Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Experts and Know it Alls

I must not have enough to do because I read a lot of stupid articles on the Internet and I have come to a conclusion.

There are a lot of opinions out there. And there are a lot of opinions out there that pass for fact.

I write a lot of drivel, but I don't presume to insist that my opinion should be taken as fact because I'm some sort of expert. I'm no expert. Thirty plus years of living with cats and dogs does not make me an expert.

It makes me a lunatic.

Herein lies the problem.

I would like to be a freelance writer. I've taken courses, joined a Facebook community, signed up for blogs, and it occurs to me that the number one thing one needs to be a freelance writer is a "niche."

A niche also means one should masquerade as an authority or expert on something.

Now granted if you've worked in a particular field for many years or have done something so much that people pay you top dollar for you expertise, then yes you can call yourself an expert enough to claim a niche (like one my favorite writing blogger/experts, Jacob McMillen).

If you've just dicked around for years talking about how obnoxious your animals are and how you wish you could move to the planet Xardoc where animals have to bring you your food on a silk cushion, well, you're not an expert. You're just mentally challenged.

I have a little bit of knowledge about a lot of things, but not enough knowledge about anything to call myself an expert. It's kind of like that Keith Urban song, Little Bit of Everything. Except his version is so much more fun than mine.

I went off the deep end the other day, finding articles that debunk things that I practice and hold dear, for no other reason that I like to torture myself and also, if I decide to write about these things I don't want to sound like an idiot who doesn't know what she's talking about. My preferred "niche" for writing is testimonials or personal essays. I am at least an expert on me, but I also don't believe that just because something works for me that it's gospel and the world should bow to my wisdom.

For example, I'm gluten free. I like to say I'm gluten intolerant which isn't exactly true as trace amounts don't do me in, so I guess I have a sensitivity. I then decided to read The Gluten Lie so that some "expert" could tell me exactly the reasons why I was delusional and there is nothing wrong with eating wheat.

I agree. There is nothing wrong with eating wheat. If you're not me.

The book actually turned out to be pretty informational, but boy did he get lambasted in the review section of Amazon. He claims that science does not prove that America is fat because it eats too much wheat, sugar, carbs, and MSG. He also says that science does not prove the opposite, we just don't know yet, but it's grossly irresponsible to go around claiming that wheat and sugar are demon foods that kill.

What a relief. I love sugar. I'd be devastated if I had to give up my desserts.

I think the author is more an advocate of everything in moderation. Thank God, I can still drink wine as long as I don't consume the whole bottle in one sitting.

Well, where's the fun in that?

Just kidding. Two glasses I'm passed out on the couch with Megamind in the background.

Wheat is a problem for me however, and I do not have Celiac's disease. I just know that every time I eat a roll of bread I have oodles of issues the next morning in the bathroom. I also know that if I eat MSG I have more problems, and not in the morning but immediately after. As for junk food, packaged foods, processed foods, and otherwise healthy foods with shit added to it (cargeenan in whipping cream, anyone?) I just feel better when I don't eat it, and my digestive system actually behaves itself.

I refuse to give up wine, however. But I stick to high quality wine, so that should be okay, right?

But that's me. If you can drink a Coke, eat a Snickers bar, and scarf down McDonald's everyday with zero issues, more power to you, and I'm jealous. I miss the days of Snickers bars and milk for breakfast at ten AM. California Guy can go through a twelve pack of Coke and rum in two weeks and he's skinnier than a rail. He also eats fast food, processed food, and that awful grocery store baked bread that's just flour and sugar with water added.

I used to love that stuff.

What I really miss is bakery quality cake with that sugary whipped cream frosting. Now if I want cake I have to make it myself. And it's hit or miss if the cream stabilizes.

Another example: naturopath medicine. Oh, this is a big one. After reading several articles online debunking naturopath medicine as witch doctory and fantasy magic potions, I started to wonder if my bioidentical hormones are actually doing more harm than good.

That was until I noticed that all the articles and blog posts were actually written by the same person. There is one lady out there on a crusade to run naturopath medicine into the ground as pure charlatan-peddled snake oil. I'm sure others think so too, but she has the biggest mouth, the loudest opinion, and the fanciest website.

She must have had a really bad experience.

Once again, this is just me, so I don't claim to be an expert. I'm not a scientist. All I know is that once I started taking bioidentical hormones, started eating a healthy diet of whole and clean foods, and exercised more, my hair stopped falling out, my energy returned, and my skin stopped doing that weird thing. Science is all great and good, but the list of side effects on pharmaceuticals (the ones they are required to read off on TV commercials and it takes two minutes) scares the ever-living shit out of me.This is considered "good medicine" while my probiotics and GABA for anxiety are considered witch doctory?

