Corona Virus Panic

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I won’t say this is not a serious issue. But the panic over it seems to me to be disproportionate to the danger.

And this business of stocking up for a siege is inconsiderate of the needs of others.

I was at our local Costco last week on Friday. I go out every Friday and do the grocery shopping and errand running. I do it early in the morning because it is less busy then.

Boy was I surprised. The parking lot was crammed. The store was full of people loading up on bottled water, toilet paper, paper towels. Several people had those tubs of survival foods on their flat-bed carts. Basically it was insane.

I was nonplussed and asked my cashier what the heck was going on. He said it was because of the corona virus.

When I was in the eighth grade, that was the school year 1965-66, there was a terrible flu going around. Both my parents got it and so did my sister. I’d had a terrible flu when I was around seven years old (1959 or so) and had nearly died of it. The flu of ’65-66 was apparently similar enough to that one that I did not get the current flu.

Thing is, they didn’t close the schools. They didn’t cancel high school football games. They didn’t tell people to stay home. No one went around wearing surgical masks.

Even though something like a third of the people in our local community were sick, life went on. Grocery stores got their deliveries. There was plenty of aspirin and cough medicine on the shelves. People didn’t panic.

Yes, a lot of people died that year. It was a serious flu and when it was all over, some of my classmates never returned. But the economy didn’t fall apart.

As a society, we’ve been dealing with the flu in all its many forms for a long time. It just seems to me that if we handle this one as we would one of the more contagious variations, that we will be just fine. The world will not fall apart.

I’m not saying we should all ignore the corona virus. But this panic over it seems totally misplaced to me.

For the most part, life’s a crap shoot. I could die getting into the bathtub. I’m acutely aware that death waits around every corner every minute of every day. But I refuse to live in fear. And that’s really what this is all about.

So don’t be afraid. Don’t panic. Remain calm. Be kind. Do the best you can. That’s all you can do.

Weird Words, Part 9

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I don’t use this much in its entirety, but I have been heard to say oops or whoops in polite company. When I’m alone, I might be a bit more colorful. A while back, while buying a new battery for my husband’s car, the handle broke as I was picking it up. I slammed my left hand into the bottom of the upper shelf pretty hard (after all I was trying to pick up a car battery and they are heavy). It hurt a lot. Polite company or not, I was pretty colorful. Oops! defines oopsy-daisy this way:  an exclamation made when encouraging a child to get up after a fall or when lifting a child into the air. But there are many other uses for it and its variants. For a while, my father-in-law and his wife developed the annoying habit of saying “whoopsila” after each time they burped. If you would like to use this word for yourself (but I’m recommending you don’t) the accented syllable is whoop. And you have to say it with a sort of verbal flourish.

Some of the other forms listed on are ups-a-daisy, upsa daesy, oops-a-daisy and hoops-a-daisy. From these, I can see why they defined it the way that they did. But more often than not, I think most people use it to denote a mistake or express an element of surprise. And more often, they will just say oops or whoops. While the longer versions are mostly British in origin, the shorter ones are all American. We have a charming way of paring things down to the basics.

Ultimately, the source seems to be up-a-day, which has the same meaning (get up), and daisy is a fanciful extension of day. The word daisy itself derives from the fact that the daisy flower opens its eye to the day (Day’s Eye) and closes it’s petals at night. Seems to be very appropriate.

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Speedy Gonzales

Lickety-split defines it this way: headlong; at full speed.

This one is American in origin, possibly with Scottish influence (so is it American or not?). Well we are the “melting pot” of the world. It is not commonly used in other countries, so I guess we are good with laying claim to it.

It’s suggested that lickety probably came from lick, meaning speed as in “going at quite a lick.” But who says that? I don’t recall ever expressing it that way. Honestly, I don’t think I’d ever use lick for fast. Seems just a bit obscene.

Here is an excerpt from Thomas Donaldson’s “Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect” from 1809:  Ere I get a pick, In comes young Nannie wi’ a lick. Then there is D. McKillop’s “Poems” (1817) with:  I rattl’d owre the A, B, C, as fast as lickety An read like hickitie. Most likely, these two gentlemen are the cause of the comment about a Scottish connection.

The second part, split, is an intensifier. While we Americans may like to take things down to their basics, we do still like to intensify things. Can you be basic and redundant at the same time? Apparently. That’s awfully nasty, for example. My husband, Bernd, excels at redundancy. But he is German born. So go figure.

There are many variations (lickety cut, lickety click, lickety split) and they suggest a preference for onomatopoeic phrases (words that sound like what they are describing; like the buzz of a bumble bee or the fizz of a carbonated beverage). gave clickety-clack as an example for trains running across the ties (actually it was clickety-click for trains running across points … the British do speak English right?). But really … how does lickety-split sound like moving fast? Now whoosh might be better suited to that purpose (“He went whoosh out the door”).

