Thoughts on Jet-Lag

Thought-ThursdayIt is 3:30 in the morning and I am wide-awake. My mind has no control over my body’s internal clock. It does not matter the inadequate quantity or quality of sleep I have had this night. Yesterday I traveled from there to here. There, the day has begun. Here, the sun is still well below the horizon. While my mind can understand the meaning behind the numbers shining from the little box next to the bed, my body only knows that somewhere, far from where I am now, it is time to get up.

That odd disconnect between mind and body is what makes us human. Humans have self-control, which should mean that we control the way react to things. And we do, most of the time. But there are exceptions to that rule. We can’t control sneezes. I can’t control the way my eyes tear up when the wind hits my face, or the way my sinuses react to mold. My body reacts to stimuli without my say so all the time. How much control do I actually have?

Right now, at this ridiculous hour of the morning, I feel like I have no control at all.
Don’t tell me about strategies to overcome jet lag, I’ve tried them all. Nothing works for me. My body just takes its own sweet time to catch up with the sun. Nothing I do will speed up that process.
In a strange way, I’m ok with the way my body refuses to acknowledge this need. I’m fine with it overruling my mind every once in a while. As much as being human is about having self-control, occasionally losing that control reminds me that I am not just a mind traveling around in a mobile shell. Like one of those sci-fi stories with a creature living inside the head of a huge robot, controlling its movement with levers and knobs and pedals. Pay no attention to the woman behind the curtain. My jet lag reminds me to pay attention to my body. It is not just the lesser half of an uneven partnership. My walking, eating, occasionally sneezing, and jet lagged body is not a separate entity. My body is me. Often ignored, occasionally scorned, and rarely respected, but still me.

Perhaps it takes the pain and inconvenience of jet lag to make me stop and pay attention to this crazy body of mine. Perhaps that is good. I should not ignore it or take it for granted. I should nurture it, and take better care of it. This is the only body I will ever have and it is an intrinsic part of who I am, literally warts and all. I need to breathe more deeply, blink more often, drink more water, and take long walks. I promise I will do all that and more.

If only I could convince my body that, right now, all I really need is to go back to sleep.

Step into the Wayback Machine, and laugh your ass off!

The Cheeky Diva

Thank you to Jill, at Mind of a Mouse for writing this hilarious post!  You may remember, Jill is the one who wrote last week’s fabulous letter, campaigning to get this highly sought after gig.

Hello Cheeky Readers,

For today’s session we are traveling back in time, way back, keep on going… stop! Too far… forward a bit.  There.  We’ve arrived in 1989!  The era of Big Hair and Acid Washed Jeans.  A time when Cool kids were Cool and Geeks were Geeks and there was no overlap between.

Picture me, a five-foot nothing, 98 pound weakling, with a secret love of all things Fantasy.  Now, being a girl, I could get away with this to an extent.  Plus, I was really small, and often overlooked, literally. On second thought, don’t bother picturing it, here’s a real picture instead.

I realize now, of course, that no one was paying attention, (because…

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What you didn’t know about Bananas

Wisdom-WednesdayYou probably know a lot about bananas. After all it is the worlds most popular fruit.  And it is primarily grown and distributed by one the most recognized/despised companies in the world.  I’m not sure which one people like to hate on more, Chiquita or De Beers.  (Note to self: don’t ever dominate a market.  Why? because no matter what you sell, people love to hate dominators.)

So I’m not going to mention that evil ‘C’ company in this little post about my favorite fruit. But I will direct your attention to an article written in 2005 by Dan Koepple for Popular Science called, Yes, We Have No Banana Shortage.  Read it – it is chock full of vitamins and minerals and tasty information.

A bunch of Bananas.
A bunch of Bananas. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, what you might not know about bananas is their connection to the first ever World’s Fair, also known as the Great Exhibition of London in 1851.  The story goes like this: Joseph Paxton, born in England in 1803, began his career at the age of fifteen as a gardener’s boy. Soon he attracted the notice of The Duke of Devenshire, one William Cavendish, who hired him as Head Gardener at Chatsworth, the duke’s estate.

