What are we talking about today?

I'll get back to theme days once I find a groove of posting regularly. In the meantime, most of my posts are about some variation of books, bikes, buses, or Broadway. Plus bits about writing, nonprofits, and grief from time to time.

This blog is mostly lighthearted and pretty silly. It's not about the terrible things happening in the world, but please know that I'm not ignoring those things. I just generally don't write about them here.

30 September 2010

How to Be an Elite Athlete

Now I know what to do before my next marathon: Eat Weetabix! And wear a giant stuffed costume.

And while on the subject of Weetabix, here's my favourite advert of theirs (although they are all brilliant):

29 September 2010

A First for Cheekyness

I don't do book reviews, for the simple reason that I don't really know how. But, I'm going to give it a shot, anyway.

Like we don't own enough books.
Amazon.com has recently released Kindle apps for pretty much everything, including (yay!) Kindle for PC. Voilà, lots of reading for me, because Amazon also has a large supply of free e-books. The first evening we had the app, Chad and I downloaded 143 books between us. (Budgeting our time to read them all while still living our lives will be another story.)

28 September 2010

Language, Language

My last class of the day is Spanish literature (also my hardest class of the day, but those are the breaks). I'm already thinking in Spanish when I leave class, so I generally try to keep my thoughts going in Spanish until I get home and must use English with my husband (although he does do his best to take advantage of my Spanish education in a 2-for-1 kind of way).

27 September 2010

Random Thought O' The Week.

Hi, my name is Su and I'm a Blogger.

I've never been to an AA (or any of its spin-off groups) meeting, but I've seen enough of them on TV to know that's how a speaker begins. And because I am a person of much cheek, that's what I think of whenever someone introduces him/herself. I'm sure there is some way in which that is completely inappropriate, but I'm not bothered.

Case point: The youth minister at church got up a few Sundays ago and said, "Hi, my name is Bryan and I'm the youth minister." And I had to hold myself back from replying, "Hi, Bryan!"

Although I did write it on my notepad. Because that's the kind of brain that I carry around with me. It's fun in here.

26 September 2010

Words: I Pray for Nothing Less

I've been planning this post since I began my "Words That Have Changed My Life" miniseries, but the scrapbook containing these lyrics was already boxed up for moving at that point, and I've only just taken it out. Something like six months my poor memories were packed away; no wonder I can't remember anything!

25 September 2010

I Should Have Known

I cried every morning the first week of kindergarten. And I think that's because my 5-year-old brain knew that my academic life would one day come to this.

I've had the sort of kinks in my week that one normally associates with the first week of the semester. Not me; I waited until week 5. You know, when I had tests and papers due and my sanity depended on my being able to keep to a routine.

24 September 2010

I Think I've Heard Enough.

If you were looking for ranting, you came to the right place!

What with me being a transplanted Hoosier living in Texas, I get a lot of Yankee jokes. I do my best to explain to those around me that being from Indiana makes me a Midwesterner, not a Yankee. But I don't mind, because it turns out that it's just as easy to make a southern or Texan joke in response, so they are really just sharpening my wit.

23 September 2010

Happy Anniversary!

At my brother's wedding.
With this post, I've equalled my total number of posts for the past two years running. I guess I can take the rest of the year off. See you in January.

22 September 2010

Not Really the Original Marathon

I read this post a few days ago on RunnersWorld.com. But in case you don't want to read an article about an ancient legend, I'll summarize it for you:

Pheidippides has long been considered to be the originator of the marathon because he ran from Marathon to Athens (25 miles), shared news of the Athenian victory at the Battle of Marathon, then dropped dead, thus making the ultimate sacrifice to inspire millions of people to do completely insane things in the name of sport. But, in the spirit of a true legend, most of this probably didn't happen. (Including, but not limited to, the fact that we've thought for ages that it was around now-- late September-- but more recent research points to mid-August. Sheesh.)

21 September 2010

All Hope Is not Lost

Even though I'm as cranky as the day is long (and nearly as cynical), I'm still moved by the amazing things people will do for one another. It's a nice antidote to the end-of-the-world stuff we get on the nightly news.

Last Saturday, I was volunteering for UT. And so were a bunch of other students. In a time when college students are frequently known only for the bad choices made by some, it was inspiring to see so many teens (for they were mostly first-year students) get up early to serve their school.

20 September 2010

The Song May be Annoying, but It Isn't Wrong:

It really is a small world. After all.

Sometime last spring, my cousin Deb who lives in California went to a ladies' retreat in Yosemite, where she met Amy and Sarah, who live in Austin. Being the thoughtful person that my cousin is, she told them that I would be moving to Austin and it would be cool if I already knew some people in town, and so she introduced us on Facebook.

19 September 2010

Words That Changed My Life: Finish the Race

"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."

