Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the category “humor”

Timely Trials


November is a conundrum, being a month that offers a mixture of pleasantries and of trauma.

First off, how can one hour wreak absolute havoc? The bonus of getting extra sleep when setting the clock back one hour quickly becomes a bad trade off since my body clock doesn’t easily adjust.

I’m one of those people who doesn’t need to set an alarm clock. No matter when I go to bed I wake up at 5 am. Sleeping in is an ideal, not a reality. DST now creates the dilemma of the time read on my bedside table blaring “4 am” in red LED numerals. Gah.

It takes until spring, about the time we spring forward, that my body clock reconciles the hour difference.

Another November trial is PTC—Parent Teacher Conferences. Our district provides two nights (after working a full day) where teachers are available to parents. As much as I enjoy meeting parents, it’s a tough schedule, especially since that hour sleep deprivation is amplified by a week. I hope parents don’t think their student’s teacher is a zombie because after a week of disturbed sleep cycle I am definitely feeling zombi-ish.

Fortunately, the long two days trades out nicely as it applies to two days off which coincides with Thanksgiving week. Having a week off after PTC while dealing with DST having graded a stack of SPRPs (Senior Project Research Papers) is definitely appreciated.

And I do enjoy thanksgiving. No holiday shopping hype. No endless rounds of obligatory events to attend. No gifts to stress about. Nope. Food, friends, family. Now, that’s what I call a grand holiday.

One another aspect of November that is irksome is the night factor. Having the sunset earlier and earlier each night means driving home in the dark which initiates the feeling I’m working the swing swift in the coal mines. After working inside all day stepping outside into the light is a necessity. Good thing D3 is inexpensive and I thank whomever for inventing the Happy Light.

perpetuating a perceived reality

November also begins the season which features that four letter word, and its presence stays among us much too long in the area of which I call home. Shiver, shudder, and grumble.

So—November is a bit of a trial, yet knowing there is a pumpkin pie waiting for me at the end of the month makes losing sleep, grading papers, working two twelve hour days, and dealing with that which shall not be named, a bit easier to swallow.

Word Nerd Confessions: August


August—I barely got to know July. August is the wind down month of summer. July is mostly vacationing and relaxing and reading and visiting–lots of ongoing “ing” things in July.

August whispers “school” a little bit louder as each calendar day flips by. I like school, teaching, my students–I just like summer vacation to last a bit longer.

This month’s words represent an assortment of ideas related to the last month of summer.

ken: knowledge, understanding, or cognizance; mental perceptions (I have a ken that school is starting sooner than later at this point of summer).

tub-thump: to promote something or express opinions vociferously (There are those who tub-thump whether school should start in August or in September).

velitation: a minor dispute or contest (See above concerning school start times).

grok: to understand thoroughly and intuitively (This is from Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein–I grok that summer is special due to its ephemeral nature).

ferly: something unusual, strange, or causing wonder or terror (The August fair usually has a ferly–like those weird vegetables that show up in displays–you know, the zucchini that resembles Richard Nixon or the monstrously large rabbit in the 4H competition).

mump: to mumble; mutter (I’m trying not to mump about summer dissipating).

brontide: a rumbling noise heard occasionally in some parts of the world, probably caused by seismic activity (A brontide was reported last August on the 31 as families stampeded Walmart to purchase school supplies before started after Labor Day).

makebate: a person who causes contention or discord (Who wants to be the makebate who meets people in the store and says, “Only 9 days until our first staff meeting).

calescent: growing warm; increasing in heat (The first week of school usually produces calescent classrooms due to the school not bothering to install air conditioning because heat exhaustion helps retain information. At least that’s what the theory must have been when they built the school).

littoral: or or relating to the shore of a lake, sea, or ocean (This is not to be confused with “literally,” as in “I will literally be littoral, grabbing last minute beach time before school starts).

prima facie: plain or clear; self-evident; obvious (Yes, my denial of the inevitability of school starting soon smacks of prima facie realization).

ineluctable: incapable of being evaded; inescapable (The ineluctable red calender circles indicate the end of summer and the start of staff meetings).

fillip: anything that tends to rouse, excite, or revive; a stimulus (Labor Day weekend is definitely a fillip, in terms of celebrating one last weekend without grading essays).

rutilant: glowing or glittering with ruddy or golden light (those rutilant summer evenings after the last rays of the sun radiates through the trees–*sigh*).

totsiens: until we meet again; goodbye (See ya, summer–totsiens, for now).