Joseph Paxton

Paxton, as gardener, cultivated many foreign plants, including a banana plant, probably originating from southern China. Paxton as inventor, designed a glass greenhouse to help his foreign plants survive.  When a design was needed for a cheap, light, temporary structure to hold the exhibits for the World’s Fair, the organizers chose Paxton’s ‘Crystal Palace’ design. (It was basically a glass greenhouse on steroids.)  Here is a pretty picture:

The front entrance of the Crystal Palace, Hyde...
The front entrance of the Crystal Palace, Hyde Park, London that housed the Great Exhibition of 1851, the first World’s Fair. Contemporary engraving. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The point of this story is, the same man who built that huge glass building also developed the Cavendish Bananas, the variety of banana most commonly found in grocery stores around the world today.

My only problem with this whole story is why are the banana’s called Cavendish and not Paxton.

Seems terribly unfair.

The End

*An unrelated side note about William Cavendish  At one point in his life, he was a member of the ‘privy council’ for King William IV. His role there was Lord Chamberlain of the Household** – whose responsibilities included organizing court functions. (Don’t get mad at me, English friends, but wow – you guys have some silly titles for your nobility.) Now the funny bit is King William was 64 yrs old when he inherited the throne.  And before becoming king, which occurred when his two older brother’s died without legitimate issue, he lived with his long-term mistress and they had ten children together.  I seriously doubt there were a lot of ‘court functions’ for Cavendish to arrange.

**A note related to the side note but nothing else:  He was also known as the “Bachelor Duke.”  That just made me laugh.

Additional information:  http://www.australianbananas.com.au/banana-facts/world-history  (Why an Australian website?  I don’t know – it has a lot of information about bananas and Cavendish and Paxton – no other site had all three together.)

Title: I’m a Stranger Here Myself

Title-Tuesdaypineapple

When I grow up, I want to write like Bill Bryson. I love his tone, I love his insatiable curiosity, and I love that he lives in England. Not that living in England has anything to do with writing. I’d just like to live there some day.

I’ve read almost all his books. The ones I didn’t read, I listened to. I listened to a Short History of Nearly Everything twice because I know I missed a bit the first time through. The important bits like… how gravity works. (Knowing how gravity works is not supposed to be a requirement for walking without tripping over invisible rocks, but it can’t hurt, right?)
I have just re-read I’m a Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to America After 20 Years Away. It is still funny, even for now sounding a little dated. He at one point goes on about telemarketing as if it is a new thing, and I really wonder, haven’t they had telemarketers for as long as they have had telephones? But you have to forgive him because even though he is an american, he’s spent the majority of his adult life overseas.

coma

This book is a collection of essays he wrote for an English newspaper over a period of eighteen months while back living in America. While he does spend time poking fun at our odd American habits, like driving everywhere, for the amusement of his English readers, throughout the essays there is a sense of nostalgia for the things he’s missed:

skunk

He attributes much of his writing skill to his time working as an editor for a newspaper, that paring down other people sentences gave him the ability to write with concise clarity. But he also weaves subtle humor through every sentence. You don’t even realize that you are being led to a punchline until it hits you. Always when I’ve just taken a sip of milk, of course. My day is not complete until I’ve had milk shoot out of my nose from laughing. And that is something Bill Bryson would completely understand.

 

Makes Me Mad: Charming Old Houses

Mad-MondayI grew up in a house built in 1885.  My parents tell me the heating bills were higher than the mortgage payments.  I loved that house for its spacious uniqueness, but I didn’t have to pay those bills.

After I married, my husband and I lived in a house built in the 1930s.  We struggled for years with an outdated heating system that woke us up with banging and clanking pipes all winter long.  During the summer, we had to remember to turn off the window air conditioner if we wanted to run the microwave. It had the cramped rooms and tiny closets typical of that era. We swore our next house would be better, and we saved for years with that goal in mind.

A few years later, we bought a house built in the 50s, then tore it down to the basement and rebuilt it.  All new framing, wiring, plumbing, heating and cooling, the best insulation, roofing and siding we could get.  It was the most perfectly designed and built house I have ever lived in.  I loved it… for all of the three months I lived in it.  (The already shaky marriage collapsed under the strain of a two-year long construction project.)

I moved to Philadelphia, and here I am in a house built in the 1800s again.  Right back where I started, spending more on heating than on rent.  The walls are actually colder to the touch than the windows.

People come to my house and they marvel at the odd sized rooms, large windows, spooky dark hallways, and dangerously steep staircases.  It’s just so charming, they say.

