An Observation: The Future

I remember when the year 2000 seemed like a distant, futuristic, bizarre milestone that would see human beings colonizing the moon, taking weekend getaways to Mars, and driving flying cars.

Well, we’re not exactly flying around in our fuel-efficient hybrids, those colonies on the moon never quite materialized, and those weekend getaways are reserved for a fake astronaut powering his way through space in a Tesla.

space earth GIF by mannyjammy
Something about a left turn at Albuquerque…umm…hello?

Instead, when the year 2000 rolled around, we were told that our computers probably weren’t smart enough to understand that 2000 was not 1900. Once we sorted through that interesting situation, we had to get used to writing “00” on all of our checks, voters in Florida had a difficult time figuring out how to use paper ballots, and one of the most popular movies of the year starred a volleyball named Wilson.

I still held out hope that we’d at least have our flying cars by 2015, according to “Back to the Future Part II” theory. However, given my own personal observations of highway drivers in 2018, flying cars probably aren’t the best idea and should probably stay in our imaginations for the time being. (If stoplights and speed limits are still viewed as mere “suggestions,” we need a little more practice on the ground. And don’t get me started on the left-lane-slowing-to-a-crawl chronic offenders.)

Deep down, I think we were all secretly thinking that our future would look something like this…

the jetsons GIF

So…what did you envision the “future” looking like when you were a kid? What surprised you the most that has happened? What would you like to see that hasn’t happened yet?

A Message of Thanks: Teacher Appreciation Week

I was raised by a teacher.

I watched my mom pour every ounce of what energy she had left after taking care of her two sarcastic, trumpet-playing, too-close-in-age-to-do-anything-but-fight-like-cats-and-dogs kids into grading papers, writing lesson plans, and pulling extra duty in concession stands until the day she retired. I knew she worked hard, but it’s hard to completely understand any job until you’ve done it yourself.

I have been a teacher for over seven years now. Once you actually take on that role, you instantly develop a deeper appreciation for those who walked down that path before you.

You also develop a deep appreciation for those teachers who had you as a student.

See that kid? Yep, that’s me. This was when I knew everything…until I grew up and realized how much I still had to learn.

I have many, MANY teachers and mentors whose lessons have stayed with me well beyond the classroom door. They could see the best in me…usually during the times that I couldn’t see it in myself. On my first day of kindergarten, I was so excited about getting to go to school like the “big kids” did. I was ready to learn about big words, big numbers, and big ideas. My teachers were incredible, incredible people who fueled my enthusiasm for learning in a big way.

“Thank you” will never be enough. I could say “thank you” a million times and it still wouldn’t be enough. However, I hope you will accept my thanks and know how much you were and still are valued.

Oh, and for the record…

I promise that I didn’t mean to paint part of the floor red working on a class project. I didn’t mean to bump my head on the bars at recess trying to do my best Mary Lou Retton dismount. And…I’m sorry I made a last-minute visit to a restroom while I was on a high school field trip about 180 miles from home. I left that restroom thinking I’d been left behind because NO ONE was in the lobby of the hotel…turns out the chaperones were going crazy trying to find me and the entire bus full of kids was parked in plain sight. (Yeah. Sorry. Again…I have to say it…THANK YOU!)

A Slump: The Never-Ending Winter

It seems that every time we think warmer weather is on its way this year, we have ourselves a few tornadoes and then go right back into the deep freeze.

Snowfall in April was a dead giveaway that winter likes it here and doesn’t really want to leave, despite the fact that most of us have made it quite clear that it has overstayed its welcome and it should just look for other places to hang out because we would like to move forward into the next season that will give us at least a brief period of time to enjoy outdoor activities between the “freezing-to-death” months and the “I’m-melting-melting” months. (Whew. I should try to punctuate more often.)

April 7, 2018 in Jonesboro, Arkansas. Ugh.

To top it all off, I’m all about some nature photography. I really, really, REALLY like to capture each of the four seasons that Arkansas supposedly gets to experience annually. Every time I think I’ll have a spare Saturday to go forth and look for pretty spring trees, I end up at home…under a blanket…looking at the clouds outside and expecting the poor little flowers to wither any day now. Or, I’m huddled in a closet as the tornado sirens scream at the neighborhood. But, I’m still trying to find photography opportunities.

I’m too scared to chase the storms while they’re heading towards me, so I get in the car afterwards and follow them. Yep, I’m a chicken.

We have had some short windows of time when the conditions were good for springy, flowery photography, however.

