Things I learned this week

“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.”

<eye roll>

Me:  “Oh?”

Him:  “Yes, and do you know what I read while I was on a conference call.”

<sigh>

Me: “Um…hmm.”

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:

  1. I am an excellent Canasta player.  I will kick your ass.  Fear me.
  2. The smell of Ketchup makes me want to vomit.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. I don’t eat most sauces, condiments, or dressings.
  6. Fall is my favorite season.
  7. 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.

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Things I learned this week

“There is no monopoly on common sense, on either side of the political fence.”

– Russians.  Sting, 1985.

I learned this week…

…that the gender of certain species of tortoise is determined by incubation temperature.  Who knew?  Becomingcliche did, that’s who.  Check out her blog for some more fun facts from the reptile house.

…on this day in history, Ronald Reagan said:

“Americans are brothers not because we share the same past and the same ancestry, but because we share the same ideals and the same hopes for the future.”

I think in recent years, we have lost sight of this unifying concept of American brotherhood.  If the current political climate is any indication, I don’t think we are destined to rediscover it any time soon, either.

…that procrastination is an art form that must be nurtured and practiced if one is to become sufficiently proficient.  This weekend I was supposed to write a paper on the socialization process of Palestinian children growing up in the war-torn region of Gaza, specifically Rafah.  Instead, I decided to do a little cleaning – or clearing, if you will.  I completely cleared off my DVR.  Wasted an entire day doing it, too.

…that the film Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy is a brilliant and spellbinding Cold War era political thriller.  If you like this sort of thing, which I do, I recommend that carve out a little time to see this one.  You will not be sorry.  It is based on the 1974 novel of the same name by John le Carre.  I will admit that I have not read the novel, and I understand that doing so will give clarity to certain aspects of the movie, however, I didn’t feel that this hindered my overall understanding of the plot.  Check it out.  Or don’t.  Whatever.

Check out bookfilmblog’s review for a better understanding of the film.

…that there was an entire season (to present) of Once Upon a Time episodes piled up in my DVR queue.   I don’t like clutter, therefore, it was necessary (from a mental health standpoint) for me to rectify this situation.  I spent all of this past Sunday watching nothing but episode upon episode of this ABC show.  I initially set the timer for my daughter.  No, really.  I had no intention of giving this show that time of day.  It was about fairy tales and princesses and crap.  I don’t do princesses.  I do murder and intrigue.  My preconceived notions are rarely wrong (stop laughing), but I’ve got to say that this show sucked me in.  Sure, it has a sort of odd dual storyline that takes a bit of getting used to, but it is surprisingly well written and totally unexpected.   I love a show that leaves me gaping at the television in stunned silence.  Example:  Red Riding Hood (in the fairy tale world) is not a victim of the big bad wolf, she IS the wolf – who just ate her own lover.

Whoa.

…that one goes through stages similar to those of grief when coming to terms with failure.  I have moved into the acceptance phase.

I’ve accepted that my novel is crap.

Stay tuned for my Sunday updates (yes, I promise to be better about posting them) as I start the writing process all over again.  I think this time will be better.  It has to be better, right?  Right?  Hello?

***Warning – Pet Peeve of the Week***

…that I am a stickler for personal space.   Johnny Castle once said:

“This is my dance space. This is your dance space. I don’t go into yours, you don’t go into mine.”

That Johnny Castle was a smart guy.  Cute, too.

I digress.

I was patiently waiting for the cute little girl at Target to ring up my purchases the other day.   Beep, beep, beep.  As I waited, a woman, not much older than me, pushed her buggy into line behind me, unloaded her groceries, and then came to stand next to me.  Right next to me.  I mean, so close that our elbows brushed.  It was all I could to keep myself from having one of those impulsive ticks.  You know, the one where your fist balls up all by itself and clocks the person standing next to you.

…and finally, this week’s awww moment is brought to you by this little…um…rodent.  Hamster?  Kangaroo mouse?  I don’t really know what it is, but it sure is cute.  I also do not have the original source, and I sort of think it may have been manipulated, but I don’t care about all that nonsense.  It’s cute.  It made me smile.  That’s all that matters.


Happy Birthday, Dad

Today would have been my father’s 60th birthday.

These are a few of the things that always remind me of him.

One of my dad’s favorite movies. We watched it nearly every weekend when we lived in Germany.

Happy Birthday, Dad.  I love you.

Things I learned this week…

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“Que sais-je?”
Michel de Montaigne

I learned this week…

…that it is necessary, from a quality control standpoint, to sample all of the treats I bake before giving them out to my friends and family.  Unfortunately, my stomach did not get the memo that we would be ingesting such a large amount of sugar and fat.  He was not amused.

…that baking and writing don’t mix.  The other morning, I packed my daughter off to school, made a mental list of the things I needed to get done and set a short-term goal for myself.  I wanted to accomplish at least two things before the sun went down: 1) finish baking cookies and fudge for my coworkers; 2) write between 2,000 and 4,000 words for my novel, Retribution.  I arranged a makeshift writing space at the kitchen table with my laptop, steaming cup of coffee, plot diagram, and research notebook – all within easy reach.

(Why is Robert Burns whispering in my ear…again?)

I finished the cookies.  I did not, however, write the intended number of words.  I eked out a grand total of 157 of them.  Disappointing, but I learned a valuable lesson.  I can either bake or I can write, but I cannot do both.

