Saturday, March 7, 2009

Writing with conviction

I didn't think the Notre Dame game would be that big of a deal, but it ended up being pretty sweet. It was the last regular season game for the Irish, and they honored the seniors on the team. They played a great game and beat St. John's by 19 points. I'm glad we were there for it!

BooksI did indeed finish my B-word book after we got home. I got to the point where I felt, "Oh please just let me get through this already!" I did finally start to feel some affection for some of the characters, and it looked like that was going to pay off with a tragic ending in which the butler died before he and one of the servant girls could elope. Tug at my heartstrings, make me shed a tear, feel bad for poor Charley Raunce...nope. They left for England where they got married and lived happily ever after. (And it even used that phrase.) That was quite a disappointment, believe you me. Not that I want characters that I've come to like to end up dead, but at least it would have provided some interest to the story! Gaaaaah, it was astounding in its lack of entertainment!

I've just started my next book club entry, The Old Wives' Tale by Arnold Bennett. (I'm about three books behind, but I'm working on catching up.) I haven't begun the book itself, but read the author's preface, and the final paragraph really struck me:

It has been asserted that unless I had actually been present at a public execution, I could not have written the chapter in which Sophia was at the Auxerre solemnity. I have not been present at a public execution, as the whole of my information about public executions was derived from a series of articles on them which I read in the Paris Matin. Mr Frank Harris, discussing my book in Vanity Fair, said it was clear that I had not seen an execution (or words to that effect), and he proceeded to give his own description of an execution. It was a brief but terribly convincing bit of writing, quite characteristic and quite worthy of the author of Montes the Matador and of a man who has been almost everywhere and seen almost everything. I comprehended how far short I had fallen of the truth! I wrote to Mr Frank Harris, regretting that his description had not been printed before I wrote mine, as I should assuredly have utilized it, and, of course, I admitted that I had never witnessed an execution. He simply replied: “Neither have I.” This detail is worth preserving, for it is a reproof to that large body of readers, who, when a novelist has really carried conviction to them, assert off hand: “Oh, that must be autobiography!”

WritingI love that! How about you? Do you feel that you write with conviction? Does your passion for your subject reach readers, and make them care about what you care about? Can you wow them with your ability to make them feel that they are right there with you experiencing what you're experiencing...even if you're not? Because this has a flipside. If you are able to make someone believe that you have experienced firsthand that of which you write, while you've never even come close to experiencing such a thing, that's a powerful talent. The question is, will you use that talent for good or for evil? And keep in mind that there are those who create elaborate and false scenarios in their own minds (I believe it's called being delusional) and are able to convince others of the veracity of their stories.

It's an interesting thing to ponder, and I thought it was a fascinating anecdote. Based on just the preface, and the clarity of Bennett's writing, I think I might like this one a lot. He's already made me think, and that was just from reading the preface!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Don’tcha dig the sunshine?

Y'all are gonna hate me for putting this up, but I must. It's running through my head now that I've watched it, and being your devoted blogger friend, I just have to share.

Really, I DO dig the sunshine! It feels so great to have it nice enough to open the window, and it IS a sunshine day!

Not much to write about today, being as I'm all sunshiney and junk. I don't feel fired up about anything at the moment, just feeling wonderful mellowtudinous. I called yesterday to have someone come out to look at our stove--the oven wasn't heating to temperature. They were able to send someone out today, between 9 and 11 Am, he was here by 9:30, and our stove was fixed and he was on his way by 10:30. How cool is that? The igniter had gone bad, he had one in his truck, and we were good to go. I'm always so pleased when a service call is uncomplicated and everything is taken care of with no problems. I think I might have to send the place a letter and thank James the Stove Repairman. He got extra credit for enthusiastically patting Sheeba on the head as Sheeba checked him out, and saying that he likes cats.

Then I talked with my "coach" for the wellness group that Ken's company provides, and she said I was doing great and told me, "Good job!" I even stuck to it with a workout after that. Go me!

I made good progress on my B-word (see my blog header) book club book, and I think I'll try to forge ahead and finish it tonight. I have so many interesting books to read, and here I am stuck in Upstairs Downstairs Hell!