Yes, black and white can work for spring photography. (This print is now for sale in my Etsy shop, MeticulousObserver.)
See?
These little guys are trying to make spring happen.
Okay, so…I cheated and went south and out of the state for this one. You do what you have to do to look for good spring photography opportunities.

Any suggestions on where I should go for upcoming photography excursions? (By the way, I don’t limit myself to Arkansas at all. However, if you suggest Hawaii, I suggest that you might need to help out with those expenses…)

An Announcement: Exclamation Point!

In keeping with the overall general tone of this blog, excessively wordy wordiness, and the effort to stave off boredom, I hereby have an announcement to make.

Surprise! What could it be?!? (Besides an experiment gone wrong with the iPad Photo Booth…)

Oh, what was it? Eh, I guess it wasn’t really important. Simply writing a blog post with the constraints on my time nowadays really is an announcement. However, I suppose I could delve a bit into the history of the exclamation point to justify the headline.

For example, did you know that the exclamation point didn’t have its own key on a lot of older typewriters? Interesting. I guess that shows the level of emotional restraint we were expected to show in our written announcements back in the day. I mean, if you wanted to type an exclamation point, apparently you had to type a period, hit the backspace button, and add an apostrophe above the period. (Voila…a homemade exclamation point.) Whatever brought forth that level of emotional response simply had to be worth the extra effort it took to type such a character.

shooting star GIF

But, now that I have your attention…you weren’t expecting that, were you?

I was genuinely curious to see how many people actually read the past the sensationalized headlines they are presented with every day on the internets. If I had chosen a different title for this blog post, what might you have expected? (Yeah, I’m sure you really wanted a lesson in the history of punctuation, but I couldn’t type out that headline and not give you what you thought you were going to read.) If I hadn’t included such a pretty (ugly) picture, would it have been worth your time?

Relax, I’m not giving you a grade on your level of interest in what I have to say. I’m just curious. Thoughts?

A First Glance: Stairwells and Pretty Pictures

Cliche Alert!

Things aren’t always as they seem.

You knew that, though…right?

Several years ago, I was visiting a friend and noticed an odd contraption in the middle of the room with the Apple logo on it. My mind started spinning with all the possible newfangled inventions that Steve Jobs and his team of geniuses could have come up with that I didn’t know about yet, so I pointed at the object and asked about it.

“Hey–what is that thing right there? Something new from Apple?”

“That? No, that’s my humidifier. I just put the sticker on it.”

the office eye roll GIF
Cue the “I-Feel-Stupid-Now” reaction.

Of course, how was I really supposed to know unless I asked? I’m not usually hip to all the latest technology and lingo and such. I’m not on fleeks with all that and a bag of chips.

I was recently in a situation where I decided it was best to just trust that something I was seeing was a bit…off.

Elevators make me nervous. I was stuck in one once for about ten minutes when I was ten years old, and a little incident in which about a baker’s dozen of my colleagues were stuck between floors on one in the not-so-distant past hasn’t helped ease my concerns. If I have a choice, I’d prefer the stairs…or an escalator.

escalator GIF
Escalators just seem like more fun, don’t you think?

Anyway, I found myself in a building I’ve only visited a handful of times, and I’ve always taken the elevator. However, once I walked through the lobby doors, I noticed that one of the elevators was staying put with the doors open…and was apparently under repair. The interior of the elevator is filled with mirrors, and most of them were covered as though they were being replaced.

The situation screamed, “FIND THE STAIRS.”

I asked a lady that I saw in the lobby to help me find the stairwell…because I didn’t trust the elevators. I pointed at the one in question as I spoke to her and she said, “Oh, that doesn’t look good. Let’s see if we can find the stairs. Where are you going? The top floor? Ooh…hmmm.”

Error Number One: I didn’t ask enough questions about the key card she had to swipe in order to open the stairwell in the first place.

“Umm…when I get to the top, will I be able to get through the other door?”

“Oh, I think so. I think this is just designed to keep people out but not lock them in.”

“O…kay.”

I was huffing and puffing my way up the stairs when I had a little flashback to a summer internship during the ol’ college days. I have always preferred getting to work early, and I was true to form on the morning in question. Interns are typically given what they need and not much else, so I only had one key–the one that accessed the back stairwell. I soon found myself in a stairwell limbo because I wasn’t able to open any other doors. (I’m glad someone was actually there and heard me knocking frantically on one of the doors.)

cat jumping GIF
LET ME IN!

