Not the Same

Today I am reminded about how we cannot judge other people’s situations and experiences by our own. Yesterday morning I slathered the kids with sunscreen, as usual, and sent them on their merry way to day camp. The weather was dismal and rainy here for most of the day, and in the afternoon a thunderstorm ripped through and knocked our power out. There was so little light coming through the window, I couldn’t even work until the power came back on. I thought to myself that the kids probably were being kept indoors, and that it was a shame they were getting so little benefit from their coating of sunscreen.

This morning I mentioned that thought to my husband, and he said, “What are you talking about? It was sunny all day. I felt like I was getting a sunburn.” He had been on the same side of town as the kids. It hadn’t rained at all over there. Apparently he had been surprised by how wet the ground was here when he returned home.

Same town, same day. Different weather, different experience.

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Decisions, Decisions

I am always hearing about books that I might like. Of the ones I hear about, only a fraction still seem good after shopping for them online and reading the reviews. That’s a good thing, though. I’d never find time to read them all.

What I do about the ones that still sound good is almost entirely arbitrary. Sometimes I buy them new. Sometimes I buy them used. Sometimes I request them from the library. But more often I put them onto a shopping or reading list.

I have at least five lists (two at Amazon, one on my blog, one in my online library account, and another in my Inspiration Notebook). I rarely end up reading the books that go onto these lists. That’s sad, too, but there’s just not enough time to read every book that sounds interesting.

I wish I had a better means of deciding which ones I ought to own and which ones aren’t even worth the time to read.

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Bad Keyboards

I use two laptop computers. I have my personal laptop (on which I do all my online shopping, writing, and social media), and my work laptop (on which I do work only). I know some people think I’m crazy for having a computer of my own. Why spend that extra money, right?

Here’s the thing: technically, anything written on my work laptop belongs to my employer. They also have (obviously) the right to read it all. After 20+ years of employment, I know my employers pretty well. It’s unlikely they’d try to take ownership of my writing or even read it. But why give them the chance to disappoint me?

So, that means two laptops. I use them both almost every day. You’d think at least one of them could have a decent keyboard. But no. The keyboard on my personal laptop has such a sensitive touchpad that if I put any pressure near it as I’m typing, the cursor will jump to another place on the screen. This not only causes text to be suddenly inserted in strange places, but it sometimes causes on-screen buttons to be pushed, which takes me off that screen and eliminates any text I was working on. It is beyond frustrating.

For my work laptop, I use an external keyboard. You’d think that would be better, and it ought to be. But that keyboard has decided that it’s not interested in the letters G and H anymore. It just can’t be bothered (or, as it renders the word, “botered”). If I jiggle the keys, eventually I’ll get the letters I need, but I lose a lot of speed that way and risk a lot of errors.

I am used to things not working properly, and I’m used to being unable to fix those things independently. I’ve naturally developed a tendency to work around problems rather than try to fix them. This mental flexibility has saved me a lot of fuss over the years.

But geez! There are some things we should not put up with, and this is one of them. I am done with these keyboards!

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Eggsaggerated Fears

Right around the time that our wild black raspberry bush stopped fruiting, the blackberries started to ripen. At first, it was just a few berries per day, then a few more. So, for the last few weeks, I’ve been eating anywhere from one berry to a small handful of berries every day. I do this because the fruit is free, because I love the seasonality and naturalness of it, and because I am proving to myself that I am not afraid to eat something that I found in my yard.

I don’t even like blackberries very much. Even the cultivated varieties seem overly seedy to me. The wild variety is not only seedy, but often sour and grassy-tasting, too. But I’m proving something, you see, so every day I eat a few more.

Sometimes I find weevils or spiders or tiny caterpillars on the berries. I bravely wash the bugs off and eat the fruit. I am not afraid, you see, and every day I prove it.

Now it is peak blackberry season. There are ripe blackberries all around. “Today,” I said to myself, “I will eat a lot of blackberries.” I started picking.

