Sunday, December 14, 2008

Here comes Santa Claus

As another year quickly speeds to a close, once again I'm taking time to reflect and wonder what my greater purpose on this planet is. My biggest purpose is to be a good mom to my kid, but it's not my only one.

Sometimes it seems my other purpose is to be a messenger. With that in mind, I've found two links I think all my readers should visit at least once: The One Dollar Diet Project blog and Styrophobia website.

I'm not green. I drive a car that runs off old-fashioned petroleum-based fuel, with no hybrid option. I ride a motorcycle the same way, as opposed to a bicycle. I choose plastic over paper because plastic has handles. I dream of a day when I can build a home with solar panels and a yard harnessing wind power and a garden water feature that utilizes hydro-electric power. More simply, I just wish I could remember to take those recyclable bags I bought into the grocery store so I can quit choosing plastic.

The more I learn about my planet, the more I want to know. One thing I've come to realize though is that we can each do something mostly painless to improve our wasteful habits.

Normally this time of year I'm ranting about the commercialism and material gluttony of Christmas.

I'm not a complete Scrooge. I still believe in the spirit of Santa. I believe in giving... but I believe that it takes more than one day a year to be a spirit of anything. Otherwise it's just a salve to ease a guilty conscience. But I digress.

This year, my spirit of Santa is giving something back not just to my community, but to my planet as well. While I stuff the back of my car with glass beer, wine, jelly, and salsa bottles that have been accumulating... so that I may go trade them in for approximately 50 cents to the recycling center, I am also bringing to you two foods for thought this holiday season.

The One Dollar Diet project takes a look at what it's like to eat on a dollar a day and is an ongoing journey to answer questions including "what does it cost to eat healthy in America". Styrophobia is a site dedicated to replacing the use of restaurant styrofoam with bio-degradable products. They are a Hawaii-based company that offers a complete line of alternatives, as well as educates the reader.

My gift to all of you this year is a season rant-free, combined with the two places I'd like you all to visit: here and here (repeated from above). May you find more meaning this season that in some gift-wrapped gift under a decorated tree. May you find an intimate kinship not only with your friends and family, but with the world around you. If you'd like to give me a gift, please find a place you can give of your time and yourself and make your community a little bit better.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Falling


I got to live out my lifelong dream of swimming in a waterfall. Well, mostly, in the "this will have to do" kind of way. The waterfall was a 45 ft. tall thing, throwing water and sticks and such into the pool where I swam. The pool was guarded by lifeguards, so that stupid people couldn't climb the rocks and dive in, nor could they try and swim up right into the falls themselves. This kept those sticks from being hurled right onto their heads.

Now, to get to this wonderful thing, I had to hike 3/4 of a mile into Waimea Valley. That is not a big thing for most people, but most people walk with ankles that move. Mine do not, when wearing my braces. So after plunking along up and down the valley trail to the falls, I was nearly in tears. Some of that was due to the emotional excitement I felt at getting to swim in the falls, but quite a bit of it was pain as well.

Just before the final push down the valley to the falls was a snack stand. They sold juices and teas and waters for $2 and up. By the time you get there, you are thinking that $2 is a real steal. I also asked him if I could get a ride back out of the valley. Ya know, help -- a rescuing as it were. He said ask the lifeguard. So I did.

I was seated at the stadium seating at the falls. Apparently it used to be used for a dive show and hula exhibition*. Now it's a place to put shoes and towels while swimming in the falls. Anyway, I was seated there, unlacing my bulky afo's/ankle braces, and he asked if I needed help back out. God bless him. I answered that indeed help would be wonderful, and he guided me into the water and arranged it so I woudln't have to walk out. He even arranged for the whole party to travel with me, which is not normal.

I played and splashed and swam with my munchkin until we were too cold to stay in. Then we were gloriously whisked out by a golf cart. It was not the whole do-it-yourself experience I would've savored, but it was beyond words.

Waimea Falls. I got to swim there. As in, actually in the water at the site of a waterfall. It'll very much "do".


*Used to: according to the lifeguard, the cliff diving/hula show doesn't happen anymore.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Climbing Tree

I remember the weeping willow tree in my grandparent's front yard. I would dangle from that tree as a kid -- upside down, right side up -- hanging like the little monkey that I was. That was my hiding place, with its long green fingers stretching all the way to the earth, it was like being behind gauze netting. The wind got in, diluted. Light got in, dappled. I got in, with little regard for whether or not the tree minded me climbing all over it.

Seems to me that climbing trees are getting harder and harder to come by. That wonderful willow, for example, was cut down by the new owners of the property. And so it goes these days. I see trees with fabulous limbs outstretched begging for children to climb them, but the limbs are all out of reach, the lower ones having been cut back "for safety".

Yeah, I had friends that fell out of trees; a couple of them broke their arms. I'll bet not one of them became an arborist. But we enjoyed the challenge of climbing up, and then swinging our feet from the branches enjoying the view we had earned ourselves. We even enjoyed laughing at younger siblings too scared or too small to join us.

Sounds a bit like a corporate job, doesn't it? Makes me wonder if the problem with finding a good climbing tree is that they've all been cut down to make ladders.

Friday, November 07, 2008

A fresh breath of air

Political change is riding the wind. Sure, we have the heightened culmination of the last year this past Tuesday, and since then it's been a blur of activity, what with choosing the new cabinet and making first president-elect speeches, reminding us of the lame duck president and current administration.

Lame duck is not an insult, by the way. it's a term used to describe a current president leaving office but before the new one is sworn in. I felt I had to take a minute to clarify that after what I've seen out of people's "understanding" of politics lately.

Anyway, the air. It's a changing folks. Some people think it's starting to smell like sulphur and others think it's infused with ozone and rose petals. I'd like to take a look at this breath of fresh air at a more grass roots level.

For starters, there are breath mints and chewing gum. Gum's scope includes choices for denture wearers and kids that like candy flavors and of course the minted varieties. Altoids are a long-time favorite. Mint flavored dental floss is another good one, especially after a lunch or dinner date. And speaking of "scope", there's mouthwash, too.

But it's not just the quick fixes that really freshen up a breath of air. It's the everyday habits in the master bath, like water pics and toothbrushes that run off of batteries. More important -- if you ask toothpaste manufacturers at least -- is choosing a toothpaste with tartar control and long-lasting results. There are various ways to whiten teeth at home, and even if white teeth don't really freshen the air by themselves, they give a solid appearance of it.

Some people will argue that it's not just how you clean your teeth, but what you put in your mouth, that affects the breaths of air. Onions are a long-standing scapegoat of bad breath, but some other foods accused of fouling up the air are pickles, beans (though mostly for their end results), and various alcohols.

Getting a good fresh breath of air shouldn't be a national issue. It should begin with the individual, and it should be taught at home to the next generation. Regardless of party lines, everyone should be focusing on what they can do right now, right where they are, to change the air around them. Beginning at the local level will begin the changes that ripple all the way up. Then everyone can breathe a little easier.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Abracadabra debunked

A couple of weeks ago I was out with my toddler, and had the privilege of encountering a street magician. Now, street magicians like young audiences, because they're so easy to amaze. Or so it was with this guy, at least. So he turned all his slight of hand skill to my boy, in hopes of wide eyed wonder complete with "how'd you do that!?"

Not with my boy. But the magician was yet to learn that. He started out with the old coin-behind-the ear gag, drawing an audience in, and not really fooling the toddler, who replied with "no, I'm not, you did that!" to the magician saying "you're magic!" when the coin "disappeared" only to "reappear" behind my boy's ear.

The magician was enjoying how the bright lad was able to feed off of him so cleverly that the audience was drawn to the hamming up going on. The magician played to the audience, using the boy as bait, with "well ya can't fool this one, can you?" and winking and such. At this point the magician had everyone eating out of the palm of his hand, just as he wished.

Then the tables got turned upside down.

Out came an animal cracker cookie with a flourish. "I'll show you the very first trick I ever learned" he said to all, focusing on my boy again. With large sweeping arm movements, he "placed the cookie" in his left hand and made a fist. He then sprinkled "fairy dust" over the cookie with his right hand and said "abracadabra" and Poof! the cookie was indeed gone from his left hand. Now, this was meant to bring everyone into the magic, as only my boy was supposed to be fooled by this. But in the next moment, the toddler not only stole the show, he ended it. For my boy, just 4 years old, said very directly to the street magician with absolutely no hesitation nor doubt whatsoever, "You didn't make the cookie disappear! You just crumbled it up with your other hand!"

Everyone had a good laugh. A very good laugh.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Camo thoughts

I am a veteran's daughter. My best friend is currently serving in the military. I have so many friends that wear a soldier's uniform that I'd bore you listing them all. So this post is not meant with any disrespect whatsoever. It is meant to make you think.

Recently I asked a former soldier why he quit the job after 12 years instead of going the distance to a pension. Idle curiosity, ya know, wondering why he'd get over half-way there and stop. It's a question I ask of a lot of military folk. Consider it an ongoing survey. I digress... He replied that all the money from a pension would never bring his fallen friends back.

Granted. But no money in the world from any source will ever bring those buddies back.

I've had friends die in automobile accidents. I still drive my car. I'll even trade this one in on another one someday.

I've had family members die in the hospital. I still go to the doctor. I even let insurance pick up the tab.

