that name got at the heart of the very real fascist dangers of the 1930s. The book’s still relevant, for all that it is rooted in the world of the 1930s.

Because we’re not different or special here in the United States. We’re very much like other countries. Our big advantage has always been wealth but we’re far from the first country to become powerful because we had a stranglehold on a lot of resources.

We put a lot of faith in the rule of law, in our institutions, and in our Constitution. But the Constitution is not the perfect document we’re taught to revere, especially in the legal profession, and our institutions have been severely weakened.

The rule of law seems to be hanging by a thread.

And let’s not forget we had a very nasty civil war and left many issues from it unresolved.

Right now in the United States we have an upcoming presidential election in which a candidate from one of our two major political parties — the only ones that matter — is under multiple indictments for things related to the security of the country and the undermining of our political system and has also been found liable civilly for financial grifting and sexual assault.

This person — this grifter now selling bibles as well as sneakers — has declared he intends to be a dictator, and his enablers are plotting an authoritarian government that, among many other things, intends to put women and Black people “in their place.” (Not just women and Black people, but given the history of the country, that’s at the core of the right wing extremist planning.)

The odds that this grifter is beholden to oligarchs from other parts of the world are also pretty high.

But the assumption underlying this election is that the American people have the “right” to choose a president who intends to destroy our country. Continue reading “Time to End American Exceptionalism”

Raised in a Barn: A Floor to Stand On

Things in the colorful home of my childhood happened in stages–either very rapid or very slow stages. For example, it was not until eight or nine years after we moved into the Barn full time that my parents insulated the interior walls in the living room and hallway–up to that point there was only the exterior walls of the structure between us and the elements–and when the wind swept down the mountain on its way to the valley below, it got frigid. For the first six or seven years that my brother and I slept in “rooms” in one of the former haylofts, they were rooms by courtesy–roughed out 2 x 4 studding to which plasterboard panels would someday be nailed, but no actual walls that stopped anyone or anything from coming in (like, say, cold winds, younger brothers, or bats). On the other hand, when my father decided we needed a trapeze, the thing went up in a matter of days. Priorities, you see.

One of the things which was a lower priority was a finished floor. The floor in the loft was made of plywood sheets. Someday there would be finished floor. But it was not a priority–there were other things that were more interesting to work on (it has only taken me to right now to realize that my father was driven to work on the things that were absolutely necessary or absolutely interesting. Mere flooring in an area he didn’t frequent much was neither of those things).

Sometime when I was in college–Christmas break of my junior year, I think, I decided I needed a finished floor. I told my father so. The family finances were not, at the time, amenable to hiring someone to put in a floor. But we calculated the amount of oak flooring we’d need for my room and the hallway outside, purchased it, and accompanying hardware and tools, and loaded it into the back of the station wagon. When we got home we took out maybe a dozen oak boards and brought them upstairs, and Dad showed me how to install the flooring myself. I think that he got the first row or so settled. Then it was my project. So over the next week I put down the boards–they were tongue-in-groove boards, and were installed using a tool which would set nails at a 45° angle. I could generally get between 1-2 feet width-wise in a day (before the unaccustomed work and my own butterfly tendencies chased me away). For a 10 x 12′ room that made it a 5-6 day job.

A side note: it was December/early January. Rather than moving all the flooring in to the house, I kept it in the back of our station wagon and just went out and got what I needed. One evening I went to visit a friend for dinner. On the way home I got a flat tire. Bless my friend who, when called (I had to hike to the nearest house on the sparsely populated state road, in those pre-cellphone days) got into his warmest work clothes and came to help me change the tire. Of course the spare was in the back of the station wagon which was still half-full of oak flooring. Before Alan got there I had already started removing the boards, trying to put them somewhere where they wouldn’t absorb too much snow–oh, yes, there were snowdrifts, did I mention it? I don’t think we had to completely empty the station wagon before we could access the tire. Eventually, and before I succumbed to frostbite, the tire got changed and I headed for home.

By the time I headed off to college I had a floor of light-oak, unfinished, in my bedroom. But I wanted dark wood. My father had this idea of soaking the wood in automotive oil to change the color, but in the end I settled for a dark stain, which I applied when I came home for the next break. At last: a civilized floor!

