Saturday, January 21, 2012

George Takei Is The Broker of Star Peace

Sometime last month, after William Shatner and Carrie Fisher got into a feud over which was better, Star Trek or Star Wars, George Takei intervened by filming the above video message, urging them to make peace with each other.  

In the video he begins,

"Fellow star folks. Cool it down, and shut your big worm holes! Each is wonderful in its own special way..."

Takei says this is a time when all "starfriends" need to band together, because of an "ominous mutual threat to all science fiction." He says, " It’s called ‘Twilight’ and it is really, really bad. Gone is any sense of heroism, camaraderie, or epic battle. In its place, we have vampires that sparkle, and moan, and go to high school."

I am listening George, and even though I do think Star Trek is WAY BETTER than Star Wars, I will refrain from antogonizing any fellow starfriends, because I have had it up to here with vampires. Oh, and zombies. We should all live long and prosper, and be vampire and zombie-free. May the force be with us. And may it bring us another Star Trek movie.

George Takei Is Coming To Kansas City

George Takei is coming to Kansas City next week! I was reminded of this when I heard him on a local radio show this morning---being hilarious ---plugging his upcoming show. 

He will be appearing at the Kauffman center for a "Sci-Fi Spectacular" , with the Kansas Symphony Orchestra. Audience members are invited to "travel to the edge of the universe with music from the biggest and best science fiction TV shows and movies, including Avatar, Star Wars and 2001: A Space Odyssey."

Takei will be there to provide *dramatic narration*. There will even be a laser light show!
I probably don't have to tell you that this is right up my dork-baitin,' geekozoid alley. T'would do my old Trekkie heart good to experience George Takei in this fashion.   

For you see, I have long loved George Takei.  Because of him, I have learned many things.

He was one of my favorites on Star Trek, in his portrayal of Sulu. It wasn't so much the cool way he cranked up the warp speed at Kirk's command ....

It was more the humor and liveliness he exhibited in other scenes --running through the corridors of the ship with a fencing foil, frollicking on shore leave. I picked up on the fact that he was a colorful person, but I had no idea at the time that he might be gay. Now that he's come out, I think --"Well, I knew there was something about him." It wouldn't be the only time that the person I found the most interesting turned out to be gay.

Anyway, I was fascinated by him, and became curious about his Japanese heritage. Soon I became curious about anything having to do with Japan or Japanese Americans. And so I did what curious people did back in those days. I went to the library and checked out as many books as I could find on the subject.

Somewhere along the way I read Takei's biography, and learned that he had been sent with his family to a Japanese-American internment camp during World War II. I read all I could find on the internment camps, and I did a report on them for school.

I also came across articles about our bombing of Hiroshima, and Nagasaki, and first-hand accounts of survivors, and so became preoccupied with the history of those events. When it was time to do another report for school, one where we had to stand up in front of the class and talk, I knew what my topic would be. I still have a vivid memory of giving that report and using the overhead projector to show pictures from the destruction of Hiroshima.

All this self-directed learning, from my weird obsession with George Takei!

Note: There was some weird technical glitch the first time I published this post, and a bunch of my editing was somehow deleted or not saved, so the first version was a real mess. Thanks to H.B. for bringing my attention to it. One of the things that had been deleted was some stuff about George Takei being a broker of Star peace, intervening in a feud between William Shatner and Carrie Fisher. Well, I'll have to save that for another time.

Oh and by the way, I just checked and the Sci-Fi Spectacular appears to be sold out. Snif.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

New Food Trends I Can Do Without

Lap cheong sausage. It keeps in the fridge for weeks. I don't want to be looking at some old piece of sausage in my fridge for weeks.

Whey. I saw a big vat of it in the store. Now you can buy it to use in a sauce or pickle things, or drink in a tonic. Isn't it a nasty dairy by-product leftover from curdling milk?

Scotch eggs. This is when you wrap cooked eggs in sausage meat, cover it with breading and fry it. Sounds more like Botched eggs to me.

Pea tendrils. When I think of tendrils, I think of Little Shop of Horrors. Octopi. Something alive, grabbing...I will say no more.

Pomegranate. I like the flavor of pomegranate seeds. But I'll be danged if I'm gonna go to the trouble of extracting them.

French macarons. They are supposed to be the latest pastry craze, taking the place of cupcakes. But they  are hard to make, involving meringues and such, and expensive to buy.

My feelings are echoed by Sarah Cox, editor of Curbed Detroit, who said,

"Macarons are faddish and stupid. So were cupcakes, but they were just the right amount of faddish and stupid. Do we really need something even MORE faddish and stupid? Any idiot can make a cupcake.. But macarons... now that is not the people's dessert.”

