Man vs. Beast IX

Egads!  I thought they were supposed to be asleep by now!

Run!  No wait!  Don’t run.

Play dead!

Now!

Things I learned in the last two weeks

The threat of Christmas hung in the air, visible already in the fretful look of passersby as they readied themselves for the meaningless but necessary rites of false jovialities and ill-considered gifts. – Peter Dickinson

I couldn’t help myself.  Now that Thanksgiving is over, I must turn my attention to bashing the holiday I find the least appeal of them all.  This is only the beginning.  There are 28 shopping days left until Christmas.

I learned the last couple of weeks…

Source: http://fineartamerica.com/featured/hamlet-agnieszka-reichelt.html

…that group projects don’t suck after all.  Okay.  Perhaps that is being a bit overly optimistic.  Let’s try that again.  Group project, in general, suck.  However, there are rare occasions when you are grouped with a person who is a bigger overachiever than you are.  In Western Civilization last week, we were divided into four groups and instructed to develop an argument that was either for or against the Protestant Reformation and explain its impact on Western Europe.  The guy who sits in front of me is a devote Christian and….wait for it….an award winning debater.  SCORE!

…that I love Shakespeare’s Hamlet more this time around than I did last time.  I didn’t think it was possible.  But I always did love it when all the important characters die at the end of a story.  Is that weird?

…that hard drives will crash at the least convenient time possible.  It’s like they wait patiently, biding their time, for the most advantageous moment to strike.  Unaware of the treachery lurking, you spend the day writing and revising.  Just as the last word is written, the very last source properly cited, you make the fatal mistake of turning your back on the lecherous laptop – just for one brief moment – and BAM!  It’s all gone in the blink of any eye, never to be seen or heard from again.  Bastards.

…that my little old lady kitty, the one I thought was misdiagnosed, does indeed have a tumor.  The vet has offered to biopsy it for us.  I think I am going to decline.  We’ve spent a fortune the last few months with no real answers or solutions.  As sad as it makes me, I think it’s time to throw in the towel and allow nature to take its course.  She’s had sixteen good years of life and we are going to do our best to make sure the rest of her time with us is as comfortable as possible.

…that I should probably stop cursing my overly sensitive tire pressure sensor.  Turns out that my tire really was low, though not for the reason I thought.  My tire was fine.  My rim was not.  Apparently, somewhere in my travels, I hit a pothole lethal enough to crack my front driver’s side rim.  Rims for my car at the dealer aren’t cheap ($600 each), but the internet is wondrous place with many deals to be had.  My car is as good as new.  Well, almost.  I still have that door ding that irks me every time I see it, but that’s a rant for a different blog.

…that looking into the face of your child’s child is a strangely emotional thing, especially when the newborn baby girl strongly resembles her father.  It is even stranger and more emotional to see pride and love etched in your child’s face and he gazes at his own child.  Very surreal.

…that Black Friday is an atrocity that does nothing but feed on the greed and depravity that is overtaking our society.  Call me old-fashioned.  Call me a cynic.  I don’t care.  I remember when nothing – and I mean nothing – was open on Thanksgiving, people weren’t camped out in front of big box stores looking to snatch up flat screen TVs, Blu-Ray players, and laptops, and no one was “neutralizing” the crowd with pepper sprayed or getting trampled to death.  Yet another reason to ditch the holidays for a warm, sandy beach on an island far, far away.

…that – in keeping with my Scrooge-like attitude – nothing makes me want to throw the remote at my own flat screen TV like the intro credits to “It’s a Wonderful Life”.  I hate that movie.  Yeah, I said it.  I HATE THAT MOVIE!  If they are going to make me watch Christmas themed shows, the least they could do is make it “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”  The original.  Not that “update” Charlie Brown mess.

…that jacket shopping with my daughter is worse than shoe shopping.  This weekend brought a blast of cold air to our little neck of the woods.  The coldest of the season and thus, it was necessary to replace the winter jacket my daughter had long outgrown.  She is a sweet girl with an easy-going personality, but she has very clear likes and dislikes.  She likes jackets with zippers.  She does not like puffer jackets.  She likes a little faux fur.  She does not like jackets that make noise.  She likes jackets with hoods.  She does not like jackets that are too long.  It was a long, arduous process.  We finally found one that was deemed acceptable at Macy’s, a store that I really don’t like all that much and only went into because I desperately wanted out of the mall.

