The Greatest Internet Scavenger Hunt The World Has Ever Seen

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When Dave and I got married all those years ago, I pledged to take him for better, for worse, for richer, for poor, and so on.

There was nothing in those vows about creating him undergarments out of toast.

“It keeps falling off!” he protested.

You try securing toast to someone’s underwear while they are standing there complaining about it,” I said, as I struggled to extend the transparent tape around Dave’s waist in a manner which would hold up for at least a few minutes.

I had made sure to toast the bread earlier. I had even, thoughtfully, let the toast cool off before slapping it on my husband’s body. What more did he want?

At about this point in the blog post, you may be wondering what in the world I’m talking about. You see, Dave and I were participating in one of the wackiest weeks of our life, also known as the Greatest Internet Scavenger Hunt The World Has Ever Seen, or GISHWHES  for short. Started by the Supernatural actor Misha Collins, for reasons that remain murky at best, it involves a weeklong frenzy of weirdness. Thousands of people all over the world compete in teams to see who can earn the most points by doing things such as:

No. 69:  Provide a picture of someone wearing toast for underwear. Butter and jam are optional.

Seriously?

Yes. Most seriously.

Below is visual evidence of our “success” for this item. It may be interesting to note that, later, I was scrolling through my cell phone pictures to show someone the toast underwear when a teenage boy standing nearby happen to glimpse the uncropped version of this photograph. He shrieked and called for bleach to soak his eyes in. He may still be blind to this day.

Underwear made from toast

GISHWHES consists of around 150 items that are so bizarre, so insane, so unexpectedly brilliant that you can only laugh, and then get busy trying to figure out how to accomplish them. Evidence:

No. 2 Create a video. Go order food at your favorite fast food restaurant. Greet the attendant, explain how hungry you are, what you want to eat, and how good it will make you feel. One thing, you must speak as the Bard wrote. Place your order in Shakespearean verse.

(The sound is quite low at the beginning of this 30 second video, but hang in there, it gets better)

No. 14. Create an image. You, dressed as The Flash in the Large Hadron Collider tunnel. If this is too difficult, you will get full credit for dressing as The Flash in any actual, operational particle accelerator.

Luckily, Dave had one of those at work. And making The Flash costume turned out to be the biggest hassle. It resulted in Dave buying a women’s small red shirt and decorating it. Getting the shirt off his head afterward involved some personal injury and a visit to the chiropractor.

theflash

Work was also useful when it came to:

No. 121. Create an image. Enjoy a burrito standing in front of a laboratory. The international laser warning sign must be visible behind you.

burrito

Lest you wonder where I was with all this craziness, I was doing things such as:

No. 56. Take a picture. Create an online dating profile for your pet on a real dating site.

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Why did we choose to participate in such an offbeat event? God only knows. The entire endeavor involved an exhausting, stressful, bizarre, hilarious week. Most of the people who join in this challenge are college-age, and rightly so since it takes a lot of energy, fearlessness, and dedication.

If this blog post has not discouraged you, but intrigued you instead, you are in luck. Sign-ups are currently open for this year’s GISHWHES, which will take place from August 2 – 9.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

How to Enjoy Your Day No Matter What Happens

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Look to this day!
For it is life, the very life of life,
In its brief course
Lie all the verities and realities of your existence
The bliss of growth
The glory of action
The splendor of beauty.

For yesterday is but a dream
And tomorrow is only a vision,
But today well lived makes every yesterday
A dream of happiness
And every tomorrow a vision of hope.

Look well, therefore, to this day!
Such is the salutation of the dawn.

–Kalidasa

What Do You Bring Home from Your Travels?

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There’s a scene in the movie Titanic in which Rose, as an old lady, is shown in her home, surrounded by many treasures she has acquired over her lifetime of adventure and travel. Seeing the unusual lamps, fabrics, and beads made a real impression on me. I decided right there and then that I wanted to have a similar collection. Since that time, I’ve made a point of buying souvenirs that I can use – or at least see – on a daily basis. That way I get to relive my travel adventures whenever I use this belt or that plate.

I’ve still got a long way to go to get a collection like Rose from Titanic had, but I’m committed to continuing to build it!

As you can see, not all souvenirs need to be costly or even all that imaginative – you just have to keep your eyes pealed for things that fit your everyday needs. And when the item wears out? Well, you’ll just have to go on another trip to replace it!

Street vendors in Arizona and New York sold me these pieces of jewelry.

Street vendors in Arizona and New York sold me these pieces of jewelry.

