Thursday, November 30, 2006



I'm in a funk - and not the groovy kind of funk, either. The yucky kind. Happens sometimes. It'll pass. Meantime, I'll try not to "frost the frog." This is a saying I heard from a Buddhist priest (no, not Judas Priest - BUDDHIST priest). Actually, she's a priestess, but I couldn't resist the play on words. (How bad is my funk, really, if I can continue joking?) Anyway, this Buddhist priestess was giving a talk about what to do when life comes flying at you full force and you don't know what to do. (Picture a hundred knives, point first, coming right at you.) The Buddhist would let it fly. Do none of it. But, if you feel you MUST do SOMETHING, pick only one thing. (Buddhists are cool like that - no absolutes.) The one thing you really shouldn't do in this sort of situation is to frost the frog. This means don't add to the problems heading your way. Christians, if slapped, are taught to turn the other cheek - which pretty much means getting slapped again. Buddhists don't go for the extra punishment. The first slap is enough. This asking for more punishment is frosting the frog, which most human beings are incredibly good at. I think my funk is a result of my frosting a frog. Time to stop.

Writing forces me to put the frosting away. The frog's not gonna taste any better with it anyway.

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006


Totally Killer Post

Last night, I checked out The Killers' Hot Fuss CD from the library. I've heard a few Killers songs on the radio, seen the video for Mr. Brightside, saw the band on Saturday Night Live (SNL), but had not ever listened to the whole album until today. (Yes, that's me, a day late and a dollar short on popular music.) My favorite song thus far is "All These Things That I've Done." The Killers have a dark happiness to their music. It almost reminds me of some other band's music, but not quite, so the comparison dissolves like a sugar pill on my tongue. Hot Fuss is worth the fuss, along with being a great juxtaposition of words for a title.

When I caught The Killers on SNL, I didn't recognize Brandon Flowers, the lead singer, right away. He had a beard and moustache and casual outfit on, none of which matched the image he adopted for the Mr. Brightside video. His stiff carriage and voice gave him away, but I had to do a double-take to make sure.

That's the extent of my knowledge of The Killers. Not much, I know, but I don't need to know much to enjoy the music.

If you're looking for new music found with a sense of randomness, I'd suggest checking out the CD selection at your nearest library. You, too, might find something Totally Killer.

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Monday, November 27, 2006


Manifesto of Fame

As promised, my Manifesto of Fame:

(Because fame is overrated)

  1. Humans love a pecking order. Someone’s got to be at the top. Why not you?
  1. Some people don’t want to be famous. They’re perfectly happy to run the puppet show from behind the scenes.
  1. There are many levels of fame. Your level of fame is directly proportional to the number of people who talk about you behind your back.
  1. There’s fame and there’s infamy. Would you rather be beloved or reviled? Your choice.
  1. Fame is nothing. Anyone can become famous. Becoming a legend or a myth, now that’s where it’s at. If you’re striving for legend status, or the even more lofty mythdom, be prepared to do something spectacular, like walking on water, but not the frozen kind. That’s not spectacular. That’s just ice fishing.
  1. Famous people are not exempt from their humanity. They still shit behind their shoes, unless their feet have been amputated.
  1. The famous can (and do) go from being beloved to being reviled as a result of their humanity.
  1. If you achieve fame, you will be scrutinized, so don’t whine when people use you as a lightning rod.
  1. Fame is a social phenomenon gained when others grant it to you. Don’t disrespect those who gave you your fame.
  1. Being famous doesn’t mean abdicating your soul to your fans. Set boundaries.
  1. If you allow your fame to increase your hat size, you’ll never find a hat that fits.
  1. Don’t come to expect the perks of fame. Too much ass kissing will only lead to a chapped backside.
  1. It’s not all about you, no matter how famous you get.
  1. Use your fame to do some good in the world, but remain humble while on the bully pulpit.
  1. Enjoy it while you’ve got it. Humans love a pecking order, with the operative word being “pecking.”

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African Microfinancing

Just got this report in from The Gallup Poll concerning microfinancing in Africa. Interesting how Africans see that government regulations make it difficult to start a business. Sounds like the United States to me.

November 28, 2006 Addendum: For those of you new to Filter & Splice, I've posted before on Africa, so this really isn't some extraneous post that has no context. To find previous posts on Africa, click the Africa label at the bottom of this post. :)

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Sunday, November 26, 2006


Manifesto of Creativity

Hugh Macleod (MacLeod?) at gapingvoid has put a call out for mini manifestos (mini-festos), 500 words or fewer expounding on the topic of your choosing (although, he'd like them to change the world, please). I came to gapingvoid through Seth Godin's Unforgivable post.

I had this rather skewed view of manifestos, thinking they were primarily written by disgruntled people, like the Uni-bomber. The dictionary definition is this: "a written statement declaring publicly the intentions, motives, or views of its issuer." That doesn't sound so bad and I like a challenge, so I decided to write a Manifesto of Creativity. I followed it up with a Manifesto of Fame, which I will post tomorrow. Both of my manifestos ended up being 311 words. Strange.

Incidentally, Hugh posted a manifesto on creativity on gapingvoid, which I did not see until after mine was written. Quite a bit of overlap.

