Writerish Pack-ratting

My laughably fat self-made textbooks.

My laughably fat textbooks. Yes, that’s Wile E. Coyote’s calling card: “Have Brain, Will Travel.” Just what students need to hear.

I’m blogging today at Laura Hile about my ginormous self-made textbooks. As the school year progresses, these become almost like weapons! The photo shows how huge a simple composition book can become.

But don’t picture me as the noble teacher, scouring the Internet for information to share with students.

In truth, I’m a pack rat, and these textbooks are more for me than for my students. I’ve simply found an honorable use for all the quotations and articles and cartoons I hoard. And I keep collecting more-more-more.

My most pressing struggle during the 400 Bags for Lent challenge has to do with papers. (Well, and the garage.) But I’m wondering. Does my handicap in discarding papers have a connection with being a writer?

What about you? What do you struggle to get rid of?

40 Bags for Lent

Clutter multiplies. Here, my sons' shoe pile.

Clutter multiplies. Here, my sons’ shoe pile.

This year I’m taking up a challenge for Lent.

Well, kind of.

I’ve never really celebrated Lent, being from a non-denominational church. But I think Lent involves sacrificing something I like.

And I must like clutter because I keep stepping over and around it.

So I’ve joined up with Anne Marie’s group at White House Black Shutters to de-clutter. She has chosen the 40 days of Lent. I am all right with that. It’s not exactly spiritual, but then again, perhaps it is. For I will be casting out personal demons of sloth and negligence.

You won’t find me hauling out a giant garbage bag each day, although I surely need to. This is about small, consistent, daily victories.

I write 500 words every day. I organize one small area at work or home every day.

Easier said than done, I know. But I am determined. Today, for example, I cleaned out one desk drawer. Victory!

And now I can put a nice X on the calendar.

Want to come along? There’s even a Facebook group for support.

Peppers or Horses?

chocolate-covered-jalapenos-3023Valentine’s Day is drawing near, so I went looking around the web for gift possibilities. I had my eye out for something that is not the same old thing.

First I discovered this unusual treat: chocolate-covered jalapenos. They’re touted as perfect for one’s Valentine, being both hot and sweet.

Um, okay. Definitely different. (Have you tasted these? I think I’ll stick with strawberries.)

And then I stumbled upon Trotify, a device that makes your bike sound like a horse.

Trotify-2-537x358Yes, you read that right, like a horse. (Who thinks of these things?)

And how great is this? Because it’s a gift for someone who has everything!

Even a nerd, for some assembly is required.

Perfect for the hipster, recalling the charm of urban horsemanship without the fuss or bother.

Just right for the history buff too … if she rides a bicycle. And doesn’t mind a making little noise.

Golly, what would Jane think of this whimsical device? (What would my school principal think, if I rode my Trotified bike through the halls?)

So which would you prefer to receive for Valentine’s, the pepper or the horse?

Before you answer, watch the little video.

An engagement ring for Christmas? Hmm . . .

christmas-engagementAccording to WOKV, a state court in Georgia recently ruled that Christopher Ned Kelley owes his former fiancee Melissa Cooper, with whom he lived for more than a decade, $50,000 for cheating on her. He had fathered her child and given her a $10,000 ring, promising to marry her. Cooper had resigned from her job to raise their child, depending on Kelley to provide for his family, but when she found out Kelley had cheated on her for a second time, she sued him for fraud and for “breach of promise to marry.” She also broke off the engagement and kicked him out of their home.

His defense was that he never intended to marry her. Here’s his statement: “I never initiated the concept of marriage with her, outside of giving her that ring,” he said. “I never said the words ‘will you marry me’ to her.” I guess the ring and the baby were a ploy. He said that she was actually his prostitute. He paid for things, and she provided sexual services for him.

Georgia abolished common law marriages in 1997, so she had no grounds there, and I don’t understand why she didn’t break it off the first time he cheated on her. Besides, he is clearly not husband material. He doesn’t even know the difference between a statement and a question.

I think the case is interesting. Gentlemen, be warned. If you give her an engagement ring and a baby, you have promised to marry her, even if you have cleverly avoided asking the question.

In Regency times, engagements were legally binding. Before a formal engagement, young ladies were expected to be chaste, but once the engagement was announced, the rules were substantially relaxed. Therefore, a broken engagement ruined both the reputation of the lady and the pocketbook of the gentleman. Because the woman was unlikely to find another suitor with such a blot on her character, her male relative could sue the jilter, most often resulting in his payment of a fine (250 pounds). Occasionally, the man would choose instead to marry the lady, though I would not have been amenable to that arrangement for a daughter of mine. That’s too similar to the redneck “shot gun weddings” of them thar hills.

