The Men Who Built America

•July 4, 2013 • 3 Comments

As a kid in primary school, I didn’t really care too much about history.  History was barely focused on, as everyone focused more on math, reading and writing. It was sort of an extra portion for literature. Why do I say that? Because a large portion of what was taught ended up being fiction (who was the first people to discover America? Not Columbus, much to my surprise. Paul Revere did not say “The British are coming” – he never even finished the ride. John Hanson, and not George Washington, was the first president of the United States.)

In middle school, many of the fallacies I had learned in primary were either corrected or reinforced. I found some of it absolutely fascinating. As it progressed, sixth grade through eighth grade, history classes became more interesting.

My absolutely favorite year for history was ninth grade in high school. I took history in later years as well, but my ninth grade teacher was absolutely brilliant. One time we found the whole class gathered outside the door when the bell rang. Inside the darkened classroom we could barely make out the strange positioning of the desks. We could here gunshots going off inside the room. The teacher came to the door, opened it up just enough for one person to get through, put his arm out at desk height, and told us to get in and stay down. While the other students looked on confused, I swung my backpack, filled with all my very large books for all of my classes, due to the fact my locker was on the other side of school, to my front, and dove in. We were reenacting WWII, crawling through the trenches. They’ve released the mustard gas! We pulled our shirts up to cover our mouths and noses to simulate gas masks. We crawled in on our hands and knees through the makeshift trenches, head down, half smothered under our hands and shirts, in the din and gloom of our classroom. History was rarely so exciting.

But there had been times, in years previous and years after, when classes could also be interesting. There were projects, simulations, parties – if you had the luck to get a teacher who was truly interested and involved in history class, history became alive for you. I was lucky enough to get such teachers.

Some of my favorite lessons in high school were about Rockefeller, Carnegie, Vanderbilt, Edison, Nobel, Ford, and essentially all the big names from the late 1800s through the early 1900s. Before the civil war, history seemed to move slowly. Afterwards, people seemed to trip over their own feet in the pursuit of Progress.

The History channel, in the fall of 2012, made an eight-hour, four-part miniseries focusing on these very people, on the big names of that favorite era of mine, called The Men Who Built America. Full of drama, intrigue, power struggles, back room deals, invention, innovation, civil unrest and more, people interested in learning about that part of history that pushed America to the place it is today (okay, so the recent decades weren’t that great, but we’re still a major power, right?) Tonight, coming home from work quite exhausted, I was delighted to see it was on again. Naturally I had to sit down and watch.

For people who home school, as I did in my last years of high school – a decision arrived at due to my increased, and frankly debilitating, migraines – history can sometimes be almost boring. For people in school, if your teachers weren’t at a level that knew how to make history exciting, trying to learn history could be more of a chore. I find that to be a shame. One should be able to love learning about history. Shows like The Men Who Built America, fact-based, full of drama, guaranteed to keep your attention, are a wonderful supplement to that part of one’s education.

If you are planning on or know someone who is homeschooling, need help learning history for your own betterment, or need a refresher to help your kids with that part of their education, consider looking into The Men Who Built America. At the very least, you will be entertained.


The summer heat makes me ill

•July 2, 2013 • Leave a Comment

My brain, when I have no migraines, is usually a fine-tuned tool, capable, as most human brains are, of complex problem solving, instantaneous computations, and death-defying leaps of logic. However, when it gets hot outside, my brain, like a computer with a broken fan, goes kaput. Earlier I tried to write something to post… it apparently devolved into a confusing ramble on my cat, gelato, wild burros and Clean House. I don’t know how I ended up with four completely different topics in a two paragraph post.

It gets hot around here. Very hot. Hot as heck, and dry as dust. And I get stupid when I get too hot. Where I am, it’s when is the temperature going to go over 110°F, not if it will. I’m better with the heat than some of my relatives – one of my cousins hates the heat so much, he shaved his head and carries around a small mister-fan, and he only visits out here during the winter time. (Seriously!)

I also often get sick when it first gets hot, I mean, really hot, and this year was no exception. I was lucky enough to be just well enough to work, though on Sunday I ended up getting sick enough I nearly threw up at work (it was really close.) I also didn’t have to work everyday, so I lucked out, mostly just trying to recover, or perhaps I should say, adjust to the heat. I’m mostly better now, especially since we started using the a/c versus the swamp cooler. Being hot is one thing, but being hot and humid? Let’s just say if I ever go to Disney World down in Florida, it will be during what passes for winter there. I don’t need to look like I’m wearing a giant afro, thank you very much.

