The Manhattan Project--2016 A to Z Theme

Always a work in progress--welcome to my blog...

Friday, May 31, 2013

What To Do When You Can't Focus

A photograph of a Massachusetts Bible Society ...
A photograph of a Massachusetts Bible Society colporteur from the MBS archives. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
What To Do When You Can't Focus

       The answer is simple.  What do you do when you can't focus?   You ramble.   Of course--why not?  Sometimes you just want to sit back and flip through the channels and not watch anything in particular.  Not me, but you.  Okay--me too.  I'll admit it.   There are just those times when I can't seem to focus and my mind is everywhere but in the here and now.

In a Hurry

       On my desk I have a Random House dictionary and a Bible in a small stack of books.   Both of these books are similar in color and size.  One recent Sunday morning I was heading off to church and--you guessed it--I grabbed the dictionary instead of the Bible.   During church I wasn't able to keep up with the Bible references in the pastor's sermon, but I did learn five new vocabulary words.

Planning Ahead

         I was thinking about preparing all of my blog posts including A to Z posts for the next 5 years.  Oh, great!  Now I'll never get any writing done.  If I kept doing this though and scheduled everything far in advance, I could die and no one would even notice I was gone.   Of course I wouldn't be commenting or responding to comments, but maybe everyone would just assume I had become senile and rude.  I guess it would look kind of suspicious though.   Would you keep reading and commenting?

Bridges

       The Covered Bridge in Philippi, West Virginia was built in 1852.  I used to drive through it now and then when I would travel that part of the country.   I'm not sure why I suddenly thought of this, but isn't it strange how random thoughts will enter your head, seemingly from out of the blue.  Maybe some of those thoughts are like bridges spanning from one thought to another and those weird little thoughts don't mean much of anything unless you start dwelling on them.  I guess if you end up writing about those random thoughts it's kind of the same as dwelling upon them for a brief period.   And since I brought the subject of the bridge up I guess that deserves a picture.

The Philippi Covered Bridge (1852) spans the T...
The Philippi Covered Bridge (1852) spans the Tygart Valley River at Philippi, West Virginia, USA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What's in the News?

One of my recent blog posts was featured at NewsOK, the digital edition of the Oklahoman newspaper in Oklahoma City.  My thanks to Darla Lindauer for the recognition.

Have A Nice Day!

        Isn't it kind of weird when someone says to have a nice day on a blog?   What if you're reading this at night?  What if things have really been going bad for you and then you read some weird blog post?   Then the blogger says, "Have a nice day!"  Maybe you just want to reach into cyberspace and wipe that "Have a nice day!" smiley face grin off my face.  Oh yeah!   Well maybe I'm not smiling and I'm all grumpy and stuff.  Or maybe I'm just typing obliviously away and thinking of bridges in West Virginia and other such strange nonsense.

        Maybe I'll just stop here.

         What do you do when you can't keep your mind focused?   How many Bibles do you have in your house?  How many dictionaries?   What's your favorite bridge?   Have you ever crossed the Philippi Covered Bridge?   If not I guess you'll cross that bridge when you come to it.





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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Get Healthy!

Original Tabasco red pepper sauce
Original Tabasco red pepper sauce (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


I'm out visiting today!

        Be sure to drop by Nutschell's The Writing Nut where I'm showing off my writing space and telling a bit about myself.   It's a fun little visit that I hope you'll enjoy.


Get Healthy Bloghop:
Get Healthy Blog Hop: 

Alex J. Cavanaugh, L. Diane Wolfe, Michael Di Gesu, and Stephen Tremp have teamed up for a Blog Hop that focuses  on health.  

The Objective: Share with everyone something you have done that affected your health in a positive way. You can share an awesome low cal low fat tasty recipe. Post simple tips to lose weight. Or a testimony on what has helped like joining Weight Watchers. Recommend a routine like P90X or Insanity. Or stretches one can do while sitting in their office chair working or writing. I'm sure people have countless great tips and ideas they would love to share. 

