When life throws you lemons, thank it for the snack

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Squirrel of the Month for November 28, 2012

I know I have been remiss in my squirrel postings. It is not from lack of material, but rather an increasingly filling schedule. So, my apologies for this late entry. I give you the November Squirrel of the Month: Sandy Cheeks.

Picture from the Spongebob Wiki page: http://spongebob.wikia.com/wiki/Sandy_Cheeks
One of the things I first liked about Sandy was the fact that she was from Texas. I was born and raised in Texas and I sometimes get tired of seeing characters from the more popular states (New York and California are over-represented; there are 50 states, not 2, and many other countries to boot). Sometimes Sandy's Texan, however, is a little too over-the-top. This is actually by design, as her character is meant to represent one of the 7 cardinal (or "deadly") sins: Pride. Sandy is definitely overflowing with pride. She shows kids that it's okay to be proud of your accomplishments and abilities, but she also illustrates the dangers of extreme hubris. When her ego gets too big for her helmet she finds herself in trouble that only the sometimes-humble (humility being the saintly virtue that counters pride) Spongebob can help her out of. Then Sandy shows that she can swallow her pride and graciously accept help when she needs it.

Speaking of smart, Sandy is one of the few characters on Spongebob Squarepants who seems to have a fully-functional brain. As a scientist, inventor, and explorer, she shows kids that anyone can accomplish great feats, regardless of their gender. Of course, sometimes her "genius" leads to a cold calculating response when warmth and caring are needed, but this is thankfully not always the case. She also breaks another female stereotype: weakness. Sandy's karate, coupled with her feats of strength, make her a formidable foe and a great ally to have fighting in your corner. She balances brains with brawn when solving problems, showing that there is never just one way to accomplish goals.

Sandy Cheeks is a strong, intelligent, talented, air-breathing female in a male-dominated water world. She is adaptable and loyal to her friends. Even when she lets her ego get in the way, she still tries to help out with the best of intentions. So, thank you, Sandy Cheeks, for teaching us the ups and downs and having self-confidence (sometimes too much) and for teaching us that we can adapt to just about anything if we put our minds to it.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

When Tech Takes a Vacation

I tend to take my technology for granted. At first I resist new tech because I become comfortable with my way of doing things.  The thing is, once I do finally embrace the technology, I become completely reliant upon it to fulfill that function it took over from my arcane methodology. It took me a long time to adapt to a smart phone, now I feel naked, lost and alone if I leave home without it or if the battery dies on me (I carry around a spare battery just in case now). I guess you can say that I have a slow-to-warm up temperament (see my post in my Psych Vocab blog on personality). I don't run away from change, but I tend to be cautious about it and once I embrace it and become comfortable with it, I don't want to change again too soon. So, what happens when the technology I depend on becomes unreliable?

At first, a part of my mind shifts into a post-apocalyptic end-of-the-world type of mentality. "Oh no! How will I check my email?" or, as in the case today, "What will I do with my students if I can't get these copies made?" As I have been striving during my entire young adulthood (all 12 years of it so far) to become more optimistic and calmer, this "nightmarish" thinking does not last too long any more. Instead, I take a breath after my mini panic and think of alternatives. So, the copy machine is "on vacation" and I can't make copies. I guess that means that this assignment will have to wait until tomorrow or I can email the information to my students and have each of them print it out for themselves. When the SMART equipment in my classroom decided to go wonky--could not get the projector to cooperate, thus using PowerPoint for the lecture was a no-go--I eventually turned the class period into a project work day for my students. This was after vainly trying to show them a DVD; the player and the class set-up were not cooperating.

What do I do when my phone dies? I now have a boredom bag to keep me occupied. My boredom bag holds a number of travel craft projects that I can pull out to work on when I am bored (I'm not the kind of person to randomly strike up conversations with people if I have nothing else to do). After all, the main thing I do with my phone is read tweets and check email, sometimes check in to Facebook, when I am waiting for something else to happen. I try not to let technology rule my life. When the tech "goes on vacation" I get a chance to step back and realize how much I've let it encroach upon my time. I can then take the opportunity to make some adjustments and find alternative ways to accomplish my goals and/or to prioritize my goals to reduce or prevent stress.

Yes, technology is fantastic. However, like all things, it is best in moderation and it always helps to have a plan B (or C or D or E, etc.) in your back pocket just in case.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Patient People

I am almost convinced that impatience and selfishness go hand-in-hand. Selfishness is a pet peeve, and occasionally a weakness, of mine. With so many impatient people, I have a great appreciation for those individuals who can slow down or show understanding for others. I am grateful to the patient drivers who realize that a STOP sign is a stimulus to stop, not just roll by. I am grateful for patient drivers who allow pedestrians to cross in front of them without unnecessarily slamming their brakes or honking their horns or gunning their engines as soon as the walker barely clears the car. I am thankful for the patient parents waiting in line with their kids for anything (registering for something, waiting for pick-up or drop-off, making a purchase, etc.) who realize that everyone deserves the same courtesy that they themselves would like to enjoy. I am thankful to the parents who do not believe that somehow their child is more special than anyone else's child. I am grateful to the people who do not feel that they are entitled to extra privileges just because they are who they are, but rather deserve the same courtesy and consideration (and thus also hand it out) as others on this planet. I am especially grateful to the people who don't believe that their time, which is the same amount as every other person's on this earth, is more valuable than any other's just because it is their time.

I see so much impatience and selfishness each and every day that it makes those patient and courteous individuals seem that much more precious. Thank you to all the considerate people out there.

Friday, September 28, 2012

September 28, 2012 Squirrel of the Month

This month's Squirrel of the Month is Foamy the Squirrel. He is very much not safe for work, or children, or people who have issues with logic. Created by Jonathan Ian Mathers for illwillpress.com, Foamy rants on numerous topics from parenting and bullying to printer cartridges. While his language is extreme and coarse, his arguments are typically solid. He essentially says what many people think. As many commentators state, "It's really sad when the one making the most sense is an animated squirrel." If you have ever felt that you just had a useless argument with someone who absolutely refuses to listen to any viewpoint except their own, then do yourself a favor and see if Foamy has weighed in on that particular issue. You may feel vindicated, or you may at least get a laugh out of it.

Yes, this is a very short post for me. I think Foamy actually speaks for himself in the Neurotically Yours videos, most of which you can find on YouTube or on illwillpress.com. I find it good in small doses, no more than 4-5 videos at a time, so that I don't start thinking too negatively in general. But, in limited amounts, Foamy's rationality (a rational squirrel, go figure) is refreshing. It helps keep my faith in critical thinking skills alive.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Complaints, or Why I Started This Blog

There was a time when I was part of the "my life sucks" sub culture. I used to complain about things in life that I perceived as bad. I used to have long discussions with friends about how much better life should be but wasn't.  Before I knew it, I found myself complaining about people who were constantly complaining (this is still my major complaint in life, as I sometimes become overwhelmed by the negativism of others). There seems to have evolved a sub-language that involves a complaint code.of sorts. For some people, the only way to relate with them is by finding something in common to kvetch about and share in a collective misery. After too many occasions of this maladaptive social pattern, I came to a very important conclusion. I just got tired of playing the "my life sucks" game. The whole point of this type of social interaction is to try to one-up each other by seeing who has the most to complain about and who can kvetch the loudest about their woes. I decided I was tired of losing. Any way you play this "game" you are going to lose. Either your life is the worst, or you aren't the most special because you don't have it as bad as someone else. I found too many people who play this game to win. I decided they could continue to wallow in their own self-pity. They obviously did not need any kind of support from me to find their own twisted brand of happiness. As a Roman Catholic, I grew up learning about saints and martyrs. I was taught that self-sacrifice is a good thing. But what makes a martyr saintly is the fact that they never flaunted their suffering. They did not purposefully put their sacrifice on display so that people could admire them. They became admired and venerated AFTER the fact.

One positive has come out of my experiences with the "my life sucks" game. Now I try to go out of my way to focus on the positive. If I find myself complaining (even just privately to myself) about something or someone, then I force myself to think of something positive about the person or thing. Failing that, I try to look for something else positive to focus on. Therefore, as much as I find it exceedingly annoying when a person goes on a complaining rant, I am grateful because it gives me an opportunity (a challenge, even) to find the bright side of things. Sometimes that might mean trying to help that person out of their complaint funk. Sometimes it means I take a break from them so that I can recharge my positive energy. I have enough stress in my life without forcibly perpetuating a worse situation with a negative attitude. Sometimes I post to one of my blogs or Twitter in the hope of turning a complaint into a teaching moment. That was part of the inspiration for this blog and, in a sideways manner, my Psych Vocab blog.

So, when life throws me lemons, I try to thank it for the snack.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


As a child of the 1980s, I grew up with a Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). For all you whipper-snappers, this was the great-great grandfather of the Nintendo WII. It predates the 3DS by quite a bit, as well. It came out during a time when the only "portable" games were the kind you could draw on paper or the ones made of plastic pieces and/or magnets. Okay, enough attempts at sounding old (I'm really still in young adulthood, if you want to get technical, but technology always seems to age people more quickly).

My older brother dominated the NES. He beat everyone at just about every game we played on it, except for one. The only game in which I seemed to be able to match my brother and/or excel was Tetris. There have been numerous clones and several legitimate versions of the original "Russian" puzzle game. There were even two versions released around the same time when I was a kid. One version's two-player mode had the players taking turns, the other version had the players competing head-to-head on the same screen. My parents marveled at our ability to meet the game's challenges. After about level 14 you stopped noticing the changes in speed or soundtrack tempo; you just fell into a zone of block placement, keeping everything as tightly packed as possible and eliminating as much space as you could. I found out later that this relatively simple puzzle game had long-lasting benefits, beyond the ability to rack up a higher score.

