Thursday, February 28, 2013

Thursday in History: The Discovery of Dord


The dictionary is not the first place I’d go to find typos, but on February 28, 1939, an editor with Merriam-Webster discovered one in the second edition of Webster’s New International Dictionary.
There was no internet in the early 1930s. The Physics and Chemistry editor wasn’t able to email a note to his supervisor, because in 1931, they had typewriters instead. Each note would get typed out on a slip of paper and put into its appropriate pile. Somehow, a note about an abbreviation got misplaced, and refiled into the new words pile. Nobody noticed, because new words were always typed out with a space between each letter to ensure there wouldn’t be any confusion. A note about an abbreviation reading “D or d” was very similar to a note on the word “shoe,” which would have been typed “S h o e.”
So when this particular note, one on how the letter d could be used in physics and chemistry to abbreviate the word “density” showed up in the wrong place, a new word was inserted in the dictionary. This word was given its own pronunciation and part of speech, and that was how it was able to sneak past all the editors.
Years later, after the word had been removed and newer editions of the dictionary had arrived, Phillip Gove, an editor, told the story of the ghost word. “Plate change imperative/urgent” was the last note in the file, and the space it would have filled was taken up by just making the definition of the next word a bit longer. Although this particular word didn’t seem to confuse anyone or cause any huge misunderstandings with the public, it still goes down in history as one of the most famous dictionary flubs of all time.
“Dord” isn’t a word; it doesn’t mean anything. But, as Gove put it, “why shouldn’t dord mean ‘density’?”
http://www.fun-with-words.com/images/dord.jpg
______________ Sources
Barbara and David P. Mikkelson, “Ghost Word” in Snopes Urban Legends Reference Pages © 1995-2013. Last updated July 12, 2007. http://www.snopes.com/language/mistakes/dord.asp (accessed February 27, 2013)
P.B. Gove, “The History of ‘Dord’”. In American Speech, Vol. 29, No. 2 (May 1954), pp. 136-138 http://www.jstor.org/stable/453337 (accessed February 27, 2013)

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Writing Prompt: What it Takes


The new regional manager had no sense of humor. Hank had never seen him smile, and he often broke up the informal morning meetings at the water cooler that Hank enjoyed with his co-workers. They would talk about their favorite television shows or sports or politics, but the new regional manager informed them, with a face that betrayed no emotion, that they had plenty of time for fun when the work day was over.
“Get to know him!” Hank’s wife urged. “Once you know what he likes, you’ll be able to talk to him about that, and then maybe he’ll loosen up a a bit.”
“We’ve invited him!” Hank whined in response. “He always makes some work-related excuse.” His wife shrugged.
“Maybe he just loves his job.”
“Yeah, but we can’t talk to him about that.”
It wasn’t that Hank didn’t like his job, he just enjoyed his day more when he was able to make the guy in the cubicle next to him grin or share a laugh with his boss’ assistant.
He was determined to make the new regional manager smile.
The first attempt was made on a casual Friday. Hank wore an oversized t-shirt that read, “WHO LET THA DOGS OUT?!” His co-workers rolled with laughter, but the new regional manager just raised his eyebrow, shaking his head as he walked away.
Hank visited an office supply website and ordered himself a new staple remover shaped like a crocodile and some novelty post it notes. Every time he removed a staple, he’d provide his own sound effects: “chomp, chomp.” It made the guy in the cubicle next to him laugh every time. He overheard someone ask the new regional manager if he’d seen Hank’s new staple remover, and the new regional manager’s reply, that he didn’t mind that kind of thing, as long as it “didn’t interfere with productivity.”
The following Wednesday when Hank woke up with some particularly spectacular bed head, he left home bathed in his wife’s giggles, and arrived at work to receive some high fives from the guys in the mailroom. The new regional manager offered him the use of a comb and suggested he go into the bathroom and splash some water on his hair. Hank laughed and explained that he was making a fashion statement. The new regional manager looked puzzled and wondered aloud if that kind of statement was necessary.
Hank decided to give up. For several weeks, he tried not to think about it. In fact, he was determined to focus on his work instead. Surely, if the new regional manager noticed, then Hank’s dedication might make him smile.
One night Hank was just finishing up as the janitor emptied trash from the cubicle across from his. As he gathered his things and began to get ready to go home for the evening, he saw the new regional manager also preparing to leave.
“Have a good night,” he called out across the office.
“You too, drive safe,” the new regional manager responded.
That was when Hank slipped on the banana peel. One moment he was waving across the office over the tops of the cubicles, and the next moment he could feel a bruise forming on his tail bone.
“Oh my God; are you okay?!” the janitor screeched, helping him to his feet.
“Fine, I’m fine,” Hank said, trying to calm her down. In the silence that followed as Hank checked himself for injuries, they heard a strange squeaking noise. “What is that?”
They followed it to its source, and found the new regional manager with his head on his desk, clutching his sides as he squeaked with laughter.
Hank was sure he wouldn’t be able to sit without pain for several weeks, but still felt relieved that he had finally found something that made the new regional manager smile. He laughed at the other man’s attempts to breathe in between fits of giggles and said, “So that’s what it takes?”