Over the next year I finished installing the oak boards in the hallway, starting from the landing and working toward my brother’s room. I don’t recall if we ever hauled a floor sander upstairs–those things are brutally heavy, and there was only a very steep ladder upstairs. But the floor was eventually sealed and done. In later years I twice refinished the existing hardwood floors in the apartments I lived in. So I can add all these experiences (I would not call them skills, just a willingness at the time to do the labor) to the long list of things I can sorta do, if I have to. But if ever I need a floor again, I think I’ll hire someone or do without. Once or twice is a learning experience; more than that is just exhausting.

Tradition and cholent

I’ve been looking at maps this week in my spare time and it was Purim over the weekend. Purim is an historical festival, not so much a religious one, so I always try to make sense of a bit more Jewish history as my learning for the celebration. I was perplexed as a child when non-Jewish families didn’t do learning as part of their celebration. This is a tradition. My tradition is not that of Fiddler on the Roof! and the song “Tradition”.  It is learning and food, much food. There are many Jewish cultures. Learning is one of my favourite bits. It ranks as high as chicken soup.

When I was a teen, I had this conversation.  It began with me asking, “What did you learn for Christmas?”

“I got these presents, let me show you. You show me your presents, too.” Chanukah collided with Christmas that year, as it did from time to time, but my friend was totally baffled when I showed her my present for fifth night, which was a small box of Smarties (Australian M&Ms). Me, I had present-envy. I didn’t get presents such as hers even for my birthday.

I am a slow learner. The next Easter I asked a Greek Orthodox friend.

“What did you learn for your Easter?”

“We didn’t learn. We dyed eggs red and cracked them.” She had some dye left over and we totally messed up my mother’s kitchen and destroyed many candles making decorated eggs. We didn’t crack them, because Easter was over. We put them in a bowl and left them on the counter until my father complained about the smell.

Later I found that not all Jews learn every festival. But it’s my tradition and I love it.

This year’s choice for Purim was propelled by the sad fact that historical research and research for novels all take planning. I was considering actual Jewish populations along the Rhine at different times for something I’m looking into later in the year. I had a crashing thought that had me investigating maps last week. I used Purim to give me the time to make everything make sense. Tomorrow I’m back to my regular resaerch, which is currently wholly in literary studies

For all this (except the literary studies), I blame cholent.

Cholent, the dish, is a Jewish slow-cooked casserole from (mostly) Eastern Europe. Its name, however, most likely comes from French. We talk a lot about European Jews migrating east, but the most popular explanations and timing don’t fit Western European history. Yiddish is a lot more recent than the first migrations, and… it’s complicated. I made it understandable using maps. The maps themselves don’t explain things – they triggered the explanations, which is why there are no maps in this post and only one link to one. I answered a lot more questions that night and this weekend than I could give in a post – the question of Jewish movement eastward, for instance, must wait.

I began with a map of the Roman Empire at its pre-Christian peak. There were millions of Jews distributed throughout the Roman Empire as citizens, as non-citizens, and as slaves. I’ve seen estimates of numbers ranging from one million to ten million, and I usually use four million as a compromise number to work with.

Four million is over a quarter the size of the modern world Jewish population so, a while back I calculated how many Jews we would have around today if history had been kinder. It was in the vicinity of 320 million. Eighty million if you take the minimum number of Jews in the Roman Empire and over a billion using the largest estimate. We would not be such a tiny minority, in other words, if we had progressed simply because the world population has expanded and we had not been forcibly converted, mass murdered, exiled, enslaved, enthusiastically converted to other religions and so forth.

Populations follow trade routes and you can see evidence Jewish life along all the Roman trade routes. Well, all those where anyone has looked. Antisemitism is so deeply ingrained in our societies that many experts demand far more evidence for a Jewish burial than, say, a Christian one. There is a lot that probably needs to be re-evaluated in the archaeological record if we want to know actual Jewish populations in most areas.

Assessing the written record is easier, but not in a good way. The vast majority of Jewish records have been destroyed, and we’re reliant on surprising survivals such as the Cairo genizah. This means our knowledge through writing is patchy from anyone Jewish, because of the destruction, and biased from anyone else. Occasionally the bias is positive. Occasionally.