…that my daughter is moving out of the kid’s department and into the junior’s department.  Have you seen some of the things these teenagers wear?  Scary prospect, indeed.  Just for the record, bedazzling the bum of jeans, regardless of the targeted demographic, is a bad idea.  Very, very bad idea.

…that the onset of the holiday season brings a whole slew of new faces to the gym.  The day after Thanksgiving was crazy.  I was predictably annoyed by the newbies who hampered my workout process with their ignorance, but I was also secretly thrilled.  I find a lot of my character inspiration at the gym.  There’s just something so special about those people.

…that Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2 is grosser than the first.  I didn’t think they could top the “cheese touch”.  I was wrong.

…that I really liked the movie Fair Game.  It is Hollywood’s version of the Valerie Plame scandal.  I love spy thrillers and political conspiracies, so this one was right up my ally.  Of course, I am sure the story has been enhanced for the pleasure of the viewing public, but it was entertaining and gave food for thought on the far-reaching power of the White House.

…that since my last “Things I learned…” post I’ve sat and watched Pride & Prejudice on the Oxygen channel twice.  I’ve also watched Bourne Identity (my second favorite movie) twice – in the same day on Starz.  Don’t you judge me.

WARNING!  WARNING!

My pet peeve of the week is…

…that I can’t seem to get away from those radio commercials that swear that you can lose weight and keep it off simply by subscribing to their prepackaged “restaurant quality” meals.  No exercise or life style change required.  Is this company on crack?  Are people so desperate to avoid sweating that they buy into this crap?  Calorie in/calorie out people.  The weight may come off initially, but it will be back.  With vengeance.  Serious lifestyle change is required to obtain good health and certainly, if you want to keep it.  Believe me when I say it is easier, and less expensive, to just suck it up and get your ass moving.  [Okay, I shall step off the soapbox now.]

…and lastly, this week’s awww moment is brought to you by a very over-ambitious hamster with eyes bigger than his stomach…or mouth.

Get in my belly!

Where’s my wine?

The funny thing about Thanksgiving, or any huge meal, is that you spend 12 hours shopping for it and then chopping and cooking and braising and blanching.  Then it takes 20 minutes to eat it and everybody sort of sits around in a food coma, and then it takes four hours to clean it up.  ~Ted Allen

I have strong doubts that the first Thanksgiving even remotely resembled the “history” I was told in second grade.  But considering that (when it comes to holidays) mainstream America’s traditions tend to be over-eating, shopping, or getting drunk, I suppose it’s a miracle that the concept of giving thanks even surfaces at all.  ~Ellen Orleans

Well, here I am again – standing at the gate.  Behind me, the joys of Halloween call to me, mocking me; in front of me, the holidays loom like Grendel’s mother.

Whether I am prepared for it or not, Thanksgiving is upon us.  Time to give thanks for a year of blessings.  Time to cook and consume copious amounts of food that will have no positive effect on my waistline.  Time to endure the company of family members who would otherwise be avoided.

Contrary to how it sounds, I don’t necessarily dislike Thanksgiving, though I will admit to being slightly annoyed by it.  Sure, I understand the importance of such a holiday to our national history.  I get that it is supposed to act as the adhesive that brings families together for a day of reflection. (Isn’t it ironic that this day of thanks occurs just before millions of Americans turn into greedy monsters consumed with the materialistic need to get a deal on the next “it” thing.  Just saying.) However, I am a person who does my very best to side step stress and drama.  Not something that is possible this time of year.  I think we can all agree that Thanksgiving, and the weeks that follow, are synonymous with stress.

Each year I swear it will be different.  I vow that I will channel my inner Martha Stewart and reduce my stress level by planning ahead, allowing a few extra hands in the kitchen, and forgiving myself a few missteps.  After all, it really doesn’t matter if the stuffing is soggy or the pumpkin pie is a little too brown around the edges.  What matters is the family who has gathered around the dinner table and I have a wonderful family.

