Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Who Could Live Without the Super-Soaker? Or Potato Chips?

Writing is about creativity, and creativity is about... invention.

On this wacky day, February 29, it seems appropriate to give a bow to those who invented some seriously wacky stuff.

Lonnie Johnson, inventor of the Super-Soaker. Yeah, yeah, his day job was various thermodynamic systems for NASA, he may have totally upgraded electricity worldwide, but he invented the Super-Soaker, man!


News articles are announcing that Lonnie “Super Soaker” Johnson has invented a fundamentally new and very important way of generating electricity that would raise the world’s carrying capacity by as much Jethro Tull’s seed drill or Norman Borlaug’s green revolution:  The Johnson Thermoelectric Energy Conversion System:
“It’s like a conventional heat engine,” explains Paul Werbos, program director at the National Science Foundation, which has provided funding for JTEC. “It still uses temperature differences to create pressure gradients. Only instead of using those pressure gradients to move an axle or wheel, he’s using them to force ions through a membrane. It’s a totally new way of generating electricity from heat.”
Sure, it sounds impressive, but I don't know what it means.  Will it mean a better life for me and my hamster?

Maybe I should just go with Kevin Woolfolk, who invented the Hamster Workout Wheel, a device that records your pet's mileage or wheel revolutions.  Because if you can tell your hamster, "Hey, little buddy, do you know that you traveled 4.5 miles today?" you know he will feel so much more satisfied.

Life is but a dream, and television is but an illusion - crap, am I infringing copyright?  Because Valerie Thomas holds the patent on an illusion transmitter.

And let us not forget (here the clouds open and the heavenly choirs sings, aaah-aah) George Crum.

photo via notwithoutsalt,
where there's a great recipe for these
with fennel spice rub
Inventor of the potato chip.

Don't you feel better knowing, today, where the potato chip and the super-soaker came from?  Maybe you didn't run any laps, but your hamster put in a good 5k.

Of course, chances are, if you just sit around, watching your hamster run on his little wheel, eating potato chips and having neighborhood wars with your Super-Soaker, nothing real will get done.

Like pages on your manuscript.  Well, maybe you can hire somebody brilliant like Valerie Thomas to transmit the illusion of success for you, today, and every Leap Day.

What's on your mind, this Wacky Wednesday that also happens to be Leap Day?

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Monday, February 27, 2012

Write Here, Write Now - #ManCandy Monday

Writers don't tend to have the best bods.  (Not insulting, just sayin', it's not easy finding pics of them with their shirts off.)

They're still hot, IMO.  They might be passionate and fiery and tick people off.  Or they might wear glasses, perhaps be a bit shy.  But I've always been a sucker for a man with a huge... vocabulary. One who knows how to use it. *swooning*

There's a good reason poets are famous for attracting groupies.
Jean Toomer
Jean Toomer 1894-1967
Poet, playwright, novelist

Banking Coal
By Jean Toomer
Whoever it was who brought the first wood and coal
To start the Fire, did his part well;
Not all wood takes to fire from a match,
Nor coal from wood before it’s burned to charcoal.
The wood and coal in question caught a flame
And flared up beautifully, touching the air
That takes a flame from anything.
Somehow the fire was furnaced,
And then the time was ripe for some to say,
“Right banking of the furnace saves the coal.”
I’ve seen them set to work, each in his way,
Though all with shovels and with ashes,
Never resting till the fire seemed most dead;
Whereupon they’d crawl in hooded night-caps
Contentedly to bed. Sometimes the fire left alone
Would die, but like as not spiced tongues
Remaining by the hardest on till day would flicker up,
Never strong, to anyone who cared to rake for them.
But roaring fires never have been made that way.
I’d like to tell those folks that one grand flare
Transferred to memory tissues of the air
Is worth a like, or, for dull minds that turn in gold,
All money ever saved by banking coal.
Some poetry, I confess, goes right over my head, but Banking Coal left me feeling warm all over.

Toomer was Old School poetry - how about a new Old School poet?

Sometimes he did some crazy stupid things.  Sometimes he said or rapped some crazy stupid things. Other times, Tupac was incredibly poetic and expressed serious sense in his too-short life:

"Since we all came from a woman, got our name from a woman, and our game from a woman. I wonder why we take from woman, why we rape our woman, do we hate our woman? I think its time we killed for our woman, be real to our woman, try to heal our woman, cause if we don't we'll have a race of babies that will hate the ladies, who make the babies. And since a man can't make one he has no right to tell a woman when and where to create one."
Tupac Shakur
Big brown eyes, Tupac was a very handsome man, if one of the few I don't enjoy seeing shirtless.  Maybe it was the tats that didn't do it for me.
via Wikimedia Commons
Tavis Smiley.  Author. Talk Show Host. Activist.  Editor. And looks mighty fine in a leather jacket, too.

I admit, I haven't caught his show in a while - I haven't caught anybody's show. (Been writing.) But back when I did watch on a regular basis, I thought his nightly PBS show was one of the best shows on television.  Although often he had the same movie stars promoting their movies and authors flogging their books that every other talk show host had on, he got real depth out of them.

