When Will I Die, and Why Do Dogs Eat Poop?: Redux

Ah, yes, another oldie but goodie from the past (Sept. 2009), for your reading enjoyment; be aware these responses are from 2009, and some contain graphic wording: 

jpg_0627QUESTIONIt all started when when I wanted to use my silicone Bundt cake pan for the first time. Just before placing it in the oven, I wondered: Should I use a baking sheet to support the wobbly pan, or is this pan designed to use alone? I decided to do what anyone with a computer does: I Googled it. I intended to Google: “Should I use a baking sheet under a silicone pan?” but as soon as I typed, ”Should I,” a drop-down of popular suggestions appeared. I couldn’t ignore the juxtaposition of these responses. Some of the highlights (beware a graphic one) as they appear on Google:

“Should I…”
should i refinance my mortgage
should i stay or should i go (55.9 million results)
should i call him (85.4 million results)
should i shave my pubic hair
should i file bankruptcy
should i get a divorce

Magic 8 ballI didn’t know that Google had become a substitute for the Magic 8 ball (The Mattel Magic 8 ball, a toy used for seeking advice, was invented in 1946 by the son of a clairvoyant. You can even try an online version here).

(Concentrate and ask (Google) again….)

Typing “Should we…” in Google reveals a drop-down of the following:

“Should we….”
should we break up
should we get married (25 million results)
should weed be legal (over 45 million results)
should we have dropped the atomic bomb
should we file jointly
should we eliminate fats from our diet altogether and increase our proteins
should we move in together
should we get back together (99.9 million results)

Should I check “Does…”? (It is decidedly so.)
Does he like me (114 million results)
Does Obama smoke (over 30 million results)
Does hydroxycut/extenze/smooth away/alli work (responses condensed)
Does he love me
Does UPS delivery on Saturday
How about trying “Why”? (Without a doubt.)

“Why…”

why is the sky blue (25.2 million results)
why did the chicken cross the road
why men cheat
why did chris brown beat up rihanna
why do dogs eat poop
why did I get married (26 million results)

What kind of answers are Googlers expecting? (Reply hazy; try again.) What kind of answers are they finding? (Cannot predict now.)

I was on a roll. A peek at the results of “when,” “when will,” “how can,” and “how does”:

“When…”
whejpg_Earth-from-spacen is the superbowl
when will i die (893 million results)
when i grow up
when will the world end (176 million results)

“When will….”
when will i get my tax refund
when will the recession end

 

when will the economy get better
when will i get married (30.7 million results)

“How can…”
how can you tell if a guy likes you
how can i make my hair grow faster
how can you tell if a girl likes you
how can i get pregnant
how can you tell if a girl is a virgin
how can you tell if someone is lying (over 9.2 million results)

This is like eating potato chips…

“How does…”
how does a bill become a law (173 million results)
how does birth control work
how does david blaine levitate
how does google make money
how does unemployment work
Questions surrounding finances, birth control, the end of life, relationships, and hair growth seem to be of utmost concern for so many inquiring minds. I thought the popular question about how a bill becomes law was promising.

Is anyone finding meaningful answers to such major life decisions online? (Cannot predict now.) Will Googlers stop asking such questions? (Very doubtful….)

Just one more? (Yes, definitely.)
“Can I…”
can I has cheeseburger
can I have your number
can I get pregnant on my period
can I afford a house

Oh ~ and the answer to my question about silicone bakeware? A baking sheet is recommended to stabilize. The chocolate cake came out just great!

***

Follow me on Twitter @katcop13

Indulge the Creative Fire of Boredom!

Art by R. Ramiro of redmuseum.net

Art by R. Ramiro of redmuseum.net

What is it with me and the milieu of uncomfortable topics? Recently,  I was posting about creative people Letting Go and Moving On, and the accompanying grief. Perhaps it’s the hottest of the long summer days that inspires me now to address…without further, well, anything… the scintillating topic of boredom!

