UN!! Or How the Great Leader Ruined my Birthday

I don’t have anything new or interesting to offer regarding the pulling of The Interview, but that’s not stopping me from typing words.  That’s right, if Michael Moore can say something funny about it, then I certainly can type a long winded blog piece that rambles a bit then ends abruptly.  That’s how I roll. My words carry weight – like air.  Is that a bad analogy?

See, I was actually one of those people who did plan to see it on Christmas Day, which is my birthday, but a certain hypersensitive great leader made it so that wasn’t possible.

I confess, I’m kind of a Kim Jong Un nut.  Some people form cults around Benedict Cumberbatch, I happen to follow sanitized news about Un quite religiously.  If he makes the news on a Monday, then I’m kvetching about it… on a Monday, because see I just read it and I’m on top of it. I was excited when he recently disappeared from the media for a good month, I had the highest hopes for a coup – fingers crossed and all that someone in his regime said, “hey, we’re the darkest spot on the globe and our so-called “great” leader is batshit crazy.”  My disdain comes from the human rights abuses, the multi-generational hard labor camps (North Korean holiday retreats for the entire family) established for those moments when you (or a distant relative in your family) offend the Kim’s, and the outrageous threats against South Korea and the rest of the world.  I can’t tell you what a complete let down it was for me when he re-emerged with a cane and started pointing at things again for the press. He’s got mad pointing skills.  Are there worse out there who are more deserving of my ire? Absolutely, but Un is the one on my radar.

He got there some time after he fired some rockets into the Sea of Japan, then fired some more missiles close to the South Korean border, “purged” his uncle (not by starving dogs) and then later executed (not him personally, of course) his girlfriend and her band for “pornography”, closed access to the Kaesong Industrial Complex, and held his breath and blustered some incendiary threats.  Yes, Un is on my radar and more importantly on my nerves.  He’s a pudgy humorless sociopath with nuclear capability.  It’s well-documented (ie. I’m writing it here) that I don’t care for sociopaths with nuclear capabilities (that actually goes for the slender funny ones, too).  They tend to get unstable and button-pushy and when they get like that, they work my nerves (and countless innocent civilians end up dying).

We won’t talk about Rodman.

So, when I heard of The Interview some months ago, I didn’t care that it was Seth Rogen and James Franco (whom I may love more in Freaks and Geeks) – it could have been anyone and I’d reserve my seats.  And the truth is, deep down I know Seth Rogen and James Franco can make me laugh even if those laughs are cheap.  I’ve accepted the fact that I’m a simple soul. When Sony announced it would release on my birthday, it was like Christmas had come early. (See what I did there? I was born on Christmas.  Get it? I’m so alone. :( ) In other words, it was a big win

Of course, once they got wind of it N. Korea held its breath, stomped a lot and issued threats, which actually ensured the success of the movie. Unfortunately they finally “got real” and well, you all know the rest.

Here are my thoughts on that:

  • No, it’s not the world’s greatest marketing campaign and no, we saps are not all being duped by Sony.  As much as I love a great conspiracy story, I’m pretty sure (call me naive) Homeland Security, the FBI and President Obama do not care about how well this movie does for Sony. There aren’t kickbacks to the administration.  The FBI’s cyber-terrorism unit likely has better things to do than get a fix in for a movie studio.  And let’s be honest, there are stronger movies for them to get behind.
  • Yes, it is great publicity for the movie.  While I would see it minus the whole circus, I recognize two things about myself: 1) I have no natural sense of taste, and 2) I’m kind of alone in my love for Seth Rogen and James Franco.  Now, if it is released, the movie is going to do gangbusters (that’s really really well), because people who would never have seen it, will go. Way to market one for us, Un! Solid job, mate!
  • While I agree Sony completely caved, so did the theater chains like Regal, Cinemark, AMC, and Carmike even after Homeland Security said they had no credible intelligence that there would be any attacks on theater chains.  Granted, I get the theaters don’t want to take the risk when it comes to their theater goers and likely their staff, but come on… Couldn’t we send some National Guardsmen in to see a free movie and in turn take care of any would-be psychotic Un fans?
  • Note to Sony:  as one person said on NPR, when you write an email think “how would that look as a headline in the New York Times”?  It’s a simple rule of thumb – use it.  Yes, you do look like asses. Yes, they did get about 10 terabytes of your data, which is a ton of data, and will lead to nowhere good. And yes, the malware is destroying your systems – also bad, but hey the damage is done.  Your pants have already dropped.  The one way you can make it worse (depending on what else is in that 10 terabytes) is capitulating.  I don’t say that because I have waited to see the movie for six months… no wait, that’s exactly why I said it. My bad!
  • Paramount… thought I didn’t see you over there.  Really, you can’t re-release Team America: World Police? Way to stand up! No wait, I mean that opposite thing for “standing up” – I think that’s “roll over”.

In the end, I guess we’ll end up seeing The Imitation Game for my birthday – another bit of  holiday hilarity that will end with the suicide of Alan Turing – a fun, light-hearted holiday romp for my birthday – just what I was hoping for.

Thanks for ruining my birthday, Un.

