Open Thread: May Flower Moon

There are a lot of names for the monthly moons. As a Wiccan practitioner, my favorite name for the May full moon is the Flower Moon. What's yours?

Open Threads are for socializing and sharing! What have you been reading / writing / listening / playing / watching lately? Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about.

Swiss Family Robinson: Brandy and Pants

[Swiss Family Robinson Content Note: Drowning]

The Swiss Family Robinson, Chapter 1: Shipwrecked

When we last left our little family, they were huddling in their private cabin working through their understandable grief that the sailors left them behind when they all abandoned ship. Wife/Mother/Elizabeth understands that routine helps people cope in hard times and insists that they eat supper and get as good a night's sleep as they can. Fritz, the eldest-- I suddenly realize I'm going to need a cheat sheet for this. Hang on.

Fritz - 15
Ernest - 13
Jack - 11
Franz - 8

Fritz stays up with Husband/Father/William and broods because he's older than the others and therefore recognizes that this isn't a grand adventure (he's already been snippy with Franz and been scolded by Father for his attitude). He points out that only himself and Father can swim, and suggests that they make "swimming-belts" for Mother and the other boys. Father agrees that this is a good idea and wakes up Mother and the boys to fit them with custom-made belts that they've made by stringing together "a number of empty flasks and tin canisters".

This is the first of a theme that we'll see throughout the book: decisions which are intended to be seen as Independent and Rugged and Clever but which ultimately (and accidentally) underscore that both Father and the author don't really have as much hardy knowledge about the wilderness as they think they do. In this case, I really doubt that a few tin food canisters are going to have the buoyancy to keep someone afloat, AND they're currently inside an enclosed wooden cabin so if the place does flood then a flotation device could actively hinder them from leaving the cabin, AND the storm is still actively whipping up waves which would further compromise the flotation devices, AND I'm not 100% certain of the temperature of the water but I'm guessing it's probably cold enough that the temperature would be as much if not more of a threat than drowning. Probably would've been better to just let Mother and the boys sleep.

Morning comes and the storm has abated and the sky is blue.

   I aroused the boys, and we assembled on the remaining portion of the deck, when they, to their surprise, discovered that no one else was on board.

Father already knew that the sailors were gone, but apparently he kept that news to himself until now. I guess he didn't want to panic the children? I double-checked and this doesn't seem to be a continuity error; he really just didn't tell anyone. (Even his wife?) I find that a little surprising, but I'm not going to criticize this particular parenting decision when there are plenty of other decisions coming up to criticize. For example: Father's bizarre choice to now spin the sailors' escape as an act of callous cruelty rather than of simply forgetting the family was on-board, which was Father's earlier theory.

   'My good children,' I replied, 'we must not despair, although we seem deserted. See how those on whose skill and good faith we depended have left us cruelly to our fate in the hour of danger. God will never do so. He has not forsaken us, and we will trust Him still.'

He's really getting a headstart on training up Christian children to have a martyrdom chip on their shoulder, isn't he?

Fritz suggests that the sea is now calm enough to swim, apparently forgetting his earlier point that only he and Father can swim; Ernest hops in to remind him and to suggest a raft, which Father immediately discards as unstable and unsafe. He tells everyone to explore and examine and to apply their minds to the puzzle and the party splits up.

Father goes to inventory the fresh water and food supplies. Mother and Franz "attend to the unfortunate animals on board, who were in a pitiful plight, having been neglected for several days." Fritz runs to the "arms chest" to secure as many guns as he can find and we'll be seeing a LOT of those in the upcoming pages and indeed really the rest of the book. Ernest looks for "tools". Jack searches the captain's cabin which immediately yields "two splendid large dogs".

The author falls into the All Animals Are Dogs trope and thinks that all animals have a strong enough spine to be ridden, so Jack "seizing the larger by the ears, he jumped on his back, and, to my great amusement, coolly rode to meet me as I came up the hatchway. I could not refrain from laughing at the sight, and I praised his courage, but warned him to be cautious and remember that animals of this species might, in a state of hunger, be dangerous." Kissmate has his head in his hands and urges you all not to allow your 11 year olds to attempt to ride a dog, no matter how large it may be.

