Things I learned this week

“Proof brevity does not protect against dullness.” 

– Jonny Lee Miller as Sherlock Holmes in regard to Twitter.

I learned this week…

…that I don’t have to worry about those pesky little logarithms, after all.  My Historical Geology professor announced this gem during our last lab session.  It seems he’s not a big fan of the evil math, either.  He just might take over the top spot on my favorite professor list.

…that there is a new spy thriller on FX called The Americans, and I’m not too sure I care for it.  Don’t get me wrong, the concept intrigues me: Soviet KGB operatives posing as Americans during the early days of the Reagan administration, stealing intelligence.  Sounds right up my alley, right?  It is – for the most part.

So what’s the problem, you ask?

Keri Russell.

Yes, I know.  I should let my aversion to Felicity go; after all, it was the show that launched Jennifer Garner into Alias stardom.  Okay, perhaps that’s a bit of an exaggeration.  But still, I don’t like Keri Russell (as an actress – I’m sure she’s a lovely person), and her character, Elizabeth Jennings, seems even less appealing.  She is cold and detached with a glint of something homicidal in her eye.  Perhaps this is the writers’ intention.  Maybe I’m not supposed to relate to her, to sympathize with her, to like her.  If that is the case then they are doing a superb job.

Bravo.

…that for the first time in a long time, I found the Grammys enjoyable.  Usually, it’s a tortured affair, one that leaves me feeling old and out of touch, yet strangely fixated.  It’s like witnessing a horrible train wreck – the pitchy performances, the excessive bleeping of lyrics too inappropriate for primetime, the painful acceptance speeches by artists scarcely worthy of the name.  I want to look away, but I just can’t.  Most years, I am doomed to disappointment and will spend a solid week bemoaning the sad state of music and vowing to do something more productive with that three and a half hour block of time.

This year was different.  This year there were (by and large) real musicians on stage, playing real instruments, and producing real music.  I enjoyed most of the performances and tributes – Mumford and Sons, The Black Keys, fun., Jack White, Dr. John, Carrie Underwood and her hypnotic dress, Ed Sheeran, Sting, Sting, and Sting.

What?  He wasn’t alone on stage?

Funny.  I didn’t notice.

In all seriousness, I felt renewed hope.  Maybe music has turned a corner; maybe the manufactured, auto-tuned sludge we’ve been subjected to for two decades will finally give way to the return of the vocally and musically talented singer/songwriter.

Maybe?  Please?

The only dark spot on the night – besides Elton John and Taylor Swift – was the Florence Welch snub.  I may hold that against Kelly Clarkson for a very long time.  I’m a grudge holder, you know.

On a side note:  Ratings for the 2013 Grammy Awards were down, and critics panned it for its somber feel.  Mature…somber.  Whatever.  Click here to read one of the more scathing reviews.

…that listening to an audio book in the carpool line will cause me to do something I rarely do – nap.  It’s problematic for a few of reasons:  1) I’ve never gotten around to tinting my windows; 2) the telltale head bob that accompanies vertical napping is embarrassing; 3) inevitably I will have to rewind (can you rewind an MP3?) the audio book because I end up missing vital chunks of the story.   Yesterday, I missed the whole part about Chiara being kidnapped from the villa in Italy.  I woke up in the middle of a shit storm and had no idea what the hell was going on.

I panicked a little.

…that ginger tea is the elixir of the gods.  For the last year or two, I’ve suffered from a stomach quirk and steadily over the months, my tolerance for many of foods has waned.  I am a notorious self-diagnoser, so I tossed around the idea of a gluten allergy, a fructose intolerance, a faulty gall bladder.  I cut a lot out of my diet.  Sometimes it helps; sometimes it doesn’t.  After a recent upswing in symptoms, I took to the internet for advice – because if it’s on the internet, it has to be true – and discovered ginger tea.  It takes a bit of getting used to, but I have to say it has helped a lot.

