Friday, July 29, 2011

Friday Happy Hour

From Mental Floss: "Every Friday, I post a series of unrelated questions meant to spark conversation in the comments. Answer one, answer all, respond to someone else's reply, whatever you want. On to this week's topics of discussion..."

(Now that I actually have followers of my blog, I’d love to see your responses in the comments here. Tell me what you think, friends!)

What was your first move after college? If you’re still in school, what’s your plan?

~ I left home in September 1993, just after I started my senior year of high school. I stayed with my dad for a few months before I went away to college in December 1994, but I’ve essentially been independent since I was barely 17. At this point, we’re not ready to buy a house, but J. and I are both sick to death of moving. We just renewed our lease a month ago, and we’re already talking about renewing it for another year next May.

Do you have any favorite obscure words you’d like to share?

~ I have lots of favorite words, although they’re really not obscure. Since I can’t think of anything that’s really on-topic, I’ll go with this: Francisco…that’s fun to say! (Bonus points if you get that reference!)

While you were in college, who was the most impressive speaker or musical act to come to your campus? I don’t necessarily mean the biggest name. Could just be someone who inspired you.

~ I was so excited when I returned to Texas A&M in October 2007. I intended to go back to school, but figured until that happened, I could at least benefit from being around such a prestigious university. Nothing interesting happened until we decided to move back to Dallas. Stephen Hawking delivered a lecture the day after we moved, literally. Argh.

If a cable network were to green-light a mental_floss game show, who should be the host?

~ It wouldn’t matter to me. I hate game shows, so I’d never watch.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Baaaaaa

Sheep: an adult who cannot – or does not - think, reason, and decide for themselves; the most useless thing on earth.


If I didn’t look just like both my parents, I’d swear I was switched at birth.

It drove my family crazy when I started having strong opinions (about pretty much everything) around the age of 12. Girls are supposed to be quiet and ladylike and defer to the opinions of their elders. They didn’t have a clue what to do with me. Growing up, I could never figure out why my mom thought saying, “Don’t do ____,” would make me not do _____. If I wanted to do something, I thought about it and made a decision. My mother’s opinion didn’t factor into it at all. Granted, I didn’t always make the best choices: I started smoking at age 15 because I was sick to death of being a “good kid.” But I’m proud of the fact that I made every decision (and mistake) for myself.

Now that I’m older and have had more heart-to-heart conversations with my mom, I know that she raised me the way she was raised. It would never have occurred to her to do something her parents said not to; she believed they knew best, and never, ever questioned what they told her. When she told me that, I was stunned. I would never *not* have questioned my parents. I don’t take things at face value; I believe only what I can see for myself. As I grew up, that behavior expanded as my world did: from my parents, to teachers, to government and other forms of authority.

When I hear people say they do something (vote a certain way, attend a certain church or attend church at all, raise their kids a certain way, etc.) because that’s the way their parents did it, I always think, “WTF…don’t you have a brain? Can’t you decide what you believe for yourself? Don’t you *want* to decide for yourself?” In my world, these people are called sheep. Calling someone a sheep is one of the worst insults I use. (I’m sure I’ll be talking more about that in future posts.)

Don’t worry, though, the family traditions aren’t dead. I have two cousins: M., female, is 26-ish and her brother, L., is 23-ish. They are happy to toe the family party line, and since they’re both married now, I’m sure there will be a new generation of lambs anytime. For a multitude of reasons, M. and L. and their parents think I’m the devil incarnate, which always makes me giggle. I’m going to continue making up my own mind about life, even if that means making mistakes along the way. We’ll see who’s happy in the end.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Friday Happy Hour (on Saturday)

From Mental Floss: "Every Friday, I post a series of unrelated questions meant to spark conversation in the comments. Answer one, answer all, respond to someone else's reply, whatever you want. On to this week's topics of discussion..."

(Now that I actually have followers of my blog, I’d love to see your responses in the comments here. Tell me what you think, friends!)

Have you ever been hypnotized? Or watched a friend get hypnotized? Or hypnotized someone yourself? For what purpose?

~ No, I haven’t. I would consider it, though, since I believe hypnotism can be effective for things like smoking cessation or as a part of talk therapy to deal with past trauma.

What’s a word or phrase you say too much? What new (made up?) word or phrase could replace that?

~ I still say “like” too much, which is ridiculous for a 35-year-old woman, especially in a professional environment. I don’t want to replace it with anything. I’m trying to break the habit, but it’s a work in progress.

If you had one extra hour in the day just for you, how would you spend it?

