Thursday, 22 December 2005

The Simplest Things In Life are the Best!

There are a lot of wonderful things in life to enjoy: a good dinner out; wearing jeans to work; a walk on the first brisk autumn day. But one of the best things in life is to have my hair washed.

You may be thinking, "Eeeeeewwwww, don't you wash your hair?" Of course I do, and every day. People with hair and skin as naturally oily as mine cannot go overlong without washing. That is not what I meant. I mean when I have my hair coloured and cut, the woman who does it washes it and it is... heavenly.

I sit in the chair, put my head back and close my eyes. The water comes on and is adjusted - hot, please, I hate having my hair washed in cold, cool or luke warm water. She rinses out the left over colour and then lathers up a bit of shampoo and then she digs in and scrubs my tingling scalp. Ah, that is amazing. It is relaxing and invigorating and makes me feel great. It is a very personal thing to wash someone else's hair. One is not accustomed to allowing others to invade his or her personal space in so close a manor. It is a lot to allow someone you don't know such access to your most vulnerable area (next to one's midsection). But to have your scalp massaged and washed like that is just incredible. I really love having it done.

My grandmother used to wash my hair when I was a kid (in the days before menarchy and the overabundance of oil that now pervades my hair) but the experience was one I always tried to avoid. I suppose it was positioning and the fact that Johnson's Baby Shampoo does in fact sting when it makes contact with one's eyes. Standing on a stool in the kitchen with my head bent forward and down does not make me feel particularly nostalgic. Of course, my grandmother washed my hair like Attila the Hun on a conquest... it was done with her usual brutal dispatch.

But I look forward greatly to having my hair coloured and cut and most especially washed. That is something well worth waiting for!

Friday, 9 December 2005

There Is a Perfect Ass Print on My Chair

Bet you are wondering what that means!

It doesn't mean nearly as much as you think, Cowboy. It means exactly what it reads. In a plainer sense, it really means that this is more mindless rambling as opposed to any serious topic. I'm just going to aimlessly write and whatever comes out, well, there it is. No specific topic.

There actually really IS a perfect double semi-circle there on my office chair (the one at home, noodnick!) and there is a simple and completely non-shocking reason for it. Very often, I will sit down at my computer right after showering in the altogether as it were. I use baby powder to keep things fresh and dry and it leaves a pattern on the chair. That's it, folks. Nothing amazing or abberant there.

Although it is funny, one of my coworkers called me a freak (she was, in fact, referring to my eating habits more than anything else) but she was dead-on with that description. Funny, after lunch she came to my office and apologised. There was absolutely no need to - it was actually quite funny! I certainly wasn't offended... it would be as true as pointing out that my hair is dark! I would not take offense to that. Actually, it is fairly hard to offend me on a personal level. I am the first to admit that I am an... offbeat, odd person, not at all the prime respresentative of "normal" humanity. Thank the gods. Who wants to be so... plebian?

Now, I am a freak, but I am a freak who loves to learn, loves using as many varied words as I can, loves the sciences, reads forensic journals for fun, finds amusement in everything... not a bad way to live, really. I am happy. I suspect only "freaks" really are the happiest as we are not tied into being the "standard" or normal human being. That just would not be true to myself. If I am going to be anything, it is true to myself. Let everyone else hang!

My eating is not good. Forgetting that I eat too much, it is really what I do eat - the list is limited - and how much healthy food I don't touch. No veggies - almost none. Some fruit but too lazy to actually prepare anything. I do not cook. I prefer my poultry and other formerly living proteins to be as they appear on my plate. I would not, for instance, buy a live chicken and watch it go from running around pecking people to dead to defrocked to cut up and prepared - ugh. Give me the finished, ready-to-eat product, please!

Not that I am about to give up my carnivorous ways. I am not a vegetarian, I am most certainly not a Vegan (possibly they are from another planet). Give me my ham, my eggs (preferably scrambled or as an omelet), give me my cereal in milk! Hand over the bacon, baby! Plants are living things too. You think if they had vocal cords, they would not utter a protest at having their leaves or fruit plucked, their roots removed? Of course they would! So you may as well stop eating entirely. All life lives at the expense of other life. This is nature. Red in tooth and claw.

I can hear the township happily (I guess) plowing away. They were not on the ball today - usually they are plowing with the first inch of snow, especially on my street. I have the pleasure of being the closest member to the squadhouse and that is usually high on the priority list of whom to plow first - emergency services! Not that we need it for the rig. 14,000lbs of sheer ambulance and four-wheel drive ensure that I will get to almost any location I want. It is getting the cars in - no one else has the pleasure of walking across the street and poof! I'm there.

My friend Flyboy is coming over and we are going out to lunch. Yay! It is cold but lovely and sunny - rather ironic as just three hours ago it was snowing like it would never stop! It was a hellacious storm - it dumped five or so inches of snow and then left the way it arrived - with great alacrity!

Our weather typically comes from the west and marches east over us to head out to sea. In the winter, however, it comes out of the north (sometimes) and the south (frequently) and what North Carolina brews in rain gets to us in the form of rain, ice, or, more often, snow. It is a crapshoot with us. Parsippany is often right on the cusp of the rain/snow line. It may be rain and it may be snow. This particular system was snow, through and through but that is not usually the case. Personally I find that snow is prettier but both, for driving, are just as deadly. People suddenly turn into morons when confronted with adverse driving conditions...

Well, it is nap-time at the OK Corral, so I need to zip across the street, get cat litter and clean out the litter boxes while the out-law is asleep and not around to pester me. But that is a subject for another day!

Thursday, 1 December 2005

My Other Vehicle is an Ambulance

Before anyone says anything, I know it's not MY ambulance. None of them are. But aside from my husband's car, I only drive either 66-3, 66-2 or on one freaky occaision, 66-4. Those are the ambulances of the Rockaway Neck First Aid Squad.

I love riding. And I love driving, and patient care, and I am good at dealing with the patients. I can't lift much which is a detriment, but I can do everything else - write reports, check vitals, do trauma assessments, be comforting to the patient and family, take charge when needed, do CPR, use the equipment. I have been on a lot of minor calls and some major trauma and dead people and heart attacks. I have not yet delivered a baby - but that is a matter of time. So is a gun shot wound (something I am admittedly curious to see).

I love the people I ride with. I am not friends with all of them and I'm not popular (I was nominated for two e-board positions but not voted in - which wasn't a surprise although one cannot help but feel some small disappointment). But they are pleasant to me and all are a pleasure to ride with. We work as a team. We do what needs to be done. Volunteers are a special breed and I am working with incredible people. And it is always, always interesting! Never a dull moment!

Well, maybe there are some dull moments but mostly, no matter what information the dispatch gives, it is not enough or not accurate. This is not necessarily dispatch's fault, often family members labour under the misconception that we will rush or be more inclined to go to their aid if they make it out to be something a little more urgent and time sensitive. Not to disappoint, but we have to respond with alacrity to all calls - there is no picking and choosing.

Someone took off a finger with a snowblower. That was not my call and I'm sorry I missed it. Before you roll your eyes, keep in mind that we aren't standing around thinking or saying, "Eeeeewwww, gross..." How effective would we be doing that? We are all excitement junkies and all somewhat or totally unbothered by blood. It certainly does not bother me. It hasn't yet, anyway. After three years, it is a safe bet that for the most part - 99.8% of the time - it won't. Mostly the calls are in the superficial to moderate range. Every once in a while there is something severe or serious. Many calls are for drunks, mentally ill or altered mental status (as we call them) pateints. It can be altered by almost anything... drugs. Diabetes. alcohol. Mental disabilities - retardation or whatever the PC term is now. Or they are depressed. Suicidal. It covers the whole range. The other most common call we have is difficulty breathing. More often than not, the patient has a patent airway. Or there are the ever-popular lifting assistance calls. Someone is on the floor and needs to be put in a chair, in bed, whatever.
All in all it is exciting. And I love it.

A Magickal Experience

This is a company that I worked in from March to July of this year. I haven't been there for almost six months and it is not likely that I will be back. That is not a bad comment on me, it just strikes me as a one-time experience. And what an experience! So, it is time to talk about it.

I first heard of this company while I was still working for Universal Solutions. I knew that USI was eventually going to terminate its HR staff - it wasn't at all hard to see THAT writing on the wall - and I had the agency out searching for something new for me. I really wanted to put in my notice first. As it happens, everything worked out very much for the best.

When I first heard about this company, it sounded ideal. I wanted in. They manufacture fragrances and flavours, and this was for the Liquid Compounding department, which made only flavours and specialised in liquid flavours, like for soups, beverages, whatever. Tell me that doesn't sound completely fascinating.

They were slow to move for the position, so it was not really heading anywhere. USI beat me to the punch and on 10 March 2005, I was told that I was doing a great job but USI was heading in a new direction and my position was being eliminated. OK. I was upset - who wouldn't be? But I took it in stride and off I went. And five days later I had an interview with this manufacturer! I was downsized on a Thursday with a nice little severance and on Tuesday I had the interview and aced it - Lee wanted me to start the next day!

That was the best interview I ever had. The moment Lee and I shook hands, I thought, this is someone I want to work with! And after a five minute conversation, I was right - and he definitely thought the same thing! We were right on the same wave length. I can't explain it in anyway that would make any sense except to me. I did not have the hots for him, I wasn't interested in Lee in any illicit or sexual nature... he was just the nicest (a truly nondescript word, I should find something else...) - the most genuine, completely likable, every day kind of man. Super intelligent, excellent people skills - he should have been in HR. I always told him that he missed his calling in HR. And working for him for the short time that I did was... magickal. Just amazing. I raved about him to my crew, my friends, my family. And my parents met him and just loved him! I think about him a lot. I miss him and I miss all the great experiences I would have had working with him.

