It warn’t so dang funny when it was happenin’, y’know

tl;dr

Okay, you were warned.

On Tuesday, my mother and I had our annual physicals. He decided Mama should have another colon scope just to make sure the minor symptoms she has now and then aren’t a problem, and he changed some of her medications. To cheer her up, I dropped by the house to pick up the tiny dog (he goes crazy if we leave him alone at home for hours–he gets bored, poor baby) and headed over to the Black-Eyed Pea for a to-go treat.

We were ALMOST home. We turned onto Renner, a six-lane road that could pass for a drag race track at rush hour, and the car lost power.
Fun every minute

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Overheard in Richardson, TX

“I’m never telling that doctor any symptoms again! Next he’ll have me sleeping in an iron lung, and then I’ll never get any! . . . not that I’m gettin’ any now.”
# # #
“So the day after I got my license I got my first ticket. Two days after that I got stopped AGAIN. And then they pulled me over FOR NO REASON the next week. So now my license is already suspended!”
“Unbelievable.”
# # #
“It’s my body wash and stuff–it’s all made in China, did you know? I looked on my bottles last night and sure enough, all of ’em were made in China. They’re poisoning me. It’s just like with the pet food and all the baby formula and stuff that they put toxic sh*t in, you know? I tossed ’em all. Now I’m having a tough time finding body wash that isn’t made over there, except the really expensive brands like Origins and Perlier and Neiman Marcus. What am I going to do? I’ve already lost part of my sense of smell!”
# # #
“She’s supposed to be doing her homework, but instead I go in and she’s sitting there in the middle of the new carpet eating candy and zoned out to Emir. But I’ll admit, you gotta love a group calls themselves ‘Emir & the Frozen Camels.'”
# # #
“Pleasure is the object, duty, and goal of all rational creatures.”–Voltaire

Every silver lining’s got a touch of gray

As I rounded the corner on a farm-to-market road earlier today, the van’s wipers scraping across the windshield regularly because it was drizzling heavily, the CD player clicked on to the Grateful Dead CD “American Beauty” and the cut “Touch of Grey.” I wished for a camcorder, because the scene through the windshield would have been a PERFECT movie opener (rolling credits above the wipers), complete with soundtrack.

Then I got home with the groceries to find the family watching an episode of “Unexplained Mysteries” on the National Geographic channel–not the one with the guy who talked about people disappearing and such, but one that’s about natural mysteries. As I walked in, the guy was talking about ley lines, the lines of natural energy/force that circle the globe. I used this idea in “Dulcinea,” where my “magic” was actually a drawing on Earth’s power via the manipulation of these ley lines of force through specially trained people with the proper talent. Hey, that’s how we play the piano or the flute–we have a certain talent (don’t tell me people with no sense of rhythm, slappity slap, or a tin ear can play well, because they simply cannot–they can’t keep a flute in the proper intonation, for example, and a string instrument can go slightly sour when the A/C comes on) and we are specially trained. It made sense. Yet I still had the objections from family, friends, and the peanut gallery that my book “was witchcraft from the Devil!” I specifically did not portray it as such, as a religion at all but as a specialized natural philosophy (early science was called natural philosophy) usable by trained adepts, but they still leaped on this and insisted that was the ONLY definition of magic. Hmph.

But the NEXT segment was more interesting. They spotlighted [wordplay alert] the MARFA LIGHTS! There were several lifelong residents of Marfa who had seen them several times, and there was footage of the lights and photographs of various sightings. The lights were first documented by a rancher in the 1800s (pre-Civil War), so they cannot be “headlights from hwy 67,” though I *have* seen headlights–they look completely different. The Cherokee legend about the “ghost lights” is that these are braves sent out on a mission who were killed by warring tribes and cannot find their way back to the village . . . the tribes have moved on, but the ghost light still searches forever. Scientists in Japan said it was a particular kind of earth phenomenon that happens in various places–but they couldn’t get the lights to perform for them until the day they were set to depart, so they didn’t get the data they wanted. Anyhow, the segment covered it completely without the usual curled-lip sneer stuff, and without a whole lot of woo-woo. They went on to discuss sprites and other atmospheric phenomena observed by astronauts in orbit. It was neat.

What I wished was that Toni Plummer, the editor who has my Marfa novel on her desk (supposedly, according to my contest judge), had seen this segment . . . maybe she’d be more interested then. She could see that I have several marketing hooks: Marfa lights fans, fans of all such phenomena, fans of woo-woo stuff in general, people who like mysteries, SMU graduates, and so forth. I mean . . . I gotta platform here! Also, there’s “Richardson Reads One Book,” a program they hold here for the entire TOWN to read one novel. They picked someone’s book this year just ’cause he lives in the area. Well, I have lived here longer than that library has even been standing!! I have one of the original cardboard library cards! (In my scrapbook now–they only take the electronic ones now.) There’s no reason I could not get my friends at the library to pimp any book I publish to become that book, and it would mean LOTS OF SALES. But I cannot get anything at all into print, so sigh.