Here's what I do:

        Believe me, I'm no paragon of good health.  I've been fortunate to have always been relatively healthy, but I'll mostly attribute that to good genes and the providence of God.   But I have made some efforts in my life and despite all of my bad habits I'm hanging in there.  Here are a few of the things that might contribute my relatively good health:

  • Juggling-- It's a skill that develops good hand and eye coordination.  A quick little toss up now and then can be a relaxing stress-reducing exercise.  And since I'm not all that great of a juggler I drop a lot so that means I frequently have to bend over to pick up the props.    It's exercise.
  • Stop smoking -- I've been a relatively heavy smoker in certain times of my life--at times as much as 3 packs a day.  I finally quit for good in 1997.  I'm sure it's been very good for my health, not to mention that I save a bundle of money.
  • Moderate alcohol consumption -- I've never been a real heavy drinker, but I do find a drink now and then to be good for me.  It's fairly rare for me to drink, but I've heard that it can be healthful so I don't take any chances and take my medicine now and then.
  • Dark chocolate--I've heard that this is good for you too.  How could I ever argue with that?   I try to eat dark chocolate at least once every day or so.
  • Hot peppers-- I usually start every day with a small glass of Clamato juice with a few splashes of Tabasco Sauce.  Somehow, spicy food and hot peppers seem healthy to me.  They don't always rest well with my digestive system these days, but I'm standing by my love of hot peppers.
  • Walking -- I've always enjoyed walking and still do.  I need to walk more, but I do try to find a reason to take some kind of walk a few times each day.  I once had a plan to walk from Tennessee to California.  Now that I'm in California I think I need to walk back someday.  For the sake of good health.  Plus, it would be an adventure.
      
         Which of these do you do?   What is your biggest tip for good health?   Are pizzas with anchovies, onions, and hot peppers healthy for you?  (Please tell me they are.)



           
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Monday, May 27, 2013

I Won a Poetry Contest!

John Keats, by William Hilton (died 1839). See...
John Keats, by William Hilton (died 1839). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
 
    Since many in the United States are celebrating today (May 27th) as Memorial Day, I'll keep things light.  No heavy controversy or debate.  We'll get back to that mode next week.  Today is time for pie a la mode and other such summer fun.

          Today I offer a poem.  Last week this poem won first place in the light poetry contest at the May meeting of the Writers Workshop West in Downey, California.  My prize was twenty bucks!  Cool!  After today's post I'll add the poem to the Writers Workshop West blog.

          This poem was inspired by one of the poetry experts in the group, Lorine Parks.  I essentially revised her guidelines on writing light verse into my own bit of silliness.  Her most recent collection of poetry is Catalina Eddy.  You can find an interesting interview with Lorine at YouTube--Part 1 and Part 2

Here is my prize winning bit of poetry:




On Writing Light Verse

Here is my treatise on writing light verse.
Since I'm confined in my lines I must keep it terse. 
A treat it is to hear this treatise explained,
But if you think not, then please don't complain.
Now I'm referring to poems that tend to be lighter.
You must write them right to be a right writer.
Don't versify ravens or birds that are dark.
Stick to chickens or chickadees or maybe the lark.
And by all means we must avoid doggerel
Lest when we read it aloud it sounds like caterwaul
Oh, and speaking of similes--or metaphorically so--
We must keep all verse under proper control.
No making up words or messing with grammar.
Or you might anger grandpa or cause the r-r-reader to stammer. 
Avoid haughty pretention of supercilious verbiage.
Nonsensical imagery is highly encouraged.
It's not the lyrical stanzas of Keats, Shelley, or Wordsworth--
They owed it to their readers to give them their words worth.
Still, you must be sure that your literacy shows
After all we want to write poetry like pros. 

        Did you catch my puns and wordplays?  Do you ever write light or humorous verse?    Are you part of a local writers group?

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Friday, May 24, 2013

Why we forget things and Other Mind Tricks

English: Japanese Macaque in captivity, Launce...
English: Japanese Macaque in captivity, Launceston, Tasmania (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On Forgetting:

       I get my fair share of email things that people pass on to me.  I'm sure many of you do as well.  Actually many of these are somewhat interesting such as the following sent to me by Eve Prokop at Little Things:


"Ever walk into a room with some purpose in mind, only to completely forget what that purpose was?  Turns out, it is the doors  themselves are to blame for these strange memory lapses.  Psychologists at the University of Notre Dame have discovered that passing through a doorway triggers what's known as an 'event boundary' in the mind, separating one set of thoughts and memories from the next. Your brain files away the thoughts you had in the previous room and prepares a blank slate for the new locale." 
It's not aging, it's the stupid door !

        I actually referred to this study in a post at my dream blog A Faraway View.   My theory is that the transition from sleep to wakefulness could be partly the explanation of why we so easily forget our dreams much in the same way the forgetting happens in the room to room theory.

