condescending twatbags, housekeeping tips, money, politics, sex, silliness, technology, transportation, travel, YouTube

Lime scale, lobsters, lectures, and lost causes…

Today’s featured photo is of the Boothbay Harbor blue lobster. Bill and I visited there for my birthday in June 2011, and I got a picture.

So yesterday’s “boring” post about water and limescale actually generated a lot of comments– for my blog, anyway. I know there are a lot of mommy bloggers out there who go viral and get hundreds of comments on their posts. But they tend to be sunny people who write things like “totes amazeballs”. I’m not like that. But since everybody poops, everybody needs water, and most normal people like to poop in clean bathrooms, I guess yesterday’s potty post resonated! Good for me! And thanks to everyone who read and commented! I probably ought to take a look/see at the bathroom in the basement. I almost never use it, but it also has some lime build up.

There’s still a little buildup, but it looks a lot better than it did yesterday.

And I just looked, and sure enough, that toilet has pretty terrible limescale build up, too. So I treated it with vinegar, and then tried the sink and the water is barely flowing. I have a feeling the pipes have lime in them. I treated it with baking soda and vinegar, but it may need a professional’s attention. This house has pretty terrible lime issues. When we first moved in, the buildup was so bad that we literally couldn’t turn on one of the faucets in the shower. It was completely stilled by calcium. The basement bathroom rarely sees any action, so I guess this is a reminder that it pays to stop in on occasion. Curiously, the toilet on the main floor doesn’t have much buildup at all.

I have a few things on my mind today, so this post is probably going to be multi-faceted. Now that I’ve written more about lime scale, and the payoff from yesterday’s project, it’s time to move on to the next topic. And the next topic is lobster.

A couple of days ago, Bill and I watched some random videos on YouTube. I ran across one about a guy who rescued a live lobster from the grocery store and kept it as a pet. I don’t know what made me decide to watch that video, but I found it absolutely fascinating. It also kind of made me a little ashamed of how much I enjoy eating lobster. This guy brought the lobster home, cut the rubber bands that rendered him helpless, and dropped him in a saltwater aquarium, where he gave him the name Leon and observed his behavior.

This was an unexpectedly fascinating and somewhat sad video… I might not ever be able to enjoy eating lobster rolls again.

I’m sure on one level, Leon is happy enough not to be someone’s dinner. On the other hand, Leon escaped death, but now lives in an aquarium, where he depends on the kindness of the guy who “adopted” him. He can’t really hunt, and he has no lobster friends to hang out with or have sex with… I guess lobsters have sex, and I’m sure Google would tell me if I cared to research further… It might be too early for me to explore the potential joys of lobster fucking, though.

Okay, I have to admit, my curiosity got the better of me. I Googled, and sure enough, lobsters enjoy a rather “kinky” sex life. Apparently, female lobsters attract mates by repeatedly peeing on their faces. And lobsters have urethras under their eyes that evidently make this possible. The female lobster pees on the male, then runs away. Female lobster pee evidently has the magical essence of an aphrodisiac, and after a few days of golden showers, the male lobster gets romantic and loves the lady lobster enough to cause reproduction. Wow… the things you learn on the Internet! And this was all inspired by a YouTube video about Leon, the lobster, who was rescued from the grocery store and now has a job teaching humans more about crustaceans. Leon should be proud. Not everyone has the chops to make it as a YouTube star.

I highly recommend watching the above video, if you’re interested. I legitimately found it informative and entertaining, and it reminded me that the animals we eat are still sentient beings with personality. Sigh… I really should be a vegetarian. Maybe someday I’ll give up my carnivorous ways… live on wine and beer, instead. Which brings me to the last two topics, lectures and lost causes.

Seriously… I don’t like the idea of promoting drinking, but this COVID-19 lifestyle is a real fucking drag. Last night, I had a mild meltdown after reading an article about how Dr. Fauci thinks we’ll be forced to wear masks on airplanes from now on. I have said it before, and I’ll say it again. I have a feeling that this prediction of his– while entirely possible– probably isn’t going to happen. Why? Because the world is a big place, and there are parts of it that are still pretty undeveloped. I remember being in Armenia in the mid 90s and seeing that most people there still weren’t wearing seatbelts, even though they have been “required” in most modern places for many years. And I simply doubt that people all over the world are going to embrace being forced to wear masks forever. They are uncomfortable, impractical, and annoying, and while they may save lives, a lot of people are inherently selfish.