I did get a mention on the NETWO conference contest “winners” page, though. I’m listed under my mundane name, Denise G. Weeks. When you Google that name now, you get mostly hits for my famous rap/soul recordings that are now charting . . . o’course that is not me, but now I have a fun double-take joke I can pull on people. There’s also a Denise Weeks who is head of the legislature in North Carolina or someplace (I haven’t looked for a while, and that’s what I recall.) Aren’t we famous? Look, another selling hook I can talk about if I ever go on a book tour.

Here’s the NETWO site. (NorthEast Texas Writers’ Organization.) I’m listed as winning first place and two honorable mentions. Cool. But, of course, it is merely a little egoboo. That doesn’t mean a thing to editors and agents and The Anointed of Real Publishing. My mother was finally impressed, which mystifies me, but that’s about all you get out of THAT. Unless you’re at the conference and get to talk to people of like minds, which was what I had in mind. *sigh*

I do wish I could have been there to actually thank the judges. But I did send the judges some e-mail thanking them for their insightful judging sheets. Mostly they said things that made me see that they really GOT IT. They understood that these were literary stories with literary allusions and SYMBOLISM and so forth. They didn’t say, “Huh?” or “What does this word mean? Why would you name a character ‘Jeep’?” or even “I think you should write about your uncle Zeke who had the first dairy farm in Delta County and all his kids” the way my family always does. They compared my fairytale retelling to something that Anne Sexton did! They compared my literary allusions to those of established members of the Western canon of literature! They actually got it!

That was a birthday gift from the Universe, I suppose. Now I need the matching book contract. When’s the next gift-giving holiday?

Why Word has a “whole words only” thing in the “replace” function

Guess what I just did–in the Word document I was editing, I changed all “Stan” to “Gary,” but forgot to tell it “whole words only” or put a space at the end, so I made words like “underGarydable” and “diGaryt” all through my silly new teenybopper book. Whee!

I especially liked “Garyding on the curb,” “she won’t garyd for it,” “I don’t underGaryd that man,” and the ever-popular Garyford University! Ivy League!

Anyhow. Didn’t realize I had not updated the journal for eight days or however long. We’ve been so exhausted around here for a couple of weeks that I figure we’ve been fighting off that flu. But I did have a cool inspiration for a silly YA novel, so I’m working on that. I figure, what the hell?

“I can’t understand why a person will take a year to write a novel when he can easily buy one for a few dollars.”-—Fred Allen (radio star from the 1940s/50s)

LJ responds to users quickly . . . don’t panic

I have a paid account, so it surprised me to see someone mention a banner ad that offended them so badly they were leaving LJ . . . and even when I followed the link, I never did see that ad.

But the ad caused a furor, and lots of people started saying they were leaving LJ over it.

Okay . . . first, LJ’s staff is taking care of having this ad and a couple of others removed from LJ rotation.

The way those banner ads work, as I understand it, is they’re contracted out. A company can arrange to not have particular categories of ads display on their site, so I assume that is what LJ is going to do now. But if you jump up and scream, “LJ did this to me on purpose!” you are jumping the gun. It was more than likely just the way the DoubleClick ads work–your journal for some reason fit the target audience for their product, or so they imagined. (They do want to sell things, after all, not irritate people. Tough as that may be to believe.) They will be (I assume) monitoring this stuff in the future to keep particular categories of political ads away, if they’re smart.

But the hysteria has already hit. People are beating their chests and rending their garments. But it’s not necessary! Unlike some other businesses, LJ actually was paying attention. Staff member Marta is responding in a thread about it.

I’ve never seen the ad. I tried, but never did, even when I had links to it! But I also don’t agree with those who are choosing to get all offended about it–after all, I’ll wager they don’t stop watching (for example) Comedy Central after seeing an ad for something they think is scary-bad, or a rah-rah from some local city council candidate who holds ridiculously prejudiced views, or whatever. They don’t stop watching CNN or FoxNews just because there’s a promo spot from someone they don’t support. My feeling is that this is like Amazonfail, where people get all excited because there’s finally something they can take offense to and make their voices heard (which I suppose is something) even though the BUSINESS has not been given a chance to fix the situation, but I also think that the appropriate response is to contact customer service or other staff first, to give people a chance to fix things. My elderly mother was getting “male enlargement” and even weirder stuff in text messages on her cell phone, and was hysterical (she IS almost eighty, after all–until she was 14, she says, she never knew there COULD be a prez other than FDR), but I didn’t throw the phone away or tell Cingular to stuff it–I called Cingular and turned off text messaging (she never used it.).

I am pleased to see that LJ (in the person of Marta) is going to try to find the source of this particular ad and eliminate it and others like it BECAUSE that is good customer service for those who have asked–not because I believe in stifling the voices of the opposition.

Whoa! Here I am, leaping into the air and shouting “Pull!” again! For I have just said something that will anger those who are offended by the ad. However, a moment’s thought will show that to say those people can’t advertise and should be exterminated and so forth is pretty much the same thing as THEM saying the same about us, saying that YOU/WE should disappear, is it not? (After all . . . to say they can’t advertise AT ALL is trying to stifle their voice, isn’t it? So they’re kind of right? To guarantee they cannot be heard at all would mean that OUR voices are then not protected either, right? Um.) We must tolerate the dissenting and even the wicked voices if ours are to be protected.

