Saturday, March 28, 2015

Whatever as slang: the most annoying phrase in conversation

I've come to hate the word whatever. It has become annoying and according to the Marist College polls, the “most annoying [phrase] in conversation.” Whatever has become a slang word meaning “I don’t care about what you just said.” It is used to dismiss a previous statement and express indifference to what someone has said. It is considered rude and impolite to use in conversation. According to Urban Dictionary, whatever is used in an argument to admit that you are wrong without actually admitting it so the argument is over. It is considered an alternative to “f**k you.”

The word whatever when used as slang is a sign of indifference. I’m not talking about when it is used to in terms of “Sure, whatever works for you.” Indicating that whichever plan is agreed upon works. However, whatever has become a word of apathy and very passive-aggressive. It has become a put down and a signal to another person that what is being said is not important. This use of the word is what I hate the most. When it is used to end a heated discussion in which another person isn't going to persuade the other to his or her side of the debate. It’s “fine, whatever” replaces “You’re an idiot and there’s no talking to you.” This is especially annoying when being used by closed-minded people who cannot accept that someone just might have a different opinion.

Whatever can also be used to display skepticism. Skepticism is doubting the truthfulness of a piece of information and that’s not a bad thing. However, when someone uses the phrase, “yeah, whatever” dismisses the information without an effort on his or her part to find the truthfulness or deceitfulness of the information. Whenever I’m giving information that I doubt, I usually reply with “I’ve never heard that and I would have to look into it.” It is a much more pleasant way to dismiss information that you doubt without making the person giving it feel like a fool. There may be truth to their information and dismissing it without consideration is rude. I sometimes also say “Interesting. I’ll have to look into that” to a piece of information that I may doubt. Either phrase gives respect to the person without putting them down.

Lastly, whatever can be used to show exasperation. We’ve all been there especially when talking to a toddler. You’re tired and the discussion is going on for what seems like forever. You just want it to stop so you say, “Fine! Whatever.” It doesn’t indicate that you are fine with the topic or decision but you just want it to end. This has happened many times to me when a topic is brought up and the discussion gets out of control and I often regret that the topic was brought up at all. I suppose because I am the type of person who is usually open to other’s ideas in the formulation of plans, etc. I am truly annoyed when someone else isn’t as open when an idea is presented that is different from his or her own. Simply because they don’t want to do it or they want their plan to be the only plan. It’s the “my way or the highway” mentality.

When whatever is used in a tone of indifference, skepticism or exasperation is annoying. And I know that tone of voice is very important when using whatever. And it makes my blood boil when it is used. The use of whatever, when directed at me, usually leaves me feeling unimportant and unworthy of even having a different opinion or idea and I know that it is not true. I know that whatever, when used as indifference, skepticism, or exasperation, is often done without thinking. Be mindful of the tone of voice used when trying to end a discussion or even dismiss a piece of information which you don’t believe. 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Dr. Dee Dee Dynamo: a science adventure into space

Dr Dee Dee Dynamo’s Saturn Surprise by Oneeka Williams and illustrated by Valerie Bouthyette is an adventure story of Dr Dee Dee and her friends as the travel to Saturn to investigate the disappearance of its rings.

The story opens with Dee Dee and her friend, Lukas, attending an exhibit at the Positivity Planetarium when she learns that Saturn’s rings are gone! A mission to Saturn to investigate why. While on this journey, Dee Dee educates her friend and the readers about Saturn’s rings. She discusses the ring phase crossing when Saturn and the earth are aligned the rings appear to have disappeared. This events occurs every 14-15 years. The book also explains the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft which was sent to study Saturn in 1997. When Dee Dee arrives at Saturn, she learns that the rings are tired of being rings. Dee Dee helps them realize their importance to Saturn and helps them get back into place.

Dr. Dee Dee Dynamo’s Saturn Surprise is a fun, educational adventure which introduces science and problem solving to the readers. I loved that the author included a glossary of terms as well as a pronunciation guide. There are also Mommy Dynamo’s Discovery Questions in which the readers can be quizzed about what they learned in this adventure story. The illustrations are great, colorful and fun. I highly recommend this book for any school or family library.