Error Number Two: I thought I was in better physical shape than I am. Had I known that I would have to climb all the way back down the stairs because–surprise–I actually couldn’t get through the upstairs door, I would have just taken my chances with the elevator in the first place. The whole time I was headed back downstairs, I kept praying that I could get back through the original door. Otherwise, I was going to have a problem on my hands.

When I finally made my way back to the lobby, I was able to get back through the door (thank goodness), and I took my chances with the elevator.

I’m happy to report that the problem with the elevator wasn’t as terrible as it appeared. My calves, on the other hand, are now feeling the results of my stellar intuition.

Speaking of things not appearing as they seem, sometimes things are exactly as they appear. (Why, yes, I do have some new photography to share! How did you guess? And, no, I haven’t doctored or otherwise overly edited these photographs. What you see is what I saw…unless it’s in black and white. I did shoot a few in black and white.)

I took a little Spring Break adventure to visit some parks I hadn’t been to before, and here are just a few photographs. Look for some of them to appear in my Etsy shop soon!

The first ones are from Elephant Rocks State Park in Missouri. I really enjoyed the trail and the scenery. If you haven’t heard of it, you can find more information here.

Black and White photo from Elephant Rocks State Park in Missouri.
Color photo from Elephant Rocks State Park in Missouri.

Another stop…Big Spring, also in Missouri. Although it was cloudy and cool the day I visited, the views were quite impressive. You can find more information about this location here.

I forgot my tripod, but I managed as best I could.
Yes, the water is actually that blue.

So…there are a few photographs for you to look at that are accurate at first glance. I’m going to go rest my calves now. I hope you enjoy the photos.

An Observation: Pi Pie

I’m overthinking about Pi Day.

Of course, I learned about 3.141592somethingorother in school. Being the mathematical non-genius that I am, I have had very little to do with pi outside of my academic career. My dad loved to ask me about what I was learning in school during those years, so I kept at least one equation using pi in the back of my mind all the time.

Father Dearest: What’s the formula for the area of a circle?

Me: Umm…I’m pretty sure it’s pi-r-squared.

Father Dearest: No. Pie aren’t square. Pie are round. (Grin.)

(You can see where I get my senseless of humor.)

I didn’t think too much about the connection between the two until a student brought me a gift a few years back on March 14. You know, 3/14.

Yes, pie-r-round. And tasty. But…this one’s in a square box, so…I think my brain is going to implode.

It wasn’t until recently, though, that I really stopped to consider something.

Do they call it “pie” because¬†pies are round, thus making the use of pi more relevant? Or am I overthinking this as usual?

The etymology is quite interesting. Upon performing a little informal research, I found that the word “pie,” while it referred to meat or fish enclosed in pastry, could also be associated somehow with the magpie and its nesting habits of collecting miscellaneous objects and that’s when I started to trail off in my research and wound up watching YouTube videos of pie recipes because I never learned much beyond figuring out the area of a circle using the formula that my dad would later use as a way to make me groan about his deliberate grammatical mistake the way all teenagers do when an adult tries to tell a joke and…you know, I’m always more excited for Fri Day than Pi Day, but that’s beside the point.

morning GIF
Oh, man…I’m never getting this song out of my head now.

I’m just gonna go get myself a pizza pie. With pepperoni. More round objects…on top of a round object. Sheesh, why don’t they just call it pi-peroni? (Overthinking…I know…)

math pi GIF by Chris Timmons

A Work In Progress: Learning To Crochet

Practice makes perfect, right?

That’s the point I was trying to make to one of my classes recently. When you teach music, one of the most challenging parts is getting kids to realize that practicing on your own is what moves you forward as a musician. Time, effort, and patience are virtues.

I’ve been knitting for a while. I cringe when I think of the first scarf I finished and gave away as a gift, because it was evidence of my lack of experience and skill at the time. I kept working at it, though, and–as long as whatever I’m knitting is supposed to be a square or rectangle–it looks pretty good.

Crochet, on the other hand, continued to confuse me for some reason. Every time I would try to learn, I ended up with really colorful knots to throw in the trash.

drawing blog GIF
Umm…is my scarf supposed to look like this?

“Oh, but crochet is so much easier than knitting!”

Yeah, that was never exactly what I wanted to hear while I was tying yarn into the kinds of knots that would confuse an Eagle Scout. I couldn’t get the hang of it. So, I put it away for a while and decided that maybe crochet wasn’t for me.

Well, not too long ago, I opened my big mouth and told one of my classes that I was going to prove that you can learn anything you want to if you’ll just make up your mind to do it.

And then I heard myself say…

“By the end of this year, I’m going to crochet a scarf.”