Well, you don't have to live in my body. You just have to live in your own.

All these opinions and shouting from the soapbox preaching has shown me is that nobody really knows anything. And they are desperate to prove just how much they don't know because we as a species can't seem to keep the most ignorant of us off the Internet. You can go to school for twenty years and still have no clue, and humans are such unique creatures, that each person has their own distinct biochemical makeup that they have to figure out on their own.

Now obviously some things are bad for everyone: smoking, heroin, cooking meth in a mobile home in the desert for two criminal masterminds. But when it comes to health everyone is different and everyone has to figure out what makes their bodies miserable and what works. I'm gluten free, and believe me it's been no picnic (and yes, I get the eye roll and I just want to tell servers, "Hey, if I could eat that whole loaf of bread and feel fine in the morning I'd totally do it, but I don't think you want to clean my bathroom when I'm done with it after a night of gluten indulgence"). I love my naturopath practitioner, if for no other reason than she did not, like all of my mainstream medical doctors, tell me that there is nothing wrong with me, it's all in my head, and dismissed me with a prescription to something I ended up flushing down the toilet. Most of them wouldn't even listen to me. I went to five doctors, telling them that my hair was falling out in handfuls and I got the same response from all of them.  "Hair falls out. It goes in cycles." The endocrinologist even said " I don't know what you're complaining about, it's growing back."

I'm glad she spent eight years in school just to learn how to be so condescending.

I guess the way I look at it is, I feel like shit, everything I've tried hasn't worked, what's the harm in trying something different?

Some call this the placebo effect. It's harmless but you think it's helping so it helps. It's all psychological.

Maybe it is. My psychology is pretty messed up. I live with three codependent, neurotic cats.

But I'm sure someone out there thought contact lenses were a stupid idea too and rallied against them before they became mainstream.

I love my contact lenses. I also love my glasses.

I also love my eye doctor, but that's another story. He's the type of doctor who listens, enjoys his patients, and always has a big smile for everyone. I actually look forward to my yearly visit with him and if I ever move, I'm flying back here just to see him once a year.

 I love that I can go to the Urgent Care Clinic and get medication for an ear infection or strep throat if I have that. I love that I've been vaccinated for measles, mumps, and Hepatitis. I also love that I can call my naturopath practitioner and tell her my stomach issues and she has better ideas than my general practitioner who gave me a prescription to Nexium (that ended up just aggravating the situation so I stopped taking it). I wish I could eat bread with as much abandon as I did in my twenties, but maybe that's part of getting older.  You're just not in your twenties anymore, and really, you probably shouldn't eat anything with abandon.

Tequila shots with abandon also no longer work.

In the end I readily admit I don't know what I"m talking about either. I go by trial and error. This worked, this didn't, this REALLY didn't. Hey, this worked and I feel great!

Just because it worked for me, doesn't mean it'll work for someone else. I'm not allergic to peanut butter. Other people can't even touch the stuff (oh my God, the horror, I don't think I could function). Recovered alcoholics can never drink wine again if they want to stay on the wagon. I love my wine, but I also know when to stop. We are all different and we all need to find what works for our own unique bodies.

And we could use a lot less experts and know-it-alls out there telling us that their way is the only way, or that some other way is the wrong way even if it's worked for someone else.

I'm sorry, humanity, but nobody knows everything, even scientists and doctors.

I've decided to forgo freelance writing and just write fiction. I do better when I'm not pretending to be an expert on anything except the worlds and characters that I make up in my head.

This may be a cop-out, but it's one I can live with.

These desserts are completely gluten-free. They are not sugar-free, vegan, or paleo.
They are, however, delicious.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Best Good Luck Charm Yet

The other day I found this little guy wandering around on my back deck, right before another one of our springtime torrential downpours on par with hurricane weather:

I like to think I saved him from a fate worse than death by trapping him in this candle lid and bringing him into the house.

I also like to think that's a good omen for my life because this little dude is the most interesting-looking spider I've seen to date, and not squashing them is supposed to be good luck.

I asked one of my friends (who loves spiders more than I do, and he of the great bird eating spider ownership) what kind of spider this is because I'd never seen one quite like it. I thought at first it might be a bold jumper, but it didn't jump.

