Friday, February 28, 2014

Tripping With a Psycho-Thriller

Thought for the day:  We cannot all do great things in life, but we can all do small things with great love.  [Mother Teresa]

Today's the day for the monthly gathering at the  Cephalopod Coffeehouse, where bloggers can rant and/or rave about books, under the leadership of ye olde (not really!) host armchair squid. (He sent me the linky list thing-a-ma-bobby, but I couldn't figure out how to integrate it into my post properly, so if you'd like to check out the other spiffy book posts and maybe sign up, grab a cuppa and pop on over to his blog.) I'm strapping on my water wings and jumping into the pool with them  for the first time, but out of deference to those of you who don't give a good diddle which book I most enjoyed this past month, I'll touch on something else first, and then follow with the review. Those of you who don't give a good diddle about the something else and only came here to see the darned review, feel free to scroll down.

                                             As for the rest of us? Let's hit the road!

Courtesy of the creative folks at dribbleglass, who granted me permission to share these images with you, we're gonna take a virtual road trip to check out some make-believe billboards. Things we'd kinda like to see on the side of the road... but never will.

Ready? Um, better put your drink down. Some of these might make stuff squirt out your nose...

Okay, so which bogus billboard was your favorite? I kinda like 'em ALL. Come to think of it, that usually applies to the books I read, too. With rare exception, I usually enjoy all the books I read, and I've read about a dozen very good ones this month... as well as a couple stinkers.

But if I can only highlight one book, that's gonna be Black Chalk, by Christopher Yates. I received a pre-release promotional copy from the publisher earlier this month, and the book will be available for you guys to purchase on April first. (No foolin'!)

Here's the review I posted on Goodreads:

In this stunning character study, six college students, encouraged and monitored by the mysterious Game Soc, create and play an ultra-secretive game that tests not only the limits of their friendships, but threatens their sanity and well-being, as well. With each round, the consequences escalate. The lowest-scoring players can either fulfill the prescribed consequences... or quit. 

Friends know secrets about each other, sometimes deep, dark secrets. They know where weaknesses lie, and where the soft spots hide. The question is: how willing are these students... these friends... to use that private information to inflict public psychological pain and humiliation on each other? How far are they willing to go in an attempt to break the other players? To what lengths will they go to force other players to quit? 

What are people willing to do in the name of competition? When does it stop being about fun, and become more about survival? In a win-at-any-cost game like this, can anyone truly win?

A brilliant book. I highly recommend it.

I really do recommend it. Think of the Lord of the Flies kids all grown up and attending Oxford University. Brilliant kids. Competitive kids. Friends. Or so they start out...

Before I waddle off into the weekend, a quick reminder: The e-version of my book Hot Flashes and Cold Lemonade went on sale today... February 28...  at 8 AM PST, and it'll remain on sale until 12 AM PST on March 6. That's on Amazon, and the price is only ninety-nine cents. (You can get to its page in a jiffy by clicking on the book's cover pic in the sidebar.) Please help me spread the word, y'all. I'd really like to treat Smarticus to a fancy dinner out, and he might like to have fries with his burger...

                                                   Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Back on Track

Thought for the day:  Blessed are they who can laugh at themselves, for they shall never cease to be amused.

Okay, I've procrastinated long enough. Remember those posts I used to do about the states? Yeah, I know. It's (ahem) been a while. Well, it's time to get back at it. This project started a couple years ago, and the initial premise was to poke fun at some of the laws still on the books around the country, one state at a time. In alphabetical order. From there, it took on a life of its own, and expanded to include virtual tours and a smattering of historical tidbits. And from there, I got a little lazy waylaid sidetracked (sigh) lazy. But I'm gonna give it another go.

But first, WAIT! (Yeah, I'm gonna procrastinate a little longer.) I just wanted to let you know that from February 28 until March 6, the e-version of my book Hot Flashes and Cold Lemonade will be available on Amazon for the paltry sum of ninety-nine cents. Heck, you can't even buy a cup of coffee for that! Also, the e-book is FREE... with the purchase of a paperback version. Cool, huh? So if you haven't already gotten your paws on a copy, here's your chance to get it on the cheap. If ya would, would you please help me spread the word? Thanks. I do appreciate it.

Ready? Let's see, where was I...? Ah, yes. The last post was about Texas, so that brings us to the fine state of Utah, AKA the Beehive State. (I understand that's in reference to the worthy attributes of thrift and industry, not as a salute to the worthless hairdo of teasing and lacquer.)

