Sunday, October 30, 2011

Word and words

The other night the name of a new follower on Twitter reminded me of my journalism teacher.  That poor man; good thing he had short hair.  If his hair were long enough to grasp and pull, he'd been bald because of me.  The issue was my editing skills.  The point was I couldn't spell.  The defining moment came when he handed me first a dictionary and then the galley with the instruction try it again.  Round and round we went.  I thought I was done.  He said there was still an error.  My teacher finally circled a paragraph and made me look up each word in the dictionary.  When I couldn't find one of the words, he suggested I run through the rest of the vowels.  Who'd of guessed the word "initiation" begins with an "I"? The way most people say it the first letter is an "A". 
The following day my teacher presented me with a paperback Roget's Thesaurus.  If I didn't know how to spell a word I could look up one that meant similar and cross-reference.  Bless the man.  By the end of the year I'd graduated to Roget's International Thesaurus and a life long love of words.

Personal computers are wonderful.  Thank you Microsoft for Word.  However, Word and I do not speak the same language and it refuses to learn mine.  I refuse to be limited by it.

A few years ago I taught English as a Second Language in the work place.  Although the local community college provided instructors, out of self-preservation the company asked me to take over the class.  The out-going teacher left me his lesson plans and material.  First thing I noticed was the dialect, phrasing if you will, syntax if you'd rather.  Obviously he wasn't from the Pacific Northwest. 

I was facing students from all parts of Asia, several countries in Europe, the Middle East and then Russia.  (Google Russia; their language is barely the same from one time zone to the next.) How was I supposed to get everyone on the same page? 

Star Trek.  I defy you to find someone who has not heard or uttered the phrase "beam me up Scotty".  The boss about had heart failure when he walked by the class and overheard us role playing scenes from Star Trek 4, The Voyage Home.  Everyone knew the movie.  We were on common ground which encouraged the whole class to work on enunciation.  Plus it was fun and people learn more when they're having fun.

Then came the day I corrected one of the students by explaining I was teaching American, not English.  What's the difference she asked.  This happened to be a day we were studying verbs so I picked "walk" as an example.  In America we go for a walk after dinner.  Or perhaps we go for a stroll, which technically is a more English word yet one common to the West Coast where you stroll on beaches.  In Canada they go out and about, pronounced oot and a boot.  Down in Australia they take walkabouts which means they might be back next year. 

American is cool.  We stroll, hike, go, plod, tread, trek, traipse, plow, struggle, wade, shuffle and tiptoe and the list continues.  But basically, we walk.  When you think about it ours is a huge growing language yet it only works as long as we've common ground.  Check out the dictionary, there are 27 primary uses of the word "mean".  The first time I'd read that someone went "toes-up" I thought she'd died.  Imagine my response a page later when she was fixing dinner.  (Who'd of guessed toes-up meant she was taking a nap.  In context to the story up to that point, she could have died.)

Microsoft Word and I have numerous disagreements usually resulting in me mumbling curses at its inflexibility.  Yes, I really did mean to say the statues appear to be strolling down the path, present tense.  The argument over some words and/or phrases has escalated to the point I swear Word is making up grammar rules.  My favorite is when it informs me I've used an obscure word.  Try telling it to ignore or learn when this message pops up.  Just for fun see how many different ways you can use the word "stalk" alone or with suffixes without getting the "you're wrong" message.

A friend asked why I haven't disabled grammar and/or spell check.  If I were to disable the latter my proofreaders would threaten my life.  As for the former - why ruin my fun?  I have a vocabulary and I know how to use it.

(I have to share this, as posted on FaceBook by my sister and proofreader - "Paragraph 7, line 2: dump the period between "but basically" and "we walk"; paragraph 8, line 2: curses at ITS inflexibility."  Most impressive, Gayle refrained from remarking how I had time to write a blog and she is still waiting on chapter 4 of Done & Said.)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Zynga and the afterlife

Several years ago when I first started hearing about MySpace, I took a brief look at it and decided it wasn't for me.  I had other things to do like working and writing.  Holly and I were spending hours a week training for Agility.  Then more and more friends joined MySpace and they gradually convinced me to hop onboard too.

