How to Get 3 Million Blog Views

I found this after Corngoblin liked my last post. It was a great way to tell me to get over myself. LOL!

WilliamCharlesBrock

Dear readers,

I’ve recently been working with a team of researchers from Miskatonic University, whose main goal is the delve into the lost recesses of cyber space and uncover long forgotten blog posts from blogs that, for one reason or another, came offline.  We’ve made some astounding discoveries.  This following piece is a prime example of some of the lost treasures we’ve found.

-The Corngoblin

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Hi guys!  In case you’re new here, my name’s Peter, and I’ve got 3 MILLION VIEWS, and I’d like to show you how you can too.  You guys are obviously familiar with my work since, you know, you’re on the internet, so here we go!

HOW TO GET 3 MILLION VIEWS

I go on a lot of people’s blogs, normally just to post a spam comment so they come look at mine, sure, but it still counts, and there’s one thing I always…

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Bugging Out

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I keep looking out of my front window to see if there are any cicadas on my front lawn yet. I guess the media hype about their arrival is getting to me. Don’t you think the descriptions of the bugs in the press conjure up images from horror movies? They say they’re emerging from underground after 17 years and slowly making their way to our yards. In the newspapers I read, they’ve talked about the “invasion” of “billions” of the creatures along the east coast. (My area of northern Virginia is one of the first being hit.) Plus, apparently they’re big, loud and ugly. I read in the NY Times that they have “eyes the color of blood”. The Washington Post, noting how noisy they are said, “There’s a shrieking hell to come”. Yikes!

I guess the whole thing reminds me of a nightmarish experience from my past. A while back I was mentoring a teen-ager named Mike. He was the oldest person who took me seriously up to that time. He followed me around and asked me questions as if I knew something. One day I took him to lunch over which we had a very serious conversation. Afterward,  we stood outside for a few minutes while I finished talking. (I was really feeling my gravitas that day.) When I finally took a breath, Mike said to me very nonchalantly. “Is that a bug pin you’re wearing?” I didn’t own any bejeweled insect pins so I knew it could only be one thing. I didn’t really want to look but I slowly let my gaze drop from Mike’s sweet face to my lapel. There sat the most horrible looking bug I’d ever seen wiggling its legs and antennae. Mike didn’t take me as seriously after he saw me high stepping down the streets of the financial district, furiously slapping at my upper body.

The thing is I don’t really mind bugs. When I was a preschool teacher, every year I did a whole unit on bugs. I thought up all kinds of bug activities for the kids like bug hunting, bug drawings and bug bingo. We even had pet bugs. We did everything with bugs except eat them. (Although some of the kids probably ate a few of the pets while I wasn’t looking.)

So, I’m usually pretty cool about sharing my space with insects but the ominous warnings about the cicadas from all the news outlets have me a little sensitive.  I’m expecting the billion bug corps any minute, their eyes flashing, screeching a war cry of “Eat all her plants!” It wouldn’t be so bad if only they were diamond encrusted.

To see what I’m up against where I live check out this article from the Washington Post: Those Beady Eyed Bugs Are Back

Butterflies Ain’t Free

How should I tag this post, who knew, never again, don’t let this happen to you?

IMG_1290That little person I play with 4 to 5 times a week told me she likes butterflies. We’ve laughed and pointed when we’ve seen them in the park, flying their colors while weaving back and forth in the air. So who would have blamed me for thinking a trip to the Butterfly Pavilion at the National Museum of Natural History would be a treat for both us. It seemed to me that seeing live butterflies up close and personal would be big fun and educational.

You have to understand, that person doesn’t take trips easily. She can be squeamish and demanding. It turned out she needed TWO pairs of arms to reassure her that the museum was a good idea, because of the butterflies, which she likes. She decided she would be happy to go although she seemed to have some reservations.