Thanks to hours of Tetris playing, I have an uncanny ability to pack items into luggage, bags, totes, closets, trunks, corners, etc. that amazes some people. When I occasionally remember to bring my reusable shopping bags to the grocery store, I keep myself on budget by filling the bags as I shop (e.g. limiting myself to only 2 bags this trip so I reduce impulse buying). The cashier and bagger are often amazed at how I get everything into the bags. Often they are unable to replicate my feat and I sometimes end up with an extra plastic bag as a result. Packing for vacation works the same way. I tend to repack my daughter's bag so that it is no longer overflowing. Sometimes I (or my husband, who is also a student of Tetris) repack the trunk and, lo and behold, we can fit an extra suitcase. The Tetris skills come in handy on any trip because we almost always end up bringing back more than we took with us. The skill also comes in handy for crafting and sewing, as well as cleaning and organizing.

If you've never played Tetris, give a try. The more you play it, the more you start to see the world as a series of objects that can fit almost anywhere with just the right tweaking.

Friday, September 7, 2012


I have become either spoiled or liberated, depending upon your point of view, when it comes to watching television. We have two Tivo machines, each a dual-tuner, in our house, which means we can record up to 4 shows at any given time. Our Tivos work with our cable service, and they worked with our satellite service when we were subscribed. My husband bought the machines, so they are ours no matter what service we use. He also upgraded them with much larger hard drives in order to hold more shows, especially HD programs. We have had a Tivo of some kind for at least 10 years now. I have a hard time recalling when I last watched anything live in real time. Because of the Tivo, I can watch my preferred shows when I am ready to watch them. We have a sporadic schedule, between the classes I teach, my office hours, and our daughter's extra curricular activities, so we are rarely home during "prime time" or at any time our shows air. Plus, many of our preferred programs air simultaneously, so we would always end up missing one to watch the other. This way we can record both at the same time and watch them when we have time, not when the networks dictate. It's also more enjoyable for me, with my "fits and starts" squirrelly nature, to sit and watch a marathon of 5-10 episodes of a program, rather than watch one episode and wait for the continuation the following week. I enjoy the season pass option very much. The Tivo will pick up any episode of the selected show on that channel, which helps when there are already two shows during a specific time slot and the network decides to air an encore of the show later in the day. Watching shows only on the Tivo also helps us keep an eye on what our daughter watches. We record pre-approved shows and she can watch a couple of episodes here and there, after homework and/or chores are completed. TV takes on a more rewarding function in this case, instead of a necessity or routine. If you follow me on Twitter (@eowyn35), then you know that I have a tendency to sit down for marathons of shows--usually History Channel, Law & Order: SVU, or Criminal Minds--after my daughter goes to bed while I work on my various crafting and sewing projects. The only downside of delayed watching is the missed opportunity for "water cooler" conversations about last night's show, but I am split between two different work sites, so I rarely get a chance for many workplace discussions. All-in-all, it's hard for me to imagine watching anything live at my home any more. I am very grateful for the Tivo and the freedom it gives me in selecting my entertainment when I want it.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Unmasking the Phantom of the Opera

In all fairness to Gaston Leroux, I will admit that I have been quite distracted in other parts of life while trying to make my way through this novel. That may explain some of my disappointment with the story, but certainly not all of it. Once again, I will try to keep this review relatively spoiler-free. Watching the Broadway production or the recent film production will not spoil too much of the book, as they deviated quite a bit from the source material. In fact, they told a much better, more cohesive story.

I understand that the author was trying to put together a "police report" case book, which is a clever idea on the surface of things. Sadly, it falls flat. Even though Leroux attempts to switch voices from one "witness" to another, there is very little distinction between the speakers. I very quickly lost track of who was telling their side of the story. I think it would have been better to drop the premise and give the reader a single, consistent, all-knowing storyteller.

My biggest problem with the story, however, was the same issue I had with The Invisible Man. That is, the characters were not very sympathetic. Towards the end, you get the feeling that you are meant to feel some sympathy for the Opera Ghost (he is only called a phantom once) because of his pathetic past. But then he opens his mouth or does something malicious, and he becomes a sociopath. At least we learn a little about how he came to be so wretched, unlike Griffin, but the quick-change duality makes it hard to want to understand his plight. Christine Daae and Raoul de Chagney are just as bad, as characters go. In one breath either of them is declaring their love or admiration for someone and in the next moment they are expressing fear or hatred for that same person. They are extremely childish in their actions and dialogue. In fact, I had a hard time finding any characters that consistently behaved like mature, rational adults. The story seemed populated by a bunch of children pretending to be adults. Only auxiliary characters seemed to be past adolescent immaturity, yet they did not do much to control the childish characters.

Aside from two deaths, there did not seem to be much to really terrorize the characters. I, myself, never really felt a sense of dread for anyone's safety. Perhaps it was due to the use of too much meandering detail, especially in the "torture chamber" chapters. Yes, two characters were trapped in a chamber for 2.5 chapters, which dragged on with so much wandering exposition that I must admit my own mind had a hard time focusing on their plight. There were many hints laid down about the mischief and evil deeds of which the "opera ghost" was capable, yet not much was actually committed by this phantom. If he terrorized the other characters, then I had a hard time feeling it as I read the book.

The idea of the story is a good one. It has been adapted well, especially in the Broadway production, so I will give Gaston Leroux credit for laying a decent foundation for others to build upon. Overall, that's how I see The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux. Perhaps if I gave it another read when I am less distracted I can appreciate it more. For now, I will give it 2.5 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Brevard Community College

I am incredibly grateful to the Liberal Arts Department at Brevard Community College. They were willing to take a chance on my as an adjunct instructor a little over eight years ago. I interviewed for an adjunct position in psychology a year after receiving my M.S. in I/O psychology. The department head must have seen something in me, or was desperate for instructors. Rather than hire me immediately, she gave me a sample syllabus and asked me to come up with my own for a standard General Psychology course. She called me back and offered me two classes the following spring--January 2004. The first class I ever taught was Human Development, at 8 a.m. on a Monday morning. I had a Human Adjustment course that same semester. These were both on the Melbourne campus. I had no idea what I was really doing, but I managed to wing it through my first semester. My daughter was turning 2, my husband was finishing up his M.S. in ocean engineering, and I was working on my M.B.A. Thinking back on it, I am amazed that I made it through that first semester. The following fall I got a call to teach at my alma mater, Florida Tech, in the School of Business (just after completing my M.B.A.). I also got called by the BCC Cocoa campus to teach a General Psychology course. I was teaching 4 classes, at 3 different campuses. I have managed to teach at least 1 class each year since that first semester. I don't know if I would be as confident to teach any psychology course thrown my way if BCC had not continued to offer me the opportunity to teach new subjects. I have taught general psychology I & II, human relations, human adjustment, and human development. These are all introductory courses, but not all adjuncts teach them. Most adjuncts teach one specific course (primarily general psychology) and are rarely asked to branch out beyond that. I'm a utility player, with apparently wide experience. I never thought I could be so adaptable, but Brevard Community College Liberal Arts Department gave me the opportunity that sent me on my current path.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Wax Paper

Yes, this is another odd post. If you've read many of my other posts, besides those dedicated to actual people, then you know that I am quite odd. I claim my pride in that. It is my right as a mental nomad. But I digress.

Wax paper is very versatile. As a baker (amateur/hobbyist, not professional), I like it for freezing. Placing wax paper between layers of pancakes or waffles before placing them in a freezer bag keeps the food from sticking together when you freeze them. This allows you to remove them more easily to reheat. Wax paper around cookie dough makes it easier to remove from its protective plastic covering as well. I have also found that meat, especially pre-made hamburgers, does a little better when wrapped in wax paper and then plastic prior to freezing, though butcher paper or freezer paper (yes, it exists) is admittedly better for this purpose.

What I really like best about wax paper, though, is its use for sewing. Yes, I use wax paper for my sewing. I draft my commercial patterns onto wax paper before I do any cutting. Because the paper is translucent (semi see-through), it is easy to trace the correct size for the pattern piece on to the wax paper. This preserves my commercial pattern paper, which is pretty fragile. It also allows me to use the same pattern for multiple sizes without having to cut up the pattern paper or buy a new pattern for each size needed. As I have a tendency to modify patterns to fit sizes that are not available on some commercial patterns (some great costume patterns only go up to a size 20 or a size 12, but they could look good on a larger size), I can use the base pattern and some mathematical gymnastics to draft a larger size that will still have the desired look of the original. I'm actually doing this now for both myself and my daughter for our costumes for Dragon*Con 2012.

I can "Frankenstein" pattern pieces with the wax paper, too. I had to do that for my husband's Star Wars uniform. The idea for the uniform existed, but the pattern itself did not. I had to modify (i.e. draw out) both the coat and the pants from a pre-existing commercial pattern in order to create the desired effect. I even created a couple new pieces to fit onto the costume with my wax paper.  Lo and behold, my wax paper helped me draft, adjust, and even pre-size everything before I even made the first fabric cut. Besides the drafting qualities (use a permanent marker, such as a Sharpie, for best results) of the translucent material, wax paper is tougher than the cheaper tissue paper of most commercial patterns. I can reuse my wax paper patterns, all marked up with notations and sizing information, at least twice as many times as my commercial tissue paper patterns before I get irreparable tears. Folding the wax paper is easier, too, and it does well when rolled up for storage. If the garment pieces are wider than the wax paper, then I simply tape another piece next to it. Standard Scotch tape will hold the wax paper pieces together. The tape can also be repositioned on the wax paper without damaging it.

