May 26, 2015

The Arrow of Time

I remember a spectacular fight I once had with my ex-husband, in which we were arguing about time.  While I don't remember the specifics, it must have been about helping out around the house and/or 'being there' as a parent.  Being married to the military is no cake walk, not that I would ever diminish the sacrifice that our soldiers make, but, it does take a toll on family life.  Anyway, the comment that he made that stuck with me was one that spoke to the fact that our mothers both worked when we were young, didn't have the convenience of modern appliances or husbands to help out, yet still managed to get everything done.

It pissed me off at the time, because I didn't have a snappy retort.  Today, I realize that there is a distinct difference.  Modern appliances and conveniences haven't made us more productive or efficient, they have instead paved the way toward filling every minute of our day with more stuff.  Twenty-some years ago, hot shot executives might have a car phone so they could make Very Important Decisions when they were away from their desk.  Today, 5-year old kids have iPhones with more communication capability than we had for the moon landings.  And, if I could go back in time and re-live that argument with my ex, I would point out that kids today have closets and drawers full of clothes that demand to be washed after a single wearing.  They have hours of homework that they need help with.  We have bigger homes, more things to care for.  I am not lazy in comparison to my mother, I am saddled with a million more things to do and think about than she had to deal with.
Things that were supposed to make our lives easier have made them all the more demanding.  Coupled with the overriding theme of 'whoever dies with the most toys wins', we have filled every moment, every nook and cranny, with stuff, and things, and things to do.  Life demands more of us now, and yet the outcomes haven't really changed all that much.  
I am fascinated with something I read about the theory of time: 
The arrow of time is based on ideas that go back to Ludwig Boltzmann, an Austrian physicist in the 1870s. He figured out this thing called entropy. Entropy is just a measure of how disorderly things are. And it tends to grow. That’s the second law of thermodynamics: Entropy goes up with time, things become more disorderly. So, if you neatly stack papers on your desk, and you walk away, you’re not surprised they turn into a mess. You’d be very surprised if a mess turned into neatly stacked papers. That’s entropy and the arrow of time. Entropy goes up as it becomes messier.
That seems to say that no matter what we do to supposedly make our lives easier, the passage of time dictates that they will just become messier and more hectic.

Nothing like a big middle finger from the universe to put things into perspective! 

May 15, 2015

A simple YES or NO

Over the years I have read a number of novels that detailed the bygone practices associated with the etiquette of social interaction.  Those were the days long before modern conveniences allowed our friends and family to intrude at all hours, and the social norms dictated when, and whom, could show up on your doorstep and expect to gain entry.  While I don't wish to reinvent an Austenesque era of calling cards and stiff protocols, I would like for the average American to display just a little common frickin' decency.

We don't do many formal social occasions in my family, and I don't host birthday parties for my kids every year.  This year, Crash asked to have a 'friends' birthday in addition to family, so we indulged him.  I could have kissed the three people that responded to the invitation in the first 24 hours, as I then spent the next two weeks wondering if there would only be four kids at a party I booked for a minimum of ten.  I made the mistake of not requesting responses by a certain date, and, until today, I thought that my error was the reason that so many people responded late.  And that was in addition to the ones that didn't respond at all, some of which showed up anyway.

Fast forward to this week.  Bang earned the rank of Eagle Scout and the ceremony that marks that occasion is planned for tomorrow.  We mailed formal invitations six weeks ago.  His troop posted it on their social media pages last month.  There have been announcements at each weekly Scout meeting for the past few weeks.  I thought I had corrected my error by putting a response deadline on the invite, a very necessary thing this go round, so the caterer could plan accordingly.  The deadline was last Sunday.  I waited until Tuesday morning to give the caterer the final number.  By Tuesday evening, twenty-one additional people said they were coming.  I hustled and added on to the catering order and upped the size of the cake I had ordered.  And, now, the day before the event, five more people have called just this morning to say they are coming.  The torrential rains have canceled every outdoor event, so folks are suddenly available.