Moreover, even in so-called “civilized” places, people are still losing their shit over masks. And they are deeply polarizing, with a lot of smug, self-righteous, left leaning all knowers discounting and insulting those who are legitimately terrified of government overreach and tyranny. Look at how many people are freaking out on airplanes. There are a lot more people wigging out in the “friendly skies” these days. Obviously, the masks are causing stress. And don’t tell me they aren’t. In 2019, there weren’t nearly as many people misbehaving on planes. What’s changed? People have to wear masks. THEY ARE AN OBVIOUS PROBLEM for a lot of people, even if some people don’t think so.

The fact is, you may not mind wearing a mask at all, but that doesn’t mean your neighbor agrees, nor should they have to agree if we’re living in a free society. Disagreeing with masks doesn’t give someone the right to be unruly on an airplane, of course. All I’m saying is that telling someone that masks are “no big deal” is disingenuous. To some people, they ARE a big deal. If they weren’t, there wouldn’t be so much bad behavior, violence, and legal morass surrounding their enforced use. And I think that not respectfully listening and trying to understand why some people aren’t embracing face masks is going to help prolong this situation we’re in.

Now… before anybody comes at me, let me state that I realize that masks are necessary for now. I’m not saying that people shouldn’t wear them. What I am saying is that this talk of forcing people to “mask up” (ugh, hate that expression) forevermore, and dismissing their concerns about the depressing prospect of that, as you tell them it’s “no big deal”, is part of what is driving all of this stubborn rebellion. Nobody likes to be condescended to or lectured– at least not when they haven’t paid tuition and specifically asked for a lesson. Telling someone to “get over it” is rude and disrespectful, and it’s not likely to inspire cooperation. And while you may think they’re rude for non-compliance, there are always other perspectives in any situation. I just think the wise person will take a minute to try to understand the other perspectives, even if they seem ridiculous. At this point in time, even ridiculous people can still vote, right?

When I venture into comment sections and someone raises a concern about masking– even when it’s done in a respectful way– there’s almost always a slew of comments from people who lecture, insult, condescend, or outright dismiss those concerns. Those who are anti-mask, or simply have concerns, then get pissed off and more stubborn, and some of them get pissed off enough to vote in politicians who don’t support mask mandates or vaccines. Unfortunately, a lot of those politicians also don’t support other policies that are community oriented or family friendly. So maybe you don’t have a vaccine mandate or mask requirement, but you also have some white, Southern, conservative yahoo who wants to make guns easier to buy and abortions harder to get.

As for Fauci’s predictions about masks on planes… I will state that I think money will be the deciding factor on this. I think there are people who are already looking for innovations that make it harder to contract illnesses in buildings. There’s a lot of money to be made with a solution like that. You can bet someone out there is looking for a way to filter air so that people stay healthy and productive. It’s not necessarily a trend that arises for the public good, either. It’s because there’s money to be made, and money drives a lot of people into action. Healthy people can work longer and generate more money.

Some people don’t want to travel if they have to wear a mask. Just yesterday, I mentioned a dream I had about moving to New Zealand– probably been watching too many Mama Doctor Jones videos. She is moving to New Zealand. Someone on Facebook mentioned that that sounded nice. I said I don’t want to sit on a plane that long in a mask. Flying sucked enough before the masks. The seats are uncomfortable, the fares are high, the food is inedible, and there are a lot of rules to follow. Now, many people have this dystopian “hall monitor” mentality, where everybody is watching and judging everybody else. Personally, I think I’d rather stay home or drive somewhere, than sit on an already uncomfortable flight for hours with a mask on my face. At least in a car, I don’t have someone watching my every move.

Same goes for cruising. Some people don’t mind wearing masks on ships, but others won’t like it. I think of the ships Bill and I tend to frequent, where booze flows freely. A person could sit and drink all day, if they wanted to. I have also personally witnessed people on ships getting drunk and belligerent. I remember hearing about v-loggers who were on SeaDream last year, documenting the trip, which was supposed to be “maskless”. People got COVID on that trip, and the v-loggers mentioned it, causing SeaDream to force passengers into masks again. The v-loggers were on the receiving end of a lot of anger, mainly because SeaDream cruises are very expensive and people were wanting to escape the COVID rules for a bit. No such luck. I know I don’t want to drop ten thousand bucks on cruise fare for an experience like that. There ain’t enough free flowing Prosecco in the world.

I think about how Royal Caribbean just built several HUGE ships in the last ten years or so, and now they’re in the news because 48 people tested positive for COVID on a recent cruise. Having such huge ships is bound to become a liability, especially if people are turned off of traveling due to draconian rules. Cruising will be probably less popular if people have to wear masks as a general rule. One of the things that makes cruising fun is socializing, and a big part of socializing is seeing people’s faces and non-verbal communication. Masks make it hard to forget the troubles of the world. They are a visual reminder of how fucked up things are. One of the reasons cruises are appealing are that they allow people to forget things that are stressful. So I think forced masking from now on will probably not fly in the long run.