My intentions are good.

But…what is it that Robert Burns says…

Oh yes,”…the best laid schemes of mice and men…”

My intentions are good, but they are doomed to failure.

It happens every year.

The problem?  Poor planning.  Plain and simple.  Yeah, I know…I know.  Total contradiction to my personality as a whole.  As one who favors structure and rules, it is odd to think that I am completely incapable of adequately preparing for upcoming events, but it’s true.  It’s not because I am a grand procrastinator.  Okay, maybe I do suffer from a small case procrastinatoritis, but my issue lies mostly in my inability to deal with more than one dire issue at a time.

In my head, next to the filing cabinet that holds my phobias, is a desk.  A very messy desk, kinda like the one in my office.  Piled high upon this desk are files, each containing an upcoming event or a to do that I must accomplish within a certain perimeter.  It’s a pile that grows exponential with every passing month, each file more important than the last.  None of them forgiving enough to permit me to give the next one the attention it deserves until a deadline is standing before me with an unpleasant consequence aimed at my head.  It is the story of my life.

And the very reason I wake up one morning only to find that it is the day before Thanksgiving, my relatives are beating down the door, my cupboards are bare, and I have absolutely no idea what I am going to feed anyone.

To make matters worse, there is absolutely no wine to be found anywhere in my house.  Not one stinking drop.

This year was no different.

With two major papers and an oral presentation due the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, who can really blame me for forgetting to plan.  Add a hard drive crash to that and you will understand there was no room in my poor brain fried mind for thoughts of turkey and dressing and pumpkin pie.  By Wednesday of this week, I was hovering between the need for a reschedule and full on denial of what was coming down the pike.  Sadly, there is no rescheduling Thanksgiving.

I blame the liberal media.

What?  Is that going too far?

In the end, it all came together, just as it always does.  Yes, I was cranky.  Yes, the roasted carrots burned and looked a lot like orange-colored turds.  Yes, the turkey was a smidgen dry.  Yes, I burned the pumpkin pies so bad that I had to start over.  Yes, I almost forgot to make my family’s favorite dessert – high calorie banana pudding.  But the homemade stuffing turned out fantastic and the gravy was free of lumps.

And I finally found my wine.

As for what the next file on my mental desk demands of me…

…well, I don’t know.  I don’t care.  It’s my day off.  Ask me again on Monday.

Things I learned at the Sting concert…

Photo by Anna Webber/Getty Images North America

Sting, my favorite musician of all time, made a stop in Dallas on his Back to Bass tour this week.  I was fortunate enough to be there.  I won’t bore you with too many details of the show.  Suffice it to say, Sting is a God.  Head and shoulders above the rest.  Still a class act after all these years.  This I know to be true.  I have seen him perform before.  His vocals are flawless, his backing band without equal, his set list a great mix of commercial hits and lesser known glittering gems that set a true fan’s heart fluttering with excitement.  All in all, it was a superb show.

While Sting may be top on my list of favorite things, people watching comes in at a close second.  What better place to people watch than a rock concert, right?  Right.  I can’t help myself.  It’s all in the name of character inspiration.  At least that’s what I tell myself as I gawk unabashedly at the masses swirling around me.

Here are a few of the things I learned at the Sting concert:

I learned that…

…that it was not hard to spot the husbands and boyfriends who were dragged kicking and screaming to a concert of an Englishman they couldn’t care less about.  They were the ones whose faces were illuminated throughout the concert by the light from their iPhones and Blackberries.  I image they do not have very happy relationships and are one banana peel away from a nasty, hate-filled break up.  While it is true that they may have earned “points” by showing up, they prove just how uncommitted to the unity they really are.  It’s sort of like when you go on a date with your husband or boyfriend and instead of engaging you in conversation over dinner, they browse their mobile twitter feed.  I feel pretty certain that their deeds will not go unpunished.  We women are a spiteful lot.  Their wives/girlfriends will make them suffer.  Even if done subtly, revenge can leave its mark.

