Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Mosquitos suck. FACT.

They do. They really, really do.

Yeah, okay, so nobody is a fan, but we live in an area that is so mosquito heavy that I keep forgetting what it's like to live in an area that has a normal bug level. For example, I had to do some yard work on Sunday (one of the rare days of sun that we've had in I don't know how long), so I donned my summer work clothes, put on my work shoes, and stepped out the front door. Then, in the safety of the open air, I took my handy bottle of anti-bug spray and fogged myself with a lovely, toxic cloud of DEET. Arms, legs torso front & back... I even sprayed my hands and rubbed them in my hair and on my face. Pretty extreme for daytime, eh

It's not so extreme for our neighborhood because we have to put bug spray on our legs since the deer moved into our area and brought deer ticks with them. Lyme disease is insanely thick in our area and, after finding three deer ticks on my youngest son a.k.a. "Tick Magnet", I'm not so jazzed on deer. They may be cute, but I really wish that they'd be cute somewhere else. But I digress.

Anyway, freshly soaked in toxic chemicals I headed into the yard to work.

In the sunny yard.

In mid-afternoon.

I still got MUNCHED. Desite sun and heat, those buggers made a b-line for me like starving women to a banquet table. Those aggressive, sun loving buggers found the chinks in my chemical armor, like in my armpit, a spot on my shorts where the DEET must have been less concentrated, and in a momentary gap between my shirt and shorts in the back. The desperate/brain affected ones were ready to take on my chem soaked arms, but I killed them when I could. These weren't the gently buzzing kind of mosquitos either, they attacked with the speed and gusto of attack squadrons. Of course, this wasn't unexpected. Really aggressive insect popultations aren't exactly an unusual thing in this part of the country and, as a matter of fact, one of the guidebooks for a climbing area not too far away carries this statement right in the guide book: "Don't even think of visiting in May or June, when man-eating insects abound. If you slather on enough DEET, you'll probably survive, but the blood loss will be staggering."

These are tough bugs out here. I'll be that they drink DEET for breakfast. Citronella leaves them rolling on the floor holding their sides with laughter. We protect ourselves the best that we can if we go out in our yards in the daytime, but you take your life in your own hands if you step out at night, even to put out the trash. I secretly suspect that your family would find your dry, shrivelled remains in the driveway the next morning if you stayed out for too long.

Man, I miss the city.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Summer That Wasn't

It may be of interest to nobody in particular that, yes, I am still alive and that I do intend to actually return to blogging after a reaaaalllly long hiatus and/or sporadic posting.

So, what the heck have I been up to? I wish that I had a good answer, but I'm afraid that it amounts to "not much". We are in the middle/late stages of "the summer that simply wasn't" where, inundated with what seems like an absurd amount of rain and thunderstorms and some uncharacteristically cool weather, there hasn't been too much opportunity to do anything recreational. I take that back... it would have been an ideal summer to play "Lightning Roulette" out in an open field somewhere. As a matter of fact, this is the first week this summer that I can remember where there are two days in a row without a chance of rain. Rapture!!! It's so weird to have lush green lawn in August when it's supposed to be a bit droughty and it's too bad that I couldn't figure out a way to send all of our overabundant wet weather to our friends who need it so desperately.

Other than that, the fire performance things have been going slowly, perhaps too slowly for my tastes as I still haven't been able to light up yet. Soon, I hope, soon. Hey, if I can channel my energies into something creative then it will be a good thing.

Good to see you here again and I hope to post again soon.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

I Can't Believe My Eyes! Seriously.

Ah, yes, fraudulent digital manipulation strikes again. I'm referring to the tornado video that was being shown by news agencies that was promoted as a video of a tornado touching down in Nebraska. However, another storm chaser came forward and said that it was actually a digitally altered version of a video that he'd shot four years ago that someone else apparently doctored and submitted as their own and of a recent event. The video was allegedly flipped to appear going in the same direction and sped up, with some trees taken out and some power lines dropped in. After comparing the original to the video in question, it was pulled as being suspect.

Okay, this is a pet peeve of mine about the digital age. Back in the "old days" it was much easier to tell when a picture was doctored or faked altogether (though not always) and the movie special effects were easy to see as just that, sometimes hoaky, in-camera effects with oh, visible cables or other obvious visual tricks. As for photos, aside from some airbrushing, manipulation was a much harder thing to pull off. Now, however, photoshop and digital manipulation of video can be really hard to detect when it's used by talented people. Of course, let's stress the "talented" part. Of course, there are a lot of really bad examples of photoshop errors, like these errors courtesy of Photoshop Disasters...

