Saturday, February 24, 2024

Lazy, Bored, Or Procrastinating?

 

Am I just being lazy? Maybe I'm merely bored. Or could it be procrastination?

I've had the most terrible time concentrating on anything lately.  At least that's the way it seems.

I moved three years ago and still have a ton of unpacked boxes in the garage and the third bedroom.  But I'm not sure if I'm purposely distracting myself, allowing myself to be distracted by things going on around me, or simply not able to maintain my concentration.  And it's not that I'm bored because I don't have anything to do.  I have plenty to do (remember all those unpacked boxes I mentioned?).  In fact, I'm behind schedule with my to do list.  Could it possibly be that I'm just procrastinating.

I currently have four manuscripts in various stages of completion between page one and page last, three projects where I'm working on the storyline and synopsis and haven't actually started writing yet, and two basically completed manuscripts that are in the let them sit for a little while then go through them one last time stage before submitting them to a publisher.

Being a writer requires self-discipline.  Being self-employed and working from home also requires that same discipline.  Being a full time writer (no day job) who works from home requires twice the discipline.  When the words aren't flowing from the brain directly to the keyboard, it's very easy to be distracted by anything and everything.  So easy to procrastinate.  After all, there's always later.

(Oh, look…the mailman is across the street.  He'll be at my house in another five minutes.  Maybe I should go to the front door and wait. After all, I wouldn't want to have my electric bill sitting in my mailbox any longer than absolutely necessary.)

I was so desperate for something else to do this morning (other than any of the items on my to do list) that I actually started to look at all the stuff I packed in my old office and moved with me to the new house—things I should have thrown out rather than move them.  I went through a huge stack of stuff from boxes, almost all of it printed emails, news stories from online, research information from various websites.  That huge stack ended up in two stacks.  One was the throw it away because it's no longer relevant for various reasons and the other one was the file it away where it belongs.  So, I tossed the first stack and the second stack went into the appropriate hard copy file folders (and returned to boxes. Not exactly what you could call making progress with all the unpacked boxes.)  Unfortunately, that was only one stack of stuff out of many.  It was the newest stack, so my guess is that all the others will be mostly throw it away things when I finally get around to doing something with it.

Just finished unloading the dishwasher and putting the clean dishes away, something that obviously needed to be done RIGHT NOW rather than a couple of hours later.  Oh, yeah…while I was in the kitchen I got out my Mr. Coffee Iced Tea maker and made a pitcher of iced tea.  That's not procrastinating, is it?

Now, where was I.  Oh, yes…my blog.  I need to pick a topic for my blog and then get it written.  I print out interesting articles and news stories when I come across them online and set them aside as possible topics for a blog.  Hmmm…it seems to me that I just went through a huge stack of paper that included some printouts of articles and news stories.  Maybe I should go and take another look at the ones I kept.

Or not.

It's about dinner time and I'm getting hungry.  Good thing I took those dishes out of the dishwasher several hours ago.  Now I can use them.

Maybe I'm just bored in general with being cooped up inside the house.  Maybe I just need a break like being able to get out of town, take a trip somewhere.  Yeah…that's it!  I can transfer all my work in progress files to my laptop and take it with me.  I'll be able to get lots of work done while I'm gone because there won't be anything around to distract me like there is in my own house.  Now where did I put that U.S. Atlas?  Which box is it packed in?

Oh, wait a minute.  I need to do laundry before I can go out of town.  And I have a doctor appointment on Tuesday, and something else on my schedule for Wednesday night.  I guess I don't need that Atlas after all.

So…I might as well get back to work.  (Hmmm…I wonder what I should fix for dinner. I probably need to go to the grocery store.)

Ah Ha!  I think I just came up with the topic for my blog.

Saturday, February 17, 2024

STRANGEST THINGS WASHED UP ON BEACHES

It's not unusual to see all sorts of things washed up on beaches around the world. There are the natural things such as seaweed/kelp and sea shells, including all things native to the oceans such as dead sea animals of various sorts ranging from small creatures to the occasional large whale.

