Friday, June 28, 2013

Bag Count: THE END

This is the day you’ve all been waiting for, ladies and gentlemen. That’s right: Bag the Bag is finished!!!
For those of you who haven’t been paying attention, I have been working on this project and posting about my progress every Friday since the beginning of March. Those who have been paying attention got to watch it grow into a fully finished product from its beginnings as a bunch of chopped up plastic bags.

Ninety five bags were used to make this one reusable grocery bag: 84 white Wal-Mart bags with blue writing, 2 generic white bags with blue writing, 1 white Hy Vee bag with blue and black writing, 1 white Culver’s bag with blue designs, 1 white Finish Line bag with blue, black, light blue, and gray designs, 1 white Michael’s bag with black writing, 1 white Jo Ann bag with black writing, 1 white Bed Bath and Beyond bag with black writing, and 3 white Hobby Lobby bags with blue, yellow, and orange designs.
While I would have liked to use all one kind of bag, I was mostly happy to be able to finish the project, and to use bags from several different craft stores in the process. A couple of them were even bags that I had used to carry home yarn in for other projects. And if I hadn’t used the Hobby Lobby bags for this project, they came with helpful suggestions on how to reuse them.

For those of you who ignored my blog on Fridays in order to avoid crafty conversations, I apologize. (Wait, no I don’t.) For those of you who love it, don’t worry! Bag the Bag Part 2: the Electric Boogaloo has been neglected for several weeks and needs some attention!
But first, here’s some more shiny pictures of Bag the Bag, all finished!

Bag Count: THE END... now I just have to remember to take it along with me to the grocery store.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Thursday in History: Not Out

When researching for Thursday in History this week, I happened to catch out of the corner of my eye that on this day in 1899, the highest ever recorded cricket score was achieved by A. E. J. Collins, with 628 runs not out.
Since I’m an American, and cricket is a sport that is completely incomprehensible to me, I glanced at it and scrolled onward. But that word kept appearing. I kept seeing “...cricketer” in the list of notable births and deaths. So I decided to write about it anyway, since June 27th seems to be a big day for the game.
Cricket is a sport popular in the UK and in the former British Empire. It is played on a circular lawn, or pitch, which is 22 yards long. Matches can last up to five days (or maybe they’re supposed to last for five days?) and are played with eleven men to a team. I guess the American colonies gained their independence before it got really popular, because here in the states we know nothing about it.
Sometimes we try to understand it by saying that it’s “like baseball,” but the only similarities I can see are the fact that both of them are played by hitting a ball with a stick. Saying cricket is like baseball is saying that Formula 1 racing is like Nascar. Sure, the basic idea is the same, but the rules, the spectators, and the entire feeling of the sport is completely different.
The amount Americans know about cricket wouldn’t even allow them to be able to tell if they were actually watching cricket or not.
(Hint: the men in this video are not playing cricket.)

Congratulations, everyone in the world who loves cricket. Happy birthday to Charley Macartney (1886-1958), Bob Appleyard (1924), Kevin Pietersen (1980), and Dale Steyn (1983).
And maybe one of these days you can explain to the residents of the United States what exactly the function of a wicket is.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Migraine, Migraine, Go Away

I’m sure all of you have heard the old nursery rhyme, “Rain, rain, go away, come again another day.” I’m sure when you were a child, there was at least one day that you were sitting inside on a rainy day when you’d hoped to be outside playing. You looked up at the clouds, your tiny heart breaking, and sang that song to them.
But you didn’t really mean it.
It’s not that you didn’t mean for the rain to clear up; it was stealing your fun. Chances are, every time it rained when you were a kid, you wished it would go bother someone else. You wanted it to stop, but you never wanted it to come back.
So why does the rhyme go that way? Were the original authors hoping to trick the rain into never coming back by just putting it off every time? Did they think that the rain would happily leave as long as it was assured that it could come back at a later date? Maybe the rhyme was better than saying “don’t ever come back and ruin my fun ever again.”
In a strange twist of fate, the word “migraine” also rhymes, and fits into the old tune quite easily. But I would never invite back something that combines a severe headache with nausea and sensitivity to light and sound.
So whenever I have one, I just sing the first line of the nursery rhyme (whenever I’m not feeling too ill to move). I don’t say the “never come back” part, since it wouldn’t rhyme, but it is assumed.
Migraine, migraine, go away.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Dinnermost Thoughts

Every day in homes all over the world, scenes like this take place.

video from the amazing Awkward Spaceship Productions

It shouldn’t be that hard to decide what to have for dinner, but I guess until spouses gain the ability to inherently know what we want to eat, there’s always the leftovers in the fridge.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Revenge is a Dish Best Served... in a Dream

Have you ever found an unattended wallet with money inside for the taking? Have you ever accidentally left your wallet and found that someone helped themselves? Have you ever threatened someone with violence until they gave you everything they had that was valuable? Have you ever been robbed in broad daylight?