It was not all Lee, either. Like I said, he was an amazing person. And he was smart enough to surround himself with amazing people. His team consisted of Chris, Bob and Chip, all of whom had been working with Lee for YEARS. No one really worked for him, we worked with him. With him and with each other. And he was the best person to work with. Sure, I reported to him, but I looked at him like a colleague more than a boss. The word "boss" wasn't right. And it was a delight. We did not talk about a lot of personal things, but we saw eye-to-eye on almost everything professionally and really worked in great harmony.
Lee was one to reward employees as quickly as to take corrective action when needed. He gave me a basket of lovely bath items, as a thank you for a lot of work I did on the reviews. I was treated to a dinner out with my husband because of a report I edited heavily based on a file of notes. He was lavish with his department and fair with everyone. He knew where the problems were and my advice and council was prized because I saw the same issues and was determined to fix them.

His supervisor on the third shift, David, was also great. He is on another shift now and seems to be doing really well - but Lee knew he would. And Lee always wanted to give the best shots to the best employees. Everyone worked hard for this department and it was a good, cohesive team. It wasn't perfect, who is, but I have worked with teams that were much, much more dysfunctional than that.

Lee went out on leave just six weeks after I started and he died on 10 July 2005. He was 49 years old. It is criminal. I think about him a lot. I think about the team a lot. I miss it there and I miss Lee. Last night I had a dream about just walking around and telling him about the job I am on now. And I wanted to cry when I realised that he is gone.

I don't have the hubris to assume I know that people go to Heaven, Hell, Nirvana, Valhalla, or whatever afterlife place you want to believe in. I don't know if we are reincarnated or if this is it and we are just dead, nothing more. I would like to think that those who died have spirits and have gone onto what they did believe in - Heaven for most, I suppose. I would like to think that they look in on me to see how I am doing. I miss my grandfather, Pop-pop (James Trebilcox); my friend Steve Sudol; my other friend Talon; and Lee. There are not many people that I miss the way that I miss these four people. They all had a huge impact on my life. And I have dreams about them and they are up-to-date conversations and I'd like to think that this is their way of telling me that they are still looking out for me from time to time. I miss them lots. And I love it that I dreamed this about Lee. It makes me feel good. Happy. Like I have my own cheering squad!

Sunday, 27 November 2005

Who is the Selfish One?

People tell me this all the time - I am selfish for not wanting children. Here is something I found and I like it - it is easy to see just who the selfish people really are...

And ironically, it is mostly those who had gotten pregnant by accident and shrugged it off and now they are mired in lives that would not have been of my choosing.

The misconception about remaining childfree that bothers many of us the most is that people who decide not to have children are SELFISH. Some data/facts on this issue:

In 1992, Rathus and Nevid (both psychologists) interviewed hundreds of couples on their reasons for having or not having children. They found couples with children had 9 common answers for their decision, and that couples without children had 13 common answers for their decision.

To summarize, they are:


1. Personal experience - to have the experience of being a parent
2. Personal pleasure - the fun and joy of raising children
3. Personal extension - carrying on the genetic heritage or family name
4. Relationship - the close bond which is shared with children
5. Personal status - culture affords some respect just for being a parent
6. Personal competence - gratification from facing the challenge of parenting
7. Personal responsibility - the opportunity to look out for the welfare and education of another
8. Personal power - some find the power they have over children gratifying
9. Moral worth - some feel it is a good and selfless act to put the life of another first, or that it is a moral obligation to have children

1. Time together - more time each other and for other interests

2. Freedom - more opportunity to pursue other areas of life

3. Other children - can enjoy other children, and can help children who are already here through foster parenting or charity work with children

4. Dual careers - both people may pursue careers full time, a person (woman) does not have to quit, and a child is not raised by day care

5. Financial security - more money to pursue other interests

6. Community welfare - greater opportunity to get involved in community organizations

7. Difficulty - parenthood is a demanding and difficult job which is not always enjoyable

8. Strain on environmental resources - the world is already overpopulated and is unable to support the people who are already here

9. Increase in overpopulation - having children geometrically increases this problem and all of the problems that come with it

10. Choice not mandate - parenthood has to be a choice, not everyone is meant to be a parent

11. Irrevocable decision - once the decision is made it cannot be changed, so people must be sure it is what they want

12. Failure - some people had unhappy or abusive childhoods and fear that they would not be a good parent

13. Danger - the world is a dangerous place and it is not right to bring a child into it

In our opinion, it seems that all of the 9 reasons given for having children are selfish; they are all about what the parent will gain for themselves (love, bonding, etc.). While only 5 of the 13 reasons for not having children are selfish, the other 8 involve concerns for the world, the community, and the child that would be born."

People just mindlessly jump into the procreation game mostly without a thought to finances. I have realised that people will give some considerations to having children but mostly they just go ahead and start pumping out babies without stopping to think that maybe from a fecundiary standpoint this is not the wisest course of action. It is a shock. Or (and I love this) they accidently become gravid and have the attitude that this must be meant to be and what the hell, I will have a child. A rather casual attitude about an undertaking that will follow you the rest of your life.

Not that people should not have them but a lot less should. Most are terrible parents. The population is staggeringly high and this planet cannot support it all. Just from a nature standpoint. The earth is 70% water. This leaves 30% of the surface as land. Of that chunk of land, only maybe 40% of it is truly arable land. The rest is waste, either under ice, snow, permafrost, desert or some other completely inhospitable condition. So now fill all that up with the 6 billion or so humans running around. Sounds like a recipe for disaster? You betcha!

I look at natural disasters as all part of nature's plan to 1. replenish the earth and 2. knock off some of the infestation that is the human race. And other animals/plants/insects that fall into the category of population control needed. It is sad that so many die in this or that catastrophy, but it is the course of nature. These hurricanes and tornadoes and volcanoes and floods and pestilence and earthquake issues were around long before we were and will continue long after we are gone.

So, who is the selfish one?

Saturday, 26 November 2005

Last One For Today... Maybe!

Actually, that depends on how much more I do with the music... I have been burning CDs like a madwoman for quite some time. I guess I started somewhere around 15:00... and it is now 23:27. This has not been ALL I have done, but it has been going on steadily for this time. Of course, now I need to start some laundry!

Here is the last questionnaire I filled out about a month ago (before the one just posted prior to this):

Fifteen years ago I:
- I was 22 years old
- was just moving in with Luis
- Did not ever want children
- Was happy- still didn't know what I was doing and wanted to do and hated it

Ten years ago, I:
- 27 years old
- Lived with Luis for 5 years and we bought our first house
- did not ever want children
- Was happy
- learned a lot but still didn't know what I wanted to do
- still didn't know what I was doing and hated it

Five years ago, I:
- Finally figured out what I wanted to be
- Learned to live with Luis' flaws and he with mine
- did not ever want children
- Worked out some issues with my mother
- Was happy
- Legally changed my name from Trebilcox to Kellogg (my [step]father's last name)
- still didn't know what I was doing but became much more comfortable with that

One year ago, I:
- I got my National and State EMT certification
- Moved into and maintained a better, beautiful house
- Did not ever want children
- Learned to live with Luis' father (not well, but I don't torture Luis for it any more)
- Finally had a solid full-time job in HR but with a company I HATED
- Saved at least one life
- Have a wonderful relationship with my father and a good one with my mother
- Was happy
- still didn't know what I was doing and am totally accepting of it

So far this year, I:
- Was laid off - twice
- Feel like the ultimate loser in the professional world (marketable but not employable)
- Still don't want children (I have a 40-year-old child already)
- Love being a volunteer (only) EMT
- Make it a mission to learn something new every day
- Was happier
- still don't know what I am doing (I will likely always feel that way)

Yesterday, I:
- Went on an interview
- Took a friend to an appointment
- Was grateful, after going to the store, that I don't have children
- Sat around the house feeling sorry for myself
- Had a good time doing rig check
- Told my husband how much I love him
- Still didn't know what I was doing and okay with it

Today, I:
- feel sad about our dog (he died two weeks ago)
- Went on two calls (one pronounced)
- Still feel great about not having children
- Might see Tom and Alayna and maybe their two week old son tonight
- still don't know what I'm doing and okay with it

Tomorrow, I:
- Will be at the New York Renaissance Festival for the last weekend
- Will be with my best friend there
- will still feel great about not having children
- Try to enjoy the day and smile
- Still won't know what I'm doing and still be okay with that

In one year, I will:
- still trust people first until proven wrong
- always be there for friends and family
- Will still feel great about not having children
- Put in as many calls but not during the weekdays
- Have a solid HR Generalist job close to home that may not pay well but will be good
- be happier

In five years, I will:
- Will be at the same wonderful company and love my work
- see Luis' father move away (far away - to Mars, maybe)
- Enjoy watching my friends' children grow up and never have any myself
- Be happy, like I usually am
- still won't know what I'm doing but will always be excited to see how it turns out!

Interesting E-Mail Questions...

Very often these days I receive an e-mail with "deep" personal questions, I suppose designed to make one think... I think entirely too much and am distressingly honest about myself. However, I like probing questions like those asked in these e-mails... however, I am militantly anti-chain mails of any kind so I always take out the verbiage about mailing the answers back to the originator and passing it on to the requisite number of friends. Then I send it out to those who really are close friends. No need to pass it on.