Don’t Let the Door…

I’m a Texan – 5th Generation, which puts part of my family here some 30 years after the state gained its independence – an independence hard won through the sacrifice of some of my family (if you really stretch the term “relative” and ignore some basic genealogical truths, but I digress (or I rant, one of those)).  I grew up Texan.  I will die a Texan.  And the truth is I don’t understand how not to be a Texan.  I can’t throw on your Idahoan shoes to see things through your Idahoan eyes, and in truth, as a Texan, I imagine there’s not much of a perspective there.  (And that my friends, is what it’s like being in a Texan’s brain – that pride or arrogance or that hubris, if you prefer.)

And it’s not that Texas doesn’t deeply embarrass me on occasion.  There are times now and again where I’m not actually bursting with pride.  For example, anytime Texas makes the news, I know it’s going to be cringe worthy. When Brian Williams comes out and begins with, “In Texas today…” it’s not going to be because we did something awe inspiring.  In fact, those words often herald some announcement that at best will place us barely above Arkansas or West Virginia in some awful competition for “worst” in something and at worst, well… let’s just say it can get ugly.  Then there’s those wonderful times when one of us escapes the borders to find a microphone and a national listening ear.  That’s usually time to grab a maple leaf pin and say, “what buffoons, ay?”  But by and large, despite the headlines, my Texas soul remains intact, even if it’s a bit dinged around the edges.

Plus, there can be those moments that make me proud – where we as Texans surprise even me and I can take pride that we did something better – something right:  Any time we can say, “in your face, NYC!” is a good (albeit rare) day.

Now we as Texans are all different.  We hail from different regions with distinctly different cultures. We’re not exactly a hive mind unless you’re talking about our pride.  And despite our difference, the truth is if you’re going after a Texan for a Texas thing and you’re not from here, well I’ll stand with the Texan every time.  We “get” that you don’t get it, but we’re not joking when it comes to our feelings about our state. We’re not playing. Make a light-hearted jab about our pride and you’ll hear a room go very still.  You probably know about Texans and their notorious love for football.  Well, swap out “football” for “state pride,” and you might begin to understand where we’re coming from.

We also take small (and by “small” I mean “gigantic”) exception to the idea that we’re a gigantic pack of bumpkins, especially when you talk about how great it would be to do a bumpkin study on us to measure just how deep our bucolic bumpkiness goes.  Always keep in mind, we have urban areas, too – some with more than two major streets. Many of us grew up away from livestock and have never ridden a horse. Heck, did you know we even have some of them schools fer book learnin’?  And there’s a pack of us who made it through all of the grades and have us-selves one of them fancy de-grees. I heard tell that some even have advanced de-grees from them prestigious schools that y’all are so proud of.  Our men don’t always swagger and our women aren’t always politely demure. If you want to see a Texan get all Texan on you, make the generalization that we’re all backwards idiots stuck in a 1950’s mentality.  Save that for your friends in your other state that you can’t say you’re even proud to be from.

All of this started rattling around my head recently when I was sitting outside at a local pub daydreaming (I mean, paying close attention) while some non-natives were mocking Texas in some way.  Well, my go-to reaction whenever this comes up is “leave,” but I suppose curiosity won out and well, I do like them despite their obvious poor breeding, so I listened.  The gist of it was “even when Texans take a crap, they think it’s better.” My knee-jerk reactions to that: 1) Do you kiss your out-of-state mother with that mouth? and 2) Ummm… is there a question in there? Despite the crassness, I would say we don’t “think” it’s better, without any doubt we “know” it’s better. As I thought those words, and may have even lent them a voice, I knew I believed in the truth of that statement 100%.  We have no doubt that everything is better, even when it’s not. Call it a “faith” of sorts. The conversation continued and danced around my statement being a perfect example of the sheer obnoxiousness of our state’s natives, so I had to follow with, “it’s not my fault your state didn’t raise you with any sense of pride.”  It’s not my fault that you don’t have anything to be proud about. Hell, if I came from Ohio, I wouldn’t mention it either. They don’t even have a proper flag.

I don’t know why we have that pride.  Maybe it’s all of the classes we have to take on Texas history and Texas government as we work our way through the one room school system.  Maybe it’s subliminal messages from some insidious Texas PR firm, or it could be something in the sweet tea or possibly the BBQ, but it seeps in at some point and it grows (no, it doesn’t “fester”, it “grows” – sheesh).

I saw a movie the other day depicting the door to a Navy Seal’s room who was from Texas.  On the door hung the state flag.  That one small attention to detail rang so true to me,  Texans I’ve known away from home displayed the Texas flag, wore their Texas shirts, and donned their cowboy hat as a way to let everyone know, “I’m a Texan”  We wear our pride.

It’s a way we let you know that despite its flaws and sometimes its history, we stand proud – Texas proud.  And so I’m just here to say that…

I’m a Texan, from the best state in the country! (Especially if you steer away from studies and the news and such.)  If you don’t like our state, you’re welcome to leave – ain’t nobody stoppin’ ya.  Don’t let the door…

Oh, and let’s end this with a song from a Texas boy who they just announced would be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame along with his band, Double Trouble

A Rose by Any Other Name

My question to the group was fairly straight forward, “Has there been a proven Y-DNA link between my ancestor and a certain ill-tempered curmudgeon on the Mayflower?” I’ve been told by several people that one exists, but when I start asking for the proof what I get in return is anecdotal. One of the big family tree lessons I’ve learned from digging around on Ancestry.com is that among the good information there is a such an amazing ton of bad information, so take all information with a big grain of salt. Unfortunately, in large part thanks to the internet, the bad information easily and quite quickly hops from family tree to family tree with ease.  All you need to do is press a button.  One of my favorite examples involves my 3rd great grandmother having my great-great grandfather at the age of one according to several trees.  Think what you will about my family, I’m 99.9% (leaving that .1% to account for physiological wackiness) certain that my 3rd great grandmother wasn’t having children quite that young.