http://writingprompts.tumblr.com/post/41621995376/693-instructions-for-getting-a-complete-stranger

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Is it Football Season Yet?


I used to stare, baffled, at some of my more football obsessed friends when they thanked the stars for arena football. When I recovered enough to choke out, “...why?” they would enthusiastically respond that without it, there wasn’t anything to watch.
I never thought I’d be of their opinion.
My husband and I ate at a sports bar this weekend, and the 48 televisions were playing three things: men’s college basketball, women’s college basketball, and NASCAR. I was suddenly yearning for some arena football.
We ate our food and discussed the interesting things about the sports that were being shoved in our faces. I contemplated the truth of the name “March Madness” (emphasis on the madness), we were relieved when a crash made the Daytona 500 interesting, and discussed the most amusing thing about women’s basketball (the fact that the coaches try at once to be both gorgeous and feminine and commanding enough to coach a basketball team, and the fact that it never works and they end up sweaty, their hair messed up, shouting at the refs).
We also discussed a recent comic by one of our favorite artists, a chart to know which sport people are talking about at different times in the year.
http://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/sports_cheat_sheet.png
Sometimes I think it would be better to live outside the United States, just for clarity’s sake. That way we’d always know what people are talking about. And we’d never have to watch NASCAR. As my husband said, “Thank goodness for that crash, otherwise we’d still be watching them drive around in circles!”
Or maybe we should stay out of sports bars. At least until football season starts again.

Monday, February 25, 2013

...Spices


My mom is a good cook. She is gastronomically adventurous, so she is always willing to try a new recipe or substitute ingredients. And it (almost) always turns out well. Once when I was blissfully enjoying some homemade tomato soup she’d made, I asked her what she did to make it so good. “I added,” she began, then paused for dramatic effect before revealing the secret: “...heat.”
The first time I saw my mother in law tossing spices into browned hamburger, I was both skeptical and in awe. In my house, we had always used one of those seasoning packets to magically turn boring ground beef into delicious tacos. I didn’t think it was possible to just make your own from scratch. I decided that my mother in law must have been some kind of culinary wizard.
http://www.freegreatpicture.com/food-seasoning/spices-and-spice-pictures-4957Today, if you’re lucky, you can be invited to my house on burrito night. We cook pinto beans, my husband makes mouthwatering Navajo fry bread, and I can be seen wantonly tossing spices into a pan to make browned hamburger interesting.
Here are the secret ingredients: a lot of chili powder, cumin, and oregano; some cilantro (fresh or dried); and a bit of paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper, and maybe a few red pepper flakes just to make it look pretty. I’m sure you can look up the exact measurements of each spice somewhere on the internet, but where’s the fun in that? Measuring things exactly is not only tedious, it cuts down on the amazement that others have when they watch you toss ingredients around like a pro while still making sure the final product tastes good.
This way, when someone takes a bite of the delicious taco I made and asks me what I did to make them so good, I can reply, “I added,” and then pause for dramatic effect, flourishing as I reveal the secret: “...spices.”