…that there is something inherently wrong with women over a certain age showing their faces in public while wearing thigh high leather boots, skin-tight leather pants and skimpy glittering tank tops.  Denial?  Not just a river in Egypt.  Look, I know that age is relative.  You are only as old as you feel, but have some self-respect.  60 and dressed like a hooker at a Sting concert?  It just reeks insecurity and is, frankly, pathetic.

…that walking ten steps behind the aforementioned 60-year-old hooker and carrying her swag bag, is her mate – a short, pudgy, bald man who she has dressed up to look like Charlie Harper.

…that I should start carrying around a small travel size bottle of bleach in my purse to sanitize my eyes.  The gentleman in front of me was kind enough to flash me a good two inches of his butt crack every time he stood.  I’m not sure I will ever recover from the sight of his hairy ass.

…that there are those among us who will pay a premium price for tickets and then spend the entire show engaged in an activity that does not involve watching or listening to what they have paid to see.  I don’t understand this.  I paid $200 to see Sting.  I want to see Sting.  I want to hear Sting.  I want to feel his music seep into my pores and surge through my veins.  I don’t want to continuously have to pull my eyes away from the stage in order to let these inattentive people in and out of their seats at regular intervals.

…that copious amounts of alcohol will make the man sitting behind me who, by his own admission, had never seen Sting and didn’t really seem to know who he was, a very vocal and ardent fan.  I’m just grateful that he didn’t spill his super-sized wine on me.

…that though I felt like one of youngest people at this concert, it was nice to see children scattered through the crowd.  There weren’t many, but I am encouraged by this.  There is perhaps a smidgen of hope that this younger generation will know real musical talent when they hear it.

…that I am still sad I missed the reunion tour.

Things I learned this week (November 7 – November 13)

I learned this week…

…that snickerdoodles will be added to my holiday cookie line up this year.  I’ve made all sorts of cookies over the years – chocolate chip, pizzelles, peanut butter, spice cookies, etc. – but never snickerdoodles.  I made them for the first time this week.  I’m not really sure why I’ve excluded them in the past.  However, I will rectify this mistake as I delve into the my marathon of holiday baking in the coming weeks.  They were very tasty.

…that it is time to up the resistance on the elliptical to a solid 9.  I surpassed my best distance record this week.  I was able to cover 6.56 miles in one hour.  I think it’s safe to say that I’ve mastered the elliptical and am officially a convert.  I’m going to have to expand this thought into a blog entry.  I have a lot to say about it.

…that my little old kitty does not have lymphoma, after all.  Misdiagnosed.  She does have a slew of other health issues, but all of them manageable.  It’s always much easier to take a misdiagnosis when the error is in your favor.  Of course, this doesn’t alleviate the sting of the vet bills.  I’ve spent a fortune over the last month or two trying to find out what is wrong with my kitty and if it was time to make THE decision.

…that Shakespeare’s sonnets are much more entertaining than Petrarch’s sonnets.   Though, if I am to be completely honest, I probably only understand the meaning of one in three without prompting from dear Dr. W.  This sonnet, No. 130, I understood perfectly, however.  I’m sure you will, too.

An earlier version of Summer, 1563. Giuseppe Arcimboldo
My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun
Coral is far more red, than her lips red
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head
 
I have seen roses damasked, red and white
But no such roses see I in her cheeks
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks
 
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound
I grant I never saw a goddess go,
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground
And yet be heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.
 

…that inexplicably, I will experience a surge of excitement when I stumble across Pride & Prejudice on the Oxygen channel.  It matters not that I own it on blue ray and can watch it whenever my little heart desires.  It seems I am too powerless to change the channel, and too lazy to get up and pop in the DVD.  So, here I sit typing away at this blog, watching my favorite movie in low resolution, and suffering through endless commercials.

