Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Am I Not Human? If You Bug Me, Will I Not Bitch?

Let me just say this: after 22 years of parenting, I refuse to be resigned! I'm not going to just give in and say, "Well, okay, then. Sam is just never going to hang up the hand towel and I'm not going to make an issue of it any longer. It's just not worth it." Nor am I just going to--I was going to use the metaphor throw in the towel but that would be redundant now, wouldn't it?--give up and say, "All right. It's over. Jared will never, ever take all of his dishes into the kitchen from the living room, so I'm done harping about it. It's pointless."

NO! Because that is what THEY want. Who? Well, yes, Sam and Jared want that. Oh, my, yes. They would love that, although their constant refusal to acquiesce to my simple requests/demands would indicate otherwise--that they in fact love to hear me harp and harangue about handtowels and snack detritus, so often do they perform behaviors that result in it.

No, I am talking about a different THEM. I am speaking about the followers of Pastor Will Bowen of Christ Church Unity in Kansas City, Missouri. "The one thing we can agree on," says Pastor Will, "is there's too much complaining." He asked his congregation to take a pledge: go for 21 consecutive days without complaining even once. If they caught themselves griping at all, they had to start over. To help them, he gave them each a purple rubber wristband like the one pictured at the top of this post. Each member of his flock placed it on his or her wrist. If he or she erred, the congregant then switched the wristlet to the opposite arm and started counting again from day one. Some members reported that it took seven months to complete the pledge and attain their "Certificates of Happiness." Others were successful in as little as three months. One member asked her sixth grade class to take the pledge with her. The students found their biggest obstacle to be brothers and sisters who could be "really mean!"

Reverend Bowen is looking to attain World Domination with his no-complaint program: "We're going to be the center of no complaining around the world!" he said. And truthfully, he has planned for this eventuality by appearing on shows like Oprah!, Good Morning America, and has been interviewed in People magazine. He's even giving away his purple rubber bracelets for free on his website http://www.acomplaintfreeworld.org/, which will automatically lead you to his church's webpage.

Well, Reverend Bowen, not the whole world...!

Because I, for one, will not be sucked into your little purple plan! I reserve the right to beef, bellyache, grouse, grumble, kvetch, carp, object, lament, sound off about, bemoan, fuss, bewail, and crab about pretty much whatever I feel like here at The Dept. any old time I want. I find it cathartic and necessary. Some people find it entertaining, and as the old saying goes, "misery loves company."

So...take your little purple bracelets and snap 'em.

Friday, June 22, 2007

If A Blogger Falls In The Forest...

Cyberspace is a strange and surreal place. We've become part of an ethereal community in which we are friends, but most of us have never met. We know each other, but we've never heard the sound of one another's voice. We care about each other, but very few of us even know--or really care--where or under what circumstances the other lives, works, or indulges in his or her pastimes. Many of us couldn't find our blogger friends in a phone book because we not only don't know their last names, we don't even know their real first names.

If something happened to one of us, how would the rest of us find out?

In my case, no one here at The Dept. knows my Blogger sign-in information. Rick, Sam, or Jared wouldn't be able to post a notice, if they even thought about it. True, there are several of my "regulars" who live near me and who also blog, and they might kindly make mention of it at their blogs, or think to append a notice in the Comments section on my Last Post. But that seems pretty self-aggrandizing to take that for granted. Still, there are a few of you who might care and want to know.

You know, if Something Happened.

Well, I'm here to tell you that someone has already thought of all this. Of course. Let me introduce you to Deathswitch. A deathswitch is a program that prompts you for your password on a regular schedule that you have predetermined. If you don't respond within a previously agreed-upon time, it will prompt you again, several times. If you still do not respond, your computer assumes you are dead (or critically disabled) and basically goes on an automated emailing binge, sending out prescripted messages that you have prepared for this eventuality. "A deathswitch," reads their website, "is information insurance. Don't die with secrets that need to be free."

Holy Crap.

Let me just say this: I have a ton of secrets. A. Ton. And I am taking them to the grave with me. The whole point of secrets is just that. They are secret. Benjamin Franklin said, "Three may keep a secret if two of them are dead." No way I'm emailing a bunch of secrets. No one is getting The Pesto Recipe. Among other things.

