Monday, September 25, 2006

Bad Haggis?

This weekend we attended day two of three of New Hampshire's Scottish Highland Games. The day was chilly and rainy, but we had a pretty good time just the same. We heard some good music and bought at cd by a very popular, for the event, group called Albannach. While looking for a CD of their music, we found several CDs by another group that had us curious. The CD covers were quite professional looking, but the name was downright side-splitting: Bad Haggis. The question arose, "Is there such a thing as good haggis?" I have since listened to some samples of their music. Not bad.

We could have eaten actual haggis while at the games. However, given a choice between having some lovely sounding lamb stew or a dish noted for containing various organ meats and oatmeal, well of course the lamb stew won out.

The diet was out the window over the course of the weekend. It was our seventeenth anniversary and we were on a mini-vacation (with teenager 'in tow'). I indulged in my very favorite Scottish food, shortbread! Fat, sugar, white flour. What's not to love, right? So, I'm trying to crawl back on the wagon. It's been a while since I've really lost so much as a pound. I've been gaining and losing the same five pounds for about six weeks now. It's getting very boring. I really would like to ditch another fifteen by the first of the year. *sigh* Goodbye lovely shortbread, hello raw veggies.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

What's a vast?

The work day was nearly over when I found out that today was International Talk Like A Pirate Day. Did you know that avast means to start or stop an activity? Vast isn't a noun, so my title is rhetorical and silly.

In other pirate news, the Pirate Party in Sweeden failed to get enough votes to get a Parliament seat, or even enough to get financial assistance for their election costs. I wonder if there is a Pirate Party in the U.S. That's the kind of politics I could get behind: honest, in your face, no holds barred thievery and skullduggery.

My pirate name is:

Bloody Morgan Bonney

Every pirate lives for something different. For some, it's the open sea. For others (the masochists), it's the food. For you, it's definitely the fighting. You can be a little bit unpredictable, but a pirate's life is far from full of certainties, so that fits in pretty well. Arr!

Get your own pirate name from
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Monday, September 18, 2006

The other voices in my head

Earlier this summer, my mp3 player took a dive. This was very annoying because I had just gotten a new stereo for my car that had an auxillary jack. The new stereo turned out to be a pain in the butt when it came to whether or not it would eject a cd. The saving grace was the auxillary jack. At least it was until my mp3 player died. Well, those of you who have read some of my other summer postings know that my car subsequently died, taking the persnickety cd player with it.

Recently, I started using an eliptical trainer at the YMCA. When I ride the stationary bike at home, I read. The mechanics of the trainer are not conducive to reading. So, I tried to revive the dead mp3 player on more time. No luck.

While I really didn't have $100 in my budget to splurge on a new mp3 player, I crunched some numbers and figured I could do it. Besides, it is 'workout incentive'. I can a Sandisk m250. It's got 2gb of space, an fm radio, and a voice recorder

This morning I preloaded it with several hours of audio programs from I used to be a huge utilizer of the service years ago, but got away from it when my life just got crazier and crazier. Tonight while I tortured myself on the trainer I listened to an interview from NPR with Robin Williams. I had forgotten how much fun it was to put the ear buds in and enter your own little world. Plus, Robin Williams is so hysterically funny I would forget that no one else could hear the jokes, and I'd laugh out loud. It probably looked pretty funny to other people: this woman using the eliptical trainer periodically laughing out loud.

I'm enjoying getting back into the exercise routine stuff. I go to the gym at work several times a week for muscle fitness. A couple of times a week I use the eliptical trainer, and some other equipment as a full blown excuse to use the hot tub, at the YMCA. I also ride the stationary bike at home almost every morning of the week. What I dislike most about going to the gym is the other people. The gym at work is usually not very crowded by the mid afternoon slot I choose to visit it. However, the YMCA always has a fair number of people hanging around.

This evening, I was trying to get past a wicked headache after my workout. I was drying off from the hot tub when these two teenage girls came into the aisle bringing their innane babble with them. I was literally physically in the middle of their conversation about what junk they were going to take on their school field trip with them. Pardon me while I growl.

Over the weekend, I was trying to relax in the hot tub. Unfortunately, the tub is on the same deck as the swimming pool, and weekends are chock full of children's swimming lessons. It's very difficult to unwind with the sound of three year old joyous shreeking. Then, when I went to change in the locker room, I had to deal with similar sweet sounds along with dodging the obstacle course of running toddlers.

