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19
Dec

Kicking the Habit…take that Candy Crush!

THE ART OF ANNOYANCE…

I am a compulsive obsessive creature that tip-taps tattoos with my fingernails on any surface.  I count the holes in my Crocs (there are 13,)   I like having ten of anything, be it beads, cookies, peas…and always try to sort anything that comes in multiple numbers into groups of five.   Actually groups of three and seven  are also satisfying, and nine…not so much.  I like having a central object in a group, with even numbers on each side…such as five candles, one in the center, two on each side.   The thing about the nine is that there is a central with four on each side, but the best arrangement would be a group of three in the center and three on each side.

By now readers, if any, are either be nodding  in understanding…or shaking their heads and saying “what a nut!”

Now a word or so about Noise.  Aside from the tip-taps of fingernails, and occasional drum solos from a pen tip, noise can be produced by rocking a wine glass or coffee cup back and forth.  Sound effects can be comforting, soothing, annoying–even maddening, depending on the situation.  Some people like having a steady beat of time rhythm, and others, well…don’t.

IS THERE A POINT TO THIS?

The point to this writing is to discuss the problem of  addiction to electronic games.

It occurs to me that games such as Candy Crush, and the numerous varieties of Bubble Busting games, are designed to invade the human mind in order to replace creative thinking with mindless repetitive preoccupations that have no redeeming qualities whatsoever.

That may be harsh.  I admit that my bubble-shooting skills have greatly improved.   The goal, which is apparently to build up to a rush of excitement and sense of achievement when the next highest level is reached.  Or, a more probable goal is to cause such frustration that players are so committed that the purchase of more bubbles or more coins becomes a pressing need, born out of desperation to get to the next level.

Here comes the point! 🙂

It is not only unhealthy to sit around playing games for hours, it is,  for lack of a better word–stupid.  Spending three or four hours shooting bubbles–even if watching CNN at the same time–is unproductive.  If I had spent as much time crocheting scarves for holiday gifts, or beading bracelets, or even surfing the net in pursuit of higher education, as playing games, I would at least have something to show for the time.

The single most convincing nudge for me was when I started seeing racks of bubbles arranged in various patterns and colors IN MY DREAMS, it became obvious that it was time to stop it.  Do something else with my Kindle Fire like reading the Washington Post, and working on my blog.

So, with this declaration of stopping wasting time on computer games I’ll go back to my other pursuits.  I intend to delete all of the games from my tablet–today.

It won’t be the first time I’ve made a resolution that I’m proud of–I quit smoking cigarettes on my fortieth birthday after twenty-one years of lighting up.   All my friends still smoked at the time, but believe it or not it was not all that difficult to quite cold turkey.   I had three or four FULL PACKS of Salems in the downstairs fridge when I quit..  That was forty years ago.

Ah yes, there was a down-side: I gained thirty pounds within a year or two.  Sigh, I still never regretted that I stopped smoking.

18
Dec

Shades of Ricky Ricardo…or Cuba Rises Again

[This article was originally posted here on December 18, 2014, at the time of the original event.   I am re-posting it on the eve of the historic visit to Cuba by Pope Francis, on September 20, 2015.].

The bombshell news of President Obama’s restoration of diplomatic relations with Cuba came as a surprise, sort of, to me as a Latin American Historian.  I always knew it was inevitable, and that Fidel Castro would defy death as a price for Cuba’s acceptance into the world family of nations.

Cuba has been off-limits to Americans for half a century, as travel was restricted to a few academics or journalists who went to the island 90 miles off the coast of Florida to study or report on conditions there.   Under United States travel restrictions, visitors who actually did manage to visit Cuba for most of the twentieth century were forbidden to buy anything in the way of souveniers, and only certain activities were permitted while there.

I did not make it to Cuba, although my credentials as a student and instructor of the history of Latin America would have allowed me to join a group tour to the island.  Although Cuba was not a specialty area for me, I was nevertheless fascinated by the island’s checkered relationship with the United States.   When the Cuban Revolution occurred in 1959 I was a young U.S.Army wife, and the news of Castro’s exploits brought fear to my heart as the soldiers were put on alert all over the world.   During the Cold War years we were all under heart-stopping dread, frozen with fear of war with the Soviet Union.  I can literally feel it now, fifty years later.

Jumping ahead, the remarkable thing about this new development in US-Cuban relations came as a surprise, an agreement hammered out under deep cover and released as something of a bombshell.  U.S. Presidents have for generations talked about the situation with Cuba, and on occasion there was even talk of easing tensions…but the rhetoric was never worth the political fall-out.  Opposing and making speeches denouncing Cuba and its membership in the Evil Empires of the World was the way to go.

The lateness of the opposition, the anti-Obama politicians, is such that they had to wing it, not having much advance warning (if any) to whip up and spin the details of the issue. I admit that I may be rusty on recent Cuban history, but it has been such a colorful example of outrageous and often ridiculous US cloak-and-dagger activities that details bear reiterating before the flux of negative propaganda hits the internet and social media sites.

Wall Street will be happy to see an end to the tunnel that has been the trade Embargo against Cuba for decades.  The US trade restrictions tightened a few years ago to close loopholes that allowed second or third- hand business transactions, thereby making it forbidden for a US or other international corporation to do business with another company that had any aspect of trade whatsoever with Cuba.

Far from being the end of the US-Cuban stand-off, this new development merely opens a new chapter.  It will be interesting to see how it all develops.

To paraphrase  Ricky Ricardo … “Lucy, there’s a lot of  ‘splainin…to do.”

to be continued…

10
Dec

All or Nothing… which is the quest?

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “All or Nothing?.”

This is an easy prompt for me.   I prefer to be wanting everything rather than nothing.