I've burned myself cooking in the kitchen. I still use the stove. In fact, I'm planning out dinner as we speak.

Point is, I found a real lack of reason in his reason for not finishing out the 20 years. "I found the love of my life and she didn't want to be an army wife" I would've nodded to. "I have other dreams and didn't want to put them on hold any longer" I would've thumbed-up. But "that pension money won't bring back my dead friends"? Well, neither will quitting the military.

Strange the things we say when we don't really think about what we're saying.

Sans Segue

Isn't it funny how time changes things we never think possible? Ten, twenty years after high school you run into someone you dated or had a crush on and think "oh thank god I didn't marry them!" Or you find out that that one person that used to make your life miserable and you swore you were going to learn voodoo just to put a hex on them turns out to be your best friend in the absence of peer pressure?

That didn't happen to me. Ok, maybe the first one did. But that's not the point. Without segue of any consequence, I bring you "why people are superficial":

I had a lovely conversation with a lovely lady the other day. We spoke of all that she had accomplished since her own graduation from high school. Names were dropped: Lexus, Mercedes, Stella McCartney. She explained how she and her husband labored to have a new home build for them. She regaled me with a tale of how they spared no expense with regards to marble floors and hard wood cabinets and top of the line jetted tubs. She complained at the cost of building a driveway. She lamented that her lawyer friends had it done for far less. She told me who all was at the open house they gave, and listed a bunch of hot shots that make her world complete. She continued to explain how disappointed she is that she didn't get a new car for her birthday, as hers is two model years old now.

It went on: past cruises, next year's planned trip to Disneyworld and how she wanted a safari instead but the kids.... I swear, this woman knew no bounds to how unhappy she was having everything she could possibly dream up.

Ergo my point. I've seen 42 of the United States. I've been to the Grand Canyon, Niagra Falls, Carlsbad Caverns, both coastlines, the Great Lakes, the Rocky Mountains. I've seen Canada, Mexico, and South Korea. I've been in the deep South and the Northernmost Mid-West. Chicago, DC, Atlanta, New Orleans, San Antonio, St. Louis, Denver, San Fransisco, Los Angeles, Honolulu. I've driven all but 200 miles of the original Route 66. I've got piles of photos, so what.

I've owned a Mercedes. 5, actually. All my German luxury cars were 1978-1984... the tanks. Man I loved those cars. The rode like clouds and handled like demon sports cars. I wouldn't give the taxes for a new Mercedes. Not since Crysler put its fingers in that pie. But I digress.

In this life, the things that have made me the happiest have been the small things that aren't worth anything to other people: snuggling with my son, walking hand in hand with my love, spending a day at the beach with my family, a dinner at a Denny's with good friends that was about the laughs and nothing more. No one talked about what kind of car they drove there in because my friends don't measure worth by the emblem on the front of their car. And I love them for it.

Chasing such superficial self-worth is stupid. No address is ever going to make you feel like a better human being for living there. It might make you feel safer at night, but that's about it. No job title is ever going to define you as worthy of character and moral fiber. No social status will ever make your kids love you more when you tuck them into bed at night. Now, tucking them into bed at night might make their eyes shinier when they look at you, as opposed to some nanny doing it, or no one tucking them in at all.

But we collectively chase ridiculous ideas of what is "successful". For me it's simple. A loving family and a group of friends that respect and love each other. German engineering not required.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Moms are Snobs

Well, the good ones are.

Good moms snub their nose a little bit at kids running around a restaurant with ketchup and mustard all over their face... cuz good moms wipe their kids' faces and teach their kids to wipe themselves.

They get upset when some kid on the playground goes unchecked for throwing sand in other kids' faces, and discipline their kid when he/she starts throwing sand back.

They think it's a little nasty when a toddler is waddling around in a diaper so full that it's obviously about to explode any moment, and the toddler's parent doesn't swoop in to change that thing.

Good moms know that as much as a child really wants to wear their new favorite shirt for 36 hours straight, it's not a clean shirt after the first day. And they make them change it.

They also get a little irked that other moms will sit in the corner and say "Now Jimmy, you need to share that crayon" instead of walking over to the child, taking it out of his hand, handing it to another child, and saying "Jimmy, this is called sharing. You give the blue crayon to Sue, and she gets to use it. You can use this red crayon."

Ultimately, good moms get accused of being snobs for their child rearing. I hope that every mom gets accused of being a snob.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Slant

Everything in life is a metaphor, if you choose to have the point of view to support it.

A sewing machine is a metaphor for stitching relationships together. A motorcycle is freedom, metaphorically. To some people their car is a metaphor for their sex life... or lack thereof.

Oddly, what means something today will lose meaning tomorrow. Emotions ebb and flow and the constancy of change brings about new meanings, new metaphors. Where all of this becomes bigger is in slant, bias, optimism and pessimism.

Today I felt completely out of whack, decided that the metaphor of the day was a water-weighted kid's toy clown punching bag. Cheap, gaudy, short-lived. Decide how you will how it might possibly fit. Point is, tomorrow my emotions will be something else entirely. Probably they will be influenced by media, political propaganda, and other peoples' opinions as they are dumped upon me. And sooner or later, all that will find its way here in some form or fashion for me to share my slant with you.

Today though, I'm gonna go punch on that vinyl clown bag and see how I feel after going a few rounds with a dummy.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

blank stare

Someone recently asked me about being a military spouse. Specifically, they asked "how can you follow him all over the place like that?"

The question came from a young woman who is finishing some sweat equity on a house she and her fiance recently bought. With bright eyes at her own imagined future, she asked me a question she wasn't prepared to hear the answer to.

"He is my home" I responded. "All our stuff is just junk that fills the rooms of whatever home we're living in... it's not necessary; it can all be replaced. All that is superficial -- where we live, what roof we sleep under. What matters to us is us."

She stared at me with a glazed over expression for a moment and then got her wits about her again. It seemed that she wasn't ready to be told that owning a home and putting down roots is superficial.

Then again, not everyone gets married to someone they'd follow anywhere, at whatever geographical cost it is to them. Some people get married to someone they can own the same roof with until they trade it in on a larger roof or divorce or grow old and die.

As she nervously went back to talking about finishing up the paining in her living room and relining the kitchen cabinets, I returned a blank stare.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Youth

Do you remember what it was like to be a kid? I'm talking back before knowing how to drive and sweating begging parents for gas money. I'm talking back before the drama of junior high where today's best friend is tomorrow's arch-enemy. I'm talking about back when you imagined that play grounds were castles that needed storming, and jungle gyms were pirate ships.

Remember what it was like to find entertainment out of a stick and a pile of leaves? How about thinking that paper airplanes were the coolest toys on the planet and wanting nothing more than making a better one than your buddy?

I laid in the grass at a city park today and just listened to the sounds of my son playing with other children, and remembered it all like a surreal dream. I stared up into an evergreen tree and watched the green needles grow out from the brown branches and heard young imaginations in action as an eavesdropper would.

There is no Peter Pan in me now. I can occasionally dredge up enough youthful exuberance to chase my kid and climb on the playground, but it's no longer a castle needing storming. Now it's an organized pile of metal and bolts and ropes and I envy the days when I could traverse it like a monkey in a tree.

Being an adult is depressing. Not so much the responsibilities... bills, time management, savings, balancing a budget, grocery shopping... but the loss of youth. The desperate attempts to reclaim the little girl that played with toy horses and imagined herself riding real ones across the countryside end up as reminiscing old memories and nothing more.

As the blue sky floated overhead, occasionally sending eastward silky threads of what might eventually become a puffy cirrus cloud, I lay there listening to my child play, hoping he does a better job of containing Peter Pan than I did.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Shoes

Today I gave 12 pairs of shoes to charity. I threw one pair away. Then I sat down and cried.

A couple of days ago I finally got the orthotic braces I've needed for years. But braced ankles don't wear high heels well... or at all. So all the carefully chosen, pretty-but-still-functional pumps, strappy sandals, peep-toe heels, and leather boots... they all had to go. It wasn't only hundreds of dollars of fashion going into a 13 gallon kitchen trash bag, it was years of memories and some of my identity as well.

One of my favorite pairs in the pile was a sandal variety that was part peep-toe, part ballerina lace-up, part wedge heel. They were satin and hemp and sparkly canvas, if you can imagine that. I bought the pair because they were on sale and in part because I could get away with wearing them to the Army post dining facility back when I did such things, because sandals were not allowed, but apparently peep-toes were. They were neutral enough to go with anything, and worked for casual or dress. They were everyday, they were evening. They fit my personality to a tee. They were....

Another pair was a black pleather pair of knee-high boots with silver buckles that was one part Van Helsing (Kate's character) and one part haute couteure. I loved them. That I found them in a 1 1/2 inch heel was a bonus, since anything over 2 inches destroyed my ability to walk for days. I used to wear them with this pencil skirt that flared into a gourd at the bottom. And jeans. And just about everything else. They made me feel sexy.

Finally, I threw out a pair of shoes that were made of something that resembled leather, cut into fishnets. Yes, fishnet shoes. Peep-toe fishnet heels, to be exact, with 40's era bows in leather on the heels. I picked those up in Korea for 20,000 wan and they were the most comfortable pair of heels I'd ever owned in my life... right up until the very last time I wore them and broke the sole right at the heel. I thought I'd look into getting them fixed, but finally, today, I threw them away.

