Category Archives: There Is No Free Lunch

When Time Traveling Can Predict the Future

Diana Beebe's Blog, Diana Beebe, science fiction, middle grade fantasy, fantasyI have a wacky sense about time and time traveling.

To read the rest of the post, please go to my new website and blog.

Then, follow (subscribe for free), so you’ll get email notifications when I post something new. (You can unsubscribe from this one after.)

You’ll have:

  • No more annoying ads!
  • All the same great content to browse when you need to laugh at me.
  • CommentLuv for you bloggers who’d like to share your recent posts.

What are you still doing here?  Go here and subscribe.  😉 See you soon!

Someone make sure I’m not a pod person!

I did something the other day–it was a thing that I don’t ever do. It horrified me a little.  I don’t know if I’ve been taken over by a pod person.

Movie poster Copyright 1993, Warner Bros

Movie poster Copyright 1993, Warner Bros

What was the horrible thing that I did?

*whispers* I used the wrong pronoun agreement in a compound phrase in a conversation with another person. (OK, so I said it to my mom-in-law who is also a writer.)

*hangs head*

I’m pleading momentary body snatching.

Why was I so horrified?

I used to teach college English grammar classes–the rules were engrained in my memory.  I corrected students to the point that they began correcting each other. Yes, I was the Grammar Police–it was my job–and I enjoyed it.

After I left teaching, I had enough restraint not to correct other people when they broke grammar rules.  (OK, so I don’t correct them out loud–unless they’re my children).

What is this grammar rule that I broke?

My pronoun was body snatched!

These can be tricky sometimes, because they can be subjective (subjects do the action) or objective (an object receives the action).  Hang on for just a second while I get through the technical stuff.

These are examples of compounds that are subjects:

  • Mockingbird and I are going to the store.
  • He and Armadillo planted 50 beans in the garden.

The compound object rule is the one I broke. A compound object is the part of the sentence that receives the action. I said something like:

“Armadillo is going to the store with Mockingbird and I.”

Take the compound out and you can see what I did wrong:

“Armadillo is going to the store with Mockingbird and I.”

It’s pretty obvious that she didn’t go to the store with I. She went to the store with me. A subject behaving like an object is a clear sign of body snatching.

More examples:

Body-snatched pronouns:

  • Mockingbird asked her father and I if she could sell her little sister.
  • Sophie isn’t going to Maui without she and Zander.
  • The pod people want to steal the planet from you and I.

Correct:

  • Mockingbird asked her father and  me if she could sell her little sister.
  • Sophie isn’t going to Maui without her and Zander.
  • The pod people want to steal the planet from you and me.

Read them aloud without the compound, and you can hear the difference.

I’ve seen this rule broken on many TV shows lately, too. Some offending characters are those who love to correct others. They are the pod people, and they are snatching the pronouns. I’m sorry, but you can’t correct others if your grammar isn’t perfect.  (Grammar Police, remember?)

Maybe now, you’ll hear it in your favorite TV shows, too–like that song you can’t get out of your head.  I know. That was evil, but the objective pronoun disagreement pod people must be stopped. I won’t apologize for trying to save our planet before we are all replaced and our planet dies.

That was extreme, I know. The best way to test for pod people is to take out the rest of the compound to see if the pronoun should be the subject (doing the action) or the object (receiving the action) in the sentence.

I promise I won’t ever mess up pronoun agreement in a conversation again. If I do, check for a pod person and the alien race trying to take over our planet. 😉  (No promises about other grammar rules.)

For a list of wonderful places to check your grammar and look up words, you must check out this post by fellow-Texan, Julie Glover.

Are you a grammar guru?  Do you use the language as it happens in your daily life (what rules?!)? Do you have any grammatical pet peeves? Are you a pod person?

Don’t wallow in monotony. Create your own fun!

A long, long time loop ago, in a repetitive land far, far away…

I taught college freshman writing and basic English grammar classes.  I was wrapping up my master’s degree in literature and found a part-time teaching job from a four-line ad in the newspaper classified section.  (Actually, I answered four tiny ads despite my husband’s complete doubt that anyone could find a job that way. I got called back on two of them. Ha!)

The next thing I knew, I had a master’s degree and was moved into a full-time teaching position(that’s what I get for swearing I’d never be a teacher with five to six classes a day) at that business college (it wasn’t a university, but it helped pay bills).

Groundhog_Day_(movie_poster)After about three years, the Groundhog Day effect wore off. I couldn’t grow in that job anymore. Believe me, I tried.

What is the Groundhog Day Effect?

