Monday, July 31, 2006

A Moment of Silence And A Prayer, Please

Well, my little car is in the car hospital. It has a 50/50 chance of surviving. Please cross your fingers and send up a little prayer to St. Edsel for her.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Self-Improvement Goal 1: Improve My Handwriting

I've had shit handwriting all my life. In fact, my penmenship prevented me in learning calligraphy in the fifth grade. One of our teachers was a "calligrapher" and was offering lessons in the ancient craft. In order to receive the extra lessons, you had to have good handwriting. I didn't. It was the first time I was excluded from an extra curriculuar exercise for lack of talent.

My problem is: I don't have time to slow down and write neatly. If I do that, then I forget what I was trying to say. Mind like a sieve, you see. But, if you give me something to copy, I can do OK. I struggled along until high school, when I learned how to type. I have since left the pen in the dust. However, a lot of what I have to do on the job requires that I use a pen. I can't believe it! In this day and age I still have to submit things in writing. I guess I could ask the boss for a typewriter so I can complete the multitude of 3-part forms. It seems kind of frivolous, although I do like the quaint sound of an IBM Selectric snapping away industriously.

So, in the spirit of self-improvement and thrift, I plan to take my time and write more legibly. I'm not going to remove my characteristic stylizations in my handwriting, but I will slow down and press hard. Afterall, it's just work. I don't have to worry about forgetting what I was trying to say when completing purchase requisitions. It's copyist work. Too bad I never had that calligraphy class. I could sit at my desk in a hair shirt and robe and pretend I was copying sacred text. The text usually is sacred at work. I use it to back my word. Maybe if I could calligraphize my documentation it would be more intimidating and less questionable.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Building Learning Communities: A Conference

Last week I attended a three-day conference in my hometown away from home: Boston, Massachusetts. Well, it was in Newton, Massachusetts, but I got to go into Boston a couple of times and that made me happy. Building Learning Communities 06 was held at Regis College, an all girls college in a shady suburb of Boston. It was quite a lovely setting and it was fun going to sessions in college classrooms instead of in conference center meeting rooms.

This conference focused on using technology to create a sense of community with the world for students. By using the internet and, well, iPods, kids can be connected to an authentic audience: their peers throughout the world. Many of the presentations gave helpful advice for guiding students through the internets. Others discussed what the Schools of the Future should look like. Frankly, my head is still spinning from last week and it's taken me this long to sit down and try to examine what I heard.

I plan on blogging session by session and hopefully, by the time I'm done, I'll have some idea about what I can use, what I think about everything I've heard and what to do next. I realize this is hardly whimsical subject matter, but I promise to make it entertaining. I will at least need to learn how to load streaming video so you can enjoy the cheese that was the on-board entertainment on the dinner cruise we took on the Spirit of Boston.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Celebrities Who Have Appeared In My Dreams, Episode 101

I am not now nor have I ever been a fan of Frank Zappa. I did, however, admire his testimony in front of Congress with regard to free speech. When I was in college I was going through a period of self-doubt/identity crisis (imagine that). I had a dream where I was sitting in a pub with dark wood walls and brass trim. Frank Zappa appeared in the bar and sat down to have a chat with me. He told me in the dream that I needed to find a way to live my life without compromising my values. He was wearing his hair in a pony tail and he had on a green shirt and tan dockers. He also gave me a paper clip.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Memo From Roz

Dear Readers,

There's been a screw-up. It has come to my attention that Fight Club Friday/The Confession was really a Freaky Friday. Big Orange and Flannery Alden had somehow switched places. What you read here last Friday came fresh from the wandering labyrinth that is Big Orange's brain. His mind took over and he ran amok on this blog. Our dear Flannery, it seems returned the favor.

However, just to be clear, I have it on good authority the following two facts:

  • Flannery Alden loathes the movie Fight Club.
  • Flannery Alden did not break the pact.
Authenticity officials at Prone 2 Whimsy have used a series of indicators to divine that last Friday's post was not written by Flannery Alden. Also, we have tracked her financial doings and have proven that no trip to Giant Eagle, let alone Iggle Video ever occured. For one thing, Ms. Alden never takes her custom to a store with a mispelled word in it's name. It appears that both accounts of the viewing of Fight Club were alternate realities.