Even if it's possible to transcend social comparing of ourselves to the Brad Pitt's and Heidi Klum's of the world, going back to the days of the pin up girls of the 1940's, shoes have been a core part of what's "sexy" about a woman. Her shoes complete her ensemble, and heels have always played an important part. Throwing away 12 pairs of heels is like throwing away something about me that is sexy. Strapping on a pair of orthotic braces and shoving the whole mess into Vans is... not sexy.

I also know that I have a wardrobe of dresses to follow the shoes.

So I cried. As I learn to redefine what is sexy for and about me, and how to express myself as such, I have to cast off not only what I've always been, but what society expects me to be. I have to find a new "sexy" and make it believable for me, if no one else. I also know that once I believe in myself, so will others.

In the meantime, I have extra space in my closet. And it takes me less time to figure out which pair of shoes I'm wearing today.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Tick Tock

Use a clock.

For the love of all things organized.

It's amazing to me how many people actually think that sun revolves around them. Newsflash folks: even Galileo figured out that the earth -- and all things on it -- revolve around the sun.

Let me go back a bit. Recently I've been exposed to a particular person who thinks that time is something that answers to them, instead of the other way around. So when they asked me to help them out in a pinch, I quickly learned that how that really works is that I am at their whim until they decide to "let me off the hook" as it were. I'd rather not elaborate.

No, I will. I decided to help this person by watching their kid. But they never showed up to reclaim the kid until hours -- 2, 3, 4 -- after they got off work. No phone call, no explanation.. sometimes an excuse or two. Usually I'd call their phone to get the voice mail. Sometimes they'd call back and say "I'm five minutes away" and show up 45 minutes later.

Do I need to tell you how sick I got of it? Forget the fact that it's chaotic for the kid, and not at all an example worthy of setting... but it annihilated my schedule, elevated my stress, and to call a spade a spade -- it pissed me off.

So I said something about it. Blamed it all on me even. Said "I didn't function well being left out on a string like that. Didn't know how to plan for anything, couldn't make any plans of my own, and that I didn't know what to tell the kid when he asked when he could go home. Please start calling me. Just a call. Just let me know what's going on; let me know you're alive at least." So I've almost started getting calls. At least they answer the phone when I call now. "Five minutes" still means 45 minutes. And the 3-4 hours has shrunk to 1/2-2 hours. It's better. It ain't great, but it's better.

I'm thinking of getting them a watch for Christmas so they can better tell time for their next sitter. And maybe a scale model of the universe... with the sun in the center.

Monday, September 01, 2008

music and kids

I'm learning about kids and their attention spans with regards to learning a musical instrument. I'm also learning about how this particular attention span is a bit different than the one they have for sports or watching TV. I chuckle at it all, however.

When I ran across Karla Kuskin's poem "Lewis Has A Trumpet", I just out and out guffawed. Talk about a bit of perspective:

Lewis Has A Trumpet

A trumpet
A trumpet
Lewis has a trumpet
A bright one that's yellow
A loud proud horn.
He blows it in the evening
When the moon is newly rising
He blows it when it's raining
In the cold and misty morn
It honks and it whistles
It roars like a lion
It rumbles like a lion
With a wheezing huffing hum
His parents say it's awful
Oh really simply awful
But
Lewis says he loves it
It's such a handsome trumpet
And when he's through with trumpets
He's going to buy a drum.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Sunny side of paradise

The beautiful thing about Sunny California is, well, the sun. I haven't seen rain in months, and only one cloudy day since April. It really adds to a feeling of paradise and I am starting to see why people born and raised in Cali get a bit snobby about visiting other drearier parts of the world.

But I love rain and thunderstorms. So why would I be excited about living in a place where I have exactly never seen a thunderstorm? Well, because the barometric pressure associated with storms drives me into a painful fit with the arthritis in my ankles. And because the humidity with rain pushes me right over to the couch where I curl up under blankets and cry in pain.

I've decided that living in New Mexico or Arizona is probably perfect for my ankles, though I'll miss the coast horribly. Making that decision and moving are two different things, however. I'm too stubborn for that. Instead, I hope to bounce around a few more places and see the world -- or at least parts of it.

So in Sunny California, for the first time in 19 years, I have found a doctor willing to really help me find some solutions for my ankles. I'm finally getting ankle braces (afo's, similar to those) that will actually stabilize me. Hopefully a nice side-effect is a reduction in swelling and maybe even pain. When all that fails, I'm hoping to get a referral to one of the big universities out here that specialize in cutting-edge technology and experimental surgeries.

My hopes are that when I do leave sunny paradise for other parts of the world, I won't suffer the same agonizing pain I've had in the past, just because of a little weather.

And the moral of the story is, if you beg enough doctors in enough places to take you seriously, you too can have some measure of success after only 19 years of waiting.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Corn Fed Kitchen

I'm excited to announce my new blog: Corn Fed Kitchen (link also at right).

It's a place for me to share all my favorite recipes collected over the years. Some are passed down through generations of Crawford's, others are ones I've created myself, and a few are some that I've borrowed (and usually tweaked) from others.

Corn Fed Kitchen's sub header is: Said of a woman, corn-fed means an individual who is strong and healthy, but lacks sophistication, typically... from the Midwestern United States (from Wikipedia). These are recipes from a strong, healthy kitchen, often lacking in sophistication, with strong roots in the Midwest and the South.

It doesn't get any simpler than that. CFK is a collection of not only my favorite southern and mid-western dishes, but it is about cooking simply, without lots of pomp and circumstance, but with lots of flavor.

I'll also be sharing some of my favorite memories related to those recipes, in hopes that by sharing my love of food, I inspire you to make memories of your own in the kitchen and at the dinner table.

Please enjoy my new blog and share your own experiences with recipes you find there, or some of your own favorites. See you there!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Korean Condoms and Hotels

Last year I promised I'd retell my tale of condoms in the amenities baskets of the hotels I stayed in. Now I'm making good on that promise.

I made a point of never staying in a "Western" hotel while in Korea. I only stayed in local places, sometimes by chance and sometimes by invitation*. In each place I stayed, there was a basket of amenities in the room. The baskets always included a large bottle of shampoo and one of conditioner. There was also a large bottle of lotion. There was a tube of toothpaste and two brand new toothbrushes. There was a disposable razor, a comb, and a bar of soap. Most of the time these items were reusable, meaning that they were neither individually sized, nor were they meant to be taken from the room.

Most of the rooms also had micro-fridges and two 20 oz. bottles of water and 2 8 oz. cans of Chilsing Cider (think 7-up, only better). A few of the rooms I stayed in had complimentary condoms in the amenities basket. Of course, Korean porn is on regular cable, as well. They fuzz out the genitals, as apparently that's a taboo thing to show, but other than that, it's straight-up porn.

I found that staying in the locally owned hotels was a far more amazing experience that if I'd stayed at American chains. Frequently only Koreans stayed in them, and several times doors were left open. I did always get a Western room, with a mattress and box springs, as opposed to a traditional Korean room with just floor mats to sleep on. I was a bit disappointed by this, but it was their way of trying to be good hosts by giving me what I was used to. I actually wanted to sleep in a traditional room, but didn't want to offend them by asking for one.

*And back to that invitation I mentioned earlier. In Seoul we found a cab right off of the train depot (we took the Korean Rail everywhere... from Seoul to Waegan to Daegu to Busan and back). The cabbie asked where we wanted to go and we said "a local hotel". After his shock that we didn't want to stay in the high-rise Westin that he pointed at, he smiled and said "I know just where to take you. You give me 10,000 wan, and I'll take you there."

We agreed. And we got in his cab. He drove us exactly one and one-half blocks away from where we started and turned down a very crowded and very small street off the main road. Half a block later he parked the car in the middle of the street and hopped out.

Ten thousand wan was about $13 at that time. So we paid $13 for a 2 block cab ride. He came back a minute later and said "You stay here for 35,000 wan." He was accompanied by an almost smiling but very gracious hotel owner. He had just gotten us an invitation to stay somewhere very few Americans ever stay. He told us that it was very prestigious for the hotel that we stay there, and that they only had a couple of western rooms in the whole hotel, so we were lucky to get the invitation to stay there.

We stayed, of course. For starters, he went to a lot of trouble for us, and refusing would be one of the rudest things we could do to him and the hotel owner. It was very conveniently located to the train station, so we wouldn't need a cab again, we could just walk. It was very close to the subway, so we could spend the night getting to the shopping/dining area of Seoul we intended to go to. And it was pretty inexpensive to boot. If I ever go back, I'll only stay in local hotels, and I recommend the same for anyone else visiting Korea.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

mama needs a new rant

Lately I've been on a parental soap box. Not that that's a bad thing, seeing as how parenting is one of the last things we can do in America without a license or degree. Sad, really....

Anyway, I thought that I'd give my single readers a break from... no, no I'm not. Sorry guys.

Anyone can become a parent. In case you don't know -- or forgot how it works -- here. Don't worry, that site assumes you already know the birds and bees of it, and just focuses on the fertility tips.

My point is not that anyone can get pregnant, but that there are plenty of people that shouldn't get pregnant. I'm even going to focus on American culture for this, so please don't bother responding with comments about 9 year olds in Africa giving birth or stereotypes surrounding boys being the preferred sex in China.