   When we reassembled in the cabin, we all displayed our treasures.
   Fritz brought a couple of guns, shot belt, powder-flasks, and plenty of bullets.
   Ernest produced a cap full of nails, a pair of large scissors, an axe, and a hammer, while pincers, chisels and augers stuck out of all his pockets.
   Even little Franz* carried a box of no small size, and eagerly began to show us the `nice sharp little hooks' it contained. His brothers smiled scornfully. (* Some editions translate this to Francis, apparently to avoid confusion with Fritz. I see no reason for the change, and am retaining the original spelling. Editor.)
   'Well, done, Franz!' cried I, 'these fish hooks, which you the youngest have found, may contribute more than anything else in the ship to save our lives by procuring food for us. Fritz and Ernest, you have chosen well.'
   'Will you praise me too?' said my dear wife. 'I have nothing to show, but I can give you good news. Some useful animals are still alive: a donkey, two goats, six sheep, a ram, and a cow and a fine sow both big with young. I was but just in time to save their lives by taking food to them. The goats I milked, though I do not know how I shall preserve the milk in this dreadful heat.'
   'All these things are excellent indeed,' said I, 'but my friend Jack here has presented me with a couple of huge hungry useless dogs, who will eat more than any of us.'
   'Oh, papa! They will be of use! Why, they will help us to hunt when we get on shore!'
   'No doubt they will, if ever we do get on shore, Jack; but I must say I don't know how it is to be done.'

I'm not quite sure what to make of Father's assumption that the dogs are useless. If my memory serves, they are going to end up being very useful indeed to the family; they provide companionship, they help with hunting, they serve as a warning system to dangers, and they protect the family from various threats. Perhaps this is meant to be a moment of humility for Father, a topic on which he is wrong and the author *knows* he is wrong (unlike all the times where he's wrong but the author thinks he's right). But at the same time, it is worth noting here that Father and the author will maintain this callous attitude towards animals throughout the book; any time the family discovers something new, their first and immediate thought is "how do we USE it" and if they cannot think of an answer then the animal is usually treated with disdain if not outright cruelty. While I certainly do not begrudge people in a survival situation thinking about how to best utilize the resources around them, there is a subtle difference between Utilization and Exploitation.

Anyway. There still remains the problem of how to get to land. Jack suggests they make tubs and float to shore, which leads Father to a plan which he certainly thinks is clever but I have my doubts. He finds four large empty brandy casks and saws them in half to create eight half-casks. After a break for biscuits, goat milk, and wine--with the editor noting that Europeans didn't drink water because it was often unsafe to drink, so even children were fed diluted wine at meals--they then lash the eight half-casks together in a row. Three "long thin planks" are scrounged up: one to form a floor under the half-casks, and the other two provide walls on either side. We are assured that this creates a stable boat, but Kissmate is very skeptical. The boat is too heavy for them all to lift/push into the water, so we have a brief treatise on levers.

   I explained, as well as I could in a hurry, the principle of Archimedes' lever; from which he said he could move the world if he had a point from which his mechanism might operate, and promised to have a long talk on the subject of mechanics when we should be safe on land.

Having been a young boy once myself, I am sure these boys were just *enthralled*. /sarcasm

The long narrow boat is, shockingly, incredibly unbalanced in the water so Father immediately creates and installs outriggers--those long poles that provide a counter-balance to canoes. The author speeds by this invention incredibly quickly, probably so we won't ask how Father is able to accomplish this while the boat is in the water and before it manages to sink itself. The boys are able to produce oars from somewhere, and Father deems that it's getting late and they need to spend another night on the ship. Everyone returns to the cabin, puts on a swimming-belt, and Father convinces Mother to wear pants, which the editor notes would have been incredibly scandalous for the time period.

   We prepared for rest in a much happier frame of mind than on the preceding day, but I did not forget the possibility of a renewed storm, and therefore made every one put on the belts as before. I persuaded my wife (not without considerable difficulty), to put on a sailor's dress, assuring her she would find it much more comfortable and convenient for all she would have to go through.
   She at last consented to do this, and left us for a short time, reappearing with much embarrassment and many blushes, in a most becoming suit, which she had found in a midshipman's chest.* We all admired her costume, and any awkwardness she felt soon began to pass off; then we retired to our hammocks, where peaceful sleep prepared us all for the exertions of the coming day.
   (* At the time this book was written, women always wore long skirts. A woman wearing trousers would be considered so shocking that if she were so garbed on a public street she would probably be arrested for indecency. Editor.)

