Category Archives: funny things

What Does Friday Even Mean?

Today is Sunday, but in a way, it’s still Friday. The whole month has been nothing but Fridays, in fact.

We used to have Black Friday. It was the day after Thanksgiving, when the turkey-bloated got their exercise by standing in checkout lines in stores, trying to get a jump on their Christmas shopping. To lure in the many still suffering from postprandial torpor, many stores began offering special sales and deals on that day.

(Okay, I’m showing off. “Postprandial torpor” is the technical name for “food coma.” But I digress.)

Tech geeks got their shop on on Cyber Monday, when computers and other paraphernalia were offered at Low, Low, Bargain Prices!

Those were the days when Friday and Monday actually meant something.

Now, we have Black Friday for the whole month of November. And I don’t mean just four Fridays, either. Thirty days of Friday. And the Cyber Monday people have given up on Mondays altogether. They’ve succumbed to Black Friday fever as well; they just toss in the towel and lower their prices all month long.

Of course, I have a tendency to ignore sales. I know that there are people who haunt the sales. They refuse to buy anything that isn’t at least 10% off. I’m more inclined to whimsical shopping, buying things whenever whimsy strikes me. Fortunately, that means anything I buy in November has a good chance of being on sale anyway.

Maybe subconsciously I’m observing Black November (that doesn’t sound right), because I’ve already done all my Christmas shopping. In fact, everything I’ve ordered has already been delivered and is sheltering in place in my study closet, safe from marauding cats and an inquisitive husband.

Every day is Cyber Monday to me, since I do all my shopping online. For that matter, I do my banking and bill-paying online, too. I feel like a supervillain, coordinating all my plans from my keyboard. Of course, I can’t wrap presents online (and I refuse to pay extra to have my purchases wrapped by the assorted vendor-elves). So, I really hope my husband finds ripping open Tyvek bags to be suitably festive.

(I do have one tiny gift bag decorated with butterflies that was included with a pair of earrings I ordered for myself. I suppose I could put the SD card I bought for hubby’s camera in it, although butterflies aren’t really Christmas-y in this part of the world. The camera itself will be in a plain brown box. But I digress again.)

It’s pointless for me to complain, though. After all, the Fourth of July only occurs on the Fourth anymore when it falls on a Saturday. Hardly any holidays stay put. Thanksgiving is reserved for Thursdays, but it can be anything from the 22nd to the 28th. Easter bobs and weaves, refusing to settle on a single date. You know it’s a Sunday, but you have to be a mathematician or a priest to figure out which one. (Or look it up online like I do.)

Christmas is always December 25th, but it can fall on any day of the week. So the day after Christmas doesn’t get a spiffy name like “Exchange Your Presents Tuesday” or “Discount Candy Cane Wednesday.”

The next thing we need to do is make sure that “Giving Tuesday” isn’t relegated to a single day when all the selling gets whole weeks and months. Maybe some useless – I mean, generous – billionaire could match donations to charitable organizations. I can think of a few who could use a little good karma. So, if there are any billionaires reading this, step right up! Giving November can use you – I mean, will appreciate your philanthropy!

Things I Want to See in My Lifetime

World peace? An honest politician? A flying car? A second season of Firefly? Being able to retire? A printer that works?

Those are all worthy – though extremely unlikely – goals. But I want something else.

The first “thing I want to see in my lifetime” was to have a published book. Now I’ve done that. Twice. Check, check.

Another “bucket list” item was to see the Amber Room in St. Petersburg. The Amber Room is a recreation of a room in the Catherine Palace lined and decorated entirely with amber, weighing over six tons. The original Amber Room was constructed in the 18th century; later, it was disassembled and disappeared during World War II. It’s now considered lost forever, though there are always theories about how the pieces are on a sunken ship somewhere or in boxes stacked in an abandoned Nazi bunker.

Now that’s pretty much out of the question, what with U.S. relations with Russia, combined with my lack of funds for taking such an elaborate vacation. I’ll just have to be satisfied with my collection of amber jewelry and trinkets.

(Amber is prehistoric, fossilized tree resin. There are sometimes flies, mosquitos, or other bugs trapped in it, which makes the amber worth considerably more. The best-known varieties are clear golden in color, with shades from pale honey to nearly brown. There are also green amber and cherry amber, but I don’t care much for them. But I digress.)

No, what I really want to see in my own lifetime is a quotation from me on a t-shirt or a coffee mug. I know that I can order them one-off printed with anything I like (and I’ve had my book covers made into t-shirts and earrings), but what I want is to have someone else produce and wear them. I want to be in an airport and see someone wearing that shirt. I want to walk into an office and see someone drinking out of that mug.