The Groundhog Day Effect has two main parts to it: Monotony and Growth. (The part in the middle called Giving Up, doesn’t apply–ever.)

In the movie, Phil finds himself reliving the same day (February 2) over and over again. The same things happen to him everyday–the same routine, the same conversations, the same meals…the same monotony.

He can’t escape this repeating insanity, so he tries to change it.  However, he chooses antagonistic behaviors. He insults his co-workers, punches an old acquaintance just for greeting him on the street, lies to people, and eats donuts until he makes himself sick.  When these behaviors don’t change his day, he escalates by trying to commit suicide. He gives up. It’s a good thing that didn’t work, because the movie would have had a sad ending.

Now at rock bottom, he tries a different direction. Sure, he starts this new path just as selfish as before, but something starts to change. He relaxes, learns new skills, reads poetry, makes friends with the townspeople, finds ways to be kind to his coworkers.  He discovers growth.

Harnessing the Groundhog Day Effect

When the daily grind starts to look and feel like it did for Phil in the first part of the movie, then it’s time to change things up.  If we sit in the same position for a long time, we get sore.  We have to get up and stretch.  We have to move around.  Eat chocolate.

I had already lived the growth part to make my teaching job enjoyable.  That is often how it is with a new job–lots of growth.  Even when the job was no longer new, I found every chance to learn new skills, overcome fears, make friends, edit a college English grammar text book…

Monotony set in, despite my best efforts. I had to leave or risk punching a student for misusing compound objective pronouns or getting subject-verb agreement wrong in every sentence in her essays. I couldn’t tweak my lesson plans anymore or edit the near-perfect grammar tests or grade another essay that could be written better by a twelve-year-old or be told that a failing student had to pass–again.

I’d reached my limit. There was no room for promotion, salaries were frozen (yet the director enjoyed plastic surgery and many overseas vacations), vacation time was impossible to take (no summers off either), and rumors of unethical practices were rampant. I’d taken on as much responsibility as I could, sponsored a student organization, and added Microsoft Office classes (MS Word was version 2 back then!) to my already long list of courses. During terms when I had all writing classes (no grammar or tech classes), there was so much grading that I might have thought about giving up, but I wasn’t Phil.

It was time to stretch. I started a new career as a technical writer, where 17 years later I’m still finding things to learn.

But what if we find ourselves in a monotony from which there seems to be no escape?

We have to create our own fun–just like Phil did. Even if we have to work within the limits of our environment, we can set goals that allow us to grow and break the monotony. We have to harness the positive Groundhog Day Effect to keep ourselves fresh and happy, even when the environment is stifling. At some point though, we have to decide when it’s time to stretch somewhere else.

How do you harness the positive Groundhog Day Effect? What do you do when faced with daily monotony? How do you stretch to find growth?

Penning to Pals and Sticking Stamps

Since the announcement that the USPS is dropping Saturday delivery, I thought about the last time I mailed a letter or paid a bill.

**Edit: I meant to include the link to the announcement. Click here to read the new schedule that starts in August.**

Photo by Lynn Kelley via WANA Commons

Photo by Lynn Kelley via WANA Commons

Believe it or not, there are one or two bills that I don’t pay online. *shocked face*

I mail birthday cards to nieces and nephews that I don’t see often. I mailed Christmas cards.  That’s it. I know my correspondence behaviors haven’t helped our postal service.

Before email was common, I was a pen pal. I wrote letters, addressed them, licked stamps (before they became stickerlike), and sent them off. Then I checked the mailbox daily for replies. No hitting refresh.

My longest-running letter-writing streak was with my oldest friend from first grade. She moved to another state when we were in third grade. We kept in touch with each other with letters. Lots and lots of them. She taught me what “wicked” meant to kids in Massachussetts in the 1980s. We replied to each other usually within a day or two of receiving a letter all the way through college. I kept all her letters, too, until a demon cat sprayed my entire closet, and I had to throw out a ton of things. (She was an evil cat. I do believe she was possessed.) Now, we’re connected on Facebook and don’t correspond very often.

DC Super Hero stamps left over after a postage increase...

DC Super Hero stamps left over after a postage increase…

In high school, I had pen pals who lived in France as part of my French class. Those were short-lived, since the French students on the receiving end rarely wrote back more than once. In college, I wrote my high school boyfriend just about everyday (ahhh, dumb young love) until we broke up. I also wrote a high school friend of mine who was in the Army. The letters I looked forward to the most were from my high school besties. I recognized their handwriting and would open their letters before leaving the university mail room.

Now, a trip to the mailbox results in a few bills that aren’t e-bills, fliers for local businesses, catalogs, and other junk. The holiday season is the most exciting time of year because of the holiday cards.