One of the best things about wax paper: it's price. If I want to make a garment or costume from a pattern more than once, I would usually have to shell out the cash for another copy of the pattern (averaging at least $10 per pattern, sometimes much more, unless I find a sale) because the tissue paper does not last through the folding and handling necessary when I have to move a project or put it aside to clear space or work on something else. On the other hand, I can draft a number of garment patterns onto a single roll of wax paper for under $3 and the paper usually survives my rougher handling, so I sometimes don't have to re-draft anything any way; I can reuse my first drafts.

Wax paper. It's definitely worth my investment. I probably would not sew nearly as much as I do if I did not figure out how to adapt it to my purposes.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Safety Pins

Oh, those tiny metal objects that are so much under-appreciated! Yes, I am writing a blog post about the common safety pin. Aside from paperclips, I find it hard to think of a small object that is so versatile and yet so glossed over by many.

As a sewing hobbyist (I don't make money from it, so I'm reluctant to call myself a "seamstress"), I use my safety pins to pre-sew items. This helps me figure out complex instructions without wasting thread or damaging the fabric too much and helps in making sure the clothes fit the wearer correctly before I get too far with stitching. I also use the safety pin as a stitch remover in a pinch. The pointed tip is often sharper than my usual stitch remover, so it's easier to fit it under tighter stitches. I have used safety pins as emergency buttons (I bet you know many a mom or costumer who has done the same!) and as an emergency seam until I could get to a needle & thread. Last year my daughter used many safety pins to make wearable pins as part of Michael's Passport to Fun summer program. Do you remember making a pin "brooch" in school, perhaps for St. Patrick's Day or Mother's Day? I tend to use a safety pin or two to hold patches in place before I can sew them down. I also use safety pins to hold down the  parts of clothes where a closure--button, hook & eye, zipper, etc.--will go in order to line everything up before I secure all the pieces. I even recently used a safety pin to fix my umbrella. One of the grommets that formed a joint fell out, so I slipped a safety pin into the holes and voila! a fully functioning umbrella once more. The main advantage of a safety pin over a straight pin, and thus the word "safety" in the name, is the fact that the sharp end is covered in the enclosure. I don't worry as much about folding up an in-progress sewing project with safety pins because no one will get pricked while moving it. And, unless I forget to close them, I'm not as worried about the damage that might be caused by a safety pin lying around.

I'm sure many people have used safety pins for many other things. These are just the few I remembered from more recent experiences. I would love to hear what others have done!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

July 28, 2012 Squirrel of the Month

Again by request from my daughter, the July 28, 2012 Squirrel of the Month is Scrat from the Ice Age movies.
My daughter's drawing of Scrat, based on the McDonald's happy meal toys for Ice Age 4
What in the world could Scrat possibly teach us? Well, can you think of any character with such stubborn perseverance? He's been chasing his beloved acorn for 4 movies (and a few shorts)! He's given up love for the nut. Normally meek, Scrat turns on the major fighting moves any time his acorn is threatened. He is single-minded in his purpose to pursue his acorn and keep it safe from others. Of course, sometimes his obsession causes problems for the other characters in the Ice Age world, but that's a small price to pay, I'm sure.

So, thank you, Scrat, for teaching us that it is vital to fight for your goals and keep pushing beyond reality in the pursuit of happiness (or a good nut).

Friday, July 27, 2012

My [Seemingly Under-Appreciated] Husband

NOTE: This post may seem a bit rambling, as my mind is wandering a bit. It does not mean that my feelings on the subject are any less diminished.
I have known my husband longer than my daughter. (I'm pretty sure that in 99% of cases one tends to know the father of one's child longer than one knows the child.) Yet, I rarely mention him in this blog. I am not ungrateful to him. I don't set him out of my mind. I know it may seem that way, especially to people to know me, but part of that is just my typically solitary nature. Nonetheless, it's past time for me to include him amongst my list of gratitude-inducing phenomena.

I met him within my first month at Florida Tech, at a FITSSFF (FIT Society of Science Fiction and Fantasy) open game day. Honestly, I don't think he even took notice of me until our second semester there. We started to interact a little more, especially when I moved into the same dorm because a single room became available. I prefer my own room to sharing with a roommate, especially as I really never meshed well with roommates. He was pretty sweet, even though we were more casual acquaintances at the time. How many people would drive a girl they barely knew and her friend out to a job interview, about 1.5 hours each way? He did. And if he hadn't, then I would never have been able to work at Universal Studios the summer between my junior and senior years. I probably might not have ended up on the school paper, either. He told us all about working on the paper on our way back to campus. Initially I was sold on the idea of getting to move back into the dorms a week before everyone else so that I could avoid the chaos that is freshman orientation (for reference, this is in 1999, right after ending my junior year at FIT and before coming back for my senior year). No, before you start judging me, I did not befriend my future husband just because he had a car. True, I was without my own vehicle, but I did not see him as a resource to be used. He has always been a person to me. I saw him as a friendly acquaintance, then as a friend the more I got to know him. He introduced me to a few people who became friends as well, most of them through either FITSSFF or from The Crimson (FIT school paper) staff.

Throughout college I was always ahead of my [future] husband. I transferred in with two years of credits at the time that he was starting out as a freshman. We were both the same age, though, so I felt more advanced. I liked that thought. I even managed to stay ahead of him until we made our move to our current home. I graduated with my first master's degree when he got his bachelor's degree. And I finished my second master's degree a year before he finished his master's degree. I even got a semi-professional job, something that looked like the start of a potential career, while he was finishing up his degree. It felt great to be ahead of the game for a while. Things have turned around quite a bit, but that's to be expected with the natural progression of maturity. Before I get ahead of myself, I suppose the curious might be interested in how we moved from casual acquaintances to dating, etc. It's not a fantastic story filled with drama and redemption and moving moments, but it's mine to tell.

We started dating after a series of late-night Kubrick movie watching sessions. I would not necessarily recommend this method for attracting girls, by the way. I remember falling asleep during 2001: A Space Odyssey. I also remember missing the "plot" of most of the Kubrick movies because I couldn't keep my focus; it was usually after 1 a.m. when we watched them. I'll be honest, I can't even remember which movie we were watching when we shared our first kiss, but I do remember that it was afterwards we decided that our friendship was growing. Many of our friends at the paper wondered what took us so long to become a couple, as we spent so much time together. To be fair, a lot of that time was spent working on the paper itself. I guess I just didn't realize how much time we hung out beyond that, especially since we never had any classes together. I was studying psychology and he was working on ocean engineering.

Time moved forward. Details will not be filled in here. We became engaged in his junior year, my first year of grad school. A little over a year later we were married and our daughter was born. My parents loved him from the get-go. My dad said "I was wondering when you two would get together" after I told my parents about our dating. My in-laws took quite a few years to get used to me. I think they have since warmed up to me. For the record, I never saw my in-laws as the stereotypical evil people who hate anyone who steals their children away. They are people. They may think and do some things differently from what I was used to, but this provides me many opportunities to expand my horizons.

My husband's career has moved forward, while mine managed to stall [see "I Am Adjunct" post]. He has expanded my horizons. He took me on my first cruise, introduced me to Dragon*Con, helped me find and accept my inner geek. I know I can be annoying and frustrating to him. I know I test his patience with my lack of home-making skills. I know I seem to pour too much focus elsewhere. I know I don't always show my husband of 10 years all the love and attention he may need. Not showing the feelings does not preclude them from existing. He is a good father and a wonderful provider. There are times when our daughter feels like she doesn't get enough time with her daddy and times when I feel overwhelmed by my expected contributions to our family. Yet, he is always there to take some of the stress off my shoulders when I absolutely need it (like at the end of a semester when I go into hyper-grading mode and just need to be left alone to work). He is valued at work and even more valued at home. I thank God that he sent me a man who is sweet and understanding and still has the ability to bring me back down into the depths of reality when I need it. I love my husband. I can see myself with no one else. I may appreciate other men's attractive facades, but I will always come back to my husband. I'm pretty sure he loves me too, or he's at least comfortable enough with me to keep us together as a family.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Webster, Why Did We Ever Forget You?

I am sure that almost every American, and many other people around the world, have heard the name "Webster" at some point in their life. Webster's has even become synonymous with "dictionary" for many people. I am also sure that fewer people realize that Webster--Noah Webster, to be precise--was a real person living during the infancy of our nation. He made it his life's work to travel throughout the budding United States in order to gather information on all of the local languages spoken throughout the new nation. He noticed that, while the majority of residents spoke English, the versions of English spoken tended to have enough variations that is was sometimes difficult for people from one state to converse clearly with people from another state. Throughout his research he realized that our new country needed a unified language if we were to become stronger and work together to grow. So, he set out to create the first English dictionary based on "American" English. From his dictionary he created his speller.