Here goes, my Manifesto of Creativity:

  1. By virtue of being human, you are innately creative.
  1. Creativity is not solely the domain of the fine arts. Any activity, be it truck driving, child care, assembly line work, or floor sweeping, can be imbued with creativity, depending upon your approach to it.
  1. Practice creativity often and with regularity. The process gets easier.
  1. Fuel your creativity by studying subjects that have nothing to do with your normal creative practice.
  1. Creativity tests your mettle at some point in the process, whether at the beginning, middle or end. Sweating through the hard part is how you earn your creative chops.
  1. Fear is an integral part of creativity. Use it, work through it, but don’t allow it to sideline your creativity.
  1. When you think the muse has abandoned you, moodle. Moodling is a term coined by writer Brenda Ueland. It means to wander about aimlessly with no thought expended on your creative project. Your muse doesn’t like to be overworked. If you force her, she’ll run away as fast as she can. Give her regular coffee breaks and time to recharge.
  1. Don’t confuse originality with creativity. There are very few truly original ideas. Most creativity comes from filtering outside influences and splicing them together in new ways.
  1. If you think your creative work is perfection incarnate, it probably isn’t. If you think it is pure schlock, it’s probably pretty good. Put your work away for a while – a long while. When you rediscover it and say, “When did elves sneak in and deposit this jewel?” you can bask in the glow of your success.
  1. It’s guaranteed. Someone will reject your creative output. Grow rhino hide and keep at it. Your brilliance will eventually be recognized, even if you have to die first. If you want acceptance before that happens, learn to market yourself.

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Saturday, November 25, 2006


Magical Thinking

Biologist Richard Dawkins is getting a lot of press lately, primarily for his views on atheism. I was listening to an interview with him on MPR not long ago and he indicated that he feels that any child brought up solely in one religion is undergoing child abuse. I agree with this sentiment to a certain extent. I realize that people who are raising their children in one faith, and one faith only, are primarily doing so for what they feel are the most noble of reasons, however, unless these children are cloistered, they are going to rub shoulders with people of different faiths. If for no other reason than to avoid social insensitivity, children should learn a little something about other religions. On a more fundamental level, what if a kid doesn't fit with the faith of his/her parents? I was raised Catholic, which never matched my mindset. When I found Unitarian Universalism, I felt that I had come home spiritually.

Now that I've found a point of agreement with Richard Dawkins, let me spin into a point of disagreement with him and other atheists. Those who believe there is no god cannot seem to tolerate people who engage in magical thinking. It's all hard-edged, cold, complex, beautiful reality for them. The vast majority of us slip into magical thinking now and again, believing our prayers work; believing in ghosts, fairies, Big Foot & the Loch Ness monster; attributing unexplained phenomena to some mystical, mysterious force; believing that that force is God.

I'm rereading Neil Gaiman's American Gods, a book so full of magical thinking that I wouldn't be surprised if it turned into a raven and flapped away into the night. The beauty of magical thinking, which is as gorgeous and complex as our physical reality, is its ability to let us imagine the unimaginable. If we did not think that gods could fly, could we have ever figured out how to make humans do so? As an evolutionist might argue, we kept the ability for magical thinking over time because it is evolutionarily advantageous for our species. Let's not reject it out of hand because we think we know better now that we've evolved past the point of needing gods.

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Friday, November 24, 2006


Techie Share-fest

Now that I'm bloated from Chicken-Ham-Stuffing-Cheesecake Day, followed by another day of non-stop eating (mmm, pumpkin pie!), I'm feeling mighty lazy about blogging. I do have something to be eternally thankful for - my family of brilliant conversationalists. We keep up a running conversation that bounces from religion to politics to creative ventures to education to economics to the workings of the mind and back again. Rarely is there a lull in our discussion - maybe just long enough to grab more food.

We did venture into new topic territory this time around. We exchanged our experiences with technology. I showed a few family members my blog. One asked whether everyone on the internet could access it - Yes! - and then pondered how detrimental a blog could be for employment purposes, thinking that a blogger could reveal too much personal information. That is definitely a danger, but I consider myself a writer and I have to watch pretty much everything I say that I intend for public consumption. I treat my blog this way, too. It goes with the territory.

One family member is revamping a website and we exchanged ideas about that. There was also discussion about hooking up the internet to a big screen, something I blogged about here. In general, we had a techie share-fest, passing along information that each of us has learned, but that the others hadn't yet heard about. A few of us even took a fieldtrip to Radio Shack and had a good look around. I found a nifty password protection device, plus we oohed and aahed over all the other gadgets we found. It's enough to make a head spin, which is why none of us knows everything we need to know about technology and why the share-fest was so important.

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Thursday, November 23, 2006


Turkey Day

Happy Turkey Day to those of you who eat turkey. I for one will be enjoying ham, chicken, my husband's killer stuffing, and cheese cake a little later today at my in-laws' house. The family does this get-together every year and we all bring a little something, so that one person doesn't have to do everything. Normally, we supply the turkey along with the stuffing (really - the stuffing is to die for), but this year we're forgoing the big bird. I love ham and chicken, but what would make this a heavenly meal is the addition of Swedish meatballs & lefse with lots of butter along with the stuffing and cheese cake. A little fruit soup, some whipped smooth buttery squash, and apple pie with a giant mound of whipped cream would top it all off. Hey, if we can have two meats during the Thanksgiving meal, surely we can get away with two desserts. Man, I'm getting hungry.