<covers ears to block out BFF’s (licensed RN) screams that I need to stop with the internet diagnosing and see a professional>

I did finally make an appointment for next week with a specialist.  But I already know what he’s going to tell me.  I looked it up on the internet.

…that I am not irrational.  Okay, yes I am, but not when it comes to cruises.  My friends go on cruises – they love them.  They tell me I should go, too.  I would love it, they say.  “You forget you’re even on a boat.  It’s so much fun.  Go.  Try something new.”  I have no desire for the obvious reasons:  big ship; inflatable “life” boats; tiny windowless cells staterooms; crushes of people breathing my air; lack of wide open sandy beaches; and the Norwalk virus.

Here are few more reasons:  no power; no ventilation; no working toilets; Soviet era bread lines for a daily hot dog rationing.  Read more here.

No, thank you.  I’d rather risk getting my head loped off by the drug cartels in Mexico.

…and last, but not least, this week’s photo is a macro I took in November, at the Dallas Arboretum.  It’s always a nice surprise stumbling across these shots and I am a sucker for water droplets.

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Things I learned this week

“The wisest are the most annoyed at the loss of time.”

            – Dante Alighieri

This week I learned:

…that there were a few notable anniversaries:

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  • My favorite novel Pride & Prejudice was first published 200 years ago (January 27, 1813).  I usually wait until the lazy days of summer to pull it out and give it another read, but this year I think I might delve into it a little earlier.
  • We are the World turned 28 this week.  The recording of this song and the release of the video was a profound moment in my teenage years.  In all honesty, I’m not real sure I completely understood their cause at the time, but the collaboration of all of my favorite musical talents on one record nearly blew my mind.
  • This week, 27 years ago, the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded during lift off.  I watched the launch live on television, alongside millions of other school children.  I remember the level of excitement surrounding this launch.  We all understood that we were watching history in the making.  Then, it all went horribly wrong.  I will never forget that day, what I saw, what I felt.   Recently, I had the opportunity to visit the Johnson Space Center in Houston with my daughter’s middle school Robotics class.   One of the films we watched highlighted NASA’s missions throughout the years – the triumphant and the tragedy.  I probably should have been expecting it, but when the video of Challenger’s last seconds filled the screen it took my breath away.

…that the girl who sits next to me in Historical Geology has adult ADHD.  I suspect she is unmedicated because surely if she were, I wouldn’t spend the first half of class trying to figure out a way to make her shut up and sit still without getting arrested for a felony.

…that I don’t have the personality for Twitter.  I find the task of coming up with witty pieces of brilliance in under 140 characters on a daily basis undoable.   I also don’t have the patience or the attention span to sit and scroll through all of those endless posts and reposts, and reposts of reposts.  I don’t even find it an efficient source of news.  There is one thing, though, that I do get a kick out of – followers.  One of my favorite games is the “what if” game.  I do it in the grocery store, at the gym, in traffic – everywhere.  I find I can do it with Twitter followers, as well.   And so, with every new follower notice, I take a minute to try to come up with their story.  After that, I make a bet with myself to see how long it takes them to realize I’m not any fun and unfollow me.  It never takes too long.

…that – in keeping with the Twitter thread – people actually have apps to keep track of who unfollows their twitter account.  Really?  If I took the time to worry about all the people who decided they didn’t like me over the years, I’d never get a damn thing done.

…and last, but not least, this week’s awww moment is brought to you by two sweet girls who make my heart smile.

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Things I learned this week

“We must have a pie.  Stress cannot exist in the presence of pie.” – David Mamet

…that sometimes it takes the intervention of a professor to get the attention of a wayward group of young people.  As I wrote in my last post, I’ve been having a bit of trouble getting my project group to focus, take the assignment serious, and produce an A worthy presentation.  This week I’d had enough.  I called in the big guns and arranged (along with another student) for an early morning heart to heart, or as my husband likes to say, “a coming to Jesus meeting.”  Hopefully, they have seen the light and by the weekend, I will be in possession of a well-written, cohesive presentation.

