08 November, 2011

Magic Horses, Great Jobs, and The science of impulse

I saw an old movie the other day or month or so ago, at a friend's house. Into the West is the story of a broken down family in Ireland and the horse that changes their lives. The two adorable urchins give marvelously satisfying performances, which isn't always the case with young performers. I'm going to give almost the whole plot of this 1992 movie away here, so if you're saving yourself for the willful suspension of disbelief (which I LOVE, but rarely have trouble capturing), read no further!

They are mad for movies from the old west, and have seen every western available in the local convenience stores. The horse that changes their lives is horse-napped by some bad guys, and by a crazy chance the kids find and attempt and succeed in getting him back!

But where to go? Home is no good--the neighbors complained about the horse and that's what got him taken away in the first place! (They did live several floors up in a cramped apartment building, but it seemed to be the idea of the horse that offended the neighbors rather than any specific offensive realities. Convention rather than public safety.)

They decide to make like cowboys or Indians, and head... Into the West. Then it's sort of an action/chase movie with comedy hijinks mixed in with the painful story of a half-healed grief... as a movie it's kind of got a lot of stories going at once, but they don't trip over each other TOO much.

At any rate, I've gone through ALL THAT to get to the start of my point... The last lines of the movie.

One of the kids asks their dad: Are we [as 'travelers'] cowboys or Indians? And he replies: There's a bit of a traveler in everybody, Tito. But very few of us know where we're goin'.

It was really my favorite part of the movie, and it is so neat that it WAS the end, because it's hard to get that kind of timing going!

And all this was in service of discussing an article from Steve Denning of Forbes Magazine, about the 10 Happiest Jobs. Unfortunately this is based on self-reporting, but some of the conclusions of the article are, of course, valuable.

Like this: "However, for a life to be meaningful, it must also be worthwhile. Engagement in a life of tiddlywinks does not rise to the level of a meaningful life, no matter how gripped one might be by the game." (Todd May, The New York Times)

But one thing absolutely grated on me, enough so that it is the final, undeniable impulse to write today's blog post.

"...with a focus on delighting the customer through continuous innovation..."

Now, as a customer, I am not bothered by innovation. But Newer does not make Better. And companies that are working to engage their employees in new and innovative ways, as well as their customers, are all very well. But a 'new look' does not offer anything newer than looks, and for people who have been participating for a while, a 'new look' is a 'can't find anything anymore' problem. Which I hate.

Some of this stuff is not mere economics, and I do not want anyone to be hurt when I suggest that delighting (or confusing) the customer may have a financial bottom line.

Harvard professor Jennifer Lerner (of the Harvard Decision Science Lab) says that anger makes people optimistic and risk-seeking. (Fear has the opposite effect.) Sadness will make you eager to buy!

Does continuous innovation stimulate anger and sadness? Are we entering some post-celebratory period of consumerism where nostalgia drives impulse buying? Or did that ship already sail when the home shopping network came to cable TV in the US in 1985?

The difference between what we are like and what we THINK we are like is an interesting question, one I have been considering with some seriousness as I shape up my prospects. The difference between what we like and what we think we like is pretty much the same question. Or is it?

04 November, 2011

Grace, and long live ambiguity!

I thought it was 8 or nine days since I last updated, but I was SO wrong! It was almost/over two weeks ago! I am not going to to the math exactly, though, because I don't much care. I am very sorry if you felt neglected, loyal readers! ha ha ha.

OK, I have been up to a trip to ABQ, NM! I visited one of my many sisters there, I hadn't seen her for over a year, and my mother came too. It was a lovely visit. Every place in Albuquerque wants to sell you seafood though, which seems a little odd as it doesn't have a lot of shrimp or fish bays or streams or whatever, as far as I can tell. Coming from a coastal region, I was constantly tempted by the seafood in ABQ, NM. It was not a big mistake, but I should have known better.

They have a lovely aquarium, except for the fact that I feel like the turtles or tortoises they had inside the big tank were, in some way, suffering. Kind of like Orangutangs at the zoo, kind of low-spirited. And the tank seemed overcrowded. And busy, except for the turtles, who were trying to hide, and failing.

There were beautiful jellyfish in another couple of tanks, and I never worry about how jellyfish are feeling, so they were much more soothing.

It was SO DRY there, I could not stand to be outside the house with some sort of lozenge in my mouth to keep my throat from drying up! I may be allergic to the dust. I might not have been in the right mood to travel to such an arid place, or at all, who knows.

I absolutely love the phrase, "I am in NO mood," though. Because really, what does that mean? If you're thinking about a mood, you probably have one! Maybe in between thoughts about having a mood, there is actually no mood (although that's a little bit abstract, but anyway...). But LONG before you start talking about it, there is definitely SOME mood.

I saw a Dim Sum sign less than a mile away from home! I am trying to talk a friend into trying it with me, though she has never been to dim sum, and I have some doubts about the restaurant in question, which, as far as I can tell, is called "Seafood Restaurant".

Have I mentioned that while I am peculiarly drawn to seafood while away, I don't eat that much seafood here at home? A place called "seafood" anything holds NO appeal to me... until they slap a dim sum sign out front.

Let it not be said that I am impervious to gentle persuasion.

So anyway, next to the fine aquarium in ABQ, NM, is a very fine botanical garden, which is included in the price. It was extensive, and kind of a confusing place for me, as a botanical garden. Hardly any of the plants were labeled. We cut our visit short because they were closing.

While down south I also visited the Plaza in Santa Fe, NM, via a train. It was lovely and from the train I saw a lot more rustic southwest than in ABQ, which didn't have any 'local' character that I could really discern, except for the turquoise and silver jewelry, which is lovely but not hanging from the streetlamps or anything, and not really my thing.

Oh, a lot of the construction was one-level in ABQ, and as far as I noticed there were no basements. I didn't figure out the right person to ask about these things. But I have unsatisfied curiosities that are much more pressing, that I do a lot less about.

Somehow, I will continue to cope.

19 October, 2011


Stephenie Meyer deserves a cupcake.

The thing about the Twilight books that most people don't get is that they are actually GREAT.

I am not trying to say well-written, although I, personally, had no complaints. I am trying to say that they are dense. And I don't mean long (though I am not complaining, I love a good long book!) I am talking about PACKED.

With budgeting advice. Social Commentary. Feminist Principles. Ethics. And advice for the lovelorn.

And she put all of this important character-shaping stuff into the magic glass slipper of paranormal boy-crazy romance. BRILLIANT!

I do not want to give you the impression that these novels are perfect. Some of that lovelorn stuff can get awfully repetitive.

As anybody who has ever actually been lovelorn knows.

And I had a lot of trouble, at first, getting what the appeal of Edward was. I thought it might have something to do with Edward, and handsome though he may be, that ice cold chiseled marble description always kind of gave me the creeps. Beautiful, emotionally intense or remote BFs are SO 1997.

But I finally realized that the point is this: the heart wants what it wants.

The relationship between Bella and Edward was a little easier for me to understand. "I don't want to hurt you!" "I don't want 'you hurting me' to hurt you!". It kind of sounds totally dysfunctional. It kind of was. And, as a semi-professional worrier, I can easily imagine having those worries. If, say, I was hopelessly attracted to somebody who literally wanted to suck my blood.

It's kind of fun to recast visceral desire as literal hunger. It's not like any of us say: "I was kind of thinking about getting a bite to eat and Whoops! accidentally kissed somebody." It's kind of funny. A new desire is added to the demands of the flesh, and it's kind of hard to figure it out. Without, say, practice.

And Bella has, as far as I can tell, none. But she still knows.

What I love about Bella is that she ALWAYS knows what she wants. And she really cares about the people in her life, so much so that she doesn't want to bum anybody out because she exists. Not even her own parents!

That's actually one of the things I hate about Bella, but as that's a much shorter list, I won't go through it. I will just say that Bella's lack of self-interest is pretty abnormal for a girl her age, and it's kind of refreshing. And it's kind of nice that she constructed her life very carefully so as not to be too much of a burden on her parents.

This lack of self-interest as it applies to her personal life is a little more problematic, but they all seem to work it out in the end.

And I haven't even gotten to the sequels! Which is a shame, but I ran out of words about 20 words back, and these few are just a brief postprandial treat. Enjoy!

18 October, 2011

pixie hair, reo speedwagon, and quantum locking

Today I plan to go get another haircut. I had one last month, but I thought I'd like to explore a medium-length hair a little bit longer. I did, but I'm over it now.

Usually I only go cut off all my hair as some sort of unconscious grieving process. This process includes the strong and unambiguous feeling that I HATE MY HAIR. ahem.

I don't feel this quite as emphatically right now, but it has to go, so maybe I no longer need to rationalize the separation of head and hair as a 'story' about why I am cutting my hair.

I am going to ask for a pixie cut. From the butchers down at the beauty school about a mile away from my house. Pray for me. They gave me a terrible short hair cut last year that a couple of friends tidied up. Plus, I don't know what they call the kind of implements they used before, but those exaggerated pinking shears are not getting anywhere near my head this time. Hair cuts should not pull hair!

