Thursday, July 31, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Pop Pop Fizz Fizz

No, I'm not talking about antacid. I'm talking about that most glorious of all summer kid activities: burning holes in stuff with a magnifying glass.

For many of you, just reading those words immediately brought to mind the odor of scorched leaves, burned paper, and charred twigs. You were instantly swept back to days when you spent hours crouched in a sandy driveway or a corner of the back yard, practically holding your breath as you focused that tiny spot of light and waited, struggling to keep your hands steady until you were sure the darkness behind the light wasn't caused by your dazzled eyes, but by real, honest to goodness teeny tiny almost-fire. SO COOL. You bickered with friends and siblings for a turn holding the glass, or shoved bits of grass and stone and orange peel at the glass bearer and said, "Hey, see what happens with this!"

I'm not alone in this, am I?

We, being the aspiring little pyromaniacs most children tend to be, also took on slightly more daring materials. As one example, does anyone remember those dirt-cheap rolls of caps you could buy for cap guns: long rolls of red and white paper layered with a tiny dot of gun powder every inch or so? We rarely had actual functioning cap guns, so mostly we used those caps in other ways. We had a back room in the basement where the chest freezer lived. It was musty and damp and cold year 'round, and it had a bare cement floor. I remember sitting back there with my brothers, taking turns with a roll of caps and a hammer (and oh, it makes my fingers hurt just remembering--I was not always accurate with that foolish hammer). We'd tear off about six caps, lay the strip of paper out flat, and hammer each one. BANG, BANG, BANG. Mesmerizing....

Anyway, of COURSE at some point one of us had the bright idea of using the magnifying glasses on the caps. It was a little bit anticlimactic: you got a bigger pop using a hammer. But the not knowing exactly when it was going to go off...that added an element of excitement that was hard to ignore. You'd focus the beam of light, and sit there blinking and cringing, knowing it was going to snap-fizz, but not just when.

The MOST EXCITING thing we ever burned, though, isn't quite what you'd expect. We were sitting around one day in...well, I guess it had to have been early November. One of us had the idea of burning holes in some of the little mini boxes from our Halloween candies. Mostly this wasn't that more than a time-passer. But then, we made a discovery: for some reason--something in the geometry, maybe, or something about the ink used--when you used the magnifying glass on mini Milk Duds boxes, instead of just ending up with little browned holes in the sides, they would suddenly burst into flame.

Which makes their name rather ironic, if you think about it.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Fun to Say, East vs. West

The other day at work we got to talking about how many confusing yet fun to say derived-from-Native-American-languages names there are for things around here: towns, bodies of water, etc. I mentioned that New England also has a fair share of such names, and gave a few examples.

On the way home, the two states started trying to one-up one another in my head. Something like this:

Vermont: Queechee.
Washington: I'll see your Queechee and raise you a Snohomish.
Vermont: Oh, yeah? Memphramagog--beat that!
Washington: Ummm...Skookumchuck?
Vermont: Gar. Ompompanoosuc!
Washington: Sequim. Pronounced SKWIM. So there.
Vermont: Passumpsic.
Washington: Ooh. How about Puyallup?
Vermont: Winooski. Winooski, Winooski, Winooski!
Washington: Nisqually. I could do this all day.
Vermont: In my defense, Washington is a lot bigger.
New Hampshire: PEMIGAWASSETT!!
Washington: Geshundheit.

What are some fun town or water names near you?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Just Go To Bed Already

It has come to my attention that my approach to writing often shares similarities with a bratty child's attitude toward bed time.

"I can't go to bed--I need a drink of water first!"
"I can't go to bed--I forgot to brush my teeth!"
"I can't go to bed--I need to go potty!"
"I can't go to bed--I need the nightlight on!"
"I can't go to bed--I don't have my bear!"
"I can't go to bed--I want my *other* bear!

Etc. It's almost the same with writing.

"I'm going to write LOTS, but I can't write in the morning/evening."
"I'm going to write LOTS, but I need x pen/pencil/notebook, and I can't find it."
"I'm going to write LOTS, but I need to be in the mood."
"I'm going to write LOTS, but I don't like what I wrote yesterday, so I should take a break."
"I'm going to write LOTS, but I need x gadget, which I don't already own, so first I'll waste days researching it."
"I'm going to write LOTS, just as soon as I have a day off."

There's always some reason to stall. It's childish and silly and it needs to stop.

Maybe I can try bribing myself with star stickers on a calendar. As I recall, that used to be all that was needed to induce good behavior, once upon a time.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Why I'm Ditching the Scale

I'm annoyed with myself.

At the beginning of the year, I was in pretty decent shape. I was doing a ton of walking, and sticking with an eating plan that helped me feel better (physically and emotionally): tons of vegetables of all sorts, some fruit, meat/chicken/fish, eggs, nuts. Very little sugar. Occasionally beans and rice. And I mostly cut dairy, since last summer I tried a month without it as an experiment and found I'm actually somewhat sensitive to it. Don't get me wrong, I cannot and will not ever completely give up ice cream and cheese, but it does make my heart race and causes congestion, so it's a trade-off. I also discovered long ago that even if bread *weren't* fairly empty calories, I'm better off without it generally speaking because it makes me sleepy and stupid for several hours afterward.

So I was eating lots of big salads, fresh omelets with plenty of vegetables, grilled steak with vegetables, roast chicken with vegetables, broiled fish with vegetables, vegetables with vegetables. You get the picture.

