Saturday, February 28, 2009

Careless Marie Claire

One of my favorite things to do is go to Borders and read magazines. I did just that last night with my sister. I grabbed the March 2009 issue of Marie Claire to look through.

I came across a short article called "An Upside to the Downturn".
Born-again penny pinchers are suddenly discovering the pleasures of thrift and waxing about it with near-religious fervor.

"Because of the recession, I'm forced to pay attention to the things that really matter," says Jocelin Engel, a 28-year-old consultant in New York City. Instead of "carelessly wasting money running around town for overpriced cocktails," she's now spending time with her husband, cooking dinner with friends, watching movies at home, enjoying the people who mean the most to her.
This Jocelin chick couldn't sound more vapid and shallow if she tried. Thanks to the economy, Jocelin's husband and friends now become a top priority -- over cocktails.

The most horrifying part of this whole article, though, is the fact that literally on the next page was a photo of three one-legged women in bathing suits and Miss America-esque sashes. They were three Angolan women who had won the Miss Landmine Angola 2008. The mini article was titled "Eye on the World: Standing Tall".

While American women are learning to deal without their $19 flirtinis because of a bum economy, women in Africa are losing their legs due to landmines. If that doesn't put America's materialism and lack of empathy I don't know what is. Shame on Marie Claire for even considering that these stories run side-by-side in their magazine.

Friday, February 27, 2009

One long week...

I don't know about you but this has been a long week for me! We're getting the magazine ready to go to print on Tuesday (you have no idea how much work is involved in this), I taught class on Tuesday and Thursday, celebrated Grandma's birthday by going to Pizza Hut with the family (we let her choose...I swear), and got a quote on my bunged up car ($3,700...thankfully it wasn't my fault.)

So today I'm losing it a little bit. My friend Myers, who is always looking out for me, sent me this video on techniques I can use to fend off an attacker. I'm very thankful for his thoughtfulness. It was such a good video I knew I had to share it with all my lady readers...

Hilarous video on Conan

I can't embed this video because YouTube won't let me. But it's really worth watching. I laughed practically the whole way through it. It features comedian Louis CK talking about how the amazing new technology coming out these days is wasted on the dumbest generation.

For those of you who remember rotary phones, your first plane ride, and life before ATMs this video is for you.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The NeverEnding Story really is Never Ending!

Oh children of the '80s unite! The toys of our generation are being reproduced: Cabbage Patch Dolls, My Little Pony, Care Bears, and Strawberry Shortcake to name a few. It's a good marketing ploy if you think about it -- we buy our kids the fun stuff we used to play with when we were younger. Nostalgia much?

Ok people -- go ahead and remake the toys of our youth -- but hands off our movies! You saw what they did with Star Wars did you not?

The rumor on
is that The NeverEnding Story is going to be getting a re-make. Which means it's going to have new CGI effects and none of the charm of the original. Isn't that always the case?

What's next? Shia Labeouf playing Jen from The Dark Crystal? The Last Unicorn with Pixar animation? Labyrinth without creeped out David Bowie? FOR SHAME! I want hollywood to stop updating my childhood. It's making me feel old.

My mother is obsessed....

My mom found this poem (it's really a song from the early 1900s) in a bunch of papers in my grandmother's hutch. Her grandmother (my great grandma) used to read it to my mom when she was a little girl and it used to make my mom cry!
The Plaint of the Little Bisque Doll
or "I've Got a Pain in My Sawdust"

composition: Herman Avery Wade
lyrics: Henry Edward Warner

A little bisque doll and a little rag doll
And a dolly imported from France
Were sitting one day on the shelf of the store
With a doll that could wind up and dance
When all of a sudden, the shopkeeper heard
A scream that rang out thro' the store
And this was the plaint of the little bisque doll
That made such an awful uproar

I've got a pain in my sawdust
That's what's the matter with me
Something is wrong with my little inside
I'm just as sick as can be
Don't let me faint, someone get me a fan
Someone else run for the medicine man
Ev'ryone hurry as fast as you can
I've got a pain in my sawdust

They took her away in a hospital van
And the whole town was filled with the blues
For ev'ryone thought it was quite an odd thing
And the papers all printed the news
The surgeons looked wise and they all shook their heads
And asked her just where she was sick
"I think it's 'appendi-sawdust'!", she exclaimed
"And won't you please do something quick?"

Oh, sad was the day for the little bisque doll
For they cut all her stitches away
and looked for the seat of the terrible ache
"'Twas a delicate task," they all say
For none of the surgeons had ever before
Performed on a dolly's inside
They tried to re-stuff her but didn't know how
And this was her wail as she died…
It's sort of creepy if you ask me. I'm afraid my mother has become a little obsessed with this rhyme as she read it out loud emphatically to both my sister and I and is sending me links to the song from all sorts of places on the internet.

This song reminds me of all the nursery rhymes and such that we all knew by heart as children but didn't understand the meaning. Take "Ring Around the Rosie" for example: Some people say it refers to the Black Plague while others say it has no meaning. Either way, it's creepy! "Ashes, ashes we all fall down"? Hello cremation!

It sort of makes me laugh when I think about what people used to write songs about in the past. They seem so innocent compared to today's songs. Think about it: songs about dolls vs. songs about pimpin' out your ladies at the club with gin and juice and cocaine.

I think I know what they mean when people talk about the "good old days" now....

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Dating a Banker Anonymous

Have you heard about these girls? It's a group of girlfriends in NYC who have created a website to commiserate about how the economy is ruining their relationships with Wall Street bankers.
Are you or someone you love dating a banker? If so, we are here to support you through these difficult times. Dating A Banker Anonymous (DABA) is a safe place where women can come together – free from the scrutiny of feminists– and share their tearful tales of how the mortgage meltdown has affected their relationships. DABA Girls was started by two best friends whose relationships tanked with the economy. Not knowing what else to do, we did what frustrated but articulate girls have done since the beginning of time - we started a blog. So if your monthly Bergdorf’s allowance has been halved and bottle service has all but disappeared from your life, lighten your heart with laughter and email your stories to Warning all stories sent will be infused with our own special brand of DABA Girl humor.
Good God.

