May 2005 Archives

Today is this blog's first birthday!

And I had this whole entry planned out (really, I did) complete with the following bad poem (which I shall only give you the beginning of, since that's all I've written so far):

One year ago today, this blog was won
And one year later, this blog is one!*

* Take THAT, 9th Grade Mathematics teacher who swore that I would never be able to reason with logic when it comes to any number above zero and added that I will subsequently also never amount to anything!

So yeah, I really had this long post planned out (it was all perfectly crafted in my head, which is, sadly, where most of my perfectly crafted words forever remain) about how this blog was sponsored by Emily (who dreamed up the contest and gave me my domain, and who has consistently bailed me out of several jams related to my ill knowledge of anything remotely technological), Joelle (who designed this blog with her usual flair) and Christine (my gracious hostess) and how lovely it's been to have a blog of my very own and how utterly astounding it still is to have actual readers and comments that aren't spam!

And I was going to thank all three of you, my loyal readers, for wasting your precious time by reading and commenting on here.

And I was going to say how sorry I am that I'm so notoriously bad for not responding to all the lovely comments that I get, using the fact that I'm a forgetful procrastinator as an excuse for not replying.

And I was going to share my New Blog Year resolutions with you, including the resolution that I shall from now on reply to your comments IN the comments on the blog... that way you'll see that you're really NOT being ignored, and that way I won't run the risk of losing the e-mails notifying me of your comments in the sea of spam I have to wade through on a daily basis, and that way it will also look as if I have an impressive amount of comments on my blog even though the reality is that I don't.

And I was going to give a shout-out to Kalisa and Carmen, who were also winners in last year's Win-a-Blog contest.

And I was going to resolve to try and indulge in less parentheses (who am I kidding, though?) and I was going to promise to try and write better. (Again, who am I kidding!?)

And I was going to tell you that, in case you were hoping that this blog would go dark now that my freebie year is up, I'm sorry to disappoint you, but the boy has just bought the blog a birthday cake and renewed everything that had to be renewed (except for the hosting. Thanks for your e-mail and your assurance that you won't cut me off, Christine!), so I'll be up and running for at least another year.

But my plan to write all of this in a nice long post suddenly flew out the window, because this afternoon, out of the blue, I received the most astonishing e-mail!

Remember my latest hero, Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Connie Schultz? (If you don't, scroll down to the previous entry, because that's where I gushed about her.)

This afternoon, as I was performing my daily ritual of deleting thousands of spam mails, I suddenly saw an e-mail with a subject that caused me to do a double-take before causing me to launch into a long and high-pitched scream.

Many moons ago I started telling you about a new hero I've acquired, courtesy of Google. However, in what some of you may describe as typical behaviour from me, I digressed A LITTLE BIT (written in caps not to be yelled out loud, but merely for sheer emphasis and irony) and started rambling on about some of my other heroes instead, never revealing the person who inspired the post in the first place.

Well, being the queen of the anti-climax, I shall do so today.

Right now, in fact.

Her name is Connie Schultz and she's a columnist for The Plain Dealer in Cleveland.

I found out about her on that long ago day while I was poking around on Google and reading some news headlines. The Pulitzer Prize winners had just been announced and so I clicked on the link.

And boy am I glad I did, because that's how I found Connie Schultz, this year's Pulitzer Prize winner for commentary.

I can't remember exactly why I clicked to follow the links to The Plain Dealer and Connie's columns (I originally clickety-clicked on the Pulitzer link to see who won the prize for literature), but I did, and when I got there and started reading her columns, I was hooked.

Here's why:

The first column I laid eyes on was titled: Don't dismiss trailer parks.

And then she wrote: "I am descended from trailer trash.

Mind you, I never thought of them that way. They were just my beloved grandmothers who spent their last years in compact homes set up on cinder blocks and nestled among the weeping willows of rural Ohio. Their trailers were tidy and clean and always smelled like something good on the stove, and we never called them anything but "Grandma's home."