In this particular email to this group who all share my last name, I threw in a little “P.S.” asking, “Out of curiosity, how do you pronounce our last name?”  I might as well have made that the subject of the email and posted it in big, bold, capital letters, because while i got a few “no one is quite sure about your Y-DNA question and the Mayflower Association will not accept DNA evidence as proof of descent” everyone else immediately jumped on the pronunciation thing.

So, basically this past Friday night I unwittingly started a small family war.

You see, the first part of my name is “Dough”. I pronounce it the way it looks, like dough or doe. A few people chimed in with “no, it’s like ‘dow’”, or “no, it’s more like ‘dah’”. Then came the proclamations: “We here in Ohio say it…!!” or “Well, in the northeast we say…!”  This was followed by a quick shot across the bow, “oh, so when you make bread, do you make it with dow?”  They added a little wicked emoticon smiley face to soften the impact, but that comment was met with a picture of and recipe for pandowdy to strengthen the dow/food claim.  Touché, mon frère. touché! Points to the chef!

There was a brief intermission of kvetching about people adding “er’s” to our name and some general fussing about the difficulty in trying to get people to pronounce correctly.  A friend of mine suffers from a similar issue with her first name.  The issue being you pronounce your name and the person you’re speaking with repeats it back with an entirely different pronunciation despite having just heard the correct version.  In my friend’s case, her name is Anna, but when she introduces herself as Anna more often than not the person she’s speaking with changes it to Anna. You easily see her dilemma and frustration.  (Yes, sometimes I’m difficult on purpose.)

My whole Y-DNA question was drowned out by “o” and “ow” sounds..

That’s when my favorite part of this discussion appeared (although “do you make your bread with dow” is easily my second favorite).  It began with “there’s a street in London with that same name, maybe we should find out how they say it” to which a gentleman from the UK stepped up and boldly claimed, “the correct pronunciation is ‘dow’”.  Now the use of the word “correct” would be enough to send both of my eyebrows skyward, but what edged his response up to the very top as a true favorite was a truly delightful paragraph about the history of language   My favorite line being one where the author carefully explained to the American dullards what was meant by the tern “18th century” with an “or as you would say” for the rest of us who couldn’t keep up with that fancy “18th century” talk. Whoa! Easy there feller.  You’re saying 1850 isn’t in the 18th century?  But they both have the number 18 in them!!! MIND BLOWN!  He also added that the 1700’s really only covers 1700-1709, a statement with which I would tend to disagree, but hey I’m American like that – fat, loud, simple and wielding a gun just like everyone else I know, bless my heart. This fellow then followed with another fun bit that basically stated, “the reason you pronounce it incorrectly is likely because you’re making a faulty assumption about the origins of your name.”

A short note followed from another fellow in the UK asking, “what do the English know? In Scotland and Ireland they say ‘dough’” followed by even more winky smiley emoticons. :) ;) :P

Half a day went by without any further response while the Americans were undoubtedly using the time to take careful notes about the whole “century” thing. “Ok, so if 1700-1799 is the 18th century, then that would mean… Holy cow! It’s all coming together now.”  And just when I thought we’d spend the rest of the weekend contemplating these latest revelations, Braden from Ohio stepped in to give his own take on the history of language, as well as a general history of the name. Then all hell broke loose as Braden went all haplogroup and Y-DNA on the guy. Oh snap! History/Science nerd smack-down DNA style!  The gist of what he said, since it was a rather long and detailed email,  had to do with discussing the moment in history when spelling became more standardized.  He used the aforementioned haplogroup to shed doubt as to whether we Americans, who share that name, have actual ties to those similarly named in England since apparently it’s an uncommon haplogroup for the area.  To finish off, he cited anecdotal evidence based on his own UK travels of places he found where folks, when presented with the spelling, pronounced our “dough” as “doe” to prove that even in the UK there’s not necessarily one “correct” accepted pronunciation.  I nearly sent Braden a “Bravo! Well said!” email, but decided to hold off.

As of this morning, the “dough” battle rages on ignited by my simple question.

My take on the whole thing, history and haplogroups aside, is that the “right” way to say your own name is the way you pronounce it.

Ancestry

It started out as a little thing.  I had heard of National Geographic’s Genographic Project through an acquaintance. The project focused (and continues to focus, there’s now a 2.0 version) on deep ancestry from an anthropological perspective and how people began to  populate the earth.  It traces DNA migration patterns using genetic mutations to follow our ancient ancestors’ path.  For my part, they only needed me to gently swab my cheek and in exchange I would learn about my mother’s family’s migration path from Africa across Asia and Europe.  Mitochondrial Eve + me? I was in!

