Sunday, February 28, 2010

You're doin' fine, Oklahoma!

Back to one of my favorite topics - reality TV. The newest season of Amazing Race is on. This season, as usual, includes some interesting couples.

Eleven pairs left Los Angeles for Chile. This year's group includes all the usual combinations - black, Asian, old, middle-aged, pretty but clueless, smart but weak, strong but dumb, et.

The "hick" couple is two brothers from Oklahoma. The brothers, cowboys both, always wear their felt hats (with plastic protectors for the rain), custom belt buckles and jeans. They talk with an "Okie twang." (I can say that, I'm from Oklahoma.) There's nary a curse word from their lips. Instead, you hear "good gravy" a lot.

Most of the contestants acted like the cowboys had cooties and were a little "slow." The editing of the first episode, when the cowboys had some rough spots, did leave you wondering how savvy they could be.

But in the second leg of the race - yeeow! Forced to take a later bus, they found one with a different detour, but an earlier arrival time. They sailed through the rest of the course and finished first, so far ahead that no one else knew.

A particularly obnoxious couple, busy being pompous and setting up alliances, assumed they were finishing first and were shocked at their second place. They grilled the cowboys later, purposely using "big" words in the conversation, thinking that was somehow intimidating. The cowboys just nodded and smiled. All the contestants seemed to think it a fluke that the cowboys finished first.

The third episode has just ended, and the cowboys finished first again, making it from Chile to Argentina. Ayipieeay!

What the other contestants and we viewers are finding out is that the cowboys are confident, patient, independent, shrewd and full of common sense. You might even say they're the "real McCoy."

Oklahoma, OK!

Jet and Cord


Cord McCoy

Age: 29
Hometown: Tupelo, Okla.
Connection to your teammate: Brother
Current Occupation: Professional Bull Rider
Pet peeve about your teammate: He likes to voice his opinion
Favorite hobbies: Riding horses
Achievements: Rode world champion bucking bull, “Big Bucks”
Lifelong to do list: Get married, have lots of babies and live happily ever after
If I could switch places with someone: I wouldn't trade with anyone.
Role Model/Hero: My parents
What are you passionate about: My beliefs
What would you do if you won the million dollars: Buy a big ranch
People would be surprised to learn: I don't have a television or a radio in my house
Favorite place you have ever visited: I love visiting everywhere, but home sweet home is always the BEST
Biggest challenge you and your teammate will face on the Race together: Choosing one idea and going with it
What did you hope to accomplish by running the Race (other than winning one million bucks): Spending time with my best friend and brother

Jet McCoy

Age: 30
Hometown: Ada, Okla.
Connection to your teammate: Brother
Current Occupation: Cowboy
Pet peeve about your teammate: Punctuality or lack thereof
Favorite hobbies: Reading
Achievements: Making it on THE AMAZING RACE
Lifelong to do list: To remain a cowboy
If I could switch places with someone: Nobody, I am happy being me … I haven't worked out all of my own problems so I wouldn't want to start on anyone else's
Role Model/Hero: Cord would be my hero
What are you passionate about? Horsemanship
What would you do if you won the million dollars? Pay off my house
People would be surprised to learn: How much I read. I read every single day
Favorite place you have ever visited: Texas
Biggest challenge you and your teammate will face on the Race together: Communication
What do you hope to accomplish by running the Race (other than winning one million bucks?) To broaden my horizons and gain a better appreciation for the world in general

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


He grunted. But was it a good grunt or a bad grunt? Did the skater just complete a triple loop double toe salchow spinny thing better than he had ever done? Or did he just barely make it and his score is in jeopardy?

If you listened to Scott Hamilton's commentary during the Olympic men's figure skating competition, you couldn't tell.

Most of us have watched these competitions all our lives. If you're like me, you don't have a clue about figure skating and depend on the "experts" to tell you if you're seeing something great or awful. Sometimes it's easy. When a guy crashes and burns, he's usually "done."

I thought the American contender, Evan Lysacek, was doing well during his long program, but there was a whole lot of grunting and I wasn't sure until the scores were announced. I liked his program and I liked the joy and anticipation on his face when his music ended.

The last skater to go was the Russian, and Scott Hamilton grunted a lot during his program, too. Yeah, the Russian did the "quad" at the beginning of his program. But then there were longer sections of just skating around, and it seemed to me that the Russian wasn't quite vertical during many of his spins. But what do I know? And I couldn't interpret Scott's grunts.