Too bad I can't set ear buds permanently lodged into my ear canals so that I don't have to worry about taking them out for pools and showers. I would much rather listen to voices in my head than the voices outside of my head.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Out of my head you filthy memes!

Every evening, I take my vitamins and supplements. And, every evening I am treated to the strains of "Primrose Lane" as soon as I pick up the bottle of evening primrose. I find my self humming it and then I cringe.

I don't know how many of you remember that song. It is kind of an old one. However, we all have these little catch phrases in our heads that trigger memories. Phrases that lead us to songs, movies, or books. We can't stop the flood.

I can't hear the phrase "Let's find out" without thinking of "1 ... 2 ... 3" which was the next line after that in an animated commercial for Tootsie Roll Tootsie Pops from back in the 70s.

There are also songs that, if you hear a phrase or two of them, will stay stuck in your head until you hear a more powerful song to force it out. I used to take great pleasure in torturing a work friend by singing a few bars of one annoying song or another, just to get the song stuck in his head and have him yell at me for doing so. Yes, I know I have an evil streak!

This "Phenomenon" (yes, that was one of the songs) was labeled in the 70s by Richard Dawkins as a Meme. I even read a book about memes called Virus of the Mind by Richard Brodie. I was fascinated by how easy it was for millions of people to share an idea or memory.

I've often wondered if the easy spread of memes is a product of our media-baased society. I'm sure it is. I seriously doubt that people living 100 years ago would have shared so many predictable programmed responses to phrases and musical bits that we all do now.

Most of our "infections" can be traced back to commercials. If you are a child of the 60s, and were raised with a television, I'm sure many of the following are still easily accessible in your cultural memory banks:

"I can't believe I ate the whole thing."
"My bologna has a first name ..."
"You're soaking in it."
"I'd like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony." (Yes, Coke Licensed an actual song, but more people were exposed to the music through the commercial than the original song had an audience for)
"And she told two friends, and so on, and so on."
"He likes it. Hey, Mikey!"

So, I guess shared culture is good. But, with the globalization of the world's economy, I think many cultures are losing their individuality. Video entertainment is exported from one country to the rest of the world (typically from the U.S. to everywhere else). Consumer products, and the commercials that advertise them, travel around the globe. It saddens me to know that as more and more societies become industrialized (and westernized) cultural diversity of the human species is ever flattened. On the other hand, even if what we are all share as cohabitants of this meme-ship Earth is shallow detris, maybe having more things in common will help us treat each other better, more like neighbors instead of strangers.

So, yeah, maybe I would like to buy the world a Coke. (However, I don't know if I can afford to buy 6 billion Cokes, so some of you are just going to have to share. Sharing will make it easier for everyone to get to know one another a little better too!)

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Who gets to see you naked?

Last weekend, during my marathon of shopping, I was treated to a unique dressing room experience. As I entered the dressing room area, the second room from the entry way contained a husband and wife with the door open. The husband was buckling his pants. The wife was holding a pile of clothes. Not to be a prude or anything, I backed out and checked my surroundings. The dressing room did not stipulate that it was for any particular gender. However, the area was in the midst of a women's clothing section. The couple were foreigners, so I chalked it up to some cultural difference and waltz past them to a distant dressing room and took care of my business. On the other hand, what was with the open door??? Geesh.

A few days later, I got another perspective on the title of this entry. I was working out at the gym near my office. One of the fitness instructors came in with a younger friend with a severe crew cut. The friend looked soft featured, but I thought I detected a slight trace of dark facial hair on the upper lip. So, I chalked up the soft features to youth. I finished up and went to the locker room to shower and adorn fresh clothing. As I was walking off towards the shower, the fitness instructor and her friend with the crew cut came in, who was referred to by a feminine name shortly thereafter. I mentally shrugged and focused on my business.