The New York Times wrote a story on the clan, citing that the economic downturn only became real to them when their financial boyfriends started becoming depressed. Between you and me I think they realized there was an economic crisis when their boyfriends stopped giving them money to spend on Fifth Avenue stores.

Once it was seen as a blessing in certain circles to have a wealthy, powerful partner who would leave you alone with the credit card while he was busy brokering deals. Now, many Wall Street wives, girlfriends and, increasingly, exes, are living the curse of cutbacks in nanny hours and reservations at Masa or Megu. And that credit card? Canceled. -- NYT
If you click on the link to the story above you'll see an Editor's Note in italics at the end of the first page. It seems that the reporter, Ravi Somaiya, didn't "find out" that the group was less of a support system and more of a fun way to bitch about their Wall Street relationships. I think Somaiya got caught up in the ridiculousness of it all and WANTED the girls to be more credible than they are. Hopefully Somaiya learned a lesson in skepticism. If it's too good to be true, it probably is.
“We put two and two together and figured out that it was the economy, not us,” Ms. Petrus recalled at a recent meeting in the lobby bar of the Bowery Hotel. “When guys in banking are going through this, they can’t handle a relationship.”(She and her boyfriend split up last year; he declined to discuss it.)

Many of the women said that as the economic crisis struck last fall, they began tracking the markets during the day to predict the moods that the men they loved might be in later. On big news days, like when the first proposed government bailout failed in Congress, or when Lehman went belly-up, they knew that plans to see their partners would be put off.
Thank GOD it's the economy that is ruining their relationships and not these obviously thoughtful, insightful, and caring ladies.

NYT photo by Rob Bennett

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Cover Letter Quandry

It's a tough economy out there. Finding a job is difficult but not impossible. I have often wondered about the usefulness of cover letters when applying for a job. I've always written one up and sent one along, not knowing if they were really read. According to this Career Couch column in The New York Times, employers really do pay attention.
Cover letters are a graceful way to introduce yourself, to convey your personality and to impress a hiring manager with your experience and your writing skills, said Katy Piotrowski, an author of career books and a career counselor based in Fort Collins, Colo. You can also tailor them to a specific company in ways that you cannot with a résumé.

Ms. Piotrowski recently had a job opening at her small company, Career Solutions Group, and she was dismayed when about a quarter of the 200 applicants did not send cover letters. Most were within five years of graduating from college, she said, reflecting a more informal mind-set among younger people.
It's a worthwhile article to read, especially if you are looking to land a new job. I've listed some of the main points below:

1. Short, sweet, and to the point:
Try to find out who is doing the hiring and send the letter to that person. Err on the side of conservativeness. If you don't know how to write a business letter....learn.

2. Sell yourself:
Your cover letter gives you a chance to highlight qualities you possess that aren't present in your resume.

3. Double-hitting: If you apply to a job online, follow it up by sending a hard copy of your resume and cover letter. Attach a handwritten note indicating you applied online and that you are very interested in the position.

4. Spell check:
It takes just a few seconds to spell check your document on the computer. Cover letters with typos and misspelled words may end up in the trash.

5. Specifics:
Omit any specific salary or geographic requirements. Hiring professionals are looking for ways to narrow their pile of applicants down -- don't do it for them.

Illustration by Chris Reed

Monday, February 23, 2009

Journalist vs. Writer

Susan Johnston asks a great question on her blog The Urban Muse: Are you a journalist or a writer?

Before I headed back to grad school I considered myself a writer. I freelanced for a monthly music magazine and a monthly alternative paper, but I didn't think I was journalist material. I mean, journalists had connections - they had a nose for news. I just wrote what I was assigned.

That changed once I started grad school. There I was, living in New York City amongst daily newspapers and magazines galore. I learned how to get a good interview, how to do research, how to pitch my story ideas to editors, and write 5,000 word feature stories. I also learned how to read and analyze the news and how to blog about it. While in grad school I worked for a weekly trade publication, wrote daily stories for the website of a monthly magazine, freelanced for a few weekly city papers, and worked at a large daily newspaper.

I am a journalist.

I think being a journalist is more than posting your opinion about something on a blog. I hate the term "citizen journalists." These people don't follow any sort of rules or guidelines on their blogs. It's not that they're missing interviews or aren't writing in the inverted pyramid style. These people aren't even good op-ed writers. Or essayists.

Journalism is a trade. When I am writing a poem or a story I literally turn off the journalist in me and let someone else take over. That's why reading a novel and reading the newspaper are so different.

I'm not saying that being a writer is less than being a journalist, mind you. I would love to be able to write a novel, publish a collection of short stories, write poems that make other people think. But I'm good at the facts. I'll leave the imaginative creative writing to the writers.

Planning your due date...

Do any pregnant women have their babies delivered the old fashioned way anymore? It doesn't seem so.

My friend Jill's due date for her second child was yesterday. At her appointment last Wednesday her doctor wanted to know if she wanted to be induced for labor on Friday morning, 8 am. "Why not?" Jill asked herself.

There was no reason for Jill to be induced. Her baby wasn't overweight and she was perfectly healthy. It was merely a scheduling issue for the doctor. Instead of being called in at 2 am on the weekend, Jill's doctor can plan on delivering her baby sometime during normal working hours during the week.

It just doesn't seem right to me. I'm not saying that I don't believe in inducing labor ever, I just think there should be a really good the health of the mom or baby, or a husband home on leave from the military. I don't think that it's right to force labor just so the doctor can rest easy over the weekend.

I found this article in The Charleston Gazette about a woman who was determined to have a natural, old fashioned delivery for her fourth child.
When Trebor Sutler delivered Mason, the first of her and husband Rob's four children, her doctor recommended inducing labor at 37 weeks because her amniotic fluid had dropped. After a pitosin-induced labor, the baby showed signs of distress and was delivered via Caesarean section.

"I was scared to death. The baby wasn't ready to be delivered," the Charleston woman said. "Basically, I think they induced me to get it done and that's just too common. West Virginia has the fifth-highest rate of C-section deliveries in the nation."

