Sunday, December 30, 2007
Friday, December 28, 2007
*image from http://www.armenianhighland.com/
True confessions, even when I am surrounded by people I can often feel rather separate from them and somewhat on the fringe. Part of that comes from the way I grew up and I recognize it as the reaction of a girl whose family was often regarded with thinly veiled contempt. Sometimes I consciously work against those gut reactions. Sometimes I let the sense of being 'outside' work. That's not always a bad thing, in case you wondered.
In any event, the pattern of my counts is evidence of connectedness. For 2007 I am counting the connections that are undeniable, whatever form they take. I'm counting the ability to affect each other due to the connections we have.
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Sunday, December 23, 2007
Friday, December 21, 2007
Dontcha just love being on hold? Isn't it just the most productive and enjoyable way to spend your day? Currently I am having just a dandy time trying to get Yahoo to sort out the mysterious disappearance of the account I use every single day to email, chat, and upload photos to a paid Flickr account. I've had this account for 5 years and all of a sudden POOF it doesn't seem to exist anymore.
Now I know folks enjoy complaining about Blogger. I have been known to cast the aspersion or two at the great Googly Monster myself (If aspersion casting were an Olympic sport surely I could at least qualify and not due to pity received like the Jamaican bobsledders.) but let me tell you, so far, it can't even compare to Yahoo and the ineptitude and lack of helpfulness of its people. First of all, good luck with the unhelpful pages on the site. They are clearly designed to be useless. Obfuscation is the key here. The only reason I found a phone number to attempt contact with a humanoid was because I spoke to a friend who had abuse problems with someone on Yahoo and she had 5 numbers I could try. Interestingly, her problem was less than 6 months ago and yet 3 of the numbers were no longer in service. One of them was still connected to Yahoo but not helpful. Finally, the last one redirected me to a new number that it said was actually functional.
After connecting I found myself in the midst of a labyrinth of automated systems such as I have never quite experienced before. There were about 4 layers of menus I went through and my problem didn't seem to fit any of the options. I went through a few times before I got to talk to a person with a pulse. Each prior time I'd make my selections, get to the end, then hear a recorded message about who to email for some answers and be disconnected. If obfuscation were an Olympic sport, surely Yahoo would be the Soviet team in damn near anything back before communism fell into disarray.
When I finally hit the right combination of numbers in the menus to
For all that waiting, when I finally did get a human on the line what was the advice? Send an email. When days went by and I got no response I went through the brain pithing process again and was told, "Respond to the autogenerated email response." Ok, fine. I did. A whole lot of nothing again. Back to the mind numbing Muzak, but hey, at least now I know how to get through the maze quickly. I am a rat who can learn! For my efficiency I am rewarded with the information that I was terminated due to a violation of terms of service (which is an absolute load of crap) but if I was sure I hadn't transgressed in word, thought, or deed I could ask them to re-examine my case by....you guessed it...sending another #Q#!@#$!!! email. Grrrrr...... No information as to when the medal ceremony in Olympic Obfuscation will be held.
Now to complete our Festivus celebration there must be feats of strength where the head of the house wrestles each challenger. Wish me luck as I go for a pin. Feel free to air some grievances in the comment section.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Theresa's blog is called 'The Rain in Spain.' With a name like that I figure she might need a good umbrella.
Witnessing Am I is an amazingly talented writer. His poetry and vignettes so often take my breath away as he perfectly captures a moment in time. I know he is looking for a publisher. I'd give him one and make sure his book gets into the hands of as many people as possible.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
It's been a while since I did a Weird News post but this cried out to be shared...then again, maybe it was the eels that were crying out.
TOKYO (Reuters) - Not even a blackout could put a damper on festivities at one Japanese aquarium where an electric eel is being used to light up its Christmas tree. Two aluminum panels inside the eel's tank work as electrodes to catch its power. Cables attached to the panels supply the lights on the nearby tree with electricity. (I'm thinking the outage was staged just so they could show off their eel powered tree.)
Inventor Kazuhiko Minawa said it took him more than a month to devise a system that would effectively harness eel power. "If we could gather all electric eels from all around the world, we would be able to light up an unimaginably giant Christmas tree," Minawa told Reuters Television. (Or at least light of the front of the Griswold's house in "Christmas Vacation." Sadly, or perhaps fortunately, there aren't enough eels in the world to power that house that coordinates its lights to music by the TransSiberian Orchestra.)