I think I've mentioned--about 86 times--that running is a good metaphor for life. And it is: Running has easy days and hard days. Life has easy days and hard days. Running has times that hurt. Life has times that hurt. Running has uphills, downhills, fast times, slow times, exuberant times, why-is-this-so-stinkin'-hard times, patches where you speed up with joy, patches where you slow to a walk. Days when it would be easier to stay in bed, races when it would be easier to quit. Days when the crowd is screaming for you to finish, and days when the crowd is screaming at you to "Get out of the road, idiot!".

Was the apostle Paul a runner? I'm going to go with "No" on this one, although I think it hardly matters. He understood the ways of the runner, that's certain. And more than that he understood the ways of someone who sees something better ahead, who lives for something outside of himself, whose path through life is different from her neighbours, and who knows the importance of finishing the race.

If you're reading this, then you haven't crossed the ultimate finish line yet. But you've certainly hit some intermediate finish lines: Perhaps you graduated. Or got married. Or raised children. Or earned a degree. Or got a new job, or a promotion, or a well-deserved retirement. But you know the funny thing about intermediate finish lines? They are also intermediate starting lines. So you finish and begin again.

Are you on an uphill? Your finish line is coming. Are you frustrated? Fix your eyes on the road ahead. Are you tired? It's okay to take a rest. Feeling great? Look around you; who of your fellow travelers might you encourage today?

Keep moving. Reach the next mile marker. Finish.

18 September 2010


Let me just start off by stating the obvious: I'm a cranky, cynical, antisocial so-and-so.

I really am. I like it that way. I've frequently considered my personality to be one part Oscar the Grouch, one part Ebenezer Scrooge (in the "leave me alone" way, not the "Hey, look! Money!" way), one part Red Forman (I swear that character is based on my paternal grandfather), and a small sliver of Pollyanna. I think it's the small sliver that keeps me from being completely odious to everyone around me.

However much fun I'm having being this cranky (and I am!), that doesn't make it right. Continuous grumpiness is no way to go through life, dangit. And after running across this blog a few days ago, I feel pretty strongly that I should be letting Pollyanna out every now and then (she would probably enjoy the fresh air).

So, I began keeping a "gratitude list"; it's in the sidebar. One new thing that I'm grateful for every day, from now until my fingers fall off. (I'm sure that my fingers having not fallen off will make it onto the list eventually.) Or perhaps until Gabriel blows his horn.

It doesn't do for someone who is as blessed as me to always be grumpy. Not even for entertainment purposes.

Please share in the comments what you are grateful for today.

17 September 2010

It's Astronomical

I did a lot of moaning over the summer about my astronomy class, mostly because it's outside my major and I was not that excited to discover, upon arriving at UT, that because of the funky way my credits transferred I still had 7 hours of science to take. That sadness is somewhat tempered by my joy at not having to take any more maths, except that science = math in my word-loving, number-hating brain.

However, I took astronomy because it has a fourth hour, a lab, that would enable me to meet my science requirement with only two classes, not three. (4+3=7; whaddya know, math isn't all bad) And now I'm taking the lab portion, every Monday evening for the entire semester.

The same TA from the summer class is teaching us-- more on him later-- so at least it's someone I'm familiar with. My classmates are-- how shall I say it-- interesting. In three weeks of a semester, I've already grown accustomed to only seeing fellow majors in my classes, so mixing with students from lots of fields one night a week is fun. And I've managed to give one of them a nickname: Guess I Was Wrong. More about him later, too, unless he suddenly becomes a sensible person.

So, I was actually here to tell you the cool part about this week's class. We went to the roof of the building after it got dark in the hopes of looking at the moon and Venus. But, our TA couldn't get his key to work to get out the telescopes, so he had to go fetch another grad student to help him, and then it took them a few minutes to get the telescopes set up. Meanwhile, the class was all gathered around the edges of the building, looking out a Austin all lit up for the night. It was a pretty cool sight, and if I remember next week, I'll take the camera along to get some pics.

And once the telescopes were finally ready, we got to look at the moon (Venus was hiding behind a cloud). I don't think I've ever looked through a proper telescope before-- the image was amazing. We could, as promised, see craters and mountains. And with the moon being just a crescent at the moment, we could see the line of shadow and a teensy bit beyond the shadow in the half-light, and beyond that was darkness. So. Cool.

One of the other ladies & I had been chatting, and so we were the last ones to look at the moon. As we left, we agreed: That was totally worth the wait.

Astronomy isn't so bad, after all.

16 September 2010

Blue & Gold are Still Better

I went to orientation the week before the semester started, as I mentioned before. And we watched a video that encouraged integrity, not just while we are at UT, but for the rest of our lives; it was actually a well-done and inspirational video. It began with "We have an anthem," and included bits (spoken) of the university song.