If you get pregnant and don't want the kid, you can abort it pretty easily. If you're too young or have some other "handicap" (read: no job) that keeps you from being able to take care of the kid, there are some lovely social programs like WIC and welfare. Or you can give the kid up for adoption and go on with your life, letting your mom or maybe your big sister raise the kid. We may even still have orphanages; I know there are all sorts of private and government-funded adoption agencies and programs.

Here's the kicker. If you want to adopt or foster through a state agency, you have to take a series of parenting courses. They send out social workers to check your home for the physical and environmental safety of any potential child living there. They screen you to make sure you can 1. afford the changes a child would bring to your lifestyle, 2. aren't a listed sex offender or have a record of abuse, 3. don't have any outstanding warrants for your arrest, and 4. the list goes on.

So if you want a kid you didn't create in your own bed, you have to apply for the proper licensing/credentials to get one, unless you can fork over the cash to adopt privately.

Otherwise, all it takes is a couple of beers and a broken condom. Or not even that. No agency is gonna come make sure your 6 or 8 month pregnant self has prepared a "proper environment" for your kid. No one is gonna come see if you have lead paint on your walls or outlet plugs in your sockets. No one is gonna force you to give up the kid for adoption or by abortion if you smoke and drink. No one is gonna take the child from you at the hospital if your baby-daddy beats you. No one is gonna keep your kid if your house just got raided for being a crystal meth lab. Well, maybe the last one, but only if you were there with the kid when it happened. If you were at the hospital giving birth, you're probably ok.

My point is simply that our society handles all life's newest footprints much differently than say, getting a job or a driver's license. You need all sorts of documentation to prove you're responsible enough to handle a car or the demands of flipping burgers. You need nothing... not even a photo I.D. ... to create life.

We have agencies that pass out free birth control pills and condoms. We have all sorts of school sex ed programs. We even have arguments over whether or not abstinence should be taught as a form of birth control.

What we don't have, beyond some lame reality shows and daytime talk shows, is any sort of hands-on litmus test for whether or not a person is individually and rationally ready for the responsibility of having and raising a child. This includes those stupid school projects where you have to keep an egg cared for and unbroken for a week as if it were your child.

Even babysitters have to take some sort of infant/child CPR classes and child care classes now if they want to be credible and make decent dough these days! And those kids/adults can at least tell you their honest opinions of themselves as potential parents, because they already know that they don't want to give up their prom to change diapers.

So do I have a solution? No, I just like ranting.

The final decision is up to us individually, which is quite possibly the last great freedom we have in this country. (You even have to have a license to get married....)

But it shouldn't be a casual decision. Kids require far more than just the 18 years it takes to legally be able to kick them out of the house again (or emancipation, but that's another story). They bring with them neat little things like... grandkids. And they never quit calling home for money and advice. They want to visit and bring their brood so they can show off their significant other and maybe get a free meal. Sometimes they even want to move back in.

And some people really should not breed. People that don't much like themselves, let alone anyone else, really should not have children. People with tendencies to self-destruct or harm others should think a few times about having a baby. Folks, it's okay to get an abortion, but as soon as that kid takes a breath, you can't kill it anymore! Shake it to death and you go to jail for murder!

My solution is the same as I have for every other real pet peeve of mine: education.

Get educated on what being a parent is all about. Read books on what pregnancy is like. Ask young parents and your parents and grandparents questions. Ask strangers if they'd do it differently if they could do it again. Ask about the ups, the downs, the unexpected. Ask about the cost of ER visits with broken arms and health insurance options for families. Ask if you can babysit your older sibling's kids for an entire weekend and try out the parenting thing.

Then ask yourself what you want for your life. Is it college and a career? How will a child hamper those? Do you want to make lots of money and then have a kid? Do you want to get pregnant in your junior year in high school? Why? To force your parents to emancipate you? How will that affect your child in the long run?

The minute you bring a life into this world, you never make a single decision that doesn't affect more than just you. Think beyond right now, this minute, and think beyond yourself and consider all the options and consequences of becoming a parent. Think, rethink, and think it through again. When you become a parent, it's the most incredible and irreversible thing in the world. Be as ready as you can be, and become the kind of parent you said as a kid you wanted to be.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Go Jim!

Now it's back to your regularly scheduled jaded objectivity.

In a world seeming lost in chaos, thank the lord there's Jim. He's a single dad of a 10-yr. old who has recently reclaimed his child from her free-spirited (read: mutually exclusive drug-addicted and self-absorbed) mother. He has cut back his hours at work to stay home more and keep a close eye on a girl who's used to raising herself. He's adjusted his budget to pay his bills and be there to teach her all the things she's managed to not learn so far, and correct the ones she has.

The kid, by the way, is a great kid. She went shopping the other day and spent her own money buying workbooks to help her get ready for a new school and a new grade by reinforcing reading and math skills (who does that at the age of 10??!) She is very mature for her age (imagine that, she's raised herself so far). She's good at solving problems and puzzles and plays better with adults than kids (ok, so maybe that's not such a great thing for her). She's also quite a bossy little thing, demanding that it be her way or the highway (not good for her age, but one day she'll grow into that attitude and take over companies with it).

But in a culture where the schools would ask for counseling, more control, and some parental signatures... in a society where her parents are encouraged to live their own lives, make more money, and set a good example by being stellar employees... her dad is cutting back to be a parent and take control of his daughter's environment.

(insert applause here)

It's so rare in this country that you hear about a single parent -- let alone a father -- putting the kid first and the job/career on the back burner. This kid is going to be just fine.

I hope there are more parents out there like Jim. If you know about any, please comment and add their stories.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Paris for Prez

I'm assuming all of my loyal readers are aware of Paris Hilton's ad-rebuttal to John McCain. (In a perfect world that link will still work 8 hours from now). I am not a fan of Paris Hilton, but I've gotta admit, she had a decent point about the energy crisis.

That aside, I thought I'd take a rare opportunity to blog about a current event from my ever so (cough cough) objective point of view.

It is my not even remotely humble opinion that she just validated McCain's claim that Obama is little more than a celebrity candidate by simply replying with her own ad. It also amuses me that she just may have enough smarts somewhere in that bleached blonde brain of hers to actually be a viable candidate for public office.

Other seeming dingbats have done such a good job at playing dingbats because they were actually very intelligent. Could it be that Paris sports cerebral function enough to make a useful difference in this world? If so, her reputation as a ditz without a care could be at stake.

Then again, I can't think of a better job for a bad actor than as a politician.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Me, me, no ME dammit

I can't believe how much selfishness goes uncorrected in children. Yes, kids are selfish. They come into the world not caring about anything about their creature comforts: food, warmth, snuggles from mom and dad, and whatever else is handed to them to play with.

They learn early that "no honey, that's the baby's toy... give it back to them" when they cry gets them catered to. Somewhere along the line they grow into adults that expect to be catered to unless someone says "no, you most certainly WILL share that toy or I will take it away, because you will not be a selfish brat in my home."

Hello, Parents!!! The "someone" I'm referring to in that last sentence is YOU!!! They don't take a high school class on etiquette. They don't go to college to major in manners. That's YOUR job!!!

In my house, southern grace and hospitality rules. If I have pie or cake, it's for the guests first. My refrigerator is an open bar of milk and juice. Toys are community property when friends come to play. It's my way or it's nap time. Because I will not allow rudeness to rule in my home.

I wish more parents did the same thing. I get sick of hearing "but _____ doesn't share her/his toys when I'm at her/his house" whined to me. I get sick of saying "so sorry to hear that, but I'm not his/her parent, I can't make them share their toys in their home. In this home, however, you'll act like you have some manners until you actually have them."

Come on people. How hard is it to actually parent your child? Probably not nearly as hard as you'd like to claim it is right now... if you'd quit being so selfish.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Brats and Crybabies

I'm reading a new book: 13 Cent Killers: The 5th Marine Snipers in Vietnam by John J. Culbertson. And I'm enjoying it. So here's an excerpt from pgs. 56-58. The quote is from Ho Chi Minh himself (ever heard of the Ho Chi Minh Trail? Well, that guy). Minh was discussing the Vietnamese war (that's 1967, folks) with General Giap, a ruthless and brilliant strategist that had successfully routed the French from Vietnam in 1954, and was doing a good job of keeping Americans off-balance. Giap had brought up "the American body politic and its timidity and the lack of faith and patriotism expressed by American college students."

This is Ho Chi Minh's response:

"'The Americans are only interested in the 'commerciality' of their venture. They lie to their soldiers about our intentions and say that all Southeast Asia will fall to Communism.... The American industrialists grow fat like the greedy blood-bloated louses they are. We will let them feed, and when they have had their fill, they will go away and gloat over their profits. The American public is slow to learn, but not stupid. The cowards in their universities and the news media will infect the people with hopelessness and panic. You must give the Americans many casualties to unsettle their determination. Our people will suffer greatly, but we will hide the losses and the enemy must never discover how close to victory he is even now. Our soldiers are being beaten in every battle, but they understand the hardships and will do their duty. Yet the Americans, for all their reckless bravery, forget their duty. Hold the course and we shall prevail. I am certain of it!'

...Giap recognized that the American soldiers and Marines had shown implacable bravery time and again against the best troops he could muster. Giap scratched his chin and wondered how a country that produced such deadly Marines and Rangers who seemed to fight his soldiers for the mere sport of warfare could also produce the spoiled brats and crybabies that filled the halls of America's colleges and universities. Giap finally decided that there was little moral conscience or patriotic leadership at hand. .... For a people with no faith and little courage, personal greed and the love of money would always dominate the requirement for self-sacrifice and loyalty."