Think good thoughts for me, please.  I have a feeling I am going to need them.

…that there is a band from Norway called Katzenjammer and they make me want to dance a jig in a pirate’s den – dressed like a tavern wench.  What?

Thank you to cresting with words for posting a great blog about them and giving me something new to add to my playlist.  Check them out.

…that Selena Gomez appears to have dumped Justin Beiber.

Do you hear that? That’s the sound of millions of tweens all over the world, heaving a collective sigh of relief.

…that for the first time in years, I will have an empty house during the week of Thanksgiving.   It was hard for me to make the decision to opt out, but it had to be done.  I’m not going to bemoan my overburdened semester again.  I’m sure you all are totally over my incessant whining.  Hell, I’m tired of listening to it myself.    However, it doesn’t change the fact that I simply do not have time for Thanksgiving and all that goes along with it.  It breaks my heart, because the best part of the holiday for me is spending a week my nephews. They’ve been a fixture in my house every Thanksgiving since…well…forever.

I guess I shall have to be content to think of them as I sit at my desk, hammering away at my African-American history paper, eating cold pumpkin pie, and listening to the deafening sound of an empty house.  It’s just not Thanksgiving without hearing:

Them:  “Aunt Peggy, Cory won’t let Megan and I have a turn!”

Me:  “I don’t want to hear it.  Figure it out.”

Them:  “Aunt Peggy, Cody won’t agree to the movie Megan and I want to watch!”

Me:  “You know the rules.  No unanimous decision – no movie.  Work it out.”

Them: “Aunt Peggy, Justin just farted on us!”

Me:  “Justin, stop farting.”

Them: “Aunt Peggy, what are you going to make for breakfast?  Uncle Nolan told us to ask for biscuits and gravy.”

Me:  “Tell Uncle Nolan to come ask me himself.”

Them: “Aunt Peggy, can we have chicken tacos for dinner?”

Me:  “Really?  Don’t you think we should worry about that after breakfast?  Maybe even after lunch?  Certainly not before I’ve had coffee.”

Them: “Aunt Peggy, you’re our favorite.  Will you make us banana pudding?  Not the diet kind. The kind that tastes good.”

Me (feeling all warm and gooey inside):  “Of course.  Just for you.”

<sigh>

I’m going to miss those boys this year.

…that I am finally going to sell the bedroom set in my spare bedroom and make myself a proper office.   Why haven’t I utilized this unused space before, you ask?  I have absolutely no idea.  Now, who wants to buy a 5 piece twin bedroom set in near stellar condition?

Anyone? Please? My unfinished novels are begging you…

…that for the first time since September 25th, I had the itch (and the courage) to take a peek at my WIP, Retribution.  I’ll be honest, I have had no real desire to delve into it.  The problems run deep, and at the moment, I don’t have the time, nor the energy to sit and sift through the rubble to find the usable stories that lies buried there.   In spite of this, I couldn’t help but read through the first chapter.  I needed reacquainted myself with my beloved Anna.  She hasn’t changed.  She is just as I left her – a staunch realist, who holds no illusions about the harsh world in which she lives.  She understands all too well the battle between good and evil is one fought in the shadows, on the edge of civility, with an armory stocked with less than honorable tactics.  To survive, and to ensure the survival of the free world, one must let go of any idealistic notions of morality.  Sometimes it is necessary to do the unthinkable, the reprehensible – all in the name of the greater good.  Of course, these things come with a price.  They always do.

I want to sit and do nothing but write today.  Unfortunately, I have obligations that take me in several different directions and none of them involve a computer or a notebook.  Poor Anna.  Destined to ignored for another week…at least.

