Tuesday, August 31, 2004

A Kick in the Arse

Making the decision to move from the coast to Portland was not easy. When choosing which road to take, I often wind up on the uncharted, needing four wheel drive, stuck in the muck path. Having easy access to my sandy, salty beach sanctuary sure seemed like reason enough to stay. There was this little dilemma however called lack of work...

Which followed me to the city.

No work, money, or beach within easy reach and the first of the month right around the corner. I needed a substitute sanctuary! The answer? Powell’s City of Books. Depending on ones color choice a person can escape into the vast collection of the written word and leave their everyday woes behind. It was on one of these sojourns when I found a recommended book for an aspiring yet unmotivated writer such as myself. I was doubtful to its usefulness as there are times in ones life when encouraging words, written or spoken, do not reach a despondent soul. What I needed was a kick in the arse, which I found within Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird.

I was hooked after reading the book jacket.

Anne Lamott not only shared vast amounts of wisdom on the nuts and bolts of writing. She understands the difficulty of actually getting down to it. Words and the need to express oneself may be swirling around inside of a person, however putting pen to paper can be tough. Especially if one has tuned in to what she refers to as radio station KFKD. Anne warns, “if you are not careful, station KFKD will play in your head twenty-four hours a day, nonstop, in stereo.” Playing “songs of self-loathing, the lists of all the things one doesn’t do well, of all the mistakes one has made today and over an entire lifetime, the doubt, the assertion that everything that one touches turns to shit...”

I needed that reminder.

It was time to turn that station off or at the very least find a different station and get on with one of the reasons for the move to the city. I wanted to write. I had ‘blah blahed’ for too many years about the desire to make a commitment to my writing, to mySELF, to see what Laura was all about. Life had been my excuse. Too much work, not enough time, bills need to be paid...but where and HOW to begin??

Bird by bird.

“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. (It) was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.’” This encouraging story by Anne is what grabbed my attention, however, her wit and insight throughout the book is what held it.

Thank you Anne Lamott for sharing, I think your father had good advice.

*a note from miss mooty...I wrote this essay to enter a contest at a bookstore to win free books! The question asked was "What was your most memorable reading experience of the last ten years?"

Thursday, August 19, 2004

The Sound of Crickets

It has been an unusually warm summer here in the Northwest. With the warmer evenings I have noticed an old familiar "song" that reminded me of my years in Arizona. Crickets. I had been living on the coast, and never heard them there, so I got curious as to the why I now heard them in the city. I made a mental note to consult "the professor" (my nickname for google when I have a question) to find out the whys and hows of these noisy little bugs.

Only the males make noise. That's right guys, you won't hear ONE SOUND coming from the females. The males chirp to attract the females. This chirping is created by something called stridulation, which is the term used to describe when one body part of an insect is rubbed against another part of their body. They use their front wings to make the sound. One cricket was listened to by a zoologist who documented his chirping of no less than 42,000 times over a period of four hours! (this documentation might of been different if the zoologist had provided a female or two to listen to the poor little fella). Unfortunately in the great outdoors they make such a racket that the noise also lets predators know their location. It is amazing what sort of danger a male will expose himself to, to do what he's gotta do. One cricket source even said that once the male has succeeded with attracting a female to mate, he dies. And we thought our life is tough.

I discovered a few more interesting facts about these eco-friendly good for your soul little insects. In China ladies from the Imperial Palace kept crickets in golden cages to provide soothing "music" as they went to sleep. They are nocturnal omnivorous who some say you can use to determine temerature by the number of chirps. Someone even came up with a formula to do this!

The simplest method is to count the number of chirps in 15 seconds and add 40. The sum usually approximates the temperature within a few degrees Fahrenheit.

The original formula for determining temperature from cricket chirps appears to have been published in 1897 by A.E. Dolbear, a physics professor at Tufts College. Since Dolbear’s time, formulas have been devised for various species. Here are Three formulas which may or may not actually work! In all cases, T is the temperature and N is the number of chirps per minute.