~ Reading. Now that I’m working with a finite list of books TBR, I’ve fallen in love with reading all over again.

Have you ever read a magazine, saw one of those “to see __________, go to thenameofthismagazine.com” callouts, and actually went to the site? (I don’t mean times where you liked a magazine and figured you’d give the website a shot.)

~ No, I don’t think so. I love reading magazines, and I do occasionally look at the magazine’s website, but that is a very rare occurrence.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Facebook Friends

I will admit that I resisted Facebook for a long, long time. I didn’t want to keep up with two profiles, and since I already had a Myspace page, I couldn’t be bothered to set up a profile on Facebook. But more and more of my friends *only* had Facebook, so I set up a profile.

I never looked back; Facebook was designed for me. I’m not the kind of person who has one circle of friends. Instead, I have a group from this job or that job, and I have a group from school, and a group from the time I lived in College Station, and certain members of J.’s family. It is physically impossible to keep up with everyone. Facebook allows me to participate in the lives of the people I care about, even though we all have crazy schedules and don’t see each other very often. (In fact, even though I’ve been back in Dallas for 15 months, and the majority of my friends live within a 25 mile radius, I’ve only seen about 15% of them in person. Yes, it’s very, very sad.)

Because of the way I use Facebook, and because I cannot tolerate anything extraneous, I can't wrap my mind around the desire to have 736 friends. I have around 60 friends, and I’m always editing the list. I deny way more friend requests than I accept. I’ve also been known to accept a friend request and then delete the person the very next day (hey, even I don’t like confrontation all the time!). Here are some things to keep in mind if you're thinking of sending me a friend request:

If I don’t know you in person, don’t bother. If we went to school together, but did not speak once after graduation, and you’re adding me now only because we have mutual friends, don’t bother. Or if were friends in school, but have *absolutely nothing* in common now, don’t bother. If we work together in any capacity at the present time, don’t bother. There are occasional exceptions to these rules, but I’m pretty ruthless when it comes to applying them. And if I deny your friend request, and you keep sending it, you will receive a harsh, but nicely worded, private message from me.

(And now a question for my readers: is there a nice way to tell a friend who plays seven different games on Facebook that they should block the status updates because their friends can’t click “block posts from…” quickly enough? Or am I the only one who gets a twitch when their news feed is full of Farmville updates?)

Friday, July 15, 2011

Is *THIS* My Maternal Instinct???

(WARNING: sailor language ahead)

When you’re a redhead, having a temper comes with the territory. I’m a lot more mellow than I used to be, and it takes a lot to make me angry. If I get to that point, though, you’re going to want to get out of the way.

I find that as I get older, things people do to me don’t really upset me that much. Maybe it’s because I couldn’t care less what people think of me. Or maybe I’ve realized that *I’m* happier when I let things roll off my back. Or maybe it’s the low self-esteem I’ve dealt with my whole life; I think I deserve to be treated badly sometimes. It's really a bit of all three, with the first two making up the vast majority.

On the other hand, you do not want to fuck with someone I love. Seriously. I am five feet tall and have never committed any kind of violence in my life. (Throwing inanimate objects doesn’t count, right?) But I’m sneaky. And I’m smart. And I will fuck up your world. Try me.

Here’s what’s got me riled today: one of my oldest friends (we’ll call her H) recently had a foster child placed in her home. H., her husband, and two sons have been anxiously preparing and planning for the day they would have a little girl in the house. The child (let’s call her FC) was placed with them in June, and a legal adoption was planned as soon as the six-month waiting period was over. FC is five years old, and has been through the wringer in her short life. She has bonded with H.’s family, and they have bonded with her. Now, FC’s biological relatives have filed legal action in California to have her returned to that state and placed into their CPS system, so that they can eventually regain custody of FC. She could be removed from H.’s home anytime, and unless something changes, will be removed within 20 days.

It’s ridiculous. H. and her husband are the most stable family I know. They're almost like Stepford people. They have been married for nine years, and have lived in the same house for ten years. Her husband has had the same job for 15 years. Who does that these days? Removing FC from H.’s family and sending her back to California could not possibly be in her best interest. And I am angry about it.

H. requested letters of support from her friends and family, as they are hoping to have the legal action dismissed. I wrote a letter as soon as I received her email and, so far, I’ve sent it to about five different people. I told her to give me more names if she has them. She said she knew I was busy and didn’t want to take up too much of my time. I said, “You were my first best friend. No one is going to fuck with your family on my watch.”

