Saturday, June 17, 2006

Computer: Forward Pleas

I remember getting a chain letter when I was little. It had some heartwarming story, promising great things if I sent it on to 10 of my friends and predicting dire consequences if I didn't. I'd have had to painstakingly re-write it by hand 10 times. It was a relief when Mom tossed it in the trash.

Now, I get the same stupid letters on a regular basis. There's a story, or some kind of commentary, or a challenge. Sometimes, they're heartwarming. Sometimes, they're heartwarming in a dysfunctional relationship kind of way.
..."Do you think I'm pretty?" she asked. (The third of such insequre questions.)
"No," he said. (The third of such rude, clueless answers.)
As her eyes filled with tears, he said, "I don't think you're pretty. I think you're beautiful...."
.....Yeah, keep backpedaling, boy!

Sometimes, they're interesting, and I may even want to pass them on. Then I get to the kicker:
--Pass this on to 15 of your friends to show them you love them.
--If we can pass this message to 10,000 people in a month, everyone on the list get $100 from Microsoft! (Does anyone believe this?)
--My "favorite:" Pass it on if you think it has merit. If not then just discard it... no one will know you did. But, if you discard this thought process, don't sit back and complain about what bad shape the world is in.

Am I the only one who hates these things? I have enough guilt in my life. I don't need to be told I'm neglecting my friends, wrecking some "grand goal," losing an opportunity at easy money, or am less of a citizen or Christian if I don't inundate all my addressees with the same old stories and diatribes that have been around and around for ages.

I show my friends I love them by writing them personal letters. I resist sending on rumors (even computer virus alerts) until I've thoroughly checked their veracity. ( is a good site for tracking down misinformation and rumors). If I come across something that I believe some of my friends will be interested in, I'll pass it on just to them with an extra note about why I'm sending it. And I ask the same courtesy of my friends and acquaintances.

E-mail is a great communication tool, but it should be used for just that--communication. Not for passing on every piece of junk mail with a Forward Plea.

I'm going to Puerto Rico for the next couple of weeks, so no more blogs until July. Send this on to 15 of your friends if you love them, love Jesus, care about the environment, want to avoid stubbing your toes this week or want a chance to win a free vactaion with Bill Gates. If you don't... no one will know. But don't sit around wondering what the world is coming to. :-)

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Writing: Mangled Metaphors

This had me laughing like an unwary elderly lady audience member picked by Drew Carey to participate in a skit with Ryan and Colin. (Read the message, then this will make sense. Check the addendum that sits on the bottom of this blog like that "bogie" someone left on your chair.)

Every year, English teachers from across the country can submit their collections of actual analogies and metaphors found in high school essays.

These excerpts are published each year to the amusement of teachers across the country. Here are last year's winners.....

1. Her face was a perfect oval, like a circle that had its two sides gently compressed by a Thigh Master.

2. His thoughts tumbled in his head, making and breaking alliances like underpants in a dryer without Cling Free.

3. He spoke with the wisdom that can only come from experience, like a guy who went blind because he looked at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it and now goes around the country speaking at high schools about the dangers of looking at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it.

4. She grew on him like she was a colony of E. Coli, and he was room-temperature Canadian beef.

5. She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes just before it throws up.

6. Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.

7. He was as tall as a six-foot, three-inch tree.

8. The revelation that his marriage of 30 years had disintegrated because of his wife's infidelity came as a rude shock, like a surcharge at a formerly surcharge-free ATM machine.

9. The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn't.

10. McBride fell 12 stories, hitting the pavement like a Hefty bag filled with vegetable soup.

11. From the attic came an unearthly howl. The whole scene had an eerie, surreal quality, like when you're on vacation in another city and Jeopardy comes on at 7:00 p.m. instead of 7:30.

12. Her hair glistened in the rain like a nose hair after a sneeze.

13. The hailstones leaped from the pavement, just like maggots when you fry them in hot grease.

14. Long separated by cruel fate, the star-crossed lovers raced across the grassy field toward each other like two freight trains, one having left Cleveland at 6:36 p.m. traveling at 55 mph, the other from Topeka at 4:19 p.m.
at a speed of 35 mph.

15. They lived in a typical suburban neighborhood with picket fences that resembled Nancy Kerrigan's teeth.

16. John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.

17. He fell for her like his heart was a mob informant, and she was the East River.

18. Even in his last years, Granddad had a mind like a steel trap, only one that had been left out so long, it had rusted shut.

19. Shots rang out, as shots are wont to do.

20. The plan was simple, like my brother-in-law Phil. But unlike Phil, this plan just might work.

21. The young fighter had a hungry look, the kind you get from not eating for a while.

22. He was as lame as a duck. Not the metaphorical lame duck, either, but a real duck that was actually lame, maybe from stepping on a land mine or something.

