frogg files

"She could never be a saint, but she thought she could be a martyr if they killed her quick." --Flannery O' Connor

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Ah Summer, How I'll Miss You

The days are getting shorter again. Labor Day is this weekend. Tomorrow is the first day of September.

Summer is officially over, I guess. Sigh.

How did I spend my "summer vacation"? Let me count the ways...

I turned 31 in Honduras, and celebrated by walking around atop Mayan ruins in the town of Copan. Later, off the island of Utila, I snorkeled in the clear blue Caribbean sea. I saw a sea turtle, and I didn't get eaten by a shark. My brother taught me to play poker, and one night he and I stayed up late with a girl from Holland, a girl from England, and a boy from France, playing poker with matchsticks as currency. Another night, there was a pounding rainstorm that shook the hostel where we were staying, and I went to bed that night looking at the bright full moon rising high over dark, violent waves.

Back in California, I went to the beach a couple times. I did a lot of nothing on weekends. As often as possible, I spent time in the sun.

I went to San Francisco, and attended the wedding of a good friend. I visited other friends I haven't seen in awhile, and enjoyed laughing with them and catching up on all their news.

I made appreciable progress on learning a Beethoven sonata, and wrote several articles for the local newspaper.

I went on a few dates, here and there. I did not fall in love, but I thought about it.

I read books, some of which I really liked. Tijuana Straits by Kem Nunn was one of these, and Lying Awake by Mark Salzman was another. There was also Kissing in Manhattan, and various short stories. I got through a big chunk of a novel called The Discovery of Heaven, but I haven't finished it yet.

Sometimes, I'd go for a walk in the evening. I breathed in the scent of roses in the gardens of neighborhood homes.

Yes, on the whole, I'd say I had a pretty good summer.

How about you? What did you do? Don't be shy, please. I want to know.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Oh California, Stop Your Wining!

In the midst of all the upheaval and terror and catastrophes and turmoil that faces each one of us in these increasingly troubled times, I am just so relieved that I live in a state that has its legislative priorities in order.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Unbelievable

An interesting item today, on a blog called Practicing Writing. Apparently, one of the books on President Bush's summer reading list is Albert Camus' The Stranger.

I didn't even know Bush had a summer reading list.

To be honest, most days I have a hard time picturing him reading a newspaper, let alone a major work by one of the most famous French existentialists, so I guess this is good news--the President of the United States, reading real literature!

Now if only I could believe it.

But I'm willing to admit I'm a snob when it comes to literary matters, and maybe my skepticism is born of the fact that I just can't stand the thought of our president, who has trouble stringing together two coherent, complete, intelligible sentences in unscripted sessions, making his way through the entirety of a well-known 20th century novel that I myself have never read. It's embarrassing! Now I'm all annoyed, because I will have to read the book. And I had enough stuff on my summer reading list already!

Besides, I don't like French existentialism! It just seems so boring. Boo.

Thanks a million, Mr. President.

P.S. If you're interested in finding out what other books are on the Presidential reading list, go here.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

I Think My Subconscious is Trying to Eat Me

Well, it is all becoming more and more real, the looming return to formal studies. My master's program begins this November, and I have already received assignments—two books to read before the semester starts, and a minimum of 15 pages of prose fiction due by september 27.

None of my stories is even 10 pages, of course. Which means I have to come up with two to turn in. Gah.

The questions lurk continuously at the back of my mind, where I toss them the occasional kibbles-and-bits of tentative self-confidence to hopefully shut them up and quiet their ravenous growls, which, when they are particularly hungry for a taste of my vulnerable ego, takes the shape of biting words that end up sounding something like this:

"Who told you you could write? How did you get into a master's program anyway? What were you thinking? Did we mention your writing sucks?"

It is not a pretty place, my subconscious. Stay away, is my advice. I usually do.

But I was talking about the MFA program.

So, here's how it works. In nNovember I will go to the campus for 10 days, for the residency part of the semester. The rest of the semester will be conducted in a long-distance, independent study format, with me doing the assignments from home and sending packets of writing back to an assigned teacher every three weeks.

That way, I get to keep my full-time job. Which means that in addition to working 40 hours a week, I'll also be studying/writing for 25.