While many people are sad to see the USPS closed on Saturday, the mail demand is not as great as it used to be.  Even though I miss the anticipation of opening my mailbox and finding a letter from a friend, I don’t write any myself. Email and text messaging technology have replaced letter writing.

Do you remember the eager excitement of opening your mailbox to see if you had letters to read? Who were your pen pals and how often did you write to each other? How do you feel about the USPS not delivering on Saturdays?

Can We Ever Have Enough Time?

I’ve been thinking a lot about time lately. Mostly because I don’t seem to have enough of it to do all the things that I want to do.  Many people I know say the same thing.  Who needs sleep anyway?

Time04

I don’t get up this early everyday…

I lie.  I’d love to be a golden-eyed Twilight Saga vampire who doesn’t need any sleep.  Ha!  If it weren’t for the blood-sucking tendencies, being a vampire would solve my issues with time. Wouldn’t it?

But what is time, anyway?

At some point in human history, we stopped looking at the sun to tell us when to wake up and when to go to bed. Then we measured the way the planet traveled around the sun to create the units of measure Earthlings call days, hours, minutes, and seconds. Then we devised these arbitrary sets of measurements to schedule our lives and count our years.

Time02Maybe “subjective” is a better word.  It’s not any different than any other forms of measurement. Sure, the mathematics and logic work, but so does the imperial units (aka US customary units), which were based on the size of a person’s foot.  However, there was very little standardization for what a foot meant from one time period and country to another for centuries.

Back to time…

So I know what time it is in my middle grade WIP...

So I know what time it is in my middle grade WIP…

Whatever we call the day, we can’t change the length.  We could have had 48 thingamajigs hours each divided by 30 whatchmacallits minutes divided by 120 doohickies seconds, but we’d still have the same amount of time that elapses as our planet travels around for a day and a night. Could you imagine trying to remember 48 different time zones?

I suppose someone could lasso an asteroid to interfere with our orbit and then change the amount of time it takes us to revolve around the sun.  But only as long it gives us more time.

What?  A girl can dream.

Don’t you wish somedays that the planet did take a little bit longer to make a day?

But…

  • If the day were longer, would our To Do Lists be longer, too?
  • Would we ever feel that we have enough of that thing we call time?
  • Wouldn’t it be better to relax into the day with a flexible but prioritized list and do what is right for the moment? KM Huber said it wonderfully on her blog:  To be present with the present.

Diana Beebe's Blog

Let the day unfold and see that we have all the time that we need at that moment to do what we need to get done, even if that means reading a book or doing laundry or working the day job or washing windows.

I’m kidding about that last one.

Ooops! How did that time waster get in here? *hides phone*

Ooops! How did that time waster get in here?
*hides phone*

While being a wife, mother, and volunteer, I can and will do justice to my day job and finish writing one novel while completing the edits on another. I have all the time I’m going to get, so I better use it wisely.

Look for more time-related posts on Mermaids Don’t Do Windows.  Don’t worry it won’t all be about time management, learning to tell time, and calendars.  I’ll throw in time travel and parallel worlds just for fun.

I’d love to hear from you!

How do you fill your day?  Do you feel as if you need or want more time?  How would you have divided up the day’s units of measure and what would you call them?

Because Cockroaches Aren’t Strong Enough?

It’s been awhile since I’ve done a TINSTAAFL Tuesday.  I know it’s not Tuesday, but this is definitely TINSTAAFL (“There is no such thing as a free lunch”) worthy. In fact, I’m changing the category while I make blog adjustments.

From Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain USDA image)

From Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain USDA image)
Click image to go to source.

Cockroaches are gross. There I said it. I grew up in the Houston area where the cockroaches grow as large as small puppies.

When I was six or seven, I was waiting on the school sidewalk for my mom to pick me up. I was wearing sandals, and something tickled my foot. I ignored it for a second. Then I used my other foot to scratch the itch. It still itched. I looked down to see a ginormous roach on my practically-bare foot. I screamed and kicked my feet and danced around like the cowboy who has someone shooting at his feet in a Wild West movie.

*shiver*

What if you were in a disaster and your only hope for being rescued was a cyborg Madagascar hissing cockroach?  How about a cockroach with its own fuel cell?

Did I mention that I can’t stand these insects? I hope I’m not offending anyone out there who might love them.

*bleh*

Back to the disaster…

You’re trapped in a destroyed building. That’s pretty stressful (I know, understatement!). Then a cyborg cockroach runs toward you. I don’t know about you, but I might be tempted to smash it before I realized that it had some kind of technology attached to it, squishing my one chance of survival.  I hope I have something nearby to cover up the cockroach carnage so that I don’t have to look at it while I remain trapped.

