Zombie Apocalypse

thriller_michael-jackson

 

I was supposed to be folding towels. I was actually flipping TV channels and procrastinating. What do we have here? It’s a show called Doomsday Preppers. It was news to me that there’s a subset of the American population spending buckets of cash to hoard supplies for some impending very bad thing. Not sure why, but I suspect that the people who manufacture canned Spam started this whole movement. Brilliant marketing if they did. I didn’t give it a second thought until months later.

“Our government is going to collapse within six months. What have you done to get ready?”

What? I was just the “plus one” attending my husband’s company picnic. No one told me there was going to be a pop quiz.

“The name’s Bob. Bad things are about to happen. Have you stocked your basement with food and water?”

“Um, I don’t have a basement.”

“When it all goes down, you’ll die if you haven’t prepared. I’ve got an entire room filled with first aid supplies, water, ammo, and canned goods. You’ve got to be ready or you’ll starve!”

Oh, I get it. Bob here is a doomsday prepper, just like on TV. Worse, he’s an urban prepper. He lives in Washington, D.C. Bless his heart.

“Bob, you’re operating under a false assumption. Let’s just say there’s a Martian invasion. Food does not disappear. Distribution does. All that food that you’re used to seeing in your grocery store? It gets stuck in my backyard with nowhere to go.

You see, I live in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. We are Ground Zero for all that is tasty. It is rich with farms and food. We don’t starve. We don’t die of thirst. I have three working springs and a creek on my property. Even if you don’t count all the backyard chickens, pigs, and goats, there is an abundance of goodness within easy walking distance of my house.”

Poor Bob looked confused. I elaborated.

“Within roughly four miles of my front door there is: a hydroponic tomato greenhouse, an ostrich farm, a deer farm, a trout farm, an organic beef, pork, and lamb farm, two vineyards, five apple orchards, three dairy farms, at least six beef cattle operations, several corn and soybean farms, silos full of feed corn and grain, a couple of moonshine operations, and here’s the biggie, Bob. There are at least thirty commercial poultry houses chock full of chickens and turkeys.”

Bob’s bottom lip was trembling. He needed me to suffer so all the time and money he’s invested in his expensive end-of-days hobby would be validated. Bob was all kinds of sad that maybe, just maybe, I was going to be fine without a case or two of Spam squirreled away. It looked like Bob would be happier if I did not survive. This was beginning to hurt my feelings. Even so I decided to throw him a bone, cheer him up a bit.

“You just never know, Bob. I can see a situation where the Shenandoah Valley runs out of food. We’ll probably waste all our feed corn by converting it to ethanol, letting our animals starve. Then we’d wipe out a huge portion of farm land by putting in an oval track and bleachers. When the zombie apocalypse comes, I’m sure they won’t be broadcasting NASCAR races so we’ll use up all our precious resources just to have a little fun.”

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Serendipity

orangutan

(I feel like I need a hug this week.)

 

It’s been a rough couple of weeks around here. The house is cold because the house fire left a Mack truck sized hole in the living room wall. I mean, it’s covered now with cheap plywood and blue tarp, but it is frigid outside. I guess frigid is a relative term, so I’ll elaborate. Our night temps on Monday are projected to be 6 degrees. Single digit, six, just 6 degrees. Barely higher than that for the next few nights.  I’m not a big fan of ambient temperature less than the sum of my fingers and toes and here we are in the midst of a cold wave that doesn’t even require all my fingers. As my Yankee in-laws might say, it’s wicked cold. Six degrees. Now there’s a fine night for a fire in the wood stove. Oh yeah, I forgot. That’s the reason I have a gaping maw in my wall.

So, I’m a little brittle. Peevish. Ask my husband. He’ll say “snappish.” Short-tempered. All is not right within my world. The word “bitch” is not inaccurate this week. I am in a right fine snit.  Hissy fit a coming.  Woe be to those who seek favors, donations, or “just a minute of my time.” Go ahead.  Ask.  I dare you.