…that the Christmas shopping season has begun.  I’m sure it will come as no surprise to all of you, but I am annoyed by this.  I like to take things as they come – one at a time, and in chronological order.  Just once, I’d like to get through Halloween and Thanksgiving without being reminded that Christmas is looming in the wintery fog, ready to pounce.  I know it’s there.  I can see it’s beady little eyes glowing in the dark.  It is quite unnecessary to throw decorated trees and twinkling lights in my path, or blister my ears with tired carols and annoying jingles.  There will be plenty of time for that after the turkey and pumpkin pie have been properly devoured and digested.  And, really, there is no need to worry dear retailer giants, I’m not going to forget the real meaning of the modern season.  Cold hard cash.  I have every intention of spending plenty of my money down at the local mall.  But not until after December 1st.  So stop bugging me.

…and last, but not least, this week’s awww moment is brought to you by this beautiful little girl who is celebrating her first birthday this week.

Alright, everyone all together now –  awwwww….

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Things I learned this week

I learned this week…

…that it’s turning out to be a rough year for music.  This week we lost another great – Robin Gibb of the Bee GeesAs I said last week, the Bee Gees were a staple in my house growing up.  Many of their songs rank among my favorites, many of them from the disco era, but the tune that I love to listen to over and over is this one:

No surprise that it was released in the sixties – the greatest musical decade in the history of rock & roll.  RIP Robin Gibb.

…that I smell clean, or so a woman at my local mall informed me this week.  I’m going to take her unsettling observation as a compliment, because to do otherwise would cause my overactive imagination to kick into overdrive and I will begin to believe that I am destined to die at the hands of a deranged serial killer whose taste for blood is triggered by the April fresh scent of my fabric softener.

…that the loss of my tooth crown virginity is a momentous occasion – at least to the staff at my new dentist’s office.   I have to say, I’m confused by their level of excitement.     This is how the conversations went:

Hygienist #1:  How many crowns to do you have?

Me:  None.

Hygienist #1:  None?  This is your first?

Me:  Yes.

Hygienist #1 (with a giant grin on her face):  Awww.

One week later at final fitting and placement:

Hygienist #2 (as she studies my panoramic x-rays on a computer monitor):  You don’t have any other crowns?

Me:  Nope.

Hygienist #2:  Really?

Me:  Really.

Hygienist #2:  Oh wow!  Your very first.  Awww.  (she then gives me a motherly pat on the shoulder)

I think someone should inventory this office’s supply of nitrous oxide.

…that a bit of positive feedback goes a long way in boosting my creative confidence.  I unveiled the opening scene for my work in progress rewrite this week to my writing group.  I’ve agonized and obsessed over this particular scene for weeks.   I was apprehensive about their reaction.  They can be a tough crowd, but the scene was well received.  I made it through an entire read without any snickering or side jokes regarding some unintended sexual innuendo or inadvertent Yoda-speak.

…that I have a new theme song.  Sara Bareilles is on of my favorite singer/songwriter/performers at the moment.   She just finished a grueling tour schedule and is now going to enjoy a little time off before she heads back into the studio.  As a parting gift she gave her devoted fans a five track EP.  It’s musical perfection, as usual, and I have a new favorite.

***Warning:  This is not a song you want to crank up at work or in the presence of your children.  There is quite a bit of crude language so considered yourself warned.  Enjoy.

…that last, but not least, this week’s awww moment is brought to you by the elusive Blue Jay who feeds in my backyard.  I’ve tried for weeks to sneak up on the wily little bastard to snap a picture or two.  My patience finally paid off.

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Things I learned this week

I learned this week…

…that Donald “Duck” Dunn has died.  You might not recognize his name, but I guarantee you that at some point, you’ve heard his telltale bass line.   He was a member of the studio band at Stax Records in Memphis and played with such artist as The Blues Brothers (he was in the movie), Eric Clapton, Arthur Conley, Neil Young (with whom he extensively toured), CCR, Wilson Pickett, Bob Dylan (who you all know I loathe), Rod Stewart, Otis Redding – just to name a few.   One of my favorite songs is a little ditty called “Green Onions” by Booker T & the MGs.   He wasn’t the original bassist on the 1962 recording, but I think he does it best.