I wish I had written some posts ahead of time so I could have posted them for anyone who is reading my blog (is anyone reading? I should check my email…) Consider myself thoroughly educated on this now. I should know how I respond to weather fluctuations by this point and will make sure I’ve prepared ahead of time accordingly. So, for anyone who had been expecting a post before now, I am truly sorry. I will do better in the future.

Pizza, pain and counter tops

•June 25, 2013 • Leave a Comment

So this past week I wrote some rather blah posts. I totally fess up to it – migraines, allergies, lack of sleep due to both migraines and allergies and, the coup de grâce, injuring my back mid Friday, do not interesting posts inspire. Mostly I just plugged something out without thinking about it – mainly because I was just determined to do three posts, and in my exhausted frame of mind, any sort of post would do. So, to anyone who is reading this, and had to bear with the awful posts of last week, I apologize. Yes, I’m sorry. I’m a better writer than that… usually.

I should’ve written about how I hurt my back last week – at least it would’ve been funny, something worth typing pretty much one handed. It was a really stupid way to hurt one self – not the stupidest (I award that to my sister, bless her), but stupid nonetheless. So, how did I do it?

I’ve been making pizza, well, pretty much once a week for the past month or so. Well, that Friday, I was making another batch, making my pizza dough. I decided I didn’t want to do it sitting at the table, but standing at the counter. Picking up my bowl of flour to carry it over to the counter where I had left the yeast bubbling in its sugar water, I suddenly had to sneeze. I moved the bowl I was carrying in both hands as far to my right as I turned my head and shoulders to the left and sneezed. Hard. I then nearly dropped the bowl because I was in pain. I should’ve stopped right then and there, had someone else finish mixing up the pizza dough while I applied heat and massaged the strained area under my right shoulder I had wrenched with that absurdly powerful sneeze. (At least I didn’t dislocate my shoulder by picking up a pencil like some people…. *cough*mysister*cough*)

I went and made it anyway, and then, wrenching it again, and again, and again, and so only now is my back and shoulder area better. One day I wrenched it showing a new girl at work how to mop (seriously, the girl didn’t know how to mop properly), another day a really strong sneeze as I was putting groceries away, and finally the other day I reinjured my back muscles because I had to wash a lot of dishes, and my back always aches after washing them because the counter is a bit low for me to begin with, and it happens to be a rather deep sink.

Speaking of low counters…

Ladies, if your hubby doesn’t do the dishes, it’s probably because of the same reason I hate doing them – tall person with low counter does not a happy worker make. If you are planning on remodeling your counters, remember: it’s better to have a high counter with a short person than a short counter with a tall person – a short person just needs a stool, a tall person would need to crouch or squat or hunch down, which can cause injury. Ever heard of Julia Child? At six feet, two inches, she was a whole lot of lady. Her hubby, Paul C. Child, made her counters that were 38″ tall rather than the usual 36″ in height. What about Cheaper by the Dozen? Not the Steve Martin movie, but the earlier one, centered on the Gilbreth family. After her husband died, Mrs. Gilbreth designed the notion of the kitchen triangle that is still used today. She also understood that counter tops should be accommodating to the cook’s height and gave suggestions on how to pick the right counter height. Well, counter manufacturers found it easier to standardize, so  that didn’t work out too well. A pity.

I’d love a counter with adjustable height, wouldn’t you? I’d bake even more often, and cook more often too,  I guess.

You’re going to miss the way I shopped. I guarantee it.

•June 21, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Now, I’m not a man – even if I’ve been told that the way I write tends to have masculine undertones (I’ve been working on that) – but I do have some men in my life. Aside from my father and grandfather, I have a large family, about half of which are men, and I have friends that are men. And as it so happens, at a certain point in one’s life, a man tends to have a need for a decent looking suit. For many men, that means a quick stop at Men’s Wearhouse.

Imagine my surprise when I found out that the rumor I heard circulating around the internet was in fact, not a rumor. The rumor I’m referring to is about the firing of George Zimmer, the face and founder of the company. I’ve always liked those commercials with him, a mainstay of late night TV viewing, popping up in the middle of shows and movies. He put a touch of class on his brand’s image with his simple, straightforward message he closed with “You’re going to like the way you look. I guarantee it.”