Now, I'm not very good at math, but I'm pretty sure those numbers added together translate into an equation that can be summed up in english as follows: I won't be sleeping alot for the next two years.

The campus is in Kentucky. I don't know anything about Kentucky. I know they have lots of horses there. And blue grass, which I think is pretty cool. (Out here in California, of course, we have to pay lots of money just to have ours be the normal, boring green.)

Oh, and I also read somewhere recently that the Kentucky Derby (which, by the way, is held in Kentucky--another Kentucky factoid for you!) will start selling mint juleps that cost $1000.

Hmm, how strange. I keep getting off topic. I was talking about the MFA program.

Right. So, these packets of writing that get sent back and forth every three weeks through the course of the semester are supposed to be a mixture of material undergoing revisions and new material. They are also supposed to include 1-3 critical essays, based on the 8-10 books we are supposed to be reading. And did i mention that the writing packet is expected to number about 35-40 pages? Every three weeks?

I think I mentioned it. At least the last part.

Um, yeah, so I'm a little stressed about the whole thing, as you can probably tell. But I think it's a good kind of stressed. Like the excited kind.

Although I haven't entirely made up my mind about that. Because that would involve a trip to the subconcious. And after writing this post, I just don't think I have any more kibbles or bits.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Dying to be Married?

Ok, so most days I'm actually pretty ok with the single life. Then I have to read a story like this one in the New York Times, and I end up heaving a heart-rending, pitiful sigh.

Check out this quote:

Researchers surveyed more than 80,000 Americans and found that people who never married were 58% more likely to die during the course of an eight-year period than their married peers. (emphasis mine)

I actually had to read that paragraph twice, I was so aghast. Who would have thought that my life depended on finding a mate? I mean, besides me. Er, not that I think my life depends on it, per se. Or at least, I didn't.

Until now.

Gives a whole new meaning to the "til death do us part" part of the wedding vows, doesn't it?

Oh wait. It actually doesn't. Well, hmm. Never mind.

Er, moving on...

Then, I laughed at this thoroughly inadequate clarification from a Dr. Richard Kronik of UCSD, who "suggested that people who are healthier are more likely to marry, and that marriage itself does not reduce risks." (emphasis mine)

Oh, great. So in Dr. Kronik's mind, maybe I won't die sooner than my married counterparts, but I'm probably ill.

Somehow, I'm not comforted.

(I wonder if some of us get so worked up about not being married when we, just for example, read the results of studies like this that we make ourselves sick and THEN die of heart disease induced by stress, thus justifying the statistics.)

Sunday, August 20, 2006

And How About A Side of Anger Management to Go With Your Drink?

I know it's kind of the thing these days to be concerned about North Korea and Iraq and Iran and all, but I have to say, lately China is actually starting to worry me a bit. Or maybe a lot.

I mean, first there was the recent and rather alarming rise in the popularity of voodoo dolls, of all things. Then I stumbled across this little blurb in the August 18 issue of The Week:

A new bar in China allows patrons to blow off steam by physically assaulting the staff. The Rising Sun Anger Release Bar in Nanjing employs 20 heavily muscled waiters whom customers are free to punch and scream at with no fear of retaliation. Should beating up a waiter fail to relieve a ustomer's anger and tension, counselors are on hand to dispense life advice.

Well, it is definitely a fascinating idea for happy hour: "Hey, let's head down to Rising Sun and yell at the waiters! Then we'll get a drink and have some counselling. It'll be fun!" But it does beg the question: why are people so angry in China? And how high is the turnover at the Rising Sun Anger Release Bar, anyway? (By the way, I think that's an awesome name for a bar.)

I wonder if Rising Sun waiters would come to the bar on THEIR days off, and yell at the other waiters, and beat them up, in order to blow off their rage at being yelled at and beaten by customers? Vicious cycle, anyone? (Which would be an awesome name for a drink at the Rising Sun Anger Release Bar.)

And what the heck are these advice-dispensing counselors supposed to do? I mean, doesn't most "life advice" include concepts like, "Don't hit people or lose your temper"? Are they anger management counselors? Because that would be pretty funny. Talk about conflicts of interest.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Whining About Writing? Or Writing About Whining? You Decide!

