Me, Myself, and the Voices in My Head

A place to ramble and maybe make some sense about a thing or two.

Archive for the category “Education”

Memorial Day — You’re doing it wrong!

On this Memorial Day, we sit out on our decks and party.  Three days we’ve got off from work with burgers on the barbie.  But if you take a moment to reflect, away from your party scene, the radio will remind you what this day truly means.

It’s time to save, I said SAVE, on a waterbed!  It’s time to buy a great mattress at an even greater price!  I’ve got two words for you — It’s “Tire Sale!”  We’ve got rock-bottom prices and the time is running out!

You’ve got one full year, that’s right — one full year!  No interest!  No payments!  This could be the Memorial Day Weekend you enjoy for years!

Oh, yeah, and something about guys who died for our country…..  (“Memorial Day” parody by Heywood Banks)

Sadly, that song which was written as a joke to show just how out-of-touch we are with what Memorial Day really means is truer than you think.

I’ve seen and heard lots of people talking about their holiday weekend.  The “fact” that it’s the first weekend of summer.  About how much they’ve enjoyed their mini-family vacations and days spent on the lake or fishing or perfecting their barbeque techniques.  I’ve also seen a lot of people posting photos/cartoons and statements thanking veterans for their service.

Memorial Day is not the day we say “thank you” to our veterans.  EVERY DAY should be a day we say “thank you” to our veterans.  But for those who can’t be bothered to do that every day you see someone in uniform or someone wearing a hat or jacket showing they were one who promised to put their life on the line for our country, then at least say “thank you” on Veterans’ Day (11 November).

Memorial Day is when we should stop what we’re doing and remember that it’s the day set aside to say “thank you” to those veterans we CAN’T thank in person anymore.  They gave the ultimate sacrifice on the battlefields, wherever they were.  And we remember those veterans who have passed-on and the service they so proudly gave to our country.

Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day and was started by Major General John A. Logan from Southern Illinois and the GAR, the Grand Army of the Republic.  The GAR was an organization of Union veterans.  Three years after the Civil War, in 1868, he said that on May 30th all the graves of our war dead should be decorated with flowers (which would be in bloom across the country at that time).  In his orders, he stated:

We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. … Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners.  Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.

This was done because in many areas immediately following the Civil War, only those of either Union or Confederate forces were being remembered and the graves of the “enemy” were falling into neglect.  One of the first records of equal decorations came in 1866 when women visiting the sites of the Confederate dead from the Battle of Shiloh near Columbus, Mississippi, noticed the graves of Union casualties being ignored and desecrated because they were they “enemy.”  Disturbed at the sight of the bare graves, the ladies placed flowers there as well.

Many Union or Confederate Decoration Day ceremonies are still held every year.  Memorial Day, however, was made a Federal holiday by an act of Congress in 1971 and the last Monday in May was selected as the date in order to be fairly consistent with the orders given by Maj. Gen. Logan as well as coinciding with the local/regional celebrations that had been occurring since.

Every grave in every national cemetery will have an American flag placed upon it today.  Some are placed by soldiers, some by civic groups such as the Boy and Girl Scouts.  Many family members will also decorate the graves of their loved ones in national, state, and private cemeteries.  Speeches will be made and politicians will “pay tribute” across the country today.  But it shouldn’t be just them making an effort.  And it shouldn’t be just the veterans who were able to come home to their country and families and who live with the memories of how their comrades gave the ultimate sacrifice.  It should be all of us — every single person who enjoys the freedom for which those brave men and women laid-down their lives.

It’s not about the sales; it’s not about the picnics; it’s not about a day off with or without pay.  It’s about gratitude; it’s about honor; it’s about those we can never say “thank you” personally to again.


End of the Junior High Era

Today was Youngest Son’s last day in junior high.  Next year he’ll be a freshman.  Lord help us all.

I’m incredibly proud of him and am very, very happy that he’s had some great experiences and made new friends since we moved to this town three years ago.  He’s been in three school theatre productions; he’s participated in All-District Honors Band (was first-chair trumpet, too); attended the State Band Contest; has made the honor roll; and has a gang of friends that he really enjoys hanging-out with and who enjoy having him with them.  As a kid who moved from school-to-school, I know it can be hard to fit-in when you’re the new kid on the block.  Youngest Son learned a lot more at a faster pace when he was homeschooled, but I agree with him that his past three years in public school have helped him grow in many different ways.

I’m especially proud of him as he has received the President’s Education Awards Program Award for Outstanding Academic Excellence.  To qualify for it, he had to have a cumulative grade point average of 3.5 or more over his junior high career and test above the average and rank in the top of the State’s Assessment Program that’s given every year.  He received a very nice certificate and a lapel pin that he can put on his jacket when he goes to high school.  He pointed out the “autograph” of President Obama on the certificate and I told him that an auto-pen did that.  He said he was surprised they just didn’t Xerox it and is not impressed by it.  He was actually disappointed because he didn’t receive a plaque for best brass student in band and was awarded for his academics.  I reminded him that it will be his academics that helps him get into the college he wants and will follow him through life.  A plaque won by your “nemesis” whose parents can afford for him to take private lessons in order to be better than Youngest Son will only someday be an unwieldy paperweight that your children won’t even be able to get rid of in a yard sale.

I think he feels a lot better now.  And he enjoyed his last day there.  No, he didn’t participate with one group that wore the colorful Morph Suits that everyone was buying around Halloween and at least he wasn’t dared like one of his other friends to come dressed like a princess today.  He made sure he had phone/text numbers for his friends so they can get together over the summer before high school band camp starts in July.

Eldest Son texted me today that he’s learned how to weld in his sculpture class in college.  I told him I was proud and that the welding experience can also be used in other jobs as well.  He hopes to finish his classes soon so that he can graduate in the next semester or two.

One going into high school and one leaving college soon….where does the time go?

Still irritated at Mythbusters’ “Swinging Pirates” episode

I know it’s just a minor thing, but I really liked the effect in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie that showed the six pirates swinging in a ball made of bones and climbing their way to the top of the cliff and saving themselves.  The Mythbusters tried to recreate the myth that it could be done and messed it up.  Big time.  In my opinion anyway — I’m not a scientist.