Webster's Speller is a book, written by Noah Webster in the 1780s, with the last revision in 1824, that was used in schools around the country to teach children (and some adults) everything about the English language. The book was so exact, so complete, that it was used in all classrooms from first grade through high school. It is written in progressive lessons, beginning with the alphabet and each letter's sounds and ending in reading exercises for high school-level readers that include moral and citizenship lessons. Like most people who have ever opened a textbook, I thumbed through the book to find simple lessons to teach my daughter so that she could be brought up to speed. See, she was never properly taught phonics and, as she apparently has a minor speech issue, this has been holding her back significantly in her reading and writing and spelling. She does wonderfully in all her other subjects, but her spelling and reading scores were not up to par for her real level. Her comprehension is great, she just stumbles over words sometimes, often making some up as she goes because she doesn't recognize them. She never learned the tools for basic reading or the rules for combining sounds into real words. That's why I bought the Speller.

I decided that I would take my daughter through Webster's Speller from the very first lesson, even though she already learned the alphabet a few years ago, and go forward one lesson at a time until school started. I don't intend to stop until we start school. Even if we do not make it to her current grade level (she'll be starting 5th grade in August), I want to fill in as many gaps as I can. We began to make progress. I started with the first lessons/tables, which were handwriting lessons in cursive and print for each of the letters. We moved on to the tables of basic syllable sounds. I pronounced them, she repeated. Then we began single syllable words. I read them, she wrote them and spelled them out loud. Before we moved on to the next lesson--disyllabic words--I noticed that I made the same mistake most textbook readers make. I skipped over the "fluff" to what I thought was the "meat" of the book, in this case I was only concerned with the lessons. Yesterday I decided to actually read the "fluff" and I am extremely glad that I did.

Noah Webster wrote his book like a true lecture. It reads like a teacher attempting to educate his class in all of the preliminary nuances and rules of the language before you get into the lessons themselves. If you had a really good math teacher, then you learned the vocabulary of math (quotient, dividend, etc.) before you practiced that skill. It seems boring, but it is actually incredibly helpful in not only knowing HOW to do something, but also understanding WHY you do something. Understanding the WHY gives you the capacity to comprehend what exists and to build new things from these springboards. Yeah, it's fun to build a Lego set following the instructions and you feel proud of yourself because you could recreate the set as it was designed on the box. Yet, if you know why certain pieces work together then you can create new designs that are stable and artistic from the same set of bricks. The same thing goes for math and language. I am just saddened that it took me so long to figure this out.

My whole understanding of English, a language that I tend to struggle with even though it is my primary and almost exclusive language (except for a few words and phrases in other languages that I know), has suddenly grown exponentially. It was all because I decided to go back and read out the paragraphs preceding the lessons. I read the explanations of the sounds of each letter of the alphabet and the distinctions of the types of letters [bet you didn't know there were 3 types of letters, not just 2!] and why each letter fell into its respective category. For those of you who debated this, Y is always considered a vowel, but it can act like a consonant or diphthong. And I found out that the letters are not classified arbitrarily but, rather, based on the mouth movements and opening/closing of the vocal chords required to say their name. When I read this out to my daughter I could see the same light bulb go off in her brain as I felt in mine. For a very intelligent kid in speech therapy, this is a vitally important lesson if you ever expect progress to be made.

We now know why letters are pronounced certain ways in words based on their relative position to other types of letters. In fact, the only letter that Webster states you have to "just be sure to memorize" [quote is a paraphrase of actual wording, but they are used for emphasis] is the letter g because sometimes it doesn't play by its own rules. Every other letter has exact rules that are followed in American English words. Yes, the rules more complicated than Russian, for example, but that's because English uses fewer characters to convey more sounds. In the attempt to simplify the written part of language, English actually made it more complicated to decode. However, it CAN be decoded. The problem is that we stopped teaching people the basic decoding rules.

It's no wonder high school graduates have difficulty reading and spelling! They were never taught the fundamentals. Even phonics, which I have come to understand as a watered down memorization version of comprehensive language education, is no longer being taught in schools. Many education programs have moved on to "whole language," but this only teaches rote memorization of words. The human capacity for straight rote memorization is significantly limited. True understanding comes from comprehension of the rules and tools used to build more complex information. Rote memorization dumps the information into our semantic long-term memory. Skills, including rules for math and language formation, are stored in our implicit memory. We know that implicit memory almost never fades, yet semantic memory is subject to numerous recall failures. So why did we stop building implicit memory? Perhaps it was because it was seen as boring; people don't want to waste time learning when they can be spoon-fed answers. Comprehension is not regurgitation. It is adaptation. The human mind was designed for adaptation, not simply regurgitation.

Think of it another way. Some people can "cook" because they follow the recipe. Occasionally they may experiment and add some new spice because they are curious, but they don't understand why the new spice changes things. A true culinary genius, however, has learned the chemical reactions of different substances, understands how certain ingredients like yeast or baking soda function, so they are able to create novel dishes that not only taste well but that also don't explode or kill you. The same can be said of language. Okay, you can be literate. You can remember the sequences you were taught. You can read the words on the page because you remember the familiar symbols from your earlier education. But if you understand how and why the pieces go together the way they do, then you can recombine them in a new logical sequence and create something new that still works in the preexisting realm of the language.

Language and communication are so very important for our very existence. Don't believe me? Think of any major invention, philosophy, profession, art, etc. and communication was involved. Also imagine your world if you could not communicate at all, if you were 100% reliant upon yourself for absolutely everything and had to "reinvent the wheel" each and every day. I am baffled that we have become so lazy that we don't bother to really understand the fundamental rules of our language so that it will work more efficiently. I don't know why we removed Webster's Speller from schools. Maybe somebody's knickers got all tied into knots when they read the "moral" lessons at the end of the book and didn't want their little Johnny to think like that. For whatever reason, we need to bring it back. We need to have a new generation of thoroughly educated individuals, not just bubble fillers and "good testers" going through the motions. I am so glad I discovered this centuries old textbook. I just really wish others could share in its wisdom as well. I suppose I could find solace that, in a world of 7+ billion people, most of whom now speak English, there will now be a couple who actually understand English.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Invisible Man Has a Few Loose Ends

Note: I try to be spoiler-lite in my book reviews. It's hard to talk about a story without letting some details slip, but I also don't want to reveal too much so that you can read the book for yourself and make your own judgements.

In my continuing quest to read the source material for Universal Studios' "classic" horror/suspense films of the 1930s-1940s, I picked up H.G. Wells' The Invisible Man. I was a little reluctant at first because I found it very difficult to keep my focus through War of the Worlds. I anticipated a similar difficulty with The Invisible Man, but I was pleasantly surprised. It helps that each chapter is relatively short and the writing is in "cleaner" language, without too much overt description. My surprise ended, however, as I progressed through the story because it left me feeling like I had just watched an air-headed sitcom rather than a moving drama.

Like Dracula, I came into this book with some knowledge of the story, as I vaguely remember bits from the movie and other versions of the story. Interestingly, this original version seemed much simpler than the cinematic translations. Although it takes place over a four-month time span (I'm not counting the exposition of Griffin's back story, which is covered in a chapter or two), it feels as if it covers only a few days. Most of the action also occurs in two different villages, yet it reads like it all happens in the same place.

Though he is the subject of the story, Griffin (the Invisible Man) is not really the main character per se. That distinction does not really seem to fall to any particular character. True, we end up learning the most about Griffin. Yet, even his character is not completely fleshed out. Perhaps it is do to his manic nature--I use this expression in the strict psychological sense, as he does exhibit many behaviors of someone suffering from the mood disorder Mania--that it is hard to grasp his motivations for his behaviors. Just when I felt I understood what he was trying to accomplish through his invisibility, Wells throws in a curve ball and Griffin changes his purposes. This is probably where the movies diverge the most. They tend to portray him as a "mad scientist" bent on discovering something for the sake of pure science and stumbling upon consequences he didn't think about. The literary Griffin doesn't seem to have a real straightforward purpose for his actions. Yes, he wants to make a name for himself. Yes, he wants "revenge" against an "unfair" world. But he comes across as a child playing with a chemistry set (Ooh! What do these chemicals do?) instead of a true researcher.

None of the other characters are described beyond some basic physical and minute personality characteristics. When things go wrong and people are hurt or abused or robbed, etc., I really didn't feel anything beyond the basic "that's not right" sensation. There was no one in the book to sympathize with. There were no real heroes. Even Griffin was not much of a villain. Honestly, what he needed was a good psychiatrist. True, he became homicidal towards the end, but I'm sure with some therapy he could have controlled most of his outbursts. Money seemed to be part of his problem, but at first you believe he's well-to-do, and it isn't until the second half of the book that you find out that he never had any money to begin with. Could this be why he went on a rampage? Not really. This plot point was left hanging wide open.

Other plot points were left as loose ends as well. We do find out what happened to Griffin's elusive notebooks, leaving the story open for a potential sequel. But, it was left open, meaning that  we can only guess whether or not their present owner ever deciphers them. We never find out enough of Kemp's back story to see his complete connection to Griffin. If they were just at university for two years together (Kemp was older) and they weren't roommates or in the same classes, then why would Griffin think he could confide in the brushing acquaintance? There is also the question of who is telling the story. It's written almost as if a reporter were putting together an expose for a magazine. Yet, if that were the case then there ought to have been some mention of said reporter somewhere in the text. Also, if it were a report or article, then you would not get the kind of details we did in the book. The voice of the narrative just didn't fit with any method I've experienced before. The biggest plot hole, to me, was the cause of the Invisible Man's manic behavior. Movie versions state that the transformation into invisibility, mainly the chemical reaction with his brain, is what drives him mad. Yet, Wells never really implies this. There are hints of mania before Griffin's transformation in his back story. Maybe he becomes crazier after becoming invisible. Maybe it doesn't really change him that much. There's really no way to tell the way it was written. Perhaps Wells wants the reader to believe the pursuit of invisibility itself is madness.