REO Speedwagon is a band that I know hardly anything about. Not exactly before my time, but long before I cared about music. But they've kind of been in the background of my musical environment, I guess, seeping into my brain. And now they have fully permeated my gray matter, and every other song that I start humming is one of their hits.

I will not list them. They're ok, but while I am obviously moved, I am in no mood for it.

I'm trying, now, to figure out if they released any songs I do not know well enough to sing along to. But I've forgotten what I started fighting for. Argh!

They probably deserve a cupcake!

And this morning I saw the beginning of a video on quantum locking, which basically translates as frigid superconducting levitation:

It's pretty cool, and already immensely popular. Yay science!

17 October, 2011

The writing is on the wall

Lately, in my spiritual quest to quiet my inner voices, I have been trying to balance them out with a little more attention paid to what is going on outside my head.

Obviously, I have the internet, and that is technically outside my head, but everything I see goes right into my head, and it might be getting a wee bit crowded in there.

And as an aside, being diagnosed with a mental problem is not as stressful as you might think! On the one hand, all your concerns are legitimate. Yay! On the other hand, you have a lot of concerns. ugh.

Speaking of legitimacy, I feel like I got to race through the steps of working through being diagnosed in record time because I was once informed that I was the victim of a conspiracy of kindness. My 2nd ex-step dad cornered me one day while I was eating lunch on my summer break in a local cafe, the Last Exit on Brooklyn. I was 14 or 15.

The day started out so promising, and I was actually feeling very self-satisfied. I think because I ordered a salad? I didn't usually eat real food there, just bread and butter (oh the healthy honey bran loaf, how I mistrust your label. I invite you to betray me again!) or chocolate sundaes.

And I usually didn't go there alone.

He had a theory. My 'real' father was not my mother's husband at the time of my birth, but no, another man (also now deceased). Talk about a bummer! This kind of 'revelation', accurate or not, is very disruptive to your world-view.

All the other parties, when questioned (separately) agreed that the official story contained all the facts of the matter. And, frankly, in the subtext I learned far more about all three of them than I EVER WANTED TO. But I believed them. Mostly.

And who cares? I am here because some people made the ultimate sacrifice for evolution, and if wasn't my mom and her husband, I am willing to be grateful for the contribution of persons known or unknown.

My understanding of what other people do, and why, was immeasurably enhanced that day. I didn't want to hear it all, and as I am pretty much an untrusting soul, I decided that a) I didn't much care about facts, b)I couldn't see what difference it would make in the future, given that everybody BUT my ex-step dad #2 had their stories straight, and c) I can't put the worms back in the can.

I was somebody's daughter before my lunch, and I was somebody's daughter after my lunch, and no matter who that somebody might, biologically, be, I am always GOING to be me.

So getting diagnosed replayed all those reactions of hurt, self-doubt, disappointment, acceptance, and in record time. It might not even be the right diagnosis, but I like my doctor and if I can't fix what's broken, maybe she can help.

But back to what's going on OUTSIDE my head. I try to remember the phrase 'live in the moment', because I can worry ahead all the way through the rest of my life, and hardly any of my worries have ever become a problem. And not because I prevented them, but because I was worrying about hypothetical, not actual scenarios. My bad.

And, in the moment, if I remember to go outside, I see a lot of birds and dogs lately. The birds do their bird thing, away from me, but occasionally seem to be trying to get my attention. If I become lost in thought. Since I am trying to live in the moment, I start paying attention, though I do not for one moment believe that birds care if I pay attention to them.

Dogs, on the other hand, adore me. They seem to be way more friendly for a couple of months. I don't quite get what's going on there, maybe I am more friendly now that I am saying, in my head, "live in the moment"? Maybe when I am living in the moment I look more relaxed and approachable, instead of uptight and anxious?

Frankly, I am beginning to think that EVERYONE knew I was uptight and anxious, except me! But I did spend a certain amount of effort pretending to be self-confident and trying to relax, so I also can not blame them if they were fooled. Heck, I was fooled too!

And I digress.

What I want to get to is the part where I say: The writing is on the wall.

And I mean that literally!

I was riding a bus and just after it went past a beautiful pond with turtle statues (no water, but the tiles were blue), I saw a slogan postered or painted, officially or unofficially on a wall down the street:

It was really uplifting, that day, a couple of weeks ago. I felt so strongly about it that I whipped out my notebook, which I take with me almost everywhere, and I wrote it down, along with a few other notes.

I don't usually write in my notebook on the bus. I like to pretend I'm way more normal than that, plus it's not that smooth a ride and my handwriting gets jittery.

At any rate, that public art was a quote from the 1968 student riots in Paris.

And on my way out of Tacoma, a few days before, I noticed an officially inspirational quote, painted on the bus station wall:

The City of Tacoma transit authority is certainly not afraid of the people! Or The Man... it becomes a little confusing when official art seems revolutionary.

And the last two quotes I did not find out in the world while I was trying to live in the moment, but I'll make up beautiful placards for them as well.

The ambiguity in this quote makes me week in the knees. Is it an endorsement of conservative values (not that I have anything against that), or a criticism of... I'm not sure what?

And the other:

I think I found this quote on a poster for one Awesome project (theater) while looking for another (philanthropy). It makes me numb in a good way.

Maintenance is progress. But it is not ambitious.

12 October, 2011

Whether or why?

I am not a very ambitious cook. I love good food, and I've made some great food! And I still do. But if it takes longer than 10 minutes to prepare, I usually have a problem.

That problem is not the same every time. Boredom and irritation are pretty close to the top of the list right now. And maybe all the time. I've talked about risk vs. reward before, and really, this is the main problem with my attention span.

I can be RIVETED to something I don't really understand, because I love to feel like I can solve a problem. But I am also quite fond of things I know very well. There are books I have read upwards of 20 times!

In some ways, I am aware that 'thinking I know something quite well' is usually an illusion. Or a delusion. And perhaps a mystery I am hoping to actually understand, despite the real possibility that, philosophically at least, this may be an impossible goal.

Food doesn't seem that complicated anymore. I am not a great cook right now, because I don't care. And I have never been a good chef, because I like to follow recipes.

But recipes leave important stuff out. Important stuff I do not always know, but could probably figure out on my own, if I weren't trying, carefully, to follow directions.

There are two grocery stores within walking distance from my home. One is Safeway. It is a supermarket chain store. The other is far more fun! And I don't even know the name of it. East-Asia Market?

If I ever wanted to make a recipe with obscure ingredients, I would totally look there first. Frankly, I shop there a lot! But I can't read all the labels, and I don't know what I want when I go in, because I rarely want to make a recipe with obscure ingredients.

Everything there is so exciting, I literally can not decide what to buy! Or figure out what it is. Today I went in on my way to the mailbox, during an unexpectedly harsh rain shower, and I think I saw:

Fresh Lychee
Fresh Dragonfruit! *swoon*
Dried lotus seeds. I think you make them into soup? Or a dessert kind of like tapioca?

And I know they had fresh durian (chilled!), eleventy-million kinds of sardines and other little fish, and a slightly smaller variety of pickled garlic. And other frozen and dried and pickled and fresh and even baked things.

Some of which crack me up because I can recognize, like this White King brand pancake mix imported from the Philippines, complete with scary white king mascot:

And some of which crack me up because they are clearly labeled but unrecognizable, like these corn flakes. Which are green:

With a variety like that, and no agenda, who can decide? I am working on my agenda.

I entitled this post Whether or Why, which is the title of an article on LessWrong.com. One of the many enjoyable learning experiences I have had today. I usually ask myself the question Why? And, apparently, this wastes a lot of valuable brain processing power.

I do not even know what I use my brain processing power on, most of the time. I kind of get self-conscious if I notice, though I am trying to get over that.

In a shockingly abrupt conclusion, another word I used to find fairly inexplicable, but totally delightful:

yowe - n. a Scot word for ewe.

11 October, 2011

Investment and Budgeting. For kicks.

I have been planning on writing a post about budgeting almost since the beginning of this blog, and I guess today is the day.

I am trying to convince people to budget. And I do not have a budget. My bad! I am an accidental hypocrite.

But at least a self-aware hypocrite, my favorite kind of fraud.

I do not currently keep a budget because I do not have anything to plan with other than time (knock on wood) and savings. With an income, I will start to budget again.

As it is, every expense is one step closer to nothing, which has been very scary while I have been depressed. But as you get closer and closer to nothing to lose, why worry about it?

I do have an irrational fear of debt. It is irrational because debt is no longer a crime. Unless you intentionally write bad checks--that's fraud and it can send you to jail.

But I still have time coming in every day, and I don't even budget that! It's neglectful, that's what it is.

What most people don't get about budgeting is that it is totally about prioritizing. Some people think they prefer wine, women, and song for one week, and then penury for the rest of the month. Maybe they do.

Personally, I skip the women and the wine, and that leaves me with time for song. Plenty of time, now that YouTube makes music piracy irrelevant.

And I don't listen to that much music.

Technically, I do budget my time. It's something like this, but I'm hoping to mix it up a little in the future.