When the kit arrived the suggestion to “gently swab” went out the door and became “enthusiastically remove your inner cheek.”  Hey, I wasn’t about to risk the chance that National Geographic wouldn’t have enough material to work with, and so I spit half of my inner face into a nice accommodating tube, only pausing a moment to admire the grossness of it all.  Then I sealed the tube, stuffed it into a padded mailer and sent my oral bio-hazard whizzing through our mail system  A few weeks later an email arrived saying something cheerful like, “Hello, K23719! (they don’t have your name on file and well, this isn’t my number, but you get the idea) Please push the magic link below for cool pictures and info about the migration of your mtDNA.”  I pushed knowing I’d finally see beyond the “… and then they left Roanoke and headed to Atlanta where they eventually cursed Sherman,” and I wasn’t disappointed. I learned my mother’s line belonged to Haplogroup U4.

Here’s a brief snippet from Wikipedia:

Haplogroup U4 has its origin in the Upper Palaeolithic, dating to approximately 25,000 years ago and has been implicated in the expansion of modern humans into Europe occurring before the Last Glacial Maximum U4 is an ancient mitochondrial haplogroup and is relatively rare in modern populations. U4 is found in Europe with highest concentrations in Scandinavia and the Baltic states and is also associated with the remnants of ancient European hunting-gatherers preserved in the indigenous populations of Siberia.U4 is found in Nganasans the indigenous inhabitants of the Taimyr Peninsula, in the Mansi (16.3%) an endangered people, and in the Ket people (28.9%) of the Yenisey River. U4 is also preserved in the Kalash people a unique tribe among the Indo-Aryan peoples of Pakistan (current population size 3,700)[39] where it attains its highest frequency of 34%.

Now, where I don’t quite get all of the science behind this, I do get enough of it that I find the information absolutely fascinating.  And every few weeks when another U4 person uploads their results, Family Tree DNA sends me an email notifying me that there’s another one of my clan members romping about. I mentally fist bump them.

Sometime after I received my National Geographic results, I regained my interest in our family tree and began playing around with it. I cleaned up (deleted the whole thing and started fresh) what I had and managed to add some new, better researched, branches into my Family Tree Maker application.  At the same time, I started poking Find A Grave, where I got lost for a bit then re-emerged with even more great family information. The best find from Find A Grave was my 2nd cousin Carol.  We had a shared “that’s MY great-grandfather” moment followed by “who are you?”  Carol is amazing and while I don’t know her, I love her to death.  She talked me into doing two new things.  One was having my DNA tested through Ancestry.com, the other was taking those results and uploading them into GEDmatch.  She said both would match me up with other relatives (and they have).

Quick aside – in contacting these strangers (aka cousins) I’ve found through these sites, I’ve learned one thing.  As a whole, Mom’s relatives are extremely unhelpful and border on rude, whereas Dad’s relatives “people” are crazy helpful and know way more than I could ever hope to know about our tree and about DNA in general.  I mention this only because it would irk Mom to know this and that irkiness would be amusing.  Hey, it’s hard when you grow up on the right side of the tracks and have to hear the lowly peasant stock are kinder people.  Mom, I’m just sayin’…  There’s a particular pain-filled story with one of Mom’s people, but that’s for another time.  Suffice it to say I managed to not repeatedly beat my head against my desk which amounted to a huge, applause-worthy accomplishment on my part. Did I mention it was a very huge accomplishment? One of my immediate relatives who also talked to this person had a similar experience – in fact, we’re all lucky that several of us didn’t have self-inflicted concussions.

That leads me to the results.  The first thing I’ll show you are my Ancestry results.  I like them because they’re simple and well, kind of pretty. They’re also straight-forward.  I like those qualities: simple, kind of pretty and straight-forward, which is like “simple” but well it’s “straight forward” – you know what I’m saying.  The results are what I expected.  I’m very British, somewhat Irish and a mix of many other things which includes my U4-iness.

Like I said, it’s straight forward and pretty

Next up are several of the different ways I parsed up my DNA through GEDmatch.  Depending on which one you look at, I’m apparently a variety of Europeans, Baltic and what have you (an unidentified and rare group of misfits)) which we all could guess. But, if you poke around even more you’ll see I have Jewish ancestry (apparently from Germany), I’m part Pygmy (Jay, I’m looking forward to those jokes – no, really – for the record, that is not where my short legs came from), Amerindian (which, if I read that right is not necessarily American Indian, but possibly their pre-ice bridge walking cousins – who knows?), Oceanic, and Iranian.  Such a weird mix. I’ve told Jay I want a Pygmy figure wearing a yarmulke to represent my people.

Also comes with an assortment of lovely pie charts. I’m many-colored.

Here’s the thing, though.  The more I am on GEDmatch, the less I understand and while I find these charts fascinating, I don’t know what they really mean.  Where they say “North_Atlantic” did my people spring forth from the ocean? Are we talking Atlantis?  On one, the results say  I’m part pygmy, but in another it shows no pygmy.  Did my inner pygmy scamper off for that test?

And well sure, I can click on the links the PhD student who put these together provided, but their splatter charts make zero sense to me. It looks like someone took a chip brush, dipped it in paint and then fanned it across my screen while saying, “see, you get it now, right?” The 4 pt. font doesn’t help either, for the record..

I read a comparison of the different DNA test information today. It looked at Ancestry, GEDmatch and 23andme and it basically seemed to say “Ancestry is for stupid people while these others are for those who are technical.”  This may be the first time I’ve felt extremely untechnical (stupid) as I look at chromosome strings and try to figure out how one of my mother’s cousins has no shared “X” DNA with me, but comes up as a match.