Field Cricket: T = 50 + (N - 40 / 4)

Snowy Tree Cricket: T = 50 + (N - 92 / 4.7)

Katydid: T = 60 + (N - 19 / 3)

I am getting much to carried away with all of this! When I all I wanted to do with this blog is to clear my conscience of a cricket experience I had when I returned home to visit Arizona. I had been living in Alaska for quite a few years and had even forgotten the soothing night noise that these guys orchestrate. So I was actually excited when I heard a cricket in my room the first night home. All I can say is that if you put one horny cricket in a room with an exhausted traveler...the can of Raid will be brought out and the need to silence the mating call will override even the kindest spirit. In my defense, my intention was originally not to destroy the little guy. He was in my room though! He would sing, I would turn on the light (to gently remove him to the great outdoors mind you) and he would shut up. Light would go out, I would lay down, and he would start up again. Repeat scene. Light on, silence, look around, light off. By three in the morning after an attempt to slam a window on him, the can of Raid was grasped in my hand and I was looking to silence him once and for all. I never found him, I woke up with my hand still clasping the can of Raid.

I guess now I am glad I never did find him...

information obtained from:
"House Cricket" Stuart M. Bennett
"Crickets and Temperature" entomology.unl.edu/(k-12)

Monday, August 16, 2004

Wordiness Is Death to a Conversation

It was during a conversation today that I had a flashback to something that one of my professors used to say quite often. "Wordiness is death to your paper!" The conversation I am referring to took place between a young person at the boys and girls club I work at and myself. His question was if he could have one of the sodas that was in our walk-in cold storage. My reply to the young man's question was "no". He asked "Why not"? I answered, "Because".

He let it go at that.

I smiled thinking how pleasant our conversations could be if we edited our responses and kept them simple. Too much information is usually released and for the most part it is unnecessary and uses up too much time and energy. It seems as if we need to justify our every response when questioned and if truth be told getting down to the nitty gritty as to why we feel a certain way about certain situations can prove most difficult at times! "Because" pretty much covers a whole lot of ground especially if we are not sure what type of ground it is that we are justifying.

If asked why I chose to muse on this particular subject I guess my reply would have to be...

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Clean your Window

No, this isn't another "how to" on the abc's of the actual act of cleaning your windows. There are already plenty of expertise guides on that, and anyway this is a sunday morning and my brain is not in the "how to" mode. What I AM musing about however is my attitude. Lately it sucks. With every little setback it seems to tip more towards the negative side versus the I can succeed, life IS okay side. Which brings me back to window cleaning.

In one of my many occupations I at one time worked at the tenth hole of one of the most beautiful golf courses in the United States. This was a private club and the members would call me from a TREE at the ninth hole to order up a special sandwich which I would have ready for them as they drove up (got to keep those carts moving) Incidentally for those of you who have worked, or are working in the food service business, this was one of the most perfectly timed, no stress, food situations I have ever been involved in!

There was alot of time to look out the window.

Keep in mind as we look out our windows the view may change a bit due to weather or whatever, but basically you have a certain scene to work with and that's that. After a monsoon (that's an Arizona come on way fast, leave just as fast PMS'ing rain storm) my window view would become very dirty. I would attempt to ignore it, however I soon figured out that my particular view out the window sure looked better when I cleaned off all the crap from the storm. The view was still the same, the window, same. However when I took the time to wipe away the remains of the storm my view became a shinier, clearer, more pleasant one. It wasn't even that much work.

So when my attitude becomes a bit cloudy with too much stuff.

I clean it.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Sundaes at the Park

Who could resist an invitation to attend the 25th annual "Sundae in the Park"?? With flyers announcing ice cream and refreshments at old fashioned prices, entertainment, fun and games...not to mention SHADE (yea, it's been a hot time in the city with NO AIR CONDITIONING).

True to the advertising ice cream was indeed handed out at unbelievably low prices! 25 cents for a cone, 50 cents for a sundae (with sprinkles on top even!) AND the nice guys taking the quarters didn't even card you if you went through the line twice. Popcorn and people watching was FREE, which made the event even sweeter.

It was a good time.

A time to relax and for a moment forget credit card payments, too much work, too little work, whether you are overweight, underweight or just plain un-enthused with life in general.

A time to keep it simple.