Thursday, April 26, 2012

Last Week of Classes

            It’s the last week of classes here at Georgia Gwinnett College. You know what that means – research papers and essays that were assigned by professors at the beginning of the semester are now due. The students who finished their papers early are holed up in the library studying for final exams. For the most part, they don’t come in to the Academic Enrichment Center (aka the writing lab) anymore. Does that mean the writing tutors are catching up on the latest bestsellers and checking FaceBook while they wait for customers? So not.

            “Hi. I’m Vicki. How can I help you?”

            “Tony. Can you help me with my paper?” Tony’s hair is plastered to his head on his left side, while the right side stands out at attention. He’s carrying the remains of a venti double espresso and a king-size Snickers bar. It’s nine AM.

            “Sure. What are you working on?”

            “It’s a research paper for my history class. It’s about the causes of World War I.” He eyes me doubtfully, as if he’s not sure that I’ve ever heard of World War I.

            “I can help you with that. Let’s take a look.”

            Tony sits down and pulls out a pile of chocolate-smeared pages. “I’m having trouble with the grammar and the – you know – like – spelling and stuff.”

            I’m pretty sure I could have diagnosed his problem with the grammar and the – like – spelling and – like – stuff even if he hadn’t warned me. His first sentence began with a lower case letter and continued on and on without coming to a period. At all. There were no commas, either, no semi-colons or colons, no apostrophes, and no quotation marks. Unfortunately, poor Tony had a bigger problem than punctuation errors.

            “This paper is about Hitler,” I note aloud.

            He refrains from saying, “Duh,” but the word is written all over his face.

            “I thought you said this paper was about the causes of World War I.”

            Tony nods.

            “Hitler was World War II.”

            “I don’t think so,” he says uncertainly. “Are you sure?”

            “Yes, I’m sure.”

            I’m also sure Tony’s about to faint. “Here, Tony, put your head down between your knees. You’re looking a little pale.”

            “No, no, I’m fine,” he insists. “I have to get this paper done. It’s due today.”

            Of course it’s due today. When they straggle into the tutoring center looking the way Tony looks, it’s always due TODAY!

            “Well, I suggest you get some rest and eat a healthy breakfast before you tackle this again. What time is it due?”

            “My class is at 10:15,” he wails. “I’ve been working on this paper all night!”

            “Oh dear.”

            “Can’t you just help me with the grammar so I have something to turn in?”

            “Yes, I can, but won’t your professor mind that you wrote about the wrong topic?”

            “Maybe he won’t notice,” Tony says.

            I sigh and sit down next to Tony. Teaching the guy punctuation basics is relatively easy; I’m just glad I’m not the professor who was supposed to teach him about the World Wars. Boy, is he going to be depressed.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Changing Posting Dates

I am planning on changing my posting days to Tuesdays and Thursdays for a while. Thank you, dear reader, for accepting this change with stoicism and understanding. I'll see you tomorrow!

Monday, April 23, 2012

You Want to Listen to Music from the '70's?

            “Really? The 70’s on 7? How can you stand to listen to this old garbage?”

            “Huh? This is OUR music!” My husband frowned at me. “This music is great.”

            All I remembered were disco balls and songs that never ended. “If you say so.”

            “I DO say so. Remember this one?” He turned up the radio in the car and Casey Kasem continued his American Top 40 countdown from April 17, 1971. We had tuned in at about 20, just in time to listen to Ike and Tina Turner belt out “Proud Mary.”

            “Well, sure I remember it, even if I was only…um (I did the math in my head)… 9 years old. It’s not bad.”

            Chris snorted. “Not bad. Very funny. It’s a classic.”

I couldn’t really deny that, now could I?

“I bet you remember this one, too.”

Andy Williams began crooning the theme song from Love Story.

            “Yes, I do,” I admitted. “Love Story was the saddest movie I have ever seen.”

            The Partridge Family was next. “Doesn’t Somebody Want to be Wanted” reminded me all too well of the time I had spent daydreaming about David Cassidy. “Ah,” I said. “Now that’s a classic.”

            “Uh, right,” Chris said. “And how many posters of David Cassidy did you have hanging up in your room?”

            “Give me a break, OK? I was a kid. He was my first true love.” I fluttered my hand in front of my face and batted my eyes.