As far as monsters go, Griffin is definitely scary because of his unpredictability. He is a pure monster in that there is really nothing about him that makes him sympathetic to the reader. His mania makes him a frightening foe. He is one of the most selfish characters I've ever read and he doesn't even seem to care as much about his survival so long as he gets what he wants. He throws juvenile temper tantrums that would be funny if they weren't so damaging to others. Sometimes I just wanted to grab him by the scruff and slap some sense into him. At least the other characters' reactions to his terrorizing are human, even if they themselves are cardboard versions of people. The panic and fear of the villagers does successfully come across in Wells' writing. But since there's no one to really care for, I ended up with the "at least I'm not as bad off as those poor schmucks" feeling.

This is one time that I would recommend the movie over the book if you're looking for character depth. If you're looking for a series of chaotic fights and unsubstantiated anger galore, then read the book.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Turn Signals: Because Average Humans are NOT Telepathic

Living in Florida for the last 14 years, I have come to appreciate the invention of the turn signal more and more each day I get behind the wheel. For some reason, many drivers seem to believe that I and other drivers can read their minds. We somehow have this magic ability to predict when someone wants to come into our lane or turn onto another road. We do not. At least, I do not. I rely heavily on other drivers to use their turn signals to communicate their intentions. If I don't see a turn signal on a car ahead or behind me, then I assume the driver intends to keep driving straight in their current lane. I use my turn signals to indicate my desire to change lanes or travel in a direction other than straight ahead. I have found that my turn signal, when used properly, gives other drivers time to make room for me in the lane or to slow down behind me as I turn, thus avoiding accidents.

Drivers, please continue to use that handy little blinking light. It really helps keep accidents down. And using your turn signal for an extended period only makes a trusting soul like myself ever so nervous, as I keep expecting you to make your turn or lane shift, so I drive slower behind you in the hopes of giving you room. There's a nifty feature in almost every modern car. Not only can you see a little arrow light up on your dash board when you activate your turn signal, but you can also hear a rhythmic click or beep or thump or sound of some sort that lets you know your signal is still active. I very much appreciate drivers who deactivate their signals once their turn or lane change is completed. I very much appreciate this sound feature myself, as sometimes I forget my signal is still on or the turn is not complete enough to automatically deactivate the blinker. The sound lets me know that I need to communicate with my fellow drivers that I have completed my maneuver and I will not need to enter their space at that moment.

Yay for turn signals and thank you ever so much for those of you who use them. If you are unfamiliar with the operation of this nifty invention, then I suggest you peruse your car's owner's manual so you too can enjoy the benefits of driving communication.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Original Sources Are Sometimes Better Than Modern Interpretations

I don't like vampire stories, as a rule. I tend to shy away from them whenever possible. I will admit to a brief liking of the movie "Interview with a Vampire"--I was a teen and had a short-lived fascination with Brad Pitt after seeing "Legends of the Fall," so I can be forgiven. But I haven't really been able to get into the whole vampire craze. You will most likely never catch me reading a Twilight book. I'm not judging those who do. I do know that the premise does not appeal to me. So, I was a little reluctant to read Dracula by Brahm Stoker. I'm really glad I did, though.

Why did I pick it up in the first place if I don't like vampires? I got this crazy idea to read as many of the source materials/novels that formed the basis for the old classic movie monsters from Universal Studios. I happened to have a copy of Dracula that I picked up during one of my book-buying binges many years ago. I thought I should at least give it a shot since it started this whole vampire movement. I don't remember if I actually ever saw the 1930s Dracula with Bela Lugosi in its entirety, though it's been referenced in so many movies, shows, books, etc. that I feel almost as if I have. I do vaguely remember bits and pieces of "Brahm Stoker's Dracula" with Keanu Reeves, mostly because this version was spoofed in a Simpsons Halloween special. Therefore, I did not go into this reading with a clean slate, but a mostly ignorant one at least.

It did take me a while to get into story, as the language is a bit different from what I'm used to reading or hearing or speaking. Then again, as I tend to be quite verbose myself, I could begin to relate after a while. I do love the novel approach of writing the story as a collection of journal and diary entries. At first I thought the entire book would be from Jonathan Harker's journal, but I was pleased when it switched perspectives. Stoker did an excellent job of infusing each journal with the character's personality while still maintaining the flow of the story. You don't worry about missing any story while one character is narrating and you don't have to deal with overlap as journaling characters interact. I would have very much liked to learn a little more background on Dr. Van Helsing and Renfield, however. These two main characters were left shrouded in mystery still. There is a website, Dracula Bites, that attempts to fill in some holes or imagine more background information for the story.

I'm sure some people will complain about the perceived sexist issues in the story. However, you must remember the time in which the book was actually written. This is Victorian England and society, especially middle-class and high society, was quite different from our modern post-sexual revolution American ideas. Even so, Mina Harker is a surprisingly strong individual who embodies both the feminine ideals of caring and tenderness and the more masculine trait of a quick analytical mind. I also like the touch of strong faith she has, even though no character ever seems to go to a church service of any kind. Still, there is more to religion than ritual meetings. It's nice to see the protective stance that the men take toward Mina, while she does her best to make a contribution to their efforts to take down Count Dracula. She does not want to be a pretty bauble under glass. She wants to be a part of the team. And she proves to be a valuable team member indeed.

As a psychologist, I was originally interested in the take on Dr. John Seward and his representation of psychiatry. I was not surprised to find him representative of the stereotype of psychiatrists during this time period--extremely analytical, curious and dying to conduct experiments, sometimes coldly thinking more about the disease than the patient. At least he wasn't a homicidal psychopath like Hannibal Lector or Dr. Johnathan Crane or a wreck when it comes to personal relationships like many modern therapists in the media (e.g. Frasier Crane, Jennifer Melfi, Ben Sobel, Dr. Leo Marvin, etc.). The fact that he has a life outside his asylum, and yet spends so much time thinking of his patients, gives the impression that he has come close to finding a balance between work and home life. This is rare with many portrayals of professionals of any kind; audiences usually see mostly one side of their lives and only a tiny glimpse of the rest.

I also found the quick friendships and the hunters' general dynamic to be quite intriguing. It's amazing how quickly near-complete strangers became so close so quickly. It's endearing how much they actually cared for one another even as they agreed to face potential death in their endeavors. It is also interesting that expertise and ability, rather than status, lead to a change in leadership as the situation warranted. One could argue that Van Helsing was really in charge, yet everyone, even Mina, had a moment in which they directed the others on one point or another during their work.

One thing that really surprised me was the complexity of the superstition about vampires that is contained in this one book. I always thought that only a few powers were granted to Dracula in the original story (turning into a bat, hypnotizing his victims) and any other powers were inventions of later authors. I also assumed that there were only a few weapons that a vampire hunter could use against the Un-Dead. Nope. Van Helsing details a whole slew of other abilities--and weaknesses--of the vampire all in this one story. I guess what happened in subsequent vampire stories was a trimming down of the superstitions around them.Too bad. In Brahm Stoker's version the vampire is a truly formidable foe. There are many good reasons for the characters to fear him.

Overall, this was not nearly as bloody a story (in body count, anyhow) as one would expect from one of the premier horror monster stories. It's a mental thriller and a subtle mystery. Even if you know the story, as I did, from watching many of the other re-tellings over the years, it is refreshing to go back to the source. I found many plot points left out of the reincarnations that made the story that much more enjoyable. If anything, I can appreciate Brahm Stoker's work much more for its purity after having experienced some of the stories that he inspired in later generations. I can say the same thing for Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, as well. Although, Frankenstein did not have as abrupt an ending as Dracula did. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why so many people have built upon the mythology that Brahm Stoker began (in media, anyway) with his novel.


Before anyone rails against this post and points out any holes in my sentiment I will come forward and make some of your arguments for you. 1) I only have one child, so I "wouldn't know what it's like to keep getting pregnant", etc., or what it was like to deal with a toddler while carrying a baby on my hip. 2) My pregnancy was not riddled with illness or pain. I had morning sickness for maybe two days. I got heart-burn in my 7th or 8th month, but that was about it. I wasn't even fully aware that the sensations I was feeling around my due date were contractions at the time because they felt like mild cramps. So, no, I can't speak for hard pregnancies or hard labor. 3) My daughter was born when I was 22 years old, so I don't have direct experience with either a teen pregnancy or a late-life pregnancy. 4) I never showed. Almost no one knew or could tell I was pregnant unless I told them; I only told a few people who I felt needed to know, like my teachers as my due date came near and my parents. Therefore, I never had to deal with embarrassing questions or looks. 5) Because of complications my daughter was born via cesarean, so I never got to experience "natural" childbirth with all of the pain and craziness most people think about.

Okay, so in the "my life sucks" game, I don't get very many points for my pregnancy or child-birth experiences. I could pull out other cards to gain some life-suck points. a) I was (and always have been) obese during the pregnancy so my doctors did judge me and expect me to come down with all kinds of illnesses like diabetes and heart disease. b) I did not have insurance to cover me as I was not married, though engaged, at the time I became pregnant [we were married before our daughter was born]. c) I was finishing my first master's degree and working on my second master's degree during my pregnancy, while working on my internship. d) My husband was also working on his bachelor's degree at the same time, so money was not readily available, though we did manage. No, I don't get too many life-suck points. I don't really want them, either. I stopped playing that game a long time ago when I met people who insisted on playing to win and I realized that the "prize" was not something I wanted.