Happy (insert whatever you love to eat) Day! Enjoy!

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006



I wrote the following as a beginning to an essay, but liked it so well that I sliced it off the essay intending to use it for a poem. I think it stands quite well on its own.

Thicker than water
Stronger than spider webs
It courses through the vessel of time
Indelibly marking those who fall upon its line.

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Finishing a Project

Monday, I blogged. Then I spent the rest of the day working on a short story that I started waaaaay back in April. It turned into a 10,000 word behemoth of a short story. I like to have a basic idea of where my stories are going and a solid understanding of the characters I write, but I always leave wiggle room for the unexpected. This story delivered the unexpected in the shape of a plot hole that I had to work around - well, not a plot hole, exactly - more of a problem the character encountered that sidelined both her and me. If you decide to follow the rules of real life in a story, as I was with this story, you have to find a real life solution. I had my thinking cap on for days, but didn't come up with the final solution until I sat down in front of the computer and literally saw it at my desk.

Now that this story, which is part of a larger work, is done, I'm shopping it around to my writer friends for feedback. This is the delicate blue eggshell part of the process. Are they gonna like it? Are they gonna hate it? Or, the most likely scenario, will they be okay with it, but suggest that it still needs work? We'll see . . . .

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Monday, November 20, 2006


FtTP - TV + The Internet

I'm still making my way through the latest Wired Magazine and read an article on YouTube last night, plus one on the creation of lonelygirl15.

As the internet grows more and more social, I'm thinking that maybe these little personal screens we sit in front of are not big enough. Here's what happens in my house: "Mom, come here. Look at this video on YouTube." ... "Mom, come see these cute iPod covers online." ... "Mom, check out this game I'm playing. I've wracked up X number of gold pieces. Now I can buy that cloaking device I want." ... "Honey, check out what I wrote for StoryChat. Here's where the thread starts." I've seen as many as five kids huddled around the fifteen-inch screen I'm currently sitting at.

Juxtapose this with the current trend in personal home theaters wherein the homeowner has a screen large enough to be viewed across a football field. And the techie pundits claim television is dying? I think it's on the verge of a rebirth, but its genetics will come from the internet, pulling directly from success stories such as YouTube and lonelygirl15.

My internet provider and cable company are one in the same. How big a leap would it be to broadcast the internet on TV? My brother used to have WebTV, so it's been done before. Why not have a switching device on the TV that allows it to broadcast either cable or the internet? Why not create easy-to-hold controlling devices - cheap enough for everyone in the family to have - so that watching the internet & selecting a variety of sites can become an even bigger social phenomenon? Imagine the group collaborations, or perhaps the shopping parties, people can have if we wed the internet to a bigger screen.

Someone somewhere is surely already working on this . . . .

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Sunday, November 19, 2006


Bruce Sterling

Got my new issue of Wired Magazine yesterday. As usual, I'm going from cover-to-cover. I skip some stuff, but not much. Bruce Sterling, who has been a regular writer of the Posts column, wrote his final column for the magazine. He'll still be blogging for Wired, though.

He talks about predicting the future of technology and how difficult this is - how we tend to predict the extremes (either it'll be the downfall of mankind, or the greatest thing since sliced bread) and how it's the middle road that wins out. In the course of his discussion he says:

"I know this is true because I've lived it. I'm a pre-Internet novelist who became moderately famous online, only to have my paperback writing slow down as I began to spend uncontrollable amounts of time surfing and blogging. This experience is both grand and problematic. It reflects not two extremes but the slider-bar that is my everyday life."

A couple of thoughts on this. Yes, online writing is different than offline writing (i.e. novels, short stories, etc.), but not that much different. Writing is writing is writing. I prefer shorter stuff online, as do most people, only because it's difficult on the eyes to concentrate unwaveringly on a glowing screen. If a story is not short online, I tend to scan more, which compounds the problem. Books and magazines, which I hope will never go away, are easier to look at, plus there's the physicality of the paper that I love (which I'm sure I've mentioned before).

The other thing I realized while reading Sterling's thoughts is that I get tons of ideas for stories from Wired. In this magazine alone there's an article on seeding clouds for snow, one on different scales of measure, one on nanny cams, one on geoengineering the atmosphere in order to quickly combat global warming, and one that presents a different view of what emotions are. Any one of these ideas could easily work its way into a story, either as a critical role, or as a minor player. (And I haven't even gotten to the meat of the magazine, yet.) If Sterling wants to return to novel writing, he need look no further than Wired.

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American Gods

I'm rereading American Gods by Neil Gaiman. It's even better the second time around, and it was darned good the first. Some time after the first reading, my husband and I were in conversation and I said, "Do you remember that movie with the guy hanging from the tree?" He looked at me like I had two heads. That's when I realized I was talking about American Gods and that the writing had been so well done that I had envisioned it as a movie as I read it.

The second time through, I'm catching subtle things I didn't at first. I'm more keenly aware of the language. Gaiman's good with the metaphors and other literary devices. His tales are mythic, but with that sense that myth is a part of everyday life. I like that. I wonder if he believes in the supernatural. If he doesn't, he's doing a good job of faking it.

Back to this idea of American Gods as a movie: It'd be interesting if the Coen brothers would direct & produce it because they have a great sense of the quirky. I've been mentally trying to cast the piece, but the only character I can place an actor with is Mr. Nancy. I'd like to see him played by the guy who used to do the 7up commercials - the guy with the island accent, and the shiny white teeth that stood out against his dark skin and matched his white, white suit.

