Three People You Shouldn’t Care About

Two of the three people you shouldn’t care about are named “Kardashian”. It took me a long time to figure out who these people are, and why they are famous, but it was one of those it-just-isn’t-interesting-enough-to-google things and so whenever I’d see the tabloid headlines in the grocery store, I’d wonder, who is that? But then it would be my turn to check out (I still don’t use self check-out if I have produce) and I’d forget about the Kardashians until the next time.

It appears that they might be reality show stars, and that’s the biggest reason I wouldn’t know who they are, because reality shows are as boring to me as watching ESPN at 2:00 AM.

It appears that Mother Kardashian is as twit-like as her daughters (who have names that start with the letter “K”) and has almost as much native intelligence, integrity, sophistication and class as they do. This is according to People We Don’t Give a Shit About Magazine, and I sure wish I could take credit for thinking that up, but it was first said by Andy Borowitz, who is a very funny guy, and if you don’t already, and if you are a leftie, and if you like humorous musings, check out the Borowitz Report and subscribe to it.

Back to the K people. Here is a picture of “Mom”:

Believe it or not, this makes a news story. “Mom” (Kris Kardashian Jenner) does “cringe-worthy antics” and dresses like a bimbo when clearly she’s too old to be a bimbo. She’s also too old to be a cougar. She’s just old. And check out her hot-pink skinny jeans, black leather jacket and the leopard print mules. She looks like she’s all dressed up for a Rick Santorum Rally.

According to the Daily Mail (whatever that is) “She is a garish attention-seeker. She dresses too young for her age.”

And get this. In “honor” of her son’s 25th birthday, she posted a picture of herself on the internet wearing nothing at all when she was pregnant with him. Hoo boy! Bet that’s something you’d like to see on your birthday. The real question: is this normal? I never thought of doing this, but dang, I couldn’t anyway because you know what? I don’t have such a picture because none was taken. Who does “Mom” think she is, Demi Moore?

 On to someone else we’ve read about in People We Can’t Remember Who the F%&k They Are Magazine (again credit goes to A. Borowitz, see above), Kim Kardashian has been flour-bombed! Apparently, at an event for her new fragrance True Repulsion, oh wait, that’s Reflection, a woman strolled casually onto the red carpet with a zip-locked baggie full of the white stuff and dumped it on our favorite Reality (if this is Reality give me Fantasy — please!) Star’s head.

Further investigation revealed that the assailant did this vile deed for the benefit of Kris Humphries, who is Kim’s ex. That would be the marriage which lasted for 72 days. Now, Kim is as committed as the next person, she gave it 72 days to not work out.

Here’s Kim with her Crown of Flour:

And finally, according to People We Can’t Believe We Ever Gave a F%&k About Magazine (this one I’m not sure of but I’m giving the credit to Andy), “Paris Hilton was spotted in Miami on Wednesday sporting a rather interesting-looking ensemble. Her summery dress was peculiar, to say the least! What do you think of Paris’ boho-style cover-up?”

Here’s “boho” Paris Hilton:

We’ve got wars and near-wars, and a housing crisis, and high unemployment, and a recession, and tornadoes, and global warming, and our nation is as divided as it has ever been into two very different mindsets which is causing stagnation in government, and soaring medical costs, and soaring fuel costs, and we are killing our planet but let’s all take a moment and take a long look at Paris Hilton’s peculiar “summery dress”. As if we’d give the tiniest of shits about Paris Hilton or her life or her clothes or her “career” or anything about her.

In other news, A Denver Broncos fan died on Monday, before he had to see his beloved team sign one of his least favorite players.

According to his obituary in the Columbia Daily Tribune, 78-year-old James “Jim” Driver, rather than see Peyton Manning don a Broncos jersey, decided to speed up his exit from this world. He opted out sooner rather than later.

Now this was a guy who is “surius about them Broncos”.

The above examples are the sort of “news” we could use less of.

Three Drugs You Should Not Ask Your Doctor About

This has been done before. I know it, but I can’t resist it. The irritation I feel when I see any drug commercial is enough to cause me to ask my doctor for one, preferably an anxiety-reliever. 

This post has nothing to do with writing, except the writing of some very bad, atrociously bad, commercials. And marketing. Of course, always marketing. It’s all about the big drug companies, and how they can appropriate a bigger share of the health industry profit pie.

Ask your doctor if [insert name of C-drug here] is right for you.

Does anyone else (other than me) want to lift the nearest piece of furniture, which weighs such that an average woman can lift it, and hurl it at the TV when you hear these words? I don’t know about you, but when I go to my doctor, he has to look at a computer screen to remember who I am. It’s not like he’s a personal friend or anything, although I think I did see him in a movie theater at one time and he said hello. I was struck dumb, and he said it’s Dr. Smith, you probably don’t recognize me without the white coat. I had been in his office just the day before (two at the most) so that’s probably the reason he remembered me.

He had recently moved from a private practice to one of those places with names which make people think they actually care about making people better, such as OhioHealth, places where he is paid by some huge conglomeration of doctors and clinics and urgent care units and maybe even hospitals, where he only has to be a doctor and doesn’t have to worry about running out of tongue depressors. I accused him of “working for the man” and he was just a bit defensive and said that now he could pay attention to doctoring without worrying about the administrative part, at which he feared he actually kind of sucked at. I was surprised at this admission.

He is a very good guy, and I have nothing bad to say about him, but if I asked him if X drug was right for me, he’d probably think I was cah-razy.

I decided to concentrate on drugs that start with the letter C. They are a truly unique and diverse bunch of stuff that you can take for ailments which you might not know you had, or for which you might not have known you should be concerned about.