So, going into Gone to Texas, I knew some of the words, although all I really remembered was that it begins with "The Eyes of Texas are upon you" and ends with "'Til Gabriel blows his horn." And knowing those two bits, I was expecting a really cool song, on par with some of the high school songs we've heard over the past few years.

BTW, is it weird that my high school only had one song? Schools down here have a school song and a fight song, but GCHS only has one that serves as both. I don't know if that's a Texas thing, a southern thing, or if it's a nationwide thing and we just didn't participate. Regardless, the school songs I've heard down here really are like hymns, and I was expecting more of the same from my university.

So, Gone to Texas began with a girl singing "The Eyes of Texas", and I wasn't listening too closely, because I was getting Chad & I some water and was dodging people to get back to my seat, although I did think, "Hmmm, that tune sounds familiar."

Before I could place it, though, I got back to my seat and Chad was singing the second verse... of "I've Been Working on the Railroad." Yep, that's my school song. You have got to be kidding me.

Chad did a little research and apparently one of the sites he ran across says that the tune started out as an insult to UT (edited to add: Apparently it was an insult to the then-UT president, not the entire university), but in truly Texas fashion, the then-authorities embraced the insult as a compliment and it stuck. Sigh. All the really cool words in the world can't fix that tune.

So, yes, I am disappointed by my school song. As we left that evening, they were playing it again and everyone was singing along, and I told Chad, "I should have gone to Notre Dame."

'Cause their song rocks.

15 September 2010

My University Has a Football Team?

UT's first game of the year was, I believe, against Rice.

For all I know, it might equally well have been against Barley, Wheat or Quinoa. I'm fairly certain it was an away game, and my classmates assure me that UT won. I have every sympathy with my linguistics instructor, a doctoral student who tries so hard to care about the stuff undergrads care about: The next class day after the game, she asked, "How was everybody's weekend? Didn't we play... somebody?" The class giggled, but I think they did at least appreciate the effort.

I know about the first home game of the year, though; there were lots of signs, tents, charter buses, and bewildered out-of-towners on campus to announce the coming festivities. And, in case I had missed all those clues, Capital Metro provided this public service announcement: DELAYS EXPECTED. UT vs WYOMING FOOTBALL GAME. Ah, that clears it up. I can always rely on my bus company to keep me informed. (Really, I can. They're pretty fabulous that way.) And, my classmates tell me again, we won last weekend as well.

I discovered about 10 years ago that the best time to go shopping for anything in Lubbock was during a Tech game. I'm hoping the same holds true for the Longhorn games; otherwise, what's the point? I just hope I never need to use the library during a football game, because thousands of screaming people might impair my concentration.

14 September 2010

Yep, it's shiny & new!

Okay, I admit it, it's shiny & same-old. New look, same drivel.

Yes, I have known for quite some time that my blog was tired and blah, but I have not been that interested in de-blah-ing it. (I'd like to see what my linguistics teacher would do with that!)

But, when someone who has a pretty nice-looking blog himself suggested it was time for an upgrade, and more importantly, offered to help make it pretty, I was totally happy to agree. And please, when you see the word "help" in the previous sentence, do interpret it as "figure out something for me so that all I had to do was continue being happy". I've looked through other blogger templates about a dozen times, but could never rip off the Band-Aid myself, so to speak; I couldn't part with navy & forest green without outside intervention. Enter Brandon, who does blog interventions with the greatest of ease.

I would illustrate this post with a picture of Brandon, but I don't have one, so instead, here's John Wayne's head chiseled in stone, which (as far as I know) is still on display in the LCU library. Brandon does not resemble a stony John Wayne in any way, although Brandon and John Wayne's head lived in the same city for a few years. If you'd like to see what Brandon actually looks like, click the link above & check out his blog.

And I hope everyone enjoys the new blog look as much as I do.

13 September 2010

Get Me to an Umbrella

There's a student-friendly CVS across the street from campus, and I went in there one day last week to pick up a couple of things before heading home.

I was really after Q-tips. (Cotton swabs are one of a handful of products that I refer to by a brand name.) I didn't want to buy them at the over-priced pharmacy section of the grocery store, so I decided to try my luck at a drugstore. That place ought to be filled with Q-tips, right?

Um. No. It is not. I went down three aisles that I thought made sense, before finding them in the very back. Right next to the umbrellas, and I hope someone besides me thinks that this is an odd combination. And since I've been wanting an umbrella (and it was raining while I was in the store), I went ahead and got one before proceeding to the Chapstick aisle. (Yes, lip balm is also on the "brand name" list.)

Buying Chapstick should not be complicated, and yet like every other dang thing that is commercially available, there are too many options. It takes a few minutes of contemplation before I decide to shut my eyes and grab one at random. Usually, that doesn't give me the one I want, but it eliminates a possibility.