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Who hasn’t said this at least once in their life? I’ve probably said it a thousand times if I’ve said it once. Whoops! Should I have admitted that? Ed Flanders (from “The Simpsons”) made it more popular again. But his take on it is “okley-dokley.”

It has a number of different spellings:  okey-dokey, okey-doke, okee-dokee, etc. It’s pretty clear that okie-dokie is a variant of okay. It is thought to be 20th century American and first appeared in print in a 1932 edition of “American Speech.” Who the heck researches these things? I can’t imagine pouring over everything printed since printing began to determine when something first appeared in print.

Okie-dokie is used to indicate that all is well, just as for okay. But it is often used as a form of agreement as well (“Dear, would you please take out the trash?” “Okie-dokie! I’ll get right on it.” How often do you actually hear that?)

So, obviously, I had to take a look at okay. Hooyah! I hit pay dirt with that. You wouldn’t believe how many different languages and people are given as the origin of this word. And apparently there is quite a bit of dispute within the halls of lexophiles as to its true origins.

Some of the most popular contenders include:

1.  Terms from various languages that sound similar to “okay” in English:

            a.  from the Scots – “och aye” (yes, indeed)

            b.  from Choctaw-Chickasaw – “okah” (it is indeed) I like this one.

            c.  from Greek – “ola kala” (everything is well)

            d.  from Finnish – “oikea” (correct, exact)

            e.  from Mandingo – “O ke” (certainly)

2.  A shortened version of “Oll Korrect,” used by President Andrew Jackson when initialing papers

3.  “Old Kinderhook” – nickname of President Martin van Buren (but was he okay?)

4.  “Aux quais” – the mark put on bales of cotton in Mississippi river ports

5.  “0 killed” – the report of the night’s death toll during the First World War

6.  “Orl Korrect” – military reporting indicating troops were in good order

However, in 1963, the celebrated (?) etymologist, Professor Allen Walker Read published his research into this word in “American Speech.” He explained that in the summer of 1838, a craze for abbreviations began to flourish in Boston. Professor Read found the earliest recorded use of OK (okay came later) in the “Boston Morning Post” on the 23rd of March 1839 in a story about an odd group known as the Anti-Bell Ringing Society (their reason for being was to have the law relating to the ringing of dinner bells changed). In the article, OK was used as a shortened form of “oll korrect,” a comic version of “all correct.” I suspect the article was poking fun at the Anti-Bell Ringers (who wouldn’t?). Despite his exhaustive research, people do still dispute the exact origin of okay. I’m not surprised.

Oopsy-daisy! Look at the time! I’ll just have to finish this up lickety-split. Okie-dokie?

Things I Just don’t Understand, Part 2

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Handicapped License Plates

First let me say, I understand the need for these in certain situations. Someone confined to a wheelchair will need more space to get into and out of a vehicle so providing a parking space that is larger than most is a good thing. Also, someone who needs supplementation from an oxygen tank isn’t going to want to drag it any further than necessary. Requiring a handicapped license plate or other indicator in order to use such a parking space is reasonable. It keeps the unhandicapped from using a space that they do not need to use and thereby denying the convenience to the truly handicapped.

But … just the other day while idling at a traffic signal, I looked over at the motorcycle that pulled up next to me. It had some space in front of it and so the rider moved a bit forward allowing me to see his license plate. It was a handicapped plate. Seriously folks, in my book if you are fit enough (and mind you, you had better be or you shouldn’t even get on that bike) to be riding a motorcycle you shouldn’t require a handicapped license plate.

It was an Arizona plate (well, I do live in Arizona) and while I’ve always considered our Motor Vehicle Division to be practical and rational (it’s true; to save money and resources Arizona only requires a license plate on the back of your vehicle), it would appear that I’ve a bone to pick with them after all. There is no need for permission to park in a larger space with a motorcycle. You get off of it and you walk away. Even a small space for a car provides plenty of room for a motorcycle. If you are well enough to ride (I’ve owned and ridden my own motorcycle and I know how much work it can be), you are presumably well enough to walk from your parking space to the business you are visiting. You’ve no need to park closer than other vehicles. So frankly, I just don’t get it.

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Aside from the obvious, that being that it is simply not safe to tailgate another vehicle, there is something I don’t understand about it. In Arizona, at least where I live in Arizona, we have a lot of old folks. More so, I believe, than I was accustomed to encountering on a daily basis when we once lived in Southern California (don’t ask me why I always feel compelled to capitalize the southern). Warning:  I am going to generalize here and I make no excuses for it.

