Thank You Mr. Rogers

32106This post will be a mite more serious than my usual lighter fare. I haven’t written anything this week because I wanted to write about this thing that happened to me, and I didn’t have the words. I think I might have some words now, but it might be that I will never know exactly what to say.

Recently while driving home from my almost daily coffee run, Starbucks makes a lot of money off of me, I came across a dead body. At least I think he was dead. I was too scared to actually check for a pulse. But, he certainly looked like he had passed into the beyond, and his chest wasn’t moving.

Not where you think I was going with this.

A man lying in the middle of the sidewalk, face down behind a grocery store. He had a box of Venezia wine and a 24 pack of beers next to him like they came tumbling from his arms as he fell. Before I am asked, he wasn’t homeless, not that that matters in the slightest. He wasn’t just some dude deciding that a nap in the middle of a cold sidewalk sounded awesome. He was a man lying down in the middle of the sidewalk. Face down, and not moving. The part that bothered me so

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

much, is not that he was dead but that people were walking around him seemingly unconcerned about this person. He was a non-entity that did not exist in their world. That bothers me. As in existential crisis bothers me. Have we as a society become so inured to horrible things that someone who is dead is not given a second thought? We care about Kim Kardashian, couldn’t we care a little about the guy on the sidewalk.  I was stunned by what I was witnessing.

Mr. Rogers came to my mind and offered me comfort. All was not as bleak as it seemed. Mr. Rogers said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” So I did.  I looked for the helpers, and then I endeavored to become one. There was a man across the street, who I had originally not seen,  on his phone calling 911. I asked him what he was doing. His reply was, “trying to get him some help.” He was a helper.

What can I do?  how can I be a helper in this situation? The only thing I did the only thing I could think of, I went and got a blanket out of my car and threw it over the man. Not over his face, but around him.  It was a cold damp day, if he was alive, maybe a blanket would keep him a little warmer. When I got close to him, his chest wasn’t moving. Maybe the breathing was imperceptible, and it was there but I couldn’t see it. I hope so. There wasn’t much else I could do for this man. The paramedics were coming, so I left him the blanket and got back in my car. When I got home, I sat in the car for a long time trying to process what I had just seen and later I talked to my mom about the whole thing.  She said that I did a good thing, and I was a good person by giving him the blanket. Did I? I feel like I did the absolute minimum that a person should do. I felt bad, and cowardly that I did not do more. I still do. But what could I have done?

Later on that afternoon, I drove by where the man was laying out of morbid curiosity. Was there a chalk outline to be found like out of a detective novel? There wasn’t. There was nothing. Like he was never there.

Here I am writing this blog, not sure how I feel about the whole situation, but I do feel better for having written something. I will always endeavor to try and be the helper. Even if it is scary, it often is. Thank you, Mr. Rogers for helping me that day. Your lessons go on and on.

O’ Children – The Orphans of Harry Potter

The influence of a song on a scene in Harry Potter

I was laying in the tub today trying to grasp a slippery thought. I have most of my semi-deep, to semi-ridiculous ideas while neck deep in the suds. Goes back to my deep and unabiding love of bath bombs from Lush. The problem was that I had had a song on repeat in my head for two days. It was maddening. Especially when it is only a few bars of it. It was as if the thought was made of eel and Vasoline in equal parts, and every time I got just enough of it to push the song into coalescence it slipped through my mental fingers. By the time I had become sufficiently pruned, and the last of our sad little hot water heater was sputtering its last blessed drops, I had figured it out. I had the epiphanic moment.

The song was “O’Children” by Nick Cave, and the Bad Seeds and the scene was the dance scene from Harry Potter 8.