Eels are widely eaten in Japan, especially in the summer, when their vitamin-rich flesh is seen as a way to regain stamina sapped by the heat. The tree, which will stay illuminated until December 25, is proving a popular attraction, drawing tourists from all over the country. (On December 26 the tree will be taken down and the eels will feature in a special Boxing Day dinner. Now come on, how many of YOU can decorate your tree all month and then dine on the power source when the holiday is over? Maybe we could string the boughs with a nice calamari garland too! Stringing popcorn and cranberries is soooo passe and doesn't complement the eel at all.)
"I would love to have an eel like this at home. This is very nature-friendly," said visitor Harumi Yayoi. (Reporting by Reuters Television; editing by Miral Fahmy) (Somehow I am thinking the PETA folks may disagree. Perhaps we could use them to power next year's tree?)
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
From the time I was very young I have been interested in cultures other than my own. I think part of it was an awareness that I was different from all the fair skinned blondes who surrounded me. Part of it was my grandfather sharing his interest in Native American culture. Part of it was hearing about when my parents were stationed overseas in the military. Part of it was loving to hear folklore from other countries.
I always gravitated toward folks who were different. In college I spent most of my free time with the exchange students. I really considered that an important part of my education. I learned things from those friends that I never would have learned from a book or a formal class. I was frequently mistaken for being an exchange student myself. Admittedly, I took a certain twisted pleasure in messing with gullible minds when an especially dense or patronizing person complimented me on how well I spoke English. Apparently I still have a certain foreign look or demeanor or something because just this weekend a lady in a store approached me and asked, "Excuse me, do you speak English?" Oh the temptation...
When I went to Trinidad the first time it was part of a work team. We stayed at a camp in the mountains and were unfortunately somewhat isolated from the local culture. There was a Jamaican team there at the same time. During free time I'd head over to their rooms instead of hanging out with my American teammates. When they asked me why, I said I had all the time in the world to spend with Americans but not so much time to spent with Trinis or Jamaicans so I was looking to make the most of the opportunity. I wanted to learn.
When I lived in Trinidad I became a student of the culture and the history. I loved learning everything I could. I am by no means an expert on Trinidad but I think the year and a half of Trini Tuesday posts indicates I was paying attention during my time there. I truly did not understand the mindset of the other Americans I met who had lived there so much longer than I had and yet seemed to know so little. I found even a little bit of interest in learning goes such a long way in building bridges. It didn't matter if it was being aware of local current events, or asking someone to teach me how to cook local food, or learning about customs, or using the slang, it all worked together to communicate respect. And who doesn't respond to being respected?
When I came back to the USA I had a very rough re-entry. I did NOT want to be here. At that time I met a couple from Kenya. The wife didn't want to be here anymore than I did. Her husband had more or less dragged her here for school with the promise that they'd return to Kenya upon graduation. She came knowing he had no intention of ever going back and was mourning the loss of family connections back home. I walked her through a lot of initial culture shock because she knew she was safe to complain to me, that I wasn't going to take it as a slam on my homeland for her to express sadness over being away from her own. As odd as it may sound to a lot of you, her 'foreignness' provided a comforting familiarity to me that soothed my own re-entry. Because she didn't have American notions about how affection between friends could and could not be expressed and because I was very comfortable with the more demonstrative expressions in Trinidad we were both free to discard some of the more buttoned up restrictions that American culture can impose. It was a nurturing and healing thing for both of us. Of course, the friendship stoked my natural curiosity in Kenyan culture specifically and I learned a good bit from her (recipes included). I considered it the greatest compliment when she told me I was really more Kenyan at heart than American and I was the one American she would be proud to take back to her home village because she knew I would not judge anything there as weird or beneath me. I was quite humbled by that.
Actually, I've heard a variation on that sort of statement from Trinis, Jamaicans, Ghanaians, Indians, Bolivians, Argentinians, and Chinese. I don't say that to boast but I hope it at least indicates I can adapt and make people feel respected and welcome. I've seen so many stereotypical 'Ugly Americans' even in my limited experience abroad and it makes me cringe. I just want to avoid giving any justification for that label, satiate my natural curiosity, and hopefully do my part to build respect for my own culture in the way I conduct myself.