It may not be a bad thing, though, if people travel less. It will be better for the environment. But it will also force some people to find new ways to make their livings. Again, I think money will be what drives this trend. If enough people decide to stay home, the policies will be amended… and/or someone will come up with a way to make traveling maskless safer.

Either way, I think people should try to be more understanding, patient, and willing to listen to other viewpoints without turning shitty. We’re in an unprecedented era for most people who are living, but don’t forget, this is NOT the first deadly pandemic of humankind. One hundred years ago, Spanish Flu killed lots of people. Masks were a thing back then, and I’m sure the thinking was eerily similar that things weren’t ever going to be normal again. But they eventually did go back to “normal”, although we came away with more knowledge.

To take it a step further, think of all of the crazy stuff that’s happened in the last hundred years. I wonder how people felt during World War II. Did they think the war would go on forever? Did they think the world was going to end? Some people probably did… but as you can see, they were wrong. There will be life beyond COVID-19 for those who don’t die from the disease. And I think it will more like it used to be, which may or may not be a good thing. Some of the COVID changes haven’t been bad, after all.

And finally… I think it’s inevitable that most everyone will end up with COVID at some point. But it will eventually be less deadly, because it’s not in the virus’s best interest to kill everyone. I still think getting vaccinated and staying away from other people is the best way to go. And if you have to be in a crowd, masks make sense. But I don’t think they should be something we strive to normalize forever, and I don’t think they’re the end all be all of fixing this problem. They’re just one facet of the solution. This is a problem that needs to be solved, not “lived with”. Fortunately, history shows that some human beings are very good at finding solutions. So that’s what keeps me going, for now…

But, I will admit, sometimes I envy those who have already peaced out of this life. As extraordinarily fortunate as Bill and I are, I find today’s world frightening and depressing, and I wonder what the point of it all is…

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language, lessons learned, silliness

Repost: Is this inappropriate?

Here’s a post I wrote in November 2018. It’s mostly “as/is”.

Negative comments are interesting.  A lot of times, they inspire me in ways you wouldn’t expect.  I have kind of a strange mind sometimes.  It goes off into tangents, some of which turn out to be totally goofy.  Yesterday, Bill and I were directed into goofy territory when I looked up the meaning of the expression “bite me”.   A couple of days ago, I wrote a post entitled “Hate my blog?  Bite me.”  My inspiration for that post came, in part, from some drama that has erupted on my blog recently.  It’s not just “Wondering Why’s” negative comment about how I’m so bitter and post so much “inappropriate” stuff.  It’s also because of other people who feel the need to try to “police” what I write in my blog.

“The Overeducated Housewife” is my first and probably most read blog simply due to the fact that it’s eight years old (ETA: in 2021, it’s 11 years old).  But around these parts, it’s my travel blog that gets more notice (no longer true).  Because of the community I live in and the fact that military folks can be excruciatingly uptight about some things, I try to keep the travel blog somewhat clean.  Every now and then, a little profanity slips in, and I make no secret about how much Bill and I enjoy booze tourism.  We aren’t necessarily a “wholesome” couple.  But I do try to keep the personal drama to a minimum on that blog.  It’s somewhat PG by my standards.

This blog, by contrast, gets a lot of weird shit posted on it.  Some of it is very personal, profane, and “inappropriate”.  Some of it’s kind of silly and funny.  I use a lot more swear words on this blog.  It’s “rated R”.

Then I have the music blog, which I update maybe once or twice a month.  I would probably delete it altogether, but for some reason, people are obsessed with my post about Richard Carpenter’s daughter, Mindi.  To date, my post about Mindi Carpenter has garnered well over 100,000 hits.  It’s my most popular post of all time.  I really don’t know why, but as long as it gets hits, I figure I might as well get some ad revenue. (still thinking of deleting it because I never update it much anymore, but I want to get paid, first)…

Anyway… back to the subject at hand.  I was writing about tangents, and it’s time I came back from the latest one.  A couple of days ago, I wrote my post about people who hate blogs and bloggers.  I used the expression, “Bite me.”  I used that expression because it’s a somewhat sanitized version of saying “fuck off”.  In truth, I am much more likely to say “fuck off” than “bite me”.  In fact, I can’t think of any time recently that I invited someone to “bite me”.  It’s just not a phrase I use very often.  “Fuck off”, on the other hand, is a favorite expression of mine.  It’s very ladylike, you see. 