And what summer-flavored word might have been your favorite? Pick two or three…

Debatables: July—YA best (series-ly)


This month’s Debatable gets serious about YA. Mike and I are taking on the great debate of which YA series is the most influential YA in terms of overall impact.

Yep, we are throwing down the quodlibet gauntlet and arguing whether the Harry Potter series bests the Hunger Games series. We are going for overall influence, not just books, but movies, social impact, topic genre–everything, everything. We are going big on this one.

As a reminder, here are the ground rules:

Each debater is allowed one brief argument (fewer than 300 words) on a previously agreed upon topic. These brief arguments will then be followed by a briefer rebuttal (fewer than 150 words).

Mike, that increasingly prolific writer of children’s books and always popular blogmeister, is my Debatable partner. He has chosen the Harry Potter series:

I am nominating the Hunger Games trilogy:

Image result for hunger games trilogy

As the month’s host, I defer to Mike to lead out the argument:

Mike’s opener:
Whether you love Harry Potter or are indifferent to Harry Potter, you gotta admit that Harry Potter changed everything we once thought we knew about kid lit. Before that little wizard showed up, young adult and middle grade fiction novels were relegated to the bookstore ghetto, to live and die as a dog-eared paperbacks. 

There have been many pre-Harry YA books of great distinction, of course, The Giver, The Outsiders, and about a jillion others that are far superior to anything J.K. Rowling could’ve ever conjured in her Hogwarty mind. But those novels lack a certain magical something that Harry had in spades: Crossover Appeal. 

Harry Potter did to literature what Star Wars did to movies, it found an audience with pretty much everyone. And, man, was that audience rabid. Remember the midnight release parties with lines stretching for blocks? Remember how revealing a spoiler was considered a Crime Against Humanity? Publishers sure do, and they have been attempting to recapture that ol’ HP magic, literally and figuratively, ever since. 

Once upon a time, the kid lit center of gravity was in picture books. Harry Potter (and its decade-long listing on the New York Times bestseller list) changed that business model. The big money is now is YA and that’s where publisher resources have gone—and will continue to go—for the foreseeable future. 

No, I’m not saying that Twilight or Hunger Games or Miss Peregrine wouldn’t have been published if HP didn’t exist. I’m saying that Twilight and Hunger Games are Miss Peregrine enjoy the popularity they have because HP exists. Without that incredibly influential wizard, they would be unfairly slumming with the latter-day Nancy Drews, ignored and overlooked by the masses.

 

Cricket’s remarks:
Granted, Harry and his school chums initiated a noticeable interest among middle/YA readers; however, Suzanne Collins made a lasting impact with her Hunger Games trilogy that is still evident today, going well beyond readership.

First off, Katniss is a relatable hero. Flawed, no superpowers, yet passionate in her beliefs, placing others before her needs, transfers into the real world.  Several articles on how Katniss is inspirational in her purposeful focus are found on the internet. Hunger Games can be found at the core of curriculums revolving around dystopia and totalitarian governments, sharing time with Antigone and I Am Malala. Wizardry may be entertaining, but standing up for one’s beliefs is riveting, inspiring, and powerful in its ability to influence.

Other aspects of influence include the three-fingered salute from Hunger Games, a gesture that’s become a global symbol of resistance. There is also a  resurgence in archery evidenced by Nerf’s crossbow. Hunger Games ushered in other dystopian-themed books/films such as Divergent and Maze Runner. Tricks are for kids; bad government is reality, and Hunger Games has influenced others to take on the reality of tyranny. Saving friends from foes with magical spells doesn’t work in the real world. Courageously standing up for convictions makes a difference.  

Katniss has firmly established that a female hero doesn’t have to be seductive or come from another planet to get things done. Hunger Games also has gender and age appeal–AARP members raved about the series. Even Time noted Katniss Everdeen as an influential character

Admittedly, Harry Potter filled some kind of needed hole in middle/YA  reading needs, yet a boy wizard can’t compare to the lasting influence of a young woman who started out wanting to save her sister and ended up freeing society from injustice.

Mike’s Rebuttal
First things first: Katniss didn’t use a crossbow. Second, the Nerf crossbow was first released in 1995, a full 12 years before the first Hunger Games book came out.

Now to the meat of your argument: Yes, Katniss is a strong, flawed, relatable, femal hero fighting valiantly against a totalitarian government—but she certainly isn’t the defining voice of today’s “Resistance,” as you suggest. (That would be Offred from The Handmaid’s Tale). And influential dystopian-age books for YA existed long before Katniss ever showed up (again, I reference 1993’s The Giver). 