I can't figure out who should play Shadow, the main character. The best I can come up with is that he should be played by an unknown, because anyone else would be too recognizable to be a shadow.

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Saturday, November 18, 2006


Asylum for the Brutalized

I've found several articles recently on the brutalization of women by men.

Here's one on Afghan women who commit suicide by pouring kerosene on themselves and lighting it on fire because they are stuck in horrendous arranged marriages.

Here's one on the hanging of an Iranian teenager after the "moral police" decided she was an adulterer. She wasn't married.

And this one is by far the most graphic of articles. It's about Congolese women with fistulas. Fistulas are major injuries to a woman's sex organs that cause her to leak matter out of her intestines and bladder. Mere rape will not cause this. These are carefully inflicted violent injuries that are calculated to allow the woman to survive, but to be a pariah wherever she goes.

I cannot describe to you how sick these atrocities make me feel. I would love to get beyond men vs. women issues in society, but we will never come to that place as long as men can do these sorts of things to women and not pay for it in some way. And I mean seriously pay.

So, here's my idea. For every country that allows its men to brutalize women without consequence, asylum should be offered to the women. They will be removed from the country and the men can stay behind and slaughter each other. For good measure, the children will be removed as well. No sense leaving them behind to grow up to learn to brutalize. Think about it. No women or children in Congo, or Afghanastan, or Iran. How long would the men last without someone to pick on? Once they've finished killing each other, we can offer them a Darwin Award.

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Friday, November 17, 2006


Open to Misinterpretation

This is old news, I know, but it bears repeating because apparently I've been misinterpreted. A study done by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, as reported in Wired News, shows that about half of the time we misinterpret the meaning of email because we have no social cues to show us the emotional tone of the content. In other words, if you're joking about something, people will assume you are serious half the time. The study also showed that we assume ninety percent of the time that we are correct in our interpretation.

I found a great blog post on this at The Mad Dog Weekly.

Recently, I sent an email to another blogger - someone I don't know, but who blogs about writing and has some interesting posts. I wished her a happy NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and she responded by asking more about me. I gave her a brief description and ended by telling her not to let me distract her from novel writing. I said that if she wanted to respond, she could set a word count and when she reached it, she could respond - using the response as a carrot, if you will. She has not responded. All I can think is that she misinterpreted my ending as pomposity or arrogance, which was not my intent. I've tried NaNoWriMo and I'll use any excuse not to write. If someone new emailed me, I'd be all over myself wanting to respond and ignoring the novel. Unless, of course, I set myself a word count to reach and then used the promised time to respond as the carrot. My tone was meant to be light-hearted, a jest more about myself than about the recipient.

What I don't understand about emails that bother us in some way is why we don't write back and ask the intent of the email, rather than stew about it. I am as guilty of stewing as anyone, so I'm going to have to figure out how to circumvent this natural reaction.

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Thursday, November 16, 2006


Criminalizing Poverty

I received the renewal application for MinnesotaCare yesterday. The program works pretty well, except for a couple of things. One is the tone of the application. There are constant reminders that if you screw up the application and don't report every single cent and asset, you will be charged with fraud. (A $250,000 fine!) If you don't send in each and every proof for those assets, plus proof of citizenship, you will be dropped from the program. It says so under each item you have to report.

The second issue is the time requirement for notifying MinnesotaCare of changes. The application arrived yesterday and is due December 1. What's that, a couple weeks? To pull together birth certificates, bank statements, insurance statements, pay stubs, proof of insurance from employers, plus other miscellaneous proofs. If there is any kind of change within the year you are receiving MinnesotaCare, you are required to report that change within 10 days. TEN DAYS. Plus, you better remember what things MinnesotaCare requires you to report on within 10 days. (They don't give you any reminders with the monthly bill.) Don't know if that's 10 calendar days or 10 business days, but it seems to be 10 calendar days, in which case you can kiss a couple of weekend days goodbye, and any holidays that happen to fall within the time period. There is no way you're going to get ahold of a worker on weekends and holidays. Many people on MinnesotaCare fall into the category of working poor. If you work when the MinnesotaCare office is open, you'll have a devil of a time finding time within your day to call as well. The upshot is that you can easily play phone tag with a worker and not ever speak to someone within those 10 days.

What the tone and the unrealistic deadlines do is set up the feeling that the poor are criminals trying to take advantage of the system. In fact, it's almost as though the unrealistic deadline is an attempt to prove that the poor are criminals by setting them up to fail.

When the state comes up with these forms & rules, do they ever talk to poor people to find out what works for them? Or is that too much to ask? (I know, I know. We poor people are asking for a handout, so we should just shut up and take what we get.)

I'm not sure I have any suggestion to alleviate the tone of the forms, but I do have a simple solution for the deadline. Instead of making it 10 days, how about making it a billing cycle of 30 days? Would you expect business people to pay a bill in less tha 30 days? Why do we demand more of the poor? To remind people of the changes they need to report, MinnesotaCare can print a simple statement on their monthly bills listing the types of things people need to report. (Everything but this is now printed on the bills.)

I feel a letter to my legislators coming on.

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Post 100

I can't believe it. I've been blogging since September and I've just reached my 100th post. This calls for a celebration. How about one more post for the day? Happy 100!