            “Me and Bobby McGee” was number 12. Janis Joplin was followed by “One Toke Over the Line” (sung by Brewer and Shipley – were they a one-hit wonder?) and the Tom Jones hit “She’s a Lady.” The Temptations, the Jackson 5, and Neil Diamond moved us closer to the top.

Number 3 was the gospel song “Put your Hand in the Hand,” number 2 was pure Motown “What’s Goin’ On” by Marvin Gaye, and the number 1 top 40 song from April 17, 1971 was “Joy to the World” by Three Dog Night.
“Do you suppose that being in the top 40 that week in 1971 was the only thing Janis Joplin had in common with the Partridge Family and Andy Williams?” I asked.

Chris laughed. “It certainly was an eclectic selection of music, wasn’t it?”

“To say the least.”

If you enjoy a blast from the past once in a while, click here to find Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 chart from April 17, 1971: http://www.oldradioshows.com/at40/041771.html

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Old Pipe Way

Written by Guest Blogger Peter Scullion

           When was the last time you actually opened your eyes wide? Maybe it was in shock, or sheer joy, or perhaps just startled by an unexpected result?

Eye-opening moments happen constantly, all around us. Most of us are too wrapped up, too busy to notice. Remember the video of the famous violinist who played in a train station and was largely ignored?

Would you have stopped to listen, would it have opened your eyes? It seems no one else did, either. Nobody stops to think that they are operating a complex 2-ton vehicle going 70 miles per hour. Nobody stops to smell the roses, or take a truly beautiful picture.

What if, instead of all of the pills and supplements, there was something that could allow you to stop and smell those roses? To stop and take a picture of the sunset? To marvel at how the world works?

I offer you the story of a gentleman who has been married for over 40 years, alive for over 66 years... and finds a truly eye-opening experience by following the “old pipe way.”

Stop for a second and appreciate the sights and sounds of everything around you... something of the things you find can truly open your eyes.

Read more about the train station violinist:  

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Little Sympathy? Please?

"All writing is difficult. The most you can hope for is a day when it goes reasonably easily. Plumbers don't get plumber's block, and doctors don't get doctor's block; why should writers be the only profession that gives a special name to the difficulty of working, and then expects sympathy for it?"
Philip Pullman

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Pilgrimage: Part II Graceland

            I think it’s great when a place you’ve just visited shows up unexpectedly in a book you’re reading. I get so excited I have to go find someone to listen to me read the passage. Then I proceed to tell that someone all about my trip and whether or not the author thought the same things I did while I was visiting. It’s a bonus score, with all the cherries lined up, the bells dinging, the lights flashing, and quarters pouring out into my plastic cup! I know you’re laughing at my exuberance, but if you’re a reader, you totally understand what I mean.

            A couple weeks ago, Chris and I made a pilgrimage to Graceland. It was awesome. I communed with the spirit of Elvis Presley; I almost feel that I got to know him personally. So you can imagine my delighted surprise when I reached the halfway mark in Rick Riordan’s The Red Pyramid to find the main characters, Carter and Sadie, at Graceland!

            One of the strangest rooms at Graceland is a den called The Jungle Room. I recall standing there, mouth dropped open, eyes wide in disbelief, as I tried to take in the ambiance of one of Elvis’s favorite rooms. The word tacky doesn’t even begin to do the room justice. Sadie explains her reaction:
            “The back wall was made of vine-covered bricks, with a waterfall trickling down the side. The carpet was green shag (floor and ceiling, mind you) and the furniture was carved with creepy animal shapes. Just in case all that wasn’t dreadful enough, plaster monkeys and stuffed lions had been strategically placed around the room. Despite the danger we were in, the place was so horrid, I just had to stop and marvel.
             ‘God,’ I said. ‘Did Elvis have no taste?’
            ‘The Jungle Room,’ Carter said. ‘He decorated it like this to annoy his dad.’
            ‘I can respect that.’”

            All I can say is that Rick Riordan’s Sadie and I were “on the same page,” if you’ll forgive the pun. The Jungle Room tells us a lot about Elvis. You have to see it to believe it!

            I highly recommend reading The Red Pyramid, even if you’ve never been to Graceland and Memphis, TN. The book is interesting, action-packed, and some of the characters are Egyptian gods and goddesses come to life! It’s an awesome read. Thanks for loaning the book to me, Veronica!