Friday, February 22, 2013

Early Warning System


There’s been a lot of snow across North America the past couple of days.
I don’t really pay attention to the weather forecasts, but I’ve been hearing it from all sources recently. “HUGE SNOWSTORM” “STOCK UP” and “BURIED UNDER SNOW” have been echoing in my ears.
I stopped by the store earlier this week to get a few things that we needed. I have never seen the shelves so barren. From what I saw, people are stocking up, because they are expecting to be under a snow bank soon. At least they’ll be under a snow bank with a sufficient amount of coffee creamer.
We’re all going to feel very silly if we don’t get deluged, but better safe than sorry (better stocked up than starving). We really should have a warning system in place for all the different things that make us barricade ourselves in our homes.
“The zombie apocalypse is moving slowly across the nation, so be sure to stay home with a nice pile of juice boxes and shotgun shells on Thursday; travel is not advised.”

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Thursday in History: It's the 21st Dang Century


http://store.wondermark.com/products/bumper-stickersI recently bought a bumper sticker (to giggle about, not to actually put on my car) that says: “This thing should fly by now; seriously, c’mon, it’s the 21st dang century!” If I were bold enough, I would actually put it on my car, and then I could giggle at myself every time I got in it to drive somewhere. And I could daydream about it sprouting wings and not having to worry about traffic or having to stop at the light at the intersection of North Cotner and Vine.
The idea of having a personal flying car is not a new thing. We’ve been thinking about flying cars since the invention of the car. Probably before that. Actually, definitely before that. Ever heard the Greek myths about Pegasus? I guess that would technically be flying transportation, but the point is that humans have always wanted to fly. It would be awesome to just walk out of your house, get into your vehicle, and cruise off into the skies. “Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need... roads.”
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/6c/Waterman_Aerobile_in_flight.jpg/300px-Waterman_Aerobile_in_flight.jpgFebruary 21st 1937 was the inital flight of the Arrowbile, the world’s first successful flying car. It was designed by a man who wanted to be the Henry Ford of the air. Waldo Waterman was designing aircraft when he was only 15, and it continued to be his passion throughout his life. Even though the Arrowbile didn’t turn out to be “the Model-T of the air,” it still looks pretty cool. There were only five ever produced, and only because Waterman’s use of a Studebaker engine made that particular company eager to have their own Arrowbiles.
Although it’s sad that we can’t zoom to work in the morning in our very own personal aircraft, in some ways, not having flying cars is a good thing. Can you imagine the traffic? Air traffic is a mess as it is with commercial vehicles, so allowing private citizens into the mix would just be horrific.
And then there’s always the problem of designing a bumper sticker that would stay on the vehicle during flight.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Writing Prompt: The Pursuit of Art


http://writingprompts.tumblr.com/post/21433916588/475
“Uh, someone’s taking a picture of us. I didn’t have anything to do with this!”
“No one will believe you. I don’t believe you. Who ever thought of taking the head off a statue to use it as a reference for sculpting a cake?!”
“I’ll put it right back, I promise you. No one will notice and it won’t be gone for long. Did I tell you how much Mrs. Sedgwick promised to pay me for this cake? Over nine thousand!”
“Why don’t you get yourself a camera, like that guy? That way you won’t have to steal public property.”
“I agree. This thing is heavy, what was your plan for getting it back up there once you’re finished with it?”
“The same way we got it down, of course, only in reverse. And don’t talk to me about cameras, do you know how much they cost? Over nine thousand!”
“Your plan won’t work. I’m not helping you carry it anywhere, not now that there’s evidence. You said this would be a victimless crime! Now I’m going to be the victim!”
“How hard it have been to sculpt from a distance? It’s not like you don’t have a direct view out the window of your kitchen.”
“You can’t do detailed nose hair work from a distance!”
“You could have used your imagination. Artistic license.”
“Of course not! He’s got to have it on his kitchen table! He’s got to convince two idiots to help him get it down before anybody sees! He’s got to be able to smell the nose hairs!”
“Hey, what are you doing, you two? Don’t! Don’t put it down! At least help me carry it inside, it’s right here, just a few more feet! Fellas!”