But things washed up on the beaches also includes strange and surprising items that are not normally associated with beaches. Most of this marine debris is trash such as plastic bags, bottles, and cans from land-based sources. Some of it, however, is due to weather events like hurricanes and tsunamis. While other sources include vessels in storm-tossed seas. We have seen several very large and strange things washed up on the shores of western U.S. and Canada that arrived from Japan courtesy of the 2011 tsunami.

Here is a list I came across of unusual beach findings that didn't belong there.

In January 2012, huge shipping containers from a distressed cargo vessel washed up on one of New Zealand's most popular beaches. Up to 300 containers were reportedly tossed overboard when 6 meter (approximately 19.5 feet) waves struck the ship. People were warned against looting, but both locals and tourists flocked to the beaches to take photos of the giant containers.

A recurring washed-up-on-the-beach sensation appeared at Zandvoort, Netherlands, in 2007, and Brighton Beach in England in 2008, and at Siesta Key Beach in Florida in 2011. And what was this surprise visitor to these shores? It was a giant (8 feet tall) Lego man that weighed about 100 pounds and featured a bright green torso showing the message "No Real Than You Are." The number 8 appeared on its back along with the words "Ego Leonard." The mystery was finally resolved when it was revealed that "Ego Leonard" was the alter ego of a Dutch artist. The Sarasota County Sheriff's Office in Florida joined in the fun and issued a press release saying it had taken the giant Lego man "into protective custody." In response, numerous "Free Lego Man" Facebook pages and campaigns popped up on the Internet.

In September 2005, many giant squid washed up in Newport Beach, California. The creatures, believed to be Humboldt squid, normally reside in deep water. It was rare for people to encounter them at sea and especially on land. Authorities said the squid might have been pursuing bait fish and gotten too close to shore. Other factors, such as warm ocean temperatures or record rainfall, were also suspected.

In May 2012, dozens of fly swatters emblazoned with logos of collegiate and professional sports teams washed up on the beaches of Kodiak, Alaska. The fly swatters were originally believed to be debris from the 2011 Japanese tsunami, but were eventually proven to have come from a shipping container that got loose from a ship carrying products from China. The container went overboard in dangerous weather in the Gulf of Alaska. Other sports-related items, such as Nerf balls and water bottles were also found on Kodiak's beaches.

In August 2010, hundreds of tea packets washed ashore in Rajbandar in the Raigad district, Maharashtra, India. Nine containers from the cargo ship MSC Chitra spilled into the sea after the cargo ship suffered a collision with another ship.

In 2007, residents of the Dutch North Sea island of Terschelling, 70 miles north of Amsterdam, discovered thousands of bananas washed ashore after at least six containers of the fruit fell off a cargo ship in a storm and at least one of the containers broke open. Bunches of the still green bananas from Cuba also washed up on neighboring Amerland Island. It's not known exactly what happened to the beached bananas, but at the time residents suggested sending most of the fruit to local zoos.

In February 2006, also on the Netherlands' Terschelling Island, thousand of sneakers washed up on the beach when containers from the P&O Nedlloyd ship Mondriaan fell overboard in a storm. Residents of the island rushed to get the sneakers, searching for shoes in their size. Other items that washed up on the beach from those containers included children's toys and briefcases.

Perhaps one of the most famous container spills in history occurred in January 1992 when 28,000 rubber duck toys fell into the sea.  The incident inspired a book titled Moby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea and of the Beachcombers, Oceanographers, Environmentalists and Fools, Including the Author, Who Went in Search of Them by Donovan Hohn. The great rubber ducky spill occurred when a shipping crate on a cargo ship headed to the U.S. from China fell overboard onto the Pacific Ocean during a stormy night. 