Clarica's Time Budget: 24 hours a day

1. Sleep. The thing you need the most should be at the top of the list. I used to love to sleep 10 hours or so every day, but I am way behind on staying awake now. I'm lucky to get 6-8 hours a night.

Remaining time: 16 hours

2. Food for the body. I take time to eat. Not a lot, as cooking seems like a hassle right now, and I don't snack anymore. 1 hour?

Remaining time: 15 hours

3. Work for the body. I haven't always considered this on my time budget, but for a couple years I have been focusing some attention to the matter. Eventually I decided to spend some time on it too. I'm not very good at remembering yet. Habits help. I like to walk for 1 hour, but I might consider more time or more effort, or both, in the future.

Remaining time: 14 hours

4. Maintenance for the body. There's some showering and stuff. Enough said? I'll give this two hours, which is a totally generous allotment. Really I'm just trying to make you all think that I have something important to do every day, and if I run out of time on important stuff before I get to the 'fun' stuff, my mission of misdirection is accomplished!

Remaining time: 12 hours

5. Fun stuff. Fooled you! Fun stuff is totally important and can not be left to the bottom of the list. Especially considering I can hardly make myself do ANYTHING. I have to WANT to do something. I love writing, and maybe I do an hour a day? I think more would be ok, but I'm not there. I ADORE the internet, and probably spend 8 hours a day trying to find the next shiny. I could probably survive with a little less, if something else shiny came along. ahem.

Remaining time: 3 hours

6. Food for the soul. This would be higher up on the list, because it is TOTALLY the most important thing on the list. Unfortunately, it is the hardest item to figure out. I contribute to some online volunteer work regularly, and maybe that counts. But I started it for the sake of sanity, and not because I thought I 'should' be contributing somehow. I don't know if volunteering actually is food for the soul, or not. I know some of this writing stuff is absolutely good for what ails me, but I try to compartmentalize it as Fun and not Love. Don't ask me why. Maybe I get an hour or more of Food for the Soul in a day? It's hard to tell.

Remaining time: 1 hour

7. Shoulds. This is the hardest thing for me to do. I generally like to have at least two reasons to do anything, because one is not enough! Luckily, I don't have to consciously identify more than one, if it is shiny enough, or my unconscious interest is big enough. If it is important that I do something I am not natively excited to do, anxiety will totally jump in to save the day, and get me either procrastinating more seriously, or taking care of business. 1 hour.

Whew! I'm all out of time for the day, and what a relief. I don't really worry about getting a job, though I definitely want one, because I have enough time, now that I've budgeted my priorities. A job falls under items 6 and 7, and hopefully 3 and 5 too. I don't have to re-allocate my investment of time at all.

And speaking of investment, a friend of mine was talking about money and what a crock it is. Money is a valuable tool, but it is also a powerful tool for self-delusion, because the act of spending it invests your purchase with 'added value'.

I didn't get the idea of added value until approximately a month ago, when I wanted to try a new special lotion to replace my very favorite special lotion which was discontinued ages ago. Magic lotion--it was non-greasy, and cured sun damage! I think it might even have made a great dietary supplement, but I never tasted it, so I don't know.

The new stuff isn't as good, PLUS I can not buy it in stores. There are no stores. Not even amazon. The maker does not do wholesale for retail distribution. The maker has cut out the middleman.

Everybody gives the middleman a lot of crap, but I am here to tell you, I like a freaking middle man. I want to go to one store with at least 20 things I want to buy, instead of twenty different owner-operated shops. The middleman is adding value.

What kind of markup is ethical for this service? Don't know, don't care, unless I open a tea shop/bakery (with excellent toasted cheese sandwiches!). Because then I will need to know not only what is ethical, but what is required to maintain my investment of time. And my investment of money.

And what if we spend our money on something a little bit more metaphorical? Something they call 'investments'? Do we invest our hearts and souls along with our money? Do we have a sense of proportion about it? Can we do so without committing fraud, either through practiced manipulation or just self-delusion?

I don't know. Occupy wall street all you want. It seems like a waste of time to me, but it does look like a lot of fun!

PS: If you want to budget your money, feel free to use the same categories above to help prioritize. Not all bills are created equal, and it is much easier to tell how much you value something when you think of almost everything that you buy as something that you actually want.

09 October, 2011

Brussel Sprouts, Rio, and Joe vs. The Volcano


I have been blessed this week, I can tell you. And not by the hand of god! Unless he made brussel sprouts. Who knows.

I had brussel sprouts, sauted, at my regular sewing circle/philosophy/book club. I hadn't had brussel sprouts since boxing day, which is a long time to go without, I admit. But I never think of brussel sprouts when I am grocery shopping.

I used to eat them steamed. I still would, if it were all I could get!

So, back to this week, two nights later, MORE BRUSSEL SPROUTS!

Can a girl get too much of a good thing? I'm about to find out, because I ate plenty.

This time they were roasted with carrots, onions, apples, potatoes and keilbasa. I'd like to say there are no words, but seriously, how many words have I used to get to this point? They count!

Just before that, I watched the sweetest movie ever about a couple of birds too chicken (ha ha ha) to take the leap, until they had NO other choice. Seriously, DEATH was on the line. One learned to fly on the way down! I hope I did not give too much away, but I didn't see any previews, I just watched it because my nephew asked.

And it totally brought to mind Joe vs. the Volcano, another great movie (which some people absolutely loathe. Don't ask me, I don't get it).

Because they both have this one song: Mas Que Nada

Which I love! And I have to look up a translation now, because I have never seen the title before this moment, and I do not know spanish well, and "More of this nothing" kind of seems... unexpectedly depressing?

Well, it's Portuguese, and it's about Samba, and maybe translates to "more than anything" in one of those colloquial expressions. Go figure, ha ha ha. For some reason the expresion "amuse-bouche" springs to mind, though that's about food and not music. Plus it's french.

Moving on!

Or back. Joe Vs. the Volcano is apparently throroughly analyzed and acclaimed as one of the top 10 existentialist movies of all time, which is thrilling. But it makes it hard for me to find a link to the ORIGINAL review + philosophical Kierkegaardian analysis I read online back in the 1990s. It's been eclipsed by generations of undergrad and graduate level philosophy papers, as far as I can tell.

It was great, but I don't remember much about it. I bet somebody has finally written the philosophical analysis of Ruben and Ed now, with special reference to Plato's Republic...  Nope. Probably because they never play Ruben and Ed on cable.

I made 19 pages of notes on that movie once, and I haven't even read Plato's Republic!

But I digress. If there wasn't so much competition, I would totally write... not a philosophical analysis, but a dream-interpretation style review of Joe vs. the Volcano. With special reference to his luggage. Or do I mean baggage? ha ha ha! The main problem, I feel, with JVTV, is that it pretty much uses a cricket bat where a conductor's baton would do.

No offense to Mr. John Patrick Shanley, who actually also wrote one of the great songs on the soundtrack himself! And it's not like a clue baton packs the same whollup as a clue-by-four.

And the same could be said of Rio... it's not really trying to be subtle, but it's a cartoon, so nobody minds? Plus, they had toys in happy meals from that place, so... I don't really know what I want to suggest from this inference.

Other than I have obviously lost my train of thought. I am tired. I will find a nice abrupt change of pace and go to bed with this post in a sorry state of craftsmanship.

kab - n. an ancient Hebrew measure equal to about 2.3 litres (4 pints). from Hebrew qabh container. It's a pity hebrew isn't kosher for online scrabble, because qabh ROCKS.

07 October, 2011

Covered in bees and the magic finger of joy.

I've mentioned, in passing, that I was covered in bees before covered in bees was cool. And I will now tell as much of that story as I can remember.

When I was a small child, falling asleep, I thought I saw bees next to me on the pillow. They weren't moving or obviously bees or anything, but I *knew*. I made my mom come fix things, and I tried to show her the dark spots, but they weren't there anymore.

Just for the record, I do not frequently hallucinate. Occasionally I have a strange expectation that manifests itself as the certainty that I am not alone, until I wake up and find out it was just a nightmare. Or a dream, when I imagined my old boyfriend was standing outside my bedroom door for some reason. Then waking up was the nightmare! but I digress.


Sometime in the 90's, I went to Louisiana to visit my father for Thanksgiving. When I came back, I found a bee in my room. I looked around, and my room was covered in bees! Actually, they were hornets, but I didn't know that until later.

I inaccurately accused my housemate of pulling a horrible awful prank, and we eventually determined that the cold snap had driven hornets to find a slightly warmer place to hide than the bush outside my bedroom window, where they had apparently been living. It was still plenty cold in my room, so they were all hibernating. They did not come to a good end, but seriously, what did they expect? Not every place of refuge is as safe as the nest you make yourself.

I think the next thing is the dress I made myself, out of bee fabric. I was literally covered in bees. I may have gotten this out of order, but I don't know if I made the bee dress while I was in college, or later, when I started quilting. I still have the dress! And it fits, again. But the background color for the bees is a little bit too low-contrast with my milky white flesh, so I want to add a high-contrast trim.

And in the final story of bees, my brother kept bees. He did not keep them very well, but he wasn't in tip-top shape anymore. While I was out gathering eggs one day, I said to myself, "that's a funny sound," and looked up from my normal introspective trance.

