Sunday, March 22, 2015

We Get Too Soon Old and Too Late Smart

I went to university in an Amish area. In fact, my children's grandma Rose came from a family who was shunned for having a rose painted on their horse and buggy...not on the horse, but on the buggy. Perhaps their fondness for roses explains her moniker.

The community members had a slight accent which actually baffled me since many of their generations had been born in Canada. I always enjoyed the story about an uncle who went to a shop and said "Can I please haff a pound of budder?"

To his bewilderment, the sales clerk proceeded to give him half a pound of butter.

While at school, I picked up a few oft used expressions. Although the wording seemed somehow twisted, the sayings always made sense. For example, when sitting down to dinner, who wouldn't understand "eat yourself full"?

For financial matters, they might have resisted the temptation to spend money impulsively or frivolously with a line heard early in life. "I went to town and bought myself poor."

Rushing to get a task done, or preparing too quickly for an event often can often cause problems which create the opposite effect. The Amish have an expression for that too. "The hurrier I go, the behinder I get."

One of my favourites, which is of more relevance to me now is "vee get too soon oldt und too late schmardt"...easily translatable. This rings more true with each passing day. It's particularly the case when it comes to health but certainly works for money, jobs, relationships, and life in general. I think the Amish have many things sorted out.

Why does it have to take us until it's too late to figure out a healthy lifestyle? Who amongst us hasn't been told to drink plenty of water each day? Are we ever told why? How about don't look at the sun, at an eclipse or any other bright phenomenon?  Or, don't drink alcohol when using certain medicine and don't take too many aspirin, tylenol, or cold remedies and definitely don't combine them with alcohol. Again I ask. "Why?" We were never told.

Moms were always best at trying to give us reasons. An example is the ever popular "don't look at the sun, you'll go blind". In fact, as young boys will attest, the "you'll go blind" line was used for purposes other than staring at eclipses. Nonsense and we knew it.

Mom told me not to sit on the ground, on cement walls and the like. "You'll get hemorrhoids",  she announced for all to hear. I was five. It sounded ominous but nonetheless, as we all now know, abdominal pressure of varying kinds causes these problems. It has nothing to do with cold concrete.

How difficult would it have been for someone, (preferrably a doctor in our early adulthood) to tell us,  "Drink plenty of water. It flushes the salts out of your system and keeps your blood pressure down."  or  "Wear sunglasses and don't look directly into the sun or you'll develop cataracts at an earlier age." or  "All medicines are processed through your kidneys or your liver and adding alcohol to the mix can harm those nearly irreplaceable organs." Why aren't we given these simple explanations?

Yes, it's true. We get too soon old and too late smart about so many things in our lives. We remember all our failures and imagine how we could have done things differently. We think about much and often daydream about what it would be like to have a "do over". Those "what ifs" seem to fly around our heads as we have more and more time to obsess about them in our senior years. All we can do is begin from here and do the best we can with the time that's left. It's not too late to be smart even if we are older.

Now,  I believe I will outen the lights und have a nap.

Monday, March 16, 2015

My Three Knives

I was at the Home Show recently and passed a knife display. Salesmen were extolling the virtues of their lovely wooden handled sets. Then I heard one of them make a faux pas. At least, I would think it was a foolish thing to say considering they were trying to sell their inventory of knives.

He said, "All you really need are three, just three knives."

I'd heard that before. In fact, there are sites that tell you which are the only three knives you need. Some claim that expert chefs use only a paring knife, a chef's knife and a serrated bread knife. On other sites, three different knives are offered up. I suppose it's personal preference. I have two which I deem essential and use consistently and one other which I use from time to time.

"Where's my little knife?" I bellowed about a week ago. "I need it and it's been missing for days. I can't function without my little knife."

I thought that "little knife" was enough information for anyone who had ever seen me working in the kitchen. My essential paring knife had come home with me from Europe many, many years ago. It was Henckel or Zwilling brand or some combination of those names. Now, it was gone...possibly tossed out inadvertently with a pile of recent peelings.