I would love to have a 'the more the merrier' attitude, but when I may be whispering to my family to hold off on eating to make sure there is enough to accommodate all the late responders and surprise attendees, it is hard to be gracious.  On the flip side, half of the people that said they were going to come are just as likely to no-show without an explanation, and my family could be eating barbeque for the next week.

May 12, 2015

Weather Nerd

I spent the first fifteen years of my life mostly in Kansas, smack in the middle of Tornado Alley.  It is something you learn to live with, I suppose, and I wonder now, how we ever survived without constant news coverage of the threats.

Reflecting back, I would guess that we lost power much more frequently than today, during the storms that spawned tornadoes, making radio the media of choice - if we were so inclined to sit calmly by said radio and trust the voices coming out of it.  We were not.  My grandfather didn't always have the luxury of radio, and instilled in us the old-fashioned method of tornado warning systems, which is to stand outside and watch the sky.

I moved into my current home several years ago, in the month of March.  A few weeks later, as the Texas storm season heated up, I discovered the fatal flaw in our home purchase.  All those old-growth, towering oak trees that we thought we loved, block the view of the sky.  I have to cover an acre of front yard to get to the street where I get a narrow view of the western sky, where most of our tornadic activity originates.

Not cool.  I am not prone to panic, but if I can't see the sky when the clouds start to spin and drop out of the sky, how am I supposed to know when to take cover?

Just as I arrived home this past Sunday, the rotation started just above my neighborhood.  Fortunately for us, but not so much for others, the storm moved a couple of miles to the north before it dropped to the ground.  It was just a little EF-1, but the same line later produced a killer of a storm in Van, Texas.  Here it is moving through my neck of the woods:



My new toy for this storm season is a storm chasers app which shows a map-based view of where storm chasers are, and upon clicking on any active chaser, you get a streaming view of their dash cam video.  Many of them also have their audio feed running, so you can hear what they are thinking, and what they are seeing.  It has been great fun.  Except for when they are parked at a business a quarter-mile from your house.  Not fun to see your neighborhood on the dash cam of the tornado-intercept vehicle!

May 11, 2015

FOD

It's Monday, and FOD, so I always feel compelled to take the time to post something, even if it is just the letters, because they are meaningful.

What is the president doing these days?  Thankfully, and at the same time disturbingly, it doesn't seem like much.  Commencement speeches, making vacation plans, fundraisers, and shockingly little else.  We are heading into prime golfing season, so I expect the golf count to tick up at a steady clip.

I know it is wrong, but I am gleefully reading the news this morning that the president can't get any Middle Eastern leaders to come to his Middle East summit.  I don't care who you are, that's funny.  Barack and John Kerry will be able to have some alone time at Camp David.


May 8, 2015

Stand up and claim your prize

This week there has been a story in the news about the Price is Right game show's faux pas of offering a treadmill prize to a woman in a wheelchair.

As the show's spokesperson explained, and every person with half a brain knows, the prizes, games, and script scenarios have nothing to do with the contestants, which are ultimately picked for participation through various guessing games.

Why did this rise to the level of a news story?  I can't imagine that this was the first time, since it first aired in 1972, that the show gave away a prize that wasn't suited to the winner.  Women win prizes more suited to men and vice versa.  Older people win prizes more suited to younger, etcetera, etcetera.  You give the stuff away, you sell it, you let it collect dust in your living room as a conversation piece about the time you were on a game show. 

The lady in the wheelchair that won the treadmill was on Jimmy Kimmel, where he gave her a cruise.  Another in a long line of extravagant gifts that celebrities and shows give to people that the media has built up as being slighted, or deserving due to their station in life.

If a 5-year old says 'apparently' a dozen or so times on television, Ellen will scoop him up and make him a regular correspondent on her show, jetting the kid and family around to exotic destinations, showering them with gifts.  Yeah, because that is a great lesson in what hard work dumb luck can get you. 

I am all for helping our military, our youth and elderly, our poor, but this idea that every Joe that get their fifteen minutes of fame for some minor event in their lives should benefit with a windfall of gifts just feeds the entitlement mentality that is crippling our nation.  