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

I Was Retro When Retro Wasn't Cool

I am convinced that I had a previous life, in the 1940's. It would explain why I am so old school. Why I have a fondness for "mid-century" design and for vintage cars, and out-dated control panels with chunky dials. And why the hell I was listening to Glenn Miller records at the age of 13!

 In this previous life, I was a volunteer rolling bandages for the USO during World War II. I was only 16, but I did my part for the cause and worked tirelessly.

My name was Garbo. My parents had named me after the actress Greta Garbo, hoping that I would take after her class and beauty. They didn't give me her first name, because they were afraid people would tease me, giving me the nickname, "Regretta."  They hadn't anticipated how my classmates would mangle the name Garbo just as readily, calling me "Garbanzo," "Hobo" and "Garbage."

I was a cheerful little bandage roller, dancing at my station as the radio in the warehouse played the big bands of the day. I just loved swing music! But my tender life was cut short one tragic afternoon as I rolled bandages, when a big stack of boxes, full of rolled bandages, fell on me and and knocked me dead. Cranial trauma. You wouldn't think bandages could be so heavy.

Anyway, I shot out of my body quicker than you could say "Loose lips sink ships." But at that particular moment, the radio was playing one of my favorite songs, so I hovered over the scene, and while USO staff struggled in vain to revive me, I listened. It was that Perfidia tune that goes, "And now.....I know my love is not for you....and so I take it back with a sigh, perfidious one, goodbye...goodbye...goodbye....goodbye......GOODBYE!!!!".....

 I couldn't stick around very long, because my soul was light and wispy like smoke, and it kept trying to rise. And that's the last thing I remember from that life. I guess about 19 years or so passed, and then I was sent back down in 1963, and given a new body---no small inconvenience for my mother! She had thought our family was already complete.

Though I was only a baby in the mid-sixties, I already had the soul of a young, teenaged girl, whose life had been interrupted. And so I quickly latched onto the pop music surrounding my toddlerhood, embracing the hippie counter-culture, but ever holding an odd, inexplicable wistfulness for 1940's swing. And every so often, it surfaces, just long enough to embarrass my children. The arm goes up and the hand flutters back and forth, to the long-ago rhythm of a big band tune.   

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Red Letter Day

Today that family pack of ground beef I bought expires, requiring me to tear it apart with my bare hands and put it into little baggies to freeze for later.

Today is the day I replace the empty can of  Reddi-Whip.

Today we will begin to notice how much our dog smells.

Today I'll finally throw out that jar of hamburger grease.

Today I burn the last candle.

Today I'll receive back all the Girl Scout cookies our troop has not sold.

Today I'll take a walk to my dream house.

Today I'll master "I am the walrus" on Beatles Rock Band.

Today I'll begin carrying a notebook wherever I go.

Today I'll blow the dust off my fiddle. I won't play it, but I'll blow the dust off.

Today I'll sync my Ipod to Itunes for the first time.

Today I'll hang my 2012 calendar.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

What Your Tea Drinking Style Reveals About You

If you are a tea drinker, you don't need costly psycho-therapy. Knowing how and what you drink is like looking through a wide-open window to your mind. Use the list below as a handy guide to common tea-drinking behaviors and corresponding disorders.

You boil just enough water for one cup. -- Narcissistic.
You dislike using a tea bag more than once. -- Obsessive compulsive.
You spray Reddi-Whip on top of your chai.--- Arrested development.
You turn your nose down at Lipton.--- Elitist.
You often burn your tongue.--- Self-mutilator.
You don't really enjoy your tea because you're wishing you had coffee instead.--- Emotionally unavailable; fearing commitment.
When the bag breaks and you find grounds floating in your tea, it doesn't surprise you.--- Nihilistic.
You have only steeped, you have never infused.--- Small-minded; fearful of change.
You drink English Breakfast only at breakfast.--- Neurotic.
You do weird things like put black pepper in your tea.--- Masochistic.
You reheat your cup multiple times in carbon-centric devices.--- Terra-cidal.
You pretend to like green tea even though you can't stand it.--- Lacking authenticity.
You drink tea as an excuse to eat biscotti and scones.---Eating disorder.
You never buy fair trade.---Imperialistic with genocidal tendencies.
You time with precision the minutes your tea has been steeping.--- Anal-retentive.
You use second-hand tea bags when making tea for others.--- Passive aggressive.
You careen wildly back and forth between black tea and herbal --- Bipolar.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Snow: Precautions and Little-Known Facts

When a winter storm comes, do exactly as the weatherman tells you. Heed all warnings. And take the following precautions:

Eat more. You never know when you might get caught in a drift, and have to live off your own body fat.

 Snow attracts wild animals. Leave scraps of fresh meat in the middle of the street to keep the roving packs from your door.

 No sleeping outside. Snow looks so nice and soft, but it's a silent killer. Resist all urges to cleave to its frosty bosom.