Even the men in my family couldn't interpret the grunt-speak. We all waited for the announcement of the scores, to see if the favored Russian would score high enough to overtake Evan. He didn't.

Congratulations to the 2010 Olympic Men's Figure Skating Champion - Evan Lysacek from the United States of America!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

7 Quick Takes - Tales from the 4th Grade

One of the popular tools among bloggers these days is the "7 Quick Takes." It is writing a little stream of consciousness when there is no one thought that merits a post of its own. So I am giving it a try......

1. My family moved from a small Oklahoma town to Pittsburgh before I started 4th grade. It was my dad, mom, me and my one year old brother. Dad, working for the Federal Aviation Administration, was starting a three year assignment which included a school year in the graduate program of Carnegie Mellon followed by a two year work assignment in the Washington, D.C. offices of the FAA. It was a big culture change for our family. It is probably the main reason I don't speak with an Oklahoma accent.

2. On the day we moved in to our rent house, I took my brother for a walk, wanting to give him and my parents a break as they continued to unpack. I am sure they told me not to go far. I headed out, pushing the stroller through the new neighborhood. My idea was to take a right turn at every intersection, then when ready to go back, I reversed course and took a left turn at every street. I still don't know why that didn't work. Maybe it would have, eventually. I don't know how long we were gone, but my dad drove around and found us and brought us home. I got spanked, I think for scaring my parents.

3. I was very excited to start the 4th grade. On the first day of school, about mid-morning, the teacher announced we would be going to the lavatory in a few minutes. I thought she was referring to a science room or something. I whispered to a girl sitting next to me, asking if we should take anything with us. She said you could take whatever you wanted. The class lined up and headed out, I with two pencils in my pocket, just in case. Imagine my surprise when we arrived at the bathrooms!

My school in Pittsburgh was more serious than my school in Oklahoma. The school day was longer and recess shorter. I loved it. And in the gym there was a rope attached to the ceiling, just like the nemesis of the cartoon character Funky Winkerbean. We had to try to climb it, all the way, to the top. After many months of trials, I finally made it. I just wanted to stay, to admire the view after all that hard work. In the current world of "safety first," my kids never got to face the challenge of a rope climb. Sad.

4. Around Thanksgiving, when I heard the moms talk about food and menus, I would hear the mention of "peecan" pie. I was silently horrified as to what it could be. When we traveled any length of time in the car with my brother, we had a pee can with us for his convenience. In the 1960's there wasn't a gas station with a bathroom on every corner and my toddler brother did not have a "wait" button. Anyway, it wasn't until months later that I realized that a "peecan" pie was a "pe-cahn" pie. My mom is well known for her great homemade pecan pies.

5. This was the year my childhood eczema exploded, probably exacerbated by the cold climate. Often I had a crusty, itchy, pink rash all around my mouth. There were lots of doctor visits and creams and shots. The doctors thought certain foods might make it worse and said I should avoid chocolate, nuts and carbonated drinks. I was very bitter. And eventually grew out of the eczema. I continue to cling to my chocolate covered nuts and Coke.

6. When we returned to Oklahoma for a Christmas visit, we drove "straight through." My parents picked me up early from school to hit the road. The whole school was getting to watch the movie "Heidi" as a holiday treat. I argued, to no avail, that we should leave a little later so I could see the ending. I finally got to see the end of the movie many years later on TV.

The car trip was awesome, though, driving through the night. Stuff was packed in the floor of the back seat so that the back was more like a bed. We didn't have to worry about seat belts because there weren't any. I slept on the back dash of the car, it was roomy enough for a nine year old. I could lie there and watch the stars and I had a fabulous view of that Gateway to the West, the St. Louis Arch, lit up and sparkling all by itself in the middle of the night.

7. I battled with the Tooth Fairy during the spring of 4th grade. The Tooth Fairy had been quite generous in our otherwise modest home. I would always find a whole dollar under my pillow. Once I figured that out, I began to hoard my pulled teeth. During 2nd grade I had some baby teeth that just would not come out. I knocked one out when I fell off the trapeze bar of my swing set. The other three were later pulled by the dentist. Three teeth at once! I decided to save them. Later on, I had to have eight teeth pulled - four baby teeth and four permanent teeth that had no place to go. I saved them, too.

I had accumulated fifteen teeth by the spring of 4th grade. That's when I decided I wanted a pet, and received permission from my mom to buy a bird, when I had enough money to pay for it myself. I'm sure my mom thought herself very clever, saying "yes," but really saying "no," thinking I would tire of raising the money. But she didn't remember that I had fifteen teeth in the bank! I put all the teeth under my pillow that night and the next night and the next night...... I finally mentioned out loud that the Tooth Fairy had not come and it had been almost two weeks. The next morning I found $15 under my pillow. Amazing! And I bought a canary.

