“In nine lifetimes, you’ll never know as much about your cat as your cat knows about you.”
― Michel de Montaigne
“A spy, like a writer, lives outside the mainstream population. He steals his experience through bribes and reconstructs it.”
I’m on a bit of an early Cold War era spy kick right now. Two reason for this: I am writing a paper for my African-American history class that explores the Cold War’s influence on the civil rights movement; and I recently picked up a couple of John le Carre novels at my local second-hand bookseller.
I don’t have the luxury of a lot of free time this semester. I spend most of my days immersed in a bubbling vat filled with school, work, and family obligations. However, I have been able to sneak in a few minutes here and there – mostly in the carpool line – to delve into the 1963 classic The Spy who Came in from the Cold and the dark world of aging British spy, Alex Leamus. It’s not a book packed with action. Indeed, most of the story plays out within Leamus’ head as he struggles to find moral justification for his life’s work. I find his introspection fascinating. John le Carre is a master of his craft, and I am more than a little jealous of the intricate and thrilling story he weaves – without blowing anything up. Amazing.
Alright, so now that I’ve bored you to tears with my spontaneous book review, let’s get down to business. I’ve learned a lot this week. Some good; some not so much; all of it meaningful to my journey of self-discovery.
I learned this week:
…that I missed having the BFF around. This week she and I were able to meet in the middle of the day, on a whim, for a little coffee and girl talk. It’s been years since we’ve lived close enough to do that. It was a fabulous way to spend a Thursday afternoon.
(rant of the week)
…that sometimes I expect too much from of my higher education experience – and my professors expect too little from their students. As I’ve said before, I am in the midst of the group project hell. In general, I struggle with these sort of things because a) I am a control freak; b) anything less than perfection is failure; and c) I am an introvert who finds prolonged interaction with people I don’t know (or necessarily like) exhausting. It is no different with this project, though I do generally like the members of the group.
This assignment is two part: written paper and oral presentation. Everyone has an individual part to play, but success is contingent upon cohesion. Bearing this in mind, I took my portion of the paper to my professor for help with an unusual citation. I would hate to get it wrong and the group grade suffer for my incompetence.
He took it from me, read the first line, looked up at me over his reading glasses and said: “Are these your own words?”
I said: “What? Of course, they are my own words. Why on earth would you ask me that?”
I glanced down at my paper because, by this time I couldn’t remember what I had written to illicit such a reaction. It was a simple opening statement, short and to the point. No fuss, no muss. No ten dollar words. Nothing complicated or provocative. As you might imagine, I went through a medley of emotions: shock, indignation, anger. He backtracked then, but the damage was done. I walked away from the conversation feeling irritated, more than a little offended, and wondering why I was voluntarily subjecting myself to such nonsense.
Over the next few days, the group began to email me their portions of the paper for editing. My professor’s cynical attitude solidified before my eyes. It turns out that decent writing in these sort of survey courses is not necessarily the norm. Needless to say, I was flabbergasted by the lack of quality, and dare I say, effort, I found in their work. While I understand everyone has different writing skills and styles, I had expected by this stage in the game, they would have gained the ability to produce a passably intelligent product – with complete coherent sentences. You know, with a noun, a verb, and the occasional adverb or two thrown in for good measure.
I was wrong. Lesson learned.
…that my dog’s most prized possession is his raw hide chewy thing, and it is imperative that it be kept stashed in a secret spot until it is time to finish it off. As a novice dog mom, I am perplexed by canine behavior. Cats are easy and predictable. They expect to be fed, acknowledged upon demand, and left alone to nap wherever they choose. Dogs are different. Mine reminds me of a mischievous toddler – left to his own devices, mayhem ensues.
While in the backyard this week, I watched Rocco dig feverishly in a remote corner. I went to investigate. He was burying his chewy thing. I’m not sure why he thinks such a drastic thing is necessary, but there was an air of desperation in his actions. I suppose he could be worried about a cat uprising. He is, after all, the only dog in a houseful of felines. He would be stupid not to feel a little paranoia. I’m sure even as I type this they are plotting something diabolical. Hmmm…it seems I understand Rocco a little better than I thought.