I cannot claim to know exactly what happened to cause this switcheroo. But, shortly after I returned from my vacation to Martha's Vinyard, I did discover a leak in the dimensional door between our world and Big Orange's world. You can rest assured, however that, as soon as I identified the rift, I repaired it with Fix-a-Flat, as the procedure for such occaisions dictates. Everything seems to have returned to normal.

I have further contacted Frank, Wormhole Coordinator and Chief Muse at FBITN, and he has assured me that the rift has been fixed on his end as well. He chose to use duct tape, but that's a man for you.

In the interest of blog saftey, I warn all of you to check your dimensional doors or wormhole portals; tis the season for leaks. Protect yourselves and enjoy safe blogging.

Yours Sincerely,
Content Editor and Safety Officer
Prone 2 Whimsy

Friday, July 14, 2006

A Confession

According to Big Orange (who knows a thing or two about this), in Roman Catholicism Fridays are supposed to be sorrowful. In the praying of the rosary Fridays are given over to something called the “Sorrowful Mysteries.” I guess that means amongst hard-core Catholics, Friday is not quite the joyful experience it is for the rest of us working stiffs. It DOES, however, seem the appropriate day to do something ELSE them Catholic folks do, and that’s make a confession.

I hereby do confess, openly and publicly, that I couldn’t take it any more and I…

Well, I…

You know how yesterday I was talking about The Pact cracking? Well, yesterday that crack widened to a fissure and then split completely asunder the way the moon breaks in two in the opening credits of Thundarr the Barbarian (I’ve got to stop IM’ing Big Orange during the workday—his lexicon is beginning to rub off on me even at work…). Yes, I… ::deep, pre-confessional sigh:: I rented a movie last night and I watched it. I spent money to rent a DVD in direct violation of the Prime Directive of The Pact.

There. I said it. I feel better now. I suppose you would like to know how this all came about. We’ll have to blame a few people and things, one is the Nature of American Work that forces me to do multiple tasks at the same time and manipulate vast amounts of information and data, and the other responsible party is MS Excel.

I have spent most (practically ALL) of this week wrestling with a behemoth Excel spreadsheet. The thing has somewhere in the range of 120 columns, over 200 rows and tips the scale at a hefty 3.75 megabytes, which is HUGE for an Excel file in my experience; most weigh in like hummingbirds that could fit on one of those old-fashioned 3.5” floppies, but not THIS mother. THIS sucker needs either CD-ROM or a jump/thumb drive to be toted around. This sucker has WEIGHT.

How long any one person can stare at a spreadsheet this big and not experience some sort of retinal degeneration or damage to the optic nerve has yet to be established, but in my darker moments (which are growing more frequent) I worry that I’m the first test subject to really find OUT just how long any one person can stare at a spreadsheet before going stark raving mad. By yesterday afternoon I had spent, by my rough calculation, approximately 25 hours on this bloody thing (I used a spreadsheet to calculate that, BTW-- I don’t know if my brain can USE a calculator anymore). That was BEFORE I drove off downtown to mediate an evening meeting with principals and leaders of the local schoolboard for a good, solid hour and a half.

By the time I was on my way home the sun was beginning to set, my nerves were frayed to the point of resembling the hair on a troll doll, and I was beginning to have trouble with noun-verb agreement. In short I was a complete mess, a mental carwreck akin to the “Blood On the Highway” movie they showed me in high school Driver’s Ed class. I swear I could hear a soft voice calling me home; I’m convinced it was the hottub.

Doc had fed the girls and himself as per my instructions, and when I mentally perused what I knew to have in the fridge my already-low heart just sank. I thought of going out to dinner by myself-- soup, salad and breadsticks at the Olive Garden or something; something light with maybe a nice glass of wine-- but the hour was already late and I was missing my girls. They have a way of grounding me and reminding me of what is REALLY important in this life. Call them the antidote to the snakebite of Excel.

Still, nothing that I thought I had in the fridge appealed to me so I decided to stop off at the local Giant Eagle and grab something out of the deli case, or maybe even a whole roast chicken: whack that sucker apart with a knife, eat it with my fingers (as a supertaster I reserve the right to do such a thing, especially when butt tired), take some of it to work tomorrow for lunch. Cooking was DEFINITELY out of the picture.