This was lucky since I thought it would be a good idea to bring Shelob into the house where he could easily have escaped, and then I'd be sharing my house with a monstrosity the size of a quarter.

My friend suggested at first that he was a wolf spider, but I didn't think so. Wolf spiders are ugly. And they carry their babies on their back. And they are just all around icky. And they bite. This little guy was so pretty, and had two little green dots on his face that I thought at first were eyes, but may actually have just been the mouth parts or premature fangs.

Bold jumpers do have those beautiful green or blue fangs.

I told my friend he was sporting some jewelry and my friend said maybe he's a drag queen.

The little guy also didn't seem at all aggressive, and I loved watching him move. He walked very deliberately, setting each front paw down one at a time as he scuttled forward.  I tried to video him but he kept escaping from his lid.

My friend and I deduced that he was actually a she.

My friend must have done some research because he then came back with "Jumping spider" and a picture that looked a lot like my new little friend. That's pretty much what I thought too, except she really didn't seem all that interested in jumping. And given her size she could probably jump pretty far.

Like up my nose.

Or in my hair.

Instead she just crawled gracefully around the lid, looking almost like Scooter when he scoots along the bottom of the tank.  I decided maybe Winifred was just too fat and lazy. My friend said she's just chill.

Winifred did manage to escape in the kitchen, and she started booking it across the counter in pursuit of the espresso machine.  That's where I found my last jumper, Fred, a few years ago. Just chilling next to the espresso machine.

What is it with jumpers and coffee? Did she need coffee to get the springs going in her legs?

I managed to catch her again, though it took some doing. She kept flipping over on her back because she was a bit top heavy. I'm always afraid I'll squish the jumpers when I try to trap them because they are so quick. And even though Winifred didn't jump, she scuttled pretty fast. As pretty as she was I didn't really want her in my house, mostly because she'd probably end up as someone's cat snack.

 I decided the front garden was the best place for Winifred. There is lots of shelter, lots of plants, and lots of bugs to eat. Better than sitting stranded on the back deck because once the wind and rain picked up, my deck was absolutely pummeled. Poor Winifred would have washed away in a flood.

Also, the way Tess was prancing around on the deck, I was afraid she would tromp right on top of Winifred and turn her into a puddle.

Tess did come inside before the storm, by the way.

I don't leave my pets outside to drown (though I've been tempted with Percy).

Not a moment too soon. Winifred crawled under a rock and the storm hit, spraying my deck with more water than Wyoming has seen in a year, and washing out my flowers. I had to stash the plants somewhere safe.

And if the plants couldn't handle that monsoon, there's no way Winifred could.

I realize Fred was several years ago and is probably no longer with us, but in my fantasy land Winifred meets Fred and they make a little spider life together.

I just hope female jumpers don't eat their mates.

If you look hard enough, that is spider silk coming out of her butt.

This video shows a spider pretty similar. That's how they walk! They're so cute!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Swimming with the Fishes

I have a few new pets.

No, I did not decide to adopt that bird I was on about a year or so ago. I decided against that silliness.

Birds are for the birds.

California Guy has an amazing saltwater fish tank full of all kinds of beautiful, colorful fish. He's got Nemos, a Dory, a couple of gobies that suck up sand and discard it through their gills, and several wrasses. There are also buttloads of hermit crabs (all I usually see are little legs sticking out of shells), snails, a foxface, and some others I have no idea what they're called.

I'm not a fish gal. They're kind of like plants with me. I'm lucky if I don't kill them.

Or they're lucky.

California Guy is very into his saltwater aquarium. Apparently when he decided to ditch California for Wyoming (of all things), he couldn't leave all of the ocean behind, so he brought some of it with him.

I'm supposed to be adding to the tank a clam. Did you know how many species of clams there are? And how many different colors?

And how expensive?

Yeah, neither did I.

But it makes him happy and his birthday is coming up, so he'll be bringing in his one-year-older with several bottles of wine, cupcakes, and a new clam.

A few weeks ago he decided to create me my very own twenty-gallon tank. He loves his big tank (I don't even know how many gallons it holds, I just know it's bigger than my TV and usually a lot more entertaining). He's filled his tank with all sorts of colors of the sea, but for my twenty-gallon tank, he decided to keep things simple.

I have several hermit crabs (teeny-tiny ones), a snail (he's pretty cool and he has funny lips), a pretty little wrasse, and some transparent bluish thing that seems to have trouble pooping, as he had a string of something yellow hanging off his butt the other day.

