Wednesday, January 26, 2005

I subscribe to Heroic Stories ( These true stories of people reaching out to help one another with no regard to their own benefit, are really little doses of antidote to the horrors and outrages that seem to overwhelm us these days. The most recent one was from a man who as a small child was afraid of the water, and how he overcame his fear to save another little boy, and then realized he had to learn to swim. Both kids had their lives given back to them that day.

It got me thinking about three skills that I believe are essential life skills: learning to drive a stick shift automobile, swimming, and reading.

Well, just learning to drive is essential, in my opinion. Even if you never own a car, you never know when you'll need to be able to get around in one. And for that reason I also emphasize driving a stick shift. Anybody who can drive, can drive an automatic shift car. But you might find yourself in a life or death situation and the only vehicle available is a stick shift. Think how awful that would be, with the vehicle right there but useless to you because you couldn't get the damned thing to go!

It's my impression that women are most often dismissive of stick shifts, but as more and more women are working in jobs where that's what's likely to be around - I'm thinking of engineers and building contractors on job sites, but there are plenty of others, I'm sure - it's just crazy for a woman not to know how to drive a stick shift vehicle. It may not be easy to learn (my first attempts in Driver's Ed were a failure, but my first husband had a stick shift Rambler and he taught me), but really, if you're determined, you can get it. Once you figure out that catch-point of the clutch, every stick shift vehicle, whether "on the floor" or "on the column" (do they make those any more? Doesn't matter - the old ones are still around) will be your servant when you need it.

And swimming! It's insane not to teach your kids to swim! Or if you've reached adulthood without it, not to go learn how. There cannot be many places in the USA where there's not someone, and somewhere, to go to learn this vital skill. Even if you never intend to go to the beach, or swim recreationally, you never EVER know when you'll need this ability. Imagine how horrible to have to watch someone drown in a flood or a motel swimming pool because you can't get to them. Not to mention drowning, yourself. Most swimming teachers these days know now to teach someone who's afraid of the water, and no mature adult is going to have anything but respect for a person who wants to learn.

So if you can't swim today, and/or can't drive a manual transmission car - do what it takes to learn. You can do it! And the life you save might someday be your own, or someone you love.

Reading is too big a subject - I'll get to that another day. Besides, if you're reading this, it doesn't apply to you!

Sunday, January 16, 2005

I've got this nifty program called Musings that I've set to open when I turn on the computer. It gives a daily quote from some writer down through the ages, about writing, and then it gives a little writing exercise you can do. I don't often do them, because usually I'm pressed for time and just want to check my email or get to my WP to start writing. But I liked this morning's, which said to make up a definition for each of these four non-words, tell what part of speech it belongs to, and use it in a sentence:

malstudious: adjective. designating a student of black magic. If that boy Malfoy isn't malstudious, I'm a purple spider.

shombex: adjective. a gem having one or more facets located in a different dimension than the observer's. The way it teases the eye, I think this Rigellian crystal is shombex.

infergus: noun. A leap taken to a conclusion. It's a bit of an infergus to think that just because James is black means he doesn't like country & western music.

hestie: noun. A flat-chested Irish woman with a grudge. Don't get on the wrong side of that hestie; she'll lay a curse on your butter.

Fun! Musings is Freeware from Grim Software in Nova Scotia: You can try it free for like a month (I think) and then if you want to buy it, it's just a nominal price.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

So here we are in the new year. Considering that my mother died on January 1, 2004, this year is already way ahead of last year in the betterness department...unless you're in Sumatra. Somehow the enormity of that tragedy makes anything I might write in here seem despicably self-centered and tiny.

There was one odd thing; the day after the tsunami, my web site got a hit from the northern tip of Sumatra - someone had googled the term "usage of the ellipsis" and gotten my web page that discusses that very thing. But I'm having a very hard time figuring out why anyone there would need that information on that particular day. Is someone's English teacher a really truly frightening hard-ass? Somehow I doubt it.

The world is a very weird place.