This, dear friends, is when everything started going to hell.

I don’t know if they HAVE Giant Eagles where you live, but this one of those “super” supermarkets; the ones with a floral shoppe, a kids area (drop your kids off with an attendant and shop without them grabbing things off the shelves), some of them even are large enough to have optometrists or dentists or other services in there as well. MOST of them have [cue suspenseful music] a VIDEO STORE.

There I was, pushing my chart by those tall things that beep if you take a video out without it being damaged, and they had strung tacky lights up around the entrance that would blink and run around and were clearly invented to both intice and catch the eye and subliminally draw people in.

I stopped in my tracks. There, inside, was… what? 500 different movies? 1,000? 10,000?? Who knows how many you can stack in there, but there they were, in the warm, inviting, cave-like video room. It was like a sweet perfume was drifting out, like a tent standing in the middle of the desert and the sweet scent of water wafting out at you. My soul was thirsty for video. I wanted to go in.

You know the rest, don’t you? I wandered through the store randomly, not really seeing the food on the aisles but all the videos in their lil’ boxes, standing at attention like puppies in a window-- “PICK ME! PICK ME!! TAKE ME HOME! YOU’LL LOVE WATCHING ME!!”

Since the only checkouts open at that time were RIGHT IN FRONT of the video store, I fell off the wagon like a dried out drunk on Burbon Street. That is, knowing full well I shouldn’t do this, but deciding, “oh, what the hell…??” and doing it anyway.

I walked out with “Fight Club” in my hot, sweaty grip.

Why THIS film, you might ask? Why not something light or cute or more my speed? I’m not sure, I think it was a choice made in haste (I’d spent a lot of time in there and realized that Doc was probably wondering what the hell happened to me), I think it was partially because it was near the checkout, and I think it was partially because Pitt was in his typical bad-boy role. In any event, I took it home with me and left it in the car. MAYBE I’d have enough willpower to NOT watch it-- that would be my punishment for breaking The Pact. I’d have it, NOT watch it, and forget about it.

Uh-huh, right. I had that sucker locked onto it’s little spinny-thing in the portable DVD player out on the deck by midnight after Doc and the kids went to bed and I knew they were asleep.

What did I think of it? This was, by far, one of THE best damned movies I’ve ever seen. Sure, it’s nice to see Brad-boy prance around without a shirt beating hell out of other guys, but it wasn’t the violence that drew me to the film. I liked the way the whole thing ran, the story in flashback, the adolescent angst-filled philosophy that these men espoused. Sure, peeing in the soup d’jour or blowing up corporate art as a way of expressing your anger at Da’ Maaan would have struck me as infantile, fatuous rubbish if you were to sit down and tell me this over coffee, but out there on the deck, watching my movie I was TOTALLY able to suspend disbelief. I could BELIEVE that some pencil-necked geek WOULD beat total hell out of himself to blackmail his boss and join up with a completely narcissitic, condemned-building-squatting, human-fat-rendering, violent psychopath as a way of “getting all the way to the bottom” and getting out of the corporate world. In fact, I could begin to believe that it’s actually happening RIGHT NOW, and I realized that the weak-of-spirit, lead-around-by-the-nose, don’t-ask-any-questions men who filled the army of Project Mayhem are the same sorts of men who strap explosives to their chests and blow up whole busloads full of people over in Iraq.

The whole day had that sort of out-of-body-back-in-5-minutes feel to it that “Fight Club” just fed into. Lying down next to my Doc some 2 hours later, I wondered, like the narrator in F.C., if THIS was all some sort of dream, too….

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Pact Crack

I'm starting to feel the strain of The Pact. It's been a couple of months now and I'm starting to get seriously bummed out. The other night, I was looking for something to watch that I hadn't seen in a while and everything seemed like something I was sick of. Even DVD's we have that I haven't even watched! I can't stand to look at them. There is something wrong with me.