"I think there's a misconception out there that C-sections are easier for the mothers. I think they're easier on the doctors who often perform them out of convenience," Trebor said. "If the mother's body and the baby aren't ready, it's harder on both of them."
I think this mommy is right. You should have a birth plan and your doctors should do everything they can to honor your plan despite inconvenience to them.

What do you think?

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Writer's World

I came upon this post on The Renegade Writer Blog by doing a google search for blogs about writing. It talks about a vision board where you put your goals and dreams out in plain view with the thought that the universe is going to help you achieve them. Sort of like the popular The Secret books.

It's an interesting thought and worked wonders for the post's author, Monica Bhide.
To achieve a goal that you set for yourself, you must believe that you can do it. If you don’t believe in yourself, not only will you not achieve the goal, no one else will believe in you either. Wasn’t it Ford who said something to the effect of - “If you think you can or you think you cant, you are right.”
Being a writer is hard. Being a freelance writer is harder. You have to know how to sell yourself and your ideas -- which is hard for people to do when they have no clue how.

Which got me thinking -- how do you teach someone to believe in themselves? Is it something that can even be taught? I teach my students how to write a query letter but I'm not sure that's enough. Suggestions?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

College isn't grade school.... don't get an A for effort.

This New York Times article couldn't have been written at a better time. I was just talking with a fellow adjunct professor about the entitlement, lack of ownership, and sheer laziness college students have these days. I don't know if it's my age (I graduated college in 2000) or my upbringing, but these kids seem to think that professors OWE them good grades just for putting in the minimum amount of effort.

In my book, a minimum amount of effort is a C. Anyone can get a C if they show up to class and pay attention more than half the time. Half of my current class blatantly didn't follow instructions on an assignment and I still gave them a C-. I should have failed them but I didn't have the heart.
Prof. Marshall Grossman has come to expect complaints whenever he returns graded papers in his English classes at the University of Maryland.

“Many students come in with the conviction that they’ve worked hard and deserve a higher mark,” Professor Grossman said. “Some assert that they have never gotten a grade as low as this before.”

He attributes those complaints to his students’ sense of entitlement.

“I tell my classes that if they just do what they are supposed to do and meet the standard requirements, that they will earn a C,” he said. “That is the default grade. They see the default grade as an A.” - From The New York Times
I earned every single A i got in college and grad school by hard work and going above and beyond what was expected of me. College kids seem to think they start a class with an A and work their way down when, really, they need to work their way up.

I teach an undergraduate journalism class and frequently have my students write stories on deadline, which is by the end of class. I know this is stressful -- I went through the same thing in college -- but it's practice. It's the real world. One of my students complained that my comment of "blah" on a particularly cliche sentence hurt her feelings. If I had shown her some of the comments my professors and editors had given me maybe she would have felt lucky to have only gotten a "blah."

College students these days are being sent out into the world with no clue as to what it holds for them. They believe that putting in a lot of effort merits a good grade. And while I take hard work and progress into account, it doesn't matter if they work all semester on a story about the effect the economy has on small area businesses if I asked them to cover a local high school basketball game.

I love teaching on the college level, but I'm frequently frustrated. This article gave me some interesting insight into a group of people I'm trying hard to understand.

Octuplet Mom is Crazy

This lady has been in the news a lot lately and I've been trying to avoid her. I know once I give her some attention it's going to be like a car wreck where I just can't look away.

But in browsing I learned that this woman's house is in default because the mortgage payments haven't been made. Psycho mom, Nadya Suleman, lives there with her 8 newborn babies and 6 other kids. Nadya's mom, Angela, purchased the house and is just too busy to deal with it:
When asked whether she has tried to negotiate with her lender, IndyMac Federal Bank of Pasadena, Calif., Suleman replied, "I haven't even had time right now, but I'm sure I could do something." - From
She's going to be really busy when they're kicked out of the house and have nowhere to live.

But besides the whole home thing -- what is Nadya Suleman thinking? She has no job and 14 mouths to feed besides hers. Is she relying on the goodness of strangers? Is she going to send her older kids to Asia to work in sweatshops for a little extra cash?

This interview
with NBC's Ann Curry blows my mind:
“People feel, you know, this woman is being completely irresponsible and selfish to bring these children in the world without a clear source of income and enough help to raise them,” Curry told Nadya Suleman in a segment that aired Friday on TODAY. “The world outside is saying, ‘What are you doing?’ ”

“I know I'll be able to afford them when I'm done with my schooling,” the 33-year-old single mom replied. Calm, poised and articulate in the glare of the media spotlight, Suleman added: “If I was just sitting down watching TV and not being as determined as I am to succeed and provide a better future for my children, I believe that would be considered, to a certain degree, selfish.”
When is she going to be done her schooling? Who is watching these babies when she's in class? How does she expect to get a job in this economy? Will she make enough to put 8 babies in daycare?

The questions I have for this woman are endless. When I think about her I just get mad. I can't help but expect these children to end up in foster care sooner rather than later.

All she wanted were children. Now she has 14 of them. Is that enough? How come 6 children weren't enough? It was irresponsible for this woman and her doctors to use fertility treatments for more children. Don't they have women fill out a form to find out how they intend on providing for these children before they fill her with fertilized eggs? A student with no job and 6 other children had no business having fertility treatments. Clearly she can't think straight -- and if she can't think straight shouldn't she be denied fertility treatments?

Actually I have no idea what sort of responsibility the hospital and doctors have concerning fertility treatments. I'm not even sure what the application process is. If you know please share....

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Why can't I stop laughing at this....?

Is it because the goat is so incredibly adorable or because the comparison to Jar Jar Binks is so funny and random? Probably a little bit of both...

Happy Goat Totally Looks Like Jar Jar Binks from Star Wars
see famous look-a-like faces

I ended up on by accident and I'm so glad I did! You have to check it out for yourself.

