Friday, December 4, 2009


I went to the eye doctor yesterday.  The verdict: glasses.  All the time.  Not just for reading and driving, like before: all the time.

Of course, to be fair, I haven't worn my glasses for reading or driving for a long time.  Years, really.  I'm pretty sure the last time I went to the eye doctor was 1998.  I always had good vision, but as a teenager, it was discovered that I have a lazy eye.

Glasses, the doctor explained, would correct my lazy left eye, which had become nearsighted.  My right eye, as if to compensate, was farsighted.  I was given glasses, which I wore, usually.  I eventually when to contacts, which was cool because I could just wear the left one.  When I ran out of contacts, I ordered more, but I just sort of let it go.

I don't like wearing glasses.  Here are the actual un-retouched photos of me with and without glasses:



But I'm wearing them.  After years without them, my lazy eye has become shiftless.  It now sits on the porch drinking beer while my hard-working right eye does all the work.  Finally, in a fit of despair, my right eye developed a horrible case of pinkeye (technical term: conjunction junction) just to get me into an eye doctor.  My left eye, protesting, has been to an AA meeting and employment counseling.  Righty is relieved and thinks it may work out.

But I look like a nerd.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Most Fascinating?

Every year, Barbara Walters, arbiter of all that is important and worthy of attention, caps off the year by announcing who we all found Most Fascinating.  It's a good thing, too; without Barbara, I might not have known who I was interested in this year.

Boldly and bravely carrying on her 84th year of these interviews (I believe she began them on a morse-code telegraph show), Barbara has again hit the nail on the head of the coffin by choosing a truly eclectic (meaning: "type of eel") group of real, honest-to-goodness CELEBRITIES this year.  (I can only tell you 9; Barbara saves #10 for a surprise, just in case not enough viewers tune in to see how thick the Vaseline will be smeared on her camera lens this year.)

I am a bit surprised at some of her choices, though.  No-brainers Kate Gosselin and Glenn Beck get no complaints from me; it is my hope that Kate leaves the interview carrying Beck's dodecoduplets (since Kate can get pregnant just by wishing) because those children would be a perfect storm of television mayhem.

She's also interviewing Lady Gaga and Adam Lambert.  I hope an entire legion of babies erupts from this interview: gay, extravagantly dressed, gender-ambiguous babies.

Others on the list include celebrities so fascinating I have already forgotten who they are.

Here's the one that gets my head a-scratchin': included on the list are Michael Jackson's three children: Prince, Paris, and Blanket.  (There are three of them, but they share one slot.  They can, they're little.)  I'm sure Barbara means this sincerely and is not being exploitative at all, but does she not understand anything at all about Michael Jackson?  That fame, perhaps, was not the healthiest life path for him?  And, maybe, these kids don't need to be put into the spotlight anymore than they are already?  That they might have a chance to be, if not normal, healthy and functioning adults?

No, Barbara understands that these kids are doomed to a life before the lens, whether they like it or not.  She's probably doing them a favor.  Why pretend?  We find them "fascinating," don't we?

Okay, snark over.  I find this repugnant.  Barbara Walters should be even more ashamed of herself than she hopefully already is.  (Snark not over, I lied.)  These kids didn't ask for celebrity.  They just lost their dad, who, despite everything we know about him and everything else we suppose about him, was clearly the center of their lives.  These kids don't need to be profiled on prime time network television, they need a counselor.  And a teacher.  And people who love them enough to tell them they can't have another cookie.  I don't find them fascinating.  I find them unspeakably sad.

Oh, I despair.  It's time for another moist towel and a bowl of peeled grapes.  Whatever can I do to escape this endless exploitation of people's lives for fun and profit?

I wonder what's on E!...

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Compatibility: The Cold War

I know I am supposed to be concerned about climate change.  I am.  Deeply.  I am, to be precise, concerned about the climate change that occurs in my bedroom whenever the temperature outside dips below 60.

