Thursday, November 14, 2013

First impressions

Thirty-eight years ago, today, I was a college freshman.  It was a Friday.  I had classes during the day of course, and I had a date that night.  It was a first date, although I knew the person I'd be going out with, slightly,  - we'd been involved in group activities.  The famous lawyer, F. L. Bailey, was lecturing on campus that night, and our date involved going to the lecture, and then going to a local disco.  (Hey!  I did say it was thirty-eight years ago!  Those who don't know what a disco is, can go look it up on wiki.)

The date did not get off to an auspicious start.  We were late (his fault, not mine!) and the lecture was even more popular than had been anticipated.  Not only could we not get a seat in the auditorium, and not only could we not get into the auditorium at all, but we only just barely were able to get into the building.  So we stood there, in the vestibule, in conditions worse than standing room only  (I'm certain local fire codes were violated), and tried to listen to the lecture.  As you might imagine, the acoustics in the vestibule were less than ideal, and Mr. Bailey's voice could barely be heard over the murmur of audience members talking to each other.  My recollection is that we left early.

We headed off to the disco.  I'd been looking forward to this - the music and the lights - although I was a bit concerned, because I was not much of a dancer.  After we got there, I realized this was a really stupid place for a first date.  The lights were distracting, and the music was so loud it was nearly impossible to talk.  And my dancing was as bad as I'd feared.

I think it's fairly safe to say I didn't make a great first impression, and neither did he.  And it was due to circumstances, as much as anything he or I did.

But still.

There was something there.

And a few months ago, we celebrated our 33rd wedding anniversary.

If you google "first impressions", you find all sorts of things about how first impressions count, how to make a great first impression, and all sorts of self-help things on making a first impression in ninety, sixty, or even seven (yes! 7!) seconds.  But life is more important than 7, or 60 or 90 seconds.  Maybe first impressions count, but don't forget that it's the big picture that counts.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The curious case of Machias Seal Island

As a child growing up in the United States, I learned about the establishment of the various U.S. borders, including disputes over the Maine/Canada border,  a dispute between the U.S. and Britain over the Oregon territory, and a number of disputes over the Texas/Mexico border.  But that was all long ago.  And of course I know about border disputes in places like Africa, as well as North and South Korea and much of the Middle East.  But those are all 'far away'.  Surely all US border disputes have long since been settled, haven't they?

Well apparently, there are still a number of border disputes being fought between  the United States and Canada.  While geography is not my strong suit,  I did know that the Canadian/US border was the longest border in the world.  And I knew that there were some odd little jogs in what you might imagine would be a straight line, but that's due to geographic things like lakes and mountains.  After all, the waters of Niagara Falls fall on both Canadian soil and U.S. soil.

But what I did not know was that there are a number of little bits and pieces where these two countries both claim to own the same little bit or piece.. even today, in 2013.  Now, I live not far from a state border... and being a divorce lawyer, I often deal with issues such as which state should the children attend school in or which court has jurisdiction over this case.. but typically, those questions can be answered by simply determining which side of the line each person actually lives on.  So I was very intrigued with this notion of a situation where there's a disagreement as to where the line is.  Where do you vote?  Who collects your taxes?  Which set of national holidays do you celebrate?  Whose national anthem do you sing?

I took a closer look at the bits and pieces that were up in the air.. although that's only figuratively, as neither the bits nor the pieces are actually in the air.  But it does turn out  that 4 of the 5 disputed bits are in the water.  Well, pshaw...  that kind of dispute doesn't really count.

But......  disputed bit #5 appeared to be different.  #5 is Machias Seal Island in the Gulf of Maine -- the entire island!  

Wow!  This must be a pretty important island for the US and Canada to be unable to agree who it belongs to.  So I dug a bit deeper, and discovered that Machias Seal Island is less than 20 acres in size,  it's completely devoid of trees --  and it's fogbound for much of the year.  Really? This is what we're arguing about?  An acre is smaller than a football field.  This island is in the middle of the ocean, and it's generally covered in fog so there's not even an ocean view to fight over.

Oh wait, it gets better.  From 1832 to the present,  Canada has maintained a lighthouse on this island. And even though Canada converted most of its lighthouses to the unmanned type about twenty years ago, the Machias Seal Island lighthouse has always been manned.  And the US involvement?  Well, back in 1918, the US put a small detachment of marines on the island, to help the Canadians keep an eye out for German u-boats.  After a few months, the marines left.  Since then, the US presence has been non-existent, although it continues to press its claim to the little island.

Now, as it happens, although there are no inhabitants on Machias Seal Island (other than the Canadian lighthouse keepers), and the seals in the area all live on a neighboring island (perhaps a problem with their GPS?), there are LOTS of birds, including a large colony of puffins.  But that's about it.  And when the US and Canada had an opportunity to take this issue to the World Court in 1984, both countries declined... preferring the certainty of a stalemate, over the possibility of a loss.

Hmmm, not quite sure what to make of all this.   You can get to Machias Seal Island by boat, from either Maine, or New Brunswick.  And no matter where you leave from, you don't have to go through customs, as each originating point believes that the destination is in the same country you came from.   And apparently the bird watching is phenomenal and well worth the journey... although I'm not much of a bird watcher.

So perhaps I'll just have another cup of tea and stay at home.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Apple Trees and Memories

Here in New England, it's apple-picking time.  And it was here in New England that I first took part in the popular activity of going to orchards and picking your own apples.  However, long before I moved to New England, I was quite familiar with the magic of apple-picking time.

When I was growing up, my grandparents lived across town and we spent a lot of time visiting them.  In the middle of their backyard there was a tree - an apple tree.  Actually, I should call it an APPLE TREE, for it was huge.  I can't really tell you what kind of apple tree it was, as it had clearly been grafted several times over the years, and it bore a wide variety of apples. Throughout the summer, we would play around the tree, without paying much attention to anything about the tree other than the fact that it was in our way.  But as the summer progressed, the tree began to change.  Blossoms formed, and then fell off, replaced by miniature apples.  As summer headed to an end to be replaced by fall, the miniature apples grew into full size apples. As the apples grew and ripened, we'd pick apples off the tree and eat them,  but there were always far more than we could possible eat.  Pretty soon they'd start falling off the tree, and we would be tasked with picking them up and putting them in the bushel baskets that we hadn't seen in a year.  Ultimately we'd find ourselves recruited to pick the apples that remained on the the tree.  And the next thing we knew, "The Day" would arrive.