IMG_1286So off we went yesterday to the exhibit (I thought it was last week but then I realized it was just that yesterday seemed like it was a week long.) Anyway, I paid and we went. We had to go through the butterfly airlock. It’s to keep the special butterfly air and the butterflies from escaping into the rest of the museum. We emerged from the airlock into the beautiful terrarium-like butterfly space where they have lovely blooming plants and pretty butterflies everywhere. That was supposed to be the major pay-off for packing up all that person’s belongings and walking them and her 2 long city blocks while she gasped for breath in the cold wind. I wanted to see the look of wonder and joy on that face. I had my camera open and ready. Don’t get me wrong, the little person seemed interested, amused even, by the butterflies as long as the weren’t too close and she could look at them from someone else’s shoulders. Remember the special butterfly air I mentioned? They keep it special by blowing mist into the room through pressure hoses. That person didn’t like the mist at all. It came on every three minutes. So the butterflies heard three minutes of screaming followed by three minutes of laughing followed by three minutes of screaming followed by three minutes of laughing. You get the idea. For the sake of the butterflies we cut our visit short. (Do butterflies have ears?)

2011 Natures Best Photography mnh.si
2011 Natures Best Photography mnh.si

After that the little person found the room with all the big color photos of animals. She enjoyed that much more (even though she swore to me she likes butterflies). She ran in her silver pretty shoes from photo to photo identifying the animals. There was a Ba and a Ca and even a Ma and she knew them all. There was a bench where she could also sit and watch a little animal TV, an activity she knows well. She felt very comfortable in that exhibit so who cares that we could have seen it for free at anytime beside the very early morning appointment we had to keep with the butterflies.

I’m going to go ahead and call the trip a success. That little person took a really, really long nap when we got back home, I’ve dropped the big idea of dressing up as the Easter Bunny and that special mist did wonders for my complexion.

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Seriously, the Butterfly Pavilion is a fabulous place (http://www.butterflies.si.edu). One of the volunteers told me that many kids react to the noise of the environment maintenance system so if you want to take a little one, consider their sensitivity level before you go. The Smithsonian museums are unbelievable national resources. I’m having the best time checking them out. 

Weekly Writing Challenge, Take Two: Wait, What Are We Doing?

WordPress WWC

Great.

The first time I decide to take up one of these weekly writing challenges (http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/01/28/writing-challenge-1000-words) and this is the picture the young hipsters at WordPress choose for us to write about? Really? What about this tickled their fancy cuz from where I’m sitting there’s not a whole lot here.

Let’s see…obviously there’s the young couple. Youthful expressions of affection are starting to bug me. Look at this girl. Her body screams sex and loveliness all by itself without any effort from her at all. All she has to do is stand there and think naive thoughts. Listen honey, no matter how deep or complicated or innocent you think the relationship is, all he’s thinking about is your sexy loveliness. Wow, that was incredibly cynical. Have I lost all sense of romance? I think I have. I wonder if that’s good or bad…Wait, I should be thinking about this photo and not about myself. Let me try focusing on something else.

Look at these old geezers. That reminds me. I’ve got to fill out that AARP application. It’s insulting but I want travel discounts too. I wonder if I could get a discount for new glasses frames…

Shit! I’ve got to try to focus. Ok, what’s going on in the background of this photo? Landscape. This is obviously not the United States. That blue and yellow tile work looks Dutch, maybe? Looks like they picked a pic of Europe, of course. Huh, there’s graffiti on that wall as well. It’s on the building across the street too. Maybe those aren’t tourists getting off that tram. Maybe it’s their neighborhood. That’s a very shiny tram. Hey, the street is only big enough for the tram. Definitely not the U.S. Portugal maybe? I wonder if the hill bottoms out at the sea. There is nothing like a beautiful blue sea on a warm day…

Shit, my mind is wandering again. I can’t do this. It’s too hard. I can’t focus. Maybe I need meds. Maybe I’ll just go back to doing my own little less challenging, less stressful posts.

Jingle All The Ways???

Sometimes it's hard to stay focused at Christmastime
Sometimes it’s hard to stay focused at Christmastime

It’s a hallmark (pun intended) of this season to say “I can’t believe it’s holiday time again already!” I know it always seems to come around more than once a year to me! Maybe it’s because I’ve gone through a lot of them and I’ve done Christmas (which is my family’s tradition) in every way possible.