It seems to me that old folks follow one of two options when it comes to driving:  (1) always go much faster than the posted speed limit, or (2) always go much slower than the posted speed limit. Warning:  I am going to generalize some more.

Further, it seems that old men choose option number one most often and old women choose option number two most often. Why this should be I don’t have a clue. But I get tailgated by so many old men (I personally choose the a third option of doing my best to drive at or just below the posted speed limit) that it gets me hot under the collar.

One, no one has any business tailgating another vehicle. And two, if anyone should not be doing it, it is the elderly. It is an absolute fact that our reflexes slow down as we get older and experience can only compensate for slower reflexes to a small extent. Believe me, I know.

But what gets me worrying even more than seeing an old man tailgating me in my rear view mirror is seeing and old man tailgating me while talking on his cell phone. Lord, I wish there were some way to get that kind of stupidity off the road regardless of age (and yes we have legislation on the books about it but it doesn’t stop people). And if that old man (more generalization) is wearing a hat, I feel like getting off the road entirely.

Okay, so aside from the recklessness of tailgating, what don’t I understand about it? Just this, these men are retired for the most part and have lots of time on their hands. So why the heck are they in such a big hurry?

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At the most basic level, I understand sugar. You take a plant with its chlorophyll and you add some water, carbon dioxide and sunlight and you get oxygen and sugar … well carbohydrate (“carbo” from carbon and hydrate from water, the sunlight provides the energy, the CO2 is the raw material, the chlorophyll is the catalyst, throw in a few trace minerals and voila!) and sugars are carbohydrates. It runs all the plants functions. It runs a lot of the functions of the human body as well.

I like sugar. It’s sweet and enjoyable for the most part, and a necessary part of life. Our brains run exclusively on glucose for goodness sake. So why is it so bad for us? And why if it is necessary for a human’s continued existence is it bad for us? Seems totally contradictory, kind of like …

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No one can argue that you need this to survive and yet it is responsible for the oxidative processes that break down tissues and causes all sorts of other damage including rust and forest fires, etc. So to counteract all the bad things that the totally necessary oxygen does to our bodies, we are told to consume large amounts of antioxidant foods and supplements. This seems so completely silly to me that I can’t really express it properly. The very thing you need the most is the very thing that is destroying you. Argh!

How did such a system ever evolve? And if you subscribe to the other theory, why was it designed this way? And don’t try to tell me that all things have to end and that if we didn’t break down and die there would be no end to us because you know what I will ask in response to that. It’s a fact that I’ve carried the “terrible twos” with me much longer than is really socially acceptable.

Hey, do you suppose that having the mental outlook of the average two year old would qualify me for one of those fancy handicapped license plates? Upon reflection, maybe that’s a bad idea all around and I should really just lay off the sugar.

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Julian May: Author par Excellence

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I have just finished re-reading a couple of books by Julian May. The books have the general title of “Intervention” and were published as two separate volumes titled “Surveillance” (1987) and “Metaconcert” (1987). May is also the author of “The Saga of the Pliocene Exile” series. There is a very good chance that I shall re-read that very soon.

“The Saga of the Pliocene Exile” predates “Intervention” in publication and includes four novels: “The Many Colored Land” (1981), “The Golden Torc” (1982), “The Nonborn King” (1983) and “The Adversary” (1984). She added “Jack the Bodiless,” “Diamond Mask” and “Magnificat” to her creation around 1992. I’ll have to see if I can get a hold of those three.

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Julian May was born on July 10, 1931 in Chicago, Illinois, and died on October 17, 2017. Her parents were Matthew M. May (Majewski) and Julia Feilen May. She was the oldest of four children.

May became involved in science fiction in her late teens. She sold her first professional short story, “Dune Roller,” in 1950 to John W. Campbell’s Astounding Science Fiction. It was later (1972) made into the movie “The Cremators.”

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May met her husband, Ted Dikty, in 1951 at a convention in Ohio. They married in January of 1953. She sold one more short story, “Star of Wonder,” to Thrilling Wonder Stories in 1953 and dropped out of science fiction for a while.

During that time, May wrote science encyclopedia articles for Consolidated Book Publishers. In 1957, May and her husband founded a production and editorial service for small publishers, Publication Associates.

With a move to Oregon in the early 1970s, she began to reacquaint herself with the world of science fiction. Over the years, she used a number of pen names: Bob Cunningham, Judy Dikty, Lee N. Falconer, John Feilen, Wolfgang Amadeus Futslogg, Matthew G. Grant, Granny Roseboro, Ian Thorne, Jean Wright Thorne, George Zanderbergen and The Editors of Creation.