Cymbalta. This is a drug for depression and/or pain. This seems odd to me, right out of the blocks, that one drug could be good for both of these things. But yes, it is used to treat major depressive disorder (MDD), anxiety disorder, neuropathic pain and fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis pain and chronic low back pain. So, if I’m depressed, shouldn’t I take a drug that’s JUST for depression and not combined with these other wimpy ailments? I mean really, depression seems more serious to me than something I could pop an Advil for. But if I decide to take Cymbalta, and my doctor says to me, “I believe that Cymbalta is right for you, oh Patient No. 412847534548” (<– this is a made up number, I don’t think my doctor has this many patients) then I might consider taking it. Because after all, I’ve seen the commercials, where the unhappy older people look sad and rub their knees and look out the window at a dreary day and they look, well, pretty pathetic. The commercial is divided into four parts:

Bad part. This is you, sad, depressed, in pain, not functional. Anxious and pretty much a loser. The voice-over guy is talking about how miserable you are, and the camera shots are making you look, well, not good.

Good part. The part where you play with a dog and laugh when he licks your mouth, and you walking on a beach, reading a book, with a small, slightly sad yet satisfied, fulfilled smile. The voice-over guy now talks about how wonderful life will be after Cymbalta.

Bad part. Uh oh. This is what can happen if you take Cymbalta. Make the pretty music a little louder, the voice-over guy speeds up the dialogue a bit so you have to strain to understand it. This is where they tell you that you can expect nausea, dry mouth, sleepiness, fatigue, constipation, dizziness, decreased appetite, and increased sweating. This sounds like it might not be worth the trouble to me, so let’s skim over this part. Get it over with quick.

Last part. The clincher, yeah there’s bad stuff that can happen but all in all Cymbalta is a pretty good deal, so “Ask your doctor if Cymbalta is right for you.”

They write songs just for drugs. Here is the Cymbalta song, as performed by the original composer.

Chantix. In order to be in a Chantix commercial, you must be a middle-aged, middle-class (or less) heavily accented woman from New Jersey. You must be able to pronounce Chantix (CHAY-un-tix). You must have smoked for forty years, or ten years less than your age. You can then tell your part of the smoking story in 49 seconds of a two-minute commercial, how you are a pack a day smoker, how you’ve instructed your kids never to pick up a cigarette, etc. How your doctor prescribed CHAY-un-tix. Then for the next one minute of the two-minute commercial, all the bad stuff that will happen to you if you take CHAY-un-tix will be all spelled out for you. Yeah, the music gets a little louder here too. Here’s what can go wrong:

Get emergency medical help if you have any of these signs of an allergic reaction to Chantix: hives; difficulty breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat. Stop using Chantix and call your doctor at once if you have any mood or behavior changes, confusion, anxiety, panic attacks, hallucinations, extreme fear, or if you feel impulsive, agitated, aggressive, restless, hostile, depressed, hyperactive (mentally or physically), or have thoughts about suicide or hurting yourself. Chest pain or pressure, tight feeling in your neck or jaw, pain spreading to your arm or shoulder, vomiting, sweating, general ill feeling; feeling light-headed or short of breath; sudden numbness or weakness, especially on one side of the body; sudden severe headache, confusion, problems with vision, speech, or balance; easy bruising, unusual bleeding, blood in your urine or stools, coughing up blood or vomit that looks like coffee grounds; fever, sore throat, and headache with a severe blistering, peeling, and red skin rash; or the first sign of any blistering type of skin rash, no matter how mild. Here are a few less serious side effects of Chantix: nausea (may persist for several months); stomach pain, indigestion, constipation, gas; weakness, tired feeling; dry mouth, unpleasant taste in your mouth; headache; or sleep problems (insomnia) or unusual dreams.

Holy crap. I think I’d take my chances with smoking.

But hey, it can’t be that bad. Right? I mean, there’s Robin, slicing an apple with a scary looking knife. Obviously, SHE’S not suicidal.

What’s interesting about this ad is, that it lasts for two minutes and nearly half of it consists of admissions of all the horrible side effects.

Is this drug right for you? I think not.

Here is Robin in case you don’t believe me. Click on “Watch Robin’s Ad”.

Cialis. This is a very handy drug. When you take it, the walls of your house can fall away and you are sitting on the grassy banks of a stream and it is a beautiful, very green place. This can probably be done because of the way they build houses today, everything being kind of temporary. It is troubling to think what could happen in severe weather, can the walls fall away when you don’t want them to?

With Cialis, you take it, there are several seductive glances between the couple, the walls fall away, and then they are magically transported into two bathtubs.

Here are the side effects: The most common side effects with CIALIS are: headache, indigestion, back pain, muscle aches, flushing, and stuffy or runny nose. These side effects usually go away after a few hours. Uncommon but serious side effects include: An erection that won’t go away: If you get an erection lasting more than 4 hours, seek immediate medical help to avoid long-term injury. (Yeah, yeah. We’ve heard about this, but does it really happen? And if it does, is this considered a side effect?)

In rare instances, men taking prescription ED tablets, including CIALIS, reported a sudden decrease or loss of vision or hearing (sometimes with ringing in the ears and dizziness).  Remember, back when you were told that performing certain acts would make you go blind, guys? It’s for real.

The good news is that the unhappy, depressed, in-pain people can pop a Cymbalta, then pop a Cialis and wait for the walls to fall away. Maybe afterwards they can share a cigarette.