What was "The Day"? "The Day" was actually a full weekend.  At the beginning of the weekend, we would go over to my grandparents' house, with boxes of mason jars.  We'd spend the entire day peeling apples, cutting apples, and cooking apples.  Everybody pitched in ...  no one was too old, or too young to not take
 part in "The Day".

After apples were peeled, cut and cooked, we proceeded to make apple jelly, apple butter, apple sauce, and of course apple pies.  At the end of a long day, we'd be surrounded with jars of wonderful apple-ness...  and bushels of apples that hadn't been touched yet.  So we'd have to return the following day for a repeat.  As we were finally wrapping up the last of the apples, my grandmother would bring out the itty-bitty pie tins, and my sister and I would be allowed to make teeny-tiny apple pies of our very own.

I don't make apple jelly, or apple butter, or apple sauce, or even apple pies, any more.  But every year, as apple-picking season comes along and I see those apple trees laden with ripe apples, I think of the time spent in grandma's kitchen, peeling and cutting and cooking and jarring and pie-making.  And I think of how delicious that apple jelly and apple butter and apple sauce tasted.  And I think of those special little itty bitty pie tins and those teeny tiny apple pies.  And as good as everything was...  the best part is the memories of the time we all spent together.

By the way, it was at my grandparents' house that I first started drinking tea... so this stroll down the apple-tree-lined memory lane had made me think it's time to have a cup of tea...  Typhoo, of course.  And perhaps I'll have an apple, as well.

(Note:  as of 1/24/14, no further comments are allowed on this post, due to high volume of spam.)

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Flags, part 2

In the middle of the summer, I posted about flags.  And almost immediately after I posted, I came across more flag trivia.  Well, I wasn't going to bother amending that post... but I'm STILL finding out new flag bits and pieces .. and I'm not even looking for them!

But the bits and pieces are piling up, so I thought I'd share them.  

Last time, I talked about the fact that Lichtenstein and Haiti used to have the same flag, and I've discovered that this isn't unique.  The countries of Chad and Romania also have the same flag (although some would argue that the blues are slightly different).  But there's actually a decent reason for this.  At the time that Chad adopted its flag, the Romanian flag had a coat of arms in the middle.  After Nicolae Ceausescu was overthrown, the coat of arms was removed... leaving the two flags essentially identical.  Unlike the Lichtenstein/Haiti situation, everyone involved knows of this identity crisis, but apparently no one cares.

And there are other flags that are identical except for dimension... but that's kind of not really identical, is it?

Actually, I found the other extreme to be more interesting.  That is - governments that have a two-sided flag. Hmmm.. before I can talk about two-sided flags, I suppose I have to point out that there are two kinds of two-sided flags --  although I'm sure that Betsy Ross would find both kinds to be equally frustrating.  The first kind is where there's a person's profile, or an animal facing a certain way, so the picture has to be flipped on the other side.  That's certainly a two-sided flag in the sense that you can't just stitch the colors on one side and have them go all the way through... but that's actually not the kind that caught my attention..  rather, I was drawn to the notion of flags where the front and the back are totally different pictures.  The state of Oregon has the state seal on one side, and a picture of a beaver on the other.  There's also a province in Argentina, a city in Bulgaria, and a few other flags that are truly different on one side from the other.  It's not really clear why -- I'm guessing it was a simple matter of people being unable to agree... and after all, isn't that what government is all about!

And then ---  I found out about the flag of Mars.  The flag of Mars is a tri-color flag used by the Mars Society and the Planetary Society.  Technically, it's not the official flag of Mars, as an official flag has to be adopted by a government, and Mars has no government.  But the flag has flown in space (aboard the Discovery), and it currently flies at the Mars Arctic Research station on Devon Island (in Canada).  So that makes it official in my book!

Reading about the flag of Mars, made me think back to when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin planted a flag on the moon, back in 1969.  I know that I have to periodically replace my flags because they start to get worn and torn by the wind and weather... what about the moon flag? First, it turns out there are 6 US flags on the moon.. they were planted by Apollo 11, 12, 14, 15, 16 and 17.  Next, 5 of them are actually still standing.  They're not truly blowing in the breeze of course, there is no breeze...there's a wire that runs along either the top or bottom so that it looks like the flag is blowing.  But - interestingly enough - they've all been faded by the sun  (duh!!!) and so now, all of them are plain white flags.  In addition to the flags planted by the US, China, Japan, the former Soviet Union, and the European Space Agency have also put flags on the moon. If those flags are not already plain white, they will be.  Different dimensions perhaps, but ultimately, all identical.  
I kind of like that.
Wonder what Sheldon would make of that?

While I ponder that question, I'll drink my tea.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Once might NOT be enough (Nanowrimo, revisited)

I've posted about Nanowrimo before, but not everyone reads all of my posts.  For those who don't know - Nanowrimo stands for National Novel Writing Month... although it's international not national, and you don't really end up with a novel. Nanowrimo can be summed up in 4 words...   50k in 30 days  (hmm, is that 4 words or 5?).  The goal is to write 50,000 words of fiction in the time from November 1 through November 30.  There are a huge number of participants, there are very few rules, there is no competition and there are no real 'prizes' in the traditional sense.  Those who run the event are very up-front about the fact that it's not possible to write anything of that length, in that time period, that has any quality to it.  At best, you will end up with something that doesn't even rise to the level of a first draft.

I have been a huge fan of Nanowrimo, and have exerted a lot of time extolling its virtues, as well as energy in trying to encourage others to take part.

Recently, I mentioned Nanowrimo to two gentlemen who are experienced and well-known in the world of digital publishing.   They exchanged looks, noted that they are NOT fans of Nanowrimo, and mentioned their webpage Nanowrimo Nomo!  Now, I don't always agree with these gentlemen, but I have found it's typically worth giving some consideration to their opinions.  So I headed over to their page to see what they had to say.