When I was sixteen, I traveled to Guatemala with my school's Spanish Club. We saw wonderful things, took many showers that were meant to be warm but turned cold halfway through, and shopped like tourists. We visited many awesome places: a tiny town just off the Pan-American highway, a gorgeous lake in the mountains, and an ancient Mayan ruin called Iximche.
Iximche is a big place, with lots of open area dotted with buildings that used to be regal and grand and are now decaying. While we were there, we were allowed to ramble around and scale the tall, thin stairways to see the view from the top of pyramids. I enthusiastically took pictures of everything, stashing the used film in my brand new bag next to a photocopy of my passport, twenty American dollars, several hundred Quetzales, and a delicate teacup with a matching saucer that I’d just purchased as a gift for my mother.
Several minutes later, six other girls and I were walking out of a wooded area nearby when we were accosted by several men who demanded our things. We watched as everything was taken from us, except for Diana, who only had her hair clips to offer and was ignored. My favorite hat, with the crappy sunglasses I loved perched on top, fell to the ground as one of the villains removed my bag from my shoulder. I looked down at the hat, which I had purchased for fifty cents at a garage sale, and the sunglasses, which had been pink when I’d traded for them at a white elephant gift exchange at a school Christmas party but were now black because I’d chipped all the paint off of them, and hoped that since they were worthless, they would go unnoticed. But the man stooped and scooped them up. Everything that I’d had was now gone.
As we rode away from the ruins back to our hotel in the city, one of the girls exclaimed angrily that she couldn’t remember a thing about the culprits, even though her father, a policeman, had trained her to pick every detail out of a scene.
The delinquents were never caught and our possessions were never recovered. There was no chance for revenge or even closure. My favorite hat has been rotting in a ditch somewhere in the western highlands of Guatemala for thirteen years.

Last night I dreamed I was on a long walk across the city with my friend Sam. As we often did on these long walks, we stopped to rest for a bit in a nice air conditioned convenience store before continuing on our way.
It must have been a shady neighborhood, because while we were chatting, a nefarious passerby tried to distract me long enough to make off with my beverage. I was so upset at the attempt that I ended up driving the straw through the bottom of the styrofoam cup and spilling the rest of the drink. Sam made an attempt to calm me down, and we left.
A few blocks later, we were talking, and I reached for my bag to show him something. But then I realized that my bag wasn’t there. Realizing that I must have left it at the last place we stopped, we rushed back to reclaim my possessions, while Sam tried to convince me that they would still be there, safe and whole. I wasn’t convinced, because I had been keeping a quantity of cash in my wallet. Not a ton, but enough to make anyone who is sneaky enough to rifle through my things lucky that they found it.
Sure enough, we reached our former resting place, and there was my bag. I picked it up, a wave of relief flowing over me, but terror striking again when I found my wallet was not inside. The tide of relief crashed on the beach of apprehension once again when I spotted my wallet, but then went back out when I looked inside to find it empty.
Sam tried to be the voice of hope and reason, sure that we could ask someone about it, that we’d get it back, and apologizing for coming through this neighborhood and stopping here to rest in the first place. I was incensed. I was determined that I would find the thief and that they would get what was coming to them.
As luck (or maybe fate) would have it, the cocky, opportunistic person who made off with my possessions came around the corner at that very moment. Not only did he arrive, he immediately started bragging. Seeing me clutching my things in rage, he commented, “oh is that your stuff? Yeah, I’ve got your money. What are you going to do about it?” Sam whipped out his phone to call the police. 
I attacked.
There was a short period of time with lots of scuffling and shouting, with both of them asking me what I was doing and me wrestling and growling that if the police were coming, then we couldn’t give the culprit a chance to escape.
I suppose since it was my dream, I was predetermined to triumph, because I succeeded in subduing the boasting pilferer on the ground with his arms above his head.
And when the police didn’t immediately arrive, my captive began to squirm and gloat that there was no way I could hold him until the authorities came for him. So I did the only thing I could.
I scratched him.
My fingernails have been getting pretty long lately, and I was holding both his wrists with one of mine while sitting on his chest, and his t-shirt had ridden up during the scuffle, so his belly was exposed. The scratch wasn’t anywhere near hard enough to draw blood, but it can’t have been terribly comfortable.
He started to protest, and I began to demand the return of my possessions. He refused, but I figured that while I had the upper hand, I may as well gain back what I had lost.
I pried a crumpled five dollar bill out of one of his hands, then threatened to scratch him again. After this, he seemed utterly defeated, and pulled my cash out of various pockets in his massive cargo pants until all of them were empty.
Satisfied that he wasn’t hiding anything, I allowed him to depart while I sat down to make sure it was all there. Sam, who was proving to be the fairness and goodness portion of my subconscious, sat down with me, scolding me for my behavior. Upon inspection of my spoils, I found that the miscreant had indeed returned everything he had taken.
In addition to this, he seemed to have turned over everything else that was in his pockets, which amounted to an alarming number of newspaper clippings about Christmas festivities. Sam’s admonishments got through to me at that point, and I felt bad for the lengths to which I had gone to regain what had been taken from me.
“These are obviously important to him,” Sam told me, “maybe he’ll come back for them.”
So we sat and waited. The dream ended there, with us asking anyone who came by if they knew who we were looking for and could return what we had seized. No one did, and no one could, and I sat there feeling sorry for myself and what I had done.