 Snow on the ground makes the air colder. This increases your risk of hypothermia, which can strike without warning. Therefore, be a moving target. Run, don't walk, to and from your car. If someone you know shouts hello and tries to engage you, toss them a hasty wave and run as fast as you can in the opposite direction.

 Avoid shoveling, constructing forts, and building snow beings. You might tire and be overcome with a powerful urge to lie down in the snow. See point no. 4.

 Dress to be seen. If you must be outside and on foot for any considerable distance--walking around retail parking lots, etc. -- wear fluorescent colors at all times.

 Be sensible. When discussing the weather with others, stay within cultural norms. Kate Bush notwithstanding, "shnamistoflopp'n" , "creaky-creaky" and "phlegm de neige" are not words for snow. *

If you get caught outside in severe weather, remember that squirrels are your allies and a valuable resource. Especially when cooked over an open fire.

Here are some little-known snow facts that may fascinate you:

Snow contains not only water but is charged with ion particles that intermittently heighten sexual powers.

Snow that you manage to catch on your tongue is weaker, inferior snow, and can make you sick.

Snow fairies are all around us, but hard to see because they have white skin, hair, and lips.

It takes more alcohol to get intoxicated when it's snowing outside than it normally does, so drink accordingly.

White-outs are not really natural phenomena, but are events engineered by the military when they want to move around top-secret, heavy equipment..

The town of Bledsoe, Ohio hires someone to go around and count snow men so they can pad their population numbers.

If you give your dog apple cider vinegar and honey, his urine won't turn the snow yellow.

*These are three of Kate Bush's words from her recently released cd, "50 Words for Snow." 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Buddha Bobble

This morning I was driving Annabelle to school, when I noticed that the car ahead of us had a Buddha bobble just like mine, on its dash. Annabelle saw it too. We noticed that the two Buddhas, mine and its neighbor, seemed to be bobbling in sync. We were stuck behind the car, wishing there was a way we could wave and gesture to let its driver know that we had the same bobble. Then Annabelle pointed out that maybe there had been times when the car behind me had had a Buddha bobble and I hadn't even known it. Well, that's right, I said. And we both chewed thoughtfully on that for a bit. But it's kind of funny that neither of us thought to turn and look at the car behind us to see if IT had a Buddha bobble. We just laughed and turned our attention back to the radio. Shortly afterward, I turned off on the road that led to Annabelle's school.

I know of one other car that has a bobble like mine. Its owners live on my brother's street in Lawrence. They also have a Peace bumper sticker on their car.     
This is actually my 2nd Budda bobble. The first one, which I bought at World's Window in Brookside, lost his stickiness, and he wouldn't stay put on my dash. He kept tipping over and then sliding off. I bought the 2nd bobble at "It's a beautiful day," a hippie shop in Westport. Yes, I have my sources. I know where to go for Buddha bobbles.    

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Solar Flair

Fun Fact! Did you know the sun is orbiting the Milky Way,
and completes the orbit every 226 million years? (Image: NASA)
Sun spots --Are they a good or bad thing? As a kid I thought they were evil, because oftentimes when our TV reception got bad, it was said that sun spots were to blame. During one summer they were particularly bad, and I remember watching in vain as the cowboys on my favorite syndicated reruns of High Chaparral were reduced to buzzing and floating ghost images.

Nowadays there is the worry that an active sun spot cycle, which is related to solar storms and flares, will disrupt our GPS systems, impair our cell phones, and erase our Ipods. But I read in the Atlantic today that the sun spots are the weakest they have been in nearly a century. Which would be reassuring, if it weren't for the fact that one well-known period of very low sunspot activity in the latter half of the 17th century, called the Maunder Minimum, was also marked by abnormally cold weather in northern Europe and is sometimes referred to as the Little Ice Age.

But here is some encouraging news about the sun: It probably won't explode for a very long time. We weren't always sure about that. Science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke had thought the sun was about to blow, taking all of us with it. He thought this because the first neutrino-detectors, which measure the sub-atomic particles emitted from the inside of the sun, showed a lower neutrino count than scientists expected, suggesting that the sun was entering its dotage.

Scientists now tell us - Not to worry, the sun is in its "main sequence." It has burned at the same temperature for a billion years and is expected to keep burning at the same "rheostat" setting for a billion more. (Nobody touch that rheostat!). We can relax - the sun has used up only a small percentage of its energy potential. But eventually, it will run out of hydrogen, having converted it all to helium, and then ---kablooey!

We earth dwellers like to think of the sun as our own God-ordained heat lamp. We fancy that sustaining our carbon-based life forms is the reason the sun is allowed to burn at all. But actually, we get a miniscule portion of the sun's radiation. For every 1 unit of solar energy we get, the sun vents another 1.6 billion units out into space. 

