Crawling Out of a Cave

So, I had one of “those” weeks in my meat-space, bill-pay job last week.  And apparently it took more out of me than I thought because on my to-do list for the weekend I marked off….well, nothing completely.  I slept an inordinate amount of time.  Like, ran-out-of-battery-and-collapsed-for-6-hours-in-the-middle-of-the day.

So, with a week that was packed and a weekend where I struggled to remain conscious, I’m stuck here on Sunday night, feeling like I’ve just crawled out of a cave after a few years of isolation.  I haven’t seen or read news in over a week.  I have no idea what’s going on in the world, other than I do know from the calendar that Monday is First Monday….but I have no idea what’s actually on the Supreme Court docket for the first argument, so….

Not willing to go into this coming work week with this level of ignorance, I’m trying to pay catch up.  Hmmm, bullshit political news?  We can skip that drivel since it’s cheap, useless and does nothing more than give a lot of un-talented half-ass writers delusions that they are real journalists.  Local news?  Sadly, not as entertaining as it can be at times.  New plans for the bus routes in the city.  Since there’s like, one bus from the transit authority that comes out here to my neck of the woods, well, forget that.  What else?  Now the Afghan Army and the US troops are shooting at each other.  I can’t honestly say I never saw that one coming, and if you didn’t, can I just tell you about a lovely piece of ocean-front property in Arizona I’d like to sell you at a super-low-low price?  Next up, entertainment news?  Oh, look, Lindsay Lohan looking more like a train-wreck than ever.  It’s a complete waste that girl can’t get her shit together, but  not really news.  Let’s see, some new gadget released that I don’t give a shit about…World economy, blah blah…

Y’know what?

I didn’t miss a damn thing.


Seriously?  I mean, I’m not going to claim I’m a huge Joni Mitchell fan–I like her stuff, and own a few albums, but I’m not die-hard or anything–but even I know that’s just a travesty.  As Kristy once said, “Who told that poor child she could sing?”  Now, I honestly can’t comment on the girl’s acting, but I’m not holding out much hope that it’s going to be any stronger than her vocal talent.

Yeah, I’m definitely crawling back into that cave now.

Wash’s New Roommate

As alluded to in my post about taking on a roommate, along with the normal roommate trappings, roommate also brought a cat. This has provided hours and hours of free entertainment as we get to watch the cats work out their own roommate issues: who’s in charge, who gets to play with what toys, who gets to eat what food or use which litter box.

Wash has met other cats, in fact, he’s met this cat before, but this is the first time he’s ever been the first cat in a space and had another cat come in. In the past he’s always been very quick to yield dominance—he either runs and hides under the nearest bed for about six hours or he rolls over and shows the other cat his adorable tummy. He’s very eager to be liked by other kitties. Especially kitties who are bigger than him. Unfortunately, he’s like that kid who tries to hard; he sniffs the other cat incessantly and follows ever step it takes until the other cat just gets annoyed and hisses at him or knocks him to the ground. (I have never heard Wash hiss at another cat, he only hisses at dogs. He flees from small children, but I’m fairly certain if one ever cornered him he would hiss at the small human as well.) Towards the end of our summer stay at my parents’ house he had gotten persistent enough with their cat Stormy that he would half jump/half climb on her back in an attempt to get her to play with him (this inevitably ended with him getting hissed at and smacked to the ground).

Well whether it’s because he’s had more experience or he’s emboldened by having been here first, Wash moved to that stage with new kitty within three days. New kitty is not a fan of this. New kitty is a fan of Wash’s food, but is allergic to it (which means poor Wash’s feeding schedule has had to be altered).

New kitty did bring all sorts of amazing toys. He has a squeaky toy. Wash has never had a squeaky toy. Truth be told I worried he’d be afraid of one. Nope—he loves it. Which means I’m treated to long periods of squeaks from downstairs. What he might love even more are a couple of small stuffed mice. I wondered why he found them so amazing (he’s had other small mice and hasn’t ever been that thrilled). That’s when roommate revealed they’re made out of real fur. Yes, it turns out the stuffed mice might be more or less stuffed mice (we really aren’t sure). I feel like I should be grossed out by that and yet… I’m not. I’m fairly sure no one is hunting endangered species to make these things (which my roommate got free from a pet store). And the fur might as well go to a good use. And if it satisfies my kitty’s hunting instincts so he doesn’t use them on my feet, so much the better.