This beautiful picture was purchased from St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City. Cost? About $12. Frame was about $20.

This beautiful picture was purchased from St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City.

Warning: this poster from Italy was a weird size and framing it was not cheap.

Warning: this poster from Italy was a weird size and framing it was not cheap.

Probably the most economical souvenir (after postcards), magnets populate the outside of my refrigerator and get seen numerous times a day.

Probably the most economical souvenir (after postcards), magnets on a refrigerator and get seen numerous times a day.

The best souvenirs are memories, of course. The second best are photographs and videos. But these items pictured here solidly occupy third-place on the must-have list, in my opinion. What about you? Do you have any strategies for your souvenirs?

Audiobooks to Improve Your Brain

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Today, I learned that one of my favorite habits – listening to audiobooks – is also on the list of habits that rich people do frequently. I tend to do most of the other habits as well, and a money tree hasn’t sprouted in my yard yet. I think I’ll have to write an angry comment to Entrepreneur.com. Anyhow, audiobooks are great companions on long road trips, much like dogs and beautiful scenery. They’re also, it seems, helpful in improving one’s mental health. As a longtime sufferer of depression, I can definitely use that.

download (1)I listened to two great books on my most recent road trip – both of which deal with the brain. Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior by Leonard Mlodinow is 7 cds worth of entertaining and, at times, fascinating studies about the role that humans’ unconscious behavior and thoughts plays on everyday life. Told in a conversational tone, with occasional forays into warm humor and dry wit, Mlodinow examines memory, lust, feelings, racism, and more with gentle, thorough insightfulness.  He somehow makes dry and incomprehensible journal articles and scientific research come to life in an easy-to-understand fashion. Although he delves into the history of psychology, he also discusses the role of new technology such as the fMRI, which looks at the blood flow to certain parts of the brain.

Many of the reviewers on Amazon do a vastly better job than I could of assessing the merits and failings of this book, so I will point you there if this little review interests you, but both my husband and I found the entire book engaging and even useful. Basically, if you have a brain, you should listen to or read this book. It will help you understand how the brain functions and why evolution designed it that way. Having such knowledge will allow you to make better use of said brain. Theoretically.

At times, especially in the later cds, I tired a bit of hearing about yet another study. And sometimes said studies didn’t seem to have enough detail, and I was left wondering about why certain rather obvious facets or opinions were not taken into account by the researchers, but these are minor quibbles in an otherwise enjoyable listen.

Mlodinow narrated the book himself and he has a wonderful speaking voice – very professional. I would have pegged him for a radio announcer or even an actor if I didn’t know he was a physics professor and author.

Highly recommended.

downloadHardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence by Rick Hanson 

This book also explained the structure and functions of the brain – most especially why it’s so easy for us to dwell on bad or traumatic happenings rather than good, pleasant things. You can blame evolution. Basically, it was more important for your survival that you remember and be deeply affected by that tiger taking a chunk out of your leg than when a housecat snuggles into your arms and purrs contentedly. Your near death experience could end your life, so evolution has arranged your brain so that negative things take up more real estate than positive ones. An unfortunate fact. But there’s hope – we can retrain our brains to bring more pleasure and happiness into our lives. And this is the awesome part – it feels good to do so.

I’ve started using some of the techniques recommended in the book and although I’m not a changed woman just yet, I’m definitely going to keep at it. Hanson’s observations make a lot of sense to me, and his status as a psychologist lends weight to his suggestions, as does the fact that he’s used these techniques himself to improve his quality of life.

A negative about the book is that Hanson’s techniques are not all that in-depth that they need to be repeated quite as often as they are, but he does make an effort to present a slightly different take on the information each time.

Hanson narrates the audiobook himself, and he has a pleasant voice that did seem a bit too slow at times. If you’ve ever had therapy of any kind you’ll likely recognize his tone and lack of judgment. Overall a good read through on a very worthwhile book.

Field Photography for Dummies

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“Why are you holding back?” Dave asks, gesturing for me to follow after him.

“I’m afraid the bear will eat me!” I hiss and cower behind the car.

“Don’t be silly!” he scoffs, then hurries to join the 800 other gawking tourists jam-packed by the side of the road.

