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10 Lessons on Abiding in Everyday Life I’ve Learned from The Dude

Sunday, August 10th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

See the previous installment in Susan’s Dudeism series: How to Become an Official Dude in 10 Easy Steps

Warning: Given that the f-bomb is dropped in The Big Lebowski over 200 times, some of these clips will most likely be NSFW.

10. Abiding is a science as well as an art.

Patience is an inherent aspect of abiding. Other definitions include “to endure without yielding,” “to accept without objection,” and “to remain stable.” In the world of the Internet and social media technology, abiding is an anachronistic action. We have been shaped by our media to function at rapid speeds. One of the biggest goals of Common Core is to increase the speed at which students mentally process information. Not study, analyze and comprehend, but process and regurgitate the way they would like and share a Twitter or Facebook post. Abiding flies in the face of today’s high-speed reactionary culture.

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How to Become an Official Dude in 10 Easy Steps

Sunday, August 3rd, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

10. Watch The Big Lebowski a minimum of 3 times.

The first time you watch Lebowski, encounter the film fresh and unfettered. Invite a friend or two over. Make it a casual affair and, if you can, do a double feature. Watch The Maltese Falcon beforehand so you have some understanding of how incredibly screwed up the plotline is going to be. The second time you watch Lebowski, do so with a Caucasian in hand. Immerse yourself in the experience, not as a moviegoer, but as a key aspect of the mise en scene. Discover your favorite quotes. By your third go-round, call in sick, lounge in your bathrobe, and when your friends say, “You wasted a sick day on that movie?” respond with, “Well, that’s like, your opinion, man.” Be sure to obtain the collector’s edition and review the special features for complete immersion.

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Getting Healthy In 13 Weeks

Saturday, January 18th, 2014 - by Sarah Hoyt
When you start thinking this would be a rest, something's got to give.

When you start thinking this would be a rest, something’s got to give.

Week 1 — Something’s Got To Give

 

As part of my “taking it easier” with my blog, over at According To Hoyt, I’ve been running ‘blasts from the past’ – i.e. posts a year or more old at least a day a week.  (For instance on Tuesday I posted Jean Pierre Squirrel, from February 2011.)

The interesting thing going through the blog is seeing how many days I curtailed posting or posted briefer or weirder because I was ill.

Now I was aware of having been in indifferent health for the last ten years or so.  It’s nothing really bad or spectacularly interesting, which is part of the issue, because if it were, I could take time off and not feel guilty.  I confess I have found myself at various occasions fantasizing about a stay in the hospital.  Which is stupid, because no one rests in the hospital.  (What I need, of course, is a stay in a remote cottage for a few days. Even if I’m writing.)  And I knew that my health got much worse in the last year.  2013 was the pits, at least since August or so.  But it is not unusual for me to spend every third week “down.” – Usually with an ear infection or a throat thingy or some kind of stomach bug.

My friends have said for years that this is because I don’t listen to my body’s signals to slow down or stop, so it has to bring me to a complete stop by making me too sick to work.

This is part of the reason Charlie Martin and I (in collaboration) are doing a series on taming the work monster.  Part of it is that I have way too much to do, and part of it is that it’s really hard to compartmentalize things when you work from home.  Eventually when we sell the house and move, we’d like to get a place where the office is a distinct area.  It was pretty much all of the attic in our last house, which meant if I came downstairs for dinner (which I did) I didn’t go up again.  But now my office is half of the bedroom (and before someone imagines me cramped in a corner, the bedroom runs the full front of the house.  We just couldn’t figure out what to do with a room that size.  We don’t sleep that much.)  This is convenient in terms of my getting up really early to work, or of my going to bed way after my husband, because I’m right there…  It’s also contributing to a 24/7 work schedule, because I can think “Oh, I should write about that” and roll out of bed, and do so.  There is no “I have to be dressed, as the sons might be roaming the house” and there isn’t (as in the other house) “the attic will be cold.”

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Know When to Hold It

Saturday, December 21st, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt
You're in it for the long haul.  Time your game.

You’re in it for the long haul. Time your game.