I was in college the first time I ever heard the term "trailer trash," and it made my eyes sting. Nowadays, people don't throw that slur around with the same sloppy ease, but the stereotypes of those who choose to live in trailers endure."

And with those opening paragraphs, Connie Schultz unwittingly made a life-long (for yes, I'm very loyal to my heroes) fan out of me. So I settled in with a cup of coffee and I started delving into her archives.

Do you know what it feels like to read something someone has written and to think, "Wow, I would love to meet him/her?"

That's exactly how I feel about her. Read on. I'm sure you'll feel that way too.

Her columns are written with such eloquence, yet it reads with conversational ease.

Sometimes she writes about her personal life: husband, children, dogs and Thanksgiving dinner.

Here's her hilarious account about singing in the church choir during the Christmas season: "The choir members performing this Christmas Eve gave up precious family time and countless episodes of "CSI" for evening rehearsals. They stoically weathered simmering resentments of the musically challenged who (a) think they should be the soloists and (b) can't quite believe their ears that you-know-who got it instead. They've endured the tyranny of those who read music versus those who do not.

And, if they're the altos in the choir, they've spent endless hours as background instruments droning rum-pum-pum-pum while the sopranos send pigeons flying with their soaring descants performed on tippy-toe.

Yes. I admit it. I suffer from that dreaded affliction.

I have soprano envy.

I am an alto. I didn't want to be an alto. I wanted to be frilly and feminine and hit something higher than middle C without sounding like a mating rooster, but alas, God took one look at me and said, "Nah."

Most of the time, though, she uses her platform in the newspaper to serve as a voice for those who don't have the ability or will to speak up for themselves, from children to single moms to animals and everyone in between.

In this way, she used her digital pen as sword to fight a Cleveland restaurant that had been forcing its coat check employees to hand over all of their tips to the management. That column received such an enormous reader response that the restaurant changed its policy one day after it was published.

But the issues addressed by her goes well beyond the Cleveland city limits. At the height of the frenzied debate surrounding Terry Schiavo, Connie Schultz remembered that: "There are 71 other patients at the Florida hospice where Terri Schiavo stays."

About Ohio's Issue 1, an amendment banning gay marriages in Ohio "and all civil unions and strips health benefits to unmarried couples gay or straight at public colleges, including Cleveland State and Ohio State," she wrote these words that took my breath away: "I learned from my mother that those who are most secure in their faith feel no need to hammer others with their certainty. The walk of faith begins and ends with the journey within, and that's a path fraught with mystery and best guesses. My own faith makes me neither right nor righteous because it demands so much of me that I am still trying to find. Empathy, forgiveness, compassion - I never have enough."

I could spend a whole week rereading her columns and quoting them for you. Instead, settle in with your own beverage of choice and go and find her here. (You'll end up at a page asking your gender, date of birth, etc. Just three quick things. Slightly annoying, yes, but totally worth it. Then you'll be redirected to Connie's current columns and her archives.)

I bet that when you're done reading, you'll want to meet her too.

The lovely Claypot, self-described Queen of the African Jungle - quite an achievement, that, since she's Irish - has tagged me all the way from her current home base of Zambia to do the following meme.

The meme originally entailed listing ten things you've never done, but Claypot has decided to put a bit of a spin on it, listing ten things you've done with ten things you've never done. I've decided that, since she's tagged me, I'm doing it her way. And just because I'm South African and can therefore not allow the Irish Queen of the African Jungle to completely upstage me (oh, yeah... too late for that. But I'll try anyway!), I'll say that you have to guess which of the following I've experienced, and which of the following I've never done/experienced. (And yes, actually Claypot didn't specify that either, so that idea is really hers as well!)

So here goes. I've never...

... I'm getting closer to nature.

