Saturday, January 29, 2011

Please help me replace this four-letter word.

I remember the first time Eric mentioned reading someone's "blog."  I quickly doused him with hand sanitizer and asked what he was talking about.

"Whatever is this 'blog' of which you speak, dear husband?"  This is how we address each other in my polite household.

"I'm not Mr. Darcy; stop talking like that."  He rarely plays along.

Anyway, he explained that "blog" is the slang abbreviation for the compound term "web log."  That didn't help.  I don't even understand the difference between the internet and the World Wide Web (I'm always distracted thinking of ABC's Wide World of Sports and that poor somersaulting skier whenever anyone attempts to explain the two.)  Several years later, after repeated exposure to the blogging phenomena, I came to the conclusion that a "blog" is anything that anyone wants to write about, usually unedited, posted on the web for anyone else to read.

Of course I had to have one.  In every color.

But really, couldn't someone think of a better name for this form of writing and publishing?  The word "blog" is unattractive enough it it's original form, but the present tense "blogging" sounds positively disgusting!  Before I tell someone I'm blogging, I want to check the mirror for nose debris and make sure my zipper is all the way up.  I don't know if I'm unusual, but the word just carries such negative vibes for me.

"I have a blog" has all the charm of "I have a canker sore." 

"I write a blog for The Weekly Pimple.  Have you ever read it?  It's called 'Busted.'"

"Honey, if you are blogging again, please turn on the exhaust fan!"

For some writers, blogging is just journalling on the computer, keeping a "web diary."  But in our abbreviation-prone society, these terms would quickly become "compujourn" and "webdi."  Less grating terms than "blog," but clearly not an improvement. Others write in essay form, to demonstrate humor or promote their views to a wide audience.  Perhaps they use "blog" because no better term has presented itself.  But I can't imagine William F. Buckley or Ann Landers bragging about their "blog."  Buckley would have already come up with a new term.  (Of course, Dave Barry probably loves it.)

In the paper-print age, professional writers used inoffensive terms like novel, essay, dissertation, study, editorial, treatise, and column to describe their product.  These words may evoke fear or boredom, but they don't make you want to grab the antacid.

I don't want to think of a new term myself, I just want someone else to do it with my preferences in mind.  Gentle reader, please find or create a word to replace "blog."  Although I appreciate the free website I'm using to publish my thoughts, the words, "I have a blog on," don't gently roll off the tongue, as in, "I have a column in Cosmo."

So come on...I want all 8 of my followers and the other two anonymous readers to get right on this.  Show your originality!  Usher in a new age of ________ing on the web.  Give us a new name for blogging.  Al Gore is the father of the internet, one of you could be the mother of the webdi (I'm "webdiing?"  That's got problems.)  See, even my silly examples are crap - hurry before someone starts using them.  Stay on the computer until you find a suitable term to suggest, then send it as a comment to this post.

I'm giving you a perfect excuse to stay in your jammies and play on the computer all day.  Just tell the spouse and kids you are "working" on an important internet "project."  You can thank me later.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Unsung heroes

In everyday life there are many opportunities to give thanks for special people, fortuitous events and such.  We have traditional holidays, like Thanksgiving and Mothers Day, and Hallmark continues to crank out new "special days" every year.  These are (in my jaded opinion) just excuses to prompt us to buy cards and candy for people who need to feel special.  Why anyone would feel special receiving a mass-produced, pre-printed, unoriginal thought on cheap cardstock, signed, folded and delivered with candy made in some factory by machines that squirt out millions of identical chocolate cublets per day, I honestly don't know.  But I love receiving cards and candy, despite the fact that I know my reaction is a result of consumer conditioning and lifelong brainwashing.  Hmmm - I'll have to flesh out that thought in another entry.

So yes, we can give thanks to the people in our lives with very little cost and effort to ourselves.  But how, I ask, can we thank our inanimate objects that make daily life bearable?  Hallmark has greeting cards for dogs, for heaven's sake, so how about a thank you card for something really useful, like my dishwasher?  I mean, my dogs and my dishwasher display roughly the same level of literacy, and my dishwasher works much harder than my dogs and doesn't try to lick my face.  Doesn't it deserve a card?

As long as we are going to be "sheep to the slaughter" when it comes to buying greeting cards, I think Hallmark should look into marketing greeting cards for appliances and other labor-saving machines and devices.  In fact, I'll start by attempting a little poetry for my car:
 You always start in any temp,
 You never balk at weather.
 Target, Walmart, school and work,
 We go everywhere together.