Oh, my God, it's the fish version of Percy! He totally fits right in with my brood!

Anyway, California Guy created the smaller tank specifically so I could have an emerald crab, because the one we originally put in the big tank got punked by one fish or another (we blame Dory). The only thing left of him was a claw lying pitifully in the sand.

Poor Crab Cakes.

So California Guy made up a smaller tank just for me so I could have a new Crab Cakes. Crab Cakes wasn't too interesting at first. All he did was hide out in the rocks, until one day when he molted and now he's huge and bright green, and he's always stuffing his face. He likes to hang upside down under the rocks, and shovel in the algae. Sometimes he perches on a ledge in the rocks and gawks at me with his little beady crab eyes.

California Guy also added a Scooter Blenny Fish to the aquarium who immediately became my main source of amusement this past weekend. I was riveted to the tank, taking pictures, videos, and talking to Scooter like he could actually hear me or cared that I was alive. Scooter is not codependent like the other pets. I'm more codependent on him. A day beginning with watching Scooter scoot around the sand is a day beginning well.

I could watch him all day.

I did watch him all Sunday morning.

It was the most relaxing thing I'd done all week.

That includes the massage I had Friday, where I basically got stretched,cracked, and twisted a pretzel.

Of course as soon as I got home, Percy stalked around the house yelling at me and deposited a nasty dump in the litter box; Puckett kept slipping into my spot on the couch whenever I got up to go to the bathroom or get a snack; and Willow got caught red-handed with her nose right in the leftover avocado.

Someone was feeling south of the border.

Both girls received a pat to the behind, a scolding, and a timeout.

They were not impressed. Willow went in her cage and Puckett sat on the floor by the couch, glaring at me as if she could reduce me to a puff smoke for my insolence.

Scooter and Crab Cakes are infinitely the most well-behaved of the pets. Plus they are contained in a small glass box so they can't escape.

It's a good thing we don't have an octopus. Those buggers love to get out.

It's also a good thing Scooter and Crab Cakes live at California Guy's house. If they lived at mine there would be three cats rooted in front of the aquarium, utterly transfixed.

And Willow would probably fall in trying to catch one of them.

Isn't Scooter just so cute??

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

For Love of Luke

There sure are a lot of articles lately written by people bragging about how they "finally" watched all the Star Wars movies.

Like they want a medal now for having avoided this franchise for fortysome years, and now that Disney has its claws in it, they decided to go and binge-watch eight movies to the point of vomiting.

To find these articles if you are so inclined, just Google "I finally watched Star Wars" or some such nonsense.

I love Star Wars.  I love the original Star Wars.  The prequels were rubbish. The Force Awakens was a typical Disney rip-off. Disney is known for taking someone else's story and tweaking it to fit their own tired and blah formula, and now that they are running out of other people's stories (it seems J.K. Rowling has not sold them her rights yet), they have to redesign their own movies. Beauty and the Beast in live action with Emma Stone was, sadly, not worth the time or space it took to watch it, and frankly an insult to the original.

But I digress.

Rogue One was good, but only because I thought it was fun to see a.) completely different characters in the Star Wars universe, and b.) not another regurgitation of the original screenplay (I'm looking at you, The Force Awakens).

What is even more amusing besides these people begging for a pat on the back for having watched the Star Wars movies and then feeling the need to offer their opinions and comments (ranging from "They were SO AWESOME, ESPECIALLY THE NEW ONES!" to "I don't understand what all the fuss is about, this is a subpar storyline"), are the comments in the comment sections after the articles. 

People get PISSED OFF when Star Wars is criticized. 

We are talking fighting words here, and a blood bath is about to broil.

So now I'm going to post my own opinions and comments about the Star Wars movies. Let the blood bath commence. I'm ready for any and all stones to be thrown.

The thing I've found about Star Wars is that it has something for everyone, and no one is right, no one is wrong, and whatever a person gleans from the story is their own business (and enjoyment).

Sort of like God. I'm not about to hold such a high opinion of myself that I feel I can presume to judge other people's relationship with God.  I sure don't want some other doofus analyzing my relationship with God. Your relationship with God, (or chocolate, or the Force, or whatever) if you have one, is your business.  Just don't make it mine.

I didn't care for the Star Wars prequels but, hey, if someone else loved them, great.  I liked Padme's costumes and hairdos. It was fun to see Yoda act like a badass.  The movies had redeeming qualities.