Nothing remarkable about that, I suppose, especially since the days are getting longer and sunnier (although the weather of the past few days seem to have missed that "It's Spring!" memo, 'cause it feels more like autumn around here, but never mind) and many people are slowly snapping out of their long indoor winter hibernation.

Except... I'm getting closer to nature without having to set even one foot out of our Baltimore rowhouse!

You see, as I was in the bathroom brushing my teeth yesterday morning and listening to the pleasant staccato of the rain hitting the roof, it was almost as if I could FEEL the rain drops falling on my head.

Just as I was about to marvel at the sudden, mysterious appearance of such a vivid imagination in my very own head, and before I could even begin to think of how useful the possession of such a healthy and rich imagination would be to the likes of me, an aspiring creative type, I felt a few more very cold and very realistic trickling sensations on my scalp.

Immediately suspicious, I tilted my head back and looked up, and "Plop!" - just then a rain drop hit me square in the eye!

Yes, folks... It was raining on my head! While I was in the bathroom! (And no, wise asses, I wasn't anywhere near the shower.)

I've mentioned before that our bathroom has a little tower skylight, right? I assure you, it's nothing fancy - it's a standard ventilation feature in most Baltimore rowhouse bathrooms - but the extra light is very lovely, since the bathroom doesn't have any windows.

Turns out our little skylight, light of our lives (well, in the bathroom at least), has inexplicably sprung a tiny leak. Nothing major, thank goodness, but enough to let some of the elements into the house.

In a way this is a good thing, because as you know, along with our other unique shortcomings eccentricities (like being the only living beings to still use dial-up and not have TiVo), we also don't have cable television. Therefore we have no access to The Weather Channel. So having this eh... rather unique bathroom feature is certainly going to make checking the weather a whole lot easier.

It also reminds me of a garden accessory that used to be all the rage in South Africa a few years ago. It was a sign, usually on a rock, with the following phrases painted on it: "If this rock is wet, it's raining. If this rock is dry, it's sunny. If you can see this rock, it's clear. If you can't see this rock, it's foggy," etc. Since we seem to be getting all these weather conditions in the bathroom, maybe we should paint something similar on our bathroom mirror?

And to think that the author Henry David Thoreau, in order to get a little closer to nature and the elements, abandoned civilization and moved into a rustic self-built cabin at Walden Pond for two years and two months! Rather extreme, if you ask me. Maybe it's better that I'm not a real writer, because they sure are strange, aren't they? And really, if he wanted all the weather he could weather, all he needed to have done instead was to move to this concrete jungle of Baltimore and into our rustic rowhouse with the broken skylight and go and spend some time in the bathroom!

Another quick trip to the bathroom (aren't I just becoming too outdoorsy for words?) has just confirmed that it has stopped raining for the time being. A sudden wind gust is creating a bit of a draft, though, so if you'll excuse me, I'm off to dry my hair!

A few nights ago one of my favourite television shows was pre-empted because of a college lacrosse match.

Disbelieving and furious, I simply stared at the television screen for a while.

"Don't these inconsiderate, money-hungry television networks realise that some of us DEPEND on the nightly television line-up in order to know what day of the week it is?" I asked the boy.

Luckily he had the good sense to catch on that this was a rhetorical question, so he just gave me a sympathetic pat on the shoulder. I think he was tempted to offer the suggestion that if I didn't like it I could always change the channel, but his years of in the relationship training must've sparked a memory of an earlier lesson, because he wisely remained quiet instead.

And so we continued to stare at the lacrosse game for a little while longer.

It didn't even amuse me as it normally does to see a bunch of people running around whilst swatting at a ball (and, often, at other players) with something resembling a butterfly net fastened to the end of a long stick.