Hmmm...  turns out they're not really opposed to Nano, rather they're opposed to the concept of doing it multiple times.  They believe that once is enough.  You see - they are assuming that people are taking part in Nano in order to eventually become published authors.  And while there are certainly some who begin writing as Nano participants and end up publishing ...  that is NOT the goal of all the participants. In fact, I daresay that is not the goal of MOST participants.  I'll even go one step further, and suggest that many participants have no intention of publishing - ever.  They're not interested in editing, being critiqued, sharing their writing with the world, going through the effort of either getting an agent, or going the 'indie' route (ie, publishing on their own).

So why do people who do not intend to publish their work, take part in Nano? Well, there are a lot of reasons.  Just as I golfed with no intention of going professional, just as I do ballroom dancing without competing, just as I bake cookies without plans to put out a cookbook, enter a bake-off, or 'sell my wares'..  I take part in Nanowrimo, for the fun of it.  For me, it's exciting to take part in an event that is worldwide.  I like the idea of sharing a goal with hundreds of thousands of people.  I like the opportunity to 'meet' some of those people online.  I like the adrenalin of a deadline that is difficult, but do-able.  And -  I've discovered that I like writing fiction.  As a lawyer I do write every day, and I have a chapter in a published book - "Educating Children After Divorce" (I know.. boring), and I have this blog (hopefully, not boring).  But that's all very different from writing fiction.

But let's get back to the naysayers.  They hold the position that when someone takes part in Nano, that person's ultimate goal is/should be to get their work published.  They feel that Nano encourages people to write like crazy for 30 days, and then do nothing further, until 11 months later when they, again, write like crazy for 30 days... and the naysayers don't like that.  Instead of doing nano year after year, the naysayers think that people should take this habit of writing daily, and continue writing daily throughout the rest of the year.  They then encourage people to take what they've written, and move on through the various phases of editing, as well as designing a cover, putting your book out there for sale, and promoting it.  

Gentlemen, you're missing the point of Nano.  If you go to the nano website, you'll see statements from the Nano people like "Let’s write laughably awful yet lengthy prose together".   You'll see that the Nano people point out there are a lot of different reasons to do Nano, including " the glow from making big, messy art, and watching others make big, messy art, lasts for a long, long time. The act of sustained creation does bizarre, wonderful things to you. It changes the way you read. And changes, a little bit, your sense of self."  They talk about 'art for art's sake', and they talk about 'doing something just for the hell of it'.  Frankly, I would think that those would be concepts that would appeal to you.  And, given those concepts, there's no reason why once should be enough.

As a side note, gentlemen, I think you're also missing the fact that even those who might some day be open to the thought of publication, might not be open to that thought, quite yet.  It might take someone several times of going through the Nano process, before they gain the confidence, the experience, the ability, to write something worthy of editing, and worthy of being published.  And finally, you're ignoring the fact that without ability, I don't care if someone does write everyday, I don't care how many words they write each day, and I don't care how long they do this...  practice does NOT make perfect, and quantity does not equal quality.  Ironically enough, that's related to what I like to think of as the Nanowrimo motto ...  'Our goal is quantity, not quality'.

So, while I enjoy reading what you have to say, and I enjoy watching your podcasts and video chats and HOAs, and I often think you hit the nail on the head... this time, gentlemen, I think you left your hammer at home, and you're trying to hit a dragonfly with your beer mugs.

My goodness, that was far more serious than what I usually do, and it has left me unusually thirsty. Time for another cup of tea!  

Monday, August 26, 2013

Sleeping dogs and blackbirds

I know someone who uses the phrase "Let sleeping dogs lie and blackbirds fly."  On one hand, it's a funny phrase, but on the other hand, the first time I heard it I knew exactly what it meant...  You should allow people/animals/things to do what they want, and what they would naturally do.  If you try to make sleeping dogs wake up, or you try to prevent blackbirds from flying... well, they're going to object and get upset, and you may find yourself with a disturbance on your hands.

But as I sat here sipping my tea, I started wondering about the origins of some of these phrases that we use all the time... and I started exploring.  To my surprise, there is a lot of disagreement about the where and when and why of some of these sayings.

The phrase - to butter someone up - seemed pretty straightforward, to me...  just as you might slather butter on a piece of bread to make it tastier, so you would cover a person with flattery and praise, to make them friendlier.  And, indeed, that was one of the possible explanations.  But the more amusing explanation was the reference to an ancient Indian custom of throwing butter at statutes of the gods, to seek favor!(apparently, the gods of ancient India liked having butter thrown at them - go figure!)

I like the background of the phrase 'more than you can shake a stick at'.  

Most sources agree that this comes from when farmers would control their sheep by shaking a staff at them to show the sheep where to go.  If you had more sheep than you could control with your staff -- you had more than you could shake a staff (stick) at.

The origin of 'the whole 9 yards' is widely in dispute.  There's no question that it means 'everything'... but the theories of the source vary widely.  Some say that the phrase comes from the fact that World War II fighter pilots received a 9 yard chain of ammunition for each mission...while others point out that 9 yards is the contents of a standard concrete mixer, and still others hold that this is the length of fabric used in making a Scottish Kilt.  There are even those who argue that the phrase was originally 'the whole 6 yards', and the amount is irrelevant -- any random amount would work.  Me - I think I'll stick with 9.  I like 9.

But perhaps my favorite little bit is the history behind 'eating humble pie'.  You see, back in the Middle Ages, the lord of the manor would have a feast after a successful hunting expedition.  As lord, he would receive the finest cuts of meat.  The other nobles of his house would receive 'good stuff', although not the finest.. and so on.  By the time you got down to those of the lowest standing, all that was left were the entrails and innards.  These entrails and innards were baked in pies, so if you were eating that pie, you were of a humble status.
But wait - it gets better.  You see, those entrails and innards were known as umbles... so initially, it was umble pie, but then with everything that the pie implied, it became humble pie!