The sun was on my mind a lot today, because it was the reason I was late getting back from my lunch break. Unusually strong for a January day in Kansas, it had been so warm and radiant on my face as I walked through a nearby park, I was sure it was a sin to waste it. I thought of the book, "Frederick," by Leo Lionni, and the way Frederick the mouse soaked up the sun and colors and stories for his fellow mice, while they hustled to gather seeds and nuts for winter. The hustling mice were cross with Frederick for not pitching in, but when the long winter lingered and the mice had eaten all their food, it was Frederick's stores that sustained them. I knew an arctic blast was coming --they're predicting a plunge starting tomorrow, so it seemed wise to soak up as much of the sun as I could. But I don't have a way to transfer it. I'll be saving it for myself, for I know that we each have to find our own way to keep warmth in the belly.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Pipe Dreams

Annabelle's girl scout troop still meets at their old elementary school, Tomahawk Elementary. While waiting out in the hall to pick Annabelle up from her meeting, I browsed several displays of art work taped to the walls. There was a rash of snowmen, painted white on construction paper, which is what you expect to see in a grade school in January. But the most interesting thing I saw was an assignment on drawing pipes. As in plumbing, not smoking. Each kid had used charcoal to draw a jumble of pipes. But the pipes must have been in some basement or boiler room or out of the way place, because a few of them were being visited by a rat. A few of them had cobwebs and spiders. And uh-oh! --quite a lot of them were sprouting leaks!

 I was completely won over by those pipes, and imagined them on exhibit in a gallery, written up in the following review:

In their show, "Beyond the Clog," part of their Industrial Water Pipe series, the 5th graders of Tomahawk Elementary, Shawnee Mission School District USD #512, reveal a preoccupation with two resonant themes: flow and pressure. Their serpentine charcoal forms signal an uneasy relationship between human needs and crumbling infrastructures, signaling dire implications for public schools and their shaky futures. A repeated pattern of intersecting and overlapping pipes echo the convoluted quests for meaning that underlie our societal bargains. The stark blacks and grays are eerily illuminated by naive scribbles of white chalk, which serve to insert haunting emblems of trouble and urban decay: spiders, rodents, and leaks. On display on the northeast wall outside the cafeteria until spring break, or until custodian Lois gets it in her head the wall needs a good wash. 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Tell Me When To Jump

Technology's kind of like a train rolling by and you're thinking of hopping the freight and catching a ride. But you're not sure when you should jump. If you jump now, at least you'll be on a train, headed somewhere, making a bed out of straw with the other early-adopter hobos, who were already settled in the freight car when you hopped in. But then again, if you wait around, a better train's bound to come along. One maybe hauling downy sacks of feed and canned sardines with the easy peel-back lid.

Now that we've got that painful analogy out of the way, I'll talk plain and get down to the point. I've been trying for some time to decide on what to do about my cell phone, but as time goes by I'm more bewildered than ever.

Problem is, they keep moving the target on me. It's interesting to note that although Annabelle is the last person in our family to get a cell phone (and the last person in her 7th grade class, to hear her tell it), she is the first person in the family to get a smart phone. This is not because I like to indulge my kids in the latest gadgets. They will quickly tell you that that is not the case. It's just that, by the time I was ready to shop for a cell phone for her, smart phones were free (with a new contract ). Yeah, yeah, there is a data plan, but I'd already planned on upgrading to that anyway. And as it turns out, our carrier, T-mobile, now offer very few choices in non-data phones, or I think what they call "feature phones."

Well, now that we have a data plan, and I've finished my contract, I might as well upgrade, right? But to what? Oh, anything would be a exponential improvement. You would laugh at what I'm using now. Here, I'll show you:

It's a Nokia 5310, XpressMusic phone. I got it in May 2009. I got it for $16, for renewing my contract. Which is laughable, now that I can get entry-level smart phones for free. Its best feature, the reason I got it, is its music player. It allows you to organize your music in playlists, and it plays the music on external speakers. Something most phones in that price range didn't do three years ago.

Note, however, the keypad. Yes, those 12 cramped little keys are it, that's all you get. Texting, as you can imagine, is akin to working a telegraph machine. Back in 2009 it didn't matter, because I wasn't texting, my daughters weren't texting --shoot, neither one of them even had a cell phone---and I pooh-poohed its usefulness, just as I pooh-poohed Facebook and e-readers.

Now to make matters worse, in addition to my humble phone's meager specs, the left edge has lost its outer covering, so that the external music control buttons don't work anymore. The darn thing is as skinny and about as small as a Nestle's Crunch fun bar, and so it slips out of my hand as swiftly and easily as the bottle slips from a staggering hobo, and every time it does the back comes off, the battery goes flying, and a little bit more of the left edge gets chipped away.  

The music player still works, but it's kind of like having a boombox where the cassette player works but the cd player doesn't. Too cumbersome to be worth the trouble. Since the external buttons are broken, the only way to get to my music is to punch my way through a labyrinthine menu.

