Resolutions

This time of year talk always turns to the topic of New Year’s Resolutions. I joke every year that my resolution is not to make any resolutions.  I feel that making them is akin to setting myself up to fail. Setting goals may work for some people, but for me, it usually has the opposite effect and I find myself sabotaging my own best efforts.

Instead, I prefer to look at the New Year as a time for fresh beginnings, a chance to put old, bad habits behind me and start working on new ones.

I realize there are flaws with this logic. Whether I call it a resolution or a fresh start, I seem to focus on the same areas every year–eating healthier, getting more fit, getting on top of finances.  And since the same areas are at the top of my list every year, must be my no-resolution approach isn’t working out very well.

This year, I’m going to try a slightly different approach. I’m going to try to focus on some of my creative needs and hope that the other things fall into place by default.  Number one on the list is spending more time outside, walking, hiking, biking. I always feel more relaxed and at peace in nature but I don’t do enough of it.

Nature will fit in with Number 2–maintaining a daily photo blog inspired by Project 365:  http://365project.org/  (Thanks to my good friend Laura for telling me about this.) I’ll be doing in on my new tumbler account: http://www.tumblr.com/blog/karenseye.

Third is spending more time writing, whether it be blogs, fanfiction, fiction, live journal or just doodling.

At least I won’t be making any New Year’s Resolutions.

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Fanfiction

In recent months, I’ve become interested in…okay, obsessed! with the world of fan fiction.

I had no idea this even existed until last year, when an online friend mentioned that she wrote fan fiction for a particular show.  I went to check out her work, and damn! it was good. It was a show I enjoyed watching and she took the relationships of the characters to a whole new level that the show did not. I became an avid follower of her work on http://www.fanfiction.net

And then I started exploring other stories on the site My first thought was, “These people need to get a life!” There are dozens of categories–book series, movies, television shows.  There are crossover categories, where someone can make up a story combining the characters from, say, L. Frank Baum’s “The Wizard of Oz” with those from Star Trek and come up with a whole new world or, in FF terms–alternate universe.

Some fan fiction stories are incredibly bad.  Poorly written, unrealistic plots, just a waste of time to read.  In the FF world,  these are referred to as “crack fic”–as in “that writer must be on crack”.   (On Twitter, follow @SVUCRACKFICS for examples.) Crack fic can also refer to stories that are well written but incredibly far-fetched, but the first description is most typical.

Some stories are not bad, entertaining and fun to read.  Some are excellent–great writing talent, good attention to detail and realistic plots. In the world of fan fiction, it is considered good etiquette to review a story if you read it, in order to acknowledge the author’s efforts.

Through reviewing a piece of fan fiction, I got introduced to another level of fan-dom–Twitter.  There are whole groups of people who tweet about their favorite shows, find each other by the subject of their messages and then hang out to share tidbits about the show, screen caps, pictures and interviews.  Wow. Nothing like watching a show and tweeting with dozens of other people at the same time–like having a film discussion group in your living room.

I’ve discovered that there is a whole new vocabulary to learn if one is to spend any time in the world of fan fiction.  At first, I thought people were speaking another language–what the heck was a shipper? Slash fiction? Why are they talking about arcs and canon?    Wikipedia has a good entry to sum them all  up: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fan_fiction_terms

So why do people read and write fan fiction?  For an avid follower of a series, it can be frustrating when there are no more new installments/episodes to read or watch, so they look to read what others have written.  Sometimes a story doesn’t end the way you think it should, so you write it the way YOU want it to end.  There are groups of people would like to see Seeley Booth and Temperance Brennan hook up on the series “Bones” or Elliot Stabler and Olivia Benson get busy on “Law & Order: SVU”.  These people are known as “shippers” (for relationship)–so someone might identify themselves as an “E/O shipper”.  Even more interesting are the slash shippers, people who would like to see homosexual relationships that don’t exist in current story lines–popular pairings are Olivia Benson with almost any of the female ADA”s who have been featured on Law & Order: SVU. 

For the people who write these stories, it’s a non-threatening way to practice your hand at writing and get some feedback–although reviews of stories tend to be perfunctory and along the lines of “more, more” instead of offering real critiques.  Some people go on to try their hand at original fiction.

A list of fanfiction sites can be found here: http://www.squidoo.com/fanfictionsites

At least it’s a fairly harmless way to waste time!

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Olfactory Memories

I was taking a shower the other morning without my contacts in yet, reached for a bar of soap and wham!  it was like my ex was in the shower with me. WTH? 