New Kitty is very patient with Wash. I think he likes playing up to a point, but he does make it clear sooner or later that he’s done. Wash, however, totally misses such cues. Of late New Kitty has taken to pinning Wash on the ground and bathing him in an attempt to calm him down. This has moderate, but unpredictable, results. There are signs they are becoming friends though. At least once they’ve curled up in a chair together (granted, I’m fairly certain this started as an attempt by Wash to make the other kitty play/fight with him. When it didn’t work he decided snuggling was an acceptable alternative).

The best part of all this is that new kitty adventures are wearing Wash out! He spends much less time pestering his mommy because when he’s not following every step new kitty takes he’s generally collapsed somewhere from exhaustion. So like my own roommate situation, I think Wash’s will work out in the long run.

A Good Old Fashioned E-Mail?

Does NO ONE send a good ol’ fashioned e-mail anymore?

As I cleared out the notifications, updates and generally-computer-generated drivel that hits my inbox each day, I had trouble finding any e-mail from another human that was more than 2 paragraphs in length.

I remember the early days of e-mail, when I had some great correspondents with whom I would exchange chains of e-mail back and forth.  Truly letters in an electronic form which formed into these great, extended conversations, captured in text.

I haven’t had one of those in ages.

Even the less in-depth and lengthy e-mails I used to get have all but dried up.  I find myself, really, really missing opening my inbox to find at least one or two good e-mails, written by a human, to me, with more than a perfunctory statement, or a quick sentence and a link.

I’m blaming social networking.  Mostly Facebook, since I hate that the most.  I’m sure I could portion out some of the blame to Twitter, but since way more people I know are on Facebook, I’m going to blame that.  With everyone so busy posting there, who has time to sit down and craft a message specifically for one person?  I, mean, if they care about you and are worth knowing, they’re totally following you and reading everything you post, right?

But it’s no substitute.  It’s too public and impersonal.  I want pen-pals, not a source for press-releases.

Is it too much to hope that I might open my inbox again and find a good, juicy e-mail from a friend to start up a chain of correspondence?  Too much to hope for something written to ME?

McKayla Maroney is not Impressed with your TV or Your Peanut Butter

So our summer hiatus mean that I missed the chance to gush to you about memes a week after they became passé. And there were a bunch of good memes I could have belatedly gushed about. The only solution for this seems to be me gushing about memes months after they become passé.

My favorite time vampirey meme of the summer was, naturally, “McKayla Maroney is Not Impressed.” But you knew that already. Because I have a gymnastics obsession and suddenly my sport was getting attention from the nonfan set. It was exciting. And it was hysterical.

Now I’ve known about McKayla Maroney for a while now. I’ve known she had diva tendencies and I thought that was awesome, because, frankly, ever since ASac tore her Achilles, the US women’s gymnastics team has been sadly lacking in personality. Also… she possibly has the only amanar that doesn’t make me hear ACL’s tearing. By the way, unknown to the larger internet, she featured in another meme on the gym-ternets earlier this Summer. It hinged on the fact that the only thing all gymnastics fans could agree on was that she was the best vaulter in the world. (The meme was photoshopping her into pictures to show how she would bring peace/agreement to whatever place/group was in the photo. It wasn’t that funny.)

So anyone who knew anything about McKayla was beyond stunned to see her sit down her second fault. I’m pretty sure that watching the live feed that morning, I said, “Holy Fuck!” loud enough my neighbor’s baby now knows the word. It was shocking and I felt bad for her, even as I felt so happy for the lovely Sandra Izbasa to win. PS. How cute is Maria Paseka? I mean the only way she shocked me was by not sitting down her vault, but she was so freaking happy with her bronze. Good for her.

Now I do want to be fair and say that McKayla’s reaction wasn’t as bad as it was made out to be. I watched the medal ceremony; she didn’t wear that face the whole time. Which is kinda sad, honestly. Because honestly?

That face is awesome and the meme is fairly hysterical. And I can feel good about liking it because in real life she does find the meme amusing. The good news is I’ve stopped checking it every day. They bad news is that means I now am way behind and when I do check it, it eats up more of my time.

My favorite of the moment is “McKayla is not impressed with Mo Farah running away from a laser wielding curiosity rover” . Because … it has an awesome wordy name. And Mo Farah running away from a laser wielding curiosity rover. Come on! I also love any that include Hillary Clinton because 1. She’s awesome and 2. They are generally in reference to the also delightful “Texts from Hillary” meme. I know of two such images. The more recent and the even more awesome (I have also seen a tweet about “Hillary/McKayla 2016: An Immaculately Manicured Iron Fist”.

Remedial Civics?

With the new term of my favorite branch of the federal government starting up on the traditional “First Monday” in October, I started thinking of a few court-related topics I could share, specific cases worth explanation, etc.