The connection that had been maddeningly bouncing around my neurons for two days was it’s connection to Harry Potter. Weird right. But I

Hey little train! Wait for me!
I was held in chains but now I’m free
I’m hanging in there, don’t you see
In this process of elimination

have funny thoughts pass through my brain a lot while nackt in der Badewanne (naked in the bath – practicing my German). There is a scene in Harry Potter 8 that is both lovely and mellow; until this point, I wouldn’t have described it as brilliant.  But it is utterly brilliant, and wonderfully written. When Harry and Hermione are waiting together in their tent. Ron had just left their expedition in a fit of madness and rage. Both Ron and Hermione are feeling down in different ways. It is an exceptionally well-acted scene, showcasing the talents of Emma Watson and Daniel Radcliff. They are listening to the radio, waiting for news, for death, for anything, when Nick Cave comes on. His voice is melodious but dark and deep and slow.  This is definitely not music you would usually dance to.

Do you remember where you were when you saw this scene? Did you hate it? Love it? In the Harry Potter film universe, it is one of the most divisive scenes ever written. On first watching, you could assume that it is hinting at a possible romantic connection between the lead characters. But, not everything has to be about romantic love. Harry and Hermione are completely worn down like butter scraped over to much bread. The body language of the scene suggests this. Hermione is almost fetal while Harry is at the far edge of the scene. The lighting of the scene suggests a somber dark and shadowy environment. Harry walks over to Hermione and takes her hand and begins to dance in a goofy way. For one blissful moment, they escape their lives

O children
Lift up your voice, lift up your voice
Children
Rejoice, rejoice

and dance together in the joy of friendship. A way that two friends would do to cheer themselves up. To bring a moment of levity into their world that is falling apart. The music is, for me, one of the best selections in a cinematic scene ever done. Bold words.

Here me out, and take a look at the lyrics.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – O’ Children

[Verse 1]
Pass me that lovely little gun
My dear, my darling one
The cleaners are coming, one by one
You don’t even want to let them start

They are knocking now upon your door
They measure the room, they know the score
They’re mopping up the butcher’s floor
Of your broken little hearts

O children
Forgive us now for what we’ve done
It started out as a bit of fun

Here, take these before we run away
The keys to the gulag

[Chorus]
O children
Lift up your voice, lift up your voice
Children
Rejoice, rejoice

Come on, come on, come on, come on

[Verse 2]
Here comes Frank and poor old Jim
They’re gathering round with all my friends

We’re older now, the light is dim

And you are only just beginning

O children

We have the answer to all your fears
It’s short, it’s simple, it’s crystal clear
It’s round about and it’s somewhere here
Lost amongst our winnings

[Chorus]
O children
Lift up your voice, lift up your voice
Children
Rejoice, rejoice

[Verse 3]
The cleaners have done their job on you
They’re hip to it, man, they’re in the groove

They’ve hosed you down, you’re good as new
And they’re lining up to inspect you

O children
Poor old Jim’s white as a ghost
He’s found the answer that we lost

We’re all weeping now, weeping because
There ain’t nothing we can do to protect you

[Chorus]
O children
Lift up your voice, lift up your voice
Children
Rejoice, rejoice
[Outro]
Hey little train! We are all jumping on
The train that goes to the Kingdom
We’re happy, Ma, we’re having fun
And the train ain’t even left the station

Hey, little train! Wait for me!
I once was blind but now I see
Have you left a seat for me?
Is that such a stretch of the imagination?

Hey little train! Wait for me!
I was held in chains but now I’m free
I’m hanging in there, don’t you see
In this process of elimination

Hey little train! We are all jumping on
The train that goes to the Kingdom
We’re happy, Ma, we’re having fun
It’s beyond my wildest expectation

Hey little train! We are all jumping on
The train that goes to the Kingdom
We’re happy, Ma, we’re having fun
And the train ain’t even left the station

The lyrics talk of a world being destroyed by the adults of the system, and it is up to the children to sort it out. It is hopeful. The bombs may be dropping, the world might be ending, but lift your voice children for there is always hope. Rejoice in that.

This is what the Harry Potter story is. I think it is even more powerful when you think of Harry and Hermione as lone orphans. Harry against his will, and Hermione to protect her parents. Both children, fighting a battle and losing. Alone in the world, and now abandoned by their third. Lift your voice children and dance.  Rejoice.