Some of the rubber ducks (nicknamed Friendly Floatees) have since washed up on the shores of Alaska, Hawaii, South America, Australia and the Pacific Northwest. Some have traveled 17,000 miles, floating over the site where the Titanic sank or spending years frozen in an Arctic ice pack. Some 2,000 of the rubber ducks are still circulating in the ocean and helping researchers chart ocean currents.

On January 26, 2011, a grand piano was found on a sandbar in Miami's Biscayne Bay, mysteriously charred from being burned. Speculation about its origins included the idea that it was part of a music video production. It was later discovered that the piano was a junk art installation, the brainchild of a 16-year-old hoping to use the piece for a college application.

And the list goes on—a life size E.T. doll, rocks with inscribed messages, a mechanical hand, thousands of bags of Doritos. 

In 2015 billions of gelatinous blobs, and in 2016 Siberian snowballs.

Saturday, February 10, 2024

Chocolate—The Food Of Love

Valentine's Day is when the chocolate industry happily counts its profits.  Certainly other items also come to mind such as flowers, cards, and jewelry.  But chocolate reigns supreme for the holiday.

The history of chocolate goes back more than two thousand years.  Cocoa has long been associated with passion, romance, and love.  It's a concept that traces to the ancient Aztecs.  Archaeological records indicate that before the Aztecs, the Mayans were consuming cocoa as long ago as 600 B.C. and possibly even earlier than that.

The Aztecs believed it was a source of spiritual wisdom, energy, and sexual power.  It was widely served at wedding ceremonies.  The ancient civilizations of Central and South America did not know chocolate as we do today.  They consumed cocoa as a drink, its naturally bitter taste possibly altered by adding chili peppers to the water and cocoa.

When the Spanish explorers first brought cocoa home with them in 1585, they experimented by mixing it with sugar and vanilla to make a sweeter tasting drink.  The result was a type of hot chocolate popular among the upper classes who were the only ones who could afford it.  Cocoa was also added to baked goods to give them added flavor.  By the first half of the eighteenth century cocoa production had increased and the price had fallen so that it became affordable to the general population of Europe and also the European colonies in the New World.

By the nineteenth century things were moving along nicely for those involved in the manufacture of chocolate.  In 1828, Conrad van Houton of Holland invented a process to make a refined cocoa powder which increased the output of the usable powder from a given crop of cocoa beans which further lowered the price.

The first chocolate candies as we know them today were invented in the 1860s by Cadbury, a British candy maker, who was the first to sell them in a heart-shaped box for Valentine's Day.

Another big advance came in 1878 when a Swiss chocolate seller, Daniel Peter, invented a process for making candy out of milk chocolate—a process picked up by Nestle.  In 1913 Jules Sechaud, a Swiss chocolate maker, created the first chocolate candy with cream and other fillings and the modern soft centered chocolate candies were born.

And thus chocolate candies joined the ranks of flowers and jewelry in the courtship ritual.

Chocolate, including chocolate candy, is liked by most people, but women tend to have a somewhat greater affinity for it than men.  Chocolate is more than food.  It not only fills your stomach, it also makes you feel good.  Many people believe that chocolate is an aphrodisiac.  While it is true that chocolate does contain organic substances which have a physical feel good affect on the body, the amounts are not that great.

Critics claim the benefits of eating chocolate are small compared to the sugar and fat contained in a chocolate bar.  However, the best chocolate—dark chocolate with high cocoa butter content rather than milk chocolate—has no added fat with a high percentage of cocoa solids and correspondingly less sugar.  Dark chocolate will never be considered a health food based on its nutritional value, but it is still good for you.  It's good for your heart, relieves stress, and makes you feel good.  What more could you want?  But, like everything, in moderation.

Chocolate has long been associated with passion, romance, and love.  This association goes all the way back to the Aztecs.  Valentine's Day is a celebration of romance.  Chocolate is both an everyday pleasure and a token of love.  Valentine's Day and chocolate make a perfect match.  Chocolate is given as a token of love.