I have to admit at first it was fun and it proved to be a great way to keep up to date on everyone.  The big game at the time was Mafia Wars.  Everybody was touting what great fun it was, so I played for a while but I just don't get this game.  Racking up points, acquiring property and weapons was easy.  Yet the whole time I kept wondering what is the point?  And then people started getting real ugly, talking nasty to each other and making threats.  I bailed out of Mafia Wars. 

Around this time I noted friends were abandoning MySpace.  For whatever reasons the charm had worn off.  It was no longer the place to share pictures or personal ancedotes.  Honestly I can't pinpoint any one thing that caused the exodus.  Gradually we all joined FaceBook perhaps because it was like the early days of MySpace. 

Back then I enjoyed FaceBook.  I could post to my wall and actually get responses from friends.  I could go onto their walls and see what they've been up to, check out pictures and leave messages.  Yes, I played some games, mostly ones that my friends were playing.  The best part was we didn't need to be in the same game to chat while playing.

Do I dare mention FarmVille?  Everybody is nuts about FarmVille.  Any more I hate going out on FaceBook because of it.  My running joke for months has been "if you want to get someone's attention on FaceBook you have to offer a FarmVille freebie".

I want to blame Zynga yet at the same time I feel like screaming at friends "enough already!"  Posts to walls are buried under tons of "share" debris.  Most days I assume friends are still alive because they're playing games.  But then again, I could be wrong.  I know for a fact 2 are deceased and 6 have blocked FarmVille yet I'm still getting game stuff from them.  Yesterday I got an email from FarmVille to inform me a certain friend needed help to finish a quest.  Who'd of guessed you could play FarmVille in the afterlife?

My sense of humor suggests I post a semi-nude photo but unless I was offering bushels of cherries or free FarmVille bucks I rather doubt the majority would notice.

Until the latest FaceBook revision there was a drop-down menu on our home page with choices to filter out the clutter.  I do not like the new version; it's a pain in the tush.  However, you can group family / friends in order to see their status updates, links and pictures.  But it's still a pain.  For me at least, the charm has most definitely worn off. 

My Twitter followers are increasing daily.  For the record, there's only three I actually know.  If Twitter ever opens up to games and there isn't another network waiting in the wings to take it's place I guess I'll go back to writing letters. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Veggies Have Rights Too

Very rarely have I gone out of my way to look someone up with the intention of re-establishing contact.  I guess I've always been of the frame of mind that if I'm moving forward and they are too then sooner or later we'll reconnect. 
The last blog, Once Upon a Time in Beaverton, told of a fellow named Mark who started the Vegetable Rights Organization.  If you haven't read said blog, please scroll down and do so now.  I'll wait.

As I wrote the previous blog I could hear Mark's voice and laugh.  Then what I didn't know started bothering me.  My friend Nancy, of whom I wrote, is no longer with us so I couldn't call her and ask about Mark.  I did however get a hold of another friend who supplied phone numbers on the advisement she wasn't sure if, after five years, the numbers were good.

The first number was answered by machine; I left a message.  The second number was picked up by a man.  I asked if he was Mark; he said he was a Mark. 

Fairly positive I had the right Mark, I proceeded. "The Mark I'm looking for is of average height, brown hair and wears glasses." 

He chuckled nervously and said yes.  Consider at this point the word Stalker is probably going thru his head.

Me: "Are you the Mark who started the Vegetable Rights Organization back in the 90's?"

That got him laughing.  The answer, of course, was yes.

Now for page two - I told Mark there wasn't a week that went by that "Vegetables Have Rights Too" didn't make me smile.  He asked if I recalled the jingle.  I said no, just the logo.  Mark said that was too bad but he didn't offer to sing it for me.  So I told him about the blog and driving reason I tracked him down.  "What on earth possessed you to start the Vegetable Rights Movement?"

Here is what Mark said:
The Vegetable Rights Organization is in response to all the Vegetarians and Vegans who feel people shouldn't eat meat, yet they are not doing their part to support the cause.  Vegetarians and Vegans need to join forces with Carnivores and Omnivores.  If they'd do their part in eating up the meat supply then the population would have to eat vegetables, because that's all they'd have left.

Oddly there is logic to this premise, though debatable as to plausibility.  I am an Omnivore who absolutely loves vegetables and often dines solely on nice fresh veggies.  When I was out West my Vegetarian friends would grow so hopeful during the summer months that I was converting to their way of life.  Sorry Dudes; I still enjoy a good steak and won't ever refuse real bacon.