Independent Adoptions and Not So Happy Endings

Once upon a time there was a couple who were married after they had gone to school for a really long time. They were smart and good looking and successful. They would live happily ever after. They would have a family, live in a nice house, adopt some dogs, contribute to the world with the research that they do in lieu of big-dollar salaries, and generally live responsible, rewarding lives while helping others.

Life would be good to them because they did all the right things.

Everything worked out pretty much that way except the babies didn’t come, so the couple thought they would adopt a child, as they very much wanted a family, to care for a baby and make a difference in that child’s life. They decided to try an independent adoption.

The difference between independent and agency adoption is the method by which the birthparents give their consent to adoption. In an agency adoption, the birthparents relinquish their parental rights to an agency, and the agency, in turn, consents to an adoption by specific adoptive parents. In independent adoption, the birthparents give their consent directly to the adoptive parents. In a private or independent adoption, prospective adoptive parents are advised by an adoption attorney.

Since independent adoptions are specifically authorized by law in most states, broadening the search for a child will ensure a better match, or a quicker resolution (or both) so most people opt to search in all states where it is legal to do so. The state the couple lives in is one in which independent adoptions are legal, and so they contacted a lawyer who was supposedly the “best adoption lawyer” in their state.

Enter Lawyer #1:

The couple’s first attempt at adoption failed because the birth mother changed her mind at the last minute. It is not clear why she did this, it may have been racially motivated (the baby was not the same race as the adoptive parents) or it may have been a case of mother love, a last minute remorse, the I-just-can’t-do-it response. This is completely understandable, even though one would have hoped such emotions might have emerged just a bit sooner for everyone’s sake.

The second adoption seemed like it was a perfect match. The birth mother wanted the couple to raise her baby, she picked the couple specifically. Everything was going along smoothly, communication via phone and email, and arrangements were made, that the couple would arrive at the hospital at the appointed time for a C-section delivery and they would be given custody of the child. The birth mother lived in another state.

Enter Lawyer #2:

Everyone knows we couldn’t possibly have just one lawyer involved. That would be too simple. No, of course not, we need another lawyer who knows all about the “state regulations” in that particular state, the state where the birth mother lived.

Here’s the part that didn’t end well. The not so happily ever after part. The excited couple got on a plane and flew to the birth mother’s state in order to be there in time for the C-section, all set to live there for one week, as that state’s laws require. They had all the baby paraphernalia, the car seat, the clothes, the wipes, everything they’d need for the baby’s first week. They got to the hospital, only to be told that the mother had had the C-section three days earlier, had checked herself out and taken the baby with her and no one had a clue where she was. For the couple, it probably felt like a death to them. They were devastated, and dejected, and had lost hope.

I see two problems with this.

  1. Lawyer #1
  2. Lawyer #2

The couple paid the “best adoption lawyer”, Lawyer #1, quite a bit of money to represent them. The fee is, of course, non-refundable. We’re talking tens of thousands of dollars here, which is not chump change to the couple, since they are not Working for da’ Man, as many in their field do, but are making smaller salaries so they can do research in their chosen fields in order to make a difference (aka help people). Bottom line, the money is a big consideration and they had to borrow it in order to go ahead with the process.

Why wasn’t Lawyer #1 on top of this situation? I use the generic “he” here. He’s the one who recommended Lawyer #2, and so he should have been working with Lawyer #2 on behalf of the couple. He should have made sure that everything was on track to go forward, but of course he didn’t do that. No, he was real good at collecting that fee, but not so good on following through.

It gets worse.

Lawyer #2 failed even more miserably. He collected his fee too, and he was to meet with the birth mother at least one time. He failed to do this. Either she didn’t show up or he didn’t contact her to come in for a meeting. Either way, Lawyer #2 – you suck. So he collected a bunch of money and did not add much value. Make that none. Nada. Zilch.

I can’t even figure out which lawyer is worse. They both got paid a fee for not doing a job.

The couple can still go forward with a third attempt. They’ve paid the fee for Lawyer #1 so he will still be around to “help” the couple. What does this lawyer do exactly? Cross his fingers and hope for the best? How about checking up on Lawyer #2 (you know there has to be one in nearly every case)? How about making sure Lawyer #2 is doing what he’s supposed to do? And Lawyer #2? How about getting off your ass and setting up the meetings you are required to conduct? Lawyer #1, how about asking Lawyer #2 if that meeting ever took place?

It’s easy to blame the birth mother here. She received a few bucks for her care, maybe $1200 or so. She didn’t make any money off this deal, unless just getting medical care was her motivation in the first place. “I’ll pretend I’m going to give my baby up for adoption so I can get it paid for, then I’ll just take off. Let them come after me. So sue me. Good luck with that.”

But really, it’s the lawyers in this case. The ambulance chasers of the adoption industry. They aren’t paying attention, they aren’t doing their jobs. They put in a few years of hard work, gain a reputation as being the “best” in some area of law, then put their feet up and relax for thirty years.

While searching for illustrations for this posts, I came upon a joke:

99% of lawyers give the rest a bad name.

It’s not that bad of course, but just watch your local TV ads, all those guys who want to “help” you when you’re in an accident, or when you’ve been exposed to asbestos, or when you’ve been prescribed a drug that they now find will kill you. They don’t want to help you, they want your money. We can pretty much forget about finding the John Grisham lawyers, the Atticus Finch’s or the Matlocks. And when you do find one of these, you won’t find him advertising on TV.

Lawyer #1 and Lawyer #2 are in the “I’m Here to Help” (big eye roll here) category. They pretend to care, but they don’t. They are in it for the fees. Those huge sums that people will pay, when they are desperate to start a family.