Unfortunately, I don’t really have any sayings worth saying. Perhaps my most well-known one is “If my aunt had wheels, she’d be a tea cart.” That could, I suppose, appear on a t-shirt with a nice weird graphic of an aunt with a tea cart. My other signature saying is, “Sad, but true. True, but sad.” That’s short enough to fit on a mug, but a little nonspecific for anyone to take as their preferred slogan.

Of course, there’s also “DBF&P,” which stands for “Drop Back Five and Punt.” This is a phrase my husband and I use often because we’ve had to do it so often in our lives. Maybe the t-shirt would read “DPF&P*” with the translation as a footnote. I have plenty of obscure t-shirts and mugs (and shot glasses). Maybe someone else collects them too.

Most of the quotes from my blogs are too long for a mug, or even for a t-shirt. For example, “Teachers are the artists and architects of the future. We owe them a little more slack and a lot more support.” Readability would be a problem. It seems out of the question for me to be both meaningful and pithy.

Another thing I would like to see is one of my Facebook posts going viral. So far, I’ve had no luck there, either. I pass along plenty of other people’s posts, but almost no one passes along mine. Of course, that’s likely because most of the things I post are personal – interesting (at least to me) things that are happening in my life and funny things my husband or cats do. Apparently, our little family is insufficiently amusing.

The other day, I did download a meme generator (called, cleverly, Meme Generator) in hopes of putting a novel caption on an existing photo. The thing is, I didn’t want to use the too-familiar ones like “Disloyal Boyfriend” or “Change My Mind,” and again I have the problem of thinking up a clever caption short enough to fit. So here’s what I came up with as a trial run. This is my husband in a bar in Ireland. I haven’t gotten up the nerve to post it yet.

You can help make one of my dreams come true. Vote on whether I should post this meme (keeping in mind my husband doesn’t have Facebook) or not.

In the Kitchen 2.0

I watch way too much Food Network. I’ve only ever tried to make two recipes I learned there and one was really only a theory, not an actual recipe. The actual recipe I tried was Ina Garten’s Triple Ginger Cookies. (I learned that when Ina says “jumbo eggs,” she means jumbo eggs.) The theory was Bobby Flay’s Tangerine Turkey, which I adapted to use orange juice instead of tangerine.

(Bobby Flay is so predictable. No matter what he cooks, he always includes one or more of his favorite ingredients. In addition to the tangerine juice, he invariably includes Calabrian chiles, pomegranate molasses, and either bourbon or tequila. Sometimes even when he’s making dessert. I don’t know why they even bother to have a blind tasting on Beat Bobby Flay. But I digress.)

But, even as Flay never changes, lots of changes do occur in the cooking world – all manner of trends come and go. For a while in the 70s, everyone who got married received a fondue pot. Later, the trend was blackened everything, which meant either burnt or way too spicy. Now we have pumpkin spice everything. Though with nearly everyone hating on it, it may not last for much longer.

But there are other trends in food and cooking, and the times, they are a’changing. What do we have now?

I’m glad you asked. We have bacon on everything. Avocado toast. Salted caramel. Poached eggs. Cauliflower. And, apparently, buttered saltines.

Bacon is such a trend that it appears everywhere. Strawberry-bacon crepes. Garnish for a Bloody Mary. I can’t say whether this is a recent trend. It feels like it’s gone on forever. Today I heard that men’s second favorite thing, apart from sex, was not beer but bacon. (I just had a brilliant idea for a new flavor of edible panties. But I digress some more.)

Avocado toast has a rep for being the chosen chow of hipsters. Although I have no objection to it (I love avocados and have eaten many a slice of toast), I’m not sure what’s so exciting about guacamole on bread. Though you do eat guacamole with chips, and that’s another grain product.

Salted caramel is something I heartily approve of, and I hope it stays in vogue for many, many years. I wouldn’t have thought just from hearing the name that it would be good, but I love caramel and was willing to try a new version of it. Now I’m hooked. Makes me wonder what other candies would be improved by salt. Chocolate? Butterscotch? Peppermints? No, probably not, though someone is bound to try it sooner or later.

Poached eggs are appearing everywhere, especially on sandwiches. The idea is to rupture the egg when you chomp into the sandwich so the yolk becomes some kind of marvelous sauce. The chefs describe it as “unctuous,” which I have always associated with “oleaginous,” loosely translated as “smarmy,” something I don’t want my sandwiches to be. I once ate a burger with a poached egg and it unctuoused all over my sweater. I was not a happy chomper.