Well I've finished my tea and have errands to run, but thought you'd enjoy these little tidbits.  Wait - what's that you say?  What about the origins of "Let sleeping dogs lie and blackbirds fly"?   Funny thing about that... turns out there's no such saying.  The first part - let sleeping dogs lie - just came from a common warning to leave the dog alone... and that's pretty boring.  But the whole phrase ---  as familiar as it sounded to me --- was apparently made up by the person I heard it from.  Who knows.... maybe it will catch on.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The speed of time

Nope.. that's not a typo.... I truly did mean the speed of time.  And while it sounds like some sort of hybrid between 'The Passage of Time' and 'The Speed of Light'.... I meant exactly what I said... The speed of time.  If you think about it, you'll realize you know exactly what I mean.  I'm talking about the fact that the same period of time feels longer - or shorter - to different people, depending on what's at stake, and what's going on.

This notion of the speed of time was brought home to me recently, when an event occurred at normal speed, for me... but for others around me, it felt like a much longer period of time had elapsed.  I briefly thought of the saying 'Time flies when you're having fun'... except that I wasn't having fun.. and then again, time wasn't flying by, it was just -- what's that saying?  oh yeah, it was marching on.  Except that no one was marching, and there weren't any marching bands in the vicinity.

So then I started thinking of some of the sayings we have about time...  There's the phrase 'doing something in your own time'... that one always makes me chuckle... after all, it's not as if you can use someone else's time.  And if you did, whose time would they use?

Then there are the two phrases I already mentioned..  Time flies  (really?  does it fly coach or first class?), and Time marches on  (I envision a big clock head with two legs sticking out and little feet wearing soldier boots).  To my surprise, when I googled images, I couldn't find pictures for either of these concepts, although I did find this alternative view of time flies:

Hmmm... not nearly as funny as the picture of a clock flying first class... but maybe that's just me.

Then, of course, there's Killing Time  (what's the minimum prison term for that?), Saving Time (which bank do you use?), and Spare Time (that's at the bowling alley, and is related to when the clock strikes a certain time).

There's more to life than silliness, though, and there are some serious sayings about time. One of my favorites is "This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it."  That's from Ralph Waldo Emerson.  And to my mind, it's related to the quotation from Ecclesiastes - "There is a right time for everything".

But let me get back to the speed of time.  These last three weeks, I've had a lot going on in my life.... most of it good, some of it not so good.... but everything is working out, and life is starting to return to normal.  These three weeks have simultaneously gone by quickly, but also slowly.  And when I say they've gone by slowly, I don't mean that as a bad thing... I mean that a lot of things have happened, a lot of new memories have been made, and I can't believe we were able to do everything that was done in those three weeks.

And then I  look at my blog posts.  In my head, I've spent a fair amount of time on my blog... I have several partial posts that I started, I have notes for new ideas for future posts, and I've followed up on the postings of those I nominated for the Liebster award.   But as for putting up a new post on Teapot Musings -- I've only done that once.  You see, the speed of time got out of control for me. Things happened both faster and slower for me, than for the rest of the world, and I temporarily got out of sync.  I'm not saying that's a bad thing.... it's just a thing.  These last few weeks were a good time, and I knew what to do with them.  But "now" is the right time to get back on course.  Among other things, that means a few more blog posts.  So with a nod to Mr. Emerson, and a nod to Ecclesiastes, I'm back on track and back to my tea.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

'To be read', versus deja vu

Recently, I came across an online conversation where someone posted books that they liked to read, and re-read, and re-re-read.  To my utter astonishment, there were a lot who chimed in with their own lists of books they liked to read over and over.  This is not an attitude that I share, or even understand.

About 60% of my fiction consumption is by way of recorded books while I'm driving in the car.  A couple days ago I finished a book, so I grabbed the next and popped in the first CD.   I listened to the first 2 paragraphs, and a sense of dread began to creep over me.  I listened to the next 2 paragraphs, and now there was no doubt...  I had already read/listened to this book.  Oh Arrgggh..  I HATE when that happens.. Fortunately I had another recorded book handy, so I wasn't stuck listening to the sounds of silence.  And I thought back to that online conversation.

It's not that I can't stand any sort of repeat... I'm willing to watch Big Bang Theory episodes over and over, I've seen Thelma and Louise several times, and I've watched Dirty Dancing so many times I can recite much of the dialog.   I'll even do the same jigsaw puzzle more than once.  But for some reason, re-reading a book has no appeal to me.

As a young reader, one of my favorite books was One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, by Dr. Seuss. I was entranced by The Chronicles of Narnia, by C. S. Lewis.  I delved into the world of science fiction and became enamored with the works of Heinlein, and Asimov, and Norton and Farmer. Over the years, I expanded my reading to ...  well, you get the idea.  I read a lot, and I enjoy much of what I read, and some of it I enjoy immensely.  But I don't read the same book more than once.  Ever.

Part of the reason for this, is that I just don't.  But the other part is that my 'to be read' list is already huge, and it grows faster than I can dig my way through.  At this point, I figure I need to retire right now and live until I'm 103, in order to get through my TBR list.... and that's if I don't add anything new!

It's very easy to find posts  in which people highlight what they've read in the past month, year, whatever.  Frankly, I've done that myself... if you're interested, I posted my 2012 list in February.  And now I've found people who are posting books they like to read over and over.  So I thought I'd do something a bit different.  I'm not going to bore you with my entire TBR list, but I will share some of the entries.  I can't tell you whether any of these are great, mediocre, or bad since I haven't read them yet, only that they piqued my curiosity.

Wednesday's Child, by Alan Zendell.  A guy suddenly finds himself living his days out of order.
The Case Files of Thomas Carney, by Cleo Wolfe.  A guy dies, and starts working for an afterlife detective agency.
Harrison Bergeron, by Kurt Vonnegut.  Set in the year 2081, addressing Amendments 211, 212 and 213 to the Constitution, mandating that all Americans are fully equal, no matter what it takes to achieve equality.
Six of One, by Joann Spears.  A woman about to get married to someone who's had 6 previous wives, wakes up to find herself surrounded by the wives of Henry VIII, each with a secret to share.
The Years of Rice and Salt, by Kim Stanley Robinson.  An alternate history of the last 7 centuries.
Woman on the Edge of Time, by Marge Piercy.  A woman who has been declared insane is actually tuned to the future and able to communicate with the year 2137.
Indexing, by Seanan McGuire.  A world where fairy tale narratives become reality.
The Ups and Downs of Being Dead, by M. R. Cornelius.  The 'life and times' of the soul of a man who is cryogenically frozen, while awaiting the rejuvenation of his body.
The Gemini Divergence, by Eric Birk.  An alternative history involving the Cold War and Nazi UFOs.
In the Garden of Iden, by Kage Baker.  A sci-fi story set in the 16th century, about a group of immortal cyborgs.

