Monday, December 13, 2010

Maybe I'm Doing it Wrong

December 13, 2010

Am I the only person whose “guaranteed to last for years longer than incandescent" bulbs—you know, the corkscrew kind—wear out at an amazing rate?

Rank This

December 13, 2010

It must be tough to be a Congressman. People expect you solve, in no particular order, the problems of: global warming; health care; a costly war; the college Bowl Championship Series (BCS) ranking system; nuclear buildup by countries hostile to the U.S.; education; budget deficits; the tax code; etc.

That’s right—people want Congress to investigate how the BCS does its rankings.

Guess where the BCS issue ranks on my list?

On Second Thought...

December 13, 2010

While I would be happy to take the issue of BCS rankings off the list entirely, perhaps if Congress fixed that, it would give them a feeling of accomplishment: at least they could cross something off the to-do list.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Driving Tips

December 1, 2010

Is there a special Darwin Award for people who drive in snowstorms without turning on their headlights? (Especially people in white cars!)

Just because you can see, don't assume that other people can see you.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Seesaw

November 29, 2010

And the annual seesaw begins: On Saturday the Statesman reported that “Black Friday traffic and sales indications appeared to be topping expectations…One analyst said that the increase could translate to a 4 percent or 5 percent holiday-spending jump this year from a year ago.”

On Saturday the Statesman reported that sales had edged up only slightly—retail spending rose only .3 percent, according to data released by a research firm.
Now we’ll get thrice-weekly updates about how seasonal sales are up—no, down—no, up…

Call me in January with the final total, and save all the newsprint in the meantime.

My Black Friday Experience

November 26, 2010

Since the only item advertised for Black Friday that caught my attention was a non-stick turkey roaster (mine was still soaking Friday morning), I didn’t feel any need to stand in line or rush out early to get it. When I did wander into the store, it was still there. Guess turkey roasters aren’t high on anyone else’s priority list.

I did get a great deal on all three seasons of “The Big Bang Theory”, though. Made my day.

Kid Stuff

November 23, 2010

Just got in from a walk with the little boy next door. He told me he’d written to Santa, but that he hadn’t heard back yet. I asked what he told Santa, and he said that he told Santa he’d like to visit the North Pole. We talked about what it was probably like—snow as deep as 10 inches, says the boy, with lots of Christmas trees around, all decorated.

Then we looked at ice patterns on the streets and sidewalks and found some icicles to take home and put in our freezers. I hope I always live near little kids who will help me enjoy the fun things in life.

A Mere Bagatelle

November 29, 2010

From the “You’d Think They were Joking, but They’re Not” Department:

South Korea assures the Olympic Selection Committee that North Korea’s recent bombardments shouldn’t make the committee eliminate S. Korea as a possible Olympic site for next time.

Maybe not, but if I were an athlete I would probably prefer that S. Korea sit this one out.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Voting

November 2, 2010

If you've ever stood in line overnight to get concert tickets, or a Wii, or the Black Friday sales...

Please don't let a little bad weather keep you from voting.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Interesting Recipe

October 22, 2010

In a sincere effort to bring more nutritional variety to our meals, I actually looked at an article on different ways to prepare butternut squash, instead of averting my eyes, the way I usually do at the vegetable recipes.

But I gave up when I saw the heading “Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Popcorn.” Maybe it was just too early in the morning.

Business Sense

May 27, 2010

(OK, this is an old one that I deleted, but decided I liked it after all. Sorry for the rerun.)

About six years ago I wrote an article arguing that the best way for a president to find out what’s happening in the company is to go sub for somebody—even filing will give you some amazing insight as to what’s going on. (Also, although I didn’t know about these events then, it would prevent you from claiming that you didn’t know that your company was involved in rocky deals that would devastate the world’s economy—just a little side-benefit.)

People who read it no doubt thought, “Well, there’s somebody who doesn’t have a clue about corporate structure. A president—filing?”

Guess what? “Undercover Boss” seems to be doing OK in the ratings. (I’ve never watched it, I just think it’s funny that I’m not the only person who thought it was a good idea.)

NBC and "Chuck"

October 18, 2010

What on earth is up with NBC and “Chuck”? Once again they’ve only ordered 13 shows, and are "considering" ordering more. This is a good show, folks; and it’s not a legal or medical drama, a crime procedural or any kind of reality show, which gets it so many points right off the bat.

Maybe CBS should pick it up and put it after “The Big Bang Theory.” And if they added “Dr. Who”, all my “must-see TV” would be out of the way in one night.

Edgy

October 19, 2010


While I’m on the TV kick, have you noticed that instead of saying a show is “realistic” now, they say it’s “Edgy”? Most often, “edgy” seems to mean that the show has a lot of violence, bad language, or sexual promiscuity.

I guess they stopped using “realistic” when they realized that most of us don’t live or work with incredibly gorgeous people, who can come up with the perfect wisecrack for any occasion, as they’re fighting off drug dealers after a night of uninhibited…OK, you get the idea.

The Value of Laziness (or Creativity is Too Much Work!)

October 15, 2010


I read an article a few weeks ago about how a woman was loaded with stress about cooking dinner, and her mother told her to stop trying to cook trendy meals during the week and get back to basics—meatloaf, stew, etc.

OK, one thing my family has never had to worry about is me stressing over a trendy dinner. I’m as willing to throw a mushroom into the stroganoff as the next guy, but sun-dried tomatoes and I don’t even have a nodding acquaintance. And I buy my spaghetti, I don’t make it.

I’ve always been sad that I’m not more creative. But since I’ve read so many of these articles, I think I might have been luckier than I realized. People stress over the darndest things.

When somebody asked what my “theme” was going to be for the baby’s room, I looked at her like she had two heads. I said, “I’m going to paint the walls pale blue, and change the bedding and curtains as the kid gets older.” (This was before she was born, and I didn't know if I was having a boy or a girl. It just seemed like the simplest thing to do.)