Chocolate—the all purpose taste treat that's good any time of the year.

Saturday, February 3, 2024

The History of Valentine's Day

Every February candy, flowers, and gifts are exchanged between loved ones, all in the name of St. Valentine. But who is this mysterious saint and why do we celebrate this holiday? The history of Valentine's Day and its patron saint is shrouded in mystery. St. Valentine's Day, as we know it today, contains vestiges of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition. So, how did St. Valentine become associated with this ancient rite?

One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men—his pool of potential soldiers. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform secret marriages for young lovers. When Valentine's actions were discovered, Claudius ordered him put to death.

Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons where they were often beaten and tortured.

According to one legend, Valentine actually sent the first 'valentine' greeting himself.  While in prison, it is believed that Valentine fell in love with a young girl who visited him during his confinement who may have been his jailor's daughter. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter, which he signed 'From your Valentine,' an expression that is still in use today.

Although the truth behind the Valentine legends is murky, the stories certainly emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic, and most importantly as a romantic figure. It's no surprise that by the Middle Ages, Valentine was one of the most popular saints in England and France.

While some believe that Valentine's Day is celebrated in the middle of February to commemorate the anniversary of Valentine's death or burial which probably occurred around 270 A.D., others claim that the Christian church may have decided to celebrate Valentine's feast day in the middle of February in an effort to Christianize celebrations of the pagan Lupercalia festival. In ancient Rome, February was the official beginning of spring and was considered a time for purification. Houses were ritually cleansed by sweeping them out then sprinkling salt and a type of wheat called spelt throughout their interiors. Lupercalia, which began at the ides of February (on February 15) was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus (the Roman god of agriculture), as well as to the brothers alleged to be the founders of Rome (Romulus and Remus).

Around 498 A.D., Pope Gelasius declared February 14 to be St. Valentine's Day. Later, during the Middle Ages, it was commonly believed in France and England that February 14 was the beginning of the mating season for birds, which added to the idea that the middle of February should be a day for romance.

The oldest known valentine still in existence today was a poem written by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt. The greeting, which was written in 1415, is part of the manuscript collection of the British Library in London, England. Several years later, it is believed that King Henry V hired a writer named John Lydgate to compose a valentine note to Catherine of Valois.

In Great Britain, Valentine's Day began to be popularly celebrated around the seventeenth century. By the middle of the eighteenth century, it was common for friends and lovers in all social classes to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes. By the end of the century, printed cards began to replace written letters due to improvements in printing technology. Ready-made cards were an easy way for people to express their emotions in a time when direct expression of one's feelings was discouraged. Cheaper postage rates also contributed to an increase in the popularity of sending Valentine's Day greetings. Americans probably began exchanging hand-made valentines in the early 1700s. In the 1840s, Esther A. Howland began to sell the first mass-produced valentines in America. Valentine's Day is the second largest card-sending holiday of the year with Christmas being the highest.

Approximately 85 percent of all valentines are purchased by women. In addition to the United States, Valentine's Day is celebrated in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France, and Australia. 

Saturday, January 27, 2024

Groundhog Day…And I Don't Mean The Movie

NEWS FLASH—FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 2, PUNXSUTAWNEY, PENNSYLVANIA:  PHIL WILL EMERGE FROM HIS BURROW TO PREDICT WHEN WINTER WILL END.  NO SHADOW…NO MORE WINTER.  SEES HIS SHADOW…SIX MORE WEEKS OF WINTER!

By a strange coincidence those six more weeks of winter takes us to Thursday, March 14. In 2024 (a leap year where February has 29 days), the Vernal Equinox—the first day of spring—falls on Tuesday, March 19.