Please don't get the impression that I'm some sort of Couch Potato DVD Junkie. Although that is my secret aspiration. But somehow, when that goal glimmers in my mind, my inner Puritan grasps the nearest old-timey farm implement and pounds it into the ground. Anyway, I'm really kind of stuck. Part of my unwinding ritual involves listening to an innocuous TV show or movie as I drift off to sleep. Having something to listen to other than the thoughts in my head helps me stop worring and start sleeping. It's a crutch, I'll admit, but I go with what works. I'm too tired to risk getting insomnia while trying new techniques to fall asleep the "right" way.

So, since it's summer, the TV schedule is full of reruns and my DVR is overfull with shows I've already seen or full of shows that are too actiony to relax while watching. Combine them with my new found hostility towards our DVD collection, I'm in quite a pickle.

As a result, I've been turning away from the TV. I've taken to playing Bookworm to pass the small amount of me-time late in the evenings. By the way, that link to Bookworm will take you right to the game itself. Try it at your peril; it is addictive. It is also a bit stressful. So rather than calming down, unwinding and letting my mind wander right before bed, as is what happens when I pop in a M*A*S*H DVD, I'm going to bed tense and with my mind in a highly active mode.

Anyone who has ever experienced insomnia will agree with me, I think, that I must find some other way to prepare for sleep. I could have a glass of wine, or hop in the hot tub, or have a relaxing chat with my husband, or read, or do all of the above. I probably should give them a try. But, please indulge me and take a look at my schedule for a moment:

  • 6:00 a.m. (give or take 15 minutes) Wake up and get ready for work.
  • 6:30 a.m. (give or take 30 minutes) Get into car and drive 58 miles to work.
  • 7:45 a.m. (Give or take 45 minutes) Begin work.
  • 5:00 p.m. (plus 30-60 minutes, if my boss is in at the end of the day) Drive home.
  • 6:30 p.m. (plus 30-60 minutes) Arrive at home and play with the girls (Doc usually gets his me-time then).
  • 8:30 p.m. (give or take 30-60 minutes) Begin the bedtime routine.
  • 9:00 p.m. (on a good bedtime night). My me-time.
  • 11:00 p.m. My eyes must be shut and I must be asleep, otherwise, I won't get the recommended 7 hours of sleep.

I share my schedule, not only to whine...OK, I feel like I need to whine a little...but also to show what my day looks like. By 9:00 p.m., I'm not ready for bed, but I'm also not really ready to engage in winsome conversation with my lovely husband in our new hot tub, while quoting from the latest best-selling book and balancing a glass of Riesling in my manicured hand. By this time of day, my brain is pretty much devolved into zombie status. I suppose I could try, though, to become a dazzling socialite after dark. It actually sounds like fun. But I'm gonna need that wine.

Also, the summer has turned my routine upside down. My kids are going to bed later because that darned sun stays out so long. I'm too tired to make wise choices about how to spend my me-time. So, the result is: my ass is dragging and my defenses are down. I haven't had a good night sleep in at least a couple of weeks.

Therefore, I became susceptible to the suggestion that maybe the pact is too tough. As I often do, I was talking to Big Orange on the phone on my commute home. It went a little bit like this:

BO: Why don't you get some DVD's from the library?

Me: I'm terrible at getting things back on time. I don't want to pay late fees.

BO: It's too bad your library doesn't have email notices to tell you when things are due...

Me: No, they do have them. In fact I've been getting better about renewing and returning my books. No late fines as of yet.

BO: Well, then, since you can renew online and you get email notices when things are due, perhaps you could get DVD's at the library. If they ain't late, then you don't pay any money, and isn't that the point of The Pact in the first place?

Me: I must be starting to crack; you're making sense. I can feel myself weakening.

BO: It's seems within the Rules of the Pact...

Me: I'll check with Doc.

Well, I haven't had the chance to check with Doc yet; I've been too busy playing Bookworm. But I plan to run it by him soon. It might be nice as a "reward" for good behavior. Afterall, I haven't had to pay fees since I joined the library a few months ago. I've disciplined myself to get those books back on time or renew them online. Maybe we could try it. Also, Doc's been good too. In fact, he's been tougher than I have with regard to enforcing The Pact. I'm almost afraid to bring it up, lest I appear weak. Am I crazy?