*gag*

To keep things interesting, check out this article about cyborg flying insects.  The circuitry is implanted in the insect pupae and the adult moth’s flight can be controlled for military or security use.  The pictures and diagrams are fascinating. Evidently, this technology was inspired by a science fiction novel called Sparrowhark by Thomas A. Easton. I haven’t read it, but this is a clear case of science fiction intersecting with or inspiring current science.

While the bugs don’t seem to be harmed (beyond having someone control them), I just have to wonder if it is really necessary to make a practically-indestructible insect even more powerful.  They will outlive us all. Do we have to give them help?

Do the benefits outway the risks?  What kinds of things can you see go wrong with this kind of technology mixed with insects?  How would you react if a cyborg insect (crawling or flying) approached you in a disaster situation or any situation?

Twitterpated

If you’ve seen Bambi (who hasn’t?), you know that “twitterpated” is the word Friend Owl uses to tell the young animals that spring is coming and they will fall in love.

image

The three friends, Bambi, Thumper, and Flower, promise never to lose their friendship sanity just because of the shininess of the first pretty girl they see of their species.

I’ve been twitterpated by the shininess Twitter (@DianaBeebeTX, if you want to follow).  Can you believe it?

My use of the social media shiny is limited to a few friends, my alma mater (gotta keep up with the Frogs!), and my widening circle of writing friends.  I don’t follow any shows or celebrities, except Dr. Horrible because…well, just because.  I live in a fairly small, sheltered bubble.  I also try to think before I post. I hope I have not forsaken my sanity for the shiny that Twitter holds.

Free technology. No free lunch!

When I went to open house at my daughter’s high school, one of her teachers encouraged the students to follow his class (not him personally) on Twitter.  They could ask him questions about homework and projects.

I’m not ready for my daughter to be on Facebook.  She certainly isn’t going to be on Twitter any time soon.  (Thank goodness the Anti-Teenager is OK with that.)

So why was I surprised to hear that a student (already in trouble for drinking on campus) tweeted that she was going to attack another girl at school?  And she did attack her in a hallway.

A few days later, some students thought it would be “fun” to act up in the halls.  Rumor in the school is that it was a flash mob attempt, started on Twitter.  The school now has strict class change procedures with teachers lining the halls, one way stairwells, and extra security in the building.

Because a few young teenagers misused Twitter and acted on the misuse.  Did they get twitterpated by the shiny of tweeting–can’t see beyond their little circle of tweeps like Thumper who wondered off with the first cute girl rabbit who batted her eyelashes at him? Did they think that no one else would see that one tweet because of an @ mention to a specific person? Not a lot of thought goes into that kind of twittiness.

This was not an Arab Spring.  There was no higher purpose. There were kids misbehaving and making the school miserable for the rest of the students.  According to the school, two students were arrested (no details were given, of course).  Public tweets and videoed assaults are hard evidence though.  Students were told more trouble would follow if anything else was posted.

You would think that as tech savvy as teens are these days that they would also understand that what they post is out there.  They can’t take it back on Twitter.  Their thoughts, motivations, and pictures are there for all the world to see.  Their teachers and potential employers can see it, too.

New users on Twitter are not that different than a teenager in lurve for the first time. Now give Twitter to a teen who doesn’t realize that more people than the tweeps who follow them can see what they post, or maybe they don’t care.

I remember being twitterpated in high school. I didn’t always think through my actions when I was in lurve. *bats eyelashes* Thank goodness I didn’t have to deal with social media as a kid…

As someone fairly new to Twitter, I still wonder if something I post makes me sound like a twit. I’m not so new to being twitterpated that I hit send everytime I think of something to post. Twitty and witty are two different things.

Until Mission Impossible technology catches on, what gets tweeted is out there for the world to read.

There are companies out there that are creating “This message will self-destruct” applications.  You pick the time table–5 seconds or 6 days.  An article on NPR about a startup called Wickr that is doing this for iThings.

The technology isn’t there for everyone to use yet.  So until our emails, tweets, and Facebook posts can self-destruct, we need to teach our kids how to behave. If you know teenagers who are twitterpated with Twitter, please make sure they are using it wisely.  Heck, make sure that you’re using it wisely, too.

That’s not always easy when adults in high government positions get caught in scandals because of things they’ve posted.  They were twits twitterpated by their own perceived cyberspace bubbles. You know who they are.

If you’re a parent of teens, do you even know if your child is on Twitter?  If so, are you following him or her?  Are you monitoring phone and web activity?