It wasn't all about the latest Hollywood blockbuster, either. Guests were (and are) artists, musicians, politicians, economists, scientists...  Tavis asked provoking questions, and searching follow-up questions. He refused to stay on the beaten path, in terms of allowing the guest to direct the interview to their safe and comfy talking points.  However, I never got the feeling, even if he openly disagreed with a guest's point of view, that he ever disrespected them.  That's not an easy line to walk.

Speaking of not easy, how about being an artist, and illustrator?  Kadir Nelson is a triple threat, having also stepped up to the plate to be a children's book author, as well.  His books include the 2011 release   "Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans" and "WE ARE THE SHIP: The Story of Negro League Baseball."


The vibrancy of the colors in these paintings and murals, the action in the baseball and basketball figures, simply amazing, IMO.  I can smell the brick dust stirred up by the slide in the baseball pic, above right; my fingers can feel the silky texture of the braids in the mane of the King's horse, below.  
All that talent, and Nelson's really a babe, don't you think?

Software developer to best-selling author.  Isn't that the path everybody takes?

Maybe not.  Certainly not everyone writes a dozen thrillers that hit the New York Times bestseller list like Eric Jerome Dickey.

I had to put Pleasure on my wish list:
Nia Simone Bijou is a woman who has it all—and is driven by the desire for more. She sets out on an exploration of her innermost fantasies, and embarks on three passionate and forbidden affairs. Each lover teaches Nia valuable lessons about herself and her desires—but how long can Nia play with fire without getting burned?  
Publishers Weekly called the book “a steamy romance” that “delivers its message that saying ‘yes’ to pleasure can also lead to self-enlightenment,” while Kirkus Reviews raved that PLEASURE ”will leave you hot and bothered.”
Not that his picture doesn't lead me in that direction anyway (click here to see it).  *fans self*

Keenen Ivory Wayans.  I fell in very strong like with his edgy, hilarious writing and characters when he launched In Living Color.  Yes, it was often outrageous and offensive... but in a charming way.  He wasn't afraid to look ridiculous, to wear Rick James' Jheri curls or dress in drag.

Such a sexy smile. I guess a man with a biting wit should have big shiny white teeth to match.

If you, too were a fan of ILC - guess what?  It's coming back!  From in October 2011:
Fox is bringing back its groundbreaking 1990s sketch comedy series In Living Color with the series’ creator and star, Keenen Ivory Wayans, on board as host and executive producer. Fox has ordered two In Living Color half-hour specials to air as part of the network’s 25th anniversary celebration in midseason with a series option behind them, meaning that in success, the reboot will join Fox’s schedule as a regular series next season.
They're supposed to air in the spring of this year.  Of course, the shows could flop, but I am rooting for them to succeed, even if they feature an all new cast. I might even have to start watching TV again. Though I will always have deep fondness for the original brothers.

Do you have any sexy writers - be they screenwriters, poets, novelists, children's authors, or somethin' else, we'd all enjoy peeking at?

Please share, below.
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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Hungry, Miserable & Watching
Whittling Down my TBR List

Cover of "The Hunger Games"Cover of The Hunger GamesKnocking out the books on my TBR list, here's my loves and hates for February: 

The Hunger Games (trilogy).  I have felt vastly disappointed in wildly popular books whenever I get around to reading for myself what all the buzz is about.  The Horse Whisperer.  The DaVinci Code. (Somebody, anybody, buy Robert Whatshisface a personality, any personality, please!)  The Girl Who Might Possibly Do interesting things eventually after you have slogged through 100+ pages of mind-numbing dullness, with the lead journalist Mikhail guy just as bland as Robert Whatshisface.

 I'd call those characters vanilla, but that would be insulting vanilla, which does have a distinct odor and flavor. (Yes, yes, I hear that the films and the acting in them was great, but a screenplay is only 180 pages, tops, not 600 as those borefests were.)

So I put off reading The Hunger Games, out of fear of being let down yet again, and an outsider at the party of everybody yelling, "Hurray, doesn't the Emperor have on a gorgeous new suit?" Plus it was *holding my nose* Young Adult.  I'm a grown-up, isn't the genre beneath me?

I have rarely been so happily surprised by a book/series (because like eating M & M's or potato chips, I had to keep going until I finished the entire series).  Among other things, Suzanne Collins has a background in screenwriting, so she understands how to make a story move.  I would advise every novelist to spend a little time studying screenwriting.  You're required to say more with fewer words. (Not that I've mastered this.) The Hunger Games characters are engaging, the plot has interesting twists and turns, and the stakes couldn't be higher.  (5/5 stars, across the board.)
I could tell you about it, but this trailer does a better job describing the storyline:

I'm generally not a "movies" person.  IMO, ninety-nine times out of a hundred, the book is way better - even Gone With the Wind which is still a great movie - but I am actually looking forward to this movie.  Jennifer Lawrence (incredible in Winter's Bone), based on the trailers, looks and moves just as I pictured Katniss.  Woody Harrelson as Haymitch, the washed-up drunk mentor, perfect.  Donald Sutherland chewing up the scenery as evil President Snow, Lenny Kravitz as Cinna... the casting looks amazing.