Though I never got to confront and wrestle with and pry back my lost possessions from any thieves in Guatemala, I never thought beyond their initial greed. I never thought that maybe they felt genuine remorse about what they had done. It had never entered my mind that maybe, possibly, one of them went back to that place and sat waiting for me to come back and retrieve what they had taken.
It is strange that a weird dream years and years later would make me remember and let me resolve some feelings. It seems that revenge truly is a dish best served cold... and even better when in a dream.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Bag Count: 94

Guys, Bag the Bag is almost done. I mean it this time. It’d be even more almost done if I hadn’t stitched one handle on sideways and had to pull almost all of it apart again. If I hadn’t been doing all the laundry, filing & archiving, and giggling/writing fan fiction, it would probably be done. I guess it also didn’t help that most of this week my husband was on a business trip so any free time I normally have in the evenings was taken up by my children being awesome.
But seriously. It’s almost done.
It’s so almost done that I didn’t even touch Bag the Bag Part 2: the Electric Boogaloo this week. That’s how almost done it is. (I guess you could also attribute my lack of work on the sequel to all the reasons mentioned above as well, but I prefer to think that the reason it got neglected is because I was super focused on the original).
Proof of almostfinishtitude
Bag Count: 94

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Thursday in History: Moscow, Washington, and Telephones

Every day is historically significant in its own way. Humans have been writing down important stuff that happens for a couple dozen centuries now, so it’s not surprising that each day, there are lots of important people who have taken their first breath and breathed their last. Sooner or later, there is bound to be a day when many similar historically significant things happen. June 20th is just such a day.
Feodor II's map of Russia, via wikipedia
On this day in history in 1605, Feodor II of Russia was assassinated. It was a sad day for the country, because the young man of sixteen was a very promising ruler. Although he had only been on the throne for about two months, he was very bright student, in addition to being a talented amateur cartographer.
America's Coat of Arms, via wikipedia
On this day in history in 1782, Congress voted to adopt the seal that our country still uses today. Private citizens don’t really have a need to seal documents in this day and age, but governments still do. If you live on planet earth, chances are you’ve seen it on the back of a quarter (the eagle) or on a one dollar bill (the creepy pyramid & eye thing). Charles Thomson, Secretary of Congress, used elements that had been gathered from men such as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and Francis Hopkinson (a designer of the original American flag), who had been working on developing the seal for years to come up with a final design. When he presented it, he spoke about the symbolism of the images: “The Pieces... represent the several states all joined in one solid compact entire, supporting a Chief, which unites the whole... The Olive branch and arrows denote the power of peace & war which is exclusively vested in Congress.”1
Bell calling a friend in Chicago
from New York in 1892,
via wikipedia 
On this day in history in 1877, the first commercial telephone line in Canada was established by Alexander Graham Bell in Hamilton, Ontario. There is a lot of controversy surrounding the invention of the telephone. Bell is certainly the most famous, but he is not the only one, evidenced by the endless lawsuits and bickering and arguing about who invented what and when they invented it. But the government of Canada is so proud of Bell’s achievement that on June 21st 2002, there was a parliamentary motion to declare that the true inventor of the telephone was Alexander Graham Bell.
A red telephone that has nothing
to do with the Moscow-Washington
hotline, but is in the Jimmy Carter
 Library and Museum anyway.
photo by Piotrus
Finally, on this day in history in 1963, an agreement was signed by the United States and Russia to communicate more effectively. Though the Moscow-Washington hotline first used a teletype and has since upgraded to email, it is referred to in popular culture as “the red telephone.” Sadly, there has never been a red telephone in the Oval Office with a direct line to the Kremlin. The hotline has been used many times since then to prevent several military misunderstandings.
It isn’t every day that important historical things happen in Russia and the United States, in the history of long range communication, and all three put together. But on this day in history, they did.