       Anyway, if you are interested in mental things like dreaming, I have my dream blog that posts every Thursday.  Recently I Dreamed of a Macaque and told about some dreams that I relate to something that will be happening soon.  It's something that I am not discussing too much yet, but I will be dropping hints in the weeks to come.  This could change the way I blog.  Then again maybe not.  I may just be walking into another room of my House of Life.  

On Recent Blog Posts:

       In line with my interests in affairs of the mind and why we do the things we do, this past Monday I wrapped up my recent series about Swearing.   If you missed any of these posts you can find them here, here, and here.  You can still go back and offer your thoughts on the subject.  I pretty much won the debate, but there was really not much substance to the pro-swearing side--at least I didn't get it yet on my site and didn't see anything convincing on any other sites.  I'd like to think that my efforts even did a teeny tiny part in cleaning up the language of a few who read the post and actually thought about it.  

On Upcoming Blog Posts:

      Be sure to drop by Nutschell's blog The Writing Nut next Wednesday May 29th when I will be featured on her Wednesday Writer's Workspace.  Many of you have already been her guest.  It's a fun opportunity to drop in to see where we work and talk a bit about ourselves.  To see some of Nutschell's past guests visit her Writer's Workspace page.  

Also next Wednesday on Tossing It Out, I'll be participating in the Get Healthy Bloghop which is hosted by Stephen Tremp, L. Diane Wolfe, Michael Di Gesu, and Alex J. Cavanaugh.   You won't want to miss my tips on how I stay healthy.  Maybe I should tag my post in the humor category.   Well, I try to stay healthy.

I Rock!



         Thank you Alex J Cavanaugh for this cool recognition!   I guess I'm still capable of rockin' out now and then.



Don't Forget the Macaque:

        I'm just testing to see who read the whole post.  The macaque is telling me something.  I'll be filling you in with more details in the weeks to come.  Did I say that already?  Guess I forgot.  Must have walked into another room.

          Do you tend to forget what you're doing sometimes?  Are you interested in the nature and meaning of dreams?   Do you know what a macaque is?    Are you healthy?

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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

When Are Apologies Appropriate?


   Sometimes apologizing can be an awkward and even humiliating experience.  I usually don't have any problem apologizing when I realize I've been in the wrong.  The experience for me can be very liberating and uplifting.   Sometimes I've even made new friends in the process.   Being at odds with anyone is not a healthy situation to be in.

       The need to apologize usually stems from one or more of the following:


  • Misunderstanding what another has said.
  • Not having fully heard what was being said.
  • Taking the wrong side unfairly against another party.
  • Jumping on a bandwagon without knowing all the facts.
  • Not seeing things from the other point of view.
  • Being selfish.
  • Allowing jealousy or resentment toward another color your opinion of them.
  • Flat out being wrong and sticking with that wrong for too long.
 
      Since I tend to be slow to react and I like to hear all sides of an issue, I usually don't end up having to apologize much.  Sometimes I might have to do some explaining to clarify things, but usually it's a matter of trying to help the disagreement side understand better what is going on.

       I don't recall ever having to make an apology for anything I've written on my blog because I try to think my posts through carefully and avoid saying negative things about other bloggers.  I may disagree sometimes, but I don't get vicious toward anyone.  This is not true with all bloggers though.   And I rarely see apologies coming from those sorts of bloggers.  Of course, I don't frequent those types of blogs too much so maybe I've missed some of their apologies.

      Do you apologize when you know you've been wrong or do you just let things go?   Do you have greater respect for someone who admits they are wrong and offers an apology?   Do you know of any bloggers who you think need to apologize to another blogger?    Are there any apologies you'd like to make to anyone?

     

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Monday, May 20, 2013

What's So Funny About Swearing?

Carlin is in my all time top 5 comedians. I'm ...
George Carlin  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

         This post concludes my series on blue language or swearing.  If you did not catch the first two installments you can find them here and here.  There are many fine comments that are worth reading through on both posts.  In this post I will be looking at the humorous side of profanity and the right to swear.

Introduction:

         So far I haven't gotten many solid answers to my questions about swearing.  Maybe there are none.  I will somewhat concede that the utterance of a profanity can carry some impact in conveying emotion or emphasizing a point.  I'm not totally convinced about that.  A friend told me that in a former job in the security business he was instructed to use profanity when he was dealing with certain types of people since this would give him more credibility as an authority figure.  I'm still not totally sold.

         Other folks who defend the use of profanity said they use it because they want to--it's their right and they're going to use (abuse) it.   Sounds like a spoiled child syndrome to me.  This still doesn't sound like a convincing argument to swear.   Then there are those who just think swearing is absolutely hilarious.   This brings us to my next question:

What's So Funny About Swearing?