Then I noticed that one of the blackberries I’d picked had eggs on it. Tiny bug eggs. Loose eggs. Eggs getting all over my hands and the rest of the fruit. Ew. I threw that handful of fruit into the woods.

I don’t know why bug eggs are so much more disgusting to me than the bugs themselves. But I do know one thing: it’s fortunate that I don’t have to forage to survive. I would never make it as a forager, because I am, apparently, afraid of bug eggs!

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10 Positive Thoughts

To make up for some recent negative posts, I’m going to post some positives.

  1. I just finished my 27th book of the year. I am more than halfway toward my goal of reading 52 books for the year.
  2. It is raining outside, and it’s a nice break from the scorching hot days we had earlier this week.
  3. The kids are quietly watching TV, which leaves me free to write for a little while.
  4. I have a stack of new books and movies to keep me busy for the next few weeks.
  5. I’ve played my piano every day lately, and my hands are not bothering me.
  6. I bought some swimsuits online, and three of the five fit. I’m tempted to keep all three, though I only need two (a go-to suit and a backup).
  7. I took time off this week, because I needed a few mental health days, and it was nice not having to think about work for a while.
  8. I spent more time outside than usual, watching hummingbirds, dragonflies, and bees visit the hostas, picking wild blackberries, and soaking up sunshine “poolside” while reading a good book.
  9. I’m running out of things to say, but I guess it’s also good that I cleared up some bill-related issues.
  10. I’ve reached a difficult point in my novel, but I’m feeling positive about it. I’ve written enough stories by now to know that I always reach a point at which the plot doesn’t seem like it’s going to work. As long as I keep the story alive, a solution will eventually occur to me.
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Ten Stupid Reasons

I’m highly motivated at work. If I see a problem, particularly if it’s one that wastes a lot of time and energy, I want to fix it. I’m willing to do what’s necessary to fix it, even if it creates some difficulties in the present, so that we’ll have a better situation going forward.

But I rarely get to fix those problems, because at work there are other people, and other people are not always so keen on fixing things. In fact, it’s been my observation that some of them will plant themselves squarely in front of any solution, no matter how good (or simple or inexpensive), then screech at the top of their lungs if you try to nudge them. Why is that? Why don’t people want to make changes that will improve their own lives?

Work is not the only place I see this happening. There are problems all around. This country is facing some real doozies, but the problems are far from getting fixed. We’ve got leaders ignoring certain problems, deliberately creating others, and even blocking no-brainer solutions. And a noticeable percentage of the population is cheering them on. What the Hell is wrong with these people?

Well, based on what I’ve witnessed at work, here are ten stupid reasons why people are against making positive changes.

  1. Some people are lazy and only willing to do what is strictly necessary to get themselves through this particular day. They will not do anything extra until and unless they’re forced to.
  2. Most people hate change. They do not want to change the way they do things, no matter how much better the alternative way might be. They view change as the enemy, no matter how many benefits it offers, and no matter how terrible the cost of clinging to their old ways might be.
  3. Most people want to believe that they are smart and masterful, and rightfully so. However, some of them feel that need so strongly that they react poorly to any suggestions for improvement. They see the suggestions as criticism of how they do things now, which technically it is, and they cannot tolerate that. To admit the other person is right is to admit that they are wrong. Worse yet, if they perceive the other person as more intelligent or better educated, they may get hostile, even stoop to bad-mouthing and sabotage.
  4. Most people are incapable of projecting themselves into the future and considering how their actions today will affect the outcome. Consequently, they see the minor inconveniences of today as being much worse than future catastrophes, when exactly the opposite is true.
  5. Some people are capable of getting a bad idea so deeply embedded in their heads that there’s nothing you can do to get rid of it. Nothing. It’s stuck there permanently. There is no evidence you could ever present to them that is strong enough to dislodge that idea.
  6. Some people cannot tolerate the risk of being wrong, especially if being wrong could cause them a loss of prestige or position. If a problem has not reached a crisis point, they’d rather do nothing than risk failing to fix the problem.
  7. Some people can’t stand to do anything if it wasn’t their idea in the first place. And the beauty is, if they wait for a long time, they can later propose the same solution and call it their idea. They do not care how many resources are squandered in the meantime.
  8. Some people are so eager to cast themselves as heroes that they’ll let a problem get really bad, even deliberately make it worse, so that they can step in and play the savior.
  9. Many people are one-dimensional thinkers. They do not completely understand the concept of “cost.” They will often erroneously claim that a solution is too expensive, because they’re not considering all the costs. They only see dollar values, and only the dollar values of today. They often fail to consider the costs of not fixing the problem, the risks they incur by stalling, and how much more a problem might ultimately cost if not fixed in time to avoid a catastrophe. They also fail to consider the non-monetary costs, such as time and energy, morale, and health.
  10. Some people have no interest in anyone but themselves. When confronted with a long-term problem, they don’t care. It’s in their personal best interests to milk the system for all it is worth right now. They know that by the time the proverbial shit hits the fan, they’ll be somewhere else, or they’ll have amassed enough resources to protect themselves from personal consequences. They also know how to use a scapegoat to deflect the blame from themselves.