You see, until my arrival here in the States a few years ago, I had never even heard of lacrosse before. And that's rather remarkable, because as you'll recall (or not... the readers of that particular newspaper certainly don't want to remember. It's too traumatic for them!), some time in my youth I actually worked as a sports reporter (which is also remarkable, since I've never been able to grasp why on earth people would physically exert themselves for any reason. Now, with the gazillion dollar salaries some of the pro athletes make here in the States I KIND of get it, but I'd still advise them to rather stay on the couch and marry rich or just learn to require less of life) and during that time I thought I'd covered all the different sports in existence: from archery to zebra racing.

(Have I confused you enough with all of the asides in parentheses? No? Don't despair. This piece isn't over yet!)

Thus we continued to stare at the lacrosse game in silence. (Yes, our lives are just too exciting for words!)

Until I asked the boy: "Is lacrosse a preppy sport?"

"Yes, mostly."

"Why? I mean, the equipment used can't be all that expensive, and if it is, then people are just being ripped off. "

He shrugged, and in that moment I realised two things:

1) Whilst we had been staring at the television screen, the boy had become interested in the outcome of the match; and

2) A possible theory as to why a game like lacrosse appealed to the wealthier set.

I decided to share my logical reasoning with the boy.

"I know why! It's because of the sticks!"

He tore his eyes from the screen just to look at me blankly. Good, now I knew that he was at least pretending to be listening to me.

"Yes! I'm telling you! The sticks! Think about it: Tennis, polo, golf, lacrosse, badminton, squash. What do they all have in common?"

I didn't wait for an answer, because my women's intuition told me that I wasn't going to get one anyway.

"Sticks, balls and rich people. And do you know WHY?"

Another blank look.

"Come on!" I yelled, a little too excitedly. "It's clear as day!"

Another slightly puzzled look from the boy. The look that silently says what he won't ever dare asking out loud: "Woman, WHAT are you going on about?"

Of course, his silence only fuelled my enthusiasm even more, and in a barely contained frenzy, I screamed:

HEEEEEEEEEEELP!

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Anyone? Please help?

As I'm typing this, I'm being spammed to death. As in, one unsolicited, vile !@#$%^&* spam per every 30 seconds or so. Really, I'm not kidding.

Oh, my Spam police are SO fired.

I used to wield off the spammers by merely going into the comment e-mail (in this case, Horde) and then just clicking on the MT-Blacklist link from there. Once at Blacklist, I could then delete and blacklist comments and trackbacks to my heart's content.

Since early this morning, however, every time I got to the MT-Blacklist site and kindly and oh-so-willingly offered up a spam for them to kill, they diss me with the following error message: "Could not save your blacklist data: Got a packet bigger than 'max_allowed_packet' bytes."

Uhhh, what?

So, now I'm stuck. I can't kill them as they're coming in, so now they're coming in as if I don't even have a blacklist.

PLEASE help! Because as you can see, after nearly a year of blogging, I'm STILL clueless about these more technical aspects of it!

On the bright side...

Funny Boy

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Last night, while having dinner, the boy asked me: "So, do you like this buffalo wing flavour?"

In my best imitation Jessica Simpson, I said: "But sweetie, buffaloes don't HAVE wings."

Without missing a beat, he deadpanned: "Well, what do you think of these buffalo nuggets then?"

Blogging for Books

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My hopeless addiction to books has driven me to enter yet another installment of Blogging for Books, that irresistably clever and yet very challenging contest hosted monthly by The Zero Boss.

This month, the task was to "write an original blog post about one of three topics: lying, fornicating, or going home."

Brace yerselves, for it's a looooong one. (But still well within the 2,000 word limit.)

Remember how that woman faked finding a severed finger in her Wendy's chili recently?

And remember how this guy then found a piece of a real finger in his frozen custard from a Kohl's Frozen Custard store in North Carolina? At first everyone thought it was another scam or a hoax - especially since the two incidents followed so closely together - but it was the real deal.

It's enough to whet one's appetite, isn't it?

Well, since the Wendy's finger wasn't real, I'm sure customers are warming up to the chili again. Business at Kohl's Frozen Custard might be hurting, though - not to mention that poor employee who used to own that finger.