These (the couple) are good people who want to raise a child. A child who would have had everything he could ever want or need. Two parents who love him, and a stable home, and given every opportunity to succeed.

It’s just too bad that crappy things have to happen to good people, who just want what everyone else wants, a family.

And too bad there are lawyers out there who will take advantage of that.


Three Deceptive Food Labels That I Found in Ten Minutes

Without much difficulty, make that without any difficulty, you can find examples of stupid food labels that are nothing more than deceptive advertising, euphemisms designed to make you think you are eating better, healthier foods, when clearly you’re not.

I do not eat two of these foods but do fancy a nut or two once in a while. Sometimes questionable items end up in one’s pantry though and one has no memory of how they came to be there. When there are children around, unhealthy stuff has a way of sneaking in. One would think the way we protect our kids nowadays, we’d protect them from eating junk but, alas, I guess the protection stops at the nearest Burger King.

Triscuit Rosemary & Olive Oil Crackers – Kids would never eat these. This is grownup junk food. These crackers are so flavorful with artificial ingredients that they completely disguise the taste of the cheese, which is the only way crackers should be eaten anyway. Everyone thinks Triscuits are good for you, and contain fiber, which they do, but they also are loaded with fat, carbs and sodium. But the fun part is the claim on the front of the box: NATURAL FLAVOR WITH OTHER NATURAL FLAVOR. What is the natural flavor and what is the “other” natural flavor? Sounds like a good letter to Nabisco, to ask that question.

Kirkland Extra Fancy Mixed Nuts – Nuts are good for you, a good source of protein, unless you have some digestional issues like diverticulitis. My question here is the application of the “extra fancy” description. Are nuts fancy? What exactly makes these nuts fancy? Is it their shape that makes them fancy? Their size? Their color? And once one has determined why these nuts are fancy, what exactly makes them “extra” fancy? This is a great puzzle to me.

Aunt Jemima Butter Rich Syrup – Note that the word “syrup” is in small letters and the “butter rich” is in big yellow letters. I would not eat this particular food but for those who would, there are a few issues here that need some discussion. This looks suspiciously like something that should not be consumed by anyone who is not a grizzly bear. It looks scary, even to the untrained eye, in its artificiality. But wait! Our fears are assuaged because in small letters it says “Natural Butter Flavor With Other Natural Flavors – Contains No Butter”. Yes, I know it’s hard to see that on the picture here, but it really says that. I am not making it up. This opens up a crapload of questions, so I needed to put them in a list.

  1. Are the letters yellow because that’s the color of butter?
  2. When people put syrup on pancakes, they usually also use butter, so is this extra butter?
  3. Should we not put real butter on our pancakes if we are using Aunt Jemima Butter Rich Syrup and would that be too much butter?
  4. What is Natural Butter Flavor?
  5. What are Other Natural Flavors?
  6. Is Natural Butter Flavor also an Other Natural Flavor?
  7. How can there be Natural Butter Flavor if there is No Butter?
  8. Do we really need butter in syrup anyway? Shouldn’t syrup just be, well, syrup?

These are three items I found with hardly any searching. There are others, probably even funnier than these. Yet it’s kind of sad to think consumers can be fooled by these kinds of phrases which are designed by experts in marketing and the English language (and probably psychology) to dupe the public.

Watch your labels, and better yet, try to buy things that don’t have labels. Things like fresh vegetables and fruit. And if they have labels, it’s a lot better if the ingredients are pronouncable. Stuff that ends in “acetate” or “oxide” or “phosphate” should probably be bypassed. Other questionable ingredients contain the word “gum” and anytime you see “natural flavorings” be concerned, be very concerned.

So, how about commenting about your favorite misleading food label? I’d like to hear about it.


A Novel Field Trip

Occasionally I like to write about things about which I know not much (or nothing) and when this happens a field trip becomes necessary. In my new novel, Perigee Moon, the main character, Luke, becomes very attached to a place, a park in Columbus, Ohio, called Highbanks. This park is located in the midst of urban sprawl just off US 23 between Worthington and Delaware, Ohio in the midst of suburban housing and some rather forgettable urban development, strip malls, car dealerships and the occasional abandoned home.

Luke is especially enamored of the wetlands area which can be viewed, but to which there is no access. There is a trail to an overlook deck which is built on stilts such that the park goers cannot access the land, but can only view the natural protected area.

I decided if I wanted to write about it I better not just assume it, but should go there and take a look for myself. A field trip. Unfortunately I waited until December to go but needed to get there because the book is nearly completed. I couldn’t afford to wait around for spring.

We had an unnaturally warm December this year, no white Christmas, and days that felt like late March. On December 21, 2011, the high temperature must have hit 60. It had rained earlier but the sun appeared at noon and I thought, this might be the last chance I have to do this. So I went to Highbanks in order to walk the trail to the wetlands overlook deck. I packed up my camera because I figured it might be blog material and I wanted to include some pictures.

The park has two main paths and the wetlands trail veers off from one of them and continues for .4 mile to the deck. I started down the path, got about twenty steps and thought, hmm, this might not be as easy as I had hoped. Because it had been so wet, the trail was covered with wet, soggy leaves with standing water in places.

Since I am a bit of a little old lady when it comes to slippery stuff, I was not a little apprehensive. But I really, really wanted to see it so I trudged on, thinking all the way, this is dumb, what if I fall down here and break something (and around my house we joke about falling down and breaking a hip, but really, that seems as if it could be more of a reality these days), and there I’d be on a trail where sane people are nowhere in sight. I figured I could always call someone as I lay bleeding on the ground but it would be a case of hindsight at that point and a realization that I had just done a really dumb thing.