I have just spent the last half hour or so--maybe even more, my sense of time has been impaired by one glass too many of a rather passable syrah rose--trying to think of something interesting to write. It's been far too long.

And, judging by the amount of creativity not flowing at all through my brain at the moment, it's going to be a little longer. Dang.

Of course, since I am currently in the throes of a particularly fiendish bout of writer's block, I went to my email inbox this morning and found a note from the administrator of the creative program in which I am, to my own continuing surprise, enrolled and which starts this November. And after reading, I nearly died. Of shock. And deep, abiding alarm. Allow me, if you will, to share the pertinent Excerpt of Doom which caused such a gut-wrenching reaction:

We are still making some final revisions to the MFA Student Handbook, so we won't be able to email it to you until late next week. In the meantime, I want you to have the attached pdf, which is an abbreviated version of the handbook and includes information that probably most concerns you right now. For example, the Worksheet (which is your piece for the residency Workshop) is due Wednesday, September 27. (emphasis added)

What? I have to turn in a story BEFORE the program even starts?? By September 27??? Why, that's less than 100 years away! What am I going to do?

Where are those four Apocalyptic horsemen when you actually need them?

Er, wait. I think I know.

Ok, so there are more important and terribly horrendous things going on the world begging for the attention of humans and Rapture theologians alike than my whining inability to come up with anything to write. I admit it, fully and completely. But I'm still going to whine. Why? Because that's about all I can do! I can't think of anything to write, remember?

Hey, a thought just occurred to me. How come I never get whiner's block? I mean, that's something that I'd actually like to have. It's something that could actually do me--and my patient, patient readers--good.

Which, of course, is exactly why that is the one thing I will never, ever struggle to overcome.

So typical, really.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Considerations

"But in the intuitive mind the principles are found in common use and are before the eyes of everybody. One has only to look, and no effort is necessary; it is only a question of good eyesight, but it must be good, for the principles are so subtle and so numerous that it is almost impossible but that some escape notice. Now the omission of one principle leads to error; thus one must have very clear sight to see all the principles and, in the next place, an accurate mind not to draw false deductions from known principles."
--Blaise Pascal, Pensees



"You don't see what you're seeing until you see it, but when you do see it, it lets you see many other things."
--Dr. William Thurston, mathematician, quoted in "An Elusive Proof and Its
Elusive Prover": NY Times, August 15, 2006

Monday, August 14, 2006

Isn't It Ironic? (Part 2)

I still haven't found my library book! What am I going to do?

To add insult to injury, today all the other books were due. I packed them up this morning, and took them to work so that I could swing by the library and drop them off on my way home. I'd lent one of the books to a co-worker, and I very conscientiously remembered to ask for it from her. I was so proud of myself for remembering!

So naturally, I was halfway home when I realized... I'd forgotten that book at the office!

This whole saving-money-by-borrowing-books-from-the-library scheme has gone rather awry, I'm sorry to say.

I never made a conscious decision to set world records in forgetting and losing things. But I seem to be pretty accomplished at both, in spite of myself. I don't even have to try! I'm just a natural.

I'm also very, very annoyed.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Oh, the Irony!

My life is fraught with irony.

Case in point: a couple weeks ago, I decided to go to the local library, and borrow some books—something I haven't done in years. Why did I do it now? Well, to teach myself that I don't have to buy books all the time, and thus save a bit of money.

So it should come as absolutely no surprise to anyone, least of all me, that I have already lost one of the four books I borrowed. If I don't find it by August 16th, I will actually OWE money.

Gah!

To say this is typical is an understatement. This kind of thing happens to me ALL THE TIME. In fact, if I hadn't lost the book, I'd probably get worried, because it would mean that something was horribly wrong with the universe as I know it.

Seriously, though, how doees one lose a book? I can understand misplacing keys (done it), sunglasses (ditto), earrings (oops), shoes (guilty), hairbrushes (I used a comb for years), and, well hmmm, maybe I've answered my question.

And maybe, inadvertently, I've also stumbled upon reason #pi why I'm still single. Maybe I had the One, but I lost him! I put him down somewhere between the kitchen and the living room, and he disappeared! Maybe he's fallen between the couch cushions, like so much spare change!

