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Currently at Havelock: 0.4. High today: 11.4. Just another day of high temperature records being broken by more than a full degree (including by 2.7 at Peterborough, where records go back to 1867).

I'm not sure it's ever struck me before that the fact that Pancake Day occurs around the start of maple syrup season is yet more evidence that God is having a larf. But if it was ever gonna strike me some year, this would be the year, because this is the year I got into the maple syrup business ... or at least got myself busy about maple syrup. Today I test-fired my homemade sap stove:

 photo 1ff5ab8f-f4c5-4820-9afb-b6b8605fee94_zpst3otrgtn.jpg

... which was inspired by this, and was assembled from a large piece of duct that I got at one Habitat for Humanity ReStore and a fire grate that I got at another. I paid $15 for each of them ... which I felt was maybe a bit much for the duct and a fantastic bargain for the fire grate. I also bought a piece of stovepipe for $5 but ended up using a couple of pieces that were lying around the basement here ... including one with a funnelly bit that jams perfectly in between the fire grate and the hole I cut for the stovepipe, which happened to be sitting on the floor immediately to the right of where I was cutting the duct. That all went extremely pleasingly until the fire got good and hot and the finish started disappearing off the cooking surface of stove, which is when I learned that ducts are made of galvanized steel ... and then I learned about metal fume fever, and that was extremely displeasing. But in the end I've (slightly uneasily) decided that having burned off more or less as much of the zinc coating as is going to burn off, it's probably fine, especially since the problem has to do with inhalation and not ingestion of zinc oxide fumes, so contaminating the syrup shouldn't be an issue. (Also it turns out that filing cabinets are also (usually? often? sometimes?) made of galvanized steel, so if the guy who inspired my design wasn't worried about poisoning himself then who am I to doubt Some Guy On The Internet. Also you can buy galvanized steel fire rings for your fire pit, so.) Anyway hopefully I will get to trying it out with sap tomorrow, using a stainless steel roasting pan I got for $8 at Value Village. So far I've tapped one tree and got a full two-gallon bucket of sap (after getting a little bit last week, which I boiled on the kitchen stove and made a surprisingly sweet and delicious cup of tea with, and then a tiny bit of very thin syrup which we had with our pancakes yesterday), which theoretically should make about half a pint of syrup. If that goes all right I'll tap at least one more tree next week. [ETA Mar. 2: it did not go all right. Very small quantity of syrup that tastes like ashes. Ugh.]

Long story short, I managed to produce some ashes today. Though presumably in not nearly as great a quantity as I did on Ash Wednesday two years ago.

The shape of this here blog-like thing may give the outside observer--were there to be any such thing--the impression that my life is more attuned to the liturgical year than it actually is. I guess that kinda represents something like an aspiration. There is anyway something really worthwhile to it. For instance ... being called upon to commit to some kind of sustained spiritual askesis once a year can be really helpful. You know, sometimes there's a thing you keep meaning to do and it takes an occasion, like a NaDruWriNi, to get you to do it, because otherwise you could just keep going to do it later. Last year, as you may recall, I was going to give up propositions for Lent. Obviously that's a joke, but a joke with serious intent. I certainly didn't get anywhere with it last Lent and the serious intent of it is still on the back burner. But related in a general way, this year I've been thinking of giving up [1] ... uh, I can't remember how I was putting it to myself, but it was somewhere in the neighbourhood of self-loathing. Or shame. (If you want to help me out with this, don't hold me to that. This project (supposing it is a project) has great potential to be counterproductive.) Shame is a thing that I have kept intending to say some things about, in relation to what One More Time with Feeling has to say about trauma, among other things. (I just learned the other day that before Lent, on some ways of dividing these things up, there is a thing called Shrovetide in which you're supposed to prepare for Lent, e.g. to work out what it is you're going to work on ... next year I maybe ought to get onto that.) Anyway ... the last academic thing I published was a book chapter sketching out my own kind of idiosyncratic Platonic-Heideggerian virtue ethics, framing happiness, as I've characterized it in my Heideggerian way, as a virtue to be cultivated in order to be receptive and possibly appropriately responsive to the happening of being (because what I've called "deep happiness" is a state of being intensely receptive to the happening of being). There has been an often-verging-on-overwhelming blockage in my life for years now that has been preventing me from doing that in any sustained way. I gotta do something about that.

[1] I don't think "giving up" is a helpful way of framing this kind of thing though. You risk the kind of bad faith of Sartre's "pederast" who supposes that if he just doesn't do that any more then he isn't that. I guess that's beside what is normally taken as the point of giving up things for Lent--you sacrifice something you really want as a demonstration of your devotion (like Sartre's pederast, you do nothing to change the sedimented embodiment of your desires; unlike Sartre's pederast, you acknowledge that they're there and that you're not doing anything to change them (and in fact--characteristic of us moderns, contrary to the ancients and most explicitly Aristotle--you might think it's more noble of you to not do something despite your desire to do it than it would be for you to not do it because you've extinguished the desire to do it), and you intend to go right back to acting on them)--but for me that's a pointless exercise. This reminds me of something I picked up from Howard Adelman a long time ago about sacrifice--that the point of sacrifice is to demonstrate your independence; by sacrificing the firstlings of the flock and the fat thereof you demonstrate how deep is your lack of attachment to material things (and so if Cain doesn't sacrifice the best he has--and despite what you may have heard in Sunday School, the bible doesn't say that he doesn't, but if he doesn't--his sacrifice fails because he is more dependent than Abel; Abel has God's favour in being more God-like). It has to be borne in mind that when Cain and Abel make their sacrifices, God hasn't told them to do it, let alone said anything about how to do it or what a good sacrifice is. They do it spontaneously as expressions of themselves and their relationships with God--the latter meaning whatever it will. Anyway you can take the point of a sacrifice to be demonstrative in one way or another, but sacrifice is more important if it's (also) performative--if the ascetic act is what Foucault calls askesis, transformative work on oneself.
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