         Here we will look at the following aspects of blue language:
  • The humorous aspect
  • Devaluation of the impact of words
  • Degradation of the language
  • First amendment defense of swearing
The humor of swearing:
The words sound funny or create humorous images--To some at least.  It''s almost in an adolescent mindset of doing something naughty and getting away with it.  There can sometimes be a certain amount of  humor in this but mostly it's immaturity.
Delivery-- Granted that sometimes the way something is said can be funny.  It might even be funny for a few to several times.  But when the delivery loses its novelty it can get old and boring.
Element of surprise -- Humor is sometimes achieved by the unexpected or the shock value of the profanity introduced in an unlikely context.  Once again this might be funny to some, while in other cases it can be totally inappropriate.  Often the user will feed upon the first laugh response and run the joke into the ground. Excess is often the result of receiving the attention for doing something with no actual value.
Making others squirm -- Some people delight in knowing that others are uncomfortable.   Initially some might  feel it is wrong to do this, but if others are laughing then it must be okay.  Let's embarrass the church ladies, the conservative Christians, the prudes and then we can all laugh at them.  Maybe the bad words aren't really that funny but it's a real hoot to know that someone else is bothered by it.
Intellectual incongruity --When swearing is analyzed in an almost intellectual perspective there can be some genuine humor at play.  Comics like George Carlin could be very good at this.  Occasionally someone might make a crude observation or tell a dirty joke that is funny in a smart sense.  Context and company must be considered in order for this to be effective.
 Devaluation of the impact of the profanities:
The problem with profuse casual use of swear words or obscenities is that too much of anything causes dilution.  For those who like to use swear words for color, impact, humor, or to express that which they think cannot be adequately explained in other language, overuse of the crudities diminishes their value.  
Degradation of the language:
Blue language is not universally accepted or appreciated.  If this language pervades everyday speech we may have brought vocabulary down another notch.  There are enough dumb people in the populace who don't speak well.  Funny in one sense perhaps, but in reality I'm not sure it's truly funny.

The Right to Swear:

The First Amendment is often referred to as a freedom to swear:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Here's another more modern take on this right:


Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948, states that:
"Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
       So much has been written and can be written about the issue of swearing and first amendment rights.  I'm no legal expert and won't even attempt to go into the issue of the right to swear.  It would take many blog posts and probably an entire second blog to expound upon this subject. What I will do is offer a couple of things to think about. 

        For one, I would suggest that the strong proponents of swearing are often as hypocritical and self-righteous as those they suggest are that way.  Many of you who swear would be offended by someone else using epithets directed toward race, nationality, gender, or some other hurtful language.   But they're all just words aren't they? 

        Lets face it. Words can be heavily charged to offend and disturb others.  Are all words acceptable?  Is it always okay to say whatever we want when we feel like it just because we want to?  Should everybody just get over all of it?  If you can swear, can others throw things in your face that might offend you?

       Words.  Actions.  Images.  Who has the right to offend?   And what is truly offensive?

        We think of those who died for our right to live in a free society with the rights that most of us are fortunate enough to experience.  When the founding fathers of the United States drew up that first amendment, do you think they were thinking about things like swearing, obscenity, and pornography?  Yet isn't that what it's come to?

       Would you be willing to give your life or sacrifice the life of one you loved so that others could swear?

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Friday, May 17, 2013

Remake blogfest



When Hollywood runs out of ideas, they remake older films. Sometimes this works, and sometimes it fails miserably. 

On May 17, list the best remake you’ve ever seen and the worst. 

Added bonus – list the worst and/or best song remake you’ve ever heard! 

Hosted by Alex J. CavanaughStephen Tremp, Livia Peterson, and Al Diaz.

For the list of participants go here.


My choices:


Best Movie Remake:    

 True Grit (2010) --The 1969 John Wayne version is a fine very entertaining film, but the remake captured what the story really should be.  It's a fantastic film

Worst Movie Remakes 

The Out of Towners (1999)--I expected so much better of Steve Martin and Goldie Hawn but maybe their over-the-top performances were part of the problem.  Jack Lemmon played the lead role with his wonderfully subtle style and Sandy Dennis was ideal as his wife eternally incredulous in the face of adversity.   The latter version lacked the hilarity of the original and I was not able to feel it the same way as I did the first one. 

