A Bit About Me

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Along with my daily duties as founder and head writer of HumorMeOnline.com, in 2003, I took the Grand Prize in the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest (also known as the "It Was a Dark and Stormy Night" competition). I've also been a contributor to "The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson" and the web's "The Late Show with David Letterman". I also occupy my time writing three blogs, "Blogged Down at the Moment", "Brit Word of the Day" and "Production Numbers"...and my off-time is spent contemplating in an "on again/off again" fashion...my feable attempts at writing any one of a dozen books. I would love to write professionally one day...and by that I mean "actually get a paycheck".

30 July 2009

The Three Degrees of Google

Charlie Chaplin was in a movie called "Monsieur Verdoux" with Herb Vigran...who was in "Amazon Women on the Moon" with Steve Guttenberg, who, in turn, was in "Diner" with Kevin Bacon. And so, the cult phenomenon known as "The Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" took its place in the annals of trivial history.

Based on the theory known as "The Six Degrees of Separation" - whereby any one person is separated by any other person by only six steps in the "human web", John Guare's play, later the popular film, "Six Degrees of Separation"...pretty much coined a phrase with which we are now more or less familiar. While this whole idea was not new...it took the film, and subsequently, the "Kevin Bacon" Internet game sensation of the 1990's to bring it to the forefront of most peoples' forays into it.

I remember, quite some time ago, being the [quote - unquote] filmophile that I am...trying to find a "Bacon Number" higher than anyone else's. Oh, yes...to get that elusive Bacon Number of eight...THAT would be a thing.

But the fervour of the game began to wane and I seemed to have my own issues and most of those issues centered around me personally...instead of him personally. Specifically, my health.

And because of my health...or the decay thereof, I've since made up another little "game". With the advent of "everything" out there at your fingertips - and only a click away..."imminent death" is as well.

It's really not that morbid when you think of it...let me explain. Gimme any MINOR illness, and with three or less clicks online...I can find out that it leads to death.

Now, I know what you're thinking: "So, what, Mariann...everybody and their uncle has a website or blog with a bunch of misleading health information." And you'd probably be true in this assessment...BUT...I only "play" this "game" on bona fide websites, such as WebMD and MayoClinic.com.

Oh, yes...many has been the night where I felt funny, found a bump that wasn't there before, or as my latest venture online...obsessing about THIS thing on my leg:

It can't be a simple, ordinary bruise - oh, no...no bruise looks like that...plus I asked the lady who checks my blood clotting level at my cardiologist only this past Monday...and she replied, "Hmmmm...that's an ODD bruise...I've never seen one like THAT before". And she's seen lots of strange bruises I'm sure...dealing with all us Warfarin-takers - who bruise if you only look at us funny.

Against my better judgement, I Googled. I've been told by a few doctors that I was not allowed to anymore...they forbade me to Google...in essence, my Google license has been revoked.

But...I still do.

So, what went from an innocent "skin" and "ring" quest - progressed to "bite"...then on to "spider bite" - culminating with "Brown Recluse bite" which ultimately stated necrotic tissue death and full-blown death. Blown out of proportion, hopefully...

...but you know the deal -- if it's ON the Internet, it must be true, right?

26 July 2009

Oh, the Irony (Part III)

When I was a child I used to read those Aesop's Fables - they tried to let you know life's lessons and personality faults - usually portrayed through the eyes of animals. And then along came Captain Edward A. Murphy working at Edwards Air Force base in 1949...some 2549 years later...supposedly coining the infamous "Murphy's Law"...which basically states "If anything can go wrong...it will".

So, I figure - if you combine the two and add some irony - you get my dilemma: each time I post a blog...even if no one has added one in a whole entire day...there will be an onslaught of people rushing to post their blogs directly after.

Now...you might say to yourself..."Um...who cares, Mariann - deal with it". And you might also be saying, "...and how does this relate to me?" Well, it doesn't...unless you are those people who post blogs directly after mine, thereby bumping me out of the primo first slot...down to one of the sub-primo three slots visible on the home page of the Montgomery Advertiser's online site...then relegated to the "click here if you even want to bother waiting for the page to load" slot on the "other" page...culminating in the "totally bumped off the side of the virtual flat Earth which blogland is here".

For those who don't know - a maximum amount of ten blogs get to remain on the newspaper's site at any one time...when a new blog is posted...the one that's been there the longest - gets bumped off to fall into "Internet oblivion"...never to be seen again.