Some more of my favorites:

Funky Couch Totally Looks Like An Anteater
see famous look-a-like faces
Christmas Island Totally Looks Like A Scottish Terrier
see famous look-a-like faces
Squash Totally Looks Like A Penguin
see famous look-a-like faces

What Mimi Saw: Big Love

I've never watched a lot of television. I prefer to watch TV via Netflix. I recently watched the entire four seasons (in order) of The Office and I needed a new show to watch. Enter Big Love.

For those of you who don't get HBO, Big Love is a show about a polygamous family living in Utah. Ever since my Journalism and Religion class in grad school I've been slightly fascinated with how different faiths are covered in the media. Big Love is satiating my fascination.

Another reason I wanted to check the show out is its cast of characters:

Jeanne Tripplehorn: She plays the first wife, Barb. I just love her for some reason. I think it's her face. She's so uniquely beautiful. If I ever met her in public I know I would stare at her until it was uncomfortable for both of us.

Chloe Sevigny: She is such an odd looking woman but she is a talented actress. She plays her vindictive character, Nicki, so well.

Ginnifer Goodwin:
Plays the newest wife, Margene. I've loved Ginnifer for years! She was great in Walk the Line and Mona Lisa Smile. I have yet to see He's Just Not That Into You but it's on my list.

Bill Paxton: I had no idea he had such a nice butt!

I have only seen the pilot and the first episode but I must admit I'm hooked. And it's not because of all the sex....goodness do they have a lot of sex! With three wives you'd better believe they use sex with their husband as power over each other.

One thing I don't understand is how the hell Bill Henrickson (Paxton) can afford to have three gorgeous homes in a lovely suburb. Sure he owns his own business but THREE HOUSES! Not to mention three wives and 7 kids.

I also don't understand how the family hasn't been snuffed out as polygamists yet. Sure, the only one who looks remotely Fundamental is Nicki, but don't people wonder who these other two wives are? I find it hard to believe with two high school students that neighbors, friends, teachers, etc. don't have a clue what's going on.

In any case, the next DVD is on it's way and I am awaiting it's arrival impatiently. I've been titillated and I need more!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Red Leather Diary by Lily Koppel

I finally finished The Red Leather Diary. I had to! It was due back at the library and someone else had put it in on hold.

To be honest I'm not sure why it took me so long. It just wasn't a book that I couldn't put down. I thought the most interesting part of the book was the story on how Koppel found the diary and then found the diarist, Florence. Florence's life seemed untouchable. Growing up in the 1920s and 30s in a household where she wanted for nothing materialistically. She definitely was an interesting person but I got the feeling that I wouldn't have been friends with her had I been one of her peers. I didn't form any sort of emotional bond with Florence and I think that was the great downfall. Not Koppel's fault -- the book was well written. I just didn't really like Florence the character.

The next book on my list is In the Land of Invisible Women by Quanta A. Ahmed.
a complex world readers will find fascinating and at times repugnant. After being denied a visa to remain in the U.S., British-born Ahmed, a Muslim woman of Pakistani origin, takes advantage of an opportunity, before 9/11, to practice medicine in Saudi Arabia. She discovers her new environment is defined by schizophrenic contrasts that create an absurd clamorous clash of modern and medieval. - From Publishers Weekly
I'm looking forward to it. I have it on hold at the library. Once I sink my teeth into it I'll let you know how it tastes.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Susan Collins shakes things up...

Oh Susan Collins! How I can't wait for our interview in your kitchen on Thursday. There is so much I want to ask you.

This article in The New York Times about Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe was a joy to read. These ladies have a tough job. First, they are Republicans in liberal New England. Second, they're women in a world dominated by men. Lastly, they are voting outside of their party lines for a bill they both strongly believe it, a vote that is making them extremely popular with the Democrats and extremely unpopular with the Republicans.
The two Maine senators acknowledged that some of their Republican cohorts might be disenchanted. But they say they are simply doing what the pragmatic and independent people of Maine sent them to Washington to do.

“This crisis is extraordinary, and my constituents don’t expect me to stay on the sidelines,” said Ms. Collins, a onetime Senate aide who easily won re-election last November in a terrible year for Republicans elsewhere. “They expect me to jump in. People don’t want us to be the party that says no, just no.”
Susan Collins was the only Republican I voted for in September. I like her because she doesn't do what is popular with the rest of her party. She does what she believes is best for the people she represents.
It also reflects the political reality that the nature of a Republican from Maine, a state where President Obama received almost 58 percent of the vote, is much different from that of the conservative Southern and Western lawmakers who constitute much of the rest of the Senate Republican side.

“I think it is safe to say that Republicans in the Northeast are not exactly the same as Republicans in the Deep South,” said Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader.
The fact that she is not afraid to vote outside of party lines and to voice her opinion shows her true Maine roots. Thank goodness we have someone in Washington who is ready and willing to cross party lines if it's in the interest of their constituents. Whether I agree with this economic stimulus package or not (I haven't decided yet) Collins' hard work and determination to work on a team to solve this crisis makes her my hero. We need more people to cross the line and extend a hand in the other direction...even if it makes other people angry.

NYT Photo by Doug Mills

Chocolate Festival IS Newsworthy!

My friend Jenn and I drove two hours to the Greenville Chocolate Festival on Sunday. Clearly we'll do anything to get our chocolate fix. It was a nice drive and, despite being rear-ended by a maniac driver on the way home, was a pleasant one.

The festival was held in the basement of the Greenville Masonic Temple. It wasn't the best space due to the amount of people clamoring to get in the door and down the stairs. For $10 we got a to-go container, spoon, fork, and 12 tickets for treats. Jenn and I loaded up our containers and sat down to feast. After 4 chocolatey deserts we came to the conclusion that we could have split the 12 tickets and saved ourselves $10. Regardless, we had lots of goodies to take home to our families.

I looked to see if any local papers (namely the Bangor Daily News) had covered the event and could find no press on it, which is really too bad. It was packed! And it's not like Sunday is a busy news day -- the Monday paper is always the skinniest. Perhaps the BDN just doesn't have enough reporters to cover these sorts of community events. Sad.

Here are some photos I took.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Annoying Nuptials

Every Sunday the New York Times posts a video on their website about a couple profiled in their Weddings section. It's no secret that the couples profiled in the Times are privledged in some way. And since I find most overly privledged people out of touch with reality, their wedding videos are particularly annoying.