Out here in the South the meat tastes funny.  It smells odd when it's cooking.  I'm bothered by not knowing where it's from or how it was raised.  The looks I get have stopped me from asking whether or not it's free-range or if the animals were given drugs.  Therefore I tend to eat more vegetables out here.  Do not mistake this for me being health conscious.  Call me paranoid because I know the secret of Soylent Green.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Once upon a time in Beaverton

In the mid 90's I worked with a fellow named Mark who started an activist group.  While I don't know exactly what inspired him to advocate vegetable rights, the concept cracked me up and I loved his logo.  Perhaps as a child his mother forced him to eat his veggies.  Or maybe he dated a militant vegan.  Judging by Mark's personality I'd say he came up with the idea purely for the reaction factor. 

At the same place of employment I met a gal named Nancy.  She was a bit odd, had a non-traditional outlook on life and lived in a motor home with her dog.  During the week Nancy parked the motor home at various friend's homes or the company's back lot.  Weekends and holidays she escaped the city to camp alongside moving water, ocean or river, and work on craft projects.  Nancy was also into self-exploration: self-help books and workshops, tarot and mystics.  Pretty much when I first met her I thought she was a kook or the last remaining hippie who hadn't gotten the news the 70's were over.

Then there was Rosa, a beautiful Cambodian woman with a terrific sense of humor.  The trick was you had to get to know her to realize she was telling a joke.  For the most part Rosa kept to herself, did her job and rarely uttered a word - until she met me.  Lucky for me Rosa decided we'd make great friends which is how I came to know her story. 

First impressions can be very deceiving.  How we analyze and classify someone often is prejudiced by where our head is at and / or external factors.  I had just moved back to Portland after burying my father.  To say I was dealing with a lot of unresolved issues fails to convey my level of anger and frustration.  These three people saw in me a kindred spirit and went out of their way to help ease my burden.

I was having a particularly bad night, (we worked second shift) and was looking for any excuse to pitch a fit and quit.  Nancy moved over to the desk next to mine and unasked began assisting me prep parts.  But instead of working at a let's get this done and over with pace, she very annoyingly took minutes to do one part.  Realizing I was about to scream Nancy held up a resistor and said how much she appreciated the bands of color.  I'm sure I gave her a look that said she was going soft in the head.  One by one, each part she picked up Nancy made a statement about it's sharpness of lines or contrasts in colors.  Gently she was distracting me, halting my frantic pace and shifting my focus.  It took her most the shift but I've never forgotten the lesson, the Zen of prepping parts.

Months later Mark shared how he endeavored everyday to get me to laugh.  One, he figured me laughing greatly reduced the chances of homicide taking place.  And two, focusing on me diverted his mind off his problems.  Because of Mark I make it a practice to get a minimum of three people to smile each day and if I can get them to laugh that's even better.

Rosa shared her life story with me.  I'm sure she omitted or glossed over parts that were still open wounds, too painful for her to deal with despite time and distance.  I cried when I heard it and still cry when I think about what she went through.  Rosa's is a story of perserverance, of believing her lot in life could change with the very next breath.  For the longest time I failed to understand why, when given the opportunity, Rosa passed on gaining revenge.  I know it isn't just Americans who are raised with the notion you did to me and now I'm going to do back to you.  Once I crawled out of my anger I realized the moral to her story.  The only winning move is not to play; do not perpetuate stupidity. 

Sixteen years ago, purely by chance these three people came into my life at the same time and when I needed them most.  It took all three to make an impact.  I lost contact with Mark and Rosa about ten years ago.  Cancer took Nancy five years back.  The person I am today, tomorrow and ten years from now is due in part to them.  Maybe they'll never know the impact they made but everyone I've met since has reaped the benefits of these three making me their friend.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Go "hmm"

Time frame: junior high, now known as middle school, when teachers begin assigning homework that requires research, organizational skills and a basic command of language and grammar.  Before the Internet and laptop computers students had to go to the library and use card indexes to locate reference material.  Obviously access was limited to library hours and parent's work schedules. 

I knew the library better than my own backyard, which at the time constituted approximately two cleared acres and four timbered acres.  The problem was the library was six miles away and there was no bus service.  I was not allowed to ride my bike into town and there wasn't a hitching post for my horse.  Prior to junior high, going to the library was a huge treat.  I loved to read and always checked out the maximum allowed number of books.  My parents did not limit my reading to children's or preteen sections.  I had full run of the place. 