I figure any day now, I'll drop this phone and it will break into its usual three or four pieces, but I won't be able to put it back together. I do have to say for the record, though, that this is one tough lil' phone that has never stopped working.

Since I'm the type of person who runs things down into the ground before replacing them, I'm bound to be limping along with today's technology three years from now, and so I think I should get something pretty good. But gosh darn it, as soon as I make a move, they'll come out with something better. I found out just today that "pretty good" means a dual-core processor--No--QUAD-CORE! (I didn't know phones had quad-core processors!), and yummy-sounding operating systems like Gingerbread and Mango, that are more sophisticated and capable. And it's not enough that the screens on all these new phones are bigger than the two-inch display on my Nokia. I need to aim for one that has an AMOLED display.

If I want, I can get a phone that lets me edit Word documents, and I admit that is tempting. I could be stuck waiting for my daughter to get out of volleyball practice, yet be working on my novel right there in the high school parking lot. But it occurs to me that that's what tablets are for. And isn't it just a matter of time before I find myself with one of those? Because we don't find technology, technology finds us.

There are some features that I could care less about in a phone. A front-facing camera for making video-calls? Pffffft. I pooh-pooh the idea. I'm not going to be making video calls! But that's what I said about texting.

Anyway, the longer I wait, the choices don't get easier. They just get more ridiculous. I sit here with my pathetic, broken Nokia wondering if a 1 GHz processor will be fast enough. Why settle for a 3G  when I could have a 4G? What comes after 4G? How soon before quad-core is yesterday's hash, knowing that chip makers are starting to float the term "multi-core"? (See PCWorld article: Quad-core phones: what to expect in 2012.) How many cores can a cell phone have, before it's no longer a phone? Yes, and how many times will I have to upgrade, before they leave well enough alone?

The answer my friend  is blowing in the wind. The answer is blowing in the wind.         

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Am I A Buyer Or A Shopper?

Am I a buyer or a shopper? I guess it might depend on the background music. (See yesterday's post, "Pogoing in Aisle 9). But I hadn't really thought of it that way before, until I saw H.B's comment on yesterday's post. Typically I think I've belonged more in the buyer camp. At least, since I've had kids, when shopping of any kind meant Major Hassle.

In the baby years it meant pushing one in the stroller while carrying the other in a Baby Bjorn pack. In the toddler years it meant pushing both of them around in a double stroller. I always knew where the elevators were in department stores. Then after they were both potty-trained it was repeat trips to the restroom. I swear Annabelle made a point of visiting a bathroom on every outing, no matter how quick a trip it was. Then they outgrew the stroller but doing all that walking on their own they'd get tired, hungry, cranky, and their patience levels dropped even lower than my energy level, if such a thing was possible. They could only endure so much before it was necessary to let them blow off steam in one of those play areas with the giant pieces of food, or to buy them rides on the carousel. Then they got to the age where they each had very different ideas about what they wanted to shop for and for how long, and one of them needed to shop in Juniors while the other needed to shop in girls.

But I had a weird experience a short time before Christmas. I found myself doing the unthinkable---heading to the mall five days before Christmas--because both my daughters wanted to go Christmas shopping, with their own money even, and so I gave in and gritted my teeth and took them. I expected to hate it, but oddly, I enjoyed it. I was right there in the thick of the crowds, on my feet for hours, wandering the stores, and enjoying it. What could account for these positive feelings flowing through my being, I thought? This is the busiest time of the year. The shops are mobbed. Why was I finding pleasure in this? I wondered if the mall was somehow piping in happy gas and my fellow customers and I were caught up in some sort of somnambulant trance.

Then it hit me, and I knew the reason for my buoyant mood. I was shopping alone, without my daughters. They are at the age where they can now shop in the mall without me as long as they are with a buddy, or each other. And it makes all the difference in the world. No wonder I was feeling so carefree while all was madness around me. To have the luxury to go to any store I wanted, browse as long as I wanted, to follow only my own impulses, without someone belly-aching about how bored or thirsty they were, was liberation. It put shopping in a whole new light, and that startled me. To flirt even briefly with the idea of shopping for recreation was to court danger. What was to become of me, when my children were no longer around to obstruct me. Would I become one of those ladies who buy 7 handbags they don't need and 4 coffeemakers and 3 watches?

Maybe, but it's more likely I'll just become a more hopeless window shopper. Without my kids along to prod and push me, I'll spend more time gazing at merchandise and drawing out buying decisions. I might become more of a shopper, but that doesn't mean I'll actually buy anything.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Pogoing In Aisle Nine

Boy, I guess 40-somethings who were into off-beat new wave bands when they were young must typically run to the grocery store after work on Friday evening, because the store I went to today was catering to just that demographic. They were playing  80's music that didn't get played on the radio, even back in the 80's. I had owned some of the music on LPs, while I was in college.