It started after I had my first kid and I wanted to teach her the true meaning of the holiday. It was one of the many mistakes I made while child rearing. Anyway, in my search for a way to “authentically” celebrate the holiday I’ve tried a lot of different approaches , the first of which was,

IMG_1096The Purist Way: It involved a real tree with only wooden ornaments and strung berries. I wanted to put candles on it but my husband grumbled something about our homeowners insurance. I wrapped our homemade gifts in brown paper. I insisted that the only bought gifts were given to the poor. My family didn’t see the virtue in this approach, especially my kids who were in elementary school at the time. Everybody ridiculed me for months which prompted me the following year to try,

The All In Way: That was the year I got a six-foot tree and decorated it with so much stuff it took until February 1st to take it down. I also watched as many holiday movies as I could, left my car radio on the all-Christmas-music-all-the-time station, tailored the gifts to the individual recipients and baked like it was my job. Strangely, it was also the year I suffered from a severe feeling of emptiness and had to be prescribed an anti-depressant. My mood was stable but very serious after that which led me the following year to,

The Religious Way: I refused to put up a tree and limited the decorations to an antique crèche on the mantle. I researched the history of all the secular traditions associated with Christmas. I “shared” the information with my family at the annual Christmas breakfast and I admonished them for not keeping to the true spirit. I then led them in a very long prayer while the food got cold. That was the year they banished me to a tray table in the corner and threw my gifts at me.  After that I lost my mind one year and tried,

IMG_1099The Martha Stewart Way: I maxed out a credit card and risked divorce trying to look like someone I’m not.  Now I have pink and purple plaid ornaments and oh so tasteful bows along with a hostess gown, matching apron and oven mitts that are useless. I started an eBay box with them.

There were other years and other approaches; the Give Till it Hurts year, the Who Cares year etc., but now I just go with the flow.  I’m grateful when I get to see another holiday so I try to enjoy them. I’m grateful for the family members still here and I love the excitement in the eyes of the new members who have joined us recently around the tree. I want for nothing and use the last few days leading up to the holiday as an excuse to drink hot chocolate and eat cookies, guilt-free.

So, here are my very best wishes for a very merry Christmas to you and yours if it’s your tradition.  If it’s not, a very happy, blessed New Year.

BTW– There are some gift idea ads I haven’t seen on TV this year. I miss them for their entertainment value and I wonder what happened to them. Where are the ads for; the Ov Glove, Isotoners, Chia Pet and Norelco (with Santa riding the razor)? Have you seen them?

Strange Things In The Middle Of The Night

Over the summer I was living in temporary digs so I went without a TV for a while. A friend recommended Netflix. I had read about the company in the news and had judged it as having a dubious business model so I didn’t rush to sign up. But I’m an insomniac so having nothing to watch at 2AM, I gave it a try. I’ll admit that Netflix opened a new world for me. A world I like to call “Strange Things in the Middle of the Night”.

I initially started watching documentaries every night because the drone of the voiceovers put me to sleep. As you probably know, Netflix has an odd recommendation system. The more documentaries I watched the more obscure the offerings became to the point where they became positively fascinating. Now sometimes I’m up in the wee hours watching programs about the most curious people and events.  So here are some docs I think you should check out if you’ve got Netflix and insomnia:

Moving Midway; a family decides to move their antebellum era plantation house & sell the land to developers. It tells of the extended family’s feelings and those of the slave descendants who were all invested in the land.

-Waste Land; Brazilian artist Vik Muniz organizes a big art project with the collectors in a landfill and the found recyclables from which they make their living. It tells of their life and how the project affects them.

-Dr Bronner’s Magic Soapbox; most of us have seen his soap and some of us have used it. How many of us know what a strange guy he was?

-Thunder Soul; “Back in the day” there was an all black high school jazz band that blew away all competition. It tells of the one teacher responsible, his challenges and the love he inspired.

-The Cats of Mirikitani; an independent film maker connects with a Japanese- American street artist in NYC. It tells of their relationship and the very complex set of circumstances that led to his homelessness. The insights into the consequences of the WWII Japanese internment are startling.

-TED Talks; how is it I didn’t know about these before? There are so many of these mini-lectures on so many subjects! Some are absolutely brilliant and some are absolutely boring.

These are just a few. I’ve found little documentaries that touch on almost every subject in which I’m interested and I’ve connected a lot of dots in terms of related themes as a result. If you’re interested in the other nuggets I’ve discovered let me know and I’ll list some more. If you have Netflix and have any recommendations, I’d love to hear them.