They used metal to create the ball — good idea.  They had openings at the bottom of the ball large enough for them to crawl through — bad idea.  They used two cables to hold the ball above the ground — not accurate since in the movie it’s supposed to be a single vine.  But they did prove that they could climb up the “cliff” by having everyone help climb a cargo net on the side of a building.  They really should have replicated the actual conditions.  The two safety cables impeded the ability for the momentum to increase.

However, on the same episode, the Build Team made a pulse jet and had an expert come and show them an effective way to build one and how it should run.  I wonder how many WWII British survivors watched the episode and had bad memories afterwards?  The one their expert built sounded just like a V-1 flying bomb, also known as a “Buzz Bomb” or “Doodlebug” by the British who listened to them as they flew overhead before crashing and exploding.  And if you’ve never heard of the V-1 — go look it up.  They did lots of damage.

Now I’m going to watch the new episode for this week — any time you make a hot water heater explode on television is awesome.

Voices are in charge again!

I have no idea what the hell is up with me today.  My brain has gone into extreme overdrive and now I’ve got thoughts and words and feelings and shit (yes, I can swear and am actually very good at it) bouncing around in there and they won’t leave me alone.  Maybe I’m finally having a mental breakdown.  Maybe I’m finally having some kind of epiphany that will let me find my “true calling” in the world.  Whatever the hell it is, it’s driving me freakin’ nuts and I can’t stand it!

It’s like the voices in my head are trying to get me to write my autobiography.  Nice idea but who the hell would want to read it?  I’m nobody.  I’ve not done anything fantastic and famous.  I’m just another schmuck on the sidewalk with the rest of the people whose hopes and dreams are dashed by themselves, their problems, their families, their jobs, their government, or any other number of outside and inside forces.  Yeah, I’m sure all of the major bookstores would make lots of prime real estate for a book about me — right in the bottom of the dumpsters.  Besides, if I wrote an autobiography I could never get it published because all of the people in it would hate it and what I had to say about them at one point or another, they’d try to sue me for slander, or I’d just never get the rights to use their names or likenesses and then my book would have a bunch of blank spaces in it I couldn’t fill.  Yeah, that’s going to be interesting reading.

So where do I start?  What am I supposed to be doing with this mess in my head?  I didn’t even want to open the word processing program but now I find myself here typing as fast as my fingers will move trying to get onto the page everything at once.  And that’s not a good thing to try to do because I have OCD and I have to proofread while I’m typing and when things are not flowing well my brain starts yelling at me and I have to start over again.  I’m going to try to switch it off for a bit but I can’t guarantee how that’s going to work out.  If you don’t hear from me again somewhere in the middle of this diatribe it’s probably ’cause my OCD-blocking caused an aneurysm and I’m face-down on the keyboard with the dogs wondering why I won’t let them outside.

I remember things from when I was little.  I told my mother that I swear I remember the green seats on the airplane back from Hawaii to the mainland.  I told her once that I have a vivid memory of a bright circle of light in front of me and an ugly green upholstered seat back to my right and I’m laying down in the seat and can’t say or do anything.  She says it’s just me remembering her telling a story about the trip when my family moved from Hawaii to Missouri and she flew with me while my dad was still getting out of the Navy.  I don’t remember anything else from then until I opened my eyes after “making a wish” and blowing out the candle on my 3rd birthday cake.  I remember that.  I remember my brain saying, “We have to remember this.  This is an important day.”  It was like I’d switched-on a tape recorder in my brain and I have vague memories of doing that many times when my mind would believe that something was worth remembering.  Not like things from school or grocery lists — just places and events that should stick with me for some reason.

I was an only child.  I say “was” because I do have step-siblings and a half-sister.  But biologically, it’s just me.  Even though my biological father refuses to acknowledge me anymore and claims the children of his other wives as his kids, I’m the last of his bloodline and he’s way too old and sick to do anything about it now.  Yeah….he always told me about how awful it was when he was 4 and his father walked-out on his family and then never wanted to have anything to do with him until he’d remarried and divorced and had a bunch of kids in Utah somewhere and was dying and then tried to call my father for help and support.  And my father, being the person he is, was more than happy to tell my biological paternal grandfather to shove it and didn’t give a crap even when I gave him the message sometime in the early 1980s that we’d gotten a phone call and his dad was dead.

Kind of the same thing is happening now, in a way.  My biological father wanted a son.  He was sure that he’d have a son.  Then I popped out and spoiled his fun.  I don’t really know when my parents’ marriage began to fall apart, but I have a feeling that even then things weren’t so good ’cause they decided to not have another child.  I don’t know why and no one has ever tried to tell me a reason, so it’s just a guess on my part.  But, good ol’ dad knew he’d have at least a decade before puberty would set-in and make me the daughter he couldn’t pretend I wasn’t.  So he taught me about cars and guns and sports and I was the epitome of a tomboy.  Oh sure, I had Barbie dolls and other girly toys, but if I was playing with friends, they were usually boys and I loved their toys WAY much more than my stuff.

I had a friend, Russell, who lived two streets away and my parents taught school with his parents.  Oh yeah, I left that part out.  We moved back to Missouri because my dad didn’t want to be in the Navy anymore even though he was offered stations in London, Madrid, or Washington D.C.  Nope, he wanted to go back to being a schoolteacher for some insane reason.  My mother then became a teacher.  Her father was already a teacher.  You can see where I’m going with this.  I was doomed from the start to be a teacher in some form or fashion.

Anyway, back to Russell.  His family and my family were friends and Russell and I were the same age.  We stayed at the same babysitter’s house since they didn’t have formal preschool in those days.  Sometimes when our parents would go out together in the evenings, they’d drop us off at the sitter’s house and we’d either stay until our parents got back or spend the night.  Russell and I had a blast together ’cause I’d been raised so much like a boy by my father that I didn’t mind getting muddy in the yard or trying to catch crawfish with my bare hands in the ditch at the end of the road and I watched all of the TV shows that the rest of the guys liked.  I fit right in.  Heck, my babysitter figured I “fit-in” well enough that I do have the memory of bath time at her house one night.