I hate this house.  I hate the dust and the cold and the mold smell that fills the air every time it rains.  I hate the inefficient heating.  The snow melts from our roof immediately, but I’m under six layers of blankets, huddled around the electric space heater, and wearing gloves to type this.  Charming is great and all, but it doesn’t keep your ears warm.

We moved into this house for the location and the price. And believe me, the rent is cheap!  We live in the absolute best neighborhood in Philadelphia.  Lots of great friends, shops restaurants and bars where everybody knows our names.

There are a few ‘new construction’ buildings rising up from old factories and abandoned lots all around us.  And lots of old ‘trinity’ style houses are being rehabbed into modern apartments.  It is incredibly exciting to see the way this neighborhood is booming.  (Recession?  What recession?) I only hope my landlord doesn’t notice how much more he could get for this place.  And that is the problem.  I can’t afford to move into one of the ‘new’ buildings.

I look up at them from the street and I look at the pictures on apartments.com and I dream of lower heating and cooling bills and of modern wiring and plumbing…  Someday…

Someday I will feel like I am moving forwards in time not backwards. Someday I will live in a place where if the thermostat is set to 65, it means the inside of the house is 65 degrees, not the air above the roof.  Someday I will get to live in a place a little less charming and a little more warm.

Thoughts on Connections

Thought-ThursdaySometimes, in the morning with my first cup of coffee, I listen to the news on NPR. Sometimes. Most of the time I can’t take the unemotional voices telling me about the twelve or fifteen or thirty-four people who died in a car bombing while I was sleeping.

The anonymity of the numbers upsets me. Fifteen people went to the market and ended up dead. I want to know more: names and ages and why they were there, at that market, on that morning. Does that sound morbid? I just want connection. I want the fact of fifteen dead to have meaning. I can’t take in those numbers with my coffee and feel nothing.

This morning, I grit my teeth against the cold telling of faraway dead, until the station moves onto another story. A psychologist talks about Grit. Not the verb I used in the last sentence and not the noun used under my tires to make the ice less slippery. No, he is talking about Grit as in True Grit, not the movie, just the idea behind the movie. The idea of persistence and tenacity and working towards a goal despite numerous failures.

I can connect to this. He is talking about teaching grit to children, to help them become successful adults. I have a nephew who has that tendency to give up in the face of failure. But he has a mother who will not tolerate giving up. She says, over and over, “Try again.” And when he whines and pouts, she says “Every time you fail, you learn more about the game. And next time you might win.”

My boyfriend enters the kitchen and I give him the gist of the story. He says, “Grit! Louis L’Amour! Men getting up to fight again with four or five bullet holes in them! Women on the prairie popping out six kids, burying half of them while planting crops and building shelters! That’s Grit!”

I drink a second cup of coffee. My brain absorbs the caffeine and buzzes along, making connections.

I want to connect the story of grit to the story of the fifteen dead. I want to see how those people showed grit like my nephew shows grit when he tries again and again, for days, slowly working through the levels of a game. Because the lesson is the same, isn’t it? (My caffeinated brain says so.)

We all live within our own reality. My nephew’s reality is a challenging video game. The reality for those fifteen people was the potential of car bombings on market day. The pioneer’s reality was childbirth in covered wagons and threat of starvation if a crop failed. But regardless of the disparate realities, the successful show the same determination to keep on trying, gritting their teeth though repeated failure.

That’s the connection I want with those fifteen people. I want to know that they knew going to the market was a risk, but they took it anyway because the alternative was to give up. To give in to fear. They went because they would not give up their right to go to that market, on that day. I want to know that tomorrow, their loved ones will live and shop and eat because they refuse to give up. I want to know that if my nephew were there, living that reality, he would also refuse to give up. Because all of that I can understand.

That’s the connection I want, and seldom receive, from the morning news. So, mostly, I leave the radio off.

 

Remember I asked for guest bloggers?

The Cheeky Diva

Well, I found this letter in my inbox shortly after the request.  This is from our blog pal Jill, who writes the delightful blog, Mind Of  A Mouse.  I can’t wait to see what she will come up with for next Wednesday, but I thought her letter  was too funny not to share with you guys.  What do you think?  Isn’t she great????