Sometimes I get curious about language.  I find the origin of words and expressions fascinating.  I love to read Urban Dictionary, where people post definitions for common slang words and idioms in the English language.  I looked up “bite me.” and, sure enough, Urban Dictionary had a definition.  But then I stumbled across another site called English Language & Usage.  Six people also included information about the origin of the expression “bite me”.  The first answer posted was rather pedestrian, but the second one was fascinating.  Have a look…

This made me laugh hysterically for a few minutes.  I was especially amused by a subsequent comment left by someone who said it was equivalent to saying “Eff you”, then apologizing that he could not bring himself to “say” it.

While you can use the phrase when you mean “deal with it”, I am of the opinion that it most emphatically doesn’t mean “deal with it”, but instead is closer to when you don’t like what the other person has said or done, and express your contempt. It’s really not different than “eff you” (sorry, I can’t bring myself to say it). – ErikENov 27 ’12 at 9:04

Some people really cringe at the idea of using vulgarity and being “inappropriate”…  I think they must live very constrained lives, but if it makes ’em happy, what’s it to me?

The person who provided the above screenshot information immediately charmed me for being so apologetic and polite about the original raunch factor of “bite me”.  I had no idea.  There are several more answers posted about the origin of “bite me”, most of which caused me to giggle and reminded me of the old show, Crank Yankers, which used to be aired on Comedy Central a lot.  Crank Yankers consisted of comedians using puppets to act out crank calls they made to people.  There was a character on that show named Niles Standish, who was “inappropriate” on the phone as they pranked some unsuspecting guy who was looking for some phone sex.

Is this inappropriate?
Some inappropriate “shit” here.

I don’t often say “bite me” to people, because to me, it’s about as non-sensical as calling someone a douche.  I have ranted about my aversion to the word “douche” used as an insult on several occasions, so I’m not going to rehash it.  I’ll just say that, to me, calling someone a “douche” doesn’t make sense, nor does it make sense to say “bite me”, although I do know the conventional meaning of both expressions.  I just used “bite me” a couple of days ago because it seemed less profane, and I’d rather not be profane in my blog post titles, if I can help it.  But then, if you think about it, calling someone a “douche” or inviting them to bite you is actually very offensive if you consider what those expressions really mean.  It’s just that they’re used so often that people are now kind of unfazed by them.  They’ve become almost sanitized… and even somewhat “appropriate”.  You might even hear someone say it in church.

Because I enjoy oversharing, as regular readers of this blog certainly know, I shared on Facebook that Bill and I were having a stimulating discussion about vulgar English idioms.  I wasn’t surprised when a number of my friends who know me well had a good laugh at that.  Bill and I often discuss things that would never cross anyone else’s minds.  That’s why we’re perfect for each other.  We ended the evening by watching early episodes of America’s Next Top Model, where there was certainly a lot of “inappropriate” behavior.  I think many people secretly love it when others are “inappropriate”.  It’s the sticks in the mud who feel that a high level of decorum must be maintained by all means that ruin it for everyone else.

I’m sure plenty of people read some of my posts and wonder “WTF is wrong with that woman?”  They wouldn’t be the first to wonder that.  My own mother used to loudly exclaim, “Where did you come from?!” whenever I said or did anything she found inappropriate, obnoxious, or weird.  I always wanted to tell her that I came from an unfortunate night she spent fucking my father… and then I slid out of her womb, between her legs, all purplish and wet, kicking and screaming into the hellhole of life.  But, because I do have a sense of decorum and did not want to be knocked into the next month, I did not tell her where I literally came from.  The fact is, I came from their come…  She could have spared us all a lot of grief if she and my dad had just taken a cold shower and gone bowling or something.  Ah well… I will keep thinking and writing about goofy, inappropriate shit that upsets, shocks, annoys, and offends people.  Then, some blessed day, I won’t be able to write anymore and the world will be spared these weird, inappropriate postings from me. 

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lessons learned, nostalgia, silliness, TV

Life lessons from The Love Boat…

I love watching cheesy TV shows from the 70s and 80s. I especially enjoy watching them when I’m laid up in bed and in need of comfort. Although I’m mostly over the virus that kicked me in the butt all weekend, I was still a touch under the weather for most of Monday. I did experience sort of a second wind later in the day, but not enough of one to call myself “well”. I managed to find the energy to wash all the bed linens and turn on the robot mower 😉 , which I forgot to check on, and later found stuck in the corner of the backyard. I even summoned the energy to walk the dogs in the afternoon, which they both appreciated. But then I came back, hurled, and spent more quality time on the toilet.

Yesterday, I watched The Love Boat, an Aaron Spelling/Douglas Cramer television show that aired on ABC throughout most of my childhood. Someone on YouTube uploaded a bunch of episodes from the 1982-83 season and I found myself glued to them for most of the afternoon. Although most of the plot lines were completely ridiculous and implausible, it was still kind of fun to watch. There are even a few pearls of wisdom within the episodes.