Cauliflower came around with the advent of the gluten-free movement. As I understand it, gluten-free food is really beneficial only if you have celiac disease, but that doesn’t stop every Tom, Dick, and Harriet from swearing by it. And everyone who likes gluten in their mac-n-cheese, pizza crust, and rice pilaf swearing at it.

As for buttered saltines, I just learned this week that this was a thing. Personally, I don’t think it sounds very exciting, not the way bread and butter is.

Celebrity chefs are responsible for a lot of other kitchen trends, not necessarily associated with food. Take clogs, for example (specifically Crocs). I recently read a whole article on this – I think it was in the LA Times. Apparently, Crocs are valued for their non-slip soles and their ease of cleaning up after spaghetti sauce spills on them. But I’ve noticed that celebrity TV chefs are now wearing fancy sneakers – brightly colored or sequined ones. I don’t know how well they stand up under bolognese, but I guess if you’re a celebrity chef, you can always buy new ones.

Even kitchen equipment has changed. It used to be that no self-respecting chef would go anywhere without their squeeze bottles, the kind that used to hold ketchup and mustard in diners. They were used to decorate plates (and food) with dots, spirals, and squiggles of whatever sauce was on the menu. (Old joke: “Do you have everything on the menu?” “Yes, what would you like?” “A clean menu.”)

Nowadays, chefs have paintbrushes to put a swoosh of sauce on the plate for the food to rest on. If they can’t afford paintbrushes, they make a swoop with the back of a spoon. Which is all well and wonderful, but you can’t write Happy Birthday in chocolate on a plate if you’re using a spoon or a paintbrush. (Unless it’s a wee tiny one.)

When I was in college, there was a class called Food Facts and Fads. I never took it, so I don’t really know, but I think the fads they were talking about were extreme diets. Personally, I say to heck with the fad diets! Bring on the salted caramels!

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No Bitey!

Our cat Dushenka is really a sweetie. In fact, she’s a love-muffin. She’s a part-time lap cat and is given to nose touches, head bonks, and loud purring. She slurps my husband’s forehead. Sometimes at night, she walks back and forth across our (formerly) slumbering bodies, making sure that each of us gets some of her attention. We call her the Incredibly Pettable Pet.

But, once in a while, she goes a little wild. If we rub her belly a bit too long or scritch and fuzzle her head a bit too much, she changes. When she gets overexcited or overwhelmed by all the play, her teeth come into play, too. She bites the hand that pets her.

Most of the time this is just a love-bite, with no attempt to harm. She just places her teeth on your hand or wrist. When that happens, I tell her, “No bitey” and withdraw my hand. She knows that when she calms down I’ll go right back to adoring her and demonstrating it with more caresses.

This week, however, she didn’t follow her usual pattern. This time she chomped down on my forearm. And drew blood. There was nothing different in the way I was petting her. I wasn’t pulling her tail or touching any of the places she doesn’t like to be touched. (Not that there are many.) I immediately stopped petting her and went to get a tissue to mop up the blood. The mark was gone by the next day. It didn’t get infected the way it once did when Dan’s cat Matches bit me on the web between my thumb and forefinger. And since then she’s been perfectly agreeable.

Why did this happen? Well, the BCSPCA (2022) says, “Many cats exhibit what behaviourists call ‘petting-induced aggression,’ an instinctive reaction to something they find unpleasant, even painful. Compared to dogs, cats are generally less tolerant of petting. When, where and how long cats can be touched before they become overstimulated vary from cat to cat.” Another source compares it to being sensitive to being tickled. When it’s just too much to handle, the tickle-ee tries to get away. If they can’t, they lash out (Shubin, 2022).

(Yes, I’ve been doing some work that requires me to use APA 7th citations, and I can’t quite break myself of the habit. And yes, I have also been tickled past the point of play into pain and know what it is like. Nonetheless, I didn’t bite anyone, though I probably should have. But I digress. Twice.)

Still, while Dushenka’s occasional bites are almost certainly petting aggression, that isn’t true of every cat that’s ever sunk their teeth into my tender (but apparently yummy) flesh.

Anjou, for example, got to me while I was sleeping. She came to me in bed and gave me the ol’ face-nuzzle. I grunted and tried to ignore her. I failed in this, because she immediately nuzzled me again. I grunted louder. Then she nipped me on the tip of the nose, which startled me nearly awake. Reflexively, I caught her up with one hand and heaved her off the bed. My husband said she flew through the air in a graceful arc and never stopped purring the whole time. It’s a pretty picture and I hope it’s true. He’s been known to exaggerate. But she certainly didn’t seem to resent it and showed no sign of harm or even stand-offish-ness the next day.

