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text 2018-12-31 16:20
24 Festive Tasks: Door 14 - Hanukkah, Task 1 (A Miracle? Maybe.)

 

I hadn't actually thought of this incident in a long time, and when I remembered it during the course of this game, it took me a while to make up my mind whether to use it for the "miracle" or the "homing pigeon" task -- but given that it scared the living daylights out of me, somehow "miracle" seems to cut it better.

 

This happened during a skiing holiday when I was in my mid-20s, in the Dolomites region of the Italian Alps (which, for the record, I still love dearly -- it's one of the most dramatic and beautiful parts of the Alps). And it was an incredibly effective reminder that even in today's highly technicized world, nature can easily get the better of you, with potentially lethal consequences.  Even if you think you know what you are doing (or if only one in a party of two knows what they are doing).

 

My mom first put skis under my feet when I was 3, and we'd been spending at least a week or two per winter -- and most years, more than that -- in the various skiing regions of Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Italy ever since (often also with the family of my mom's sister, all of whom were avid skiers as well).  So by the time this incident happened, I was well familiar with the vagaries of winter weather in the mountains, too -- we had had several tricky situations in the past, but had always been able to deal with them, regardless whether it was just the two of us or the larger family party of six.

 

This vacation was different, however.  This time, I had gone with my then-boyfriend, who had never skied in his life, nor spent time in the mountains in winter.  We went to Val di Fassa, where I had stayed before and which I liked a lot, on the one hand because of its natural beauty, but on the other hand I also thought the comparatively easy slopes available in this part of the Dolomites would be a great place to learn skiing, for anybody who really wanted to learn.  The more advanced Fassa slopes are also part of the so-called Sella Ronda, a circular network of interlinked slopes and ski lifts all around the Sella massif which allows you to make entire day or half-day tours on your skis and explore several different skiing regions, instead of being limited to only a single one ... but obviously this sort of thing is impossible with someone who has never been on skis before.  So we agreed that I'd spend most of the time with my boyfriend, teaching him to ski on one of the Val di Fassa beginners's slopes.  Only one day I'd do part of the Sella Ronda and ski over to neighboring Val Gardena (Grödnertal), where my mom and my aunt and uncle were staying at the same time.  And tellingly, what happened did NOT happen while I was out alone, going to Val Gardena and back (on a series of slopes that I was well familiar with -- we had spent several vacations in Val Gardena in the past, too, and the part of the Sella Ronda between there and Val di Fassa was one stretch that we particularly loved and had skied many, many times).

 

 

My boyfriend and I were not staying in one of the skiing towns and villages down in the valley but halfway up to Passo Sella, because most hotels were already fully booked by the time he said he wanted to go -- which for a popular Alpine skiing region was not unexpected (and I was quite frankly happy to still find any accommodation at all).  So for a few days we went down to the beginners's slopes in Campitello and Canazei, and back up to Passo Sella again in the afternoon.  One day, we were late getting started on our trip back -- I forgot why.  The weather had been fine in the morning when we started (and most of the day, too); I'd packed skid chains regardless, but even those ultimately were no help.

 

At some point on our way up to the Pass, dusk began to fall.  At the same time, clouds were moving in, fogging up the view and snowing in the road, until we were caught in a complete whiteout, with dusk added into the mix and visibility reduced to practically zero.  There was nobody else on the road, not even snow ploughs -- I think their operators had been surprised by the sudden change of weather, too (this was when weather reports were a lot more unreliable anyway, but particularly so in the mountains, where the weather can change very rapidly).  Somehow, I made it all the way up to within almost a kilometre or two (1 - 1 1/2 miles) of our hotel, to a point where the road was flattening out again for a stretch.  I don't remember why exactly we didn't manage the last part of the road back to the hotel in our car, but I do remember pulling over to the side with my inner reserves thoroughly drained by that point already, telling my boyfriend there was nothing for it; we'd have to walk the last part of the way, carrying our skis.  So we set out with me leading the way, warning him to stay close behind me, walking single file; and with nothing to guide me but the telegraph poles along the road, the respective next one of which I could barely make out with everyone that I passed.

 

 

After a while, I realized that my boyfriend was no longer walking behind me.  I couldn't tell how long that had been the case (in a whiteout, the combined effect of low clouds and snow will also muffle almost all sound) and whether, disregarding my warning, he had just dropped into one of his habitual slow ambles or whether he had actually fallen.  I briefly hesitated whether to go back and look for him or walk on and try to get help as fast as possible.  Since dusk was really closing in on us and even if he had fallen and I had gone back, I wasn't sure whether there would have been anything I could have done on my own, I decided to walk on and try to get to the hotel and call for help as quickly as possible; all the more since I thought I had almost reached the turnoff.  This, fortunately, was true.  But although the pathway to the hotel was short, there was now no more landmark to guide me -- and of course, the path itself was rapidly disappearing under layers of freshly fallen snow, too.  I literally stumbled on, hoping I was going in the right direction.  Then I slipped and fell, and was instantly and completely disoriented -- and in despair, ready to just lie down and give up. 