Scratch that--I probably won't finish the book tonight because I totally forgot that we have Notre Dame basketball tickets tonight (against St. John's). Not that it means a whole lot--they aren't making the NCAA tournament this year, darn it. Although we'll be back early enough, if I feel like reading then.

I hope everyone was really diggin' their sunshine day, and has an enjoyable weekend ahead of them!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Spideys and other not-so-creepy things

Based on the comments on my entry yesterday about cussing, it looks like I'm not the only potty mouth out there...! Honestly, it was actually very refreshing to realize that some of you let loose once in a while, too, sometimes people I never would have expected. I appreciate your honesty, and I really think we're all pretty much on the same page when it comes to cussing--we confine it to home, or to those we know aren't offended by it. I really don't walk around town spewing obscenities, and I'm not crazy about hearing others do so. But arresting someone for it? No.

Indigo commented on the bookshelf/DVD cabinet picture: "How many of those books are TBR's (To be read yet)? I have a bookcase and a half of those." Indy, the shelves in the basement contain mostly Already Reads. There are a few classics that I've collected over the years, some that I read years ago but would like to read again, but most of them I've read. Except for Ken's college textbooks, of course...and unless he's been sneaking down in the middle of the night, I don't think he's read mine, either! There is another bookcase in the guest room that has TBR books, so I've got my work cut out for me!

Godfathers B&W Remember how bummed I was that I missed out on the after-show party at the Godfathers concert? Today, Peter (the lead singer, on the far right in this picture) posted on the Yahoo group and talked about how much they enjoyed playing the Chicago show and what a great time they had. He also thanked several people, and had this to say: "Beth R***** [asterisks mine, although several of you know my last name already] & Dez Kiss – it would have been great to meet up with y'all – but, hey, another time & another place…" How cool is that?! See, he was kinda bummed, too! Ha! I'm sure he was just fine despite not meeting up with me, but I thought it was a cool thing to say, and tells you how great they are about their fans. I do think I'll get another chance one day.

I had some really creepy dreams Tuesday night in which spiders played a big part. They were creepy enough that I couldn't bear to put up a picture of a real spider here, so I found a cute little smiley spider.

Spider cartoonIn some of the dreams, a small spider was on the wall behind someone--I seem to recall Cousin Shane being there--and ready to crawl onto them, and I was trying to warn them that a spider was about ready to get on them. In the worst of them, there was a big fat furry spider running around the house in which I grew up, and I'm not kidding, this thing was the size of a hamster. [shudder] And it was FAST. I was trying to throw a shoe at it, and it came after me...I remember twitching in my sleep because in my dream, the spider had started to crawl up onto my leg. Bleahhhh!

I was curious about what the spiders in my dream might mean, and while I don't take everything in my dreams to heart--I think it's mostly a matter of your brain shoving all the input and stimulus it's received throughout the day down the garbage disposal--I do think that one aspect of spider symbolism is relevant with me right now. It's a matter of feeling trapped.

I was pondering this today, and while it was really a relief to not have to worry about driving to work in the snow, and I'm quite content when left to my own devices, not getting out five days a week also made me feel cabin fever a little more intensely this year. So do you think I should go back to work?

The Shining Hahahaha! I have no desire to go back to work, although I still love Microbiology (look for an Infection Connection entry coming up before too long). The coming spring has me feeling more ambitious, and today was just what the doctor ordered. Sunny most of the day, up over 60° was beautiful! I'll be so happy to break out of this winter funk, although I know that what I consider a "funk" would probably be a good day for some. I know I'm very fortunate in that regard. Cabin fever is a legitimate concern in winter climates. Remember "The Shining"? I rest my case.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Concerning free effin’ speech

Has everyone heard about the kid who formed a club and website called the No Cussing Club? I saw another video in which he talked about possible laws prohibiting people from cussing in public, and when he was asked what should be done with someone who breaks such laws, he said something about "beating them" and putting them in jail, and then laughed and said, "Just kidding!"

You know what my initial reaction was? Yeah, it was a phrase of two words, and second word was "you."

Hey kid! I think I'm going to form my own group that condemns anyone who says "you know" constantly in a conversation, and my club is going to try to throw those people in jail. And you know what? You're gonna be cooling your heels for a long time in the Big House because apparently you can't put a sentence together without including "you know" in it! Listen, you sanctimonious little snot, you don't get to decide how people talk or what people say!