This particular Hyvee played "Pulling Mussels from a shell," by Squeeze.  "History never repeats," by Split Enz. Split Enz! The New Zealand band that almost nobody heard of. I pushed my cart with more than the usual enthusiasm. I wanted to say out loud to the passing shoppers --"Do you hear that?! Can you believe that's on the store soundtrack?" I looked around to see if any other middle-aged shoppers were looking up in amazement, checking to see if the celestial tones of forgotten new wave bands were really coming from the store's sound system, or whether they were just having an 80's flashback. Unexpected residual effects of the clove cigarettes we used to smoke.

When I lived in Miami in the late 80's and early 90's, I shopped at a grocery chain called Publix that claimed it was "Where shopping is a pleasure." But they played Michael Bolton and George Michael over the PA while I checked the shelf for store brand beans and tuna, so I would describe the experience as more of a mind-numbing tour of banality.

But this! ---This 80's dance party was making shopping fun again. I don't know if I've had this much fun in a grocery store since my college days, when some friends and I went "Krogering" at 3:00 in the morning in Lawrence, just because we could. I could get excited about grocery shopping at odd hours in those days, before it became such an regular chore in my daily life. But they weren't playing 80's technopop in that Kroger. Oh no. It was muzak all the way. The classic schlocky stuff that you could only tolerate at 3:00 in the morning, when it became kind of phantasmagorical and surreal.

Now I was listening to Psychedelic Furs as I picked out avocados. It made me happy and it entertained me, which made me pick out even more avocados. I couldn't hold back a little wiggle when a new song came on and I heard Freddie Mercury belting out, "I want to break free!" Come on, Hyvee, I thought, "Clear a space in the meat department already and put in a dance floor!"

Did the music make me spend more money than I should have? Well, I didn't buy anything that we won't use or don't need. But I went in to buy toilet paper and some stuff for making enchiladas, and I ended up spending $87.00. That's inflation for you.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Beatles Brain Training

Tonight I tried once again to play the drums on Beatles Rock Band. I was playing in an "unofficial" capacity. That is, Lilah was beating the drum pads with the drum sticks, and I was trying to follow along with her, beating an old plastic tube and a DVD case against the floor. I am terrible at this game. I get very flustered. It is too quick for my brain, too much thinking on my feet.  There are all these beats coming at you on the TV screen, and I for one have a hard time catching on to the tempo changes. Whenever an extra beat or two comes hurtling at me on the screen, I reach out spastically to strike the floor two beats after I was supposed to. Sometimes I just freeze. It is a far cry from my glory days as a Pong player some thirty years ago. Dad used to boast about how I could play Pong with my toes, and how I could beat everyone, hands or toes. Those were the days.

Video games today require more skill. When I play Mario Kart, I am always driving off the road, crashing into the ocean or falling off the skyway to my death. I know my limitations, and I would have been content to play the Beatles game at Beginner, but Lilah had to play everything at the "hard" level. We played "I saw her standing there,"  "Hey bulldog,"  "I am the walrus," and "Day tripper." I watched her hands to pick up the rhythm before joining in with my plastic tube. If I jumped in too early before she got her groove going, she said I was messing her up.

 It's no surprise I am so weak at this game. Look at how I spend every day at work --hunched over a computer, glaze-eyed, clicking a mouse. I'm like a mouse myself, clicking for a little pellet. A Yahoo news story. A Facebook notification. No wonder my senses and reaction times are dulled.

I wonder what would happen if I could play Beatles Rock Band every day. Could I actually improve? Could I make new neural connections, and develop an intuitive grasp of things that elude me, like tempo and meter?  I wonder if my reflexes would become sharper? Kind of a shame I won't have the time to invest in finding this out. Oh what specimans we could all be, if we just had the time. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Reset Button

I just opened my new calendar from the National Parks Conservation Association, the one with the grizzly on the front. I've been looking forward to this since last October, when my 2011 calendar started looking pretty sorry. It was varicosely veined with blue ink, and the scribbled dates pointed to past hopes and good intentions, many of which were never fulfilled. The Writer's Place events I missed because I was too busy or lazy. The booster club and PTA meetings I thought I might attend --this time for real!--but never did. Some of the reminders are for things I'd rather forget: dentist appointments and bills that were due. Deadlines that cast a pall on my life, now reduced to blurry smears.

I like how clean and blank my new calendar is, however, it carries with it a certain weight. All those unfilled pages, resembling a clean slate, and the implication that all that blankness should inspire me to throw off my old molted self and leap into some new skin that is waiting. But it's the calendar that has been switched out, not me. It's the sun that has roamed the cosmos, not me. I am still dragging through gravity with the same vices and follies. Reform thyself not, from superstition or compulsion. Someone wise must have said it. No, I will not make any new year's resolutions.  But I wouldn't mind it if someone could push "reset".