BEES EVERYWHERE! SWARMING ALL AROUND ME! I was not brave, I just dropped to the ground, flat on my back, and watched the bees get their act together to move to a new home. Eventually they went away. Eventually I crawled up off the ground, and went on with my life. I saw another bee hive swarm this summer, in my new backyard. It's kind of amazing, but the bees are, as always, not that concerned with anything other than bees.

So I have been covered in bees since way back when, and it's kind of an in-joke with everyone who has ever seen me in that dress.

I have also pretended, on many occasions which are totally rated G, to have a finger of joy. I can't remember why. Usually I try to turn that frown upside down, but I am very judicious in this use, because if the finger of joy ever does not work, I am sure it will be broken forever. And sometimes people want to hold on to that frown.

And I try not to be bitter. I try really hard, over and over and over about all sorts of things that happen to me, and to other people. Yesterday, I was very bitter that Steve Jobs died. Mostly that everybody in the world is sad or has whatever mixed feelings that they have about it. I am glad Steve Jobs was born.

But I have snapped, and the bitterness load I have been carrying broke me. Again. And I tried to find a silver lining. And I have. But it is hard to explain, in words.

But the strange certainty that I am not alone seems less strange every day.

06 October, 2011

Simon Pegg and Nick Frost

Either Simon Pegg, or Nick Frost is one of my imaginary boyfriends, but I have a lot of trouble deciding which one. They can both have an imaginary cupcake! Consalud.

This is one of my more serious existential dilemmas, and, frankly, I am tired of worrying about it. I have restricted myself to one imaginary boyfriend per movie. I don't have enough time for more than one boyfriend at a time! And these two fellows are consistently appearing in vids together. They take my breath away. And I need that breath for the laughter!

I first saw them in Shaun of the Dead, which was HILARIOUS. I'm not a big fan of zombie or horror or slasher films. The suspense is always trying to kill me! Or they are lame.

But this movie opened my eyes up to the joy of the macabre horror that is zombies. Well, ok, I saw another funny zombie movie once. I don't like grody movies, there is no eraser for my brain! That other movie had an ear falling into some soup, and let me just say yech! And I'm sorry for inflicting that horrible mental image on you too, ha ha ha.

That other movie (BrainDead by Peter Jackson) was pretty cute, other than the grody decomposing flesh. And had the most awesome kick-boxing priest ever. But it did not have Nick Frost or Simon Pegg in it. As far as I know.

Simon and Nick also did a movie called Hot Fuzz, which was a cop/buddy movie which I also adore. Watch Point Break first, just saying. It's got Patrick Swayze AND Keanu Reeves in it... and heck, now that I look it up it has everybody else in the WORLD in it. Sorry, I didn't really notice the first time around. I like Hot Fuzz better, but Point Break isn't trying to be funny. There's some parachuting in PB. And OMG, there's a remake coming out in two years! Or a sequel? If there was anything broke, they'll probably fix it. And vice versa.

You might also enjoy another buddy/cop movie referenced in Hot Fuzz, Bad Boys II. I will probably watch this someday and fall in love with somebody in it. I'll get back to you on that later! And there is probably a movie with Simon and or Nick available to watch right now that I haven't yet heard of. Go see it too! You'll probably get to it before me, because I am extremely half-assed about watching, or promoting movies I have not yet heard of.

I'd like to do a little chart with pros and cons on Nick and Simon, but I'm pretty crap at the graphics, if you haven't figured that out by now.

Simon is more cheeky, but Nick is plenty cheeky. Nick seems like he has more innate goofy charm, but it is a close call. It's pretty much a toss up on looks, and who cares, really, because they are obviously going to fight for me, mano a mano, and I'll have to take the winner, like it or lump it. Or both! And then sneak off to nurse the loser back to health, so I can wrestle anew with my unquenchable and conflicting desires.

Simon and Nick will probably star in a movie just like this soon. CAN'T WAIT. Hopefully I will finish writing it next week. I think they will be gladiators, and I am either a slave girl, or a princess. Probably both, just like Carrie Fisher.

It is possible that I will sniff in a pathetic way over my cocoa because they are busy doing other things, like movies and comedy shorts and interviews and stuff. Hey, cocoa and more fun stuff to watch? Totally win-win.

I still haven't seen everything they have done, together and separately, so I've got a lot of catching up to do.

For some reason, I can't think of anything more to say about Nick Frost and Simon Pegg. Inconceivable! It's far more likely that there are just no words good enough. I'll find one from my list of inexplicably legal scrabble words, for a contrived sense of closure.

cete - noun. a number of badgers together. Or maybe something about whales? I love that this word exists, and I hate it with a fury that I can not explain. My fury will not be stopped! But it will die out in a second or two, when I start giggling about badgers.

05 October, 2011

Fashion and toast

I am sort of a big fan of fashion. And by that, I literally mean clothes. And Not Very Much of a fan.

I like clothes! I wants them, they are my precious.

Without them I would be very, very naked. Or cold. Or both! I do not look on this prospect with much favor.

I know a lot of marvelous girls who say that everybody has a fashion sense, and it took me a long time to accept this as truth, given my natural interest level.

But eventually I realized that I was not wandering around in public in a warm fuzzy poncho with no pants, so I was obviously making SOME sort of sacrifice for the sake of fashion.

I should probably disclose that the garment I most frequently wear is a small fuzzy poncho, but it doesn't cover much and I never wear it all by itself. I also like a warm fuzzy bathrobe, but that opening and closing and fastening closed business seems a little fussy! Plus the sash is lumpy when you go to lie down.

The fashion statement I have been trying to make with my clothes has been partly successful. It's somewhere between "mostly harmless" and "not as sexy as you think. These are not the breasts you are looking for."

But I have decided that I need to step it up a notch, because people find me very confusing, and unexpectedly delightful.

I don't know why, I'm not that good at keeping a secret. Don't tell anyone I said so.

With the the intention of reducing my stress, I figure my best bet is a tiara, a baby-doll style bridesmaid gown, and a set of crab leg pants. Ok, really, I think this will reduce someone else's stress, but at least it would be clear that I am probably not what you expect!

Right now I'm just concentrating on clothes that fit, that I don't hate too much. I am getting a lot more out of clothing, now that my standards are actually barely above rock bottom.

And I am now going to reveal my hypothetical halloween costume, since scheduling conflicts will probably prevent me from attending any party. (Which I totally regret! I think I have been invited to TWO parties ALREADY this year. But I will probably be out of town.)

I will get my rotating marshmallow toasting fork, stick a piece of toast on it, and go as a toast rack, or a toaster. I was going to make a toast necklace, and go as toast, but I can not figure out how to come up with artificial toast, and real toast is way to crumby to wear.

04 October, 2011

Change.org, Pakistan, and popular news coverage.

Pakistan, you got screwed. Will this a virtual cupcake make it any better?

I saw it coming, a long way off. Back when I could still stand to watch news coverage.

It was being repeatedly reported that insurgents were 'escaping' across the border. Into Pakistan. Or maybe Iran. And the pursuers were 'diplomatically' discouraged from playing 'monkey see, monkey do!'

And the news coverage appeared to be implying that Pakistan was being totally unreasonable.

I got a bad feeling in my stomach. I actually prayed that no natural disaster would hit Pakistan, before I even understood my belief in God. Because my country is usually very generous with its time and resources, in cases of emergency. But not for 'the bad guys'.

I do not know if somewhere in Pakistan, there are safe havens for terrorists. I don't entirely blame the news media for giving me this impression. They just tell us what other people are suggesting.

And I'll tell you that I don't care. We have plenty of safe havens for terrorists in our own country, in case you hadn't noticed. Sometimes we even grow our own. We are not without sin, and I am tired of all this casting stones business.

I know how people in my country would feel if armed hooligans, or sanctioned government representatives, followed other possibly armed hooligans. INTO my country.

We'd feel the same way Pakistan does. And no disparity of confidence or competence justifies expecting Pakistan to respond any differently.

News like that isn't really why I can't stand to watch news coverage anymore. Reality TV is responsible for that. Responsible news coverage is apparently supposed to appear to be without bias. It is boring. Or horrifying. I am beginning to think it is also irresponsible. There is always an opinion, love it or hate it. Or both.

And PS, sharing that opinion with the people you know does make a difference. Facebook counts. Some of these people will write letters to congress. Some of them will get out and vote. Just like you do.

I live in the NW, and frequently, we get a minor earthquake. The news is ALL over it for a couple of very boring hours. "Some bricks fell off this building." "A few cans fell off the shelf at this convenience store! Then somebody put them back on the shelf." "Government officials are evaluating the damage to bridges, overpasses, and elevated roadways!" Sorry the visual carnage is so unconvincing.

Televised news is trying harder. We have award-winning coverage in my region, and I believe it.

The problem, I feel, is that crime rates have dropped over the last twenty years. People love to watch 'bad' news. But you have to reach harder to FIND bad news, because there are fewer violent crimes.

They're switching to working on other fears. Like maybe the super-rich are getting away with something!