Aside from these poorly doctored images, there are lots of images that we've seen that are so skillfully manipulated that we can't tell that they were manipulated and we're taking those photos all at face value as real. In other words, we're being duped. Of course I can't exactly include examples here because you can't tell that they're fakes, eh?

And then there are examples of completely fake video, like this gem. I'll admit that when I first saw this video I was sitting there with my mouth open and brows knitted, a la "wait just a blinkin' second here...".

Well, it seems pretty real, but the description of the video (here) openly claims it as a fake and gives other links like the one below. Here's a similar video made using the same software. If I'm not incorrect, the logo is from the software company. Pretty funny, yet I still feel kinda duped. You know that any schlub with the right software and too much free time is intentionally going to try to make us all look like idiots. Some may actually succeed.

Back when I was a kid, you could be much more certain that you could trust an image. Now, every photo that I see or video that I watch is automatically suspect and I don't trust it or can't look at a photo without thinking that it's been photoshopped and "improved" (a great pity for the talented photographer who actually captured an extraordinary image straight off). In this digital age, it's too bad that my children will never be able to trust a single image that they see. Pity, that.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Cultural Blah Blah Blah: Part I

I've been thinking a lot about our culture as a whole these days. One of the things that I've been amusing myself with is the whole celebrity/fame thing and I have to admit that I find the whole thing rather surreal and kind of funny. Maybe it's because I don't buy into the whole celebrity worship thing and haven't since I was still using pimple cream or maybe it's just because I've stepped back and examined the whole phenomenon from my own odd cultural vantage point way out here in Velvet Land. Either way, I guess that I find the whole thing to be kind of bizarre.

This is what I think about celebs:
They're pretty much just regular people. It's just that more people know what they do for a living.

Because we've put them on pedestals, though, they seem otherworldly, but really, they're just regular homo sapiens... well, some more normal than others. Still, so many people worship them like gods and godesses, yet we'd hate to think they have all the complaints that all us regular folks have like indigestion, gas, warts, BO, hay fever, boogers, zits, and such. (I know that it's a no brainer, but from the way that some people go ga-ga over these people, you would think that they sh*t diamonds) I know that some people would find this hard to believe, but *gasp* they most certainly have the same bad morning breath when they wake up on their multi-thousand dollar sheets. Of course, they can afford to pay people a lot of money to try to keep all these things well hidden from our view. If you think about it, they have to because we shine a harsh spotlight on them and we demand our stars to be slim, made up and styled to perfection, whilst flogging ourselves to mental illness for not being as slim or as styled. What a dilemma.

There is a part of me hates the "see the stars without make-up" shots that are out there. Some of the photos are okay and just go to show that they're not as preternaturally beautiful as we've built them up to be. Those decent photos just underscore the benefits of having professional make-up jobs. What bothers me more are the really bad pictures. You know the ones that I'm talking about, the ones that, had you had a picture taken in such unflattering light and looking like death warmed over (and we've all seen pics of ourselves like this), you tear it up and burn the negatives/deleted the files. More often than not, though, those kinds of worst possible pictures are presented as the "normal" pics for the stars. Now, that's just mean, yet there are my people who worship celebrity that will gleefully tear them apart in the media or blogland for looking just like us (or, in the case of a really horrific photo, worse).

One thing that does separate us, though, is the money issue. I certainly don't begrudge the celebs their money because I've come to realize that the reason that they get paid so much is because we're buying their "brand". Do they come across as "cool"? Do we think that they're fun to look at? Lastly, though certainly not always necessary, do we think that they're talented in some way? Then we BUY BUY BUY! We buy tickets to movies and shows, we watch their shows on TV (where advertisers pay handsomely to bombard us with ads for things we don't need), we buy mass produced, Made-in-China merchandise with their pictures or names on them. Companies sooooo realize this and are more than willing to pay astronomical sums so that this person's face is shown next to their product. And we, as a general society, buy into that! Simply amazing. Eh, maybe the money is compensation for not being able to live normal lives. Then again, maybe it's the cause of their not being able to live normal lives.

