Real Time Reading, Uncategorized

Real-Time Reading – 22-28 October – Chapter 39

sam-burriss-412574Sam Burriss

Chapter 39

After my tea, Sarah made me her famous scrambled eggs. They were laden with onions, mushrooms, and cheese and topped with a spoonful of salsa. She put a steaming plate before me.

Because fluffy, shiny scrambled eggs are one of my favorite things, I happily provide you with this How To video from the Kitchn. Much later in the series, I am pretty sure that Amira serves Diana an Indian riff on scrambled eggs similar to Egg Burji, which jazzes up your ordinary eggs with onion, ginger, chiles, tomato, turmeric, and cilantro. Also highly recommended for your near-death-recovery needs.

“The house’s most legendary feats happened around my thirteenth birthday,” I remembered with a grin. “It came up with a record four bedrooms and a Victorian parlor set.”

“And twenty-four place settings of Blue Willow china,” Em recalled.

Deb’s interior design muse strikes again!

English Blue Willow

There’s plenty of Blue Willow china available on eBay. The pattern is a distinctive and ornate form of chinoiserie, or faux Chinese, decorative art. It became popular in the 18th century in England when English designers began copying and interpreting the motifs of traditional Chinese ceremics. The Willow pattern in particular may have been created around 1790. It features willow trees, a pavilion or pagoda, a water feature, and sometimes boats or people. According to Wikipedia, there’s a story of–you guessed it–star-crossed lovers associated with the pattern that evolved into a comic opera. Here’s the fable:

Once there was a wealthy Mandarin, who had a beautiful daughter (Koong-se). She had fallen in love with her father’s humble accounting assistant (Chang), angering her father. (It was inappropriate for them to marry due to their difference in social class.) He dismissed the young man and built a high fence around his house to keep the lovers apart. The Mandarin was planning for his daughter to marry a powerful Duke. The Duke arrived by boat to claim his bride, bearing a box of jewels as a gift. The wedding was to take place on the day the blossom fell from the willow tree.

On the eve of the daughter’s wedding to the Duke, the young accountant, disguised as a servant, slipped into the palace unnoticed. As the lovers escaped with the jewels, the alarm was raised.


They ran over a bridge, chased by the Mandarin, whip in hand. They eventually escaped on the Duke’s ship to the safety of a secluded island, where they lived happily for years. But one day, the Duke learned of their refuge. Hungry for revenge, he sent soldiers, who captured the lovers and put them to death. The gods, moved by their plight, transformed the lovers into a pair of doves (possibly a later addition to the tale, since the birds do not appear on the earliest willow pattern plates).

It is now my dream to write a comic opera based on a china pattern.

“It’s not a particular place I have in mind,” Matthew said cryptically. “We’re going to hide Diana in time.”

Aside from offering nearly limitless narrative potential, the idea of time travel is also scientifically fascinating.

Einstein’s special and general theories of relativity suggest that there might be potential for traveling forward in time if we could travel faster than the speed of light. That isn’t likely at all. If, however, time and space bend around mass, there’s a possibility that wormholes “could connect otherwise very distant parts of the universe.” In theory, if there are wormholes, they have probably existed since the Big Bang and would offer only limited opportunities to travel between points in time and space.

This article suggests that Kip Thorne of Caltech did some theoretical work on general relativity and quantum physics related to time travel that might eliminate the “grandfather paradox,” i.e., the entire plot of Diana Gabaldon’s Dragonfly in Amber.
This article from Newsweek talks about how one might make the Traversable Acausal Retrograde Domain in Spactime device (Dr. Who’s TARDIS) work. The model researchers used treats the three spatial dimensions and the fourth dimension, time, as one and then bends them in a circle. Then the “box” device just, er, changes the circle. It’s all very mathematical and theoretical and they seem very smart.

“Didn’t you get this off a yellow-fever victim?” Matthew asked, fingering the tooth.

“In New Orleans,” Marcus replied. “The epidemic of 1819.”

New Orleans had a series of yellow fever epidemics from 1817-1905. In that time, more than 41,000 people died. In the first yellow fever epidemic, the mortality rate for Mobile, New Orleans, and Savannah was almost 50%. Yellow fever is carried by mosquitos and results in a viral infection in the liver. The symptoms are foul–headache, muscle soreness, fever, vomiting, dizziness, jaundice, organ failure, internal hemorrhage, delirium, and seizures–and there’s no known cure.  During the worst yellow fever “season” in the history of New Orleans, 29,120 people contracted the disease. Once upon a time, they “vaccinated” people against yellow fever by feeding them mercury. It was… unsuccessful. Now, there’s a real vaccine. You might need it if you travel to certain parts of Africa or South America where the disease hasn’t been eradicated, yet.

“Who knows? But don’t worry. It’s happened to everybody. You drive to work and don’t remember how you got there.”

As it turns out, Sarah isn’t entirely wrong–but it has less to do with time travel than it does how your brain processes information. Apparently, the longer your brain takes to process information (especially new information), the longer time feels. Ordinary, regular things–like your commute–are familiar and your brain essentially fast-forwards through them. In order to fix this and stay present, recommends “recalibrating your reality.” Let me know if it works.

In this chapter, we learn that vampires like candied nuts. If you’re looking to try them at home, I collected a few recipes for you:

Cinnamon Vanilla Glazed Walnuts

Roasted Cinnamon Sugar Candied Nuts

Sweet and Spicy Maple Pecans

I will be over here. Eating all of the Vanilla Cardamom Candied Pecans I can possibly make.

“Rue,” I said, recognizing it from Marthe’s tea.

“Clover, broom, knotweed, and slippery elm bark, too, from the smell of it.” Sarah gave the air a good sniff. “That poppet was made to draw someone–Diana, presumably–but it’s got a protection smell on it, too.

We already talked about herbs a bit, but I think it bears re-visiting.

Rue is known as the “herb of grace” and is associated with sorrow, regret, and compassion. Clover is a symbol of vitality. Knotweed symbolises binding and health. Slippery elm reportedly “stops gossip.” I have no idea what this means.

“How the hell did one of my mother’s earrings get into Bridget Bishop’s poppet?” Matthew’s face was back to that pasty gray color.

Earrings are one of the oldest forms of body ornament. Pearls are a symbol of wealth and power; a matched pair like Ysabeau’s would have been nearly priceless in an era before the cultivation of pearls. Image result for pearl earring 16th centuryIn the legend of Antony and Cleopatra, Cleopatra tells Antony that she will serve him the most expensive dinner in history. At table, Cleopatra crushes a pearl earring into a goblet of wine and drinks it. Antony declines to drink the matching pearl and declares that she has won. This story, fittingly, reminds me of Ysabeau.

Deb’s post on 22 October is here.

If you’d like to talk about this chapter–or any others–you can find us at @chamomilenclove on Twitter or at



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