That seems pretty cruel to me. Frankly, the super-rich are usually convinced of this already, consciously or unconsciously. And if they do not rationally understand or respect their income, they have no way to trust that it is ethically justified. Or that they can earn more, if something happens to their super-wealth.

And the rest of us do not need to worry ANY more that we are being exploited. I'm ok with a certain amount of worry on the subject! Or, more to the point, concerned attention to the problem. We can 'work' on it.

I do expect the super-rich to pay taxes. I think that they could relieve some fears this way, but I'm beginning to believe that paying it forward would not satisfy that particular anxiety. I can't figure out any way to relieve someone's natural but irrational anxieties.

Not even my own.

Change.org is a pretty cool website, but I don't love it. You can find out, on change.org, about all the completely horrifying stuff happening, anywhere in the world. And register an official online protest.

I can only bring myself to protest stuff that is also logically inconsistent. I had to unsubscribe from their newsletter because the horrifying stuff out there in the world is, to me, an intellectual equivalent of most episodes of Three's Company.

Which I also cannot watch.

03 October, 2011

Facing Future and Rob Brezsny and my own psychic powers

This is today's open letter to the universe:

TO: beautyandtruth@freewillastrology.com
Subject: Cry for help

"... you need to call on some unusual and idiosyncratic and possibly even farfetched resources as you intensify your efforts to solve the puzzles that are spread out before you." -quote from the horoscope for my sign, this week.

Can you give me a list? I promise to grasp at straws not even suggested implicitly.


Israel Kamakawiwoʻole was PURE GENIUS. And a tragic figure. And Adam Sandler, or some other guy, totally deserves a cupcake, as a great song by Israel was set to the closing credits of the movie 50 First Dates, which I have probably seen more than 50 times. But Adam Sandler is getting a blog post all to himself someday, so I'm yanking that virtual cupcake right back, and passing it over to Rob Brezsny, who actually helped me, you know, today.

I bought Iz's album, Facing Future, just to own a copy of that song.

I'm not a big fan of Astrology, really. Rob does it better than anybody, because at least he does not pretend his inspiration comes from the workings of gravity and the other physical forces operating on the universe. Where his inspiration comes from, he does not pretend to know. And he doesn't seem to care. Nor do I.

I came across this week's horoscope because a friend of mine frequently accuses Rob of rifling through her backpack or spying on her in order to gain insight in how to help her most with his weekly advice. I know just how she feels! I just don't actually check my own unless she puts hers out for everyone else to read. And thank you, friend!

Rob wrote a book called Pronoia, which I totally have never read, but have always been intrigued by. It's about having a conviction that the world is actually out to get you... so that it can make everything better. As in, don't worry, be happy! (Man, I love that guy too. I swear, I am not actually high!)

I am almost willing to take this advice. I still have a terribly bad habit of worrying. And I can worry in secret from my own consciousness! I am actually asking for help with this, and even though I am not sure what someone else can offer me, I already do feel much better. It's like the Placebo effect, without drugs. ha ha ha.

But anyway, the helpfulness of his advice I have always put down to the helpfulness and perspicacity displayed by almost every other horoscope ever, no matter what 'sign' they purport to be dedicated to. This apparent sagacity can totally be explained if you consider that most people have the same problems as everyone else, and usually a lot of the same experiences. You have to try really hard to buck the tide!

Since my first problem was depression, and not anxiety, I have not been trying very hard.

But the tide is turning, and I am totally ready to surf that wave.

And now I will describe my formerly perplexing problem. Or Psychic Power.

People keep giving me cars. I am absolutely not complaining! For the first time in my life, bewildered or not, I am ready to fully endorse this behavior. Bring it on!

I don't know if I posted about this already, and I'm not going to browse through my 70+ blog post to avoid repeating myself. Sorry if I'm boring you. I'll try a short story format, for variety.

All those free cars. By Clarica.

When I was 18, my mothers first ex-husband gave me a car! I did not have a driver's license yet, and he thought it would encourage me to get one. He was wrong.

I sold to the car to one of his other daughters, for cash. Yay money! Sorry you crashed it.

When I was older, one of the other guys accused of acting as my progenitor gave me my second car. I loved this car. It got EXCELLENT gas mileage, could hold a gazillion boxes, and seemed like it might last forever. It didn't smell that bad, either! Eventually, some guy failed to yield, and broke my true love.

The insurance company gave me a check, and I bought another car just like it, and less smelly, but not as good. It did not seem like it would last forever, and I gave it to a friend of my sister.

Soon afterward, one of my honorary aunties gave me my third car. I loved this car too! It had cruise control, better insulation, and a better stereo. The gas mileage was decent, but not as miraculous as the second car.

Eventually I began to worry that it was about to die. I couldn't decide what to do with it. I parked it in what I thought was my back yard, and ignored it for around 5 months. BIG MISTAKE.

One of my other dear friends heard I was planning to bus it, and offered me a car from her dad. So far, this car has worked out well for me. I drove it for a short while, and then didn't feel safe to drive anymore because I developed terrible insomnia. I gave it to my sister in lieu of rent. She got her pick, this fourth car or car number three, and considering which one is still running, she chose wisely. It solved every problem I imagined it would, and and and. Yay!

The end.

Now, I feel like getting so many cars without paying for the value is pretty unusual. I was even employed while I had the middle two cars, and I can not put my finger on any value I provided that in any way compares to the value of the cars. Seriously!

I had begun to joke that my psychic power was letting people know I would appreciate handling the cars that they sort of want help getting rid of. Which is totally true, but not what you would call a desire.

Just be advised, I have obviously not ever cared enough about getting a car to actually pay for one with the money I earned. And I definitely could have afforded to.

The last car is obviously charity, and I don't mind, because I totally need help.

I now know how to deal with a free car I am not sure I want enough to pay for now! I have the experience necessary to handle this challenge, and this is exactly my plan:

  1. Decide if I want the car to run errands. Driving is way more convenient than public transportation, in my region. And WAY easier than biking. If so, I'll drive it until I don't know if I want to anymore. Then try this:
  2. Try to sell the car local to the car's location. I'll probably use craigslist. That's where I bought the replacement second car. If that doesn't work:
  3. Exchange it for a check from the fine people of JunkMyCar.com, or something similar.

And with the money, I plan to:

A) Pay my bills. Full disclosure: I will get a few new bills if this works out well for me! Like rent.

B) Help someone else pay their bills. If they write up a budget every month. This is called paying it forward, but in practice it may start as paying it back. Ahem.

Budgeting is totally my other favorite thing! I don't care about the Deficit, but unplanned personal debt is a tragedy. More on budgets in a future post.

C) Do something awesome, or find somebody else who needs money to do something awesome. Technically, I'm pretty sure anything I think qualifies under A) or B) is already pretty awesome, but I do think that after we solve some of the evils of poverty, we should totally find something else awesome to do with our money. There's already an awesome foundation that probably totally agrees, and has this third thing as their mandate.

And they are awesome.

02 October, 2011

Dear Abby and John Prine, and an existential dilemma

John Prine and Dear Abby totally deserve cupcakes. And John Prine has written a song about Dear Abby!

I've heard this song before this year, probably, but I really started loving it this summer, and I can't tell you why.

And I must now digress to tell you that I have a whole list of foods that I like that I can not adequately explain why. It's not long, and hopefully I haven't forgotten anything:

Fresh crab

These foods are totally weird to me. I can not really describe what it is about them that I like. Or the flavor.

Anyway, this song, basically parodies the Dear Abby advice column of my youth.

Dear Abby: I have a problem.
Dear Reader: Really? You think that is a problem?

In actual fact, the writers of Dear Abby are always WAY more classy. Sympathy or advice, whatever seems like it will help the most. Stating the obvious is totally endorsed, and probably even helpful, considering it is not clear that the people asking for advice know it all yet.

But lately, Dear Abby has stepped it up a notch.

I don't actually read the column often enough, or I might have noticed ages ago. Who knows. But in a column approximately two weeks ago, she answers two letters.

Dear Abby: Whoops, my wife's old boyfriend made a video of some of their private time together. Does she need to know?

Dear It's Private: Yes. And she will also want to know how you found out.

Dear Abby: I was mad that my husband withdrew from me and I did something I am ashamed of. He just found out. Now he actually says he wants to leave me, instead of just acting like it. Please tell everybody else to learn from my horrible example.

Dear Wife: Yeah, and maybe now you can find out why he withdrew, if you don't already know. It's not like you've got anything else to lose, and marriage comes with a commitment of investment of effort, in case he didn't know.

YOWZA! Way to go, Dear Abby. Way. To. Go. I totally want to say BaZINGa here, like Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory does, but, frankly, that is what Dear Abby is already saying as she writes gems like the above. All I can add is: Job. Well. Done.

Hopefully. I think some men can handle a little gentle criticism, some of the time. Don't we all want that to be part of the world we live in? People who want to be married should learn the best way to get it right, and women are not excepted from this expectation.

Composing this article has made painfully aware of one of the dynamics of some of my existential dilemmas.

Arguing is more stressful than pretending to care.

Pretending to care is less admirable than pretending to help.

Pretending to help is less satisfying than actually helping.