And, is it just me, or are the rest of you seeing oh, about eleventy billion scenarios in which this deathswitch thing could go horribly awry? "Oh, sorry about that, Aunt Martha. We had a power outage and my computer got all screwed up and my deathswitch accidentally sent you that. Ha ha. Never mind." or "Hello? Oh, hi, Mom. No, it's really me. No, Mom. Please, Mom. Stop screaming. Mom, please. Mom, I really do love you. It was a joke. My roommate was just goofing around on my new computer. Mom...!" or "Hello, New ISP? I can't seem to get my email set up correctly...."

No, no Deathswitch for me. Instead, I'll opt for an index card with my Blogger info on it. I'll put it with my will and, when it's time for The Last Post, either someone at The Dept. will do it, or they'll recruit one of you.
Last Year at The Dept. of Nance: The Cats Are Pointless

Sunday, June 17, 2007

So, I Was Talking To Hillary, And I Told Her...

..."Look, Hillary, at some point, you've gotta show you're human like the rest of us. I know it's a tough gamble for a woman who's running for the most powerful office in the world and all, but you're coming off as too polished, too 'handled.' It's not like you have to cry or admit to PMSing all over the place or needing your chocolate fix or whatever--you just have to have a couple of hey, I get you sister friend Oprah-type moments. Trust me on this. I mean, if I can't speak the truth to you as a friend, then what are friends for, you know?" And I think she got me. We'll see. It might not show up in a debate, say, but she'll know when to pick her spots. She's that good.
Psssssssssssssssst. How was I just then, up there? Did it sound credible? I've decided to follow a new national trend, making it big by faking it. According to Elizabeth Large of The Baltimore Sun, (reprinted in The Cleveland Plain Dealer 15 June 07) this is perfectly acceptable. "These days it's fine to fake it," she writes. As a matter of fact, there's a book out to help us on our way: Faking It: How to Seem Like a Better Person without Actually Improving Yourself. The mantra of this program is "It's not who you are, but who others think you are." Although this book is designed primarily to help newly graduated college students navigate in the real world, it contains many helpful hints for those who are looking to impress. These hints include:
*Pretend you're a good host by filling top shelf liquor bottles with off brands when you finish them.
*Pretend you're intellectual and well-read by leaving impressive magazines on your coffee table like The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly and The Economist; get a copy of the latest NYTimes best-selling nonfiction book and dog-ear every 40 pages or so. Leave the dog-ear down about halfway through the book.
*Pretend you're a gourmet cook by constantly referring to complicated dishes or ingredients you hear on Food TV shows by claiming to make/use them yourself.
*Avoid exposing your ignorance by being dismissive or saying with a chuckle, "Well, that's a pretty complex issue" and then offering refreshments.
If you're self-righteously shocked by this cool and duplicitous strategy, I ask you: have you never, ever faked it? Not even once?
Have you ever re-gifted? You know, gotten a present from someone, felt really lukewarm about it, stashed it away and, one day been in a spot when a gift was needed on the fly for someone else and...Eureka! That wrong-fit gift became the perfect present for that someone else.
Or...you were asked to bring a dish or dessert to a reunion or a party or a picnic. You didn't feel like putting in the time and effort. You went to a deli or a bakery or the prepared-foods section of a local market and bought something, put it in one of your own dishes and took it to the party. If anyone asked--sure! You made it. Oh, it was no big deal. The recipe? No, you don't dare tell...family secret! (Oh yeah, it was a secret, all right!) I did this! And I admitted it in a previous post.
We've all, as the old old saying goes, "gilded the lily" at one time or another. Who knew it would turn out to be a Millenial Lifestyle Choice? According to professor Ty Tashiro at the University of Maryland, recent research seems to suggest that people are "fundamentally motivated to lie." Technology has made it easier for us to do so, what with Instant Messenger, email, MySpace, texting, and the like. We don't have to face each other to communicate. "People are pretty effortless liars," said Tashiro. And now cyberspace's anonymity and vast network of virtual reality have added to the sense of unreality already out there.

