Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Internet is an amazing thing (or, why aren't there jobs any more?)

This will be a long, rambling, going-nowhere kind of post. You can skip it. You won't hurt my feelings. I'm just thinking, with words and stuff. Might as well post it.

I grew up in the 70s and 80s. That should say a lot, but here is a list of things that define me as a child of the 70s....

1968 Mini
  • ABBA
  • Going on vacation in a Mini (think Mr. Bean or see right)
  • Records...LPs!
  • Pay phones
  • The Muppet Show
  • Bunny ears on my TV
  • AM radio
  • Disco dancing!
All of this complicated even further by the fact that I was born and raised in England until 1981 so my cultural references are always slightly off. When you say "Sesame Street", I say "what?" When you say, "crackers"? You think Saltines. I think Christmas crackers.

Most of my American pop-culture references of this time are grown-up ones, not kids ones. I remember, for example, watching the Dallas finale on British TV when a sitter came over one evening to sit on me. (That would probably not have been OK with my parents since I was only 5 at the time. This was back when people cared what children watched on TV.) I didn't have a clue what the heck was going on, but noticed that Americans lived in the country and wore big hats and were very concerned with "Who shot JR?"(which I think they damn well should have been.) And, we also had the Dukes of Hazzard. Another winning piece of Americana and further reinforcement of the Dallas lessons to boot. So when we moved to the States you can imagine the information pool we had to pull from to anticipate what life would be like in the Colonies. (OK, we didn't really call it that, but it was pretty close.)

And, then there was the 80s...
  • Princess Di and "The Royal Wedding"
  • DOUBLE-pierced (!) ears (which I actually did. Only on one side. I was such a rebel!)
  • Writing ones deepest, most private thoughts in a diary where no one else can see or read them
  • FM radio
  • Colecovision,  Atari 64, PAC-Man fever!
  • Legwarmers, clogs, Alligator shirts, Tretorns
  • Young Kevin Bacon and Michael J. Fox (before his unfortunate diagnosis)
  • ET, Ferris Bueller, Ghostbusters, The Goonies, Back to the Future
  • Getting dropped off to meet my friends at "The Mall"
  • Station wagons
  • Cablevision!
  • Remote controls that connected to your TV by a long wire that the stupid dog would always chew through forcing you to get up out of your seat anyway just like you did the year before in the old days
  • MTV with MUSIC videos!
  • Madonna-the Like A Virgin (but not actually one)/Material Girl version
  • Michael Jackson-the PEPSI/Thriller/Beat It version
  • Journey, Van Halen, The Police (not the "lights and sirens" kind)
  • Recording songs from the radio onto cassette tapes by holding the recording device up to the speakers of the radio device waiting for the song you want to record to play. All the while, hoping that no one coughs, laughs, or otherwise interrupts your split-second judgement for getting the song without the DJ messing it up. In fact, if you were really smart, you'd call the radio station ahead of time a d request the song be played without them talking over it. Sometimes they would comply and you would accomplish the near-impossible comment-free recording of a song. Then, you would put all these perfect copies on one mix-tape to listen at your leisure. So exhausting, but that's how it was in the old days.
  • The space shuttle
  • Rubix cube and all its derivatives
  • VCRs and VHS tapes (We never did get beta)
  • Trivial Pursuit
If I wanted to know something or do a "report" for school, I would have to haul the Encyclopedia Britannica off the shelf and damn-well look it up. The. Hard. Way. Fortunately, I was lucky enough to live in a home with a complete set! A trip to the actual library was rarely needed.

Now the plus-side of all this ignorance was a simpler life. If I wanted to wait for someone to call me, I had to sit by the phone. Doing virtually nothing, except maybe reading an actual book made of actual paper or watching reruns of The Flintstones (which I still love). And wait for the phone which was connected permanently to the wall to ring. If I wanted to play with my next door neighbor, I could go next door and ask. It didn't require looking at a master calendar and setting up a carefully contrived play date.