Don’t get me wrong, The Hunger Games is a great, exciting read. In fact, I enjoyed THG trilogy more that Harry Potter. 

But this Debatables topic is about which book is more influential. In that particular Harry versus Hunger competition, Katniss wouldn’t even make it to the cornucopia.

Cricket’s Rebuttal

Thanks, Mike for acknowledging how Hunger Games is a better read-points for my argument of HG’s influence.  I am not interested in reading Harry Potter.

Why?

Magic is so unrealistic in solving problems compared to tenacity and fortitude in righting wrongs (you did notice the photo?). And while there have been a few unique female heroes such as Ripley and Sarah O’Connor, they were adults and Katniss is a teen. A brave young woman willing to sacrifice for family, friends, and the greater good is more admirable than a bespectacled kid wizard with a scar.

So–maybe HP influenced kids to read more than they used to–can Harry make the claim he has influenced politics or human rights concerns? Katniss and the Hunger Games series is an influence that  continues to resonate long after HP’s last spell has dithered away.

Alrighty, readers–time to weight in with votes and comments. Which series is more influential in your opinion: Harry Potter or Hunger Games?

Facebook? Nope.


It’s a conundrum. Most, if not all of society is Facebook driven. Yet, Facebook is driving society crazy. It’s obsequious and obnoxious-a real love it, hate it, use it, ignore it commodity.

“Like us on Facebook”–it’s the common phrase. I just saw it painted on the back of a local police car. I kid you not.

I perplex people when I tell them I don’t have a Facebook account. I get this look:

Shock. Amazement. Surprise. Perplexed.

Definitely perplexed is the reaction I received when I joined a workout group and I mentioned I wasn’t able to access updates, tips, reminders, etc because I don’t use Facebook. That look came up. I apparently missed out on a lot of great sharing opportunities like before and after photos we were supposed to post.

No comment.

I apparently miss out on all sorts of great contest opportunities because I don’t have a Facebook account and can’t “like” the sponsor, which means I am unable to access the site, which means I can’t enter to win a —-.

Sounds like discrimination to me.

Have I ever been on Facebook? Of course. For about as long as it took to realize I don’t want to receive updates about what someone had for breakfast, what new cute pics of their pet, baby, car, etc looks like, where they went and what they did.

I get Christmas letters for that information-minus the breakfast updates.

Apparently as a writer I should consider how my social media presence suffers due to no one knowing about me due to not having a Facebook account.

Wait–you’re reading this. That means you are learning about me. That works.

“Well, there are lots of reasons.”

I’m glad you asked why I don’t Facebook–

BtW: it’s now word that is a noun and a verb, moving into the anthimeria category (Word Nerd plug).

Here are a few reasons for not doing Facebook:

1. Time commitment.

2. Boring, inane, irrelevant information.

3. How many friends can a person actually have, need, realistically claim?

4. I blog.

5. I embarrass easily.

6. Privacy issues. Even the Woz agrees.

7. I enjoy a certain anonymity.

8. If I wanted my high school friends to find me I can go to my high school reunions. (I haven’t gone to any of them–my mother has though–that’s a different post).

9. It’s overrated. I don’t do sushi either. Same principle.

10. Because.

Where are you in the Facebook issue?

Are you against it?

Have an account?

Have an account, but want to close it?

Love it?

Hate it?

Wonder what the fuss is all about?

Word Nerd Confessions: July


Summer is its own special time, especially July. It’s solidly summer: weather is warmish but not too uncomfortable, events are happening–outdoor concerts, craft fairs, and the like, the lake is tolerable not freezing, school is distant past and not a threat on the horizon.

July requires its own set of vocabulary:

serotinal:pertaining to or occurring in late summer (must be related to serotonin–that feel good chemical in our brain).

phub: to ignore (a person or one’s surroundings) when in a social situation by busying oneself with a phone or other mobile device (I admit to phubbing when at the park or beach–tuning out people to cocoon in my little bubble of perceived solitude–is this a bad thing though?).

tzimmes: fuss; uproar; hullabaloo (when temps get too warm crankiness arrives and tzimmes is a fitting word).

ergophobia:an abnormal fear of work; an aversion to work (self explanatory).

benighted: intellectually or morally ignorant; unenlightened (unfortunately, there is evidence of this behavior when out and about during summer, especially seen at the beach–oh my–do my students who are life guards have interesting days).

paseo: slow, leisurely walk or stroll (summer evenings when the temp drops a tad and the sun has just disappeared on the horizon, a paseo along the boardwalk after dinner is a lovely way to start/end the evening).