From “Life Without Boredom Would Be a Nightmare,” an article for Aeon by Andreas Elpidorou :

Pain is not the only unpleasant experience that humans are subject to. What about boredom? Might it serve some useful purpose, too? It certainly has no shortage of philosophical defenders. Bertrand Russell and the psychoanalyst Adam Phillips both spoke of the importance of being able to endure it. Russell asserted that the capacity to weather boredom is ‘essential to a happy life’, whereas Phillips speculated on its developmental significance for children. Friedrich Nietzsche commented on the creative power of boredom and found value in its relationship to art. So did Susan Sontag, who in a brief diary entry suggested that the most interesting art of her time was boring: ‘Jasper Johns is boring. Beckett is boring, Robbe-Grillet is boring. Etc. Etc. […] Maybe art has to be boring, now.’

Martin Heidegger discussed, at length, the ontological lessons that profound boredom can teach us. And the poet Joseph Brodsky, in what might be the most famous and sustained defence of boredom, exalted its existential import. In his commencement address to the class of 1989 at Dartmouth College, he called boredom a ‘window on time’s infinity’ and spoke of its ability to put our existence into perspective, to demonstrate to us our finitude and indeed the futility of our actions….

Elpidorou further explains how the mechanism of boredom changes our perception of time, sets off an internal alarm, creates an alternate line of thinking which, therefore, becomes responsively active, like the physical withdrawal from painful stimuli. Go read it all for some stuff your bored mind might enjoy chewing upon.

I think of boredom as one of the plucked strings of divine discontentment, whose grating tone pushes me to move when I can’t tolerate the dischord anymore. It always worked that way for me as a kid, too, that kind of dissatisfied cloud-gazing because I couldn’t think of a single better thing… until I did. I wonder, with the solidly-packed schedules of activities and pre-defined, fully-realized entertainment of modern kids, when they get the benefit of developing their imaginations in idleness and also to stage their own ambitious responses to boredom.

When I looked up famous quotes on boredom, what I mostly found were notable, quite high-achieving types talking about how they’d never, ever been bored, and how it represented some kind of moral failing and lack of curiosity and enterprise. Oh, Blah and pull the other one! I frankly call out this this positioning of virtue as BS. I consider that if you’ve never been bored–admit it, you have!– you’ve never gotten your mind out of first-gear. Case in point: my Boston Terrier, Tessie, who has loved her purple squid toy for years. We can play with it daily, and it’s never not new and wonderful. Every toss is a fresh joy. This is one of her undeniable charms, her in-the-now ness. But if I were trying to, say, write a story, this plotline seems to lack something: There was a dog with a purple squid… and then a squid… oh, and then there was a squid… how about adding a squid here? Not exciting? Well perhaps more purple squid is what this story needs!

Dynamism is the result, the solution of tension, and boredom applies tension. Sure, you may be the type of person who recognizes and intervenes quickly to stuff something you value more into the void represented by boredom, but boredom is inflicted upon us and against our wills by waiting rooms, bureaucracy, incompetence, well-meaning fairness, the weather, people who aren’t jumping to the end of a process with us and need our company from square one. Internal boredom with ourselves is what happens when there’s something wrong we haven’t named yet, perhaps something so wrong that even contemplating fixing it is so exhausting or intimidating that it brings on the anxiety-releasing yawns that are also shorthand for boredom.

I also think the time dilation that Elpidorou notes is a tell, an indicator that boredom is a kind of stirring intellectual impatience, a desire to jump ahead to the “good part.” Yes, when indulged, that can show up as bad behavior and lousy attitudes in the immature (also, I’d say an inability to conceive or appreciate intricacies of process or investments over time). But among the emotionally growed-up, who appreciate that some things do take time, some of the best things even, and who try not to make the world suffer for our very personal foibles, these transient, disinterested moments of mental drift, when it’s too frustrating to engage with the now, can be surprisingly creative. They can be problem-solving. And often, we must have this kind of useful torture inflicted upon us, because we refuse willingly to incur idleness or rest on our own.