Yes, I did have to suspend belief when I watched the late Eva Gabor (born in 1919) playing the mother of a teenaged boy in the early 80s. It was a bit jarring to see Connie Needham (born in 1959), playing the fiance of her mother’s ex boyfriend Gene Barry (born in 1919), only to have her mom steal him back. I’m sure Alan Hale, Jr. and Bob Denver, both of whom were best known for their roles on Gilligan’s Island, had a great time on the show. It’s a trip to watch the crew members romancing the passengers as they live in huge, sumptuous quarters that I know are not the reality for actual cruise crew members. But still, I remember yesterday afternoon, actually stopping in my tracks to ponder when Dr. Adam Bricker (played by Bernie Kopell) said something unexpectedly profound. Or, at least I thought it was profound when he said it… I wish I could remember what he said at this moment, but alas, the thought has passed. Oh well, next time, I’ll make a note of it.

It’s always a treat to see Charo perform. Seriously– Charo is a very talented entertainer, especially when she plays guitar. She was a staple on The Love Boat, though, and I don’t think I ever need to watch her sing “Physical” again. My respect for Charo came when she was on The Surreal Life around 2004 or so. Even though that was a silly show, Charo showed everyone that she’s a lot smarter than anyone ever gave her credit for in her heyday, and she can REALLY play guitar.

Granted, this is supposed to be tacky and obnoxious, but it kind of goes beyond the pale. Charo later said she “cuchi cuchi-ed” all the way to the bank! I think I see a little Las Vegas era Tina Turner in this performance.
But at around 12:25 on this video of The Surreal Life, you can hear Charo play guitar… she does have some chops. I’d rather hear her play guitar and listen to her sing. Incidentally, this was one of the better seasons of The Surreal Life.

The Love Boat also did a couple of on location two-parters during that time period that were fun to watch, especially since Bill and I have been to some of the places they went. In 2013, we did our last SeaDream cruise from Rome to Athens, which included pre-cruise stops in Venice and Florence. The Love Boat, which usually focused on cruises to Mexico, went to Italy and Greece. They did one two-parter based on an Italian cruise, and one was based on a Greek cruise. I noticed they had some pretty high ranking guests for those episodes, too. Both specials made me want to travel! I have wanderlust anyway, but COVID-19 has made it more intense.

I’m sure all of the footage for the Italy and Greece episodes was filmed at the same time, production costs being what they were. I came to the conclusion they were filmed at the same time because I noticed that Lauren Tewes’ hair was the same “Sun-In” bleached blonde in both of the specials, plus the used the same footage of a TWA plane taking off. Forty years later, I’m amazed that people in the 80s thought that orange hydroxide look was attractive. Lisa Whelchel, who guested on the Greek special, had the same bleached hair with brassy overtones. It was pretty ghastly. As I watched the show, I realized it was work for everyone involved. But it also looked like a lot of fun to film.

I know this is a common phenomenon, but it seems like life was a lot more fun in the 80s… I know it probably wasn’t, for many reasons, but I was a kid back then. Actually, looking back on it, the 80s were hard for me, personally, because that was when I was growing up, and I didn’t have the greatest childhood. But we had all these feel good TV shows that were light entertainment. The Love Boat always had happy endings, with people falling in love, getting married, or discovering a new path in life. The staff on the ship was caring, friendly, and always invested in seeing that everyone had a good time. The Love Boat and Fantasy Island were great shows to watch on Saturday nights when I was growing up– at least until we had The Golden Girls, which was a much better show on all levels.

Granted, The Love Boat definitely jumped the shark around the time they kicked Lauren Tewes (cruise director Julie McCoy) off the show because of her cocaine addiction and other issues, but it always featured old movie stars alongside up and coming stars of the 80s. It was great fun to watch when I was a kid, and probably more fun to watch now for entirely different reasons. I could imagine someone turning it into a Mystery Science Theater 3000 type of show, where there are snarky comments made for every ridiculous scenario, cheesy band number, or godawful evening gown. Also, I noticed all the women wore dresses no matter what, many of which were pretty frumpy and uncomfortable looking, even if they weren’t having dinner.

As a child, I was oddly enchanted by evening gowns and fancy events. It’s probably because I used to love reading fairytales. I also used to love watching beauty pageants, not because I believed in evaluating women by their looks, but because I loved the evening gowns. I liked the colors and designs. But times change, and just like The Love Boat and silly shows like it, beauty pageants have also gone out of style. Even Miss America, which was probably the most prestigious pageant, has changed its focus more toward promoting scholarship and community service than beauty. I think that’s a positive thing, but I must admit that as a kid, I loved the glamour of 80s television. It was fun to revisit it over the past couple of days, watching The Love Boat, a televised intellectual equivalent to empty calories.