I searched and I searched. Several other knives were offered to me but of course, they were not my knife. How could someone think I could just use any old knife? I tried to peel and cut using one of the dozens of other utensils in our kitchen drawer. It just didn't work as magically as my little knife. My perfect parer fit my hand as if it had been made for my palm and I loved it.

Finally, after an adequate amount of whining and mourning, I made a decision. I would go out in search of a replacement. It wasn't going to be easy. My knife was special.

I went downtown to the local kitchen shop and stood before the vast locked display case of Henckel knives. I saw none for less than $89.95 with prices ascending into the hundreds of dollars. Disturbing. I proceeded to tell the sales clerk about my knife. How is it possible to describe something so near and dear...such a part of the family?

I was immediately told they had no such knife. I needed to be certain. I began with essential details. I described the front as slightly lunar shaped and the handle as small, black and comfortable. I demonstrated how well it fit into my hand using an imaginary knife. Then I moved my fingers to simulate the metallic curve at the front of it. Suddenly, as I looked hopefully at the clerk, I could see that a lightbulb had gone on. Either that or she thought I was totally crazy. As she turned her back and walked away from the vault of knives my heart sank. Then, all of a sudden, she reached behind the counter and returned carrying this model, identical to my parer!  

"That's it!" I announced joyously, tears forming in my eyes. (Ok, I'm being overly dramatic).

"Actually", she said. "This one's made in China."

 I didn't care. It was close enough. I was overjoyed. Then, I asked the price.

"$6.99", she announced. 

That certainly explained why it wasn't in the padlocked area of knife storage.

"Seriously? I'll take two." I said since I wanted to be sure I was prepared should another mishap ever occur.

My parer has been replaced. My chef's knife which I use for chopping and dicing veggies is safely stashed away. Instead of a bread knife, I use a slightly smaller slicer which could double for carving meat if necessary. Those are all I need. They're my three knives. They are the ones I use almost exclusively.  If I had a choice of only one, however, the decision would be simple. You now know which one I would select.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Incidentally...Get a Dictionary When Tragedy Strikes!

I have begun many a blog about the deterioration of the English language. Very few of them have actually been completed. They are instead sitting in my drafts folder. I suppose I've given up, admitting defeat. Every now and again, however, I just get so agitated that I begin yet another blog. This was the case during the past few weeks. Perhaps this time, I'll actually finish.

There was a news report on or about mid February. It described the brutal murder of three students in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. They were honour students in their early twenties, a married couple and the wife's sisterThey frequently did volunteer work in the community. They also happened to be of Muslim descent. The neighbour, a forty-six year old car parts salesman shot them in the head. Why? Unknown to this point. Some say, a dispute. Others claim it was racially motivated. Either way, it was horrific. When I saw this on the news, there was an interview with the wife of the murderer. "It was an unfortunate incident," she said.

I later saw a New York Times quote about this despicable act.

In the afternoon, Ripley Rand, the United States attorney for the region, said the shooting appeared to have been “an isolated incident” and “not part of a targeted campaign against Muslims.”

Whereas "isolated incident" is in this instance is not incorrect, in my opinion, it could have been better stated as an "isolated occurrence" or an "isolated event."

Recently, there have been other news reports describing riots, deaths, kidnappings, and killings. The newscasters have referred to these occurrences as "incidents". I cringed.

Does anyone even know the meaning of the word "incident" anymore?  Is everyone so lacking in vocabulary nowadays that they can't think of proper terminology when something occurs, or are we all so desensitized to the news that everything has become an incident? 

A facebook friend agreed. She said:

"I don't think it's meant to trivialize occurrences. I think it reflects an ever shrinking pool of words to which people are exposing themselves. Language evolves with each generation. We know and understand that. However, it still doesn't make it alright for paid wordsmiths to misuse the millions of words at their disposal. Get a thesaurus for goodness sake. Few of our parents were university educated but they had a far better grasp of eloquence and precision in language than one witnesses via media sources today."

So here's my gripe. I was always taught that an incident is a minor occurrence or an embarassing event. Using it differently is akin to finding a big word in the dictionary that you don't really understand, and using it willy-nilly. It's not that I haven't done that before, but then I don't profess to be a professional newscaster, journalist, or public figure.