Some have called space the Final Frontier. Is the Internet the Prevarication Perimeter?
Last Year On Dept. of Nance: Men

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Nance Show

It is almost time for the cable bill to come, and that means it is almost time for Rick to sigh heavily and say to Jared, Sam, and me, "This is ridiculous. This much just to watch television?!" Naturally, that is our cue to defend our Pet Channels so that the Budgetary Axe of Death does not fall:

Jared: Life without ESPN, ESPN2, or FSNOhio is not a life I want to live. Are you really prepared to have that on your conscience?
Me: I have to have the Food Network. We've gone over this a hundred times.
Sam: What's this now?

Shortly after that, I also remind him that the cable bill also represents our internet connection. He mumbles something from behind his laptop and proceeds to ignore us for the rest of the evening. He forgets that the majority of his surfing and eventual stopping takes place on cable-provided programming, too. His television watching is just not nearly as interactive as mine is; therefore, it is quieter and not as noticeable.

I am, by nature, a chatty individual, and the fact that the television is supposedly a one-way entertainment device doesn't deter me in the least. I'm quite free with my comments, advice, and dialogue along with the program on the tv. As a matter of fact, Jared thinks I should have my own show something along the lines of Mystery Science Theater 3000, only with a cooking format.

Are you familiar with MST3K? It was a silly show hosted by a human and three robots who sat and watched really awful movies and kept up a running commentary--usually witty and critical--during the films. Sometimes they'd do alternative dialogue, too.

Well, instead of watching bad films, I'd watch the cooking shows of Food Network "stars" that I really dislike. I'd criticize and generally eviscerate them as they cooked, then do my own recipes after their segments. It wouldn't be hard. I already do it at home. There's nothing I like better after a hard day at school than coming home, changing out of my Mrs. D. clothes, kicking back on the couch with Jared and watching Everyday Italian with Giada de Laurentiis, who I simply cannot tolerate as a cook. She is, in a word, terrible. I unwind from my day by ripping her apart, from the fact that she cannot accurately estimate nor measure to her constant use of the word "perfect" and description of every single herb as "lemony." She is also the only Italian I know who refuses to cook generously or even enough. Her guests must have to stop at McDonald's on the way home from dinner at her house.

Anyway, after I got done blasting Giada (or Emeril or Tyler or whoever was on the hotseat that day--but never Paula Deen, NEVER MISS PAULA!) I would then cook a better and Nancer version of whatever dish they had completely screwed up.

Every so often, I might mix it up and have a segment on of the Food Network people I like. Like Alton Brown or Paula Deen or maybe one or two segments that I can tolerate of Michael Chiarello--when he's not saying the word "caramelize" every three seconds and demanding that we see him as a raging heterosexual. But I'd have to see how it goes.

And I'd never have a guest on. Because they might want to talk, too. And I'm just not up for that.
Last year on Dept of Nance: Guilty Pleasures

Friday, June 08, 2007

I'm Just Thinkin' Here

Forgive me if this post is a bit incoherent, but I just finished up my 26th year of teaching today and celebrated the end of another successful year by having a couple of Cape Codders with a group of colleagues at Harry Buffalo's. Uncharacteristically, I nibbled at a snack and drank outdoors, something which I unequivocally detest. But, for my fellow teachers, I will do just about anything. We drank, we chatted, we got incredibly silly and philosophical, depending upon the level of alcohol in our glasses and beer tubes.

Oh, not eating outdoors? No, I'm not a fan. I find it horrid. I hate the whole idea of it. What's the point? You battle wind, bugs, paper plates, sun in your eyes, uncomfortable weather conditions, hot food that isn't optimally hot and cold food that isn't optimally cold. You hope that the wasps circling your open can of soda don't actually go inside, forcing you to accidentally get stung on the lips or tongue. Sometimes you have to sit at picnic tables and be vigilant that too many people don't get up from the other side of the bench, causing your side to teeter-totter downward. How embarrassing! Nope, eating outdoors is too much like work or punishment for me.