Don't worry, I'm exaggerating to make a point. I'm not forming a group, and I'm not going to beat the kid up (although I think I could take him). The sad thing is that this kid has received death threats, and that is totally not cool and just plain wrong. I don't think anyone wants kids going around spewing profanities, and it's a noble effort that he's attempting. But making profanities illegal? Kid, you've got a lot to learn. (I think he needs to listen to George Carlin's bit about the Seven Words.)

ProfanityI'll be honest--I've got a foul mouth. I'm the proud winner of the Foulest Mouth Award on the 6th floor of Mysch Hall at Ball State, and if you could have heard some of my floormates, you'd know that's sayin' somethin'. Nothing has really changed since then. But I also try to be respectful of other people's feelings, and refrain from letting my mouth go when I'm in public. I don't put a lot of profanity here in my blog, but it doesn't bother me if someone drops a well-placed F-bomb in comments. I don't cuss around my parents, because I know it would offend them. It's a matter of respect, not just to my folks, but to others who might be offended by such language, and any kids that might be within hearing range. I'm proud to say that I never once cussed in front of Ken's kids. Sometimes at games, people can get nasty, and I would have no problem with turning to someone and asking them to tone it down a bit, because kids don't need to hear that. Heck, I've gone to Notre Dame games with my Dad, and I wouldn't want him to have to hear that, and he's an Army guy who has heard it all.

My feeling on this is that if someone is being offensive, ask them politely to stop. If they are belligerent and won't tone it down, that's what security is for. If they get to the point where they are disturbing the peace, that's what the police are for. If they've crossed over the line into inciting a riot, that's when you remove yourself from the situation and call the police from afar.

But you can't start arresting people for foul language. I submit to you: I find the language of several ultra-right wing "pundits" (although I can think of more choice words than "pundit") quite foul and extremely offensive. However, I recognize that they have the right to say such things without being arrested for it. If people don't care for it, they can either not listen, or in the case of someone spewing profanity in front of kids at a ball game, ask them to refrain. I'd be willing to bet that nine times out of ten, they'll respect your request.

So I guess if cussing is going to become illegal, I'll see y'all in the slammer. I'll see if I can find a recipe for making wine in the toilet.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A new look

Notice anything different? Nah, the background and everything is the same...but you're seeing my beloved Comic Sans font that I used on AOL Journals! Thanks to Monica over at Monica's Mindless Mumblings...I read her blog the other day and asked how she got the Comic Sans font (I'd recognize it anywhere!). She said that she uses Windows Live Writer to write her blog entries. I had heard of Live Writer before and know of other people who have used it, but had never taken the time to download it and explore it a bit. I like it. One drawback is that it doesn't store your entries online, if you're concerned about having a backup for your blog entries (and I think most of us who used AOL Journals have that concern, considering that whole mess of shutting down and moving our blogs), Live Writer doesn't do that. It will retrieve your entries from your blog itself. So I think what I'm going to do is continue to write in Google Docs (which saves everything online...and I don't think Google is going down the tubes anytime soon), then copy it over to Live Writer and publish from there. That's one of the nice features of Live Writer--you connect up your blog(s) and can publish directly. I'll start doing that with this entry and we'll see how it goes.

By the way, I don't know why I love Comic Sans so much. Any of you that have gotten an email from me know it's my default font in email. I find it a little clearer and more legible than many other fonts, and it's just a tiny bit different. It strikes me as kind of fun and quirky. Welcome back, Comic Sans!

Books and DVDsAt the risk of appearing to be someone with hoarding tendencies, I'm putting up another picture. The picture yesterday was just the CD cabinets. Here are the bookcases (five of them in the basement...there are two upstairs, as well), with the DVD cabinets on the far wall. (Pardon the mess...there are also a few books piled up at the base of the bookcases.) Please notice that the DVD cabinets are not completely filled! I have to admit that I bought a few more today, though...I couldn't pass up a collection of 20 Hitchcock movies for $5! That $5 Walmart bin is mighty hard to resist. Also picked up "Dawn of the Dead," "Castaway," "United 93" (not sure when I'll be ready to watch that one, but we've got it for when that time comes), and "Hurricane."

