I live to amuse/annoy

“Excuse me, sir. Is the chicken under the warming light labeled ‘hot’ because it’s spicy?”
“Nooo. It means it’s not cold.”

Pardon me, Mr. Crankypants Grocer. I’m pleased I’ve given you something benign to go home and complain about to your family. How silly of me to ask you a question while you put my sides in containers instead of running to the refrigerated shelves to see if the chicken there was labeled ‘cold’ for us clueless shoppers.

reading goals

While the tv stays off during the day, evenings used to be for watching shows and movies. After more than a decade of this routine, the husband has become unable to waste time on television. As he sits at his computer every night, I realized that there are zero shows I watch without him. Every show I watch is one of “our” shows. Last year, the girl teen told me about “The Good Place” and I only made it two episodes before it became something I needed to watch with the husband. It’s too good to not share. After more than a year of waaaaiting for him to watch tv with me every evening, I’m trying to develop new evening habits.

I read in the carpool line at school. I read when I’m stuck in the car for an hour or two at a child’s activity because it would be a waste of fuel to drive home and back. I read to relax. I read to reward myself. I read because it makes me happy. I’m going to end up having read about 70 books by the end of 2017. If I spent my evenings reading instead of pouting while falling down rabbit holes on the Internet, maybe I could have a 100 book year. It would certainly be an excuse to read more and feel slightly less guilty about the selfishness of reading.

If I stick to older books and series, I think I can do this inexpensively by treating McKay’s as book rental instead of store. The books I long ago pre-ordered with 2018 release dates shouldn’t count in the expense of this bit of foolishness. Right? I might have to wander back into the mystery genre that I read decades ago to find enough books I want to take up space in my head. Not too many though. In fantasy and urban fantasy, after you see where everything is headed, it’s still fun to see how the author gets you there. When you reach that much anticipated point in the story, you cheer while reading. With mysteries, you get frustrated at the characters refusing to figure out what you realized chapters ago. By the time they do, you’re convinced they’re morons. I digress.

I googled the idea of reading 100 books in a year and people weren’t very enthusiastic about it. One of the complaints is that you’re too focused on the number of books to enjoy the books. I’ve readjusted my GoodReads goal a dozen times this year trying to avoid reaching it too soon and I’ve loved almost every single book that I’ve read. So, maybe this is something worth doing to amuse myself. Or not. I still haven’t decided.

gun violence

I tried to write something about today’s mass murder in a Texas church, but it was far too long for the attention span of a blog reader. The fact that I’m an anecdotalist makes that statement depressing. My immediate reaction to the violence being concern for the people I know IRL who will now have their personal experience of a gunman in their church replaying in their heads is the saddest thing of all. It’s not social media that makes these events seem more frequent and closer to home. It is not happening to someone else. This is happening to us. Our families, friends and neighbors are physically and mentally scarred by gun violence.

I can’t remember the last time I ate an apple pie or picked up a baseball. I know there was gun violence and death today. I know there will be gun violence in America tomorrow. Guns are the American pastime.

The night the lights went out on fb

Our power used to go out frequently. Sometimes we’d hear the transformer blow. Sometimes we’d see the lines on the road. Other times, it just popped on and off for several days in a row. I don’t know if the utility companies have better maintenance routines to prevent the failures or if it’s just been a good long spell of luck, but I can’t remember the last time we had a power failure until it happened last week.

When I heard a muffled boom not dissimilar to a single firecracker in a mailbox, I was home alone. It was a crisp, clear night and the windows were open. I was sitting in a chair with a book, waiting for the rest of the family to straggle in from their various activities. One boom and I was sitting in darkness experiencing the temporary shock of silence when all the humming appliances and electronics ceased their background noise.

Unlike when the power outages were frequent and we kept emergency lights plugged in to activate at the loss of electricity, I couldn’t think of the location of a single flashlight. There are large oil lamps atop the kitchen cabinets, but glass and flammable liquid aren’t really something you want to blindly fumble to find. I grabbed the only thing I could easily access in darkness, the grill lighter. I carried it like a wheezy torch and descended to our windowless basement to find my cell phone. I texted the husband until he returned home with one of the children. For the rest of the evening, we did what we did when the electricity went out regularly and social media was fun instead of depressing, we facebooked sarcasm.

In-home deliveries

Amazon key participants can get their packages delivered behind locked doors instead of on porches or front steps. The idea is to have less package theft and reduce failed delivery attempts. The reality is that while this is our future, it isn’t one we are currently prepared to embrace.