There are a few other things I am not, at age 48, ever going to do ever again. Here they are:

1. Be forced into stupid party games or outdoor family reunion games. I don't do sackraces or big softball games or contests. These are just plain ridiculous. I am 48 years old and have earned the right to say NO when I don't feel like doing something.
2. Go to every relative's party or event or send money in my stead. Nor do I expect them at mine. I don't have a lot of cousins, thank goodness. I don't see them often. So, if one of their kids gets married, I don't expect an invitation. If I get one, I don't see why I should feel obligated to go. I haven't seen this kid since he was born, if then. I don't see why I should send a gift, either. Who is this person to me? More importantly, who am I to him or her? Am I part of his or her life? Obviously, this is a ploy for a gift or cash. I'm not falling for it.
3. Send cards all the time. I find greeting cards to be a huge waste of money and time. Let's face it: yes, the thought is nice. Yes, it's pleasant to get mail. But, greeting cards, unless you get generic, awful ones at the Dollar Store, are grossly inflated in price. And, what do you do with them? You look at them, smile, perhaps put them on the mantel for a week or so, then you toss them out. For me, that's not a good return on my investment. I'd rather get and send an e-card, really. I can look at it, save it indefinitely with no clutter, even save it as my desktop wallpaper if it's particularly clever. I realize that the argument can be made that it takes more effort to remember in advance the person's special day, then select the card, stamp it, and send it in plenty of time. But, so what? Do I love my sister less because I call her or send her an e-card? Sometimes belatedly? I think not.
This summer will perhaps be a time of reflection for me. I may rethink these positions. But I doubt it. Perhaps I will, instead, ponder my many obsessions. Like:
1. Brian Williams's ties. Maybe I need to stop perseverating over them and just learn to accept.
2. Lay's Potato Chips. I eat the folded ones and make Rick give me his folded ones.
3. My search for the perfect brown leather slip-on sandal. Where is it? So far, nowhere.
4. My hair. Why isn't Aussie Real Volume shampoo working for me anymore? Or Pantene?
5. Omar Avila. He was on the finale episode of House. Oh my God. He is making me rethink my anti-Latino man position in so many ways. Seriously. So many ways. So many.
6. Breaking up with TravisCat. He is exhibiting rebellious litterbox habits that are ruining my life. I am trying to freeze him out by not speaking to him and making my lap off-limits.
7. Squirrels. They are constantly on my birdfeeder, but I cannot keep shooting them with the bb gun. My aim is not what it used to be, and we have new neighbors behind us. 'Nuff said.
This list should keep me busy through June...perhaps July, if I take weekends off. Naturally, I will consider all propositions/helpful hints offered in comments. But honestly, it's summer. And the livin' is supposed to be easy. Especially for us teachers on vacation.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Rock Me Like A Hurricane...Or At Least TRY!

Hurricane season is upon us, and we are already tracking the movements of one Tropical Storm Barry.


I'm sorry, but I would have a very hard time getting worried and scared about a storm named Barry. That name isn't doing it for me. When I hear the name Barry, I picture either Greg Brady (actor Barry Williams) or a fifty-something guy with kind of curlyish hair, glasses, and plaid Bermuda shorts walking around a backyard barbecue with a can of beer saying, "Well, my accountant looked it over and said he could reduce my tax bill next year by about two percent."

I wondered who the heck was responsible for naming these storms and why they continue to do such a crappy job. It's the National Weather Service, and they started adding men's names to the list in 1979. There are, in fact, six lists of storm names now, and they simply rotate them. The original naming began in 1953 to simplify the task of reporting the storms to the general public; I imagine that they will begin to add even more ethnically diverse names if the public begin to demand it.

Here is the official list of Storm Names for 2007:
Now, I don't know about you, but those are some wussy names for hurricanes. I'm not about to board up my windows, pack up the Prius, drain the bank account, and load the cats into the carrier for Hurricane Jerry. I mean, jeeze...this is a hurricane that does charity work. Come on! And Hurricane Noel? A Christmas Hurricane?!

And Hurricane Pablo?

I think I've made my point here. Okay, one more, and you have to see it coming.

Hurricane Felix. Get serious.

These pointyheads at the NWS have to get down and dirty and come up with some kickass intimidating names for these storms. Who's gonna run from Wendy? Her dad makes square hamburgers! So, I'm proposing a few names here, and then you should do likewise in the comments. Here's my partial list to replace a few of the pantywaist names in the NWS List O'Losers:
There! I've gotten you started. Now, get busy in the comments and intimidate me. Oh, and no fair designating Hurricane Nance. Ha ha, LOL and all that.
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