Apple IIe c. 1983
But, then, in the mid-80s, we got a new-fangled invention called the "home computer" Apple IIe! A new world was on the horizon. We did basic programming by plotting points (square dots on a grid) in BASIC to draw pictures and played gripping games like Lemonade Stand, but no email or Internet. I still typed actual letters on my dad's ribbon typewriter and put the letters in the actual US mail! Beyond that I didn't really touch a computer until I was in college. College! 1991!

It wasn't long thereafter that the Internet was invented by Al Gore. And suddenly, everyone became experts in everything. And then there was Wikipedia which made it nearly impossible for me to continue my career path as a pathological know-it-all. I had to find some thing else to do and stat!

Now, I can think of any obscure topic and zoom in to outer-computerworld to find an answer from other career know-it-alls. (There is a club.) The answer might not actually be right, but that's inconsequential really. I can look at anything. I can even look at lots of things I didn't mean to look at. For example, I now know that if I want to go to the White House (in DC) web site, I have to go to WhiteHouse dot GOV, not dot COM. (Don't do it. You'll regret it!) The world is a frightening place.

And then there's a whole slew of other deviations from the old traditional way of doing things....

Phones. They go with us. Everywhere. It's magical. I can stand outside of some one's house and call them to "see if they're home" when I can see them in their kitchen window making dinner! Then I can bust them on Facebook when they post that they are in China posting Photoshopped photos of themselves on the Great Wall of China by asking if I can stop by for dinner since I'm "in the neighborhood".

Music. Doesn't. Exist. Anymore. It's all just an illusion. You give Apple money. They play the song on a device that is completely unique and incompatible with any other device. "Proprietary," they call it. "Rip off," I call it. You can't even will your music to someone when you die.

Journals or diaries are now blogs (web-logs) which are technically diaries with personal, private ideas out there for public shredding consumption and COMMENT. (Yet, for some reason, we are all still very wrapped up in our privacy rights.) We publish our business, a few people read it, probably laugh at us, and go on with their day. Crazy. Right?

Social media. Facebook where one hooks-up with everyone with whom one has ever crossed paths. And I'm talking everyone. It is sooo awesome! It helps us visit the uncomfortable worlds of our past and present. Simultaneously! And, Twitter which, frankly, I still (after 7 years) don't get. I need more than 140 characters per thought. But it is perfect for all those kids who can't string more than that together even with a gun to their head.

In the meantime, computers are getting smarter and people are getting stupider. (Sounds wrong, I know, but it's the right word. The internet says so.) We need less people to do the same amount of things; yet the populations abounds. Someone needs to create an effective method of dumbing down the computer population so that the human population will still have options for a paycheck. That master mind will make a bundle!

That's it. Told you I wasn't going anywhere with it. Thanks for stopping by.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Still doing homework at 40

I thought that once I hit 40 I'd be in so much physical pain from my newly acquired advanced age that some of life's other "treats" (homework, for example) would take a respite. Unfortunately, however, this does not appear to be the case.

Specifically, homework-related parenting consumes most of my post-school/pre-bedtime policies and procedures. Basically, the policy is "get your homework done!" The procedures, however, vary considerably from day-to-day. Not because I don't have procedures, but more because the kids have no intention of executing the policy my way.

Today, the negotiations were particularly tricky. I had my class to get to and so I had to make sure the bulk of the work was done prior to departure. Also on Mondays, the homework is extensive because the teachers feel that they need to make up for two whole days of free-thinking. Then, toss in a little dinner and bath and you have yourself a recipe for failure in a nanosecond.

Along the way, I have learned that forewarning is helpful, but that it does not preclude the torturously, endless negotiating strategies that will ensue when the starting shot goes off. Today, it began with a little, "can't I just do it after dinner?" from The Older One (9 years old) to a slightly more complicated diversion in The Little One (6 years old).

Both my kids are intelligent, but "The Little One" (as I shall call her to protect her fragile privacy) is dangerously smart. (Think Super Villain.) If you have never been around someone who is dangerously smart, then you are probably living a happy, fulfilled life with nary a care in the world. I, on the other hand, am plagued by a child who is continuously at least one giant leap ahead of my in just about every situation. As such, I never know what is going to happen from one second to the next.