Heritage Park: This is the place.
What can I say? Utah is to Mormons as Vatican City is to Roman Catholics. Or pretty darned close, anyway. More than 60% of the state's population belongs to the Mormon, or LDS (Latter Day Saints) church. That's largely due to the fact that on July 24, 1847, after enduring an arduous wagon train trek from Illinois with other Mormon pioneers, Brigham Young peeked out from his sickbed in the back of a covered wagon and announced, This is the place. And that place was Salt Lake City, Utah.

 Pioneer Day Reenactment
Thus began a mass migration of other Mormons from around the country... close to 70,000 in the first large wave.

 In commemoration of the arrival of those early pioneers, the state of Utah officially celebrates Pioneer Day every July 24, and many modern-day Mormons all over the world participate in annual reenactments of the original wagon train trek on that date. In 1847, the territory belonged to Mexico, which may be part of the reason it held so much appeal to Young. Utah promised them a new start, and a welcome refuge from the religious persecution they'd been suffering in some of the states. In Utah, Mormons truly found... and are still finding... their place. 

The Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City is one of the most recognizable structures in the state. It sits in the center of the 10-acre Temple Square, and took forty long years to build.

Before we go on to some of the beautiful sights in the state, how about listening to some beautiful sounds? Even those who know little about the Mormon church are familiar with the famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Talk about uplifting music.

Here's a silly little tidbit. There's a city in the center of Utah called Levan. Know where the name comes from? It's navel spelled backwards. Cute, huh? (And it sure beats living in a place called Nottub Ylleb.) 

The world's first transcontinental railroad was completed with the driving of the final golden spike at Promontory, Utah. On May 10, 1869, that one gleaming ceremonial spike joined the Central Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads, and thus earned its place in the history books. Today, that historic moment is remembered and reenacted at the Golden Spike National Historic Site.

Utah boasts many beautiful natural stone structures. Check out this one. At  278 feet wide and 309 feet high, Rainbow Bridge is the world's largest natural-rock span.

Arches National Park contains enough unique rock formations to fill an entire blog post. Among other things, it has arches, columns, balancing rocks, and petrified dunes. This picture shows Delicate Arch, Utah's most readily recognized rock formation, and its unofficial symbol.

This photo, also taken at Arches National Park, shows some petroglyphs, or centuries-old Ute Indian rock art.

Before you start thinking the state of Utah is all about rock formations, take at look at this. Would you believe it's a library? The City Library in Salt Lake City has more than half a million books, subscribes to more than sixty magazines and newspapers, and has sixty-three computers with Internet access. This gorgeous 240,000 square feet, five-story building has a rooftop garden, and a 20,000 square feet skylight, which along with a huge five-story glass wall along one entire side of the building enables the building to be lit mostly by natural light. Wow, right?

The Gilgal Sculpture Garden in Salt Lake City is a rather unusual place. The stone-carved sculptures and engravings were created by LDS Bishop Thomas Child, Jr. in the 1940s, and they portray numerous Biblical stories, and his Mormon religion. Most unusual has to go to the Joseph Smith Sphinx seen in this picture.

Utah boasts many kinds of museums. Seen in the photo is the giant beehive located inside of Discovery Gateway, a hands-on interactive children's museum, designed to please the young and the young-at-heart.

Other notable museums include the Alf Engen Ski Museum; the International Model Car Museum; the Browning Firearms Museum; the World of Puppetry Museum; and the Firefighters Museum. There are also numerous museums dedicated to natural history, fine arts, aviation, railroading, mining, and the American West and pioneer history.

What have we here? Looks like a big hole in the ground, and that's exactly what it is. But a special hole. This is Bingham Canyon Open Pit Copper Mine, the world's first (1904) and largest. And from what friends have told me, a fascinating place to tour.

This desolate looking place commemorates a sad chapter in American history: Topaz was a Japanese-American internment camp during WWII. (If you're curious about those camps, you can find a couple posts about them by clicking on the tag Gaman over there in my blog's sidebar.)

Zion National Park. Gorgeous, isn't it? [Credit: Doug Dolde]

At Timpanogos Cave National Park, you'll find three tourable caves, which are joined by man-made tunnels that were blasted back in the 1930s. And it doesn't just look cool. It is cool. The average temperature is 46 degrees F. (If you're looking for cold, head for the mountains. In the mountains near Salt Lake City, an average of 500 (that's five HUNDRED) inches of snow falls every year.