Next time: a brandy-cask boat and shore!

Open Thread: April Seed Moon

There are a lot of names for the monthly moons. As a Wiccan practitioner, my favorite name for the April full moon is the Seed Moon. What's yours?

Open Threads are for socializing and sharing! What have you been reading / writing / listening / playing / watching lately? Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about.

Swiss Family Robinson: Mother's Nerves

[Swiss Family Robinson Content Note: Drowning]

The Swiss Family Robinson, Chapter 1: Shipwrecked

   For many days we had been tempest-tossed.

Wait, no, we have to back up a bit.

Daniel Defoe's famous novel Robinson Crusoe was published in 1719; the Swiss Family Robinson was published 100 years later in 1812. Wikipedia notes that SFR is "most successful of a large number of 'Robinsonade' novels" that followed Defoe's famous work. The book's name is itself is a reference to Defoe's influence: Der Schweizerische Robinson means "The Swiss Robinson". (We're lucky Wyss didn't name his work Der Schweizerische Crusoe; it just doesn't have the same ring.) I am only now in my 40s realizing that the family in the book is not probably not actually named Robinson, which seems pretty obvious in retrospect given that "Robinson" isn't a Swiss name. Wikipedia confirms this:

   Although movie and television adaptations typically name the family "Robinson", it is not a Swiss name. The German title translates as The Swiss Robinson which identifies the novel as part of the Robinsonade genre, rather than a story about a family named Robinson.

That's not even the end of our naming adventures! Our family patriarch and narrator doesn't have a name in the original and is just I/me (when narrating) and Father (when addressed by the children). His wife is Wife and Mother, respectively. For the sake of clarity, however, our translator has named them William and Elizabeth, names which seem to me to be more English than Swiss, but I am far from a recognized expert on Swiss naming patterns of the 1800s.

There are four boys in this book, and they too have names. Fritz is 15, the oldest, and thus is allowed to keep his Swiss name out of respect for his position as Eldest Bestest Boy. Ernest is 13 and has been slightly Englishified from the original Ernst with the addition of the extra E. Then we come to Jack, 11, who has been very hard done by in his alteration from Jakob. "Jacob" was right there, and it's Biblical too, but I have to assume that Mr. Kingston (our original, but far from final, translator) was overcome by English patriotism when he named Jack.

Franz is 8 and the youngest, and his name depends very much on which translation you read; he's variously either Franz (his original name) or "Francis" for no better reason than because otherwise we'd have two children with names that start with Fr, end with Z, and are 5 letters long. Given that many (most?) readers read by word-shape, that's a real problem. I must also here throw into the mix my dyslexia. The translation I'm reading uses "Franz" and we will just have to do our best.

Wikipedia also throws out these two names and I've been puzzling at them for a few minutes now:

   Turk (German: Türk) – The family's English dog.
   Juno (German: Bill) – The family's Danish dog.

Surely it would make more sense for the *English* dog to be the one named Bill, right? Right?? And I'm assuming that, when Bill was changed to Juno (the Roman goddess of marriage and long-suffering wife of Jove), a gender change was involved as well? I would not be surprised, as I remember well from Ursula Vernon's live-reads that the animals in this novel will become pregnant as the plot demands, rather than within the bounds of nature and her laws.

ANYWAY. We are not here to get bogged down in names, we are here for extremely impractical animal husbandry. But first, the storm:

   For many days we had been tempest-tossed.

I'm not sure if the book ever tells us this, but (per our reliable old Wikipedia again) the ship's intended destination right now is Australia. I would guess that the family is planning to emigrate there, although I think that too goes unmentioned and there is a surprising lack of personal items around them if they were planning to relocate permanently--but, on the other hand, I don't believe Australia is really much of a tourist spot at this time in history. Then again, I'm uncertain which period of history we are technically in; the book was published in 1812, yes, but written many years prior:

   Johann David Wyss, a Swiss pastor, originally wrote this book to entertain and instruct his four sons. Years later, his son Johann (or Jean—accounts differ) Rudolf Wyss, by then a professor of philosophy, persuaded his father to allow him to complete and edit the unfinished manuscript.