Town Square, 4pm, Tuesday
Three men were seen today carrying the head of the statue of General Sedgwick, hero of our beloved town. They were identified as the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker. The newly erected statue in honor of his Generalship was reportedly vandalized in order to be used as a reference for some sort of confection. The butcher denied all knowledge of the event when questioned by police, and the candlestick maker only shouted, “I didn’t have anything to do with anything!” while running as fast as he could in the other direction. The baker was found, sobbing, at the doorway of his shop, where he had been abandoned by his accomplices and had subsequently dropped the precious metal likeness onto his own foot. He was arrested and is being held without bail until Mrs. General Sedgwick can confirm or deny his story.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Clink in the Soup


I put the bowl of soup in the microwave and heard a “clink.” I pulled it back out and shook it. “Clink, clink, clink.” “Huh,” I thought, “there must be a pretty big bone in there.”
My mother’s homemade chicken noodle soup is delightful. It’s warm and comforting and tastes like love and childhood. I’m so glad that I learned to make it for my children so that they can grow up with its savory smell and scrumptious taste.
We usually use leftover holiday dinners to make it, which in my family means a duck. My mother strips the meat off of the bones and puts it in the soup, along with lots of spices. Because she uses a whole bird and not prepackaged boneless meat, sometimes a small bone or two may be overlooked. One bone isn’t going to hurt anyone, and makes the soup even more charming. In fact, when I made some of my own a week or so ago, my brother’s response to my offering some to him was, “Will it have bones in it?!”
Making the soup is a long process. The meat has to be cooked (if it wasn’t already), cooled, and pulled off of the bones. Then you have to add the correct spices and the right amount of salt (too much, and “yuck!” too little, and “yuck!”). Finally, you have to add the noodles. My mother used to use some kind of thick (probably organic) noodles that sucked up the soup before you could. Egg noodles will do, but I’m still trying different kinds to find the perfect one to make the soup I remember when I was a kid.
My daughters love it. My one year old gathers up the noodles and shoves them in her mouth, and my three year old enjoys picking up her bowl to sip down the broth. Mission accomplished.
But back to the clinking. I’ve learned from past experience that my rings will turn up if all I do is wait a bit, so the “HA!” that burst forth from me when I fished my silver ring out of the bottom of my bowl of soup was both triumphant and amused. I hadn’t connected its misplacement to the soup, but I’m glad I finished off the leftovers myself instead of tossing them out!
Next time I make soup, I will wear gloves.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Head Cold


Bleh.
“This is my least favorite thing ever,” I told my husband as I tried to fight off my head cold with a tissue. “No wait,” I amended, “my least favorite thing ever is when I’m so sick I can’t even leave the bathroom. This is one of my least favorite things.”
http://www.photo-dictionary.com/photofiles/list/1952/2557tissue_box.jpg
Colds always hit you when you’re stocked up on tissues. I’ve got a good 3 boxes squirreled away, and I had been planning to use them up gradually, wiping tiny noses. But it seems like just when I have enough to last for a few months, somebody in my house gets a cold. And when one person in the house gets a cold, we all get colds.
I know there’s no way a head cold is able to hear the things I say or watch the things I do and try to make me feel worse because of it. But if there was ever a time for me to prove that were true, it would be now. My head cold took my “this is pretty bad but I can think of something worse” as a challenge.
I was up half the night trying to breathe, holding my head in my hands trying to make the pain lessen, and hoping that my daughters weren’t feeling the same way. I considered taking some pain medication, but it hurt so bad that I felt like downing some Tylenol would be the same as trying to use an umbrella to hold off a hurricane.
Eventually, I got some rest, propped up on some pillows on the couch, having one of those half-awake dreams that you can control what is happening to some extent and don’t really notice whether the things around you are part of the dream or you are actually blowing your nose for the seventeenth time.
When my husband left for work, he asked me if I wanted him to stay home. If I’d been properly awake, I would have said, “yes please,” but the conversation ended up as part of the dream I was having where I cut the extremely long line at a New York City food truck to get a fish taco for my mom.
I came out of my half-asleep haze to struggle to my feet and attempt to feed my energetic daughters breakfast. My mother offered to watch them when I texted her so that she could say, “oh, my poor baby!” to me.
When I dropped them off, my mother gave her get-rid-of-a-cold advice: “Drink! Drink!” “I was!” I whined. “Yesterday I was drinking water as though I cared about fashion and it was about to go out of style for some reason!” “Drink some more!” she commanded.
So now I have a gigantic cup of tea in front of me, and a glass of juice and another one of water within arm’s reach. I will take this head cold on, and I will win.
I just hope I don’t run out of tissues before then.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Be Free. With Your Socks.