I love reset buttons. For example, that little nub of a button on the bottom of the garbage disposal--it is a blessed friend when your garbage disposal stops working.* I learned this when I was divorced and living alone with the girls in my own rental house. This button is out of sight, and is easily forgotten. When the garbage disposal stalled at Thanksgiving, it was me who broke through the crowd of Wilders, all hovering over the sink, to shout, "Look for the reset button! There is always a reset button!!"

Oh, if only there always was.

*Of course sometimes there is more to it ---like, to get the disposal to work again it's not enough just to press the button, you also have to look for that funny wrench and use it to turn the blades a few times. But just pushing "reset" is enough when I need to get my blowdryer working again.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Keeping The Elves At Bay

I was lousy at sending Christmas cards this year (I mean last year), and my gift-giving left something to be desired, but when it came to the food aspects of the holiday, I did good. I was right on schedule with all the holiday eating to be done, and I accomplished a lot in a short amount of time. Some people get an early start with their Christmas packages, and bully for them, but I get an early start with the snacking. I was able to start way back around the first of December, when the first round of treats came into our office at work. Our subscription vendor sent a big mound of white chocolate and milk chocolate peanut clusters and right on the heels of that someone brought in homemade candy, and someone else brought in one of those assortments of homemade Christmas cookies that give away the fact that they spent hours and hours mixing up food coloring and cutting dough into Christmas tree shapes. There was the work holiday party of course, and the time-honored custom of wrapping extra cookies in a napkin for a mythical co-worker who couldn't come to the party, but who mysteriously turns into you as soon as you reach your cubicle.

There was food that showed up in our kitchen without me moving a muscle. A fruit cake materialized as if by magic. Roger said his mother had mailed it. Then while we were eating dinner one night, a friend of Roger's stopped by and dropped off a large stollen. Roger answered the door, but all I did was sit there, my fork in mid-air, as the stollen, which I first took to be a side of beef, was handed off to Roger and given a new home with us. Not wanting to fall behind, I sliced and ate a piece immediately.

The real challenge, of course, lay ahead at my mother's house. Arriving there the day before the day before Christmas, I saw I had my work cut out for me: a jumble of peanut clusters and miniature candy bars, a big tub of Chex party mix, an iced carrot cake...and that was in addition to the Topsy's popcorn tin we had hauled out with us, brimming with three varieties of popcorn --buttered, cheesy, and caramel.

I didn't waste any time and started noshing almost as soon as I'd hung up my coat, because I knew that there was a natural law in effect that would bring an increase in sweets the closer we got to Christmas. Sure enough, when Marc and Anne drove up on Christmas eve day, they came bearing more freshly baked goodies. Anne had made delectable soft gingerbread cookies, chocolate mint cookies, a tea cake and a something or other cake --all the cakes are starting to blur together, but whatever they were, they were good.

It's no wonder I'm up at all hours at my mother's house at Christmastime. It takes a lot of wake time to eat and digest (or at least give a nod to my digestive tract) unseemly amounts of carb and sugar. And Lilah coming down with the stomach flu on Christmas eve just added to the strain. With one of our team on the sidelines, or rather, flat on the couch with an empty ice-cream bucket that grandma gave her, in case she suddenly needed it, I had to pick up the slack and eat for two. It may have seemed insensitive of me to be munching ceaselessly as Lilah ran off to the bathroom for the 7th or 8th time, but we all know what you get  when you leave too many holiday sweets lying around uneaten --an infestation of Christmas elves! And lord knows we already had all the Christmas cheer we could stand.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Recapping A Little Bit Of Christmas 2011

Our Christmas tree is still up, and some of the Christmas crap we have acquired still isn't put away (by crap I don't mean presents, just the accompanying bags, packaging, etc), and we still have Christmas lights on our porch, but Christmas 2011 is now, for the most part, just a memory. And so I'll record just a little of it here, because otherwise there is a good chance I'll forget it.

Our Christmas holiday more or less began on Friday, December 23rd, the day we drove out to western Kansas to my mom's house. We made the obligatory stop at the Cozy Inn in downtown Salina to pick up a sack of cozy burgers. We ordered 18 burgers and every last one was eaten by the time we reached the wind farm that runs parallel to I-70 and begins about 30 miles west of Salina.

While we waited for the owner of the Cozy to coax our burgers towards grilled perfection, Roger bought me a Cozy Inn t-shirt as part of my Christmas present. Today I took it out of its plastic package, and I swear I'm not lying when I say the shirt --after all this time and distance away from its origins --smells like onions!

 Our drive to Salina had treated us to the charms of a progressively whitening landscape. The fields outside Kansas City were brown and dry, but as we continued west we saw little remnants of snow on the hills that eventually gave way to entire sheets of white. By the time we neared Salina most of the ground was covered.