Truth be told, I never even got around to painting the room blue—but she loved all the Winnie-the-Pooh accessories.

Sure enough, a year later I read an article about how you should just keep things simple, and maybe update the bedding and curtains as the child aged.

And when she was starting on baby food, I took her shirt off at mealtimes, figuring it would be easier to wipe her down than to keep trying to get food stains out of her clothes. And then I saw the same suggestion in a book.

And so on. Maybe I’m impaired, maybe I’m just bone-lazy. But I’m not stressed.

So my point is, if you’re creative, God bless you. But don’t stress about it. Think about how much happier your family is with an un-crabby you, than with a creative creature who’s stressed out to the max.

Now, go make some meatloaf.

"Primitive" Man?

October 13, 2010

So, I was thinking (I forget why) about how “primitive” man really wasn’t. I mean, I know anthropologists used to make it sound like they discovered everything by accident—fire, for example—but I venture to suggest that they had just as many observant folks as we do. They noticed certain things happened, and they figured out how to make them happen when they needed to. Want to kill a mammoth? Figure out how to make your stone sharp. That red dirt may not be any good as fuel, but hey! it turns hard in the fire. Somebody figured out a way to use it as a pot.

And do you think somebody just randomly cut some flax one day, left it soaking in water for 3 days, whacked it around and said, “Hey, there’s thread in here!” I mean, who does that?

I’m sure they had their share of unobservant folks; but they also had the ones who looked, made the connections, and moved society forward. So please don’t tell me that they did it by accident.

(October 19—I didn’t post the above because I thought maybe I was behind the times, and that primitive man was getting more credit than he did when I was growing up. But I just read another article about an “amazing” discovery about primitive man. So here it is.)

People Who are Doing Stuff Right

October 1, 2010

What They’re Doing Right

Since I pick on people or situations that I think are odd, let me write about some things people are doing right:

1. Ann and Nancy Wilson of “Heart”


From “Parade” Magazine, Sept. 19, 2010

What advice would you give to young women who want to rock?
Nancy: There’s a great deal of pressure on young women to portray a hyper-sexualized image.

Ann: And I think they get told that if they do that they’re going to be successful. When, in actuality, if they look like pole dancers, all they do is make themselves more disposable. So be true to yourself.

Nancy: And play, play, play.

Yay, Wilsons!!!!!


BMW

From an article by John Gallagher in the Detroit Free Press, reprinted in the Idaho Statesman on September 29, 2010:

BMW in Germany has discovered that by adapting its plant to older workers, it increased their productivity so that it matches that of younger workers. Innovations included: Bigger type on computer screens, installing floors that were easier on aging knees, tools with larger handles…

Thank you, BMW, for not just pushing us out the door.


"Life Unexpected"


And finally: Anybody who counsels young people about careers should watch the “Parents Unemployed” episode of “Life Unexpected.” It has a GREAT scene about a Career Day at a high school, where a radio personality says she did a lousy job of producing a radio show because her dream was to be on the air, not behind the scenes. When she actually got her chance, she tanked; but she went back to producing and PREPARED for the job, so that the next time opportunity knocked, she’d be ready. So many lessons in that 2-minute segment.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Movie Eras

October 18, 2010

Just saw a 3-D movie ("Despicable Me").

If all movies are going to be made in 3-D, as some filmmakers threaten -er, predict- does that mean that when they're showing the old days (like the 1980's), those scenes will be made in 2-D, the way scenes that depicted the 1930s used to be made in black and white?

Friday, September 24, 2010

I’m Sure He Didn’t Mean It

September 23, 2010

Today’s blooper headline is on an article about giving kids a chance to hunt. It reads, “Youth hunters, it’s time to take your best shot.”

I wonder if somebody’s having issues with his kids?

A New Resume Twist

September 24, 2010

When I was job-hunting, the man at the employment agency asked if he should put down my time at Target or leave the time at Target as a gap in employment. (There are so many schools of thought on resumes--how to write them, what to put in...)

I told him to leave it in. I took the job for good reasons:

A) I needed the money
B) It had the hours I wanted--I could work while my daughter was at school and be home when she was home

Thinking about it later, I realized that I could add something new to the resume game: I could put in what I learned at Target, not what I did there: I learned about retail; I learned a lot about how creative people are from watching what they bought, and talking about how they're going to use it; and a lot about fashion (yes, really!) (Mostly that designers are blind, but no need to go there on the resume.)

So yes, put that Target time in there. I'm not ashamed of it, and I learned things, and as long as you're learning things, you'll be valuable to your next employer.

It's All Numbers

September 20, 2010

A couple of weeks ago a visitor admiring our sun room asked me how big it was. When I replied, “I don’t know” she looked at me as if I were not quite bright. But I don’t go around measuring square feet; either a place is the right size or it isn’t.

I’ve deduced from listening to other people describe their houses that 5,500 square feet is really big, and 1,200 square feet is really not. But I don’t know if I should be impressed by 2,200 square feet or if I should sympathize. For me, if everybody fits and the roof doesn’t leak, I’m good.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Am I Missing Something?

September 12, 2010

The retailers are being very restrained this year. It’s already September, and I haven’t seen a single Christmas tree in any store. Often I can see them in July.

Traffic Notes

September 12, 2010

Monday:

Dear Tailgater,

Crowding my bumper isn’t going to make the car ahead of me go any faster.

Tuesday:
Dear Tailgater,

Sorry you’re in such a hurry. That’s not my problem, or the problem of the other drivers on the road. Leave earlier next time.

Thursday:
Dear Tailgater,

If you’re crowding me just because you’re a Type-A personality who rushes from place to place even when you don’t need to, try meditation. Your friends and family will thank you.

Friday:
Dear Tailgater,

I hope that cop is writing you a nice, hefty ticket.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

School Rules

August 18, 2010


According to today’s Idaho Statesman, the State of Idaho will start making students in seventh and eighth grades complete at least 80 percent of their class credits before they are allowed to advance to the next grade.