Another bitey cat was Louise. We got her when she was a tiny little baby kitten. I bonded with her right away, to the point I could even hold her belly up like a baby in my arms.

When we went to bed, however, it was a different matter. Every night, she wriggled under the covers and attacked our toes. Her teeth may have been tiny, but my God, they were pointy! They were like little needles piercing our lower digits. (Afterward, we referred to her as “naughty baby Fek’lhr,” a joke that almost no one gets. But I digress again.) Fortunately, she grew out of it.

Right now, Dushenka is upstairs cuddling with Dan. If I hear a yelp, I’ll know why. It’s not as likely to happen to him, though – Dan has thicker skin than I do. I know it’s not because he doesn’t pet her.

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Proto-Feminists on Classic TV

Who were the feminists who were feminists before we knew much about feminists? Who were the role models for young women when role models for young women were thin on the ground? Lately, people have been looking to vintage TV for the answers to those questions.

The first woman that many people think of as a proto-feminist is Samantha Stevens of Bewitched. Samantha was powerful, rescued her bumbling husband from unpleasant situations, and generally made life better with her superpower. (Although occasionally it went wrong.)

Recently, though, I’ve heard the sitcom deconstructed from a feminist viewpoint, and I can’t argue with much of what they said. Samantha gave up her vocation for the man she loved and had to sneak behind his back to work magic. (At least it’s not like the film Bell, Book, and Candle where, when a witch falls in love, she loses her powers entirely. (Also, irrelevantly, I consider BBaC a Christmas movie in the same way that Die Hard is a Christmas movie.) But I digress (three times in one digression)).

Where was I? Oh, yes, Bewitched. When Samantha did use her magic to benefit Darrin, he berated her, yelled at her, and shamed her. Instead of ripping him a new one or even pointing out that he’s an asshole, she meekly acquiesced and promised to do better. And they call this feminism?

In the 1970s, we had the Mary Tyler Moore Show. This sitcom had more going for it, feminist-wise. Mary Richards was a single woman, living on her own, and working at a responsible, possibly high-pressure, job in a newsroom. Mary wasn’t what you’d call an outspoken campaigner for women’s rights – but that’s okay. She was an example and a role model just by the way she lived, without dependence on a man.

The show had some episodes with more overtly feminist themes. There was one in which Mary discovered that she was paid less than her predecessor in the same job. Her boss admitted it was because she was a woman and spouted the now-recognized-as-drivel drivel about a man needing more money to support a family. There was another where Mary championed hiring a woman as a sportscaster. Perhaps most revolutionary of all was when Mary tacitly admitted that, despite being single, she took birth control pills.

Bridging the time gap between Samantha and Mary was the late-60s-early-70s That Girl, featuring Marlo Thomas as Anne Marie, an aspiring actress living on her own in New York. Anne was presented as kind of ditzy, but Thomas found it significant that her character wasn’t married off to her boyfriend in the series’ final season, and she had wanted to name the show Miss Independence.

Later in life, Thomas became a staunch and visible feminist. She once said, memorably, that getting married was like putting a vacuum cleaner to your head and sucking out your brain. She later married talk-show host Phil Donahue, apparently with no vacuum cleaners present at the ceremony. Thomas was also responsible for the ground-breaking 1972 Free to Be…You and Me, an album, illustrated book, and TV special which contained empowering content for children, including feminist themes and stories.

My personal favorite feminist icon in popular culture is Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Back in the ’90s, she was the kick-ass embodiment of girl power. Almost 25 years ago (so I guess it was classic TV, though not a sitcom but an action show with comic elements), the teenage Buffy was the “Chosen One” who could, well, slay vampires. The new slayer, who was called when the previous one died, was always a young woman. Series creator Joss Whedon specifically said that his purpose in creating Buffy was to upend the dominant paradigm that the cute young girl was always the victim in need of rescue. Buffy rescued herself and others in every episode. True, she had an unfortunate love life, but many feminists do.

(By the way, I was hooked on Buffy because my husband introduced me to it. The TV series. The movie of the same name was much less good, except for Paul Rubens’s death scene, which was worth the price of admission. But I digress again.)