Think before you post that pic.

I know famous people, and I'm one of them!

I know famous people, and I’m one of them!

“Increased frequency of sharing photographs of the self, regardless of the type of target sharing the photographs, is related to a decrease in intimacy,” says a study conducted jointly by the University of Birmingham, the University of Edinburgh, and Heriot-Watt University.

Don't mess with my baby girl. She knows Samuel L. Jackson.

Don’t mess with my baby girl. She knows
Samuel L. Jackson.

These folks could have saved themselves a bundle of money by simply asking regular Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram users what they think of a flood of “selfies.” I don’t have Instagram, but I can look a the pictures on it, so I have formed an (ahem!) opinion. Many people who constantly share pictures of themselves tend to have fewer deep friendships and more shallow relationships. They are living their lives through the social media without much personal contact with other people.

However, if you already have a relationship with the people viewing the “selfies,” you probably won’t irritate them into blocking you or “unfriending” you. Some of your friends will even like keeping up with you in that way.

I have observed that there are several types of “selfies.” Some are funny and quirky, and I like those.

Patrick Stewart and I are best buds. He's the best "Star Trek" captain, hands down.

Patrick Stewart and I are best buds. He’s the premier “Star Trek” captain, hands down.

Some are taken to prove the person met a famous person. I get it.

Just don't tell Nancy about this.

Just don’t tell Nancy about this.

If I met Colin Firth, and he agreed to a picture with me, I would jump at the chance.

Others border on the pornographic; somebody’s mom and dad need to monitor their children before a pedophile finds them.

Then, there are those shots in the bathroom mirror right after a girl gets ready for a night out. She’s looking good, and she wants everyone to know it.

Here’s a free clue: Don’t take pictures of yourself in the bathroom – ever.

My least favorites of the “selfies,” which are by far the most numerous, are the “I have my shirt off to show you my ripped abs, my ‘assets,’ or my new tattoo” varieties. Just hashtag it #yesiamnarcissistic.

Tell me that's not Bruce Willis in a Hawaiian shirt. At least he has his shirt on.

Tell me that’s not Bruce Willis in a Hawaiian shirt. At least he has his shirt on.

Another thing to think about before you post that pic – nothing ever really disappears from the internet, and it could come back to bite you. People have lost their jobs over posts. Stalking is at an all-time high, and it’s easy. Google your own name and see what comes up. Scary stuff.

And, yes, I did meet Patrick Stewart and Ronald Reagan.

Is your summer romance over? Need to breakup? There’s an app for that.

In my area, school will start back two weeks from today, and teachers return to work in one week. In honor of the end of the carefree days of summer, I thought a helpful post advising those entangled in those annoying summer romances (which are fun for a while but begin to lose their appeal after three months) on how to gracefully exit said affaires de cœur might be in order.

In 1975, Paul Simon had a huge, unexpected hit song in “Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover.” His helpful girlfriend actually gave him some ideas.

The problem is all inside your head, she said to me
The answer is easy if you take it logically
I’d like to help you in your struggle to be free
There must be fifty ways to leave your lover

She said it’s really not my habit to intrude
Furthermore, I hope my meaning won’t be lost or misconstrued
But I’ll repeat myself, at the risk of being crude
There must be fifty ways to leave your lover
Fifty ways to leave your lover

You just slip out the back, Jack
Make a new plan, Stan
You don’t need to be coy, Roy
Just get yourself free
Hop on the bus, Gus
You don’t need to discuss much
Just drop off the key, Lee
And get yourself free

Other ways include the agonizing face-to-face painfest; long, handwritten letters; or even Post-It notes left on the dumpee’s car windshield. Paul Simon’s way was bad, but there is a way now that’s even worse.

The tech savvy way to dump your summer fling

The tech savvy way to dump your summer fling

Easy, fast, and cheap - 99 cents!

Easy, fast, and cheap – 99 cents!

BreakupText is an iPhone app designed by Jake Levine and Lauren Leto that will compose a long-winded text in a few seconds. Click on the app and answer a few basic questions such as your gender and whether the relationship was serious or casual. The app then gets to the heart of the matter: the reason for ending the relationship. Did you found someone else, lose interest, or were you eaten by a bear? These guys, being very young, think that long, emotional, dramatic breakup texts are hilarious.