And that’s when it dawned on me. I am absolutely CFBC, but I still have a maternal instinct. The cuddly, loving side of it is expressed with my pets. And the fierce, Mama Bear side of it is expressed when someone I love is hurt. I like this part of me; it’s sort of like having a super power. I don’t look very tough, but people only underestimate me once. Trust me on that.

So here's my advice for today: be nice to my friends, or you’ll get to meet Mama Bear. And no one wants that.

Friday Happy Hour

From Mental Floss: "Every Friday, I post a series of unrelated questions meant to spark conversation in the comments. Answer one, answer all, respond to someone else's reply, whatever you want. On to this week's topics of discussion..."

(Now that I actually have followers of my blog, I’d love to see your responses in the comments here. Tell me what you think, friends!)

What high school or college class have you found most useful in your adult life?

~ I’m going to say “none.” I didn’t get a college degree, so I don’t use my college classes in day-to-day life. However, the classes I took in high school and college, and some of the teachers I had, definitely helped shape the person I am today.

What was your most special birthday or birthday party as a kid? As an adult?

~ As a kid, I’ll say my 14th. My mom agreed to rent this little community center room at the local park, and I got to invite a ton of kids. The most exciting part was that we hired the DJ from the skating rink to play at the party. Yeah…it was 1990…what do you expect?

As an adult…my 25th. I ended a 5 ½ year relationship nine months before, so I’d had enough time to process that and begin to enjoy being single. I was finally going through my party stage (that most people go through at 21 or so). I went out with all my friends to a bar and had a blast. It was really special because some old friends I never see came that night, and my step-brothers and their wives and friends were there, too.

Pretend it’s 2021. What will car audio look like?

~ I can’t bring myself to care. I know I sound like an old fart when I say this, but gadgets and technology just do not excite me. I still don’t even own an MP3 player!

What was the nerdiest moment of your life?

~ Oh, I’m always making obscure references that no one understands, but I think this one is probably the nerdiest. Hopefully this will translate to a written story ok.

When I worked in the admissions office at Texas A&M, we used large date stamps to mark incoming mail. They broke all the time because they got so much use. One day, I was asked to audit all the stamps in the office to find out how many were broken so we could repair or replace them. Eventually, I had one pile of all the good ones and several separate piles of broken ones, all with sticky notes attached stating how they were broken.

As I’m explaining to my boss about how they’re broken and which ones I think can be repaired, I made a reference to Anna Karenina. You know…“all happy families are alike; all unhappy families are unhappy in their own way.” Except I said, “all the good date stamps are the same; all the broken ones are broken in their own way.”

Yeah…I’m a nerd.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

No New Books!

I love a challenge. The largest ongoing problem in my life over the last year has been a lack of reading time. My TBR (to-be-read) list always grows more quickly than the list of books I’ve finished, but the gap is widening at an alarming rate. I’ve purchased several books at garage sales or at the library for less than a dollar, and I want to read them and get them out of my house. Half a dozen times over the last year, I’ve had to return unread books to the library and/or inactivate books on my hold queue because library books were coming in faster than I could read them. Considering books are checked out for three weeks and I read very fast, that’s pretty sad. Also, after wanting to join a book club for a few years, I found one I want to try out. I plan to attend my first meeting in August, which means I’ll have a monthly deadline to complete a book. Finally, my BFF came across the list “1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die,” and we’ve begun a sort of loose, two-person book club based on the list.

All these are things I *want* to do, yet they are a bit overwhelming. I’m happiest when I’m crossing something off my to-do list; having a list that grows faster than I can complete tasks (or books) is stressful. Because of this, I’m establishing a new challenge for myself. I have compiled a TBR list based upon my Amazon wish list, my library hold queue, the “1,001 Books” list, and upcoming book club meetings. Tonight I will add the books I’ve acquired over the last year to the TBR list. I expect the total will be about 100 titles.

At that point, the list will be closed. Until I complete every book on the list, no titles will be added, and I will only read books from the list. (Exception - new releases, not yet announced, from series in which I have read all titles.) To keep me honest, here’s a list of the series which fall under this exception:

Alan Bradley – Flavia de Luce series
Janet Evanovich – Stephanie Plum series
Linda Fairstein – Alexandra Cooper series
Philippa Gregory – 15th century Plantagenet series and 16th century Tudor series
Charlaine Harris – Sookie Stackhouse series
Jonathan Kellerman – Alex Delaware series
Kathy Reichs – Temperance Brennan series
Daniel Silva – Gabriel Allon series

Considering that I’m on track to read about 50 books in 2011, I expect that completing the list will take 18-24 months. During that time, I will inevitably get recommendations for books. These titles will be added to a new list, but I intend to be extremely selective. Even if I could read for hours every day, I could not read all the books I want to read during my lifetime. And I don’t want to always feel that I’m trying to catch up. Having a TBR list that stays relatively stable at 20-ish books is fine. Having a list of over 90 books (and growing all the time) feels like an insurmountable task.