Selling Your Writing In 13 Weeks, Week 11

I’m not recommending any of you give up on indie publishing because you think you hold a bad hand.  This is more a matter of “you’ve got to learn to pace it.”

Look, when I was young, before I got married, I used to run. I was about to say I used to run marathons, but I only ran a few formal ones. Mostly what I did was go for a good run to shake out the stress (as I was going to college, tutoring, writing, and had an active social life, there was a time interning in a newspaper and… well… things got stressful.  Oh, yeah, also I was politically involved.)  But I ran long distances.  I sucked as a sprinter, but I was really good long distance, even in competition, because I knew how to pace myself. I wasn’t that fast over any stretch of road, but I kept going and going and going so that as other people fell (panting) by the wayside, I would be one of the first if not the first across the finish line.

Writing indie is not a sprint – it’s a marathon.

One of my friends who is an indie writer and doing fairly well is accruing her own cluster of “starting out writers looking for advice.”  This is normal. This way of publishing is so new that each of us that goes a little way out of the starting gate will become a “guru” in no time.  It reminds me a lot of computer programing back in the eighties (my husband was a programmer at the time) or even of aviation in World War I or – further back – of “established settlers” in the West.

What all of these have in common is that they are fast-changing landscapes filled with adventure and peril (of a sort.  No.  Really.  No one is going to shoot you for publishing indie.  I hope.  But you can make a fool of yourself very easily.)

And in all of these the space between “newbie” and old man is incredibly short.  If you’ve been around the scene for even a little while, you become one of the “old, trusted ones.”

My friend Cedar Sanderson – two books out, a lot of mistakes made, a lot learned, and her second book selling shockingly well – found herself the guru of a small, starting out group.

Because I’ve been her mentor for about 11 years (during most of which she wasn’t writing, but dealing with life issues – but wanting to write eventually) she comes to me when she doesn’t know QUITE what to do.

One of the problems she brought me was one of her own fledglings, who is just starting out, and who – with a few short stories out – intends to make a living out of this in a couple of years.

She didn’t know how to explain to him that while this can happen, it’s not the most likely way for things to shake out.  (I didn’t either.  I mean, I can say things, but if people aren’t going to believe me…)

So, for those of you who are willing to believe me, before you get the idea that indie publishing (or any publishing) is the fast way to fame and fortune: writing is a business.  More importantly, writing is a craft and a profession.

We all know rich lawyers, rich doctors, rich artists, for that matter (well, I know a few who are very well off.)  However, no one sane has ever made a life plan that consists of the following: week one – graduate law school.  Week two – get a million dollar check.

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Woe Is Obama!

Thursday, December 19th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt
Unexpectedly! Everything going wrong for the most brilliant man in the nation!

Unexpectedly! Everything going wrong for the most brilliant man in the nation!

The InvestmentWatch blog seems puzzled. They ask “Is Obama Depressed?”

The health care website is a bomb. Immigration overhaul is looking more and more like a bust. The allies are aggrieved about surveillance issues. Israel feels betrayed on Iran. The first black president didn’t even bother to go to Gettysburg, where the 150th anniversary of the most important 270-word speech ever given — the 270 words that welded the nation forever to the all-men-are-created-equal doctrine of the Declaration of Independence — would have given him a respite, and maybe a reset.

Puzzling issues indeed.  The least-engaged, most ideologically ambitious president in history messed up a lot of things and now doesn’t know what to do about it. Wasn’t this the man who in his biography said that no one ever punished him or corrected him because his grandparents thought of him as a “poor fatherless boy”? Then he got whisked into the magic-carpet-ride academia and politics reserved for those of a leftist enough bent (he looked for communist professors, after all) with an interesting personal history (for those with oikophobia, a father from a third world country is a bonus). That he also has a hereditary tan doesn’t hurt him at all in those circles, either.

BUT none of that prepared him to be effective or engaged or even to understand the real world.

Ending up in time-out at 52 for the first time in your life is not just difficult. It’s unendurable. He can’t cope with it and he will find excuses, probably excuses that make him a martyr of undeserved failure/reproach.