So, comparing this series to an old classic, also made into movies and plays, Les Misérables by Victor Hugo.   Freshen your drink, and hit the head, we'll be a while.  Our buddy Victor takes a looooong time to set up any conflict.  We start with the wonderful, saintly Bishop.  Chapter after chapter of snooze-worthy saintliness.  There's a telling (not a showing) of an encounter with bandits in a remote village, and then a second telling via letter of the Bishop's sister, of the same incident.  There's a lot of name-dropping about people who were semi-important in 1815 France, but mean about as much to a modern reader as the names of the semi-finalists of American Idol, Season Three, would mean to somebody in 1815 France.

I stuck with Les Mis, till I was 60% of the way through (and do intend to return to it, sometime this century) while I did not with Dragon Tattoo, because even though there was little conflict, I had interesting characters.  The Bishop, his sister, and, once he arrived on the scene, Jean Valjean.  Fantine, and her petit Cosette.  Inspector Javert and his OCPD. I cared about what happened to them, whereas with those other characters, I didn't care if they lived or died. (I kinda leaned on the "die" side.)

That said, I could not read every word of Les Mis.  I gave it a go, but after 3-4 pages of the battle of Waterloo, one bullet at a time, with another 15 or so pages ahead, I gave myself permission to skim the boring parts. IMO, Hugo would not get published today without major editing - way too much scenery and boring backstory. Even skimming, I could not finish it without taking breaks to read books that were, well, interesting.

Tolkien had never-ending battles in his works, too, and so do other classic and popular works of fiction.  Is this some kind of battle-porn that some readers actually enjoy?  Is it a guy thing?   Pages and pages of thrusting swords, bullets piercing through flesh, and big fat cannons going off? *shakes head*  Not interesting to me.  I'll take my porn straight up, thank you.

Watching Willow Watts by Talli Roland. I "met" Talli last year during Arlee Bird's A-Z Blogfest.  She's a sweet, gracious, kind writer always eager to give a hand or word of encouragement to another writer.  So I was a little nervous about reading this book.  What if I hated it?  Do I go ahead and be honest, giving it a crappy review?  Do I ignore it as if I bought but never read it?

Luckily - I liked the book very much.  Willow was a little too pliant (something like an actual willow, possibly a deliberate author choice) for my taste in the beginning of the novel, but by the end, she's discovered quite a sturdy backbone, thank you very much!

I loved the subplot romance between Bette Johnson, co-dependent and unsatisfied middle-aged woman out of Georgia (USA) and Willow's dad.   I also loved the many slang Brit terms - as a Yank, for whatever reason, everything sounds twice as charming in a British accent or term.  (You had me at the loo!)  I am looking forward to reading more of Talli's work.

Four Queens- Nancy Goldstone - I gave this 4/5 stars.  If you're curious about medieval history, but hate dry scholarly tomes, this would work well for you. Goldstone's style is chatty, almost tabloid-like, though she unobtrusively works in dates and important events (wars, births of heirs, deaths, etc). Imagine if Kate Middleton had three younger sisters, one of whom married Prince Harry, and the other two married other European royalty.  Pretty unlikely, huh? Like Middleton, these girls (they became women later, but marrying at 13 or so, counts as being girls, IMO) were not themselves royalty; unlike the Middletons, their county, while beautiful, was vastly in debt. Except for the youngest daughter, they had no dowry; Mama Dearest was charming but also manipulative and a bit controlling. She also had eight ambitious brothers who managed to work the royal connections with their nieces to do quite well for themselves.  (My full review is up on Goodreads & Amazon.)

Crash Into You - Roni Loren

In one way this has been on my TBR list for a very long time - since I "met" Roni online last year, though it was only released in January 2012.  Regardless of your genre, Roni writes one of of the best writing blogs on the web, so you're a fool if you don't follow her.  Just sayin'. 

But, like reading Talli, I was afraid.  What if I don't like it?  Roni has not only been a kind blogfriend, she's even given me an interview.  Her book is explicit BDSM stuff, and that's not generally my flavor of lube, if you KWIM (Know What I Mean). 

Not to worry.  Loren develops the characters beautifully.  Brynn is beautiful, kinky, and vulnerable.  Reid is to-die-for sexy, but he's very much in love with Brynn... and also has his weak spots.  She violates "the rules" but writes a beautiful book by telling the story in parallel: then and now. The end is a twist I didn't quite see coming, but found believable, and she also introduces a mancandy character, Jace, I hope to be seeing a lot more of.  If you like this kind of material, you will love it, and if you don't like this material... you should read it anyway, just for the experience.  You may find, just like myself and the Hunger Games, to be surprised.

Left on my TBR list: 

The Birthday of the World - Ursula LeGuin
Messalina: Devourer of Men - Zetta Brown
Uncut Diamonds - Karen Jones Gowan
On Writing - Stephen King
Les Miserables - Victor Hugo - slightly more than halfway through
Daisy Miller - Henry James
Bet Me - Jennifer Crusie
Hot, Flat and Crowded - Thomas Friedman
Pleasure's Edge - Eve Berlin
Her Fearful Symmetry - Audrey Niffeneger
Falling Leaves - Adeline Yen Mah
Picture Perfect - Jodi Picoult
Giving Up the Dream - J.L. Campbell
Watching Willow Watts - Talli Roland
Shifters' Storm - Vonna Harper
Automagically - Sommer Marsden
You Can Heal Your Life
- Louise Hay
The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins
Little Black Dress - Susan McBride
Tourist Trap - Sue Ann Bowling 
Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
Confessions of an Improper Bride
- Jennifer Haymore

The details and sign-up are at Vicky's blog, Books Biscuits and Tea.