My relatives. I’m related to these people how? You should see the chromosome strings. :(

Kudos to my Dad’s “people” who have tried to help with, “ok Beth, here’s an excel spreadsheet.  The strings tell you the family lines and the…” What?  My brain just cannot wrap around it.  I feel I may be doomed to Ancestry and the pretty, yet simple pictures. Hey, I’m 75% British!  Am I Welsh? Scottish? Who knows?

I suppose “pretty” is good too, right?

Sam Update: For Lori

Lori of Dotopotamus fame promised she’d give me an update on her life if I provided one on Sam.  Ok, she may not have worded it exactly that way or even close to that, but that’s how I’m interpreting it. My brain is a fantastical place!

Who or What is a Sam?

Since I may have magically gotten one new reader (hi, new reader!) I feel I should give you (all of you or maybe just them) a background on Sam.  Sam is our 11 year old beagle adopted 7 years ago from Hound Rescue. Some Sam facts:

  • She’s a girl, thus the use of the pronoun “she”.  I didn’t name her.  Blame her former owners.  If I’d named her, she would have had a great name like Piffles or Senorita Snogglekins – something classy that really says “beagle”.
  • Her photo on this page neatly hides bullets (yes, this is a Sam fact – well, it is now). Well, they did on the preview screen.  Now the website is just being sassy to deny me this fact.
  • She’s 11.  Did I mention that?
  • She’s bullied by our cat, Hodi – formerly “cats”, but Sage passed away which amounts to 50% less whimpering from Sam when she (she’s a girl) can’t make it down the hall.
  • She’s had two CCL tears, which amounted to her enduring two surgeries, and two bouts of rehab.  Sure, you might not do that for your dog, but we made a choice and now she bounds around happily in the house. Her quality of life is pretty great.
  • She also suffered from Horner’s Syndrome twice, which basically meant she lost muscle control on one side of her face, then she lost it on the other.  She’s a bit of a special needs beagle, but she’s worth it.
  • Since she’s a beagle and would eat until she couldn’t put her legs on the ground, she now gets carrots as a treat; she thinks this is pretty fabulous.  Raw green beans are fairly fine, too.

The Update

As you’ll recall, this whole post is about using you guys to get to what I want – an update on Lori.  I’m sorry guys.  In a pinch I will use you, but be glad it’s for your eyeballs and not a trade for cigarettes or to get out of being poked with things like car batteries.  I mean, I’d totally use you for that, too because well if I were in the pokey, cigarettes (facial scrub, toothpaste, or whatnot) is a fantastic currency.  I learned this on Orange is the New Black. And for the record, I’m adverse to being poked with electricity, so well… I like you and all (even you, new person), but hey… you should take one for the team.  The team being me.  You’re the best.

You can search for Lori on this blog, but in case you’re not the typing sort, here’s a brief bit on her –  I worked with her for years, and now she lives out in Washington State (my working with her didn’t cause the move, she moved on her own and then she met a boy!).  Lori is pretty darn fabulous (funny, fun, smart and she’s “got STYLE!” – and while very true, this is also an inside joke.  If you knew it, I’m sure you’d maybe smirk or perhaps snort in approval.)  You’ll note on her blog (linked above) that her last post was in 2013, so you now understand I’m behind on over a year’s worth of updates and truth be told, more than that.  Washington State needs to stop swallowing my friends and family.  Yes Tony, I’m looking at you, too – feel free to update me as well. A cousin could call a girl once in a while.

Right, About that Update

Sam is doing great.  She recently made it as the cover photo for Hound Rescue on their Facebook site.  She’s been on there now for 6 months.  I think they originally planned to change the photo out once a month, but hey I’m not going to point that out.  I like seeing Sam as the spokes-beagle.  Now the photo, should you venture there, is of Sam a lot chubbier.  This was pre-carrots and green beans – back when we thought her “I’m starving” thing was because she was starving.  Tricky beagle.

She’s become fairly bossy about food.  If I’m eating a salad, the whimpering will start and if I ignore her, she’ll hit something with a paw.  She will not be ignored! The love of lettuce is my fault, I may have taught her the joy of leafy greens. Her favorite is the crunchy spiny bit – not so much the leaf; it’s hard to lip off the floor. Have you seen dog lips? Anyway, when you have a “starving” beagle you have to get clever with your snacks.  I also found out that she’s tasted marshmallows.  How I found this out was from watching her demand one from Jay.  You know beagles, once they’ve tasted the blood of marshmallows, they’ll frenzy at the smell.  That’s what she tells me.

She’s still absolutely disgusted by her nerd parents who spend way too much time in front of a monitor.  If it’s past 7pm, we will get a warning whimper that will quickly turn into louder complaints followed by pawing various things in the computer room.  She’s also pretty insistent I get to bed on time.

I’m pretty certain that she hasn’t had a baby bunny recently.  I suspect either the adult bunnies got wise to the fact that the backyard was a bad birthing yard or it could be the early Fall-ness of things has made them less frisky.  Since I randomly decided they were my totem animal based on me seeing them all the time and well, I wanted to say I had a “totem animal”, it was disheartening to hear their squeaks as she gobbled one down.  No one should hear their beagles eat their totem animal.  I may need to find a new one that’s a bit sturdier and can’t make it down a beagle’s gullet in two-three bites.