This one takes the cake.

Everything had been great except for that black silk shirt he was wearing. To Ms. Griffin, an interior designer who lives and works in Harlem, it looked like something guys wore when “Miami Vice” was popular. She hated it and wasn’t shy in telling him. Oh yes, and then there was that bit at the end of the evening when her fear of commitment got the better of her and she said they should just be friends.

Still, she was disappointed when he left right after that on a sailing trip, and didn’t call.
She offends the guy by ridiculing his clothes, tells him that they should just be friends, and then is surprised when he doesn't call?


If you watch the video (and you should if you enjoy laughing at people) you'll find the 40-something Elaine Griffin to be as annoying as a 20-something at the mall with her parents credit cards. If I could have reached into the screen on my laptop I would have smacked her.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Children of Appalachia on 20/20

My sister and I watched an eye-opening show on ABC's 20/20 last night called Children of the Mountains. ABC told the story of a handful of children growing up in the poorest area of the country -- Eastern Kentucky nestled in the Appalachian Mountains.

These children grow up with parents addicted to crystal meth. Living on food stamps fruits and vegetables are a luxury. Most of these kids drink Mountain Dew rather than water, milk, and juice -- causing rampant tooth decay.
Central Appalachia has up to three times the national poverty rate, an epidemic of prescription drug abuse, the shortest life span in the nation, toothlessness, cancer and chronic depression. But everywhere in these hills, there are also young fighters filled with courage and hope. -- From 20/20
One of the most heartbreaking tales was of a young football star, Shawn Grim. To escape the alcohol abuse at home, Shawn lived in his truck and took a shower in the mornings at friends houses. Despite receiving a scholarship to play football at a nearby college, Shawn finds his classes and his poverty difficult in college, drops out, and returns home. It was hard for me to watch. See for yourself here.
In another part of the hills, 11-year-old Erica prayed for her mother, Mona, to beat her addiction to painkillers. "She's almost 50, and if I don't get her out of this town soon, then she'll probably die any day. The future, we'll never know about," Erica said.
Can you imagine being 11-years-old and feeling that it is your responsibility to save your mother's life?

I can't adequately describe the squalor that these people live in. This is a picture of Shawn's house -- no wonder he prefers to sleep in his car. Thievery and selling drugs is so overwhelming that some people lock up their prescription pills in a safe in their bedroom. Trash is everywhere. One family was burning tires in their yard to get at the metal inside to sell. They said they get $5 for every 100 pounds of scrap metal. That's a lot of tires.

This is a picture of Angel and her daughter, Mary. Angel is a recovering drug addict and she has no teeth on her upper jaw. She's 30-years-old. Her and her boyfriend walked 16 miles round trip to their Welfare-required GED course each day after putting Angel's girls on the bus for school. Her daughter, Courtney, is candid and says that they aren't like other people -- they can't afford food. She remembers the last time her mom's food stamps ran out and all they had in the fridge was butter and ranch. They live in their grandparents house with a bunch of uncles and aunts -- 12 people in all.

Snippets of the show are available on the ABC 20/20 website and I urge you to watch. It's a sad story but an important one.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Michael Phelps (unconvincingly) Woos China

I found this posting on YouTube today. Is it just me or does Michael Phelps look completely bored (stoned) of his mind here...

“We were shocked on learning the news and we regret such behavior,” FAW Mazda Motor Sales Co. -- Mazda’s China joint venture -- said in a statement today. “But Phelps has since apologized and is determined to learn from his mistake, especially since he apologized to the Chinese public through a videocast.” - From
I wonder how many Chinese take this to heart. I wonder how many Chinese really care.

Longest Fingernails Lost in a Car Accident

Oh. My. God.
A Salt Lake woman holding the current Guinness Book record for the longest fingernails survived being ejected from a vehicle after an accident involving four cars on Tuesday but her record-setting nails were broken off during the incident, according to the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office. - From the Deseret News

I have a few question for this woman, who hadn't cut her nails since 1979....

1. Why?
2. How do you wipe your butt?
3. How much does a manicure cost you?
4. How do you take your clothes on and off?
5. How do you scratch an itch?
6. Do you have a chauffeur? Clearly you can't drive...
7. I heard you are a devoted mom and grandma -- how do you change a diaper? Give a kid a bath? Not scare them to death with your crazy claws?

Check out the news story here...and if you have some time browse the comments section. There are currently 66 of them to laugh over.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Bacon + Chocolate = All Wrong

No. No no no no no no no no.

I found this totally unnatural and completely all wrong thing on The Impulsive Buy. And while this blog cracks me up, the thought of bacon and chocolate together makes me wan to throw up.

From the manufacturer:
Breathe…engage your five senses, close your eyes and inhale deeply. Be in the present moment, notice the color of the chocolate, the glossy shine. Rub your thumb over the chocolate bar to release the aromas of smoked applewood bacon flirting with deep milk chocolate. Snap off just a tiny piece and place it in your mouth, let the lust of salt and sweet coat your tongue.
(Please don't tell me that I have to molest my food in order to taste it correctly.)

From The Impulsive Buy:
The taste of Mo’s Bacon Bar on my tongue teetered on the borderline of interesting and slightly disgusting.
This is one of those things I would buy my brother-in-law as a gag gift for Christmas. I remember I got him buffalo jerky one year and he actually liked it. Last year I got him a bottle opener that was actually the lower leg and hoof of some sort of goat. Next year...I think it's going to be the Bacon Bar.

NonSociety - as if!

My friend Annie sent me to this blog: NonSociety.Com. We spent a good 10 minutes trying to figure it out. Then we made fun of it.

It's this blog with three girls: the Dating Columnist -- Julia Allison who was a dating columnist in college and is trying to be the new Carrie Bradshaw; the Geekette -- Meghan who really isn't all that geeky and techie at all; and the Style Snob -- Mary who wears the dumbest outfits.