Here's the remains of a Hovenweep House, found at the Hovenweep National Monument. There, artifacts remain from Paleo-Indians from as early as 8000 B.C. These remains, however, are likely to be from the Pueblo Indians, circa 1150- 1350 A.D.

Ever hear of the Sundance Film Festival? Me, too, but I didn't realize it was held in Utah. Yep, and it's one of the largest independent film festivals in the U.S.

All you car buffs probably recognize this strange landscape. It's the Bonneville Salt Flats, famous for its five annual speed events, and for the many land speed records that have been set there.

Like the Great Salt Lake, this densely packed salt pan is a remnant of the Pleistocene Lake Bonneville. The lake covers 2100 square miles, and has an average depth of thirteen feet, and a deepest point stretching down to thirty-four. There's no water left at the flats, but there is bottomless excitement.

Care to get a taste of what it might be like to set a speed record on the salt flats?  Fasten your seat belts...

Whew! Quite a ride, huh? Okay, time to settle down, and take a look at some of those bizarre laws. Remember, all states have 'em, and even though they're on the books doesn't mean they're enforced. (Thank goodness!) So what laws are still languishing on the books in the fine state of Utah? Let's see...

  • No one may have sex in the back of an ambulance if it's responding to an emergency call. (Better tell 'em to pull over.)
  • It's against the law to fish from horseback. (Wouldn't you think horses and fly-fishing would be a natural go-together?)
  • It's illegal not to drink milk. (I reckon that's one way to keep those gassy lactose-intolerant people away.)
  • It's against the law to detonate any nuclear weapon. (You can have one, maybe for show? Ya just can't blow it up. Sounds reasonable...)
  • Birds have the right of way on all highways. (MEEP! MEEP! Especially road runners.)
  • A husband is responsible for every criminal act committed by his wife while she is in his presence. (So she does the crime, and he does the crime? How terribly chivalrous.)
  • It's a felony to persistently tread on the cracks between paving stones on the sidewalk of a state highway. (I guess they take that old step on a crack, break your mother's back stuff seriously.)
  • It's against the law to hunt whales.
  • It's a no-no to allow biting in a boxing match. (Mike Tyson better stay away, especially if he's lactose intolerant.)
  • Alcohol may not be sold during an emergency. (I know some people who consider it an emergency if they run out of booze.)
  • It's illegal to cause a catastrophe. (So ya better not drop the last bottle of beer.)
  • In Kaysville, you must have an I.D. to enter a convenience store after dark. (Well, that isn't very convenient, is it?)
  • In Logan, ladies are expected to act like ladies. It's against the law there for women to swear. (Not even to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?)
  • In Monroe, daylight must be visible between partners on a dance floor. (Sounds like the rule at the ol' '50s and '60s teen centers...)
  • It doesn't matter how perfect that snow is; in Provo, there's a whopping fifty-buck fine for throwing snowballs.
  • According to laws in Salt Lake City, it's illegal to walk down the street carrying a violin in a paper bag, and auctions may not advertise by hiring trombone players to play on the street. (No problem. Use a plastic bag, and give a tuba player the gig.)
  • In Tremonton, it's illegal to have sex in a moving ambulance, but if ya do, and get caught... the man is released. The woman, however, is punished, and her name appears in the newspaper. (So much for that aforementioned chivalry.)
  • In Trout Creek, pharmacists may not sell gunpowder to cure headaches. (If somebody eats gunpowder, do ya think his hair will grow out in bangs?)

                                 Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

[The image of the nifty now clock is courtesy of the fine folks at perfectlytimedpictures, and the rest of the pictures came from good ol' Wikipedia.] 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Love is in the Air

Thought for the day:  If love had a scent, I don't think it would smell like chocolate and roses. I think it'd smell more like baby powder and pot roast. 

Happy Valentine's Day, y'all. Got big plans for the day? No telling what Smarticus and I will be doing, but we'll probably be out and about somewhere, so I won't be Jill-on-the-spot about responding to comments today. Maybe not even until Monday.

Anyhow, so how do you like my love monkey? I'm not talking about Smarticus; I'm talking about that cute little stuffed monkey in the picture, which he gave me for Valentine's Day a few years ago. If you squeeze his belly, he gives a wolf whistle, and says in a dirty ol' man kinda voice, I go bananas over you!  Again, I'm talking about the monkey, not Smarticus, although come to think of it, it's just the sort of thing he'd say. That's why it's such a perfect gift. Forget about jewelry and furs, and all that jazz. A gift that makes me laugh wins me over every time.