I’m not worried about the delivery driver. I’m not worried about my packages. There is already a camera recording everything that happens at my front door that I can watch live or replay later. I have a tracking and delivery app that alerts me before the drivers have pulled away from our curb. Delivery vehicles have time stamped cameras in their cabs. If drivers wanted to steal, it would be much easier for them to not deliver than to grab things inside homes.

The problem is the unintended consequences of in-home deliveries. Seniors are going to have heart attacks from the fright of seeing a stranger leaning in their doorway. Delivery drivers are going to get shot by people with itchy trigger fingers.

We once went a few days with a deadbolt, but an empty hole where the front doorknob belonged because the husband was “working on it.” One day, the delivery driver put his face to the hole and said, “Knock-knock.” I was home. Fast forward that story to us getting our deliveries in the middle of the front lawn for the rest of that month.

Unintended consequences.

Enclosed apartments could probably adapt to this service effortlessly. Wealthy homes need to be built with locked vestibules that contain refrigerators for their packages and grocery deliveries. The rest of us just need old fashioned locking postboxes.


Day one: Wave goodbye at the airport. Go to a movie. Take a nap. Read for several hours.
Day two: Check email repeatedly.
Day three: Follow chaperoning teachers on social media. Scour Instagram and Snapchat posts by strangers.
Day four: Search for sightings on live webcams.
Day five: Pace house. Whine. Search for excuse to call a chaperone.

My 12-y-o is in Costa Rica for nine days without a cell phone. Nine days. Is he eating enough? Does he feel okay physically? Mentally? Are there adults listening to him? Guiding him? Has he bathed or brushed his teeth since leaving home?

Suggesting that my child keep his tech devices at home was easy. He does it whenever he goes on camping trips. Aside from the relief of not worrying about fragile tech getting dropped or wet, not having it removes the compulsion to ‘check’ things on the Internet. Childhood adventures should be active and messy and loud, not staring at a screen. Travel is about immersing yourself in the unfiltered sights and sounds of the world beyond your home.

“I would never trust someone else to watch my child like that.” “We don’t do school trips. We do family vacations.” “I can’t believe you’re letting him go without you.” If my children had to wait until we could afford for one or more of us to accompany them, they would never go anywhere. I want them to go and see and do.

“How will you know what he’s doing?” “Don’t you want him to call you?” “My child needs a cell phone for safety.” I trust my son’s teachers during the school day. I trust his teachers far from home. A cell phone in his pocket won’t make him safer. It makes him distracted.

The only reason to send the cell phone with him would be for him to comfort me.

It would be nice if the teachers would send out a one sentence email every evening or post an unbandaged group pic once a day or use one of the many group messaging apps or do ANYTHING to ease my anxiety. Given a choice between being able to text or call my child when he’s busy having fun and letting him fully disconnect from tech, I’ll accept my new ulcer.

Blade Runner 2049

I loved it. That was my feeling walking out of the theater and it remains my feeling after a night of Blade Runner flavored dreams. Blade Runner 2049 is worth the expense of movie tickets and *concessions.

Blade Runner’s greatest strength is sensory nostalgia. It takes the grainy memories of the first movie and explodes them into reality. Every single adolescent conversation about what it means to be human, the value of life and the savage brutality of maintaining those beliefs is played out in a breathtakingly beautiful, monochromatic peacock.

The weakness of Blade Runner is plot. The use of a primary science fiction trope isn’t the problem. That trope exists because it is important and endlessly relevant. The problem is that after 35 years (How did I get old so quickly?), the film is written as a prequel movie. The first movie wasn’t a neat and tiny package with a beginning and end, but it was a complete story. The new Blade Runner feels like closure of the old to setup for the new. If you never saw the original Blade Runner, don’t watch it now. Immerse yourself in the Blade Runner world that they are creating now. If you are a fan of the first movie, you’re going to love the characters, art, music and layers of detail. Blade Runner 2049 is sensual. While it neither validates nor invalidates the questions the original movie wanted audiences asking themselves, it affirms that we still don’t have the answers.

*Always visit the concession stand. Movies are so expensive to produce that ticket sales do little to nothing to help finance movie theaters. Concession purchases pay for the luxury of a neighborhood theater staffed by your community members. No matter how big your home television, there are some movies that should be experienced in a theater. Blade Runner 2049 is one of those movies. Don’t lose that option for future movies by filling your pockets with gas station candy bars. See the movie. Buy the concessions.