It is a really damn powerful scene, and I have so much more appreciation for it now that I can look at it through the lens of time.

The Importance of To-do lists

Eating the Frog

Hannah Brencher on productivity and to-do lists: “Locate the task that is the most important but also the one you’re most likely to procrastinate on. That’s your frog. Your frog is the thing that NEEDS to get done . . . I try to ‘eat the frog’ every week, early in the week.”

Via Mapping My Weeks — Discover


I live and die by my to-do lists. I came across this great and straightforward way of tracking your ideas and what needs to get done via a notebook on my feed this morning and had to share. It is much easier getting things down on paper, and yes paper, electronic stuff does not work for me when it comes to lists. I can’t keep something in my brain and juggle a hundred things at once. Try it out. It has made a world of difference to me. For me eating the frog is phone calls to places like the utility company, oy.

Review of “Year One” by Nora Roberts

 

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goodreads.com

I was very excited to read Year One by Nora Roberts. First off, I have read close to thirty of her books. For a while there I was plowing through them. She writes great characters and exciting plots. Especially her later work. I also have read pretty much all the post-apocalyptic books I can get my hands on. Except for “The Road” which I won’t touch with a ten-foot stick.

 

My first observation is a positive one. The entire novel rests on an interesting, if not a slightly trite premise. World plague that decimates human the population. The thrilling thing is that the epidemic is based on lore mythology and magic. The disease is itself named “Doom,” and is made of these dark energies escaping and infecting the world. I think. Nora Roberts was a little fuzzy on it. In response to these increasing darkness and sickness infecting, a reaction in people with any spiritual and/or magical is that the latent power these people had increased exponentially. Another point I’m fuzzy on. Otherwords, some people get big woo-woo, others not so much. No idea what it is based on or why. Some people get nothing at all and remain human. Also no clue. It just is. Plot points like these that lay the foundation in novels, in my opinion, need to be rock solid. Otherwise, niggling questions remain and throw the reader’s mind out of the story.

The second observation is also a positive one. Nora Roberts knows how to write good dialog. It may be a little schmaltzy, but it flows like people talk. The dialog was well written. I may not have liked what the characters were saying, but she is damn good at writing it.

Character-wise, it is just damn confusing. She has some well-written ones in there that are fleshed out, and some that are flat as a board (I am looking at you Eric and Allegra) and you scratch your head wondering what the hell. Why are the ones that are vapid come from out of nowhere and give so much page time? Also, the pacing and plot arcs are jarring as hell. I have never read a novel that jarred me like a car accident from one vignette to another.

Lastly the third act of the story. I am going to speak in broad terms so as not to do any spoilers, but I spent 75 pages scratching my head. It was all so bland and wrapped up in a neat little bow. I didn’t give a damn about the characters at the end. The ones that I really liked and thought were interesting got unceremoniously excised from the last act of the novel which was a weird pacing and story arc thing to do. Maybe I was just slightly miffed at that. Where are my Arlys, Fred and Jonah? She should have at least nodded her head at them and told us a little of what was going on.

I want to be very clear here. This isn’t a crap book. Nora Roberts is a master storyteller, but this isn’t her best work. That’s ok not everything is going to be a shining star. It is a serviceable book with highs and lows and is very readable. I will read the next book in the series to see what happens. If I had to give it a rating, I’d rate it 3 out of 5.

I built a Thing. It’s Spicy.

 

Spice_Must_Flow_Design-01
I actually have that quote painted on a board and hanging above my new spice rack, I think that It combines my favorite things, science fiction, and cooking. Only about 1 in 40 people who have seen it know where it comes from so all my smug coolness of it is really only in my head. Garbgeek.com

We decided not long ago that we needed a spice storage solution to the million spice jars that I have in the kitchen. No joke, but I think I have close to seventy. I like to cook, and that requires a lot of different spices. Garam Masala to Chinese five spice, I have quite the collection and before you ask I have used them on a least one dish at some point in the past.  I make killer tea eggs with the Chinese five spice.

