The best way to watch the debates

See no evil

You don’t always have to see something to know it’s there. You can observe its effects on other objects and deduce its existence. That’s how Neptune and Pluto were discovered, not by direct observation but by the effect their gravity had on the orbits of other stellar objects. Similarly, you don’t have to watch the presidential debates to know they’re happening, you just have to read your Twitter stream. It’s far more entertaining anyway.

I don’t like conflict. I go out of my way to avoid confrontation. Watching two people go head to head about important political issues is not my idea of a fun evening. I can’t even watch The Amazing Race because I get stressed out that my favorite team will miss their flight. Watching Butler compete in the NCAA Tournament two years in a row nearly killed me. I much prefer not caring about sports. The idea of watching a confrontation that will affect whether I’ll be eligible for health insurance in 2014 in any other form than the North Carolina plan for high risk individuals is way, way, way, too tension filled for me to actually watch it live.

Thankfully I don’t have to. I have Twitter. And on Twitter people make clever jokes and create cute #malarky hastags and make me laugh about something I would otherwise be watching while curled up in a ball on the sofa. I don’t have to watch the event. I just watch other people’s opinions about the event to get a picture of it. It’s like the story format of Citizen Kane. You don’t ever get to meet Kane, but you learn a lot about him from everyone who knew him. Of course, that’s also the problem. You never get to meet Kane yourself, so you never get to make your own opinion. You’re going on what other people think, so you need to choose those people wisely. The people in my Twitter stream mostly share my political viewpoints, so those tweets are undoubtedly skewed towards one worldview. Hello, echo chamber (echo chamber [echo chamber])! But it also makes me wonder how much of our opinions are skewed by what other people think anyway. If all your friends like a TV show don’t you feel pressured to like it too? Do we ever come to our own opinions without at least some outside influence? Even if I watched the debates, wouldn’t the way I filter them be affected by what friends and pundits say?

Regardless, thank you Twitter! Or rather, thank you to all the funny, clever people who use Twitter. You make it much easier to get through an evening when all my TV shows are pre-empted.

Love is for the birds. Peregrine falcons, to be specific.

KathyQ

Of all the things I achieved at my last job, I am most proud of setting up the falcons on Facebook. I am not talking about a sports team. I’m talking about two actual Peregrine falcons, Kinney and KathyQ, who made their love nest in a box at the top of a skyscraper in Indianapolis for many, many years. Unbeknownst to them (presumably) they starred in their own reality show for many years, documented in 20 second intervals via the Indy Star FalconCam, which always got a huge boost in pageviews during egg laying season. Those birdies really helped us meet our traffic goals, and they didn’t have to burn down an apartment complex or commit a horrific murder to do it!

No one asked me to, but I decided the falcons needed a Facebook presence so I set up pages for Kinney and KathyQ. Then I handed the passwords over to the Falcon blogger, Laura, who did all the real work. That this was my greatest achievement in 1.5 years at my old job probably speaks volumes as to why I left. One needs more meaningful accomplishments in life than setting up Facebook pages for falcons. That job is for the birds. (Har, har!)

Regardless, I grew rather attached to these birdies, and not just because they helped pay my salary. That’s why I was devastated to learn that Kinney died last July, most likely after colliding with a building. My mom clipped out the article from the paper and mailed it to me, as if this were an old friend from school who had passed on. Many animal experts discourage you from anthropomorphizing animals since we will never really know what they think and feel or what motivates their actions. But it was hard not to feel sad for KathyQ losing her love bird, the papa to all the babies they had hatched over the years.

However, it appears that three months is a reasonable period of mourning for Peregrine falcons. That’s right, a new bird has been spotted shaking his tail feathers around town, but KathyQ and this unnamed bird are still in the process of introducing themselves to each other. I’m very excited to see if it works out between them, as if I am watching an episode of The Bachelorette: Peregrine Falcons Edition. And I don’t even like The Bachelorette!

I find myself surprised by the amount of emotion I have invested in these birds. I don’t know if it’s any different from the amount of investment I’ve had in TV relationships, like Mulder and Scully on The X-Files, except that these birds are actual creatures and not fictional creations, which might make my attachment more valid. I haven’t been this into a bird’s love life since I learned about the gay penguins at the Central Park Zoo, Roy and Silo. And honestly, I’m still upset that Silo left Roy for some female penguin, that jerk! ALL OF WHICH IS INSANE!! They are birds! I should be spending time working on my own relationships with actual human beings instead of fretting over the love lives of penguins and Peregrine falcons.

Strangely, these feelings also remind me of the way I’ve felt about my friends’ divorces, as I wrote about a few days ago. I wasn’t in any of those marriages, but I was happy when those couples were together, and I was sad when they parted ways. Human beings are wired to want stories, be they real or fictional or somewhere in between. I’ve liked watching the story of Kinney and KathyQ unfold, peeping in on their family over the years. I hope that KathyQ can move on and love again, if falcons even love. There I go anthropomorphizing again. But I can only view the world through the window of my own human brain, or through the lens of a webcam at the top of the skyscraper.

Orange you glad you had Orange Cappuccino and/or Orange Café while it lasted?