Yet in junior high I discovered some of my classmates couldn't be bothered with books.  My young brain couldn't get wrapped around the notion of people thumbing their nose at books.  Who doesn't like to read, to immerse themselves in a story letting the characters take them on an adventure?  Granted homework is boring and it takes time away from things we'd rather do, but still, unlimited access to the reference library is right up there with Christmas. 

Had I known the word at the time I might have denounced my classmates as heretics.  Denouncing books is like denouncing God.  Non-readers are the atheists of progressive societies.  Imagine if you will a world without readers of science fiction.  Perhaps Dr. Robert H. Goddard would still be the father of solid fuel rockets but would there have been a race to the moon?  Picture America without NASA.  Now let's see you pull out your laptop to Google all those wonderful modern conveniences we take for granted every minute of our day, and night. 

We who write never know what might entice a reader to go "hmm."  Believe me, had tampons and feminine pads not been invented by the time I read passages from the journals of women who came west on wagon trains, I'd be in a test lab working on them.  Necessity maybe the Mother of Invention but someone had to say "hmm" first.  Hmm, as in women really need something better than strips of rags. 

Thanks to somebody who said "hmm, let's record books for those who are blind" we now download our favorite authors onto our iPods and Kindles.  We have more counter space in our kitchens due to using laptops or iPads to call up demonstrated step-by-step recipes. 

The number of readers may ebb and flow but books will never go out of fashion as long as our society isn't willing to accept being good enough as the status quo.  I see in the near future going to my computer, calling up a book and selecting who will read it to me.  Digital voice impressions: Sam Waterston reads John Grisham.  Jimmy Stewart reads Mark Twain.  Pick your book and then pick your reader.

Hopefully the idea of digital voice impressions just made somebody go "hmm" cause my twin really wants to hear Ice-T read Piers Anthony.  I'm holding out for Tom Petty reading Nevil Shute.


Thursday, October 6, 2011

Germies and dog hair

Show of hands please, who has seen at least one episode of Monk?  Good.  Now that you've got a mental image let me say I have moderate OCD.  No, I don't walk around demanding wipes.  I read the labels.  Wipes merely apply perfume to germies.  Who needs good smelling germies?

The first medical professional to evaluate me said I didn't have OCD because I'm not hung up on even numbers.  Personally I like a clear defined center, anything else is out-of-balance and lopsided.  Therefore it is annoying and makes me fidget.  In an odd way, it actually feels dangerous. 

Most of the time I am aware I'm becoming obsessed with something and can take measures to control it.  Then there are other days.

Waiting for an order at a butcher shop I stood to the side and thought I was minding my own business until one of the cashiers made an announcement. "Whoever is processing Debi's order please hurry up or send Bob to keep her out of the produce."  She was looking right at me as she spoke.  I'm like, what's going on?  She pointed to the tiers of bottled beverages nearby. "You've already sorted every shelf and faced all labels forward.  Then you threatened to slap another customer's hand when he put a bottle back in the wrong slot.  We know you.  Stay out of the produce." 

Mean lady; the world would be tidy and well-organized if more of us practised a few OCD traits.

Do you love gardening but cannot stand getting your hands dirty?  Double glove!  First, pull on a pair of latex exam gloves and then gardening or work gloves.  For house plants - latex gloves followed by those yellow kitchen gloves so you can feel what you're doing.  See, now you can pull off the dirty outer gloves with touching them.  I suggest double gloving for other chores too like sorting recycling.

I hate touching [public] door knobs.  Yeah, this gets tricky.  Sometimes waiting for someone else to open the door isn't possible.  Often I'll resort to using either a sleeve or hem of t-shirt to grasp door handle.  The latter is guaranteed to get me weird looks.  For the record, cops tend to get highly suspicious should I don a pair of latex gloves before entering a courthouse.  Cops more than anyone know what kind of people frequent courthouses, and what might be brought in on their person.  (We're talking germies and bugs.)  Therefore the first order of business is to locate the nearest bathroom to exit so hands can be washed prior to leaving.

Yes, I wash my hands as soon as possible upon leaving grocery stores too.  Let me reiterate - wipes don't cut it with me.  I need to flush germies down the drain with hot water and soap.