Now feminist characters are everywhere in TV and movies. We’ve had TV dramas with women as US presidents, women as superheroes, women as crime solvers, women as hospital administrators, and more. It’s good that the industry has finally caught up with the way feminism has changed our culture and contributed to it. I don’t watch sitcoms anymore, so I don’t know if there are strong women in them, but I bet there are. Female heroes and feminist characters have gotten a lot of pushback from the bro brigade, but I think they’re here to stay. Personally, I think we need all the feminist role models we can get. And if my husband likes them too, so much the better.

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Things I Know Too Much About

If you thought I was going to say, “my neighbors’ sex life,” prepare to be disappointed. No, what I’m talking about is those Facebook memes that say, “What could you give a TED talk on right now?” or “What could you talk on for 20 minutes without preparation?”

I have at times compared my brain to a steel sieve. At other times, I’ve said it’s like a steel trap, one that’s unhinged and rusty. But actually, what I think my brain most resembles is a dusty old closet with a sticky door. I don’t know how I’ll get it open and I don’t know exactly what’s in there, but I’m fairly certain there are some things in there that I don’t even remember I knew.

I have friends who have epic knowledge about various and assorted topics, from video games (and their creators) to evolution to dairy farming to the Irish language. If I were ever on Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?, I would have plenty of “phone-a-friends” to use as lifelines (if I could remember their phone numbers, which I can’t).

I have all sorts of useless trivia stuffed in the corners of my brain: Armadillos are the only animals besides humans that can get leprosy. Henry Heimlich (he of the eponymous Maneuver) was a drum major at my alma mater and was married to Jane Murray, daughter of Arthur Murray, of dance lesson fame. Pear Ripple wine actually tastes pretty good. John Milton invented the word “pandemonium.” A “cenotaph” is a gravestone with no body buried under it. Some of these facts would not even be useful on Jeopardy, or even at a bar trivia night.

But when it comes to things I actually could give a 20-minute talk on, I have a choice of subjects.

First, there’s bipolar disorder. I’ve got a lot of experience with that. I have bipolar disorder myself and have been diagnosed with it for decades now. I’ve seen countless therapists and a few psychiatrists and have been on medications for decades. I’ve written two books on the subject, based on my other blog, Bipolar Me (bipolarme.blog), which I’ve been writing weekly for almost nine years – 468 posts. In those posts, I’ve covered topics including depression and anxiety, self-harm and suicidal ideation, lobotomy and shock therapy, plus a lot of everyday symptoms and treatments for the disorder.

I’ve written about why you can’t say assorted famous people have (or had) bipolar or various other disorders. I’ve engaged in the debate over what causes bipolar disorder and whether psychiatric drugs are helpful. I’ve even written about why people with bipolar disorder sometimes aren’t able to take showers (one of my most popular posts, for some reason).

Another topic I can expound on extensively (and have, much to my husband’s chagrin) is country singers and songwriters. I can tell you why Willie Nelson’s Shotgun Willie album was so important; how The Sound in Your Mind prefigures Stardust; how “On the Road Again” was written; what movies he’s been in (and why one of them was called Honeysuckle Rose); how Django Reinhardt influenced his guitar style (and who Django Reinhardt was); and what other singers have recorded his songs (Patsy Cline’s “Crazy,” for example, was one of his).

I can talk endlessly about Kris Kristofferson’s early encounters with Johnny Cash, his marriage to Rita Coolidge (and how it broke up) and his hot fling with Janis Joplin; his political activism; his military career; how he came to write “Why Me, Lord?”; and what the original lyrics to “Sunday Morning Coming Down” included. I can expound on his education and his fondness for the poetry of William Blake. I can even tell you the specific time he stopped drinking.

I know which country songs were written by Shel Silverstein (yes, that Shel Silverstein). I can talk about the Outlaw Country movement and underappreciated women songwriters like Gail Davies, Matraca Berg, and Gretchen Peters. I can even talk about alliteration and internal rhyme in the lyrics of Kinky Friedman and how his songs were reflected in the mystery novels he wrote. (Yes, I have two degrees in English and have never gotten over it entirely. But I digress. In fact, this whole post has been something of a digression.)

And that’s why I never get invited to parties.

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Trek vs. Wars: Which Is Better?

In some circles, either answer will result in heated rebuttals, not to say ostracism. I don’t want to get in the middle of those who adore Star Trek and those who are captivated by Star Wars. I will not even get into the tempest over who was the better captain, Kirk or Picard. I will say, though it may seem like sacrilege to both sides, that both have their flaws and their triumphs. And they have some distinct similarities.