Why regale you with a trip to a drugstore, you may wonder? It's another part of a new city. It's the little quirks of life that tell me I'm not quite settled yet, when I can't even find Q-tips and Chapstick. And so I take a step closer to knowing where I am, and where everything else is in relation to me.

Plus, I'm hoping to get some kickbacks from CVS.

12 September 2010

Nine Years Later

I'm not sure why I feel obligated to write a September 11th post every year.

So instead, I'm going to tell you about September 10th, 2001.

My brother was really good friends with one of our uncles. (I liked him, too, but I wasn't invited to poker night, so didn't have quite the interaction with Jim that Billy did.) (This is not the same uncle that liked "The Curly Shuffle".) That summer, I had gone to Indiana and spent some time with my aunt & uncle, along with most of the rest of the family. Billy mentioned to me that Uncle Jim had asked him about God a few times, but I don't know where the conversations went from there. Apparently Uncle Jim respected my brother's then-intended career choice of being a minister. Jim also, in the course of that summer, asked my brother to conduct his funeral, and Billy, thinking that would be a long time in the future, agreed.

A couple of weeks after I went back to Lubbock, I spoke to my aunt on the phone: Uncle Jim had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and had weeks, maybe, to live. No wonder he asked Billy so many questions; he was getting ready for the hereafter.

I missed the phone call, on the 8th or 9th of September, that Uncle Jim had passed, because I was out of town. And I was at a complete loss of what to do, because I desperately wanted to be there to support my aunt and cousins (and my brother, who was conducting his first--and, so far, only-- funeral), but had no money for an emergency trip to Indiana. My father assured me that my aunt knew I was there in spirit, but I felt like all kinds of an idiot when I picked out a card to send to my beloved auntie-- what do you write to someone you love that much, who has just lost the person she cared for more than anyone else in the world?

September 10th. I met with some friends to pray that morning, and we specifically talked to God about my aunt, and my cousins, and my brother. My dad told me later that one of Jim's friends also spoke at the service, and he said to my cousins, "The word 'hero' is thrown around a lot these days, but I want you kids to know: Your dad was a hero." Yes, he was; he was a WWII vet who served in the Philippines.

And the next day, even more heroes were called into action. Some are still here, and therefore I urge us all: Thank them while there is still time.

11 September 2010

No Stampeding for Me

I bet someone out there was hoping that I'd truly stop with the monthly race recaps, now that I'm not running monthly races, huh? Boy, were you silly.

I really won't be recapping any more after this, but I couldn't let my favourite race on the WTRC calendar zoom right past me without mentioning it. The Shallowater Stampede was our first WTRC race three years ago, and it's been the site of a couple of PRs for me, including one last year that I still giggle happily at the thought of. This pic is from that first race in '07; not my prettiest one ever, as you can plainly see.

So, this post should hit the web about an hour before race start time (although as WTRC races have grown, more people have showed up at the same time we always have done (I say "we" because I do it, too) only to find the registration lines to be pretty dang long, so start times are a bit more flexible than they were only a couple of years ago), and if my day is on course, I'll already be outside running. Five miles is what I have planned for what I'm sure will be a glorious Saturday morning.

But I'll be alone, again. Missing my pals (and especially Sarah, since this was her first WTRC race last year) and the familiar sights and sounds of the Shallowater Stampede. Sorry that I can't buy a t-shirt to help support the senior class' Sober Grad Night in May (we do know some of this senior class personally, and they had darn well better be sober on their grad night! I'd hate to drive all the way to Shallowater just to berate them!). So very, very sad that my dear friends and former coworkers Bridget and Becky won't be there to greet me at the end, as they have unselfishly done the past couple of years.

Have fun, Stampeders! Wish we could join you.

10 September 2010

Change Your Outlook Like You Change Your Socks

I probably mentioned before that I'm fascinated by generational traits, and especially those of my own generation; the more articles I read, the more convinced I become that the whole of Gen X (of which I am one of the youngest) has middle-child syndrome. And so I participate in my generation's attitude problem by announcing that it is the Baby Boomers' fault. Hee hee hee.

Possibly even more fascinating is watching how quickly an individual's attitude changes. Every stage in life seems to have a few things in common: 1. Eagerness for the next stage (although this settles down a bit as people get past about 25), 2. The idea that now we've figured it all out, and 3. Absolute contempt for the immediately previous stage.

Personally, I think these traits are particularly evident in new parents. As someone who has spent a lot of time over the last eight years as a childless woman in a conservative town with child-bearing friends, I feel pretty qualified in making that statement. (And I hope that I can learn something from them and try to tone down my own change-of-life-ness toward other people when my time comes.) It's remarkable how major life changes bring about some personality shifting.

The second group I've noticed act this way are college students. The current Verizon advert with the "Rule the Air" slogan includes some teenage girls expressing their desire to be taken seriously, even though they are only 16. Too bad that in two or three years' time, they won't be taking 16-year-olds seriously, either. Teens that want to be heard tend to turn into young adults who don't want to listen to high school students.