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Haters Gonna Hate

I just discovered this song. Apparently it’s been out for several years, but it’s not a style that I normally listen to, so that’s probably why I missed it.
I’m sure it could be a completely serious criticism of a specific someone, but it's more likely that it’s just making fun of people who endlessly criticize free content that they are in no way required to pay attention to.
The weird thing about the internet is that there’s lots of wonderful stuff out there that is worth paying attention to. But instead of finding something else to look at, listen to, or read, people turn into poo flinging monkeys when they encounter something that’s not great. And the whole situation could be resolved if only the monkey could pause before flinging and remember the obvious: no one is being forced to watch this video, read this webcomic, or listen to this music.
Before you get into a flame war on facebook, step back and ask yourself if the argument you’re about to engage in is actually worth your time. It isn’t? What could you possibly do with that extra time? Here's an idea: go outside and look at the shapes of clouds in the sky. (As long as you promise not to tweet about how the clouds above you suck because they aren’t shaped like anything.)
If you absolutely insist on staying online, go read some hilarious comics at Watch Nika Harper’s vlog Wordplay. Follow Maureen Johnson on twitter (even if you’re not a fan of her books, I promise, she’s delightful).
And if you honestly hate all of those things, then there’s a great big internet out there that you might possibly enjoy. No reason to spew all over something you don’t like when the smart thing to do would be to stop paying attention to it.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Don't Forget to Tip Your Waitress

My husband and our friends always used to make fun of me when we went out to eat. It wasn’t just because I order specifically what I want (who wants Tuscan Potatoes with Chicken Marsala, anyway?), or because I would clean up and arrange the table neatly before we left, or even that I tended to tip well regardless of the quality of the service. They would laugh at me because I would talk to the server like I worked there, too, and mention that I used to be a server, so “I know how it is.”
They made fun of me, but they were just jealous because they couldn’t speak the same language as the server and I were. We had shared experiences. We both knew what it was like to have a whole table full of ten year old kids after a soccer game, who run around from chair to chair, all wanting something but never staying in the same spot long enough to take what they had ordered. We both knew what it was like to have a very particular customer who wanted something just so, and after relaying these directions carefully to the kitchen staff, to have the end result be completely incorrect, and having to go and face that persnickety person to try to explain what had happened. We both knew what it was like to have awesome customers who hardly needed anything, were jovial and kind, and left a big tip. Fellow servers always get along. Even if we haven’t worked at the same kind of restaurant, we can all sit around and tell the same stories over and over.
There are two kinds of people in this world: servers and customers. I would always explain to my non-former server friends that they could make fun of me all they wanted, because even though I’m no longer a server, I’m going to be the kind of customer that a server likes to wait on. I’m going to make their clean up job as easy as possible, leave them a big tip, and make sure to tell their manager if they did an amazing job.
I’ll be here all week, folks. Don’t forget to tip your waitress.

Monday, June 17, 2013

How to Manage Procrastination

Procrastination is a serious problem for many people. It has plagued me occasionally, but instead of sitting around watching TV, I have learned to manage my procrastinating ways and at least get some things done.
My carefully thought out method of procrastination goes like this:
1. Don’t do any of the things that need doing. Instead, think about all the things that need doing.
2. Arrange the tasks in order of least arduous to most arduous OR whatever you feel like doing the most to whatever you feel like doing the least.
3. Rearrange the tasks, taking into account which tasks cannot be accomplished before other tasks.
4. Maybe start doing some of the tasks, but make sure to continue to think about what you could be doing instead.
5. Sit down and write out your own method of managing procrastination to post on your blog.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Bag Count: 92

The jumbled mess
Things are getting a bit confusing with Bag the Bag. Since all I’m doing now is working on handles, it’s harder to keep track of how many bags I’ve used. The outside handles are finished, so I started working on the inside handles, which makes it possible for me to start to tack the handles onto the bag. Because I’m still making both inside handles while starting the finishing touches, it’s difficult to know which bag goes with which piece and how many I’ve used since I completed the main part of the bag.
I’m sure in the next week or so, it’ll start to look more like a reusable grocery bag and less like a jumbled mess.
Bag the Bag Part 2: the Electric Boogaloo, has its own ways of confusing me. One is that I haven’t just used regular grocery bags in its creation. The Teavana bag that I used took up five whole rows of its own, and then there were four small bags that barely made one full row put together. It might be easier to crochet at the moment, since I can clearly see where I’m working, but it’s far harder to know exactly how many bags I’ve used.