The good news is that a good leader understands these (and the many other) stupid reasons why people stand in the way of progress. And a good leader knows how to push people past their stupid reasons and get them to invest in positive change instead. So all we need is a good leader.

But where do we find that leader?

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I Just Shouldn’t

I shouldn’t read the news. I also shouldn’t listen to anyone who wants to tell me about the news. My husband just told me the other day that the emerald ash borer has been spotted in Rhode Island. Great. Next will be the Asian long-horned beetle. We’ve already got enough tree killers to contend with. I wish I didn’t know about any of them, but the news keeps coming.

But the worst thing is, of course, global warming. It’s become such a huge issue that it’s in the news every day. I can barely stand to read about it anymore. Unless politicians all over the world can get their heads out of their asses for long enough to agree that there’s a problem and devote ALL of our scientific resources to fixing the problem, the human race is screwed. We may be past the point of solving the problem by merely weaning ourselves off of fossil fuels now, so we need other solutions. We need every smart person on Earth devoted to this task. We need a “Wartime President” to bring us all together and unite us in the battle against our own extinction. But what we have is a terrible mess of a man who only cares about money and glory. It is so depressing, and it really pisses me off, because if I were the president, making sure my children had a planet to live on would be my number one priority.

I really just shouldn’t read the news.

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Day Off 2

Like yesterday, today was a day off for me. Unlike yesterday, I felt no compulsion to use my time wisely. I woke up late, lobbed around, wallowed in the sludge of the Internet for a while. The only thing I had planned for the day was to go to the bookstore with the kids. Marshall had a gift card to use. So we went, we bought books, we came home. Or, as they say in Latin, “veni, vidi, vici.”

That’s all I have to say about today, so I will now share with you some things from yesterday.

1. I saw something fly over the road as I was on my way back from BJ’s. It looked like (and I know this is going to sound weird) a small pterodactyl. Obviously pterodactyls are extinct, so it wasn’t one of those, and mostly likely not a dragon (I haven’t seen a dragon in forever). I don’t think it was a kite, because people don’t usually fly kites over main roads. By the time my mind had registered how oddly shaped the thing was, it had already disappeared from sight. Even if I had been a stunt driver and able to turn the car around immediately, I doubt I could have spotted the thing again. So it will always be a mystery. (But a couple of weeks ago, I definitely saw a guy walking down the street with a large lizard perched on his shoulder. My kids didn’t believe me, but it was true.).

2. While I was shopping at BJ’s, someone left a religious pamphlet under the windshield wiper of my car. In my typical oblivious fashion, I didn’t notice it until I was halfway home, but once I saw it, it was hard not to focus on it. It ticked me off, not just because of the distraction. I don’t go around trying to interfere with anyone else’s belief system, and I wish others would show me the same courtesy. A pamphlet under the windshield wiper is less annoying than, say, when they come to my house to preach directly to me (something which they do periodically, even though I’ve asked them not to come back). But even the pamphlet is obnoxious, and I wish they’d stop wasting paper.