Renny BA: He calls himself a network evangelist and his blog focuses on the seasons and culture of Norway. I have learned so much from him and have loved every minute spent at his blog discovering Scandinavia. He's a dear friend.
Susie: She's an American who is in love with India. I remember her first trip several years ago and she is headed there again the end of this week. Wish her safe travels! She is sure to have some amazing posts in the next few weeks if the reports during her trip last year were any indication.
Cosima: She is a German woman living in Hong Kong. She has shared quite a bit on both German and Chinese culture, customs, and arts. She has offered original translations of German poetry. She is incredibly intelligent and her insights are always deep and thought provoking.
Toraa: He is a wonderfully crazy viking! You never know what he might come up with but it will always be done with a real zest for life and great humor. He has shared about visits to his daughter in Miami, trips in Europe. He has a real affection for South America as well.
Friday, December 14, 2007
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
When she was 2 she would bring a book to me to read to her. If I did not immediately commence she began to beat me with the book.
When she was 3 and a half and absolutely refusing to be potty trained I looked at her with complete dismay and asked in utter exasperation why she wouldn't use the potty. She regarded me calmly and intoned, "I don't want you to control me."
At 4 she'd get up in the morning and draw symbols such as bowls of cereal, a television, a book, or the swing set down the side of a paper. This was her 'schedule' for the day and pity the fool who had other plans.
When she was nearly 5 she came to me in tears and said Daddy and I could not go to the hospital to have her baby brother because she just was not ready to take care of her little sister all by herself while we were gone. (I obviously did a good job of letting her know where we'd be and a lousy job of letting her know where SHE'D be.)
When she was 6 and the kindergarten teacher couldn't get her to be quiet even when her desk was up front all by herself, she finally put her at the table of kids who couldn't speak English figuring the lack of response for a while would hush Diana, and if not, they'd at least be exposed to a child who spoke well.
At 7 she decided to go see the guidance counselor for some advice about other kids who were getting on her nerves. The GC gave her some suggestions to put into practice and said she'd call her back in a couple weeks to see how things were going. As they walked back to the classroom Diana said, "Well now, I will need your card so I know when my next therapy appointment is."
When she had her tonsils out at age 8 and finally was beginning to feel a little better after puking for 15 hours she buzzed the nurse 9 times in 45 minutes for various things. After she was set up with everything she wanted she leaned back in the bed, smiled and declared, "I gotta get a button like this for home!"
When she was 9 and I was combing lice out of her very coarse hair with a very fine comb she screamed through the entire process and shouted, "When I get to heaven God is gonna tell me WHY He ever made lice!!!!"
At 10 she laid in her bed sobbing for an hour after I sent her to her room for bad behavior (mind you this is the child who looked at me after a spanking at age 5 and said staunchly, "I'm...NOT...going...to...cry."). When I asked her what she was still crying about she wailed, "I don't knoooooooooowwwwwww." (I figured out pretty quickly the hormones were beginning to hit.)
When she was 11 she asked if every now and then when she felt scared about growing up would it be ok for her to crawl up in my lap and lay her head on my chest like when she was very small.
At 12 she told me she preferred to ask Daddy for things because she got better results. If he initially said "no" she could either wait and ask later and he'd forget he said "no." She could nag him into a "yes." She could act cute and get her way. She said I never forgot, didn't respond to nagging, and cuteness got her nowhere. I was surprised she'd tip her hand to obviously.
When she was 13 she told me I had a bad sense of fashion. She was wearing a brown and white knit hat, 6 necklaces, a black and white tee shirt, cut off Army camo pants with a blue sweatshirt around her waist, neon green soccer socks, and black Chuck Taylor sneakers.
When I told her at 14 I would require her to choose a foreign language to study she protested but when she realized I would not budge on the issue she chose German because "Mom studied French and Spanish and I want to be able to insult her and not have her know what I am saying."
At 15 she came home to announce she had done very well during the debate portion of her public speaking class and she really enjoyed it. She seemed to think this would be a surprise to me.
When she was 16 she started asking me what she should wear to various events. I told her I was not going to offer an opinion because I long ago learned that mine was always wrong and if she resented me dressing her when she was very small I was doubtful she'd think much of my suggestions now. She replied, "But when I was small I had no control in life so I had to usurp whatever I could all the time. Now I am grown and I have a lot more control so I can throw you a bone now and then."