So here is the latest series...

1. When you look at yourself in the mirror, what's the first thing you look at?
Me. The whole thing, not any one part.

2. How much cash do you have on you?
Two dollars.

3. What's a word that rhymes with "TEST"?

4. Favorite plant?
Christmas tree - the pine scent is delightful.

5. Who is the 4th person on your missed call list on your cell phone?
I have no idea. I never look at that.

6. What is your main ring tone on your phone?
The default ring. I hate those stupid song rings.

7. What shirt are you wearing?
A very old, somewhat worn grey Victoria's Secret nightshirt.

8. Do you "label" yourself?
Absolutely. Everyone does in their own heads... and it is different depending on when you ask.

9. Name brand of shoes you're currently wearing?
I'm not wearing any shoes now. But the last pair I had on was my L.L. Bean hiking boots.

10. What do you think about the person who took this survey before you?
An amazingly knowledgeable EMT but someone who needs to be loved by someone who will do so without reserve.

11. Do you know what an 8-track is?
Sure I do. My cousin had an 8-track player when we were kids.

12. What were you doing at 9pm last night?
I was putting up strings of multi-coloured Christmas lights. Always the night after Thanksgiving!

13. What did your last text message say that you received on your cell?
A quickie message from LeRoy. He is the only person who sends me text messages. And I never use that feature.

14. Do you ever click on Pop-ups or banners?
Absolutely not! What do you take me for?

15. What's a saying that you say a lot?
Occam's Razor - Given two equally predictive theories, choose the simpler.

16. Who told you they loved you last?
Luis Ignacio Gomez, my husband.

17. Last furry thing you touched?
Ariel and Chelsea, my cats. They were both waiting for me when I got home from the Home Depot!

18. How many hours a week do you work?
In Human Resources, roughly 25 to 30 hours. As a volunteer EMT, about 18 hours a week.

19. How many rolls of film do you need to get developed?
Mmmm... maybe six or seven. I mostly use digital now.

20. Favorite age you have been so far?
Anywhere in my 30s.

21. Your worst enemy?
My own body. I have Limb Girdle Muscular Dystrophy and it is not fun. But I won't give in to it.

22. What is your current desktop picture?
A photo of the Maine coast with the sun sparkling on the Atlantic Ocean, taken by me about five weeks ago.

23. What was the last thing you said to someone?
Honey, it's time to do your manly duty and change the light bulbs!

24. If you had to choose between a million bucks or to be able to erase all of your regrets, what would you choose?
The million dollars. I need my regrets as surely as need my accomplishments. All that I am is all I have done; good, bad and indifferent. Without my regrets, I would be missing an integral part of myself.

Winter Doldrums - Almost

Sometimes just knowing that something is coming is all it takes.

Winter in New Jersey is not the worst thing in the world. There are plenty of other locations where I would not move to for the length of winter and the shortness of the days. Northern Canada is out, Alaska is out, as well as Siberia, Cape of Good Hope, Cape Horn, any of the Aleutian Islands... I am not a lover of winter.

Still, it is not all sunshine and roses here, either. It is lovely in the summer - the days are long, about 15 hours long, and the sun sets with great slowness and there are the long twilights. In that way, being a little more north might be nice... say, a 17 hour day... I could go to Maine or southern Canada and have that. But conversely the winters are only 9 hours of daylight - here - and so 18:00 feels much the same as midnight. I find it harder to stay awake to bedtime, let alone any later hour. And getting up is a misery when it is so deeply dark outside. But it is what it is. At least they make full-spectrum lighting now. With the right lights in the house, it won't matter that night falls at the heinous hour of 16:30.

I don't care for the bitter cold, either. It is terribly uncomfortable to be out on the highway at 02:30 because some idiot that could not bother to slow down in the snow crashed his or her vehicle. It is the kind of cold that seeps into your bones and no matter how much you drink tea and shiver under the covers it will not easily leave. And when it gets windy there is no warming up! And then there are the times we have been out in many inches of snow in the freezing cold wee hours. Yuck.

Well, I complain about it but the fact is I wouldn't live somewhere without four separate and distinct seasons. So there it is. Without the darkness and starkness of winter, I would not have the sultry warmth of summer, the burst of pastels of spring and the stunning fiery colours of that most gorgeous of seasons, autumn. And I would not trade autumn for the world!

Welcome, Winter!

Kids Are Best When Sautéed

(Unless They are Close Friends')

OK, I realise that my feelings about kids are fairly plain. I have never made a secret of it and never pulled my punches about how much other people's kids bother me. It is NOT a flaw thing or a blame thing (although the gods' know that there are plenty of poorly behaved kids thanks to lousy parents!). It is simply a matter of kids - normal kids - just getting on my nerves. I was a kid, too, and undoubtedly got on people's nerves and would absolutely have made me the adult just as crazy as any kid would! I just have zero ability to put up with perfectly normal, well-behaved kids. We'll touch on bad kids or poorly behaved kids later.

When my friends have children, as they are doing now, it is a wholly different thing. Sure, they still might annoy me but not nearly as much as just any kid that I don't know would. I enjoyed my pen friend’s son and daughter in New Hampshire and I love Matthew. Stephanos is special, too. I feel that way about the R&R Chief's kids, too. These are my close friends' children and that makes a world of difference.

With Flyboy and Quilt Queen, it is much more special that almost anyone, as we have been friends for years with Flyboy. His child is super-special to me. And at one point she had asked why I am taking such an interest in Matthew and I replied, "It's a completely different thing. I still don't care for kids, but Matthew isn't just any child, he's your child!"

If you are wondering why I make exceptions for a small select group of kids, this is it.

Now, as for poorly behaved kids... this is not the child's fault! Children need supervision and constant praise and rewarding for good behaviour and reinforcement and punishment for poor or naughty behaviour. If a parent is lax in doing this, the child is quick to take advantage of this. Who wouldn't? Adults will do it to - push the envelope as far as they can. Test the boundaries. Whatever you want to call it.

Certain behaviours are universally unacceptable:
1. Whining
2. Pinching/hitting/rough physical behaviour
3. Shouting
4. Cursing or poor use of language

However, certain sayings & forms of thinking are also (to me) unacceptable: (I will discuss below)
1. "Spare the rod, spoil the child" (I have an exceptional poor opinion of anyone striking their children in any fashion)
2. "Children should be seen and not heard" (if you believe that, you definitely shouldn't have kids)
3. Presenting a united front - not a saying but a thing that parents practice - bad idea
4. Others saying you should have children because fill in the blank. (The green section is devoted to just this.)
(I'm sure that there are other sayings & tidbits of bed thinking that I cannot think of that are just as odious as those above...)

1. There are plenty of perfectly terrible parents around - more than are good. I don't agree with ever hitting your kids. I know they'll make any adult crazy - fairly often, too - but my parents never ever struck me (no comments from the peanut gallery, please! [grin]). I wasn't a perfect kid and any0ne who tells you that they have a perfect child that never did anything wrong is absolutely lying through their pearly whites! But hitting would not have made me a better kid. My parents also made it very clear to my grandparents that corporal punishment would not be tolerated. Whatever low opinion my grandmother had of that rule, she was intelligent enough to know that one strike is all she would get before my mother pulled the plug on her seeing me.

2. Children should be seen and not heard. I guess in a perfect world infants, babies, toddlers and kids would not scream, cry, carry on, throw fits, and try out their voices. However, kids are by nature loud. Certainly infants and babies are. They have no other recourse but to cry - they can't communicate otherwise. No one's super-precocious 6-month-old can sit up and say, "Hey, there, Mummy, what is up with this diaper?" or "Listen, the tummy is a-rumbling, when's chow-time?" They can only cry. On the other hand, when they have just been fed, the diaper is clean and there is nothing else obviously wrong, put the kid down and let him or her cry it out.

3. The United Front form of Parenting: This is a big thing that many parents do but mine did not. If they disagreed on something, they would discuss it and sometimes I would be granted the request and other times not. Or sometimes I got a reprieve on something and sometimes I didn't. But it was nice that there was sometimes someone in my corner fighting for me instead of always forming that us against the kid thing. I hate that. And I don't know a kid in the world that did not wonder why the parents were always out to get him or her or against him or her.

4. You should have children because fill in the blank.
Are you ready for this, patient reader? Oh, yes, it is a lengthy list!

OK. Reason #1: You are not a "real" woman until you have children.
Would you believe my first HR manager told me this? I wouldn't... certainly not from someone who, in all other ways, was a very intelligent, earthy, caring person. But she actually told me that. I guess she was thinking that no matter what I thought about having kids then, I would change my mind and eventually become that real woman. I still find that my response today is the same as it was seven years ago... I looked down at my C-cup chest, looked up, and replied, "I am a real woman. This chest is the give-away."

Reason #2: Who will take care of you in your old age?
Considering the source of this infamous reason, I should have seen it coming when Luis Sr. moved in with us. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me! He used to say this all the time. And I always wondered why anyone has kids under this misguided thinking. I am not bringing lives into this world with the idea that they should "owe" me anything. Apparently, however, many people including Luis' father, feel that their progeny are, in fact, indentured servants of a sort. Terrible. Talk about the ultimate in self-serving, completely selfish behaviour. And now that Luis Sr. lives with us, he is discovering daily that we emphatically do not agree with his view of what life with his kids would be like. Surprise!