One more thing that makes me laugh is that, through the media, we've come to think that we know exactly who these people really are. There's one phrase that I've read in umpteen variations that makes me roll my eyes every time and that's when the spouse of a celebrity cheats on them and someone comes off with the comment, "How could they cheat on [him/her]? Just look at [him/her]!" Yeah, okay. Looking at someone and living with someone are two different things. Let's remind ourselves that possessing beauty does not automatically mean that people also possess good personalities or are easy to live with. Besides, what do we really know about these people? We know who they've pretended to be while acting a role or how they've marketed themselves to appear via interviews and publicists, nothing more. They could be really horrible people. Or they could actually be really nice. Until we lived in close contact with them, we know absolutely NOTHING about them. Period.

So, do I worship stars? Nah. Would I want to be one? Nope. Actors/actresses are basically meat puppets with varying degrees of talent, though I have to admit that it sure looks like fun sometimes. Still, acting isn't my thing. I don't have any musical talent, so that rules that out, too. I wasn't born filthy rich, so I can't be a celebutante. None of it matters in the grand scheme of things, though, because giving up having the option of living a normal life would be out of the question. Seeing how celebrities have to live, I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy.

Anyway, enough of my blah blah blah....

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

PC and Me: A Drama in One Act

In the grand scheme of things, it's hard to know when you're going to put your foot in your mouth, but in this age of political correctness, sometimes there is nothing that you're able to say without doing it in one way or another. Sometimes you're left with absolutely nothing to say, even though social conventions require an answer.

Confused enough yet? Let me elaborate. Last week, I went to see two acquaintances, Tim and Peter, whom I first met, oh, maybe 17 years ago or more when their band, Cordelia's Dad, came through Columbus and whom I used to spend some time hanging out with when they played in town. It had been over a decade since I'd last seen them, so I bit the bullet and took the kids to see their show last week.

It was then that I got into an uncomfortable situation. Here we were, well over a decade since we'd last seen each other, talking after the show; all of us are married with kids now, which is great. Tim has two kids skewed a little younger than my two (same age split, but maybe one year younger than each of my kids) and Peter has a daughter who is three. Still, we stood there with our various offspring running around or in arms and I tried to have a distracted conversation while they packed up their instruments before they got too wet (it was an outdoor show and it had started to sprinkle). The conversation was feeling butt-ass awkward for some reason, but most likely it was because I was really, really tired and I had the kids there by myself, which is stressful on the food allergy front people around us are having all sorts of cheesy or milky snacks to eat or accidentally scatter on the ground. I was feeling uncharacteristically self-conscious, too, perhaps because of my braces or perhaps because I live a very different life now around a very "non-artistic" crowd and wasn't sure what I could possibly say that would interest them. Perhaps it's also because I've been at home with kids for the past eight years and have trouble conversing with adults now in any meaningful fashion.

So, there I was, talking to Peter who had his young daughter in his arms. I got through the first bits of the conversation where you mention the ages or names and it came to the part where I was supposed to respond with a compliment. All of a sudden, I was tripping over my words.

What I wanted to say was, "She's really pretty" or "She's really lovely", but I was tongue-tied by all the PC stuff that says that it's socially unacceptable to call attention to a girls looks as it might damage them forever by putting focus on the exterior. The problem I was having was that she really was pretty (since when has it become an evil statement to say that someone is pretty or handsome?! If they are, well, then they just are!). She was just sitting in his arms, not talking, just looking at me quietly. I froze! Hmm, I couldn't compliment her on her intelligence because I hadn't seen her do anything brainy (though I'm sure that she's quite bright), I couldn't compliment her on her physical prowess or stunning vocabulary because she was just quietly and calmly sitting in her father's arms. And she was looking sweet. And pretty.

I was at a loss, crushed between what I wanted to say and "correctness". In the end, I mumbled out something that I can't even remember though I got the impression that it wasn't enough. Whatever it was that I said, I'm sure that it certainly wasn't, "She's really pretty." Ah, bumbling through an already awkward conversation. I had wanted to compliment him on his lovely daughter and I couldn't even find a way to do it that might not potentially offend someone. The situation really stunk. This isn't the only time that I've been in this situation, either; one time, when making a polite compliment about an acquaintance's daughter, I went with the old standard and got icy stares from both her parents. After that, I just wasn't up for having it happen again. And this was a no win situation.

I hate political correctness... less offense, more stress. Ugh.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Where does the time go?!

Okay, okay, I hear you Orhan... I'm not disappearing again, really!