Unfortunately, as I test-drove a few ideas through subtle conversation with colleagues at lunch, I realized that some key points seemed to be missing from my co-workers knowledge of, well, government.  This led me to start wondering about what we really teach about government and civics to school kids.  I took a gander at the curriculum break-down and exam percentage for AP Government and Politics, and I was shocked to see how much focuses on the politics vs. the government.  It’s no wonder people feel like only lawyers can understand the court when even an AP course clearly isn’t giving much love to the third branch.  Honestly, I’m not completely convinced they’re really giving the right kind of love to the other two branches either.

I know Sandra Day O’Connor has spoken about the failings of government and civics education across the country, and she helped found to provide resources to address this gap. But how bad is it?  Do people understand the difference between a law and a regulation?  Do people really understand the difference between an appeals court and a trial court?  What a common law system means?  What really happens when a case makes it to the Supreme Court?  Or how cases make it there?  If I say “stare decisis” will they give me a blank look?

I’m more than a little afraid that the answer to most of those questions is pretty negative.  Which leaves me with another question:  am I being overly lawyer-y in my concern that a large portion of the population may not “get” this?


A Luwaxana Moment

I’ve been dying my hair on and off since I was fourteen. The first time it was for a part in a show—I was a Cuban dancer in Guys and Dolls and back then my hair was still fairly blonde. But really, they would have let me not dye it. I just kinda wanted to see what I looked like with black hair.

I liked the way it looked, so it was black on and off through high school. Then it was various shades of black and red on and off in college. Then senior year I found my first gray hair. Though Cammy assured me that I should see it as a battle scar, a way of saying, “I survived William & Mary, but look what it did to me!” I felt like it made me look old, and even though after four years of running on about four hours sleep per night and realizing exactly how stupid I really am I felt old, I didn’t want to show that to the world.

I tried for a while to ignore the gray. Two years later I made an ill-fated attempt to cover it with highlights. Around the time I started grad school I decided I was going to have to commit to full time dying. Initially I went with a really pretty, totally fake looking deep plum, but they stopped making the color (actually, two years later I found the color at a drug store in South Carolina, so they may have simply stopped selling it in my market). Then it was various shades of cherry cola red.

At some point, one of my students who was a beautician convinced me that if I wasn’t going to pay to have a professional color my hair, I should at least buy professional grade stuff at Sally’s rather than the drug store brands. So I did. And my color got a bit more natural looking… until I was getting ready to start my PhD. Because it was the first time in many, many years I had several months in which didn’t have to look historical, I told my hair dresser (yes, I had splurged) she could go crazy. So she gave me a few pops of purple. That I loved.

Since then the color pops have been an on and off thing. I’ve had purple and blue (which was supposed to be purple, but came out blue) and red and more purple. It’s taken a while to get the process down (this is perhaps the subject of a future blog), but the long and the short of it is that I spent 5-6 hours a couple weeks ago coloring my hair and giving myself back spasms in the process. Why would I do such a silly thing when my time is at a premium and I’m not a huge fan of back spasms?

Ironically, the best explanation I ever heard was in an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space 9. Luwaxana Troi takes off her redonkulously crazy wig to reveal her brown hair underneath. Odo informs her that it looks fine and she responds, “It looks ordinary. I’ve never cared to be ordinary.” It’s a horrifying moment when you realize you have something so deep in common with Luwaxana Troi, but that’s what I experience every time I watch that episode.

I have brown hair. Once in college I tried to say it was reddish brown/auburn and a classmate informed me bluntly, “It’s brown. Don’t try to make it sound interesting.” Harsh, but true. I also have brown eyes. I’m average height, average width (above average weight, but that’s another blog entry too). Until recently I wore the most common bra size in the country. I have a name that was one of the ten or twenty most common in the year I was born. I’m smart, but not astoundingly so. I’m not particularly pretty, but I’m not a dog. I’m very average. And I’d rather not be.

I’m never going to be tall thin and beautiful like my sister. I’m never going to have piercing green eyes or blue eyes that change with the weather and my outfit. I did suddenly acquire boobs, but they aren’t all that impressive. These things I have no control over. But I can make my hair not look average. I can make it look like nobody else’s. So this is why I spend more time than I ought to on the project and put myself through lots of abuse. Because I’m a bit like Luwaxana Troi. Yikes!

Coffee with… A Rocket Scientist

Would we have coffee with….Wernher von Braun?