The rationale is that, if kids know their work counts toward graduation, they won't be as tempted to goof off. (They didn't say this, but if parents knew they'd be stuck with their kids another year, they might be more diligent about seeing that the work gets done as well.)

I didn't realize that, until now, you could flunk courses in middle school and still advance to high school. Yikes!

On the plus side, at least teachers can't be accused of inflating the grades. They give the kids bad grades and the system moves them up anyway.


Suddenly I actually feel a kinship with that guy who writes those hateful “Mallard Fillmore” comics that knock the education system.

And that’s worse than anything.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Seaside Fashion

August 13, 2010

From an actual article on Yahoo today about retiring overseas:

Lara Lennon moved to Belize from Philadelphia in 2006 and developed a luxury swimwear line, Lemon Crush Belize. "Sitting on a friend's porch in San Pedro chatting about this and that in our tropical lives, I realized something: There existed nowhere in Belize a place to shop for dress bathing suits, the kind glamorous enough for a beach wedding or special enough for a honeymoon," Lennon says.

Don't you just love the phrase "dress bathing suits"? I wonder if they have sequins?

Calling Ripley's...

August 16, 2010

Hey, here’s one for the record books (although I don’t know if it’s for Stupidest Excuse or Least Logical Thinking):

Idaho hired some temporary tax auditors to go after delinquent taxes. The state spent about $2 million for them, and the temporary auditors brought in $30 million over and above what the permanent staff did. That’s a 15-1 return on the investment.

This year, however, the government is being cautious about hiring the auditors back because the returns may not be as great. It will re-hire in stages, and the initial auditors will have to bring in at least a 7-1 ratio before the state will hire more.

Math was never my strong suit, but doesn’t bringing in more money mean—well, more money? If they even got a 2-1 return (now, check me here), wouldn’t that be good?

Maybe instead of the Guiness Book of World Records, we should call Ripley's Believe it or Not!

Friday, August 13, 2010

How's that for Acting?

August 13, 2010

Do TV weathermen ever get tired of pretending to be surprised by:

A) The January thaw

B) The August cooldown

C) The warm spell around October 21?

They're meteorologists, after all. You'd think they'd notice that these things happen every year.

(I also noticed a few years running that the third weekend of April nice, but I haven't tracked it long-term, so I don't know if that's invariable or not.)

Friday, August 6, 2010

At Last--A Funny Commercial!

August 6, 2010

Raise your hand if you think that the new Bud Light commercials are the best things you've heard on the radio in a long, long time.

Mixed Messages

July 31, 2010

Does anybody else think it's weird for a mountain road to have a sign saying, "Speed limit 25--next 14 miles"

And then within a quarter of a mile have a sign for "Slow Vehicle Turnout" ?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Too Much Info!!!

August 4, 2010

Help! I have a Facebook page, only because I wanted to try to find some people. Now, every time I get on it, I have info from people I've never heard of, commenting on things people I have friended said. I have almost no info on my page that I actually put up. How does this work?

Sign me,

Overwhelmed.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

More Regional Differences

July 15, 2010

The 15th annual Rattlesnake Avoidance Training Day is coming up this August.

(Trains dogs, not people. Wonder if there's a training day for us?)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Why Stop Now?

July 12, 2010

Today’s paper gave some statistics about births, deaths, etc. in Idaho in 2008. The most fascinating to me: The longest marriage that ended in divorce was 71 years.

I’d love to know the story behind that one! What made them finally give up?

(The shortest marriage that ended in divorce was 17 days.)

Huh?

July 10, 2010

I saw some Organic Croutons in the store.

Does that mean that the little bread cubes were raised with no pesticides?

Friday, July 9, 2010

More Idaho

April 28, 2010

One thing Idaho does really well is stars. We visited a friend’s cabin in the mountains during the winter, and the stars were so thick that even the most distinctive constellations were hard to pick out. I had never seen anything like it.

There’s an observatory at the Bruneau Dunes. (See "Scenic Idaho".) I hope the state thinks better of its idea to let ATVs roam on the dunes. The thought of what those fumes would do the sky viewing (let alone the ATVs themselves taking the fun out of hiking and sliding on the dunes) is appalling.

More on Cheap Goods

July 10, 2010

In January 2010 I wrote that we may have to decide whether we want cheap goods or we'd rather be healthy, in view of China's relaxed attitude toward life-threatening additives in their products. (See "The Economy")

Looks like China may be taking the decision out of our hands. Their workers are demanding more money (almost a living wage, darn them!). So some companies may be moving operations back to the U.S.

I tried to work it out to its logical conclusion, but got flustered.

If the Chinese workers demand more money and the companies move back here, the people in China will be out of work. But soon the goods will cost more because the workers here will want raises every now and then.

The products will be safer, but consumers will gripe about the cost.

With a lot of people out of work, the wages may fall again overseas, making the product cheaper (but not safer)...

Huh.

Define "Wilderness"

June 14, 2010

Idaho passed a bill designating a huge area as wilderness. Now people are griping that they can’t get to it to bike, hike or camp.

Isn’t the definition of wilderness, "Leave it the heck alone"?

I guess their definition of wilderness is, “Don’t mine or develop it; let us mess it up instead.”

Too Many Numbers

July 9, 2010

I’ve taken some good pictures in my time—not all of them accidentally—but I get confused on HOW cameras work. For instance, an f-stop regulates the light that enters the camera—the smaller the F-stop, the bigger the aperture. The bigger the aperture, the quicker the shutter speed should be.

So you have a small number letting in lots of light and a big number (500), which stands for a quick shutter time (1/500th of a second). And it depends on the situation as to which combination you use.

Now throw in depth of field, which can help you hone in on your subject and leave the background blurry (it sounds like zoom, but isn’t). Do you need a big f-stop (=small aperture) and long shutter speed (a small number) or vice-versa, or something else?

Toss in a little dyslexia, and the fact that my brain freezes like a rabbit near a fox at the mere thought of learning something new, and you’ve got big trouble in photography land. It’s enough to make me hyperventilate!