23. The ballerina rose gracefully en Pointe and extended one slender leg behind her, like a dog at a fire hydrant.

24. It was an American tradition, like fathers chasing kids around with power tools.

25. He was deeply in love. When she spoke, he thought he heard bells, as if she were a garbage truck backing up.

What really amuses me is that, given the right tone, some of these could work. I can hear Vern saying a few.

So, can you write stinkers like these? Give it your best shot, and share them with me in the comments section!

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Parenting: Bedtime Stories

I still remember when I was five, I mentioned to a fellow Kindergartener that my dad had read us a bedtime story the night before. She looked at me with distain and announced, "I'm too old for that now." I felt sorry for her and surprised that one could outgrow bedtime stories.

My oldest is 12 and we still read bedtime stories to him. At bedtime (often after 9--we're night owls), everyone is called to brush teeth, don pajamas and run to our bedroom where we cuddle up for stories. Liam, of course, picks the traditional kids' books on trucks, Curious George, Richard Scary, and the like. Alex is more science-minded. For awhile, Alex insisted we read Time Life's Dangerous Sea Creatures probably not the best choice right before our vacation to the beaches of Puerto Rico. This week, however, I've been reading my latest Dragon Eye story and a tour guide of Puerto Rico. As you can guess, it is after 10 before we're ready to tuck everyone in.

We love bedtime stories. It's a chance to come together as a family when we may have been apart with lessons, computers and television. It's also a chance to share literature the kids may not otherwise get into. Steven resisted hearing the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe when we first suggested it; now he's asking us to read the series for the third time. I'd never read Anne of Green Gables and loved sharing it with my daughter (and sons!). How many pre-teens would willingly tackle a tome like Don Quixote? Yet we are all enjoying the story. Some nights, the kids want to make up stories; though usually we're so riled up and giggling afterwards no one wants to sleep. Sometimes, too, one of the children will read; Alex, 7, has been reading to us out of his "Eyewitness: Big Cats" book.

When the kids head to college, they probably will never tell their dormmates that they had bedtime story routine well into their teens. Or maybe they will, and in the telling of it, make their friends jealous. My hope is they remember these nights of tales and togetherness and continue them on in their own families.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Computer: 4 stages of grief

Rob's Alienware computer has passed on from our world to the great VR in the sky. Rob has undergone the stages of grief:
Denial: "NOOOOOO!!!!!"
Anger: "Why, oh, why did I think I knew how to modify the RAID array! And where the $#^%! Are the files in this so-called recovery disk?!"
Acceptance: "It's dead, Jim. I am the proud owner of a $2500 paperweight."
Hope: "Ooooo! Hey, Kitten, look at this cool Digital Storm System I can order! I wonder if I can upgrade to...."

There's one more stage of grief, not often discussed in the brochures--Aqusition. That's when I start going through the first four stages.

Postscript: Rob loves his new Digital Storm and was able to cannibalize his Alienware for its RAM and hard drives (for use as external memory storage systems). Now the keyboard on my two-year-old Dell is going kooky. Please don't make me go through this again!

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Me: Why We Homeschool

I got interested in homeschooling while doing some articles for the Wyoming Catholic Monitor, but Rob wasn't comfortable with it and I didn't have strong feelings about it, so our older kids went to school in Colorado. Sierra Vista was a great little school. The kids enjoyed it and learned well. When we moved to Rhode Island, however, Rob saw one of the schools they might attend--a large brick square with an asphalt playground and a six-foot fence between them and a busy street--and said, "Now's your chance to try homeschooling." We started with Amber and Steven in 2nd grade. Now Amber and Steven are in 6th grade; Alex, 1st; and Liam, Kindergarten.

I may talk up the advantages of homeschooling or sympathize with those who have or hear about problems in thier public school, but in general, I don't have anything against public schools. We've just really enjoyed homeschooling. I have such fun learning along with the kids. I still read the older two's history aloud even though they could study the chapter alone. I love being amazed at how quickly Alex picks up math--tell him once, and it's "Yeah, Mom. Got it." And he does! Liam is my firebrand and I've had to backtrack with him on writing, but he's very enthusiastic about getting--or missing--a question. Although we are very traditional in our subject matter and teaching styles, I like the flexibility of homeschooling. I like, too, that I can slow down or speed up as best fits my child. I think our family is closer and less schedule-stressed, and the kids are learning valuable life lessons as well. I like that they don't have to put up with the "socialization" public school is supposed to give and which made my own childhood very hard. Plus, being able to sleep in is a real advantage when you have an entire family of night owls.

Of course, homeschooling is no picnic. There are times I cry, yell, and am ready to ship the lot to boarding school. But that's another entry.