…that there is just something about logging onto the college website to find my grades staring back at me, on the homepage.  I get all gooey inside from the tremendous sense of accomplishment I feel at successfully completely another semester, with a near perfect GPA intact.  Good thing, too.  I’m paying a butt load of money, out-of-pocket, for this education; all in the name of “finding myself.”  (Cue eye roll from my dear, supportive husband).

…that sitting next to the Christmas tree at my daughter’s gymnastics practice is a bad idea.  A very, very bad idea.  You would think that I would remember this from years of past experience.  After all, we’ve been going to the same sport’s center for the last four years.  But alas, no.  I am a creature of habit.  I have a favorite chair and when it is unoccupied, I will sit there every time, without fail. Unfortunately, during this time of year, the chair sits right next to the Christmas tree.  Needless to say, because of my inability to adapt, I spend most of practice shooting the stink eye at small children for nearly toppling the tree, in their attempts to reach the candy canes that are scattered among the branches.  The candy canes they are forbidden from touching.   I’d love to have a nice long heart to heart with the genius who thought up that decorating idea.

…that the movie Hanna is probably the worst film I have ever seen.  I don’t even know where to begin with this one.  But considering the fact that I’ve just spent the better part of two hours watching it – two hours of my life I will never get back – I think I will pass on a more detailed review.  I’ve wasted enough time on it already.  Now I’ve wasted your time by telling you that I’m not going to waste my time.  I feel better now.  Misery loves company.

…that the mall on the last full shopping weekend before Christmas is a frightening place.

…that Hollister is not a store, it’s my worst nightmare come to life.  Before this weekend, I had never stepped foot in that store.  I’ve always been put off by the sounds and smells wafting from it’s cloaked interior.  However, it is Christmas and there is someone on my list who requested a gift card from this establishment.  Upon entering, and after my senses adjusted to the loud music and overwhelming stench of cologne, I was struck by how very dark it was in there.  Indeed, so dark that I nearly tripped over several small children and a salesperson.  I’m not sure I understand their marketing strategy.  How the hell do they expect customers to buy a product they can’t see?  Seems pretty fishy to me, like maybe they don’t really want you to know what you’re buying.  Or maybe the store is secretly a front for a special black ops division of the CIA.  That must be it, and now that I think about it, I’m sure I caught a glimpse of Sydney Bristow, disguised as a college student, just before she slipped into one of the “dressing rooms.”

…last, but not least, this week’s awww moment is brought to you by this touching tribute to the brilliance of Bill Waterson.  Enjoy.

“Nobody puts Baby in the corner.”

A few blog entries back, I made my feelings known about what seems to be the popular new past time in Hollywood – remaking and rebooting everything under the sun.  I thought for sure they’d hit rock bottom with the remake of Footloose (and it’s beloved soundtrack).

I was wrong.

Recently, it has been announced that the powers that be in Tinseltown have decided to continue their blasphemous campaign by daring to take on the 1987 classic Dirty Dancing.

And here I thought they learned their lesson with the colossal flop, Dirty Dancing – Havana Nights.

Again – I was wrong.

For those of you who were not a frizzy haired, big toothed, homely teenaged girl with a unibrow in 1987, you may be asking yourself why on earth would anyone get their panties in a bunch over this nonsense.  It’s just a movie.  A stupid movie at that.

Maybe it is a stupid movie by today’s standards, but in the context of the time and to the targeted audience, it was pure brilliance.  In 1987, I was a frizzy haired, big toothed, homely fifteen year old girl (with a unibrow that defied imagination).  I knew little of the world outside my safe and secure life on a military installation.  The school year before, I’d moved from Germany and was lucky enough to have fallen in with an amazing group of kids just like me.  All of us Air Force brats plopped down in the middle of nowhere Texas and left to fend for ourselves among the native population.  To say that we suffered from culture shock would be a gross understatement.  We were awkward, quirky and marched quite happily to the beat of our own drum.  That year, and the following year, the group of us – five in all – spent a lot of time hanging out around our housing development, the SAFB library, the BX food court (don’t ask) and torturing our collective families by invading their peace – and their refrigerators.  Bobbi’s mom had the best snackage by far, and that’s usually where we landed when we wanted to stay up all night and watch movies.

"Dirty Dancing" 1987

We had our list of usual suspects:  The Outsiders, Top Gun, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, Can’t Buy Me Love, St. Elmo’s Fire, The Breakfast Club, Back to the Future, Howard the Duck, Flashdance, Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles…the list was endless.  But our go-to movie, the flick everyone could agree on time after time was Dirty Dancing.  What was it about this film that captivated us?

We could relate to it – at least on some level.

Here was this girl who was not so unlike ourselves – a little homely, a little awkward, striving to live up to her family’s expectation – the good girl; the apple of her father’s eye.  She thinks she has it all figured out until in walks the over-confident, sizzling hot bad boy with a leather jacket slung carelessly over one shoulder.

Swoon.

She would never be the same.

And neither would we.

As we sat noshing on junk food in the dead of night, we were spellbound not only by the raw sexuality of this film (as is depicted in this scene), but also by the emotional journey these two characters took us on.  It was a roller coaster ride.  Scene after scene, we watched as this ordinary girl and trouble filled young man waged a war within themselves, struggling against their blossoming feelings and the confines of their prospective situations.  It was a journey that saw them lay their souls bare, tested their budding trust in one another, and finally brought them together in a spectacular over the top dance sequence.

All set to a soundtrack that rivaled even that of my beloved American Graffiti.

What is there not to love about this movie?

How on earth could anyone think that the onscreen magic of Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze could ever be recreated?

Why must Hollywood make a mockery out of every coming of age film from my formative years?

Can they not just leave well enough alone?