Dr. Dee Dee Dynamo’s Saturn Surprise
is available on Amazon
on the Kindle for $2.99

and in hardcover for $14.95

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Great Escape: more than just a movie

Today marks the anniversary of The Great Escape from Stalag Luft III, a prisoner of war camp during World War III. Stalag Luft III was located in the German province of Lower Silesia near Sagan (now Zagan, Poland). It housed captured air force servicemen and is best known for two prisoner escapes that took place by tunneling. The most well-known is The Great Escape in 1944. The escape was made famous by the book (1950) written by Paul Brickhill and the movie (1963) starring Steve McQueen, James Garner, David McCallum, and Charles Bronson.

 In the spring of 1943, Squadron Leader Roger Bushell, RAF conceived a plan for a major escape from the camp. He was able to instill a passionate determination into every man for their full energy into the escape. The plan included the digging of multiple tunnels in case the German guards discovered one of them. He proposed to get 200 men out with civilian clothes and forged papers. More than 600 prisoners were involved in the construction of the tunnels. One tunnel, “Tom” began in a darkened corner next to a stove chimney. Another tunnel, “Dick,” had an entrance which was carefully hidden in a drain stump in a washroom. The third tunnel, “Harry,” began under a stove. Each tunnel was dug long enough to end up deep into the forest next to the camp. The tunnels were ready by early 1944.

They wanted for a moonless night for a cover of complete darkness. Friday, March 24, the escape attempt began. The first 100 men were known as “serial offenders,” those who could speak German, had a history of escapes plus 70 men who worked on the tunnels. The second 100 men were known as “hard-assers” because they were considered to have little chance of success because they were required to travel by night and spoke little or no German. The escape only allowed 10 men per hour. Of the 200 plan escapees, 76 managed to escape.73 were eventually recaptured with 3 being completely successful. These men were Per Bergsland, Norwegian pilot of No. 332 Squadron, RAF, Jens Muller, Norwegian pilot of No. 331 Squadron, RAF, and Bram van der Stok, Dutch pilot of No. 41 Squadron, RAF.

The 73 men who were recaptured faced fierce punishment. Hitler order their executions as an example to other prisoners. Several officers of the camp argued against the executions as a violation of the Geneva Conventions. Hitler relented and ordered the execution of more than half of the recaptured escapees. 50 men would be executed including the mastermind, Roger Bushell. Brickhill, who would later write about the escape, was an Australian born Spitfire pilot. He was known as a “stooge” during the escape. He was part of a relay team who alerted prisoners that German search teams had entered the camp. Brickhill suffered from claustrophobia and was unable to travel the tunnel. He would claim that this phobia probably saved his life. He would write the book which would bring the incident to wide public attention.

Memorial markers are placed at the entrances and exits of each tunnel as well as a memorial remembering the 50 men who lost their lives. While the film, “The Great Escape” took many compromises for commercial appeal, it was based on real events and some of the characters’ names were fictitious but amalgams of the real men involved in the escape attempt. Everyone remembers the big events of World War II. Let’s remember these men’s attempt at freedom for their courage and bravery, especially the fifty men who lost their lives.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Saving Mim: a fun adventure into a magical land

Saving Mim by Nan McAdam is an adventure story about a young man who is awkward and often bully. Charlie Kadabra is 12 years old and he was left on the doorstep of a church as a baby. He was placed in foster care and has become low on the social ladder at his school until one day.

Charlie has a run in with his science teacher when he experiences strange sonic waves coming from his fingertips. He is soon whisked off to a magical land called Mim. He learns that he is the last of the Magicians when his parents sent him away and they disappeared. He learns from Alfreda, an old seer, that he is Mim’s last hope to defeat the evil Dr. Pi from destroying the magic left in Mim. He is joined by Fen, a Haroon, his guardian as well as his dragon, Galza. Together, they must retrieve the five magical stones and replace them in the magician’s staff and defeat Dr. Pi. While on his quest, Charlie will learn the history of Mim, the origins of Dr. Pi and the mystery that surrounds his parents’ disappearance. Will he gather the stones in time to defeat Dr. Pi? Will he finally find out what happened to his parents?