My daughter loves socks. She can waltz through the candy asile without a peep, but if you meander past some socks in her size and don’t offer to get them for her, you may have a problem. Even though she already has lots of them, she never minds getting more. If I don’t pay enough attention on an average afternoon, she may change her socks two or even three times.
It must be hereditary.
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/1/11/Red_Pink_Orange_rainbow_toesocks.jpg/220px-Red_Pink_Orange_rainbow_toesocks.jpg
These are not my feet.
I was finding and wearing interesting socks in high school even before they decided to make us wear uniforms every day, which was a decision made the summer before my senior year. My friends and I would buy crazy, bright colored socks. Stripey toe socks, fluffy polka dot socks, fancy zigzag socks, anything that was different from your average white tube sock. I even had one friend who would wear fishnet stockings and get disapproving looks from teachers as she pointed out that there was nothing in the rules against it.
When we got uniforms, our socks became all we had that might differentiate us. Decked out in matching khakis and dark polo shirts, we looked like Despair. I like to think that the silly socks that my friends and I wore brought a smile to the faces of our classmates and fellow sufferers. On days when I wore silly socks, I would get several comments: “those are hilarious!” “awesome!” and “I love your socks, how unique!” It made me feel good to be able to express myself under the drudgery that the school uniform imposed on me.
My three year old daughter has a million ways to express herself. Her love for socks is just one way, and it amuses me to think she’ll be carrying on the tradition.
I’m ready to pass down the socks I enjoyed in high school so that she can enjoy them, too. In my opinion, she should wait to grow into them a bit, but it doesn’t really matter to her that her feet aren’t big enough at the moment for the fuzzy pink pair that she keeps stealing from my closet.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Thursday in History: Valentinus and his Day


Lots of people were killed by Roman emperors. Lots of them were martyred Christians. One of them, it seems, died on this day in 270 AD, and his name was Valentinus. That’s really all we know about him: his name, and the day he died. For his death as a martyr, he was made a saint. And on the day of his death, we celebrate romantic love.
Keeping track of the feast days was (is) a way for the church to keep track of the calendar. Time is easier to keep track of when you have something to reference it by, and in the past there were no weekends, so it was easier to say “three days after the feast of Saint Cyril” or “on the Eve of Saint Ignatius.” Every saint has a day that holds meaning for them, usually the day they died and became a saint, or their dies natalis, which in Latin means “day of birth” (into heaven). Saint Valentine did not die with heroic stories attached to him, and there was certainly nothing about love, unless his obvious love for Christ from John 15: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (NKJV) And there’s nothing super romantic about dying (there really isn’t, Shakespeare).
There are lots of legends that sprung up about Saint Valentine the man. It was said that he performed marriages that were illegal in the Roman empire. These were probably simply for Christians, but there is something added about sailors or soldiers being married illegally by the Saint. The addition of hearts to this holiday was added because it was reported that Valentius was giving pieces of parchment to the people he married, cut in the shape of hearts (though why a heart shape I can’t find), to “remind them of God’s love and to encourage them to remain faithful Christians.”1
Reportedly, after being arrested, Valentinus was interrogated by the emperor himself, who was intrigued by him and urged him to deny Christianity, to which the Saint refused and instead offered to help the emperor with his own conversion to the then-illegal religion. This must have amused the emperor, but we know he didn’t accept, since Valentinus was then sentenced to death. There are wild stories about how he healed a bunch of people while in prison, most importantly his jailer’s daughter, whose sight he restored. This miracle caused a rash of conversions, everyone in the jailer’s household was baptized. The sending of notes by lovers comes from a tale that tells of a note that Valentinus sent the evening before he was martyred to the girl whose sight he had healed, which was signed “Your Valentine.”
Legend isn’t fact, so why did a perfectly normal feast day to honor a martyr turn into a festivity for romantic love?
Enter Geoffrey Chaucer. He lived in the end of the 14th century, when chivalry and courtly love were flourishing. A civil servant during his working life, Chaucer traveled throughout Europe on various missions for his King, and may have heard some of the legends about Saint Valentine during these trips.
In Jack B. Oruch’s article St. Valentine, Chaucer, and Spring in February, Oruch discusses the many different ways to determine when spring begins, Chaucer’s understanding of calendars, and Chaucer’s poem Parlement of Foules (Parliment of Fowls). “Looking at a calendar for February, then, Chaucer would have found, in all likelihood, no more apt choice of a patron for the new season than the beautifully named St. Valentine, whose feast was celebrated halfway between the two February dates for the beginning of spring.”2 Since the other feast days around that period celebrated saints that did not “lend themselves easily to verse and rhyme,”3 Oruch determined that this was where Valentius the martyr became associated with romantic love: the date of his death was around the time when birds began to sing (and choose their mates). Or as Chaucer put it,
“For this was on seynt Valentynes day,

