Something to Think About

"I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love."
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Saturday 9: Waking Up In Vegas

These are the Saturday 9 from this site

1) As she sings about her night in Las Vegas, Katy wonders if she "got hitched last night dressed up like Elvis." Tell us about the last wedding you attended. I think it was my niece's wedding.  It was a little unusual as the service seemed to include a sermon and the bride chose to go barefoot.  It was different.

2) Whenever Crazy Sam visits Las Vegas, she stays at the Paris Hotel and Casino. Have you ever been to Las Vegas, Nevada? What about Paris, France? I've never been to Vegas but I did visit Paris on a school trip when I was in high school!

3) Do you enjoy gambling? Have you had any success at it? I'm not too much of a gambler. I dislike giving my money away so easily as I work too hard for it!

4) Las Vegas is served by the RTC Bus Service and the Vegas Monorail System connects many of casinos on The Strip. When was the last time you rode a bus or a train? Um... I think the last time was on a trip to NYC a couple years ago.

5) It's not unusual for the mercury to hit 100ยบ in Vegas in August. Which are you more comfortable in -- extreme heat or bone-chilling cold? Hard to say. I prefer cold because you can always put more clothing on but you can only take so much off!  On the other hand, it makes my joints ache. Heat is awful, though, especially combined with humidity...  I guess I'll take cold with a side of painkillers, okay?

6) As a little girl, Katy Perry sang nothing but gospel. Do you remember any church songs from your childhood?  A few.

7) She made her film debut as the voice of Smurfette in The Smurfs (2011). Who is your all-time favorite cartoon character? Eeyore

8) Do you consider yourself a picky eater? Nope!  I'll try almost anything once!

9) You receive an invitation to a party that starts at 7:00 PM. When will you arrive? 6:55

Saturday Six - August 10, 2013

1. What do you hear around you right this minute? Locusts in the tree outside the window and a lawnmower down the street.

2. Whose laughter do you most enjoy hearing? My grandchildren's!

3. Whose voice do you miss hearing most? My father's

4. If you had to pick a recorded song or tune as your personal theme song, which would you choose? Don't Stop Me Now by Queen

5. How many alarm clocks do you use to wake up on time? One.

6. Which musical instrument creates what you consider to be the most poignant sound? The violin

These are the Saturday Six from Patrick's Place!

Monday, August 5, 2013

5 Facts about Mars

Tomorrow marks the one year anniversary of the amazing landing of Curiosity on Mars! Can you believe it's been an entire year already?

You can see a movie entitled Twelve Months in Two Minutes here that shows images from a fisheye camera called the Hazard-Avoidance camera on the front of Curiosity taken over the last year.  It shows it taking samples in a variety of different areas of Mars.

NASA will have a live event tomorrow at 10:45 AM on NASA television and on their website, if you are lucky enough to be home to view it!  I'm not so lucky as I have to work.

In honor of the anniversary, I thought we'd take a look at the red planet!

How many of these facts do you know?

1. The largest volcano in the solar system is on Mars!  It's called Olympus Mons.

2. Mars has polar ice caps - like Earth does - but scientists believe the Mars ice caps are frozen carbon dioxide, not water.

3. Mars has seasons like we do here on Earth.  They are caused by a similar tilt of the planet's axis.

4. Mars is about half the diameter of Earth.

5. Temperatures on Mars can vary from about 80°F in summer to a low of -225° in the winter.  Not only is Mars much farther from the sun than Earth is but the planet lacks an atmosphere to hold in the heat.

Image found here

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Massive Alphabet Meme part 2

This is the Sunday Stealing meme

The Letter N
Do you have a nickname? People call me Cathy sometimes.
What is your favorite number? 25 - for no particular reason
Do you prefer night or day? Night - I'm a nightowl

The Letter O 
What is your one wish? Can't think of one right now
Are you an only child?  Nope!  I have 4 sisters
Do you wish this year was over? No!  It's only half-way through!

The Letter P 
What is one fear that you are most paranoid about? I don't think I'm paranoid about anything - and I have few major fears.
What personality trait would you look for in someone you wanted to date? A sense of humor is important.  So is loyalty.

The Letter Q
Are you quick to judge people? I don't think so.  As a rather awkward person in social situations, I understand that if a person is nervous he or she may not come off very well the first time they meet someone new. I think it is best to give the benefit of the doubt and give them another chance.