How many of us remember President Ford falling down some steps? It was minor and it was embarrassing. It was an incident. President Clinton falling asleep during a Martin Luther King memorial speech was an incident. President Bush vomiting into his dinner in Tokyo was an incident.

The cold blooded killing of three students, the death of yet another Canadian soldier, and the kidnapping and murder of people by Isis are not, I repeat, NOT incidents! They are tragedies and as such, deserve to be called nothing less.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Who Cares? Let's Just Agree It's A Dress!

The latest thing trending on the internet, on facebook and the like is the discussion over this dress. Is it blue and black? Is it white and gold? It's the great dressgate debate for those with too much time on their hands.

 I personally, don't fit into either category. I see neither blue and black nor gold and white. To me, this looks rather like blue and a greenish/brownish sludge type color.
The way the story goes is that someone's mother wore this dress to her daughter's wedding. When photos were sent to friends, there was some disagreement as to the color of the dress. Although it was in actual fact, a blue and black dress, some saw it as gold and white in the pictures. Of course, had it been gold and white, this would have been a major faux pas on the part of the bride's mom so clearly, any thinking person would realize it had to be some other color. It's prettier in gold and white I think.

Apparently, there was some type of optical illusion involved in how people view the color of the dress. Scientists...yes, indeed scientists have weighed in on this earth shattering, world changing issue. The way people see color supposedly varies greatly.  A professor of color science and technology said that the lighting in the photo contributed to the confusion. Makes sense I suppose.

Some have said that how we see the color of the dress is influenced by our mood at the time. Interesting but is this the case for everything we look at?

In The Washington Post, it was suggested that "The answer has something to do with science. And eyes. And color and lights and color balances....Some things don't need to be explained." Good point.

So? What color do you see when you look at the first photo? Is it blue and black? Is it gold and white? Or, like me, do you see something entirely different?

I think we should quit obsessing over this and all just agree.... it's a dress. Not only that, it's a dress which has now become part of pop culture and therefore can probably be sold on ebay for more than the original $70 purchase price.

Thanks to Meanwhile in Canada for the following rather amusing image.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Vaccinations-The Correct Point of View

A number years ago, I saw a celebrity who shall remain nameless expounding the horrors of vaccinations. It made her son autistic, she claimed.

"Ridiculous", I said.

It was a foolish statement then, and it's proving itself to be even more costly now. One of many hot topics nowadays is whether to vaccinate or not. I'm not certain how there is even a question. I found a comment on the internet/facebook by a particularly intelligent parent who said -

" I am the parent of two autistic children. Yes, 100% of my children are on the autism spectrum. I do not think that vaccines cause autism. In fact, I know for certain they did not. Both of my children exhibited signs of autism well before they received vaccines. Further, my husband's grandmother has Aspergers Syndrome. She was born in the 1920s, well before childhood vaccines were available. So, if we believe that vaccines cause autism then how do we explain people with autism who never had these vaccines? We can't. And that's the point."

When I was a child, I received some shots, smallpox I believe. I know this because I bear the mark of something akin to a branding on my arms. Would I have wanted it any other way? No, of course not. I also have other scars...on my face, arms and regions I don't care to disclose. Why? Measles, chicken pox, rubella...childhood diseases which were the norm until the development of the MMR vaccine in the 60's and its eventual widespread use. Would I have wanted it any other way? Absolutely. If someone had offered the option, given me a choice, given my parents a choice, of course we would have taken the vaccination.

People  who "choose" not to vaccinate their children are posing a risk to their own children, as well as those with compromised immune systems. Why is something that was once compulsory, now considered a choice? Who is best qualified to make that uninformed parent who relies solely on the info given by a second rate actress? Perhaps they've been using Dr. Google as a dependable source. I have news. It isn't.

I could go on ad infinitum, but instead, I'll share this youtube video. Funny? Yes. Crude? Slightly. The message, however is clear. There is absolutely no logical reason and no need for the recurrence of childhood diseases which had been eradicated during the last few decades.