Three minutes earlier, while driving leisurely through Yellowstone National Park, we’d come upon a dozen or so cars parked beside the road. Eager tourists pointed and snapped photos of a mama black bear and her three rambunctious cubs. While I was thrilled to see this sight –  not just one bear, but four! – I had heard one too many stories about protective mother bears ripping off people’s heads to heedlessly rush up to the bears. So it was that Dave hurried to the side of the road for a look while I hung back with visions of this in my mind:

After observing the lack of bloody death for a few minutes, I realize that the mama bear and her cubs are far more interested in eating grass and grubs than me, so I venture closer and manage to snap a picture or two.

My experience of wildlife photography went something like this:

OMG there’s a bunch of bears! Grab the camera! Dash across the road, trying not to faceplant as you keep larger and more scrumptious looking tourists between yourself and the bears. Fumble with the camera and tripod. Realize you have the wrong lens. Run back to the car and and dive into the piles of travel detritus. Paw through said detritus like a starving wildebeest after a morsel of food until you grab the right lens. Skitter back to setup. Attempt to screw new lens on while keeping track of various lens caps. Realize tripod is on uneven ground. Nervously eye wild creatures. Adjust tripod legs. Try to remember rudiments of basic photography. Fail, and put the dang setting on sports.

Try to use autofocus; hear whir of motor for so long that you flip it off autofocus and focus manually. Take a picture. Realize that you need the remote trigger, which is back in the car. Stampede back to the car again to find it. Dig through the junk everywhere and locate it after lengthy and passionate cursing.

Adult black bear eating grass

Breathing hard, make it back to your camera again and after some fiddling, begin snapping pictures. As mama bear drifts closer to the roadside, try not to imagine her claws sinking into your skull.

At about this time the park ranger usually shows up and orders tourists back at least 100 yards, first using his nice voice and then when ignored, bellowing into his loudspeaker like a roid raging weightlifter to get back and while you’re at it, PARK OFF THE ROAD, DAMMIT.

Later, in the safety of your hotel room, review your pictures. Complain to Dave:

mama black bear and three cubs

“They’re all so crappy compared to the professionals.”

Listen to Dave try to console you, then go back to berating yourself for general idiocy and talentlessness.

Remember the first suggestion from the photography books you consulted prior to the trip. Images should be set on high quality RAW. Check settings and find that it’s on low quality. Howl in agony.

Then come home and write a blog post. Take comfort that at least you succeed in that!

Cat Fantastic

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I have been busily collecting cat gifts for your visual enjoyment. While I could provide commentary to them, there really isn’t need to. A cat gif is worth more than a thousand words. Behold:

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Like what you see? I also run a Facebook page with humorous cat pictures! The Cat’s Guide to Human Behavior. Like it if you dare!

Posting Schedule

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My efforts at posting once per week at the very least have been fulfilled for the most part, but I have a habit of thinking of possible posts and then telling myself I’ll do it “later.” Well, that often never comes. In an effort to push past my tendency to dither around, I’ve decided to commit to posting to this blog on:

Mondays
Wednesdays
Saturdays

I’m committing this to writing because it will keep me accountable.

Two More Anglo Saxon Riddle Songs

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                                                                               Wood

I am sun-struck, rapt with flame
Flush with glory, flirt with the wind–
I am clutched by storm and touched by fire,
Ripe for the road, bloom-wood or blaze.
My path through the hall is hand to hand
As friends raise me, proud men and women
Clutch and kiss me, praise my power
And bow before me. To many I bring
A ripe bliss, a rich blooming.

–Prior to 10th century AD (p. 88, A Feast of Creatures: Anglo-Saxon Riddle Songs, trans. by Craig Williamson)

 

Ship

Middle-earth is made lovely in unmatched ways
Rich and rare. I saw a strange creature
Riding the road, weird craft and power
From the workshops of men. She came sliding
Up on the shore, shrieking without sight,
Eyes, arms, shoulders, hands–
Sailed on one foot over smooth plains–
Treasure and haul. Mouth in the middle
Of a hoard of ribs. She carries corn-
Gold, grain-treasure, wine-wealth.
The feast-floater brings in her belly food
For rich and poor. Let the wise who catch
The drift of this riddle say what I mean.

–p. 90, A Feast of Creatures: Anglo-Saxon Riddle Songs, trans. by Craig Williamson

 

Silly Stories and a Work in Progress

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I’ve released a couple of humorous short stories in a free collection – woo hoo! These will soon be part of a free audiobook collection available from Podiobooks, but for now I’m hoping for a few (million) downloads. Please partake, share, whatever! Description:

This light-hearted short story duo is sure to make you smile, chortle, and outright laugh. “A Fairy Tail” follows the desperate adventures of Sir Craig as he tries to rescue his beloved from a fiendish sorcerer. However, Boots, a shapechanger who favors the form of a unicorn, is a rival for fair Gregoria’s hand. Will Craig rescue Gregoria? Will Boots get to eat apples out of Gregoria’s hand?