Every year on February 2 a furry rodent of the groundhog variety named Punxsutawney Phil sticks his head out of his burrow in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, to do his annual weather forecast.  In the United States and Canada, this is celebrated as Groundhog Day.  If Phil sees his shadow, it will frighten him and he'll return to his burrow.  If he doesn't see his shadow, he'll emerge and winter will soon be over. At least, that's what years of tradition claims.

I saw a mention on the news a couple of days ago saying PETA (the animal rights group) wants to replace Punxsutawney Phil with a giant gold coin for a coin toss. Phil actually lives in luxurious conditions, especially compared to his fellow groundhogs in the wild.

The earliest American written reference to a groundhog day was 1841 in Pennsylvania's Berks County (Pennsylvania Dutch) referring to it as the German celebration called Candlemas day where a groundhog seeing its shadow was a weather indication.  Superstition says that fair weather at that time was seen as a prediction of a stormy and cold second half to winter, as noted in this Old English saying:

If Candlemas be fair and bright, winter has another flight. If Candlemas brings clouds and rain, winter will not come again.

Since the first official celebration of Groundhog Day in Pennsylvania in 1886, crowds as large as 40,000 people have gathered in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, for the annual celebration.  And in recent years it's been covered live on television.  Quite an accolade for the little ol' groundhog.  Since 1887, the groundhog has seen his shadow over 100 times [hmm…I wonder how many of those recent times were due to the television lights] predicting a longer winter and has not seen it only a few times to predict an early spring.  There is no record of his prediction for 9 years in the late 1800s.

The groundhog, also known as a woodchuck, is a member of the squirrel family.  The current Punxsutawney Phil weighs fifteen pounds and lives in a climate controlled home in the Punxsutawney library.  On Gobbler's Knob, Phil is placed in a heated burrow underneath a simulated tree stump on a stage before being pulled out at 7:25AM to make his annual prediction. Quite removed from the concept of the groundhog waking from hibernation and emerging from his burrow in the wild.  :)

Over the decades, the groundhog has only about a 30% accuracy record. The television weatherman is far more accurate than that. 

Saturday, January 20, 2024

STRANGE OCEAN CREATURES

The oceans are vast and mysterious places. In some ways, we know more about outer space than we do the ocean depths of our own planet.

Sailors have been spinning tales of amazing and terrifying sea monsters since ancient times. As outlandish as these stories are, the idea behind them, the events that spawned them, were likely inspired by real creatures.

TWO-HEADED CREATURE

In December, 2016, scientists discovered the strangest creature washed ashore on Mexico's Laguna Ojo de Liebre that they had ever seen. The creature was approximately seven feet long, dark gray in color, had fins on each side, and had two tails. It also appeared to have four eyes. Definitely a sea monster of some type? In reality, it turned out to be a pair of extremely rare newborn conjoined gray whale twins. Since newborn gray whales are about twelve feet long, scientists speculated that the pair was likely the result of a miscarriage.

MONTAUK MONSTER

In the summer of 2008, an unidentified dead animal washed up on the shore at Montauk, New York. Although several people reported seeing it and photographs surfaced, the carcass disappeared before police were able to recover the remains. Newspapers ran the story along with a grotesque image. Locals speculated that it could be a mutant resulting from experiments at nearby Plum Island Animal Disease Center. Others suggested that it was nothing more than a hoax. Many scientists who studied the photographs think it was a known species heavily damaged and decomposed as a result of time spent in the water. Several people claimed it was some type of sea turtle without its shell. The raccoon claim seems to be the closest, but the Montauk Monster's legs are longer than a normal raccoon leaving us without a definitive conclusion.

OARFISH

Oarfish are large, greatly elongated fish that are found in all temperate to tropical oceans yet rarely seen. The giant oarfish is the longest bony fish alive (not longest fish, cartilage fish such as the whale shark are longer), growing up to 36 ft. in length.

The common name oarfish is thought to be in reference either to their highly compressed and elongated bodies or to the now discredited belief that the fish row themselves through the water with their pelvic fins. The occasional beachings of oarfish after storms and their habit of lingering at the surface when sick or dying make oarfish a probable source of many sea serpent tales.