The fault of course lies in those who deluded themselves into seeing in this non-entity the Light Bringer: academics, political operatives and most of all what used to be the free press of the United States of America. What use is it to be free from governmental control when you will sell your ability to think for a mess of coolness?

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Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse in a Hardware Store

Thursday, October 31st, 2013 - by Builder Bob

*Disclaimer: This article is intended for entertainment and exercising-your-inner-MacGyver purposes only.  The weapons in this article are potentially dangerous and should only be used on the living dead or surplus pumpkins.*

All

I have an obsession with everything Zombie-related. I love The Walking Dead, 28 Days Later, Dawn of the Dead – hell, I think I’m the only one who liked World War Z (I’ve always wanted a Macro zombie movie that focuses on the global ramifications of a worldwide outbreak instead of focusing on a small group of survivors). Now I know that there is no likelihood of the dead reanimating, but I think it’s a great mental exercise to prepare yourself for a disaster situation. On slow days at work I often wonder what I would do if a zombie outbreak occurred at work and I was stuck with only my bug-out bag and pistol that I leave secured in my car, while the heavy artillery is locked in a safe at home 35 miles away.

So you’ve survived the initial outbreak and are looking for a secure location to hole up for awhile and ride out the worst of it.  You find a hardware store that is defensible, probably close to a grocery and drug store, and chock-full of goodies to aid in your survival. The only problem is that uncreative looters have taken the most apparent weapons: machetes, hatchets, crowbars, and hammers. But you haven’t survived this long without some ingenuity. It’s time to build up an arsenal for you and your small band of post-apocalyptic warriors.

Steel Bar Stock Machete

A machete is a great tool for dismembering the undead hordes. While this homemade version may not be as graceful as Michonne’s katana, it will definitely get the job done

Supplies: 24″ x 2″ x 1/8″ piece of steel bar stock, Angle grinder or metal file,  Dremel with metal grinding cone, jigsaw or hacksaw with a metal cutting blade, honing stone,  5gal paint stir stick, duct tape, black spray paint

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Woman Marries Herself!

Monday, October 7th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt
Fine.  If he doesn't come, I'll marry myself.

Fine. If he doesn’t come, I’ll marry myself.

As Powerline blog notes, commenting on this same article, it’s getting harder and harder to distinguish supposedly serious news sites from the Onion.

According to the ever-entertaining and self-aggrandizing Huffington Post, Nadine Schweigert married herself and “opened up about self marriage.”

A 36-year-old North Dakota woman who married herself in a commitment ceremony last March has now spoken about her self-marriage choice in an interview with Anderson Cooper.

The marriage took place among friends and family who were encouraged to “blow kisses to the world” after she exchanged rings with her “inner groom”, My Fox Phoenix reports.

“I feel very empowered, very happy, very joyous … I want to share that with people, and also the people that were in attendance, it’s a form of accountability,” Nadien Schweigert told Anderson Cooper.

Schweigert said the ceremony was a celebration of how far she’d come since her painful divorce six years ago that led to her two children to decide to live with her ex-husband.

“Six years ago I would’ve handled a problem by going out and drinking,” she said. “I smoked, I was 50 pounds overweight … this is just celebrating how far I’ve come in my life.”

Note the delicate construction in that whole passage — six years ago she left her husband, and that’s how she handled “a problem” then — so what problem does she still have?  Presumably the fact that she remains alone, since women who have remarried rarely have to “marry themselves.”

And what form of “accountability” is she emphasizing?  What exactly is she promising herself?  To do the best she can for herself?  I thought that was just what we owed ourselves and society?

Or is her “commitment” and accountability to make the best of being alone?  And make it sound like a grand adventure?

Marriage by definition is the union of two individuals, who commit to each other.  Committing to… yourself?

Oh, honey, in my day we just called that being a spinster.