Three girls who are DYING to be socialites. Who gave up their jobs to blog about their lives all day. On a blog ironically called NonSociety. They say they hope to inspire their readers to live differently. Hm. My daddy isn't a millionaire, so for me to live differently -- aka: like them -- I'm going to have to be adopted by a different family.

Their schtick is "life casting" which is basically them sitting around all day posting stuff to their site. Sigh. I think the most important stuff I do all day happens AT MY JOB which is a REAL SALARIED POSITION and an actual MAGAZINE.

Here is an example of Meghan's (photo below) day today:

2:29 pm: posted a photo of cell phones and laptops she took of a storefront. Thinks it could be art. She is wrong.

1:34 pm:
posted that she thought she would send someone a Valentine's e-card.

1:27 pm: posted a link to a video on "how to pick out lingerie for your lady." Refrences fruit to cup sizes.

1:19 pm:
posted a video of her and her gal pals talking about the worst Valentine's gifts they've ever gotten. They are all dressed in shades of pink and red.

11:43 am: posted a link to a ridiculous auction they are having. What's being auctioned off? A night with THEM silly!

Here is a list of what I did today:

9 am: got into the office.

10 am: finished editing an article and laid it out in InDesign. Saved it and sent it to our graphic designer.

11:30 am: finished writing up my interview with Mr. American Pie, Don McLean.

noon: ate macaroni and cheese while going over the editorial calendar and scheduling a photo shoot for next week.

1:30 pm: headed out to UMaine to teach my undergraduate journalism class.

3:30 pm: returned to the office and created the 2009 Best Restaurants Ballot.

4:00 pm:
wrote this blog.

Need I go on?

Damn you, Aunt Jemima!

I got this email warning from my father.
A student at HBHS had pancakes this week and it almost became fatal. His Mom (registered nurse) made him pancakes, dropped him off at school and headed to play tennis. She never takes her cell phone on the court but did this time and her soncalled to say he was having trouble breathing.

She told him to go to the nurse immediately and proceeded to call school and alert the nurse. The nurse called the paramedics and they were there in 3 minutes and worked on the boy all the way to the hospital. He came so close to dying. Evidently
this is more common then I ever knew. Check the expiration dates on packages like pancakes and cake mixes that have yeast which over time develop spores. Apparently, the mold that forms in old mixes can be toxic!

Throw away ALL OUTDATED pancake mix, Bisquick, brownie mixes etc you have in your home.
No clue where he got it but I wondered if it could possible happen. According to this website, it can!

Make it look like a coincidence....

I heard on the news yesterday that the University of Maine's president, Robert Kennedy, was not going to be the new president of Kansas Sate -- a job he was a finalist for. Normally I wouldn't care about this, but right before Kennedy made it public that he was a finalist I had made arrangements with him for a feature story on his home for the April issue of Bangor Metro magazine. I quickly recinded the offer. Hey, if the guy is looking to move out of Maine I don't want to put him in the magazine.

I looked online today for stories covering Kennedy's story and found some fishy information. The Maine Campus, UMaine's student newspaper, makes it very clear that Kennedy decided to withdraw his application at the last minute from KSU, choosing to remain at UMaine.
Kansas State has not made a choice between Kennedy and its other presidential candidate, Krik H. Schulz. Kennedy chose to withdraw his application, despite being a candidate.
The Bangor Daily News reported the following:
Kennedy said for that reason and more he is pleased to be back in Orono about 24 hours after he said he made a decision to return to the University of Maine. The decision, he said, was made at the same time representatives of the Kansas Board of Regents, which governs six state universities, told him they were going in another direction in the president search.

“In the end they felt that the other candidate was a good fit for them, and at the same time Mary and I concluded we had the desire to stay in Maine, to see through a job we have started,” Kennedy said Wednesday afternoon. “It was an honor to be considered a finalist for [the president position].”
So AT THE VERY SAME TIME the search committee decided not to hire Kennedy and Kennedy decided, all of a sudden, that Maine was where he wanted to be.


How very coincidental and politically correct for him.

I particularly liked this comment on the BDN website:
On 2/12/09 at 10:03 AM, augustagoverned wrote:

He's a very poor BS artist for being a university president. Evidently, he got where he is today by working hard because he certainly doesn't have any intelligence, if he thinks anyone will believe this tale.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Obama and A-Rod

I don't know if you watched Obama's press conference last night but I did. And while it was mostly about the economy with a little foreign policy thrown in, a reporter asked him how he felt about the Alex Rodriguez steroid news.


You are a reporter sitting in on the very first press conference with the new president of the United States. He's talking about an economic stimulus package that will affect every citizen. The president calls on you to ask a question. It's your time to shine. And you blow it by asking him how he feels about a professional baseball player's steroid use?

“I think it’s depressing news on top of what has been a flurry of depressing items when it comes to Major League Baseball,” Obama said. “If you’re a fan of Major League Baseball, I think it tarnishes an entire era to some degree. It’s unfortunate because I think there are a lot of ball players who played it straight.”

How do you THINK the president is going to respond? Do you think he's really going to condone the practice of using steroids? I thought it was a ridiculous question to be asking at a ridiculous time. The reporter got the feel-good quote he was looking for but I don't think it was appropriate to ask the question in the first place.

National Toboggan Championships

This past weekend my friend Annie and I drove down to Camden to the 19th Annual National Toboggan Championships. It was a beautiful day out and we had a great time.

Annie covered the event for MPBN Radio. You can listen to her story here. Below are some photos I took.

Waxing your toboggan is a big deal. People don't divulge their wax recipe to anyone...especially if they have a lot of trophies.

This team of four girls dressed up like neon superheros. They were the most colorful costumes I saw all day....and very inventive!

This local team had the best costumes!

I can't believe I actually got this shot! They were going pretty fast.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Weirdest Jobs

I found this post on Budgets are Sexy about the weirdest jobs ever. It's quite a compilation. From Tongue Boy, who earned $0.50 per tongue he cut out of codfish to Watermelon Thrower, who got paid $10 and hour to pick and chuck watermelons to a "catcher" who loaded them onto a truck, the list is interesting to say the least.