 You don't care if I've got b.o.,
 Or if I'm feeling mean.
 I'll always try to treat you nice,
 And keep you lubed and clean.

Okay, so it's not Helen Steiner Rice, but I didn't have much time and I want to focus on other inanimate objects that I love. 

My favorite "unsung heroes" of the inanimate variety are well-known to my family and friends.  In fact, I've often said (because repeating yourself is much easier than coming up with original thoughts - just ask Hallmark), if the house was on fire, Eric and the kids are in charge of pets, photos and other mementos, because I'll have my Keurig under one arm and my other hand rolling out my dyson.

I probably shouldn't admit this, but when I wake up most mornings, my first thought isn't for the welfare of my husband or children.  It's not about what I have to do that day.  And unless I had a really good dream, I don't even think about my own night's sleep.  No, my first thought is generally about coffee.

And this gorgeous piece of equipment is my personal barista:

This is the Keurig B70 Platinum in dark red.  She'll brew a delicious, fresh cup of java in under a minute to your temperature and strength specifications.  As a person who recycles water bottles, washes ziplock bags and mends clothing, I consider this form of coffee brewing to be wasteful and decadent.  However, that's exactly why it makes such good coffee. When I score a deal on the k-cups, it costs about $0.35 per cup - expensive when compared to $0.20 for a whole pot of moderately priced ground coffee in a home drip system, but dirt cheap compared to Starbucks, or even 7-11.

This machine is my personal indulgence in luxury.  When my first one broke, I made it exactly one week on drip coffee, then I bought this beauty.  I will even go so far to say I didn't have one cup of coffee on the cruise ship that came close to the perfection this machine delivers approximately six times per day for me.  I know I could easily survive on cheap coffee from a cheap coffeemaker; I could even survive without coffee, period.  But it wouldn't be living.  My Keurig makes drinking coffee an event, or as my dear friend C. S. Lewis always referred to our debates over cigars and port, "a pleasant little occasion."

I would be remiss if I didn't mention that my Aunt Sissy and Uncle Dick set me on the road to this particular addiction.  Eric thanks you for that, I'm sure.  And for my many fans who are always asking if they can send me gifts instead of money, Tully's Kona Extra Bold (prominently displayed in the caddy next to the Keurig) is my favorite roast.

On a less serious note, I suppose it courts disbelief that someone who writes about her aversion to housework could wax romantic over a vacuum cleaner.  And if you've never used a dyson to vacuum the fur of two dogs from an extremely thick area rug, it makes sense that you'd doubt my seriousness.  But the fact is, I actually enjoy vacuuming with my dyson, and I vacuum much more frequently than I did when I used my old upright (though that's not saying much).

This baby handles like a dream - she hugs corners, reverses with ease, has a very tight turn radius, and gets an EPA-estimated 45 mpg.  Seriously, it's very low-maintenance and easy to clean, and tool-switching is a breeze.  I'm starting to feel self-conscious - if it's as great as all that, you ask, why is my house such a well-documented pigsty?  I've already covered that ground pretty thoroughly, so I'll just hypothesize that motivation and consistency play a role in helping the dyson perform to it's fullest capacity.  Like the infomercials say, individual results may vary.

But it is an excellent product, and I say that knowing that my endorsement of any cleaning appliance doesn't carry much weight with anyone.  I should add that both the dyson and the Keurig are rather expensive investments, and I was only able to justify splurging when I worked at Kohl's and had the triple advantage of early sale alerts, a coveted 30% off coupon, and an employee discount.  The rest of you need to figure out your own rationalizations.  I've done my best to arm you with the "emotional need," which studies show to be the primary trigger of major purchases.

I've always enjoyed trying to turn people on to my two favorite products.  When I worked at Kohl's I was constantly annoying people by singing the praises of Keurig and dyson appliances (usually to the tune of "Camptown Races").  And I hope you will share this blog with your friends, so that I can help boost sales of these wonderful products, and possibly get an endorsement deal or be asked to write a celebrity testimonial.  That would certainly make this housewife drudgery more bearable, and blogging a bit more profitable.

So be sure to hit "Share"!  Do it now!  Then run to Kohl's and get your own Keurig Coffeemaker of Happiness and dyson Vacuum Cleaner of Bliss.  (Celebrity endorsement not compensated - yet.)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Game of "Which is Which?"