Writing as Ian Thorne, she novelized several movie screenplays: The Blob (1982), The Deadly Mantis (1982), It Came from Outer Space (1982), Frankenstein Meets Wolfman (1981), Creature from the Black Lagoon (1981), The Mummy (1981), Frankenstein (1977), Dracula (1977) and The Wolf Man (1977).

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Her understanding of the global politics during the time that “Intervention” was supposed to have taken place (“Surveillance” begins in 1945 and “Metaconcert” ends in 2013 with the epilogue ending in 2113) is comprehensive and made it all seem very real. Unfortunately for my husband, he was a bit turned off by all the time she spent discussing international relationships. And while I did appreciate the research that went into it, I think that May went on a bit long about it in certain places. I stayed with it, though, because of the overall quality of the writing and my interest in the story. It had been so long since I had first read it that I had very little memory of how it all played out.

“Surveillance” is basically about the evolution of mankind’s higher mind powers and its inclusion into galactic civilization. She takes many different viewpoints throughout the two books. It is written in the “present” and also as a memoir of one of the main characters. May makes little side trips to the aliens who have been observing humanity and shepherding it. These are fairly amusing from time to time and one can only wish that any aliens that might possibly be out there observing us right now would look upon us as fondly (or at least with the same amusement) as May’s aliens do.

Even though the point of view does hop around a bit, May still manages to keep it all under control and eminently understandable. I never lost track or had to backtrack to get my bearings as happens in some novels I have read. Her list of characters is quite large, but they are presented in such a way that you have no trouble remembering who is who and what part they are playing. May writes skillfully and seems always to keep the needs of the reader in mind.

Even if you are not a fan of science fiction, you might find these two books interesting. May looks at familial relationships, religion’s role in life, ethnicity and how it shapes how we see the world and many other issues that relate to all of humanity and not just those possessed of psychic talents.

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I’ve given away a lot of books over the years. But these two will stay in my book case forever.

How to Paint a Bathroom

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I don’t normally do numbered or bulleted lists, but here goes:

1.  First select the paint color. (But of course this doesn’t take into account the fine art of negotiating with your significant other necessary to do that, or the hours, days or weeks that might be involved in said negotiation.)

2.  Decide on the quality of paint you wish to use. (Here again some negotiation might be required. Is there a type or brand of paint that you particularly like to use? Is it more expensive than your partner wants, does it have low or no VOCs, what about odor, etc.)

3.  Pick the finished surface (sheen). (You think semi-gloss makes sense in the bathroom but your partner likes flat. Get the picture?)

4.  Figure out if you are going to paint the bathroom entirely with a brush or will you be using a roller (your partner thinks rollers are faster and you think brushes are neater requiring less cleaning up) and then buy all the necessary equipment and tools if you don’t all ready have them. Ideally, none of these negotiations should take place in the home improvement store you have decided to patronize (matronize?), but alas, that isn’t always an option.

5.  Or you could decide to paint the bathroom entirely on your own and make all the decisions entirely on your own. This is always an option, but if your partner isn’t as easy going as mine, there might be trouble.

I am capable of linear thought, more or less. But I don’t think it always gets the job done as it should be done as you might have figured out from the above numbered list. So now, let me offer this:

In reality, there was never a question of who would be doing the painting of our bathroom. I’d all ready done the guest bathroom by myself (Bernd, my husband, works full time), decided I was happy with the color and the finish, and thought it would be a good color for our master bathroom. How did I pick the color originally? I looked at a couple of chips, said this looks nice and bought it, no fuss, no bother. My only concession to Bernd was that I would do it only when we were able to leave all the doors and windows open all day and all night.

We hadn’t quite reached that point with the weather when I just couldn’t stand it hanging over my head any more. And besides, I had started to ignore all the white spackling compound (necessitated by changing all the towel racks, light fixture and toilet paper holder) on our boringly off white walls. That was a sure sign that I had waited long enough and it was time to paint.

I don’t really much like painting. I especially dislike painting ceilings. I like preparing to paint less than painting, however. And cleaning up afterward … well let’s just say I don’t like it at all.

But good preparation is half the outcome. Make sure the walls are free of dust, lint, cat or dog hair, human hair, spider webs and the like. A Swiffer® floor cleaner works amazing well for that.

If you are not using a self-priming paint, you may have to wash any greasy or oily marks from the walls first as well. If the walls are really dirty, just wash them, it will save a lot of frustration later. Finally clean all the tops of door frames, shower or tub surrounds and the little teeny tiny ledge along the top of the base molding.