Having now been on some cruises myself, I now realize that there’s a price to be paid for wearing fancy duds, and not just at the cash register. I have a few sparkly dresses, but I don’t wear them well. I find them uncomfortable, and I never want to spend a lot of money on dresses that I won’t wear more than a time or two. Consequently, I don’t really look smashing in an evening gown. Even if I had a really cute figure, I think I would rather just wear a nightgown with no bra, rather than a hot evening dress that is always too long for me and heavy with sequins. And that is exactly what I did yesterday, as my stomach and intestines launched into a few more revolts. I did feel markedly better yesterday, but I wasn’t quite all the way…

Well, I’m happy to report that today, I feel 100% better. I have a spark of energy, and I managed to eat a banana, toast with butter, and drink two cups of coffee with cream without feeling like I needed to puke. I’m sure there will be some residual crud from the virus my body seems to have vanquished, but I think I’m on the mend. It was the first time I’ve been sick in ages. In fact, I don’t remember the last sickness I’ve experienced since moving to Wiesbaden. I was sick more often in Stuttgart, probably because Bill was always traveling to Africa and exposing me to exotic pathogens.

One thing I’ve learned from being sick for the past few days is that I needed a reminder that I don’t enjoy the experience of sickness. In fact, perhaps the most important lesson I’ve learned is that I definitely don’t want to catch COVID-19. I have no idea how I got this stomach bug, which I’m guessing is less contagious than COVID is. But being sick for the past few days has SUCKED, even though I was somewhat functional the whole time. Maybe if this bug has done anything, it’s renewed my resolve to stay healthy.

Will I watch more Love Boat today? Maybe… I was watching the second part of the Greek two-parter when Bill got home. He worked late last night and stopped by the store to get me some OTC meds and food. I might watch the second part, just to finish. I could tell I was getting better, though, because as the day wore on, I was getting more tired of the lame storylines. I may need to view something with more substance today, if I choose to watch television at all. It’s amazing the boost one gets when that initial post-sickness energy surge hits.

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Germany, silliness

Greetings from the Schwarzwald… where pan pipes are considered soothing.

Yesterday was a very busy day. We woke up early, with plans to go to Stuttgart and see our dentist. We were long overdue in seeing our dentist, Dr. B. It had been over two years, mainly due to COVID-19, and the inability to travel with ease coupled with conflicts of schedules. Originally, I had planned for us to stay in Stuttgart, but our favorite hotel was totally booked. Then I remembered how much I liked visiting The Black Forest when we still lived near it. So, even though our hotel is 100 kilometers from our dentist’s office, I booked us in a very nice resort for four nights. But we spent most of yesterday in our old stomping grounds.

I am pleased to report that I had a good checkup. Bill was not as lucky. He’s been complaining about his teeth recently and, sure enough, as the dentist was probing, one of Bill’s fillings fell out. Bill has to come back to Stuttgart next week. He’ll just take the ICE train and do a one day visit. We both got very thorough cleanings that were much needed and appreciated. My gums are a little sensitive today.

After our dentist visit, we had a hearty lunch at a steak joint. Then we met someone in my wine group who was going to be picking up corks. I collect corks from our many bottles of wine to give to the crafters among us. After chatting with the lady from the wine group, we headed back to the hotel, spent a little time at the pool, and then I hung out at the bar, while Bill talked to his therapist online. It was a little strange sitting alone in the bar. This resort is loaded with German couples and families, most of whom don’t seem to speak English. I caught the bartender glancing at me, probably wondering where Bill went.

Over the sound system, they were playing music from the 80s and 90s. We’re talking Celine Dion, All 4 One, Boys to Men, and Phil Collins. It was actually a little depressing. For one thing, those songs were all hits when I was a lot younger. As I was listening, I was reminded of my 20s, when I was younger, healthier, and probably prettier, although you’d never know it by my non-existent love life in those days. I had images in my head of going to bars and feeling invisible and broke.

Add in the fact that while this hotel is very pretty and has old school charm, it’s also a bit dated. And so, I felt almost like I was in a time warp, accented by the outfits some of the people were wearing. Not that I can talk about that myself…

This hotel also pipes annoying Muzak into the halls and restaurant. It’s basically a step up from the horrible Muzak my dad used to force me to listen to on our car trips. Bill and I were eating breakfast and “Careless Whisper” by Wham came on, only it had been softened into a soothing version of the original. And that arrangement included pan pipes!