…that Skyfall is the best damn Bond movie I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen them all. Multiple times. In the beginning, I wasn’t thrilled with the choice of Daniel Craig for the part. When they announced it, I was peeved. He didn’t fit. He wasn’t right. I swore I wouldn’t see Casino Royale. I was convinced it would be complete shit. Then I saw it. I was speechless. Bond had evolved. He was grittier, rougher around the edges. There was a vulnerability emulating from him, giving him a new level of humanity and mortality. Despite all of my efforts to the contrary, I liked the film- I liked Daniel Craig as Bond. I went into Skyfall with high expectations. I wasn’t disappointed. Don’t worry, I’m not going to bore you with another review. If you like this sort of thing, go see it for yourself. Tell me what you think.
…that my daughter has suddenly decided that jeans with rhinestones on the back pockets is not so repulsive after all. I’m not real sure what to make of this sudden shift, but rest assured there is a boy involved.
…that last, but not least, this week’s awww moment is brought to you by a ladybug I stumbled across in the garden. He was an uncooperative subject who dodged my best efforts to shoot him from his more photogenic side. It was almost as if he was mooning me. Surely not.
“Ideologies have no heart of their own. They’re the whores and angels of our striving selves.” – John le Carre
I’ve fallen off of the WordPress wagon again.
My tumble was (and still is) completely unavoidable and entirely of my own doing. You see, in my single-minded desire to realize my academic endgame, I constructed a semester devoid of that frivolous little thing called free-time. I don’t even have time to do the things I need to do. I guess it’s true what they say about hindsight. I’m sure I will find the humor in my predicament – eventually. Perhaps when I have more time.
I learned this week (last month)…
…that the best part of fall has passed me by with nary a whisper. Sure, I went to the state fair with my family and friends. Sure, I ate a fried Samoa – it was yummy. Sure, I hated the crowd and swore I would never go again. But, that’s all I did to pay homage to my favorite of all seasons. I didn’t schlep down to the local pumpkin patch with a horde of children in tow. I didn’t spend hours meandering through rows of fat gourds looking for just the right one to guard my door against the ghouls and goblins of Halloween. I haven’t taken the time to find where I stashed my fall decorations. I haven’t bothered to darken the door of my favorite coffee shop in search of a full-fat, sugar-laced pumpkin spice latte. There simply hasn’t been any time to do all of these things I love, and now the holiday season stands looming on the horizon, bearing down on me with an intensity that takes my breath away. Perhaps this year would be a good time to make good on my threat to spend the hustle and bustle of Christmas and the New Year on a remote Caribbean beach sipping frozen margaritas and listening to Jimmy Buffett’s greatest hits.
…that dogs are weird. I am a cat person, and have been for as long as I can remember. My husband is a dog person. He’s an accommodating man who loves me, and therefore has suffered a houseful of cats for some 17 years. This week, we adopted a cute little dog from a local animal shelter. We are still in the learning stages, trying to figure out how to be dog people. I must say, our new addition to the family is a strange fellow who loves to roll around in the grass, steal acorns from under the oak tree in the backyard, and bury his gross chewy things between the couch cushions. I do think I may love our sweet Rocco, though I do find my preoccupation with his bodily functions rather disturbing…and disgusting.
…that it is possible to earn an A on a Geology exam. Could I actually pull an A for the semester in this class? The hopeless dreamer in me says: Yes! You can accomplish anything you set your sights on. The nagging realist says: Don’t be stupid (as he cuffs the hopeless dreamer in the head and slinks off to outline yet another mind numbing textbook chapter).
…that Ben Affleck’s Argo was everything it was supposed to be and much more. I was born in the early seventies and the Iran Hostage Crisis was my first exposure to the ugliness that lived just beyond my safe haven. Of course, at the tender age of 8, I was incapable of appreciating the magnitude of the situation; that this deplorable action was a calculated reaction to a foreign policy put in place decades prior. Argo lays out the politics of the time, the road that led the Iranians down the path of revolution, and the role the American government played in the rise of the decidedly anti-Western sentiment that had enveloped the region. There is an element of humor to this film that I was initially put off by given the seriousness of the subject matter, but as the story unfolded, and the tension began to build, it seemed to bring a much needed balance. My only complaints: the unnecessary cleaning up and “happy ending” of main character Tony Mendez’s personal life – completely irrelevant to the story at large, and Affleck’s homage to President Jimmy Carter that followed the closing credits. While I understand old Ben’s undeniable biases, I felt that it was a little like a rewriting of history and an attempt to polish Carter’s tarnished presidency. Of course, this opinion is largely brought about by my own biases, so my suggestion: see it for yourself and drawn your own conclusions. Next on my list of must see movies – Bond. James Bond.