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FtTP - Canadian Healthcare + U.S. Healthcare

This post, too, is in honor of my brother. During our hour-long phone conversation tonight, we got to talking about healthcare systems. He suggested this Frankensteining the Talent Pool idea: For perfection in healthcare, combine the best of the Canadian & U.S. systems. Use the universal system of Canada so that everyone is guaranteed care, but use the speed of the U.S. system so that people wouldn't have to wait too long for care. I'm sure all it'll take is the wave a magic wand . . . .

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Wonky Bloggy

I don't know if you noticed, but my blog is a bit different as of yesterday. Blogger is adding new features and having everyone switch over to Blogger Beta. One of the new things I love about the program is the ability to add tags to my posts. Blogger calls them labels and they are at the bottom of each post, just above my signature line.

I talked to my brother - actually called to wish him a belated happy birthday - and asked him what he liked about the blog & what he didn't. He likes the Frankensteining the Talent Pool posts. He also likes that most of my posts are relatively short. He doesn't like my constant mention of a particular marketer, who shall remain nameless for this post in honor of my brother.

One wonky thing happened to my blog in the switch over. In my profile, I'm now 250 years old and it lists me as having been born in the year of the Rat. Not so, I'm a sheep. Am I 250 years old? Well, you'll just have to figure that out yourself.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006


Blog Description

I've done it again. Changed the tagline under the blog name. Blogger officially calls this the "Blog Description." I can't seem to pin down a good name. The tagline was "My Take on Things" until about thirty seconds ago. I've changed it to "Cultural Commentary of the (Blank) Kind," and I need your help, astute readers. What adjective should I stick in the (Blank) spot?



Semi-witty? (Nah, too grandiose.)

Grandiose? (Most people who know me wouldn't say I'm grandiose - at least not to my face.)

Suggestions anyone?

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Gwen-y Again-y

So, a couple days ago, I blogged about clothing and the famous and how some famous people never wear the same outfit twice. Gwen Stefani is one such person. I caught her new video for the song "Wind It Up" yesterday morning. I love watching her videos precisely because she wears some unusual outfits, many of which she designs herself. One problem though. Practically every video I've seen her in flicks through scenes like a strobe light. Everything moves so fast that I can't get a good look at the clothes. I mean, really, what's the point of having stunning outfits if no one can see them?

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Indoor Marching Band Concert

Nothing beats live music well played. We attended our daughter's indoor marching band concert last night. It was high-energy, beautifully executed, and fabulous. Three groups of band kids, the seniors, the flag girls, and the drummers, created videos about their band experiences - mostly in order to pick on the band teacher, who took it all with good humor. These high schoolers went to a lot of effort to put together the videos. The drummers even got the cooperation of the local police and the sheriff's department for their video. Unfortunately, they didn't catch the typo in their video - "drumers" instead of "drummers." They more than made up for the missing "m" with their playing. The precision thumping they displayed, along with the zany antics, makes me want to take up the drums.

Here's the crazy thing about the music played. Much of it was the sort of stuff we got criticized for listening to when we were high schoolers and younger. The line up included Dirty Laundry, Spirit in the Sky, Any Way You Want It, You Shook Me All Night Long, and Alice Cooper's School's Out. Alice Cooper? Shock rocker Alice Cooper? No way the band would ever have played that song twenty-plus years ago. Thing is, if a marching band HAD played it twenty-plus years ago without saying it was by Alice Cooper, it would have passed as a much-lauded orchestral piece, the kind of stuff our parents would have liked.

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Monday, November 13, 2006


Clothing & Famous People

When it comes to clothing, have you ever noticed that famous people fall into two camps? There's the camp of famous people who wear a uniform - the same sort of thing every day so much so that they get known for a particular look. Neil Gaiman with his all-black is in this camp, as was Steve Irwin, the Croc Hunter. The other camp is composed of famous people who NEVER wear the same thing twice. Oprah, Gwen Stefani, Madonna wouldn't be caught dead in the same outfit two days in a row or in the same week. They have closets so big they could clothe every person in Rhode Island for a month.

I'm not famous which is probably why I fall into neither camp. I have only so many clothes, none of which classifies as a uniform, and, by God, they're getting worn again and again, week to week, until they're so threadbare that I have to use them as rags or throw them away. Some (most!) of my dresses have been hanging in my closet for over a decade. Fashionista, I'm not. Clint & Stacy (Staci?) of What Not to Wear would have a field day with me. Tough cookies.

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Putting Stuff Away

Have you ever labored and labored over a project, finished that project, didn't know what to do with it, and finally put it away? Happens to me all the time. I'm forever making stuff, or writing stuff, and putting it away. I'm fairly well organized, so I know where most of my stuff is, but, for some reason, it can be ages and ages before I see an art piece or an essay or a short story I've created.

I was sorting through my fabric bucket (big raspberry pink Sterilite container with a lid) looking for fabric to make a draft-blocker for the backdoor and ran across a bunch of embroidered wall hangings I made some time ago. As I pulled each piece from the bucket, my daughter expressed an interest in having them all. Hands off, girlie! They're mine, and, dang!, they're much better looking than I thought they were when I finished them. Not bad at all. They make me feel disembodied. It's as though elves made them and put them into my bucket and I get to claim them as my own. The quality surprises me, it does.