Her husband and sons worked at the local grain elevator.  They came home and got cleaned-up from their long, dirty day at work and went to eat dinner.  I didn’t know that they were used to the old country ways of when you had to bring water in for a bath by hand and everyone shared it.  She got Russell and me into the bathroom and stripped-off our clothes and plopped us into the large claw-foot bathtub that had just been used by I don’t remember how many stinky, oily, dirty grown men.  I just remember the water was so dark I couldn’t see anything of myself under it and there was a film of some sort that carried small curly hairs past my face.  She reminded us that we needed to use plenty of soap to keep the other dirt off of us so we’d be clean.  This was one of my first introductions to lye soap.  It doesn’t suds-up like soap we use today does, so I kept rubbing and rubbing it on me thinking it was never going to clean anything.  Then she scooped each of us out of the murky broth (remember, we’re both in the tub together), dried us off, gave us our pajamas we’d brought with us, and finished it all up with a healthy dose of NyQuil.  Yup, back when it had a high enough alcohol content to knock you on your butt.  We’d already had dinner and she wanted to make sure we went to bed.  I was basically an alcoholic at age 4 from all the times I stayed at her house.

My biological father helped Russell’s dad build an addition onto their house.  For some reason, my dad had gotten into the building craze and was making shelves and cabinets and anything else he could think of with power tools that I longed to use.  I’d go out into the garage and look at the tools and ask to help and he’d occasionally give me a hammer or a screwdriver to “pretend” to fix something.  Heck, I knew in my young mind that I was doing better than he was ’cause every time my mother would ask him to fix something he’d end up breaking it or trying to screw-in all the attachments with a butter knife.  Now that I’m older I realize that this is a specific “Dad Phenomenon” that all males have.  They don’t want to do the “honey-do” lists and figure if they screw up whatever they’ve been asked to do enough that the wife will decide to never ask him to do it again and will hire someone else to take care of it.  Yup, even before Kindergarten I’d already learned how guys worked.

Anyway, when the guys were building the addition onto the house, Russell and I would play outside.  By this time he had a younger sister and she and our mothers would sit inside and do something.  I don’t know what it was because I didn’t want to be stuck inside.  Russell and I would chase each other around the house and up-and-down the street because this was back when you could play in the street and traffic watched-out for children.  It was also the time when neighbors watched-out for kids as well and if you did something wrong they had every right to punish you just as your parents would and then tell your parents about it which usually got you punished again.  Plus, our babysitter with the claw-foot tub lived just diagonally across the street from Russell’s house, so everyone knew we’d be safe.

I remember hearing adult voices telling me to not run in the construction area a thousand times but it was still fun.  There were the studs for the walls to weave ourselves through and unfinished stairs that we’d climb and jump off the top before being scolded again.  Finally, it happened.  The klutz gene in me decided to show up and I tripped on a piece of wood.  That wasn’t too bad ’cause the floor had already been laid and the concrete and I were already good friends.  What sucked was the small board with the very large nail sticking out of it that just happened to be in my landing zone.  This large framing nail went into my left calf and somehow didn’t hit either of the bones in my leg.  But I bled like a stuck pig; my mother screamed that I was going to die of tetanus;  and my father carried me to the bathroom with the board still nailed to my leg before pulling it out.  Someone was on the phone to the doctor to ask what to do about it and I remember the evil bottle of Mercurochrome was brought out to be poured into the large hole.  Of course, I did the screaming-jumping-whining dance of any kid who’d been assaulted with Mercurochrome and watched my leg become dyed a weird rusty color wherever it ran.  The doctor on the phone told them to just put a bandage on it and it would heal.  It did.  I’ve got a cool round scar there that’s faded with age but because there were no stitches or butterfly band-aids, it’s still the same size as the nail that caused it.  I loved showing it off to guys like an old war wound on the playground.  They’d cringe and I usually won admiration for having the most awesome scar in the group.

As I said before, my parents were teachers.  My dad was my school principal from second grade through eighth grade (with a small respite when I basically had to retake fifth grade — more on that later) at two different school districts and my mother taught 8th grade math and science, so I never had her as a teacher since we’d moved and I’d changed districts before I reached that level.

Okay, so I mentioned “retaking” the fifth grade.  Here’s what happened.  I was very advanced in Kindergarten.  When I went for testing to see which class I’d be placed in, the teachers knew me because my parents habitually loaned me out to their friends who were in the process of getting their Master’s of Education and needed to run tests and show experimental learning styles on a subject.  I was free labor (well, they did have to take me to McDonald’s) and was soon also known by most of the graduate-level instructors at the college where everyone was attending.  Someone would pick me up, take me to the college, run their test with me, get their grade, and then take me to McDonald’s for a burger before heading back home.  The college was over an hour away and we didn’t have a McDonald’s in our town, so I thought I was hitting the big time by getting to go there a lot.

Since I’d been tested and had a rabid reading habit of my own that allowed me to devour books in a very short time, I was very advanced for being only 5 years old.  The school even said that if I’d had a better grasp of mathematics that they would have considered having me skip Kindergarten and perhaps even 1st grade because I was already reading on a 3rd grade level.  But, my poor math skills kept me back and I hated the first day of Kindergarten because it was nothing but recess all day.  I was there to learn, by god, and all the playing was SO boring!  And I couldn’t get over the other classmates who would cry and whine and need to be restrained as their parents left each day!  Didn’t they realize that this was where you could learn more and be away from your parents and be who you wanted to be?