Please check out her blog, and why not give her a topic to write about in the comments?  I’m sure she could handle any subject with a great sense of humor and I think after reading this, you will look forward to her guest post as much as I am.

Thanks for sticking with me while I’m otherwise engaged, and yes, there will be haiku’s tomorrow.  Make em good, people, I’m toying with the idea of compiling all of the haiku hijinx into a book when…

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What you didn’t know about Cereal

oats

Wisdom-Wednesday

When you think about it, the tradition of eating processed grains covered in milk is really weird. Cereal the way we know it has only been around since the last century’s turn, and before that, the only people who ate ‘porridge’ (boiled whole grains) did so because they couldn’t afford meat.

If you look up Cereal on Wikipedia, the entry mentions some of the processes used to make modern cereal.  Oats are rolled, other grains are puffed, in a scientifically named Puffing Process, and some are shaped by extrusion. If you click on the extrusion link, you will read words like “forced through a perforated plate” and “cut by blades,” and “pushed by a screw into a die.”  All of which sounds complicated, and painful.  Isn’t cereal supposed to be a friendly, happy way to start your day?

pease porridge
Nine days old? Gross

The Wikipedia entry dedicates an awful lot of screen space to one of the early cereal pushers, a hard-working immigrant named Ferdinand Schumacher.  He is credited with inventing the process by which modern oatmeal is made. The ‘Oatmeal King’ grabbed one of the most lucrative government contracts ever when he was hired by the Union army to feed breakfast to the soldiers during the Civil War. He made a fortune.  And then he lost it all. The religious man put all his faith in God instead of insurance and when a fire destroyed everything he was forced to sell all his ideas to his competitor.  And that is why we get our oatmeal from Quaker and not from Schumacher.

(In an unrelated aside: at the ripe old age of 77, Schumacher married his best friend’s daughter who was in her 30’s.  An obituary mentions that this second marriage ‘was without issue.’)

Cover of "The Road to Wellville"Apparently, cereal creators are all a bit weird.  I’m sure you’ve all heard of how strange Kellogg was?  If not, go watch the movie, The Road to Wellville, staring Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Kellogg.

The tagline for the movie reads, “A comedy of the heart and other organs.  Anthony Hopkins is Dr. Kellogg, sexual revolutionary, cereal inventor and founder of the most outrageous health spa in the world.”  The hyperbole notwithstanding, it is a funny movie, with a great cast.

Mr. Breakfast over at mrbreakfast.com is full of all sorts of happy facts about how wonderful breakfast, (more specifically breakfast cereal,) is for you.  He quotes studies that say things like ‘children who eat breakfast have more active minds.’  Yeah, which lasts until the sugar rush dies down.  He also says that the low-carb thing is a fad and that 11 servings a day of grains are good for you.  As long as all those servings aren’t covered in sugar, and aren’t more than 100 calories each. ‘Cause you also have to leave room for the 5 servings of veggies and the 4 servings of fruit and… wow – that’s a lot of food.

A box of the Cap'n Crunch breakfast cereal, fe...
yum (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well, I know this is kinda crazy, but I think one serving of anything, including my favorite Cap’n Crunch, is plenty.  But that’s just me.

Title: Guns, by Steven King

I can’t understand what makes a man hate another man, help me understand.
Depeche Mode, People are People

In a strange sort of coincidence, as I was reading a review of Steven King’s Guns (kindle single) the Depeche Mode song, People are People popped up on my Pandora 80’s Pop Radio station.

The chorus seemed to work in direct contrast with the words, “Steven King Don’t Know Shit” that I was reading on my screen.  People read, and hear, what they want to hear and read.  The reviewer said that Steven king was ‘trashing our 2nd amendment.’  In fact, Steven King doesn’t even talk about the 2nd amendment in his long form essay.  Instead, he says keep your hunting rifles and your hand guns.  Those aren’t the weapons used in these horrific mass killings.  He’s only talking about eliminating the ‘weapons of mass destruction,’ the ones with tens of rounds.

Seriously – just answer this question: If you want to keep a gun in your home for ‘self defense,’ how many bullets do you need to kill an intruder?  One or two is probably going to do the job.  I’m sure we can all agree, thirty rounds is a bit of an overkill. (pun intended)

That is all Steven King is talking about.  If any of these mass murderers had to stop and reload after eight rounds or so, it would give some brave soul the time to stop them.