Does this ever happen to you?

I'm going to hang up a couple so I can enjoy what the elves have wrought.

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Sunday, November 12, 2006


Zipper, Dryer & Quilt Squares

This is how I spent my day: I woke with a rubber band headache, which vacated my brain of any thought. So, what do I do? I accept the challenge to fix a zipper on a winter coat. The only thing wrong with the zipper was the pull. It was missing, the weak link. But, it wasn't just the pull; it was the loop of metal that held the pull in place. Soldering on a loop didn't work. The solder wouldn't stick properly. The epoxy I wanted to try was for plastic, not metal, and it was dried out. No good. Finally, I dug through my beading supplies and found some tigertail wire, which I looped through the hole in the zipper slider. The tigertail is thin enough to allow the slider to slide freely. I threaded a couple of beads onto the tigertail and used another piece of wire to hold the tigertail and beads in place. Voila! New zipper pull.

Onto the next job with my vacant brain. I decided to try to rid the clothes dryer of the rattle it's developed. I removed the front of the dryer, which is affixed with twelve screws in three varieties. The rattle was coming from one of the flanges inside the dryer drum. We've had trouble with a bolt coming loose on one of the flanges before, so I figured this was the cause. No such thing. All the flange bolts were tight. I put the dryer back together. It still rattles.

Somewhere in the middle of the afternoon, my brain became occupied with thoughts again and I moved on to the quilt squares. I've been making a quilt for my oldest son for two or three years. There are 45 squares in all, plus there'll be setting strips for the top. I had 9 squares left to piece and finished these today. I'm not a geometric kind of gal when it comes to my artistic endeavors, and all these quilt squares are geometric in nature, so I've been lax in getting this project done. (Obviously.) I'm also a perfectionist and lining up all the corners on these squares has been a bear. It's nowhere near perfect and that bugs me. Just like the zipper pull. (Why did a heavy-duty zipper break in the first place?) Just like the rattle in the dryer. (Why does it insist upon rattling?)

Is it too much to ask to have little things work properly? At least the rubber band is gone and my brain is back to normal.

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Saturday, November 11, 2006


Squidoo & Dave Matthews Band

He talked me into it, that Seth Godin. He recently posted about Squidoo and how the site had reached 50,000 lenses. Sounds like gibberish, I know, but I'll try to explain. Squidoo is a site on which "lensmasters" can build "lenses" around their favorite topics. You know how Google brings back a gazillion results, many of which have poor content or aren't quite what you're looking for? Squidoo is a response to that. In essence, anyone who signs up for Squidoo can be a lensmaster and build a webpage around any sort of topic they know something about. The closest I can come to describing this is that Squidoo pages, or lenses, are like annotated bibliographies - or webliographies, if you prefer. Because someone has taken the time to sift through all the dross, Squidoo's lenses are supposed to make finding relevant information easier.

After seeing Seth's post, in which he urged people to go to the site and build a lens, I surfed on over and looked around. Out of curiosity, I searched for lenses on a few topics - Duran Duran, tea, Neil Gaiman, writers - all had lenses (more than one). Then, I tried searching for Dave Matthews Band. There was no lens! For shame! How could this band have missed out? I decided to fix that, even though I'm no real expert on the band, and I built a Dave Matthews Band lens today. It's a lot longer than I expected and I'm not quite done with it, but at least the band is represented on Squidoo.

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Friday, November 10, 2006


Kids These Days

I'm going to sound like a grousey old person for a moment.

My youngest son came to me the other day - bored. Ho hum. He wants something interesting to do. He's tired of being entertained with the computer, the TV, the video game consoles. This is a kid who's fascinated with all sorts of stuff - Japanese culture, Norse myths, Green Day, just to name a few, so it's rather odd to hear that he's bored. I told him he needs a hobby and started running through the things I used to do as a kid, back in the "good old days," when we didn't have so much electronic distraction. My electronic distractions were record & cassette players, radio & TV. I was a teenager when MTV came on the air. I listened to Duran Duran (Duran-squared for die-hard fans) and Ultravox incessently.

Even with this incessant listening, I had time to draw, read, learn embroidery (not very well--ripping up the instruction book didn't help), teach myself how to make a marionette, read, crochet, plot astrology charts, read, take part in afterschool theater, go bike riding, hang with friends, make and collect bookmarks, and read. I messed with making "old" paper using tea bags and coffee grounds in the upstairs shower. I even burned the edges to give the paper a more distressed look. Then I used a sheet to write a poem in my fanciest handwriting. (I still have blank sheets of this paper, plus the one with the poem, which is called "The Tree Stands Alone.")

It dawned on me as I was relaying the story about making paper to my son that maybe he doesn't have enough hands-on, physical hobbies. There's something very satisfying about interacting with items in a physical way. How many kids these days, through their constant interaction with electronica, are missing this? How many will figure out that this is a fabulous solution for that doppy-headed feeling electronica induces? It's about balance.

I imagine that adults used to say that "kids these days" phrase about me and my cohorts when we were kids, so I'm sure kids these days will figure things out in their own time. But, we adults needn't be lax, either. We should be doing our part to introduce our children to a variety of activities - whatever it is we think they might be missing. I, for one, will be showing my son that old paper. I've also discovered an old calligraphy pen and some ink that he might like to experiment with. Maybe he can make that leather-bound book he so desires to have and overcome that boredom.