20" computer monitor

20" flat screen tv

I've gotten quite a bit of humor mileage out of my "techno-challenged" status.  And although I'm not as dumb as I make myself out to be, (but almost), I think I've discovered part of the problem.

You see, many electronic and computer gadgets look alike.  At least they look alike to me, and I'm the only judge who matters at this point.

I don't know when I first noticed this problem, but when dvds were introduced shortly after cds, and I was still trying to understand music on magnetic tape and television broadcasts over invisible airwaves, I guess I knew this day would come. 
compact disc

See, I just don't get the invisible digital world at all.  I believe in it, I accept it and I guess even manipulate it.  But I don't get it.  Nevertheless, computer chips and nanotechnology seem to control many aspects of everyday life here in America.  So it's in my best interest to at least understand those components and be able to recognize them when I see them.  

But so far, I'm still confused.

Sometime during Christmas shopping season, I noticed that I couldn't recognize the devices on my kids' Christmas lists on store shelves or in sale flyers.  I had to read the full ads for almost every gadget in order to find out what it was.  And it slowly dawned on me that it's not just because I'm lagging years behind in my personal technology.  It's because a lot of this crap looks alike.

Example 1:

Who knows what these two items are?  I'll grant you they don't look exactly the same, but in a sale ad, without context or size reference, can you agree that they both look like a flat black box?

Example 2:  These next two are very dissimilar in actual size, but you must admit they share some common features: 

If you came from a place without electricity and modern conveniences, like Neptune, would you honestly be able to tell much about these items from these pictures?  I thought not.

Example 3:  This set of three items should be a bonus question. 
Who knows what these three devices do?  Can you see yourself laying the cordless phone on the rabbit ears when the battery dies?

Example 4: Since I was shopping for an e-reader for my mother-in-law's Christmas gift, I definitely saw the resemblance between those and some smart phones:

Example 5:  I had one particular item on my gift list this year.  Can you guess by the pictures which one it was?


Example 6:  The way media technology is advancing, we may not need our old portable cd players much longer, but make sure you know which one of these to throw out:

Example 7:  This is probably the most obvious source of confusion for many people.  Which one of these rings to alert you of an incoming call?

True, the other one emits beeps for other reasons, but I know from experience you can't order Dominos with it.

Example 8:  Two more very different items in very similar packaging:

Example 9:  No one can fault me for finding these different tools strikingly similar in appearance:
I wonder how many parents have seen one of those sticks among their teenager's possessions and launched into the no-smoking lecture...

And for our Final Jeopardy round...

Example 10:  This would truly be an unpleasant mix-up:


I hope I've made my point, and some of you "modern" types laden with all the most up-to-date gadgetry will understand why some of us hopelessly backward folks seem to be laughing at you.  

We've seen you trying to text on your external hard drive.


Quiz answers:
1. left- iphone hard case  right - external hard drive
2. l- front-load washer r- digital camera
3. r- cordless phone charger c- tv antenna b- wireless router
4. l- nook color r- iphone 4.725.a
5. l- fabric steamer r- shop vac
6. l- portable cd player r- IRobot Roomba
7. l- tv remote control r- cordless phone in charging base
8. l- powder compact r- gameboy advance sp
9. l- cigarette lighters r- memory sticks
10. really?

Calm Observations that Give Me Pause

The original title of this post (as I was mentally composing it at 2.4 mph on the treadmill yesterday) was "Stupid stuff that makes me sad."   But then I got about the business of writing it, and I realized it falls short of that description on several levels.  At least two of these thoughts don't qualify as full-out stupid.  And only a couple of them make me sad on a conscious level.  And the word "stuff" will be my prosaic downfall, if I can't shake using that useful term, at least in print.  So these thoughts, which kept me up for most of the night, can't even be termed "polite ravings," for though they are, like me, unfailingly polite, they don't even rise to the level of ravings.  Was that my worst run-on sentence so far?  Probably not.

Join me as I share some of my brain clutter:

1.  I miss the Hubble telescope.  I know they will be releasing newly-developed pictures for years to come, but that's not the same as knowing that little guy is out there, snapping those achingly beautiful shots of the universe.  I guess it will be somersaulting toward infinity forever, and that thought gives me pause.

2.  I will never be a child prodigy.  At anything.  And I will never be a child again.  Weird.

3.  I've been on 6 cruises, I've enjoyed each one of them and feel very blessed.  Nevertheless, after each cruise, I always state that it will be my last, since it's not my preferred way to spend a week.  To think that thought makes me feel spoiled.