…that Donna Summer has died at the age of 63.  I often talk about how my father’s love of old school country, early rock & roll, and 60s R&B influenced my taste in music.  However, in all honesty, my mother probably had a greater impact on my personal “musicology.”  She is a lover of all music.  She doesn’t discriminate – from old Dean Martin and Sinatra to Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons and the Beatles to Gordon Lightfoot and Simon & Garfunkel and everything in between and beyond.  When I was a kid, one of my mother’s favorite things to do was to throw open the windows, cue up a homemade reel to reel tape and crank the volume until music filled the house – and the neighborhood.   Sometimes we listened to oldies, sometimes to folk, sometimes to country, but more often than not, we listened to disco.  What could be better than doing your Saturday morning chores to the infectious beat of ABBA, the Bee Gees, and yes, Donna Summer?   She will be sorely missed in my house.  My friend Kelly said “disco died today.”  Perhaps it did.

…that I have been nominated for the Kreativ Blogger Award by kittyb78.  She’s a fellow writer who just happens to be a Black Dragon Kung Fu instructor.  I’m not sure what that is, but it sounds very cool and makes me want to write her into one of my stories as that bad ass character who…okay I digress.   Many thanks to kittyb78 for bestowing such an honor on me.  I appreciate it very much.

Of course, these things come with rules.  I’m supposed to tell you seven interesting things about myself and then pay the award forward to a few bloggers I think are deserving.

  1. I give good stink-eye, and not always intentionally.  I have an odd face with a heavy brow and a natural frown.  It makes me look angry – even when I’m not.  It serves me well.  People leave me alone.  Usually.
  2. I hate the sound of people eating.  Seriously.  I hate it.
  3. I am cynical by nature, but I try very hard to use humor to stave off the negativity.  It’s made me a happier person.
  4. I am a James Bond fanatic.
  5. I have no natural rhythm and no amount of alcohol can change that.  Ask my BFF how long it took her to teach me the Electric Slide back in the day.
  6. I have an affinity for dates.
  7. I love striped pants.
Now to pay it forward:kreativbloggeraward
Check ’em out.  They are all creative, innovative, and worthy of your time.

…that yoga for a grade is like a bad penny.  It just won’t leave me in peace.  As a memento of our time together, it has left me with a little hip injury.  Nothing too serious, just some tendonitis.  They tell me it will go away – with a little time and four weeks of physical therapy.

…that I am captivated by the train-wreck that is Ancient Aliens.  I spend the entire hour yelling at the television, snorting in disbelief, and cursing their flawed logic, but for some reason I can’t bring myself to change the channel.

…that last, but not least, this weeks awww moment is brought to you by a pair of small woodpeckers who distracted me from my gardening this week.  From their behavior, I can only assume they were a mother and her lazy child who refused to get off his ass and get a job.  I could be wrong, though.

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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.

A hippo? For Christmas?

Lucky mesmerized by the lights

When I was contemplating this blog entry, I initially thought about writing something scathing about the commerciality of Christmas in modern society; how Americans overspend and over-indulge year after year with no thought spared to the consequences.  I thought about asking where all the good cheer and goodwill have gone.  I certainly see no evidence of it. Just take a trip down to your local mall or, for that matter, your favorite big box store.  No good cheer or goodwill there.  Maybe they’ve gone to the Caribbean. That’s where I would go.

Instead, I decided that writing about my negative feelings toward the sad state of Christmas would only make me look like a jerk.  Or more adequately – a Scrooge.  I don’t need a special season, or month to do that.  I can do it anytime – and rest assured, I will.  No, I thought that I should give you all a break from my bah humbug attitude.   Call it my little gift to you this holiday season.