We also learned she doesn’t particularly like other dogs.  While we’ve been good at socializing her with people, we haven’t been so amazing with other animals.  This lead to a very brief attempt at our fostering a super sweet dog this summer.  I still feel awful about this failure, because it was such a huge let down of a very good friend.  You know when your adorable dog turns into a slavering mess of teeth and rage… yeah, that was her this summer.  That incident led to my only bout with either gastritis or an ulcer; it wasn’t determined.  Good times. Good times.

That’s about all I have for now.  Nothing too exciting, which is great news since Sam has had way too many exciting (health-related) things in her little life.  Fingers crossed that this trend keeps going.

Soooo… Lori, about that update! Tony? Tony?!? Don’t think I forgot about you.

An Introvert’s Rant

There are two things I must love doing, because I do them a lot.  I love telling myself horror stories while I’m in the shower and I love thinking of the most irritating things guaranteed to keep me awake if I’m woken up in the middle of the night.  Well, it’s 2:29 am and since I’m not in the shower, guess what I’m doing?

This blog post is written for no one.  In fact, I don’t recommend it.  Maybe later in the week I’ll tell you my ghost stories and that will be more entertaining.  What I’m trying to say is, “go on now” while I stream-of-conscious my way through a rant of sorts and maybe wear myself out so that I fall asleep. I’m actually not kidding.  You’ve been warned.  I am sleep deprived.

A woman at work sent me a crudely drawn poster the other day that basically said, “I’m an introvert and that’s ok”.  The truth is I’m also shy, and that’s ok, too.

You know introverts.  You’ve observed us out in the wild in our native habitat either with a book up to our faces or sitting alone quietly observing something, but just it case you’re unfamiliar it basically means I draw my energy from within.  If I’ve been out in the world too long, my battery needs to recharge, because sometimes being out can take a lot out of me.  A co-worker recently argued with me about my “introvert” status, “you’re not an introvert!”  I guess she felt that since I occasionally rally and am boisterous, or even downright ridiculous in a group, that it was surely a sign that I wasn’t an introvert.  I think there was also a little bit of, “don’t put yourself down, of course you’re an extrovert” as if I said I was goofy looking and on the spectrum (wait, that may also be true) – as if “introvert” was undesirable and bad.

My good friends on the other hand seem to be a healthy mix of extroverts, introvert fence sitters (meaning they’re not quite like me, a full-blown introvert, they’re more middle-of-the-road normal types? dare I say stable? ish?) and there may be one or two true introverts.  They get me and they’re also fairly adept at translating “me”.  This is important when my brain implodes and I find myself in the middle of doing my best fish out-of-water impersonation – with my mouth flexing, no audible words coming out and I seem to be going a bit wide-eyed.  In those awkward moments, you find your true friends and I’ve found mine.  They’re the ones that form a protective circle when things are at their worst, and they’re my voice when I’m overwhelmed.

What makes them such terrific voices is they do “get” me.  They know my history.  They “understand” what drives me and what pushes me over the edge.

What has me up at this moment as thoughts scream through my brain is very specific to extroverts outside of this circle of mine. Those people who feel they know me, interject words when they feel I’m failing, explain my history to groups that is oftentimes downright false or at its best misleading.  And I let them run with whatever they’re saying, because I literally either don’t care or don’t have the energy to correct them.  They’re those people who have to be in the know and their extroverty brain won’t send out warning signals to shut down their tongues – they’re too busy filling that dead space with their constant need to prattle on and  prove “I know everything!” Their “everything” is vast (as “everything” can be at times) and can cover a particular person or the subject at hand or both or it can sometimes be a combination of “I don’t know, but this person here, this introvert, either does or doesn’t know based on some made up history I have about them that I’m making up on the fly, because I can’t stop myself from speaking.  I need you to see I’m in the know. Look at me, I’m speaking so much you’ve all now fainted from the lack of oxygen in the room.  Let’s go outside, where I’ll attempt to suck the oxygen from the earth with more of my incessant blather-stream.  You will be in awe of all that I am and know. I’m making words with my face!

For the record, that’s how extroverts can sound to an introvert.  That seeming lack of reflection as they refuse to leave a silent moment unattended by their constant gab.  I mean that lovingly.  I know my extroverted friends reflect on things. I suspect it’s in their sleep, when their mouths cannot physically move as easily, but I’m not overly confident that they’re not blathering through their dreams as well. “What is this? A nightmare? Let me regale you with all the things i know about nightmares!” Then whatever it might have been that could have scared them just throws up its many claws in defeat and begins to whimper quietly, hoping it can make it back into the closet or under the bed unharmed..

So, with that said we’ve come to why I’m up.  We’ve arrived at the words in my brain that are spinning around, because as I’ve said I’ve irritated myself into being completely awake and now I’m annoying you.  I did say not to read any further, so technically if you’re still here, it’s your fault. You still have a chance to retreat. I’d do that now.

I’m up because I want to set some things straight about some things floating out there that are either misconceptions or just outright wrong. Strangely they’re all about what I’ve done professionally and in my free time.  This is partly my fault, because I don’t go around telling people what I’ve done.  I don’t feel that need. I’m an introvert. But apparently when you don’t do that, extroverts fill in the gaps.