Speaking of strange things, here are some photos of things I’ve seen lately. Is it me?!

Velvet Rope
Who exactly is my neighbor expecting?
Hurricane Sandy
This blew through my daughter’s neighborhood during Hurricane Sandy
Politicmobile
This was parked next to me in a mall a few days before the election. Really?

Super Moon Mania

Super moon maniaI’m so excited about tonight’s full moon. If you read this blog regularly you know that I have what I call “moon mania”. (I’m a moon maniac?) And as you’ve probably heard, this month’s full moon occurs on the perigee side which makes it a super moon! At the bottom of this post is a link to a great article on NASA’s website about it. Anyway, I’ve got my seat and snacks picked out for the viewing. (Who am I kidding, I’d have snacks moon or no moon.) I’ll be there from 7:30pm on to take advantage of the unusual sight.

There’s something special about the moon for me (Please see my other moon posts). Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I’m a nature lover exactly. I don’t have an affinity for tree hugging, although a hike in the wood would go a long way in trimming off the snacks. No, it’s that I’m a wonder lover. It’s the wonder of the moon that affects me. It makes me mindful and sometimes it’s a struggle for me to be mindful. The moon makes me mindful that we live on a big ball made of elements that are hot and cold and wet and dry and hard and soft. It makes me mindful that the ball that we call our planet shifts and rotates. And that it is moving around with other planets in a largeness and a vastness that I can’t begin to imagine. It makes for a mindful perspective.

So, I hope you’ll join me tonight in mindful meditation on the wonderful moon. Let’s sit in gratitude snacking on Milky Ways and Moon Pies.

(http://science.nasa.gov/sciencenews/scienceatnasa/2012/02may_supermoon)

I Steal From Hospitals

Hospital SuppliesRecently, I went with a family member to a hospital near her apartment in NYC. She had a bad bout of the norovirus and needed IV fluids. While I was there I did my usual “shopping”. I like to take wads of all the little supplies hospitals keep within reach in exam rooms. I stock up on band-aids, alcohol wipes, rubber gloves and the like. Actually, hospitals are the only places I take things. I believe in Karma and I’m the kind that gives extra change back in stores and I don’t even take pens home from work. But in my mind, hospitals are different.

As an aside, this habit did backfire on me once. I was with my late mother in an E.R. exam room waiting for the doctor. This particular hospital had a wall of supplies all neatly organized and divided in bins stacked in rows. It made it very convenient for me to “shop”. I took what I wanted, hopped up on a table across from my mother and relaxed. About ten minutes later the biggest, scariest security guard slammed open the door, pointed at me with the antennae of his walkie-talkie and yelled, “You!” My heart started pounding and in a split second I thought two things. One, where was the camera and two, these people really took their band-aid count seriously. It turned out that I was leaning back against the panic button, which really ticked off the guard.

Anyway, the question is why I feel ok about taking things from hospitals. It is, very simply, because of my frustration with the U.S. for-profit health care system.  I take supplies as my little protest to a behemoth system that is fraught with inequities and malefactions that I’m powerless to do anything about.

I started getting frustrated, once again, when I walked into the triage area of the NYC hospital. I seethe every time I see a “take-a-number” machine in an emergency room. She was screened by a very competent triage nurse quickly but my relative’s medical need wasn’t severe enough to bypass the insurance verification clerk on the way to the exam room.  First, there’s the HIPPA form or as I like to refer to it the “Help Institution Pare-down Possible Action” form because there is plenty of evidence to show it does nothing to protect patient privacy. And then there’s the most important form. It’s the one that requires you to turn over all control of your health care to your insurance carrier. I used to argue that I am the decision maker and that my health care providers are but my highly paid consultants. My primary care doctor kindly hipped me to reality by saying, “Why do you think they call it managed care? Because they are doing the managing, not you.”

Lastly, there’s the health care hierarchy that is so evident in hospitals. Whenever I have to sit around waiting (mostly when I have an appointment with a doctor who’s time is more valuable than mine and who is required to see more managed people than that valuable time allows) I sadly notice the rigidity of place the system forces on employees. I live in a state that has a large number of teaching hospitals connected to prestige universities. People come from everywhere in the country and world to fill the roles that have been predetermined for them by the health care system. From the doctors to the maintenance crews, even before I get to a hospital I can guess who is going to be in what role because of economic class.