Who in the hell wants to listen to pan pipes in an 80s song about breaking up? It reminds me of the time I heard a Muzak version of “Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns n’ Roses.

I know… I know… who pays attention to the music piped into restaurants? I do. I’m obviously not the only one. I am a frustrated musician. Every time I hear pan pipes, I’m reminded of Zamfir. He used to be on ads in 80s and 90s, selling his pan pipe versions of the day’s hit songs. It made me want to tear out my hair.

Yikes! This gives me chills.

In college, I joined Sigma Alpha Iota, which is an honorary music fraternity for women (as opposed to a sorority). Pan pipes are part of SAI’s insignia. Members have pins they wear that have pan pipes in the middle of them. I appreciated being a sister of SAI, but I’ll be damned if I will willingly listen to pan pipes by choice. I’d rather visit the dentist, as long as he doesn’t play Zamfir’s greatest hits during the exam.

As Bill and I were discussing the pan pipe infused hit song, “Careless Whisper”, originally made famous by George Michael, somehow our conversation morphed into chat about patient privacy. Germans actually have a very interesting approach to privacy. Bill was lamenting about how our dentist, who was trained in the United States and is half-American on his dad’s side, doesn’t have any qualms about talking about other people’s issues. HIPAA does not exist in Germany. So Dr. B will tell Bill about my teeth, and he will tell me about Bill’s teeth. He doesn’t bat an eye… and in fact, he speaks loudly enough that anyone in the waiting room can hear him.

But… people who commit crimes in Germany are often not publicly named. Here, there exists the right to be “forgotten”. They don’t go in for canceling people. So, if someone commits a crime, he or she can do time and then try to rejoin society. Read a newspaper about a crime and you’ll see a photo of the alleged perpetrator, face blocked by a binder and first name and last initial used instead the whole name.

Germany also has an annoying Data Privacy law, which requires Web sites to state upfront that they use cookies. Every time I hit a site in Germany, I get a pop up that tells me about cookies… and any site that doesn’t want to comply is unavailable over here without the use of a VPN.

I’m sure there’s more to the privacy law than pop up ads. A few years ago, when I was having issues with quitting Hello Fresh, I read that if I wanted to make a big stink, I could remind them of the data security law to light a fire under them. Fortunately, it didn’t come to that, although there was a lot of swearing involved with getting them to completely delete my account.

Anyway, no one screams about HIPAA here, because there is no such thing. Our dentist will happily talk about my last remaining baby tooth, which will turn 50 next year, should I live that long and it doesn’t get abscessed or anything. He’s probably told his other patients about it. Every time I see him, he mentions it. I think he said that prior to meeting me, the oldest person he had ever met with baby teeth was about 35.

Yesterday, as we were driving back to the Black Forest, we passed by our former digs… or, actually, we didn’t go by where we lived. We just passed the town, and where we used to turn to go home. It was a little surreal. We spent four years there. It was mostly a good time for us, except for dealing with our former landlady, who seemed determined to paint us as people we aren’t and make us pay for things that weren’t our responsibility. That experience kind of soured me a little… I would have preferred to have left on much better terms, as we have in almost every other living situation we’ve been in as a married couple. But I guess this kind of thing happens sometimes.

I tried to appreciate how truly beautiful the area where we lived is. It really was a naturally beautiful place. Where we are now isn’t nearly as idyllic, although it is also an attractive area. It’s just that the Black Forest is extraordinarily beautiful, even at the edges, which was where we lived. I miss being able to take off on weekends and be in the forest, where there are stunning views everywhere you look. And it’s nice to be back down here… Germany is different in this area than it is where we are now. God help me, if you were to ask me where I feel more at home in Germany, I’d have to say the Stuttgart area… as whacked out as it can be on many levels. I do love it here… and it’s great to be back. I hope we can do some more short visits. I guess if COVID keeps up, we may keep traveling within Germany.

Well… Mr. Bill has come back to the room. He’s excited, because the sun is out, and he wants to go for a walk. I suppose I owe it to myself to take a walk and exercise my old bones. It would be a good idea, since today is high falutin’ culinary day. We have reservations at two fancy restaurants today, since there are weddings tomorrow. So I’ll stop here… and try not to get too upset over the news… or pan pipes arrangements in piped in music from the 80s and 90s. The Schwarzwald is beautiful… but it probably appeals most to people of a certain age. Alas, I am reaching that age.