*****

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock,© Frantisek Czanner

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Oldest Plant Yet Brought Back To Life

Sunday, October 6th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt
Jurassic Park Meets Little Shop of Horrors

Jurassic Park Meets Little Shop of Horrors

According to National Geographic:

A Russian team discovered a seed cache of Silene stenophylla, a flowering plant native to Siberia, that had been buried by an Ice Age squirrel near the banks of the Kolyma River (map). Radiocarbon dating confirmed that the seeds were 32,000 years old.

The mature and immature seeds, which had been entirely encased in ice, were unearthed from 124 feet (38 meters) below the permafrost, surrounded by layers that included mammoth, bison, and woolly rhinoceros bones.

The mature seeds had been damaged—perhaps by the squirrel itself, to prevent them from germinating in the burrow. But some of the immature seeds retained viable plant material.

The team extracted that tissue from the frozen seeds, placed it in vials, and successfully germinated the plants, according to a new study. The plants—identical to each other but with different flower shapes from modern S. stenophylla—grew, flowered, and, after a year, created seeds of their own.

Okay, so it’s not the stuff of Jurassic Park, unless they can coax the rather pretty white flowers to roam the countryside overturning jeeps and terrorizing tourists, but pretty exciting, nonetheless.  And maybe next time they’ll find seeds for some massive ancestor of Venus Fly Trap and recreate Little Shop of Horrors.

What?  Oh, it would be terrible of course.  But think of all the people you could send one of those to.  I bet Washington DC would be full of flower pots and carnivorous plants before you could say “inadvisable horticulture.”

Picture courtesy of the author’s frighteningly bad photoshop skills! Stop me before I spoof again!

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Payment Is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

Saturday, October 5th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt
Put your Story Teller's Bowl out. Who knows what might fall in it?

Put your Storyteller’s Bowl out. Who knows what might fall in it?

So, you want to sell your writing?  No?  You don’t?  Wait… why not?

Oh, art, you say, and you don’t wish to sell out.  I see.  But see, where I come from compliments are easy – and cheap – but when people dig into their pocket and take the approximate price of a chicken or a six-pack of decent beer and lay it out for my novel, THEN I know I’m appreciated.

Writing – or any form of storytelling, really – is a two-way communication.  At least it is if it’s working right.  It might seem to you that you’re just standing on the corner, rattling off the story to an unresponsive audience, but if you’re doing it right, it’s just not that way.  (And realizing this was the difference between being an amateur and starting to sell my stories at pro level.)  That beautiful metaphor you just crafted with your amazing word skills goes for nothing if it doesn’t evoke a mood or a feeling in your reader.

It might seem to you that the ultimate product of the storyteller’s craft is the words that appear on the page of that are spoken out into the crowd.  This is not true.  The words are just the tools you use to bring your art about.  Calling them the product of your art would be like calling pastel sticks the product of the artist’s craft.  The result of the artist’s efforts with the pastel is a completed portrait or scene.  And the result of your craft with words is the emotions the reader/listener feels.  If you’re doing it right, you’ll evoke just the right emotions and take your reader on a ride through comedy or tragedy to catharsis and either an escape from the everyday or – ideally, though few of us attain it – a return to the everyday equipped with tools to face real life emotions in a new way.

When a traditional storyteller is doing this, it is not unusual to have a begging bowl at his or her feet.  The storyteller can tell how well the emotions are being invoked in the public by how fast that rain of coins hits the begging bowl.

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Great Britain Embraces Plastic Money

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt
For preservation of your money, do not leave it near a window in summer; or store close to the stove!  Carrying it in your pocket during a hot date is entirely up to you.

For preservation of your money, do not leave it near a window in summer; or store close to the stove! Carrying it in your pocket during a hot date is entirely up to you.

Remember when the derogatory word of the sixties was “plastic”?  To say something was plastic signified it was fake or not quite what it pretended to be.

Well, Great Britain is now all set to embrace plastic money.  And though it will cost more to produce and be more slippery (insert joke here) the money should last longer, be water proof, and of course, be considerably easier to clean.

Charlie Bean, deputy governor, said: “Polymer banknotes are cleaner, more secure and more durable than paper notes. They are also cheaper and more environmentally friendly. However, the Bank would print notes on polymer only if we were persuaded that the public would continue to have confidence in, and be comfortable with, our notes.”