They shouldn't fear though, because with all this free time I have, I've come up with an honest ad campaign for them to draw those custard-loving customers back in.

Kohl's Frozen Custard: The best finger food in town!

Kohl's Frozen Custard: So good we can hardly keep our fingers out of it!

Or, if we want to take advantage of the lawful comparative advertising practices here in the States, we can go with this:

Wendy's fakes it, but here at Kohl's Frozen Custard, we serve the real deal!

(You can blame him for this. He once told me that I could have a wonderful career in copy writing.)

Happy Friday, everyone!

P.S. Thank you for the car suggestion. Boy's considering the Volvo wagon. Safe, reliable, and yet still roomy enough for presentation boards and a large grinning Labrador Retriever.

Goodbye, Car

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It's official: The car is a complete write off, so now, after a brief but intense mourning period, the boy is in the market for a new travelling machine, and he is looking for some suggestions.

The only requirements: NOT an SUV (out of principle), yet something roomy enough for luggage (for when the South African kin comes to visit, you know) and for carting around presentation boards (boy is a creative sort) and - this is purely wishful thinking - room for a large yellow Labrador Retriever and his/her friends.

We want good gas mileage (but most hybrids are out of the question because they are simply not roomy enough), four doors (so nothing sporty, unfortunately)... and yes, that's basically it. Oh, and cup holders. But even the ancient Honda I used to drive had cup holders - and that's saying something, because it didn't even have brakes - so I'm sure cup holders are standard issue, nowadays.

Until its sad demise during an encounter with a tractor-trailer last Thursday night, boy used to drive a Camry. It was an older model (there was enough room in the trunk to stuff a couple of bodies, a feature that is sadly lacking in the modern Camrys), but it served us well.

During my days as a nanny, I sometimes borrowed the Camry from the boy to cart my youngest charge around the neighbourhood.

On one such excursion, we made up a little rhyme about the car. Allow me to post it here as a sort of obituary. Oh, and please forgive the poetic license we took concerning grammar.

I are the car
The car I are
I will take you places
Both near and far
I will take you to your school
I will take you to the pool
We will go around the bend
And I will take you to your friend
I will take you to the track
I will even bring you back
I will take you to the store
And wait for you outside the door
And thus we will roam
But we'll always come home
For I are the car
The car I are

Touching, isn't it?

Rest in pieces, car.

Okay, since I don't want to leave you on such a sad note - and without entirely veering from this slightly macabre tone - here's a horrible, distasteful and just plain bad joke in honour of Cinco de Mayo. (Hint: Ought to be a bit funnier when inebriated, so read only after consumption of couple of tequilas.)

Juan and his amigo Raul are fishing at the Rio Grande.

While they're waiting for the fish to bite, Juan listens patiently as Raul complains about his wife Maria's fragile nerves.

Suddenly they see an object floating downstream.

"Hey, Raul! Look! That thing! It looks like a human arm!"

"Impossible," Raul says.

But, as it drifts closer to them, he realizes that, by George, it IS a human arm!

They watch it float by, silently pondering the significance of a human arm, detached from any human, floating down the Rio Grande.

They quietly stare at it until it disappears around the river bend. When it's gone from view, Raul launches right back into his laments about his wife's jumpy disposition.

It's not long before Juan interrupts him again. "Look, Raul! A leg!"

And whadoyouknow? Sure as daylight, a human leg is floating by, right in front of their eyes.

Again, they stare at it in silence, until it disappears from sight.

This time, however, before Raul can continue his story about Maria's nerves, they see another arm, another leg, a torso and a head coming down the river. This time they both blink a bit, just to make sure that it's not the heat that's gone straight to their heads.

"Raul, isn't that Maria's face on that head again?"

Raul groans, and then he yells: "Hey, Maria, pull yourself together, woman!"

The End.

(Don't complain to me! You were warned, beforehand!)