Remove all the switch plates and outlet covers. Please do not paint around them. That’s just tacky. Take down any lighting fixture covers and exhaust fan covers. Please don’t paint around them either. If you are not good with a brush, use the blue painter’s tape to mask any surfaces you do not want painted. Clear everything from the counter top and take the lid off of the toilet tank (I don’t much like painting around the toilet but it has to be done). Set out all your tools and supplies (did you remember a drop cloth?). If you did not buy the paint within a day or two of using it, stir it well. Now you are about ready to begin painting.

Open as many doors and windows as you can. Even if the day is a bit warmer (or cooler) than you might like this is still a good idea. The new paints on the market have low VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) but they are still not good for you over the long term. After I’ve painted, I usually have a very bad headache for several days. The faster the paint dries to the touch the better. The faster it cures … even better. Warmth and dry air are good for this. So try not to paint in the winter, or when the air is really humid. And keep in mind that paint doesn’t cure or stick well if it is applied at a temperature that is below 55 degrees Fahrenheit.  

Don’t just start on the middle of the room willy-nilly. Think about it a bit first. Will your partner (if you have one) need to take a shower immediately upon getting home from work? If so, consider doing the area around, and the ceiling above, the shower first. Also, consider which parts you might come into contact with the most and consider doing them as early on as possible.

After doing the precision parts, paint around all the places where the towel bars and switch plates and the like go. Do not repaint those areas as you are filling in the entire wall. This way that paint dries sufficiently to replace the fixtures as soon as possible. I always like to do that when I’m all done because it looks so nice and I want to enjoy the fruits of my labor.

Even if you use a roller, which I don’t because I can’t seem to keep from making an abysmal mess when I do, you will have to use a brush around the door frames and on the inside corners. How steady are your hands and arms after you’ve been painting for a while? Mine get tired pretty fast so I do all the parts that require precision first. I know I mentioned using painter’s masking tape, but I just hate going to all that trouble. And truth be told, it never does perform as advertised; especially if your walls have a definite texture. So I just carefully paint around everything with a wide, but thin brush that tapers to a nice precise edge. The cheap brushes they sell for applying a sample color work well for that.

Are you planning on painting the ceiling? If so, this should be your next step. Painting the ceiling is back, neck and arm breaking work and so I get it out of the way while I’m still relatively fresh. After finishing the ceiling, it is a real treat to work on a wall.

A couple other tips:

1.  Even if using a drop cloth, look down often. For sure there will be some patch of floor that isn’t covered by the cloth and the drips will be sure to find it.

2.  Also look lower on the wall, sometimes the drip hits the wall and dries partially before you get to that section. It can be hard to get rid of that drip once it’s dried a bit.

3.  When using a brush, never dip more that the first third of the brush in the paint. Actually, more like a quarter is better. Even if you are using high quality paint with lots of solids, as soon as you press the brush to a surface, the paint will start to squeeze out and drip. And if the paint works its way up to and under the ferrule, it will be very hard to clean completely. Paint that dries in the brush makes it difficult to use the brush again.

4.  Move a freshly loaded brush slowly to avoid trails of paint splattering all over. A little patience while painting is rewarded in a lot less mess.

5.  Watch where you step. Walking on a fresh drip and stepping off of the drop cloth can make a huge mess on your floor.

6.  If you have decided to use a roller, more power to you. Be sure to put drop cloths on everything: over the toilet, on the counter top, etc. Rollers splatter paint everywhere. Wear a hat and safety goggles. If you normally wear eye glasses, be sure to wear an old pair. Also, you will need to buy a little more paint than recommended because the roller wastes so much of it. I will say this about rollers, they are good if your walls have a definite texture. For a lot of texture, get a roller with a lofty nap (wastes even more paint, though). Our walls have a lot of texture and I spent a lot of time brushing all sorts of directions to get it all covered (that was so not fun on the ceiling).

7.  My general rule of thumb is that anything you set out to do will require three times as long to accomplish as you think it will so plan accordingly. I like to finish an area or a room in one day so that when it comes time to clean up, I only have to do it once.

8.  When you are finished and have put everything back and have cleaned up all your tools, step back, take a good look at it and say, “Ahhhh. That looks so nice.” Then go take a nice, long, hot bath. Your back will thank you for it.

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Random Thoughts, Part 2

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Parallel Universes and a Perfect World

How many times have you heard someone say something and your unspoken (or maybe not unspoken) reply was, “Yeah, sure, in a perfect world.” I hear that little phrase, or some close variation on it, more and more. Is our world becoming more and more imperfect? Or are we just becoming more and more aware of its inherent imperfections? All those little nagging thises and thatses that go wrong and make up our daily lives. Or is it just an excuse for someone (maybe our very selves) not doing their best or even their 50% of best?

I can’t help but wonder if somewhere, in some other dimension, there is a Dianne making all the right choices and doing all the right things. Always working at her 100% best … nah.  Ain’t gonna’ happen. Not as long as her name is Dianne. Still … no that’s just a fantasy. Shake it off and move on.