What I want to say with this post is, even though I did not have too many problems during my pregnancy, I would still do it all over again. I have heard many people--men and women, but mostly women--say that if women only knew all the "stuff" (often a stronger word is used) that they had to go through during pregnancy, then they would never have sex. Sorry, this is grade-A bull flop. Millions of women, fully aware of the consequences of coitus, still engage in sexual behavior every day. Some don't think too consciously about the consequences, some just don't care. Sex, especially in a loving relationship, has too great an emotional and physical draw to abandon all together. For me, I knew full well of possibilities and consequences. That didn't stop me and I have no regrets. Physical sensations were not even the greatest reward for me. My daughter is. I would go through Hell and back, suffer anything possible, even bad sex, in order to bring her into this world alive and well. I gave up caffeine for her, which was the hardest thing for a grad-student with a full load and a job to do. I don't smoke or drink or do drugs, so there was no worry there. I had to be more careful with my diet, which is never easy for someone who has always been overweight. I did feel like a failure as a woman when they told me they had to perform a c-section, but I didn't care when I heard my beautiful little girl cry for the first time. As we weren't married yet, I knew that there might be repercussions, looks, judgements, etc. for me if I gave birth. I knew that there was a possibility that I might have become a single mother. I knew that there was a chance that I might have had to postpone my second masters degree. However, terminating the pregnancy or giving up my baby for adoption was NEVER!!! an option for me. I chose to deal with anything I had to in order to bring her into this world and care for her for the rest of my life.

I have never told my daughter about my pregnancy in any way to incite guilt for her existence. I would never tell her that my life would be easier or more glamorous or that I'd have more money if I didn't have her. I just can't bring myself to believe that. I find I have a hard time understanding a mother who tells her child "I brought you into this world and I can take you out of it!" when she gets angry at them. I also shake my head at the mother who uses the circumstances of her pregnancy and/or childbirth (e.g. "I was in labor for 36 hours and you can't even wash the dishes for me?!") to guilt their child into something. I don't get angry at my daughter. I get angry at the results of some of her behaviors. I get frustrated with things that she does or doesn't do. I become upset sometimes with things that are said or done. But I am never mad or disappointed with her. I love my daughter more than anything. I cannot imagine a world without her. When I give up my time or my money or anything else for her, I don't do it begrudgingly, but with my whole heart. I do spend most of my non-work time either with my daughter or doing things for her. I do spend just about every free, non-debt associated penny I have on her. However, it's not because I "have to" but, rather, because I genuinely want to. I want her as the center of my life. If that means that my life dreams have to wait until she is older and doesn't need me as much, then so be it. I don't see it as a phony martyr self-sacrifice. It's a choice that I willingly made with my full commitment behind it.

I have not forgotten my husband. Sometimes he does take a back seat to my daughter's needs and I do feel guilty for that. However, I still have her very first (his is the first-and-a-half position, not second, but not quite at first) in my heart. I know I don't always show her that. This is where I tend to fail as a mother. That doesn't change the fact, though. And yes, I believe I would feel the exact same way, and maybe even more so, if I had the most complicated and painful pregnancy every known to humanity. Motherhood for me is not a duty, an obligation, a chore, something I have to do or deal with. It is the most precious gift anyone can ever bestow upon me and I am exceedingly grateful that my daughter brought this gift to me.

Friday, July 6, 2012

I am Adjunct

I am an adjunct. That's a fancy word for part-time college teacher. I'm not a professor. Professor is actually a rank you can reach through certain qualifications at any college or university, not necessarily requiring a doctorate, but definitely requiring a master's degree. I don't hold a doctorate yet--I hope to some day, as it's one of only 2 items on my "bucket" list--so my students don't call me "Doctor" before my name. Most people don't think of "teacher" in the same line as college unless you're talking about training to become a primary or secondary teacher (that's elementary through high school). My status is one that defies traditional definition by most employment standards. I guess I am technically a contract employee, though my position is really too valuable to cut away. I probably valued myself into a corner, honestly, as I am the only adjunct actually employed by the college who is willing to go out to the high schools to teach my courses, instead of teaching them online or requiring the students to come to the college campus. Most other "adjuncts" who teach at the high schools are actually high school teachers, employed by the school district, who happen to teach a college level course at the high school along with the other high school level courses on their docket. These folks draw their pay from the district. I get mine from the college.

So, what's so special about being an adjunct? Don't I have any ambition? Am I satisfied being in no-man's land? Isn't adjuncting something for retirees and grad students? Yeah, this is part of what makes me a little harder to define. Although it might help if you read The Adventures of Unemployed Man and took a look at the character Master of Degrees. I could relate to him quite a bit in that I started out teaching at college because it seemed to be the only job that anyone was willing to give me that actually utilized my master's degrees (yes, I have two, an M.S. in Industrial-Organizational Psychology and an M.B.A.). The only other jobs I seemed to be able to get were temp positions, even though they were full-time. But, I believe God sends me where He needs me when I'm needed there. So, I continue to teach part-time and at the moment it is essentially my career. The only upward mobility available would be to obtain a full-time position. This was proven not possible at the moment, as I didn't even make the cut to the interviewing stage for the only open psychology position in my department--someone has to die or retire for a position to open. I tell myself it's mostly because I am the only one willing to trek out to the high school. What makes me believe this isn't a delusion? The high school has requested I return every fall/spring semester for the last 4 years. I'll be starting my 5th year at the same high school in August. My boss even assumes that I'll be there before asking me if I want to teach any other classes at the college campus. Plus, if I weren't a "valuable" adjunct, then I wouldn't have a maximum load each semester. The maximum number of classes the college is willing to pay an adjunct for is 4 each semester. I usually get 4 classes each fall and 4 each spring. One semester I had as many as 6 before we realized that they meant 4 total, not 4 simultaneously. See, I often get half-semester courses stacked back-to-back, also. To put this in perspective, full-time faculty have to turn in an "overload" contract if they teach more than 5 classes. Yeah, I'm always just 1 class away from full-time work, though I would still be paid at the part-time rate because of my classification.

Most of the other adjuncts in my department are 1) retirees who teach because they love it and it keeps them busy; 2) grad students working on their doctorate so they can move on to better things or higher pay; or 3) full-time employees at other places who pick up a class or two, usually at night, to keep their knowledge sharp and because they enjoy teaching. I'm one of the only ones who does this for my "living." If I were to get a full-time job or start my "real" career path anywhere else, then I would most likely have to give up teaching. I do have a daughter, after all. As far as ambition, I do have it. As I mentioned, I did try to get a full-time position. I have been job searching, though not actively hunting, for the last 3 years. I even tried to get my certification so that I could get a job at the high school full-time, but the district is just not hiring social studies or psychology teachers. Again, I valued myself into a corner. The school district does not have to pay me, the college does that. The district just pays a fractional fee for the college credit and provides the textbooks for their students. I'm comparatively cheap for them, so why would they want to invest in me full-time? But, I am content with my status at the moment. Want to know why? She's 10 years old and the center of my life.

That's right, my no-man's land status gives me the flexibility to be there for my daughter when she needs me. When I am not actively teaching my classes, I hang out in the adjunct office grading and prepping lectures until my daughter gets out of school, or camp, or whatever she's doing during "normal business hours." I try to get as much done in the office as I can so that I can have more time with her. Most adjuncts come to teach their class, step into the office to make copies or sit for their required half hour a week, and then go home. I sometimes spend as much time in the office during the week as my full-time counter parts. The only difference is that I have to drive to my class during the fall and spring when I go out to the high school. I usually go unnoticed, which is fine by me. Being part-time also means that I'm not expected to show up to department meetings (they're almost always during my high-school classes) or other after-hours functions. I don't belong to the "family" and yet I do. I'm sure I'd be welcomed if I ever did show up, but I choose to spend that time with my daughter. I may not have all the availability of a SAHM (stay at home mom)--I can't really get a substitute since my class is so specialized--but when I'm not teaching I can be there.

We'll see how long this status lasts. I do have some ambition. I do plan on earning that PhD in educational psychology (I'm thinking adult eduction as my focus) and I do plan on eventually working for the Walt Disney Corporation, eventually. God will send me somewhere else when I am needed more there than I am needed here. Right now my daughter needs me to be sane (so the work helps) and available after school, so my part-time no-man's land position as an adjunct fits the bill. It doesn't pay as much of the bills as I'd like, but that's also why I'm eternally grateful for my husband and his support (ALL the types of support you can think of) during this phase of my "career."

Friday, June 29, 2012

Squirrel of the Month--June 2012

I know it's a day late, but at least it's not a dollar short. At the request of my daughter, the Squirrel of the Month for June 2012 is S.I.M.P. from Phineas and Ferb.

S.I.M.P., or Squirrels in My Pants, is a song from the first season of Phineas and Ferb, which is one of my daughter's favorite shows. I wholeheartedly approve of the show. It's very age-appropriate for my daughter and has a good mix of fantastic fantasy (the implausible) and inspirational fantasy (encouraging creativity and curiosity).