Cammy:  Abso-fraggin’-lutely.  He’s the mack-daddy of rocket scientists, and being related to more than one of those, I feel compelled to talk with him.  In fact, I’m resisting the urge to drag those rocket-scientist relatives along for this coffee date (though it would probably wind derailed into something involving differential equations or something).  Usually the only things people can tell you about von Braun are “something about rockets” and “Nazis.”  They really like to focus on the whole “Nazi” thing.  But that’s not what I want to talk to him about–it’s been beat to death and maybe I’m being deluded, but I kinda feel like a lot more people would have joined the Nazi party in his position at the time than are likely to admit it, so I’m not going to harp on that one again.  No, I’d rather talk about what inspired him.  From what I’ve read about him, the fuel behind his interest in rocketry was his desire to see man exploring space, going to the moon.  He saw that happen as the driving force behind the rocket propulsion of the Saturn V rocket that fueled the Apollo missions.  So what the hell does he think of the state of things now?  He’d already broken with NASA in the 70s when it became clear that the direction they were headed was different than what he envisioned–this would have been around the time that NASA moved away from the Apollo-style modules that put men on the moon and over to the space shuttle.  If that was enough to drive him away from NASA?  Now we’re down to no shuttle, no operational alternative, and oh, by the way, the expertise and skill that he nurtured to get us to the moon?  Yeah, we’ve let it atrophy to nothing.  We could not do today what we did then.  I can only imagine he’d have something to say about that.  I’d also like to talk about some of the ideas he was developing back in his NASA days–plans regarding the logistics and realities of getting an orbital space station up and going–not like the current International Space Station, but a larger structure with rotational gravity.  And when all that gives out, I’m pretty sure we could have a nice conversation about music, as before he became a rocket scientist, he was on-track to be a classical musician.

Kristy: Yeah… before I go any further I’m going to admit I had to wikipedia this guy. I will now hang my head in shame. That said, I think I’m going to pass. It’s not that I have any problem with the guy. I can’t hold the Nazi thing against him–like Cammy said, I think a lot of us would be horrified by our decisions if we were placed in the same position he and so many Germans were. I can’t really condone his choice, but condemning him for it seems harsh, hypocritical and ignorant. Speaking of ignorance… maybe it’s because I write this following my qualifying exams. Maybe it’s because my brain power is totally spent. I just can’t figure out what the hell we’d talk about. I mean… I think space exploration is a worthy goal. I agree with Cammy that it’s absurd we’ve let our work in this area lapse so much. But it’s not something I’m as passionate about, and… there’s honestly no way I can have a conversation about this without sounding stupid. I’d blame it on not having rocket scientists in the family, but I can’t tell you much about flying fighter jets so it seems likely if I had a rocket scientist I wouldn’t have listened to him either. My main memories of the space program are largely traumatic. I have some understanding of the social and political issues involved, but not enough to make stimulating conversation and I doubt that’s what he’d want to focus on anyway. So I’m gonna let Cammy have this one and hope she has something interesting to report later.

Stalked By A Bollywood Star

Normally, when you think about celebrity stalking, it’s the crazy fan stalking the celebrity.  In my case, celebrity stalking has turned the tables on me.  I’m the one being stalked.  By a Bollywood star, no less.

And it’s all happening via Netflix.

I had watched a serious  period piece set in India called Water–not like anything you’d normally think of in association with the term “Bollywood” (no songs, no dances, no wackiness).  But it prompted Netflix to suggest a whole slough of Bollywood titles.  At that point, the only name I knew in Bollywood was Aishwarya Rai (from Bride and Prejudice, which I consider “Intro to Bollywood for Stupid Westerners”, and one historic-epic  called Jodhaa Akbar from the local library).  I thought I would start exploring Bollywood in earnest by looking for something else with her in it, just to start out. But the list Netflix had me looking through didn’t seem to have any of her movies.  I was forced to forgo stepping stones of the familiar, and strike out on my own–daunting for a girl who is no fan of change and gets edgy stepping out of her comfort zone….

Deep breath.  Big girl pants?  Check!

I skimmed through the suggestions and narrowed it down a comedy about a female cricket player who dresses as a man to make the team, and a kids movie with a magical nanny.  I chose the kid-type film, Thoda Pyaar, Thoda Magic.  It was actually good if you’re a kid movie fan (which I am).  The kids were cute. The songs were catchy and I thought the two adult leads were funny–very good with the kind of comedic acting I enjoy.

Since I’d been so successful with that first choice even though I didn’t know any names, I decided to continue being brave and pick at random again.  I chose something that looked like a standard romantic comedy, Hum Tum.  I was relieved when my second choice had both of the same lead actress and actor as the first film (did I mention I like my comfort zone?).  Again, I really enjoyed it.  As with the first, the musical numbers were catchy, and they didn’t completely throw me–something I’d been expecting from Bollywood based on everything I’d heard.  In fact, one of the songs wound up so firmly embedded in my brain I wound up going to Amazon to download it.