“Out of the Bag” is a short short story long on imagination. Jason the cop expects a normal day on the force, but a chance encounter on a breaking and entering call changes everything.

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 Smashwords * Amazon

 Today is the day of the week where I share a little snippet of my work in progress, thus, a WIPpet. It is posted as part of a challenge hosted by K.L. Schwengel. My WIPpet needs to have something to do with today’s date. And so, today’s snippet relies on WIPpet math – 8 sentences (6/4 … four paragraphs from page 6). This is from my short story “The Pomegranate Tree.” This is the middle of a confrontation between the mysterious servant Doso and the king’s daughter Callithoe. 

Doso shoved aside the press with sudden violence, approached like a mad thing, like a wild woman. Callithoe shrank back reflexively. Doso’s words were like barbs, flying like poisoned arrows.

“Is it disrespect to speak of what is to one who wishes to believe lies? You do not know what I know, maiden. You do not know how young life can be snatched in a cruel instant. How even though you gave every last bit of yourself to a child, you sheltered her and nourished her, and carefully planned for her life – her blessed life – how the gods might despise your feeble efforts.” Doso’s voice resonated through the room, past the close walls, for they were like the shrieking of a bird in distress – high and relentless. Spittle flew from her lips. Her eyes were on fire.

“Oh, no. You don’t know how they turn on everyone – even on their own, and they snatch away that sweet young thing, that beautiful, innocent daughter. They call it a slip, an accident. She hit her head on the rocks, mother. It is no one’s fault. But you know the truth, that the King of Hell took her – he who rides a chariot pulled by dark frothing steeds. He dragged her down into the underworld. She tried to come back to you – she would always try to come back – but he wouldn’t let her.”

She paused, eyes going far away, as though she had just heard the words she had spoken. Tears gushed from her eyes, then.  

I should be finished with this story within a day or two and I could really use a beta reader or two. It’s around 15 pages long – about 6,000 words. If you’re interested please do let me know – I’d be happy to return the favor, of course.

Visit my fellow WIPpet participants here, or join the fun yourself:

The REAL Tragedy of Mass Killings – It’s Not the Obvious

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The mass killings in Isla Vista recently have prompted some Facebook friends to blame the problem on guns – except what about the 3 people the killer stabbed to death and the 4 people he hit with his car? Another friend just posted an ill-informed article about how all the recent mass killers were taking powerful psychotropic medicines and blaming these medicines for the violence.

NO, NO, NO!

Both these points of view miss the mark. How do I know that? Because my brother suffers from schizophrenia. He is not violent. He is deeply disturbed, however. He has an illness. My family has been dealing with it for more than 20 years. Do you know how he finally got treated? He was arrested during a traffic stop and sent to the state hospital, where he stayed for 9 months before he was stable enough to be freed. He’s been on medication since then.

How would you like it if you broke your arm and instead of going to the hospital for treatment, you were arrested and sent to jail? How would you like if you suffered from cancer and instead of going to the doctor for treatment you were arrested and sent to jail? It’s the same thing. Mental illness is pervasive and misunderstood and EVERYWHERE.

Very few people understand the difficulties involved. I even have members of my own family telling me that my brother should just get a job instead of being on government assistance. Not only is that judgmental, it is supremely unhelpful. He could maybe work 10 hours a week or so at some fast food joint – maybe. That doesn’t pay his living expenses. It doesn’t BEGIN to pay his living expenses. If it weren’t for living at my parent’s house he could very well be homeless. And you know what? MANY, MANY people with severe mental illness ARE homeless. I’ve worked in social services and have seen firsthand the incredible suffering these people endure. Do they turn to drugs and alcohol to “help” themselves. They do, quite often. Wouldn’t you?

What happens if you have mental illness? You are misunderstood. You are ignored. You are judged. You are begrudgingly helped by the criminal justice system if you become a danger to yourself or someone else.

This does not mean I am excusing the behavior of the Isla Vista killer. Not in the least. It is completely tragic, in all senses of the word. For ALL of the families involved, including the killer’s.

In future years society will look back at the draconian lack of resources and treatment for mentally ill people that we have available in America today. Mass killings like this will continue, and the ever more present silent suffering of thousands upon thousands of people who are not violent will continue because of these misunderstood conditions.