The only reason I had heard for his firing was that he voiced some concerns to the board about “how it should look.” Confusion as to what the it in question is aside, as the founder, executive chairman and the very image of the brand, I think Zimmer’s concerns should be taken seriously. Just firing someone over a disagreement is, quite frankly, immature and, in this case, particularly foolhardy. When you get rid of the face of the company, you’re setting yourself up for some retaliation from your consumer base. Especially when he looks like the most interesting man in the world’s long lost brother.

Other companies who have had executives tied to their image include Perdue, Orville Redenbacher, Martha Stewart, Kentucky Friend Chicken, and Wendy’s. Perdue’s company did the change over of the company person smartly as the father handed over the company to his son in a series of commercials leading up to it. Kentucky Fried Chicken and Wendy had lots of confusion with the way they dealt with it. Martha Stewart had the unique issue of her image suffering but the brand still doing well due to the overall design and quality of her products. Men’s Wearhouse has George Zimmer, and ousting him in such a manner could have disastrous consequences for the company.

I fully expect Zimmer to file a suit. Puns aside, the Men’s Wearhouse executives should expect a drop in stock. I guarantee it.

Bookcase planning

•June 19, 2013 • Leave a Comment

So, in a previous post of mine, I mentioned I have some books. Scratch that: a whole lot of books. Lots and lots of them, all over the place. But, I don’t really have space made for them. Just a closet. And I crammed the shelves in there full of books. But, seeing as I have started getting some nicer clothes (because, hey, you’ve got to look professional for interviews when job hunting) I am now starting to need the space in the closet for my clothes instead of books.

In my room, I have a bureau, which really doesn’t get much use for its intended purpose, is taking up a nice bit of space next to my dvd case, which is full of dvds which I admit I still watch quite a bit (for instance, I take movies with me to work and watch on the TV there on my break.) I figure, well, why not get rid of the bureau – you know, put the few items it actually houses into the closet on the shelves which were originally made to hold articles of clothing. I had pulled a bunch of stuff out of my closet recently, trying to reorganize it, and realized that it would really be best for all clothes and shoes I have would be best kept in there, but a bookcase would better serve my poor books. I’ve noticed I had actually purchased a few double copies (whoops!) However, I haven’t seen any bookcases out there that would be a good fit for me. At least none that don’t cost like three hundred or more dollars.

I’m thinking maybe I should just make a bookcase. It can take the place of the bureau – I’ll just get rid of it once I move the items in there to my closet. In fact, I think I’ll make it so it can take the place of the bureau and the dvd case. It can hold my dvds as well as my books. How does a seven foot tall bookcase sound? To me, it sounds awwwwwwesoooooooome! I’m making some sketches already.

Hey, I’ve taken wood shop before – I mean, “industrial technology” – and I did pretty darn well. (Still have the folding stool I made.) Heck, a couple years back I made me this wooden media (read, gaming) cabinet. A really tall bookcase shouldn’t be too hard, right? I’m sure I could make a strong and sturdy bookcase with not too much effort.

I would have taken a picture of the space I’m working on but, well, me being me, I lost my camera. Again. Oh well, I’m sure I’ll find it again, eventually.

Hope your space is exactly what you need. I’ve got to go work on mine now.

Beware of Speedy PC Pro

•June 18, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Just had a /headdesk/ moment. Well, more like a /headdesk/ day. My laptop is a pretty good one. It mostly behaves. Mostly. Lately though it’s been acting stupid whenever I try to open Windows Explorer. It will open it for a moment, but the moment I try to do any sort of browsing, well, that’s it. “Windows Explorer has stopped working.” Well, obviously. What’s not so obvious is why, since it never gives any reason, it just shuts down.

So, last night, feeling very tired, since migraines can do a real number on me, I did a simple search for why Windows Explorer stopped working. I normally don’t go with the first option or suggestion listed. Being so tired though, instead of doing more research on the suggestion to see if it was valid, actually worked, was not fake, or was actually some form of spyware, I just clicked on the first link… for Speedy PC Pro.

Never never never get Speedy PC Pro. Never.

I had today off, so I decided to go ahead and start it scanning, thinking it wouldn’t take too long. Hey, it’s been running pretty darn well for the most part. After spending well more than six hours supposedly scanning for errors, claiming that I had many critical issues that I needed to be dealt with, it said that I had to get it registered (i.e., buy and insert the license key that came with the receipt) to fix all the problems. Having spent so long on it, and being even more tired than before, I went along with it and rebooted the way it told me to. The result?