I had inadvertently grabbed a bar of Irish Spring soap, which he used to use.   It hasn’t resided in our shower for a long time now, but evidently my son ran out of his Axe shower gel and found an old bar in the cupboard.

This incident made me realize, once again, what an olfactory person I am.  Like Marcel Proust with his famous Madeleine scene in “Remembrance of Things Past” *,  scents often trigger memories for me, usually of specific people in my life.

My high school boyfriend’s mother used Downy fabric softener and a sniff of the original scent brings back memories of meeting at the lions in front of the Historical Society.

My grandmother wore Jean Nate and while that’s not a scent I encounter often anymore, just a whiff puts me back in her loving presence.

The guy I crushed on all throughout college put “Shower to Shower” body powder on after every shower and whenever I smell it now, I have an overwhelming feeling of longing for what might have been. 

My first husband wore a cologne by Avon that used to send me into fits of lust.

My college boyfriend Pete always smelled faintly of the powder he used to treat his athlete’s feet.

My second husband (also the Irish Spring man) wore Lagerfeld cologne when we were dating.  It seemed so exotic and classy and while he stopped wearing it much after we were married,  when he did put it on, it always brought me back to our early days.

All of this got me wondering just WHY smells trigger memories.  According to Discovery Health:  “Because the olfactory bulb is part of the brain’s limbic system, an area so closely associated with memory and feeling it’s sometimes called the “emotional brain,” smell can call up memories and powerful responses almost instantaneously. The olfactory bulb has intimate access to the amygdala, which processes emotion, and the hippocampus, which is responsible for associative learning. Despite the tight wiring, however, smells would not trigger memories if it weren’t for conditioned responses. When you first smell a new scent, you link it to an event, a person, a thing or even a moment. Your brain forges a link between the smell and a memory.”  http://health.howstuffworks.com/human-body/systems/nose-throat/smell3.htm

Whatever the reason, it’s a pretty powerful association.  I wonder if people who lose their sense of smell also lose some of their memories?

At least all of my olfactory associations seem to be pleasant ones!

 

 

* “She sent out for one of those short, plump little cakes called petites madeleines, which look as though they had been moulded in the fluted scallop of a pilgrim’s shell. And soon, mechanically, weary after a dull day with the prospect of a depressing morrow, I raised to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had soaked a morsel of the cake. No sooner had the warm liquid, and the crumbs with it, touched my palate than a shudder ran through my whole body, and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary changes that were taking place… at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory…” – An excerpt from “À la recherche du temps perdu” (”Remembrance of Things Past”, or later: “In Search of Lost Time” – Marcel Proust).

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An Open Letter to Politicians and PACs

AN OPEN LETTER TO POLITICIANS AND PAC’S IN THIS CONTENTIOUS ELECTION

Dear Politicians and Political Action Committees:

I am a registered voter who participates in every election.   I take the time to research candidate positions and make an informed decision before casting my vote. However, there are also other things I take into consideration when deciding who gets my vote:

1) I want to hear what YOU plan to do in office, about YOUR accomplishments and experiences.  When you start trashing your opponent, I stop listening.

2) I don’t respond well to fear tactics.  When you compare the current administration to burglars invading my home, I stop listening.

3)  When the narrator in your ad sounds like an actor in a B grade horror movie, I hit the mute button.

4) This is a mid-term election.  When you start trashing politicians running in other states or not even running at all, I stop listening. Keep it local and relevant.

5) I don’t consider “career politician” to be a necessarily bad thing.  When you dismiss a candidate’s long list of accomplishments because they’ve been in office for more than one term, I stop listening.

6) Every candidate who has ever run for office has promised to reform Albany and/or Washington.  Come up with a new line.  Actions speak louder than empty promises.

7) When you are in interviewed or take part in a debate, answer the questions you are asked. Evading the question because you don’t like it doesn’t fool anyone.

8) Just because you repeat something over and over doesn’t make it true. Give it a rest and get a real position.

9) Your opponent is not the anti-Christ/she-devil/evil witch.  He/she is probably a good person with good intentions, just like you. Treat your fellow candidates with respect and engage in meaningful debates, not mud slinging.

10) I expect elected officials to be role models for tolerance and fairness.  When you denounce an entire group of people for their choices/beliefs/actions, you’ve automatically lost my vote.

Respectfully,

A Frustrated Voter

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My Love Affair with a Device

I bought myself an iPhone a few months ago, just before the new 4G version came out.  I  have a great affection for my new phone.  In fact, I probably have more affection for it than is right to have for an inanimate object.