A previous solution we had been using utilized the spice holder Bekvam from IKEA just hanging by its lonesome on the wall. It got ridiculous with all the spice. It was almost like a shrine to IKEA. Plus,  they are hard as hell to hang. IKEA totes itself as being easy to build and hang, but I call BS on it. Most of the stuff I have gotten from IKEA has been difficult and required a youtube video to get together.

chalkboard-ikea-spice-rack-wall
Not my hack, but you get the idea. This times 10. 

I had gone through a teal phase with them, then a coral phase. The spice holders were a bevy of different colors by now. Much to the chagrin of my husband, it looked like the seventies threw up in my kitchen.

This is what I did. I took all the myriad of spice racks I had and some scrap wood. screwed them all together. Tried to get it true, then painted it. Voila! Insta-spice rack. The wood I screwed it together with was kinda warped, and the spice shelves are not perfectly level. But it is off my counter and hanging beautifully up. Obviously, this isn’t as a tutorial. I kinda winged it. You get the idea.

 

30261706_10214166897460517_7787972221112156160_n.jpg
Here it is in all its glory. Be awed. Be Amazed. Be jealous. Make one yourself. 

 

One of the things I am going to do in the future is to do a background on the spice rack. The periodic table of spices appeals to my inner geekiness. Also, having it organized and a spot where I can find them easily is a must. Baby steps. They are off my counter.

I Don’t Know If You Know This, But I Am Not, in Fact, a Goat.

tmp_GPxat0_6ad3a2b6ab961103_Starbucks_Crystal_Ball_Frappuccino_purple_hi_resI really try to embrace my inner goat when it comes to trying new things, new flavors of food. Goats tend to eat everything, happily, and there are a lot of exciting things out there to try in this world. When I was in high school and participating in sports. My best friend Hannah and I would go before our swim meets, as a ritual, and drink wheatgrass juice. We would do it as if it were a shot of the most heinous hangover incurring tequila ever. I have never had tequila that tasted as bad as a shot of wheatgrass. I mean who went out into a field and thought. YES! I really should put that in a juicer and extract the awesome out of it. Then I should drink it. Hannah and I thought it gave us super swimming abilities. It did not. It did, however, prove to be a great memory from my swim days. Gagging on the green satan’s butthole then jumping in the pool.

Green tasting foods are hard for me. That extends out to rosewater. Green foods make me feel like my mouth is a lawnmower. Rosewater makes me feel like I am eating grandmothers 15-year-old rose potpourri. They are awful. But, like all food things, I am trying to come around and see if I can come to enjoy them or at least come and appreciate them.

All these shenanigans led me to try Starbucks special crystal ball drink. An herbal peach thingy. I was gitty with anticipation.

downloadGah. Peach and I think matcha. I can’t even tell you what flavor it was. It was a sort of herbal peach green thing that was supposed to tell me my future. The only future I foresaw was me being out five bucks. Seriously, Starbucks you are drunk. I guess marketing-wise, they got me to spend five dollars on this thing. Starbucks got this crystal ball reading wrong.

 

List NPR Science Fiction and Fantasy

As you know dear readers, I am a sucker for a list. Booklist is even better. The cherry on top, the creme de la creme of all lists for me is a Science Fiction and Fantasy book list. When I find these little education jewels, I want to share them with like-minded folk. I came across this one the other day while on Pat Rothfus’s Blog. I peruse it often. He is a great writer and has interesting articles on there. Plus his philanthropic work every year is a thing of beauty. He does a lot of good for a lot of people. Not bad. Only 21 to go. I absolutely refuse to read The Road because I don’t think I can handle the imagery. I don’t want to stain my brain that way. Completion for me will be 99 books. What is it like for you?