To sum up: we are on an unnamed boat with an unnamed narrator and his unnamed family on their way to an undisclosed location for unknown reasons in a year, month, and day which are uncertain to us. But we do know that the storm has been going on for 7 days, which may well be a terrific length for acts of Biblical creation but is not an ideal time for a storm to last. The crew is exhausted, the boat is taking on water, and the little family is staying out of the way below deck.

The narrator notes that the seamen "now uttered frantic cries to God for mercy, mingled with strange and often ludicrous vows, to be performed should deliverance be granted" which is obviously very silly and unserious of these frantic sailors. Our narrator is a calm and studious kind of fellow, not a fair-weather (or I suppose it really should be "foul-weather" in this circumstance) believer.

   'Dear children,' said I, 'if the Lord will, He can save us even from this fearful peril; if not, let us calmly yield our lives into His hand, and think of the joy and blessedness of finding ourselves for ever and ever united in that happy home above. Even death is not too bitter, when it does not separate those who love one another.'

I cannot think of a more comforting thing to tell an 8 year old after seven full days and nights of pitch-black storm, rolling waves, and encroaching cold water in their physical space. I'll bet that speech calmed the stomach nausea right down.

Fortunately, Wife/Mother/Elizabeth pitches in at this point and "began to cheer and encourage them with calm and loving words". I swear I'm not trying to go for Husband/Father/William's throat right away, nor for Wyss', but I'm terribly curious what calm and loving words, precisely, would "cheer and encourage" the kids in this situation and I'm a little annoyed that the narrator didn't find the time and space to record them alongside his sermonizing. I've been in some life-and-death kinds of situations where it felt like the outcome was out of my hands and we just had to wait to see if we were going to live or die. And, yeah, I've sometimes found it possible to be calm in those situations. But cheered and encouraged? And as an 8 year old (or 11 or 13 or 15 year old) boy? It's very hard for me to imagine cheering and encouraging children in (again) a pitch-black, roiling, and increasingly wet ship's hold while sailors scream for mercy over the unending din of the storm and various pieces of luggage and cargo slam into you unexpectedly.

What I am saying is that we are already very firmly into cozy territory and that's FINE, really, but I crave *details*. Give me the cheering and encouraging words over the religious instruction and proselytization.

Everyone takes turns in prayer and Father is impressed by Fritz's prayer, which is so focused on "deliverance for his dear parents and brothers" that he seems to forget about himself. "Our hearts were soothed by the never-failing comfort of child-like confiding prayer" and now I'm *very* curious how old Wyss' four sons were when he wrote this. I have known a LOT of pastors' kids in my time, and almost all of them without exception were old-beyond-their-time at 15. (Being privy to behind-the-scenes church workings will do that.) Certainly, one would not describe their prayers as child-like. Professional, maybe. Not child-like.

Prayer is interrupted by a sighting of land, which they hear over the storm, and then the shattering crash of the ship hitting *something* and coming to an abrupt stop. They're pretty sure they then hear the ship breaking apart and "roaring waters poured in on all sides" which makes me have a lot of questions ever since we experienced our own floods here at the house. William hears the captain ordering the life boats lowered and realizes that, given that they've been below deck for seven days, the sailors have probably forgotten about them. Whoops!

The children are understandably pretty scared, so William reassures them that they're still above water and land is in sight. He pulls out one of my least favorite aphorisms, "You know God helps those that help themselves!" which is NOT in the Bible and (funnily enough) seems to have been a saying about the Greek gods first before the Christians took it on. (Wikipedia notes there is a humorous version as well: ""God helps those who help themselves, but God help those who get *caught* helping themselves.", which gave me a nice chuckle.)

William tells them he's going above deck to see what's happening, then is instantly hit by a wave and washed overboard. I'm kidding, of course; he's hit by a wave and thrown to the deck, but manages to "find my footing" although I prefer to believe that he's scuttling about on all fours. Safety! The ship is "shattered on all directions, and on one side there was a large hole in the hull" which sounds very dire, but I'm not quite sure what it all *means* because the family will pretty much never be blocked off from anything they want to reach and gather.