Now that would be ironic. Or just plain weird. I mean, if my dearest love can fit between the cushions of my couch, I'm going to be just a teensy-weensy bit depressed.

Almost as depressed as I will be if I don't find that library book.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Some Bright Ideas Really Aren't

Tonight, I had the following bright idea:

Cayenne pepper gives hot chocolate and eggnog a pleasurable kick. Maybe it will do the same thing for Coca-Cola!

So naturally, I put some cayenne pepper in a glass filled with Coke, and began to drink. Who wouldn't, right?

Well, I don't admit this often, but it turns out my idea wasn't really as bright as I thought. I mean, let's just say it certainly didn't necessitate my wearing shades, for instance.

I blame the fizz. The carbonation seems to react intensely with the cayenne. My first sip sent me into a frenzy of sneezing, coughing, and wheezing.

Also, my lips are burning.

Sooooo, turns out one should probably not put cayenne pepper into Coca-Cola! Aren't you glad you know that now? My life has certainly been... enriched.

(I'm not sure that's actually the word I'm looking for, but it's hard to concentrate when one's lips are burning.)

Rules of the California Road

I think I've figured out why driving is such an incredibly frustrating endeavor in Southern California.

It's because no one is actually FROM here. So they don't know our unique road rules!

The older I get, the less Southern California natives I seem to run into. In my office alone, I am surrounded by transplants--from Ohio, Michigan, New York, Connecticut, Northern California (which would almost be considered another state, trust me). Also, here is a list of the license plates I've seen while inching along in traffic in the City of Angels:

Arizona
Arkansas
Colorado
Connecticut
Florida
Georgia
Idaho
Illionois
Indiana
Kentucky
Louisiana
Massachussetts
Michigan
Minnesota
Mississippi
Missouri
Nebraska
Nevada
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
Ohio
Oklahoma
Oregon
Pennsylvania
South Carolina
Texas
Utah
Washington
Wyoming

Yep, that's most of the fifty United States, mixing and merging on California's jam-packed roads. And I don't know what they teach them in these other states' driving schools, but judging from the driving methodology I have had occasion to observe on countless occasions, it's nothing that will stand these drivers in any sort of good stead in OUR neck o' the woods.

So I thought I might provide a valuable public service and explain the rules of driving in the Golden State, because there often seems to be some confusion about just how to navigate through the jumbled tangle of concrete that passes for a "freeway system" (oh, how loosely I use that term "system"!) here in SoCal.

Rule #1: Drive faster than the posted speed limit. A lot faster.

Yes, I know. Speeding is technically against the law, blah blah blah. But I'm sure there must also be a law against dawdling along at 60mph in the FAST lane, where people are SUPPOSED to go 80+. See, when you do that, you force people to pass you on the right-hand side, and that is also technically against the law.

So please, do everyone a favor and if you are going to go slower than 65mph (which is the posted limit in most of California, except for I-5 between LA and SF, which should really just have its speed limit signs taken down and be renamed the West Coast AutoBahn), do it in the slow lane. Which, just for the record and to clear up any confusion, is located to the extreme RIGHT of the freeway. Better yet, do it in another state, where they actually prefer you don't speed! Then we'll all be happy and there will be a lot less road rage. And isn't that something we can all live with? I think so.

Rule #2: See rule #1.

That's it! See how easy it is? And yet, apparently, so incredibly difficult...

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Conversation With Steve #3: The Future of Relationships

So, as long as we're talking about relationships, I thought I'd share this rather depressing article.

Apparently, people are so addicted to computers and surfing the Net, that they will literally go on dates with their laptops in tow, and communicate via typing. While not talking at all.