Today she is 17. I can't wait to see what she comes up with next.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Among the PA Dutch there is a tradition of a visit from Belsnickel. Belsnickel means 'Nicholas in furs' and the image is believed to be derived from the figure of 'Black Peter' who is St. Nicholas's helper in Germany. In order to play Belsnickel, someone dressed in rags or animal pelts, masked his eyes, and wore a thick beard. He also carried a bag of sweets, fruits, and nuts in one hand and a switch in the other hand. He carried or wore bells to help announce his arrival. You can see the peppermint stick poking out of this Belsnickel's bag and the orange the Belsnickel at the top is carrying.
Belsnickel could visit at any time during December and he always arrived during waking hours, announcing his arrival with a rap at the door or window. Now before you get too excited about seeing this fellow let's remember he is carrying a switch. He's not the benign and jolly fellow that Santa Claus is. Belsnickel was every bit as likely to give the naughty kids a few lashes with the switch as he was to reward the well-behaved with nuts and sweets from his bag. If you were counted among the naughty there was opportunity to redeem yourself by singing a song or reciting a poem to Belsnickel. Unfortunately, there became a problem with some overzealous, justice-oriented Belsnickels and in some places Belsnickelling was outlawed. Today it is rare to actually be visited by Belsnickel but the threat is still made. I think this one looks like he is ready to bring that switch down on some naughty person's hinnerdale!
Among the PA Dutch there is a paradox. People are very charitable givers but those in need are not often good at receiving since self-sufficiency is so highly valued. In order for charity to be received the giver must make it seem as if the receiver is doing the giver a favor. "I made all this bread. I chust cain't use it before it goes stale and you chust cain't let good food waste. I'd be grateful if you'd take some." Belsnickel, however, allowed for widows, orphans, and others in need to be provided for with no such dance. If Belsnickel brought you food you took it, no questions asked. I like this Belsnickel because I think he looks like he is hiding a big smile under that bushy beard.
Now everyone be good, so Belsnickel is good to you!
Monday, December 10, 2007
5. That's about it. True confessions, I have never seen 'Miracle on 34th St' or 'It's a Wonderful Life' straight through. I've seen the movies in their entirety in bits and pieces over the year but never from start to finish.
5 Favorite Xmas Songs
1. O Come, O Come Emmanuel
2. Carol of the Bells
3. Adeste Fidelis (Yes, I prefer the Latin version.)
5 Xmas Memories
1. My freshman year of college, having enough money in my pocket and an accessible downtown to shop in for presents for me family. I was much more excited about the prospect of giving gifts than anything else that year.
2. Having no money the year Diana was born (in the middle of December) but being happy after 5 weeks of bed rest that I had a healthy baby. Then being surprised by someone who dropped off a live tree for us as a gift.
3. Stringing the pine greens over the altar with my best friends when I was about 14. We got to climb up inside the roof about 50 feet over the altar area. Also, getting to be a herald in the Christmas Eve service with them the first time.
4. Calypso nearly refusing to do her part as a sheep in the Christmas pageant when she was 3 and the youth pastor bribing her with Twizzlers.
5. The look on Isaac's face when he opened the Tonka truck he wanted so badly.
5 Favorite Xmas Cookies (yes, that picture is of cookies I made)
1. Wafer thin cut out sandtarts
2. Chocolate Mint Snow-top cookies
3. Peanut Butter cookies
4. Russian teacakes (aka snowballs)
5. Those cookies with Hershey's kisses pushed into the top, even though I don't make them
5 Favorite Christmas Specials
1. The Grinch!
2. Charlie Brown Christmas
3. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
4. Frosty the Snowman. I still boo the villain when he locks Frosty in the greenhouse. Just so mean!!
5. The Year Without a Santa
Friday, December 07, 2007
I've got a friend coming over tonight so we can cook latkes and light the menorah. It's been a while since we've been able to do this together but when our kids were all younger we enjoyed celebrating Chanukah together. It started quite by accident one year when we invited her over for dinner and she paused a moment to say, 'Well, that's the first night of Chanukah.' We quickly said we didn't want to interfere with her observances and we could do it another night. She paused again and asked if we could celebrate it together. I was excited to have the chance to learn about the holiday a little more and have my kids exposed to this as well. She brought her Menorah, and driedels and gelt for each of the kids. She taught me how to make latkes and how to light the menorah properly and recite the prayers. We had a wonderful time and enjoyed celebrating each year for several Decembers after that first one. We've celebrated Purim and Passover together once or twice as well. It's been enriching of our own faith and practices to understand Judaism a little better through her openness and it's been a lovely dimension of our friendship to share things. So this week, I am counting her initial suggestion all those years ago that we celebrate Chanukah together.