Bonus: Bag the Bag Part 2: the Electric Boogaloo Bag Count: 47

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Thursday in History: Best Friends FOREVER

If you haven’t experienced one yourself, you've at least heard of the style of friendship that most elementary age girls refer to as “BEST FRIENDS FOREVER!!!111” At that age, it’s a lot of talking about which boys are cute and which are gross, standing next to one another in line and picking one another as a partner for class projects, and spending the night over at one another’s houses, giggling into the night.
But then you hit junior high or high school, and one decides to switch to another clique, and then it’s glancing across the room at each other, wondering if the other wants to hang out and giggle again, but being too scared and peer pressured to just go and ask.
And then during the summer or after they graduate, they end up going to the same camp or the same freshman initiation and they remember what good friends they were. After that, they are a constant support to one another for the rest of their lives, a shoulder to cry on after being dumped, someone to complain to about an unfair employer, and the maid of honor at one another’s weddings.
England and Portugal have just such a relationship. On this day in history in 1386, Portugal was spending the night at England’s house (also known as the Treaty of Windsor), and they wrote up the Anglo-Portuguese Alliance, swearing that they would be “BEST FRIENDS FOREVER!!!111” and then buried it in a time capsule (ratified it).
England spending the night at Portugal's house shortly after
they decided to be "BEST FRIENDS FOREVER!!!111"
They then proceeded to solidify their alliance: they gossiped about whether France or Spain was cuter, maneuvered their desks next to one another in the new seating chart, and signed up to write a book report together, and giggled into the night (also, Phillipa of Lancaster, daughter of John of Gaunt, married the Portuguese King, John I).
Unfortunately, when they hit puberty, Portugal made a new friend, and Spain didn't much like England, so Portugal ended up watching England from across the sea, wondering if they could ever be friends again. After about sixty years of following Spain around, Portugal got kind of annoyed about the taxes Spain was imposing on Portuguese merchants, so it apologized to England and the reunited friends agreed never to speak their brief separation.
Since then, England has aided Portugal when it was bullied by Napoleon, and when it couldn't decide which ruling faction to wear to the prom (during its civil war in the late 1820s and early 1830s). Portugal helped England out, too, listening patiently (and allowing England’s Royal Navy to dock in its harbors) when England needed to vent about its disagreements with Germany (World War II) and Argentina (Falklands War).
It isn't always been smooth sailing with them, especially when England totally blows off Portugal when they've made plans to hang out at the mall, or when it borrows that adorable outfit from Portugal and forgets to return it for like three months (or when they have a spat about who owns what territory in Africa). Today, they still talk on the phone a lot and hang out as often as they can. It helps that they’re both members of the same clubs (NATO and the European Union).
Portugal and England have come a long way since they first met in kindergarten (and passing Anglo crusaders aided Portugal at the Siege of Lisbon in 1147). They've had their rough patches, but a 1373 year old relationship like this is worth celebrating.
Congratulations, Portugal and England, on the anniversary of the Anglo-Portuguese Alliance, and on being “BEST FRIENDS FOREVER!!!111”

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Writing Prompt: Friendship

Writing Prompt #749
They say you make your best friends in your first year of college. What they don’t mention is that shortly after college ends, everyone starts to get married and have children and it gets exponentially harder to see those best friends. And then when you try to plan to hang out with them, sixteen things inevitably get in the way and you end up arguing about whose fault it is that you can’t get together and get angry at one another when the real reason that you’re angry is that for the hundredth time, you aren’t going to be able to hang out with your friends.
If you’re like me, you are familiar with this situation. And if you’re like me, your husband has encouraged you to get out of the house and spend time with some adults for a change.
Thankfully, I have recently gotten a job that gets me out of the house and interacting with people older than 3. Most of them are ten or so years younger than me, but hanging out with anyone born before 1996 is a welcome change from my daily life.
Being strange is how I gauge whether or not I am going to enjoy working with someone, so I start with strange. Whether it’s telling an extended joke about semis passing one another on the highway, pretending to be a superhero while carrying gear, or making a Doctor Who reference (“bow ties are cool”), I pour on the strange. I know that I’m going to enjoy working with someone when I get a response to my ridiculousness. A laugh, a snark back, or a willingness to continue the joke makes me smile and gives me faith in my somewhat atrophied ability to make friends.
I love the friends I made in college, even though it keeps getting tougher to see and spend time with them. But there’s no rule that says that you can only make friends in college. There’s always room for more.
Especially if they’re my kind of strange.