On those bad days when I can't control the compulsion, when certain stressors over-ride logic, no one is safe.  I've taken on an auditorium filled with prospective jurors, made them straighten rows of chairs, tuck in clothing tags and comb their hair.  If I'm at home I'll happily feed the paper shredder or delete things off the computer and then set up new files.  Must be organized, no clutter.  Days like these I must be restrained from cleaning, specifically from cleaning my truck. 

While you're thinking this could be a good thing, imagine spending all day vacuuming and brushing dog hair from seats and carpet.  Now picture: it's well after dark and you're armed with flashlight and tweezers removing strands of hair.  I will admit that it's taken years but I've successfully reached a tolerance level to Holly's shedding.  I love her.  She sheds.  Shaving her isn't an option. 

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Holly's Top Ten

Last month one of the dog site's I follow asked where our dog would go if they could drive.  Naturally most people answered a pet store.  I asked Holly where she would go; she thought about it for a moment and asked "do I get a credit card too?"  She maybe be blond but she's no dummy.  Holly knows the truck takes gas and chews cost money.

Here's Holly's Top Ten:

10) any Human Bean or Dutch Bros. Coffee.  They give treats and sometimes top biscuits with whipped cream.  (also see #9)

9) any bake goods retailer that sells pumpkin or zucchini bread, preferably both.  oh, and blueberry too.

8) a pillow factory, warehouse or retailer.  every creature must have their comforts and my blond diva loves pillows.

7) West.  as in the direction.  out of humidity.  also the home of Human Bean, Dutch Bros. and PetCo

6) Best Western and La Quinta Hotels.  she delights in charming staff and other guests.  plus several have fixed her breakfast plates of bacon, sausage and ham.  need I say more?

5) The Hong Kong Restaurant, Grants Pass OR.  the staff never let me leave without a to-go bag for Holly.  Whenever we called in an order they always asked what Holly wanted. (BTW - she likes Szchewan and Hunan styles)

4) a good Tex-Mex restaurant, (sadly lacking in NC) she'll take anything hot and spicy on the menu.

3) tied for this slot are her uncles Terry and Jarod because they both grilled her plenty of steaks

2) Aunt Kat.  sender of care packages from Albertson's and PetCo

1) Albertson's grocery store.  seller of dry cured deli sliced bacon and Tillamook Cheese

Holly has yet to forgive me for moving to an area that's never heard of real cheese or non-chemically processed bacon.  The latter being surprising for all we hear about Southern cooking.  PetCo was not given it's own slot because she orders online and has a love affair going with the FedEx driver.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Shoutout to my Friends

Have I mentioned lately I have the coolest friends in the world?  Each and everyone of them is different; half of them can't stand the other half and a few barely tolerate the rest.  But they all love me.  And I love them. 

They all know I write about them, hence the disclaimer "anything you do or say probably will end up in a book".  You know they get a huge kick out of this because they call, email or IM bits of their lives, secrets or embarrassing moments; things that will bring you to tears or make you say "huh?"  I find this remarkable.  They know I'm going to share - globally.  Granted, I usually change names but still, I feel honored.

This week I've been keeping them apprised on Face Book the results of research into whether or not, and if so under what circumstances, homeowner's insurance pays for crime scene cleanup.  The consensus of my friends is that Big Brother is watching me and has been for sometime.  Apparently they feel I make government types twitchy by researching explosives, handguns and legalities.  Or in the terms of an insurance agent "this is starting to sound premeditated". 

Should I get sent to Club Fed, I'm fairly positive a few friends will be right there with me.  One, they assisted in research.  Two, hesitant to use the term anti-government, let's just say several have bigger issues with authority than I do.  Three, if they don't try to break me out, then they'll try to smuggle something in. 

While some people say it's their friends that keep them out of trouble; I have to give the credit to Holly.  I refuse to go any place I can't take her therefore jail is not an option.  However now that I'm thinking about it, jail might help with book sales.  I might change my mind if Club Fed accepts well-behaved doggies.  Considering the amount of mail and packages Holly gets they'll have to hire additional security screeners.  Maybe a nice friendly Golden so she has someone to play with.

Ok, seriously; I have the greatest friends in the world.  Even though we can annoy the hell out of each other, at the end of the day it's all love.  I think it's because the one thing we all have in common is the ability to laugh at ourselves.  We know that contrary to the adage, wisdom does not come with age but rather from being an idiot and then learning from it.