Because I'm a purist, I liked the three original movies and I can live the rest of my life peacefully and happily never watching another "new" Star Wars movie again, much to the horror and chagrin of California Guy who is a die-hard Star Wars fan. I've been ripped a new one for being a purist by a friend's husband with his comment being that everything needs to be changed, modified, evolved because that's the nature of the world we now live in (or something like that, I don't know. I wasn't listening very hard).

I like old stuff, what can I say?  New does not always mean improved.  And in my opinion in the case of Star Wars, new is definitely not improved. It's just regurgitated Disney crap.

I have my reasons for loving Star Wars, and it's not the amazing universe, or the Force, or my God this is science-fiction-fantasy-space-opera AT ITS FINEST, or whatever else the reasons for liking Star Wars.  Something about special effects, and in the 70's no one had ever seen such amazingness before. Everyone has their thing.

Mine is and always will be, as with any story, the characters.  If I can't care about or love at least one character in a story I won't like the story.  This was the problem with The Force Awakens.  I couldn't care less about anyone because the movie didn't set them up in any endearing way. Even Han acted kind of cheesy.

In the original movies, my favorite characters are Luke, Yoda, and Leia, with Darth Vader, Han Solo and Chewy coming in second, and okay, there wasn't really anyone I didn't like.  Luke is my favorite.  I'm not a space opera/science fiction fan in general. I don't go out of my way to read or watch sci-fi. But Star Wars spoke to me as a child and I never even saw the movies until I was about sixteen. I saw the Ewok movie as a child and my brother had the novel adaptations, so I read those. I'd seen fragments of the movies but never all three together in order. When my brother discovered this he made me sit down at sixteen and watch all three of them all the way through with the insistence that no sister of his will go through life never having seen Star Wars.

And a love was born.

It's all because of Luke.  I have the biggest crush on him (not had, have).  I have a life-sized cardboard cutout of him in my living room. I bought it in college and it has moved four times with me. Luke was probably my first crush ever, even before Micky Dolenz, Bryan Adams, and Ray Liotta. Also, the crush is on Luke, not Mark Hamill. I don't fangirl out on Mark Hamill. It's all about Luke.

Luke has always been my favorite character, and let me tell you, I got lambasted by yet another person for having the nerve to say that Luke was my favorite character.  I was told in no uncertain terms that this was absolutely impossible, it was a travesty that I thought this, because the hero of the story is Han Solo, and everyone should love him best.

See? People get passionate about this. I mean, this guy was really mad at me.

Han's cool, but Luke did the most growing up.  We start with a whining, sniveling farm boy with patience and control issues. He screws up constantly. He gets angry and pissy. He runs off half-cocked, not listening to anyone to save the day only to ruin the day. He gets his hand chopped off. He loses his lightsaber. He nearly goes Dark Side.

By the end of the story he's learned patience, he's harnessed the Force, he saves his father from a fate worse than death, and he helps save the universe.  Good for you, Luke, you deserve a cookie.

I don't get mad at other people when they say Luke sucks. That doesn't mean I'm not passionate about Star Wars for not defending it. It just means I want Luke all to myself. The less people like Luke, the more Luke there is for me.

Luke remains frozen in time and my mind and heart as this adorable farm boy turned Jedi master/hero (now that being a hero is no longer something he craves), and I just shudder to find out what Disney has in store for him (after all, they weren't kind to Han). I have been shamed and chastised for my opinions on The Force Awakens and my reluctance to watch any of the other movies, but this should be my choice without people telling me I'm not a real Star Wars fan or that I need to let go.

Bring me another character I love as much as the originals and sure, I'll let go and happily watch the new movies. I really did get a kick out of Jyn Erso after all.

Everyone should be allowed to like or not like Star Wars for their own reasons. It's everyone's own personal choice to make. We can go ahead and write about it, but we don't have to be smug about our choices, and we definitely don't have to get all superior when talking about how our opinions are better than anyone else's.

I will continue to love Luke and believe that he lived happily ever after after Return of the Jedi (and eventually found me in the universe somewhere - screw you, Mara Jade). If this is what makes me happy about Star Wars, then so be it. If someone else likes Jar-Jar, well, I don't judge. If someone doesn't like Star Wars at all, well, that's their choice too.

And I definitely am not going to go around applauding people for posting all over the Internet that "I finally watched Star Wars because I've been so cool as to ignore it for the last forty years and now I'm an expert and here's what I think and you should believe!" 

My heart belongs to Luke. Luke belongs in Star Wars. Future films without Luke are just not worth watching for me.

I won't apologize for that.

You all do what you think is right.