Disaster! Mayhem! Foolishness! What is this, Clean House? Oh!

First off, trying to open Mozilla Firefox took well more than five minutes. Seriously. It was probably closer to eight minutes (don’t quite recall the exact minute, but that does seem fairly accurate.) Now, I know this is silly, but I like to keep my toolbar open on top. It’s supposed to be full of the favicons of my most visited sites… and I have a lot of them. I go to at least half of them everyday, so opening Mozilla and seeing a bunch of plain squares made of a dashed line. Then, when I went to type in the g for instead of it doing the autofill the way I liked, it gave me a bunch of random suggestions from my history – and not even recent history – instead of recently used bookmarks. I had to type in the address, as well as the addresses for the other sites I had to visit. I’m just glad it didn’t also wipe out the open tabs I was using in my last browsing session.

I tried to open Windows Explorer. No dice. So, I tapped the Start button to pull up the Word document that has all the information for Speedy PC Pro, only to notice that only Word had a tiny arrow next to it for recent documents. All my recent documents, as well as the ones I like to have saved in that area because of my frequent need to access them, had disappeared except for the Word document used for Speedy PC Pro.

Let’s just say I was very cheesed off. I ended up with another headache (tension this time) and went to cancel it. Thankfully, you get a 30 day guarantee and it was pretty easy to get it canceled. The one thing I disliked? I had to call in to cancel. If I was able to order something online without talking to anyone, I should be able to cancel without talking to anyone. Forcing me to have to pick up the phone to cancel when I didn’t do it to order in the first place just makes me want to hurl, and I hate hurling. Yup.

So, just a warning to y’all. Don’t get Speedy PC Pro. Never never never ever, mm’kay? It’s just plain no good.


•June 17, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Yesterday was a wonderful day, mostly. It was Father’s Day and thankfully I was granted the day off to visit with my family at my grandparents’ house. One of the nice things was this time everyone was very laid back, dressed in casual clothes… well, except for me and one of my cousins, who always gets dressed up nicely (bit of a clothes’ horse, that one.) Mom decided I needed to dress up, made me wear some of my nicer things. She, however, wore a t-shirt of jeans. Lovely. Meanwhile, I crammed my feet into high heels – and I never wear high heels, so ouch.

I was delighted to see ham, deviled eggs, turkey and gravy. I would have preferred mashed potatoes to the yams. The rest of the fare, though, was the typical Mexican style food (rice, beans) and some kind of chopped veggies with melted mozzarella… I am not a fan. Pasta! Lasagna! Pizza! Give me burgers and fries, hot dogs and cracker jack, fried chicken and corn bread. I’ll eat tacos. I’ll eat nachos. I’ll even eat a tamale so long as it isn’t sweet or too spicy. But Spanish/Latin/Hispanic food on the whole is so not my cup of tea.

Grandpa and Grandma, along with their eldest son and his wife, went to New Mexico to find places he remembered when growing up in the 1930s. He found a couple of ranches his parents used to work on, the monastery he was baptized at, the school he used to go to, which then became a church, which then became an engineering company, and also the store they used to shop at, which had been closed and then been made into an even bigger one next to it. It was nice to see the pictures and hear Grandpa reminisce.

One of my favorite things about growing up with such a big family to visit are the stories. I know my sister shares the same sentiments. For instance, when Grandma would have her sisters visit, my sister and I, as well as many of our cousins, liked to linger near and listen to their stories. They were hilarious, we’d just sit around the table for hours, listening and laughing. My sister one time, for a class project, had interviewed some of our great aunts and great uncles and the stories they’ve told… I always wondered why people would complain about listening to stories told by their older family members. I’ve discovered that listening to them shows the rich history that people often spend their later years searching for. Spending time with your family can be the best way to learn where you come from.

In fact, for Father’s Day, recent polls show that the thing that the majority of fathers want most is to simply spend time with the family, say, having a family dinner. I would’ve made a post on suggestions for low cost, last minute gifts, but it would’ve been essentially identical to my Mother’s Day post. Still, to make any day special, spend time with your family. That’s really the most important thing. And if you don’t have any family, spend time with your friends, after all, friends are the family you choose.

So what was my beef with yesterday, other than having to dress in less than comfortable (for me) clothing? When I got home, I ended up with a migraine, which only just ended about an hour ago, and I’m still not feeling that great. Oh well.

Hope your Father’s Day turned out great.