The Bank said it has been researching potential materials for the past three years. When it put its printing contract out to tender last year, bidders were told they would need to be able to use a variety of materials.

Britain’s De La Rue currently has the contract, but rival bidders are thought to include Munich-based printing giant Giesecke & Devrient; Landqart – the bank note division of Canadian wallpaper and pulp company Fortress Paper; Note Printing Australia, a division of the Reserve Bank of Australia; UK-based Innovia Film’s subsidiary Securency; and France’s Oberthur.

Bidders have to demonstrate that they can print 500m notes a year at a single site, and will need back-up premises. Last year, the Bank produced 1.3bn new notes and notes in circulation were worth £58bn. Some 845m notes were destroyed.

However, for all the virtues of plastic, there remains the feeling that it is “slippery” in more ways than one, and not quite the thing.

The UK has toyed with the idea in the past. A plastic £5 note was launched in Northern Ireland to mark the millennium but it did not catch on.

Mark Carney, the Bank’s Governor, introduced polymer notes to Canada in 2011 when he was Bank of Canada Governor. Canadians were not immediately smitten, as they found the notes hard to separate and preferred their “folding stuff” to fold.

Still and all, apparently New Zealand, Mexico, Singapore, Canada and Mauritius have made the switch to plastic.  I wonder if we’re next.  Though for an adequate representation of our money’s value we’d need something less durable than plastic.  Kleenex.  Or perhaps hot air.

******

Image Courtesy Shutterstock.com, © t.peter photodesign-tp de

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Michelle Obama Wants You to Drink Enough

Saturday, September 14th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt
Water or vodka?  You decide.  Michelle Obama will NEVER know!

Water or vodka? You decide. Michelle Obama will NEVER know!

With her husband stymied on the world stage and pivoting (yet again) to the economy, the first lady is once again passionately concerned with what you eat and drink.

First healthy eating, now healthy drinking. First lady Michelle Obama has teamed up with Hollywood star — and potato-chip promoter — Eva Longoria to push Americans to drink more water.

The pair is set to kick off the water-drinking push at a high school in the aptly named Watertown, Wisc., community on Thursday, The Hill reported. It’s the next step in Mrs. Obama’s “Let’s Move!” campaign to fight obesity rates around the nation and especially among America’s youth.

Fear not, dear ladies.  Given that even the best Scotch has some percentage of water, and given that reading the news these days is best done anesthetized, and given Michelle Obama’s indefatigable hectoring, I predict that by the end of the Obama presidency, I’ll be up to Stephen Green‘s levels of alcohol  er… water consumption.
Image courtesy shutterstock.com, © Aivolie

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Face Recognition Software Advances: Big Brother Could Soon be Watching Everything You Do

Friday, August 23rd, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt
He knows when you're asleep, he knows when you're awake.

He knows when you’re asleep, he knows when you’re awake.

The New York Times assures us that facial scanning is improving by leaps and bounds:

WASHINGTON — The federal government is making progress on developing a surveillance system that would pair computers with video cameras to scan crowds and automatically identify people by their faces, according to newly disclosed documents and interviews with researchers working on the project.

The Department of Homeland Security tested a crowd-scanning project called the Biometric Optical Surveillance System — or BOSS — last fall after two years of government-financed development. Although the system is not ready for use, researchers say they are making significant advances. That alarms privacy advocates, who say that now is the time for the government to establish oversight rules and limits on how it will someday be used.

There have been stabs for over a decade at building a system that would help match faces in a crowd with names on a watch list — whether in searching for terrorism suspects at high-profile events like a presidential inaugural parade, looking for criminal fugitives in places like Times Square or identifying card cheats in crowded casinos.

My thought on reading this was first that no technology is ever infallible, and that being the twin brother of someone seen leaving a bomb — say — particularly if you were both adopted out at birth and don’t know of each other would be an uncomfortable situation.