And it gets worse: Upperclassmen sneer at lowerclassmen. Non-trads laugh at the antics of 22-year-olds who think themselves to have the whole world under control. And the older non-trads (that's me!) think that all younger students have more naiveté than necessary.

Recently there was a conversation between two guys in my Astronomy class, talking about a TA who was "like, 23 years old!". Both said they didn't want to listen to him because he was so young, quite clearly forgetting that it wasn't so long ago that they, too, were 23-year-olds with valuable things to say.

Because the issue isn't that younger people don't have value. It's not that they don't have good ideas or that they are dumb. It's the lack of experience to mix with the good ideas that leads to them being ignored. A bummer, to be sure, but it happens to everyone.

And despite their best intentions that "I'm not going to act like that!", frustrated teens grow into dismissive college students who grow into we-know-better late 20somethings who grow into new parents who suddenly know what life is all about, until those babies grow into teens... and so on. The great circle of life, as it were.

It's fun to watch, anyway.

09 September 2010


This post is going to end up being self-deprecating, so please don't run away when I start off sounding arrogant. Okay? Great.

My siblings & I are reasonably smart people. We are fortunate enough to have intelligent genes on both sides of our family; in fact, on my mum's side of the family, I think we're the dumb ones. My dad's side of the family has plenty of brains, too, but there are some who have left the tools in the box for so long that it may have rusted shut.

Anyway, we have some game. Unfortunately, we are the stereotypical smart people who have as much absentmindedness as we have brain cells, and are more or less useless when it comes to areas outside our personal expertise.

Me: I can't add. You know what else you can't do when you can't add? Subtract, multiply or divide. Or any complicated mathematics. I'm also excluded from such areas as science, engineering, computer programming, graphic design; in other words, pretty much every marketable skill comes down to being able to add.
Billy: Rarely forms a coherent sentence. I don't know that he can't, but he certainly doesn't, most of the time. Basically, he and I have opposite skill sets. I've often wished that we had been twins, so I could have done his language-related homework while he did my math & science. The authorities might have frowned upon that, but still...
Denise: Is the last one to get any joke. Ever. Standup comics should have to practise on Denise; they'd work really hard to be funny, because she wouldn't laugh to begin with, and they'd end up thinking they were funnier than they really are, because she would laugh really hard when she finally got it. (Also, this pic makes it look like Denise is shorter than me. Rest assured, that is not the case; we were standing on an incline.)

So I say all this, not so my siblings will send me hate mail, but to set up for this conversation that my reasonably smart self had with my genius sister:

Me: (having just explained why I have 17 textbooks for one semester) Bigwords.com is an amazing thing.
Denise: What is it?
Me: Big. Words. Dot com. As in, words that are large.
Denise: Does it really have big words?
Me: Not that I have noticed. But I do use a lot of big words, so it may have just looked normal to me; you'll have to look for yourself.
Denise: No...
Me: (I'm an interrupter) And actually, you use big words, too! Get somebody dumb to look at it and tell you if they use big words.
Denise: No, no! I mean, are their words big? Like, size 72??
Me: Oh, right! No, I don't think so, except for the title at the top.
Denise: (having arrived on the page) No, they aren't. Well, isn't that a bummer.

Yep. Big words, "size 72", inability to communicate: We are regular Einsteins, all right.

08 September 2010

Why "Su"?

So here's a question I get a lot: Why do I abbreviate "Susan" as "Su"?

And since I am here to answer your questions as they relate to this strange world inside my brain, the simple answer is: Because of C.S. Lewis.

The longer explanation is this: I don't like the look of "Sue". It's fine for other people, if that's what they want, but I don't like that extra "e". For some reason, it's always bugged me. So for years I resisted being called "Sue" or "Susie", because I was worried that someone might write either one down with an "e" on the end, and I would be stuck with it.

I was in high school when help arrived in the form of Prince Caspian. I'd read the book before, but somehow managed to skate over the children addressing Susan as "Su". But there it was, and there was much happiness for me; finally, a nickname I could get behind.

And "Su" it's been ever since.

(When I went to Google Images to get inspiration for this post's pic, I got a bunch of aircraft. Apparently, "Su" is also the abbreviation for Super-Fighters, or something along those lines. I also got a pic of Roger Federer, which is beyond odd, even while much appreciated.)

07 September 2010

What's that you say?

I'm taking an introductory linguistics class.

So far, we've discussed a bit how languages change over time; words fall from use, new words are created, and the same words continue but change meaning. I'm not sure that my classmates have bought into this, except in an "old days" or abstract kind of way (as in, 200 years ago "automobile" wasn't a word).