Reading is a joy to me, and I will lose that if it becomes stressful or feels like a chore. I’m going to use this challenge to try to focus on the present, to fully enjoy the book I’m reading, and to not worry about how many books are on hold at the library or stacking up in my house.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Friday Happy Hour

From Mental Floss: "Every Friday, I post a series of unrelated questions meant to spark conversation in the comments. Answer one, answer all, respond to someone else's reply, whatever you want. On to this week's topics of discussion..."

(Now that I actually have followers of my blog, I’d love to see your responses in the comments here. Tell me what you think, friends!)

If the ice cream truck from your childhood showed up in front of your house, what old favorite would you order?

~ I would order a Fudge Bomb, which is half chocolate ice cream and half banana ice cream. I guess it doesn’t sound very tasty, but they are so good!!!

Like most people, I live near lots of places where video stores used to be. What ubiquitous retail establishments do you predict will disappear in the next 20 years?

~ I don’t think they’ll disappear completely, but upscale coffeehouses will not have today’s popularity in 20 years. More and more people are paying attention to what they eat and focusing on living sustainably. That’s less people willing to spend $5 on a small cup of coffee, at least with the frequency they used to. (If you haven’t seen “Food, Inc.” please watch it right now. It will change the way you think about what you eat.)

Do you still read a newspaper? I mean a real, inky newspaper. On paper.

~ J. was required to read the local newspaper every day for his English class during the spring 2011 semester, so we subscribed. We’ve cut back to Sunday-only service now, and most of the time, I just take out the coupons and throw the rest of the paper away. I love the Sunday paper, and wish I’d sit down and read it, but I just haven’t been making the time.

If you had to pick one single TV episode to be quizzed on, what would it be?

~ This is tough. There are several TV episodes I really love, but I don’t have the best attention to detail. I don’t know that I would do very well on a quiz, even on an episode I’ve seen many times.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Death Penalty Rant

To graduate high school in Texas, I was required to take one semester of American government. Because our teacher was the head football coach, our class was often an hour of open discussion on a particular topic. On the day we discussed the death penalty, I got kicked out of class for saying I’d rather see nine innocent men put to death than one guilty man walk free.

Ah, how young I was…

I still support the death penalty. And I still believe that it should be carried out in a public forum, not hidden away behind closed doors as if we are ashamed. The death penalty cannot be a deterrent if it is not a real threat. A convicted criminal, sentenced to death, can live in prison for years, supported by taxpayers and appealing their conviction ad nauseum (also funded by taxpayers). If all appeals are finally exhausted, the person is finally “put to sleep” with no fear or pain, and without having to face the family of the person they harmed. I believe that executions should be public, with the manner of death chosen and the execution performed by the family of the victim (if they so desire). When guilt can be confirmed absolutely, with no doubt at all, this is the way it should be.

Unfortunately, at 35, I know a bit more about the legal system than I did at 17.

I know that not all cops are good. In fact, I now believe that roughly 30% of cops are good and 10% are completely corrupt. The remaining 60% just like the feeling of power they get by carrying a badge and gun, and will do what it takes to get to their pension. I know that detectives are often guilty of honing in on one suspect to the exclusion of others who are equally suspicious. I know that prosecutors are “graded” on their conviction rate, and that they’re often happy to get *any* conviction, instead of the *right* conviction. I know that being represented by a public defender is an almost guaranteed conviction. And I know that being attractive, wealthy, or well-connected is a good way to literally get away with murder.

Justice can never be blind as long as humans are involved. The most dedicated and honest law enforcement officials will make mistakes. And, even with current technology, it is exceedingly rare that a case can be proved beyond *any* doubt. Society must use the death penalty carefully, sparingly, and in such a way that it is the deterrent it is meant to be.

When a convicted criminal is executed, the cause of death listed on their death certificate is "homicide." That gives me pause; it should make all of us think very, very carefully. 18 years after getting kicked out of that class, I would rather see nine guilty men walk free than one innocent man put to death.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

On Being a Redhead...