Well, that's 10...  and that's enough, and my kettle is whistling.  I'm trying something new... Bewley's Gold Blend.  Smells nice, we'll have to see how it tastes.

Friday, July 26, 2013

National Ice Cream Month

You've GOT to be kidding me.

July is National Ice Cream Month, and no one told me????
July 21, 2013 was National Ice Cream Day, and no one told me????

Well, if this isn't worth a major pout, I don't know what is.  I love ice cream, and always have. When I first moved to Massachusetts in 1980, I was delighted to learn that most ice cream shops are open year-round, instead of just in the summer.  I was also delighted to learn that Massachusetts had the highest per capita consumption of ice cream in the U.S....  but apparently that's a claim that is open to debate, as every year there are several states and a number of cities that claim that honor.  Hmmmm... well, that's ok, because that just means I'll have to work harder to do my bit to move Massachusetts into spot #1!

It's bad enough that I've missed National Ice Cream Day 2013, I just can't let National Ice Cream Month pass by, without a mention.

All right... first let's take a look at those 'greatest consumption' stats...  AHA!  well it's certainly easy to see why there's a lot of confusion.  First, several of the 'studies' based their numbers on credit card transactions.  
Really?  Credit cards?  I know that ice cream can be pretty expensive, but ---  Credit Cards?
So, the first thing to note is that NONE of these studies have included MY ice cream consumption.

Next, the 'studies' are looking at the amount of money spent on ice cream.  Which means that those who buy a half gallon at the grocery store get almost no credit for eating ice cream.  That hardly seems fair.

And then there's the issue of size.  I'm not sure how that plays into the statistics, but while the ice cream shops are making their sizes larger and larger and larger, I've been adjusting my order, accordingly.  So when I first moved out here, I would order a medium, or sometimes a large.  Over time, I changed my order to a small.  These days, I typically order a kiddie size, and last night  (yes, I had ice cream last night... wanna make something of it?) I ordered a baby size.  No, the size of my dish of ice cream hasn't changed, it's the name of that size that has changed.

There's certainly lots of trivia out there about ice cream.... favorite flavors, and most flavors, and most bizarre flavors, and the month when the most ice cream is produced, and the history of ice cream... I'm not going to bore you with any of that.  And I'm certainly not going to waste your time talking about ice cream cones, since I don't ever bother with those.  But in case you're feeling a tad guilty when you eat ice cream, I will tell you that I found a list on Listverse that said ice cream has a low glycemic index...  it is a low sugar release food, so you're less likely to binge after eating ice cream.  
Hmmm.. less likely than what...  eating carrots?  Ok, I'll buy that.  I would agree that I'm less likely to binge after eating ice cream, than I am after eating carrots... especially if I 'mistakenly' (wink, wink) order a medium instead of a kiddie!!!

By the way, I'm not going to tell you my favorite flavor of ice cream, because I don't want to hurt the feelings of the other flavors.  I will tell you that most tea-flavored ice cream is actually green tea --- I don't drink green tea, so I don't eat green-tea flavored ice cream.

So, while I pout because I missed National Ice Cream Day (in 2014, the date will be July 20th... put it on your calendar), and I breathe a big sigh of relief because at least I didn't miss National Ice Cream Month....  I'm going to sit here and drink my tea.  And when I'm done with my tea...  well where do you THINK I'm going???!!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Dog days of summer

I'm not a dog person.  That doesn't mean to say I don't like dogs... I've known some wonderful dogs... but I prefer cats, and I certainly wouldn't want to own a dog.

Having said that, I do have to admit that there is something about a dog hanging its head outside a car window that just brings a smile to my face.  Big dog, little dog, cute dog, ugly dog ... doesn't matter. A dog with its head out the window = Smile on my face.
And while dogs seem willing to put their heads out the window just about any time, obviously the window has to be rolled down.  Most drivers don't like to roll their windows down if it's cold outside, so you mostly see dog-heads outside car windows in the summer.

So today, when I heard the phrase 'dog days of summer',  it made me wonder just what the phrase means.  Without looking it up, I think of the dog days of summer as meaning the last half of the summer. Not quite sure where I got that idea... I don't know, maybe something about a dog wagging its tail, and the tail end of the summer...but there it is.  So I went to wikipedia, and discovered that dog days referred to the hot and humid days of the summer.  In ancient Rome, the actual calendar dates assigned to the dogs were July 24-August 24... so the dog days officially begin tomorrow.  It certainly has been hot and humid, here in New England... over 17 days in July with temperatures over 90 degrees, so perhaps we've just got a jump start on things.

Ok, so while I had the reasoning wrong , I had the time of year right.

But of course this raises the next question.. why are these hot and humid days called dog days?  Maybe because that's when dogs are most likely to stick their heads out of car windows?  But that can't be it...  ancient Romans had chariots rather than cars, and chariots didn't have windows, and riding in a chariot ... well, obviously that's not the right answer.  

So.. back to wiki... and now this starts to make sense...  these days were called the dog days, because of the astrological location of Sirius, the dog star.   

But then I read on, and discovered that an Englishman named John Brady published an analysis of the calendar, back in 1814.  According to Brady, the Dog Days were an evil time, when "the Sea boiled, the Wine turned sour, Dogs grew mad, and all other creatures became languid".   Oh dear.  Well, the sea has been a bit rough lately.  And I suppose the dogs who hear this might get a big angry at this undeserved bad reputation when all they want to do is hang their heads out the window.  And I certainly do become languid when it gets this hot and humid.