Obviously not and no one informed me that it wasn’t proper for me to “be who I wanted to be” because I wanted to get the heck out of there and they made me stay.  My class was divided into groups by abilities and I so vividly remember the first day we had our reading circle.  Everyone was given a copy of the book we were going to learn to read and my teacher sat in the circle with us and read the first sentence very slowly.  “Okay,” I thought, “this is just a warm-up and we’ll be done in no time.”  I started reading the book and was done before the second child to her left had finished reading the sentences assigned to him after the first child had stuttered and stammered her way through her attempt before saying she didn’t know the words.  When they finally got to me, I was ready.  I was going to show these kids how it was done.  The teacher called on me to read the next page and everyone was stunned that she’d ask me to read so much.  I started reading and was almost done with it when I realized that she was trying to stop me.  I hadn’t made any mistakes and was very confused.  “You need to slow down,” she said.  “Not everyone else can read like you can and they need to hear the words.  You’re going too fast.”

What?  I remember thinking that if they couldn’t read as fast as I could then they needed to be in another group or another class.  And I remember my teacher (another friend of my parents) talking to my mother and explaining that I needed to slow down and that it wasn’t anything I’d done wrong but that she needed to help me understand that I was going to have to help “teach” the others to read.

Looking back, I wonder if that’s where my desires to teach and control started.  At the age of 5, I was being told to “teach” others which meant I had a certain “power” over them.  It didn’t help when almost halfway through the year the teacher’s aide we had that did our language and spelling “classes” was arrested and we didn’t have anyone to grade our workbooks.  My teacher said that since I knew how to read and had already completed my book on my own that I could grade the other students’ books.  Yup, I “taught” language and spelling in Kindergarten.  How cool is that?

Okay….my fingers hurt, I’ve been typing for over 2 hours straight, and I’ve got the voices in my head screaming at me that I’m going WAY off topic.  What topic?  It’s supposed to be about me and this is about me.  They have other issues and topics they want brought up and put on paper.  I can’t do it at the moment.  I’m exhausted; I’m making way too many typos to suit myself (told ya’ the OCD-block wouldn’t work) and I’ve got to stop for a while.  I’ll try to pick it up again tomorrow.  Probably after my therapist appointment — that always is a good trigger for me.

Now I’m going to try to shut the voices up with some inane television and something to drink (non-alcoholic).  Maybe this running commentary will be good for me to be able to see how my mind is working and organizes things.  And maybe I’m just full of crap and want to feel self-important again.

Can we stop with the Titanic stuff now?

Yes, yes, yes….I know it’s the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic.  I would have known that without all of the televised fanfare and the re-release of James Cameron’s movie in 3D.  You know how I would have known that?  Because I read!  Because I studied in history class!  Because my life isn’t so shallow that I only believe things shown to me on Twitter or Facebook as so many people over the past week have shown in their posts that they didn’t know the movie “Titanic” (1997) was based on an actual historical event!

And I make sure to put the year 1997 behind the title of the movie because, yes, there is more than one movie named “Titanic.”  In 1943 the Third Reich attempted to make a propaganda film espousing the positive reasons to invade Britain by using the Titanic disaster as the backstory.  “Titanic” (1943) showed Bruce Ismay, owner of the White Star Line, as an evil capitalist and all of the British as greedy while a lone German crew member who seemed to know that something bad was going to happen tried to warn everyone but was ignored.  This German officer was later the hero of the movie — even though “Titanic” (1943) never played in Germany until the 1950s.  It was deemed too controversial because of the passengers in Second and Third Class areas trying to scramble for safety and being locked-out or denied passage was too reminiscent of the Holocaust.  With Germany beginning to lose the war, no one in the Third Reich wanted anyone to recognize similar goings-on happening in Germany and other occupied areas where concentration camps were in operation.  A lot of that type of footage was removed before the movie ever played in Germany.

But “Titanic” (1943) wasn’t completely lost to history.  There were many scenes of the ship and people running to the lifeboats that came from “Titanic” (1943) and were used in “A Night to Remember” (1958).  “A Night to Remember” was considered one of the most accurate depictions of the sinking of the Titanic because a lot of the information used to write the movie came from interviews with survivors in the book by the same name.  It was the most accurate at that time because it did not show the Titanic breaking apart because no one had ever confirmed it and there were different memories of what exactly happened that night.

Not until Robert Ballard discovered the RMS Titanic on the ocean floor in 1985 was it confirmed that the ship had broken apart before it sank.  After his discovery, more movies were made.  “Titanica” (1995), narrated by Leonard Nimoy, was shown in IMAX theatres.  “Titanic” (1996), a two-part miniseries, was made for television and got a lot of facts wrong but somehow still pulled out an Emmy win.

Finally in 1997 the world was “graced” (and I use that term sarcastically here) with James Cameron’s version which was fictional but based on historical fact and recent discovery.  Even now he has said that there are parts he got wrong but he’s not going back to fix them all because “when would you know where to stop?”  And Celine Dion’s song and chest-thumping visage on every awards show and commercial hawking “authentic Titanic reproductions” became embedded in everyone’s subconscious.  And I do apologize to all of my readers who are now tortured with it running through their heads at the moment — I feel your pain ’cause it’s stuck in mine, too.

By the way, those “authentic Titanic reproductions” were usually of the blue diamond necklace Rose (not a real person on the RMS Titanic) wore while in the nude being sketched by Jack (another non-real person on the RMS Titanic).  The necklace never existed.  Actually, there is historical reference to a blue sapphire necklace similar to the one depicted in the movie, but it would have only been an inspiration for the one in the movie.  And, sadly, I’ve been seeing more and more replicas of the necklace, the gemstone, etc. being advertised late at night in “honor” of the 100th anniversary of the sinking.

The latest incantation of the story is “Titanic” (2012) and is a four-part television drama based on the sinking.  As if we needed another re-telling of the story.

And movies weren’t the only things created about the RMS Titanic!  Even if you don’t count all of the books and memoirs written or related by survivors and their relatives, along with historical accounts and fictional dramatizations, there’s still tons of stuff out there!  In 1997 there was a Broadway musical about the sinking — and it WON five Tony Awards!!

So, now that you’ve had your history lesson for today, can we please stop all the hoopla?

Don’t get me wrong, though.  It was an important event in history.  Seafaring changed forever after the RMS Titanic sank and the International Ice Patrol was created from this disaster.  Also, there now has to be 24-hour monitoring of communications channels, something that had the Marconi operators on the Californian not gone to bed, they would have received the Titanic’s distress signal and been able to render assistance.  And there are many who spent the last moments of their lives doing their jobs in the belly of the ship in order to keep it level and keep the lights on in order to help others escape, even though they knew they would be no way out for them.