Sven drives me crazy every year with his insistence that the house be warm in the winter.  Really.  I don't understand it.  Why, if you are comfortable at 72 degrees in the summer, must you have the house at 74 or 75 degrees in the winter?  Why isn't 72 still comfortable?  THIS MAKES NO SENSE TO ME AT ALL.  Still, it is a truth: in the summer, we have the thermostat set to 72 or 73 at night, and we are fine.  In the winter (which in Texas can last as long as 7 non-consecutive weeks) the thermostat can go no lower than 74.

74 is inhumane.  It is miserable.  I cannot exist at 74 degrees indoors.  Outdoors, okay.  I'll give you that, 74 is pretty comfortable when you're outside.  Indoors, I become a sweating, grumpy, belabored musk ox at 74.

For the first several years of our marriage, I got my way sometimes.  Sven would pile on the blankets and sleep in the "chill" but insist that I turn on the heat before he got out of bed.  Now, he has the perfect excuse to keep the house at interrogation-tactic level:

The children.

It's for the children.  The children can't be cold.  The children kick off their covers.

Sure.  The children.  I knew he'd get me with that someday.

I miss the days Sven and I were in college.  We lived in a dilapidated house his grandfather built in the 1500's or something, which had no central air or heat.  Since we were in Beaumont, Texas, we weren't as concerned about heat, so we installed window unit air conditioners.

Then came the coldest winter in Beaumont history.  And old, hardwood floors.  And a barely-insulated house on a pier-and-beam foundation, which made the floors so cold you could feel the wind blowing up through your toes as you ran.

Those were the days.

Come to think of it, that's probably why Sven likes such a hot house in the winter.  Even though we have a nice house now, with carpet and everything, he likes knowing that he can be toasty warm anytime he wants.

I guess he's earned it.


Monday, November 30, 2009

New Discovery

I was working on a lesson about Franz Schubert for my 5th graders when I came across this video on YouTube.  The singer is named Bibiana Nwobilo, she was born in Nigeria but raised in Austria, and she is amazing.  I think we will be seeing a lot of this performer in the future.  Check out her website ( for some more videos.  Sublime!

Book Review: Stephen King

I just read Stephen King's latest, Under the Dome.

It was awful.

I say this as a confirmed Stephen King fan.  I have been a huge fan of King since the 8th grade, when I read Pet Sematary for the first time.  I went on to devour everything he wrote: novels, short stories, novellas, even screenplays.  I currently own at least one copy of pretty much everything he has ever written.

I am not one of those annoying SNL-style King "purists" who proclaim that everything he has written since 1982 is trash, but there is a definite difference in styles when one considers the different phases of what has been a very long career.  Personally, I think the difference is editing.

His early work was (mostly) stellar: Carrie, Salem's Lot, The Shining, the Stand...these are all masterpieces.  They are also all short.  In the "uncut revision" of The Stand, King confirms that the publishers were much more controlling in terms of editing in those days.  Some semi-stinkers (Christine) and stinkers (Cujo) followed, but beginning in the late '80's and early '90's, King's novels began to routinely run 1,200 pages.  I am estimating, but based on my own recent excursion into noveling, I would guess that puts him in the 400,000 word range, more or less.

In 1999, King was in a serious accident, in which he was struck by a van while walking.  Since then, his work has been markedly different in the opinion of most critics.  He was already losing relevance, however, and most people, including devoted King fans, disliked his newer work.

I loved Bag of Bones (1998, I think).  Other than that, most of his work has been fairly meh.  Last year, for my birthday, Sven got me a copy of Duma Key, which most people hated, but I thought wasn't bad.  It was definitely kept me up a couple of nights, for sure.

Which brings me to Under the Dome.  It is dreadful.  You know a book is awful when, on page 852, you think, "Finally, we're getting somewhere."  This book is 852 pages of setup for a plot that takes about 200 pages to tell.  In other books, King's penchant for delving into the minutiae of characters not only peripheral, but completely outside the scope of the story, is charming (for example, the chapter of the "uncut revision" of The Stand in which King details just a few incidental deaths that occurred after the flu epidemic had passed).  In this book, it just feels like rambling.  We get character after character after character, and I was bored.