…and last, but not least, this week’s awww moment is brought to you by Rocco, the newest member of the Isaacs’ family. He is as sweet as he is adorable. We are very lucky to have found him.
“Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip.” – Winston Churchill
I learned this week…
…that I am not destined for a career in field geology. For the last few weeks, I’ve spent a great deal of time staring at dozens of rocks and minerals of all shapes and sizes. Some are colorful, some are not. Some have texture, some do not. Some have cleavage, some do not. Some look like flaky sheets of tissue paper, most do not. Some are lithified, some are not. Some have foliation, most do not. During my exhaustive hours of observation, I’ve come to one very troubling conclusion: Minerals look like rocks, rocks look like minerals, and the probability that I will correctly identify any of them on a test is pretty low.
…that the Back to the Future trilogy, even in digitally re-mastered Blu-Ray, has not withstood the test of time. The 1980s was the decade that set our imagination on fire. It was a period of pioneering advancement in cinematography that raised the bar for cutting edge special effects and gave us the likes of E.T., Aliens, The Terminator, The Empire Strikes Back, Tron, Howard the Duck (what? you know you watched it), and yes, Back to the Future 1-3 . Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, technology has continued to advance exponentially and what were once thought to be works of shear genius are now nothing more than six or seven hours of mind-numbing product placements, cheesy pop-culture references, and a flying skateboard that will not die.
…that people are strange. I know. This is no great revelation, but it is something that has become more obvious to me in the last few weeks. I am a creature of habit. I value consistency. It gives me comfort, adds a measure of equilibrium to life’s imbalances, and, above all, allows me some semblance of control – however imagined. As such, every morning on my way to class, I stop for breakfast at the same coffee shop. Without fail, I order a toasted whole wheat bagel with light cream cheese and a medium coffee – heavy on skim, light on sugar. Usually, I keep to myself. I may be an early riser, but I am far from a traditional morning person. I try my best to avoid interaction with people until it is absolutely necessary. However, sometimes all of my efforts prove in vain. This week I was ambushed, set upon while I innocently fixed my coffee, by a weird little man in a bright yellow polo.
He stood shoulder to shoulder with me as he added milk to his large coffee and said:
“I worked until 5 this morning.”
Him: “Yes, and do you know what I read while I was on a conference call.”
Him: “That in a few years we will all have cars that drive themselves.”
<weirdo alarm has been activated; move calmly, yet swiftly, to the nearest exit>
Me: (As I reached for a lid and a useless cup sleeve) “Good to know.”
I’m going to have to find value in variety.
…that I’ve been nominated for a couple of blogger awards. I know it’s probably a bit self-serving of me, but I do love a good blogger award. Why, you ask? Justification? Validation? Narcissism? All of the above. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Who doesn’t like that?
The two awards, The Booker Award and One Lovely Blog Award, were both given to me by Wordsurfer over at Cresting the Words. I sincerely thank you, Wordsurfer, for the honors. Go check out her blogs Cresting the Words and Cresting the Sounds. One deals primary with writing and such; the other music. Good stuff. You won’t regret it.
As is usually the case, these awards come with rules and guidelines. The Booker Award dictates that I must share my top five favorite books of all-time. I’m going to ponder this one a bit and get back with you. The One Lovely Blogger Award asks that I reveal 7 things about myself. Here goes:
- I am an excellent Canasta player. I will kick your ass. Fear me.
- The smell of Ketchup makes me want to vomit.
- Alias is my all-time favorite television show. I blame Ben Affleck for it’s demise after only 5 seasons. I will never forgive him for that. Ever.
- I will choose a spy thriller (movie or novel) over a chick-flick (or lit) every time with one exclusive exception – Pride & Prejudice. There is just not enough Lizzy and Darcy in the world.