Yes, remember and honor the memories of those who perished, etc., etc., etc.  But now that the official time and date of the sinking 100 years ago has passed, can I please stop being bashed about the head with shows, movies, posts, and documentaries about it all?  Just for a little while??

Discovery’s Mythbusters: Duct Tape Island and Unchained Reaction episode 2

Yeah, I know.  I should have posted my reviews last night but I was really busy and the whole fence thing had me miffed.  Today it wasn’t any better as I found my decorative fencing around my precious morel mushrooms moved (looks like it was kicked), but I digress.

Last night was Discovery Channel’s night for the new season of Mythbusters and for the second episode of Unchained Reaction.  One was slightly impressive while the other was educational but way too hokey to believe.

I’ll start with Mythbusters: Duct Tape Island — a one-hour episode featuring only Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman as they attempt to survive on a desert island with only duct tape available to them.  I had a feeling the show was going to be silly because the announcer said they had “an endless supply” of it.  So, if you thought that the small pallet of duct tape that “washed-up” on the beach was all they had, think again.  And we all knew that they wouldn’t actually be in danger of starving or dehydrating because they had a camera crew with them.  It’s not like we’re watching Survivorman, y’all.

In the intro to the “story,” they show the outline of an island.  Anyone with basic U.S. geography skills would have immediately recognized the shape as the silhouette of Oahu, one of the Hawaiian Islands.  If you need more information, it’s the island where Honolulu and Pearl Harbor are located.  Oahu is definitely not deserted, but they were able to find a beach resort where they could film their show.

Oh, did I say “resort?”  Why, yes I did — and that’s an important thing to remember while reading the rest of this review (remember “Turtle Bay” and Lost).

So, the guys are “stranded” and have to figure out how to signal for help, find water, find food, make clothing, make a shelter, stay focused, and escape from the island.  Signaling for help was easy.  They created a huge “SOS” sign out of duct tape and rocks on the beach.  The down side to their attempt is that duct tape is gray and doesn’t reflect well when covered with sand, making it harder for someone overhead to see.

When they attempted to find water, they did stage a good explanation of how you can’t drink just any water you find lying around.  Jamie (the brains) and Adam (Captain ADD-man) were each given different tasks to find water.  Jamie used the shrink-wrap that covered the pallet of duct tape to make a solar still in order to collect water.  While it’s a good and scientific idea, a solar still would not make enough water for two people in a reasonable amount of time.  Evaporation and condensation takes a while and it wasn’t a plausible idea for them.  Adam, however, did find running fresh water and made a water-bag out of duct tape so he could return with potable water for them to enjoy.

Both of the guys created unique shoes using duct tape which made walking on the hot sand, grasses, and rocks more bearable.  Adam even made himself a hat since he is very susceptible to the rays of the sun on his fair skin, and so that people who are used to him wearing his Stetson while Jamie has his iconic beret (which was present) could tell them apart.

As for finding food, Jamie was rather ingenious and successful in spear fishing.  He used bamboo and wood shards to create a multi-pronged spear and even added a small duct tape retrieval string and marked the center of balance to make it easier for him to throw.  Once he got off the shore and into the water, he actually speared a small fish.  True, he’d need a lot more than that to feed both of them, but it was successful and fun to watch.  Adam, however, was running around in the jungle after feral chickens.  Realizing that he could not catch one on foot, he first tried a simple snare trap with duct tape “wire” (which didn’t work) and then made a net out of the duct tape with which to catch a passing chicken.  The first chicken “caught” escaped through a hole in the side but the second was successfully captured.  Then, Adam made the announcement that the chicken they would be seen eating in a later scene was store-bought and not the chicken he had just caught.  The part he didn’t explain is that feral chickens are protected as wildlife in Hawaii and cannot be captured without special permits/licenses.  And Jamie didn’t eat the fish he caught either.  Both sat on the beach with their duct tape bag of fried chicken and duct tape platter of raw tuna and discussed how proud they were of their hunting abilities.

Adam created a “permanent camp” out of duct tape with hammocks and even a small table and stools with a duct tape chess set (to help them stay focused).  It seemed odd that they’d try to make a “permanent camp” if they were trying to escape from the island, but it’s television and if you try to reason it out too much you’ll just give yourself a headache.  Jamie made himself a surfboard out of duct tape and took it for a quick float in the ocean (he wasn’t able to stand up on it).  Finally, the guys made an outrigger canoe that surprisingly weighed just over 100 pounds from bamboo and duct tape that carried them and their “6-week supply of rations” out into the ocean.  I was impressed that they were able to make it over the breaker waves without the boat twisting or sinking.  Jamie even noted that the only water he was having to bail was what Adam was sloshing into the boat with his poor rowing skills.  Finally, they “found land” and disembarked their canoe, only to find they were back on the same beach as before (cue comedic sound effects and rimshot).

And why wouldn’t they return to the same beach?  They never left it.  Well, except to sleep and eat and get refreshed before continuing the shooting for each of the seven days they were out there.  They did not sleep on their duct tape pads nor in their duct tape hammocks.  They stayed at the Turtle Bay Resort with the rest of the crew and used locations that were utilized in the filming of the show Lost.  That way, they knew where everything was and how easily to get their inventions built and useable.  In one of the outtakes Adam makes a comment that there are too many footprints in the sand for it to be a deserted island.  While it was fun to watch, it was quite disappointing to know that they weren’t really trying to survive at any point.  Sure, they showed how duct tape can work in many ways, but it still took all of the fun out of it.  I’m sure they did it that way because the insurance companies wouldn’t want Discovery losing two of their biggest stars.

And Discovery has used two of their biggest stars to hawk their new show Unchained Reaction.  I’m not sure how much of it really is/isn’t Adam and Jamie’s idea, but having them introduce the theme, pretending to watch the building of the chain-reaction gags, and then coming out to “judge” and announce the winner doesn’t really sell me that it’s their idea.  I wasn’t impressed with the premiere episode, but I thought I’d give the second one a chance.