This means we really don’t know a lot about how many Jews lived in the Roman world, where they lived and how they lived. We know a lot more than we did, but we still have big gaps. We do know, however, the geographical limits of Jewish life and the trade routes related to much of the Jewish everyday.

The next map I thought of, then, was of Charlemagne’s empire at the time of its division into three, 843. I was thinking of places that were more antisemitic and less antisemitic and they pretty much follow this divide. It was easier to be Jewish in the central band of the empire (the one with Charles’ capital – which makes sense, because his personal confessor converted to Judaism and this does not seem to have ended the world) and a few key places nearby. These are all, in modern day Europe in eastern France (usually the parts that also speak German), the Saar, Italy, Provence and Burgundy. This became the Jewish heartland of non-Hispanic Europe in the Middle Ages.

It is the original Ashkenaz. It’s the Ashkenaz that made European Jewish marriages one husband to one wife, but refused to relinquish divorce despite enormous pressure from local Christians. Rashi, one of the great Medieval scholars, used the word ‘akitement’ for divorce: marriage in Judaism was and is a contract that can be acquitted, it’s not a covenant. European Jewish was both Jewish and European and that wide strip of territory that formed that heartland explains a great deal about us.

Ashkenazi culture spread east and changed and that’s a story for another time. It began to spread early enough so that ‘cholent’ could have a French name: it came from the Carolingian Empire after French developed as a language. Not before the eleventh century. Which is interesting because… I have another mental map for that.

In the late 8th century, a Jewish trade network operated from that region (and possibly Champagne). We don’t know a lot about it, but when I looked at its most known route, Jewish traders used those ancient fairs, with a special focus on Medieval fairs. I have a book with maps of every town in that region that had a fair in the Middle Ages and the dates we know those fairs operated and I cannot find it! So this is work for my future, after my thesis is done.

The Rhadanites were gone about the time that the Khazar Empire declined and fell, and one of their trade routes led to the heart of the Empire, so that’s something else to explore one day. About the time both faded from view, the Crusades began in Europe and persecution of Jews became far more severe. But… right until the mid-20th century, those towns were part of larger trade routes and had Jewish communities.

Every trade fair needed a route to the fair, and each stop was a town usually between 15-20 miles from the previous and also served as fairs for local farmers. In the Middle Ages, prior to all the murders and expulsions, so many of these towns had Jewish traders and craftspeople. And so many of those families would have cooked cholent or an equivalent.

This is a small fraction of what I spent one night and one Purim sorting out. I have to leave it now until September. I’ll write it up more accurately and less improperly when I’m actually working on it. In other words, these are my early thoughts.

Why did I share them with you, then? Part of the family tradition of learning includes talking about things. If anyone wants to talk about these subjects, this is a good place and a perfect time. Why perfect? Because all my thoughts are halfway right now. I could be very, very wrong in how I see things.

There is a tradition to this learning. The tradition is that you have to prove anything you want to challenge. Evidence! When I was a child and we argued without evidence it occasionally led to very sophisticated behaviour, such as the sticking out of tongues, which got us into trouble. Evidence is safer than the sticking out of tongues.

What’s the aim of challenging and providing evidence? That the learning may continue… (kinda like the spice must flow).


Talking to Strangers

Awhile back I made a comment on someone’s Facebook post to the effect that I wished people at the gym and on the street wouldn’t wear earbuds because it makes it hard to have casual conversation with them.

I don’t recall the subject of the post, but my comment was related.

Someone else — a person I don’t know — castigated me for this opinion, saying that they should not be required to “placate” me in my desire for conversation.

This comment pissed me off, but I did not respond because

  1.  the person asserted they were neurodivergent in some way and, assuming that to be true — they were clearly not a garden-variety troll — I did not want to cause them any harm by replying rudely;
  2.  I really didn’t want to end up in nasty back and forth on social media — one advantage of not having a huge following on any platform is that I don’t end up in flame wars with people I don’t even know and I want to keep it that way; and
  3.  I have learned that one doesn’t always have to respond to people, even rude and offensive people, though I will confess that I am better at that online than I am in person.

But it bugged me enough that I haven’t been able to forget it. I find the very idea that engaging in the practice of engaging with other members of a social species is asking them to “placate” me offensive

Besides, there is a great deal of scientific evidence that suggests that the casual conversations we have with people we don’t know is very good for our mental health.