Lend Me Your Ear

For just one minute. I have to make a thorough examination of it because I think there is something seriously wrong with it. Oh, sorry, I forgot, you’re my husband.

Just last night as Bernd was sitting in front of the computer I walked up to him and waited for him to acknowledge my presence to be sure I had his attention. His eyes went right back to the monitor and I said to him, “Sweetie, I am going to go brush my teeth, wash my face and take a bath.” His reply was, “Unhuh.” Which was relatively easy to say because his mouth was already hanging partially open.

Now these are not momentous events as I have laid them out and really have no significance to him except as they provide an estimation of when I will be ready to get into bed. Still, I had the feeling that after he had looked at me with a happy grin and adoration apparent on his face and in his demeanor, that he had in a fraction of a second dismissed my presence and not heard a word I had said to him.

So next I said to him, “Honey, did you hear what I just said to you?” He looked away from the monitor and then back at me with this silly smile on his face and thought for way more seconds than I considered to be really appropriate and then said somewhat sheepishly, “Bath? Something about a bath?” My statement was a simple one and should have been relatively easy to repeat verbatim had he paid attention.

Is it possible that we wives have already said everything of any value that there was ever to be said and that there could not possibly be anything that we can add to that now or in the future and so there is no real reason for our husbands to pay attention to us? I think not. So why don’t our husbands listen to us when we speak to them? Or maybe it’s just that we haven’t figured out all the rules quite yet. For instance, a question (“Honey, did you hear what I just said to you?”)  will get him to pay closer attention to what I am saying than a statement. So, here’s a tip for all you similarly afflicted wives:  Phrase everything you say to your husband as a question. I’ll give it a try tonight and see how far it gets me.

“Get up in the morning, shower and shave, and take two turns on your worm.”

This was not the craziest thing I ever heard in my high school biology class, but it ranks right up there. We were discussing that day, the kinds of parasites that can infest the human body. There is one particular worm that develops from an egg laid just under the skin. About the only way to remove it is to attach it to a small stick (like a toothpick) and draw it out very slowly because it is segmented and any segment can re-grow the entire worm. So if you try to remove it quickly and it breaks off at the surface of the skin, you’ve accomplished nothing. Our instructor did not intend this as a metaphor for patience, I suspect he was relying on information that indicated that teenagers enjoyed this sort of thing and was going for the gross out factor. He had pictures to illustrate.

You might be asking yourselves why I bring this up right now. I’m wondering that myself. Can I really be held accountable for the things that just randomly pop into my mind?

More Things That I Have Learned

It’s never a good thing to think too highly of yourself. When you do, someone usually comes along and summarily takes you down a notch or two.

No one is going to think any better of you than you do of yourself.

I may just have figured out why I spend so much of my time in a fairly confused state.

No matter how carefully you say something, someone will always misunderstand what you have just said. It’s not always your fault.

Patience is a virtue, but knowing the right time to speak up just might save you some pain.

Skunks like peanuts just about as much as blue jays do. If the jays don’t eat all the peanuts you so thoughtfully put out for them, be sure to clean them up before nightfall.

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I Caught my Husband’s Cold

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If Bernd gets sick, I almost always catch what he had. Because of his job (optician; the guy who sells you your glasses after your exam), he comes into contact with a lot of people. Not all of them are in the best health. He does his best to keep the viruses and bacteria at bay, but he isn’t always successful.

Bernd is a good sick person. He never complains. He just works his way through it with an equanimity that totally escapes me.

I am not a good sick person. I complain. A lot.

And it always seems to me that I have a harder time with whatever he’s given me than what he had with it. So totally unfair.

The last couple of days have been tough. Can’t breathe through my nose so sleeping is out. Coughing up my lungs so can’t work out. My right eye has started watering a lot adding to the congestion in my nose. And no words can adequately describe the headache pain. Thank goodness the soreness in my throat has abated.

Remember, I did say that I complain. A lot.

The weekend just passed was an orgy of hot liquids, chicken soup, and movies on DVD. But now it’s Monday, Bernd has left for work, and I have to somehow get back into the swing of things.

We’ll see how well that goes.

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Random Thoughts

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Bait and Switch

My husband, Bernd, once did a a search for affordable term life insurance. We both have whole life policies, but they have a declining balance and as we get older, they will pay out less and less when we die. There is a side fund attached to the policies that, if we had been financially able to contribute to it, would have made a nice retirement account. But sadly it has, more often than not, been used to pay for the primary policy.

He located one policy that looked promising and got a quote on-line that seemed affordable for us, but then more information came in the mail. There were questions to be answered and so he called a representative to inquire further. Because he answered the questions honestly, his quote was increased by about 40%. He was irked. That was our word for the day. We did have some fun with it.