A Tale of Two Coffees

If you’re a fan of the General Mills International Orange Cappuccino coffee mix which was renamed to the Maxwell House Orange Café coffee mix a few years ago, well I hope you stocked up when you were preparing for the zombie apocalypse. It appears that the coffee mix my mother so loves and was so devastated to lose three years ago and then so thrilled to discover in new packaging a few months later is finally going the way of Almost Home Cookies, Jell-O 3-2-1 and other beloved prepackaged food products of yore. As my mother recently reported, she cannot find it in Indianapolis!

I think it is gone for good this time. A week ago it was not to be found at the [closest] Target. This week I checked the other Target and even Kroger that charges a dollar more per can with no luck. – Mom. October 5, 2012

Yes, my mother loves this coffee so much she was willing to pay a dollar more for it. That is a big deal for a woman who has a billfold just for her coupons.

Another reader named Diane loves this coffee so much that she was able to leave a comment on my old PastaQueen entry about it even though the comment forms were removed from PastaQueen over a year ago. I still do not know how she was able to do that, as she claims to be a 58-year-old woman with no hacking skillz. If only Diane could channel her ability to make the impossible possible and make a few crates of this coffee mix materialize in my mom’s cupboard, then the world would be a better place.

ETA: The commenting mystery has been solved thanks to Erin, who let me know she could comment on her mobile device. The mobile template still had the comment form active.

Divorce and the end of all things

The sun

Ten years ago today my parents’ marriage ended. The divorce was finalized months later, but today is the day my dad left suddenly and unexpectedly. I didn’t notice that today was that day until a friend emailed me this afternoon. She’s getting divorced too. That’s when I noticed the date and was like, Oh, right, October 9th. It must be National Divorce Day or something.

I’ve passed through many stages of adulthood. In my early twenties there was the Oh, wow, my friends are getting married! stage. Then came the Oh, wow, my friends are having kids! period. Now we seem to have entered the Oh, wow my friends are getting divorced! period. I’m not sure what stages will follow. Probably the Oh, wow, my friends are getting remarried! period, the Oh, wow, my friends are grandparents! period, and eventually the Oh, wow, my friends are dying! period. That’s a lot of exclamation points for all those periods.

I have at least three friends right now who are divorced or in the process of divorcing, plus one who just ended a serious, we-live-together, relationship. It’s sad, even if people break up for the right reasons. The divorce that broke my heart the most happened last year between two friends from high school with two little kids. I still remember how Guy would tease Gal in Mrs. Heimerdinger’s 6th period English class. How Gal went to the prom with someone else. How Guy and Gal got together in college. How they married when we’d fallen out of touch and how we got back in touch again after Facebook was invented. Guy and Gal would organize barbeques and Christmas cookie exchanges with friends. I’d come and feel like I had real friends, a real community. Knowing I had a long drive home after one gathering, Guy and Gal invited me to stay at their place for dinner. Kiddo sat in my lap and pointed to animals in a picture book, sounding out newly learned names in babyspeak. We ate sweet potato fries for dinner, all of us around the table, and it felt like a home. But that home doesn’t exist anymore.

I don’t know quite what to make of it, other than some things can be beautiful and precious because they don’t last forever. That nothing lasts forever, not people or relationships or even the planet where we act out all these dramas. Some day the sun will burn out and we’ll be left in the dark, but it did burn bright and beautifully for awhile, and maybe that’s all we can ask for.

Video: The Shopping Cart

“The Shopping Cart” was a poem I wrote in high school and then animated for a digital video project in college. I’m surprised the thing turned out as well as it did because I didn’t bother to storyboard it. I started with a Vanessa-Mae track called “Bach Street Prelude” and animated the scenes to match that. (Fun Fact: Vanessa-Mae and I have the same birthday!)

As I recall, I waited until the last minute to make this after trashing an earlier idea. So I spent two weeks animating 2-3 scenes a day in Macromedia Flash until it all miraculously came together. (This is how long ago this was, that it was Macromedia Flash and not yet Adobe Flash.) Then I ran into problems getting the audio to sync properly because the way it synced in the preview was not exactly how it synced when I exported it to an MPG. Problems, problems, but it all worked out.

I don’t think I have a future at Pixar or anything, but people in my class seemed to like it. Oh, and in the original poem the shopping cart got hit by a car under a No Left Turn sign, which seems rather morbid in retrospect. What was up with me in high school? I decided it would be too hard to animate that scene and gave the video a happy ending instead.

BTW, this was for a totally different class than the Funny Cat Video I posted last month. I think they both turned out well, even though they used completely different production processes. I didn’t make any other videos in college, so this is it as far as my old college videos posts go. Be sad or happy about that as you please.

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Want second helpings? Devour more entries in the archives.

 
 
Chocolate & Vicodin: My Quest for Relief from the Headache that Wouldn't Go Away Half-Assed: A Weight-Loss Memoir

Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, chronic headache sufferer, (former?) weight-loss inspiration, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She was formerly known as PastaQueen. You can contact her if you promise to be nice.

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for keyboards ruined by coffee spit-takes or forehead wrinkles caused by deep thought.

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