Are there any books you're moved off your TBR pile so far this year?  
Have you read any of the books I read?  
What did you think?  Are you a fan of battle-porn?

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Monday, February 20, 2012

Men in Uniform - Who Could Ask for Anything More? #MancandyMonday

I grew up in a family full of uniforms.  Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard, our family fully represented America's Armed Forces.

Familiarity did not breed contempt.  I still very much enjoy the sight of a fine man in a fine uni.

Here's a few to enjoy and honor, this Presidents' Day.


via Wikimedia Commons

Lt. Henry Ossion Flipper.  Born into slavery, he was the first African-American to graduate from West Point in 1877, not without experiencing severe rejection and persecution by white cadets.  He later wrote a book about the experience.

He became a cavalry officer and served on the western frontier, the first non-white soldier to lead Buffalo Soldiers of the 10th Cavalry.

His original commander, Captain Nicholas M. Nolan, supported him.  However, the friendship he formed with Captain Nolan's white sister-in-law would later be used against him when he was transferred to Fort Davis, and placed under the command of a commander with a reputation for carrying out petty grudges against his officers, let alone one who was black.

After what appears to have been a set-up, Flipper was accused of embezzling funds, and the correspondence between Flipper and Miss Mollie Dwyer was used against him. He was court-martialed; cleared of embezzlement, but found guilty "of conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentlemen."

As a civilian, Henry Flipper went on to distinguish himself in a variety of governmental and private engineering positions. These included serving as surveyor, civil and military engineer, author, translator, special agent of the Justice Department, special assistant to the Secretary of the Interior with the Alaskan Engineering Commission, aide to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, as well as an authority on Mexican land and mining law.

Flipper tried unsuccessfully for the remainder of his life to have his commission restored.  In 1976 the Army Board of the Correction of Military Records found that his conviction and punishment were unduly harsh, issuing him an honorable discharge.  In 1999, President Bill Clinton officially pardoned Flipper.

Everybody knows and respects General/Secretary Colin Powell.  (I'm foggy on whether being a four-star general outranks Secretary of State, or whether it's the other way around.  Anybody know?)

Started out in the ROTC during college in New York, served in the Army during Vietnam, where he earned many of that chestful of medals.  Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff during George H.W. Bush's administration, continuing into the Clinton admin.  George W. Bush pegged him for the Secretary of State spot, after which he and his wife Alma (married since 1962) began a charitable organization called America's Promise Alliance, with the goal of seeing all children graduate high school poised to succeed in college and life.

IMO, Secretary Powell is very easy on the eyes, even now going into his 70's.


What's that?  The Village People don't really count as Navy?  How about Doris (better known as Dorie) Miller, hero of the attack on Pearl Harbor?  Cook turned machine-gunner, after his battle-station was destroyed, and he'd fulfilled all other assigned duties.  Awarded the Navy Cross for extraordinary courage in battle.  (Many feel he should have received the Medal of Honor as well.)

Cuba Gooding Jr. portrays hero Dorie Miller in the movie Pearl Harbor

Africans in HawaiiImage via Wikipedia
The real Doris Miller

Assigned to the escort carrier Liscome Bay, Miller was lost in the sinking of that ship in November 1943.

IMO, real life Navy heroes are incredibly sexy.

Coast Guard:
If you watched Saving Private Ryan and a number of other World War II movies, you might come away with the notion that African-American men (and women) in the then-segregated Armed Forces were safely in the background.  Not so.  Pictured in this link is John Noble Roberts, a 19-year-old coast guardsman who lost one leg (with severe injuries to the other) on an amphibious ferry bringing troops to the beaches of Normandy on D-Day.

Air Force

photo via Wikimedia Commons
Although all servicemen are worthy of admiration, there is something especially dashing about flyboys.  Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., became the first African American general in the U. S. Air Force.

He did have a leg-up in that his father was a career military officer, but suffered the same obstacles as other black military officers before him.  Shunned at West Point, Davis became even more determined to graduate and do well.

Instead of entering the Army, however, Davis became a pilot; the first black officer to graduate from Tuskegee Army Air Field.

from Wikipedia: 
In the summer of 1945, Davis took over the all-black 477th Bombardment Group, which was stationed at Godman Field, Kentucky.

During the war, the airmen commanded by Davis had compiled an outstanding record in combat against the Luftwaffe. They flew more than 15,000 sorties, shot down 111 enemy planes, and destroyed or damaged 273 on the ground at a cost of 66 of their own planes and losing only about twenty-five bombers.

Davis himself led dozens of missions in P-47 Thunderbolts and P-51 Mustangs. He received the Silver Star for a strafing run into Austria and the Distinguished Flying Cross for a bomber-escort mission to Munich on June 9, 1944.

Courageous, determined, and movie-star handsome, General Davis passed away in 2002.