I could draw parallels to the US in 2008 till my head spun, but I couldn't say it any better. Ho Chi Minh understood this country better in 1967 that most of our own citizens do today.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

id's, ego's, super-ego's, so what?

Someone recently commented that they're always amused at how serious and cynical this blog is when I'm so light-hearted and funny most of the time. I got a good laugh out of it, and even compared the tone of the blog to the title of the blog, but then I got to thinking: could it be that this little aspect of my life is an outlet for my cynical side? Probably.

So then I started thinking about the breakdown of Freudian psychology; you know -- the id, ego and super-ego? And then I got to thinking "so what?"

Fact is, everyone -- in literature terms -- is a dynamic character full of multi-facets. If I were funny all the time I'd be boring to myself if no one else.

To that end though, I almost need to apologize to my readers. For if all you see here is my cynical side, then you're seeing me through a narrow lens. However, if I got all sappy or goofy, you'd wonder why this blog were "jaded" at all.

So in reality, you just wasted two minutes of your life that you could've spent looking at porn to read this little introspection without a point. However, you came here wondering if there'd be anything new to read, and now you know. So hold onto that for your silver lining, and see you next time!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Big D and and egos

It seems that some people cannot get along with their exes to the point of insanity. I get that divorces are rough, unpleasant things that cause strife, stress, and tension. I really do get that.

What I do not get is how you can spread your legs/unzip your fly for someone and create a child, and then act like such an infant yourself when it comes time to separate. If you have children and are getting/have gotten a divorce, can you not be big enough to act like responsible grown ups in front of and for the kids?

Come on people. "Hey, it's my weekend with lil' Johnny, so I'll swing by about 6 pm on Friday" isn't a big deal. Why must the childish exes act like it's the end of the known world? "Oh, I can't talk to my ex. He'll/ she'll just have to drive up and honk the horn." Get over yourselves. This is the same person you once loved enough to create a child with. Now love your kids enough to give them as much emotional stability as a divorce can possibly offer and pretend to get along with your ex. Please.

I was a child of one of those divorces where my parents couldn't be in the same room with each other. I was afraid to ask them both to my high school graduation. I was terrified to ask my dad to walk me down the aisle because my mother was going to be at the wedding. I planned separate visitations for each of them to see their own grandchild so they wouldn't run in to each other.

Honestly, my dad's death has freed me up from a lot of that ridiculous stress/nonsense.

And quite frankly, parents who do that to their kids SUCK. If you're one of those parents, you're as big an ass as my parents were.

My suggestion: act like your kids are as important to you as you say they are and do right by them.

*note: victims of abuse are exempt from this little rant. In that case, keep yourself and your kids as far away from the abuser as possible unless and until you are ordered by the courts to allow visitation.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Grand Canyon



It's a big hole in the ground, that scientists believe to have been carved by the Colorado River and its tributaries, with none of those rivers being any wider than they are now.

It's hard to stand at the edge of the Grand Canyon and imagine this itty bitty trickle of water some mile down carving that whole thing. The rocks seem sturdier than that. I even have a hard time imagining the whole thing being filled to the brim like a large lake that drained out leaving those formations.

I believe that the Grand Canyon would be even more impressive from inside the canyon. The only ways to do that include rafting the river, hiking, or riding a mule down. All of those take prior planning; we just left I-40 and drove on up.

As it is, I have some neat shots from the South entrance to the state park at mid-morning. I've seen the photos indicative of how different the canyon looks at different times of the day. These two are from 8:30 am to 10 am.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Carlsbad Caverns



I took these with ambient light and no flash. So if that last one isn't perfectly crisp, you know why.

The "entrance" to Carlsbad Caverns is an 850 feet walk down through several small rooms. Then the big room, the guided tours, the bottomless pit, the restaurant that serves sandwiches and chips, the souvenir stand, the restrooms, and the elevator back out of the place.

The day we were there, the restaurant ran out of sandwiches. We could choose between some half-dozen varieties of Gatorade, water, or coffee. The only thing to eat was a snack bag of Fritos. So much for my great idea of eating in the cave.

Even so, dragging my four year old to the bottom of this big cave turned out pretty well. He got a little cranky after two hours and all that walking, but the kid held up. What does he remember? The restaurant with the Fritos. Good thing I took photos.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Happy 5th of July

I'm late with my merry wishes.

It's because I spent the 4th barbequeing, eating watermelon, chasing kids, lighting sparklers, making s'mores, and standing on a pickup camper shell to peer over a privacy fence to watch fireworks.

Hope everyone else enjoyed the 4th as well.

Monday, June 30, 2008

By car at 70 mph

It's time to flex my fingers again. I've been away sightseeing North America. What I can tell you is that West Texas is a long trip across an interstate. Hell, all of Texas is. Also, the road heading north from I-20 into Carlsbad, New Mexico is loud, meaning lots of tire noise. I believe it's highway 285, but I could be wrong after all the highways I've been on lately.

I can tell you that even though the Johnny's Pizza south of exit 114 in West Monroe, La is a bit farther off the interstate than I thought it would be, the pizza is as good as any Johnny's Pizza anywhere.

As far as "tourist spots" go, Carlsbad Caverns is worth the trip north from I-20 or south from I-40. It's just overwhelming. Wear tennis shoes; try to take photos in the cave without flash, with long shutter speeds.

Roswell is neat. I saw more police officers patrolling the roads in and around Roswell more than every other location in over 3500 miles. I got there too late to visit the UFO museum and research facility in downtown Roswell, but I did find a neat little tee shirt and gift shop across the street. In the downtown area, there are plenty of them. In the rest of Roswell, it's an ordinary town in the middle of nowhere.

The Grand Canyon may be one of the 7 wonders of the natural world, but it was a wonder to me how anyone can enjoy visiting it by car. We stayed in Tusayan, one mile south of the south entrance to the national park, and that was fine and all, but truly underimpressive for the cost. But then, we drove up into the mountains due north of Flagstaff instead of taking hwy 64 off of I-40, and we had one of the top 2 most incredible drives of the whole trip by doing so.

But back to the canyon: we went in the park early in the morning, before it got hot and full of people, and while the park service has done a great job of providing a shuttle to take sightseers to each of the main overlook sites (for free, with your $25 per car admittance), it takes a lot of walking to get to the overlooks, and it eats up a lot of time waiting for the shuttles, riding the shuttles, etc. We did that for one spot, then we went back to the car and just did it ourselves after that. We saw what we wanted to see, we had minimal difficulty finding parking, and after an hour, we were more than done.

Yes, it's a big and amazing hole in the ground. Maybe time of day factored into it, but the haze in the canyon was a bit disheartening for me (wielding my camera and all), and the view was pretty similar everywhere we stopped. Our conclusion is that the best way to see the canyon is from the Colorado River by raft, on a mule ride into the canyon, or hiking it. At any rate, I left with a large sense of "ho hum". You could say it was a mile deep sense of "ho hum".

Still to come: photos, more about the trip, and some of my favorite moments on any vacation ever.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Sword of Truth cuts

Warning: Spoilers included.

For years I've been a faithful reader of Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series. It began with Wizard's First Rule and ended with Confessor. In between I followed the characters through some very smart twists, turns, beautiful developments, and read them to life as complex beings in a multi-dimensional universe wholly created for the series.

And I loved every single page right up until the end of the series' last book: Confessor. There, in the last pages, his main character -- his hero -- goes off on a diatribe about God. Up until that very monologue, any spiritual references were to "The Creator" and "The Underworld" and the "Keeper of the Underworld". No God, no devil, nothing. Out of nowhere Goodkind's protagonist, Richard, uses "God" in specific reference to theological belief on several occasions in just two short pages.

What the hell, Goodkind? There was no God before your little rant! Why is there one now?

I can't even begin to fathom what the author was thinking the day he wrote those pages. Or what the editors were thinking when they overlooked it. Suddenly "The Creator" became "God" and no one notices. Except for me, and I still am pretty steamed over it.

For you see, until that very moment, Goodkind had done an impressive job of spinning a tale so thoroughly detailed that it was far more ideological than theological. It was a balanced statement about faith, politics, beliefs, free will, free enterprise, creative expression, capitalism, prophecy, education, magic... and an open mind could take it all in and come up with their own interpretations, their own significant and personal meanings, without feeling pressured to have chosen to side with or against the author. Goodkind had done that kind of good writing... where the author takes no sides in his work, just tells the tale as true to the characters he's writing about, and the reader can do what he or she wishes to with the subtle possibilities within.

But then, in this rant of Richard's at the end of Confessor, Goodkind makes a statement, and a powerful one at that. When Richard sends a group of people who blindly support an ideology bent on submitting themselves to a belief in the will of The Creator and a desire to utterly vanquish any who stand opposed to their beliefs (and support freedom of personal choice)... and then he calls that creator "God", he is making a pretty strong statement about his own beliefs of how religion and free will mix.

I found it abhorrently out of character for the Richard I had come to know and respect over more than 6000 pages of the series. I found it to read a bit redundant, as well. In fact, that whole section sounded like a petulant child throwing a temper tantrum.