I enjoyed Saving Mim. It was a fun adventures will magical and mythical creatures will great lessons in the story. My favorite line is “The power of a bully thinks he has is given to him by the person he is bullying” (page 111). This is an important lesson to convey to the young readers because bullying has become an epidemic and kids and adults need to know that bullies only stop when you stand up to them. The story of a young man who discovers that he is much more important than he thinks reminds me of the Percy Jackson series. Saving Mim is a wonderful adventure story and I look forward to read more adventures of Charlie in the magical land of Mim.
Saving Mim
is available on Amazon
free for Kindle Unlimited

and in paperback for $10.99

Friday, March 20, 2015

March 20, 2015: a special spring equinox

Today is the first day of spring!!!! Well, at least for the northern hemisphere. March 20th marks the spring (vernal) equinox in the northern hemisphere and the autumnal (fall) equinox in the southern hemisphere. The equinox marks the moment when the sun crosses the celestial equator, the imaginary line in the sky about the earth’s equator. Equinox is Latin for “equal night” which means, in theory, that the day and night are exactly the same length at 12 hours each over all the world.

What is also cool about today is there is a supermoon. A supermoon is when the moon turns new only 14 hours after reaching lunar perigee (the moon’s closet point to the earth in its orbit) and appears brighter and bigger in the night sky.

There is also a total solar eclipse which occurred over the North Atlantic Ocean. A total solar eclipse is when the dark silhouette of the moon completely obscures the bright light of the sun, allowing a fainter solar corona to be visible.

 The path of totality (the visibility) was visible at approximately 09:41 GMT and could only be seen near North Atlantic Ocean near Greenland, Iceland and parts of Northern Europe.

Today is being called Freaky Friday because of all the events which occur today. Whether you are enjoying nature’s amazing events in the sky or the coming of spring and the promise of warmer weather, have a great day and enjoy the coming of spring.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Adobe Gold: a spy novel sent in 1861 American Southwest

Abode Gold by Robert C. Mowry is the first book in the Stone Justice series. The story is about Colonel Tyrone Rafter who was left for dead in Mexico on a secret mission for the U.S. Army during the Mexican-American War. He was captured, tortured and left for dead. When he lost his leg in a Mexican prison and when he finally escapes, he learns that his wife and his country has been told he was dead. His wife remarried and he now has no home to return to.

The story opens with Tyrone Rafter in Mexican cantina. He is known as the El Pata Fantasma (the Phantom Leg). It’s been fifteen years since he left on a rescue mission into Mexico when he learns that his wife has died. He decides to reclaim his son and his life. He journeys to Washington D.C. where he meets with his old friend, newly elected President, Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln convinces him to talk one last mission into the New Mexico Territory, undercover as a traveling preacher, Justin P. Stone. He must find a stash of gold before the Confederate troops do. Will someone recognize him? Will he find his son? Will he learn who betrayed him in Mexico? Will he be able to find the gold and restore his name?

Abode Gold is a great adventure story with twists and turns. With a great historical backdrop of the early days of the Civil War and the often forgotten battles fought in the Southwest, this story will take the reader on a journey through the dangerous game of spies. I enjoyed the journey of Tyrone as he becomes the preacher and navigates the sides of a divided country at war. I want to finish the series and see where Tyrone’s adventure takes him. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a great adventure story with the twists and turns of a great spy novel.

Adobe Gold is available on
Amazon for the Kindle for $3.99 
And in paperback for $13.95

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Blood Dreams: a mystery thriller with special abilities

Blood Dreams by Kay Hooper is a mystery thriller which features Dani and Paris, identical twin sisters who have psychic abilities. They work for a private organization called Haven which is often used as special consultants with the FBI’s Special Crimes Unit (SCU), run by Special Agent Noah Bishop. A serial killer is on the loose and has come to the small town of Venture. The local police department as well as the FBI work with Dani and Paris to solve the cases of missing persons while trying to follow the clues of the serial killer. Dani has promotions in the form of dreams. With each dream, more gruesome details are revealed about the final showdown between the killer and law enforcement. Can Dani figure out the clues in order to help catch the killer before he strikes again?