  I Am Legend (2007) -- In the serious film category I would list this Will Smith version only because I expected so much more.  I'm a big fan of the 1964 version with Vincent Price.  I had figured with modern film technology a really cool remake could have been done, but to me there was something lacking about this one.  In all fairness, I probably need to see this one a second time.  There were some good effects and well-played scenes.   Yeah, I need to see it again, but for now I'm going to put it in the worst of science fiction remakes.

Best Song Remakes: 

(click on song titles if you want to hear the songs)

   "Hard Day's Night"  by Tee and Cara (1968)  --I've mentioned this song on my site before (did we do a remake blogfest once before?), but it's such a favorite that I'm touting it again.  How can you top the Beatles with their own song?  By playing it the way that it sounds like it should be played like Tee and Cara did.   Too bad they never got more recognition for their beautiful album.

"Lalena" by Deep Purple (1969)--It's difficult to improve on the beautiful original by Donovan, but hard rockin' Deep Purple did it with a sensitive jazziness.

 "Blinded By the Light"  (1977) Manfred Mann--I don't even remember ever hearing Bruce Springsteen's original until I listened to it while researching this blog post.  Sorry Bruce, you may have written the song, but Manfred's number one hit version beats yours by a million miles (and probably a few million record sales).  

Worst Song Remake   --I know they're out there, but I couldn't think of any.

          I know I went above and beyond what was called for, but the post is still short.  What do you think of my choices?   



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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Shine On from L.D. Masterson

       Since my most recent Monday posts have been kind of heavy and even potentially divisive, I've been trying to keep things somewhat light during the rest of of the week on Tossing It Out.   One of my primary intents on this blog is to stimulate thought and encourage discussion.  I think I have achieved that, but at the same time some people have gotten upset with me because some opinions expressed here are different that what they believe.  Exploring differences is a good thing isn't it?   It's what I do though and if I weren't doing this I might be blogging about books I've read and so many of you are doing that far better than I could.

       In the past I have indicated that I no longer do the blog awards, but sometimes I break down and do it just to cool things down and to acknowledge the nice bloggers that passed them on to me.  Today I thank my very dear blogging friend L.D Masterson for passing on the Shine On Award.  I'm just going to hog this award to myself because L.D. said we could and it's just simpler for me.  And I get content for blog post.   Thank you L.D.!

The Shine On Award   






Here are the questions that were requested that I answer:

1. How long do you spend putting together a blog? --Of course it depends on the nature of the blog post, but I try to keep it down to a half hour if at all possible, but I can spend as much as two or three hours if I do research or add links.   These days I'm trying to do less posts like that.   In fact in the coming summer months you may be seeing some very strange short posts.  Something may be going to happen, but I don't want to discuss it until the end of summer.  Come to think of it, I guess you often see strange posts on this blog.

 2. What other writing do you do? --Ha-ha-ha!  Sometimes I scribble down ideas. On very rare occasions I might work on one of my novels or start an article or something.  I really need to work on this.  I love blogging, but it can be a big distraction.  I get distracted very easily.

3. Do you blog because you like to, or because you were told you have to by a publisher? - -I've told this story before, but I started blogging because I read that I could make money doing it.  Then I just started liking the writing and I realized that I had been neglecting my love of writing.  Blogging forced me to write (because I was compelled to blog regularly).  Now blogging is a sort of obsession which I hope pays off in some way down the road.

 4. What is a story your family likes to tell about you? - -So often those family stories are the ones that are kind of embarrassing.  Do you really think I want to tell them here?  Okay, they like to rib me about the time I walked to California from East Tennessee.  It's a long story that I hope to turn into a book one day.  My family likes to tell the first part, which is short, but it's kind of embarrassing.  If you ever meet my family they'll tell you the story eventually.  Or you can wait and read the book.

 5. When you visit another blog, do you promote it on social media?--I've gotten into a tweeting habit.  Sometimes I will tweet a blog post if I really like it and remember to tweet it.  On rarer occasions I will promote a link on Facebook, but honestly I don't think most people even notice.   I know I rarely chase down a link on Facebook.  Actually I don't have much time to be chasing down links.  What do you think I do?  Sit at a computer all day?    Well, maybe I do, but still...

**********************************************

       Thank you L.D. Masterson!   If you've never checked out her blog make sure you pay her a visit.   She rarely fails to add a laugh and a lingering smile to each visit I pay there.

         How much time do you put into blogging?   Do you ever think about giving it up--or at least putting it on hold for a while?   Does your family like to embarrass you with stories you'd rather them not bring up?


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