Yesterday, I got into an interesting conversation with an older gentleman at my local YMCA as we enjoyed the oversized hot tub near the pool. He told me the story of how
another local YMCA used to have a hot tub in the men's locker room only. This was back in the early 1960s when the Y was still pretty oriented towards it's "M" identity. Women could join, but were not catered to since there was a YWCA in town (among other reasons). A female member of the YMCA played racketball regularly with her boyfriend. The two of them were a bit frustrated that she could not enjoy the hot tub, so he eventually invited her to come on into the men's locker room and make use of the ammenities with him. Well, the men in the locker room were a bit shocked, but not too shocked to know when they, in turn, were being presented with a new ammenity (since said female was not modest, and entered the tub in the buff like the other bathers). It took several months for the young woman to encounter someone who was more interested in his own modesty than the free showing. The Y reprimanded the woman and her boyfriend and asked them to abide by the gender limitations of the club from then on.

I'm sure most of you have encountered the phenomenon of "concert rest room". I'm talking about the situation that arises during a sold out concert, when the line in the women's room is so long that some brazen women give up and just go into the much less crowded men's room. Most guys don't complain about this. Heck, some don't even take much notice of it.

So, who should get to see you naked? Should you only be naked to your spouse and your doctor? What about at the gym or in a public rest room? Why should we be concerned if a stranger of the opposite sex sees us naked? Are we concerned that they might find us attractive? Worse, are we concerned that they might NOT find us attractive? In either case, did it occur to you that some of the folks who share your gender, and your locker/rest room, might be attracted to or revolted by you as a sexual being? Big deal, they're equipped the way you are! That doesn't mean that they can't be 'warm for your form'.

Maybe the separation of genders in public low-clothing facilities is borne out of a social belief that male heterosexuals simply can't be trusted not to oggle or drool, or constantly assess, a naked (or nearly naked) female form. This oggling makes many females uncomfortable. A second factor could be that males appreciate some "down time" from females, whether they are heterosexual or homosexual. (I can appreciate this particular need myself at times.)

I don't think I'm advocating unisex rest rooms and changing facilities. At least, not yet. As a society, I think we have a long way to go before that would ever be comfortable for the majority. But, considering how far we've come I think we either need to make public facilities unisex with full-modesty provisions (individual stalls for dressing, so it doesn't matter who is sharing the facility with you) or unisex with no-modesty provisions (as in - get over yourself, and mind your own business). It makes as much sense as anything any more.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Shopping as entertainment

Coworker S and I were having a discussion about something which devolved into a soapbox opportunity for her about American materialism. While I agree somewhat with alot that she said, she is such an extremist on so many issues that it can make me twitchy. One thing that she said did stick with me. She said that, in this country, shopping is a form of entertainment. I would have to agree with her, through personal experience. Such a mind set was a contributing factor to some credit management issues, which I recognized and got under control several years ago. I now only shop for things that we really need, or that I have wanted (and budgeted) for some time.

Since my new job pays at the end of the month, I just received my first pay check since I left my last job in mid July. My son and I were both in need of some clothing purchases. Him due to growth, me due to weight loss. It has slated to rain this entire holiday weekend. So, I decided that it was time to be entertained by some serious shopping.

The three day weekend has been great. Saturday we drove up to the outlets in Tilton, NH. Sunday, we filled in the gaps from that trip at the local Walmart and Target. Today I need to venture out alone to hunt down the last few items that couldn't be purchased at the mega-discount places. I know exactly where I can get them and how much they are going to cost me. However, just because I have budgeted the purchases and planned how they will be executed does not change the fact that I enjoy shopping. I just do it in a controlled way now.

Oddly enough, the 'control' aspect isn't just about fiscal responsibilty. I do recognize the fact that there is just way too much 'stuff' in my life. I'm not fully ready to dive head long into the voluntary simplicity movement, but I do realize that all the stuff that surrounds me does suck some of the joy and peace out of my life. That is part of the reason I am less likely to buy something that is unplanned for. But, when I plan to make a purchase, it is a guilty pleasure.

I am not sure why shopping is entertainment. Maybe I like making choices. Maybe there is a sense of freedom with having the purchasing power that I currently have. (I did grow up with very limited means, where even necessary purchases were delayed as long as possible.) Maybe I enjoy contemplating all the possibilities presented in the well lit stores. While I do enjoy shopping online for things, and finding the item I am after at a good price, I think I get more joy from a planned excursion to a brick-and-mortar store. I like the little rush I get at locating exactly what I was looking for at a price I planned to pay (or, better still, LESS).

Yes, shopping is entertainment.