So my Bollywood appreciation grew and I thought my random-choice methods were doing me a service.

My next choice was supposed to be an epic romance, Veer-Zaara.  The little image on the screen did not appear to be either of the two leads with whom I was familiar, so I thought I was really breaking out!  Being brave!  Trying something new!  Until the female lead from the previous two movies showed up again.  She was the lead on the B-plot frame story, which it turned out, was really my favorite part of the film (it was about a young attorney, how could I not like that?).
Read the rest of this entry »

TVPB Lexicon: The Canada Problem

Clearly, if you’ve been reading this blog, you know we at MTV, MPB have no problem with our neighbors to the North.  In this case the “problem” belongs to Canada (and others, but we saw it with Canada first, so they got the name).  This particular “problem” continues to amuse us.  It has to do with their film and tv industry and it’s made all the more obvious by the amount of shows here in the US that are made in Canada:

You keep seeing the same people.

Seriously, if you’ve seen The X-Files?  You’ve seen the bulk of the available acting force in Canada.  If you’ve  seen X-Files and also Stargate, BSG and Anne of Green Gables?  I think you’ve got at least 99.9% of them.  If you’re watching Psych these days, you get to reap the benefits of going, “Dude that was so and so on Stargate AND he was in the X-Files.”  Then you get one-upped by someone who points out the person was in a brief scene in Anne of Avonlea.

It’s become a game with us.  In fact, it probably ought to be a drinking game.  1 drink if you saw them in Stargate SG1.  Two if they were in X-Files.  Three if they were in the X-Files twice (it happened!)….

It’s not strictly something that happens in Canada.  It appears the Canada problem also exists in Mexico.  I watched one telenovela and it’s allowed me to bounce up and down in my seat and squeal upon recognizing multiple actors in every single Mexican movie and TV show I’ve watched since.  Mexico?  Has a Canada problem.

I’m sure by now you’re trying to think of other countries with a Canada problem.  Britain seems to come to mind for people who are first experimenting with the term “Canada Problem” but this really isn’t correct.  Britain does have some significant faces you see repeatedly, but proportionally speaking, it’s not really that great.  You have to watch a lot of different British TV, movies and miniseries before you can really say you’ve seen the bulk of their actors, and they seem to churn out new ones (really good new ones) with amazing regularity.

I’ve got an eye open for others myself.  Colombia may be a candidate.  I’ve only sampled part of two telenovelas and one movie.  The telenovelas seem to have some overlap, but my sample size is too small to make a judgement at this point (it’s certainly not overwhelmingly clear as it was with Mexico).  India’s Bollywood scene begs for examination as well, but for reasons that will be illuminated in another post, my statistical sampling of India’s offerings has been thrown off.

If you’ve got other potentials, feel free to share in the comments.  We’re always eager to know where this problem has spread (we’re also eager to hear about other foreign film and tv)….

If You Build It, They Will Be Impressed

You want to impress a bunch of mechanical engineers with minimal effort?   Think you lack the calculus and science skillZ to get any props from the rocket scientists?

It’s actually very easy.

Just build something out of Legos and put it on your desk.

I mentioned in a post a while back that I’d bought Legos as a form of therapy on a particularly heinous business trip.  As I had suggested I might do then, I really did wind up putting that container of Legos on my desk.  At first they were just fun to have sitting there and occasionally to futz with when a telecon got boring, but eventually they proved to be the tools I needed to solve a problem I had.

I needed a holder for my cell phone.  Something where I could prop it up at an angle to decrease the glare from the overhead lights, but with access for the power cord.  With the pot of Legos there, I fashioned a very simple little frame and, voila!  Problem solved.  Nothing impressive at all:

Not exactly rocket science here, but it does what it needs to.

Then the engineers started spotting it (they have Lego-tracking RADAR, you know).

You’d think from the reactions of these guys coming by my desk that I’d just constructed a fully functional space craft.  Generally the exchanges went a bit like this.

Engineer: “Oh AWESOME!  Where did you get the Lego phone-holder?!?”

Me (half distracted because the Engineer actually stopped in the middle of answer the question I’d been trying to track him down for 3 hours about): “I just made it.  Needed something to fit.”

Engineer: “You made it???  That is excellent!”

Suddenly, you could see it in their eyes:  I gained nerd street cred.  With a few plastic blocks and a desperate need not to deal with glare when I check Twitter, I actually became one of them.  This display of problem solving was like learning the secret handshake or something.  It’s nice to be accepted…but a little weird.