After spending quite a bit of time trying to help me work it out, my brother-in-law finally said, “Small f-stop = blurry background.”

Now that I can handle.

My Life is one big F-stop

July 9, 2010

When I’m by myself I’m the most relaxed person in the world. I don’t clean obsessively (ask anybody!); I don’t fidget, or worry about how I look, or mind that I sing off-key.

Put one other person in the room, though, and I get totally tense. It’s amazing. Part of that is the fact that I feel like I need to adapt to other people; most of it is that I just don’t get other people.

For instance: Why is it funny to make mean remarks about total strangers—the way they dress, how much they weigh, how many teeth they have? Do people really like beer? If my neighbor walks over to say hello, do I offer her a drink even though she just came from the house next door?

Yikes!

(Now that my mother-in-law has introduced me to "The Big Bang Theory", I get a kick out of seeing all the ways that Sheldon and I are alike in our dealings with other people, and our puzzlement at certain social conventions. Unnerving, but funny!)

It’s the f-stop thing all over again, but without the short sentence to explain it.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Young Love

June 23, 2010


I saw a teenage couple on the New York City subway the other day, standing facing each other. The young man was listening to his iPod. He removed one earpiece and placed it in his girlfriend's ear so they could share the music. When they got off the subway he moved his earphone from one ear to the other so that they could walk side by side, still connected.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Stress Test

June 8, 2010

I've thought of an excellent psychological stress test to tell who is likely to snap under pressure and who isn't:

Have the person you're screening try to get assistance either from AT&T or Qwest, either on-line or by phone. See how long it takes to turn the person into a screaming mess.

(I would flunk. Anybody who didn't should be deemed suitable for high-stress jobs or situations and hired ASAP.)

Saturday, May 29, 2010

It’s a (Possible) Living

May 29, 2010

When I went away for a trip, it was rainy and cool most of the time I was visiting. At home they had sunny weather in the 80’s.

When I returned home, it became rainy and cool, while the place I had just left got the 80’s and sunshine.

I know, you’re saying it happens to everyone. BUT: Has anyone else thought of hiring out as a rainmaker? For years I’ve been joking about asking the State of Texas if they’d like to hire me, because I seem to bring the rain there.

And the way this spring has been going in Boise, maybe they’ll pay me to go away! Double-time!





July 10, 2010


July 10, 2010

I seriously have a bad effect on weather. Last night I decided it would be fun to sleep outdoors. It’s the middle of July, we’re in a hot, dry spell, no rain in the forecast…which means that it didn’t start raining until almost 2 a.m.

Did You Think I was Kidding?

May 29, 2010

Two days ago I wrote about Idaho’s excessive number of elections, and how hard it is for voters to find their polling place at any given time.

There is a tiny blurb in today’s paper about voting on how to use school funds. If voters in Meridian, ID agree to move money from the facility levy to the operations budget, Meridian teachers will only take a 3.6% pay cut; if we don’t, then they’ll take a 6.8% pay cut. If you missed the blurb, you may hear about it on the news; or if you have children in school, they may bring home a flyer. Otherwise, good luck finding out about it.

The election is slated for June 8, 2010—exactly 2 weeks after the statewide elections!

I vote we STOP HAVING MULTIPLE ELECTIONS, AND GIVE THE MONEY WE SAVE TO THE SCHOOL DISTRICTS!

(Or I will, if I can find my polling place, of course.)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Summertime Blues

May 27, 2010

It's official: Of my five possible routes to work, every last one of them is under construction!

Only in Idaho—I Hope

May 27, 2010



The Powers-that-Be in Idaho may hope for a large voter turnout, but they don’t make it easy. In four years I’ve been to five different polling places—sometimes two on the same day!

Depending on the referendum, you may vote at the library, a church, or a school. I confidently expected to vote on the school referendum (or was it the library referendum?) at the place I did my other local voting, but it was at a different spot (and a lot of people chose not to make a second trip). And they have a gazillion elections in a year! (OK, several.)

They don’t send out those little postcards telling you each time where your polling place is (the way they do in states where you keep your same polling place every year). You have to guess, or call City Hall or (if you’re voting after 5) the library.

(Under this system, the voters in Florida would never have had to worry about their hanging chads, because they wouldn't have been able to get to them!)

Some people have been urging election reform—i.e. give people a regular polling place, and vote for referenda on the same day that you vote for everything else. Naturally, the legislature won’t give in without a fight. Apparently they’re OK with spending money to set up several elections throughout the year. And with nobody being able to vote in them.

Ayyyeee!!!!

Music Terms

5/26/09

After hearing songs by Coldplay and Plain White Tees sneeringly referred to as “derivative” I’ve concluded that, in music terms, “derivative” means “Something you can actually sing to.”


(You think it’s an accident that so many groups are re-making songs from the ’70s and ’80s?)

Unclear on the Concept

May 27, 2010

OK, so I asked the director of my mom’s nursing home if anybody on staff could provide activities that will get Mom up and moving. I mentioned that we play whiffleball and putt with a plastic kid’s putter. Not only is activity good for combating diabetes, but these activities also help with eye-hand coordination. Other residents would be welcome to join in.

The director said that they couldn’t do it, because Mom might hurt herself or somebody else by randomly swinging the bat or the putter, since she couldn’t see.

Of course she can see! Did the woman seriously think I was lobbing whiffleballs at my 80-year-old mother on the off-chance that she might actually connect with one?

Picture it: “OK, Mom, you missed that one. Let’s try again. Ready?...Ooh, that must have hurt!”

And why didn’t she know that my mother can see?

I can see. I can see a nursing home's five-star rating circling the drain…


*************************************************************************************

In defense of my adopted state, I should mention that the nursing home is not in Idaho, but in another state, where most of the family lives. The family does spend time with Mom, but we thought that this sort of physical activity might be helpful, not only to keep people healthy, but to combat depression (more Zoloft, anyone?) and help keep up brain acuity.