And as for the wine turning sour?  Well, you know my solution to that...I'll go have a cup of tea, of course.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Liebster part 2

I've delayed more than enough, I think... so I'm going to complete the final part of my Liebster obligations.  (for those who missed it... this is the first part...  Liebster Blog Award - part 1)

I'm supposed to list my nominees, as well as a set of questions they're supposed to answer.  One of the things that made this difficult was that the Liebster Award has been around for some time. So while I found Michael Holley worthy  (see his blog in the list of those I follow), as was Jon Jefferson's  Misadventures in Strange Places...  technically, they were ineligible, as they've recently received Liebsters.

I decided to not include a blog I follow that's really a diary, as I'd never follow it myself except that I know the writer.  And  I came across something, somewhere, that said the blogs nominated for the Liebster should be blogs that have new posts at least a couple times a month. So, while I certainly enjoy Cathy's Mid-Life Meandering (see her blog in the list of those I follow)... that also scratches her off the list.

So -- here's the list.

Kat Gentian's Kat's Rambles  ...  rather an eclectic assortment of short posts (she's not nearly as long-winded as I am!)... she talks about current events, and nature, and books, and stuff, and she makes a nice use of photos in her posts.

April Haller's What I'm Thinking Today...... I like her posts, even though she apparently prefers coffee to tea (!)

Wicked Cozy Authors ..  is a blog written by a group of 6 female New England Mystery authors...while they do talk about writing,  they also talk about a lot of other things as well.

And then I have an odd one, where the blog provides information, but there's no discussion.  But I checked Wiki, which defined blog as, a discussion or informational site published on the World Wide Web and consisting of discrete entries ("posts") and while there certainly is an 'author', my guess is he won't respond to the Liebster, but I'm going to list him, anyway, because you might want to take a look at this.

John Rickards has started this really cool blog called No Names No Jackets. Whether you're interested in writing or not, I'm guessing that the readers of Teapot Musings are all avid readers.  If you go to this blog, you'll find single chapters from a wide variety of books.  No book names, no author names, no info other than genre.  IF you like what you read, then you can click on a link at the bottom, which will take you to Amazon, or Barnes and Noble, or wherever, where you can buy the book if you wish.   John gets nothing, whether you buy the book or not.  And he's not the author of these books, so it's not a marketing thing on his part.  He just thinks it's a great way to let you read a chapter, and decide if you want to read the rest of the book.

I was going to include, but even after reading Wiki's definition, and reading listverse's 'about' page, I can't decide if it's a blog or not, so I'm not listing it, but you might want to check it out.

Oh yeah, now for the final part... I'm supposed to list 11 questions for Kat, April, the WC Authors (or their delegate) and John to answer.  And I'm not sure whether to go for serious, or silly, or something in between.. so I'll do a combination.

1.  What's your favorite color?  (silly, I know, but ever since Monty Python first asked this question, I just can't resist this one)

2.  Why do you blog?

3.  How long have you been blogging?

4.  Are you a cat person, or a dog person?

5.  What was your favorite picture book as a child?

6.  What is your favorite book as an adult?

7.  Are you a fan of Big Bang Theory?  If so, what's your favorite Sheldonism?

8.  If you could time travel, would you?  And if yes, would you go back, or forward?

9.  List all of the computers/devices you presently use.

10.  What's your favorite number?

11.  What's your favorite tea?

There you go, Liebsterites.  Don't forget, you need to answer these questions, you need to provide 11 random facts about yourself, and you need to inflict   award the Liebster to others.

To readers of Teapot Musings.. you might want to take a look at these blogs.. if nothing else, to see what their answers are!

And now -- once I notify each of these people of their nomination,--  it's time for tea

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The lesson I've learned from John Irving

Recently, I was reading something online and followed a link in the story to something else, and then found another link I followed, and then had a question that I googled... oh come on, you've done the same thing too, I'm sure you have.
John Irving (photo from his website)
In any event, I apologize to the sources of the first few stories ... I can't quite remember how many links there were...  but I ended up reading a Q&A in the Economist from last summer, with John Irving.  You know, the author of The World According to Garp, and The Cider House Rules, and Hotel New Hampshire,  and a bunch of other novels.  
And I'll stop here with a confession... although I certainly know who John Irving is, and I was familiar with the titles of some of his books, I've never read any of them.  But back to my on-line wanderings... from the Economist site, I googled Mr. Irving, and went to his website.. nothing like the horse's mouth, and all that.. and I found the following:
WHOA!  He ALWAYS begins with the END????  That can't be right.  Maybe it's a figure of speech, or a euphemism, or a typo or something.
So I finished reading that page of his website, and discovered that it was none of those things.  Irving meant exactly what he said.  He went on to say that he often has several ideas bouncing around in his head.  He decides which one to use - not based on trends, or book sales, or even which idea has been bouncing around for the longest, but - based on which one has the most clear ending.
Those who know me, or follow my blog, know that I dabble in writing, mostly by taking part in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) each November.  I've only been doing this for a few years, I have nothing published, I'm not sure I care about ever being published, but I like to think I'm getting a bit better at it each year, and most importantly, I enjoy doing it.  Last year, as usual, I began tossing around some ideas in advance of November, so that when November 1 rolled around, I could jump right in.  Without warning, on a pre-November day, the ENDING popped into my head.  And I couldn't get it out of my head.  This is NOT how I do things.  I don't write everything in order, but I begin with the beginning, and I discover the end, near the end.
As I started writing the beginning last year and worked my way through the middle, I  tried to change direction... I truly did...  but no matter what I tried, I was clearly heading for the ending that had occurred to me, before I started the beginning.
So I pouted.
But I still couldn't get the ending out of my head.  And finally, I gave in, and used that ending.
Now, I read John Irving's comments, and I wonder if I've had it wrong, all along.  Maybe I'm SUPPOSED to begin with the end.  Maybe last year was the first time I did it right.
So I've added a couple of his books to my 'to-read' list, and I'll try to get to at least one of them, before I begin preparations for NaNoWriMo 2013.  And I'm open to the possibility that I've been doing it wrong all this time.
Thank you Mr. Irving.  You've given me a lot to think about, as I drink my tea this morning.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013


I know I've missed flag day, and it's not yet July 4th, but I wanted to talk about flags.