Friday, April 13, 2012

An Unlucky Day

             Welcome to Friday the 13th! Reading the news today confirms for me that Friday the 13th continues to live up to its unlucky reputation. Here’s a run-down:

1.      Syria dispersed more of its protesting citizens by shooting them. Definitely an unlucky day for the random Syrians who died.

2.      North Korea attempted to launch a nuclear missile. This was a double fail for N. Korea: not only didn’t the missile work properly, but the attempted launch caused the U.S. to stop sending food assistance to them. It’s an unlucky day to be a starving North Korean, that’s for sure.

3.      This year, tax day falls on April 17th, making it the 2nd officially unlucky day this month. The Obamas paid their taxes early, though. It was announced today that the President and his wife paid a lower tax rate than Mr. Obama’s secretary, who earns considerably less money than he does. Does that make Barak one of the “evil rich” who does not pay his “fair share?”  Uh…yup! I think we can consider the publication of this information to be unlucky for our President.

4.      How about the unlucky man in New York who tried to hold up a bank today by threatening a teller with a toilet plunger? Police flushed him out of the bank and took him to jail. Unlucky AND stupid, huh?

5.      Finally, if you are a supporter of legalizing gay marriage across the U.S., it’s not your lucky day. Brad and Angelina, who formerly had announced that they refused to marry each other until gay marriage was legalized, announced today that they were officially engaged to be married. I don’t know what will happen to the gay marriage rights movement now that Brad and Angelina have defected from the cause. After all, the issue is all about them.

Keep your heads down, my friends, during these last few hours of Friday the 13th. Best of luck to you.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

There's Rewriting and Then There's REWRITING!

            Michael Crichton once said, "Books aren't written - they're rewritten. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn't quite done it." This is an absolutely true, dead-on assessment of writing. All good writers – and the rest of us – are stuck having to rewrite our novels, articles, and blogs before we allow anyone else to read them. Heck, I even rewrite e-mails 3 and 4 times. Rewriting is unavoidable.

            However, most of us don’t have the same problem with rewriting that Trish Vickers had. Ms. Vickers lost her sight seven years ago, but being blind didn’t keep her from starting to write a novel. She wrote the first 26 pages and then showed them to her son, who had the unpleasant task of telling her that her pen had run out of ink while she had been writing. Fortunately, he had the brilliant idea of taking the papers covered with indentations to the local police department. Forensic scientists in Dorset, U.K., working on their own time, painstakingly recreated the words using the indentations as a guide. It took them 5 months. Now that’s some fancy rewriting!

            I can’t wait to read Ms. Vickers’ novel, Grannifer’s Legacy, when she finishes it. Her local police department has given the first 26 pages high marks and is anxiously awaiting the next installment. That’s a good enough recommendation for me!


Monday, April 9, 2012

The Pilgrimage: Part I, Tupelo, Mississippi

            Over the weekend, Chris and I traveled through 4 states on a pilgrimage to pay our respects at the birthplace, home, and gravesite of the King of Rock & Roll. Elvis Presley is an American legend, and a trip to visit his hometown of Memphis, TN is well worth the effort.

            I didn’t expect to have to travel through 4 states to get from Atlanta, GA to Memphis, TN. Georgia and Tennessee share a common border, right? It’s true that you can travel north from Atlanta to Tennessee and then go west until you run into Memphis and the Mississippi River; however, it actually takes an extra hour to go that way, according to my new Garmin GPS. Instead, we traveled through Georgia into Alabama, from Alabama into Mississippi, and then from Mississippi into Tennessee.

            This turned out to be serendipitous because we had to pass right through Tupelo, MS on our way to Memphis. Tupelo’s claim to fame is being the birthplace of Elvis Presley, so the first stop on our pilgrimage was the tiny 2-room frame house that Elvis’s father and grandfather built with their own hands. In 1935, he and his twin brother Jessie were born there (Jessie was stillborn), supposedly in the very bed that is on display    in the house. You can get a lot of insight into Elvis’s early life while visiting Tupelo.

Friday, April 6, 2012

I Totally Need a PAL-V!

            Dutch inventors have just unveiled a flying car that is practical and safe for air and ground travel. It even fits into a standard parking space at the mall!