May 4, 2015

FOD

Last night, a terror attack in a suburb of Dallas took center stage on the national news scene.  ISIS has now claimed responsibility for an attack that resulted in the terrorists being very much dead, having only grazed a Garland School District Security officer.  How proud the jihadists must be, knowing they wounded a rent-a-cop who was treated and released before the attacker's bodies were cold on the ground.

My friend Allen shared this tweet that cracked me up:

It does, however, raise a very valid point.  It seems that the terrorists were Phoenix-based.  Apparently, the internet "chatter" calling on ISIS brothers in Garland to attack didn't result in anyone local stepping up to the plate.  Or maybe there just aren't any here.  Regardless, anyone coming to Texas, or planning an attack in Texas should assume that a high percentage of the general public is going to be armed.  And, our SWAT teams and police officers aren't going to ration their ammo when you attack.
And, our local news outlets will repeatedly, and somewhat gleefully, explain that they are only showing a wide shot of the crime scene due to the two dead terrorist bodies in the street.  
Not that it is really necessary, but here is my FOD tie-in.  The initial indication is that one of the terrorists is Elton Simpson, an al Qaeda wannabe.
Simpson was well known to the FBI. Five years ago he was convicted for lying to federal agents about his plans to travel to Africa where investigators alleged he planned to join a terror group.
The investigation in Simpson reached back to July 2007, when Simpson was recorded said of fighting with Islamists, “I know we can do it, man. But you got to find the right people that… Gotta have connects.”
Despite that and other recordings, a judge ruled the government did not adequately prove he was going to join a terror group and Simpson was sentenced to three years’ probation for lying to investigators.
They haven't said why yet, but the bomb squad blew up the car, indicative of explosives being found, and the terrorists were apparently adequately armed, some report that they had assault rifles.

How does someone "well known to the FBI" for terrorist activity get their hands on that kind of stuff?  Because we have a sympathizer-in-chief that only cares about preserving the rights of the wrong kind of people.  Who had declared his own war on our Constitution and American values.  Who elevates celebrities to hero status and ignores true American heroes.  I can't wait until he is gone.

April 29, 2015

Screaming for ice cream



This meme is making its rounds on the internet:



Which, for my family, is only partly true.  While not made in Texas, Braum's offers a reasonable substitute to the current dearth of ice cream.  Our freezer usually has both, but is now Braum's exclusive - right up until Blue Bell is back on the shelves.

No, I am not afraid of contracting listeria.  Or salmonella.  Or botulism.  Or E.coli.  Or any other food-borne bacteria.

Nor do I bathe my shopping cart in handfuls of antiseptic wipes upon entry to the grocery store.

5-second rule for dropped food?  You bet.

My mom defrosted meat by letting it sit on the counter all day while she was at work.  Gasp!  I had perfect attendance for several years of elementary school, so it couldn't have been making me sick.

I grew up on Sunday dinners of freshly killed chicken.  As in, walk out to the chicken coop, wring a neck, and pluck that sucker.  No clean room.  No flash freezing for safety.  No three compartment sink or mandated sanitation process to clean up the utensils.

Raw milk, now a 'thing' amongst foodies and clean eating advocates, is simply an unpasteurized product.  Milk the cow, chill the output, pour it in a bottle.  Guess what?  Raw milk stays good for weeks, and it doesn't go 'bad' like the grocery store product, it naturally turns to buttermilk.

I don't have the patience, or the science knowledge to explain in technical terms what real life has proven to me.  I can understand that bacteria have evolved and gotten stronger, but I also believe that somewhere along the line, all of the purifying, sanitizing, and antibacterial bathing has, or is, creating a generation of humans that are overly sensitive to the world they live in.

Hurry up Blue Bell, I need some ice cream to deal with the stress of worrying about getting sick from eating ice cream.  And Braum's Cappuccino Chunky Chocolate is good, but it isn't Caramel Turtle Cheesecake.