…that crazy gymnastics moms + vendor selling racks and racks of bedazzled leotards = calamity + a near homicidal me, squared.  You would really think that after four years of twice weekly practice at the same gym, surrounded by a lot of the same people, I would be more tolerant of these magpies.  I’m not.  I don’t think this is any fault of my own, but rather the fact that these woman have had their brains sucked out by some unknown force.  I am convinced that I am the only person in the entire place who is somehow immune to this mystery brain sucking foe.  I wonder if this is how Ripley from Aliens felt.

…that ineptocracy is a fun, new word.  I wish I could take credit for this one, but I learned it from my fellow WCer, Bill.   [Click here to for more from Bill].

…that I don’t know squat about what a biochemical lab looks like, or what it may contain.  This poses a problem for me because I am currently writing a scene for my novel, Retribution, that is set in a biochemical lab.  Guess I am going to have to consult my friends over at Wikipedia and Google images.  If anyone wants to share some expertise…

…that my husband should not be allowed to “clean” the coffee pot.  For a few years now, we have had a couple of those dispensing pots.  You know, you stick your cup underneath the spout, press it against the big button, and coffee magically pours into your cup.  Every time my husband “cleans” it, the stream diminishes.  Last year, he decided to “fix” this little problem by taking the pot apart.  Needless to say, I picked up a new one on my way home from work the next day.  Yesterday, my husband decided to deep “clean” the pot again.  I am now the proud owner of a new Kitchen Aid 14 cup coffee pot.  It is not the dispensing kind.  Lesson learned.

…and lastly, this week’s awww moment is brought to you by this adorable little piggy.  I have a soft spot in my heart for pigs.  I think they are freaking adorable and when all my kitties are gone, I’m going to get me one.  (Shhhh don’t tell Nolan.  He thinks we are getting a dog).  This little piglet has a story.  [Click here to read it].

Man vs. Beast VIII

I’ll be completely honest, I was going to pass on a Man vs. Beast blog this week.  That is until the spider monkey escaped its enclosure at the Dallas Zoo (my local zoo).  It’s the second escape in as many weeks. Talk about instant inspiration!

So…let’s get to it, shall we?

Remember the rash of bee attacks a couple of months ago?  Well, they have struck again.  This time in the Sunshine State.  A man renovating his house was found dead by his family in an upstairs bedroom, surrounded by swarming bees.  60,000 swarming bees, to be exact.  It appears the man was in the process of trying to rid the bedroom of the bees himself using store-bought bug bombs.  Experts do not believe the bees contributed in any way to the man’s death.  They believe he died after falling off a chair that was found near his body.  How is it that experts are always so stupid? This man was clearly pushed.  By the bees.  Duh.  [Click here for more].

A couple of weeks ago, at the Dallas Zoo, a female chimpanzee escaped her enclosure and had to be tranquilized.  Yesterday it happened again, only this time it was a spider monkey who escaped its habitat. Neither animal made it very far, and it did not appear that they had any specific destination in mind – just out for a stroll.  Or were they?  This zoo is not new to animal jailbreaks.  Last year, a female gorilla made it out of her enclosure and in 2004, a male gorilla actually scaled the outer wall of the outdoor exhibit, getting a brief whiff of sweet freedom before being unceremoniously shot dead by police.  Human error at play here?  You bet.  But these are primates we are talking about here.  It is obvious to me that for the past several years, the apes of the Dallas Zoo have been formulating a plan of action – their great escape.  [Click here for more].

In Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, an elk hunter survived a grizzly bear attack by dropping to the ground, covering his head, and playing dead.  Glad to see there is at least one hunter out there who reads my blog.  Right?  [Click here to read more].

Turtles are slow, non-threatening, and unassuming.  But that doesn’t mean they aren’t in on this whole animal revolt.  In Jack County, Texas, near the town of – wait for it – Antelope, a young woman rolled her vehicle when she swerved to dodge a turtle crossing the road.  I wonder how many drunk turtles were hiding in the bushes, laughing their asses off at the calamity their buddy caused.

It’s official.  The ninja shark assassins have laid siege to the west coast.  Of course, they have not been as successful as their Australian brethren.  Or perhaps they just mean to intimidate us with their menacing presence.  In Leucadia, California, at Beacon’s Beach a surfer reported that a ten foot long Great White shark circled him before disappearing into the surf.  The surfer credits his close proximity to the shore with saving him from what could have been a fatal attack.  I doubt that had anything to do with it.  If that shark meant to kill him, he would be dead – or missing a limb. [Click here to read more].