What do you think?

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

How the Wiggles Saved My Sanity

I've been spending a week setting up a financial management system for work. It's been tedious and brain-splitting. When I hit my nadir, I described the how I felt to Big Orange: "I feel like I've got a dagger and a paper towel stuck in my right eye." I grossed him out with the image of a paper towel stuck in my eye; the dagger, oddly enough, didn't seem to bother him.

I've been listening to my work iTunes to help soothe my soul as I've slaved away, cutting, pasting, running reports, compiling If/Then formulas, derriving charts, and checking my math. I have the following artists/albums loaded up for bear:
  • Abba
  • Love Actually Soundtrack
  • Black Eyed Peas
  • Classic Soundtracks (Casablanca, Key Largo, Sabrina, etc.)
  • Clay Aiken (shut up)
  • Depeche Mode
  • Earl Scruggs and Friends
  • Elvis Costello
  • Kelly Clarkson
  • Madonna
  • Miles Davis
  • Panic at the Disco!
  • Mozart's Requiem
  • Tom T. Hall
  • Willie Nelson
  • Some random American Idol Singles
  • The Wiggles

Surprisingly, I keep loading up the Wiggles' album: Wiggly, Wiggly World, which showcases the Wiggles collaboration with important Australian and Kiwi artists such as Slim Dusty, Christine Anu, Rolf Harris (Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport), Kamahl, Human Nature, Tim Finn (of Split Endz fame), and Jimmy Little. Each tune is prefaced with an introduction. A Wiggle, usually Anthony, interviews the artists and asks them about the song they are about to perform.

I know I've been near the brink of insanity. Yesterday, I had proof positive that I'd been working on the spreadsheet too long: I thought the spreadsheet was sending me messages. It's possible! Afterall, the largest spreadsheet I worked on went to column CV (that's 74 columns, folks) and had 256 rows.

But, through it all, the Wiggles kept me from jumping out of my 15th floor office window in a fit of paranoid hysteria. They're cute, funny and their music is a salve to my soul. Maybe it's because I've enjoyed their music with my girls. Riley and I saw them in concert in 2004 (that's where I took the picture above). She's totally over them now, sadly. Maybe it's because they are actually very good musicians. Maybe it's their can-do attitude that's helped me climb this mountain of numbers. Maybe it's the silliness of "Another Cuppa" or the whistfulness of "Six Months in a Leaky Boat". Perhaps it's the sweetness of "I Love to Have a Dance with Dorothy." I really can't explain it. But I'm thankful for it nonetheless.

Monday, July 10, 2006

I Want To Like Danny Phantom

Look at him. He's cool. He's got a great theme song. Many of the elements that I look for in a show Danny Phantom has: I like the style, the music, and I enjoy the voice acting. Danny Phantom was created by the same guy who created the Fairly Odd Parents, a show I really enjoy. All evidence indicates that I should enjoy this show, but I don't.

My kids love both shows and so does Doc. We don't always agree on these things, but I usually at least understand what they find appealing. At first I objected to Danny Phantom's content, thinking it was too scary for my little girls. But as I started to watch it casually at first and then began to pay attention to it in earnest, I realized it was pretty tame. On the scariness spectrum, it sits nicely next to Scooby Doo. Thinking that my reservations were alleviated, I decided to give the show a shot. I wanted to like it, I really did. And I discovered elements that I enjoyed, my favorite being the moment Danny says "I'm goin' ghost!" and his theme music kicks in.

But there is something about this show that leaves me cold. I just can't get into it. There is something hollow about the feeling I get when watching it. It wasn't until I was ranting about it on the phone the other day with Big Orange that I realized why: The premise of the show itself. In a nutshell, Danny gains ghost abilities after a lab accident. He can transform from regular boy to ghost boy at will. This gives him a distinct advantage over ghosts and humans alike. As a ghost, he is immune to human weapons and objects and as a human, he is immune to ghost weapons and objects. It really makes him quite invincible. Pretty handy, don't you think? Of course, he's a teenager and bound to make errors in judgment, but overall, there is nothing much he can't handle.