I was introduced to Star Trek in 1966, when it first came out. (Yes, I’m that old.) I watched it avidly, even in reruns at 2:00 a.m. I became a Trekkie, accumulating such Star Trek merchandise as was available at the time. (There wasn’t much back then. I did get Spock’s medallion, the IDIC, which stood for “Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations,” a concept I hold by to this day. And of course, I had my mother make tribbles. But I digress.)

The first time I saw Star Wars was on the big screen, in the summer of 1977, when it first came out. I saw the film numerous times, dragging friends who had not yet seen it to the theater. I didn’t get t-shirts or pins or anything like that. At the time, there wasn’t much Star Wars merch available either. That really revved up later, including Lego versions of everything.

Both television and film franchises have similar themes – good versus evil. Star Trek addressed these, because of its origin on episodic television, in a way that featured increments toward a vision of a more hopeful, more just society. Star Wars was a more traditional battle between big-g Good and big-e Evil, with little to no middle ground. (Once someone asked me why I liked Star Wars so much despite its lack of literary depth and nuance. I replied that it does have a deeper message: “Let the Wookie win.” I was being only half-facetious. But I digress again.)

I gradually lost interest in both of them after being exposed to a number of incarnations of them. I liked Star Trek: Next Generation and the first series of movies (or at least the even-numbered ones). I liked the first three Star Wars movies, the other six much less so, until I finally got to where I was disinterested in the last, most recent trilogy. I’m heartily sick of all the various continuations of both of them on TV and most of the movies. I used to watch Star Trek: Discovery and Picard weekly, but have lately fallen away. And I never got into the many spinoffs of Star Wars, featuring many lower-interest characters such as Boba Fett and baby Yoda. I know the franchises are huge money-makers, but I think they’ve reached past the point where it continues to be worthwhile for viewers, or at least for me.

Along that line, there have been some real clunkers in both series. The original Star Trek was uneven in the quality of the episodes, both from a production and writing standpoint. The lowest point came with an episode called “Spock’s Brain.” With a title like that, one can envision any number of truly compelling scenarios, but no. They may have gone for comedy, but ended up with unpalatable farce. And Next Generation had an episode that I can never remember the title of, but should have been called “The Nintendo That Ate Their Brains.”

Star Wars had its low points as well, the primary one being the introduction of the character Jar Jar Binks, a buffoon with a speech pattern that was by turns irritating and insulting. He appeared in the first movie of the second trilogy that was made, which is the first trilogy in terms of the plot line, if you can follow that, but by the end of it, rather inexplicably, he became a Senator.

There was a significant backlash to one Star Trek character as well – Wesley Crusher, a teenager working his way up to greater responsibility on the Enterprise. I thought his character was what every fanboy’s dreams were made of. But I was informed that he was just too goody-goody for some people’s liking. There were even bulletin boards devoted to “Ways to Kill Off Wesley Crusher.” (This was painful to Wil Wheaton, the teenage actor who played Wesley. Later he revealed his bouts with depression and abuse at the hands of his stage-managing parents. That he is still acting and doing well is a credit to his perseverance. But I digress yet again.)

So, when it comes right down to it, which do I prefer – Star Trek or Star Wars? I guess I would have to say Star Trek, based on how often I watch reruns of it, as opposed to how often I watch reruns of Star Wars. But for different reasons, both still hold places in my heart. Now if we could only rein in all the franchises and develop some new science fiction shows with good, original ideas, characters, and plots, that would make me truly happy. In the meantime, I’ll keep jonesing for new episodes of The Orville and Resident Alien.

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Shopaholics Unite!

We talk about shopaholics the way we talk about alcoholics – as though it were some sort of addiction, presumably one that can be treated through a 12-step group (though I’ve never actually heard of Shop Anon). Alas, that’s not the case. Those of us who have spending problems largely have to go it alone. Our friends are more likely to enable us than to talk us out of it.

In the past, I’ve had spending sprees that focused on music. I still buy CDs occasionally, despite the fact that most music is now in the form of downloadable mp3’s. I tried to fight my urges by, first, buying CDs secondhand and second, dividing them into columns, or rather, stacks.

There was a previously-owned music shop (the music was previously owned, not the shop) in town called Second Time Around. Way back when, they sold vinyl record albums. My high school friends and I haunted the place and picked up music by our favorite artists. (At the time, we never considered that we were depriving those artists of royalties. Later in life, I was once inspired to send a quarter to an author I knew because I had picked up one of his books in a used bookstore. But I digress.)