My whole life is on this phone.  Phone contacts, music, calendar, budget application, e-books, audio books, games, camera.  The camera on this phone takes better quality than the digital camera I usually use.

Before I got the iPhone, a cell phone was something I had for convenience and necessity.  I didn’t have the latest/greatest model, in fact, for the past three years I have been using my upgrades to buy my son new phones, and using his discards.  If it worked and people could get in touch with me when needed, I was happy.  I often forgot to bring it with me, and usually forgot to check it for messages. 

Now, the iPhone goes wherever I go.  I love having web access and being able to check/send email from anywhere.   I have been a long time Scrabble addict, and now I can play scrabble 24/7.

And the apps!   I have been pretty good about not spending a fortune on apps, but I can see how easy it would be.  My 13 yr old took it upon himself to download some free apps for me, including “Bubblewrap”–a simulated piece of bubble wrap that makes the appropriate sound when you touch the bubbles.  It’s a great stress reliever.  He also downloaded the app for the “vivuzela”–the annoying horn that tortured everyone at the World Soccer Cup.   (I use the app to embarrass him at his soccer games.)  I did NOT allow him to download the app that makes farting noises–he has that on his iPod Touch, which is bad enough.

I have found plenty of good things on my own, like the Foursquare app that allows me to check-in wherever I am.   (Don’t you all need to know whenever I go to the Post Office or to MacDonald’s for my daily diet Coke, extra ice?).  I love the Ace Budget app that allows me to enter my budget figures and transactions as I make them.   The IMDB (international movie database) app has been both a blessing and a curse–everytime we watch television and someone asks “Where do I know him/her from? What other movies has he/she been in?”, I am expected to look it up.

And the games—I have never been a big gamer (other than Scrabble and word games) but I do admit a fondness (ok, obsession!) with Angry Birds.   I am determined to master all of those levels and rid the world of those winking green pigs that ate the poor bird’s eggs.  My future daughter-in-law is so obsessed with the game that she asks to use my phone to play it every time she walks in the door.  Hours later, my son has to wrestle it from her hands to give it back to me.

We’ve had a long standing rule at our house that cell phones can not be brought to/answered at the dinner table, no matter how anticipated the message.  If someone’s pocket rings, everyone jumps to yell at the offender.  To me, it is the height of rudeness to be physically present with a group of people and be have a simultaneous text conversation with someone else.

Except that now <I> am the one who wants to bring my cell phone to the table–not to text or phone, but to look things up with the web browser.   It’s amazing how many bizarre questions come up at our dinner table “Where did the expression “tow-headed” come from?”  My daughter once insisted the kelp was commonly used as a garnish in restaurants and wouldn’t believe me when I said she probably meant kale.  😉

I rarely get my cookbooks off the shelf anymore, because I can look up recipes on my iPhone using the web browser.  I can look them up on my way home, stop at the store and get the right ingredients, go home and pull up the recipe and prepare it.  No more endless stacks of printed out recipes for future meals–it’s all one this little black device.

I did have one embarrassing incident with the iPhone.  I showed up to work one day with a big gash across the bridge of my nose.  I debated making up a glamorous story of how I came by it (bar fight, defending one of my children, daring rescue) but the truth was less exciting:  I plug the phone in to recharge at night in the base of my reading lamp next to my bed.  I was playing Scrabble one night in the dark (the iPhone is backlit!) and must have drifted off and rolled over with the Iphone in my hand.  Since it was attached to the base of the heavy metal reading lamp, said reading lamp was pulled off the nightstand and landed–you’ve got it–on the bridge of my nose.  I woke up, groggy and in pain, trying to figure out what the metal object in bed with me was. 

Good or bad, I’m glad I got the iPhone and I won’t be giving it up anytime soon!  At least it’s fairly harmless as addictions go…..oh, wait–is that a new Scrabble move?  Gotta go…..

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Six Weeks Clean

Mt Hope Reservoir

So, six weeks later and I’m still eating clean.  I’m very pleased with myself!  I can’t say that I follow the plan perfectly, but I follow it well enough that most junk food doesn’t appeal to me–and when I do crave something junky, I either don’t have it in the house or am able to resist the temptation.  I know all too well how that downhill slide can begin with just one small bag of peanut M&M’s!