It would also add a bright spot to people’s day, in a situation where “caring for the elderly” seems to depend on dosing them with pharmaceuticals and confining them to wheelchairs to make it easier to handle them.

Twice the Misery

May 27, 2010

We’re having a delayed spring in Boise. It’s almost the end of May, and it’s still raining. (When your average rainfall is 12 inches a year, rain on consecutive days is almost a freak of nature.)

In a vain effort to bring some summer-like feeling to the house, I’ve been singing “Beach Baby” at the top of my lungs—thereby giving my family yet another reason to wish summer would hurry up and come!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

I Saw it on TV


May 19, 2010


Kudos to "The Mentalist" for the episode "Red Letter". The show features a beautiful woman in her forties (Leslie Hope), with a hairstyle and clothes to die for, WEARING FLAT SHOES! Way to go!

I hope the costumer for Juliana Margulies in "The Good Wife" will follow suit. I don't understand how the woman can think, let alone practice law, in those feet-killers she wears.

I also appreciate the fact that the costume designer for "The Mentalist" didn't make a beautiful woman dress like a tart to prove that she's sexy.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

To Green or not to Green

May 9, 2010

Another article last week about a non-grass-landscape person getting in trouble with her homeowners association, which doesn’t like the rocks/cactus style of landscaping.

Why do people move to the desert if they want greenery? I’ve never been able to figure that one out. Either move someplace where it rains more, or adapt to your current environment.

I’m the first one to admit that a lush green lawn is easy on the eyes and good for the soul (and way better for outdoor games). And I don’t think that a bunch of rocks with a cactus or bush stuck in the middle is particularly attractive, either. But, I'm also the one yelling loudest about the water bill.

In any case, I can see a time in the not-too-distant future when people in dry climates are required to have water-saving lawns. Then the homeowners associations will be scrambling to shift the focus of their disapproval to those water-wasting, pesticide-loving, water-table polluting green-lawn aficionados instead of the heartless, soulless, property-value-dropping xeriscapers. So they’d better start practicing for the change.

And I’d better start finding out what will be easy to play croquet on.

Scenic Idaho

April 28, 2010

This past Sunday we went to Bruneau Dunes. They’re funny because, from a pioneer’s point of view, you’re just wandering along through the grasslands, minding your own business, then the grass peters out, and there are these big sand dunes stuck in the middle of nowhere. They’ve been stable over the centuries because the winds blow one way part of the time, and from the opposite direction the other part, so they just stand where they are.

The Bruneau Dunes are the tallest dunes in North America. Sadly, except for showing up unexpectedly in the middle of the plain, they aren’t nearly as interesting as the Indiana Dunes.

Idaho has a few record-breakers: A canyon deeper than the Grand Canyon, the tallest sand dunes, and a waterfall higher than Niagara; but none of them seems to be well-known outside of Idaho. They aren't as impressive as their counterparts, but they're interesting. I'm looking forward to seeing the Malad Gorge this summer. That's not the deepest canyon, but it is in driving distance.

And there’s a lot of beauty that I don’t know about, until I see it on some rescue footage during a newscast. Really gorgeous stuff!

As we were driving to the dunes we went through some grasslands. As I was thinking about what it would be like to be in a covered wagon and not be able to see where they ended (and thanking heaven for the hundredth time that I had NOT been one of the first settlers), my daughter said, “Oh, cool, we’re the only people in the whole world!” And that’s what it seemed like. It was pretty neat, actually.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Who Caused the Volcano?

An Iranian cleric says, “Many women who do not dress modestly…lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which increases earthquakes.” Must be a friend of Pat Robertson’s, who blamed the Haitians for causing their earthquake.


Speaking of Pat, I wonder what he’s blaming the Iceland volcano on? I picture him frantically turning pages in an encyclopedia or almanac, trying to figure out what godless acts have caused this inconvenience/disaster? It's affecting all of Europe, travel-wise, so he has a pretty wide field to choose from this time.

What's in a Word?

January 5, 2010
The paper listed words/phrases that people feel should be banned from the lexicon: czar (as in drug czar, media czar, etc); shovel-ready; tweet.

Later I read an article discussing a sports matchup, and someone was quoted as saying that the teams involved “weren’t the sexiest matchup…” (I tried REALLY HARD to find it so I could quote it exactly, but can’t).

I hereby nominate “sexy” as the most mis-used word.

The Real Threat...

April 10, 2010

“Doonesbury” is giving Starbucks a hard time for not banning guns in open-carry states, the way a couple of other chains did. While I think it’s insanity to allow guns in bars, I don’t see why Starbucks needs to jump on the no-gun bandwagon.

I’d be more wary of open-carry if I were a movie-theater owner—somebody might just get tired of the incessant talker in the seat behind him.


Update:

January 14, 2014

On January 13, 2014 a man in Florida did, in fact, shoot another man and the man's wife in a dispute over texting in the movie theater.

Just Curious

1) People are mad because Idaho didn’t pass a law against texting. One columnist said that he knows how his kids text and it terrifies him. I wrote in and asked if that meant that he knew his kids were texting while driving; if so, why didn’t he take either the car keys or the cell phone away until they got the message that texting while driving is a huge no-no?

But I was over the Statesman's letter limit (one per month)and it didn’t get published. I also predicted he’d get a lot more letters asking the same question, but I was wrong. Apparently I was the only person who even asked.

2) Truth in Advertising: If military recruiting ads had the same guidelines as pharmaceutical ads, would they run something like this?

After the spiel about being all you can be, or offering to pay for your education, they might end with, “Service with the military may cause physical or mental impairment or death…” or at the least, “After military service, mind and/or body may not function at pre-service levels.”


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Art of the Ten-Minute Sermon

Since my motto is “Brevity is a virtue” I’ll spare you my long, well-reasoned spiel on why short sermons are better than long ones.