In the midst of all this internal chaos and pitiful coping skills, I took a moment to listen to Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac. It’s a short daily program on NPR (National Public Radio) that explores word origins, poetry, birthdays of august writers, and whatever else strikes Mr. Keillor’s fancy. I would categorize it as mildly interesting fluff, except that I’m a word origin nut so it really pushes my buttons. Love it.

Yesterday they reran an old post on the 2004 paper by a British translation service that listed the ten English words they thought were the most difficult, if not downright impossible, to translate. I can not find the complete list of ten, but some of the words included were gobbledegook, poppycock, spam, and whimsy. Kitsch was also included but that word is originally German so I don’t think that qualifies as an English word that is impossible to translate.

Then there it was, shining brightly among the rest, my favorite word in the whole world: serendipity. I love saying the word serendipity. I love the melody of it. I love the way it feels in my mouth. More than anything, I love the whole idea of serendipity. It is defined as a fortunate happenstance, or a pleasant surprise, but it is so much more than that. It is a moment of good luck when you do not expect it and are not looking for it. It’s not life-altering, just a magical flash of delight in your day. Ta da, it’s the quarter on the sidewalk, the front row seat becoming available right as you ask for a ticket, the perfect parking spot just as you turn into the lane, arriving in a foreign city and bumping into a long lost friend in the taxi line.

It is Alexander Fleming forgetting to disinfect some of his petri dishes holding bacteria cultures before vacation and coming back to discover that the penicillium mold that had taken over in his absence killed the bacteria. Ta da, penicillin. Viagra was developed to treat angina and hypertension, and it failed. Ta da, head south of the belly button and Viagra rocked the house. Serendipity loves laboratories, as X-rays, radioactivity, inkjet printers, the Slinky, all were moments of ta-freaking-da as other things were being pursued.

Julius Comroe, Jr., a medical researcher and surgeon extraordinaire specializing in the heart and lungs, was no stranger to the concept of serendipity. His most famous quote on the subject is, “Serendipity is looking in a haystack for a needle and discovering a farmer’s daughter.” I have to think that old Julius would have been fun at parties.

There’s a trick to serendipity, though. You have to be open to it. You have to be wandering through life with open eyes and an open heart to catch the many moments of serendipity dropped in your path. If you have your head down, texting away, mind whirling with a Sisyphean To Do list, grumbling, multitasking yourself into numbness, you’ll miss it all.  I am sad to admit that I have been too shut down to recognize serendipity lately.

So to pull myself out of the living-room-as-a-refrigerator blues, I reviewed the more obvious moments of fortune I did not fully appreciate this past week. Insurance adjusters were prompt and more importantly, they were sympathetic and reasonable. State Farm got us a check in just three days. Contractor has been here and has started getting materials together for the rebuild. My dear friend Mary Ann sent me a surprise box stuffed with goodies. I found a $5 bill in the laundry. All things that I simply wasn’t appropriately grateful for at the time they happened. I hope I did not miss too many more because I wasn’t paying attention. If I walked past a winning lottery ticket, please do not tell me.

I guess six degrees will be tolerable. I own multiple sets of long underwear. I have four large, lovable dogs and a cuddly husband for extra warmth. There are blankets here. I have all the ingredients to make a big pot of chili. There’s a well-stocked liquor cabinet.  Who knows?  It might turn out to be my coziest night ever. How’s that for serendipity?

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NOTE:  If you are interested in listening to the Writer’s Almanac, the link is:  http://writersalmanac.org

Laugh Out Loud

I do not often laugh out loud.  I chuckle quietly.  I smile.  But I don’t laugh out loud, I mean hardly ever.  The last time I remember laughing until I cried was at “This parrot is no more!”  Maybe at George Carlin, bless his heart.  Definitely at Kathleen Madigan.  If you don’t know Kathleen, go to Youtube and find her.  She’s brilliant.  But that works out to me only laughing once every three years or so.  Not a belly-laugh kind of girl.  That actually makes me a little sad.  I’d like to be an easy laugher, but it’s just not in my DNA.

So I had to post this pointer to silly pie charts.  It made me laugh. Out loud.  If I laughed, I’m betting you’ll laugh.  Enjoy.