I wandered through Second Time Around, picking up everything that caught my eye (or ear) and piling it up in my little basket. Then I would retreat to a window ledge and sort the CDs into different piles: Must Have, Would Be Nice, and Don’t Really Need. I would buy the Must-Have discs and a couple of the Would-Be-Nice ones, but abandon the Don’t-Really-Needs. Using this strategy, I arrived at a total that, while not totally within my budget, missed it by only a little.

This strategy has served me well over the years. Now the baskets are virtual, but I still fill them up with whatever attracts me and delete as needed (or not needed).

Over the past months, though, my overspending has kicked into overdrive and my doorstep has filled up with Amazon and UPS packages. Nowadays, I over-buy items we may need for our trip abroad (planned for the spring), such as power converters, sweaters, scarves, umbrellas, and guidebooks.

The other item I’ve been jonesing for is pajamas. I work at home, at my computer, so pajamas are my daily uniform. I have shelves of pajamas in my office closet and a few more upstairs in my dresser. I have nightdresses, nightshirts, flannel pajama sets, fleece pajama sets, shorty pajama sets for the summer, and a number of pairs of pajama bottoms that I can pair with the nightshirts for in-between weather.

Pajamas are one purchase that works well with the “stack in the basket and weed” strategy. My husband has been helping me curb my spending. He asks helpful things like “Is there enough money in the bank account?” and “Do you need more pajamas?” I explain to him that the pajamas, particularly out-of-season ones, are on sale at really good prices.

One thing that does keep me from buying pajamas with such wild abandon is the shipping prices. If the shipping costs more than the pajamas, I wildly abandon them – though with regret. I suppose I could rack up the total to where I’d get free shipping, but that feels like cheating on my attempted shopping abstinence.

Travel items and pajamas, I tell myself, are not really so bad. I used to have a thing for jewelry. Now that I work at home, I never go to places where I need to wear necklaces or earrings. So, really, I can skip the jewelry and just buy pajamas. Or else found my own Shop Anon group – perhaps with my husband, who has a comparable problem with seed catalogs.

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When You Have the Flu: Some Unsolicited Advice

I first posted a version of this almost exactly four years ago. I’m revisiting it now because…well, you can probably guess.

Say you’ve got a touch of the flu. Keep far away from me – you feel awful and I don’t want to feel awful too. I know you don’t want visitors, but here I am, and at least I’ve brought a gift: a few suggestions for entertaining things you can do while you suffer in peace and quiet, except for, you know, the coughing and sneezing and assorted other noises you’re making. Relative peace and quiet, if you know what I mean.

Drink tea. It really doesn’t matter what kind, since you can’t smell it anyway. Earl Grey will smell just like jasmine. Peppermint and English Breakfast, the same. And if you want to, you can use any variety as the base for my father’s restorative tonic, which consists of tea, bourbon, and horehound candy (tea optional), or boring old lemon and honey, if you insist, though my father would not approve.

Cuddle large, fuzzy cats. Do this even if you’re allergic to them. You’re already sneezing as much as humanly possible, so you have nothing to fear from dander. Bonus: A large, fluffy cat makes an excellent substitute for a heating pad or hot water bottle.

Read. Or pretend to. Actual reading may distract you from how miserable you are (unless you’re reading Les Miserables). Pretend-reading will encourage people to keep their voices low, plus it doesn’t matter if you fall asleep with the book elegantly displayed on your chest. (Make sure it has a classy dustjacket, even if the book inside is Fifty Shades of Gray, which I don’t recommend, unless it’s for pretend-reading. It can lead to barfing, which may be in your future anyway.)

Eat chicken soup. Tell everyone that you need it for the fluids and the electrolytes, which is true. Egg drop soup is an especially good variety – if you can’t convince someone in your household to make it and bring it to you, you can always convince the Chinese take-out down the street to do it. Nibble saltines daintily, or the little fried things that look like Chinese tortilla strips.

Hit the Nyquil. I don’t mean the non-drowsy kind – sleep through as much of the illness as possible. Warning: Do not mix Nyquil with Southern Comfort or the bourbon-horehound mixture (see above). You’ll barf and you may be doing that already. Also, don’t mix Nyquil with cough syrup, which can cause unintended psychedelic effects and more barfing.

Squash tissues. Let them blossom all around you in a protective ring that no one will want to cross. If you try the tissues with built-in lotion, don’t use them to wipe your glasses before trying to read (see above).

Call the doctor. Don’t go see the doctor. You’ve got a virus and there’s nothing she can give you for it. Just ask how long it is until you can get an appointment and rest assured that your ailment will be over before then. You may want to actually go if you start making a sucky (in both senses), moist kind of wheezing sound when you breathe. The advantage is it will keep people even farther away from you, but the downside is that you may have pneumonia, which is even less fun than flu.