When I was a kid, I hated being a redhead. Adults always commented on my hair, and once, when I was at the grocery store with my grandmother, an elderly lady said to me, “Oh, what pretty red hair!” I stamped my foot and said, “It’s not red, it’s purple!” I was four. I don’t remember much teasing about my hair in elementary school, but I didn’t like the way it made me stand out. Puberty was *very* awkward for me. I was overweight, and I wore glasses and braces. My red, curly hair drew so much attention, when all I wanted was to be invisible.

Between the ages of 13 and 15, I finally began to develop what I call “the redhead personality.” My fiery temperament started to show. I became outgoing and passionate about things I believed in. And I began to see that my hair could be a good thing. It made me different. As a young adult, I embraced my hair. I learned how to handle my curls. I discovered an online community for redheads, which also sold t-shirts with fantastic phrases. I’ve owned many of them over the years, and even today, they’re some of my favorite t-shirts.

I imagine that it’s hard for someone who isn’t a redhead to understand how having red hair defines a person – especially a woman. I stand out. It’s nice to go into a store and meet with someone, then call back later and say, “I was in there earlier; I’m the redhead,” and have them instantly remember our conversation. But I also have to be careful. In my wilder days, if I drank too much and made a fool of myself, people *always* remembered.

I noticed my first grey hair when I was 23; at 35, I have a lot more grey than I’d like. I expect that within the next year I’ll begin to color my hair to cover it. That’s the easy part. Once, when J. and I were discussing what would happen if one of us became ill, I told him that I would not undergo chemotherapy if I would lose my hair. He was shocked. He said, “It’s hair, it will grow back!” But I’ve done research: it might not grow back red. And that’s a loss I’m not prepared to face. This may be vanity at its worst, but my feelings of selfishness eased a little when I heard that Farrah Fawcett initially insisted on a form of chemotherapy that would not cause her to lose her hair. She was defined by her hair, too.

Being a redhead is one of my defining characteristics. It’s not just about the hair color, but also the traits that come with it. Natural redheads are rare: less than 4% of the population. There is a great sense of pride that comes with that. I intend to be a redhead until the day I die. I cannot fathom being just one more woman with grey hair.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Friday Happy Hour

From Mental Floss: "Every Friday, I post a series of unrelated questions meant to spark conversation in the comments. Answer one, answer all, respond to someone else's reply, whatever you want. On to this week's topics of discussion..."

(Now that I actually have followers of my blog, I’d love to see your responses in the comments here. Tell me what you think, friends!)

Today’s first question is for the teachers. What do you do on your summer breaks? If you’ve got one of those year-round jobs, do you know any teachers who made interesting use of their summers?

~ I’m not a teacher, and I don’t know of any teachers who do/did anything particularly interesting, but having two months each year to pursue travel, hobbies, or personal enrichment is one of the main reasons I’m still drawn to a career in teaching.

What’s your earliest memory?

~ I remember the summer of 1980, which is the hottest summer on record in Dallas/Fort Worth. I was only four years old, but having 69 days over 100 degrees, 42 of which were consecutive (June 23 – August 3), is pretty damn memorable. I love Dallas, but I really, really hate summer here!

What’s your earliest sports memory?

~ My family is not into sports, and I had zero interest in playing sports, but I developed a love for being a spectator. In middle and high school, it was college football and baskeball and Winston Cup racing. I’m not sure what my earliest sports memory is, but my most vivid one is Christian Laettner’s jump shot in the 1992 NCAA East Regional Finals. UK was my team (and still is), and I will loathe Laettner on my deathbed.

What documentaries do you recommend?

~ “The Cove” is amazing…very difficult to watch, but worthwhile. “Waiting For Superman” is a must. All of Michael Moore’s documentaries are great, but my favorites are: “Bowling for Columbine,” “Fahrenheit 9/11,” and “Capitalism: a Love Story.” Anyone with a drivers license should watch “Who Killed the Electric Car?” And when you’re done with all that serious stuff, watch “The King of Kong: a Fistful of Quarters.”

June 2011 Book List

Everyone knows I’m a voracious reader, and I’m often asked for recommendations. I decided that on or around the first of each month, I’ll post a list of the books I read the month before. I give each book a numeric rating, from 1 to 5, with 5 being excellent.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro - Rating: 4

Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris - Rating: 4

Obviously, I didn't read much in June. In fact, I didn't finish Never Let Me Go until June 24. I was interested in the book, but just didn't have much appetite for reading. Hopefully July will be better. As it is, I'm on track to read only about 50 books in 2011, a significantly lower total than 2010.

We'll see...