Re-launched, but still slightly under construction. :-)

Friday, September 30, 2011

Bulldawg Nation is ruthless

Colleague: Witnessed the "killing" of the Coastal Carolina Football team by UGA... 59 to nothing...ouch.

Me: It's Coastal Carolina, what did you expect? They're most noted for their literary magazine. Poetry readings do not train good defensive linemen.

Colleague: T
he Georgia offensive line outweighed the Carolina defensive line by an average of 100 pounds. Poor little dudes got pushed around all day. I thought there was this big liberal media push to do away with bullying?

Me: Was it Coastal Carolina Middle School?!

Colleague: They played like the Richmond Academy for the Blind.

Me: Well, their little eyes were so tired from copy editing their novels.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

That one time I tried to do something cool to my blog

Y'all. I am SO LOST. I've been using several blog platforms for years, now, and when I decided I wanted to do something "cool" to my boring old layout, I was all, "Psh! I got this."

But I don't got it. There are a bajillion freaking brackets in the code for this thing, and I only know what about half of them are talking about. That has made for some experimenting - "Hmm. So if that is this, and this is that thing, what happens if I just delete this..." That has made for some "Oh, #$@%^#^%$^@&#^!!"

Le sigh... Totally first-world problems, I know. Still, bear with me while I try to remember why I started this freaking process in the first place - and maybe get it right. Eventually.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Redesign - or... not

Trying to redesign my own blog makes me realize how little I know about blogging. Bear with me, folks. I'm learning as I go.

This is definitely not how I wanted it to look...

Friday, September 23, 2011

The most important consideration when choosing your email service provider is...

My Dad's email account got hacked, and he's thinking of moving to another service.

" I think I'll try Live Mail."

"Dad, just use Gmail."

"Zee mail?"

"G, as in Google. Kelli and I both use it."

"Well, maybe I'll look into that."

"Also, I customized my inbox with ninjas."



"Well, I guess I have to take that into consideration."

"Everything's better with ninjas. Hackers fear ninjas. Your inbox will be safe."

"That's very persuasive."

Not these ninjas.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I'll probably forget anyway

Wednesday, September 21, 2011 By No comments

"Mama, I'm not s'posed ta tell you dis, but when I'm 17 I'm goeend be a Power Ranger because I wanna fight eebil," Emmie said.

"Well, I'll be very proud of you, like I am now," I answered.

"But you not goeend ta know. Cause I'm not goeend ta tell you," she said.

"Didn't you just tell me?"

"Yeah, but it wuz a seecrud."

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

An Open Letter to Netflix

Dear Netflix -

Like the rest of your customers, I received the letter from your CEO, Reed Hastings, yesterday:

"But now I see that given the huge changes we have been recently making, I should have personally given a full justification to our members of why we are separating DVD and streaming, and charging for both. It wouldn’t have changed the price increase, but it would have been the right thing to do."

The apology letter detailed the company's future plans to separate your DVD and streaming services, to rename your DVD service Qwikster, and to charge for them, separately. Well, on behalf of your customers, I would like to respond:

You guys are so stupid. "Qwikster?" What 50-year-old intern poring over 90s-era case studies came up with that name?

Look, you went about this the wrong way to begin with. You should have explained to customers about the difficult new contact negotiations the company was facing, and the reluctance of major studios to give up their streaming revenue in exchange for a flat fee, instead of letting business reporters do it for you. They want individual branding and extra compensation, like cable channels offer - nevermind that cable TV is being rendered extinct by the market penetration of new technologies like your very own streaming service and that it has the highest rate of customer dissatisfaction of any service industry in America, even behind cell phone companies. Basically, in an age of both innovation and austerity, studios are pitching a temper tantrum on the boardroom floor.

The Netflix CEO likes to say that actions speak louder than words, and that's great. A worthwhile product and great customer service go a long way. But if the only action customers can see and feel is a 60 percent rate hike, in the middle of a market that is - for now - still controlled by cable television, words become necessary.