My worst job was working at a cafeteria at the University of Maine. I was a senior in high school and I had to wear a paper hat in the shape of a boat. It was humiliating. Mortifying even -- especially when UMaine students that I knew from high school came through the line. I'd have to serve them peas or squash and I wanted to shrink into my boat-hat and die. The only good thing about that job was that I saved some money for my Spanish class trip to Spain. I have yet to work a worse job than that.

What are some of your worst and weirdest jobs? I'm dying to know....

Friday, February 6, 2009


I just read this post by (gasp!) another Mimi out there in bloggerville.

How did it come to be that the parent who best nurtures me, who most praises me, who seems most genuinely interested and enthusiastic about me is my dad? My stepfather, a man who married my mother when I was seven and whose presence I actively and vocally resented, whose authority I flouted, whose educational attainments and verbal dexterity I mocked, whose presence in our family I made sure to question in no uncertain terms, at every opportunity?

I thought my best gift this Christmas was the eight weeks of yoga lessons Pynchon arranged for me. But maybe my best gift is this new realization, this opportunity to build a new relationship with my Dad. I think I might, if I'm brave enough, wait for a couple of days, and send him a private little card, telling him how much his phone call--how much his support these last years--has come to mean to me. I could never have imagined reaching out like that, but maybe I can. I really begin to feel like I should. Thirty years into our relationship and he is my dad as surely as my mom is my mom, with all the history and baggage that family carries with it. It might be time to take some of those bags off the carousel, you know?
This post was touching in a way that I'm not quite sure how to explain. I love the fact that Mimi and her stepdad are slowly and surely building a relationship. I love even more that my relationship with my mother and father is so solid.

Most of my friends have parents who are divorced. A lot of my friends have issues with one or both of their parents and/or step-parents that I will never understand. I know that my family is not the majority...but if it was I know that the world would be filled with happier people.

I guess what I am saying is that there is no time like the present to begin to mend broken relationships with those closest to you. I'm glad Mimi shared this story on her blog because it makes an impact on anyone who reads it. Sometimes the best gifts come in odd packages.

LDS Mom Bloggers

Has anyone else out there realized there are a lot of Mormon Moms out there in the blogosphere? It seems like every other mom blog I end up on is by a woman in Utah or who is part of the Latter Day Saints.


Is it because they are stay-at-home moms? Is it because it's a part of their ministry to reach out to people? I have nothing against Mormons...I have Mormon friends. I'm just wondering if I'm stumbling into a Mormon Mom Microcosm for a reason. that you?

In any case, I think it's an interesting phenomenon...if one would call it that. Who's next? The Amish?

Sex and the City: Part Deux

Ug. You've got to be kidding me. Gawker notes that "Even More Depressing 'Sex and the City' Sequel Coming." Say it ain't so!
This is good news for Sarah Jessica Parker and her Sex cohorts Kim Cattrall, Cynthia Nixon, and Kristin Davis. The first SATC movie took forever to make, because the ego-besotted foursome imagined the HBO series would give them all big movie careers. When those Hollywood dreams fizzled, they crawled back to Sex work.
I did not go see the SATC movie in the theater because I just didn't care. My friend Shannon and I did rent the movie one night thinking it would be a good chick flick. It wasn't. It was actually really really bad.

According to the BBC, the sequel is set to be released in the summer of 2010. I think I'll avoid the sequel at all costs. Sitting through one ridiculous SATC movie is enough for me forever.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

How NOT to sell your house

You've all seen the blogs and sites where people rag on what celebrities are wearing. My all-time favorite is Go Fug Yourself. These ladies sit around and think up witty things to say about celebrity outfits. And they get paid.

I stumbled upon a funny blog called It's Lovely, I'll Take It about real estate listings that I just have to pass on. You wouldn't put an ugly photo of yourself on a dating website, so why put an ugly photo of your house on a real estate website?

This one is my favorite I think.

Now some of you might think this slide is a deterrent to a potential buyer. I disagree. In fact, I would buy this house BECAUSE of the slide. Stairs? So last season. I think this is a great way to keep grandma from falling down the stairs and breaking a hip.

And this one...what was the owner thinking?!

If you're going to photoshop in some furniture, at least pick tastefull stuff.

There are so many good posts I can't even begin. Check out the site for some laughs.

Naughty Football Commentator Quotes

I found this funny list on Carrie Jones' livejournal blog. Carrie is a young adult fiction writer who lives in Maine. Check out her blog here.

Some of my favorites:

"He is good at the penetration."

"The guys love him. He puts them in different positions and they love him."

"He's looking for holding and that's all he's looking for."

"He came in so quickly..."

"He says, 'Where's the hole?'"

"You know me; I like aggression."

"Usually when your feet get out of position... then you use your arms and hands."

Leave some of your favorites as comments and I'll add them to the list!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Common Sense

Thank God the new leader of the free world has some common sense! A little quip from the New York Times story...
WASHINGTON — President Obama announced on Wednesday a salary cap of $500,000 for top executives at companies that receive the largest amounts of money under the $700 billion federal bailout, calling the step an expression not only of fairness but of “basic common sense.”
The entire article is a good read and you can find it here.

It's straight forward, no nonsense talk like this that makes me feel good about my citizenship....FINALLY! A leader who not only gets down to business, doesn't handle top execs with kid gloves, and doesn't make up words when he speaks. Refreshing.

Weird News Wednesday

Officials nab traveler with pigeons in his pants

Bird smuggler faces up to 10 years in prison, more than $70,000 in fines

SYDNEY - An Australian traveler was caught with two live pigeons stuffed in his pants following a trip to the Middle East, customs officials said Tuesday.

The 23-year-old man was searched after authorities discovered two eggs in a vitamin container in his luggage, said Richard Janeczko, national investigations manager for the Customs Service.

They found the pigeons wrapped in padded envelopes and held to each of the man's legs with a pair of tights, according to a statement released by the agency. Officials also seized seeds in his money belt and an undeclared eggplant.

The alleged bird smuggler, who arrived in Melbourne on Sunday on a flight from Dubai, was being questioned.

Australia has very strict quarantine regulations on the importation of wildlife, plants and food to protect health, agriculture and the environment of the isolated island nation.