When I'm old and senile, living on the long-ago memories, 4th grade will be fun to do over again! I'm already smiling.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Pants on the ground

You know the style, you've heard the song.

I am watching the Olympics, and one of the snow boarders has saggy pants, on purpose. It's got to be hard to keep your butt off the ground when that's where your pants are.

No wonder he fell on his last trick. And as he was picking himself up out of the snow, he had to adjust his pants just so, had to make sure they were barely hanging on.

Maybe if the young (not American) man had taken his technique as seriously as his "fashion," he might have earned some flashy jewelry tonight. That would have made a real statement.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

No chocolates for me!

I really looked forward to Valentine's Day when I was a little girl. My daddy always got me a Whitman's Sampler. If I worked at it, I could make it last until Easter, the next candy holiday. And the box became my treasure box for the rest of the year. (Thank you, Daddy!)

Now candy is available any time I want it, except today, Valentine's Day, 2010.

One of the annoying traits of being on the downhill side of life, is that sometimes a body part can get cranky - perhaps feeling unappreciated, taken for granted, or perhaps tired of being ignored. In my case, it's actually a mystery as to what is misbehaving, but the irritating little bugger, whatever it is, finally has my attention.

Tomorrow I get to have one of those nasty medical tests that includes dye and x-rays. So today I am restricted to a liquid diet, with nothing at all after midnight. Talk about revenge!

So you guys out there enjoy your chocolates and special meals today with your sweethearts. Don't feel sorry for me with my tea, pudding and strained potato soup.

But I'll feel sorry for you tomorrow when I get to blissfully enjoy the homemade (by my Valentine) pink-tinted chocolate peppermint meringue cookies!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Can you dance?

On a Saturday afternoon in April, 1982, I was exuberant. My job's busy season had just ended and in a few weeks I would be moving back to the great State of Texas. Words could not express my jubilance. What to do? I put on my cowboy hat and an "Asleep at the Wheel" album and danced around my apartment to the country swing music. Now I am not a dancer in the modern sense of the word. I stomped and swayed and spun and swung my arms to the music played as loudly as our downstairs neighbors would stand it.

I still dance. In times of joy I step and clap around my home office, moving in time to the music of my mood. In times of sweetness I may sway and two-step with a real or remembered baby in my arms. In the car I may crank up the volume and use the steering wheel as my tambourine.

These displays are almost always private, though. It's not that I have any pride in the matter, I just don't want to cause unnecessary concern that I may have truly lost my mind. I could not explain my compulsion, but I knew I was normal.

I confirmed it last night while watching the opening ceremonies to the Vancouver Winter Olympics. Part of the ceremonies featured aboriginal dancers. A video clip of those dancers is not available, but I found a substitute (without the elaborate costumes and props) that works.

While watching the Olympic dancers, I realized where I get it from, that need to express myself through motion. Our human nature is hard wired that way. Whether clumsy or graceful, we all can dance. Never mind the reality TV shows which would answer "no."

If you think about it, many celebrations and happy events have choreography.

Envision your favorite sports event. The team huddles with linked arms and chants, perhaps raising hands to the sky. There are fist bumps and chest bumps and flips and struts in moments of success. The involved fan may explode from his seat to warpath around the room after a significant victory.

Graduations, christenings and weddings have their promenades and partner exchanges and kneelings and risings and turnings. Each ceremony incorporates movement into its rituals, because our human nature says there are times we simply can not be still.

So don't be still. Dancing isn't just for the young or the talented. It doesn't have to be pretty or make sense. Soon enough you'll only be able to shuffle along anyway, so why not dance as long as you can?

And the next time you see a grown-up, someone who should "know better," skipping or twirling down the sidewalk, don't turn up your nose at the weirdo. Instead, share a smile and a wave and a hop. You can dance.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Wow! Once in a lifetime! (Times 2)

For my Yankee friends this is nothing new, but 12.5 inches of snow in 24 hours is a record for north Texas. We have no plows, no salt, just sand for bridges and overpasses. Needless to say, there is no school today. We had no power from about 9:00 pm yesterday until about 3:00 am today. For the first time in years I slept for over nine hours. Life is good, I needed the rest.

My dog is in heaven.

The snow started early Thursday morning. We swept all the snow off the windshields about 4:00 in the afternoon on Thursday. But the snow kept coming and coming.