Add to this that the technology is not even at that level and being the second-cousin of a crime suspect, with certain common family features would be enough to get you police attention. You can see how this would violate your fourth amendment rights, right? Not to mention your rights to life and liberty, to say nothing of the pursuit of happiness.

To be fair, the New York Times reports that people in charge of this technology development are also aware that it needs to be a lot more developed before it’s used, even if its creators think “difficulties will just fall away.”

On the other hand, my second thought was that yes, this technology could be very useful for fighting terrorism and other such public safety hazards. But when has technology in the hands of government been used only for the logical or most beneficial process?

Like social security numbers becoming de-facto IDs, this will change into attempts at preventing crimes — perhaps laudable in themselves, but leading to a future where Big Brother is ALWAYS watching you. And let’s not forget the information that can be leaked just before elections, by the same entity whose IRS leaked confidential forms of political opponents of the current administration.

To be fair the New York Times recognizes that too:

“This technology is always billed as antiterrorism, but then it drifts into other applications,” Ms. McCall said. “We need a real conversation about whether and how we want this technology to be used, and now is the time for that debate.”

In particular, she said, there should be limits on whose faces are loaded into them when they are ready for deployment. Ms. McCall said it would be acceptable to use it for terrorism watch lists, but she feared any effort to systematically track everyone’s public movements by using a comprehensive database of driver’s license photographs.

Now whether they’ll remember this is a danger while progressives are in power is something else.

During the cold war, anti-nuke activists often said giving a nation nuclear weapons was like handing a loaded gun to an idiot. The same can be said of facial recognition systems and the government. And I hope we keep the gun away. As useful as it could be in certain, specialized cases, it would be unmitigated disaster in most others.

*******

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com © Kletr

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Is It Still ‘Objectifying’ When the Sex Object is Male?

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt

shutterstock_120104356

Some days I wake up and I think I fell headlong into one of the dreams — or was that nightmares? — of my teachers back in the good bad seventies. They claimed that women were so super-competent, so special that all they had to do was compete “on an equal footing” with men to supersede them and relegate men to the roles that had been historically feminine.

Of course, the last forty years have shown that equality needs a continuous and pushy boost from government, to make sure that some animals are more equal than others.

However, it appears to be true that if you keep men from having superiority — or even equality — in their traditional fields of endeavor, they turn to feminine tricks to attract mates.

The fact that both men and women report being unhappier — and children are often cast adrift — in this brave new world of reverse discrimination is just one of those things, I guess.

The New York Post (who doesn’t want me to sleep at night) informs us that Guys just wanna have fun — by stripping down and posing for sexy “dudeoir” pec-torials.

It’s a recent Sunday afternoon in Midtown, and Lionel Zanar is standing in nothing but a snug pair of boxer-briefs, while his girlfriend, Meiko, looks on.

The super-fit contractor and self-defense trainer from Brooklyn is sitting for a saucy photo shoot — known in the photography business as “dudeoir,” a tongue-in-cheek play on the “boudoir” trend, in which women pose for pictures in their lingerie.

“I love the photos,” laughs Zanar, 33, who in one particularly racy shot stands stark naked while Meiko crouches behind, covering his manhood with her hands. “Meiko will be getting a really big version of it, framed.”

The gesture is perhaps the least Zanar can do for his sweetheart, who paid about $500 for the sultry 90-minute shoot. The divorced dad does, however, point out that she “pretty much bought the session as a gift to herself.”

I believe that when men pay for the equivalent for a girlfriend, feminists scream “objectification.” Does it still hold when the shoe is on the other pretty-pretty foot?

*****

Photo courtesy Shutterstock © Vladimir Wrangel

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Sixty-Four Percent of Men Think Women Should Pay Half on Dates

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt
Equality has consequences.

Equality has consequences.

We earn as much as they do — in fact, thanks to affirmative action and the government funding more “caring” professions than projects for brawny men, many of us earn more — and we compete in the same marketplace.

We tell them over and over that we are equals or better. We’re women, hear us roar!

Are we going to be shocked that they want to treat us as equals? Or do we want to choose where we’re equals and where we’re to be treated like fragile little flowers?

According to the New York Post, two-thirds of men say women should pay their share on dates.