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006



My husband stopped by a place today to pick up an application for a very part-time baker position. Upon asking the store owner for an app, he was told that she'd received too many applications already and didn't give him one. My husband picked up a funny vibe from her, like she was rejecting him for more than just "too many applications," so he suggested I stop in and ask for an app just to see what response I got.

I felt like an undercover reporter, only I didn't have a hidden camera.

I asked for an app and was told the same thing my hubby was told at first, but then the owner launched into an explanation of why she was looking for a baker and the type of baked goods she wanted. She then invited me to bring some samples in to try. I said I'd consider it and thanked her for her time.


I wish we had both gone in with hidden cameras.

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Election Day

I voted - or so the small, circular, red sticker says that I got at the polls. (Yes, I really did vote.) Did my civic duty.

According to the CBS Evening News, Minnesotans lead the pack in number of people who go to the polls. We're so good at voting that they called the state "The Voting Capital of America." Seventy-seven percent of eligible voters in the state turned out at the 2004 elections. Just one of the many good things about Minnesota.

Now, if only the news anchors would quit trying to call races before the polls close, or before even 3% of the votes are tallied . . . . Can't we let the vote-counters work all night and tell us in the morning?

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Monday, November 06, 2006


Hanging a Fixture

I just finished hanging a light fixture, with the help of my husband. It was supposed to be a surprise for my husband. I was going to try to have it done by the time he got home from deer hunting. It didn't work out that way. I went through all the instructions and had a good handle on the project from the beginning, but couldn't get started because I didn't have a stud finder. I needed the stud finder because the fixture is a track light and I wanted the track secured into studs, not drywall. I tried borrowing a stud finder, but the lender couldn't find his. One stinkin' little tool was all that was holding up this project. I believe that Seth Godin would refer to this as "yak shaving." Suffice it to say, I bought a stud finder this morning, my husband returned earlier than expected, and there was no surprise - except that the job went a whole lot easier with his help. Is there a moral to this story? Not really. It just helps to have the right tool for the job - be that a husband or a stud finder.

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Sunday, November 05, 2006


Gas Company Screw Job

Our natural gas company offers its customers a payment plan called the Budget Plan, in which the customer pays the same fee every month, rather than pay large gas bills in the winter and small ones in the summer. This is most helpful to customers who are less well off and can't necessarily afford winter bills that run hundreds of dollars. Our Budget Plan bill is currently $87 per month. The Budget Plan worked fine for us each of the 15 years we'd been on it. Every August, we'd have a complete break from paying a gas bill because our Budget Plan was enough to pay for the other eleven months. The same would've happened this year, except that the gas company changed its payment policies. Come this past August,one of those policy changes became very apparent. Now, even though we still had a credit, we had to pay the monthly amount in August. No break from the gas bill. I called to complain, but my protest fell on deaf ears.

Think about this. If, every year in August for the past 15 years we've had a credit, then it stands to reason that we'll have a credit next August, as well. And the August after that, and the August after that. Exactly what is the gas company doing with all that extra money they're collecting? It's a sure bet they're putting it to work by investing it. Making money off our money.

But, it gets even better. The last couple of years, the gas company has sent us an offer for a new type of payment plan called the No Surprise Bill. Verbatim, here's the offer:

"If you enroll, you agree to pay your No Surprise Bill amount each month for 12 months starting this December. This amount would cover all of your gas charges. Even when natural gas prices change and weather conditions cause your gas use to change, your No Surprise Bill amount WILL NOT change. At the end of the program year, gas price and usage related balances WILL NOT be carried forward so you could pay more or less under the No Surprise Bill than you would with other billing options, including the Budget Plan, which use fluctuating natural gas prices and actual gas use."

Here's the kicker: Our No Surprise Bill amount is set at $113.45. Hmmm. Let me see . . . I'm supposed to voluntarily pay the gas company even more money than I already do so they can invest it and make their stockholders happy? I don't think so.

Do you think most of the stockholders are using these payment plans? Oh, wait, silly me! Of course not! It''s easier to screw the poor little guy.

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Saturday, November 04, 2006


Cynical Me

Even before the program airs this coming week, everyone's all abuzz about Oprah's latest philanthropic gesture. She gave everyone in this show's audience $1,000 with a caveat. They couldn't spend it on themselves, but had to give it away to charity or to someone who needed it.

Turns out there was a Minnesota woman in the audience that day. Her story appeared on our local news. She decided to give her money to a woman on welfare, a laudable and noble gesture.

I've been on government programs (Medical Assistance, Minnesota Care, & Fuel Assistance) and I can tell you that they are structured so that people are not allowed to accumulate any money that might get them out of the situation they are in - that might just get them off of welfare and out of poverty. Every penny, every increase in wages, every gift, must be reported to Social Services. If an influx of cash reaches a particular threshold, an amount is deducted out of the welfare benefits. In other words, the welfare benefits go down.

Once the state gets word that this welfare mom was given $1,000 through Oprah's generosity, how much will they penalize the welfare mom? Cynical me. Even gift-giving in this country comes at a price.