A case in point: one day she came home from kindergarten complaining that she hated school and it was boring. She said she didn't want to go back and, if I loved her, I wouldn't make her go. For once, I thought I had a convincing response to this recurring dilemma so I dove right in. "Well, you want to be an entomologist or zookeeper, right?" She eyed me suspiciously, "yes..." And, I said, "you have to go to school to learn enough to be able to do that job!" She instantly smelled a rat. "Mommy! We don't do any of that stuff at school. School is stupid." How dare I try to manipulate her! But I digress...

So today, I tell "The Little One" that she would start her homework in five minutes. She popped up off the couch (where she was watching SpongeBob), slipped her shoes on her feet, and headed for the door. I asked her where she was going and she said, "I'm going outside. Don't come and get me. I know how long five minutes is." Curses, foiled again!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

If Anderson Cooper can, why can't I?

I got my first gray hair when I was sixteen. I remember it clearly because I was sitting in French class when one of the more annoying and power-hungry members of my class walked up behind me, plucked out the hair, and announced her discovery to the class. (Thankfully, the teacher did not encourage her to repeat her discovery en francais.) I was mortified. And, if I ever see her again, let it be known that I still carry the receipts from my therapy and I will seek revenge reimbursement.

While I didn't go rapidly grayer at such a young age, grayness has always been winning. (Not to be confused with #winning.) Now at (ahem) nearly 40 my hair has become largely gray.

This probably seems somewhat unusual to many people who don't get to see gray hair so often. Remember, many people my age with a similar "affliction" dye their hair and that is their prerogative. But keep in mind, the average age of grayness is in the 30s. I might have been unlucky with the pace of my grayness, but I'm not a freak! So please stop commenting on it.

I know seeing my gray hair probably makes some people feel old themselves. It's hard not to recognize that you are getting old alongside me. But, get over it. My decision not to dye my hair isn't a political statement, a feminist statement, or any other kind if statement. At the moment, it just is what it is. One day, I may chose to do something different, but, just to let you know, it won't be a statement then either. (Although it might be pink.)

No, I don't want to be unappealing and unattractive and all that stuff. I wish I believed that my gray hair didn't make me those things, but unfortunately, I have been told otherwise too many times. In reality, culturally, we are not there yet.

In fact, when you comment on my gray hair it makes me feel bad! I am a kind soul. I try to approach most things with an element of humor. I might go along with your ribbing because I don't know what else to do. I may even be so unassuming that you assume you can say what you want to me without consequence, but you can't. So stop it. Leave me alone.

No, I'm not being unusually sensitive. In fact, I think you are being unusually insensitive. I would never comment on your physical appearance without the intention of building you up. I don't seek to make myself bigger and better by making you smaller. On the other hand, I don't expect you to build me up, but I do hope you will reach down to your humanity and recognize how inhumane you may be. I am human. I am not an object of observation and amusement.

So I'm saying it once and I'm saying it loud....the next time you feel tempted to comment on my gray hair, be forewarned. I will speak my mind. You better be perfect because it might not be pretty. It might even force me to make a statement, but I know I will at least send you the bill.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Damned Perspective!

The other day as I was going through the gate on base, the gate guard noticed my impending birthday and mentioned it.

I was feeling wallow-y and said, "yeah, 40" followed with a sad shrug and an appropriate level of "poor me" as the over all message. I felt like I'd earned it. Isn't that one of the things we are allowed at 40? Self-pity?

He responded cheerfully, "Don't be sad! Lots of people don't make it to 40! It's a gift." In his line of work, in particular, this is probably all too true.

Damnit! Some kind of perspective.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Risqué Business

Ninja gnome
I accidentally skipped a step in my quest for the perfect mid-life crisis while I was surfing the net looking for a budget-mindful way start my garden gnome collection. I mentioned that I am not a great risk taker. If I'm taking a risk, it is usually an accident or an exercise in self-preservation (e.g. to prevent lasting physical damage) so when I found myself looking at a Groupon-like "experience" for burlesque classes, I was surprise to find that my interest was piqued!