The last of the life boats is being cast off just as William dramatically runs up and his "cries and entreaties" are lost in the storm. Even if the crew had heard him over the din, it seems impossible for the boats to return for him, given that the waves are "mountain-high". He takes a moment to collect himself and notices that (a) the portion of the ship "containing our cabin" is jammed between two rocks and seems relatively safe from the waves for the moment, and (b) there's a rocky coast on the horizon which means they at least have a chance at not-drowning. Meanwhile, I'm noticing that (c) they have a cabin so now I have to research ships for a moment because I *thought* the family was below deck.

Okay, this is from the New South Wales online library:

   Passengers travelling on emigrant ships from the United Kingdom to Australia in the 1800s were physically segregated according to class, marital status, and gender. Cabin class passengers were usually accommodated below the poop deck with steerage passengers below the main deck. Steerage passengers were further separated into single men, married couples and children, while single women were strictly segregated from all other passengers.

There we go: they can have a cabin and still be below deck. Interestingly, this would seem to strongly imply that any boat carrying passengers to Australia would have *several* passengers in it, not just a single cabin housing a six-person family. The book off-handedly mentions that the sailors are "forgetting the passengers" when they cast off with the last life boat. It's such a strange reference because it seems like an odd way for the narrator to refer to himself and his family. But it also means we can't headcanon that all the *other* passengers went away on the life boats and that only the Swiss Robinsons were left behind. After all, who can remember 6 people in a crowd of, say, 30 passengers spread across multiple life boats?

But, nope, we have it right there in black-and-white that the sailors forgot the passengers. Which means that either this boat wildly under-sold its tickets when heading out, or all the other passengers just fell screaming into the sea and the narrator didn't want to burden our spirits with that detail. Even so, however, the rest of the book will be noticeably silent on the subject of floating bodies disturbing the peace of the shipwreck (which will be visited several times) or washing up on the beach, so that doesn't seem to be right either.

Alas for us, William is entirely unconcerned with whether or not there are dead bodies in the water. He returns to the cabin with his good news: "'Courage, dear ones! Although our good ship will never sail more, she is so placed that our cabin will remain above water, and tomorrow, if the wind and waves abate, I see no reason why we should not be able to get ashore.'" The boys are immediately reassured and quite frankly just relieved that the boat has stopped moving and, presumably, the nausea can at last come to an end.

Wife/Mother/Elizabeth is not so easily cheered as the boys and perceives that the narrator is more concerned than he's letting on. He "greatly fears" how "her nerves" will manage at the awareness that all is not joy and rainbows from here on out, but is impressed to find that "not for a moment did her courage and trust in Providence forsake her". I feel like he should know by now what a badass his wife is, given that she's managed to raise 4 boys on a pastor's wages, and has been popping them out at a rate of one every two years (and then Franz, the "oh good, now we have 4 children under the age of 7" surprise baby). She then announces that they need to eat, which makes sense because they finally have a chance of keeping their dinner down for the first time in seven days, and we will leave off here for the night.

Swiss Family Robinson: A Question of Translations

Remember when Ursula Vernon was doing periodic live-reads on Twitter of the Swiss Family Robinson? I loved those threads. SFR was one of my favorite go-to escapism books as a kid. I had the Great Illustrated Classics version, which I believe I have noted previously (in reference to H.G. Wells' The Time Machine) were excellent adaptations; in making the books accessible to children, the editors also judiciously cut-and-stitched away the worser plot holes and (in the case of SFR) the preachy holy lessons and self-reliance and Renaissance Man stuff. As a result, thanks to some excellent editors, I actually didn't even know a lot of that was *in* the book until Ursula did her amazing live-read.

I've been spending a lot of time in bed lately, due to some medical stuff, and I've been wanting to read something that I can pick up and put down easily without feeling like I've lost my place or gotten overly invested. SFR is *very* chunkable in that regard. And if there's one thing we all know that I love, it's revisiting beloved childhood classics of mine and setting them on fire. Doubly-so if it's a sacred cow roast in the process. (Though I do want to note, in case anyone is feeling nostalgic, to be very careful of old SFR movies because at least one of them had so much animal cruelty in it that I'm pretty sure that film is one reason why modern films now have a disclaimer insisting that no animals were harmed in the making of this film. Kissmate and I started watching one of them on Disney+ earlier last year and we had to stop about 15 minutes in.)