Which of course set me to thinking. When I graduated high school, if someone had said "Google", I would have wondered which Muppet that was. "Facebook" would have been what I did when I tried to read without my glasses. "Access" and "journal" were nouns, and "scrapbook" was a hobby, not an industry.

When I started thinking about words for this post, I marveled at how much the English language has changed in just my adult life. I've always known that languages evolve, of course; one needs only to consider the differences between Portuguese and Brazilian, or English and American and Canadian, or Spanish and ... choose a country. But it's relatively easy to look at those and consider the hundreds of years of separation that have passed-- no wonder they have changed--and harder to see it happen on a day-to-day (or, perhaps, year-to-year) basis.

The first time I went back to visit Scotland, I noticed that the slang was different. Two and a half years passed between my leaving Glasgow and returning, and everyone, not just the kids, was using completely different slang words. This shouldn't surprise me, when I know full well about differences in dialects and regional accents and the fast-changing nature of language-- I didn't need a linguistics class to tell me that-- but it was still stunning when I was face-to-face with the reality of a shifting dialect.

I'm studying linguistics mostly for my own entertainment. I don't intend to make a career of it, but it's a required minor for my Hispanic Linguistics major. And it may prove to be very entertaining indeed.

06 September 2010

Beware the Teachable Moments

I failed to share this little gem of a story from summer school, but it gives a bit of a glimpse into the brain of Su, so here you go. (Those who know me well may consider themselves excused. Take the day off from reading Cheekyness.)

So, my group & I took possession of the Rhetoric & Writing department's conference room at the suggestion of our instructor. And she quite predictably dropped in when she was between meetings, and promptly began talking about the decorations on the walls. (The room does have some pretty cool stuff on display.) Everything that is up, she said, has something to do with rhetoric.

And then she said good-bye and went on her merry way, leaving me to say to my group mates, "Wow, I am so that person."

They wanted to know what I meant, and you might be wondering, too, so I'll just tell everyone. I am a disseminator of information. Whether you want to know about a particular subject or not, once you get into a conversation with me, I'm probably going to give you more random facts than you can handle. This, I have finally realised, is probably why my coworkers at the previous job often said that I know everything; they would ask an innocent question about a subject I have some knowledge of, and ten minutes later I'd still be talking.

Small amounts of information, Su; small amounts.

Nowhere is this tendency more prevalent, I think, than when I'm with kids. My own niece and nephew come in for a lot of my monologues, of course, but any children who hang out with me for more than a few minutes shall see me gladly seize hold of any and all teachable moments that come my way and belabour them to death.

As is my wont, I probably won't learn anything from this revelation, and in fact, I may try to enhance it. Which brings me to another personality quirk; since I only spend time with people I want to be around, I assume that everyone else has the same policy. Therefore, people who hang out with me by choice must want to hear random facts about every little thing.

05 September 2010

And a Final Thought

I finished On Writing quite some time ago, and have moved on to more challenging books ("more challenging" because they are in Spanish, not because they have harder words). But I did have one more thought to share.

Mr. King talked about his work habits; he writes about 2000 words per day when he has a project in progress. How much one writes per day varies from person to person; he mentions Anthony Trollope, for instance, who wrote for 2 1/2 hours exactly every morning. When his time was up, he would stop mid-sentence if need be. On the other hand, if he finished a novel with time remaining, he would put it to one side and start a new one.

The basic advice he gives here is to read a lot and write a lot. I really am trying to read a lot, although again, my current reads are all in Spanish; I do have to acknowledge my circumstances, after all, and if I can't read in Spanish then I have no business majoring in it. As for writing a lot... well, that's one reason I have this blog. While it's not exactly fiction on here, it's also not a news report; I do give my own spin & commentary to the events in my world. And sometimes (like today) I just share the thoughts that are floating around in my brain that need an escape valve.

And I still recommend On Writing to anyone who is remotely interested in 1) Stephen King, or 2) Writing. It's a great book.

04 September 2010

Conversation is so 1990.

I'm going to have to add a "Facebook" label to my list if I keep referring to it so frequently. Meh... I think everyone knows about Facebook, and has no need to look up how many times I mention it.

So, there are dozens of articles out there about how social media is driving us all further apart, destroying a sense of community, encouraging people to live as hermits, and so on. And I am not going to argue with that, because goodness knows I've seen it in my own life.

When I first joined Facebook about a year and a half ago, I was amazed, amused and otherwise pretty darn happy about how many people from South Plains were on FB. I told Chad at the time, "South Plains has 1200 members and about 700 of them are on Facebook; who needs community groups? We can all log on at once on Sunday night."

Obviously, I was joking (mostly-- that would be a good way to have multiple conversations at once without a lot of noise and people getting interrupted). But when I made the same joke at church a few weeks later, there were a lot of unamused people. I can only presume that they had already had the same idea, but didn't want anyone else to know they thought it was a good plan.