While my opinions are different from Steven King’s, the essay was excellently written, thought-provoking, and, I think, fair and balanced.

About the format: if you don’t know about the Kindle Single, you are in for a treat.  (I often think, that for as much time as I spend siting in front of this window to the world, I am actually living under a rock.)  I thought Kindle Singles were just self published books.  They are not.  They are, as Amazon puts it, “Compelling Ideas Expressed at Their Natural Length” and are ‘published’ by Amazon.   Not sure about the ‘compelling’ part, but I like the natural length part.  No longer do ideas of ‘unnatural length’ have to hide away in unread magazines or over-priced compilation form. Now with the beauty of the E-Book, they can be enjoyed and read just like their short story and novel length siblings.

And they’re cheap!  Guns only cost me 99 cents. I suspect it will cost you the same amount too.  Awesome.

Most of the non-fiction-essay-genre that gets published in old-fashioned book form these days takes an extremest position.  It makes sense: if a publisher wants to make a lot of money, they have to do so with bold, headlining, obnoxious statements. The great thing about the Single and other e-book formats, is that it costs almost nothing to distribute.  An author is free to write something more reasonable and still get it out there. And everyone makes a profit.

Steven King is a great author and a highly empathetic man.   He exudes honesty in everything he writes.  In Guns, he takes all sides into consideration, and he falls only slightly left of center.

No matter which side of the gun issue you are on, if you are willing to read thoughtfully, with an open mind, you will enjoy Guns.   And perhaps if we all read more books like this one, we could have more reasonable discussions on the issue.

Makes Me Mad: Haters

Mad-MondayFrom the Urban Dictionary:

1. hater
A person that simply cannot be happy for another person’s success. So rather than be happy they make a point of exposing a flaw in that person. Hating, the result of being a hater, is not exactly jealousy. The hater doesn’t really want to be the person he or she hates, rather the hater wants to knock someone else down a notch.

Susan: You know, Kevin from accounting is doing very well. He just bought a house in a very nice part of town.
Jane (hater): If he is doing so well why does he drive that ’89 Taurus?

What is wrong with people like the imaginary Jane?  I have a few of them in my immediate vicinity.  Even on the rare occasion that they must compliment something, it is tied to an insult.

What Jane says: Yeah, for a ‘student’ film that was ok.
What Jane meant for you to hear: Student films suck, but that was less sucky than most.

What horrible thing happened to poor ‘Jane’ in her past that makes it impossible for her to simply be kind?

I understand the temptation to knock down the things you don’t like.  I don’t like the Twilight books. BUT I’m not going to tell someone else that they shouldn’t read those books, or think less of someone for enjoying them.  The joy I get from a good read is like nothing in the world, I am happy for anyone who can also find that joy, no matter the source.

Who am I to deride the opinions of others?

When I start talking to someone else about how much I love Doctor Who, I don’t expect Jane to join in the conversation.  It would be polite, however, if she would refrain from rolling her eyes.  And I would really appreciate it if she wouldn’t stand up abruptly, stomp out of the room and slam the door behind her simply because the conversation has moved on to a topic she doesn’t like.  I did not whine and pout like a bored child while she spoke about her navel hair collection.

I want to include this additional definition of hater from The Urban Dictionary:

6. Hater
Anyone with an opinion.

Guy 1: Bro, I don’t really like Drake.
Guy 2: What!?! Bro, you’re such a hater!

(It’s funny because it’s true.  On a side note – the number of corrections I had to make in that entry is sad.)

Of course people should express negative opinions. What dull conversations we’d have if we didn’t disagree with each other once in a while. But we must express those opinions without being insulting.  I actively disliked the beginning of the first Twilight book, so much so that I stopped reading it and I will not read the rest of the books in the series.  If someone asks me for my opinion, I will say as much, and if they press for more I will discuss my reasons for my dislike.  However, if someone is going on and on about how much they love those books, this is NOT an invitation for me to say “I hate them. Oh and by the way, you’re an idiot for loving them.”

They are expressing their opinion; they are not asking me for mine.

You can hate anything you want to hate. And when asked, you can express that hate.

But only when asked. Or when writing a blog post.

Otherwise, keep it to yourself.