Man, have I had a stressful week with a disasterous trip to the kid's dentist (yes, Dr. Ass Hat from my other blog) and working to wrap up the school year (reports are due into the Assistant Superintendent's office next week... UGH). There are many of you who have waaaaay more to deal with than I do, but still it's enough to make my shoulders tense up.

As for posting, I've been writing drafts, but they instantly lose steam the second that I save them for finishing later. Then there's the fact that most things that happen to me would be of little or no interest to anybody. Sometimes I do actually find something to write about, but by the time that I can get around to tapping it out on the keyboard I'm tired enough that I don't think that my two exhausted brain cells would spark if I rubbed them together with all my might.

That's kind of where I am now. I've been finding some new things that have been making me pretty excited for once, but it would require posting *gasp* videos, which seem to be regarded as the lazy way out. Well, sometimes it's the only way to pass on something new that I've found or old that means something to me. But that did get me thinking...

...what's so wrong with posting videos anyway?

("Egads, what would she consider next, posting recipes?!")

On that note, here's a happy video of a song that I've loved since I was a kid... yes, I grew up in the '70's and I'm starting to like that fact, much to my surprise. Until I get to writing some quasi-deep reflection on life as it is, here is a gem from the 70's... diggin' the hair. Hee hee!

(that's "Mr. Blue Sky" by ELO, just in case you wanted to know.)

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

What I Want (a list)

I was over at Los Angelista's Guide to the Pursuit of Happiness and she mentioned that someone suggested that she make a list of what she wanted. I don't know what the real reason behind the list was, but the idea of making a list of what I wanted was in interesting one to me, so I'm just going to run with it.

So, without further ado and in no particular order whatsoever...


... to be able to see my children grow up.

... for people to stop bickering and killing over gods and religions and start simply treating each other with respect and tolerance instead.

... my younger son to outgrow his food allergies.

... to stay strong as long as possible.

... my children to find their gifts and follow what makes them happy.

... to never stop trying new things.

... to see the Northern Lights.

... to go to Burning Man Festival.

... to see a rational leader in the White House.

... to get my braces off.

... to spin fire for the first time within three months.

... to always have friends whom I love.

... all the moles in my yard to go away.

... help with the yard work.

... for my mother to be around for a long time to come.

... have an extra lifetime so that I can read all the books that interest me.

... to go to Rome and Greece to see the ruins.

... to see the mighty Himalayas.

... to live in an old house that has a lot of character and individuality.

... to spend one more day as a child.

... to have an income doing something that I love while still being able to teach my kids.

... to go to a place with better shore breaks for skim boarding.

... my kids to love reading.

... to find the perfect bright raspberry color to paint my living room.

... to have less "stuff".

... live in a place where people go out and about, not come home from work to hide in their houses.

... to see the ocean more.

... to cook interesting and delicious food.

Speaking of which, I'm hungry. Gotta go eat.

So, what is it that you want?

Monday, June 2, 2008

Random Crumbs

Just a few things that I've been thinking about lately.

1. I've been wondering something lately... when you dig a hole in the sand at the beach, both kids and adults are compelled to come up and look into it. I was hip deep in a hole that I was digging at the beach on Memorial Day and every time that I actually looked up, there was someone peering down at me trying to see the bottom of the hole. Why is this?

2. Tatum O'Neal was busted for buying crack in NYC. I had a hard time pretending that I was surprised given her past history, but the woman is a mother in her 40's. I had a conversation a few days ago with a 25 year old acquaintance and he was talking about how he's still going to be "kicking just as hard" in his 40's (married and with kids) as in his 20's, indulging in the recreational substances that he's doing now. Some people would say that drug use is always evil while some people can excuse it as a part of the exuberance of youth. But it got me thinking... at what age does even recreational drug use become pathetic?

3. The people next door had a birthday party for their three year old yesterday and they hired a musician (who amplified his performance for all of the neighborhood to hear) to entertain the kids and their expensive-SUV-driving-parents with an elaborate show. Whatever happened to plain old cake-and-ice cream and a few party games for birthdays?

4. A new friend of mine was surprised to find out that we teach our kids at home because I was the only home schooler he'd ever met who didn't trumpet it from the rooftops (I had known him for about a month and generally don't talk about the home schooling thing unless it comes up in conversation... with the crowd that we hang with that is, thankfully, almost never). I think that we all may have met the rooftops kind of people, the ones who are (*trumpet fanfare*) HOME SCHOOLERS. This is kind of how I'm thinking... just put the banner away, folks, and quietly do your thing. Waving your choice in someone else's face, well, it's kind of just bad manners.