Ever since I started my project rewriting the Grimms' fairy tales, I've become hyper-aware of how hard it is to find out the *translator* for non-English pieces of public domain writing. Go search the Swiss Family Robinson offerings on the Amazon Kindle store and you'll see what I mean; author and publisher are there, and editor is usually available too, but translators aren't listed. And is the book abridged or unabridged? I wanted an unabridged version if possible, as I'm assuming that any abridgment would focus on removing some of the nutty (and we want maximum nutty!) but according to Anne Wingate, "No unabridged edition of Swiss Family Robinson exists in English. Indeed, the book has been rewritten so many times, by so many editors, that it can legitimately be said that that no complete edition of the book exists in *any* language." Dammit.

Actually, I want to quote a larger chunk from the Pink Tree Press:

   No unabridged edition of Swiss Family Robinson exists in English. Indeed, the book has been rewritten so many times, by so many editors, that it can legitimately be said that that no complete edition of the book exists in *any* language.
   Johann David Wyss, a Swiss pastor, originally wrote this book to entertain and instruct his four sons. Years later, his son Johann (or Jean—accounts differ) Rudolf Wyss, by then a professor of philosophy, persuaded his father to allow him to complete and edit the unfinished manuscript. It was published in two volumes in Zurich in 1812-1813.
   Its French translator, Mme de Montholieu, obtained permission to greatly enlarge the book. It was published in five volumes from 1824 through 1826. The first English edition, abridged, was published in 1814; it was followed by several other English translations of varying quality. In 1849 W.H.G. Kingston re-translated and greatly abridged Mme. De Montholieu's version. Most English versions are based on Kingston's abridged version.
   Despite a vast number of amusing errors in flora and fauna, the book has entertained, and warmed the hearts of, many generations. However, most modern editions omit an incredible amount even of Kingston's translation by making small cuttings here and there, some of them maddeningly inept. The Editor's Cut edition from Pink Tree Press has been based on, and compared with, no fewer than five previous editions, all of them out of copyright. Most, though not all, of the cuttings have been restored. The material that continues to be omitted is of little imaginable interest to anyone other than a scholar of nineteenth century literature.
   Anne Wingate, Ph.D.
   Pink Tree Press

So the answer to "which translator was this?" is apparently, in the case of SFR, W.H.G. Kingston + one or more unnamed and unsung heroes trying to figure out what to cut and what to keep from this two-volume-turned-five-volume-turned-one-volume-again monstrosity.

Which version are we to use for our live-read? I'm extremely tempted to use the Pink Tree Press version, not only on the strength of that excellent editor's note, but also because of useful footnotes like "Some editions translate [Franz] to Francis, apparently to avoid confusion with Fritz. I see no reason for the change, and am retaining the original spelling. Ed." The only downside to the Pink Tree Press version is that, as far as I can tell, no one has loaded it onto the Amazon Kindle store, which is easier for me to read and take notes electronically.

The next-best translation that I can find (here defined as the translation closest to the Pink Tree Press as the gold standard) is the Windermere version which is available both on Project Gutenberg and Amazon Kindle. And if you're looking for something that is a little more readable and a newer English translation than the 1849 Kingston edition, there is a lovely one available on Project Gutenberg and Amazon by...someone! You literally can't tell from the book who is writing the preface about its newer, more modern translation.

Books. They are truly amazing sometimes. Anyway. Watch this space, I guess? We'll be pulling from the Pink Tree and Windermere versions for this live-read because they have a lot more nutty in them, but I'm going to list the New Hotness as well, because it really is more readable (in my opinion) and you might actually want a copy of this book that doesn't make your eyes want to vacate your head.


Pink Tree Press: Project Gutenberg.
Windermere: Project Gutenberg and Amazon Kindle.
New (Anonymous) Hotness: Project Gutenberg and Amazon Kindle.

Open Thread: March Wind Moon

There are a lot of names for the monthly moons. As a Wiccan practitioner, my favorite name for the March full moon is the Wind Moon. What's yours?