With every step I thought, I have to do this all again on the way back, but for some reason I kept on with it. At points I had to stop and figure out my strategy for the next step. How do I get over this little stream of water which is surrounded on both sides by roots of trees that are slimy with moss and other miscellaneous park debris? Each step was a new hazard.

Finally I reached my destination. It was worth the trip. Here is what I saw there:


The wind kicked up and I thought I really need to get back and not get stuck in a rainstorm which would only add to my precarious situation, so I picked my way back the .4 miles of slime to the main trail. Once safely back to the main (much more civilized) trail, I notched up the pace because the changeable weather was now kicking in to windy, going-to-rain-any-minute mode. I was a little disappointed in how this picture turned out, that it didn’t capture the drama of the day. While overhead the sky was still blue, I could see ominous black clouds at the horizon through the trees.


Sure enough, it rained and the wind became very gusty and those trees, so tall because they have been there since the beginning of time and denuded of their leaves, swayed and cracked. I could hear the occasional limb let go in the distance and a new worry surfaced. What if I get clocked with a piece of a tree?

I made it back okay without breaking anything and nothing breaking me, but not in time to avoid the downpour. After I was pretty thoroughly soaked it didn’t seem to matter much any longer. You can only get so wet but a bad hair day for sure.

It might not make a bit of difference, but I feel by being there and seeing what Luke saw I can write about it with a little more confidence.

Here are a couple more nice remembrances of my outing.

Up through the trees:

The wetlands:

Toys Then and Now

Much as I’m sure I probably shouldn’t rant and complain at this time of year, I guess it’s what I’m doing, as this is the time when us helpless grandparents are out Christmas shopping for toys. I think about the subject all through the year too, and decided it’s as good a time of the year as any to rant, and complain, and be generally disrespectful to major toy chains and the marketing of junk to small children.

At Christmas, if one doesn’t do a good enough job ordering online, one might be forced to venture into the dreaded [insert name of huge megopoly toystore here] in order to pick something out. Oh, how hard can it be, I ask myself. I can get puzzles, or coloring books, or story books, or whatever.

No. Not really. These items are located in Aisle 37, just before you get to the restrooms, and it appears as if no one is looking after this particular area. The merchandise is scattered and disheveled and misplaced.

Once inside the place, the agoraphobic comes out in me, and I want to go home and sit in a chair and pull a blanket up around me and think how glad I am to be where I am and not at [insert name of huge.. okay, it’s Toys R Us, but you already knew that]. You enter the fluorescent-lit cavern, accosted by screaming children, excited children, running children, in the company of frazzled parents.

I always stand for a moment, get my bearings, before actually getting up the nerve to move past the shopping carts (super-sized for your convenience). My husband and I kind of look at each other and I expect him to lead the way, and he is clearly expecting me to. A few blank stares, a shrug or two of the shoulders, and we start wandering aimlessly, and I mean that literally, aimlessly.

Legos. We need Legos. Do we find them in the Age 5 – 8 aisle? My husband always asks, I never do. We’re the opposite of the norm, where men don’t ask for directions. He wants to get it over with as much as I do, so he asks, and we are directed to the Lego Aisle. Yes, there is an aisle just for Legos.  A set of Legos only makes one thing. That’s so you build it once, get bored with it, and buy another one. I don’t think buying a set of generic Legos – that you could build and tear down and build up again – is really encouraged. That would mean the Lego company made less money. Less Profits = Not Good. Maybe it’s possible to get a set of basic Legos, but I didn’t see them at Toys R Us.

Back then, in the fifties, there were no Legos, but I had a set of bricks, made out of some kind of clay-like substance. They hadn’t (and I’m not making this up) really invented plastic yet, or at least it hadn’t yet been used for toys. The bricks were about the size of a domino, and there were half-bricks too, so you could build window and door frames and angle up the sides so the cardboard roof would fit over. The doors and windows were cardboard too, painted on pictures of doors and windows. I loved those bricks, and then wonder of wonders, the plastic kind came out and they were the same size but they had (get ready) white plastic doors and windows that actually moved! You could swing them open! How cool was that?

Here is the picture of the 1950s version of legos:

Remeber Lincoln Logs?

And Jacks?

And of course the favorite Viewmaster:

And finally, the popular Slinky:

Today, there are huge, elaborate swing sets, with built-in clubhouses. There are bars to climb, and a couple of slides, and different kinds of swings, and some black rubbery stuff has to be put down all around the thing so that no one gets hurt. It’s probably a law, I’m not sure about that.

Back then, my father hung a swing from the old Umbrella Tree (I was never sure of the correct name for that tree, but it was shaped like an umbrella and if you pumped high enough your feet might touch the leaves.) And we had clubhouses too, where we took our comics and our dolls and other stuff, and there was a secret password you had to know to get in. The clubhouse was usually nothing more than a few boards and whatever material could be scrounged, which was the fun of it. We did it ourselves.

Today, backyard children’s swimming pools are ten feet high, and need a special pump to blow them up, and there’s water slides and they’re shaped like castles or pirate ships, in garish colors, and they’re so… well, plastic.

Back then, when it was hot, if we were lucky our Moms would fill up the old washtub and we could sit in it and play with water.

We didn’t have that much to play with. We made do. We played tag outside, we raked big piles of leaves and jumped in, we played hide-n-seek, we built tents by throwing blankets over card tables. I had a playroom that was nothing more than a closet under the stairs. It was fine by the door but you couldn’t do too much in a room that’s a foot high, as it was at the other end. Some kids didn’t even have that, I was one of the lucky ones.