Use Vick’s Vapo-Rub. You won’t be able to detect the scent because your nose is busy with something else (snot), but other people sure will, encouraging them to keep a respectful distance. If you don’t have Vapo-Rub, try Ben-Gay. Bonus: nice warm feeling on your chest. Note: If you use either Vapo-Rub or Ben-Gay, do not cuddle the large, fuzzy cats (see above), unless you want to look like Bigfoot. Just sing “Soft Kitty” instead, or insist that someone else sing it to you.

Whine. Punctuate with coughs and sneezes. Again, the goal is to get people to leave you alone. If this tactic isn’t working, move on to even more disgusting symptoms. Keep a bucket by your bed, just so people get the idea that you could use it at any moment.

P.S. I’ll give you one guess why I wrote this. If you don’t get the answer right, I’ll start whining. And coughing. And sneezing. And barfing. Just bring me some egg drop soup and leave quietly.

You wouldn’t want to catch what I’ve got.

Keep me in Nyquil!

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Watch Out! Phone In!

My husband is the last person in the universe who still doesn’t have a smartphone. He says it’s because he doesn’t want a phone smarter than he is. Personally, I think it’s because he likes to flip it open and yell, “Beam me up, Scotty!” just to confuse the telemarketers.

Not that he gets calls from telemarketers. He always gives my phone number when asked for his, making me effectively his secretary. Confirm a doctor’s appointment? The mechanic says the car is ready? Someone from work? I take a message. Sometimes it’s his own mother who calls me, if Dan’s not answering his phone (he usually isn’t) or she can’t leave a voicemail (he doesn’t know how to retrieve them).

But, as usual, I digress. I meant to talk about the evolution of watches and what we call them.

Once upon a time, a very long time ago, it was simple. There were watches. You kept them in a pocket, usually attached by some sort of chain. Then someone invented a watch you wore on your wrist, so someone else had to coin the terms “pocket watch” and “wristwatch,” just in case you couldn’t tell from context which kind was meant.

Watch technology was far from reaching its zenith, however. The next innovation was the digital watch, which lit up numbers the way your bedside clock does (at least until we got rid of the ones that had numbers on little cards that fell over as the minutes and hours changed). Some bright person realized we needed a way to tell that kind of watch from the kind with hands. Thus were born the “digital watch” (which has sort of died out) and the “analog watch,” the kind with hands that people under a certain age can’t read. Neither of the new watches made that comforting ticking sound.

Next came the mobile phone, which were actually really phones, not watches, except you could use them to call the time and temperature line, which still existed. At first, a mobile phone was a rich person’s toy, anchored somewhere in the car to impress passengers. Then completely mobile phones were invented. They began as big, blocky things with an antenna sticking out, which you can sometimes still see in old movies or episodes of Ab Fab. They got tinier and tinier, until they could fit in your pocket (assuming you were a man and had pockets in your good clothes).

That’s when watches began to morph into phones. Flip phones, such as my husband has, featured the time on the outside panel. Watches were on the way out. Larger watches still existed, aimed at teens. These were in bright colors and were called “Swatches.”

Suddenly, watches were obsolete. Everything now is done by phone. We’re up to smartphones, which everyone except my husband has, and which can tell you not just the time, but the weather in Istanbul, how to say “What’s the weather in Istanbul?” in Turkish, “What’s the best restaurant in Istanbul?” and how to get there. Unfortunately, smartphones can no longer fit in a pocket (unless you’re a man in a suit). Women have to carry them in their purses, where it’s almost impossible to hear them ring, unless you’re sitting near them in a restaurant. Fortunately, these phones take messages for those who, unlike Dan, know how to use that function. (To be fair, I hardly ever look to see if I have voice messages, which I guess makes me little better than Dan on that point. But I digress. Again.)

Now, however, there’s an even newer kind of watch, which you wear on your wrist (how retro!). I suppose it will tell you the time, if you ask it nicely, but its main function is to keep track of your bodily processes as you jog, walk, sleep, or whatever. It keeps track of your heart rate, your breathing, your oxygen sats, the quality of your sleep, your body mass index, your blood sugar, your exact position on planet Earth, and how much you’d weigh on the moon. (And probably some other parameters I don’t know – and don’t wish to know – about.)

I think these are called fitwatches, by analogy with fitbits, a trend from ages past (last month, I think).

But I call them snitchwatches. And I’m not getting one. I swear.

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