Blood Dreams is the first book in the Bishop/Special Crimes Unit trilogy. A typical mystery thriller with the heroine with special abilities. The story was engaging as the reader tries to work with the clues along the characters. I made my guesses as who the serial killer was and I was wrong or was I? The person caught at the end is alluded to as a pawn in a much bigger game. Was he the serial killer or is there a greater monster out there? I’m sure the other books in the trilogy will give more clues. The story kept me reading but I’m not rushing out to find the other books to find out who the serial killer is. If I find them at the library, I’ll probably read further. If you want a good mystery thriller and a quick read, I recommend Blood Dreams.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

"Leather and Lace:" a timeless love song

My husband and I are always discussing music and the meaning of lyrics and the symbolism painted by the songwriter. One day “Leather and Lace” by Stevie Nicks came up in conversation. The song features Don Henley and was recorded for her first solo album, Bella Donna (1981) and has been her most popular song. Stevie Nicks originally wrote the song for Waylon Jennings to sing with his wife, Jessie Colter. After the breakup of Jennings and his wife, Nicks decided to record it herself and asked Henley to sing with her as she always envisioned this song as a duet. My husband saw this song as a love song and I decided to pay closer attention to the lyrics.

The song opens with a woman asking a question. She asks is “love so fragile” and “the heart so hollow” that simple words can shatter them. It is true that words can cut very deep into the heart and relationships are often destroyed over words. Love can be fragile. Fragile that it takes great care and work to have a relationship work. It takes compromise and often place someone else’s needs before your own. The woman has been called fragile and she’s trying not to be. She continues that she has her own life and she’s stronger than he knows. She claims that when their relationship began, she had a feeling that he wouldn’t leave and their relationship was forever.

The chorus has the woman continues that they are lovers together no matter where they are in the world, “my city or mountains.” She needs him to love her and needs him to stay. She wants him to give her his leather. Leather is a durable and flexible material which has the image of ruggedness and manliness. It has the image of toughness. While lace is a delicate fabric made of yard or thread which has the image of femininity and grace. It has the image of delicateness and softness. I see him giving her his leather as a way to say, give me some of your toughness and she’ll give him some of her tenderness.

The third verse opens as the man enters the duet. He responds with a memory of seeing her in the moonlight, half asleep and he wonders how she “could ever love a man like me?” He agrees that he never wants to leave. He tells her that sometimes he’s strong, sometimes he’s cold and scared and sometimes he cries but with her by his side, he knows he’ll make it through the night. I love this image as the man admits that he can be strong and he can be cold and scared and he cries sometimes. Men are often raised to be strong and so no weakness or vulnerability and in the song, he is admitting that he feels scared and vulnerable sometimes. I also loves that he adds that her presence helps him have the ability to get through the “night,” a symbol for dark situations in life.

“Leather and Lace” is a beautifully honest song which is not sappy as some love songs can be. When I hear this song, I’ve reminded of me and my husband. I’m very much like the woman in the song. I often wear my heart on my sleeve and can be very delicate; however, I am tougher than I appear and I often have a thicker skin than some people realize. My husband is like the man in the song. He is very tough but he also can be vulnerable. Together, we fill in what the other lacks as the song displays so beautifully.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Mary Anderson: the inventor who may not have heard of

March is Women’s History Month and today is International Women’s History Day. It all started with the first International Women’s Day in 1911. In 1978, a Sonoma, California school district participated in Women’s History Week which would led to President Jimmy Carter issuing a presidential proclamation that the week of March 8, 1980 would be National Women’s History. In 1987, National Women’s History Project petitioned March as Women’s History Month and since 1995, March has been set aside for celebrating women’s contribution to history and to our society. I’ve chosen to highlight a woman who has had a great impact on our lives.