In the “Fire and Ice” episode, a team of aerospace engineers went up against a team of special effects specialists.  They had to use fire and ice in their contraptions and had to have a minimum of five gags that would continuously set off the next as well as be innovative and entertaining.  Halfway through the build, Adam and Jamie “gave” each team a compact car that they had to incorporate into the middle of their machine and it all had to be completed within five days.

The aerospace engineers did some really neat things with the fire and ice and showing fire making steam and melted ice (water) conducting electricity after salt was added when it was tripped into a tank.  They even got the closest to a Rube Goldberg Machine concept because they stated that they wanted their machine to raise a flag at the end in a miniature moonscape diorama.  Sadly, the beginning of their machine didn’t work as planned but they did get the flag raised in the end, after nearly hitting Adam and Jamie and special guest judge Adam Sadowsky, president of Syyn Labs and creator of the Rube Goldberg machine for the OK Go video, with a rocket that flew across the room into a refrigerator to trigger the flag.

The special effects team didn’t get as technical but were a lot flashier with their contraption.  They used fire and ice in their gags as well as melting a huge block of ice in a cauldron of fire to turn a waterwheel underneath it to trigger another gag.  They had explosive results and it was a lot of fun to watch.  They won the contest because their machine worked and had no issues.

I think what I became the most tired of hearing throughout the show was how they were trying to impress Adam and Jamie.  It was always “Adam and Jamie would want” this and “Adam and Jamie think like” that but Adam and Jamie aren’t really in the show.  I’ll probably watch the next episode to see if the third time’s the charm on getting me to like it.  But at the moment, they could take Adam and Jamie out of it, make it about creating actual Rube Goldberg Machines (that have to complete a specific task) and it would be a lot more fun to watch.

Youngest Son: Unplugged

Teenagers.  They think they know it all.  They think that they’re the first person to ever think of or do something in the history of everything.  They believe they’re invincible, physically and emotionally, and that they can do what they want, when they want, how they want, and that parents will never know the difference.

Where have I heard this before?  Oh….that’s right!  I posted about how Youngest Son tried to abuse his Facebook privileges and posted items that were not appropriate.  And that post was only two days ago!  And guess what?  He tries to pull another stunt like I won’t punish him twice in a week.

Today I allowed him to look at his Facebook page while I monitored everything he viewed.  I only allowed him 15 minutes of time online because he’s still on my naughty list for the previous infraction.  Today, however, he did use common sense and didn’t repost items from his friends and even avoided watching videos some had posted because he knows that the house rules say he’s not allowed to open documents or watch videos without prior permission (because of the possibility of viruses, etc.).

This evening, he went into where the family computer is and asked Husband if he could look at his Facebook page.  Husband was in the process of signing-in to a website and told him that he (Youngest Son) could not look at his Facebook page at that time because he (Husband) was using the computer.  Youngest Son stomped into the living room where I was watching television.  I had not heard anything from the other room and asked why he was so upset.  He told me that Husband had stated that he (Husband) would never supervise him while he looks at his Facebook page and was upset about it.

I went into the other room and asked Husband why he wouldn’t share the responsibility of supervising Youngest Son on the computer.  Husband said that he didn’t say that and called Youngest Son into the room.  Finally, I got to the truth — that Youngest Son had lied to me in order to try to get me to make Husband let him (Youngest Son) use the computer.

Wrong move.

My kids have known all their lives that one of the worst things to do is to try to play Husband and myself against each other.  Asking for permission from one and getting rejected and running to the other to ask the same question hoping for a different answer is not allowed.  And getting caught doing it, well, that’s just going to make any punishment worse.

So, tonight I decided that Youngest Son needs a good example of just how much he won’t die without Facebook.  Or the Internet as a whole.  Or his cell phone.  Or any other electronic devices.

That’s right.  I’ve unplugged a 13-year-old, much to his disappointment, and he can now learn for the rest of this week and all of next week (into the weekend as well) what it was like when his father and I didn’t have video games or text messaging or television (except when the news was on when our parents watched it).  Nothing electronic will be allowed.  Not even small toys that run on button batteries.  He can read, draw, walk the dog — lots of activities that generations of us did before every child seemed born with a Nintendo DS in their hands.

He’ll only be allowed to have his cell phone when we leave home (in case of emergencies) and when he’s at school (for emergencies only as well).  No portable game systems.  No console game systems.  No MP3 players.  He can use his calculator for math class but he won’t because he doesn’t need it.  And he can listen to the radio when he’s going to bed because he’s got the same problem I have — if it’s too quiet when trying to go to sleep, sleep never comes.

And Husband and I won’t be punishing ourselves through this.  We can use all of the electronics we want.  We can watch the only television in the house when we want (he’ll just have to go to his room).  And we can play all the video games we want, even though we won’t.  I’ve always hated it when trying to punish a child and ending up being on the receiving end of the same punishment (no television, etc.).  Now he’ll have to deal with hearing us going on with our lives while he contemplates the error of his ways.

Hopefully he will learn from this, even though it does give me an easy topic to blog about when nothing else happens during the day.

Spike TV – Get off my lawn!

Yeah, I know.  Spike TV is supposed to be the “all-guy”/”testosterone-only” television network with shows like Deadliest Warrior and 1000 Ways to Die.  But, as I’ve fully admitted, I’m not a typical female.  I’ve never been comfortable in frilly dresses or with lots of makeup (unless it’s special effects makeup for Halloween or the theatre).  I can’t stand to walk past the annoying pink aisle in every toy store where every incantation of Barbie and her “friends” live.  I like hunting, fishing, reenacting, shooting — typical “guys-only” activities.  The only dresses I own are either for Halloween/theatre costumes and my wedding dress (which I certainly can’t fit into anymore).