Netflix, you had a great deal of brand loyalty, and you squandered it by not remembering your place in the market. Yes, you are still cheaper than cable. But you are still an ancillary service that most households carry in addition to cable - not the primary, stand-alone content provider for American households. You are still the scrappy upstart yapping at bloated, gluttonous media companies like Time Warner. You are democracy, capitalism and innovation. They are oligarchy, monopolization and status quo. You are not yet a major force in contract negotiations. Know your role and use it. We look forward to your future.

I am one of those few households that uses you as the primary content provider. I don't carry cable because I find it less reliable than my 6-year-old's memory for chore lists. I won't change my service for now, because you are still cheaper than cable - and I like the BBC serial content you provide - thanks for "Downton Abbey," "MI-5" and "Lost in Austen." But you all have to get your crap together. Nobody wants YET ANOTHER bill (really, two bills every month instead of one?), especially from a company (seriously, "Qwikster?") that sounds like a two-bit gas station."

Monday, September 19, 2011

How I feel talking politics


Friday, September 16, 2011


Thursday, September 15, 2011

An experiment in education

So, I had a new post all ready to go... but then I stumbled upon an education article in the New York Times this week that fascinated me - particularly this passage about teaching logic and critical thinking skills:

When I asked Bogin to explain Shchedrovitsky, he asked a question. “Does 2 + 2 = 4? No! Because two cats plus two sausages is what? Two cats. Two drops of water plus two drops of water? One drop of water.”

From there, the theories became more complex. In practice, though, the philosophy meant that Bogin delighted in barraging children with word problems and puzzles to force them to think broadly. It was the opposite of the rote memorization of the Soviet system.

At dinnertime, the kids taunted me with riddles. “Ten crows are sitting on a fence,” Arden announced. “A cat pounces and eats one crow. How many are left?” “Umm, nine,” I said, fearing a trap. “No, none!” she gleefully responded. “Do you really think that after one crow is eaten, the others are going to stick around?” 

I kind of want to move to Russia just to enroll Emmie in this school! Anyway, it's a fascinating read. Take a look at it.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

My daughter inherited my big mouth

Wednesday, September 14, 2011 By



Monday, September 12, 2011

A tribute to grandmothers everywhere

Monday, September 12, 2011 By

My sister and our nephew made this brostache tribute to my mother. Please let her know how much you admire her for passing on her grace and class to her children and grandchildren.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Whitewater rafting the Ocoee River

I put aside some things I love for quite some time. For a while, I was focused on going back to and finishing school. Then I was married, and suddenly pregnant. Then Emmie was small - so small! - and I didn't want to leave her. But I have freedom I haven't enjoyed for some time. And I intend to make the most of it by getting back into the things I love and set aside.

One of those things is whitewater rafting and kayaking. I took a refresher run down the lower Pigeon River earlier this summer. Labor Day weekend, I jumped back in full force with a run down the middle Ocoee River.

The Ocoee River was the site of the 1996 Olympic kayaking competition. The upper portion is world-class, technical and dangerous. People have died.

(Here is a clip of a video I took of a kayaker going through 
just one hole on the rapids. See how he gets fully submerged?! Yikes!)

This is not the section I did - LOL! At least, not yet. I have a five-year-plan.*

My sister and I took our 13-year-old nephew on a three-hour trip down the middle Ocoee, a section of Class III and Class IV rapids (on the traditional six-class scale) that harbors dangers like Hellhole and Tablesaw. The river is controlled by the Tennessee Valley Authority, which coordinates water releases from their dam system. The outfitting companies know the schedule and coordinate trips accordingly.

We chose a rafting outfitter that we had both used before, Nantahala Outdoor Center. I didn't know that National Geographic Traveler recommends them - but they do. The NOC has seven different centers on a number of rivers in the Southeast.

The only things you really need to go rafting are: strong swimming skills, full use of your arms and legs and the ability to work as a member of a team. The teamwork aspect of the trip is as important as the physical abilities, because seven paddles in the water can either propel the raft where it needs to go, or drive seven people into a hole that might drag them all into the water and drown them. The seventh person makes the most difference in the quality of your trip. That person is the guide.