I remember all of this fondly, of course.

What will happen to all the plastic we cast aside today? Plastic toys are never recycled, plastic swimming pools spring leaks, and we don’t fix them. Just throw them away. Get something bigger, better, more plastic, more fun.

We baby boomers think we were more resourceful than children today. Today’s kids are scheduled up with baseball games, and soccer games, and gymnastics, and swimming lessons, and ballet, and music lessons and have the technology that makes it possible for them to not have to think up ways to have fun. It’s kind of sad.

But I don’t think today’s children think they’re missing anything. It’s all they know, as it was for us; we, who couldn’t imagine what it was like to grow up in the depression.

I wonder where it will take us. To a new level of plastic and technology? Or maybe back to basics.

Just Say No To Zero Population Growth

Michelle Duggar, 45, and her husband, Jim Bob, have revealed they are expecting their twentieth child. Well, whoopee. What a surprise. And just when we were hoping for the joys of menopause to hit Michelle.

“We are so excited,” Michelle said. “I was not thinking that God would give us another one, and we are just so grateful.” I’ll bet you are grateful. Now it’s for sure your TV show will be renewed for another season.

The Duggar’s motto is “There’s always room for one more.” Really? Is that the motto? Is that what it means to bring a child into the world? Why not have another one, we have room in the dorm, one of the older ones is moving out. What was her name again? Not sure, but it starts with the letter “J”.

Seems as if that’s a bit of a superficial motto but then, when you’re into hyping your reality show and your new book “A Love That Multiplies”, that’s as good a motto as any.

Jim Bob (his name would have to be Jim Bob, isn’t it fitting?) joked “I don’t know how it happened.” Ha, ha! Isn’t Jim Bob funny?

Jim Bob looks like he’s been driving the Clown Car, and says (all joking aside about him not knowing how it works) that they “didn’t want to stop at an odd number.” Oh, well then, that makes perfect sense. So given that 20 is an even number, and the fact that they already live in a house big enough to house the cast of Saturday Night Live and there’s always room for one more, why not bring another human being into this world? Those are good reasons. As good as any I can think of to take on the responsibility of another child.

It’s obscene. That these self-professed Christian people continue to do this, take advantage of the fact that Michelle’s eggs are refusing to give up and Jim Bob’s Super Sperm are still paddling upstream, in order to procreate again and again so they can get on the national news, and all over the internet, and write more books, and get the title of their TV show changed to 20 Kids and Counting. It is materialistic and irresponsible and reprehensible. What selfish individuals they must be.

And of course, the twenty kids and their future spouses are brain-washed into thinking that this is the right thing to do and what if each couple procreates ten times over? Michelle and Jim Bob (I still can’t believe his name is really Jim Bob), will have 400 grandchildren.

It “takes a village” to raise a child. It will take a village to house the Duggars and their children and grandchildren.

What if we all did that?

I know, I know, Michelle and Jim Bob don’t care about that. They are just glad that they did it first, and they are the lucky ones to get the reality show. All the couples who come after them and have twenty kids won’t be so lucky. But maybe if they start earlier, and have one per year until they’re 45, they might be able to out-procreate the Duggars by half a dozen kids or so. And don’t forget multiple births. An added bonus!

It’s a job to them. See, we have to have all these kids so we can get on the Today Show, and everyone will know who we are, and we can write books, and make lots of money. That way, Jim Bob doesn’t have to work too hard at being a “realtor”.

Never mind that we have recently hit a world population of seven billion and we are running out of resources. Don’t you worry about that, Michelle and Jim Bob. You just think about how that new little one is going to increase your coffers, and get you more attention, okay? Because that’s what you’re doing, despite all your lamentations otherwise, that you are “grateful for each and every gift of a child”. I guess you could look at it as a “gift”.

I put a scene in my novel, Whatever Happened to Lily?, about this very thing. No one ever mentioned it, and it was a bit disappointing, because I’d hoped it would be a social commentary of sorts. That the girl Katie, who Jay wanted to get it on with, was only interested in marriage and having twenty children to become “warriors for God”. He didn’t want any part of that scenario. Good for Jay, he thinks a lot like I do.

I thought a long time about writing this, because it has all been said before, by others, again and again, how these people don’t get it. It enrages me, that they WILL NOT STOP IT. And I will supply no links to any website that condones the behavior of the Duggars or anyone else in the quiverfull movement.

Life is Good, No Matter What

On Thursday, November 17, 2011, I attended the funeral of Holly Sneider (1972 – 2011). I had never met Holly, I only knew her parents and don’t live close enough to them that we see them often. But when we did meet up with Holly’s parents, at family reunions or the occasional meet-ups at my mother-in-law’s house, there was a connection there — a feeling that I’d like to get to know them better. I liked them a lot and hoped they felt the same. They seemed to think about things the way I do.

In April of 2010, Holly was diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer, already in the liver. As Christopher Hitchens notes wryly when speaking of his own cancer, “There is no Stage V”. Holly was a fighter, and she had a husband and three children, and decided cancer wasn’t going to beat her, not without a fight. And she gave it her very best shot. Reading her Caring Bridge page left me with a knot in my stomach, that anyone could go through so much agony. But she didn’t want to leave her children without a mother, her husband without a wife, her parents without their daughter, and her brothers without their sister.

She thought of other people before herself, and throughout her battle never lost her faith, and she never lost her will to live. Some people seem to especially touch those around them and Holly was one of those. Her illness affected the entire small town of Milan, Ohio where she lived.