Reason #3: You need someone to carry on the family name/family line.
That would go along with the family genes: the heart failure history, the cancer history, the Alzheimer’s history. My mother seems to constantly be apologising for all the maladies that she knows has been passed on to me. This is not her fault - no one thinks of this when they have kids - but there you have it. I inherited a name that I legally changed - belonging to someone whose genetics I don't share but who loves me as a father should. And I inherited Limb Girdle Muscular Dystrophy, ADD, big wrist bones, a Jay Leno chin, a tendency to be fat, oh, the list is endless. I don't mind - none of the illnesses or maladies will kill me outright, so I am OK with it. In 1968, who knew what you might be passing on? But knowing what I know, in 2005, why under the sun would I knowingly pass this along?

Reason #4: It's what you do next.
Just like anything in life, it is programming... as a woman, you are programmed to go to school, go to college, get a good, solid job, land a man, get married, have babies (oh, yes, usually more than one), stop working and turn into a mindless automaton who raises kids and turns into a soccer mom and lives madly for those moments when she can foist her kids off on some other hapless mother to go grocery shopping alone! This is programming. My mother (who has had a huge and positive impact on my outlook and way of seeing things) never did any programming with me. I was not programmed into any religion, I was not programmed to wear skirts and be a girly-girl, I was not programmed to sew or knit or crochet or cook. I was programmed to believe that I can do anything I want. And that I had the same freedom to not do things. I love her more than can be imaged for that. So there was never any "this is the next step" training in my life.

Reason #5: Go forth and multiply (or "this is what God put us on Earth for").
Does anyone really buy this line of thinking any more? Sure. More brainwashed people. At the time that we were having twelve kids in the hopes that two would survive and go on to assist in populating the world, this was logical thinking. You needed to have a bunch of pregnancies... to ensure that some were live, viable births and that some made it through all the childhood maladies and adult maladies and weren't killed in accidents and tragedies and internecine wars and whatever else killed people by the scores. When survival was a rate thing, sure, breeding was a very important thing. But now that we overpopulate the earth like an infestation of the worst kind and kill off our resources mightn't it be a good idea to get away from misguided thinking like that?

Reason #6: I'll have more hands to help.
Refer to reason #2. Indentured servitude, anyone? Oh, wait, no, that would be slavery. Servitude is remuneration for a service performed by the employer.

Reason #7: The more children we have, the more they entertain one another.
Yikes. People scare me. Or maybe they have forgotten all the sibling rivalry and infighting that took place.

Reason #8: There is no occupation more rewarding than motherhood.
Hmmm. In some fashion that is true. There are undoubtedly rewards that come with seeing your kids turn into (you hope) responsible adults. However, from where I sit, the rewards do not include: a paycheck, a vacation/sick/personal time package, any health benefits, definitely no dental, lousy retirement package... did I forget anything? Oh, yes, the most unrecognised, unending, ceaseless job ever that mostly mothers have and fathers avoid. Let's look at those rewards, shall we? For myself, I will pass!

Reason #9: Parenthood is investing in eternity.
I hate to be the one to tell you this, but you are going to die anyway.

Reason #10: My children help me surrender the selfish desires of my flesh.
Well, this is certainly true enough. Any woman with kids will tell you that her sex drive has decreased dramatically with the arrival of the offspring. This is not a good thing. Let's talk to the philandering spouses who did not lose their interest in sex... Not that this happens to all women. I'm happy to say that my mother never suffered from that at all. She did not want to sleep with my biological father, but that had nothing to do with her loss of drive - it was due to his being a stupendous alcoholic!

Reason #11: Everyone else is having them/has them.
Oh, my. Sounds a lot like lemmings, doesn't it? Lemmings all commit suicide - probably because everyone else is doing it. Remember your parents saying to you, "If XYZ jumped off a bridge, you would, too?" Some how that gets left out when grown children tell their parents that they are expecting. But you get the idea. Is there a more senseless reason to have kids? (Well, I have a whole lot of senseless reasons to have kids, so maybe, just maybe, there are. Still, this rates pretty high on the stupidity list!

Reason #12: We are having a rough patch in our marriage so having a baby will fix that.
Don't laugh. It is positively staggering how many people - usually women - think that. This is as misguided as thinking that making your boyfriend/girlfriend jealous will produce any positive results. The answer is a resounding NO! Babies add a component of stress that nothing else in life can. People survive life-threatening diseases, fatal accidents, wandering spouses, but no floundering marriage survives the introduction of an infant into the already bad mix.

I think twelve reasons are plenty. Shall we discuss under what circumstances you SHOULD have children? Yes! There is actually a reason to take that plunge!

Reason to Have Children: There is only one good reason to have children - loving to do the vast majority of the things required of parents. Sure there are some things nobody is going to like, for example, changing diapers. But, if you are the kind of person who feels fulfilled getting up out of bed in the middle of the night to comfort an upset child and performing countless menial tasks for the semi-aware, then you and only you should seriously consider child rearing. There are people like that. I know that Quilt Queen and Flyboy fit into this category. They are really the ONLY people I know that I would describe that way. Pretty scary, isn't it, when you think of how many people have children and clearly are not that way.

I have had more friends confide in me and not want their spouse to know that if they had to do it all over again, they wouldn't. Guess what. My mother told me the same thing. I don't find that insulting or hurtful or anything of that nature. I was there - I know what I put them through. I know I created all sorts of hideous issues just in the normal process of growing up that no one thinks anyone else goes through. I won't say what I did do, it is our own private insanity, but I will tell you that I:

did not do drugs
did not drink alcohol
did not wreck their cars
did not burn down or seriously damage the house
did not tote a gun
did not have any out-of-wedlock babies

How many kids do these things listed above? Too many to count! And I did not do them and they still would not want to do it again! What does that tell you?

Anyone not 100% sure that kids are what they want? Go to this Web site. Try out the different Child Prep steps given. If you come out of that thinking that you may want children, go forth with my blessings and multiply!

Still not sure? Try this one: I'm not saying you may not be OK with that. But it is food for thought. Most people have absolutely no idea what they are in for when they decide on some arbitrary whim to have children. None of what I have read is untrue. It is not pretty, but it is the part that no one tells you about.

Parents who are spineless are the biggest offenders to me. If you are not prepared to parent (good and bad) then do the planet and your currently non-existent kids a favour and DON'T HAVE ANY! If you are not prepared to punish your child (without resorting to violence or any kind of physical force), then go without, please! Parents who allow their children to whine or throw things should be charged with criminal non-parenting! No one in the world wants to hear a whiney child. If you let them run around like hooligans in a restaurant or grocery store or doctor's waiting room, you need to be ticketed by the police. Kids need to run around and be hooligans - they have entirely too much energy and it needs to be expelled - but there are settings where it is never appropriate to do this. The above are a couple of them. There are more. But there are plenty of places and things to allow them the outlets they need.

I just hate it when the parents of the world try to use logic and reason on their two through five year old. I may be over shooting the age, but certain at age two and three you cannot sit there and tell your child, "Please don't upend the glass of water. This is not how good children behave." No. You firmly remove the glass from the child's hand and tell them, "No." in a firm, no-nonsense tone.

Food shopping is a bad thing. I feel for parents who have to bring their kids with them for the joys of grocery shopping listening to a chorus of "I want" and "Gimme", but if they turn into hooligans and start running up and down the aisles, put the cart to one side and tell them it is time to go. Or tell them it is time out for them for a half-hour when you get home, and see if this doesn't work.

Oops. My 40-year-old child is whining about dinner. Time out!

Working Again

It is really, really, completely wonderful to be working again. This is a totally different experience from all other places I have worked. I won't get into the total nitty gritty as usual - I have made it very clear from the get-go that there will be no details of the job that I am currently on, no discussion of anything that is confidential. No opinions, either. As stated previously, people have been terminated from jobs for less and I am not about to push that luck.

But generalised things are perfectly acceptable and this is mostly about how I feel about working, not about work or the people there. I will say that I am very happy - I really do enjoy the company of my coworkers a lot and find them to be intelligent, worthwhile people to know.

Most of my experience is in manufacturing. I love manufacturing - there is a lot to learn, not just the HR side (not that I don't know HR but how any given company likes to do things) but the technical side. I make it a high priority to get to know the business I am in - so I learned a lot about manufacturing memory modules (thank you, a million times, Osvaldo!), pharmaceuticals (thank you to the staff at PF Labs in Totowa) and the destruction side of the pharmaceutical business (thank you to Sue, Tina, John and Kris at USI, now SteriCycle). Now I am not in manufacturing and that is a whole new thing... this is a very different business, I guess you could say it is sort of the entertainment business, the dining/hotel business, and several other things - but totally new to me. And the people there are really very helpful in helping me acclimate to this - I am accustomed to a much more rigid way of handling things. This is not like any corporation I have ever worked for. Every day is a new adventure - and I love adventure!

I just love being Aislínge Kellogg, HR Manager (yes, quite the step up!) instead of Aislínge Kellogg, useless unemployed EMT who logs in a million calls and is a total whacker! I still log in more calls than I used to, say, a year ago. But I am not sitting around the house waiting for a call because I have nothing else to do.

It means the world to me!

Thank you, Elite Personnel - as always, you stand by me. And get me into great places!

Burning, Ripping & Playing Music

I love music.

After that, anything I say is really just gravy, me yakking away and filling up space. So if you are totally satisfied with the very core statement of "I love music" then this is where you can stop reading and ignore my ceaseless prattling...

But it is never that simple, and no half-decent author of any kind will stop there... books would never get beyond a few pages!