Here are the Highlights:

1. People have short attention spans and are more likely to take something from a short sermon away with them, and think about it even after they’re out of church

2. You have a better chance of enticing visitors to your church to come back a second time if you don’t bore them to death the first time.


The Art of the Ten-Minute Sermon (Part 2)

I notice certain common practices among preachers. They include:

1. Give at least 3 examples that illustrate the point you’re about to make, and/or
2. Repeat a catchphrase throughout the sermon, to drive the point home

The problem with giving 3 examples is that, if the examples are long, they drag out the sermon. And people think (at least I do), “OK, got it the first time.”

And the repeated catchphrase makes the pastor work too hard to work it into the sermon repeatedly, and the sermon sounds like a campaign speech and not spiritual guidance.

I heard two different sermons about the same topic. One took 5 minutes, was short and sincere, and I remember it 10 years later. The other employed an oft-repeated catchphrase, lasted 25 minutes, and made me think, “He could have said all this in 5 minutes!”

This Easter, a pastor at yet another church, under the pressure of impressing the twice-a-year attendees, gave a stagy, structured Easter sermon, repeating a catchphrase throughout. (Some day I’m going to take on a new career as Sermon Teacher at seminaries, because they clearly need a new playbook.) Anyway, I forget what it was about.

So on the way home, I gave my daughter a super-short sermon. I said, “Easter is a celebration of how Jesus died and rose again to take away our sins. So I think we should use it as a kind of New Year’s Day, to remind us of His teachings, and strengthen our resolutions to try and put His teachings into practice.”

She remembers it.



The Art of the Ten-Minute Sermon (Part 3)

Here is one (one!) example of a short sermon:

“Christianity is easier in theory than in practice. For instance, we all love one another (of course!), but we don’t want to slide over and make room in the pew.”

Think about that for while.

(I know it sounds like something Garrison Keillor might have said, but it's one I thought up and used myself.)



The Art of the Ten-Minute Sermon (Part 4)


If you really want tips on short but effective sermon-writing (and you should!) track down Pastor Charles S. Mueller, Sr., formerly of Trinity Lutheran Church in Roselle, Illinois. The man had it down to a science. Short, memorable, relevant, spiritual…He could pack it all into ten (or twelve) minutes.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Dog-Doo Diaries

March 17, 2010

Dog-Doo Diaries:
In the continuing effort to educate the public on the negative impact of doggie doo on the hiking trails, city officials flagged it (I assume this means that they stuck flags in the piles) at three trailheads in February. One trail was “really gross” according to one worker. And the education effort continues…

(For the full story, see "Most Pointless Uses of the Word 'Education'")

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Good Old Days

March 29, 2010


The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Item in the Idaho Statesman from January 14, 1900:

"Miss Beryl Davis of Meridian led discussion on 'Why Children are not Reading?' at the Ada County teachers meeting in Boise."

(Yes, that's 1900--110 years ago.)


February 23, 2010

Although texting while driving seems to be a new low in cluelessness, inattentive driving is hardly a new problem.

This gem appeared in the Idaho Statesman on January 2, 1938, courtesy of the National Safety Council:

A "Daffy Drivers" cartoon shows a car in a river with a woman saying to her husband, "Fold your road map up now, Oscar--our trip's over!"

The caption says, "WATCH THAT ROAD! Yes, brother, you might as well fold up that road map and head for home. You thought you could watch the map and the road at the same time. ...Mister, it's a fundamental of the safe driving code that you keep your eyes on the road, your hands on the steering wheel and your mind on the job of getting there safely."

Guess things haven't changed all that much.


January 13, 2010


Today’s crossword had an Ovid quote: “Let others praise ancient times, I am glad I was born in these.” I wonder what the “good old days” were in Ovid’s time? I wonder if he wrote down some examples?

And that brings me to some more ancient wisdom. I was thumbing through Hesiod, and found the following gems:

Invite your friend to dinner; have nothing to do with your enemy. Invite that man particularly who lives close to you. If anything, which ought not to happen, happens in your neighborhood, neighbors come as they are to help; relatives dress first.

Also:

When you deal with your brother, be pleasant, but get a witness…


And:
Do not let any sweet-talking woman beguile your good sense with the fascinations of her shape. It’s your barn she’s after.
And for all that we hear about people having such short life-spans back in those days, he advises:
And have a forty-year old man, still young enough to follow the plow… such a man will keep his mind on his work and drive a straight furrow…

Thirty is about the right age to marry, he says.

He has a lot of guidelines on when to plant, when to plow, when to do just about everything. Clearly a man who was interested in details.

I just love this stuff.


January 2007

1. Remember when Mini-Golf courses used to actually have moving parts that demanded skill and timing? When my sisters and I were growing up we had to shoot through the moving arms of a windmill one one hole, then put the ball into the empty space of a moving mill wheel on another. There were also other challenges.

Now the golf course makers throw in a few doglegs, then RAISE THE LIP OF THE HOLE so that it's difficult to make the ball roll in, and call that a challenge. I call it lame.

2. I saved all the articles from the first mission to Mars back in July of 1976. I like going back and reading about how they hoped to find out if there was life on Mars by August. There was also a prediction that we'd be on Mars by 2005.

I love the optimism those articles showed, I really do. It sort of makes me feel like we were all wide-eyed kids for a change, instead of cynical scientists, reporters and citizens.

3. Remember when Superbowl commercials were fun?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

My Brushes with Culture

April 7, 2010

Ordinary Life Close Up

We went to see a neat photography exhibit last week. A guy walks around with his camera, looks at basic everyday scenes, then finds something zoom-worthy. After he’s taken a close-up of a particular segment, it’s not only unrecognizable, but fascinating. (Who knew a painted yellow arrow on pavement would have such interesting patterns?)

His website doesn’t actually give you the original scene, so it doesn’t look nearly as impressive as it would if you could see where the pictures came from. But if you want to look, go to www.photosbychris.pingbot.com.