In light of this story, I think an IM conversation I had with my friend steve back in February was frighteningly prescient. Keep in mind while reading that we were both in his condo, just in different rooms--I had spent the night on the couch, prior to heading up to Tahoe with him and his roommate for a snowboarding weekend:

7:47:49 AM steve: what the?!?!
7:47:55 AM grackyfrogg: haha
7:47:58 AM steve: who is this????
7:48:00 AM grackyfrogg: good morning!
7:48:02 AM grackyfrogg: very funny
7:48:15 AM steve: no way you are up
7:48:32 AM grackyfrogg: oh how weird...i must still be asleep then
7:48:37 AM steve: lol
7:48:42 AM grackyfrogg: :)
7:48:52 AM grackyfrogg: i always get up at 6.30am anyway...so it’s hard to really sleep in
7:49:05 AM steve: i will go make coffee now
7:49:19 AM grackyfrogg: have you been dying for it?
7:49:22 AM grackyfrogg: :)
7:49:23 AM steve: no
7:49:27 AM steve: not yet
7:49:27 AM grackyfrogg: thats good
7:49:34 AM steve: but i havent had to think too much yet
7:49:47 AM steve: just reading emails and news and such
7:49:57 AM grackyfrogg: oh i thought you had a meeting??
7:50:21 AM steve: somehow that wasnt on my calendar when i got up, i think the guy must have cancelled because hes off today
7:50:39 AM grackyfrogg: oh too bad he didnt tell you before!
7:51:16 AM steve: usually they do, im not sure what happened, maybe he did and i just assumed it was this morning as usual
7:51:34 AM grackyfrogg: well come on out and make some coffee
7:51:35 AM grackyfrogg: :)
7:51:43 AM steve: ooooooooookkkkkkkkkk
7:51:51 AM grackyfrogg: lol
7:51:56 AM steve: just think if we were married and we communicated like this
7:51:59 AM steve: IMing
7:52:01 AM grackyfrogg: LOL
7:52:06 AM grackyfrogg: that would be terribly depressing
7:52:08 AM steve: no talking
7:52:17 AM grackyfrogg: what a weird marriage that would be
7:52:22 AM grackyfrogg: i wonder if there are marriages like that!
7:52:23 AM steve: like we would be 4 feet apart
7:52:30 AM grackyfrogg: lol
7:52:33 AM steve: and still IMing
7:52:46 AM grackyfrogg: oh man, its funny to think about...but if it were true, how sad!
7:52:56 AM steve: honey, im sorry about last night.....
7:53:02 AM grackyfrogg: hahahahaha
7:53:09 AM grackyfrogg: or wait, here :(
7:53:11 AM grackyfrogg: :_(
7:53:22 AM grackyfrogg: thats how youd have to express emotion
7:53:25 AM grackyfrogg: with emoticons!
7:53:49 AM steve: hmmm, maybe it wouldnt be so bad....
7:53:53 AM steve: much less drama
7:54:20 AM steve: and you can have fights without waking the kids!!
7:55:29 AM grackyfrogg: how would you ever get around to having kids?
7:55:34 AM grackyfrogg: haha
7:55:43 AM grackyfrogg: the only communication being IM would make that process a little awkward
7:55:45 AM grackyfrogg: i would think
7:56:35 AM steve: invitro
7:56:50 AM grackyfrogg: LOL
7:56:56 AM grackyfrogg: ugh, this just gets worse all the time!
7:57:07 AM steve: one day shes like "hey, i had the baby today"
7:57:31 AM grackyfrogg: and then he goes :O
7:57:34 AM grackyfrogg: and then :)
7:57:39 AM grackyfrogg: and she's like :)
7:57:47 AM steve: the husbands all "oh i thought i heard some noises from the other room, cool!"
7:57:50 AM grackyfrogg: and he goes *hug*
7:57:54 AM grackyfrogg: hahahaha
7:58:08 AM steve: ha

And here I thought we were just joking. Meanwhile, people are actually starting to conduct relationships like this.

I am very non-sanguine about the future. Sigh.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Wondering

I'm sorry. I have been horribly unentertaining of late. But it's not my fault.

It's my life's, for being so boring.

Also, I guess I've had a lot on my mind.

Mainly, I've been wondering a lot about the nature of this thing people call being "in love." Probably because I've gone on a few dates in the past month, but so far, I have not exactly been swept off my feet. So, how does falling in love really work? Or does it stop being possible after you hit a certain age? Like, 31? Just as an example, of course.

I wonder sometimes if the whole falling in love phenomenon is nothing but a Hollywood construct. A fantasy imposed on a flimsily built illusion of reality, designed to make us all incapable of committing to anyone on the basis of anything but transitory emotions.