Funny Pie Charts

Facebook: A Procrastinator’s Favorite Tool

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Photo:  Me, the Princess of Procrastination

 

I am a Facebook addict. There, I said it. The reason that I love using Facebook so much is because I am the Princess of Procrastination and there is nothing better for looking like you’re working while completely ignoring work. It’s perfect for self-delusional types like me. I’ll tell myself that I’ll just hop on for a few minutes, just to catch up with a friend or two. Three hours later I’m still there, laughing at cartoons. Ha ha ha ha, Saturn’s rings are actually made up of lost airline luggage! Oh look, kittens!

My Facebook relationship is kind of a love/hate thing. I love keeping in contact with my far-flung friends, but I also hate some of the quirks of the system. I often disparagingly refer to it as Fratboy instead of Facebook. You see, Facebook was invented so college kids could find other students they’d not yet met but thought were hot enough to pursue based on their school photos. This objective can be achieved only with a certain devil-may-care attitude towards your personal data and your private parts.

I understand the hunt-and-chase mentality. I get it. Keeps the blood percolating. Good for you Zuckerberg, for thinking up a more efficient way to meet coeds other than awkwardly standing around a lukewarm beer keg. But when you’ve graduated from a casual hook up site into a billion dollar company, users get antsy about their personal data.

All of a sudden, it’s not just the upperclassmen checking out your stats, it’s the losers in Croatia scraping your information through a Facebook security hole the size of Wichita and selling it to everyone in the former eastern bloc countries so they can send want-a-bigger-penis spam to your personal email account 48 times per day. This just happened to me. It blows. (Note to marketers in the ‘stans:  I am happy with the size of my non-existent penis.  Go away.)

One day I’ll probably tire of Facebook, maybe even jumping ship because of some irritating security failure. Maybe I’ll dump Facebook because I need to actually live my life. Until then I have decided to goose them at every possible turn. That’s my way.

On Facebook, the right-hand column is filled with ads they believe suits you. Ha. If you roll into the upper right corner of the ad box, you’ll see an “X” appear. If you hit the “X” you’ll be given a choice to either hide the ad, or learn more about it. Of course I hide almost every stinking ad that appears. I hide them if I don’t like the accompanying photo. I hide them if I don’t like the name of the company. I hide them just because. Doesn’t matter. I hide ads. I also hide some posts that appear in my news feed, if they’re sketchy or I’m cranky. Keep in mind, I work from home so no one is here to call me out on my crankiness. Cranky happens. A lot. Ask the dogs.

When you hide an ad, you get a pop-up menu that says “We’ll try not to show you ads from Company XYZ again. Why did you hide them?” Then you get a short list of possible reasons to choose from. You get the same list if you block something in your news feed, which used to be a list of posts from just your friends until it became a catch-all for Facebook vomit. Anyway, the reasons they think you’ve blocked a post/ad are:

—          uninteresting

—          misleading

—          sexually explicit

—          against my views

—          offensive

—          repetitive

—          other.

I find this list way too limiting and woefully inaccurate. I think this list cries out for a serious updating. Here’s my draft of a more accurate list of reasons for banishing ads/posts from your Facebook feed.

—          Uses the phrase “You Won’t Believe What Happens Next”

—          Mentions faulty winkuses

—          Mind numbingly dull

—          Bullshit, particularly political bullshit

—          Duck lips

—          Engagement announcement if: the engaged is less than 21 years old, or the wedding date is more than 2 years off

—          Excessive posting of meals

—          Excessive/amateurish Photoshopping

—          Insecurities on display

—          Red plastic cups

—          Stalker/creepy/weirdo vibe

—          Humble bragging

—          Excessive use of !!!!!!

—          Blatant typos (exception made for dyslexics)

—          Ad masquerading as legitimate post

—          Excessive mentions of any deity

—          Posing with anything dead (exception made for zombies)

This is my current list of reasons for blocking Facebook ads or posts but it is still a work in progress. What pushes your buttons? What makes you block a post or ad? I would love to hear it, for two reasons. One, I’m genuinely interested and two, I want to affirm that it is not just me. It’s not, right?