A good guide isn't just skilled at reading and running the river. The best guides can also read the quality and experience of the boat's occupants, adjust their seating positions for maximum efficiency and motivate them to work together. It's not enough for someone to work their oar as a rudder like an expert. That person also needs to get their paddlers going fast enough to make it through rapids like Double Suck without getting pulled back and swamped under the current. They also have training in swiftwater rescue - although it's rarely needed.

 Tip your guide. If things go wrong,
he'll be flying in after you like Superman.
Swiftwater rescue is no joke.

Our guide was Ray, originally from New Orleans, La. Having gained his experience by running and guiding on the French Broad River for a few years, he was all of the things you want in a guide.

"Safety is important to me," he told us. "But I like to have fun. So we're going for a big splashy ride without sacrificing safety."

I used to look for a guide that was all "whoooo!" but I find that, while their enthusiasm certainly is infectious, people tend to fall out of their boats. Ray was chill. So what we got was a big ride, some splashy surfing and no one fell out.

Not to say there weren't moments where that could have happened. When you put into the river for the middle run, you put in right into Grumpy's, a stretch of Class III rapids. No time to get acclimated - just start paddling. Because I was so excited, I made a rookie mistake and didn't hook my feet. I almost went out in the first 60 seconds like an idiot.

Oh, yes. This is just the beginning. The TVA dam at
Ocoee Reservoir No. 2  (I think) is visible in the background.
It looks like a giant water slide, but don't get any ideas. 
Running that will get you jail time and a $5,000 fine.

Going into the rapids isn't the end of the world. Most of the time, you'll get pulled back into the boat quickly - or you can surf the whitewater and make your way over to the side. You wouldn't be the first person to fall in - and, in fact, sometimes that water looks really tempting. It has crossed my mind that throwing myself into the water could be as much - or more - fun as rafting or kayaking. In fact, the new trend is body surfing or paddle boarding through the rapids. I do not recommend this. But I'd be lying if I said I would not like to try it.

Can you surf like a pro? No?
Then don't attempt to paddle board whitewater.

There are some challenging and frightening sections of this run, and it's not for those under 12. While there's no swim test prior to participating, and everyone is outfitted to the gills with safety equipment, I don't think weak swimmers should try it, just in case. We were actually a little concerned about Jacob. He's not a weak swimmer; he's just young. But Kelli and I were both afraid that he might get dumped into the drink. On one rapid it seemed he might bounce out. She grabbed his arm, and I grabbed his lifejacket.

"If someone ends up in the water," guides tell you, "don't go in after them."

We might have ignored that advice. So I'm glad Jacob didn't fall out. Me? I was whooping it up and cackling like a Disney sorceress the entire trip.

Midway through the run, there's a lovely stretch where you can hop out and swim. Do it. The water is phenomenal. And it's a nice bit of relaxation before the insanity picks back up.

At the end of the run, near the TVA power station, there's a series of holes that propel your boat almost straight up into the air. This.... is the s#!t.

 Yes, your raft will get vertical. That's the best part!

Not to say that everything was perfect. The river was very crowded, which kind of killed the scenic vibe. So crowded, in fact, that at one point, our raft drove a kayaker up onto a rock. Oops. Sorry, dude. But it was Labor Day weekend. It was bound to be crowded.

At the end of the run, you pull your raft up onto the riverbank, and the outfitters load it onto a trailer. Then they drive you in a big bus back to the outpost and try to sell you photos. Since you probably didn't get any photos of yourselves as you paddled furiously through the rapids, and since there are professional photographers (sans Photoshop, boo!) snapping the shots alongside the river, it's actually a great idea to pick up a few - and it's way cheaper than a family sitting at a pro boutique.