At a surfing competition at San Francisco’s Ocean Beach, a competitor was scared out of the water after he spotted a shark barreling down on him.  He described it as measuring at least fifteen feet in length and most definitely not a dolphin.  Unlike in other recent attacks and sightings, officials did not close the beach and the competition went on as scheduled.  Obviously, these surfers have not been properly intimidated.  Metaphorically flipping the bird at a Great White shark while dressed up like their favorite food – well, that just plain stupidity.  [Click here to read more].

So, I took a step out of my comfort zone and went whale watching in Mexico this year.  It scared the crap out of me, but not for the reason you would think.  My mind was preoccupied with the horrors of drowning in the very deep, very cold Pacific ocean.  Not once did I think about what could happen if one of those whales our guide was so vehemently pursuing actually breached in close proximity to the raft I was riding in.  After seeing the video linked below, I think it is safe to say that I will never, ever, ever, ever, go whale watching again.  Ever.

Things I learned this week (October 30 – November 6)

I learned this week…

…that big white angel wings are a hot commodity during Halloween.  My daughter decided at the last possible minute that she wanted to go to trick-or-treating dressed as Max from James Patterson’s Maximum Ride series.  For those you who don’t know, Max is a girl who has been genetically engineered to have wings so that she can fly. Big wings.  Not little fairy wings.  Not rainbow-colored wings made of wire and mesh.  Big white, feathery wings. Needless to say, my daughter went trick-or-treating as a grim reaper.

…that Christmas comes earlier and earlier every year.  This just proves my point that the holiday is nothing more than an over-commercialized farce.  For one year, one measly year, I would like to get through Thanksgiving before I am inundated with nauseating Christmas cheer.

…that there are those in my house who don’t share my cynical view of the coming Christmas season.

…that Petrarch was a miserable sap.  Seriously, who writes that many sonnets about a woman who obviously wouldn’t give him the time of day? Did he not have any drinking buddies who could have staged an intervention and gotten the man laid?  Good grief.  I think I’d rather read Beowulf again than have to read one more sonnet about the virtues of some courtly maiden named Laura.

…that karma does exist and sometimes people do get what’s coming to them.  I was leaving my favorite Target store this week and I happened to see a man trying to get his shopping cart to stay where he parked it – in the handicap parking space next to his Expedition instead of in the cart corral.  I called him an ass hat under my breath and kept walking.  People like that piss me off because we all know that cart isn’t going to stay where he left it.  Nope, it’s going to get caught by the wind and end up smacking the passenger door of my car.  It is inevitable.  Sure enough, the wind caught that cart, but instead of carrying it in the direction of my car, it came to rest behind the ass hat’s SUV.  Just as he began to back out of his space.  BAM!  That my friends is karma at its finest.

…that Andy Rooney died.  I loved that grumpy old guy.

…that with a little prodding from the guys in my Western Civilization class, my professor will find a scene from The Holy Grail that adequately depicts any aspect of our current curriculum.  This week – the Black Death.

…that sometimes a little booze is necessary – even if you don’t take a sip.  The comfort that it is there in case of an emergency is priceless.

…that I have an inner clock that doesn’t recognize the end of daylight savings time.  I didn’t get an extra hour of sleep.  I can’t really complain, though.  I was able to accomplish a little more, a little earlier today than yesterday.  I was at the gym by 7 a.m.; home by 8 a.m.; was showered and had a good dent in a writing assignment by 9; and had myself psyched up for a trip to the grocery store by 9:30.  Of course, that’s when things went awry.  I didn’t actually make it to the store until noon.  But hey, what matters here is that my morning was spectacular.

…that my cats don’t recognize the end of daylight savings time, either.  This is a lot less tolerable and makes me want to take them all to the shelter.

…and last but not least this week’s awww moment is brought to you by…well I have no idea because this was an email forward from Nolan.  Too cute for school, indeed.