That’s part of the arrangement for this country. We don’t suppress dissidents. It may be tougher to stomach when the dissidents are suddenly those people you believe have been oppressing others (and for whom the flippity has recently flopped, the majority now being against them, apparently), but you MUST grin and just shake your head indulgently and bear it. For if we silence them and ban them and raise all kinds of heck over it, then they can do the same to us and we can’t say a word about it.

(I’m not saying that a completely outrageous thing such as a “kill all the Xs” would pass the test. But as described, this ad is not that kind of thing. It is a political statement/appeal. It simply says that a group is trying to silence another group. And the reaction is kind of, um, proving their point. Unfortunately.)

Now, this doesn’t mean that you have to listen to the program on which someone is preaching against your beliefs. You can flip the channel. You can protest to the station. But you can’t say that NO ONE should hear that person talking or make a rule that they must be kept off A, B, and C channels. Because then they could say that NO ONE should hear YOU talking. This is what I’m getting at. I am not taking sides in the controversy addressed by that upsetting banner ad.

Of course, if people wish to go to another provider for ANY reason or for no reason at all, that is their privilege! I have no problem with that, either. It’s all part of the free market and freedom of choice!

Supercalicrappytasticexpialidocious

Our little enclave seems to be at the epicenter of the North Texas flu incursion.

Now they’ve closed the junior high I attended (a few miles north of the elementary school that’s closed until the 11th) and are registering one definite H1N1-whatever flu case in Collin county (which is where the school is) and saying that the potential cases in Dallas county have doubled to 18. *sigh* What possible reason could the gov’t and media have for trying to make everyone hysterical? It has to be a real threat, or else they wouldn’t be carrying on so. Right? Yes? Bueller?

Mama got up this morning determined to GO SOMEWHERE. She got all dolled up and tricked out and insisted I take her in the car riding all around. We chickened out of eating take-out food, so I dashed into a grocery store (outside of our immediate area) to pick up some things. I swear I just about had a panic attack in there, thinking that I could catch the stuff and pass it along. My mother has COPD, asthma, heart trouble, and so forth, so this respiratory flu thing would be too dangerous for her to catch. I practically showered in Purell before I came back out to the car.

They’ve canceled MayFest and all UIL events in D/FW. I’ve got passes to Scarborough Faire, but man, that is definitely a bunch of people in close quarters, so I don’t think I should go this weekend. (The school districts seem to have settled on reopening on May 11th. What’s magical about the eleventh? Should I plan to go to the renfaire after then? Who can say??) I probably will skip the “piano party” tomorrow night, as it’s at a mall store (a music store) and will be held in close quarters with people playing on the recital pianos and sharing germs. (It’s an informal group of amateurs who either play piano themselves or have children who play well, and we get together every month so people will have someone to play for. I always enjoy hearing the others, and often I am cajoled into playing Vince Guaraldi, if not some Schubert or easy Chopin.) Since they closed the schools until May 11th, everyone seems to have taken their kids and gone to the malls . . . the malls are packed. (But is anyone spending money? That’s the question!)

I’d like to go ANYwhere at this point. They don’t have any cases of this bug in Grayson county where my aunts live, so I think it would be good for my mother to go there to stay for a few days. We’ll see how the storms turn out (they’ve been getting flooding all along the Red River, very near where my aunt lives.) This could make a person psycho (especially when she already teeters on the line between genius and insanity *grin*)

Hubby thinks everyone’s overreacting. 48% of people polled on the radio station website I checked say they are not doing ANYTHING differently. Only 20% are washing their hands more, and a smaller number say they won’t attend crowd-events. Sheesh! They should at least wash their hands.

I wouldn’t be taking this so hard if my sister-in-law (who is not a hysteric–as the daughter of a nurse, she thinks you don’t have a fever until it’s over 101, and says you have to go to school unless they can’t stop the bleeding . . . I exaggerate, but not much, as you’ll know if your mom was a nurse) had not been so emphatic that “this would KILL your mother, so you can’t let her go out, and you have to leave the house if anyone else gets sick.” She never overreacts to things. Even though people are recovering from this and it doesn’t seem to be spreading as quickly as they had feared (yay!), it’s still scary.

Stress tends to undermine the immune response. What we need is to get away to somewhere that isn’t in the middle of all this. (Hawaii! Paris!) Maybe we can get away tomorrow. But! Hubby’s A/C in his car has gone out, so I need to get that fixed as soon as possible. And the piano still needs to be tuned. Dinner, however, is covered–there’s chicken in the crockpot. We’ll see how it turns out; it’s a made-up recipe containing taco seasoning, tomato sauce, and various things I threw in that seemed as if they’d work well. It does smell kind of “different,” so . . . hmm.

I hear thunder! Just what we need. Oh, well, the grass needs watering.