I guess I'm a bit of a collector, at least when it comes to music, movies, and books. And penguins. A couple of people suggested selling stuff to make room for more, but I really don't want to sell most of our titles. I do try to go through the books every so often and weed out some to donate to the library (although Better World offers a buyback program, and I might do that next time), but there are some books and movies that I really do love to read and watch multiple times. Yes, I know what happens, but that doesn't mean the journey isn't any less interesting or compelling. We don't go out to the movies often, because it's usually more fun to kick back and watch a movie here at home. It's definitely less expensive! We save our theater outings for things like Star Trek movies and Bond movies ("Quantum of Solace" is coming out on DVD soon, ha ha!), and the rest of the year, we hunker down in our comfy clothes right here at home. For many years, even before I met Ken, I was building my own little library, whether it was music, books, or movies. It's no presidential library, but I kind of like it!

Driving diagramOkay...I have to admit that I was a bad girl today. I was heading back from the store, and an incident on the road really ticked me off. I took the liberty of making a diagram for you, so you can see what I'm talking about. Stop laughing! I think it's a good diagram and I think you'll see why I was pissed off. At this particular crossroads/stoplight, there is a right lane to pass if someone is turning left and has to wait for oncoming traffic. Shortly after the light, the right lane ends. A truck (in blue) was in the left lane, and I pulled up in the right lane (I'm gray). Another truck was in the left lane (the red square), behind both of us. The truck to my left wasn't turning, but going straight. My usual policy in such a situation is to allow the person on the left to go first, then it stands to reason that I would go next, as my lane runs out quickly, and the person behind us follows in third.

You can probably guess what happened. I'm in the right lane, waiting for that third vehicle to drop back and let me in, as my lane runs out. She didn't...she cut me off. I actually had to lay on the horn, and yes, I said a very bad word! I looked over at her, and the broad seemed totally oblivious. I don't know if she really didn't know what she was doing, or if she just didn't give a rat's ass, but it pissed me off. We came up to the next stop sign, and she was turning in the same direction as I was. So I rode her ass all the way to the next stoplight, even pulling a little to the left so that she could see me riding her ass in her rearview mirror. At the light, she was turning left, and I was going straight. I pulled up right next to her, rolled down my window, turned up the music, and looked at her. She refused to look in my direction. When the light turned green, I took great satisfaction in punching it...with the Mustang, when you punch it, it responds, both with sound and speed. No, I didn't peal out, but it probably roared a little bit.

So did I feel better? Actually, yes. I was probably a little bit of an asshole, and if someone did that to me, it would piss me off. But she picked the wrong gal to mess with today. I'm on a short fuse. Just ask Ken, who saw me go ballistic last night when the oven wasn't heating properly. (I didn't go ballistic on him, just at the situation, and I said I was sorry for getting so irritated.) Just the lack of common courtesy, a matter of dropping back five freakin' seconds to let someone in ahead of you...honestly, it made me see red.

Spring had better be on the way soon. I'm not kidding.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Unidentified Vegetable Objects

Isn't this an odd-looking thing? It's a Romanesco Cauliflower, although I've also seen it called Romanesco Broccoli. It's a lovely shade of bright green, and the florets have this cool geometric shape. Because we love our cruciferous veggies (and they're so good for you!), and because this was on sale the other day, I got a head of it and fixed it last night. It was very tasty, almost a little milder and nuttier than regular white cauliflower. I will definitely buy it again.

I'm afraid the picture doesn't give the full effect of the Romanesco. I made it hover around Ken's head as I made spaceship sounds, and I really cracked myself up. Ken said, "It looks like some kind of bacteria." I said, "Nah, no bacteria looks like that. A virus, maybe." Ken said, "Yeah!" I'm happy to report that we enjoyed our virus-like, hovering spaceship of a head of cauliflower. Who says we're too old to play with our food?!