After nearly 50 years of feminism, men want to go Dutch.

Nearly two-thirds of them — 64 percent — believe women should pay for their share of dates, a survey has found.

And 44 percent of men said they would drop a woman who never chips in, according to the findings reported at the American Sociological Association’s annual meeting in Manhattan.

Fortunately, if that’s too much equality for you… ladies, men are still hobbled by the tradition of chivalry.

But the traditions of courtship are too hard to break: 84 percent of men said they pick up the tab on dates.

And even after six months of courtship, 28 percent of them still do the paying, according to the survey of more than 17,000 people.

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13 Weeks: What Do We Make of Times of Little Change?

Saturday, August 17th, 2013 - by Charlie Martin

I been contemplatin’.

shutterstock_137226314

That’s a fiction character talking — I don’t know much about him, frankly he just popped into my head right now, but he’s an older man, unschooled but wise, from the South, wearing faded denim overalls that weren’t faded when he bought them. I can’t really see his face yet.

He popped up when I thought of what to write today on my continuing efforts with diet and exercise. Which turned out to be as much about my mind as my middle. Like him, I been contemplatin’ — where I am and what I’m doing and in particular what to say today about diets and such.

After a couple of promising weeks, it’s clear that either I’m still on my plateau or, if you like, that my plateau broke and I immediately hit another one, about 3-5 pounds down. This is frustrating. I haven’t done the hard-core slow-carb diet, and the wimpy version I’ve been doing hasn’t led to a lot of weight loss. Nor has doing the tabata etc.

Still, my blood sugar is stable, if a touch too high, but I’m not having the hypoglycemic episodes, and that’s good. Some combination of things — Pomodoro Technique, a new boss at the day job who actually listens to me instead of telling me to sit down and shut up, the new columns — has got me writing more than I really ever had, and every day of that I learn more about how to write through little blocks and struggles. And I have lost a good solid 30 pounds and I’m clearly keeping it off.

And you know, a year ago I was contemplatin’ too. My mother had died the previous January, just a couple days before her 77th birthday, and she was 20 when I was born. I was looking at my 57th birthday and realizing she’d died at 77 and my father had died not long after his 69th birthday and I didn’t like the way that subtraction worked out. And I’d lost a lot of time to my long struggle with depression, that kept taking me out of the fight to do what I really wanted, and had reduced me to doing what I needed to do to get by, to survive.

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Drink Your Chocolate! It’s Good For You!

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt
shutterstock_117997396

My doctor told me no less than two cups of hot cocoa a day! I swear!

Ladies and gentlemen, the news we’ve all been waiting for have arrived. According to a new study published in the American Academy of Neurology, chocolate, or at least hot chocolate is good for you.

The study had sixty people with an average age of 73 and no signs of dementia drink two cups of cocoa a day and measured changes in the blood flow to their brains.

Their findings: Eighteen of the 60 test subjects who had impaired blood flow to their brains at the beginning of the study experienced an 8.3 percent improvement by test’s end. Those with normal blood flow at the outset of the experiment did not see any improved blood flow. 

Yes, I know there have been problems with some of these studies in the past, and the methodology isn’t always right, but come on!  With people living longer and longer, dementia has become the specter that haunts us all and that – if we live long enough – will come for almost every one of us.

My grandmother used to say “May G-d give me my wits to the hour of my death.”

If hot cocoa improves my chances of that prayer coming true, I know what I’ll be doing.  Of course, due to the low-carb lifestyle, I’m restricted to no sugar cocoa, but I don’t let that stop me!

I know that a cup of cocoa once a week or so keeps my mood up, but now I’ll have to increase the intake to keep my memory up.

Two cups of cocoa a day.  It’s medicinal!

*****

image courtesy shutterstock / Alliance

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Abandoned Children as Game Show Prizes In Pakistan!

Monday, August 12th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt

 A Real, Live Baby!

shutterstock_74614207

 

A good definition of evil is where we forget humans are humans and treat them as things. And if that’s the case, there’s a new Pakistani game show that is as evil as can be: A game show host in Pakistan has defended his decision to give away abandoned babies to childless couples live on TV.