craic: fun and entertainment, especially good conversation and company (often precededby the–English derived, as in “wisecrack”).

solitudinarian: a person who seeks solitude; recluse (me, that’s me–give me a hammock, a book, and a soft breeze and I’ll be a-phubbing for hours).

deracinate: to remove or destroy utterly; extirpate (related to above as in socializing?)

ariose: songlike (“The ariose breeze filtering through the stand of pines added an extra appreciation of the fine quality of this July day.”)

biophilia: a love of life and the living world; the affinity of human beings for other life form (but not when they are benighted or phubbing).

sabulous: sandy or gritty (beach wear side effect)

cynosure: something that strongly attracts attention by its brilliance, interest, etc. (blue lake, hot day)

pasquinade: a satire or lampoon, especially one posted in a public place (like Taming of the Shrew as a performance in the park–good times having Shakespeare as a summer performance).

joyance: joyous feeling; gladness (that overall summer mood)

hygge: adj.--cozy and comforting; noun–the feeling of cozy and comforting (some may associate this with winter, but being snug in a backyard hammock with a cool breeze playing about is indeed cozy and comforting).

petrichor: a distinctive scent produced by rainfall in dry earth (there is a word for that amazing smell right after the rain hits the hot sidewalk–word nerdiness points!)

Heiligenschein: the ring of light around the shadow cast by a person’s head, especially on a dewy sunlit lawn; halo (you know that photo, the one where you notice that strange glow around the person’s head -“whoa, I didn’t know you were an angel! Look at your halo!)

viator: wayfarer or traveler (got my bags packed and my ticket to go)

vade meecum: something a person carries about for frequent or regular use (a book, of course–summer is prime reading time).

So that’s a batch of summertime words. There are some fabulous ones that I’m determined to slip into casual conversation.

“I see you got your vade meecum ready.

“Wow! Smell that petrichor!”

“Yup, me and the hubs got our bags packed–we’re just a couple of viators ready to hit the road.”

“Nothing like a well-done pasquinade to get a person laughing.”

“These summer concerts have a certain cynosure about them, don’t they?”

What two words are you going to work into a conversation?

Desert Is Not Dessert


Out of necessity I am in Arizona this week.

Most times mentioning Arizona as a destination brings up that “Oh–” that is a followed by congratulatory commentary with a dash of envy.

That “Oh–” takes on tones of surprise, commiseration, and even pity when Arizona is mentioned as a travel stop this time of year.

The last three days have been rising to triple digits. Today is expected to be 114 degrees. I should add an exclamation point. Make that two.

People who live in Arizona must be okay with this cruelty. Why would someone purposefully punish themselves unless by choice? There are sooo many other places to live.

These are the reasons I hear from residents as they try to excuse the heat:

“Air conditioning. You go from the car to the store. It’s not bad.” That’s what they said about my root canal. “The pain and discomfort is minimal.” Pain is pain and the shock of heat blasting off the asphalt parking lot even for the two minutes of the dash from car to store is still excruciating.

“It cools down at night.” Umm, 80 degrees at 1 am is not cool. It’s not even pleasant.

“Hang out at the pool.” Great idea in theory; however, the sun has been heating up that water until it becomes lukewarm. Not remotely refreshing is the time spent floating in tepid waters.

And the weather announcer pull-it-out-every-time excuse: “But it’s a dry heat.” Dry it is. Because heat is hot and hot is not comfortable.

I’m sure Arizona is lovely other parts of the year. Flocks of snowbirds descending and settling down in the desert for winter have proven this to be statement of fact. Unfortunately I care not for the desert. It is not my idea of a dessert vacation.

114? Really?!?

Word Nerd Confessions: June


Still sweeping out the collection of words drifting about in the corners of my word collecting bag.

Speaking of bags:

1. musette: a small leather or canvas bag with a shoulder strap, used for carrying personal belongings, food, etc.

2. saggitate: shaped like an arrowhead

3. literam: letter for letter; literally

4. gerontocracy: a government in which old people rule (I’m not making this up!)

5.  dundrearies: long full sideburns or muttonchop whiskers

6. bedizen: to dress in a showy or tasteless manner.

7. suspiration: a long deep sigh (a favorite–note the italic–but how to use it in a sentence?)

8.  quodlibet: subtle or elaborate argument or point of debate, usually on a theological  or scholastic subject.

9. instauration: renewal; restoration; renovation

10. fenestrated: having windows (this is such a cool word–I get extra nerdy upon hearing “fensteration” or “fenestrated” in a sentence).

11.  epistemic: of or relating to knowledge or the conditions for acquiring it.