If it's early in the day, and you're feeling it, grab another run - or try a run of the upper Ocoee... you know... if you don't mind the possibility of falling out and getting thrashed around like you're in a washing machine. Oh, don't be such a baby. Rangers trained in swiftwater rescue patrol that stretch constantly, with throw-ropes at the ready. Other boaters can be counted upon to assist, as well.

We also recommend dinner at the Ocoee Dam Deli & Diner when it's over. We ordered the triumvirate of meats: buffalo chicken wrap, pulled pork barbecue wrap and handmade burger. Everything was excellent, reasonably priced and very fresh. On Saturdays, they have a live bluegrass band. I can't think of one bad thing to say about the restaurant.

Would I recommend rafting the Ocoee River as a family activity? Yes. In fact, this may be one of the few activities your maudlin teens might actually enjoy! Take them. Take them often.

Disclaimer: We did acquire some injuries. I have tiny spot of "raft burn" on my inner calf, and Jacob managed to get stung by a bee and twist his knee.

Where: Ocoee, Tenn.
When: Before Memorial Day or after Labor Day, if possible. Otherwise, the river is crowded and lodging rates are almost double. But it's some comfort to have a crowded river: More boats to rescue anyone who gets dumped out.
Who: 12-years-old and older. Recommend strong swimmers.
Where to stay: There are a number of lodges in Ocoee. We grabbed a room at the Ramada Ltd. in Cleveland, Tenn., which was fine, but nothing special. Consider camping at one of the numerous area campgrounds. It's cheaper, and the weather is gorgeous!
What to bring: Swimsuit or shorts and a tank top; water shoes or something like Tevas; sunglasses; athletic strap for prescription glasses or sunglasses; sunscreen; towel; change of clothes; confidence and sense of adventure; tip money for the guide.

* The plan goes like this: "Within five years, I will do that Olympic run in a kayak without falling out or dying." I will work out the details later. Maybe. More likely, I'll just rent a kayak and throw myself into the water. ... And then die.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Hooked on phonics... not so much

Wednesday, September 07, 2011 By

Emmie and I are reading Junie B. Jones, and she is having trouble sounding out a word.

"Guh... ahhhh... ing," she tries. But that doesn't make sense to her.

"Guh... oooo... ing," she tries again. But that doesn't work, either. We've been reading for 20 pages, and she's starting to get frustrated.

"Wait, Doodle, there's one more sound an 'o' can make. Do you remember?"

"Is it dis sound? Phflllllllllllllltttt!"

She dissolves into cackles, laughing so hard that her stomach hurts.

"Hey, guess what?" she said. "I fink I'm going to change all da o's to be said like phflllllllt! Is dat a great idea, or what? Who do we call for dat decision?"

Monday, September 05, 2011

To the manners born

Monday, September 05, 2011 By

Emerson takes ballet, and while she refuses to show me what she's learned after her class, she will bust out a brief demonstration at wholly inappropriate moments. Like this morning, when she decided to show me her curtsy as I was blow-drying my hair.

"Look, mama! Firss, you put dis foot back. Den you ben' your knees and walla!"

She means "voila." It's so adorable.

"That's lovely, Emerson. Very well done."

"Now you, mama."

Um, okay. First I put one foot back... then I bend my knees and crrrrrrackcrack!

Yes, that was my knees cracking. No ballet for me.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Not at all helpful

Friday, September 02, 2011 By

During lunch, two coworkers and I were chatting about relationships. She is seeing someone casually. He and I were listening to a small dilemma she had.

"So I called to see if he wanted to do something tonight," she said. "I know we just saw each other Saturday, but I thought we could squeeze something in."

I couldn't help it. I snickered. He chuckled.

"That's what I was thinking, too," he smirked, and we dissolved into a full-on gigglefest that was totally lacking in intelligence or maturity.

"Thanks, guys," she rolled her eyes. "That's real helpful."

Am I the only thirty-(mumble)-year-old who still finds conversational phrases in contexts like this funny? It's so stupid! It's like the "Jersey Shore" of situational comedy!

Le sigh... I'm going to go read some Oscar Wilde.