Charges of wildlife smuggling which carry a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment and a fine of 110,000 Australian dollars ($70,430) could be brought against the man.

Janeczko said the pigeons were not endangered and that the case as well as the birds, eggs and seeds had been turned over to the Quarantine Service to assess the health risk associated with bringing the birds into the country.

The Quarantine Service would not comment on the continuing investigation.

More Headlines

Cops: N.Y. boy dressed as girl to cheat on exam

Man accused of riding a horse drunk in storm

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Recession-proofing Yourself

I've been reading a lot of blogs lately on how people are cutting corners to save money here and there. One of the best posts I've read is called Surviving a Recession: Lessons From our Ancestors on
I’m not going to speculate on how long the bad economy will last, whether an economic stimulus plan will help, or if we’re in a recession at all. None of that matters when it’s your family facing cutbacks and job losses. What matters is what we can do in the here and now. And instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, some of the best ways to survive a recession can be found from our ancestors, who often had very little, but made do with what they had.

Lynnae brings up the Little House on the Prarie series in her blog and how they got on without any income. One of my favorite books as a child, I remember in Little House in the Big Woods Pa butchered a pig and blew up the pig bladder and tied it with a string for Laura and Mary to play with. Who needs toys when you've got a pig bladder?

But seriously.

Since I live on my own and pay all the bills (including the ones for my expensive brain) I have had to cut back. Someone told me once that they couldn't believe I didn't have an Internet connection in my apartment. Well, I don't. I figure if I NEED to check something online I can walk up the street to work. But I'm on the computer all day at the office and find "unplugging" on the weekends to be worth it. I also don't have cable. And I do laundry at my parents' house. And I shoot squirrles from my bedroom window and make pot pie out of them. Just kidding on that last one there...

Something else I am doing more and more these days is making presents for people instead of buying them. I've been crocheting hats for all the new babies in my life and making jewelry, magnets, and cards for friends. Luckily I surround myself with people who appreciate these homemade things so it works out well. Just getting a card in the mail is exciting for most people...and only costs me 42 cents! Since when did getting snail mail become a luxury?

In any case there are lots of personal finance sites out there and most of them tell you the same thing. How you cut costs is a personal matter and no one formula is right for everyone. What works for you probably wont work for me and vice versa. For example, while you may love butchering a pig and playing with it's bladder I'm not that into it. But I am into ideas on how to make my money work for me so if you've got any insider tips...send 'em my way!

Bumper Sticker

I saw the coolest bumper sticker on Sunday. A subaru with Maine plates had a white bumper sticker that said OBAMANOS. For those of you who don't speak Spanish, vamanos means "lets go!" and the "v" in Spanish sounds like a "b".

I hadn't seen this bumper sticker before...not surprising because there aren't a lot of Latinos living in Maine...but I love it. I may even cast aside my no bumper sticker policy and get one for myself.

I found them on and on Cafe Press.

Monday, February 2, 2009

My First Bike

Note: This is an entry for Scribbit's write-away contest. The photo is not me...but the bike is identical! I love the early '80s!

My First Bike

Before I got my first big-girl bike I had a Superman Powerwheel. Remember those things? I used to ride it around my Spider-Man kiddie pool (see a theme here?) on my dirt driveway. We lived in the woods of rural Maine, so I didn’t have anyone else to play with except my uncle Jeffy, who was 8 years older than me and very into super heros – hence my genre of choice when it came to the plastic things I surrounded myself with.

I remember getting my first big girl bike because I stumbled upon it by mistake. My parents had tried to hide it under a tarp in the space under the stairs to our back door. I don’t remember how I came upon noticing it, but I instantly knew I wasn’t supposed to have found it…that it was a surprise for me.

It was red. It had that special shiny, candy, metallic red that only a new bike can have. The glorious banana seat had Strawberry Shortcake all over it. Oh boy! I was WAY into Strawberry Shortcake at 6 years sold and couldn’t believe my luck that her shiny pink oversized face came plastered all over a new bike for me.

I asked my parents about it and they said that yes, that bike was for me, and that they were waiting to put training wheels on it and that’s why it was hidden.

My dad couldn’t put those training wheels on fast enough! My first big girl bike and it was most definitely ALL GIRL! No more Superman, no more Spider-Man, adios, Hulk! My shiny new pink and red bike was here to stay.

I got really good at riding my bike up and down my dirt driveway. So good in fact that my dad asked me if I was ready to take off the training wheels and REALLY have a big girl bike. Sure, I shrugged, how hard could it be to ride a two wheeler?

Hard. And being a stubborn child I didn’t want anyone to help me.

I must have started and fallen down over a dozen times. My dad suggested practicing on the lawn for a softer landing than the driveway could provide. It still hurt! I remember one time I fell and crushed my 6-year-old vagina on the side of the banana seat and oh my god did I cry. Only a girl can know how much that hurts.

I wanted my dad to put my training wheels back on but he wouldn’t. “Sorry kiddo – you’ll just have to keep practicing.”

I stormed off frustrated. But it didn’t last long. Pretty soon I let my dad hold the back of my banana seat and help me along. I didn’t want him to let go, but eventually he did. He didn’t take credit for teaching me, either, or make me feel bad for not asking him for help sooner. He always knew the right time to console me when I fell or leave me alone when I was angry. He knew when to hold on and when to let go.

Over 20 years have gone by since Strawberry Shortcake and I learned how to work together, and my dad still knows when to hold on, when to let go, and when to give me a little shove in the right direction.

Things that should not fall from the sky...

I could have saved this story for my Weird News Wednesday but I just couldn't wait. Talk about random...
Picture it: Friday morning, 9 am on a clear January day in coastal Maine. An eel falls from the sky onto a parking lot. An eagle had fished it out of the nearby river and probably dropped it when it realized the disgustingness of its catch. While the eel looks a little beat up from its ginormous fall, it is quite miraculously still alive.
Seriously? This is one of my greatest fears. Eels falling from the sky. I have always been strangely terrified of eels and had this happened to me I probably would have passed out.

Read the rest of the story here.