I recently came across a book entitled The Power of Strangers, by Joe Keohane. Keohane is a reporter and, because of his job, prided himself on his ability to talk to strangers. But he reached a point where he didn’t think he was doing it as well as he should, so he set out to write a book on the subject.

I have been reading the book, or rather skimming it. There is a lot of good material in it, but it is unfortunately written in a style and tone that I find annoying, one that is most often associated with self-help books. However, he’s a good reporter and has collected a lot of things we all should know.

His core point that humans should talk to strangers and that such communication is part of how we became the species we are is good and valid, so I’m skimming to get the gist of what he has to say. (Also, his style may not annoy other people the way it does me — it’s a very common form of nonfiction writing, so common that I suspect a lot of editors push it on people who come to them with an idea.)

Connecting with other people is important and speaking with people who are not just strangers, but very unlike you, opens a lot of mind doors. Continue reading “Talking to Strangers”

Misty and mellow

It is the season for mist and mellow fruitfulness in Canberra and I have a picture taken on the way to the farmers’ market last Saturday to prove it. I’ll give it to you in a moment. Persimmons and chestnuts are visible, but not really in season yet. What we have are grapes. So many grapes. Such good grapes. And tomatoes. This is the month that those from passata-making families get together and make enough bottles of the stuff to last through winter. I was good on Saturday and only bought a kilo of passata-making tomatoes. I’ve not got round to them yet, because I’ve been making green tomato chutney and worked out a new fig recipe and… it’s been a high pain few days (autumn is also the time of pain for those of us with precisely the right chronic illnesses) so I’m impressed with the amount of cooking I’ve done.

I’m finished with cooking, however, until Saturday, when I have to make Purim recipes. I will make Oznei Haman and Hamentaschen, probably, and buy nibbles to accompany them. I used to make the nibbles, but I have a lot of deadlines right now, so am taking the easy route. In the past, I’ve been known to sneak into Jewish culinary history and make dishes from vastly different countries and centuries. I love the dynamism and change in Jewish cookery. There’s always space to play.

While I think about Saturday, let me give you my new way of cooking figs. It’s my space to play this week, as I used old Jewish fig recipes as a base. This recipe is not so useful in the northern hemisphere right now, but wait six months…


Canberra in autumn
Canberra in autumn

Pomegranate figs

Take as many figs as you like. Cut them in half. Place them in an oven proof dish. The dish should be large enough so that you only have one layer of fruit.

Sprinkle the figs with cinnamon (not too much) then drizzle with pomegranate molasses.

Bake in a moderate over (180F) until they give forth much liquid. Turn the figs over, then cook at the same temperature until there is almost no liquid left.

This is a wonderful way of using up figs that are almost too ripe. They keep nicely in the fridge for at least a week. You can eat them by themselves, or with cream, or with ice cream, or with… so many options. Just don’t eat too many at once.

No Good at It

I took a drawing class through my local parks and rec department and learned that I can, in fact, draw. What I lacked was an understanding of how to look at something if I wanted to draw it.

I didn’t do this to become a serious artist and certainly not to become a professional one. I just want to be able to draw. I always have, even though I was told as a kid that I wasn’t any good at it.

I don’t know if it’s still the case — though I suspect it is — but back when I was a kid if you weren’t naturally good at something you were often told not to bother. Seems like a lot of teachers can’t be bothered with explaining things so that they make sense to those who don’t have a gift for them.

Plus, of course, art isn’t “important” because the accepted opinion is that it’s hard to make a living as an artist. So only those who are already talented are encouraged to try it and even they are rarely encouraged to take it seriously.

The fact that learning to draw can give you insight and personal satisfaction never gets considered. Just from taking this one short class I have learned so much about how to look at things as well as how to try to render them on paper.

I took up martial arts at 30. I’ve got a fourth degree black belt in Aikido and am a decent teacher. I still do a lot of Tai Chi. I spent years going to the dojo four or five times a week.

I am not a superstar and I never became a professional teacher. But movement matters to me, matters a great deal. It has nothing to do with making a living, though everything to do with who I am.

I spent much of my youth in marching band. I used to sing in church choir. I have a decent voice and can play an instrument. I am not a professional musician and I never had the urge to become one. I like to perform. I’d like to get back into making some music, just because it’s pleasurable to make music.