The bushes are bowed with the weight of the snow. Power has been out all over the place from tree branches falling. You might notice a ladder in the backyard. Doesn't everyone have one? That's our tethering base for the dog, since we haven't yet dog proofed the fence against our little escape artist. A spring break task?

Global warming? You've got to be kidding. It will be interesting to watch all the ways the record cold and snow of this winter will be spun as a side effect. Some people need to find real jobs rather than creating a self-serving "green" industry.

Trapped in Oklahoma City on December 24, 2009 during its record setting snowfall and now this. What's next?

Monday, February 8, 2010

The scorecard

-501 -501
25 25
8 42
31 33
31 70
31 8
51 10
22 47
42 68
25 34
22 44
35 45
44 25
34 40
23 0 12
18 0 16
26 0 11
0 0 -10 39

So what game is this and who won?

A prize to the first person, family members excluded, who correctly answers the question!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

More than you wanted to know

But I needed to vent. This is my scary pre-tax season technology update. Not that the update is scary, just the tax software, and getting it up and running.

In my first post on this blog, I talked about moving from PC to Mac, hoping for more stability (less crashes!) So how's that been going? A couple of weeks ago, I awoke to a laptop making ominous sounds. With thoughts of "here we go again," I turned on my computer intermittently during the day, backed up my data and scheduled my appointment with the Genius Bar at the Apple Store. Fortunately, only a fan, not a hard drive, had to be replaced.

So I'm ready to start my first tax season running Windows on a Mac. (But just in case, I've bought Windows 7 to put on my pile of crap Windows Vista computer. If programs are operating smoothly on both computers, I'll breathe a little easier and also have a work station if I get some extra help later on.)

I installed my 2009 tax software - everything was looking good and I rolled over data from 2008. I went to the web site to download the license and encountered "Error Code 4-0, Call Technical Support." Without my license working, I could use the software, just not print anything. That's a slight problem. I called the number, estimated wait time twenty minutes. No thanks. Later in the afternoon I called again.

Fernando, the technician, was very nice. Best of all, he was in Tucson, Arizona, not India, and spoke in clear, unaccented English! If you have had many technical support issues, you can understand how refreshing that is. He worked diligently and knowledgeably on the problem. At one point he took control of my computer. That is so weird, to watch the cursor moving on your screen and files opening and changing while you just watch.

Sixty-five minutes later, he reached a conclusion. I had a "corrupt" User profile on Windows. It's the first time I've been accused of corruption. He gave me a case number, suggested I call my computer technician to correct that issue, then call again if I still had a problem.

I stopped for dinner, exhausted by the phone call. Then I called my computer tech support guy, the same guy who made a great dinner of cheesy chicken and rice followed up by homemade Rice Krispie treats for dessert.

I repeated what Fernando had said. Ricky went to the web and found instructions for how to fix a corrupt user profile in Windows XP and got on my computer. He fixed it fairly quickly once I left him alone and quit distracting him with my verbal hand-wringing.

Ten minutes later, I'm up and running, printing forms and emailing them to clients.

As far as I'm concerned, it's all magic. Fortunately, I married a magician. Thanks!

Monday, February 1, 2010

My new best friend, Jacqueline

Well, now, that is the URL, but I have missed some step somewhere so the link doesn't work. You can cut and paste.

I like Jacqueline in Malaysia. She wrote a post on her blog with specific, illustrated step by step instructions for removing the border Blogger automatically puts around uploaded pictures. It was so simple. From now on, when (not if) I get frustrated trying to make things work, I will check her blog first.

She also answers the question "How to create a HTML link to another web page?" I know I have done it, but like Drew Barrymore in "50 First Dates," I have to figure it out all over again, every. single. time. I'll save that lesson for another day. Maybe I'll even come back and fix the link in this post that does not work.

(UPDATE: Now the link works. I do not know why it works today and didn't work yesterday.)

(UPDATE 2: The link works now because my husband fixed it without telling me, so I really am not crazy. I'll use Jacqueline's blog, though, for fixing the link so that it opens in a new window.)

Thank you, Jacqueline!

List of necessities:

From the top -

full length down coat with hood
knit scarf
fleece gloves
lava buns
stadium seat
Ugg boots
propane portable heater

Can you tell I'm a high school soccer parent in Texas, with a season that goes January through March? Where's that global warming when you need it? Come on, help me out here!
P.S. After 69 minutes of tough play, our team won tonight 1-0 on a penalty kick with twelve seconds left in the game. Go Raiders!