People don't always want help. I am one of them. HELP!

Please Please Please don't argue with me.

01 October, 2011

My bid for the presidency

Put down your forks and spoons. Put down your beverage. It will only take a minute.

It totally would not surprise me to end up President of the United States.

Unless you have to, I don't know, apply yourself.

This thought came to me as I was eating my lunch today. After I had corrected the problem of eating too fast. But only after I got a piece of rice stuck up in my sinus cavity. Don't ask.

WHILE I was licking my plate.

And it was SO hilarious. But I really have a lot going for me!

I am not very slutty. I don't have anything against sleeping around, don't get me wrong! And sleeping around could totally have solved some of my problems. But I really haven't done that much of it. Or frankly, enough it. We're talking years of accidental celibacy here, people.

And it seems like everyone is TOTALLY going to find out how slutty you are, if you run for president. With men, it doesn't really seem to matter that much. But I try not to expect fairness. I've got to play the hand that I'm dealt, and I actually like most of it.

I have plenty of time. Who knows how long I will live, but seriously, let's suppose that I am not far past my mid-life non-crisis. I have approximately 35-40 more years to work on the problem of getting elected. It usually takes a man longer than that, obviously. But I am starting with a TON of advantages.

  1. I can already feed myself, walk, talk, and use the lavatory. Not to mention reading and writing!
  2. I have a great rack. Seriously. It's not my best feature, but for some reason it gets a lot of attention.
  3. I think I have very few illusions. I'm not sure that this is actually an advantage, and I honestly prefer delusions a teeny tiny bit. As long as they are more fun than, you know, cynicism.
  4. I believe in god. AND I accept that it is not a rational belief. Theists and atheists alike will be overjoyed! Or at least not offended. Whatever.
  5. I love puppies and babies and will do almost anything to be a photo-op. I don't even care about the photo, though I will sit still for it.
  6. I still have time to get married and have a kid! This is not really an advantage, as I am not holding my breath. But, you know, if I did apply myself to the goal of becoming the president of the USA, this is TOTALLY the first thing I would do. Because single people without kids don't get a lot of credit for their contributions to society.
  7. I am not intimidated by anyone who knows better stuff. Bring it on, I am ready for it!
  8. I am a little bit phobic about looking like a fool, but not actually afraid of it. See my comments about sluts above.
  9. By the time I convince everyone else that I am a good nomination choice, I will probably be a little old lady. I really feel like a little old lady is more sympathetic to a lot of voters than any other kind of candidate. Is there any other rational explanation for Margaret Thatcher? And if I can give the impression that I can make us all safe as well? LANDSLIDE.
  10. I totally have all the best ideas about how to solve the worst problems ever.
That last point is not much of an advantage, of course. It doesn't seem to be relevant, somehow. And I also don't care about all of the worst problems equally. There are so many! I am more of a one-thing-at-a-time sort of girl right now, and can't even be bothered to write something funny about a lot of horrible problems, even though it combines my three favorite things.

Maybe I'll become a goat herder instead. It seems like it might be more difficult, but I'm SURE it uses many of the same strengths.

And it would not be as taxing on any of my weaknesses. Eating, sleeping, and bathing.

As I sit here, admiring my fine work, a miracle occurred. I sneezed, and the piece of rice came out of my nose! I can not tell you what a relief this is. Usually I end up with a sinus infection and grody discharges the like of which you can easily go find a picture of on the internet. Which I do not advise.

Eat carefully, people. You can thank me later.

30 September, 2011

Less Wrong and Bravery and the Placebo Effect

Less Wrong totally deserves a cupcake.

I tried drawing a cupcake last week, and I was not satisfied.

It looked like a muffin with a crap on it. I put a cherry on top.

I'll try again now, because I am just. That. Happy.

Good Enough.

Today's moment of bliss was fantastic. I found it in the FAQ at Less wrong, after reading something, writing something, and stumbling across three our four more pages.

These are today's words of bliss:

"... there's nothing in the laws of physics that prevents reality from sounding weird."





That white space is so you can take a moment to share my bliss. You probably don't feel it the same way I did. I built it up too much. I was setting up your expectations.

Now I'm going to subvert them.

It's going to be a bummer.

I'm sorry.

Don't worry though, if you keep looking, you, too, will occasionally find a moment of bliss.


Inside and outside of my head lately, the subjects of sacrifice and bravery keep coming up.

I'm pretty sure I could stand up to do either, or both. If I needed to.

But I don't want to need to.

Lots of people have ghosts. I have been collecting them since before I was born.

My first half brother died first. Before I was born. In Vietnam. Maybe from burns.

My third half brother died second. In Seattle. Trying to delay a killer from achieving his goal of killing someone else. Who wasn't even in the house.

My second half brother died third. From renal cancer. He stood up and participated in research to find a cure. I kind of wish he had put his faith in Duran Duran.

Lots of other people have died. So that others could live. Here, on this planet, which is pretty cool.

Most of them I have never met.

I mention Duran Duran because there is a woman named Jenny, who, when she was a girl, developed Leukemia. She put her faith in Modern Science AND Duran Duran, and she still lives.

When I was a girl, my aunt developed leukemia too. She was named Jenny too. She died when I was 14. A few months before this other Jenny was diagnosed. They both have/had beautiful long dark hair.

The other day there was another gunman, and some guy heard a shot, and dropped to the ground. Then he figured if he stood up, he might give a couple of women (or a woman and her child) time to get out of the way. So he did. And he heard nine more shots. And he lived. Or so I hear. I didn't read the article I have linked here.

Frankly, this is great news! Bravery is finally paying off!

Or is it bravery and faith?

Trust me, I am not trying to say Duran Duran is God. But I am a big fan of the placebo effect.

I'm really not a fan of telling sick people it's their own fault if they don't get better. It really does not seem helpful. It makes me very uncomfortable.

This is more of my 'life isn't fair' and 'you call THIS a plan' cry for solace.

It is disturbing to think that sick people should have more determination. Or faith in 'the force'. Or more love for their fellow men. Or anything. And it might not matter what.

Because in my heart, I know sick people deserve better.

29 September, 2011

Why a member of the Sun Life Insurance Companies owes me a living.

I have a rich fantasy life.

There is a company, in Canada, who, about 10 years ago, changed their name. From The Mutual Funds Group. To my name. Clarica.

If I make it big, they are either going to pat themselves on the back, or rue the day. And very probably both.

It would be HILARIOUS if I got a job as a social media expert, from Clarica. I WOULD TOTALLY TAKE IT.

I made notes for this blog post 'yesterday'.

  • Why I deserve a paycheck from a member of the Sun Life Insurance Group:
    I am a social media expert.
    They stole my name.
    I am not bitter.

    Those other girls named Clarica aren't doing squat for you.

    Thanks for the personalized deck of cards!

The funny part is that I may become a social media expert. So far my skills consist of 'liking' comments on facebook, SUPERFAST. And I encouraged a quilt store owner to put something on her website, even if she didn't have the pictures ready.

But I plan to learn the twitter.

Mua ha ha.

For the record, I do have a metric for making it big. It's called an income. I will not settle for my own page on Wikipedia. Don't waste your time!

But do feel free to purchase something very expensive from Amazon.com. I have even provided a link!

Clarica the company? You get a link when I get the check. Just make sure you let me know if you want the link here, or in a different funny article that may or may not be more to your taste.

28 September, 2011

Personal note #4

Today AND yesterday, I took a shower. AND did a load of laundry, both days.

And today I made another stab at dealing with my problems in a way that I can barely tolerate.

I hate it more than applying for jobs I do not actually want, that also seem unlikely to want me. Even though I could do a them well, am totally willing to, and TRY to make this clear.

I've been putting this off since the first of July. Or, arguably years. Because I do not enjoy feeling sorry for myself, or crying.

Many people I know are constantly telling me that I am not a failure. I am certain that they all hold themselves to a higher standard, whether they meet it or not. And if they do not meet whatever their own higher standard is, for whatever reason, they feel like a failure. Just like I do. Or Did. Or do.

A couple of years ago, when being introduced, I took to 'whimsically' describing myself as a leech, a sponge, or a bum. At least I did not have to argue about what the standards for success ought to be anymore, and THANK GOD.

Being brave enough to ask the government for help, by myself, because noone will flipping-flapping take care of it for me, is probably the hardest thing I have ever tried to do.

And I am not that good at it. Because it falls far short of my personal standards of success. Or my insomnia or my anxiety or my depression make me stupid and forgetful.

I am at least grateful that I have never begrudged anyone else legitimately asking the government for help with THEIR problems. I have made plenty of mistakes in compassion and everything else over the years. But not that one.

Tomorrow, I am totally going out for a cupcake. Who's in? Wallingford, 3 or 4pm? I would throw an impromptu party, but the cupcakes are kind of expensive, and I do not have the strength to actually invite anyone personally. I'm going to finish up my other blog posts, finish washing some towels, and try to avoid crying.

Sometimes the least you can do IS the best you can do. Or is that vice versa?

My second short story, second draft.

My Diary.

Day 1. This is the serious journal of a silly girl named Lenore or Elsinore or Clarity or something. Who is full of a specific variety of measely-weasely selfish and miserable ways.