Our beef was, if their rates were so darn reasonable and the best in the industry, why not just be up front about the conditions and provide an accurate and truthful quote in the beginning? What could it hurt if you are genuinely competitive? And it would be so much less irksome. It’s no fun thinking you are getting an awesome deal only to find the real deal is a lot less attractive. Kind of like, you know, when the wig, the bra and the girdle finally come off. I know what you are thinking, but I’m not really talking about cross-dressers here. My step-dad married my mom anyway.

Bernd did a little more research, talked to some more people and found that the new, 40% higher quote is still relatively low and he will most likely go with that one, which he also finds to be somewhat irksome.

Then there is the whole we-just-opened-this-bright-shiny-new-gas-station-and-we-are-going-to-give-you-really-cheap-prices-in-the-beginning-and-then-sock-it-to-you-once-you-get-in-the-habit-of-buying-your-gasoline-from-us thing. How stupid do they think we are?

We had one of those bright, shiny and new gas stations open up in the commercially zoned property right at the front of the complex in which we live. Their initial gas price was very low. We have continued to use the station we always use, which is precisely 11.2 miles from our house. Their gas prices are always lower than anyone else’s. So there.

Recreational Vehicles

Have you ever looked at the names that the manufacturers of recreational vehicles give to their products? They are fanciful, charming, emotive and all together unrealistic:  Four Winds, Horizon, Sun Voyager, Kountry Air, Southwind, Weekend War, Prowler, Monaco, Mountain Aire, and more. You get the idea. They create idyllic visions of far off places that are so much better than where you are right now and the desire to just get on the road and go. But let’s be real.

I feel that if manufacturers named them more accurately, there would be a lot less possibly not so disposable cash spent on them. There would be a lot less of them cluttering up the road, cluttering up driveways (and have you seen some of the special garages people have built to house the things?) and a lot less gas guzzled (well okay, maybe that isn’t such a valid argument after all considering how little these things are used as evidenced by our daily walks around where we live). Consider, instead, something like this: the I Paid Way Too Much For It Fifth Wheel, the It Just Sits Around Gobbling UP Insurance And Maintenance Money Trailer, and the Gee We Thought We Would Use I A Lot More Than We Do Motorhome.


This article would seem to be about calling things as they are. Guess I should look at my life and see why this is bothering me so much right now. Well, that’s not really true … it always sort of bothers me. Guess I just get bothered easily.

Regardless, I got an e-mail from my sister once in which she mentioned something about how the death of our father affected our mother’s attitudes about some things. But she didn’t write, “after Dad died.” No, she wrote, “after Dad passed.” Now I know what she meant but the thought occurred to me, “passed what?” The point of no return maybe? Some folks say, “passed on.” But passed on what, a good deal? Now that would be sad.

We have all sorts of ways to pussy foot around and come at it sideways in stead of taking the mask off and actually saying the words dead, death, die, dying, etc. Why? What difference does it make? We all know what is meant. Does “kick the bucket (can anyone tell me why this one stands for the word dead?),” “expired (as in a carton of milk maybe, yeah, that can be nasty),” “pushing up daisies (as if the dead had nothing better to do … oh wait, maybe they don’t),” or “six feet under,” really make anyone feel any better. Well, okay the funny euphemisms might get a giggle or two after a sufficient amount of time has lapsed since the loved one “went to sleep with the fishes,” but come on, why not just say it like it is?

I’m not insensitive, really I’m not. But if those words are such a problem, why are they even in the language? Many words have fallen out of usage over the years for one reason or another. Why not these then?

Some Things I Have Learned

You really can’t always get what you want, but that should never stop you from trying.

Whining and complaining will quite frequently get you want you want, but will not make you well-liked.

Anyone who is willing to listen to you tell the same story for the fifth time is a good friend and you should keep them.

It’s always a good idea to end your article with a paragraph that sums up what you have written and reinforces your main points. Oh well.

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Income Taxes

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I hate doing our income taxes.

Yes, I could pay someone to do them, but I’m not sure it’s worth it. I used to buy an income tax program, but with our current method of accessing the Internet the connection is too slow to download them. Tried that last year. Wasted all kinds of time trying to get it to work. Finally decided to get the forms and the instructions and do it myself.

We don’t have a mortgage. Every time I add up our medical expenses, it doesn’t meet the requirements to be deductible. We live simply and don’t have rental property. And we are not self-employed. That might change if I make any money from writing. Sadly, I haven’t made enough money from my first novel to need to file  Schedules C and SE. But even if I did, I don’t think that would be beyond my abilities.