A little cheating: this hot man, linked here, isn't USMC, he's a Royal Marine Commando (UK).  David McIntosh, aka Tornado on Gladiators.

In June 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt opened the Marine Corps to African Americans through an executive order (8802) that prohibited racial discrimination by any government agency.[1] Previously, African Americans had been barred from Marine Corps service. While Branch was attending Temple University, he received a draft notice from the Army. When he reported for induction to Fort Bragg, North Carolina in May 1943, he was chosen to become a Marine.[1] He underwent training in Montford Point, North Carolina along with other African-American Marines (who became known as "Montford Point Marines").
via Wikimedia Commons

Okay, here's one of many real-life USMC foxes, Frederick C. Branch, smiling as his wife pins his second lieutenant bars on his uniform.

Click the link for many more pictures and stories of the thousands of African-American recruits trained through Montford Point Camp.

 From USA Today:
With the exception of a few slaves and freemen in the Continental Marines during the American Revolution, blacks did not serve in the Marine Corps until World War II — and even then, many military leaders were reluctant to include them....  ...African Americans joined the Marines during World War II despite the hostility.

Commander in Chief.  No, he doesn't wear a uniform, and yes, Barack Obama's got goofy sticky-out-y ears, but such a smile!
via Wikimedia Commons
Meaning no disrespect, but I think our current President is a very fine-looking man.  Regardless of one's politics, I hope we can all agree that nothing is sexier than a man who clearly loves and is comfortable with his wife and children.  I don't think I've ever seen a picture where they're not all leaning in close, looking happy to be with each other (although as the girls enter teenager-hell -hood, we may see some sulks going on).

I appreciate and honor every man and woman who serves this country (or their own), but I have to admit to an extra share of appreciation for those who did so against the odds.  In times when skin color, accent, or gender ensure that one does not receive an equal opportunity for advancement, it takes a very special man or woman to serve anyway.

Your thoughts?
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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Captain Condom: Cover Me, I'm Goin' In!

Sexually transmitted diseaseImage via WikipediaValentine's Day and STI's just go together.

Well, generally the one follows the other, because many people feel the pressure to fall in love over this time of year.  Who wants to be alone over Valentine's Day? 

Not that love is a mistake, but rushing into a romantic and/or sexual relationship... Yep.  Regrets.  And although the poster on the left blamed women (of course) for spreading VD (once upon a time, they called Sexually Transmitted Infections - Venereal Disease, or VD), plenty of men who "look clean" are bringing more than a good time to the party, too.

As a writer of erotica and romance, one of the questions we ask ourselves is: How do we write about condom use and keep it sexy?

First let's debunk the idea that irresponsible sex =  more enjoyable sex.  Even leaving pregnancy and the life-threatening possibility of AIDS out of the equation (and nobody knows when the next AIDS-like disease is going to appear), ain't nothin' sexy about being treated for gonorrhea, chlamydia, or even crabs.  Responsible sex = hotter sex, because smart partners who are willing to protect us and themselves are much sexier partners.  It falls upon contemporary romance and erotica writers to either write condom use into their scenes in a sexy way, or provide a plausible reason why condom use is unnecessary (vampires don't carry or catch STI's).

I was surprised, however, upon watching this video clip, to discover several facts about condoms I did not know.  Like how to test the package, pre-opening, for leaks or punctures.  That there's one side designed to open easily. Or that the tear-it-open-with-teeth move can damage the poor li'l thing. Yikes!

Were you surprised as well?  Did you know about the sombrero vs. baby bottle?

What about the female condom?  (Yes, Virginia, there is such a thing.)  Despite appearing large enough to serve as a rain protector for a Smartcar, there are many advantages to using one.  Here's the how-to's:

For those sensitive to latex, or women whose partners balk at wearing a standard condom, the female condom is well worth trying.  There's also the advantage of being able to put them in hours ahead of time, so if we happen to be sluts the super-spontaneous type, inclined to say, "Just this once won't matter," then it really won't.

For a writer, condom use can also increase the drama or humor.  The horror of that busted condom moment (less likely if one avoids the errors pointed out, above), or that always awkward "fishing trip" post-coitus for a condom that has "disappeared."

Plus now, there's even designer condoms on the horizon.  Would you be more likely to become involved with a big spender who flashed one of these?  (That's a Louis Vuitton prototype; unlike me, you probably have oodles of things around the house with that brand on it, and recognized it right away.)  Notice the embossing on the actual condom surface itself, for added enjoyment.  Estimated price, should these go into production, $68 a pop, er, condom.

Did you learn something from the clips, above?
Have you ever used a female condom - and did it squeak?
Ever had to "go fishing"?

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Monday, February 13, 2012

Dammit, Whitney!

Didn't We Almost Have It AllImage via WikipediaI didn't want you to go like that.

Sometimes when talented stars exhibit repeated "substance abuse problems," and then claim to have cleaned up their act, I couldn't care less whether it's true or not.  Oh, I don't wish them ill or anything, but I simply Don't. Care.

Whitney I wanted to see make that comeback. I had a mad girl-crush on her, back in the 80's, and the song below was and is one of my favorites. She was so incredibly talented, so lovely, and at least in this video, so filled with joy and hope.  Such a waste.