12. oblivescence: the process of forgetting (more and more my life is this word)

13. crump: to make a crunching sound, as in walking over snow, or as snow when trodden on (I fully intend on finding a way to apply “crump” in a story–it’s too amazing of a word to leave sitting on the bench waiting for wordplay).

14. fiddle-footed: restlessly wandering

15. objurgate: to reproach or denounce vehemently; upbraid harshly; berate sharply (sounds close to regurgitate–throwing up angry words?)

And that’s May’s edition of Word Nerd.

May no one objurgate upon your quest towards epistemic persistence as you crump along the path of knowledge which could render a suspiration of frustration (not to be confused with fenestration, although not finding an open window when needed can be frustrating) upon finding yourself stuck in a gerontocracy in which the leaders tend towards bedizen attire evidenced by their dundrearies. Ignore the proclivity towards quodlibets with these politicians and pack up your musette and go on a fiddle-foot tour of nature to achieve instauration from worldly concerns. Celebrate oblivescence of worldly matters. Celebrate the little joys such as the finding of  sagittate treasures upon nature’s path. The literatim of life does not have to be dreary–crump on to finding contentment!

Crump twice–Word Nerd points…

Why We Say: Spam—the case of canned mail


SPAM* in my day was not a Monty Python skit nor a designation in my email. Mom would fry it up and slab it between two pieces of mayoed toast. What do kids know about cuisine?

*SPAM is the official designation by Hormel.

8 billion cans can’t be wrong (image: Smithsonianmag.com)

The product SPAM is a meat product by Hormel and is a derivation of “spiced ham.” It became a popular food item around WWII, as its canned qualities meant it could be stored, shipped, and shopped easily. The US troops benefited from its convenience and it gave them something to joke about. There are odes about SPAM floating around.

On the other hand–

Spam is that annoying clutter that fills email boxes. It is electronic junk mail. It is not pretty and should not be glimpsed.

Unfortunately, one of my forwards was not appearing in my recognized mail box which meant I went searching. I took the plunge and went dumpster diving in my electronic trash. I found:

  • Keto ads
  • Loan enticements
  • Wine information
  • Online dating
  • Concealed weapon ads
  • Tinnitus info

And I found my lost forward. It looked a bit stunned and wasn’t worse for wear from the company it found itself in. I dusted it off and sent it correctly on its way.

As for SPAM…

Hormel originally objected being associated with the practice of unsolicited electronic mail. At one point it took legal action. Wired has an entertaining and informative article on the matter.

The real reason SPAM became spam was due to Monty Python. That explains it, doesn’t it? They created a skit where Vikings sitting in a tea shop would drown out any sort of decent conversation with shouts of “spam spam spam spam –wonderful spam”

Perhaps best seen to understand:

Monty Python “Spam”

Then apparently a blogger decided unsolicited electronic email was a sort of drowning out productive communication (like Vikings shouting in a tea shop), and the term “spam” arrived, which really hasn’t much to do with SPAM except Monty Python decided it was funny fodder for a skit.

There it is. From ham in a can to mail that gets a backhand to a one step above trash.

I’ll let you decide about the evolution of this product.

The -ing of things


Spates of good weather have beckoned me out into the backyard where much needed work is required: weeding, thinning, raking, mulching. All those -ing type of tasks that result in another set of -ings such as lower back spasm-ing.

However–

There was one surprise -ing:

I planted some bulbs last year in my patio container and “whoa!” I exulted upon this sudden blooming. No weeding, mulching, raking required. Just appreciating.

Now, that’s my kind of garden-ing.

Why We Say: A Twist on Past Words


Language is fluid. It can start out with one meaning and morph into another definition over time. Here’s a batch of words that have come into their own meaning through the advent of social media:

Tagging, traffic, fan, wall, hacking, search, viral, link, ping, feed, alert, tweet, are just a few. Here are a few others that have changed:

Troll

Past: a large nasty creature who hung out under bridges. Sometimes a word used with fishing.

Now: Someone who pokes around online and stirs up responses.

Spam

Past: pinkish spongy mystery meat squished into a can.

Now: Unwanted, annoying messages that arrive through email or even as texts.

Friend

Past: a chosen companion who shared common interests.

Now: a button-click indicating a degree of superficial commitment.

Like

Past: a preference signifying a degree of indication of favor.

Now: a click response of rating that operates as a indicator of popularity.

Post

Past: to send a written communication through the postal service

Now: a written communication sent through social media most likely as a blog (a neoplasm and a separate post).

What words have you seen come into existence or change due to the influence of social media?

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