I don't love ALL music. Let me be perfectly clear about this! Certain genres are almost exempt in toto from my tastes - not totally - someone will always sneak in one or two good tunes in almost any genre, but for the most part, the genres I have zero interest in are as follows:

Gansta Rap
Country & Western
Top 40/Pop
Bubblegum Pop
Acid Metal

If I think of more I will add them. In the meantime, that does cover most of it.

Top 12 artists for me (not in order, as they all compete equally):
Depeche Mode
Barenaked Ladies
Led Zeppelin
Dead Can Dance
Siouxsie & The Banshees
Simple Minds

Top 12 Albums (again, no order):
Gordon (Barenaked Ladies)
Violator (Depeche Mode)
Riverdance (Bill Whelan)
The Black Stallion (Soundtrack)
October (U2)
Abbey Road (The Beatles)
Corrobee (Split Enz)
The Fifth Element (Soundtrack)
Ultra (Depeche Mode)
X&Y (Coldplay)
The Four Seasons (Vivaldi)
Stunt (Barenaked Ladies)

Top 12 Songs:
The Arrival & The Reunion (Dead Can Dance)
Gloria (U2)
Wrap Your Arms Around Me (Barenaked Ladies)
When I Fall (Barenaked Ladies)
Picasso Vista El Planeta de los Simios (Adam & The Ants)
Eligia (New Order)
Isabella (Mediæval Bæbes)
Clocks (Coldplay)
Special (Garbage)
Symphony No 7 - Allegretto (Beethoven)
Shadows & Tall Trees (U2)
Flower Duet (Sous Dome Epais) (excerpt from Lakme - Delibes)

I would love to say that I have always loved classical. I have always liked it well enough - my whole family - maternal and paternal - has a huge background in classical music. But the fact is that usually I was somewhat indifferent until it has been in a movie and had a profound affect in the show or scene or whatever. Take the last song, Sous Dome Epais from the opera Lakme. This is a simply gorgeous piece of music but what introduced me to it? The love scene between Catherine Denouve (spelling?) and Susan Sarandon in the movie The Hunger. Truly an amazing movie and there is not a man alive (no matter what his feelings on lesbian lovers) who wasn't completely turned on by that. Two stunning women... well I digress. But you get the idea. Same thing with Allegretto - Symphony No. 7 - that was in a very moving scene in the Richard Dreyfuss movie Mr. Holland's Opus, which I loved.

A lot of the more modern music has been in my repertoire for a very long time. I have been a U2 fan much longer than anyone hung up about his or her age would care to admit. Let me see. I have been listening to them since 1979, so almost 30 (ouch) years now. I would love to meet the band and thank them. Their music has seen me through sadness and joy and the lyrics and emotion in them is just... just... I could not find the right words to describe it. I love their music beyond imaging. The best song always is "Shadows & Tall Trees" - the lines "Do you feel in me/anything redeeming/any worthwhile feeling/is it a walking tightrope/hanging on my ceiling?". I remember those feelings as a teenager and I know that feeling now. And here is someone who put all those nebulous feelings and emotions that made no sense into words - for me.

Another brilliant group with regards to lyrics is Barenaked Ladies. How do I love them? Like U2, they touch on the bigger topics but unlike U2, they have a very off-beat sense of humour and that comes out too - such as in the track "The King of Bedside Manor" on Gordon. Lyrics like these:

"He says, 'Excuse me, I hope
you don't mind that I followed you into
this shop,
But I couldn't help but notice that
riding crop
Sticking out of your haversack,
Um, I wouldn't mind riding you
He's subtle on the dance floor and
he's suave around the bar.
He's a quickdraw with the lighter,
he's a pseudo movie star. You know he's quite a singer,
quite an actor, quite some time ago.
He had quite a famous program,
late night bedroom tv show."

OK, how many artists write such funny lyrics and put them to great tunes to boot? They were a find for me... Oddly enough, I never gave them any thought when my cousin Renée asked me for some CDs of theirs several Christmas' ago... I just thought what a weird name they had. But then I started hearing the song Pinch Me and I loved it. Now I have all their CDs and get every one that comes out immediately. Their latest, "Everything to Everyone", is very, very good. The tracks Upside Down and War on Drugs are excellent as always.

Now, Depeche Mode has been around for a very long time, too, and they are excellent as well. Again, they score high for lyrics and music and their most recent release, "Playing the Angel", is very much as their music of "Violator" - one of my all-time favourites. They have always put out great music but this is Depeche Mode at their best.

Luis found a song on one of his shows, Las Vegas, and I like it too - this is not my normal style of music but it is really quite energetic, great beat, excellent dance floor music. I hope the DJ at our squad installation dinner in March has this to play! It is a song called Ponce de Replay - I think - sometimes Windows Media Player does not get the names quite right. It is by a young woman named Rihanna - good Irish name! Well, Celtic, anyway. Nonetheless, while this is dance music, something that I usually only find good on a dance floor at a wedding or big party, this is fun to listen to anywhere.

There are, of course, always exceptions - I really have little use for Country and Western in any fashion, but The Devil Went Down to Georgia is undoubtedly one of those remarkable exceptions. It is fun and great to listen or dance to. Those songs are always exceptions.

I do like a fair amount of heavy metal, although not enough to own too much of it. I listen to a lot of punk, alternative, rock, classical, soundtracks and Irish/folk music. I also love Dead Can Dance, an Irish group that does a lot of Middle Eastern music. I love folk music from all over - we went to a friend's wedding that was Hindi - it was an amazing wedding - and I loved the music. I really should get Vineet to send me some of the music he had there. I loved it. This is one reason that I hate it when people say that any culture is all bad or whatever, or are just terribly prejudice. That is an entire culture that you are ignoring - the history, the music, the books, the knowledge, food, etcetera - the list of things that any culture contributes to the world is endless - it is a terrible thing to be so insular. And yet, so many cultures are totally insular. Certainly Americans epitomize this attitude. This is where I am not - NOT AT ALL - proud to be an American. I would not be happy to be a part of any group with that attitude. Mostly I like being an American and this is an amazing country to live in but not when it comes to the pervasive attitude that we are the living end and should not embrace any other culture but ours!

Again, another topic for another time, I guess.

Anyway, I love music.

And I have it - or try to have it - everywhere. I have a radio/MP3-CD player in my office at work, my computer in my home office (where I am right now, happily ripping and burning music at this very moment), in my car, and a wonderful little MP3/WMA player that Luis got me for Christmas last year. I have the Rio Carbon. I got Luis an iPod for his 40th birthday in June (back when I was rich, ha, ha) but I like my player much better. It holds as much as his iPod, but weighs quite a bit less. That iPod is a doorstop! I have a ZipConnect stereo system on my Christmas list this year, as my radio at work is starting to experience issues and I know it will eventually cease to work. Then what? I won't go in without something else! I don't think it will look good if I'm sitting there with headphones on.

So there it is - a nearly two hour dissertation on music!

And this brings us back to the original statement:

I love music!

Tuesday, 15 November 2005

Exempt From "Do Not Call" List

Clearly, as with everything, there are exceptions. When I signed up for the "Do Not Call" list, I honestly and stupidly thought this meant that ALL of the abuse would stop. The local yokels, my credit card, other credit cards, surveys, political messages, the list is endless.

Apparently, it is not quite that endless. The PBA and every scammer operating under that and other police orders I have never heard of can still ring you up during the dinner hour. Surveys are exempt from that as well. And in the aftermath of an election that included the Mayor of Parsippany, it is painfully clear that in the interest of really pushing candidates down the voters' throats, they are entirely too exempt. Had they limited them to one call per household per week, I could live with that. But between the political surveyors and the "get out an vote" squads each candidate employed, my phone was ringing off the hook.

I voted last Tuesday night. I did my civic duty and felt... well... ambiguous as always... none of the choices are all that good. But I was satisfied that I had gone out to cast in my ballot, throw in my opinion. And what happened then?

FOUR MORE groups called us to get us to go out and VOTE!

Friday, 11 November 2005

Much Too Long!

Well, it has been an age since I have posted to my blog! That's not good. I guess I wasn't doing this all 21 days - I read that it takes 21 days to form a habit. So why is it that takes minutes to break a good one?

I was watching a show called Bones and I had to laugh in shock and disbelief at something the lead character has said in last week's show - the one that aired on 11/01/2005 entitled "The Man in the Bear". At the end of the show, after they'd caught the killer who, it turned out, was a cannibal, she said, "But is he nuts because he got a brain disease from eating human flesh, or was he nuts the first time he ate flesh, or did he just lick his fingers after surgery?"


Who comes up with this? Not that it wasn't an amazingly effective line... it certainly got my attention. As someone whose hobby frequently allows me to be up to my elbows in blood, the idea of ingesting it is... well... truly horrifying. I mean, we avoid the most basic contact with the patient's blood - on our skin. Imagine if it gets into an orifice - any one! Ick. But it is an attention getter. I just had to laugh at that, as disgusting as it was!

A friend of mine went on a date with a woman he met online. Apparently she drilled him mercilessly about his medical history - asking if he had to use Viagra. Being in one's 50s does NOT mean one needs to use medication to get/maintain an erection! So he rejoined with a comment about her being close to menopause, and does she find that at night she "dries up"? I howled - absolutely was hysterical with laughter at that! Not that I should be surprised coming from the source! I have been known to say some outrageous things... but nothing quite like that, quite so scathing - and not on a date! Not that she wasn't deserving...

So I shall write more soon but for now, this is juicy enough!