Of course, after I decided on the above-referenced attitude adjustment, I was faced with the monumental task of finding something that I actually do like, to write about.  It was tough, and I was just about to throw in the towel when a Christmas song began to play.

Ding!  (Cue animated light bulb)

I like Christmas music.  Well, okay. That’s stretching it a bit.  But, for argument’s sake, and in the spirit of the season, I will contend that there are a few Christmas songs that I find enjoyable.  I might even go so far as to say that they entertain me and evoke feelings of something I can’t quite put my finger on.

These are my top twelve:

12.      Christmas in Hollis by Run DMC:  Don’t judge.  I was a teenager in the ‘80s.  This song reminds me of a time when I was surrounded by my favorite gang of fellow miscreants.  Okay, so we never got into trouble while wandering the streets of a heavily patrolled AFB housing development, but that’s not to say that we didn’t think about it.  Still, this song brings back fond memories.

11.      All I Want for Christmas is You by Mariah Carey:    I love this little ditty even though I’m not a huge fan of Mariah Carey, in general.  Perhaps it is because this song embodies the sixties, Phil Spector’s “wall of sound”, and go-go dancers.  Three things I absolutely love.  Again, don’t judge.  I happen to think that the 60s brought forth some of the best music ever recorded.

10.       Winter Wonderland by The Eurythmics:  I first heard this song on the 1987 Christmas compilation album called A Very Special Christmas.  It isn’t usually a song that I care for, but Annie Lennox could sell ice to an Inuit with that voice.

9.        Step into Christmas by Elton John:  I’m not sure there is a real explanation for my love of this song.  It’s not particularly memorable, but whenever it comes on the radio, I crank up the volume and sing along.

8.        Let it Snow by Dean Martin:  I have a secret place in my heart for Dean Martin.  I love his voice and hearing his songs make me think of my grandmother.  I don’t know why.  I have no concrete memory to pin that on, just that it reminds me of her.

7.       Chipmunk Christmas by David Seville:  I think this one is pretty self-explanatory.  Who doesn’t love Simon, Alvin and Theodore?

6.        It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year by Andy Williams:  My mother had this Andy Williams Christmas album she would play to death at the very hint of Christmas, when I was a kid.  It grew on me.

5.        Do they know it’s Christmas by Band Aid:  Again, I spent my influential years in the ‘80’s.  It was the decade of Live Aid, Farm Aid, We are the World.  Band Aid was a group put together by the music industry’s royalty of the time, in an effort to raise awareness and money for the Ethiopian famine.  To be completely honest, in the midst of my most narcissistic phase, I’m not real sure I paid much attention to the message they were sending; however, I did love that my favorite artists sang on this records.   Plus, the accompanying video came out during the rise of MTV – when MTV played videos – which made it all the more tangible for me.

4.         Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree by Brenda Lee:  Yeah, I know.  Pretty cliché.  But it was a staple around my house growing up, so this one is part of my childhood soundtrack.

3.         Carol of the Bells:  Am I the only one who hears this song and is instantly transformed into an orchestra conductor?  I don’t think I’ve ever heard an arrangement I didn’t like.   *** I have hyperlinked to a live rendition by the group Celtic Woman.  I must give credit to my friend Jill who posted the link on her Facebook wall a week or so ago.  I’d never heard this version.

2.         I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas by Gayla Peevey:   A hippo.  For Christmas?  Dude!  What’s not to love?  I even have a little Hallmark ornament that plays this song.  It makes me smile.

1.         Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home) by Darlene Love:   Say what you will about Phil Spector, but in 1963 he gave us 2 minutes and 46 seconds of soul warming Christmas joy. Every year, when I am grumbling about putting up the Christmas tree and cluttering the house with useless trinkets, this song – and this song alone – lifts my spirits and puts me in a festive mood.  It just isn’t Christmas without some Darlene Love.

Merry Christmas.