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Inflating the Cost of Health Care

I got a statement from my health insurance company for a chiropractic visit. This was one of those "Explanation of Benefits" reports that shows how much the provider charges, how much the provider lops off the price for the insurance company, how much the copay is, and, finally, how much the insurance company pays. I was astounded at how much the chiropractor charged - $126. Let's bold that - $126!!!! For the barest of adjustments. The chiropractor lopped off $46.77. I paid $25 as a copay. The insurance company paid $54.23.

Let's think about that $126 for a moment. The chiropractor needs to make enough money to make the business pay. If the insurance company decides it's only going to reimburse a certain amount and no more, but that amount won't cover what the chiropractor needs to charge, what do you think the natural reaction of the chiropractor is going to be? To raise the overall cost, of course.

Now, what happens when an uninsured person comes into the office? They get charged that exhorbitant $126 fee. The chiropractor can't not charge that fee, because the insurance company is supposed to be getting a deal.

In essence, the insurance companies, along with government medical programs, inflate the true cost of health care because they refuse to pay the full cost of what the chiropractor charges. You might argue that if insurance companies and government programs don't cap what they are willing to pay, health care providers will rake them over the coals. As it sits now, the ones getting raked over the coals are the uninsured - along with the rest of society that has to pay for a broken health care system.

Between my copay and the amount reimbursed by insurance, the actual amount paid to the chiropractor was approximately 65% of that $126. If $80 is what an appointment actually costs, then why aren't we all paying $80, instead of $126?

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I like to listen to a radio station (remember those?) that plays "music from the '80s, '90s, and today," as the announcers keep reminding me. I've heard Prince's Raspberry Beret a few times - must be a favorite of the station. Prince is the kind of guy that, when you look at him, you might assume such a hip, well-appointed dude would come from a place like Los Angeles, or London, or New York , or Paris. Not Minnesota. Anywhere but Minnesota. It's hard to be a fashion plate here when four-six months of the year you have to stuff yourself into snowpants, boots, poufy down jacket, hat, mittens and scarf. This is not to say that Minnesotans aren't hip. We are, but our hipness is understated and earthy - the barest tip of the seed cap, the casual nose-wipe with the cloth hanky.

The great thing about Prince is that he has never denied his Minnesota roots. If you're listening carefully to Raspberry Beret, those roots are evident in one line: "We went riding down by old man Johnson's farm." Farms are not typically associated with L.A., London, N.Y. or Paris, so that's a giveaway, but it's really the "Johnson" that makes this a Minnesota song. You see, Johnson is to Minnesota what Li is to China, or Smith is to old-fashioned hotel registers. You'll not get more Minnesotan than Johnson, unless perhaps you use the name Nelson. I wonder who could possibly have that last name?

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Tabula Rasa

The other night, my son had a concert. We sat behind a girl who was between 16 and 18 months old. She kept us as entertained as the program did. She was playing with the contents of a purse. First, she had a tube of lip balm. She tried to put it on her lips with the cap on. That wasn't quite right, so she took the cap off and applied some. Then she sucked on the lip balm. Finding the flavor yucky, she spit and sputtered.

The lip balm kept her occupied for quite some time. She looked at us and waved periodically. My daughter made faces at her, which she copied. In trying to get my son's attention, she looked right at him, held the lip balm out over the floor and watched his reaction as she dropped it. Deliberate, she was.

Next, she played with a small bottle of hand lotion. She opened the cap and made the motion of putting some on her hands, then rubbed her hands to rub the nonexistent lotion in. The adult next to her showed her how to get the lotion out of the bottle. She tried and, when she met with success, her eyes popped open wide, along with her mouth.

Toward the end of the concert, the little girl pointed for something she wanted on the floor. The adults she was with offered her a water bottle and her sippy cup. Nothing they offered would do. She wanted her companion's purse. When she got it, she promptly removed the credit card. My children were in stitches.

The intelligence of very young children never ceases to amaze me. Tabula rasa, my foot.

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Friday, November 03, 2006


Fantasy Congress

My daughter started it. She came home from school one day and told me that someone had invented Fantasy Congress, which is like Fantasy Football for those who'd rather follow politics than sports. Since my daughter mentioned it, I've had two comments on it, so here's the Fantasy Congress home page. Watching politics is one of our family's favorite pastimes, albeit a blood-pressure raising one with all the bad behavior going on. Maybe Fantasy Congress will allow us the pleasure of forming an effective, sensible and ethical government - even if only in cyberspace.

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I'd Rather Color Outside the Lines, TYVM

I skipped two days in a row on posting, so now I've got a backlog of thoughts to unleash. Just checked Seth Godin's blog and found a post called Coloring inside the lines. I remember the coloring books of my childhood. I could only go so long coloring inside the lines, making everything nice and neat. It was soooo tedious. I grew to dislike coloring books.

When you're a creative person, and those who are know they are, you want to draw your own lines to color inside.

I was having a conversation with a family member yesterday. We were bemoaning the lack of creativity we've seen in our community and wondering how to change it. I would like to get some non-creatives in a room with a group of creatives. The creatives would sit in a circle in the middle of the room and discuss their ideas. The non-creatives would have to sit around the outside of the circle and just listen to what the creatives discussed and how they discussed it. They wouldn't be allowed to comment - if only out of payback for the many times the non-creatives have shut down the creatives with comments about the bottom line and having to be practical and their notions of group consensus. How do you think the non-creatives would like this? If people were told the set-up ahead of time, do you think the non-creatives would suddenly become creative in hopes of not being shut out of the inner circle?

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