Tuesday, 1 November 2005

I Fell Behind!

Spring forward, fall behind.

I fell behind.

I cannot get my ass out of bed on time at all these days. Once the clock goes back, that is it. Case closed. Not that I won't recover, but the first week at work is baaaaaddd news. Why should this week be any different. Next year I will have four weeks added to Daylight Saving Time and I cannot wait for that! It will make it easier I think. (I hope!)

Normally, I go to bed at 2030 or so and then get up around 0425. I get in the shower, get dressed and then drive into work around 0530, arriving at close to 0600. No worries. Somehow when the clocks go forward and when they go backward, even though I still go to bed under the new time (the clock reads 2030 but in my heart/body/brain, I know it is either 2130 or 1930), I cannot get up! Not for a half hour or so. It has to do directly with suddenly seeing or not seeing light. I don't explain it - I can't - I just tell it like it is.

I manage my time well. Regardless of how weird it is at night, I still make sure to go to bed at the right time. But even so, it still sucks to get up in the morning with the wrong light polarity (so to speak) and try not to feel it. And so far this week, I'm 0 for 2.

Good luck. It has not worked thus far...!

Friday, 28 October 2005

A.W.A.D. - There Is A Word For It (10.2005)

There is a Word for it.

With the largest vocabulary of any language, in English we have a word to describe almost everything. And when we can't find one, we're happy to borrow from another language (from German: schadenfreude, pleasure at others' misfortune), or just make one up (petrichor, the pleasant smell of rain after a dry spell).

Having said that, let's not gloat over how many words we have. English's poverty shows in many places, for example, when it comes to words to describe relations. How useful is it to introduce the woman with you as your sister-in-law when the term could mean any number of things?

This week we visit a few terms that make one say, "I didn't know there was a word for it!" We start with:

(ak-SIZ-muhs) noun
Feigning disinterest in something while actually desiring it.

[From Greek akkismos (coyness or affectation).]

If you've ever uttered something resembling any of these expressions, you've practiced the fine art of accismus: "Oh, you shouldn't have done it." or "Thank you, but I'm not worthy of such an honor."

Accismus is showing disinterest in something while secretly wanting it. It's a form of irony where one pretends indifference and refuses something while actually wanting it. In Aesop's fable, the fox pretends he doesn't care for the grapes. Caesar, in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, is reported as not accepting the crown.

(vuh-JI-tuhs) noun
The cry of a newborn.

[From Latin vagire (to wail).]

A newborn child's cry is called vagitus. Babies' cries have been heard even before their births. It's rare but vagitus uterinus has been observed on occasions when the membranes rupture, allowing air to enter the uterine cavity.

(puh-REEZ-i-uh) noun
1. Boldness of speech.
2. The practice of asking forgiveness before speaking in this manner.

[From New Latin, from Greek, from para- (beyond) + rhesis (speech).]

From political leaders to business heads, very few like to face the truth. Some claim to want candor but follow the dictum of filmmaker Samuel Goldwyn who said, "I want everybody to tell me the truth, even if it costs them their jobs."

If you're not entirely sure about your boss, we recommend starting with parrhesia (sense 2), before giving in to parrhesia (sense 1). Preface your opinion of how pin-headed your supervisor's idea is, with:

With all due respect...
If I may be so bold...

(nik-THEM-er-on) noun
A full period of a day and night: 24 hours.

[From Greek, a combination of nykt- (night) and hemera (day).]

Ever wondered why day and night were divided into 12 hours? The number 12 is not as random as it sounds. There are 12 moons in a year. The number 12 is easy to divide into halves, thirds, and quarters. Also, some cultures counted in base 12: three joints on each finger (thumb as the counter).

Aren't we glad a nychthemeron isn't divided in metric? Who wants to sleep 30 hours every night?

(vuh-LEE-i-tee) noun
Volition at its faintest.

[From Latin velle (to wish), ultimately from Indo-European root wel-(to wish, will) which is also the ancestor of well, will, wealth, wallop,gallop, voluptuous, and voluntary.]

Finally, a word to describe a few of those things we can't wait to do: filling out tax forms, for example. Velleity is volition at its weakest. It's a mere wish or inclination, without any accompanying effort. But who could tell just by looking at the word?

So next time you're late in filing your tax return and the tax department sends a reminder, just send them a polite letter vouching for your velleity. The taxman will think the check (or cheque, as our Canadian grammar guru Carolanne Reynolds would write) is coming soon and you've been completely forthright.

Friday, 21 October 2005

A.W.A.D. - Words About Words

Imagine you've just started your great epic novel and one of the keys on your keyboard is broken. It would be trivial to manage without a Q, X, or Z, but writing without a single E -- ah, that'd be some challenge. If it sounds undoable, consider that whole books have been written without an E, the most used letter in the English language. Without an E, one has to give up some of the most common pronouns such as he, she, we, me, and so on. What's more, even the article "the" is barred.

Coming back to books written without Es (I'm sure writing them is not something everyone can do with ease), Ernest Vincent Wright's 1939 novel Gadsby is written without the second vowel. One of the best known E-less works is Georges Perec's lipogrammatic French novel, La Disparition (The Disappearance). Its plot is full of wordplay, puzzles, and other word-fun.

For example, a character is missing eggs, or is unable to remember his name because it needs E in the spelling. Though it may be hard to believe considering the restriction under which it is written, the novel is said to be quite engrossing. Apparently, many reviewers were not even aware that a special constraint was used in writing it. After writing the novel, Perec faced a protest from the A, I, O, and U keys on his keyboard that they had to do all the work and E was leading an e'sy life. So Perec had no choice but to write a short work called Les Revenentes, where he put to work all those idle Es: the only vowel used was E.

If that doesn't sound incredible enough, here is more. La Disparition has been translated into English as "A Void" by Gilbert Adair. Of course, the translation also doesn't have any E in it. In case you have not already noticed, both the phrases "La Disparition" and "A Void" have only vowels A, I, and O in them, same as in the word "lipogram". And Void's protagonist is named Anton Vowl.

One can write numbers from zero, one, two... onwards, and not use the A key on the keyboard until reaching thousand. As for the literary merit of that composition, I'm not very certain.

(LIP-uh-gram) noun
A piece of writing that avoids one or more letters of the alphabet.

[From Greek lipo- (lacking) + gram (something written).]

In spite of what it sounds like, a lipogram is not a message with a kiss. Lipogram is a work written with a constraint.

(god-WOT-uhr-ee) noun
1. Gardening marked by an affected and elaborate style.
2. Affected use of archaic language.

[From the line "A garden is a lovesome thing, God wot!" in a poem by Thomas Edward Brown (1830-1897).]

Now here is a word with a dual personality. Poet T.E. Brown unwittingly helped coin it when he wrote a poem describing his garden filled with all that came to his mind: grotto, pool, ferns, roses, fish, and more.

And when he needed a word to rhyme with the line "Rose plot," he came up with "God wot!" He used "wot", an archaic term that's a variant of wit (to know), to mean "God knows!" and it stood out among other contemporary words in the poem.

If you wish to create your own godwottery, we recommend: sundials, gnomes, fairies, plastic sculptures, fake rockery, pump-driven streams, and wrought-iron furniture. A pair of pink flamingos will round it out nicely.

(AL-uh-nim) noun
The name of a person, usually historical, taken by an author as a pen name (as opposed to using a fictional pseudonym).

[From French allonyme, from Greek allo- (other) + -onym (name).]

When one borrows the content of another's book, it's called plagiarism. But when merely an author's name is lifted, the term is allonym.

Sometimes it's done for parody. When hired by someone to do so, it's known as ghostwriting. An example of a work written under an allonym is The Federalist, also known as Federalist Papers. This collection of 85 essays about the US Constitution was written by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison during 1787-1788. They chose to write under the name Publius in honor of this Roman official for his role in in setting up the Roman Republic.

Some people believe that Shakespeare's works were written by various authors who used his allonym. Writing a great novel might be a breeze but choosing what to call your pseudonym, that's not easy! You could simply call it your pen name or byname.

If you wish to appear sophisticated, you might say it is your nom de plume or nom de guerre. If you reversed your own name to coin a nickname, it would be an ananym. But why not take a walk in the library, browse the spines, and select an allonym?

(het-uh-ROG-ruh-fee) noun
1. A spelling different from the one in current use.
2. Use of the same letter(s) to convey different sounds, for example, gh in rough and ghost.

[From Greek hetero (different) + -graphy (writing).]

The idea of heterography is a recent phenomenon, relatively speaking. Earlier, when English was mainly a spoken language, it was a free-for-all, spelling-wise. Any spelling was good as long as you could make yourself understood. Each writer spelled words in his own way, trying to spell them phonetically. Shakespeare spelled his own name in various ways (Shaxspear, Shakespear, and so on).

If you read old manuscripts, you can find different spellings of a word on the same page, and sometimes even in the same sentence. Spelling wasn't something sacrosanct: if a line was too long to fit, a typesetter might simply squeeze or expand the word by altering the spelling.

If the idea of to-each-one's-own spelling for the same word sounds bizarre, consider how we practice it even today, in the only place we can: in our names. Look around you and you might find a Christina and a Cristina and a Kristina and many other permutations and combinations.

With the advent of printing in the 15th century, spelling began to become standardized. By the 19th century, most words had a single "official" spelling, as a consensus, not by the diktat of a committee.

Today if you write "definately" and someone points out that you've misspelled the word, just tell them you're a practitioner of heterography.