            PAL-V is the car/helicopter of the future, if you’re talking about the very near future. Needing only a short take-off runway of 165 meters, the PAL-V can fly over traffic jams, mountains, and lakes. Upon landing, the rotors and propellers fold up so that you can drive to your final destination. The PAL-V can fly or drive for about 315 miles at a maximum speed of 110 mph before needing to refuel.

            I’m sure the PAL-V is prohibitively expensive to purchase at the moment, but I have hopes that someday soon, given what is sure to be high demand, I will be able to afford my very own. When you can buy a PAL-V, why would you ever step foot on a Mercedes, Range Rover, or Jaguar car lot again?

            I never suspected when I was watching The Jetsons as a kid that I might actually live to see the day when flying cars were a reality. Back in 1962 when I was born, we had black and white TV’s, no way to record TV programs, no mobile phones, and computers that were the size of football fields. Half a century later, there are actual flying cars? How awesome is that?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Argentina Government Bans Import of Books - Yes, the kind made from paper

            Last week, Argentina “banned” the import of books from foreign countries.  The new law is designed to protect citizens from lead poisoning. Apparently, there may be a small percentage of lead in the ink used to print books, and the government believes that this poses a significant health risk. Huh?

            The Argentine government assures its citizens that there is no real ban on books. Readers are welcome to order books from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or any other book-seller in the world. Unfortunately, in order to take possession of a book that was ordered, the buyer has to show up at the local customs office and prove to a customs official that there is less than 0.006% of lead in the chemical makeup of the ink before he or she can take the book home. I’m not sure exactly how to check the chemical composition of the ink on pages in a book, or if it can be done without rendering the book unreadable, but I guess that’s the buyer’s – and not the government’s – problem. Sorry, but placing impossible restrictions on the purchase of a book reads like a ban to me.

            I’m also not buying the whole “lead in books poses a significant health risk” reason for the law. I have never heard of death-by-reading. I have never gotten lead poisoning despite reading three or four books a week for my entire life. I have had nasty paper cuts, and once I dropped the final volume of Harry Potter on my foot and had to limp about for a few days, but lead poisoning? Um…no.

There are a couple of reasons why Argentina might want to ban the purchase of foreign books, though. Foreign purchases send Argentinean dollars out of Argentina. In a faltering economy, persuading citizens to purchase local products is a good idea. However, “persuading” and “banning” are two entirely different concepts.

The final reason brings to mind Fahrenheit 451. While the idea smacks of conspiracy theory, it is possible that the government of Argentina is making an attempt to control its citizens by not allowing them to read anything that isn’t published in Argentina. However, since paper books are definitely taking a back seat to electronic readers these days, this probably isn’t a very effective way of keeping Argentinean citizens from reading foreign authors and “getting ideas” that the government doesn’t want them to have.

It remains to be seen what Argentina’s real purpose is in enacting this law. If the government starts regulating the internet, we’ll have a pretty good idea, won’t we?

Monday, April 2, 2012

Cafe World Sober

            Saturday was the 544th day in a row that I played Café World on Facebook. This is not something I’m proud of. Every day for a year and a half, I logged onto my computer and prepared virtual food which I served to virtual customers. I decorated my café, completed catering jobs with my friends, and posted hundreds of requests for items on my FB wall.

            It was well past time for me to admit that I had a serious problem. I was addicted to Café World. I fussed when I couldn’t get to my computer in time to serve my virtual food before it spoiled. The rest of my day was spoiled when I logged on to find that my food was green and had flies circling it; it made me grumpy. Yes, I needed help.

            An unpleasant incident with a CW neighbor who accused me of cheating was just the push I needed to quit. How can you cheat in CW? Um, you can't. Now there’s a woman who has a bigger problem than I do, believe it or not!

            Today I have been Café World sober for 2 days. Like any other addict, I’m finding quitting to be challenging. I don’t know what to do with all the extra time I now have. I can’t find anything to do!!


Maybe if I had something to read....


  or some DVD's I
          haven't watched...

 Isn't Wreck cute? I wonder what he

There are probably some chores I could do if only I could think of them.

Mmm...my yoga mat...

What are you trying to tell me?

I vaguely remember these people. What do you call them? Oh yeah, friends....

               I'm sure that, given time, I'll adjust to my Cafe World-less life. It may take a while, though. If only I could find something - anything - to do!