November 1, 2009

There was an EXCELLENT exhibit at the art museum here last summer. A woman uses spools of thread to recreate masterpieces—upside-down! And then you look through a crystal ball, and the pictures turn out right-side up and totally awesome! (They don’t look like much with the naked eye.) We got “The Last Supper” and some Holbein stuff here (and the detail was incredible!); but from the film they ran, we saw that she has actually done cool stuff like Spock, McCoy and Kirk as well. It was so amazing I went to see it twice.

The artist was trying to make a point about the brain and perception; but most of us just liked the nifty pictures.




January 10, 2010


I attended a simulcast of an opera ("Der Rosenkavalier") from the Met in New York yesterday. They show it at the multiplex. So, not only can you bring popcorn into the theater (I was tickled to see the little old ladies with their big buckets of popcorn at the Opera), but they showed it in the theater closest to the Ladies' Room. So no long waits at intermission; and since everybody's wearing typical movie attire, i.e. jeans, nobody holds up the line wrestling with pantyhose or other hazards of fancy dress. (Remember jumpsuits—the worst thing to happen to the bathroom line in the history of bathroom lines?)

Also, should you wish to leave at the second intermission, having had enough fun for one afternoon, you've only paid a fraction of the price, so you only feel a fraction of the guilt.

I confess I dozed off for about five minutes and so missed a sentence, but nothing I couldn’t catch up with.

Regional Differences

In Louisiana in the spring, newspaper articles talk about what to do if an alligator shows up in your yard. (Answer: Wait until it goes away.)

In the West we have what to do when you encounter a cougar. (I forget.)

Visitors to Yellowstone are reminded not to pet the bison, or put children on a bison's back for a photo op. (You'd think that one would be a no-brainer, but it happens.)

We also have avalanche workshops--how to tell if you're in a danger area and avoid it, etc.

August 20, 2009

From Sunday’s paper, in a column about what to do when you encounter a moose: “If the long hairs on a moose's hump are raised, its ears are laid back and it is licking its lips, you are too close.” If you can see any of that, I’d say so.


September 9, 2009


Letters to the Editor about the wolf kill that’s been approved:

One says, “It will be the first animal I’ve harvested that I couldn’t eat…”

Another says, “Good recipes for wolf are hard to come by, so here is one I found in an old family recipe book...Wolves may be refrigerated and prepared using your favorite recipe for bear…”

Everybody who’s reading this, go call your mother and thank her for serving you chicken.

December 4, 2008

At a meeting last night, one woman mentioned that she visited her daughter’s farm in Oregon, and the daughter was trapping gophers. I think another woman thought it was neat, until she found out that the daughter was killing the gophers. “She kills the gophers?” she asked in a horrified tone.

I wondered a) what she thought the woman was trapping the gophers for and b) if she was from California. (Around here, tree-huggers and liberals are assumed to be from California unless they can prove otherwise. I imagine that gopher-lovers might fall into the same category.) At any rate, she’s clearly not a farm person.


(Update: about six months later the lady did, in fact, move back to California.)

Miscellaneous

April 7, 2010

I heard on the radio a few weeks ago that Lady Gaga was set to break a record. I thought that maybe she was going to put on some regular clothes, but instead it had to do with sales figures.


November 4, 2008

Today I tested a scientific theory: That changing lanes in traffic really doesn’t get you that much farther ahead. (I didn’t set out to test it, I was just running late.) It may not make much difference in a traffic jam on the highway, but on regular streets it can make the difference between getting through a light or sitting still for 2 minutes. My conclusion: If I don’t piddle around so that I leave late, I won’t have to worry about it.


May 28, 2009

Driving home the other day I wondered if the driver ahead of me realized the irony of having a bumper sticker saying, “Jesus for Life”, while inciting other drivers to homicide by driving 15 miles under the speed limit on a busy two-lane, no-passing road.



January 21, 2009


The Superbowl is coming up. I wonder when the people in charge of half-time entertainment will realize that people born after 1950 can sing, too. In the last few years we’ve had the Rolling Stones, Tom Petty, and this year Bruce Springsteen. I’m going out on a limb here, but I’ll bet that even people born after 1980 would be good entertainment.



September 9, 2009


Some people were upset that President Obama wanted to address schoolchildren in a speech to be televised at schools. Brainwashing incarnate, they fear. I don’t think they needed to worry. Anybody who thinks that schoolkids will listen to ANYBODY speak for 20 minutes obviously doesn’t know them very well.


November 1, 2009

I always say I’m going to take my camera around and photograph signs I think are funny or interesting. At the beginning of the recession, Jiffy Lube’s marquee said, “Things will get better.” Another company last month had, “Boss in town, help us look busy.” And I passed another store that had stenciled in the window “Gun permit forms” and under that a paper banner that said, “DIVORCE KITS.”

Most Pointless Uses of the Word "Education"

Feb 21, 2008

There was an article in the paper today about what to do with dogs vs. hiking trails, as hikers are unhappy with the dog doo-doo they encounter. One woman said she didn’t think that ticketing the owners would be a good idea. “I think more public education is needed,” she said.

I wondered how much education a person needs in order to know not to leave dog poop lying around on a public hiking trail.

Thinking about potential ads boggles my mind. (A close-up of a disturbing encounter between a foot and a pile of doo-doo, with the words THIS IS ANNOYING splashed across it?)



January 19, 2010


There’s a letter in the paper today from a woman complaining about the fines for DUI. She says all she learned was that drunk driving is expensive, and not that she could have killed someone. She said that the penalties should focus more on education than on fines.

It’s like with the people who wanted more public education about doggie doo on the trails: How much education do you need on the subject? Do you need a probe inserted into your brain to download the relevant information? Why? How are you tuning out the constant bombardment of “Don’t Drink and Drive” messages that have been plastered around or broadcast for the last several decades? Anyone???

Fair and Balanced? Newspaper Contradictions

January 14, 2009

Newspaper clips:
Last week the paper had an article in one section on all the great things the new, expensive cell phones can do; and in the Business section the same day it had a column by a financial guru extolling the virtue of NOT conspicuously consuming, and saying how austerity is becoming the new fashion.