Open Threads are for socializing and sharing! What have you been reading / writing / listening / playing / watching lately? Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about.

The Dragon Dentist

"Yeah, I know who you mean. Just about everyone around here does. Though I can't say I know their real name; we all just call 'em DD. You know, for 'Dragon Dentist'. I guess when you get a reputation for sticking your hands in the mouths of live dragons, that sorta becomes the thing everyone knows you for. People aren't going to remember 'Morgan' or 'Alexi' the way they remember 'Dragon Dentist'.

"Eh, I think it's probably pretty easy to stick your hands in a dragon's mouth, once you get over certain impulses towards bodily safety. I reckon it's once you're in there that things start getting hairy. Or scaly? Either way. Buy a round for DD the next time they're in town and you'll get an earful. You think pulling a bad tooth is hard, try it when the tooth is the length of your arm from finger to elbow, and you look like a nice ham dinner to the tooth's owner. And said aforementioned owner is also deeply cranky and sleep-deprived after months or years of debilitating tooth pain. Couldn't be me doing the job, no sir.

"No, I'm not exaggerating. Look, have you ever actually seen a dragon up close and personal? No, I didn't think so. You've seen 'em in the sky, sure, but you haven't had to appreciate just how damn big they actually are. I've seen some of the teeth DD has pulled and if you'd seen them too you'd know how full of shit you sound right now. Ohhh, you saw a smallish dragon tooth on display in Whitehall when you were passing through and now you know everything, huh? Well, yeah, young dragons exist and get hunted just like anything else. And the teeth aren't all the same size, genius. Are your back teeth as long as your dog teeth? Are your dog teeth the same length as an orc's tusk? No. Here, drink up. Though I gotta tell you that if you keep kicking back Flarbotten Fabulous Flotsams like that, you'll need a dentist of your own soon.

"Naw, DD doesn't work on humans. Totally different species, you know? Hells, they're a virtuoso as it is, being willing to work with different dragon breeds and not specializing. The poison-spitters have these thin fangs that retract like a snake's; they're much more fragile than those tree branches the fire-breathers are sporting. The swamp-dwellers keep their teeth on the entire outside of their mouth--something to do with the acid breath, if I recall--while desert dragon teeth are all tucked up on the inside. Don't get me started on the swimmers; you'd think those would be the easy ones, right? Everyone knows fish-eaters are less scary than the cattle-eaters. No sir, turns out the swimmers have got *rows*. Actual multiple rows of razors in their mouths. Give a man nightmares, reaching into that. Ocean dragons just should not be fucked with, period.

"Probably lucky for DD that the usual solution is just to pull the problem tooth. Dragons grow lost teeth back, given a year or two. Have to, really, if you're gonna live a few centuries and your favorite midnight snack is a good sheep femur; you'd run out of teeth otherwise. Old dragons die from a lot of things, but starvation isn't one of them. Of course, DD does more than just yank out teeth all day. Says dragons are worse than kids when it comes to taking care of their teeth. They get all kinds of foul-smelling gunky build up that has to be cleaned out, and there's always a few bones or worse stuck between the back teeth. DD has a whole collection of weird shit they've removed, you should ask to see it sometime. Swords, maces, axes, wands, and some kind of golden orb thing that we think was probably a magical focus for a dead wizard. Well, I mean, I assume they're dead if their focus was stuck in a dragon's teeth. You don't usually survive that.

"What's that? 'Does it at least pay well?' You don't know the half of it. These dragons are hoarders, you know, real loot mongers. And they're grateful to DD for what they do; you ever feel that blessed relief when a tooth that's been burning in pain for weeks is suddenly just gone? No better feeling, and they know it. DD's been hauled down with more money than they can carry more than once. More money than I'd feel safe carting around, that's for sure. What? No, no. Bandits don't mess with DD, even the worst scoundrels know better. I mean. Would *you* threaten a dragon's favorite dentist? I wouldn't."

Chicago Winters

"Texas, huh? How are you liking our winters?"