And I lost a good deal of respect for the entire series because of it.

I saw all sorts of potential parallels in that series with possible references being drawn to economics, politics, party lines, Christianity -- including the Crusades --, Jesus, Satan, Democracy, Communism, Socialism, the occult, afterlife, ecology, biology, zen... just to name a few. And through it all, what I enjoyed the most was how well thought out it all was, so that I didn't feel like the author was drawing me in to agree with his point of view, instead maintaining a great story while remaining ambivalent in his statements. Until God showed up.

I felt that Goodkind punched me in the gut. I felt that the entire series was a ruse to lure me in and give me a sense of security that my own thoughts and opinions were protected and respected by him, only to have him then demand I make a choice to side with him or against him in the end. I didn't want to side at all! I wanted to see him end his series with the same strengths that had carried me through years of following his story line, contemplating his philosophies and analayzing his strategies and learning on my own and coming to my own conclusions about the challenges he presented me.

Yes, I realize that this is just a book, written to sell copies and make money. I realize that after all this time Mr. Goodkind could indeed be bored to tears with his own creation, and his rant could've been a finalizing touch to over a decade of work, through which he has more than likely changed, himself. But getting sloppy as a writer in the last few pages is not how you handle it. Unprofessional, sir!! It wasn't Mr. Goodkind's time to make a personal stand in the shoes of his hero Richard. It was Richard's time to speak, and I feel that Mr. Goodkind very cheaply stepped into his hero's shoes in Richard's stead.

But that's just my very heated opinion.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Romantic Poets

I've been reading a lively tale of the Romantic poets of early 19th century England: Keats, Byron, Wordsworth, Shelley, Coleridge. The book is Wildly Romantic by Catherine M. Andronik, and I doubt it's the last thing I read by her, but I digress.

Inside its pages, I learned that Lord Byron was infamous as an incestuous, bi-sexual, abusive, irresponsible nomad. My favorite line about Byron is also by Byron: "I felt that, if what was whispered and muttered and murmured was true -- I was unfit for England, -- if false -- England was unfit for me."

Percy Bysshe Shelley was the inadvertent mastermind behind his wife's -- Mary Shelley -- most notorious novel, as he was one to enjoy experimenting in the lab with things that went "boom" and with electricity. His experiments included sending shocks of electricity into dead frogs' legs to watch them twitch and wondered about the possibilities for reincarnation. His penchant for telling horror stories and Mary's own interest in her husband's eccentricities were all pieces of the puzzle that became Frankenstein. The Shelley's were also fiercely and publicly atheist.

Wordsworth was self-indulgent and pompous and was very sure of himself. In his youth he enjoyed the ideals of "free love" and in his old age he looked down upon the up and coming poets who embraced his earlier fanciful ideals. Coleridge was an opium addict, and it cost him much throughout his life.

Between the lot of them (and their wives and children) there were more illegitimate children, adulterous affairs, divorces, suicides, and illicit behavior than even Jerry Springer could cover in one show. If some wise professor of English literature had bothered to give me something behind all those antiquated words in their poems, I not only would've enjoyed studying the genre and the poets, but by now I'd have completed that damned P.h.D. and be a happy professor teaching the next generation of the scandals of literary legends that helped flesh out their greatest works.

Think on it. While the English Loyalists took up arms against the American Colonies, these poets lived morally loose lives and wrote and published poems meant to be read in "plain" language accessible to everyone. These fellows were pre-Victorian era, in a time when almost anything went, although the winds were changing towards the end of Byron's life, so he became a "guilty pleasure" before his death. His sister and ex-wife saw to it that his autobiography manuscript was burned to salvage what was left of his reputation and to protect their own.

I'm so intrigued by it all that this one book alone has rekindled a love of literature for me that has been missing since my university years. But perhaps it's not so much the literature as it is how the literature can be utilized to tie in real lives to real times, and how it all is strangely timeless in that it is no more sensational than what is occurring in modern society, and how such lifestyles can be traced even farther back to earlier eras. It gives complete weight to that well-known and depressing fact: no new thought is ever original.

There is so much philosophy in that fact.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Fun with Randomness

My grandparents didn't have a home phone way back in their day because they couldn't afford one. I don't have a home phone because it's redundant; my cell phone does everything I need from a local line. Seems only my parents' generation needed a land line.

Of course, with a cell phone as a main number, it takes more than one phone and more than one line to cover one household. So where's the redundancy now?

Then again, my generation got away with riding in the rear deck of the family car, with their noses pressed to the back window. Car trips meant stretching out on the back seat (unless you had siblings) and comfortably sleeping, reading, or playing your way to the destination.

Somewhere between the age I didn't need a car seat anyway and pregnancy, the laws changed, and the cost of toting kids around went up to include infant carriers, then car seats, then boosters. Quite frankly I'm surprised there isn't a "tween seat" out yet, as a way to eke even more money out of parents. Then again, parents might stand in long lines to get their hands on something that ties their tweens down in a five point harness. Someone would probably call it sadistic, and that would be the end of "tween seats".

Today I walked past an end cap in Target only to see Hanna Montana beach towels temporarily reduced to $8 and it made me wonder, does Miley Cyrus use/wear Hanna Montana products?

And that thought was followed by "what ever happened to Lizzie McGuire?" I think she re-ran herself out.

But the Olsen Twins still peddle their merchandise successfully to young girls. Maybe Miley and Hilary should consider taking their faces off of everything (but the removable tag) for longevity. Ya can't argue with 50 billion dollars. (Isn't that what the twins are worth these days?)

I peruse movie shelves in just about every store I enter that sells movies. I like seeing what's new in boxed sets. I noticed recently that He-Man has made it to DVD, but where's She-Ra? And I've seen Strawberry Shortcake, but no Smurfs?! It's a travesty of my childhood that I actually have to try and describe a little blue creature "3 apples high" to my kids. Showing them season 1 would be like having Cliff notes. I researched the Smurfs, and it seems that there is indeed some merchandise out there for fans, but since my local Best Buy doesn't sell it, I've never seen it.

Finally, let me tell you a brief bit about me and my bike. We go somewhere almost daily; I'm really fond of my big iron horse. Okay, so it's more like an iron Shetland Pony. Moving on. I drag my helmet around with me, because I've found that upside down it is the perfect bucket for my gloves. And with the chin strap fastened, it makes the cutest fashion accessory! Anyway, Usually I carefully place it in the child's seat portion of a basket rather than drag all my gear around a store. Yesterday a woman saw the helmet in the basket and asked "oh, do you ride?"

True to Bill Engvall form, I really really really wanted to say "Nope. I just carry it around for a purse. (Here's your sign)"

These random thoughts today are brought to you without segue as I can leave it like it is and call it "freethinking". If I put segues in, it's more of a news bit. Perish the thought.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Nup'chuls

In the not-too-distant future, a very dear friend of mine (of 14 years! We're getting old....) is getting married to the red-headed realization of his wildest dreams. Sadly, I cannot attend this magical event unless they plan on making a video-conference of it. But they have my best wishes for them and their future together.

To my friend: it's about time! You deserve the comforts of the home you have found in your red-heads arms.

To your bride: I'm sure you'll be busy for years to come wiping tears of laughter from your eyes. Take care of him and insist he takes care of you in the manner you both deserve.

Congratulations to you both.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

old photo

I look the same as I did last year, the year before. Maybe even better, younger. But there's an innocence that's gone from my eyes. I didn't notice it as it was passing. I just shocked myself today by glancing at an old photo and failing to recognize the eyes in it.

Lately I've been thinking about my dad again. How I always felt that I failed him and in so doing, failed myself. The truth is I just never got over being self-absorbed and naive long enough to listen to him when he had something to say. I'll credit my mom for that; certainly a woman who's still very naive and doesn't listen well can't teach someone else to do better. But it's more than that.

I suppose I thought my dad was immortal. He was a Vietnam veteran, he was a school teacher, a historian, a methodical thinker, a puzzle solver. He was a hero in a grandiose way to me, and I never bothered to do much more than scratch the surface as to why.

When I wasn't proud of him, I was crying because of him. I never grew enough backbone to just learn from him and let the rest pass like water off a duck's back.

So even in his death, my wide-eyes innocence was untainted by any greater self-discovery. Even two months after his death, four months, the reality of my own potential and the wake of what he tried to teach me had not yet begun to sink in.

Yes, he treated me like another of the young men under his command -- a horrible grievance and disservice to a would-be "daddy's princess", but he did it with the only love he knew how to give.

That I never learned how to accept that love unconditionally while he was alive was my disservice to him.

My face looks the same now, but my eyes look more like my dad's. Not a lot more, but a little. I'm beginning to understand things that I should've begun to grasp years ago. I remember one day, not long before he died, that I said jokingly over some then-insignificant moment "there's hope for me yet". Typical of him, he said nothing save for a small chuckle.

When he died, I took that small chuckle along with various other nuances from him to mean that he considered me a failed attempt at parenting and teaching; a mistake he made, a regret he carried to his death. Of late I'm starting to see those moments as his pride that maybe, just maybe, I'd get it all figured out on my own.

I'm beyond the point of acting in the manner to make him happy, even in death, of who I am. The best I can do for myself is make myself happy, forge a path that brings me peace and allows me to respect the reflection in the mirror, the image in the photos. If the best I can do to honor my dad is to honor myself, then he'll have to settle for that.