Wanting everything is often meant critically…when I say I want to study everything, grouchy stern people say “that isn’t possible.  You can’t study everything.”  Well, that’s true of course, but I like to think of it as an infinite list of topics, ranging from all kinds of art work to zillions of obscure tid-bits of information.

At age 50 I decided to go to college.  I had not done so earlier in life, as I either didn’t think of it–or lacked funding.

The reaction I got from many people, when I told them that I had gone back to school, was– “why?”

No reason–except that knowledge is its own reward.  It isn’t necessary to actually do anything with that education, except to invest the thoughts and ideas of the ages in a deeper understanding of life.  There is always a cause and effect, and a logical, if hidden, reason for everything.

The  rewards of wanting everything are such that one learns that aspiring to a goal is fuel for the soul, the reach that tries to grasp meaning and satisfaction.

On the other hand, wanting Nothing is not only unfulfilling, but also stultifying.  The person who does not have a goal–no matter how unlikely that goal may be–has nothing to reach for or strive toward.  There are levels involved in the concept of Everything, and although total achievement of everything to be had in life is unlikely–wanting Nothing is a self-fulfilled void.

10
Dec

Killing the Messenger…or, What Would Jack Bauer Do?

Often the” tattle-tale” gets in more trouble than the actual culprit.  The kid that breaks the vase while showing off baseball prowess  in the living room gets less flack than the sibling who tells on him.    The gang-banger who reports a robbery to police will be permanently ostracized by peers, while the robber gets off with a slap on the wrist.  This is one of the truisms of childhood, and  honor-among-thieves is often admired, at least secretly.

So in the current news circus–particularly the round-the-clock “spinning of yarns” news channel CNN–the cry of “kill the messenger” screeched onto the television screens immediately upon the bomb-shell reading of the Senate report on the use of torture by the CIA following the attack on the World Trade Center on 9-11.

We may have been softened up or prepared for the report by the fictitious Jack Bauer. of 24 fame…who was on the television series the primary “interrogator” of enemies, and when he was forced to resort to torture techniques he “reluctantly” rose to the occasion and performed his talents for the good of the agency.   Unfortunately, sometimes the people Jack Bauer was forced to torture were not always guilty of anything.  Darn!  Jack always felt appropriately bad when that happened.

So now there are the inevitable cries of “political propaganda,”  and a scramble to soft-peddle or excuse terrible occurrences that we, as a nation under God, are not supposed to do.  Shock and awe!

Hopefully the fall-out of this revelation of disaster will reach back into the time of the Central American wars…Nicaragua and El Salvador, and throughout South America.   Iran-Contra is a good place to start.  As a historian of Latin American History, the familiarities of our government involvement “down there” are understood.  Of course then it was the Soviet Union that was the big enemy and any illicit activity was excused by Washington as “anti-Communism.”

The same loud voices against the “tattle-tales” who are revealing the information about torture in the new Senate report are from those who would be in the front lines denouncing such atrocities committed by leaders in other countries.

Killing the messenger is not productive.  Sometimes telling the public what is really going on in our name is not anti-American or political propaganda–it’s just the right thing to do.

4
Dec

Spinning Yarns, part 2–Me, Myself, and I

Speaking of writing in the first person, I have struggled with this for years. It is really annoying to have to re-write when composing an email to a friend. The I-did-this, and I-did that, gets old and needs to be repaired grammatically. However…that might get pretty boring and contrived.

Sorry to be the grammar police, but that is my nature. It has always pained me to find a glaring error in a serious piece of work–NOT to say a typo, although too many typing mistakes (i.e. hitting the wrong key) questions one’s ability) –but a word that is misused or misspelled out of ignorance. A painful misuse of the language is not necessarily due to ignorance…I myself spelled “receive” with the i and e reversed, until a copywriter sent me a kind reminder (“hey-dummy, it’s I before E except after C…) and yes, I was there the day the teacher taught the rule. So now I always pause in my typing (keyboarding) and recite the rule in my brain…. I before E except after C. I before E except after C….

I was well along in grad school when someone corrected my pronounciation of “amphitheater” and my son and daughter-in-law informed me of how to say “Pythagoras” the right way. Well, in my defense, those old Greeks had a lot of names that defied pronounciation in English.

Another thing, althought I once aspired to be a linguist, I became a Historian instead. Linguistics has always fascinated me, though. Back in my freshman year of high school I studied Latin, and that one-semester course has proven to be one of the most valuable sources of background knowledge for me in my future (actually, past) endeavors of life. To this day I can recite from the text: “Britain est insula.” Pretty good, huh?

Using the right word at the right time is part of fluency in any language. English is a bad example, to me, because it is nearly impossible to master without a lot of memorization. Spanish has been relatively easy for me although it is very hard for an advanced adult to learn a second language. I can read fairly well, but speaking is another sotry. Now French–yikes! I needed a second foreign language credit, so chose French For Reading Proficiency. My Spanish helped greatly, as did the semester of basic Latin long ago. But when it came to the final exam, I was lucky to eke out a C. The instructor told me that my translations were beautiful, but I was too slow and did not do enough in the allotted time. I can explain that: French is packed with nuances and specific meanings, and I admit to taking an inordinate amount of test time to browse the dictionary (which was allowed.) So my translation was good, but I wasn’t fast enough…or to put it another way, the goal was a rough translation, not necessarily accuracy.

The only other C on my transcript was in Geology. They tricked me on identifying the rocks. (Another story.)

So anyway, it would have been cumbersome and awkward to try to write the foregoing piece without resorting to the first person…. me, myself, and I.

I did edit this yarn…and there were some really dumb mistakes. Not in the typing, but in using the wrong word, being vague, and getting carried away with aside comments. The grammar police really need to be careful of how they word things!

It did give me some blog ideas for another time though… 🙂