Lot of buzz blaming her ex Bobby Brown for introducing her to drugs, way back when.  Certainly, if the news was reversed, if he'd drowned or OD'ed the tub, instead of her, I wouldn't need a hanky.  Cold, but true; I'm pretty sure if the world had never heard Mr. Brown's one big hit, the planet would go on spinning. Likewise that other Brown guy, no relation to Bobby, the one more famous for hitting his talented girlfriend Rihanna in the face than anything he ever performed, that guy, the one on the Grammy's again because...?  No big loss.

Whereas Whitney had the voice of an angel, at least once upon a time she did.  Before she lost her way, she could've sung a grocery list or ketchup label and made it sound amazing.

Reality is, some people are toxic for us.  Maybe they beat us, maybe they just batter us with their words, or teach us to share their addictions.

Whether they're spouses, love partners, business partners, friends, whether it is "all their fault" or all ours, or somewhere in between, sometimes we get too closely entangled with people who bring out the bad in us.  The unhealthy, the codependent, the drug or alcohol dependent side.

If we're smart and lucky, we realize this and break it off before it's too late.  Even if it feels like we can't possibly live without them.  Still we surface, find our way back to who were are/were.

Sometimes, though, we stay too long, and the damage is done.  Like a poison spreading through our system, simply cutting off the infected part isn't enough to do the job anymore.  I so wanted, hoped Whitney Houston would get her act together, and soon.  She had such talent, so much to live for, a beautiful young daughter who needed her mom.

Her fate so easily could've been me, or somebody I loved. 

My deepest condolences to Whitney's family, and those who loved her.

Your thoughts?
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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

In FantasyLand, I'm a World Champion Figure Skater

You ever read a romance where the drop-dead gorgeous heiress heroine is something like a PhD at the age of 22, and a ballerina, who cures cancer in her spare time? 

When I read something like that, part of me says, "Oh, I so wish I was her!" and part of me says, "Oh, yeah, bullshit hogwash.  Nobody could be that talented."

Actually, I didn't want to be a ballerina.  But I did think from time to time, I might possibly, be a tennis player.  Or a figure skater.

I was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  I'm tall, sturdily built, not without athletic stamina (if totally lacking in balance and grace), and growing up, of course I had my own ice skates.  Local skating rink, too, that I spent a lot of time at.  Well, not really a rink.  In the wintertime, the neighborhood kids took turns; somebody would ask their parents' permission and they'd turn on the garden hose to flood the back yard.  Ta-da!  "Rink" a few yards wide and long created overnight, when the water froze. 

It made a decent enough surface to skate on, if kind of ripply.  You also had to mind the grass clumps poking through the ice.  Sometimes, when an irate parent who hadn't been asked, after all, discovered the neighborhood congregating on the rink in their backyard, somebody would get into trou-ble.

Another lesson from skating... You fall down, a lot.  You learn to haul your tired behind up when you fall, every single time, a habit that pays off in other areas, like, writing.

So anyway, ice skating.  I thought I was all that.

Then on TV I saw real figure skaters.  Dorothy Hamill, Janet Lynn,and one of my personal heroines, Debi Thomas.  Who proved that those over-the-top talented heroines really did exist.

Debi won the US Nationals Women's Singles Figure Skating Championships, on this very day (Feb 8) in 1986While she was a pre-med student at friggin' Stanford University.

I did not "get" at the time, that this was not actually possible.  A pre-med student has time for his/her studies, plus an occasional nap.  A figure skater, likewise.

Debi took her calculus final in Sarajevo while she was competing for the World Championships.

I mean, come on.  If you know anything about figure skating, you know it is full of incredible pressure and cut-throat competition.  Though Debi was before Tonya Harding's lead-pipe-to-the-knee time, it wasn't a time of tea, crumpets, and bonhomie.  Sadly, much racism and/or nationalism existed in the judging. 

No way could Debi manage the requirements of competitive skating: the athletic jumps, the soft pretty artistic movements that woo the crowd and judges alike, the intricate footwork...  Except, as you see in the clip below, she did, somehow.

She was (almost) nineteen years old.

Later, at the ripe old age of 21, she "failed" in the Calgary Olympics, after coping with Achilles tendonitis in both ankles, "only" bringing home the Bronze Medal.  (Because we all know that a Bronze Medal at the Olympics is akin to failing, right?)  One of the things I admired most about Debi, was afterwards, when she was interviewed and people were almost begging her to whine and make excuses for not bringing home the gold she'd been favored to win, she neither made excuses for herself, nor ran down Katarina Witt, her main competitor.

Debi Thomas "failed" right into a degree in engineering from Stanford (because everyone know they hand those things out like Pez candies), and a medical specialization as an orthopedic surgeon.  Married and a mother; in 2010 she started her own private practice in Virginia.  She's even laced up a pair of skates to perform in recent years.

So, okay, I can't compete with Debi, at either figure skating or medicine, but I have learned:
  • Incredibly talented heroines may not be common, but they do exist
  • It is possible to pursue more than one dream at a time
  • It is possible to succeed against the odds
  • The key is not giving up, not making excuses
  • You can let "failure" get you down, or you can keep going, perhaps achieve something even more wonderful.  Thomas says of her son, "Luc is by far my greatest accomplishment."