No, I am not joking, nor would I be about something like this. And while I know that CNN – layers and layers of fact checkers – is not a good authority, CNN reported it.

Apparently abandoned children are being picked up by an organization and turned over to this show to give away to childless parents. The talk show host defends his actions this way:

Aamir Liaquat Hussain, who has handed out two baby girls so far, denied the giveaways were a publicity stunt.

He claimed the babies would have been ”eaten by cats or dogs” had they not been discovered by the show.

Is he claiming this is what normally happens when babies are not picked up by this organization? Or when they’re not turned in to his show as a giveaway?  Is he claiming this is the only way for a society to deal with its unwanted babies?

I don’t know. Maybe these children will be loved and cherished as they deserve to be. But starting out by being treated as things and handed out as a prize doesn’t seem the way to start that relationship with their adoptive parents.

Terry Pratchett, notably in I Shall Wear Midnight says evil starts with treating people as things.  I’m not sure as a universal rule, but certainly treating people as things is a bad way of looking at them. Because people – children or not – aren’t things. They have quirks, and ideas of their own, and wants, and there will be difficult times ahead for these families.

We all know about lottery winners and easy comes easy goes when it comes to prizes – but what about when the prize is a baby?

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image  courtesy shutterstock / Lorelyn Medina

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My Secret Method For Getting Rid of That Cat Smell

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt
Writing fiction and being owned by cats seem to be related forms of madness.

Writing fiction and being owned by cats seem to be related forms of madness.  Here is Hemingway with his sons and cats.

Glenn Reynolds recently linked Althouse reporting on an interview with Patti Smith. The interviewer said the house smelled of cats, and every surface was covered in plastic. This led me to getting lost in the comments with people making all sorts of suggestions, the most prominent of which was “get rid of the cats.”

As someone similarly afflicted and unable to take that step because I take my Chinese Obligations seriously, I thought I’d write this for anyone having similar issues.

So, this is “What I saw at the cat-pee wars — or how to deal with your cats marking territory when you don’t want to get rid of the little monsters.”  (Without having to cover your entire house in plastic, which is apparently Patti Smith’s solution.)

Besides being a writer, I am a (crazy) cat lady. The two often go together, and the field, particularly science fiction and fantasy, is full of crazy cat ladies and gentlemen.

I’d like to place the blame for this on Robert A. Heinlein who not only was owned by several cats, but who also wrote about cats and thereby instilled an early love for the critters along with a love for futuristic fiction. However, truth be told, if you expand it to the field of all fiction writers, the fault for the cat mania would be Hemingway’s and his polydactyl and avowedly freely-spraying cats.

Needless to say if you are having a problem with your cats scent marking or peeing out of place, the very first thing to do – if you haven’t – is to have the males neutered.

My male indoor cats have always been neutered at a relatively early age.  Notwithstanding which, we have had marking problems with both the old firm – i.e. our first batch of cats — Pixel, Randy, Petronius and DT and the new firm – the new batch of four (my husband won’t let me have more than four at one time) – Miranda, Euclid, D’Artagnan and Havelock.

In both cases, the marking seemed to originate in a rivalry between two alpha male cats, to whom neutering did not seem to make much difference.

With our first batch of cats, the culprits were Pixel – a marmalade boy who looked like the perfect stuffed animal, and who, in fact, was too smart for his own good – and Petronius, big and black and probably part Bombay.

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This Photograph I Took Early This Morning Symbolizes Every Broken Hollywood Dream

Sunday, February 24th, 2013 - by Dave Swindle

I’m always stumbling across strange items early in the morning as my dog Maura and I run around our San Fernando Valley neighborhood. Today we found this pair of broken sunglasses sitting on the stoop outside an apartment building.

I popped it into my pocket and as we continued jogging up the street my mind speculated over the range of possibilities: whose were they? How did they get broken? Did somebody break them by accident? Or were they intentionally broken? How come whoever left them didn’t bother to throw them away? Were they forgotten? 

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