Okay, so chocolate ain't bad, either. After all, a box of candy is never the wrong size, right? Although it came close to being too large one year. Smarticus bought me a box of chocolates big enough to cover the entire top of the coffee table. I kid you not. Whew! Talk about a LOT of candy! It took me almost two whole hours to eat it all. (Just kidding. It took more like three.)

I'll never forget some of the romantic cards and gifts Smarticus has given me over the years. (sigh) We were all of twelve or thirteen the very first time he wrote a poem (just for me!) in my autograph book. It went like this: Roses are red; violets are blue. You've got a shape like a B-52. I mean, doesn't that send shivers of sheer delight up and down your spine?

We weren't much older that that when he extended a lovely decorated box toward me, smiled seductively, and told me to open it. When I did, I found a barf-worthy severed finger lying atop a fluffy bed of cotton. It was his finger, of course, stuck through a hole in the box bottom and doctored up to look as disgusting as he could make it. Yeah, I know. Smartius was a bit of a farticus in those days.

But, what can I say? I married him anyway. How could I not? He's a gen-u-ine original, and even after all these years, he still knows how to make me laugh, and he still knows how to make my heart sing.

Talking about original, have you ever wondered who St. Valentine was and why he's associated with a feast day devoted to love? Why we associate this day with the color red... with red roses in particular... and why we exchange Valentines?

Well, then, you've come to the right place.

Our man Valentine was a priest in Rome during the reign of Claudius the Cruel, an emperor with an unholy affinity for declaring war. In fact, this dude's wars were so frequent and so unpopular, it got to where very few men were joining the military. The emperor, who was evidently just as stupid as he was cruel, decided the only reason men weren't rushing to fight his wonderful wars was because they were too darned attached to their wives and family. So he came up with a solution. He banned marriages.

But fear not. Our hero priest continued to perform marriage ceremonies in secret. That is, until the mean ol' emperor found out about it, and had him killed. By beating, stoning, and then beheading. (Talk about overkill.) Valentine was killed on February 14, 270.

Legend has it that he left a special note for the jailer's daughter, and signed it... from your Valentine. 

So, why the color red, you ask? For obvious reasons, blood red is the color of martyrs. And thanks to the martyred St. Valentine... it also became the color of love. Red roses represent Venus, the goddess of love. And Valentine himself sent the first Valentine card. St. Valentine's feast day was established in 496, but it didn't become recognized as a lovers' holiday and big day of romance until ten centuries later, when popular belief held that the fourteenth of February marked the start of mating season for birds.

So, if you consider Valentine's Day to be for the birds... you aren't entirely wrong.

At right is an example of a 1909 Valentine's Day card, which I found on Wikipedia. As a young girl, I remember buying big fancy cards for my mother... complete with scented stuffed satin hearts and lace around the edges... for the exorbitant price of thirty-five cents. My sweet Smarticus has sent me a bunch of beautiful cards over the years, but he'd still probably be more comfortable with one that said: Roses are red; violets are blue. Sugar is sweet, and so are you... The roses are wilting; the violets are dead. The sugar bowl's empty, and so is your head.

Just kidding. He's actually quite the romantic. (But I sure am glad he didn't know about St. Valentine losing his head over love when we were kids. The finger was bad enough.)

 How about some of these for the worst Valentine's Day gifts ever:

THIS wouldn't be a very nice Valentine's Day gift, either... especially if it came on the heels of a box of chocolates as big as the coffee table. No, just kidding. This isn't a gift from Smarticus. (It's actually one of our 1969 wedding gifts. Yep! Still got it!) But I'm just saying, it's not a very sentimental gift. It's right up there with giving your honey a bottle of diet pills, or a pair of slacks with wide load printed on the seat. 

Trying to forget someone you love is like trying to remember someone you never met.

Love is the thing that enables a woman to sing while she mops up the floor after her husband has walked across it in muddy boots.

If love is blind, why is lingerie so popular?

Love doesn't make the world go 'round. Love is what makes the ride worthwhile. [Franklin P. Jones]

You can't blame gravity for falling in love.  [Albert Einstein]

Lots of things are considered aphrodisiacs... like big red juicy strawberries, and rich dark chocolate... or better yet, big red juicy strawberries dipped in rich dark chocolate...

Um, where was I?