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
The post office changed one small part of my address. I did not move. Yet my utility services and the local schools cannot seem to get the change correct. Now the post offfice is ending the forward period. Add to this an incompetent delivery person. Going to the mail box every day is a big surprise because I never know WHOSE mail is going to be in my mailbox, nor do I have any idea who is receiving MY mail.
Lost cellphone bills make the company threaten to disrupt service (even though THEY have been the company least likely to get my address correct).
My land line has been somewhat spotty lately too.
Oh, and my Internet provider admits they are having difficulty with all the high speed service in the area so yours truly has been battling crappy connections online.
Now, I had a lovely little Trojan to contend with and that took me all day to sort out.
I am just a wee tad aggravated by all of this and I am considering resorting to smoke signals and carrier pigeons for my communication needs. either that or if you all could gather up a lot of tin cans and strings...
Well, I think at least I have things working on the computer again and I found this at Alro's place and it made me laugh like a loon. I needed the laugh so I am sharing it with all of you.
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
Fraktur is another PA German folk art. It is a calligraphic style and form of illustrations used commonly for documents such a birth and baptismal certificates, marriage licenses, and diplomas. Though it is rooted in German scripts, after the settlers brought it to Pennsylvania it developed distinct differences in both style and use. One of the most notable features is the broken or fractured (hence fraktur) look of the script. I tend to describe is as calligraphy done by someone with Parkinson's disease because it looks like it was done with a shaky hand. Apparently there are several different forms of Fraktur even within the USA depending upon geography, sometimes varying from one county to the next. There is also all sorts of scholarly debate on whether the artwork expresses deep symbolism or is merely decorative. Here are some examples I really like. Again, the common motifs or hearts, birds, and stylized tulips are repeated. All images are taken from http://www.frakturweb.org//.
Monday, December 03, 2007
How to walk with 2 left feet. **prerequisites: the ability to fall, stumble, run into something for no reason at all.the ability to trip when there is nothing to trip overturning and walking into walls.
I once proposed a number of thesis titles for master's level credit since some institutes of higher learning offer credit for real life experience. Here are those ideas.
1. The Inverse Relationship between Juvenile Comprehension and Direct Parental Command: A Longitudinal Study in Selective Deafness
2. Chaos Theory: An Observation of the Entropic Properties of Children's Bedrooms
3. Motherheimers: A Statistical Examination of the Dementia-inducing Effects of Watching 'Barney' and 'Teletubbies'
4. Transmogrification of Cotton to Iron: A Peculiar Alchemy Correlating Missing Socks to a Proliferation of Wire Hangers
5. Culinary Cartographic Disorder: Efficacious Treatments for those Unable to Locate Food in a Fully Stocked Pantry or Refrigerator
But Jillie wants classes to improve my life so I am compelled to come up with some new offerings.
Wealth Building By Using Ebay to Tidy the House: This course is offered both in the economics and health departments due to its benefit for reducing stress as it increases cash flow. Students will learn how to avoid nagging spouses and children to pick up after themselves by simply collecting all unattended items and selling them on eBay. Students will also learn how to successfully market the items found around the house in succinct but attention grabbing ads.
Required materials: computer with Internet connection and digital camera
Surviving Adolescents: Course will cover translation of various grunts and slang in current usage, interpretation of blank looks, coping with selective deafness and blame shifting, and motivation techniques. Advanced students may pursue independent study in public humiliation of teens through parental wardrobe choices.
Required materials: teen to english dictionary, bullwhip, cattle prod, valium (for parental use), tie dye
Safe Ziplining: Students will master the use of harnesses and helmets to avoid compound fractures while still enjoying the thrill of speed as flight is simulated.
Required materials: Helmet, harness, bubble-wrap suit, crash pads, proof of current health insurance
Any other suggestions for me? What classes would you take?