- I don’t eat most sauces, condiments, or dressings.
- Fall is my favorite season.
- I love beets.
Now to pay it forward. The rules say I need to pick 15. I never follow this rule. I like a more manage number, and today I feel three is more my speed.
Kim the FanGirl: She loves Florence + the Machine just as much as I do and writes about it (among many other things, of course). She is a beautiful writer with a flare of description that will leave you breathless. Check her out.
Julie at Word Flows: I’ve given her a couple of these blogger awards but she remains on my short list. She’s a great writer with the enviable ability to amass an impressive word count in a remarkable short span of time. Check her out and follow her whirlwind journey.
Leanne Cole: She is a photographer from down under. I enjoy her work very much. Go check her out.
That’s all for now. I reserve the right to revisit this issue at a later date.
…that last, but not least, this week’s awww moment is brought to you by my mother’s cat, Domino. She’s a beautiful cat with a bi-polar personality. I had to be quite sneaky in order to get this shot. I’m sure such a deed will not go unpunished. Even now, she is likely plotting my demise – something slow and painful.
I’m still experimenting with this photography thing, and am still trying to learn how to manipulate the manual settings. This weekend I used one of our cats as a muse. She was not amused. I am quite certain that there is a nasty fall down the stairs in my future. But I thought I got some fairly decent shots out of the deal.
I learned this week…
…that I am old. Or so my health insurance carrier tells me. I received a very nice letter from them informing me that my recent birthday (the one that isn’t until mid-June) has pushed me into a higher age bracket and, though it pains them greatly, they must raise my rate by 2% effective April 1st. Bastards.
…that once again, I find that I am a few steps behind everyone else when it comes to discovering new and exciting television. First, the BBC’s Sherlock, and now PBS’s Downton Abbey. I need to get with the program. Both of these shows are well-written, well-acted, and well…just plain brilliant.
…that if civilization as we know it should end and the burden of rebuilding and repopulating the world falls to the brilliant minds of the students in my Sociology class, we are all screwed. Newt Gringrich’s moon colony might not be such a bad idea after all.
…that my daughter’s sixth grade band is amazing. I am very proud of her. She’s come a long way in five months.
…that as the daughter of a breast cancer survivor, I’ve always had the highest respect for Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Not anymore.
…that I really don’t like making my own coffee in the morning. That makes me sound spoiled, doesn’t it. Well, I am. My husband makes coffee every night at bedtime, sets the little timer thing, and BAM! I have coffee when I roll out of bed at 5 a.m. He’s out-of-town. I have to make my own coffee this week. It sucks.
…that my fat cat has lost weight. This a good thing for he tipped the scales at 19 lbs at his last vet check up. I am happy to report that his “high fiber, low-calorie food that costs me a fortune” actually worked. He’s down to a svelte 15 lbs. Of course, he thinks he’s starving to death and has taken to counter hopping in search of something left unattended. I turned around the other night and found him perched by the sink, staring a hole through me. I was a little scared. For a minute, I thought he was contemplating my nutritional value.
…that me and old Thomas Hobbes are not going to be good friends.
…that I find reminders of my dad in the strangest places. This week on my way to the office, I was listening to a 60s themed satellite radio station I like and a song I haven’t heard in years came on. (Don’t judge me. I’ve made no secret of my opinion on the music produced during that decade – BEST MUSIC EVER) As it began to play, recognition took hold, and all I could see was my father dancing around in his stocking feet, lip syncing the words, and making Groucho Marx faces. I miss my dad.
***Warning: Pet peeve of the week***
…that I hate pointless art projects. I hate pointless art projects even more when they are completely irrelevant to class curriculum. In Yoga for a Grade, we were instructed to make a new friend (shoot me now), ask them
asinine personal questions, and create a collage of their life based on what we learned in a ten minute conversation. We are expected to present them to the class when next we meet. Really? I think I preferred the Down Dog into Plank (hold for one minute), then down and up into Up Dog sequences she made us do – fifteen times in a row! – during the last class.
…and last but not least, this week’s awww moment is brought to you by Cousin Violet, the Dowager Countess of Grantham (Maggie Smith) from Downton Abbey. She is quite warm and loving in her own way – really.