Who's your FantasyLand  icon?
What have you learned from him/her?

Monday, February 6, 2012

Doctor, I Have A Fever! #MancandyMonday

via Guitarworld
I admit it.  I do have a weakness for hot musicians.  With or without a big snake.

(I know that's where your eyes went on Lenny Kravitz, directly to the snake, right?)

However, I'm not totally shallow.

I actually prefer a man with a big, throbbing... brain, one who knows how to use it.  If he has good looks too... I could live with that.

Here's some doctor-types that set my pulse racing.

All about the Benjamins:

Benjamin Carson, on the left.  Pediatric neurosurgeon.  First to successfully separate Siamese twins joined at the back of the head.

Granted, this is a younger photo of him; he's 60 now, but dang!  He doesn't look like a doctor, does he?  More like someone who plays a doctor on TV.

Benjamin Banneker (not shown) astronomer, city planner, inventor.  You can bless and curse him for being part of the team that laid out the city of Washington, DC.

Dr. Ernest Everett Just.  (right) Born African-American.  In 1883.  In Charleston, South Carolina.  (I will pause now to let that sink in.) The man still became an internationally known authority on fertilization and egg development.

There's a joke in there somewhere, looking at that handsome face and thinking about his field of expertise, but out of respect I ain't going for it.

Dudley Weldon Woodard.  (not shown, but still a good-looking man) PhD in Mathematics.  Master's thesis: Loci Connected with the Problem of Two Bodies.  Is it bad that title sounds faintly like a p0rn movie to me?

So, I thought, well maybe it is.  I looked up loci, which is the plural of locus.  From

noun, plural -ci 
[-sahy, -kee, -kahy]   -ca [-kuh]  .1.a place; locality.2.a center or source, as of activities or power: locus of control.3. Mathematics the set of all points, lines, or surfaces that satisfy a given requirement.4. Genetics the chromosomal position of a gene as determined by its linear order relative to the other genes on that chromosome.
Perhaps it's a good thing that Dr. Woodard was before my time, as even with the dictionary's help, I remain confused as to what, exactly, a locus is.  But the dude had it going on, in both looks and brains.

via Wikimedia Commons
Dr. J, aka Julius Erving. (on the left)  Not a real doctor.  However, he could slam dunk from the free throw line, which is extremely impressive.

Confession: I'm not a basketball fan.  If I never have to get to sit through another game watching tall millionaires in short pants, I won't be weeping about it. Nor will I miss the squeak-squeak of their damn shoes. But... I have to give credit to somebody who was an incredible innovator, who came into a sport as was and left it forever changed.  Look at that picture again, the height he got on that jump.

He was also part-owner of a NASCAR racing team, so saith Wikipedia.  (Another sport I have experienced, and yet, don't crave seconds on.)

via Wikimedia Commons

Oh my stars, Neil deGrasse Tyson! (Look at him on the right, all suave and sexy in his suns and moons tie.)  More earned and honorary doctorates than our solar system has planets (especially after he spearheaded the move to shut out Pluto.)

So handsome, so smart, and so articulate. Probably 99% of the time, he is the smartest man in the room, yet he manages to convey large amounts of info to the rest of us, without making a well-meaning listener like me feel dumber than a moon rock, or sounding like a total condescending prick.

I always knows when I see his face on TV, that a) I'm going to learn something I did not know, b) that I will feel good about it, and c) that I will be tickled by his overwhelming enthusiasm for the field of science.  Like Carl Sagan, Tyson's so charming in that respect.  It's not simply a show for the cameras, he seems to love science and sharing that love with other people.

via Wikimedia Commons

Another man with stars in his eyes, Dr. Bernard A Harris, Jr.  Doctor. Astronaut.  Licensed private pilot.  Humanitarian. Mustacharian.  (Okay, I made word that up, but him and Neil deGrasse Tyson, both with the facial stylings?  And they both look good in their mustaches, whereas some guys trying to wear them would look like 70's p0rn actors.  And why am I suddenly so fixated on p0rn?)

Mashup from NBC's ER, via eonline
Okay, this is a bit of a cheat.  These guys: Eriq LaSalle, George Clooney, Noah Wylie, were not real doctors, they only played them on TV.

Still.  They are all very smart men.  And while I'd rather not be in an ER, ever again, I wouldn't mind waking up to one of those faces leaning over me.  They would not need those stethoscopes to hear my heart beating.

One last doctor, a PhD I love because he has made me laugh and feel wonderfulness for years.

Classically handsome?  Not.... really.  Kind of goofy looking, much of the time, but so smart, so funny.

I was lucky enough to see one of Bill Cosby's Vegas shows, many years ago.  Don't recall if he did The Dentist routine then, but I do remember laughing uncontrollably.

We'll be losing a good man when he passes.

Do you have a favorite hot doctor - either a medical doctor, or PhD type?
Do you prefer a man with or without facial hair?
If you like facial hair on men, what kind?

Friday, February 3, 2012

SG Komen - Go Pee Up A Rope!