Sure, you can wait until such time you post another blog and hope that someone will happen upon it and read...but typically the home page is key...because people are creatures of habit and usually they are habitually lazy. Clicking to another page is one more step they don't have the patience for...and I say this, because I've heard it said many times: "Ugh...the page takes too long to load - I have to keep clicking on 'refresh' and it STILL doesn't load".

So, while you can sometimes teach an old dog new tricks - it doesn't take too long for that dog to give up if he never gets a bone.

And somewhere in that above statement is possibly a moral to a fable which is probably vaguely similar to one of Aesop's...but for now I'll just be content to play the fox to the Internet's sour grapes.

25 July 2009

Oh, the Irony (Part II)

In my earlier, Part I "Irony" blogumn, I pointed out a couple things I thought were ironic...and, while they don't necessarily pertain to you personally, I'm sure we have all shared a bit of irony in our lives...so since I don't live anyone's life but my own, I'm sharing things I find ironic to me...hopefully you can relate somehow.

I am not versed in the classical arts. I never go to plays because I can't afford it and I don't want to go alone - I love museums, but I don't go as often as I could...but the other day I figured, "By golly I'm going to get 'culturefied'..." - the Montgomery Ballet was putting on their annual "Performance on the Green" aka "Ballet Under the Stars" free performance at the Blount Cultural Park. I've never seen a ballet altho when I was a child I wanted to be a ballerina - I would stand tippy-toed and dance around directly on the tips of my toes doing my versions of pliƩs and pas de duexs as only a free-spirited and uninhibited child without any dance training can. I loved the ballet - the tutus, the "en pointe" loveliness - the graceful lifts and the gallant "defying gravity" leaps - it was mesmerizing to me as a child and I still don't know why. I remember intently watching the goings-on regarding the Baryshnikov defection with as much fascination as I watched the moon landing. So, suffice it to say - when they mentioned the free ballet here in Montgomery, which I've never seen altho it's been a mainstay here 33 years prior; I jumped at the chance to see it.

Unfortunately, I did not know that both days' performances were not the same. Smart me...I didn't check online - I just "supposed" they would be - after all they do performances over and over and over - it's usually just a matter of timing and tickets. But, I ended up going on the second day - not saying the second day was worse...it was just put on by amateurs (albeit VERY talented amateurs) - and not the professionals as was the performance the day prior.

I also didn't know that my bothering to dress up a bit and put on a face would be a total waste of time as, such as the name implies, "Ballet UNDER the Stars" - is pretty much done in an informal setting...and that setting is pretty much dark.

While those things might seem a tiny bit ironic - the thing I found strangest was the fact that instead of looking AT the stage - I glanced upwards for a second and saw one of the best displays of a meteor I've ever witnessed. It lasted so long and the blazing crackle and pop of light as it streaked across our portion of sky had quite a few onlookers thinging it must have been an errant firework. From all sides you could hear the initial hushed whispers gradually growing louder talking about it - and as we were walking back to our van, the nice lady who offered to carry one of the chairs my daughter was burdened with, mentioned how incredibly great it (the meteor) was. Sure...we just saw two hours of beautiful ballet - but a bit of wayward space rock seemed to take center stage.

Who would have thought -- had I been there to watch the ballet on the first day - I wouldn't have seen the meteor...and had I really been watching the ballet on the second day...I wouldn't have seen the meteor. Irony, no?

Irony (Part III), tomorrow.

19 July 2009

Oh, the Irony (Part I)

There are multitudes of things I see in my life which make me stop and take note...pause, reflect, and just go on. Some are shelved in the archives of my brain never to see the light of day again...some peek out now and again as if to say "yo...if you aren't going to need dis here...we're gonna put it through the shredder" (I'm from Jersey...my brain's inner voice talks that way)...and some, because of a whole other trigger mechanism...jump again to the forefront and just dog the heck outta me.

I cannot be alone in these thoughts. Thought processes probably are pretty much the same. Some people obsess over that message left on an answering machine. "Did I say my number? Did I sound like a complete idiot? Oh...I HATE answering machines...I bet I sounded like a moron. It stopped recording before I was done - I better call back up to be sure I left my number." Some people (purely fictional people [who aren't me] with an equally fabricated story), years later - wonder if that guy they talked to (at the party in their friend's brother's garage) when they were 15 remembers how idiotic they sounded...and, did they remember me tripping when I got up? I can't believe I actually tripped when I got up. I NEVER trip when I get up - WHY did I trip then - and, most importantly, does anyone remember? Oh, c'mon...it's been 30-odd years...no one remembers and no one really cares. Or do they?