The crazy thing about the book is that there is no setup at all.  He doesn't introduce anything, or anyone, at all: out of nowhere, an invisible dome has settled over a town in Maine.  The book opens with the dome settling in place (with some very grisly, King-like consequences) and the story should just take off.  It doesn't.  I kind of got a picture in my head of King thinking, "What if..." and getting going, which has worked before, but it falls flat here.

One of King's strengths is writing villains, and in this the book excels.  The town of Chester's Mill is "under the dome" for only a few days, but it is enough time for a small-town Hitler to create a climate of hate and terror.  The villain of the piece is truly a bad guy.  There is nothing supernatural about him.  He's just a jerk who, when presented with an opportunity, will do or say anything to keep his power.

Another of King's strengths is making the implausible seem plausible.  It is at this that Under the Dome failed spectacularly for me.  Spoiler: highlight to see, don't read it if you want to read the book: about halfway through, someone decides the dome is the work of aliens, then they figure out it is actually alien children playing with them the way human children play with anthills, so to get rid of the dome, they have to beg the children and convince them that humanity/earth is "real." The idea of the dome is intriguing, I suppose, but the real story is the human one: what happens to these people when they are isolated from, yet completely visible to, the outside world?  The pseudo-sci-fi purpose of the dome just muddied the water for me.  I honestly would have preferred no explanation.

I will say I loved some of the characters, though in a King book, an abundance of characters also means an abundance of death.  Lots of death under the dome.  Suicides, of course, but accidental deaths, deaths from illness, and of course murders also occupy these pages.  It is tiring investing so much in a book without a satisfactory payoff.

The payoff I wanted was twofold: a happy ending for some of the characters I was rooting for, and comeuppance for those I wasn't.  I was only partially satisfied.  To avoid another spoiler, I will just say that the ending was far to abrupt for everything that went into the beginning.  If I were Mr. King's editor, I would have lopped off about 100,000 words from the beginning and added about 50,000 to the end.

That being said, I cannot wait for Mr. King's next book, whatever it is.  I hope I will love it.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

In Which Deb Ponders a Religious Issue


It's referred to, in LDS-land, as "struggling with your testimony."  Catholics poetically call it "the long dark night of the soul."  Others may call it "a dry spell."  It is when your faith in God is tested, when you seem to receive no answer to prayer, when you struggle to keep going forward even though you suddenly question your faith.

I don't know a single religious person of any denomination who has not gone through this.  Some never return to their faith, but those who make it through generally are stronger and more confident in their faith afterwards.  I have never given much thought to why this happens, other than temptation and human weakness.  An author/blogger online acquaintance of mine suggested in her blog that, perhaps, God allows us to enter this spiritual abyss deliberately by taking a step back from us, forcing us to continually reevaluate our commitment to our faith.

It was an interesting thought.

I've always known that there is no such thing as an "unanswered" prayer, if "unanswered" means "ignored."  Sometimes God's answer is "No," that's all.  However, now I'm wondering if sometimes the un-answer isn't "No."  Maybe sometimes the answer is, "Sure, but you have to do it yourself."

Of course, this came to me as I was having a discussion with Princess:

"Mommy, where is my Snow White doll?"
"I don't know, honey."
"Mommy, you need to find it!"
"Have you looked for it?"
"No, I don't know where it is!"
"Look for it, and if you can't find it, come back to me and I'll help you."

Of course, I know where the Snow White doll is.  As a matter of fact, I was looking at the Snow White doll throughout that entire conversation.  But Princess is old enough now to do things for herself.  The conversation above did not end with Princess looking for her doll.  She sat on the floor and cried, then banged her fists on the floor, then pitifully asked for my help again.  Steeling myself to be a good parent No Matter What, I did not help her.  She went off and did something else, but when she came across Snow White a few minutes later, she was so excited!  "I found it!  I found it all by myself, Mommy!"

How hard must it be for God not to just give us everything we want?  How much must He love us to stay out of it and let us do it ourselves?  And how much joy and relief is there when we finally accomplish our goal?

Like any good parent, He wants us to be self-reliant.  He wants us to make it on our own.  He's rooting for us to succeed.  It's nice to know.