At least, that's what I think when I am feeling cynical.

But in spite of my best efforts, there remains a deep-seated streak of romanticism in me, which makes me hope very much that falling in love is something real. Something I should hope for. Something that is worth waiting for.

I don't really know, anymmore.

Maybe people are right about me. Maybe I am just too picky. Maybe what I want is right in front of me, but I can't see it because I'm looking for some unrealistic ideal.

I wonder.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Signs

It's an interesting phenomenon that I've had occasion to observe more than once, that anytime I make plans to start getting back in shape, one of two things are bound to happen:

1) It will rain, thus preventing me from going for a fitness-inducing walk/jog, because honestly, who wants to walk/jog in the rain?

2) I'll get sick.

This week, both things happened.

Yesterday, I called in sick to work. I had a sore throat, I was achy, and I had a very bad case of the Mondays, even though it was Thursday. So I didn't go to work. Neither did I "work out." What I did do was sit around, read, eat (caramel popcorn and peanuts, mostly), and play the piano.

I am not unaware of the fact that none of the above-mentioned activities is particularly known for its calorie-burning potential. But I don't care.

Then this morning, I got up, and lo and behold! The ground outside was soaked with rain, and it was still sprinkling. Guess I couldn't go for a walk/jog!

Aside from not being able to exercise, though, I have to admit I was appalled. Rain! In August!! In Southern California!!! The world really is coming to an end, folks. And if so, I'm not going to be bothered by how skinny I am, or am not. There are much more important things to be concerned about.

Like dessert. I mean, just as an example.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Frogg's Total Fitness Show: Episode One

Well, I managed a quick, passing glance at the package containing the ab cruncher this morning. I almost broke a sweat doing it, too. That's enough crazy fitness for one day!

Maybe tomorrow I'll actually go as far as opening the box and taking the ab cruncher out of it.

Whoa. I got tired just writing that.

Something tells me that this Total Fitnes Journey is going to involve a long, difficult road. Sigh...

Oh well. Until tomorrow, then. In the meantime, I give you the quote of the day, which has nothing whatsoever to do with fitness, thank goodness. Officer Bob Martinez of Arcata, Ca., was interviewed by the Times-Standard newspaper (via Obscure Store) after helping to apprehend a conspicuously disguised ATM/credit card bandit. Officer Bob brought this insightful bit of wisdom to bear on the situation:

If you're trying to get away with something, wearing a clown mask on a Monday afternoon in Valley West is not the way to do it.

Hmmm. Now there's a point to ponder if I ever heard one. Thank you, Officer Bob.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Frogg Fitness!

I made the unfortunate mistake of putting on my "skinny jeans" today. I am still not sure what possessed me (although I suspect my decision may have been ever so slightly influenced by the fact that other options were dirty and/or needing ironing).

I just hate wearing my skinny jeans, though. They always remind me that they are, in fact, skinnier than I am, and that I need to work out more. Which means, I need to work out, period.

Luckily for me, the cowgirl left behind an ab cruncher the last time she visited--one of two that she got for one incredibly low price of something-nine-ninety-five from (what else?) a late-night infomercial.

The funny thing about buying exercise equipment in particular from an infomercial is, of course, that you are sitting in front of the TV not exercising while watching the infomercial hosts rave about how this amazing piece of equipment will get you in the most stunning shape of your LIFE in just two weeks even if you are a 100-year-old great-grandmother who hasn't exercised since she was born. (Naturally, individual results may vary, and the 100-year-old great-grandmother model who is prancing around in her bathing suit onscreen should not be taken as an example of "typical" results. After all, she is actually 23. Oh, and she's never even had children.)

But the point is, I really want to fit into my skinny jeans without having to forfeit things like sitting or breathing for an entire day, so I've decided to embark on an all-new journey to Total Frogg Fitness. And yes, the ab cruncher will play an important part! (So will not eating, I can already imagine.) Moreover, you, my dear readers, get to follow along as I chronicle my exercise efforts right here, before your very eyes. We'll see if I can look like a 100-year-old grandmother in just two short weeks.

Unless, of course, I change my mind and decide to write about something else. Not like that's ever happened.