The song itself is from the "Comet Kermillian" episode in which Candace attempts to spend time with Jeremy (her obsession/boyfriend), but is thwarted by his evilly cute little sister Suzy. Of course, Jeremy never really sees the evil side of his cavity-inducing sweet sister. She saves that for Candace (and Buford the bully, as alluded to in another episode). Suzy is very jealous of her time with her brother, so she does everything she can to push away Candace. In this case she slingshots an acorn into the rear of Candace's jeans and a pack of squirrels chases after it. Candace "dances" around with the squirrels, shrieking and cavorting in an attempt to get them out. I can only imagine what her legs would look like with all the scratches if this were a live-action scene. In her writhing, Candace enters an open space in the park where 2 Guyz N the Parque--a pair of street rappers--are performing in front of a small crowd. They use Candace's plight to ad-lib a song/rap called S.I.M.P. It's a catchy tune, and it's a little funny to see just how many unrelated rhymes they can come up with to keep the song going. In the end, however, the squirrels escape, presumably with acorn in hand, and Candace is free to fear anything else Suzy might devise as torment. The rappers are disappointed to find that the squirrels were real, though, and this represents the first instance in which the "public" mistakes a real concern of the main cast of characters as a metaphor of some kind (other examples are "There's a platypus controlling me!" and the notion of "busting my brothers" being misinterpreted with some deeper meaning that never existed). After her ordeal, just when she thinks she can take a breather, Candace is shown a group of squirrels--held by the tail--by Suzy. She screams and runs away, much to the bemusement of Jeremy. Yay for classical conditioning! (I'm a psychologist, remember.) Don't worry, though. Her fear of squirrels does not seem to develop into a phobia, as it's never really brought up in any other episodes.

So, thank you S.I.M.P. (Squirrels in My Pants) for showing us that 1) it is possible to come up with deep philosophical B.S. for things even if there is no deeper meaning and 2) squirrels can be used for good and for evil, but they themselves are not inherently evil.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Hives (Not the Kind with Minds)

What positive aspects can one possibly see in the irritating malady known as hives? Well, that's kind of the point of this blog--to challenge myself to find the bright side of things, especially things that seem to lead to the most negative experiences. At the moment, I am on day 6 of my hives. I have no good idea as to their cause and no good idea as to when they will end. I have had hives off and on ever since I was 8 or 9 years old. My last episode was about 2 years ago and I am pretty sure that one was mostly stress-induced (I was teaching 4 classes simultaneously, along with juggling my daughter's regular extra curricular schedules). I don't feel particularly stressed at the moment, though I do confess a slight bit of anxiety over the Human Development class I am teaching for the next 5 1/2 weeks. I haven't taught the class in 8 years, so I'm a little rusty on some of the topics. I don't think it's particularly allergy-induced, as I have absolutely no traceable food allergies (thought I suspect I might be allergic to fresh pineapple and alcohol--there are no allergy tests for these). This session of hives just suddenly appeared on Friday evening and they are hanging around for a while. There's a good chance I will have them for at least 2 weeks. So, what's so positive about them?

Well, they did decide to almost completely disappear when I got to my allergist on Monday, leading me to look slightly crazy. I suppose I can be grateful for that (the disappearance, not the insanity). They were mostly gone yesterday, until they came back with a vengeance last night and have yet to dissipate today. While the itching drives me mad, I have come to appreciate the release of endorphins that results from damaging my skin with the scratching. It is a most pleasurable, albeit temporary, feeling. I also have a good excuse to take more naps throughout the day, as the antihistamine leads to near-comatose conditions for 2-4 hours for each dose. I get to enjoy the pleasures of taking a freezing shower in the morning to sooth my skin. It also takes my mind off of other things I could be thinking about, like the work I have to do for my class. I certainly get more exercise in, as there are many hard-to-reach spots to scratch that lead me to stretch in ways I don't normally attempt. Oh, and I get to double my allergy medication, thus stimulating the economy through my purchase of loratadine and diphenhydramine in order to keep the hives at bay so that I can function for at least half of the day. I mustn't forget the opportunity to sleep with my fan on at high power. My husband gets to cuddle up with double blankets while the rest of the country worries about being too hot because I have to sleep in the cold so I don't scratch off all the layers of my epidermis. I don't generally like the cold, but the hives give me an opportunity to appreciate it a lot more than the summer heat. And, with the itching keeping me up at night, I might just start to take advantage of the ensuing insomnia to get a little more work done, instead of battling for sleep at night.

So, there can be a bright side to this malady that seems to afflict me, on average, once a year for no readily apparent reason. If nothing else, I get to once again test my patience and faith to see me through another episode and my daughter can see that there are worse things that can happen to you besides having to clean your room or do your homework.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Summer Time

I know just about everyone relishes the idea of summer. I do not particularly enjoy the increased temperature, but the time is very gratitude inducing. And for the record, I don't enjoy the cold, either. I'm more of an 80 degree type of person with low humidity and partial cloud cover with no threat of rain. Yeah, I know it's not often I get this ideal weather. Perhaps that's part of the reason I enjoy it so much.

But I'm writing about summer. At the moment (and for the last 4 years) I teach college courses part-time at a local high school. I'm basically on loan (lease?) during the school year. This means that I am pretty much free during the summer. Well, I would be completely free--and completely insane--if I didn't have at least one summer class to teach. This year I happen to have just one class (a blow to the old bank account, but better than being completely unemployed) during the day when my daughter is in summer day camp. We decided to try a different summer camp [Note: these are all day camps that begin at 9am and end at 12pm, 2pm, or 4pm, depending on the particular camp] each week. My class begins after her camp starts and ends before she gets out of camp each day. And, the college is central to just about every camp location. This means that my daughter and I get to spend more time together than we do during the regular school year.

No, I don't spend every free moment with her. As an extreme introvert this would drive me nuts, no matter how much I love my daughter. I need some me time each day or I would completely lose it. But, I've managed to find time to work on filling in some gaps in her education--going into 5th grade, she was never taught phonics in school!--and keep her mind sharp in fun ways without turning it into homeschooling. We work on math a little--compete worksheets found online and play Yahtzee! together. We emphasize reading each day--she reads for close to an hour then writes a blog about what she read. Once a week is "science" day--biology/botany in the form of planting and caring for a garden, chemistry in the kitchen, etc. We will also play games like Operation or Lego building games to emphasize other sciences. I haven't quite figured out the "history" day yet, though I'm sure it will include ancient cultures--reading more Percy Jackson for Greek culture, Egypt stories, etc.--and American history (I love the History Channel's educational shows). Plus, we'll probably play something like Risk or some other historical based game that my husband tends to collect. As an avid crafter, we are throwing in an arts & crafts day each week as well. This will be an opportunity for both of us to stretch our creativity (and work on our Dragon*Con costumes!) at least once a week. I am not forgetting physical education. That will be covered with swimming or shopping. Yes, shopping is exercise, especially the way I do it--wandering around the store for an hour or two before finally settling on a purchase.

All-in-all my daughter is and will be learning quite a bit this summer, and I will be "teaching" her much. We have the first opportunity this year to actually spend some real quality time together without worrying about sending her away to visit the grandparents or anything like that. Believe it or not, this will be the first summer that I get to spend with my daughter, minus the week she's going to Disney World without me--I don't have the luxury of taking vacation until after my class is over because the time frame is so condensed. I feel confident in my plan and so far it seems to be working out well enough.

Overview of her camps:
Week 1: VBS camp at our church
Week 2: world cultures at the college
Week 3: dance camp
Week 4: Disney World with her dad
Week 5: camp at zoo
Week 6: science/engineering camp
Week 7: performing arts camp at the college

It's very likely that the next series of posts to this blog will be an overview of each of the camps as they conclude. No, I will not forget the squirrel of the month on the 28th, either.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Sea Monkeys

In reality, sea monkeys are a sub species of brine shrimp. In my world, they are the perfect pets.

I grew up with a menagerie of pets--cats, dogs, chickens, ducks, turkeys, little brother (I'm kidding!), lizards, turtles, fish, rabbits, frogs, and maybe some I'm forgetting. The one thing I learned was that I don't want to be responsible for the well-being of an animal. Taking care of myself and my child and husband is hard enough. It helps that they can do things for themselves. But a pet means constant responsibilities that I know I don't have the discipline to tackle. I don't want to torture any animal through unintentional neglect. Plus, even though I do like cats (okay, I can tolerate dogs, too), I happen to be allergic to them. Petting either a cat or a dog causes minor swelling in the hand that touches them and breathing is a little harder for me when I am around them. I won't go into a full-blown asthmatic attack, but I won't be comfortable either.

The conundrum is: I like the idea of having a pet and my daughter likes the idea of having a pet. So, I managed to find the perfect pet for me. Sea monkeys are easy to obtain--and cheap!--and even easier to take care of. They usually hatch within 36 hours, assuming you follow the directions, and begin growing and reproducing quickly thereafter. You only have to feed them once a week at first. Once the algae begins growing, however, you can reduce the feeding time even more. I'll be honest, it's been at least 2 months since I last fed my sea monkeys and they are still thriving. Of course, I have them in a large (for sea monkeys) tank--it's actually a small travel terrarium, but to a sea monkey it's huge--with a couple of fish tank bobbles. This gives more surface area for the algae to take hold. It is important to keep the tank by a natural light source for the algae to grow. I do also add more bottled or filtered water when the tank level drops due to evaporation. That's the extent of the maintenance I do for my sea monkeys. These ones have been alive for almost a year now.

The other upshot of sea monkeys is that they are self-replacing. When your cat or dog dies you have to go out and get a new one, go through all the training all over again, etc. When the entire sea monkey tank dies off (this is my third tank since we began "caring" for sea monkeys 5 years ago) you can either go out an purchase a new packet of eggs or simply let the tank completely evaporate. Then you purchase the "conditioning agent" (it creates the proper chemical balance for the little guys) and simply refill your tank as is. If all goes well, there should be some preserved eggs from your previous tank attached to one of the surfaces and they should simply hatch and begin a new society all over again.