All these things are important, as are many other things we do in life. You don’t have to make a living from them for them to be important.

And all these things are good for your brain, good for your thinking, good for your health. Continue reading “No Good at It”

A Poet Can Survive Anything but a Mis-Print

The title above is credited to Oscar Wilde, who was more adept than many at surviving all sorts of things. Sometimes the mis-print is no fault of one’s own. Sometimes it is definitely user error.

When My Dear Jenny, my second book,  was published, I fell back on the time honored trope of the Regency-era romance: a woman who underestimates herself. She is heading toward spinsterhood (a socially–and economically–despised state), used to being helpful as a way of making up for a lack of beauty or fortune. If she’s attractive, she does not know it. What she is is competent (my most favorite virtue) and humorous. And lovable, but she’s certainly unaware of that. And of course, because I was writing romance, there’s this guy who sees her for what she is, and appreciates (nay, loves) her for it. So toward the end of the book, when he declares his feelings, she is conflicted. By the markers of their society–looks, fortune, birth–he’s too good for her.  Okay, as world-beating plot twists go, this is hardly one. As I said: a trope of a certain kind of romance. Also, I was young and not terribly confident of my own virtues too. So.

When the proofs came, there was a typo that stood the whole thing on its ear. The sentences I had written were: He was, she thought, a bit above her touch. But on the proofs the sentences read:  She was, she thought, a bit above his touch. That’s right: suddenly, she’s too good for him. I marked this in the proofs, and of course, with that stubbornness that is life and publishing, that is the only correction I made on the proofs that did not get made before the book went to print. I fixed it, years later, in the e-book edition. 

Then there are the typos we do to ourselves. Three years ago I applied for (and achieved) TSA Pre-check status. Most of the time it doesn’t make much difference, but sometimes (like when I’m checking in Orlando, FL, for the flight home from the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts–at the end of school break, when the security line can take an hour and a half) it makes all the difference in the world. For the past three years I have had Hell’s own time getting the little logo on my boarding passes. Today, having called the airline and TSA, I finally discovered that the final digit on my Known Traveler Number (KTN) was not a 5 but an S. Changed the number and Hey, Presto! Alaska Airlines’ system gave me the tiny logo and I’m good to go.

Except that I feel kind of stupid. I’m not sure where the error came from, but I’ve been proliferating it lavishly for years.

Ah, well. By the time this is published I’ll be on my way to ICFA; if you get a chance to go some year, do.  It’s an absolutely wonderful conference, especially when you don’t have to stand in line for an hour to get there.


Autumn dinner

I have a chicken roasting in the oven. It’s too late in the day for this, but today was too hot to even think about it earlier. I made myself a small snack to get myself through until the chicken will be ready (another hour) and now I want to eat more snack and to wave a hand and make the chicken disappear. I have cucumber salad (cucumber and seaweed and vinegar, mainly) and four different types of baby tomatoes to go with the chicken, so I will eat properly and just dream of more snacks. I promise. I won’t eat a lot of the chicken, though. I’ll put most of it away for later in the week, to eat with more salad or with rice. In the cooler evening late tonight, I shall make bouillon from the bones and the pan juices and a parsnip and carrot and onion and celery seed.

This bouillon is my standard “I’m too tired to cook” emergency ingredient. I cook rice in it and add various other ingredients and make a chicken porridge. Sometimes I make it Singaporean style, because it was a Singaporean friend who taught me how to make kedgeree and its many, many variants. This week, however, those other ingredients include tabasco and fresh coriander (cilantro for US folks, but definite coriander in Australia) and garlic and lime.

So what was my snack? I have some pita bread. I tore up some of it and lined a pan (the size of a side plate) with it. I cut tasty cheese very finely, scattered the bits over the pita bread, drifted just enough hot paprika over the lot, and cooked it in my little toaster oven until it was crunchy. I don’t often have bread these days, so it was a lovely special treat. However, I won’t be hungry again until 9 pm.

All this food will help me stay up late enough to finish today’s work. That’s the other thing about these hot days in autumn, you see… so many deadlines and no energy until the temperature goes down. Thankfully I live in the mountains and in an hour, life will be more comfortable. At that time, I shall have a roast chicken and salad dinner and my day will really begin. Tomorrow morning I need to walk to the library – I shall walk off the snacks.