From my limited understanding, burlesque unites the basic principles of dance and theater. You know, vaudeville, variety show. That kind of thing. Having experience in both dance and theater, I thought that this might be a fun opportunity to socialize a bit, workout, and do something new and mid-life crisis-y-like. I think I was picturing Fred and Ethyl Mertz on I Love Lucy. Not too risky. So without much ado, I leaped at the offer. Not just the 4-class minimum either, but 8! If I was going to do it, I would go whole hog.

In my usual ass-backwards way, I quickly bought the deal (it was so cheap!) and then I googled my way in to some research. I needed to get some idea of what I was getting myself in to and...OH SHIT! Apparently, there are two forms of burlesque....the European (think variety show) and the American (think strip tease!).

Horrified, I frantically read the terms and conditions to my purchase in search of a merciful loophole that would allow me to return the damn thing. No luck. Those terms must have been written by tax lawyers. I was stuck with it. In a final act of desperation, I gathered my wits and placed a call to the teacher. "Um, I just bought a Groupon...and, I, uh, have a few, um, questions...."

I was overjoyed to discover that I would be allowed to keep my clothes on and that the only things I needed would be gloves, a feather boa, and dancing shoes. Lucky for me, I was already just about equipped! I was also thrilled to find out that the place was a good 45 minutes away so there would be little chance of any witnesses. I do have a (borderline) reputation to protect.

When the first night arrived with alarming speed, I hemmed and hawed some more about going and spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out what was appropriate to wear for a burlesque class. I mean, I had the required accessories, but my wardrobe is far from even the most broad definitions of burlesque. Eventually, I got myself together, threw all my belongings into an eco-friendly shopping tote, and off I went with utmost trepidation.

An hour later, I was standing in the lobby feeling clammy with a similarly shell-shocked looking group of women with a smattering of more "experienced" dancers. (When I say "experienced", read "unusually limber".) All I could do was pray that I could keep what was left of my dignity intact. It was then that I looked down and realized that I'd thrown all my "accessories" in to a eco-friendly, Toys R Us (!) bag. Glam. No doubt.

Just as the panic started to break through, class began. With (at least one) aging stripper to my left and a state crime scene tech to my right, I was definitely among the more vanilla members of the group. But what I lacked in flavor, I think I made up for with sheer hilarity. Picture, if you will, Benny Hill in long, satin gloves and high heeled shoes....dancing. Sort of. (OK, that might be a little more brutal than necessary, but you get the idea.)  That first night wasn't pretty. I won't bore you with the details. If you know me, you can probably imagine...and I'm sorry for that vision.

The class ended, I tucked all my accessories neatly into my Toy R Us (!) eco-bag and slunk home to lick my wounds. I knew that I would have to go back. (I'm nothing, if not persistent.) But I really wished I could just send a clone.

The next week rolled around and my sense of commitment prevailed. I swallowed my pride (and about $15 in gasoline) and hauled my butt over to the class once again. I was more nervous this time because I knew what I was in for. But somehow, someway, my body remembered that it had a purpose and some experience with coordination- based activites  and it didn't completely fail me. Even my trick hip was a touch less tricky. This time it was actually really fun (and I was a lot less funny).

It's been a few weeks now and I'm finally learning to channel my inner Mata a supremely vanilla way, but that's ok because things didn't end that well for her anyway.

So what, might you ask, is the moral of the wordy tale? An excellent question. Overall, I think it is try not to let you dignity get in the way of your dignity.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Mid-Life Crisis Decision Trees

Since (ahem) 40 is (ahem) just around the corner. I believe it is a natural place for a mid-life crisis. After a lot of thought and reflection, I think I will have one. So grab a drink, sit back, relax, and enjoy the accident that is about to happen before your eyes. I'm hoping an approprite audience might inject my experience with a little extra vigor.