Here’s an actual example:

My dear Johnny, I know you’ve been wondering where I’ve been. I don’t know how to tell you this, but you know how Sara always acts like an idiot when wasted? Well, on our camping trip we saw a bear and she antagonized it. I know you hate when Sara acts like that. Well, I do as well. Because that bear unhinged his jaw and shoved me into his stomach. So yeah, I’m stuck in a bear. Somewhere upstate, it doesn’t feel like this guy moves a lot, I’d ask you to come find me and cut me out but maybe this is for the best, you know? We were fighting all the time, I hated my job, my parents are still upset I didn’t become a lawyer … as I sit in this dark acid hole, I can’t think of enough reasons to punch my way out. So remember me fondly, make it sound like I died a hero. Love you.

I know these texts will never go down in the history of romantic letters. Think of Wentworth’s heartfelt missive to Anne in Persuasion or Darcy’s defensive correspondence in Pride and Prejudice, but at least the person who receives it can have the satisfaction of showing it to all your mutual friends, proving what a jerk you are.

I would never break up in writing of any sort. The written word can come back to bite you, and besides, it’s just cruel. Any time I broke off a relationship, it was face-to-face. What is (was) your preferred method? There are teenagers out there who need the benefit of your years of wisdom. What was the worst breakup you ever went through? Can you laugh about it now?

Super? I think so!

Two phenomena - supermoon and Superman!

Two phenomena – supermoon and Superman!

This past Sunday morning at 7 AM EST, the moon reached the closest point in its elliptical orbit around our planet, and it hit the peak of its full phase a little more than a half-hour later producing a “supermoon.” The phenomenon causes the moon to appear fourteen percent larger and thirty percent brighter than an ordinary full moon. According to mythology, a supermoon is associated with strange natural occurrences, such as earthquakes, tsunamis, and werewolves, but really it’s just a good excuse for gazing into the heavens. The last one was in 1993.

I read that there is an ancient yoga technique involving steady gazing which has been practiced for thousands of years by the adepts of India. It is called “trataka” and is believed to provide incredible benefits to those who practice it regularly. Healing of the eyes, clarity of the mind, and increased psychic abilities are among the supposed perks. Rather than practicing trataka on a candle flame, a black dot on a white wall, or a flower, I suggest staring at the moon. The supermoon this past weekend provided a unique opportunity for gazing that possibly could have induced superman-like qualities. My husband and daughter do yoga a few times a week, but he was at a meeting last night from 6:30 until 8:00 – too late for me to shove him outdoors and tell him to stare at the supermoon. The next one won’t be until August 2014, but I’ll be ready.

Wait! What is that flying across the supermoon? It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s . . . Henry Cavill! Gayle and I went to see this last Saturday. Don’t believe the critics; hie thee to a theater near you. It’s definitely worth the ticket price.

Henry Cavill as Superman

Henry Cavill as Superman

Somebody should make another miniseries pronto, starring Henry as Darcy before he ages out of the role. Everyone in favor, raise your hand. Both of mine are waving.

Cheating? There’s an app for that.

Marina Voinova was simply looking for an address on Yandex Panorama, Russia’s version of Google StreetView, when she found an eyeful of much more than she had bargained for.

Russia’s Life News reports that Voinova was looking for an address in Perm when she stumbled across a street shot of her fiancé kissing another woman. Yandex Panorama doesn’t blur the faces, so there was no question that her Sasha was cheating on her.

Ms. Voinova said, “When Sasha came home, I immediately called him to the computer and asked him to find that address in the map. When the image loaded, Sasha’s face changed in color. I looked in his eyes, waiting for an explanation.”

When he couldn’t provide an answer, Voinova dumped him, thank goodness. “At first I regretted searching for that address on the Internet,” Voinova said, “But I eventually realized that it was silly to blame the Web for my boyfriend’s unfaithfulness.” You think? The internet actually saved this woman from marrying a cheater. Let’s shoot the messenger.

According to the video, while Voinova avoids Yandex, Russia’s largest search engine, she has started using the internet for online dating.

My husband would say this.

My husband would say this.

Several questions come to mind. Was he in fact her fiancé, or was he her boyfriend? There is a big difference, though cheating should not be a part of either relationship. Why is she now avoiding Yandex? I would be permanently addicted after such an experience. And WHY is she now going the online dating route? It seems to me that there is more of a chance of getting a cheater by hooking up on the internet than there is by dating people you actually know.

In a related story, on August 30 in Japan, an Android smartphone app called Kare Log (“Boyfriend Log”) launched. Now girlfriends can track smartphone GPS data via PC as well as the phone’s remaining battery life and call history. If a boyfriend were cheating, the phone’s location and call history might reveal his deceit. Knowing the battery life could eliminate the “dead battery” excuse. So, guess what, Voinova? Good news! There’s an app for that.

Weddings Crossing to the Dark Side?