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book reviews, silliness

A pop up book about phobias and other bizarre things…

I love to find new and bizarre stuff. I’m lucky enough to have a number of friends who like to read and listen to music. I also have a very indulgent spouse who doesn’t mind when I occasionally make purchases of odd things. Like, for instance, at Christmas, I bought Bill a juice strainer with a replica of Angela Merkel’s head on it. I also bought him an egg separator that had a nose on it that allows egg white to pass through the nostrils like snot and a Margaret Thatcher nutcracker. I have a Donald Trump toilet brush in my bathroom. Hell, just a few weeks ago, I bought a baseball cap with an old picture of Mister Rogers on it, flipping the bird with both fingers.

I might decide to wear this in public at some point.

A few weeks ago, my former shrink was posting about something on Facebook and one of his friends– a psychologist colleague, I suppose– recommended that he read The Pop-up Book of Phobias by Gary Greenburg and Matthew Reinhart . Or maybe he suggested it as a gift. I was very intrigued by the concept. I was also kind of repulsed by it. I have a phobia of mushrooms, so the idea of a book that had one popping up at me was a bit horrifying. Fortunately, mycophobia is not a particularly common phobia, so it didn’t rate an entry in this book, which isn’t very long and takes a minute or two to “read”. I looked for a link to mycophobia, having actually written an article about it myself some years ago. Unfortunately, all of the articles I found had pictures of mushrooms on them, and frankly just the sight of mushrooms gives me the willies. But at least nowadays, I don’t freeze up and scream the way I used to when I was a child and found them growing in the yard.

I see The Pop-up Book of Phobias is out of print now, and I probably spent a lot more for it than I should have. I was still pretty delighted by it when it arrived last night. The art is well done, and I loved the way the artist managed to convey the concepts in “3-d”. Check out these photos. I didn’t get a photo of all of the entries, but this is basically the gist of the book. My copy was very well used and appeared to be much beloved by the previous owner.

I really appreciate the ingenuity and creativity it took to come up with these concepts and put them in a pop-up format. Just the engineering of the paper alone is impressive. How long did it take to come up with a method to arrange the paper in such a way that the snakes and spider pop up like this? The clown page is especially intriguing, as the main one has creepy eyes that open as the pages spread.

Looking on Amazon, I see that Matthew Reinhart has done a few pop up books, including one called The Pop-up Book of Nightmares. That one appears to be widely available, even though it’s been out since 2001. Since Bill has been studying Carl Jung and analyzing his dreams, maybe that would make a good present for him on the next gift giving occasion. It definitely makes for a fun gag gift, if not a pricey one. The one drawback is that it’s not much of a book in terms of reading material as it only consists of 22 pages. But it might be fun to glance at as you drop your morning deuce. Or it might be fun for the coffee table, although I would recommend not taking it to the bathroom if you’re going to put it on your coffee table. Accidents happen.

I was glad to get the book yesterday. It was a nice distraction from the news of the day. It seems like there’s very good to report, and the overall mood is ugly as COVID continues to wreak havoc worldwide and people continue to fight over public health measures. I’ve seen a lot of rude, callous, mean-spirited comments and behavior on both sides of the issue. It makes me wonder if people really are as horrible as their behavior online indicates.

Add in “healthcare professionals” who take it upon themselves to post disinformation about vaccines and/or inject people with saline instead of a vaccine, and you have a truly ugly situation brewing. I might be able to get onboard with people who simply wish to avoid the vaccine. I don’t agree with their opinions, but I can kind of understand the concept of “my body, my choice.” But it really is criminal when a nurse decides for her patients to trick them by injecting them with saline instead of giving them a vaccination that they requested.

Also… I am quite baffled by “healthcare professionals” who keep insisting that COVID-19 is not as bad as it’s being portrayed in the media. I know the journalistic mantra, “if it bleeds, it leads”, but how is it that some doctors and nurses are so exhausted and upset about the virus and some are claiming it’s not so bad? Seriously, a self-proclaimed master’s level nurse at a level one trauma center posted on the Facebook page for the University of South Carolina, claiming that this is all a big hoax. My guess is that he’s lying, either about his “credentials” or where he works. I wouldn’t want an unvaccinated nurse taking care of me, to be honest.

My public health and social work master’s degrees were both earned at the University of South Carolina. Former President Harris Pastides, who was teaching in the Arnold School of Public Health when I was attending, is back to being the interim president, because Bob Caslen, who was Pastides’ successor, was forced to resign. Dr. Pastides is well-informed about the COVID situation and is promoting vaccination on campus. He was a tremendously popular president. It’s nice to see him back, doing the right thing. Too bad so many people are making the vaccines political.

Anyway… I’m glad it’s Friday, at least. I am expecting to get new guitar strings today… and I have a feeling I will be trying to put them on my guitar instead of practicing. I hate this chore, but I think it’s time to do it. Maybe I’ll be back later… maybe not.

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