Ken's project yesterday was getting the DVD cabinets and wine racks put together. He also put the doors on and the shelves in the additional CD cabinet I ordered a while back. So my job today was to go through the DVDs and CDs and get things rearranged. The ones to be watched are upstairs in a rack in the office, and the ones we've watched are in the cabinets in the basement. I even started arranging them by genre, including horror, comedy, and drama. (I have a small superhero section, too.) I spent the rest of the afternoon rearranging the CD cabinets, and getting the stack(s) that had piled up by the stereo put away and in their proper places (yes, I alphabetize). Man, have I got some good music down there, or what?

Quite a bit of it, too, as you can see from the picture. These cabinets (made by Soricé, and I recommend them highly) hold 300 CDs, and we have 4 of them. I still have a little room to grow, but not much. I think I'll be scaling back on the CD purchases the same way I've scaled back on books. I'm going to have to get caught up on all of this stuff at some point!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

A silver lining

Rabbit rabbit rabbit! Evil spirits begone! Happy March, everyone!

I'm in a very quiet mood today. I wonder if it's the calm before the storm? I think I might be catching Ken's cold from last week. Bummer.

Like many of you in cooler climes have mentioned lately, it's time for winter to be over. I'm with ya. I commented elsewhere today that what really irritates me is when the high temperature doesn't even get up to the average high. I'm not asking for excellence, just for average, okay? [sigh]

Ken is putting together some DVD cabinets, and it will be nice to corral all the DVDs instead of stacking them up. We also got some more wine racks, so we're getting a nice little wine cellar going! I'm getting caught up on blogs, and then I'll read a bit on my book club book. I'm so behind, but it feels good to get back into books. I have to say, though, that the one I'm reading, Loving by Henry Green, has got to be one of the most God-awful boring books I've ever read. And yes, I used the word boring! About the only thing exciting that has happened so far has been one of the servants catching the young daughter-in-law in bed with the Captain (not her husband). It seems to be all about life during wartime (Talking Heads, anyone?) of an English family in Ireland, and the everyday lives of the servants of the house. Maybe things will pick up eventually, but so far...yawwwwwn.

Since I'm the eternal optimist, this morning I focused on one particular story in our local newspaper. I read about the bad economy, the ambitious budget of our President, watched the pompous arrogance of that asshat Limbaugh, and saw Rahm on "Face the Nation." (Thanks for the heads-up, Dan!) But it was a nice surprise to see an article about the local increase in the demand for GED classes and diplomas. In Elkhart, they added three additional classes, and there is still a waiting list. Elkhart apparently has a great program that includes vocational training along with classes, including teaching computer skills.

The article quoted one 50-year-old woman who recently lost her job at an RV manufacturing company. After a fruitless job search, she decided to get her GED. "It's time I got out of a trailer factory. It's time I do something that I want to do. I'm doing something for myself. I have to, I have to." A recent letter to the editor chastised those who refuse to learn new trades, citing their excuses that they are too old to learn, or that they've never done anything but [insert job here]. I have to say that I think the letter writer was correct. John McCain was also correct when he stated in Michigan that a lot of lost auto jobs just aren't coming back. The paradigm has changed, and people might have to rethink their positions and life pathways. I applaud the woman in the article who decided, even though she was scared, to go back to school.

I also applaud the President's position that dropping out of high school is no longer an option. The higher goal is that everyone get a college education if they choose, but the minimum has got to be that high school diploma. For too long we've watched the dumbing down of America, an attitude that it was okay to not focus on education, and I've even witnessed some ridicule of anyone who had a bunch of that fancy book-learnin'. Please. An education is something to be cherished and pursued and fostered, and even continued beyond the day the diploma or degree is granted. Unfortunately, it's becoming increasingly out of reach for too many, and the attitude that it's really not that big of a deal anyway has prevailed for far too long.

The attitude change begins at home, with parents who set a good example by reading, intellectual curiosity, and fostering a love of learning. It continues in the schools, with teachers who understand how important their jobs are and who are appreciated and compensated for the vital service that they provide. It involves a collective belief of the populace that an education is a very good thing to have when it comes to global competition, a feeling that learning is more than's actually a lot of fun. And it is reinforced by a President who believes strongly in the value of an education and wants to help more people get one.

It's time to set the bar higher. Circumstances dictate it, and if I can find a silver lining in this Incredible Shrinking Economy, it's that we'll be dragged kicking and screaming into a more highly educated state.