For the first time in a very long time, I don't feel like I'm "settling" at all. I also feel that it's time to get a new photo of myself.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Green Machines

I saw an older gentlemen get into his brand new Toyota Prius today. It made me wonder, after a brief conversation with him, if he had a former love affair with the late 60's American muscle cars. I'd bet a cup of coffee he did.

So then I got to wondering about all these people driving around hybrids. I doubt that they really gave up their love for the double-barrel rumble of a finely tuned holly carb on top of a finely tuned large block engine. My love affair with those iron beasts of the past has not ceased.

The reality is that it's an unrequieted love. Certainly the price of gas discourages me from loving them too closely. I watched that Prius pull out and away and realized that it's hard to love something so sterile as the new Toyota, and I've driven one! I find them oddly nice and simultaneously alien. There's no engine rumble -- in fact, one can barely tell that the engine is on! But the pocketbook doesn't cry as much when you hit the fuel station.

Maybe it all has far more to do with a fixed income than saving the environment. It does make me wonder if in another 50 years we'll see Prius's at classic car shows.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Summer's Coming...

Photobucket



....How will you spend it?

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Day of Prayer

Thank you God for enabling us with the desire to pursue our freewill in setting aside one day a year when all believers in America theoretically take time out to bow their heads out of reverence.

We can add this to Christmas and Easter as the things Christians are supposed to participate in to keep calling themselves Christians.

I have so many snide, snaky comments about faith-based PR for the sake of PR, not faith. Ask a Christian that actually prides him or herself on following Christ, and "National Day of Prayer" will not make the top ten list of things they do. Read the Bible daily, lead a Sunday School class, teach at Vacation Bible School, sing in the church choir, volunteer at the local library/homeless shelter/soup kitchen/insert other organization here... these things they will mention.

But pray on National Day of Prayer is not mentioned. Because I can't see for the life of me how it's about prayer. It's about reminding the nation that prayer is no longer tolerated in schools and government buildings, and that a large contingency is still upset by it. It's about flexing freedom of religion muscles by forcing people to remember that there is a difference between freedom OF religion and freedom FROM religion. It's about claiming one day besides Easter and Christmas that is decidedly more religious than pagan anymore. But it is not about prayer. And it never will be. Prayer is something that occurs very privately between a believer or a group of believers and their god. There are even biblical verses against praying for the sake of showing others one prays.

If I thought any of my readers cared about what they were, I'd look them up. As it is, I reiterate that this day is one for pomp and circumstance. Someone cue the organist as we bow our heads in benediction. Don't forget to leave your tithes and offerings on your way out.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

rain and earthquakes

Ever had one of those days where it's overcast, the promise -- or threat -- of rain is heavy in the air, but no real relief comes? Yesterday was like that.

The clouds were heavy and fat with water, demanding attention as they threatened to pour out their contents in a fury. But they never did. I watched the sky, smelled the air, and turned my attention to my ankles. Neither hurt with the barometric changes that always precede a rainfall.

I knew it would not rain. That saddened me. It's been a long time since it rained here. The ground is dry and the spring green grass is already turning brown. But it's not just the ecological need for water that saddened me.

I love the rain. Oddly, one of the first songs I can remember at all is "I Love a Rainy Night" by Eddie Rabbit. I'm not sure I'd go so far as to credit Eddie for my love of rain, however.

Today the sun is out again. Today, I experienced my first earthquake. It was a 3.9, and I didn't even feel it. Apparently tectonic plates do nothing to affect the arthritis in my ankles. Had the news not told me that there was an earthquake in my county, I never would've known it. Apparently it will take more than a 3.9 to move the earth under my feet and have me know it.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Juicy Fruit

Forget the gum by Wrigley's, I'm talking about strawberries here. Big, red, sweet, juicy berries.

As a Louisiana native, I was raised with home state pride in the strawberries found in and around Houma, La. They were succulent things of fantasy for a kid that had to rely on grocery store strawberries to satisfy her taste buds; grocery store strawberries -- in every state I have ever bought a strawberry in -- do not satisfy. They are hard, flavorless, and even the best aromas are met with a sense that the growers have not mastered the art of growing a tasty berry.

Every year I bought the brightest, best smelling strawberries in the grocery store, and a tub of whipped cream to wash them down. You see, my love of berries is as strong as it ever was, even it I could not eat them as I liked -- rinsed with water alone.

When I was in Houma, La, I purchased strawberries from roadside stands and gobbled them down. When I was in Augusta, Ga I acquired them by the pint or by the flat straight from the source and gorged myself on them.

Now I have California camarosa strawberries available to me locally and I am in berry heaven. Just yesterday I went to a festival in Santa Maria dedicated to the strawberry -- my kind of festival. There was strawberry tasting (and rating), strawberry shortcake, strawberry daquiris (and the most expensive non-alcoholic drink I have ever purchased, made with syrup instead of strawberries.... grrr), and strawberries to ride in. I left having learned something about the berry I so love and a new appreciation for the growing season and my relative geographical nearness to my favorite fruit.

While I doubt that grocery stores will soon be offering strawberries for sale by variety (considering they generally offer barely edible berries as it is), if you get the chance to sink your teeth into a camarosa or camino real variety of berry, I highly recommend it.

If you're stuck purchasing grocery store berries because no one grows them anywhere near you, let me make a few of my favorite serving suggestions: Use whipped cream or a light sprinkling of sugar on your berries. Slice them and add strawberry syrup and place over shortcake. Blend them into shakes, smoothies and daquiris. But my best advice would be to skip the grocery store and road trip to a roadside stand or local grower.

Then again, if you don't like strawberries, you just wasted three minutes of your life reading this. I'll get off the berries for the next blog, so come back for more jaded objectivity.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Journalism

Popular 'Iron Man' Trailer To Be Adapted Into Full-Lengt



If I were going to be a journalist, it would have to be for The Onion. Don't get me started on how much I love irony, parody, and satire.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

white screen of doom

Many people fear the blue screen of death. I don't; a hammer and/or practicing my shot put out an open window fixes that up quite permanently. So do computer gurus, down at the local shop that equates to 3D Greek-to-me.

I fear the white screen of doom. That would be a notepad, office document, or even big empty window in blogger before I start filling it with words, strung together in compound complex sentences, the occasional dangling participle, some unnecessary and potentially redundant adjectives and predicate nouns, and the infrequent ambiguous verb. In other words, my utter nonsense.

In the past I've referenced Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury, because it's filled with many inspirational tidbits that encourage writers to just get to work and push letters down into words and words into sentences, until they've written something -- anything -- every day.

To keep from being a complete hypocrite, I'm pushing letters around today. It's been tough for me to blog of late because I'm too numb to come up with anything to be jaded about. That numbness is a mix of emotional stress, exhaustion, and bad habit.

Surely being "just a mom" can't be to blame for it. I mean, that's only a 24/7 job with no salary, no benefits, and no severance package. Hell, some might even claim it's just a volunteer position anyway.

And it can't possibly be relationship issues at fault. I mean, if the guy's a jerk just one day, it's grounds to kick him to the curb, right sisters?! To think that I actually WANT to contribute to the relationship by cooking for him, or cleaning the kitchen without bitching that he should be in there doing his part or cleaning it FOR me as thanks for cooking for him in the first place.... well.. I'm setting the entire Women's Lib movement back 50 years!!

And my selfish commitment to myself, where I spend time of each day improving some hobby/craft/art/talent of mine, with the forward thinking goal of building a career for myself once my kid doesn't need (or want) me around 24/7... well that's just too cold-hearted for words.

>:)
oh well.

My grandmother raised me to not talk about sex, politics, or religion... at the risk of offending someone. I'll try to include all three in my next blog.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Impress Her With Your Goods

This is for all those spam advertisements about enlarging male genitalia.

This is the answer to "Does she want a bigger penis?"

The answer is "don't be stupid."

(and you thought it was 42, didn't ya Dach!?)

If you have a 3 inch penis, then yes, I'm sure she would like it bigger. Unless it has the girth of a coke can, and then perhaps she doesn't care. Or if you use any assortment of adult toys. If you have one of those monsters that belongs in the porn industry, chances are she either 1. hopes you're very good with it or 2. hopes your very careful with it or 3. wishes there were less of it.

Here's the honest truth about size: girls think that either extreme is pretty undesirable. Middle of the road is better. But even then, what the real secret is to making her mad with desire is this: know how to use it.

Skill will go a very long way with a woman. And not just the parts that can be enlarged with any variety of cream or pill that can be acquired right now through your inbox and the spammers that lurk there. It's a whole body experience -- tongue, fingers, penis.

In the bedroom, how you use your equipment is far more important than what equipment you're sporting. A woman would rather have her body worshipped and ravaged at the same time, and a good lover is never remembered in inches. Any woman that tells you differently is either 1. shallow beyond belief, 2. lacking in good experience with a good lover or 3. lying.

Monday, April 14, 2008

good reading

This is a plug for the book I've recently stuck my nose in -- Death Sentences by Don Watson. "How cliches, weasel words, and management-speak are strangling public language."

I recommend it for anyone that looses their minds trying to read, write, or listen to over-fluffed up, jardon-filled nonsense that reminds one of Walter Mitty or Newspeak.