Whan every foul cometh there to chese his make...”4
Chaucer goes on to mention the saint (and his feast day) three more times in subsequent lines, which leads Oruch to conclude that this poem is the first time that Saint Valentine was mentioned in relation to love. Since Chaucer made such a point about stressing the connection, it must have been a new idea, or as Oruch puts it, “supsequent allusions to Valentine’s Day in the works of Chaucer and others could be briefer, and they were.”5
The meaning of a day can change over two thousand years. It can go from an insignificant date to the day a man died for refusing to set aside his beliefs. It can be transformed into a feast day in celebration of a martyr, a saint. That saint can bring fame to the day he died by stories told about him, whether truth or fiction. These stories can inspire a writer to publish even more fiction. And several centuries later, the majority of the population can be celebrating a holiday that has nothing to do with the life of the man who died on that day.
Happy Valentine’s Day. Remember Valentinus and his sacrifice. Remember Chaucer and his creativity. And enjoy the day as it is today.

____________
1 “Valentine's Day,” in Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Last modified on February 9 2013 at 8:13; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valentine%27s_Day (accessed February 10, 2013), 1.2
2 Jack B. Oruch, “St. Valentine, Chaucer, and Spring in February” In Speculum, Vol. 56, No. 3 (July 1981) pp. 534-565 http://www.jstor.org/stable/2847741 (accessed February 10, 2013), 556
3 Oruch, St. Valentine, Chaucer, and Spring in February, 556
4 Oruch, St. Valentine, Chaucer, and Spring in February, 556
5 Oruch, St. Valentine, Chaucer, and Spring in February, 557

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Writing Prompt: Regrets

Disclaimer: Not all of these writing prompts are going to induce me to produce hilarious and ridiculous stuff. What follows is not terribly hilarious and not ridiculous at all. If you came here today for the funny, I won’t be offended if you give this one a skip. Thank you.
  Disclaimer: Not all of these writing prompts are going to induce me to produce hilarious and ridiculous stuff. What follows is not terribly hilarious and not ridiculous at all. If you came here today for the funny, I won’t be offended if you give this one a skip. Thank you. Lots of people have regrets: moments in their life, if given the chance, they would invade the mind of their younger self and give themselves the wisdom gained by time. They would change the situation to avoid heartbreak, great personal loss, or injury. In our science fiction saturated world, there are tons of stories about time travellers. In many of these stories, a scientist suffers a loss, usually that someone they love died. The scientist feverishly works to build a time machine to go back and stop this event. But arriving at the crucial moment, they find that they have created a paradox: the person they spared from loss is happier than the one sitting in the time machine, and as a result this happier scientist has no pressing need to create a time machine. The grief stricken scientist may have suffered, but that suffering drove him to become something new. This is the way I feel about regrets. Sure, I’ve done some stupid things in the past that I would like to forget. But without them, I wouldn’t be who I am today. The littlest decisions can direct our lives. I wouldn’t want a rewind button for my life. As far as a pause button goes, that would be pretty helpful. A pause button would help me calm down during an argument to give a response less motivated by anger. A pause button would help me order tasks when everything (read: my daughters) is going crazy. A pause button would help me assess situations and give me a minute to think about what I say to complete strangers so that I won’t come off as offensive, stupid, or crazy. I am who I am, ridiculous stupid past decisions and all. Given a choice, I’ll take the pause button every time. In fact, I’d pay you not to give me the rewind button. I don’t regret. I grow. / http://25.media.tumblr.com/f488e788bf02ac36e016e840e339b31e/tumblr_mhs3ccAeB21qee12to1_1280.png