Oh, yeah. I wanted to tell you guys about one of the best aphrodisiacs of all time. Wanta put your lady love in the mood? Do the dinner dishes. I tell ya, nothing is as sexy to a woman as seeing her man tackling a load of dishes  while she's in the easy chair with her feet propped up... eating strawberries dipped in chocolate. Or if ya reeeeeally want to make her weak in the knees... clean the toilet bowl. 

Put a lotta love in your heart

Anyhow, whether you celebrate in a small way, or whether you go reeeally BIG...

Happy Valentine's Day, y'all. But wouldn't it be nice if we celebrated love...  every day?

                  For all you fans of The Big Bang Theory, here's a video I think you'll enjoy:

                                        Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Never go to bed mad--- stay up and fight.  [Phyllis Diller]

Friday, February 7, 2014

A Catty Rerun

Thought for the day:  You know you're getting old when the candles cost more than the cake. 

Those of you who live in the southeastern United States may have noticed a bright glow in the sky on Wednesday. Sorry about that. It was my husband's birthday. Even though we had the fire department waiting on stand-by, the candles still got a little out of control again this year. My bad. I really shouldn't have tried to save time by lighting all those darned things with a blow torch.

Oh well. I'll try to do better next year.

Yeah, so we're both getting older. Big deal. Age is just a number, right? (Especially when it's his number going up, and not mine.) To tell the truth, we don't make a big deal out of birthdays anymore. No candles at all. (Too dangerous!) And no big parties, for sure. 

We prefer smaller gatherings these days. Like maybe just Smarticus, me and a few dozen of our favorite juicy friends. (That's plenty spicy enough for us, even if our pals do end up getting steamed.)

Our cat Dash got stranded atop the fridge when our friends were splashing around in the sink, which reminded me of a post I did back in June of 2011:  Tale of an Ungrateful Kitty. So I'm gonna run it again, as soon as I share a short Tom Rush video about the joys of getting older:

Youth is the gift of nature, but age is a work of art.  [Stanislaw Jerry Lec]
                       {Too bad my work of art is being painted by Picasso...}

You don't stop laughing because you grow older. You grow older because you stop laughing.  [Maurice Chevalier]        

I'm happy to report that my inner child is still ageless.  [Jane Broughton]
You can't help getting older, but you don't have to get old.  [George Burns]

                                                        And now... for that rerun...

Thought for the day:  An invisible man married an invisible woman. Their kids were nothing to look at, either.

I've been poking fun at the English language lately, so I thought about writing a short Ogden Nash-type poem using words ending in ough to make fun of the fact that those words have so many different pronunciations.

Well, as they say, the best-laid plans of mice and men ...

I did write a poem, but it isn't Ogden Nash short. (or Ogden Nash clever) Has some ough words in it, but I ended up having more fun telling the tale than fulfilling the original premise. So, here it is, a silly little poem. It's based on a true story, and although I got away with batting my eyelashes back then, I was young, lithe, and lovely at the time. I'm afraid if I tried to pull that stunt now, Smarticus would haul me off to the eye doctor.

                                                               A Silly Little Poem

                                                   'Twas one in the morning, I vow,
                                                   When I heard a cat meow from a bough.
                                                   High up in a tree,
                                                   He seemed helpless to me.
                                                   Begged I, "Please get him down now."

                                                  With a frown, my man gave a cough,
                                                  Said, "No need to get the cat off.
                                                  He made his way up;
                                                  He can make his way down."
                                                  And I batted my eyes, sure enough.

                                                  'Twas sleeting and icy, so rough,
                                                  But my sweetie, so tender, so tough,
                                                  Climbed up on our ladder,
                                                  But that didn't matter;
                                                  To the cat, it wasn't enough.

The cat pulled back out of reach;
My man yelled, "Son of a beech!"
He stretched a bit more
To the kitty so poor,
And the cat gave a God-awful screech.

'Twas dark, so I couldn't quite see,
But the cat came tearing past me.
He'd run down my sweetie
And clawed off some meatie,
So I figured in trouble I'd be.

                                           "No more!" my man roared to me.
                                           "Next time, we leave the cats be.
                                           We don't need no damned ladder;
                                            It just doesn't matter.
                                            Have you ever
                                            Seen bones
                                            In a tree?"

                                   Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

                                                                   Me? I think I'll just ...

hang around

[The crab photo was taken by yours truly. Wikipedia provided the flames, and the catty pics come to us courtesy of Morguefile.]