So yeah, I steal those tiny packets of alcohol wipes that are billed at $10 a pop on a statement I’ll never get to see. I’ve tried to effect change with my voice, my pen and with my vote but after many years I have to admit to myself that no one is paying me any attention.  Maybe I’m hoping that some day a hospital security guard will notice my purse is bulging.

Turkeys At The Door

I call this picture “Turkeys at the Door” and it makes me laugh every time I see it., which is the point.
Last October I was listening to an installment of NPR’s “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” (http://www.npr.org/programs/wait-wait-dont-tell-me ). One of the caller-contestants gave her occupation as a Laughter Yoga teacher. I groaned and thought of it as just another crazy, wealthy-liberal pastime. But a few days later I was at a meeting and I found out that an acquaintance is also involved in Laughter Yoga (Her website is now on my blogroll.) so I looked into it. The idea is that laughing is a very healthful and helpful occurrence that can be employed as a yoga exercise through the use of breathing technique. I liked the emphasis on childlike playfulness.
The following weekend I was rolling along a parkway when I noticed that the traffic ahead of me was stopped. It turned out that a gaggle of geese was slowly, very slowly, crossing the road, one at the time. I sat there with the other drivers who didn’t move but were tapping their fingers and shaking their heads.  (Maybe they ere thinking about the poor motorist who got brought before a judge for squishing a gosling on the highway.) Personally, I was congratulating myself for using it as an exercise in patience and pranayama.  Finally, the last goose got to the median and the second it did…. the entire gaggle flew off. I burst out into a deep belly laugh and thought to myself, “Wow, punked by geese! ” Then I thought about Laughter Yoga.  For me, the ability to channel positivity at any given moment in any given way is really important. That was my take away, the more important exercise for me that day.
A couple of days later when going to get the mail I looked out of my building’s front door and there were turkeys looking back at me. They looked like they were waiting for someone to buzz them in. I took the picture and laughed my ass off.

Pomp and Circumstance

It Was A Long Season

Ok, I said I was going to talk about graduations as rituals so here goes. Rituals are very important in most cultures. With all the traditions, trappings, pomp and circumstance, I think we can all agree that graduation ceremonies are rituals. What fascinates me is the current odd mixture of the old school and new school sensibilities.

As I mentioned in the previous post I’ve attended three graduations this season so I’ve had a lot of down time to think. I’m sure that what was once just faculty acknowledgement has now morphed into half hour self-congratulation fests at the beginning of graduation ceremonies. Please give these people their own party! Schedule an event where they can pat each other on the back for all their intellectual achievements without boring the hell out of innocent families.

Counting the three this year, I’ve sat through at least 99 guest speakers. Or maybe it just seems like that many. We all know these people are chosen for political reasons these days rather than any benefit their words might actually be to the graduates. But why are they almost always so mind-numbingly bad. One year I listened to a speaker from the financial world who gave his speech only to have it  vehemently refuted by the next speaker, the college’s president. Then there was the graduation with the old, athlete speaker. ‘Nuff said. I say the guest speaker should always be a student because they’re always the best anyway.

This rant wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t mention the venues. Why are they outside so often (bugs, heat, cold, rain, mud…)? And why when they are inside are the seats always too small or made of metal? I’m always envious of babies at graduations. They can cry.

Lastly, there is the awarding of diplomas. It’s the first time we parents give any thought to how big our kid’s school is and where our name falls in the alphabet. The graduates these days usually text each other while their classmates get the diploma and obligatory picture. (Package prices apply.) Then they dance across the stage ala music videos to the hoots of the crowd. Gone is the solemnity of back in the day.

Well I’m done.  I’ve gotten it off my chest and I can move on…. But seriously, in the previous post I talked about the love I felt at each of the ceremonies I attended this year and how important that was to me. The love is always the most important thing. The reason rituals are important in almost all cultures is because most rituals are performed out of love and commitment to family or community.

Although, when it comes to graduations, man, there must be another way!

(As always I welcome your comments and stories. Especially your stories.)