Sweet-hearted. Small-minded. Yogurt-eating. Gun-toting. And totally kind to many small animals.

Towards all she felt benevolence or envy. A very happy-go-lucky viper of woman-kind. Other than that, she was delightful!

Friendly and outgoing. Helpful and obliging!

As long as you never. Ever. Cross her.

With a twinkle in her eye she'd stab you. But not in the back. You don't have to watch your back.

There won't be enough time for you to turn and run.

Wanted. Dead or Alive.

Day 2. Still not dead. Might as well go kill something, and eat it. Raw food is totally better for me!

Day 3. I wonder if that boy likes me! He is so cute!

Day 4. Oops. I hope there is another boy out there somewhere.

Day 5. Ugh. I feel terrible. I probably should not have swallowed! That boy made me fat.

Day 6. Still alive! Aren't I lucky? Maybe I can make some shoes out of this stuff that's lying around my chopping block.

Day 7. I invented fire. Owie.

Day 8. Hey, a bunch of stuff tastes better if you change it with the fire!

Day 9. I haven't seen a new boy in a couple of days now. I wonder if my fancy new shoes taste good.

Day 10. Note to self: Shoes taste better cooked. But work better as a trap for the unwary. Barefoot and pregnant my ass!

Day 13. Still lonely, what is wrong with me.

Day 16. Hey, the new guy is eating something I've never tried! I WANT IT.

Day 17. Yams. Who knew?

Day 18. I kind of wonder what the new guy tastes like. He's so much better than everything else. But I think I'd kind of miss him.

Day 39. Do my feet smell like yams? Because these shoes look good enough to EAT.

Day 42. Barefoot and pregnant. Oops.

This story is dedicated to the bloggess, sex workers everywhere, and all the other classy ladies of the world. You know who you are. Even if I don't. Yet.

PS: I do not regularly have a knife with me. Just saying.

PPS: Wil Wheaton, like all men everywhere, is lucky to be alive. And he totally deserves a cupcake.

27 September, 2011

Solving the healthcare crisis.

It's official. I am a genius.

Earlier this month, I decided to solve some of the problems of poverty by taking some of our tax dollars, and giving them back to everyone in equal proportions. The minor downside to this program is that I don't think everyone in the world will fit inside my country.

Now I find that an experiment in Canada may prove that it could also solve the health care crisis.

I am not unconcerned with people who need regular medical care. But it is NOT my first priority. And I'm not totally convinced that universal health insurance is the solution. Maybe universal poverty prevention payments are.

Or sliding-scale poverty prevention payments?

I had a couple of discussions about this last week, about the problem of people in our country who can't, anymore, afford the health care they need. To stay alive.

Sadly, this is, for about a gazillion reasons, a growing problem.

I met a lady on the bus a week or two ago. It was a long bus ride, and I was unable to put my earplugs in, and she was willing, so we had an enjoyable conversation. She implied I would not need to lose ANY weight to get a man. (Which is true.)

And we discussed our experiences. And education. And health care.

She works for a health insurance company. And needs regular health care. And her husband is out of work. And she is a little worried.

Another friend's take was based on the whole 'life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness' bit in the declaration of Independence or whatever. Where affordable access to healthcare, as necessary for some people to STAY alive, makes affordable health care an inalienable right.

I could not articulate it all that well at the time, but I absolutely disagree.

My take is that any health care is covered under the pursuit of happiness. And that the right to life is obviously not inalienable. Not for cows, not for some life-forms inside a human being, and certainly not for the sick people with problems we still can't cure.

I eat meat, I am pro-choice, and I oppose the death penalty. And I think antibiotics are the bees knees!

My brother Darby had better health care than any I had ever heard of, when I moved in with him, years ago. He was a member of a union, and I believe the health insurance was, as it should be, truly cooperative. And not. For. Profit.

Or maybe it was for profit. The competition that profit inspires generally makes expensive things cheaper. Look at the Sky Mall catalog from 10 years ago if you have any doubts on this topic.

For him, affordable access to healthcare did not even reach the elevated level of 'pursuit of happiness'. Or save him.

So I am totally cool with research being for-profit. I kind of wish the profits of medical research were as well-protected as the profits of, say, a hit single by Paris Hilton would be. (I have no idea if she sings, but if she is willing I will TOTALLY write her a song about saving the world.)

I mention Paris Hilton here for a reason. I have heard a lot of people bad-mouthing the contributions that Paris Hilton has made to our society. I've never met her, but I am certain that there are at least 20-50 people who have had gainful employment (JOBS) because Paris Hilton is who she is, and does what she does.

The question apparently becomes, "Does Paris Hilton pay enough in taxes?"

Does anybody?

I really don't know what the tax rate would be in my imaginary utopian society.

Apparently the US falls somewhere between the rates imposed in Belgium (the highest?) and Ireland (not the lowest).

Are we getting as much for our tax dollars as Belgium and Ireland?

Frankly, I can argue that we are getting more.

But I am not going to.

Because I am MOST concerned that we do not have adequate technology to prevent some of the evils of poverty.

26 September, 2011

Cheekbones and the Internet

I have been a print addict for a long time. I still am. They do not have a recovery group for this problem, and there are PLENTY of enablers out there.

But I put down the actual books, mostly, years ago, and started to look around and see what I could find out about the world through my own actual experiences.

This was unintentional. I was around 23, depressed, and couldn't sit still with a book anymore. My book-reading dropped from 5-21 a week, to less than five, and not always even one.

I definitely had a problem, and reading books was a symptom. I started reading books all the time in middle school. Probably because I was depressed.

The intersection of depression and change is irritability. I am very irritable lately, and I have to say, thank goodness for the internet.

Because we had an internet when I was 23, and I met some of the greatest people I have ever known here. Because, at 23, I couldn't sit still for a whole book anymore. But I still needed to read, and the internet gave me teeny tiny nibbles to satisfy my print addiction, without driving me away with "the annoying".

The internet totally deserves a cupcake. But since it is also totally annoying, it probably has sprinkles on it.

I still keep in some kind of contact with most of the people I met because of the internet.

The best thing about the internet is that it's like a stitch and bitch crossed with a philosophical debating society, crossed with a Book Club. Where you don't even have to read the books. And someone will share with you the recipe you want.

One of the things that worries me is cheekbones. What is the DEAL with cheekbones? I totally do not get what 'good' cheekbones are like. More to the point, how in the flipping-flapping universe do you tell if you might need a cheekbone enhancing elective surgery?

I constantly hear people RAVE about the cheekbones on someone. I have apparently dated some of these people with great cheekbones. Maybe I am one.

I asked my mom about this the other day, and she told me that I grew up in a cheekbone-rich environment, so they just seem totally normal to me. The first part could totally be true. I literally can not tell.

But you'd think if that was true, there would be some class of people in the world who, in some way, do not look normal?

Which is another problem I have.

One of my neighbors suddenly reminded me of my grandma this week. I couldn't figure out why, at first, and then I realized she had had her hair done in curls, just like my grandma did.

Which, other than age, is pretty much where the similarity ended, but I as I was standing there trying to figure this out, I had a crisis of faith about her genetic heritage. She is Japanese, from Japan, and speaks with a noticeable accent. And WHILE SHE WAS TALKING I was looking at her, and listening, and asking myself:

Me (silently): wait, is she Japanese? I thought she was, maybe I am wrong! Does she LOOK Japanese? I CAN'T TELL! Is that an accent? WHY CAN'T I TELL?

After I figured out it was the hair, my confidence in the information that she is Japanese was restored. And I have had this information for about four years.

I have this problem with Semitic people too. When I was a kid, there was plenty of anti-Semitism going around, and since my grandpa was a Jew, I worried about it a bit.

One of the theories 'out there' is that you can tell who is Jewish, just by looking. This is BS, but I didn't know this at the time, and I couldn't figure out how everybody else could tell!

My problem here was caused by my mom, and all of her sisters. They don't really all look alike. But people in Seattle didn't know that, back then, and they had a lot of fun switching IDs around when they got carded.

And this problem is that they were all Catholic. So in my mind, people who look Jewish? Are Catholic. Or family. Or something.

Oh, and the worst thing about the internet? THERE IS NO ERASER FOR YOUR BRAIN.

25 September, 2011

Jenny Lawson and laughing too hard

Jenny Lawson, you TOTALLY deserve a cupcake.

In case you haven't yet stumbled across the online and soon-to-be-IRL writing sensation that is Jenny Lawson, you have been missing out.

I'm getting kind of behind on passing out the virtual cupcakes lately, by the way, and my bad. This other philosophical stuff is ok, and I love it. And I am obviously compelled to share it. But I like to have the time and energy for talking about all the wonderful things there are outside my bedroom, and not just all the things that annoy me, inside my brain.

Have I mentioned Venn Diagrams yet? Because I totally love them too. They are a way to describe sets of things. Google it, there's a lot of funny stuff here.

I am totally crap at making my own, sadly. Here's an inaccurate version of the above:

I'm trying to show that almost everything, some of the time, seems pretty wonderful.

And almost everything, some of the time, is pretty annoying.