This morning, on page 1 is an article on how oil-rich countries are devoting money to finding green sources of energy because they know the oil won’t last forever; in the Editorial section is a column by a guest writer, headlined, “It’s Time Washington Realized the Need to Drill.”

I guess that’s fair and balanced reporting.



September 1, 2009

The Farmer’s Almanac says it’s going to be bitter cold this winter from the Rockies to the Appalachians, with milder weather on the coasts. The National Weather Service says there will be warmer-than-normal temperatures across the country because of El Nino. I’m waiting to see who wins.



September 9, 2009

Damned if you do and damned if you don’t:
1. Consumers cut debt by a record $21.6 billion in July. Good, right? But no: apparently those pesky consumers are actually SAVING their money—or using it to pay down debt—instead of spending it to keep the economy going. Darn them!
2. We had a wetter-than-normal spring in Boise. Good for keeping down the forest fires, right? But no: once the rain wears off, the Gloomy Gusses said, all the underbrush that grew in Spring’s wet conditions would be a fire hazard in the dry season.
3. We’ve actually had a very mild fire season: Ten thousand acres so far, way down from 2007’s two million. Good, right? But no: When fire DOES take hold (next year, maybe), it will have THAT MUCH MORE FUEL to burn harder.

As the saying goes: Some people wouldn’t be happy if you hung ’em with a new rope!

That goes for newspapers, too, I guess. If they’re too perky, people think they’re not taking life seriously enough. On the other hand, how many articles can there BE on how to save money in the recession, cook more nutritious meals, make sure your kids are learning the right stuff, etc.? I get so depressed reading about all the things I’m not doing (or the headlines, rather, since I skip the articles these days), that I want to eat a ton of chocolate, buy a big-screen TV and let my kid run wild because I’m too down to really deal with her. Not the effect they were hoping for, I’m sure.

Odd Things I've Seen

April 15, 2008

The National Park Service is putting wireless access in the parks. Go figure—I guess getting away from it all doesn’t mean what it used to. (If I wanted to be hooked up with something un-wildernessy, it would be a microwave for microwave popcorn. Who needs a computer?)



August 28, 2008

I see some odd things when I take my morning walk around the neighborhood. One day I passed a house and was impressed that three cars could fit side-by-side in the driveway. Then it occurred to me to wonder what the heck was in the three-car garage.



Why do they advertise Oreos on the gallon of skim milk? (Saw this one in Illinois.)

Christians vs. "Law and Order"

April 15, 2008

There was an episode of “Law and Order” a few weeks ago that annoyed me immensely. They had some fundamentalist dude calling himself a Christian who incited a teen-aged boy to kill his mother to cleanse her from her sin of adultery. Of all the arguments the D.A. used, not one involved the fact that Christ didn’t advocate that hard-line stuff. In fact, He said, “He among you who is without sin, let him cast the first stone.”

“Law and Order” always does that—any time they deal with a “Christian” theme, they use wacko, pseudo-Christian types and use them to point up the flaws in religious zealotry. They (the writers) come off looking like jerks. In this case, they made the people of New York look stupid, too. The jurors, who smuggled a Bible into the jury room, couldn’t undermine the man’s “religious” beliefs either.

Twelve people in a room with a Bible and not one of them could find the New Testament?

I think the people of Manhattan should tell the “Law and Order” writers to quit making them look like idiots.

January 2010


A few weeks ago I saw another “Law and Order” dealing with a “Christian” theme—this episode was from around 2000. A former nun kills a kid while attempting to perform an exorcism, claiming that the Archangel Michael was giving her instructions. Jack McCoy says, “Maybe he was,” instead of asking the woman the obvious question: If you thought the kid needed an exorcism, why didn’t you tell the mother to go to the Catholic Church?

Seriously, the people of Manhattan ought to give the writers what-for for making them look like idiots.

The Economy

November 11, 2008

OPEC is talking about decreasing oil production to counteract the slowdown in oil purchases. One consumer advocate was quoted as saying, “It’s not fair to arbitrarily lower output because the demand is low. That will push prices higher again!” I wondered what he thought OPEC did. Isn’t the whole point of a cartel to keep prices up?

January 13, 2010


China is at it again: This time they’re using cadmium, a poisonous metal, in children’s jewelry. They freely admit that it’s the bottom line that drives them. Just as it’s the bottom line that keeps American companies using their factories instead of building them here. I guess eventually we, the consumers, are going to have to choose: Do we want to spend more money on products or on health care issues related to buying cheap products? Stay tuned…

Big Food Brother

July 30, 2008

Well, let’s see. New York City has banned trans-fats in all restaurants; Los Angeles is forbidding fast-food new restaurants to open in South L.A. for a year on the grounds that the higher rate of obesity there means that the people in this poorer neighborhood don’t have enough restaurant choices.

Seems a bit paternalistic to me: As if people who dine out don’t realize that restaurant food isn’t as wholesome as what they can make at home. And as if poor people don’t know that they can order a salad or grilled chicken at a fast-food place, and must be protected from the world “for their own good.” Is anyone else getting the creeps over this?

When we were growing up (can you see me with white hair and spectacles, haranguing from my rocking chair?)—I repeat, when we were growing up, fast food was a treat, not a permanent lifestyle choice. We controlled the fast-food, the fast-food didn’t control us.

September 17, 2009

There’s a proposed 1-cent tax on soda, to help fight obesity. I can only assume that sugar and white flour will be the next things to be considered unsafe. Then white pasta, because whole-wheat is healthier. And any cooking oil that is not canola; and margarine used in baking. I can see my jar of marshmallow fluff (and the resultant Christmas fudge) swept away on a river of taxes and disapproval.

Don't mess with my chocolate chips!!!

Once they’ve run through the food groups they can monitor TV and computer usage and tax people for the amount of time those are turned on. The possibilities are limitless.