Most episodes are dedicated to tracking down, trapping and exiling wayward spirits into Ghost World. But most of the spirits who haunt Amityville came through a portal Danny's parents invented! This portal, a MacGuffin if there ever was one, is in his parents' basement! What I don't understand is, why not destroy it? I realize his mother is interested in studying the ghosts and his father has a vendetta against them. Those reasons alone may be good enough for the portal to exist in the minds of the creators, but they are not good enough for me. I also realize that I'm probably not the target audience for this show and I may have the bar raised a bit too high. Perhaps I should chill out. However, Fairly Odd Parents is such an entertaining and well-thought out show. Why couldn't the creators do the same for Danny Phantom? Why couldn't they find plausible reasons for these characters to exist?

I really like many of the characters: Danny, Sam, and the Box Ghost. It's too bad that the story line is held together with such flimsy logic. I think I'm not the only one who feels this way, either. The suits at Nicklelodeon are not renewing it. So, come February of next year, Danny Phantom will be a phantom in our memory. I will no longer have to deal with the nagging thoughts that torment me when I'm enduring children's television. I won't have to sit through Danny Phantom and silently beseech the heavens, "Why not destroy the doggone portal and be done with this? You're wasting my time!"

But part of me will be sad; my daughters love this show. They will miss it. I know the feeling of having a beloved show cancelled too soon. Perhaps I should take the opportunity, when the time comes next February, to sit down and explain to them why Danny Phantom was cancelled, to tell them that cool effects and music is not enough to make a great show. I think I will. It is what the experts call a "teachable moment." I usually don't have time to prepare for these, they are usually spontaneous. I must also prepare for the reaction that they will not care why Danny Phantom was cancelled. Or that they will disagree with me.

Cue: Battle Hymnn of the Republic

But it is my duty to instruct the younger generation on the properties of good entertainment. To disdain programming that is basically cheating on the writing. To abhor form without function. And to expect more out of people who are given millions of dollars to draw cartoons. For if accountability is important for working stiffs, it is important for all Americans. And if my words fall on deaf ears, I shall not falter. I shall say my message again and again until sheer repetition of the message makes it truth! And that, my fellow Americans, is parenting.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Avatque Vale

I'll miss you Aunt Gail...

From The Canton Repository:

Gail Ann Davis, CPIW, AIS, age 54, of Louisville, died Sunday, July 2, 2006 in the Cleveland Clinic Foundation. She was born Feb. 18, 1952 in Canton, OH and had resided in the area most of her life. She was a member of St. Louis Catholic Church and was an Oakwood High School graduate in 1970. She was president of Gail Davis Insurance Agency of Louisville. She was President of the Emerald Echo-Arbor, was Supreme Conductor of the Gleaner Fraternal Supreme Arbor Society. Recipient of the Russell L. Buck Award in recognition of outstanding fraternal involvement by a sales representative of Gleaner Life Insurance Society. Past President of Insurance Women of Stark County. She was an honorary chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, Business Advisory Council. She contributed many hours of community service to the Stark County area for over 30 years and was also a part time money counter at St. Louis Catholic Church and volunteered at the annual church festival. Preceded in death by her father, Clarence I. Miller. Survived by husband, Charles E. Davis, whom she married Dec. 5, 1970; mother, Jean E. (Ritenour) Miller; a daughter and son-in-law, Rachel (Joseph) Gadow of Canal Fulton; son and daughter-in-law, Aaron (Kristen) Davis of West Hollywood, CA; a sister and brother-in-law, Donna (Jeff) Allen of Canton; brother and sister-in-law, Bobby (Vernice) Miller of Mesa, AZ; two grandchildren, Quinn and Bailey Gadow; four nieces; ten great-nieces. Mass of Christian Burial will be Friday at 10 a.m. in St. Louis Catholic Church with Fr. Kenneth Miller as celebrant. Burial will follow in Sunset Hills Memorial Gardens. Friends may call Thursday 5-8 p.m. in Paquelet-Falk Funeral Home. Memorials may be made in her memory to A.R.C. of Stark County.
(Paquelet-Falk, 330-875-2811)

Monday, July 03, 2006

It's Been A Long Day

...Full of ups and downs. I'm tired to the point of the shakes. I think I'll conquer the world while listening to Celine Dion.