But I fell off the wagon somewhere along the line--Easter, maybe--and I've never gotten back. Thankfully I'm only up a few pounds, but I've been bouncing from sugar high to sugar high and I haven't been walking and I just feel...blah. Time to get back on track.

I do want to lose about fifteen pounds. Seems like I always do. And that's part of the goal this time. However, I've decided to do something a little different this time around: I'm putting the scale away, at least for awhile.

Why? Well, mostly because I'm weak willed and I know how it affects me:
If the scale is up for a given day/week: "Man, nothing I do matters. I might as well cheat."
If the scale is down for a given day/week: "Wow, I'm doing great! I deserve a little cheat."

I think putting it away for a time will help keep me honest. I'm more likely to err on the side of caution as far as eating habits go if I'm not seeing the numbers, I won't be emotionally tormented by daily fluctuations, and even if I don't see the number I hope for at the end of the experiment, at least I'll only be supremely bummed once.

So...the scale is going in the closet until my birthday in mid-October. And I'm stocking up on vegetables, polishing up the FitBit, and pulling out my walking shoes again. 'Cause I'm the boss and I said so.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Another Benefit to Hand Writing

I've spent some time this weekend getting caught up on transcription. I'm sort of hoping once I get everything on the computer, I can take a stab at moving forward that way. As much as I like writing by hand, I don't want it to become a magic bullet or a crutch.

That said, in transcribing, I'm remembering some of the reasons I love hand writing, slow though it is. I do a lot of crossing out text, but leaving it for reference--something I'm not likely to do on the computer screen, with a delete function right there. Sometimes the crossed out ends up being better than what I'd planned to keep. And I go back and write notes and directions in the margins, so my final writing ends up being slightly ahead of first draft status.

And other times...well, where is the computer equivalent for this forgotten moment of catharsis I came across in an upper margin?

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Listen to Your Mother

I'm in the process of reorganizing some things around the house, getting rid of some things I don't need and using the empty room that was going to be my sister's, since plans changed and she's not staying with me for the moment. One change: I want to make some space at the breakfast bar my bitty kitchen has in lieu of space for a table. Without a stool, it's at a nice height for a standing desk space for me, though I tend to just use it as pantry space.

The weird thing: part of the reason I decided to do this is because I have a clear memory of Mom looking around the place when I moved in and saying, "I can just see you working on a laptop here..." It's a nice space, it looks out over the rest of the house, I can hear my music and look out the window when I want, so it makes logical sense, and she *would* spot that.

So I'm twenty minutes into tidying and thinking out my plan for making this happen when it suddenly hits me: Mom has never been here. Could never have been here. She passed away almost two years before I moved to Colorado, and long before I moved to Washington.

I'm sure I must be remembering something that happened at another place and time--the memory is too clear to be completely false. And yet, in memory, I see her *here*, so distinctly that I got chills when I woke up enough to realize I couldn't possibly be remembering something that actually happened.

In any case, I think she's right. I'd best get back to tidying....

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Scattered (UJTU)

1. How do people travel all the time and still manage a normal life? I went on one five day trip from June 27th to July 2nd, and I'm *still* all discombobulated. I'd originally hoped to finish the first draft of Mind Jinx (my current work in progress) by mid-July, but that's out the window. Haven't recovered my usual routines AT ALL. New estimate: end of summer at best. I'd also hoped to write a trip report, but I feel like I'm a bit past the window for that. May yet take a stab at it, however.

2. My garden has grown tremendously. I have strawberries, peas, carrots, lettuce, and am starting to get cherry tomatoes. The big tomatoes and summer squash are right behind, and I have a baby eggplant and baby delicata squash coming along nicely. Now if I can just manage to water faithfully.... Western Washington may have a reputation for rain, but it pretty much all hits in the winter and spring months. Around the 4th of July, a switch is tripped, and it's high desert here. Nice in that you can pretty much plan on weekend outdoor activities without worrying about wet, but it does mean you suddenly go from plants drowning to plants dying of thirst, and you have to develop new habits instantly.

Sweet potato vine, just for fun!

First full sized tomato (a Cascade) is changing color...

Bitty baby bell peppers

Summer squash coming along

Baby delicata squash

Eggplant! First time I've seen these growing....

Mmmm, sugar snap peas....

3. I'm in the middle of a major music muddle: for *years* I've intended to sit down and redo my music library by re-ripping all my old CDs and then re-adding any digital purchases from backup/cloud. I had a lot of gaps and strays and tracks that weren't titled consistently, and it was driving me crazy. I'm thinking about upgrading to a new computer sometime this year, and chances are it won't have a built in CD drive, so now seemed as good a time as any to tackle this project. I'm going to get it all tidied up and then back up to a decent external drive, so I have a clean starting point from here on out.

It's turning out to be even more daunting than I anticipated. I'd forgotten just how much music I've acquired over the years, not to mention Teaching Company courses and the like. But re-ripping has been an interesting walk down memory lane: I still like a lot of the same music I did way back when, but my buying and primary listening habits have fluctuated, and going back through the albums is like excavating layers of the last fifteen or twenty years of my life from sedimentary rock. Early classical period...flatpicking guitar period...folk rock...middle early classical...Irish. Etc. It's all pretty mixed, honestly, but every so often I come across an album that all but defined a given time in my life and which I've not listened to in a long while. Fascinating how a few notes can trigger a flood of half-forgotten memories.