Mary Anderson, a woman who many people don’t know her name but we use her invention every time it rains. Mary invented the windshield wipers. Mary was born in Greene County, Alabama at the start of the Reconstruction in 1866. During a visit to New York City in winter 1902, she noticed a man driving a trolley with both panes of the windshield open due to the poor visibility in the snow. When she returned home, she designed a hand operated device to keep the windshield clear. She applied for and received a 17 year patent for the windshield wiper in 1903. The device had a lever inside the vehicle that controlled a rubber blade on the outside of the windshield. When the lever was operated, a spring loaded arm helped move the blade back and forth. A counterweight was used to ensure contact between the wiper and the window. Her device was the first to be effective. Despite this accomplishment, Ms. Anderson was told that her invention would have no commercial value and she let the patent run out. However, by 1922, the windshield wiper would become standard equipment on all cars.

I thought Mrs. Anderson’s story was so great that it needs to be retold and remembered. From an age when women were still fighting for the right to vote, she was able to take an idea and find a way to create a tool that we still use today. I was sad to learn that she was never able to successfully market her invention. One historian theorized it was because her invention predated the Model T and cars were not yet popular. Whatever the reason and even though she wouldn’t get credit for her invention in her lifetime, I hope she realized that she made a great contribution to the lives of future generations. Her story is another example of how a simple idea can change how we live our everyday lives and even the smallest contribution can have the greatest impact.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Have you hugged a GI day?

Today is National Hug a GI Day and I thought about what could I do be serve as a hug? The GIs I know are too far away for a hug. Then I remembered there are many organizations which help send cards, letters, care packages and many other services to the U.S. service men and women and so much more. I’ll feature each one with a brief description of the services they provide and the websites for more information on how to get involved.

A Million Thanks This organization provides support and appreciation to active duty and veteran service men and women through letters, granting betterment of life wishes and helping fund college scholarships for their children.

Adopt a Platoon This organization provides ongoing mail support for service men and women and their families. Individuals or groups can pledge to write letters or send care packages to one service member or as many as entire platoon. Their mission is to ensure that all service members are not forgotten.

Blue Star Mothers This organization is made up of mothers, stepmothers, foster mothers and legal guardians of service men and women. Their goal is to support each other and their children during their time of service. Their mission is to make sure that no service member, veteran or fallen warrior is forsaken or forgotten.

Books for Soldiers This volunteer organization sends care packages of books, DVDs, games and relief supplies as requested by the soldiers. This network of volunteers is operated by Red Grail Ministries, an interfaith relief church whose main goal is to provide comfort, counseling and fellowship to individuals in crisis situations.

Cell phones for Soldiers This nonprofit organization recycles donated cell phones and turns them into calling cards for active duty service members and veterans. They are dedicated to providing cost-free communications.

Homefront Hugs This organization serves the troops and their families. Their mission is to ensures that no hero is forgotten as long as freedom means sacrifice. They have many programs for individuals, groups, as well as kids and teens to get involved in.

Operation Gratitude This organization sends care packages to new recruits, veterans, first responders, wounded warriors, care givers of wounded, and to individual service members. Their mission is to lift the spirits and meets the needs of active duty and veteran communities. They help allow all Americans to express their appreciation.

United Service Organizations The USO has been serving men and women of the military since 1941 and their mission is to lift the spirits and support military men and women and their families until everyone comes home. The USO offers many ways for individuals in get involved in support of our troops.

The various mission statements of these organizations have the same theme: to ensure that our service men and women as well as our veterans are thanked, appreciated and never forgotten as they serve to protect our nation and come home to heal from the wounds of war. I have pledged myself to start writing letters to the as many service men and women as I can as well as send care packages when I can. I remember writing to a soldier in Operation Desert Storm when I was in fifth grade. It was an experience that has stuck with me and I want to be send a piece of home to someone serving to protect me and my family.