4.  Colin Firth doesn't know I exist. 

5.  I've been such a poor source of religious education for my children, my younger daughter referred to Black Friday as the event two days before Easter.

6.  I still dream of my friend who committed suicide 16 years ago at least once per week.

7.  The people who don't know the difference between there, their and they're also do not care.  Bringing that fact to their attention changes nothing.

8.  My hipbones will never grow any closer together.

9.  The firming effects of my eyelid glue are lessened with each full-face smile or laugh, and won't last through the average evening on the town.  Money down the drain.

10.  No matter what they say, some friends and family will probably never come to visit.

11.  I have delayed in picking up a sick child from the school nurse's office because I stopped on the way for a DQ Blizzard.

12.  There is not one piece of furniture in my house on which I have not fallen asleep.

13.  I am allergic to cats, if I wasn't I would pretend to be, and there is nothing my children can do about that.

14.  I cannot direct my memory loss to specific memories.  It's impossible to completely wipe a few choice moments of embarrassment and humiliation from memory. 

15.  No matter how sleep-disturbing my thoughts, or cerebral my musings, there will always be enough housework and laundry to dumb-down my intellectual ambitions.

And needless to say, fifteen of anything is quite enough.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Let the blogging begin (again)

This blog has become kind of like the friend I fell out of touch with - it's just so hard to take that first step to re-establish contact.  But today I am doing just that, because I have so many other things to do, that it seems only right to run to my little crutch - this blog - and spend my valuable time unwisely, musing about myself and other boring stuff.

So I'm back to writing.  And if this habit is like most habits in my life, I'll quit and start back many times, but since it's a mostly good habit, hopefully I'll never quit for long.

I've been busy and have not blogged since mid-December, and I've been trying to analyze just why the stuff that kept me busy for the last month would be any more distracting than the stuff that usually keeps me busy, while still allowing me to blog about it.  Anyway, that may not make sense, but bear with me.  I've realized that the priorities and obligations that consumed me as Christmas and the New Year loomed large were primarily jobs that were "for others."  Buying, making, wrapping and shipping gifts for others is one example.  Baking and delivering goodies is another "other-directed" job (because Lord knows I didn't eat any of my goodies - oops, watch out for that lightning bolt!)  

Then there was the trip to Chicago at the girls' request, immediately followed by a New Year's Eve open house that we hosted.  Not purely altruistic endeavours, I realize, but once I was out of the habit of blogging about daily life, it was hard to start back.  

After getting the kids back in school, it was time to prepare for my totally unselfish cruise with my mother, which necessitated the kind of preparations at home that only a mother who has been gone for a week during the school year could appreciate.  Eric was very grateful to be relieved of cooking and chauffeuring duties when I got back, and even acted as if he missed me a little.

So every time I've caught myself in mental blog composition mode, I always thought that I'd find time to write about what was going on in a way that made the boring stuff sound fun and and the fun stuff sound commonplace.  But I could never make myself sit down and do that.

And I realized one of the big reasons why, after catching up on blog-reading last week.  My life is so wonderful, so blessed, so full of exceptional people who enrich my everyday experiences, sometimes it's just hard to find something to whine about.  How can I whine about buying and wrapping and shipping presents, when so many people don't have the money to enjoy the material aspects of Christmas the way my family does?  How can I complain about cooking for six people, when hundreds were lined up at the local soup kitchen Christmas morning?  How can I complain about cleaning house for a party with 80 friends in attendance, when some folks don't have a house and have no friends to take them in?

I could go on, but I won't.  When your shtick has been an all-in-fun whining-and-complaining blog, there comes a time when, even in fun, it's not appropriate.  I should have been writing about all the things I'm thankful for in December.  I should have been declaring my 2011 resolutions in early January.  But I haven't yet learned to write about my life without the complaint-themed humor approach.  Although I see now that I can't learn if I don't try.  

So I'm back.  My goal is to say a solemn prayer of thanksgiving every morning while my beloved Keurig is making that beloved first cup of coffee.  After everyone goes to school and work, I plan to commit mental blogging while I spend a minimum of 30 minutes on the treadmill.  And after those goals have been met, I need to write.  If I can't write a publishable piece, I still need to write, daily, as if it is a job.  Because my other goal is to make good on my amazing personal discovery of last year:  I finally figured out what I want to be when I grow up.

I want to be a writer.  And today is my first day on the job.