The-Idlers-CompanionYou can go look up boredom’s many scolds yourself. As an antidote, I offer this collection of essays, The Idler’s Companion: An Anthology of Lazy Literature, which looks like it’s had a couple of different covers since the one I got. Probably, the editors and publisher got bored with previous editions. Here’s the scoop:

More than 50 authors celebrate the independent spirit struggling against the drudgery of the work ethic. The essays, poetry and fiction excerpts in this anthology are filled with convincing arguments for reclaiming our days from the monotony of the working world. These persuasive voices prove that although Idlers reject conventional labor, their time is well spent…. Sometimes humorous, sometimes thought-provoking, this anthology of essays, poetry, and fiction extolls the virtues of the life of idleness. It is divided into four sections by type of idler: courtier, monk, unemployed, and epicurean. The eloquently lazy contributors range from Samuel Johnson and Michel de Montaigne to Bertrand Russell, Friedrich Nietzsche, Henry David Thoreau (who argues forcefully against a life of excessive labor), and G.K. Chesterton, who muses on lying in bed and having a pencil long enough to write on the ceiling. This little volume is sure to provide a few pleasurable hours of intense intellectual idleness.

Hat tip: Arts & Letters Daily. 

Also, the leading image appears at The Writers Bucket List. Regardless of the pain evidenced in Lauren Tharp’s (@lilzotzwrite) post with tips on how to live through a dull freelancing gig, the death shown above is entirely metaphorical.

Boredom doesn’t have the power to kill you. It can only provoke you to murder it.

Cucumber Salad Recipe

cucumber-clip-art-350333Today I’m making my favorite cucumber salad recipe; I thought I’d share it with my fellow Women of Mystery and our friends who stop by and visit our blog.

This recipe comes from a family friend, Yvonne Ford, who gave it to me at my bridal shower in 1989. Although the shower was a surprise to me, I had asked the planners, my mom and sister, to ask the guests to include at least one of their favorite recipes.

I’ve been making it every summer since!

Two things: use a food processor if you have one, and refrigerate the salad overnight.

Here’s a photo, pre-refrigeration: IMG_6817

Cucumber Salad
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/3 cup oil
1/2 tsp. salt
2 medium cucumbers
1 red onion
chives

Heat the first four ingredients until dissolved. Cool.

Thinly slice cucumbers and onion (a food processor is great for this) and alternate slices in a bowl or dish that can be covered.

Pour mixture over cukes and onion. Sprinkle with chives. Refrigerate overnight. Serves six.

Here’s some background of the history of the cucumber, and the first documented use of the phrase, “cool as a cucumber.”

Do you have a favorite summertime recipe? Feel free to share if you like! Let me know if you try this out, I’d love to hear your opinion.

How about listening to Ella Fitzgerald sing “Summertime” while making it?

Enjoy!

Follow me on Twitter @katcop13.

Poirot and Tisanes for Me and Thee

Need-Another-Tisane-PoirotFor some reason, I’d forgotten about Hercule Poirot’s tisanes, otherwise known as herbal teas, often intended to have medicinal properties. They’re a big thing for him, perhaps how he thrives amid such rich gastronomy, and a pleasure to which I’ve only recently returned.

Over at Ellen Seltz’s Writer Blog, discreet inquiry, she has some delicious-sounding musings around the canny Belgian’s preferences, even if perhaps thought “noxious” by Captain Hastings:

He is mentioned in “The Adventure of the Egyptian Tomb” as being inordinately fond of Chamomile tea, which has a very delicate greeny-floral taste.

The link to another “fatal” tisane also looks great, but I was most thrilled to be reminded the brilliant Hercule shares my current passion for this other flower in the famed echinacea family. I was recently drinking some chamomile tea, purely for the pleasures of the herb-y taste, and was later surprised by how supple it made me feel, having (I learned) natural anti-inflammatories along with its myriad other benefits. I also discovered, oddly enough, that one of my dogs with a chronically itchy skin condition is soothed by being sprayed with cooled chamomile tea. So here’s to Poirot, who knows what the heck he’s on about, as if that were ever in question!

Writing is a Time Machine

time-machineBy the time you read this, something will have happened to a story I’m working on. Something critical. The horrible, awful first draft will be done, and at the moment I’m writing this post, I have absolutely no clue (ha) how that will have happened. I don’t know how I will have worked through the grinding uncertainty, the problems, the compromises. As I compose this post, it isn’t accomplished. But by the time you read it, everything will be different.

That’s because writing is a time machine.

“Years passed.” Readers and writers alike accept sentences like that without question.