Many thanks and virtual hugs
To all the service men and women in the
United States Armed Forces

Monday, March 2, 2015

Leonard Nimoy: beyond Mr. Spock

Leonard Simon Nimoy was born March 26, 1931 in Boston, Massachusetts and he sadly died at the age of 83 on February 27, 2015 at his home in Hollywood, California from complications from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The son of Yiddish-speaking immigrants from Iziaslav, Russia (now Ukraine), he gained famed as the Enterprise’s Science Officer, Mr Spock on Star Trek (1966-1969) as well as eight feature films. I knew Mr. Nimoy as the accomplished actor that he was. However, I didn’t know he was also a poet and photography. Today, I am going to feature three of this poems that I love and some of his photography from the Shekhina Project.

Chambers Street
I got the stick. Who’s got the ball
The tar is hot and sticky.
Buck, buck against the wall
Go yell for Joe and Dicky
Hey kids, get away from the car.
Mary’s white comin’ out the door
Communion at St. Joe’s
Pick the dice up off the floor
Tell ‘em chinky shows
Here comes a pair of penguins
They’ll rap your knuckles hard
You wanna try and duke it out
Let’s go down by the yard
Charlie’s river’s dirty now
Can’t swim there. Out of luck.
First is the pole, the car is third
Get chips from the iceman’s truck
Hey kids, get away from the car!
Run and hide from the crazy guy
Dressed in robe of black
Tied with rope, shouting loud
What’s sitting in his sack ?
We never finished summer then
It sort of slipped away.
The worry on the young one’s mind
Was what are we gonna play?
Hey kids. Get away from the car !!

Chambers Street invokes images of children playing the neighborhood. Playing stick ball, a street version of baseball with the designation of landmarks as certain bases. Nuns, priests/rabbis walking by. Boys setting up boxing matches away from the adults. All the kids clambering and running after the ice cream truck. Adults yelling at the children for doing something they weren’t supposed to. A summer of great childhood memories. Even though the poem is an image of Nimoy’s children in the 1930/40s, it brings up a childhood memory for me. I remember playing baseball in the park by our house. We had a stick from a broken broom handle and a tennis ball. Three trees formed a perfect 1st, 2nd and 3rd bases that we had our own baseball diamond. Who’s childhood wasn’t filled with friends, ice cream trucks, sports and running away from adults who caught us doing something wrong?

A silence with you
A silence with you
Is not
a silence

But a moment rich 
with peace

A silence with you is a simple poem with a powerful image. When I read this poem I image peaceful contentment as I hold my husband and daughter and realize that I could be in this moment forever. As a mother of a very active three year old, I treasure the moments of silence. When my daughter simply sits with me to watch her favorite cartoons or riding in the car and enjoying the planes landing as we drive by the airport or the train as it zooms in front of us. I also image with this poem that moment when a big fight is over and silence fills the air. Both parties fill better than they have cleared whatever has been bothering them and they have talked it out. The peaceful moment of silence when the stress is released and you can relax. Silence isn’t always just no noise, it can be filled with a million different emotions.

I have known despair
I value hope

I have tasted frustration
I value fulfillment

I have been lonely
I value love

Because is by far my favorite poem and of all Mr. Nimoy’s poems I’ve read so far, this one spoke to me the most. I have known despair, doubt, and loss, I have hope for the future. I have been frustrated and stressed that fulfillment is very satisfying and I enjoy that moment of success. I have been alone and lonely, I treasure the love I now experience every day from my husband and my daughter. I love this poem because it reminds us that the bad experiences often make the good ones more enjoyable and treasured. Even though we don’t want the bad times, they help us enjoy the good times even more. The negative and positive events are the yin and yang of life. Without despair, we can’t know hope. Without frustration, we can’t know fulfillment and without loneliness, we can’t know love.

Since I am not a big Star Trek fan, I only knew of Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock. I never realized how accomplished he was in many other areas. He studied photography at UCLA in the 1970s. He earned a M.A. in Education from Antioch College and his received an honorary doctorate from Antioch University. He was also an accomplished director. He directed Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984), Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) and Three Men and a Baby (1987). He has published several volumes of poetry since the 1970s as well as two autobiographies. His final tweet, a few days before his death, read: “A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP” Beautiful words from an amazing man with a beautiful soul.