Yep, for me sea monkeys are the perfect pet and I am thankful that I discovered them when my daughter began asking for pets in the house. Plus, they can be fun to watch.

Friday, June 1, 2012

My Faithful Car, Sam

Yes, I am one of "those" people who name inanimate objects. Usually it happens when I am frustrated with said object or extremely grateful for the object. In the case of Sam, however, I was on my way to work (very different job from what I'm doing now) before 7am and it just struck me that my car felt like its name was Sam. Sometimes Sam is female in nature, sometimes it's male. It doesn't really matter, truth be told. Sam seems to fit it very well.

The main reason I am posting this second entry for the week [don't expect it, as I'm surprised I can keep up with one post a week at the moment] is that it is time to say "Good bye" to Sam. We are trading him/her in for a new car for my husband. I get his current car, which my daughter and I have finally dubbed Joe (another unisex name, of course). It's a little hard on my daughter right now. She has known Sam literally all her life. We got him [please forgive me if I switch gender terms; I get tired of "it" and Sam is androgynous] less than 2 months before our daughter was born. While Sam did not get nearly as much wear and tear as the average car my mom drove--Mom does not like flying and she has kids on both coasts now, so she tends to drive A LOT--he has certainly been there for us in many situations. The farthest we've driven her is to New York (Long Island area) from Melbourne (Orlando area) and back. She's also taken a few trips from one end of Florida (the panhandle) to the other (down by West Palm). She's never broken down and I've only had 2 (maybe 3) flats with her, as far as I can remember. There was one instance in which I drove Sam on worn brakes to the point that they literally fell off, but he was back with us within 24 hours. When my husband was in his car accident in 2007 (that was a hand-me-down mini van we did not have long enough to name), Sam faithfully chauffeured everyone to work and school and everywhere in between until we procured Joe. I have pushed Sam many times, sometimes out of ignorance or a busy schedule, sometimes because I needed to wait another week (or another month) before my paycheck was enough to get his oil changed and/or rotate his tires. Any time gas prices rose more than 7 cents I would wonder how long I could run Sam with the windows down and no A/C in order to stretch my gas budget for the month. And Sam kept chugging along. As I said, she never broke down on me. She always seemed to have at least enough fuel to make it to a preferred gas station. I was only in 1.5 fender benders with her. The first one was reported, but the other guy's vehicle suffered damage while Sam was untouched because he bumped into the spare tire on the back. The 1/2 was a quick incident in which a mom behind me wasn't paying attention as we were driving out of the drop-off lane at my daughter's school and didn't hit her brakes in time after I stopped at the stop sign. That was a no-harm-no-foul incident that didn't get reported because I didn't see the need to do so.

Just some of the many things that rode in Sam
When we lived in Melbourne, Florida, Sam was the only car we had. I was working two jobs (at 3 sites), eventually three (at 4 sites), while my husband finished up his master's degree. Since our apartment was across the street from the college and my jobs were 45 to 90 minutes away, depending on the campus at which I was teaching on any given day, Sam became "my" car. He was originally purchased with my husband in mind. My husband is a full foot taller than me, so the car had to have plenty of leg and head room. However, I found that I didn't need to adjust too much for me to fit in Sam. The more I drove her, the more we tended to synch together. She suffered through my temper tantrums--my road rage never got to the homicidal level, but it did lead to a lot of "colorful" language--and my lead foot. She handled my impulsive turns and my quick braking. There were times when minor things malfunctioned. I went a week or two without air conditioning and power windows & door locks because of some weird electrical issue. The inside light in the middle of the roof has been out for at least 6 years. The CD player didn't always work, but that's what my tape (yes, Sam has a cassette deck!) adapter for the iPod is for. Yet, nothing major ever let us down--no engine or transmission failure and IF we ever had a dead battery, it was only once, though there were some close calls.

Sam, our 2002 silver Honda CR-V EX, has seen numerous soccer and softball games and practices. She's brought gifts to many birthday parties and visited friends. She's brought home many gifts and hauled home many purchases. She's carried countless donations and even a few unexpected passengers, inside and out (a lot of frogs and lizards have taken short rides over the years). She's held our daughter in safety and sleeping comfort after a long day of school, work and activities or a long trip to visit friends a couple hours away. Sam has heard hours of singing--good and bad--and absorbed years of memories. He has witnessed many temper tantrums, suffered slammed doors and over-stuffed spaces. He's provided a quiet place for mother-daughter after school talks. He's given me a great place to catch a nap (while parked, of course) during dance classes or practices. Sam has seen my daughter grow from a baby into a young girl who can no longer stand up in his trunk space, even though she still enjoys climbing in back there.

On one level, I know that Sam is "just a machine" and it was inevitable that we should trade her in. I am glad that we can trade her in before she does fall apart. However, on the other hand, Sam has been with us for a very long time. He is one of only a few things that we have had since our daughter was a baby. Sam was (and still is) a very reliable part of our quirky family. We will miss him and I pray that whoever owns her next will come to appreciate Sam as much as we have.
Goodbye, faithful & reliable Sam! You were much appreciated and you will be missed.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

May 2012 Squirrel of the Month: Slappy Squirrel

Okay, I know some people pick their "[blank] of the [month/day/week/year] at the beginning of said time frame. However, I wanted to pick it toward the end of the month. I will most likely--if I can remember--try to keep it around the 28th of the month, as all months have a 28th. So, it's time to build upon my earlier "Squirrels" post.

Image borrowed from http://webspace.webring.com/people/wd/danichg/0063.jpg. I do try to post my own original pictures when I have them. Of course, given that this particular image has also been "borrowed" from the original copyright owners, I think I might be forgiven for sharing in this case.... 
For the Month of May 2012 I highlight Slappy Squirrel from the 1990s cartoon series Animaniacs (and a brief appearance on Pinky & the Brain, as well as the Animaniacs movie Wacko's Wish). Slappy, voiced by Sherri Stoner, is an old bitter spinster aunt to Skippy (he may be highlighted in another month, so stay tuned). She likes her naps--always valuable to anyone at any age--and suffers no fools. She does care for Skippy, just in her own way. She shows us that 1) you're never too old to be funny and 2) one-liners never go out of style. Anyone who can revive the fast-paced bullet puns from the bygone era of comedy (think Abbot & Costello or Martin & Lewis) and pull it off in squirrel form deserves their own pedestal. So, thank you, Slappy Squirrel, for teaching another generation of kids that it's okay to be funny AND smart, that sometimes a well-placed slap can bring you back to reality, that there are many ways to care for your loved ones outside the expected conventions, and that sometimes an explosion is just the sort of solution a problem needs. Oh, and thank you for reminding us that naps are awesome. :-)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Wonders of YouTube

I know, I know, everyone and their grandmother knows all about YouTube. It has become an everyday household world like Google and Facebook. There are many reasons why YouTube is a valuable resource, beyond its entertainment value. There are many reasons why some people consider YouTube a work of evil. This is about positivity, so I'll focus on the good points, specifically two points: education value and nostalgia value.

In one of the courses I teach my students have to create a personality profile on a fictional psychological professional. Characters such as Dr. Ben Sobel from Analyze This and Analyze That are fair game. They just have to have a psychology degree and, preferably, be "working" in some psychology-related field. That's not too hard to do, since there are over 50 divisions of the American Psychological Association, representing thousands of career opportunities. Recently, one of my groups [waiting to the last minute, of course] discovered that they could not obtain their source material (i.e. the original movies in which their character appeared) and I did not have a copy. So, I did a quick search on YouTube for the [character] + [movie] and found several clips from the films in which their character appeared. They will hopefully be able to observe enough of the character's behavior to put together a decent personality profile and it will probably end up saving time in the long run since they won't have to watch the entire movie, just the main clips with their character. I will admit, though, that I hope more of my students will plan their projects better (I give them the entire semester to work on it) and not have to resort to this, but I am glad that YouTube is there as a last resort so I don't have to fail anyone.

Also in the teaching category, while I do try to show The Simpsons [see previous post] in my classes as often as possible, sometimes I can find a quick, shorter video on YouTube that illustrates one of our topics more quickly with a similar entertainment value. One of the two videos I've used most frequently is a clip from "A Bat Divided" (Batman the Brave and the Bold) showing Batman split into the three parts of Freud's personality--id (slacker eating nachos), ego (logical science), superego (raging crime fighter). The other clip I like to use is a short segment from Robot Chicken involving a giraffe progressing through Kubler-Ross's five stages of dying--denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. The ideas stick in my students' minds so that all I have to do when we review for a test is mention the clips and all the information comes flooding back to them.

On the nostalgia front, raise your hand if you are a child of the 80s/90s. I am. I, like many others of my generation, grew up with a lot of great cartoons. Do you remember Tiny Toons, Anamaniacs, or Freekazoid? I know a lot of the old shows we watched as kids have been released on DVD and I'm glad because I can relieve my childhood while sharing them with my daughter. Sadly, many studios--Warner Brothers, especially!--have not gotten around to releasing their shows to DVD, Netflix, or syndication. But I was lucky enough to find clips from these and other shows on YouTube. Now my daughter understands a little bit about my weirdness and she loves the shows just as much as I did. Sure, sometimes you have to sift through a lot of detritus to find the treasure, but the nuggets found are worth it.

What do you use YouTube for, mostly?