 

Eventually I pulled myself up and crawled forward, hoping to at some point be able to grab onto something that would show me where I was.  That something, when I found it at last, turned out the stairs to the hotel -- luckily I had fallen right in the hotel (originally a farm) forecourt.  I burst into the door and, once inside, into the hotel kitchen, where I hoped the host family would be staying at that moment (which they were), and blurted out something to the effect that our car had broken down a kilometre or two back on the main road, my boyfriend hadn't followed me and I didn't know whether anything had happened to him.  Like many hotels and farms in the area (and as I had hoped they would), this one had a snowcat, which they brought out to go look for my boyfriend, while the landlady made me sit down in the kitchen to get warm again, gave me a cup of hot cocoa and tried to calm me down.  A while later, the guys who had gone out returned with my boyfriend -- unscathed and merely disgusted.

 

We had only one more day left during that stay; I don't recall what we did on that day, but it wasn't skiing.  Two days later we left for home. 

 

And I've learned that even today, it is still possible to come to serious harm literally on the doorstep of a welcoming house that you're not able to recognize.  I shudder to think what sort of peril whiteouts and blizzards must have meant in decades and centuries gone by.

 


Sassolungo (Langkofel): Unquestionably the most dramatic peak between Val di Fassa and Val Gardena; the Sella Ronda passes just below it, somehwere behind the snowed-in ridge to the right.

This is how I remember skiing in the Dolomites with my mom and my family! ;)

 

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text 2018-12-27 22:05
24 Festive Tasks: Door 14 - Hanukkah, Task 2 (9 Candles)

 

Some of the things for which I am grateful this holiday season:

 

* My mom and the fact that, at age 80 (just this year) she is still around and well enough to manage her own affairs;

* My beautiful, darling new fur babies, Sunny and Charlie; and all the cats in my life -- Teddy and all that he taught me about cats who haven't grown up around humans, as well as my much-missed first trio, Gypsy, Holly and Tiger;

* My BFF and our almost 4 decades of friendship;

* Books (and more books);

* The BookLikes community and the fact that, against all odds, it's still around and feeling closer than ever;

* My continued good health;

* My true and trusted work relationships;

* The treasures of our world, both natural and man-made, which miraculously we haven't managed to eradicate entirely just yet -- and by the same token, every single person contributing to the preservation of peace on earth, justice and sanity, in however little or big way they can;

* 2 days of absolute and uninterrupted bliss, quiet and relaxation on Christmas and Boxing Day.

 

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review 2018-12-27 19:11
Some of the Glamour Has Fallen Away
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - J.K. Rowling,Mary GrandPré

It's so weird. I first read Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets when I was 19 years old. Now reading it when I am 38 I am just seeing all kinds of issues. Maybe some of it is colored by the fact that I am older. And maybe some of it is by the fact that I am realizing that I don't particularly care for J.K. Rowling that much.  It could also be because I read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and loathed that play. Either way, this book didn't sing for me the way it did when I was 19. 

 

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets finds Harry 12 years old and back at the Durlseys. He is a little hurt his school friends haven't written him anything in the way of happy birthdays. A house elf named Dobby pops up though and warns Harry that he can't return to Hogwarts this year. Dobby kinds of sucks and uses magic in order to get Harry in trouble at Hogwarts, it doesn't work, and Harry is able to return. That is not the only weirdness though, Harry and Ron try to go through the magical platform and are stopped. The twosome decide to fly to Hogwarts (the justifications for this mess still makes me shake my head) so these two are in a lot of trouble when the school year starts.

 

This book kind of sparks more of the beginning of why Slytherin didn't get along with the other founders though. We hear more about those who come from Muggle backgrounds (like Hermoine) should not have been allowed entrance to Hogwarts. And we see a warning about the chamber of secrets being opened with leads Harry, Hermoine, and Ron off to investigate. Weirdly though most of the book is set up to try to show that Harry should not be in Gryffindor, but Slytherin. We also get Ron's sister Ginny in this one that made me sigh along with the whole introduction to someone we will get to know more of, Tom Riddle. 


The writing is okay, I just found myself bored throughout. Maybe because I read this before and knew what was coming. Or maybe because it just didn't grab me since I saw too many plot holes, don't get me started on the whole Ginny thing. It just makes zero sense. The world building in this one was weak (the whole house elf thing just made me sigh) and I don't know. I think that it could have been stronger. Dumbledore read as clueless to me in this one. 

 

The flow was not good. I just started to feel like this book was endless. 

 

Hanukkah

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text 2018-12-23 21:00
Hanukkah-24 Tasks

Hanukkah

Task 1:  Have you had any miracles in your life?  (Kids are a given.)  Just enough change for tolls?  Just enough gas to get you to the station?  Been tragically late for a flight only to find the flight was even more tragically delayed?  Nothing is too small - share your miracles with us!

 

After I found a lump a few years ago (back in 2013) I was scared to death. My mother died of breast cancer and every time I get my mammogram (which I have been doing since I was in my mid 30s since my mother was diagnosed when I was in my first year of college) I would just worry that I would get told that they found something.