(nee-OL-uh-gist) noun
One who coins, uses, or introduces new words, or redefines old words in a language.
[From French néologisme, from Greek neo- (new) + -logy (science, study).]

A language grows by infusion of new words. Anyone who has been on the Internet for more than a few days knows what a webmaster is. Yet only a few years ago if we came across a "webmaster", we wouldn't know what that person did for a living.

There are many ways to coin words. You can make words out of thin air: googol, a word for a very large number (1 followed by 100 zeros) was coined by a nine-year-old boy. It was the inspiration behind the naming of the Google search engine. You can redefine old words. The Google name, in turn, became genericized as a verb meaning to search for something, not necessarily on the Web.

You can sandwich two existing words (web + master) or you can fuse them together: lexpert (lex + expert), someone who is an expert in words. Such an amalgamated word is also known as a portmanteau (from French, meaning a bag for carrying clothes, one that opens on two sides) since Lewis Carroll gave them this moniker in his 1872 classic "Through the Looking-Glass". Carroll himself coined some great portmanteaux, such as chortle (chuckle + snort), and slithy (slimy + lithe).

Coining words is easy. Getting them into a dictionary, now that's a topic for another time.

Friday, 14 October 2005

A.W.A.D. - Eponyms (10.2007) (Words Coined After Peoples Names)

The US currency notes are printed in the Bureau of Engraving and Printing plants in Washington, DC and Fort Worth, Texas. I visited the Washington DC money factory a few years back and have to say the place feels a bit surreal. You can see sheets of currency notes rolling through by the millions, as if they were the daily newspaper to be read and discarded. Workers move the giant stacks of uncut sheets with forklifts.

No matter how the economy is going, this is one place that always makes money. It's perhaps fitting that it's Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), an inventor and printer, whose picture is printed on the highest denomination currency note in the US.

The name derives from Benjamin Franklin, US statesman, whose portrait adorns the bill.

(BEN-juh-min) noun
Benjamin is a nickname for the US one-hundred-dollar bill.

(maks-WEL-i-an) adjective
Of or relating to shady business practices, financial tricks, misuse of public funds, etc.

In the US we had Ken Lay and friends from Enron; across the pond in the UK, there was Ian Robert Maxwell (1923-1991). Maxwell was a Czechoslovakian-born British publisher who became notorious for misusing his employees' pension funds of some 400 million pounds.

He also engaged in dubious transactions between his private companies and a public company to prop them up and boost the share prices. For his resilience to rebound after a castigating government report, he earned the nickname the Bouncing Czech.

(seer-ee-OL-uh-jist) noun
One who specializes in investigating crop circles.

Going by the countless varieties of cereals on the supermarket shelves, you'd think you have to be a cereologist to be able to select one. But it's not that. Rather, a cereologist is someone who studies crop circles, intricate circular patterns on crop fields. The word is coined after Ceres, the goddess of agriculture in Roman mythology.

Heath Robinson
(heeth ROB-in-suhn) adjective
Absurdly complex and fancifully impractical. The term was coined after W. Heath Robinson (1872-1944), a British artist known for drawing ingeniously complicated devices.

It's not only mechanical devices that can be Heath Robinsonish. A few years back I came across a book titled "How to Wash Your Face". I'm not kidding--this 256 page tome was authored by a doctor and lists for $25. They say reality is stranger than fiction. The fiction that comes to mind here is a Heath Robinson contraption, or one devised by his US counterpart, Rube Goldberg. Check out their illustrations at and

Who knows, those illustrations might make you laugh, resulting in the coffee in your mug getting spilled on the tail of the pet cat on your lap, making the startled kitty jump and hit the ceiling, thus activating the fire-sprinkler and causing it to trigger the fire alarm, making you look up in curiosity, so that your face is splashed with the sprinkler water, thus saving you the $25 cost of the aforementioned book. Who said those devices were useless?

Tuesday, 11 October 2005

The Connecticut Renaissance Faire

This weekend was spent at the Connecticut Renaissance Faire and it was great!

The weekend for me started on Friday at 11:00 - I had had breakfast with LeRoy, stopped at the bank and got on Route 287 at about 11:02. I took Route 287 North through New Jersey to New York and 287 East, over the Tappan Zee Bridge, which I love and then onto 684. I was on 684 for 25 miles: in New York for most of it, through a corner of Connecticut for about two minutes and then back in New York. I was then on Route 84 East for the bulk of the journey – five miles or so in New York and then all Connecticut for the rest. I got off at Exit 70 onto CT-198, then CT-171, then finally to CT-169, all country roads with many fieldstone walls and houses with a huge distance between them – not like New Jersey at all. Even Sussex County is not that rural! It was all so gorgeous – woods and open fields and blue sky and horses grazing – it was stunning. There is rural and there is wow. This was all wow. I loved it. I wished I could have stopped to take many pictures. Woodstock is lovely - but I am getting ahead of myself.

The ride up was fine. I howled along with ColdPlay, Split Enz and Enya, enjoyed the scenery and sun and hit only a bit of traffic, first on 287E between exits 11 and 14 (road repaving), a little back up on 84 (more road work) and some minor hiccups in the flow in Hartford. Had I taken Route 95, the pick of the navigation unit, I'd have been mired in miles of unmoving traffic through Danbury, Hartford, and any other Connecticut city along the way. The navigation unit is not savvy when it comes to what roads to avoid. But I am (having been stuck on Route 95 for two road trips) and have deeply learned that lesson - never take it!

The trip took a total of three and one quarter hours – not bad. Harry had taken 4 hours and his was a shorter journey but anything on Route 95 is nothing but a nightmare. He was sitting in traffic the whole time. I ran into a bit of a slow point getting to the Tappan Zee due to resurfacing the highway and some small amount of traffic on Route 84 getting into Waterbury for the same reason. I got home faster – two hours and fifty minutes. Sunday driving is easier. There was no traffic in Hartford, CT – normally there is a lot – and no snags getting over the Tappan Zee as well.

I got into Woodstock around 1400, after a 20-minute journey down a very windy country road that was a total delight. Up and down mountains, woods with the sun shining through the leaves, beautiful "brooks" in the valleys and many, many stone walls about 20" - 24" high all over the place. Most houses dated in the 1700s and 1800s - no modern house farms ruining the landscape here! It was lovely. I enjoyed every bit of it and while I need not be at the faire until much later, my plan is to be on the road at roughly the same time or earlier to enjoy more of Connecticut. I really want to see it and not have to just zip through on the way to the faire.

Woodstock is mostly farms and woods and no small amount of historical places and buildings. I got to the Faire and went in without having to pay and found David fairly easily – the faire is tiny compared to New York’s sprawling grounds – maybe one twelfth the size. These were all tents, no permanent structures (there were buildings there but not for common use except for the employees and vendors. I went to the tent and was pleasantly surprised – it is a big tent. It is, as David calls it, the world’s biggest brassier. It looked like it. It had two pointed tops and was mostly white but the tops were blue. It was quite roomy inside and we had no trouble with sleeping arrangements.

It was cool but lovely out. The sun was shining in the blue sky and it was around 19˚C so it was light sweater weather, my favourite. I got in with a massive headache and starving. My last meal had been at 0930 and I was definitely hungry. But the faire was only just winding down, so I went with Ruth to get my pass (a hard card like a credit card with a photo taken on the spot - very professional and completely different than the cheesy one I get every year at the NYRF), got my car and parked in front of the tent and got my stuff in. The evening was pleasant and David, his daughter Ruth and I went out for Chinese food at a buffet place in Putnam that night. The temperature did drop, though, to around 6˚C – too cold for me but it was alright with the two of us under a thousand blankets and on the air mattress. We also wore clothing to bed (a novel experience for me as I am accustomed to sleeping in the all-together, as it were). Good thing, though, as it was cold when I awoke.

Unfortunately it was 1900 by the time we went out to get dinner. But the Chinese food buffet was great and the meal was enjoyable, just David, his daughter Ruth and myself. We spent some time after that in the dollar store in the same strip mall and found tons of candy - some that I haven't seen since I was a kid. I am ABSOLUTELY stopping there again! As we were leaving to go out, Rook and Nightbringer arrived, and we left them bickering and setting up their tent. Apparently the man who owns it did an abysmal job of setting it up!

We said good night to Ruth and got back to the tent at about 2100, just in time to put the bed together and make it for the night. The faire keeps these huge Klieg lights on until 2200 - at 2200 sharp, they all go off and the night sky comes alive - delightfully so! The Milky Way was completely visible and Mars glowed orange-yellow to the northeast, and Venus was brilliant in the west. It was incredible! I need to remind David to bring his telescope. I have mine but transporting it is not an easy thing and at a value of $400 I am not lugging it to a place where some one might see it and decide to acquire it. I doubt that would happen there, but my New Jersey mind refuses to believe that!

Anyway, it was great. I went to the bathrooms with Rook and David was right - they were spotless and clean and I had no issues with using them. So not like the NYRF, which is as disgusting as any place can be. She also showed me where the free morning breakfast was and the shower and anything else I needed to find. Free breakfast! I couldn't believe it! And lunch as well! This faire actually cares about its vendors and feeds them and treats them like people, not indetured servants. There was everything we needed. Truly amazing!

We went to bed around 2330 - I couldn't keep my eyes open and after three hours of driving and then three hours of setting up I had run completely out of steam. I got in under the covers onto the air mattress and it was quite comfortable. Very surprising, since I am a fussy sleeper and need all the cushiony comfort of my waterbed. But it was good - and warm, which is really saying something. It was all of 65 degrees when I got there and dropped down to a chilling 40 degrees at night - BBBR-R-R-R-R! So we had on clothing (I had been warned of this and had packed night clothes) and a ton of blankets and it was great.