Gasp.

scared dog GIF
Wait a second…what did I just say? Great. Can’t back out now.

I asked myself some questions that afternoon.

Why did I say that?

Umm…you wanted to prove a point. Now you just have to–you know, prove it. Don’t worry. Setting that little deadline will help. Maybe.

Why is knitting so much easier for me than crochet if crochet is supposed to be easier?

My best answer for that one?

I like doing things the hard way.

(I’m stubborn. We’ve established that.)

Okay, so maybe the best way I can say that–to boost my self-esteem–is to say that I like a challenge. If everyone can crochet, well, by golly, I’ll take it a step further and knit instead. However, I’ve created a hole in my own argument here, because crochet apparently is a challenge for me, so now I guess I have no choice but to learn it. Darn. (Darn. Darning. Something else I need to learn. My socks have holes, too.)

Well, no going back now, so I got started with crochet…again.

Nope. That technique didn’t work. (I don’t think that is a technique, technically speaking.) This really is a ridiculous way to pass the t…
…wait a sec…this actually looks like something!

Is this perfect? No, not yet. But, if I keep working at it, I’m sure it’ll be some kind of scarf by May…when it’ll be a thousand degrees outside and no one in their right mind will need a scarf…but I digress.

However, I’m making my point.

If I can learn how to do this thing that frustrated me to no end by taking a little extra time to slow down the process, taking the advice in the videos and the articles, and practicing over and over and over…then perhaps learning other stuff is possible, too.

I’d stay to explain more, but I need to get back to work on this lovely orange scarf that I said I’d finish.

An Observation: Catnip-It-In-The-Bud

Apparently, word has gotten out about the lady living in the neighborhood who doesn’t have a cat but really, really loves cats.

I came home yesterday to TWO cats near my front door. After I parked my car, one of them scampered away from me like a typical skittish feline. He didn’t go far, and my guess is that he wanted a front row seat to listen to the other cat…who would shortly establish himself as the grouchy, whiny old man of the neighborhood.

All I wanted to do was pet at least one of the cats. That’s all. I love listening to a sweet little kitten purr for as long as I possibly can…well, before the eye-swelling allergens kick in.

You see, I’ve had lots of cats in my life. I had one of them for fifteen years. He was quite handsome and he knew it, going through life relying on his looks instead of developing his personality. (He was lazy and he didn’t play. Not even with catnip. What kind of cat doesn’t play? He just sort of sat around with a permanent expression on his face that said, “Look at me. I’m beautiful. Now, feed me and leave me alone so that I can clean my paws for three hours and grace the end of the sofa with my stunning good looks.”)

However, it was during my college years that I developed a severe allergy to cats, and he lived out his retirement years in my mother’s garage.

My old cat. Gorgeous…purred a lot…didn’t do much else.

Anyway, I approached the yellow tabby standing near my doorstep, trying out my best “here-kitty-kitty” voice and making cutesy little noises that people always make when they want to be friends with a small animal.

This cat didn’t want any friends. This cat pranced over and parked himself under my parked car and HOWLED. I tried to coax him out, but he wasn’t having it. He was treating me like I had invaded his space.

All I wanted to do was PET THE CAT. Oh, and perhaps offer to FEED THE CAT. How ungrateful could one cat be?

Finally, after listening to what sounded like the equivalent of a dying moose (seriously, I was just TRYING TO PET THE CAT), I decided enough was enough. It was time to shoo him away. I needed to get back in the car and I didn’t want to run over the little guy. I couldn’t reach him (and I didn’t feel like trying to reach that far, thus spending my evening cleaning up cat scratch wounds), so I gingerly took my umbrella and eased it under the car, slowly reaching towards him as a gesture of “okay, game’s over.” I figured the mere sight of it would startle him out of his hiding place.

Nope, he wasn’t budging. He was a ROCK. A rock that batted back, hissing and fighting with the end of my umbrella as it sat lifelessly in front of him.

For a second it seemed a little bit like trying to catch a cat……..fish.

The other one, meanwhile, was sitting a few feet away, staring at me like, “Whaddya expect me to do?”¬†

Lazy Cat GIF
I appreciated his support. No…really, cat. Just go on and sit there and do nothing. Thanks.

He went home shortly thereafter, leaving me with the lone holdout.