And that what goes on outside my head, but inside my bedroom, mostly consists of sleeping, and working on my blog. For a definition of working which includes surfing the internet, sporadic job searches, and procrastinating on reading my actual mail.

And, rarely, putting my dirty laundry in the laundry basket and starting it on the miraculous transformation that is in store for it, if I then take the dirty laundry out of my room.

None of the circles came out right, but since right now I care WAY more about Jenny Lawson than my own flaws, artistically or otherwise, let me get back to that!

The first thing I read from The Bloggess was about towels. She was about to go shopping with a friend, and her fella supposedly cornered her and requested she not bring any more flipping flapping towels into the house. Which was HILARIOUS, and I also totally sympathize! On both sides, because A) I HAVE NEVER HAD TOO MANY TOWELS. and B) I don't always have enough room to put all the clean towels away. ahem.

She dealt with this existential dilemma by getting a giant metal chicken. And I laughed so hard my sides ached.

I have a friend who just started a webcomic, like last week. And she had a great comic in her series, "Letters to my very first ex-husband" which, as an aside, mentioned someone she dated, and how he inadvertantly said something that she almost always finds hilarious. Because of that first ex-husband.

One time this guy I know did the same thing with me! I'll write it up in a script.

Him: I'm just a chubby slimy worm. (not out loud: you disagree, right?)

Me: HA HA HA HA HA HA. (not out loud: maybe, but DAMN ARE YOU SEXY.)

And I am frankly relieved that I think this might have happened to me more than once. Because I am totally immature. And apparently a little uncomfortable with sexy men, otherwise I might have recovered from my nervous laughter in time to, you know, not totally bruise some feelings. Or grow up.

I'm not going to go into any of the other hilarious stuff that Jenny Lawson does, because I'd rather go for another abrupt and awkward conclusion. They are TOTALLY my specialty.

ka·on /ˈkāˌän/
Noun: A meson having a mass several times that of a pion.

23 September, 2011

God's Plan

I don't know if God has a plan. God is apparently ineffable, so I guess nobody knows. But I have never liked the idea.

Because really, God, is this the best you can do?

I've also mulled, in an extremely amateurish way, over the difference between predestination and free will. Which, I don't know if you noticed, was the theme of the movie Forrest Gump.

Predestination supposedly means God DOES have a plan, and everything is on track! Yay for everybody going to heaven. Too bad for the rest of us.

Free will makes the idea of God's Plan a little nebulous. Not that I imagine god cares much about what I have for lunch. Or how often I have lunch. I hope he doesn't worry too much about other people missing lunch, or other meals, because it happens a lot. And I don't want God to suffer too.

But frankly, with all this planning, God doesn't really offer most people much of a to-do list. And those few who did get a memo, well let's just say that that is usually not their first problem.

And I could have used a to-do list! Pasted deep inside my heart! That I wasn't afraid to, you know, follow.


Recently I was offered the opportunity to see myself lip-syncing, in my early twenties, to a song from Grease. I refused. But I recognized that the people who care about me would probably enjoy it, so I did not beg them to destroy it.

Now I think it would be funny if it was on You Tube, although I am still not sure I can watch it myself.

I was not the person I wanted to be, for most of my life. I am still not the person I want to be. But I am totally ready to become that person, and every day I get a little closer. And every day I get a little braver.

And last night, I slept.

(This is where I would thank god, but I really only say that figuratively, because I am actually an agnostic.)

Today, in the ongoing battle to a) figure out what my dreams are and b) LIVE THEM, I played around on someecards.com, and practiced the funny. And the painfully true.

And I asked for a job in person!

Next, I might open some of my more scary mail.

The day is still young.

21 September, 2011

Scrabble, Bananagrams, and Exquisite Corpse

Scrabble, you deserve a cupcake. Bananagrams, you too. And Exquisite Corpse (which I will explain eventually, as it is not as well known), well, you and me have a little thing going on. WHICH I LOVE.

I am not a great scrabble player. I might be better, right now, than I have ever been before in my life! But I do not play to win, and I do not want to practice all the strategies you ought to use to play to win. Because playing to win is not that much fun, for me.

I have finally learned some of these strategies. And one of them I like! Instead of crossing words, go ahead and stack words, making not just the long word you came up with, but also a bunch of other short words across both. WAY more points! I feel pretty clever every time I manage to do this well, which is not often.

Another strategy which I would not mind getting better at is remembering short (or long) unusual words. Zoa is great! I kind of remember what it means. Nota I picked up from other scrabble players online, and it must be a word because it won't let you make up words online. And I'd kind of like to know what it means, but not enough, so far, to go and look it up.

Because it doesn't come with any context, and what I really care about, as far as words go, is context and the attempt to actually communicate.

And since I don't care enough about the word nota to go and look it up, I will probably not really remember it when I can play it and make a jillion points with it. Except now that I've used it in a sentence five times, it does have context, and I probably will go look it up, because I might as well know what it is that I'm going to be remembering.

But there are TONS of words just like it that pass across the transom of my awareness, and, frankly, I don't care about a lot of them as well.

And there is a strategy that will help you win in scrabble that I know about and can't enjoy. And that is being careful with your words. In an attempt to minimize the other players' opportunities to make points.

I do love to win at scrabble, really. But I love words and am so excited that with my crappy seven tiles that I can finally make a fantastic word on the board that I adore, that I HATE any strategy which kills that joy.

And I am totally fine with losing on these terms.

Bananagrams is another great game, and a lot of fun! I played some of this on my nannycation earlier in the month, and I was SMOKING. And, frankly, hilariously revealing of some of my inner dialogue.

I kind of like Bananagrams better, but though scrabble is more directly competitive, Banangrams is sort of more solitary. Which I don't prefer. And frankly, they're both competitive.

Exquisite corpse, on the other hand, is a fabulously collaborative game. And there are words. And pictures too!

I was introduced to this game from some friends, who were calling it sentence-picture. It's kind of like the game of telephone, but on paper. You start a piece of paper with a sentence (or song lyric or something). You pass it to the next person, and from the person on your other side, you get a piece of paper with a sentence.

And you must draw a picture to try and convey that sentence to the next person, who will only get to see your picture, after you fold down the original words.

And then you get a picture to try to interpret back into words. And this is where it gets funny. This is where "liar liar pants on fire" turns into "cricket cricket I'm on fire". Or I can't even remember what, but something innocuous, I think about home improvement, turns into "you can't play chainsaw hockey without breaking a few eggs".

And just try to draw a picture of that. Because it's your turn, and you make the best of what you see.

Some people who don't draw much are extremely unwilling to play this game. And it is a pity. And not because we won't laugh at their pictures. Because we will.

It's a pity because we will hopefully laugh at ALL the pictures. And a well-executed pictoral representation of a phrase is not that funny. The person who sees it will often write down the same phrase again. If you are a confident artist, feel free to take confusing liberties with your drawing! Please, it's a much funner game that way.

And an unexplained bow tie can really throw people off.

This game is called a million different things. Exquisite corpse. Sentence Picture. Cricket Cricket. Eat Poop You Cat.

Seriously. And it is hilariously collaborative. And it can kind of be exhausting, because you laugh SO HARD after you've all done your part on however many little pieces of paper you've got.

I feel like I was going somewhere with this, but I really can't figure out where. I'll just close on this awkward and abrupt note.

nota: plural of no·tum
Noun: The dorsal exoskeleton of the thorax of an insect.

19 September, 2011

Personal note #3

I am totally thrilled by my blog! And I haven't run out of material, by any means. But this lightning-fast, pile 'em up and roll them out publishing schedule has, obviously, hit a snag.

That snag is pretty much accumulated sleep deprivation, or fluctuating intensity levels, or whatever. I run out of energy, and/or brain, and right into irritability and frustration and a strong desire to GO LAY DOWN, and my MADCAP social calendar, of seeing people once or twice a week gets most of my attention.

The Blog, though I love it, comes third. And would totally slip to fourth if I got a job!

In health news (and health is number one) I did see my doctor last week and she gave me some stuff to try and it may be helping. And it may be making me feel worse while I adjust to it, I don't know. I didn't read the side effects because I am quite susceptible to the power of suggestion.

I met a guy on a bus who suggested another medication option which he was prescribed for his anxiety and insomnia troubles, but I figure my doctor has already heard about it and it is an option for the future, if what I'm taking now doesn't work. I do not care. I'll try anything!

Except crystals. Unless someone else wants to buy them for me and tell me how to use them despite my impolite laughter. Literally, I'd try them! But if skepticism diminishes their affect, I don't think it's worth a try. I've got a good attitude, but I don't get the thing about vibrations or whatever it is, and I do think it sounds silly.

But I would be thrilled to believe in them, if that would mean I felt better! Frankly, my attitude towards any proposed solution is so flippin floppin 'sounds great! let's get me some of that!' that it is a miracle I haven't already tried crystals.

And that miracle is called insomnia. Because I can't even remember, anymore, to get and try what I already believe might have benefits!

And now I get to relax, because I handed this problem over to a doctor, and she is a smart cookie. And that leap of faith definitely helps with my anxiety.