On the other hand, I have noticed that the founding idea of Facebook-- to enhance real-life relationships-- has happened for me. I went from talking to friends at church once or twice a week to "talking" to them every day. And suddenly we were talking about all sorts of stuff, well beyond the "Did you have a good week?"-type conversation one tends to have when one only has five minutes to talk to someone on a Sunday morning. Plus-- and this is the holy grail, as is were, of Facebook-- it has been much easier to keep up, and/or reconnect, with family and friends who live far away. And since moving a couple of months ago, I've been extremely grateful for Facebook.

But of course, laziness does take over; we have a "like" button. And also, if all the hype is to be believed, a "dislike" button. And because it is marginally easier to click "Like" rather than clicking in the comment box to say, "Cool!" or "Wow!" or "Yay!", that's what happens.

I'm not really bothered by this-- goodness knows I appreciate the "like" button, too-- but sometimes I wonder: Why did you like this? What were you thinking about it? Those questions are especially pressing when my first thought is: Really? You liked that?

There's no telling where social media will go next. But people who aren't willing to give up actual human contact are going to have to work pretty hard to keep the offline interaction going.

03 September 2010

Meet the (Former) President. Kinda.

Before the fall semester started, in our whirlwind of being tourists in our new city, Chad and I went to the LBJ library.

It was the first visit to a presidential library for both of us. And as it's the only presidential library with no admission fee, we feel that we chose a good one to start with. (It being the only one in the city we live in helps, too.) Also, you know what's fun? Walking into a museum and announcing, "We're new here." Museum volunteers instantly go from "friendly" to "eager" when they hear that; we've gotten so many tips on stuff that way.

Anyway! I try to keep basic information about our presidents in my mental files, but of course, when faced with an actual building filled with actual facts, my RAM tends to stop working. Chad asks me, "Was Johnson after Nixon?" and I answer, "No, he was before Nixon, after Kennedy... wait. After Kennedy, but before... um. Well, he was before Nixon, but I don't know if he was right before Nixon." Then Chad asks, "So he was Kennedy's Vice-President?" And I say, "Yeah. Yeah, he must have been." Chad: "So he was a Democrat?" Me: "Oh. Yeah. I guess he was." Geez.

I had another of those imaginary conversations with my family while were there, but this one was more fun than the imaginary UT tour... my parents (and grandparents, aunts, uncles, neighbours) would be in their element in this place: My dad would drag up every memory of that era and regale us with it. We would all have fun.

And then afterwards we could argue over where we would eat lunch.

So, here's what we saw:

Yes, I did take a picture of all the Indiana-related memorabilia in the place. But this one was really fun.

Some of the pens that Johnson used to sign stuff. This was quite a large display, but I'm not too clear on whether these are ones that the President kept for the library, or if people gave them to the library after having them for a while. As I understand it, presidents usually give away pens they use to sign major legislation. And having gotten this far without a West Wing reference, here ya go. Danny (a reporter) asks CJ (the press secretary) why the president is signing a bill with 14 pens when "Josiah Bartlet" only has 13 letters: The president used the final pen to dot the "i" and cross the "t"s.

A mural with the various presidents LBJ worked with while in office.

It's only fair that Chad gets the California paraphernalia when I took pics of all the Indiana stuff.

When the former president directs you to the elevator, by golly, you'd better go.

The archives. All of LBJ's papers are in these four stories and are available to researchers, but not the general public. Looks pretty impressive, anyway.

This model of the Johnson Oval Office is 7/8ths the size of the real thing, and it was kind of small; I'm now wondering what the scale was on the West Wing set, because it looks huge when I see it on my teeny TV.
Anyway, this is the former President's desk as he had it.

And a coffee table with a phone inside. I'm betting there was not a lot of coffee actually placed on this table during LBJ's years in office.

The presidential seal in the ceiling.

And Lady Bird's office. From what we could gather, this room was Mrs. Johnson's actual office in the presidential library, and when she stopped using it, they put up a glass wall and turned it into a display. It's possible that they moved this stuff here from the room she really did use as her office, but regardless of where in the building Mrs. Johnson used to sit, this is what her office looked like-- including the papers on the floor, because she liked to use multiple surfaces to sort things. I kind of hope that this was her office, actually, because it has a fabulous view of Austin (it's on the 10th floor).

Come visit us & we'll show you the rest of the building in person. :)

02 September 2010

I'm reading! I'm READING!! (And the Rule of Fifty.)

I blogged a while back about needing to read more, at the suggestion of Stephen King in his book On Writing. Obviously, I needed some new books, but I also need to brush up on my Spanish for the fall semester, and we don't have any more space on our bookshelves, so for a few days I contemplated purchasing a Kindle, then saw that I wouldn't have it until halfway through September anyway... so I went to the library.