After consulting with various experts in the field, I have found that the whole issue is really quite complicated. So many decisions! In fact, I thought a mid-life crisis was pretty much a decision-free experience. A lot of consequences, perhaps, but overall a joyride that makes it totally worth it.

Come to find out I'm wrong (again). I have to decide were my priorities lie. For example, do I want a tattoo or plastic surgery? If a tattoo, where and what? If plastic surgery, what and how big? Not only that, but if I opt for a tattoo (which is the direction I'm leaning in today), then I have to go in to it with the understanding that plastic surgery may be a natural consequence. See what I mean? Decisions. Decisions.

My advisers categorize mid-life escapades in the following ways: appearance, material objects, relationships, professional, social, and risk taking. Choosing one type of crisis may lead to another type of crisis and so on. Crisis interact with each other in a variety of ways, not all of them pleasant. For example, one could have a material objects and appearance crisis which could land you with a hefty car payment and bigger boobs. A secondary outcome of this type of crisis could be social and relationship crises. So you see, one has to think very carefully about the type of crisis one is willing to have. One false step and it could be a completely uncomfortable and unsatisfactory experience.

Under the auspices of doing it right, I'm going to break down my options and consider which path would work best for me.


Frankly, this is a good possibility. A little stomach stapling here. Some lipo there. Perhaps some total body lifting here and there and there as well. Not only that, but I've had a fantasy in which I get a really cool tattoo in a really cool place for about ten years now. I just can't figure out what and where.

Doing this right, though, might boost the chances of a good social crisis. The potential is nearly limitless. Costly though. That is something to consider.

Material Objects

My car is eight years old. I could use a new one. I already know which one I would like to get, but it doesn't really qualify me for a "material objects" crisis. Eh. Don't really want a car payment. I think I would rather travel (by means other than by car, that is.) I also don't think I have the energy to keep up with the Joneses of a car-based mid-life crisis. Too much cleaning and such (and, if you read my last blog, we all know how much I love cleaning! I'm good at it, too. Ha!).

I could start an expensive collection of vintage Levis, garden gnomes, obstetrical equipment, porcelin shoes, or silver left-handed egg beaters. I'm not a good collector though. I get distracted. And, as much as I love a nice piece of art deco jewelry, I don't really care enough about any one thing to get all excited about my next blog post about my most recent acquisition. The conventions alone would probably kill me and this is intended to be a mid-life crisis, not an end-of-life crisis.


This one is so dreary. I'm not really up for all the work involved in a relationship crisis. My life is already jam packed with drama....this just doesn't interest me at all. In fact, just thinking about a relationship crisis makes me want to give up on the whole mid-life crisis idea all together.


I'm in full swing on this one already. Gone back to school more times that I can count. I'm nearly qualified in equally as many fields, but still haven't really found the dream job. I do have my eye on a book deal, so I might be able to work on this crisis without too much collateral damage.

I would also like to pick-up a nice career in something exclusively lucrative that requires very little work. I hate to be inconvenienced by professional responsibilities. It really cuts in to my personal time. That is no good. Unless a professional crisis can make me famous or help my social crisis (see below), it's probably not something to focus on right now.


With two kids, two dogs, and a husband, I'm just too tired to do much about my social life, but it could use some tweaking. Perhaps this could be a secondary crisis to an appearance crisis. That might be fun. Facebook is a nice social perk, but it doesn't completely stand in for face-to-face bonding. Need to give this one some serious thought. Perhaps I could take a class or join a club or....blach! Boring myself already!

Risk Taking

This is actually an area in which I could gain a lot of personal growth. I have a rebellious mind, but a compliant spirit. A little hell fire would do me some good. Perhaps this would make a nice secondary crisis. Start with something safer (choosing a nice garden gnome) and build up to something more...spirited (naked fly-fishing perhaps).

And the winner is...

When all is said and done, it looks like I'm orienting myself on an appearance crisis with professional undertones and dual secondary crises of a social and risk taking nature. Having said that, I'm game for pretty much anything, so please feel free to send me your suggestions. Stand by for the fun to begin!