I recently hooked back up with an old friend on Classmates.com - and she NEVER thought I'd remember the minute details of that time we skated on the lake when it was frozen over...but I do! She laughed and I laughed. We laughed because I remember her doing it...she laughed because she remembers doing it - but we both primarily laughed because the thing she did...which was so incredibly "non-noteworthy" was remembered, clear as day...in both our heads. And I haven't a clue why.

But this certainly proves our brains do indeed wonder things long after the fact and remembers things, the silliest things, the things we've thought we long forgot...and the things we hoped others have long forgotten as well.

But, as I say...some things pop back and some things really never leave you.

Case in point: Mad Cow Disease.

I remember a few years back, an incident here in Alabama where a guy had a cow or some cattle which were connected somehow to some British cows which tested positive for bovine spongiform encephalopathy or BSE. I caught it on the news ONE time...and one time only. For years it's been festering in my brain (hopefully not in the BSE fatal way) because I never did hear any other news about it. Was there any closure? Did he turn over his cows? Did they test positive also? Did the beef industry just hush the whole thing over? If the beef industry and the Centers for Disease Control battled it out in a caged death match...who would win? Who trumps whom? Why did everyone I talk to remember the initial story - but never heard the follow-up?

So, the other day, I'm sitting at home after finding out, firsthand, some disturbing news about Mad Cow Disease and some deaths pertaining to it...and I decided to do a little digging on Google. I turned up this, straight from the CDC's site (bear in mind this isn't "Bob's Site About All Stuff Mad Cowy" - the CDC is a very legitimate and reputable place and if anyone knows their "Mad Cowy" stuff...it's them):

On March 15, 2006, the USDA announced the confirmation of BSE in a cow in Alabama. The case was identified in a non-ambulatory (downer) cow on a farm in Alabama. The animal was euthanized by a local veterinarian and buried on the farm. The age of the cow was estimated by examination of the dentition as 10-years-old. It had no ear tags or distinctive marks; the herd of origin could not be identified despite an intense investigation (see second featured item above and Alabama BSE Investigation, Final Epidemiology Report, May 2006 ). In August 2008, several ARS investigators reported that a rare, genetic abnormality that may persist within the cattle population "is considered to have caused" BSE in this atypical (H-type) BSE animal from Alabama. (See Identification of a Heritable Polymorphism in Bovine PRNP Associated with Genetic Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy: Evidence of Heritable BSE . Also see BSE Case Associated with Prion Protein Gene Mutation .)

Now - when you start talking "prions" and "gene mutations" and "atypical" along with "had no ear tags"...well, my ears did a little perking up themselves. I'm not in the cattle industry - but aren't all cattle supposed to be accountable and trackable? This was, remember, 2006, not 1956. We had the knowledge...we had the technology and we also had the scare factor of Mad Cow Disease hanging over our collective heads years prior with all the "Do NOT Eat Meat in Britain, Whatever You Do...Because It Can kill You In a Fortnight" programs on "Dateline" and "60 Minutes" and "20/20" and "CNN" and "CBS" and "NBC" and so forth.

If we can track a UPS package online with the click of a finger - trust me - we can track a whole damn cow. But yet...as if David Copperfield (or Criss Angel for the younger crowd) stepped in - this whole cow story mysteriously disappeared...and has not resurfaced. I say it's high time we find out what happened to that cow - behind what the above paragraph states - so we can finally stick a fork in it and call it done.

17 July 2009

Coincidence? Propofol Recall and Michael Jackson's Death

This is going to be my shortest blog ever. Don't get too excited...as I'm sure I'll more than make up for it in my next one. ;)

Anyway, I get automatic government recalls to my email account. Anything from melamine tainted pet food to salmonella-infested alfalfa sprouts to baby cribs with the slats spaced too far apart to 1996 Dodge Grand Caravans being recalled outright because they slowly fall apart and then they subsequently totally replace said vehicle with a brand new one at their own cost (wishful thinking on that last one)...and everything in between.

So, I'm checking my mail tonite and I came across one I just had to say "hmmmmm...coincidence?" to.

Propofol Recall

It's a recall for Proprofol - the drug that's been bantered about lately as being the likely culprit (along with the doctor) for the untimely death of Michael Jackson:

Possible Causes of Death

If this doesn't create an isolated hotbed of controversy in the next few days...I don't know what will.

But, regardless...it certainly makes me sit up and say "hmmmmm..." - and being from New Jersey I can't help but have all sorts of "conspiracy theory" thoughts now floating around inside my head. So, coincidence?

Nah...I'm not buying it.

11 July 2009

Don't Dog and Drive

To the man or woman who was driving in front of me on Wednesday, June 24th, you are completely lacking in any type of foresight - even if your reflexes are to be admired.