Actually, we already had a few new books in the house from a book sale a few weeks ago, and a little Spanish-book shopping spree I took on Amazon when I ordered my textbooks. So, in a matter of days, I went from reading bits and pieces of whatever book was nearest to reading five books at once:

The Eye of the World, Robert Jordan
Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer
Crossing the Threshold of Hope, John Paul II
El Ratoncito de la Moto, Beverly Cleary (The Mouse and the Motorcycle)
El Club Social de las Chicas Temerarias, Alisa Valdés Rodríguez (The Dirty Girls' Social Club)

The Eye of the World passed the Rule of 50, but after about 300 pages, I realised that I was no longer interested. Artemis Fowl did not pass the Rule of 50, so I'm down to three books. All of my Spanish books require reading with pencil in hand to write down all the words I don't know, so even getting to 50 pages may take a while.

And in case you aren't familiar with the Rule of 50, here it is: If you are less than 50 years of age, you give a book 50 pages. If you aren't interested after 50 pages, put it down and move to the next book. (This is an adaptable rule, obviously; sometimes I only need 10-15 pages to know a book isn't for me. And sometimes I need 300.) If you are over 50, subtract your age from 100 and read that many pages; a 60-year-old, for example, would only read 40 pages. A 75-year-old reads 25 pages. A 51-year-old reads 49 pages.

This way, the world of books is more easily conquered (explored is probably a better word) and you also give yourself permission to walk away from a book without feeling obligated to finish it. Apparently, there are those who need that permission.

And I learned this delightful principle when I read Book Lust, by Nancy Pearl-- which is also a good read, especially if you aren't sure what to read next.

For now, unfortunately, my reading for fun must give way to reading for class. But I shall still read in sips.

01 September 2010

Sunday in Denver City

Yep-- another pirated TCC pic because I didn't take my own camera.

I love the church in Denver City. It's been a year since I was last there, which is much much much too long, but unfortunately it will probably be another year before I make the trip there again. :'(

In the midst of all hugging (I'm all hugged up for about three months), greeting, talking, and just plain having fun, I heard the same sentence over and over again: "We're glad to have you home again, Susan."

Denver City is not my home, at least not in the usual sense; I've never lived there. I've spent lots of Sundays, lots of Friday nights, and a few weekends there in the past 14 years, but my address has never ended in 79323. I've always been a visitor.

But it feels like home. I've played "big sister" to a lot of kids there, and babysat a few more. I've encouraged Bible bowlers and cleaned up after potlucks. I've stamped things, addressed things, cleaned things, and carried things in various venues throughout the building. I've visited old people and sung in the nursing home. I've cheered at football games when I didn't have a clue what was happening, and given up free Saturdays to watch band competitions. I've played with children and dogs, sometimes at the same time. :)

And I enjoyed doing most of it. But every frustrating moment, short night of sleep, and sore muscle has been more than repaid in the love and encouragement that I have received in return. When my group moved on and another group moved in, I should have been forgotten; after all, Denver City has had about 100 other students since I was there. But they still all say "Welcome home" when they see me, and I would happily do it all over again in an instant.

On Sunday morning, Chad & I sat with a little widow who we always stop by to see when we are in town (the last time, I had to borrow a car during a Bible bowl competition in order to go visit). It never fails that I am delighted to see her, and she always seems happy to see me. And here's the reason why:

I'm not exaggerating when I say I should have been forgotten after one semester. AIM students get maybe eight Sundays at any one church, and when the church has 200 members and you spend most of your time with the teens, it's hard to get any sort of relationship with most people. And, to add another difficulty, we were supposed to sit with different people every week.

I sat with a sweet little couple one week, the Tuckers, and enjoyed it so much that I got permission to sit with them every week. They told me stories about their grandkids, and oohed and aaahed over every story of aim life (whether they were actually interested or not). On the last Sunday I spend in Denver City before leaving for Scotland, Mr. Tucker gave me this little rocking chair that he had made. I took it across the ocean with me and it was a happy tie to this little church that I had loved for a while.

When I returned, I got to go to Denver City again, this time as an assistant to a new group of aimers. The first Sunday, I made a beeline to the Tuckers, except the family was down to one; Mr. Tucker had passed away while I was in Scotland.

So I told Mrs. Tucker that I still had this little rocking chair, and how much it had brightened my days to see it sitting in my cabinet in Glasgow. She may not have remembered me right away, but when she heard that I had kept this precious piece of wood that so clearly displayed her husband's skill, her face lit up and she invited me to lunch on the spot. And I've spent a few afternoons in her house, admiring all the things Mr. Tucker made, looking at photo albums, and hearing more grandkid stories.

Mrs. Tucker is not long for this world; no one lives forever. And her health, she tells me, is on the decline. But this past Sunday, we sat beside her, as I did week after week just a few years ago.

I was at home.