When I was a child, I detested the King James Bible, Shakespeare, and all pastoral poetry. Now as I read this new book, I miss the days of words having purpose, concise meaning, and the writers that could put together a string of words to move your soul. Now it seems I am exactly where I was -- but with more respect for the King James verse, and the great poets of the past -- and the world has shifted around me.

It's strange to look back now and reflect on "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty", 1984, The Giver, and so many others and begin to realize that they are frighteningly more accurate than I ever thought they could become.

Some theorize that science fiction imitates culture and others contend that culture/society patterns itself after science fiction. Perhaps it is both, perchance it is coincidence. To play the "what if" game for a minute, if I were given the opportunity to ask George Orwell any one question, it would be this: "Did you ever think that the current language used in corporate settings would ever get so ambiguous, meaningless, and useless?"

Here's a random example of the language I mean, as cited by Don Watson in his book: "Third generation strategy maps have been designed to overcome the limitations that have made balanced scorecards notoriously difficult to fully implement.... The strategy map begins with a strategic goal, is followed immediately with a strategic value proposition and end with a cause and effect systems diagram that outlines what needs to be done to achieve results." (Watson quotes from the Oregon Health and Science University).

What the hell is that anyway? A bunch of gibberish to claim that somewhere, someone is paid to come up with graphs and charts reiterating that there are in fact graphs and charts to make claims to cause some board of directors, CEO, or pompous pigs in suits somewhere... to smile and pat themselves on the back for a job well done? It's like proving that 95% of all statistics are made up on the spot, isn't it?

But the absolute uselessness of that paragraph, beyond "we've got evidence to support our claims" in over-fluffed, over-stuffed language, is that is doesn't even lay out any claims. It just occupies space on a page and discourages anyone from reading it, let alone thinking about it. And this empty language is what Watson claims in his book is infiltrating "public" language, or the everyday conversation. He begs the reader to pick up a paper, listen to the news, the sports, or commercials, and look for it. So I have been. And God help us, he's right.

I'll come back another day to how if I'd written something that vapid, I'd have failed 8th grade and senior Engligh. Thank you to those two educators that taught me the value of words and made me write stuff that made sense. Thank you to both of them for forcing me to write over-fluffed stuff as assignments to teach me the difference.

I recently had to rework my outdated resume into something a little more current. When I was done it would make any PR or HR guy proud. It is so over-the-top over-inflated with important and impressive sounding crap that I nearly vomited a bit in my mouth. But it has to be done that way, because "at-home mom" sounds like I was a failure as a post-childbearing adult, while "executive associate in child development with 8 years of research in the field and in a laboratory environment, overseeing and implementing practices in learning-based education with an emphasis on autonomy and cognitive thinking, with the forward-thinking goal of producing positive patterns that can be replicated indefinitely" sounds far more lucrative. How sad is that?
All of this has led me to borrow from a popular song with a slight twist:

"WORDS! Huh. What are they good for? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!"


I am a holdout. My words still have meaning. They always will.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

theology according to Yossarian

I'm a big Joseph Heller fan. So much so that I refer lovingly to a friend of mine as "Yossarian" based on his striking resemblance to the character of the same name from Heller's book, "Catch 22". As I'm rereading it for the third time in my life, I have been amused almost to the point of reprinting the whole thing here. Since that would be awfully time consuming and probably illegal, even with proper crediting of the source... I'll just share this tidbit from pags 176-178 of my paperback version dated 1990, printed by Dell Publishing. And if all that's not enough to properly credit Joseph Heller with the following excerpt from his book "Catch 22", then let me reiterate that the following quote is NOT originally written by me.

Yossarian speaks about God:

"And don't tell me God works in mysterious ways," Yossairan continued, hurling on over her [Lieutenant Scheisskopf's wife] objection. "There's nothing so mysterious about it. He's not working at all. He's playing. Or else He's forgotten all about us. That's the kind of God you people talk about -- a country bumpkin, a clumsy, bungling, brainless, conceited, uncouth hayseed. Good God, how much reverence can you have for a Supreme Being who finds it necessary to include such phenomena as phlegm and tooth decay in His diving system of creation? What in the world was running through that warped, evil, scatalogical mind of His when He robbed old people of the power to control their bowel movements? Why in the world did He ever create pain?"

"Pain?" Lieutenant Scheisskopf's wife pounced upon the word victoriously. "Pain is a useful symptom. Pain is a warning to us of bodily dangers."

"And who created the dangers?" Yossarian demanded. He laughed caustically. "Oh, He was really being charitable to us when He gave us pain! Why couldn't He have used a doorbel instead to notify us, or one of His celestial choirs? Or a system of blue-and-red neon tubes right in the middle of each person's forehead. Any jukebox manufacturer worth his salt could have done that. Why couldn't He?"

"People would certainly look silly walking around with red neon tubes in the middle of their foreheads."

"They certainly look beautiful now writhing in agony or stupefied with morphine, don't they? What a colossal, immortal blunderer! When you consider the opportunity and power He had to really do a job, and then look at the stupid, ugly little mess He made of it instead, His sheer incompetence is almost staggering. It's obvious He never met a payroll. Why, no self-respecting businessman would hire a bungler like Him as even a shipping-clerk!"

Lieutenant Scheisskopf's wife had turned ashed in disbelief as was ogling him with alarm. "You'd better not talk that way about Him, honey," she warned him reprovingly in a low and hostile voice. "He might punish you."

"Isn't He punishing me enough?" Yossarian snorted resentfully. "You know, we mustn't let Him get away with it. Oh, no, we certainly mustn't let Him get away scot free or all the sorrow He's caused us. Someday I'm going to make Him pay. I know when. On the Judgement Day. Yes, that's the day I'll be close enough to reach out and grab that little yokel by His neck and--"

"Stop it! Stop it!" Lieutenant Scheisskopf's wife screamed suddenly, and began beating him ineffectually aout the head with both fists. "Stop it!"

Yossarian ducked behind his arm for protection while she slammed away at him in feminine fury for a few seconds, and then he caught her determinedly by the wrists and forced her gently back onto the bed. "What the hell are you getting so upset about?" he asked her bewilderedly in a tone of contrite amusement. "I thought you didn't believe in God."

"I don't," she sobbed, bursting violently into tears. "But the God I don't believe in is a good God, a just God, a merciful God. He's not the mean and stupid God you make Him out to be."

Thursday, March 27, 2008

80 children

80 children sat on the floor on a very large rug. In the middle of the rug was a stack of blank paper and a box of crayons. Well, two boxes of 64... because there were 80 children.

One child only wanted to color in blues. Another one wanted stencils and tempura paint because they didn't want the responsibility of a blank piece of paper (too much imagination required). Another child wanted to peel the paper off all the crayons. Yet another wanted to break the crayons, complain that they were broken, and demand new ones. Some kid just started yelling because they wanted control of the boxes of crayons, and no one would give the kid the boxes. Pretty soon 80 kids were crying and whining and generally making so much noise that the crayons and the pieces of paper seemed to be the entire problem.

Ironically, they'd be the solution if the 80 kids would just shut up and do something productive... like start drawing and coloring.

No one's making these 80 kids even sit in this room. No one's telling them who they can and can't color with, and no one's telling them they can't color by themselves.

Seems that one kid colored on another kids jeans and won't apologize for it. The kid that got colored on, hit the first kid in the face, and he was told to apologize and get over it. That first kid? Some adult gave him a new piece of paper and some crayons and used one of those pacifying voices that says "now Johnny, you know you shouldn't have done that" and then turned their attention back to the book they were reading when all the kids were still quietly coloring.

But that kid with the color on his pants? He's still pretty pissed. Pretty soon he's whined to the kid next to him, and everyone else who would listen. An inadvertent game of telephone was started. That other kid? He overheard his name mentioned and started talking to his friends as well. Now we've got an "us vs. them" situation with two groups of kids, and a third group of kids has returned to coloring quietly, too afraid or simply uninterested in choosing sides, and just wanting to stay out of the way when the crayons start getting thrown.

There are 3 adults overseeing this group. They are tired, bored of whining about crayons, and sick of trying to get anyone to do anything. I think they'd medicate all 80 kids with Ritalin if they could.

The stupid thing is that when that one kid colored on another kid's pants... that kid should've been dealt with better. But you know, he was the child of a wealthy parent, so he wasn't gonna get really dealt with. That other kid... the one with color on his pants... his dad isn't so wealthy and respected in the community. So he's told to act right and fly straight, despite the fact that it's HIS pants with crayon all over them.

That kid asked for help from the adults. He asked for the adults to make it right, make the rich kid apologize. The adults said that it was the rich kid's responsibility to apologize if he wanted to. Well, that just pissed off the kid with the crayon on his pants even more. Even his dad got pissed. Now most people know about the crayon incident, and even if the kids still color together on that rug, now some are wary of getting their pants colored on and others are afraid there's nothing they can do if it happens, and they don't trust the adults to take care of them. The adults don't really care that they aren't trusted; at least, they don't do anything to change the perception. For example, that rich kid still hasn't had to apologize, even though he's managed to draw on that poor kid's shoes, his paper, and even tore one of the kids drawings in two and laughed about it.

Many of you will find this amusing because we've all heard of kids acting like this. Some will think that no one in their right mind would put 80 kids under the supervision of 3 adults. Fear not, this is just a parable and an analogy for 80 adults and 3 leaders.

Quite frankly, I think that some adults need to quit being kids already.