GIANT SQUID

The giant squid remains largely a mystery to scientists despite being the biggest invertebrate on Earth. The largest of these elusive creatures ever found measured 59 feet in length and weighed nearly a ton. Giant squid, along with their cousin, the colossal squid, have the largest eyes in the animal kingdom, measuring some 10 inches in diameter. These massive eyes allow them to see objects in the lightless depths where most other animals would see nothing.

Due to the inhospitable deep-sea habitat where they live, it has been a difficult task to study them. Almost everything scientists know about them is from carcasses that have washed up on beaches or been hauled in by fishermen. However, of late the opportunities for scientists studying these elusive creatures has started to turn. In 2004, researchers in Japan took the first images ever of a live giant squid. And in late 2006, scientists with Japan's National Science Museum caught and brought to the surface a live 24-foot female giant squid. 

Saturday, January 13, 2024

Words Of Wisdom From T-Shirts

 

For the most part, T-shirts seem to have a lot to say.  They tell us where their owner went on vacation, what school he or she attended, what kind of car they drive, where they work, what organizations they belong to, what causes they support, and a multitude of other miscellaneous information.  Some are serious and others are just fun.  I've collected several interesting T-shirt sayings, including some from just a few weeks ago, and I'd like to share them with you.

I thought I saw a spider, but it was just a piece of yarn. It's dead yarn now.

Etc.—End of Thinking Capacity

I thought growing old would take longer

My alone time is for everyone's safety

BOOKS—helping introverts avoid conversation since 1454

You matter.  Unless you multiply yourself by the speed of light…then you energy.

I'm not arguing, I'm explaining why I'm right.

In my defense, I was left unsupervised

Interested in time travel?  Meet me here last Thursday at 6pm

Hand over the chocolate and no one will get hurt.

At what age am I old enough to know better?

When spelling, it's the letter I before E except after C…weird?

Wine improves with age.  I improve with wine.

Everyone has to believe in something.  I believe I'll have another glass of wine.

I love to cook with wine.  Sometimes I even use it in the food.

If we knew what we were doing, it wouldn't be called research.

If I'm talking, you should be taking notes.

Why can't I be rich instead of good looking?

To err is human, to arrrrrgh is pirate.

Searching for the meaning of life, but will settle for my car keys.

I'm often confused with my evil twin.

Flying is the 2nd greatest thrill known to man.  Landing is the 1st.

I'd be a vegetarian if bacon grew on trees.

Disheveled…not just a look, it's a lifestyle.

I used to care, but I take a pill for that now.

I'm confused…wait, maybe I'm not.

Where's the switch that turns you off?

Inside every older person is a younger person wondering what the hell happened.

Don't worry about what people think.  They don't do it very often.

Everything I say can be fully substantiated by my own opinion.

Ending a sentence with a preposition?  That is something up with which I shall not put. (a saying made famous by Winston Churchill)

I'm always late.  My ancestors arrived on the Juneflower.

There.  Their.  They're not the same.

Nostalgia isn't what it used to be.

Old age comes at an inconvenient time.

Irony.  The opposite of wrinkly.

Raisin cookies that look like chocolate chip cookies are the main reason I have trust issues.

I'm not weird, I'm a limited edition.

I have CDO—it's like OCD but with the letters in alphabetical order, as they should be.

Sometimes I need to put on my crown just to remind people who they're dealing with.

The past, the present, and the future walk into a bar.  It was tense.

I talk to myself whenever I need expert advice.

"To be, or not to be" William Shakespeare.  "To be is to do" Jean-Paul Sartre.  "To do is to be" Bertrand Russell.  "Doo be doo be doo" Frank Sinatra.

And that's my list for now. Have any of you come across any fun or interesting T-shirt sayings you'd like to share?