We are both over 65 years of age and I could use the new 1040-SR form. I’ve looked at it and I’m fine with the standard 1040. Our state form doesn’t change much from year to year, so it’s fairly easy to figure out.

Mainly we take the standard deduction. I consider it to be generous. And now that we are both over 65 years of age, it’s even better.

It should be easy, right? But I always feel compelled to read the instructions in order to be certain that I am doing everything correctly. Have you tried reading those instructions?

And it isn’t always clear whether or not you need to include all the numbered schedules and worksheets  with the return when you mail it in. I don’t usually. And so far, it seems to have been okay.

I’ve made a good start on the Federal form in the last couple of days. I’ve checked my arithmetic and it looks good. Another couple of days and I should have both the Federal and State income taxes completed.

It occupies my mind to the exclusion of just about everything else. And my fact checking gets a bit obsessive:  Did we make too much money from the garage sale? Oh. Doesn’t matter how much you make really because you sell everything for less than you paid for it. So okay. Then, what about the money made from your jewelry making hobby? Is it really a hobby as defined by the IRS? Or is it a business? And on and on.

All in all, it wouldn’t seem to be too bad. Right?

What I really hate about it is the time it takes to get it all done. It’s time I could spend on writing, doing housework, walking Maddie, or, heaven forbid, goofing off for a little while.

I have a neighbor who does income taxes for clients. She pretty much disappears around the beginning of January and we don’t see her much for the next six months or so (some of her clients need filing extensions and the like). I don’t see the appeal. Not at all.

Okay, back to the grind.

How to Really Learn Something

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“The person who says he knows what he thinks but cannot express it usually does not know what he thinks.”

— Mortimer Adler

When I was in high school, I took a number of science related courses. They were hard. The information I needed to take in was huge. The concepts were sometimes alien. But it all fascinated me, even if I didn’t exactly get it. Science still fascinates me today.

When I would get home from school, my mom would, pretty much without fail, ask me if I learned anything interesting that day. I’d launch right into a summary of what I’d learned in my science classes. Often times, I found that after explaining it to my mother, I had a better understanding of it. Other times, I realized just what it was that I didn’t get all that well because I had a hard time explaining it so that she might understand it.

I was convinced that these sessions with my mom were what helped me get through those classes with any kind of aplomb. If she didn’t ask me that important question for some reason, I’d start the conversation on my own.

In college, I took a psychology course titled, “Behavioral Science Taught Behaviorally.” It further helped to refine my ability to learn something well by offering up “SQ3R.” It means: Survey, Question, Read, Recite, and Review.

By following those five steps, I was assured that I really understood something. It helped in the “Recite” phase if I had someone to recite it too, but it wasn’t essential. Sometimes just saying something out loud helps by slowing you down and having to make real sentences.

Just today, I ran across an article on Pocket. That’s the service that Mozilla provides that suggests articles to me that I might like to read. This one mentioned Richard Feynman and his four step process to really learn something.

Feynman was famous for saying that knowing a word for something is not the same as knowing that thing. Or something like that. Jargon gets in the way of true understanding. So if you can’t explain a thing to a person who has little knowledge of the subject and do that in simple everyday words, then you probably don’t really have a good grasp of it either.

So what are his four steps for learning something?

  1. Choose a Concept
  2. Teach it to a Toddler
  3. Identify Gaps and Go Back to The Source Material
  4. Review and Simplify (optional)

The author of the article, Shane Parrish, went on to elucidate and broke it down this way:

Teach it to a Child

When you write out an idea from start to finish in simple language that a child can understand using only the most common words, you force yourself to understand the concept at a deeper level and simplify relationships and connections between ideas. If you struggle, you have a clear understanding of where you have some gaps. That tension is good –it heralds an opportunity to learn.


In step one, you will inevitably encounter gaps in your knowledge where you’re forgetting something important, are not able to explain it, or simply have trouble connecting an important concept.

This is invaluable feedback because you’ve discovered the edge of your knowledge. Competence is knowing the limit of your abilities, and you’ve just identified one!

Organize and Simplify

Now you have a set of hand-crafted notes. Review them to make sure you didn’t mistakenly borrow any of the jargon from the source material. Organize them into a simple story that flows.

Read them out loud. If the explanation isn’t simple or sounds confusing that’s a good indication that your understanding in that area still needs some work.


If you really want to be sure of your understanding, run it past someone (ideally who knows little of the subject). The ultimate test of your knowledge is your capacity to convey it to another.

I’ve seriously simplified what Parrish wrote. But I think it still gets the point across.

Sometimes you get lucky and learn something important at a young age (like how to really learn something). Other times, it takes a while. And really, the best thing is to keep learning all through your life. Anything that makes that easier is a blessing.