It has been easy to follow this plan with the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables that are available in the summer, but it’s going to be a bigger challenge come fall.  The local grocery stores don’t have the best selections of fruits and vegetables.  Even in the summer, most of them are not local–I try to eat local whenever I can–and are not great quality.  Take, for example, a mango I bought last week.  I wanted to serve it at breakfast yesterday and found that one end was bruised and rotten and the other, unripe and as hard as a rock.  $2, straight in the trash can.

Hiking Trail

The grocery store with the best produce is 30 min from my house and much more expensive, but I’m going to do my best to shop there.  I’d also like to join the local farmers co-op that will deliver to your house if you order comes to at least $35.  Their prices are expensive, but the food is good quality and locally produced.  Can’t ask for better than that!

I’ve also been making weekly visits to the local Amish store, which has locally grown dairy products and meats.  The meat is horrendously expensive however.  I can swing a pound of stew beef or a few burgers, but a roast or whole chicken is out of the question at this point in time.   Ironic that it costs more to eat healthy in this country.

I’m not a zealot about only eating clean.  I make the best choices that are available when I’m eating out but I don’t obsess about it or refuse to eat foods that aren’t on the plan, I just eat less of them.  I’ve had pizza twice in the past week, but limited myself to two pieces each time.

There have been a few disasters.  I made whole wheat couscous for dinner last night.  It was extremely dry and I thought I’d just left it on the burner for a bit too long.  Everyone soldiered up and ate it at dinner, but there was a lot left over.  This morning it occurred to me to take another look at the directions–and realized I’d put only half the liquid required in!  Oops.  I added more this morning and it was much better.   Not quite as tasty as the packaged mixes that come with spices and all kinds of extra ingredients I can’t pronounce, but I could get used to it.

I feel better.   I haven’t experienced the great burst of energy I was hoping for, but I feel good.  I’ve lost weight–still don’t know how much, but my clothes are fitting better.  I’m down a size in underwear and shirts and my pants are much looser.  It’s been fun to go through the clothes I have packed away and see what fits again or will fit again soon if I keep this up.

Checking out the water

The next step is to get more exercise.  I’ve been negligent in that area.  The kids and I and the dog all went for a hike on Labor Day  but other than that, I haven’t been walking and I need to–the weather has cooled off nicely and there is no excuse not be taking advantage of it.   I have been trying to use arm weights when I’m watching television.  Losing weight at 54 is not like losing weight at 25–skin doesn’t snap back like it used to!  I’m noticing a droop over my elbows and my neck–well, the poultry we eat at Thanksgiving comes to mind!

At least I’m still with the plan.

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Thanks to Oz I Have a New Vocabulary!

I  recently began watching the series “Oz” on DVD.  It was an HBO original series that ran for six years, beginning in 1997.   I learned about the show while doing… research…. about actor Chris Meloni, and learned that he was so impressive in Oz that he was offered a starring role as Elliot Stabler in “Law & Order: SVU.”

So I ordered the first two seasons on DVD through the library.  Wow.  I don’t usually watch a lot of television, and when I do, I prefer comedy to drama.  I am usually  a big wuss about blood and violence, but this show has me hooked.

If you’re not familiar with the show, it is about a fictional maximum security prison, Oswald, nicknamed Oz.  Within Oz is a model unit called Emerald or Em, City which is run by assistant warden Tim McManus.  McManus believes that even the most hardened criminals can and should be rehabilitated.  Em City is a mix of criminals, from forgers to serial killers with life sentences.  Em City residents have more freedoms than prisoners in the general population.  They wear their own clothes, do their own laundry, have jobs, attend counseling and GED classes.  They also have a strict set of rules that, if broken, can get them kicked out of Em City.

So, all in all, not a light and fluffy show.  Lots of violence, nudity, bad language.  Not my usual viewing preference at all.  But wow, what performances!  I’m addicted.  Did I mention the nudity?  Full frontal nudity?

Seriously, it’s an amazing show and I can’t believe I never heard of it before.  The acting is superb.  It forces the viewer to think about the whole idea of prisons and incarceration.

And, three seasons in, I’m picking up a whole new vocabulary. I  now know the difference between a shank (sharpened metal object) and a shiv (any sharpened object, ie toothbrush).   “Tits” is not a slang term for female anatomy, but refers to drugs.  Someone who breaks the rules and gets kicked out of Em City is sent back to gen pop, or the general prison population.  A hack is a correction officer.   A prag is….well, something no one wants to be….someone’s prison bitch.

The only downside about the show is that it is something I definitely don’t want to watch with  my 13 yr old around.   But at least it gives me something to do on the weekends when he is away with his father!

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