 

I was asked a few years ago about doing genetic testing and I said no to that. I just rather deal with the here and now, and not sit and fret about something that may not come to be.

 

Anyway, I found a lump. And because I am an idiot I ignored it for about 2 months (no don't do this). I just hoped that it would go away. I finally sucked it up and went to my primary care physician who said, yeah that's a lump. They ordered an ultrasound which came back inconclusive and off to get a mammogram I went. At this point I just said, yep it's cancer, I am probably going to die. And I spent a lot of time randomly bursting into tears. I didn't tell anyone about it at first because I was so stressed about it.

 

After the mammogram came back though, they said nope, it's not looking like it's cancerous. They diagnosed it as being fatty breast tissue that had traveled to under my armpit (which apparently happens sometimes). So I felt like I got a great reprieve. Of course though after a year of dealing with the pain from the lump and it swelling up every month during my time of the month, I finally had enough and had it removed in 2014. They had to do a biopsy of that, and it turned out to be fine, they didn't find any cancer cells in my lymph nodes. So that's my miracle right there.  

 

Task 2: Light 9 candles each representing something you’re thankful for (share a picture with us; sharing anything else is optional).


Updated: 12/23/18

 

 

 

 

Task 3: Have a donut – and let us share it via a photo. Homemade donuts and shared recipes encouraged … but any donut will do just fine.

 

 

Here's my donut picture! 

 

 

Task 4: A miracle crucial to Hanukkah is the Miracle of the cruse of oil, which concerns a jug of oil that (ostensibly) only contained enough oil for a single day, but miraculously turned out to last all of eight days. – Miracles aside, tell us: Have you ever experienced that something you had bought or you owned lasted a lot longer than anticipated … or where you expected a shortage which then fortuitously didn’t occur after all?

 

Crisco is that for me. You get a regular sized can and that thing can last for ages. I think the longest one I had was almost for a year. I think it's because if you just use a regular tablespoon you end up having enough to just coat your pan all dang day. I used to love to watch my mom scoop up a ton to fry chicken in. And of course we take that grease and put it into an empty Crisco can that we also use for frying :-)

 

Crisco All-Vegetable Shortening - 16oz - image 1 of 1

 

Book: Read a book about light, miracles, characters who are Jewish or books set in Israel.  OR: Hanukkah commemorates the re-dedication of the second temple in the second century; read the second book in a series or a book with the word “second” or “two” in the title.

 

Stumped on this one. 

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review 2018-12-09 23:32
Book for Door 14 Hanukkah - "Binti Home" - love the writing - hate this publishing trend.
Binti: Home - Nnedi Okorafor

Let me start with a complaint so I can get it out of my system. I hate this emerging practice in Science Fiction to slice novels up into novellas and drip feed them to us.

I hated it with Murderbot and I hate it with Binti.

 

I was blown away by the first novella, "Binti" It deserved the Nebula and Hugo awards it won. It was a startlingly innovative novella about identity, about us and other, about fear and harmony, about how defining what it means to be alien also defines what it means to be human. "Binti" worked as a standalone, self-contained story.

 

It took two more years for "Binti Home" to reach us and, very disappointingly, it does not work as a self-contained novella. It's a sequel, so it can't be standalone but I did expect it to be self-contained. What I got is the second act in a three-act play.

 

It turns out it's a very good second act in what I'm sure will be an excellent novel but I wish the publishers had had the integrity to wait until the whole book was ready before publishing it. 

 

Ok, complaint over. 

 

There are lots of good things in this middle act of Binti's story.

 

It retains the freshness of the original novella. It doesn't reprise any of the previous action but carries straight on from where "Binti" finished.

 

It keeps the humour as well as the drama of the previous events and uses both to explore being alien. Here's what happens when Binti persuades Okuwu, an alien shaped like a massive jellyfish that moves through air rather than water an is always referred to as "it" to put cover its tentacles with  otjize, a mix of mud and oil that Himba women cover themselves with:

Covering them with so much otjize,Okwu told me, made it feel a little intoxicated.

 

“Everything is . . . happy,” it had said, sounding perplexed about this state.

 

“Good,” I said, grinning. “That way, you won’t be so grumpy when you meet everyone. Khoush like politeness and the Himba expect a sunny disposition.”

 

“ I will wash this off soon,” it said. “It’s not good to feel this pleased with life.”

"Binti Home" explores the issue of self and other from a new angle by following Binti's own physical and spiritual evolution from the Himba tribal girl she thought herself to be into something other and more than that.

 
When Binti returns home to restore her sense of identity as a Himba woman she is instead forced to confront the prejudices that shape her view of her homeworld and prevent her from seeing herself clearly. Binti's skill as a "harmonizer" is tested when she finds that it's her rapidly changing self that she needs to harmonize.
 

The tension builds. Revelations are made. Threats are introduced. Then the novella ends. Well, actually, it just stops.

 

So I'm going to stop as well. I have to go and read the third act, "The Night Masquerade", which I've just downloaded from the Kindle Store for the princely sum of £2.63.

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