I know my day hasn’t really begun until I can type five hundred words with next to no typos. I am not yet at that point. My next job will be to get rid of as many typos as I can, so that you can read this without laughing hysterically. I do not know why heat causes my fingers to think they’re working when they patently aren’t, but it does.

Welcome to early autumn in Canberra. No falling leaves yet and no falling temperatures. Those things will come.

It’s International Women’s Day!

I was reminded that the day this post first appears is March 8, which has been designated as International Women’s Day, so despite the fact that I had another post almost finished, I decided that I should write about women.

I mean, I am a woman. While I like a lot of things coded male — swords, for example — I am definitely not male. In fact, my current go-to answer when asked to name my gender is “not male.”

And while I find the idea of non-binary attractive, especially since I do not fit particularly well in many of the niches coded female and am fine with “they” as well as “she” when it comes to pronouns, I am a woman. I am also very sure that nobody gets to tell me what that means.

In particular nobody gets to tell me it means wearing pink or wanting babies or civilizing men, not to mention that nobody ever — EVER — gets to tell me that I can’t do such and such because I’m a girl.

I resisted that lie as much as I could while growing up, which, of course, meant that I never fit in much of anywhere.

I still don’t fit in much of anywhere, but one of the best things about getting old is that you don’t give a fuck.

I’ve done some things to push boundaries in my life, like criticize sexist practices in organizations, go to law school back when women didn’t much, and get a fourth degree black belt in Aikido, but here’s the thing I’m proudest of:

I love my body.

I came to this love through martial arts because I discovered in training how my whole body informs who I am. So part of this love is the fact that my senses and the way I move are integrated into who I am.

But also, I’m capable of looking at my naked body in the mirror and enjoying the shape of it, the curves of my hips and breasts, the width of my shoulders, the strength in my chest and legs, my height.

I don’t have a supermodel body; my height’s in my torso, not my legs, and there’s no way I could get skinny enough to fit into those tiny clothes even if I wanted to because my bone structure is too large.

Also, I like food way too much to starve myself. It’s my understanding these days that, despite all the uproar about obesity, being what is labeled “overweight” is actually healthier than being “normal,” not to mention “underweight.”

Which is to say that our norms for health and weight are completely entangled with our norms for beauty and it’s hard to take any of them seriously. I claim overweight with some pride.

Another thing I’m proud of is that I am not afraid of men. Continue reading “It’s International Women’s Day!”


Whenever March 1 arrives, I expect it to be autumn in the northern hemisphere. Our seasons in Australia, you see, are exceptionally rational. Every three months, they change, on the first of the month. This is because we borrowed Europe’s four seasons because our culture is European. We actually have six seasons, and we know what will happen and when, but they don’t affect the calendar. They’re based on what we see and know and feel. In Canberra, for example, winter bedding is usually brought out on 25 April (my birthday, and also ANZAC Day) even though winter doesn’t begin until 1 June. The wind patterns change in late April, and, more often than not, on 25 April. Not in the whole of Australia, just in Canberra. The north has its wet and its dry, and still has the calendrical seasons. I suspect this is how we deal with having a whole continent with radically different weather and seasons. I live in an area with a real winter, but in the north, it never gets cold.

The thing about autumn is that the weather genuinely changes in most of south east Australia. 1 March was abysmally hot. Last night (4 March, because I’m almost a day ahead of you) was under 9 degrees in Canberra, which means under 50 degrees US-style and today was very pleasant indeed. We’ll still get a bit of warmth over the next couple of weeks and maybe some rain and then the winds will set in. Autumn is the season of variation, you see.

What I shall do tomorrow is put away my nice cool summer clothes and make sure I can find t-shirts and leggings and maybe a cardigan or a hoodie to put over them. Around my birthday, I’ll pull out heavy duty stuff. Every year, the first week of March is about putting some things away and taking other things out and wondering how people manage in regions where the temperature is so sadly constant.

The university year is in full swing now. We begin in late February and from then until the end of this week work is fitted in between meetings and forms. This is another thing I do not (and never will) understand: how the study year can’t begin in the early part of the calendar year and end in December. The northern hemisphere is such a mysterious part of the world.