P.S. Please don't forget to leave your car suggestions in the comments.

May Day, Glorious Day

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Over the past few days, I've been numbed by shock and flooded with relief, almost at the same time.

On Thursday night, mere minutes after the boy had left his weekly singing rehearsal, a tractor-trailer driver changed lanes without checking and sideswiped the boy's Camry. The boy said that it all happened so fast that he really did not know what had hit him.

The impact caused the right rear tyre to burst and the car went into several spins. When he finally came to a stop, the car was facing in the opposite direction, into oncoming traffic.

Luckily (and, considering how people normally tailgate, miraculously!) the rest of the traffic was far enough away to stop in time.

Luckily there were witnesses, including one of the guys who sings with the boy and who had left rehearsal just seconds after him. He immediately stopped to help.

Luckily my boy is a calm sort, because if he had panicked and jerked at the steering wheel, the car most certainly would've rolled over.

Luckily the truck driver stopped.

Luckily no one was injured.

As for the car, the damage is still being assessed, but honestly, this is the least of our worries. We are just so unbelievably grateful, because it could've been so much worse.

You see, in a chilling coincidence, just a few miles away and at almost exactly the same time as the boy's accident happened, another semi collided with another car. Heartbreakingly, the driver of that car didn't make it out alive.

I tend to get a bit melodramatic about these things, because in South Africa, I stood by as two boyfriends - one when I was in high school, and another when I was in college - were left comatose for weeks after almost being killed in road accidents. One was left disabled for life.

So I know exactly how lucky we are.

Please drive safely, everyone!



















about
is a South African girl living in South Africa. That doesn't sound very original, we know, but you might find it remotely interesting when you learn that she has only recently returned to South Africa for the first time after a nine year, one month and two week (non-stop!) stint in the United States where she accidentally became an outlawed alien (also known, especially in immigration circles, as an 'illegal immigrant.' We prefer the term 'outlawed alien' ourselves). During her reversed exile from her homeland, she kept herself occupied by winning this website (but only after shamelessly bribing the judges) and thus being unleashed on the web where she slowly, leisurely became the World's Laziest Blogger; by being a nanny and by attending sci-fi conventions in search of other aliens. In the US, she also made her sailing debut, her international acting debut, tried and failed to learn the piano, and never learned to cook. She is hopelessly addicted to coffee, dogs (especially Labrador Retrievers), how-to books (with a particular fondness for her copy of the Time/Life A - Z Medical Encyclopedia), and she tends to grossly overuse parentheses (we're not kidding) during her attempts at writing, which you may - if you really have masochistic tendencies - subject yourself to by reading the words to the right of this column. If you REALLY and truly STILL want to know more, you can read her C.V. here.
Or you can stalk her send her some love via e-mail at: redsaid[AT]gmail[DOT]com

The Wish List (Because yes, she really does need more how-to books. Honestly!)

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  • Redsaid Author Profile Page: Terra: YES! Wait... you didn't think that I would be this possessed to post for NO REASON, did ya???... [go]
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  • Marco Author Profile Page: I personally think it is a mindset that has been cultivated over the years, and one, if not stemmed,... [go]
  • Redsaid Author Profile Page: Ms. Crazy Cat Lady Pants!!! Squeeeee! Sooo good to see you! (I thought NO ONE was bothering to read ... [go]
  • Ms. Pants : Kitties don't get enough credit sometimes. (All times, if you ask me, but I'm a Crazy Cat Lady.)... [go]
  • Redsaid Author Profile Page: Hey Tamara! I know, right?? That is a tough act to follow indeed. I adored that dentist. He used to ... [go]
  • Tamara Tipton : Well, I am not sure how any dentist could live up to that standard! LOL! I hope your appointment was... [go]
  • Redsaid Author Profile Page: I'm really really glad that I'm not the only one, Po! Sometimes I drive myself mad with all the what... [go]
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