So, anyone who personally knows me knows that watching Spike TV isn’t that unusual for me.  Tonight, Husband said he wanted to be sure to catch the season premieres of Auction Hunters and American DiggersAuction Hunters usually isn’t that bad.  The personalities on the show — Ton Jones and Allen Haff — aren’t annoying and do admit that they don’t always strike it rich with what they buy.  There’s not a lot of staged “drama” as shown on other storage-unit-purchasing-shows.  The guys are funny, honest about what they don’t know, and occasionally find some really awesome items that make me wonder why I can’t find the neat stuff they find around where I live.

But tonight’s premiere of Auction Hunters was supposed to be a live show where the guys and other buyers would get to bid on four large vaults stuffed with a variety of items.  Watching them were an invitation-only group of experts in militaria, precious metals, firearms, and other collectables; each of them were waiting for their chance to see what was pulled out of them and hoping to land a great bargain.  Ton and Allen spent $5000 on one vault that they felt had the most items they could resell and make a big profit.  Spike TV also agreed that whatever the profit they make, the network would match it dollar-for dollar to Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.  They even kept a countdown clock running throughout the show and commercials because the guys were limited to one hour to bid, buy, dig, and resell the items in any vault they purchased.

They found a lot of collectible toys, but no really valuable items in the toy pile that would have made them worth a lot.  They also found a 1920s-era electric guitar made of aluminum and an amplifier made by the same company that sold for a decent price.  They sold a business safe as well which was probably from the 1930s and received a decent amount of money.  But, throughout the show the host kept telling them how much time they had left and Allen kept complaining that it was rude and distracting for him to do that.  The clock kept ticking and they sold a 1980s boombox and a reproduction Dr. J uniform (packaged with an authentic autographed photo), but they still weren’t out of the red.  Finally, the last item they pulled out of a trunk — a wheel-lock pistol — sold for enough to give them a decent profit and the network said they’d boost the donation to $25,000.  How scripted is that?  It was painful to watch them sift through items and stack things in different areas instead of trying to sell something.  I’d have pulled out a box, seen what was inside of it, and put it up for auction to the crowd.  They were invited there to purchase items, so you know they had money to spend.   But, Allen and Ton just kept digging and arguing until the last second (literally) when they sold the huge pile of “collectible” toys.  And I say “collectible” in quotation marks because the types of toys they found were made for the collectors’ market, which means they’re not because no one would ever play with them.

After that was over, I figured I’d give American Diggers a chance since it’s only a 30-minute show.  That was 30 minutes of my life I’ll never get back.

The idea behind American Diggers is that Ric Savage, a former professional wrestler (of only 7 years) and his crew drive around America looking for places that might have a historical significance and ask the property owners if they can dig on their land.  Tonight’s premiere episode was in Alaska as they were trying to find relics from the gold rush.  I couldn’t help but laugh hysterically as the first houses they went to had owners that didn’t want them anywhere near their property.  One guy finally agreed to let them dig and agreed to a 70-30 split of the profits.  So, Ric and his crew went out and found a few cool items (a bear trap, pick axe head, two-man saw, panning tin) and brought them into town and sold them at a local antique mall.  They then returned to the land-owner and divvied-up the profits.

They’re lucky they weren’t in our area or where I used to live.  The people in these areas are well-known for greeting strangers at the door with a minimum of one firearm and perhaps a large growling animal.  I’m also not sure about this show because in the description online it says they “target areas such as battlefields and historic sites.”  If they attempt to do their digging on a national battlefield, they’ll have a nice surprise when the historic preservation organizations and the law enforcement authorities show up since unauthorized relic hunting is illegal.  Even if they don’t find anything “of worth” in their digs, going onto national park lands and many historical sites with the intention of relic hunting is illegal.

And the Spike TV website says that they have found lots of Civil War bullets, Civil War artillery shell fragments, and Native American arrow and axe heads.  By the way, “arrow heads” are called “projectile points” in the archeology/anthropology/historic preservation communities.  Obviously, these guys aren’t really interested in preservation of any sort, except for their bank accounts.

I don’t think the show will last past the episodes already taped, but I could be wrong.  I doubt it, but I could be wrong.  There are already lots of preservation/collection publications that also educate their readers on what they’ve found and how to avoid being scammed.  This guy’s show (and magazine by the same name) is just wading into the deep end of a genre that doesn’t really need another player and more than likely will sink instead of swim.

Discovery’s “Unchained Reaction” premiere – Meh…

When I heard that Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman were going to “sponsor” a new show on Discovery Channel, I figured that it would be entertaining and educational, just like Mythbusters.  I knew it couldn’t possibly be as good as Mythbusters because the guys weren’t going to be in the show.  They just present the task for the episode and “watch” until it’s time to judge the efforts.

Unchained Reaction at first sounded like an awesome idea because everyone enjoys seeing Rube Goldberg machines and even the Mythbusters had created one for the holiday season one year and showed how hard it can be to get it to work correctly.  However, the official definition of a Rube Goldberg machine is that it’s an overly complex invention used to perform a simple operation.  If you’ve ever played the board game Mousetrap, you’ve used a Rube Goldberg machine.  Many cartoons throughout the years have shown Rube Goldberg machines for everything from waking a sleeping person to peeling a banana.  They’re fun to see and even more fun to try to create in your mind.  Youngest Son keeps telling me he wants to make one.  I discourage him only because (1) he doesn’t really have a task for it to perform and (2) I’m afraid of the damage it will cause my house.

The new show, however, doesn’t give the teams a specific task to perform.  There’s a theme for the program — such as heavy-versus-light and fire-and-ice — but no ending operation that has to be completed.  That would make sense on why they don’t refer to the contraptions that are built as Rube Goldberg machines.  The teams are given five days and the same materials with which to make their contraptions.  When I saw the previews, I thought they’d be competing to see which could complete the task in the most inventive way.  They are judged on their inventiveness, but without the common task at the end, it’s just not as thrilling.  Well, it’s not as thrilling to me, anyway.

Rube Goldberg machines have become more and more popular recently.  As mentioned above, the Mythbusters completed a very complex one for their show.  The band OK Go made a music video that incorporated a large Rube Goldberg machine that assisted in playing some of the music and giving the “big finale” at the end.  Some companies are even putting them into their commercials as entertainment and to stimulate consideration of their product, as if they could design one then their product must be just as ingenious.