If you’re writing, there’s no limit to how much time you can compress: centuries, eons, the ages of universes. You can freeze a moment as long as you want. Spend days writing pages that will take hours to read describing something that unfolds in mere minutes, even seconds. You can send a character back into any moment, again and again. You could change that past every time or never alter a thing. Zip someone forward into a future that you’ll steal in the next scene. Readers add their own variability of speeds, and they’ll dip in and out of your timeline as their own availability and interest allows. They could finish your story over years or in one night.

Movies have a frame rate. Music has a tempo. Most visual art tends to fix time, its own rebellion against the beastliness, but different. Theatrical events have curtain times and stage cues and planned intermissions.There is kinetic and performance art that’s more flexible, but often it’s so intergrated with the everyday that it doesn’t defy time, but simply runs at the speed of life.

But with writing, above all these other forms, the prosaic, regulated tick-tick of time is meaningless, except as it serves the story. Time becomes elastic and forgiving, the way it seldom feels in reality.

That’s one thing to love especially. I wonder how far along I am in that story now?

Forget Pi Day, it’s what writers do Every Day!

Let’s play a game, shall we, you doomed-to-be creative types?

Tell me whether you can get through these events and items related to today’s date, 3/25, without even a tiny, unwelcome twinge of curiosity, or even worse, an idea. *shudders*

ConstantineIn the Julian Calendar, 325 (C.E.) was known as the Year of the Consulship of Proculus and Paulinus. It marked the year of the Council of Nicea, the beginning of the colossal marble head of Constantine, and the outlawing of gladiatorial combat in the Roman Empire.

 

PercocetThe prescription narcotic painkiller Percocet comes in a popular 325-stamped dose.

 

 

 

lennon-325John Lennon’s early guitar is an oft-discussed Rickenbacker 325, an unusual model nicknamed the “Hamburg,” because that’s where he got it.

 

 

Donald_WestlakeThere are new Seattle lofts under development at 325 Westlake, an address which can’t fail to remind me of one of my favorite authors, a crime-writing Grand Master who wrote “I believe my subject is bewilderment. But I could be wrong.”

 

 

Bobcat-325Bobcat makes a 325 Compact Excavator, designed for tight spaces, which “with its multi-attachment versatility, can dig everything from trenches to postholes, break up concrete and carve landscape features. Its compact size and rubber track flotation allows you to have excellent flotation through mud….”

 

bmw-325Who could forget BMW’s famous and very fast 325?

 

 

 

Winchester-325Or Winchester‘s?

 

 

 

USS-LST-325USS LST-325 is the designation for a tank landing ship (acronymed as landing ship, tank) launched in October, 1942. She participated in D-Day at Omaha Beach, Normandy, also the invasion of Sicily and Salerno in 1943. Surprisingly, she served for decades more as part of the Greek Navy, and now docks in Evansville, Indiana as a museum that still sails!

 

In addition, March 25th in history saw:

  • the founding of Venice
  • the first horse race in America
  • Sicily’s Mt Etna erupting
  • Sputnik carrying a dog into orbit
  • Cagney & Lacey’s TV premiere
  • the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire
  • Elton John and Gloria Steinem and Jack Ruby born
  • the Boston Patriots becoming the New England Patriots (you know I had to mention!)
  • the Supreme Court’s ruling against “poll taxes”
  • the Great Dayton Flood
  • the first modern Olympics in Athens
  • Robert the Bruce’s crowning as King of Scots

How did you do? Most authors I know laugh, maniacally even, when people say they’ll supply a goldmine of an idea and all the writer has to do is execute it. Most writers don’t have any problem with getting ideas–they have much more trouble making them stop.

If you read this calmly and placidly with serene disinterest, experiencing not even a flicker of a “what if” crossing your mind, congratulations on having a Wednesday!

But as Flannery O’Connor, also born this day, once said: The writer should never be ashamed of staring. There is nothing that does not require his attention. So if you couldn’t get through unscathed, well, you have my condolences. You might be a writer.

New Year, New Rules

jpg_7006-Royalty-Free-RF-Clipart-Illustration-2015-Year-With-Cartoon-Red-Christmas-BallHappy New Year!

Each January, I always read the ‘new laws’ with great interest. Some are overdue, some are ridiculous (more so the enforcing of such laws), some are even funny; occasionally, they even make sense. Some laws are federal, state-wide, or local. jpg_law_justice_008

ABC News has taken a look into laws going into effect in 2015. California is adding 930 new laws this year!