5. The Mister recently thanked me for keeping him young by introducing him to new things and keeping him in a younger mindset (he's always been quite serious and maybe a little "old" for his age). A lot of my peers are so set in their ways that they stop seeking out new things. I've noticed that many of them have sort of frozen themselves in the era that they came of age. Why is that? Shouldn't life continue to be an adventure of discovery?

Speaking of which, here's one of the things that I've discovered lately that I've been pretty excited about. While looking up some musicians that I spent a brief time hanging out with (in what now seems like another lifetime), I found that they were playing with this group: The Mutaytor. From what I understand, the group/troupe took shape at Burning Man Festival and the show seems like a microcosm of the festival. I really like the music and the show looks awesome. I'd love to experience both the show and the festival sometime.

The kids love Chinese dragon and the smiley face guys near the end. I like the fire spinning stuff... but more about that at a later date when I feel like talking more about it. ;-)

Friday, May 23, 2008

"Shut Out: the Musical"

So, my mother came to visit a few weeks ago and we started talking about music. I made a suggestion that maybe she should get an MP3 player of some sort so that she can bring her music with her now that she spends several months of the year overseas. After all, since I love having an MP3 player, why wouldn't she?

Then after she left, I got to thinking about it. I'd made the assumption that my 70-something year old mother would have no problem with an MP3 player since she owns a digital camera, e-mails, shops online, and does all her banking online. I now think that I was wrong about her potential enthusiasm for embracing new technology. As it turns out, she doesn't know as much about technology as I thought she does. The majority of her computer use consists of forwarding jokes from her friends, while the "how" of doing a lot of things like checking her e-mail on a computer that's not her own (I tried to walk her through the homepage thing), or how to download her photos to her computer are difficult for her to "get", even after mutiple lessons. Period. Yes, after trying several times to show her the uses of copying and pasting text, I got to realizing that this whole tangle of technology is pretty overwhelming to her at this point, even if she is more savvy than most of her friends. She finally told me that she doesn't enjoy dealing with technology, even going so far as to say that she actually hates it. She doesn't often use that word.

Then I got to thinking, we get to an age where it's infinitely harder to learn things; technology is coming along at such a clip that people like my mother and even people younger than my mother are having more and more trouble learning even the most basic skills. Heck, my 60-something mother-in-law flatly refuses to even sit at a computer. I think that ATM's are about the top of her technology limit.

Anyway, what dawned on me is that my mother, given her difficulty in using the majority of the functions of a computer, is on the brink of being shut out. CD's and DVD's are on their way out and are predicted to be very scarce if not obsolete in the next few years. That's nothing new since technology is always being phase out for something else... it's been happening for ages. Record albums, eight-track tapes, and cassettes were killed by CD's; VHS tapes went the way of the dinosaur for DVD's. Big deal... all an older person had to do was buy a new player, buy the new new CD or DVD, pop it in the new player and VIOLA! there was their music or movie. But nowadays? We're heading towards having all that phased out for MP3 music files and downloaded movies.

Everything will require computers.

"Yeah, so?" Well, it may not be anything to most younger people, but it's a really big deal to someone who isn't that computer savvy like my mother. In another 10 years, if my mom wants to buy a new movie or some new music, she'll be, well, screwed. And if she lives as old as her father did, can you imagine not being able to buy new entertainment for over 20 years?

I can't. It boggles my mind that we'll be shutting out so many older people with "progress".

Monday, May 19, 2008

If cupcakes ruled the world...

In honor of the title of my new blog, I felt that the first real post had to be cupcake related. Perhaps they just appeal to my sense of the absurd, but, what can I say? I would love to have one of these!

Bon appétit!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

yeah, okay, NOW what?

Alright, I had to do this... I had to start a spanking new blog. I've done the "gonna write some personal stuff about myself" thing for over a year and a half and that went pretty well for a while until, well, it didn't. Hmmm.... I guess that you had to be there.

So, guess what! Now I'm going to post whatever I feel like, content be damned! It's gonna be whatever tickles me, be it videos, photos, questions, or just a whole lot of verbal nonsense. I feel like a new woman!

That's what she said.

Now pass the cupcakes!!!

P.S. I think that I'm going to resuscitate my photo blog when I get a moment. Just FYI.