What wasn't great was awaking during the wee hours and finding a leg thrown over me and one bootie off. I had on a pair of socks and booties over my feet but it was staying under the covers that kept me warm.

Saturday morning dawned clear and cold. Other than making sure I was wearing warm clothing, it was an easy trip up to the bathrooms and the shower. At 08:30 I showered in a clean shower with hot water (!) and the bathrooms were immaculate! I was delighted. I never had any luck at the NYRF – one had to shower between 04:30 and 06:00 to have anything resembling warm water and the privies and showers were never well-cared for. It was always a rather unpleasant experience. Not so here. The water pressure was weaker than I might be accustomed to but that is not even a price to pay – I was warm and clean and perfectly delighted to be so.

I had a good time working there on Saturday and it was pleasant in the Gypsy Camp, as our portion of the Faire was called. I got to know Tracy and I already know Nightbringer and Rook all too well at NYRF, so it was good to have people to talk to. We also started and ended every faire day with a gypsy dance and all fell to dancing just above the May pole with great abandon – it was a lot of fun. I took a lot of pictures and partook in the exercise as well. Next year I hope to have better gypsy attire and not be trapped in a bodice to do this.

I did get out and really have a good look at the faire around 15:30 and did not return to the tent until 17:15 – the faire closes at 17:00 but I was really getting a good long look at all the different crafters and things and enjoying greatly the hot apple cider there. I love hot apple cider!

There were wenches that came around at 10:00 (opening) with baskets of breakfast foods and again at 13:00 with baskets of sandwiches for the vendors. It was delightful! I had free food – a completely new experience as we never even get a discount with any foods sold by the NYRF consortium. Up until this year when we became friendly with the food people across the road from us we never got a break on anything edible. (It turned out that the food people across from us next to the archery booth at the NYRF are not owned by the faire. We bartered with them this year and they fed us free drinks and snacks – hot pretzels and chocolate covered strawberries, which I adore and that worked nicely but for real food we were on our own.) The Connecticut Faire was an entirely new experience! Free food is a luxury.

Every morning I discovered they also served hot foods in the commons room by the bathroom/showers. I went there and got hot tea and oatmeal for David. I also usually grabbed a banana and ate better there than anywhere (except for Ray making me strawberry pancakes on Tuesday morning – yum!

They did serve hot lunch as well but I eat neither Mac and cheese or chili (not to mention I shiver at the thought of what I would “pay” later for eating chili – yikes!) so never partook. However, a PB&J suited me just fine (a peanut butter and jelly sandwich).

I did do some looking and found a woman selling gourds that I loved and suggested bartering for that. I did get a hanging hollowed out gourd with an opening for putting in a candle and a cut out of the pentacle on the other side. It is gorgeous and I need to hang it up. David was happy – she bartered for that (the cost was $35) and paid an additional $40.00 on top of that. It worked out really well.

I also bought a couple of little odds and ends around there and lived on hot apple cider. I did not go home empty-handed.

Saturday night a group of us went out to eat a fine Chinese restaurant, not anything like the buffet we did in Putnam. This was a really nice restaurant and the food was excellent. I loved it. We all had a really nice time. That night we collapsed into bed around 22:00.

Sunday was a little warmer and I got out a little bit but not much. I did more hot apple cider and made good money. The weekend was very worthwhile and enjoyable. I left at about 17:00 and was home just before 20:00. I took a shower and had a couple of slices of pizza from across the street and went to bed early after starting the laundry going. I was exhausted – three hours of driving is okay but I find it draining. And it was not at all a bad drive! It’s just a long time to be in the car.

During the week I kept busy with calls, working around the house and helping Ray on Thursday closing the pool. Well… it is not yet closed. Not for lack of trying, really. It was too dirty and needed to be vacuumed badly but there was a jam in the filter and we did not discover before using most of the excess water. We stopped around 15:30 with the pool mostly vacuumed but not all the way and decided to pick up on Tuesday in the morning.

I left for Connecticut around 10:30 this past Friday morning after running some minor errands. It was cloudy but dry and quite warm, somewhere around 26˚C. I got there in two and a half hours. I had all the time in the world with David not due in until 21:00 or so and realised that I was all of 20 minutes away from Rhode Island. I immediately thought of my pen friend Daniela in the Czech Republic, who has not gotten a Rhode Island postcard. I needed to stop and get some for her and my other pen pals.

I wish I’d had the time to go to the coast, but I did not, so I drove into Providence. I made some discoveries. Providence is a hole. Other than a small high-end/historical section, it is really kind of a dump. The drivers there, however, were a whole different breed than anything I am accustomed to. I would put on my turn signal and the driver that was in the lane I wished to change to would immediately slow and allow me in! This is not New Jersey/New York driving. Here, I put on my signal and the driver in the aimed-for lane would immediately speed up to ensure I wasn’t getting in front of him/her!

Conversely, the rural part of Rhode Island was just gorgeous, even on a crappy, overcast day like it was – and the drivers were horrendous. Where the speed limit signs in New Jersey are meant to be followed on small one-lane roads, in Rhode Island, drivers considered them more suggestive than required. I went no more than 5 to 7 mph over the limit and people were tailgating me so closely I could feel my hair going grey from fraying nerves. Not to mention the overtaking business. If the party behind me was unsatisfied with my speed (and they ALL were) they’d get in the oncoming traffic lane and pass me. I found a lot of that in England, too, a very surprising thing. Understand that in the 18 plus years of driving that I have been doing, it has all been in urban and suburban areas. There are no one-lane roads with overtaking! Not here, not in Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland, Virginia and definitely not in Washington, DC. I did not find it in Florida, Nevada or California, either. The parts of Connecticut that I had been in previously did not have it, and Canada did not as well. So this was all new to me. I was relieved to get back to Connecticut.

I stopped briefly to check out an old cemetery (I do so love those) but it was clearly not meant for visitors to prowl around in and although I could have easily gained entry over the low stone wall I did not want someone chasing me off their property or worse, calling out the local constabulary to get me out.

I got to the grounds around 18:00 but there was no Rook and NB and David was still three hours out. So I went to the Chinese buffet and ate well – all you can eat and unlimited Chinese tea for $6.95 is too attractive to pass up – and I know where it is. I did some prowling about in the dollar store there and also stocked up on Vitamin C chewy things. Very yummy and healthy! I returned to the grounds at 19:45 and had enlisted Tracy and her boyfriend to help me with the pop-up tent when NB and Rook pulled in. We all got the tent up. They went for dinner while I worked on setting up the inside to be ready for David when he got in and to go to bed.

David pulled in around 21:45, which was a little late and we quickly unloaded the van as it was just starting to rain. The clothing we had to get in as fast as possible and we did it all just before the serious rain began. We got everything set up and ready for the next day by 22:30 and I went to bed then. Well, I passed out… I was really tired.

At 08:30 I was roused from sleep to hear the staccato beat of hard rain on the tent roof. There was some wind as well and a pool of water to the left of the air mattress. Yuck. It was warm, though – not that this was a plus. What with rain falling hard, 95% relative humidity and warm temps did not make it a better day. It was disgusting. And the ground… it all quickly turned to mud, muck and mire in no time and it was awful. In a word. And it was inside and outside the tent and the rugs were soaked through. That night after a delicious dinner at a small pizza place in Putnam, we went to the Wal-Mart there and picked up a plastic sheet used for covering the ground/furniture while painting and put it on over and under the air mattress to keep it dry.

I take medication to help me sleep sometimes and I definitely wanted it with me for this – I wouldn’t have slept a moment without it. I don’t regret that. It made me sleep well and deeply and was well worth it. But it rained so hard on Saturday night into Sunday morning that even I w0ke up at some point to hear the pouring rain and high winds battering the tent. David had had to get up and go outside to batten down the hatches – not even that amazing tent was meant to deal with horizontal rain! But we made it through that hellish night… to find that the temperature took a nose dive to about 11˚C! So now it was cold and rainy! This was no better than warm and rainy and in some ways it was worse.

While it did not rain much on Sunday it was bitter cold and never sunny – in fact I have not seen sun since midday on Thursday while Ray and I were working on the pool. And at the current rate with the forecast as it is, I won’t see sun until Monday! I’m not enjoying this at all…

At worst it misted a couple of times on Sunday so while I did not make a lot of money, I did make some and I also got some shopping done. I got a start on Christmas stuff. I loaded up my car with everything I did not need that night after dinner and parked it in a place that I could just hop in and go on Monday afternoon to be on the road and home at a decent time. I could not stay late as I had a doctor’s appointment on Tuesday morning at 08:00.

Sunday night into Monday night was fine, and the rain held off until right at opening time at 10:00. It was more like Saturday and rained hard on and off. At 15:00 I reached my limit of patience. I changed into normal clothes – I was freezing – and loaded my car up and at 15:50 I was heading home. I got through Hartford with only the slightest slowing of traffic and through pouring rain, ran into a bit of slowness getting into Waterbury and it was quite slow getting onto the Tappan Zee. But once through the Tappan Zee bridge I sailed right home. I got in on Monday night at 19:34. Not bad considering the weather and the time and the fact that it was Monday – true, it was a holiday, but only for government employees and school kids. So there was still plenty of mess to get mired in.

I loved the Faire, hated the weather of the second weekend and I am quite relieved that it is all over!