However, watching two groups trying to sift through a pile of junk to create a “machine” which doesn’t perform an actual operation other than to have one gag trigger another isn’t quite as interesting.  In the premiere episode, they paired-off a group of electrical engineers and a movie set/prop construction team.  Right from the beginning it was obvious who was going to win.  The winning team had the advantage of practical building experience, a firm understanding of what Jamie and Adam wanted to see, and the ability to work together.  (Hope I didn’t spoil it for you if you didn’t see it.)

Maybe the next episode will be better.  But if they can’t get them to have a reason for the machines or at least show more of the building and less talking about what Adam and Jamie are “watching” (it’s SO obvious they’re not “tuning-in” via their laptop), then I don’t know if I’ll be able to watch the whole series.  And that will be quite disappointing.

I’ll give it another shot next week.  For now, I’ll just look forward to the season premier of Mythbusters as they have their “Duct Tape Island” episode.

A nice teaching event today

*Whew!!*  No theatre today.  No rehearsal.  No frantically trying to find props.  Only have to get Husband to practice his lines tonight so we’ll be ready for opening night tomorrow.  Have been trying to spend today not thinking about the production for a change.  I’ve not been successful at it, but I’ve been trying.

I did get to see my therapist today.  She could tell that things haven’t been going so well.  She asked how last Wednesday’s appointment was.  I told her and said she should read my blog for more details.  She asked how the show was progressing.  Again, I told her and said she should read my blog.  She asked if blogging has been helping and I wasn’t sure what to say.  I think it has but then there are days I wonder.  Plus, she thought it was a great idea and a good way to keep-up with what I’m doing/feeling/etc. but hasn’t been reading it.  Glad I post for myself and not for her.

In the waiting room today there were small children.  Two were about 6 or 7 years old, another was younger, and another was not quite 2 years old.  Of course, when Celeste and I walked-in, she became the center of attention.  Parents started trying to grab their kids and the “Don’t touch the doggie!” chants started.  The toddler ran to her and hugged her before his mother could grab him.  When they’re at that age where they don’t understand what a working dog is and can’t communicate themselves, I look to the parents to keep their kids in line.  The mother apologized profusely but the little boy was just fascinated.  She kept telling him “No” and pulling him away from Celeste while trying to get him interested in some of the toys they’d brought.

Having seen the toddler do this, the other three came over and started to pet Celeste.  Their parents tried to grab them away from her and apologized.  I told them not to move the kids but I also told the kids to not touch her.  I then explained, in simple terms, that she is a working dog and cannot be petted by others.  Of course, the kids looked at me like I was some insane lady and by now the toddler had snuck back over and gave Celeste a big wet kiss.  She wasn’t happy about it, but she wasn’t going to do anything, either, since that would be against her training.

I had Celeste and the children sit on the floor.  Every now and then they’d try to sneak a pet or try to get her to kiss them.  I showed them her vest and backpack and for the ones that could read I showed them the “DO NOT PET” patches.  I explained that she has to be paying attention to me and that if someone bothers her, she can’t do her job which makes her upset because she’s a working dog.  The older boy asked if she was like the police dog they’d met at an event in town.  I said that the police dog is a working dog too but that he and Celeste don’t do the same jobs.  His mother said, “Remember when the police officer said you couldn’t pet him until he said it was okay?” and the boy replied that he did.  I said that the same rules would apply to Celeste and any other dog with a vest or backpack that they might see.  The youngest girl was quickly bored and wandered off but the older kids were fascinated.  I explained that they should never touch a working dog unless they’ve asked the owner/handler first for permission.  And I told them that they have to get the permission first because some working dogs can’t be petted or played with and to never try to pet a dog they don’t know.  The two kept reminding each other about the “DO NOT PET” patches and asking first as they caught the other trying to sneak another pat on the head.

When the parents and children left, one of the other patients came into the waiting room and said how beautiful Celeste is and asked if she was trained or if I was training her.  I explained that she is a service dog and assists me all day, every day.  She told me how blessed I am to have a dog like her and that I must feel very lucky, which I do and I agreed with her.  She asked me if I minded talking about Celeste and what she does for me.  I told her that I didn’t mind and the lady volunteered that she has PTSD and always wondered if a service dog could help.  I could see my therapist looking out of the doorway at us and I said that Celeste has helped me immensely before she began to tell the lady what a major change in me she’s seen and how much she enjoys Celeste being in our sessions.

The lady began to ask more questions — What is it like to have the dog with you?  Do you have problems going places?  What does she do for you?  All the typical questions that are usually asked (and not always to my face when people think I’m blind or deaf and can’t hear them).  I answered her and we talked for a moment about how my life has changed in both good ways and bad.  I told her that once you have a service dog you can’t hide your disability because there’s a four-legged “billboard” basically announcing it and that there are times that the public just doesn’t (or won’t) understand why you have one when you “look just fine.”  She said she’d never thought about that but for her she’d rather have the “billboard” and could deal with stupid comments on her own.  We laughed and my therapist said she’d talk to the lady’s therapist about whether he/she believed that a service dog would be a good addition to her treatment.  Then the lady thanked me and I went in for my session.

I’d been feeling really frazzled and angry over the past few days, but getting to sit and educate others on service dogs and how they can help people with “invisible disabilities” was awesome.  When I left for my appointment I could barely stand to be anywhere and was just sure I was going to scream or cry or do something because everything had been so negative recently.  Watching the kids understand to not disturb a working dog and helping another PTSD survivor realize that there is another way without tons of medication to mitigate your disability was very therapeutic.  Even more therapeutic than the therapy session — and I didn’t have to pay for what I did in the waiting room.

Maybe I’ll actually get a chance to sleep tonight.  I probably won’t since I’m sure the voices (which have already started again) will be reminding me of every little thing that has been going wrong with the show and worrying about my doctor appointment on Friday when I try to go to bed.  But at least today I feel like I’ve accomplished something positive.  And for now, that will do.

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