You - you know who you are even if you shall never read this. You are one of the multitudes of people who think they are impervious to anything bad happening to them...in fact, nothing bad has probably befell you - but that doesn't meant you weren't the cause of it happening to those AROUND you.

There you were, on the stretch of road which traverses next to the construction work to widen the lanes going over Interstate 85 in Montgomery, Alabama. You were in your white Pontiac Grand Am, license plate starting with "2" and ending with "H", with your little moppy-haired dog sitting on your lap trying desperately to hang over the edge of your completely open driver's side window.

My son and I were on our way to our destination - directly in back of you. I kept telling my son how no one should be driving with a dog in the driver's seat - talk about distractions and an accident waiting to happen.

So, as we sat; I, myself, tempted to get out of my car to tell you what a complete ignoramus you were...I realized it would undoubtedly fall upon deaf ears. I am sure this obstacle course-type of driving you do - was not an isolated occurrence.

So, we sat in back of you - all the while this scenario repeated in my head: your happy little dog leaps out of the window, runs into traffic and becomes the initiator of a three-car collision (at the very least) - by innocent people trying to avoid your equally innocent, freedom-loving, frolicking doggie...until the inevitable squeal of brakes, shrill doggie yelps, and the cringe-worthy clash of metal against metal happens.

I thought of this, my son thought of this, the policeman I wished were still in back of me - he would have thought of this. In fact, I'd wager the ONLY person NOT thinking this...was you.

And then it happened. With my perfect vantage point directly behind you, I could see everything - your dog decided to "go for it".

This is the part where we give you credit - about the same time your dog was two-thirds out of the car and I was saying, "Oh geez...I hope I don't run over it" - you managed to calmly and reflexively...and in one fluid movement, catch him by the butt end and yank him back in.

Lesson learned, correct?

Nope. You continued driving, making the next left - dog still in your lap and window still completely down.

Personally, I care too much for my animals, my life and the lives of others - to ever put anyone in this situation to begin with...but, had I -- I would have counted my blessings and myself lucky, rolled up my window and bought a dog car harness the very next day.

You know...some people aren't impervious -- just oblivious.

(My thanks to Phil for the title.)

05 July 2009

The "I'll (concede) of Capri" (Part II)

The other day I was on Maxwell Air Force Base and decided I'd go on over to the thrift store there. Oh, don't let it fool you - they have a LOT of brand new stuff there; things with tags even. I highly doubt anyone...at least not most people...would save the tags, wear the clothes for a year or two and then invest in one of those "plastic hang-tag doohickey" devices to pop the tags back on - in order to sell it for a whopping $5.00 instead of $3.00 at the thrift shop.

Well, I'm walking around and I find a couple pairs of pants and then I spy "them" - just hanging there with their tags intact. "Ralph Lauren" blue and white cotton...Capri pants!

But they aren't really Capri pants in the sense of the ones Marilyn Monroe had to change out of in "The Seven Year Itch" because, as Marilyn as "The Girl" says, "You just can't drink champagne in Matador pants." (I originally wrote "Capri" pants...but someone's comment, at another site I post this, got me thinking and I believe she says "Matador"...altho, technically the ones she wore in the film typically were known as "Capris" or "clamdiggers")...

(Actually a pair of Marilyn's own Capri pants at an auction site.)

...but wider, stumpier versions...

(Not mine...but supposedly an actual pair of Ralph Lauren Capri pants, which look totally different from mine, on another auction site.)

As you can tell - these are much less sexy versions...but...the kind that every woman around my age are sporting here in Montgomery, Alabama. And, if you remember my "Part I" blog about them (that blog here)...everyone that is...except me.

I walk away from them...but I am lured back by the $85 price tag still hanging on - angled to face me as if to say "c'mon, I USED to be $85 and now I'm $6.00 - you just gotta...even IF you never wear me".

So, I succumbed and tried them on.

I must interject...a little bit of backstory here...

I belong to an online forum which is predominantly made up of women - and I asked them "WHY? Why would ANY woman wear these God-awful things?" To my astonishment, they were wearing them as well - and LOVED them. Again, I must not have gotten that memo - but it surely was making the rounds...and dammit...I wasn't going to be THE only woman over 40 who didn't own a pair.

I bought them.

I have since worn them several times and, contrary to my self-conscious pre-conceived notions, no one looks at me like I'm an outcast...and not one person stopped in their tracks to point and laugh. To be fair about it, though, no one has come up to me and shown me any secret handshakes or anything. But I have been given multitudes of compliments about them -- so I gather the clandestine aromatherapy candle buying meetings and "Pampered Chef" party invites can't be too far off.