Early signs of breast cancer.Image via WikipediaLike a lot of other people, I vaguely thought the Susan G. Komen Foundation did much good for women.  I thought the races looked like plenty of fun, and were a great place for survivors to meet and bond.  I did wonder about how putting a pink ribbon on everything from soda pop to chips to KFC helped battle breast cancer, but I thought, well, maybe it's good, just to have men and women thinking about breast cancer.

 My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was about 5.  She was in her mid-forties.

This was in the Sixties, practically the Dark Ages as far as treatments went.  The days when you went "under the knife" when they found a lump, and when you woke up, you found out if it was cancer or not, depending on how much of your chest they'd carved away.

They took her breast, the chest muscles, lymph nodes, the muscles under her arm.

They gave her radiation that made her sick.  She was in remission, for several years, but the cancer recurred.  They gave her male hormones, which caused her to grow a mustache, embarrassing her tremendously.  They gave her all kinds of drugs that made her sick, made her hallucinate, made her body bloat and gain weight.  The final indignity, for a woman who'd struggled so hard to lose the last baby weight she'd gained with me.

She died anyway, on the eve of my tenth birthday.

Betty Jane - and her first granddaughter.
She was 49 when she died, a few weeks
after this photo was taken.

As for me... well, found the first suspicious lump in my thirties.  Biopsied.  Benign.  Another one some years later, another biopsy.  Benign.  My older sisters - a similar story.  So far, so good.

In the past few years, I've developed a number of "interesting" masses, plus a large number of cysts.  Last week, they told me that since they've all been stable for about two years, I can now drop to one mammo & ultrasound a year, instead of an extra ultrasound every six months.  I'm happy about this, but I will never feel "safe."  The most I can hope for is the relief of so far, so good.

My friend (and fabulous author) Lisa Hendrix turned me on to this video by this incredibly brave woman.

When there's an emotional connection to an issue, any organization, be it political, religious, or charitable, can take advantage of that emotional connection to persuade people to donate, volunteer, and participate.  Usually without thinking, looking, and asking penetrating questions. Breast cancer is one of those issues that affects a lot of families, personally and emotionally.

I'm sure in the beginning, Nancy Brinker was truly remembering and grieving for her sister, Susan G. Komen, and forming the organization was an effective way to honor her sister and work out her grief.  It's tragic when anyone loses a family member to breast cancer. But as to what the SGK Foundation has come to embody:

  • bloated salaries for their top executives 
  • bullying and lawsuits to shut down smaller organizations 
  • pinkwashing anything and everything that brings in corporate money, from junk food to animal feed to handguns
  • This latest, their decision to stop making grants to Planned Parenthood.  
  • Oh, and they'd already defunded stem cell research, something that might actually lead to a cure for breast cancer.  

Now they're spinning, and outright lying that politics and personal religious beliefs about when life starts had anything to do with their (original) Planned Parenthood decision.

They must think people are really, really, really stupid.  That people will not think this is a desperate attempt to save their generous salaries (over $400k, really?), corporate and celebrity endorsements.  I would retain at least a fraction of respect for them if they had the ovaries to say, "We made a mistake. It was a dumb and shortsighted move, and we won't do it again."  Instead, frantic PR spinning and more BS.

They have proven that, whatever their original intentions, whatever phrase or color ribbon they pin on it (and try to copyright), they cannot be trusted.  I am furious.  My sisters are furious.  My mother would have been furious.

Breast implant: Mammographs: Normal breast (le...Image via WikipediaYou may or may not support Planned Parenthood.  I do.  I was grateful to have their services available to me when I was a teenager, and needed information about birth control and contraceptives. I have friends who have used their services for pregnancy testing and prenatal care.  I used their wonderful guide for parents to educate myself in how to talk to my son about sex.  Abortion services only make up 3% of what they offer clients.

Yes, some PP clinics do offer abortion counseling and services.  You may believe that human life begins the minute that sperm meets egg; I can't prove it does not, though I don't share that belief.  I've already expressed my thoughts on why I'm pro-choice, here.

You will notice that this post is not illustrated with pink ribbons, but instead, practical illustrations that might help a woman (or a man, I have a male friend who's a breast cancer survivor) understand breast cancer a little better. I'm not sure that pink ribbons do much except a) make the person displaying one feel smugly generous, and b) bring in a lot of income to the companies that make pink ribbon decals, pins, and other items.

There are other organizations that have run/walks.  Avon does one against breast cancer.  NAMI does one (and I've participated in it) that battles mental illness, a vastly underfunded cause that also affects many, many families.  While breast cancer will always be close to my heart (in more ways than one), a reality is that today, more women die of heart disease than all forms of cancer, combined.  Maybe it's time to give the pink ribbons a rest and focus on other issues that also take women's lives.  Like domestic violence.

In any event, the SG Komen Foundation can go pee up a rope, as far as I am concerned.  I don't care if they triple their grants to Planned Parenthood.  They are stick-a-fork-in-it done, as far as I'm concerned, and it would not grieve me if shortly enough other people felt the same way that they have to downsize and cut salaries.

How do you feel?  
Do you have a Susan G. Komen story? 
A Planned Parenthood one? 
Or can you recommend another organization that supports breast cancer survivors?

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