The List is from here:

1. The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, by J.R.R. Tolkien

2. The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, by Douglas Adams

3. Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card

4. The Dune Chronicles, by Frank Herbert

5. A Song Of Ice And Fire Series, by George R. R. Martin

6. 1984, by George Orwell

7. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury

8. The Foundation Trilogy, by Isaac Asimov

9. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley

10. American Gods, by Neil Gaiman

11. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman

12. The Wheel Of Time Series, by Robert Jordan

13. Animal Farm, by George Orwell

14. Neuromancer, by William Gibson

15. Watchmen, by Alan Moore

16. I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov

17. Stranger In A Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein

18. The Kingkiller Chronicles, by Patrick Rothfuss

19. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut

20. Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley

21. Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, by Philip K. Dick

22. The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood

23. The Dark Tower Series, by Stephen King

24. 2001: A Space Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke

25. The Stand, by Stephen King

26. Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson

27. The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury

28. Cat’s Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut

29. The Sandman Series, by Neil Gaiman

30. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess

31. Starship Troopers, by Robert Heinlein

32. Watership Down, by Richard Adams

33. Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey

34. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, by Robert Heinlein

35. A Canticle For Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller

36. The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells

37. 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, by Jules Verne

38. Flowers For Algernon, by Daniel Keys

39. The War Of The Worlds, by H.G. Wells

40. The Chronicles Of Amber, by Roger Zelazny

41. The Belgariad, by David Eddings

42. The Mists Of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley

43. The Mistborn Series, by Brandon Sanderson

44. Ringworld, by Larry Niven

45. The Left Hand Of Darkness, by Ursula K. LeGuin

46. The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien

47. The Once And Future King, by T.H. White

48. Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman

49. Childhood’s End, by Arthur C. Clarke

50. Contact, by Carl Sagan

51. The Hyperion Cantos, by Dan Simmons

52. Stardust, by Neil Gaiman

53. Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson

54. World War Z, by Max Brooks

55. The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle

56. The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman

57. Small Gods, by Terry Pratchett

58. The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant, The Unbeliever, by Stephen R. Donaldson

59. The Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold

60. Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett

61. The Mote In God’s Eye, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle

62. The Sword Of Truth, by Terry Goodkind

63. The Road, by Cormac McCarthy

64. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke

65. I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson

66. The Riftwar Saga, by Raymond E. Feist

67. The Shannara Trilogy, by Terry Brooks

68. The Conan The Barbarian Series, by R.E. Howard

69. The Farseer Trilogy, by Robin Hobb

70. The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger

71. The Way Of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson

72. A Journey To The Center Of The Earth, by Jules Verne

73. The Legend Of Drizzt Series, by R.A. Salvatore

74. Old Man’s War, by John Scalzi

75. The Diamond Age, by Neil Stephenson

76. Rendezvous With Rama, by Arthur C. Clarke

77. The Kushiel’s Legacy Series, by Jacqueline Carey

78. The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. LeGuin

79. Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury

80. Wicked, by Gregory Maguire

81. The Malazan Book Of The Fallen Series, by Steven Erikson

82. The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde

83. The Culture Series, by Iain M. Banks

84. The Crystal Cave, by Mary Stewart

85. Anathem, by Neal Stephenson

86. The Codex Alera Series, by Jim Butcher

87. The Book Of The New Sun, by Gene Wolfe

88. The Thrawn Trilogy, by Timothy Zahn

89. The Outlander Series, by Diana Gabaldan

90. The Elric Saga, by Michael Moorcock

91. The Illustrated Man, by Ray Bradbury

92. Sunshine, by Robin McKinley

93. A Fire Upon The Deep, by Vernor Vinge

94. The Caves Of Steel, by Isaac Asimov

95. The Mars Trilogy, by Kim Stanley Robinson

96. Lucifer’s Hammer, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle

97. Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis

98. Perdido Street Station, by China Mieville

99. The Xanth Series, by Piers Anthony

100. The Space Trilogy, by C.S. Lewis