Speaking of fish, if they’d been paying attention, those cats might have picked up on the scent of tuna fish. Cats love stinky food, after all. I eat LOTS of tuna fish. (I need to stop saying that. “Tuna fish” is overly redundantly redundant. Tuna is fish. I can’t remember the last time I told someone I was going to eat a salmon fish. Anyway…) I practically hoard tuna. I take it with me to work nearly every day. I was more than willing to share my tuna and/or go out and buy more stinky cat food for the little guy, but…man. He just wouldn’t shut up. OR move.

He finally sauntered out of his hiding spot and went home so that I could leave.

I’ve decided I’m not approaching that one again (should he make his way back to my doorstep)…and it might also be time to invest in stockpiling more vegetables around here. (Why are they so terrified of cucumbers?)

A Piece of Advice: Be Accurately Specific

I’m a strong advocate for specificity. (Wow, that word is a mouthful. Spesss-if-issss-ity. Did I even use it correctly? I hope so. Good thing I don’t have a lisp.)

I learned the phrase “be more specific” from years of watching my favorite game show. I mean, you can’t just respond to a clue about British royalty without telling Alex Trebek the king’s name and number, after all. (Do you know how many Georges and Edwards ruled back in the day? Neither do I, but I’ll bet it was a lot.)

alex trebek GIF
Specifics make Alex happy.

Being vague leaves lots of room for misinterpretation. There are times, however, when being too specific can cause problems. (Like, for instance, my predisposition to being too specific with observations. Side effects can include mental anguish and brain implosions.)

This is NOT a hair dryer. This is a BAG. The hair dryer is in the bag, yes, but it’s a BAG. The bag should be labeled “BAG.” Oh, you say I need a vacation? I saw this IN A HOTEL. (Okay, okay…I’ll stop thinking now.)

However, I still believe it’s better to be overly and accurately specific. Never underestimate someone’s ability to misinterpret vague requests.

For example…

Do you like a good BLT? I know I do, but I’m not crazy about mayonnaise. In fact, I’m not crazy about putting much of anything extra on my burgers, sandwiches, or BLTs, and I’m always met with skepticism by the person on the other side of the restaurant window when I request NO mustard or NO ketchup. (I like what I like, so I’ve learned to deal with it.)

space GIF
Looks good, but I’d like mine without mayonnaise.

So, when I tried to order a BLT without mayonnaise once at a fast food restaurant, I expected questions, but I wasn’t really in the mood to deal with them. I was in a hurry, so instead of being accurately specific, I ordered with brevity and simplicity in mind.

I used the word “plain.”

Server: Can I take your order?

Me: Yes, I’d like a plain BLT, please.

Server: One PLAIN BLT? Plain?

Me: Yes, please.

Server: O…kay. That’ll be right out.

Well, they did indeed leave off the mayonnaise…and the L, and the T. It was a good bacon sandwich, although it was…missing a few other key components.

confused laura dern GIF

I learned a little something that day about being accurately specific. The sandwich was okay, but it needed a little TLC…or, more specifically, L and T.

Be more specific.

An Observation: Older Or Wiser?

Well, Birthdaypaloozextravaganzmageddon 2018 has come and gone. I celebrated my perpetual 29th birthday by working (like most of us do, I suppose, unless the anniversary of your existence falls on a weekend).

Thrilled to be 29…again…

If you’ll recall, I also have to share my birthday with a teeny little holiday (read all about it here in case you’ve forgotten). But, enough about Valentine’s Day.

That sums it up.

I suppose I had a pretty good birthday this year. However, older doesn’t always equate to wiser. For example, I decided I was going to treat myself to some cupcakes. After about six of them, I “decided” to treat myself to a new pair of larger pants. (I forgot that once you celebrate your 29th birthday a few times, your metabolism starts to slow down…a lot. I’m now an avid collector of food marathon pants.)

Beyond that, though, my other birthday gift to myself was something I have needed for a while: a new computer. So, what do I need to do now? Transfer everything over to the new one.

That should be easy, right?

Confused Confusion GIF
Umm…where’s the “transfer” button?

Sure.

I was visiting with a friend recently who was telling me all about building a new computer. I was smiling and nodding, pretending to understand everything (anything) about computers. I mean, I was excited the first time I figured out how to change my font to Comic Sans.

happy the office GIF
Nerd victory.

But, transferring everything over to a new computer? You might as well ask me to be the lead rocket surgeon on the SpaceX project. I know they can do a file transfer thingy (that’s highly technological terminology) for me at the store where I purchased the computer, but I already spent enough money on the computer itself, so I’d like to try to figure it out myself.

Stubborn? Sure. (Again, this is the part where older doesn’t necessarily equate to wiser.) Is it possible for me to do this?

Perhaps…by my next 29th birthday.