It's hard to explain that, because of global climate change, Chicago winters have apparently been "mild this year" for years. That, yes, the cold is harsh to me but not much different from the Texas winters of my youth. That the temperatures don't drop lower than they did in Texas, they just drop low for longer. That the "mild" Texas winters they hear about have days that cycle from the 30s to the 50s to the 70s and back again, making my own internal heating system fluctuate wildly -- that those mild Texas winters may average out to 50s, but an average mean isn't a mode.

How do I explain that, because of how houses are built in the north (to hold heat) versus how houses are built in the south (to dissipate heat) we're actually warmer at home in Chicago than we ever were at home in Texas. That weatherproofing was put into this house, which has stood since the 1920s, and that the newly built house my (then) husband bought in Texas wasn't made nearly so well. When we put our hands near the windows and doors, there's no piercing draft, no need to tape blankets to the walls every winter.

When it snowed in Texas, we would be house-bound sometimes for days, often unable to access groceries or healthcare or even emergency services. When it snows here in Chicago, the streets are cleared quickly, often on the same day. We had been warned to buy snow shovels and prepare to shovel our sidewalks -- or to hire someone to do it, which we worried about as a "disability tax" we might struggle to pay. But we haven't shoveled a single snowflake; our neighbors on both sides generously rush to take care of the sidewalks, reassuring us that they like how the work keeps them warm and makes them feel helpful.

Sometimes we try to explain the differences in infrastructure. The confusion on our realtor's face when we asked him if he had an electric company "to recommend" to us; there is only one electric provider here while Texas has hundreds, all with different gimmicks designed to part you and your money without adding value. We tell them about the Texas power grid, how it is separate from the rest of the country and held together by glue and string. We explain how often the power would go out, compared to up here where the electricity has only gone out once in two years, and then only for about five minutes. About the year we lost power for days because of a snow storm and our neighbor who had to charge his oxygen tank with a car charger.

There's a difference in community here, in the attitude towards cold weather. Everywhere has coat racks, so you have a place to hang your jacket without having to wrestle with it. People warn syou about the weather, ask you if you're ready for it, and are happy to give tips. The city pushes warnings to our cellphone weather app, telling us when there will be ice on the roads and to be careful. When our street flooded in July, people came out -- city personnel and volunteers alike -- to tell us how to apply for FEMA relief and offering to help fill out the aid form. The city puts up helping weekly articles on the website for ways to qualify for relief; we didn't have anything like that in Texas. We've never waited more than ten minutes at the DMV up here, and getting our handicap plates was a million times easier than it was in Texas. Registering to vote by mail was a breeze. These things don't relate directly to the winters, but at the same time... it does. Having access to handicap parking means I have less icy ground to walk, and I'm less likely to fall and hit my head like I did that one time in the Michael's parking lot in Texas.

How do we like the winters? Better than in Texas, actually. It's colder, sure, but there are shields in place against the cold. Useful city warnings, a helpful community, swift public repairs, consistent utilities, and even buildings that have been built with the cold in mind: insulation in the walls, sealant around the windows, placement of buildings and out-buildings to block wind and shelter inhabitants. An accountant we met in our dentist's office told me he envied us for our life in Texas, for not having state income tax; I asked him if he likes having electricity in the winter during-and-after snowstorms, and he was shocked.

We told him, too, about the lack of public transportation and lack of de-icing services. How, after every snow or freeze -- no matter how mild or severe -- we would drive to work and pass three or four or five wrecks by the side of the road, casualties of the bad weather. How there are almost no buses, no elevated train, and whole roads that simply aren't cleared until the snow melts off on its own. He hadn't considered that these things he takes for granted because they've always been here for him might not be. Not that I blame him. It's been an adjustment for us too.

We don't exactly "like" the winters. But we like them a lot more than we expected.

Open Thread: February Hunger Moon

There are a lot of names for the monthly moons. As a Wiccan practitioner, my favorite name for the February full moon is the Hunger Moon. What's yours?

Open Threads are for socializing and sharing! What have you been reading / writing / listening / playing / watching lately? Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about.

Open Thread: January Wolf Moon

There are a lot of names for the monthly moons. As a Wiccan practitioner, my favorite name for the January full moon is the Wolf Moon. What's yours?

Open Threads are for socializing and sharing! What have you been reading / writing / listening / playing / watching lately? Shamelessly self-promote or boost the signal on something you think we should know about.