Lots of people have regrets: moments in their life, if given the chance, they would invade the mind of their younger self and give themselves the wisdom gained by time. They would change the situation to avoid heartbreak, great personal loss, or injury.
In our science fiction saturated world, there are tons of stories about time travellers. In many of these stories, a scientist suffers a loss, usually that someone they love died. The scientist feverishly works to build a time machine to go back and stop this event. But arriving at the crucial moment, they find that they have created a paradox: the person they spared from loss is happier than the one sitting in the time machine, and as a result this happier scientist has no pressing need to create a time machine. The grief stricken scientist may have suffered, but that suffering drove him to become something new.
This is the way I feel about regrets. Sure, I’ve done some stupid things in the past that I would like to forget. But without them, I wouldn’t be who I am today. The littlest decisions can direct our lives.
I wouldn’t want a rewind button for my life.
As far as a pause button goes, that would be pretty helpful. A pause button would help me calm down during an argument to give a response less motivated by anger. A pause button would help me order tasks when everything (read: my daughters) is going crazy. A pause button would help me assess situations and give me a minute to think about what I say to complete strangers so that I won’t come off as offensive, stupid, or crazy.
I am who I am, ridiculous stupid past decisions and all. Given a choice, I’ll take the pause button every time. In fact, I’d pay you not to give me the rewind button.
I don’t regret. I grow.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

I Heart Research.


I love what I do.
Research is hard. It takes time. It takes legwork. It takes patience.
It takes time: reading through an article just to get to the one nugget that is waiting tucked inside, ready to be unearthed and admired.
It takes legwork: chasing after one idea only to find that it is wrong or completely different from what you thought and unable to fit into your thesis.
It takes patience: waiting for a book to show up at the library through interlibrary loan, or trying to keep from losing your temper when jstor logs you out while you’re reading and you have to log back in and start turning at the beginning of the article to get to where you were reading near the end.
Research is fun. You learn. You absorb. You discover.
You learn: even if the article you happen to find has nothing to do with what you’re looking for, you can improve your mind in an area that you knew little about before.
You absorb: not every book you read is going to have exactly what you want on every page. The information you are looking for may be there, but in the meantime you can absorb everything else that the author has to say.
You discover: when you’re chasing information, sometimes you find the things you thought you would. Sometimes you find the opposite. And sometimes you find something amazing that you never expected.
I have the best job in the world.

Monday, February 11, 2013

It Must Be F-U-N


Parents have lots of tricks. We bribe our kids with snacks in return for good behavior, we play games to get chores and homework done, and we spell words aloud in front of our children so that they won’t catch on to what it is we’re talking about.
My husband and I use the spelling trick all the time. My daughter has learned that when we start to spell, it means something fun is coming soon. I could say, “Well, you could let her ride the T-R-I-C-Y-C-L-E, or you could get out the P-O-N-I-E-S for her.” Even though my daughter has no idea what we’re communicating about, she jumps up and down and says, “Yes, I want to! Let’s do that!”
Silly parenting tricks don’t always work. Kids will eventually figure out that they can be as naughty as they want as soon as you run out of cookies. Sometimes your child has a better game they want to play, and no amount of coaxing will induce them to help, and you’ll end up doing the laundry alone. And someday, they’ll learn to spell; some sooner than others. My daughter, for instance, could decipher a coded conversation about dinner when she was two. Once, after one of these secret communications, she nonchalantly informed me, “I do like P-I-Z-Z-A, Mommy."

Friday, February 8, 2013

Percentages

I found this picture (rather unsurprisingly)
on facebook this morning. It was just
sitting there, accusing me of goofing off.

Sometimes I think I should time myself. Really find out how much time goes by from the moment I start writing in the morning until I post it on my blog.
I usually start out with an idea, compose the introduction in my head, and then get to it as soon as I can, before it’s gone from the place in my head where I keep introductions. Then I get to the main body just as I hit a good stride, saying the things I want to say, and then I completely halt the creative process by going to see if any of my friends have posted anything on facebook about their kids, their job, or what they had for lunch.
I continue in that for a lot longer than I realize, and by the time I get tired of hearing about the antics of college students and think, “what was I doing?” anywhere from 45 minutes to two hours can have flown by. Sometimes my kids have to interrupt me with their needs to end my lollygagging.
If being a good writer is 3% talent and 97% not being distracted by the internet, I think I need to work harder to change that percentage. My writing would be more talent if I was less distracted by the internet. After all, being distracted will always be there when I’m done using my talents to be awesome.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Common Enemy