Jedis meet Downton Abbey

Jedis meet Downton Abbey

After I decided to write a series of blog posts highlighting unusual proposals and marriages, I came across this strange bit of news from one of the countries of my ancestry. The people of Scotland have decided to overhaul their marriage laws, and it appears that the changes will produce an abundance of Star Wars–themed weddings.

The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill is still in the consultation stage and is meant primarily to legalize same-sex marriage, but the bill would also allow groups which do not believe in a deity but “promote philosophical or humanitarian beliefs” to perform their own weddings. The Presbyterian Free Church of Scotland has warned that the wording is too vague, and they appear to be correct.Jedi Wedding 2

The Rev. Iver Martin, a Church spokesman, told the BBC: “There are loads of people in a diverse society like this for whom belief can mean virtually anything — the Flat Earth Society and Jedi Knight Society — who knows?”

The good reverend has some basis for his objection. In the 2011 Census, more than 175,000 people in England and Wales listed “Jedi” as their religion; it was the most popular alternative faith in the form’s “other religion” category. In Scotland, around 14,000 people gave their religion as “Jedi” in the 2011 Census, and in addition to the Jedi Knight Society, there are several other global Jedi groups in existence, including the Temple of the Jedi Order and the Church of Jediism.

Death Star wedding cake

Death Star wedding cake

Patrick Day-Childs, a spokesman for the Church of Jediism, who also goes by Master Chi-Pa Amshe, told the BBC there was demand for Jedi to bless marriages. “We’re open to all forms of marriage and the joining of two people who love each other in any way, shape or form,” he said.

To each his own I suppose, but as much as I love science fiction and Star Wars, I think a Death Star wedding cake doesn’t bode well for the future of the marriage, and I would not feel truly married if the ceremony was performed by Yoda or the Emperor.

I was amazed when I researched this on the internet. Boba Fett was marrying Princess Leia, replete in her metal bikini from Jabba’s lair. Another wedding cake was made in the image of Jabba the Hutt. It looked like a pile of – well, something I certainly wouldn’t want to eat. Storm troopers are groomsmen, and the aliens from the bar scene in the original Star Wars movie abound. There are Sand People everywhere, and grooms usually look like Darth Vader, though one was Chewbacca. One bride was dressed as Darth Maul.

Young padawan, if you are not savvy enough to avoid making your groom an evil genius or a Wookie, perhaps a civil ceremony is a better option. After all, good and handsome men abounded in the series. I would much rather marry Han Solo or Luke Skywalker than Count Dooku.

The question is, will they live long and proper? Whoops! Wrong show.

Your GPS can’t save you.

Maggie GPSAnd I thought my GPS would save me from nightmares like the one suffered by Sabine Moureau, a 67 year old woman living in Wallonia, Belgium. The poor woman took off on a 55 mile trip to pick up a friend at a Brussels train station following the directions given to her by her GPS. She put her mind on auto-pilot and blindly (not a word you want associated with driving) followed the instructions of the friendly voice.

The next day, she arrived in Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, more than 900 miles from her point of origin. It was at that point that she first suspected a problem. (Really, Sherlock?)

Moreau had traveled through Germany, Austria, and Slovenia to end up in the Central European country; she had filled up her gas tank twice; and she had stopped to sleep for a few hours. Just how long did she think it would take to travel 55 miles?

She said, “I switched on the GPS and punched in the address. Then I started out. My GPS seemed a bit wonky. It sent me on several diversions and that’s where it must have gone wrong… I saw tons of different signposts, first in French, later in German, but I kept on driving.” Reminds of the Postal Service motto: “Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night, stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” I can hear my husband saying, “USER error.”

There’s absentmindedness and trust, but there’s also being disengaged to the point of being a danger to yourself and others. I am terrible with directions myself, as Gayle will tell you readily, but even I have never traveled more than one hour in the wrong direction.

When the lost lady finally returned home, her family was relieved. They had reported her as missing. She was, and she may be still. And her poor friend who was left waiting at the train station? She managed to find alternate transportation. I would recommend that she do that permanently.

After all, if I lived in Richmond, Virginia, and wanted to go to Fredericksburg, Virginia, I think I would be suspicious when I passed a North Carolina sign. I would perhaps understand missing the North Carolina sign, but would I not see the South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida signs either? Would I not realize there was a problem BEFORE I ran out of land on the other side of Miami? That would be roughly 900 miles.

I have a Magellan, and I call her “Maggie.” If Maggie ever does that to me, she can look for another job. If I head for Charlotte, North Carolina, and end up on the other side of New York City, someone please take away my driver’s license. Friends don’t let friends drive with their eyes closed and their brains turned off.