When we drove through Hays we saw huge high piles of snow bulldozed along the edge of the Mall parking lot. In Ness City, where the streets are so mystically and unnecessarily wide that they perplex newcomers, the plowed snow is left right in the middle of the street, no bother to anyone.

One thing that struck me while I was out there, was how I had grown accostomed to municipalities that salt everything within an inch of its life, to keep ice from forming. In Ness City, the grocery store parking lot was a treacherous glacier, and similar ridges of slick ice and snow crust lay in wait all over town. While Roger and I were strolling to town, to browse the Flower Shop and the drug store, Roger suddenly slipped and fell, and not three seconds later---Whoosh! --I I felt my own feet sliding out from under me, and in an instant---Splat!--- I was down too. Fortunately, neither one of us was hurt. A day or so later, as me and Roger and Marc and Anne were exploring the west end of town, near the swimming pool, Anne took a nasty tumble.

I guess out there funds are tight and you're expected to not be a fool and go WALKING all over town like an idiot. Only people from out of town do that. I think Roger and I met a fellow out-of-towner on our way to the Flower Shop. We had stopped at the Prairie Mercantile just to see if it was open (it wasn't--after all, it was Christmas Eve day) when a man came striding in our direction and he remarked on how nothing much was open, as if the concept was still sinking in for him. Definitely not a local, I thought.

The Flower Shop and the drug store were both open, until noon. The drug store's handwritten sign was emphatic: Closing@Noon!  The Flower Shop isn't owned by Fitzgeralds anymore. I think a local woman who had been running her own flower business bought it, and she has re-stocked it with knick-knacks, stoneware, candles, jewelry, making it a fun place to browse again. Thank goodness! It had really grown empty the last few years that Fitzgeralds owned it, another sad example of my hometown's decline.

Before leaving the shop I bought a pretty blue bowl, which will be useful as a serving dish, or as a soup bowl, if I ever want to eat a LOT of soup. Roger bought a Thai-flavored vegetable dip.

After we left the Flower Shop, we went to the drug store, where we stood in a long line of people, all aware that the store was Closing@Noon!, and all trying to make last-minute purchases. We bought a couple of chocolate Santas and some bubblegum for the girls' stockings, and some gift cards for the people watching Cheri. Then it was back across the icy tundra of Ness City, to get warm and lazy at mom's house.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The New Year

It's here. It blew in last night with a sudden drenching rain. That didn't stop the fireworks, though, which scared our dog Cheri, and sent her slowly retreating to the bathroom. Slowly, because she has a hitch in her git-along, a most noticeable limp that has gotten worse since her Christmas stay with a friend who has three dogs, and who took Cheri and said dogs to her parents' farm on Christmas day, where Cheri romped and ran on 40 acres with 8 or 9 other dogs. Sheer doggie heaven! But now she's paying a price for her yuletide joy.

I am feeling hungover today, but not from any spirited indulgence. I had not a single nip of alcohol in celebration last night, as I have a cold, and it just didn't sound good. This must be the dryest New Year's I've observed in years. And I think I should get extra points for that! But anyway, what I'm feeling hungover from is the absolute break from routine, the time off work, and days of sleeping in. My ambition and drive, paltry as it was to begin with, has been completely undone. I have lost all impulse to lift a finger towards any purpose except the turning of a fresh page. I have been a total layabout with her nose in a book, and I have found this to be a completely fulfilling use of my time.

Now that it's New Year's Day, and the holiday season is fixing to close, I'm all a-shudder as what awaits me on the morrow. Early, early morning alarms, and the unnatural sensation of pushing one's body out of bed and into the cold before dawn glimmers---a return to 40 hours of weekly toil in the salt mines, where my contributions seem vague and at best, incremental,---a resumption of my duties as Cookie Mom to Girl Scout Troop 1985, which I have been blithely ignoring for the past 3 weeks, but which now stare me in the face as unyielding as that heap of extra cookie boxes blocking the front door, which I had at one time fashioned into a perky holiday arrangement and dressed with tinsel, but which now lie under a skim of dust and hold all the charm of a mis-directed warehouse shipment. They are a painful reminder that there is still money to collect, spreadsheets to complete, and that leftover cookies will require our troop to sign up for ---horrors ---a booth sale.

But I don't want to think about that now. I have a few waning hours to turn back and forth in my bed like, the oft-mentioned sluggard of Proverbs, and I plan to make the most of it. Of course it is not helping that I am reading "Autobiography of a Yogi," which is just reinforcing the idea that the material world is completely immaterial. But then again, even some of the most advanced yogis were told to leave their ethereal retreats in the Himalayas and return to the clod-ridden world so they could be of service to the masses. So I know  that for the greater good, I too must summon my energies.

And I will, I will. Just give me a few more days.