Let’s start with work.  I worked for PBS.  I don’t just know some PBS employees who are kind to me and let me hang out with them out of pity.  I worked there.  I worked there for 11 years starting in college.  I worked my way up through those ranks and had some amazing titles and positions – probably things that were a little above my skill set, but hey it was flattering. I was in charge of two different departments.  I’m not saying that I was great as a leader in those areas (see the skill set comment from earlier), but I was there and I raised a ton of money in my tenure (largely thanks to a woman who really knew her stuff and set-up the department so it couldn’t help but succeed).  I’ve talked to the Johnsons, yes those Johnsons and to Liz Carpenter in passing, yes that Liz Carpenter as well as many other Austin leaders. (I do still adore Kirk Watson.  Who wouldn’t? And I adore his wife Liz beyond all comparison)  I raised money by directly leading fundraising campaigns and by helping out at the approximately 35 pledge drives I attended.  I also helped set up their computer network – running cable through the ceilings and creating drops, setting-up the DHCP, WINS, DNS, Exchange servers, etc. It’s why I’m in IT now. I’ve been to a lot of ACL tapings, I’ve seen more than my fair share of shows taped, I’ve hugged John Tesh and Maria from Sesame Street, because why not?  So no, the PBS employees I know now aren’t just slumming with me. They didn’t meet me at some random party. They’re my former co-workers and because we were a gigantic dysfunctional family, we’re also friends. I’m not some tag-along or PBS groupie.  Trust me.  They’d be the first to tell you I’m not a PBS groupie.

To be clear, I’ve never worked at NPR.  I can recognize some of their staff on sight.  I’m friends with one of them – a great gal who is a refugee from our station, but I didn’t work there.  Yes they both rely on member support, but no they’re not the same.

That leads me to video shoots, the last bit of my rant.  As I mentioned, I worked for PBS.  That’s a TV station.  I’ve been around TV.  I know camera people, sound people, producers, directors, etc. etc. ad nauseum.  My interest in filming sketches came after my time there, because I didn’t have the forethought to get into it while I had access to some great talent and equipment. Thankfully though I still have this dysfunctional family to fall back on when I need real advice.

I have been on 11 shoots as of now.  Not 4 or 7, but 11. These are shoots outside of anything that happened at the station.  These are the ones I’ve done with a gang of folks I met through a sketch class. The video for one of those shoots won a Grand Prize in a contest of $1,000 and while I didn’t write it or edit it, I did help with it and I’m proud to have been a part of it. With our group you do everything from beginning to end.  Basically, if you write it you scout the locations, you cast it, you produce it, you direct it and you get the crew. I’m a solid producer; it’s what I like best.  I like keeping up with the details of how to get what can be a lumbering train moving.  Maybe I should amend that from “solid” to “decent” (I say “decent,” because I have a ton of room to grow). I’m decent at organizing things from beginning to end especially shoots.  I understand the details – whether we’re talking about actor releases or applicable copyrights (shooting a parody doesn’t mean you have carte blanche to use everything you want).  We’ve held our own auditions with up to 20 actors (not huge, but impressive to me), I’ve created shot lists for all of my shoots, and I’ve directed.  I mention the shot lists in there, which is kind of the odd man out in that list, because it’s in my craw a bit.  You’ll have to accept what I’m saying without much history as to why.  Suffice it to say, I have made a number of them and I keep working on them to try and decide what information is the most helpful beyond.the scenes and shots. Like right now, I have a place to note “best takes”. I also understand the roles of the crew especially when working with a small crew.  A complete aside here – nothing is worse than a bad PA.  To me, our PA’s are critical. They have to be proactive.  We’ve dismissed people or not invited them back when they’ve decided their job is to park and blab.  In fact, there’s nothing worse than doing something for fun and having to basically say, “you can’t play with us anymore, because you’re not doing the job we need you to do.”  Shoots should be fun, but we’re also there for a reason.  I don’t like losing time because I’m trying to wrangle an actor to the set and you’ve picked that moment to brag to them about your weekend.  I don’t like losing time because my actor is having a coughing fit and when I said earlier “I need you to pick up cough drops” you spaced it and you’re not up to going right now.  That’s my mini rant on bad PA’s.

Anyway… on this shoot that we’re finishing up later today I’m the script supervisor.  I have never done this job.  Holding a script doesn’t equal being a script supervisor. Those folks are basically responsible for continuity – you know when Han Solo’s vest flashes on and then off as he gets frozen – a script supervisor should have been in charge of seeing he had the vest on (or off) in all takes. They are there to make sure things are the same from take to take – whether it’s wardrobe, a prop in someone’s hand, the hair – that’s all on them.  For today’s purposes, it’s easy, because this is a short shoot, but overall it can be challenging to do right.

I think what’s bugging me and keeping me awake is a general gripe of – if you don’t know what I’ve done or where I’ve come from, don’t assume you do and don’t speak for me even when I’m not speaking for myself.  Sometimes the reason I’m not announcing what I’ve done is that I still have a lot to learn and I don’t want anyone to think I’m incapable of learning more or growing further which they will if I’m acting like a know-it-all on the matter at hand.  Sometimes I don’t share what I’ve done, because I don’t want to brag.  Speaking to Lady Bird is not a thing to brag about, it’s just a moment in time. Watching Lucy Johnson acting like a crazed hyperactive gerbil is not a thing to brag about, it’s comedy gold unfolding before your eyes.