As her brother said, at the funeral, It’s not how it begins, it’s how it ends that matters. Holly was brave to the end, and she inspired a whole lot of people to think about what she was doing and because of her, that they might find the strength to do the same if the need arises. And her brother admitted that he thought he’d be a better person, that he would be better equipped to handle the bad stuff in his life, because of Holly and the example she’d set.

Though she only lived 39 years, she had made a difference. Just having her around that long was a gift to everyone who knew her. At the funeral home, the line of people who wanted to pay their respects, to tell the family what Holly had meant to them, stretched out the door and down the block. Some people stood in line for two hours.

It is always deeply tragic when someone so young is taken from us, especially by a disease as insidious as cancer. Cancer sucks. There is no doubt about it. It scares me worse than anything else, yet statistics say other afflictions kill people more often, heart disease and even the flu. But a diagnosis of cancer is a life-changing event, even if you do beat it, you aren’t really, ever the same.

If only Holly could have beat it, she’d never have been the same. No, her body would have been forever damaged by the effects of the massive amounts of chemo she took, but she would have been okay with that. I picture her as becoming a life-long cancer fundraiser, or a cancer counselor, perhaps. If she’d been able to beat her own, she’d have probably devoted the rest of her life to helping others do the same.

She was an inspiration to all who knew her. True to form, her motto was:

Life is good, no matter what!

Holly Sneider, 1972 – 2011.

Random Thoughts About Role-Playing Games

Just when you think it might be a difficult week coming up with something fun to write about, a gift from Google falls in your lap. I can’t stop myself, I must talk about this.

Last week, I blogged about search terms, and being of a curious nature, I decided to do some research on search terms and how search engines figure out which sites might be something the searcher is interested in. I searched for WordPress Search Engine Terms and landed on a couple of blogs that talked about this subject. But what I found interesting was that one of the blogs had an article about it, and the author wondered how people found his blog using the search terms they did. His blog is devoted to World of Warcraft (WoW), which is an online role-playing game.

This is interesting to me, because one of the characters in my next novel, Perigee Moon, is a gamer. Luke’s son, Ben, is addicted to gaming, and I wanted to be able to appear smart about it, like I actually knew some real hard facts, instead of sounding clueless, which, thankfully, I am. So I added it to my Favorites, under a subfolder entitled Book Research so I can learn a little about WoW.

I recently wrote a blog about romance novels, and what’s not to like about them, so I’m doing the same about WoW, which is a mindset I have never even come close to understanding.

The following is a definition of World of Warcraft from Wikipedia lifted with errors intact, i.e. “a massively multiplayer online role-playing game” (shouldn’t that be “massive”?)

World of Warcraft (WoW) is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) by Blizzard Entertainment. It is the fourth released game set in the fantasy Warcraft universe, which was first introduced by Warcraft: Orcs & Humans in 1994. World of Warcraft takes place within the Warcraft world of Azeroth, approximately four years after the events at the conclusion of Blizzard’s previous Warcraft release, Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne. Blizzard Entertainment announced World of Warcraft on September 2, 2001. The game was released on November 23, 2004, on the 10th anniversary of the Warcraft franchise.

If I include World of Warcraft or WoW in my tags for this post, it will appear in the search results for individuals who are actually interested in this topic, and they will not appreciate what I have written here. They may even tell me what they think of me for dissing their chosen pastime and leave me nasty comments, which might make me feel bad (though I doubt it). Here is a disclaimer:

WARNING!  Anyone who wants tips and tricks for Restoration Druids is not going to learn anything here. I  appreciate your annoyance at being diverted by my thoughts on the subject. SORRY FOR THE INCONVENIENCE. But for those of you who might have an avid interest, click here to discover everything you ever wanted to know about talents, gear, spells, patch notes, tips and tricks for Restoration Druids.

What in the World of Warcraft, is a Restoration Druid anyway?

The following are the beliefs and utterances of a Baby Boomer regarding WoW:

We did not grow up in the time of texting, Twitter, Facebook and role-playing video games. Some things that are absent from the formative times in life, might never become completely comfortable pastimes to some of us. It’s like someone once said (but I can’t remember who it was), if you don’t start eating sushi in your twenties, you will never eat it. True in my case.

Here’s a quote from the author of the WoW blog, who writes this about his recent trip to the Blizzcon, (which — should you be so unfortunate as to be as uninformed as I am — is a WoW conference, named for the authors, Blizzard Entertainment):

On the downside, I met people who I would be happy to never socialize with again. It’s unfortunate too because I felt I had such a strong connection with them over Twitter.

So, let me force this information into my brain. You formed a strong connection with them on Twitter. In 140 characters or less (and the less the better, can’t forget about retweets, now can we?) I find it nearly impossible to imagine how to form any kind of connection with anyone on Twitter. Is there something I’m missing?

There are lots of ways to waste time in life. But wait. “Waste” might be the wrong word for doing things truly enjoyable, like going to the park, reading a book, watching a weepy movie. But playing role-playing video games is truly that, wasting time. What do you get out of it? Well, I’m told, you play and you get better and you get to a higher level. And my reply to that is, so what? What do you get out of that? And I’m met with blank stares, and I realize they now believe it is pointless to attempt to explain something so basic to someone so pathetically sans clue (me).

I am surrounded by little boys who play video games. If you let them, they would do it all day, every day. It is tantalizing to them, such a cool thing to do, since  their parents don’t want them to do it. Things parents want you to do are boring, like reading. Things parents don’t want you to do are cool, like video games and YouTube.