I am a HUGE  fan of the comedy series  Big Bang Theory...  or as I affectionately call it, BBT.

No -- WAIT!!  Don't wander off... this really IS about flags.  You see, over the years, I've learned a lot from BBT... I've learned about Schroedinger's cat, I've learned about quantum mechanics and string theory...  AND ... I've learned about flags.

Nope, BBT isn't intended to be educational...  it is most definitely a comedy...  but they keep throwing in these interesting little tidbits, and somehow they stick with me.  Recently, I was watching a re-run in which Sheldon (one of the main characters)  was doing an educational youtube series about flags. Trust me, if you knew Sheldon, you'd realize the 'funny-potential', and for those of you who are fellow BBT fans, I'm sure you're remembering the episode, and laughing even while you read on.

Comedy is not really my strong suit  (well, actually, I think it is, but that opinion is not shared by many)... but sharing bits of trivia certainly is.  So here's your trivia.

(insert drum roll)
 Lichtenstein and Haiti used to have the same flag, which looked like this...

Now, I'm not really sure how most countries go about having their flag designed, and I'm sure there are a lot of political things and such that go into designing a flag... but this design -- that two different countries decided was the flag to have -- I hate to be critical, but it's not much of a design.  Lichtenstein came up with their flag in 1921 (no, I don't know what they used before that.. but I can look it up for you, if you wish), and Haiti -- well, that's actually a bit more complicated.  Haiti has one flag used for civil purposes, and a slightly different flag used for national and military purposes.  Why?  Beats me. But the picture above is the civil version of the flag.  The national/military flag has the Haitian coat of arms in the middle.

In any event, at the 1936 Olympics, it was discovered that the two countries had the same flag  (gee, you'd think  that someone would be checking this stuff, wouldn't you?), so the following year, Lichtenstein added a crown in the upper left hand corner.

The official Lichtenstein flag is now

 and the national/military flag of Haiti is

Wow!!... amazing what a difference those very small modifications make.  All in all, I think these versions are actually more interesting.

Oh, speaking of interesting, I have two more things to share, before I get to the cup of tea waiting for me.
The flag of Andorra has two cows on it..... and the study of flags is called vexillology.  Again, courtesy of Big Bang Theory.

And now, to my tea.      

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Paula Deen/Food Network Debacle

I don't typically comment on the real hot topics of the day... not because I don't care, or don't have an opinion, but because there are so many other sources of information and opinion out there that I choose to not add my thoughts to the already-huge pile. But this time, I'm going to.

I want to start by being upfront about a few things.
First, I am a BIG Food Network fan.  Food Network  (originally TV Food Network) was launched nearly 20 years ago, and I would guess I've been watching it almost since its inception.
Second, I am NOT a Paula Deen fan.  I find her southern accent to be annoying (really, is it real?), but more importantly, I don't care for her style of cooking.  No, I don't make most of the recipes I see -- although I have been known to peruse the Food Network website when looking for something new... but I generally watch programs that tend to be more like the cooking I do, and the foods I eat.

Now, having said that...  I am OUTRAGED at Food Network refusing to renew Paula Deen's contract, based on recent incidents.

For those who have been hiding under rocks  (and I'm not saying that's a bad thing) or are outside of the U.S.  (I suspect that this fiasco has not been deemed important enough to catch the attention of the rest of the world)...  let me summarize things for you.......
In the United States - as well as elsewhere - there are derogatory words that are used to describe people, typically according to race, or religion, or nationality, or gender.  Paula Deen is one of the Food Network personalities...  she has her own show, she cooks, she writes books, she has restaurants,  she endorses cooking-types of things... you get the picture.   As part of some recent litigation, Paula Deen  admitted that she used one of these derogatory words, once, many years ago. She allowed for the possibility that she may have used it another time or so since, but she was unable to come up with a specific time or place.  More importantly, (and this is really important)


I want to let that sink in for a moment.  

I'm not giving this woman brownie points for admitting she did something she shouldn't have done, and I'm not going to discuss whether her stated reason was valid, and I'm not even going to suggest that you should believe her story that she didn't do it again.  What I am suggesting is that -- if there was ANYONE out there who could credibly assert that this was a frequent and or/recent action on Paula Deen's part... do you really think they would not have come forward?

So.  Paula used a derogatory word ---- long before she was ever on the Food Network, and even before the Food Network existed.  She wasn't even a public personality at the time.  She denies using the word currently, or even recently, and no one is accusing her of doing so.  She denies being a racist, and no one is accusing her otherwise... forget about proof, no one is even ACCUSING her of otherwise.  And Food Network announces it will not renew her contract, because of this.  Yeah, yeah, yeah, I'm sure the contract has some morality clause in it.. and it should... but we're not talking about her using the word on the air, or even using the word while in public, or even using the word during her employment with Food Network.  Many, many years ago.

Food Network ---  you've screwed up.  In my opinion, you've REALLY screwed up.  I suspect Ms. Deen will not be suing you for unlawful termination of employment --  after all, it sounds as if perhaps her current contract was due to expire shortly, and I'm assuming you have the right to choose to not renew an expired contract.  Perhaps you were planning on terminating her show anyway, and this seemed like a good bandwagon to jump on.  And perhaps in the future, someone might step forward and make a claim of more recent wrongdoing.  But as of now, that hasn't happened.

You screwed up, Food Network.  And those of you - the producers, or board of directors, or whoever - who made this decision should be ashamed of yourselves.  Because this was a really, really bad decision.

I'm so annoyed, I need a cup of tea.  

Monday, June 24, 2013

It doesn't have to match

I heard an amusing story that I want to share.

One day, the receptionist in my building  (I'll call her Jane) had someone point out that she was missing an earring. While these earrings weren't expensive, Jane liked the colors, and wore them frequently.  She checked all around her desk, in her clothing, on the floor, and even in the trash -- but to no avail. The missing earring remained AWOL.  Two days later, one of the attorneys in the building asked Jane if she'd recently lost an earring, and she acknowledged that she had.  It turns out that Jane had been putting together a fed-ex package for the attorney, which was then mailed to the court.  The court had called the attorney to report that the package they'd received included an earring... Jane's earring.  A short time later, Jane and the missing earring were happily reunited.  Alas, the reunion and happiness were short lived, as that same earring went AWOL again a short time later, and remains missing, to this day.