3. In its current iteration, relaxing outside requires a pool with water in it, a chair, a towel, a drink of some kind, my camera, a book, a notebook, and a pen. But the most important ingredient is the sun. Without the sun, there’s no point to being out there. After 5:00, the sun drops too low to shine in the yard, the day loses its warmth, and the mosquitoes come out. So I must go out by 4:00 if I’m to have much basking time. During the workweek, I sit next to a window, so I can look outside and see that the sun is shining, but I can’t go out until I’ve finished my work for the day. Usually I’m done just about 4:00. You’d be amazed at how often a sunny day turns cloudy at almost exactly that hour. But yesterday I went out in time for basking and the clouds didn’t hide the sun away.

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Day Off

There’s nothing like a day off from work when you’re resolved not to waste time. I’ve already . . .

  1. Done the dishes.
  2. Done laundry.
  3. Taken a walk along the side of the road to check out the huge mass of wild grapes that I’ve noticed when driving by.

    This grapevine is taking over.

    I’ve heard people talk about “kudzu monsters.” This here is a grapevine monster.

    I actually walked farther than I had meant to, because the rocks and wild plants made me feel, as they often do, like I’m on vacation in some wonderful, isolated locale. On the other side of the road, I checked the swampy area for interesting flowers. It’s long past time for the wild irises, sadly, but the sweet pepperbush was in bloom, and it smelled divine.

    Almost all of the shrubs in this picture are sweet pepperbush. Their white flowers are attractive and smell great.

  4. Played my piano. I even tried out a few modern pieces that I’ve never played before.
  5. Posted a couple of blog posts.
  6. Photographed a dragonfly who was using one of our hostas as a perch between insect-hunting forays. If you think that this picture looks like others that I’ve posted before, that’s because it’s probably very much like others that I’ve posted before. I love taking pictures of dragonflies on hostas!

    Here is the dragonfly resting between snacks. His name is Philippe, in case you were wondering.

  7. Driven to BJs to buy some odds and ends.

My hubby and the kids won’t be back until at least 5:00, so I’ve got some time to myself now. I think that I shall fill up my little pool and relax outside with a book. I hope that you are enjoying your day, too!

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It’s Depressing

The World Without Us by Alan Weisman

Grade: B+

Alan Weisman’s The World Without Us is a non-fiction book that questions what would happen to our planet if we (mankind) suddenly disappeared en masse. How quickly would nature take over again? And what marks of our existence would remain on the Earth long after we’d disappeared?

He approaches these questions from two main angles. One angle is to examine the places on Earth where there are no people. For example, he takes us to an isolated coral reef to show us what life is like in a place that we’ve never colonized. He also takes us to several places that humans have abandoned, such as Chernobyl and the Korean DMZ, to show us how nature responds to the empty spaces (which is quickly and resiliently, thank goodness).

His other angle of approach is to examine the different forms of long-term damage we’re leaving behind. We’ve caused the extinction of countless animals, and left others on the brink of nonexistence. We’ve littered the planet with plastic that Nature cannot biodegrade, and probably won’t be able to for a long time. So that plastic will just get broken into smaller and smaller pieces, damaging every level of the food chain on its way down. We’ve created nasty things like dioxins and radioactive waste that will linger indefinitely. And within days of our demise, countless human-made catastrophes will occur as chemical plants and nuclear plants, with no one watching over the switches and no power to run the automated systems, will burn or melt down or explode or whatever.

I hesitated over the grade. It’s an interesting book. It will help with my novel (which is good, since that’s the reason I decided to read it). But it’s also depressing as Hell. Weisman might as well have called it “A Million Reasons Why Humans Don’t Deserve to Live.” So, it’s possible that the book is worthy of an A grade, but I’m too bummed out to give it anything higher than a B+.

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