I fed the kids and ate breakfast. I exercised. I took a shower. I put one daughter down for a nap and brushed the other’s hair. After setting her down to play with “claydough,” I left my daughter upstairs while I hauled the laundry downstairs, sorted it, and started a load. I refilled the oxi-clean and broke down the box to recycle. As I shoved it into the box of cardboard, I realized it would probably be a good time to take some of the recyclables out to the garage. I glanced over my shoulder and noted that after that I should probably do the dishes while prepping for dinner later.
Then I stopped.
It’s not like I hate having the chores done, but I needed to ask myself why I had the overwhelming inclination to do them all now. I’ve been looking at that overflowing bag of glass recyclables for at least a week and a half, knowing they’d need to go out soon, but not feeling like doing it. So why now?
I looked into the dining room where my daughter sat, “wrapping” her cookie cutters up in playdough. On the other side of her was my computer.
I thought, “Am I avoiding writing?”
That was exactly what I was doing. In the back of my mind, I knew I didn’t have anything to post today, and I didn’t feel like sitting down and getting to work. My chores were also work, but it was like they were all uniting together against a common enemy.
The job that I love shouldn’t be an enemy. Just because I might not have an idea of what to write about at this very second doesn’t mean I won’t ever have an idea. And who knows, maybe I’ll get one while doing all the chores.
At least this way they’re getting done.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Writing Prompt: A Shock


The empiricist was not surprised when the zap from the metal doorknob arced onto his finger after he had shuffled his feet across the carpet to touch it.
He was very much of the opinion that everything could be predicted as long as there was enough previous empirical study to support its outcome. His friends and family would listen to him drone on and on about the benefits of knowing by seeing, and nod politely as he regaled them with tales about his current and previous projects. They had ceased to listen, knowing (through repeated observation) that he would rarely, if ever, say something interesting or funny. They weren’t surprised that his static electricity experiment turned out exactly the way he had predicted it had.
What they were surprised about was that as he turned away from the door, shaking his zapped hand, he quipped: “Nothing shocks me. I’m a scientist.”


http://writingprompts.tumblr.com/image/42273183138
writingprompts.tumblr.com

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Pickle Bite

“Does anybody want my guacamole?” my husband asked as our lunch arrived at the table. My mother’s gaze snapped immediately to him, and she said, “I doooo!” You have to know my mother to realize the amount of longing that she put into those two words. My husband doesn’t hate guacamole, but he usually ends up scraping it off of his Mexican food anyway, so he usually offers it to me. By offering it to the first taker, he earned the #1 Son-in-law Forever spot in my mom’s book. My mother loves avocados, and by extension, guacamole. They moved their plates together, made the switch, and ate their lunch, both happier.
When I was a kid we lived in a tiny village a short drive east of Lincoln, Nebraska. It had a small grocery store, but it only had absolute essentials. For anything else we had to go out of town, and often we went to the Hy Vee on 70th and O Street. Not far away, there’s a McDonalds which we used to frequent on the way home.
I can’t ever remember disliking pickles, but I or one of my brothers must have at one point. What I do know is that every cheap hamburger at every fast food place has the same toppings: mustard, ketchup, and pickles. My mom never had to order her own food when we stopped at McDonalds on the way home from shopping, because it became our ritual to give her the Pickle Bite.
“Yum, honey, thanks for the Pickle Bite!” she would say, and chomp down on the burger, barely able to chew and swallow before the next one would be brandished in her face: “Here’s my Pickle Bite, Mommy!”
Eventually it became our way of showing our mother that we loved her (and a race. Who would give Mom their Pickle Bite first?). But since we don’t all go to McDonalds anymore (thankfully), we don’t have as much opportunity to shower my mother with love in the form of food.
She never says no to an invitation to go out and get Mexican food, though. My husband is the only one who is willing to give up his guacamole, but I think the more important thing is that we are showing our mommy that we love her by giving her something that we know she likes. When we were kids, it was a Pickle Bite. Now it’s hanging out, maybe going out to get some enchiladas and a margarita occasionally.
Whatever it takes to show her we care.