But the sharing of this story led to a discussion of how long is the appropriate length of time to keep the earring left behind, when the other one goes astray.

Come on now, ladies  (and perhaps some men?)....   admit it, you've all kept earrings left behind, long after there was any hope of the missing one returning home.

It occurred to me that there's an easy solution to this...  oh sure, I get it, the easy solution is to throw away the earring you have left.  But is that really fair?  That poor earring has already been abandoned by its soulmate, or perhaps I should say lobemate... and now you're going to throw it in the trash?  So perhaps instead of calling this the easy solution, I should call this the better solution.

What we should do is...   no, wait, let me lay the groundwork first.

I have some socks.  These aren't leftover socks, suffering a similar fate to the left-behind earrings, these are socks that were purchased in a 3-pack. Nope, not 3 pairs, but 3 socks.  My favorite pair - oops, grouping - is my pink set.  My pink set consists of one sock that's solid bright pink, one sock that is dark pink with bright pink polka dots, and one sock is bright pink with dark pink stripes.  There is no pair, just a grouping.  And those three socks are very happy, they all get along well with each other, and none of them has ever indicated the slightest desire to go on a clothes dryer adventure.  They happily take turns as to who gets to go out in public.

With that in mind, I think it is time that we move beyond the notion of a pair of earrings, and expand into the world of earring groupings.  There's no reason I shouldn't be able to wear my silver star earring in one ear, and

either my blue plaid star earring -
or my silver cat earring - in the other.  See what I did?  In one case, I matched shapes, and in the other, I matched colors.  Or, I could get really wild, and wear my yellow feather earring in one ear, and my black interlocking rings earring in the other ear.  You can buy mismatched earrings... why not be matchmaker to the ones you already have?   In this manner, we'd be able to remove the stigma attached to the poor, lonely, abandoned, left-behind earring, and turn it into a 'one-of-the-gang' earrings.  Stop putting those single earrings in that special place of shame, wondering how long to wait before -- aargghhh -- throwing them out.  Return them to the world of public display, proudly sitting on your ear.  Earrings are a fashion statement, let's be fashionable.  They don't have to match.

Whew.  I feel really good, having come to this realization.  I think I'll have a cup of tea -- after checking to make sure I haven't dropped an earring into the bottom.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Donkeys and ponies and mules (oh my!)

Recently, I was on the island of Santorini, Greece.  I arrived via cruise ship, which meant I came ashore at the bottom of an EXTREMELY steep cliff

.... with the cities at the TOP of the extremely steep cliff.  

There are three ways to get to the top...  you can take a cable car, you can walk, or you can take a donkey ride.  And while you're deciding, let me point out that the climb is a vertical climb of about 650 feet.  Still undecided?  Do you see that zig-zaggy line going up the middle?  That's the path.. so I have no idea what total distance is, but it's significantly more than 650 feet.  Still not sure?   Then let me point out that - should you choose to walk, the only path is the same one that the donkeys take.... and that path has no outhouses, either for people, or for donkeys.   

Right... that's what we decided...  we would ride a donkey up, and then at the end of the day we would take the cable car down.

Now, I grew up in the city... and while I've seen horses.. not just on tv, but actually in real life... I've never been ON a horse, or any other sort of equine, for that matter.  I'd done my research on the various places we'd be stopping on the cruise, of course, so I knew of the donkey rides... and in case I'd forgotten, as soon as we got off the ship, we were faced with a multitude of signs directing us to the cable car, and to the donkey rides.  

My husband was less convinced that the donkey rides were the choice to make, but he likes to indulge me  (and I like to be indulged!)...  But as soon as he saw the animals, he informed me that the animals we'd be riding were not donkeys, but rather were mules... that mules were much larger than donkeys.  Since he grew up on a farm with crops and livestock and such, I was sure he was right.. but as I pointed out to him  - 'donkey' is a funnier word than 'mule'.

In any event, we rode our faux donkeys to the top.. and not only is 'donkey' a funny word, but the entire experience was very funny.  We weren't allowed to hold the reins of our faux donkeys, just the handle-thingy at the front of the saddle... and while our faux donkeys clearly knew they were supposed to go up... they were just as clearly aware that they were in charge.  

I thanked my f.donkey when it came to a stop, as that gave me a great opportunity to take a few pictures.  

I did NOT thank my f. donkey when it suddenly decided to race to the front of the line, even if that meant squeezing between two other f. donkeys who were walking next to each other.  I laughed heartily when hubby's donkey decided to stop for a bite to eat, and hubby watched forlornly as the rest of the group passed him by... I quit laughing when hubby's donkey decided to catch up, and squished me and my donkey between it and the wall, as it strode by.

Now that I'm home and back at my computer, I'm wondering about the differences between donkeys and mules and even ponies and horses.  Turns out ponies are just little horses.. the major difference is how many hands they have, or how many hands they're tall, or something like that.

A donkey, however, is a different species from a pony or a horse, but for some reason, horses and ponies are able to breed with donkeys.  Since hubby had told me that mules were bigger than donkeys, I initially thought that a donkey and a horse made a .... no, wait...  a donkey and a pony.. hmmm, not sure what I thought, but I'm pretty sure it was wrong!

Turns out that a mule is the result of a male donkey breeding with a female horse.  (They can do it the other way around.. a female donkey and a male horse, but for some reason that's harder to do.)  
And there's actually a reason for doing this cross breeding, other than Mother Nature having a sense of humor...   Mules are larger than donkeys... but more importantly,  mules generally have the patience, even-temperament, and sure-footedness of a donkey, while at the same time having the vigor, strength and stamina of a horse.  

Now that I know all of this, it makes sense to use mules for that path up to the top of Santorini Island... but donkey is still a funnier word.

And that bit about mules being sterile?  While it's generally true, there are some rare exceptions... but that probably doesn't matter to anyone except the mule.   

And now......
Well it's time for tea, of course.