Some study came out and said that people who play video games are way better at robotic surgery than people who don’t play. The problem with this is, there is a limited number of robotic surgeons that can be supported by the population, so what are all the other ex-gamers going to do with their lives?

In my experience of late, I have come to know individuals who are pushing forty who spend their vacations playing video games. When asked, “So how was your vacation?” the reply is, “Great! I got to Level X in (insert name of super-exciting, fast-paced, mind-numbing, eardrum-splitting Cool X-Box Video Game here). Was that before or after you visited the Grand Canyon? That’s next year? Oh, okay.

Just as reading romance novels can become an addiction, so can gaming. And like any addiction, it can wreck a career or a marriage. I thought this phenomenon interesting enough to develop a character around it. Sort of a contemporary social critique.

Bottom line: I don’t get it, will never get it. So all you WoW enthusiasts who are going to write comments about how clueless I am? Save your keystrokes. I already know it.


Shopping Trends – Changes in 50+ Years

A few scant decades ago, shopping was different than it is now. Back then we had semi-weekly visits from The Bread Man and The Milk Man. They brought us various consumables, produced locally but without storefronts to sell them.

We’d leave a note saying how many bottles of milk we wanted. I think that was all that was delivered. Milk. Whole milk with the cream in it, which rose to the top and got scooped off to use for coffee. There was no such thing as Half ‘n Half.

The Bread Man left mushy white bread which wasn’t too much different from the stuff they sell today. Sometimes we’d get sweet rolls, which were a special treat reserved for weekends.

We shopped at Pat Kayes Grocery, which was a small establishment on West State Street. There was a butcher shop in back and a few shelves of staples. Everyone knew your name when you went in, since there were lots of small grocery stores in the area and everyone had a favorite that they patronized.

Typical grocery stores in the ’50’s (Market Basket and A&P but, alas, no picture of Pat Kayes Grocery).

Here is what was known as a “Super” market in the 1950’s.

There were no coupons then, so customers were loyal and we went to Kayes for years, until The Big Grocery Store moved in. These were wonderful to us, with aisle after aisle of boxes and cans, and produce and meats, and freezers full of things we’d never seen. And big round automatic revolving conveyor belts that you put the items on. A cashier picked up each item and tap tapped in the price and put it on another belt to be moved to a guy who put the things in brown paper bags. Wow, that was progress.

Pat Kayes Grocery suffered for that and disappeared after trying to compete with The Big Grocery Store.

We visited The Cake Shop weekly too, and it lasted a bit longer than the Mom and Pop grocery stores. Baked goods of all kinds, cookies, cakes, pies, éclairs, lady fingers and coffee cake rings. Over the years we tried everything and loved it all. They used to give kids a chocolate chip cookie when their mothers made a purchase.

When you needed prescription drugs you went to a drugstore. Not a grocery store or any other kind of store. There was a pharmacy at the back, and revolving racks of drug store items in the middle, racks of magazines and newspapers in the front and along the side, a long counter where we bought flavored cokes (vanilla, cherry, chocolate) and root beer floats.

There was even a separate store for bras, girdles, and corsets. It was called Woodward Corset Shop and I went in there with my mother and grandmother sometimes when they bought those strange undergarments. I used to look up at the dummies wearing their brassieres (which were really big in those days) and girdles and none of them had any heads. They sat on poles or shelves. I figured they had no heads because if they did, they’d be embarrassed at being seen in their underwear.

Here’s Woodward’s to the right of the movie theater:

Shopping was a big deal back then. We got dressed up. We went from store to store, saw people we knew. It was social. The stores were open at 10:00 AM and closed at 9:00 PM. Closed on Sundays.

Through the sixties and seventies we saw larger department stores emerge, and the specialized dress shops and bra shops and hat shops disappeared. The Cake Shop went under, and of course Woodward Corset Shop did too. It was the age of The Big Department Store, and they sold a lot of good stuff and they had window displays and sometimes they had escalators! We no longer knew the people who waited on us, and it wasn’t quite as social any longer. We only talked to the people we were with.

This was our largest department store back then, Bradner’s.

In the eighties and nineties we saw the rise of K-Mart, and Wal-Mart and Target. Now The Big Department Stores are in trouble too, because many people would rather buy everything in one place. We never saw the same person twice at the checkout, and it was a rarity to run into anyone we knew.

Today, we still have department stores in malls but a lot of them have tanked. There are a few smaller places, like J Crew, Banana Republic, Abercrombie & Fitch, but these all have the same merchandise, and it comes from China, or Taiwan, or Burma, or Bangladesh, or, well, you get the picture.

And we no longer dress up. Now we don’t care what we look like when we go out to a public place. Take a look at the website, which is devoted to pictures of people seen in Wal-Marts across the country.

I don’t personally see them, because it would take a natural disaster where Wal-Mart was the only store left standing for me to venture into one. But I trust that if you wanted to waste a lot of time in any Wal-Mart in any city, you could find pretty much the same sightings.

This is a sampling of shoppers at Wal-Mart.

You must have just come from the doctor’s office, right? I think you forgot something.

Whatever it was you were trying on in the dressing room with that saggy black halter top, well, you left it behind.

I know I like it when my outfit matches. I think the pink boots are a nice touch! No really. Everything about this offends me, right down to the blotchy hip tatt.

Sometimes, I’d like shopping to go back to the way it was back then, something to be anticipated. Now it’s just another thing to get done.

Gotta go to Wal-Mart. I need cheap work shoes, and a few Big Johnson tee shirts, and the latest romance novel, and Cheez Whiz is two for the price of one, and I could use some ammo.