Fox News desjpg_PBA0101cribes some of the new laws, including the banning of ‘Tiger Selfies.’

Check USA.GOV for laws and regulations, federal and by state. This site also lists the most popular New Year’s Resolutions, and provides American Holidays and Observances.

At Forbes.com, Robert W. Wood lists “New Years Resolutions That Actually Keep The IRS Away.

jpg_2784-IpadAt Mashable.com, Karissa Bell gives us “8 Apps To Help You Actually Keep Your 2015 New Year’s Resolutions.”

Jeff Goins, on GoinsWriter.com, shares “13 New Year’s Resolutions for Writers.”

jpg_BPA0225

Any thoughts on the new laws of 2015?

Have you made any New Year’s Resolutions?

 

May my fellow Women of Mystery blog-mates, all of our cherished readers, and their families, enjoy a healthy, happy, and productive new year!

jpg_Specl214

Follow me on Twitter @katcop13.

Sneaky Elves

Apparently on Christmas Eve some very sneaky elves tiptoed into my shed and left this fantastic present.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Fortunately, as a mystery writer I was able to investigate and catch some of the sneaky elves.

Kastie Billy 12_14

And I brought them into to the house where we proceeded to make cookies for Santa. And the elves may have eaten a cookie or two.

I’m almost as good at riding as I am at baking.

Terrie

I Always Prefer the Eve!

Christmas-Eve-CountdownI just love today’s heightened sense of anticipation, the extra sparkle everywhere, the joyous unraveling of spirits breaking free to celebrate and little ones unable to marshal their keen, quivering desires. That’s Christmas Eve to me, and I like it even better than the day itself. What else does it remind me of, this moment that’s atingle with optimism and too early for disappointment?

We see the brightness of a new page where everything yet can happen.

So true, Rilke. You nailed it as usual.

Here’s a toast to a writing life that feels that full of wonder and potential, everyday.

What’s Scary? Time on My Hands, No Excuses, Gratuitous Styx

deathClockWhew! I haven’t posted in 2 weeks. Perhaps I should say something substantive as if my absence has been spent in the deepest, most profound contemplation or finishing a manuscript (as I know at least a few, and could even be more WoM have been busy doing recently, and big thumbs-up to them!). But this has been one of those periods when I’m busiest wrapping up older business, like you’d handle the fall clean-up for your lawn and garden.

I joked with a friend of mine that my office is so piled with paperwork it looks like Georgia Pacific got an aggressive case of turista. Unsavory comparisons aside…

I’m not entirely sure what I’ll do next. I have a few cool writing projects in-process (and I’ve mentioned a couple here) and once my time is my own, I may return to one or more of them and try to get them done. I have a few more multimedia-type projects in mind, and I might tackle those. Once you’re I’m free to work, the next specter you I will face is that of performance anxiety, of artistic failure, of all the miscellaneous gripes and frets creative people put themselves through on the way to making something new. I’m not looking forward to that personal thresher, but if the pot of gold is through the swamp, I’d better get on the waders. Part of understanding how my own creative process works means knowing I don’t have to panic when it gets painful, because it will, but then, if I persist, the work will get better and I’ll feel better. And better still, until I’m done. And being DONE is as close to nirvana as I’ve achieved in this life. That moment when you can sit back without guilt having accomplished something worth doing.

By the time I’m past Bouchercon–I can’t believe it’s only 2 weeks from now, eek!– I think my schedule could get downright reasonable. I’m glad I didn’t know it was going to take almost all of 2014 to unspool some of the many worthwhile tasks I’d knotted myself into. I wouldn’t have made such rosy predictions about my personal projects had I known, but then again, foolish hope looks good on me. And sure, there will be the onset of the holiday season after Murder on the Beach, but I’m one who really enjoys that annual spectacle, and doesn’t get driven crazy by it. By 2015, seriously this time, I think there’s the whisker of a possibility that I can dedicate the majority of my creative time to my own work.

That’s going to be a thrill. And completely frightening. Boo!

And because I’m a rock hack from way back, I can’t think the phrase “time on my hands” without thinking about this… and I don’t know what to do…

Pointy guitars rule!