Unless you’re part of a small handful of people who know me quite well, I appreciate that you’re making a noble effort, but I don’t need you to be my voice. I don’t need you to be my chronicler.  I’m an introvert.  I don’t need all of your words to fill up my quiet spaces or to populate the gaps in my stories with fiction.

Squirrely’s

During my summer vacation, which sounds more like a three month holiday away from school rather than a few days out of town, we decided to a make stop.  Truth be told, we made several along the way to New Orleans, because one of the more awesome traits I inherited from my mother (that did not include her looks, her unblemished skin, her fine features nor her athletic ability) was her bladder, which is exactly the size of a walnut.

We see the sign on the way to Houston for a place called Buc-ee’s.  Now I’ve never heard of this place and all I see is a gigantic, happy squirrel head on a sign accompanied by some bad puns.  Oh sure, it’s a beaver to the rest of you, but my brain wouldn’t let the whole squirrel thing go and try as I might to get it right, it stuck in my head that we were going to Squirrely’s.  April assumed I had to be familiar with Squirrely’s since it was a Texas thing.  It may be a Texas thing, but it’s never been on my Texas radar. You see my car only drives two ways – one is on IH35 north of Austin, the other is northeast to Nacogdoches.  Now before you think I’m a complete big box convenience store newbie, I had actually heard of and even been to both Love’s and Stuckey’s.  I’ve even been to Robertson’s in Salado on a number of occasions, but never a Squirrely’s.  Never heard of it.  So, it’s basically not my Texas, it’s someone else’s Texas.

We pull up and Squirrely’s is just huge.  I’ve never seen a Stuckey’s or a Love’s quite so large – it might compare to a mini Wal-mart (there is actually such a thing).  We go in and like the Tardis, it’s bigger on the inside and offers an assortment of everything.  It’s the kind of store where you become a little concerned you’ve stepped into a Grimm’s fairy tale and feel the need to worry that if you grab too much of whatever some cantankerous, hoarder hermitess (I cannot believe that word made it through spell check – who knew it was real) will grab you up then pop you into a special people cooking oven. My only comfort was the knowledge that I would avoid the oven, because well I’d like to see a hermitess try – I border on ”immovable object” – a good thing when facing down fairy tale cannibals.  Solid planning on my part! In the store is a wall of candy (you see the analogy here, right?), fresh fruits, snacks that involve cheese (ok, that’s my love of cheese shining through), sodas with special crunchy ice, computer stations to order fast food (I guess you can’t just walk up to a person an order), clothes, knick-knacks, do-dads, toys and 100 super clean bathrooms.

I took pictures and I walked out with a Squirrely puppet.  Of course I did.  I decided this little squirrel would have be included in the vacation. Being mid puppet show, it was obvious that this pairing of girl and squirrel were meant to be.  A friend of mine sent me a text post purchase, after I shared a photo of the Squirelly and me, basically asking, “how is it you’re more ridiculous than I am?” Oh young Jedi, it takes focus and dedication – years of being a ridiculous human, but I’m straying off topic.

Squirrely!

I start posting these ridiculous photos with this ridiculous squirrel (yeah, yeah, yeah beaver) and I discover there’s this whole crazy convenience store cult lurking among my Facebook friends that simply adore Buc-ee’s. PIcture the martians in Toy Story and “the claw”.  You could hear them all say the words in unison, “the Buc-ee’s” or 100 Homers saying “donuts”. You get the idea.  It was a bit eerie.  I was genuinely blown away by the envy pouring my way. Some were excited for me – hooray, she’s finally arrived at this consumer’s paradise. It was as if I had been transported to whatever place you find to be the most magical and it made my friend’s happy. Mine involves ornate outfits – the bigger the skirt the better, a gigantic library, and a lovely stroll-worthy garden. Oh, and access to all of our modern conveniences, because let’s face it if we go back in time people were rather stinky with bad teeth.  Plus, in this fantasy world I have pets and pets need good vets and also I’d like a recycling program in place – very important. Oh, and cheese.  Did I mention I’m a huge fan? Right, that’s my place – theirs was Buc-ee’s.  You would have thought, based on the ecstasy that followed the announcement that I’d been to the store and as the doors swished open angels began to sing.  It was crazy.

Now, I don’t mean to put down Buc-ee’s.  It’s a great place to stop.  It’s clean, the bathrooms are great, the ice is cheap, there are a ton of gas pumps, but it is a convenience store – a very large convenience store.

I do admit that on the way back home we did made another stop there (my request), because I just had to. I drank that Kool-aid.  When we did stop in again, a person dressed as Buc-ee (a happy gigantic squirrel if you’re me) was strolling the store. You could have your picture taken with him.  I did do this.  It was hysterical.  You will never see that photo, but know that Buc-ee hugged me.

I guess a small part of me has been inducted into the cult. Please don’t tell them I still think it’s just a large convenience store until I’ve studied their inner circle.  They don’t need to know that I don’t believe as some do that it might be the place where Greek heroes go after they die. (There are still Greek heroes, right? Zeus still catting around. I digress. I always digress.)

That’s my report.