The Letter R
Do you think you are always right? Obviously not!  No one is!
Do you watch reality T.V.? I avoid reality shows like the plague.
What is a good reason to cry? If you're sad. (duh)

The Letter S
Do you prefer sun or rain? Sun, I guess - but I like a good thunderstorm!
Do you like snow? Yes, if I don't have to go anywhere. It has a way of covering up the ugly and making everything look fresh and new!
What is your favorite season? Autumn. Not too hot, not too cold and the leaves are pretty!

The Letter T
What time is it? 9:10 AM
What time did you wake up? 7:30 AM - I slept in!
When was the last time you slept in a tent? The last time we went camping...  a couple years ago, I guess.

The Letter U
Are you wearing underwear? What a rude question!  Yes.
Do you open your eyes when under water? Yes. Can't see with your eyes closed!

The Letter V
What is the worst veggie? Worst?  I love most veggies as long as they're prepared right.
Where do you want to go on vacation? Anywhere, really.  I'm not picky. It's nice to get away!
What was your last family vacation together? When we went to Vermont years ago, I guess.

The Letter W
What is your worst habit? Being self-conscious.
Where do you live? In Pennsylvania.

The Letter X
Have you ever had an X-ray? Yep.
Have you ever seen the X-Games? Not in person, but on TV, I have.
Do you own or have you ever played a xylophone? No and no.

The Letter Y
Do you like the color yellow? It's not one of my favorites.
What year were you born in? None of your business.
What do you yearn for most? To be able to travel more!

The Letter Z
What is your Zodiac Sign? Scorpio
Do you believe in the Zodiac? No. Not at all.  I think it's superstitious nonsense.
What is your favorite zoo animal? I like big cats - tigers, lions, etc - but I don't like to see them in zoos! I feel sorry for them.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Saturday Six - August 3, 2013

For all of these questions, assume you’ve just won a lottery and you now have $20 million in your bank account (and that’s after taxes)!

1. Which charity or organization would receive the first donation you make? Probably Foundation Beyond Belief

2. Which bill would you be most likely to pay off first? My mortgage!

3. What practical, needed thing that you haven’t had the money to buy would you purchase first? Hmm...  Does new flooring for our dining room count? The carpet in there is horribly old and just ugly!

4. What completely impractical, but fun, product would you purchase first? I've always wanted a Mini Cooper or, even better, a Tesla - though neither of these are completely impractical.  Wait!  If I purchased both, that would be impractical, wouldn't it?  And I'll add an all-wheel drive for bad weather, too.

5. Where is the first place you’d be likely to travel? England

6. How far from your current home would you be most likely to relocate, if you’d relocate at all? I'd probably stay here - but I'd purchase some vacation houses. :-)

These are the Saturday Six from Patrick's Place!

Saturday 9: I'm a Believer

These are the Saturday 9 from this site!

1) This song is about a guy who fell in love when he saw her face. Do you believe in love at first sight? Love?  No.  Attraction?  Of course but that isn't love.

2) "I'm a Believer" is the best-selling Monkees song. Can you name another one? Day Dream Believer is the first one that popped into my head!

3) On their TV show, the boys competed for the same girl. Have you and a friend ever been romantic rivals?  Luckily, no.

4) In another episode, the Monkees visited the circus. If you were confident there was a good strong net beneath you, would you walk across the high wire? Perhaps I would have given it a go in my younger days. :-)

5) The Monkees show originally aired on Monday nights. Do you have a favorite day of the week? Friday is fast becoming my favorite - especially when I have a work week like the one I just had!

6) Davy Jones guest starred on an episode of The Brady Bunch. The plot revolved around Marcia's efforts to get him to perform at the prom. Share one of your memories from a school dance. I didn't go to many dances.  I do recall how odd the middle school dances were.  Most of the boys stayed on one side of the room and the girls on the other.  Talk about awkward!

7) At the height of their popularity, the Monkees' faces and logo appeared on a lot of merchandise, including lunch boxes. Which would you rather have for lunch -- chicken salad, tuna salad or egg salad? Egg salad.  Second choice would be tuna but I don't eat chicken.

8) You have an afternoon all to yourself. Would you rather spend it at the mall, checking out what's new in the stores and people watching, or walking through the forest, observing the birds and trees and leaves? I'd take the forest, please!  I hate shopping and I don't like crowds.

9) Do you have a good memory for names? Not really.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Magical Thinking - Healthy or Harmful?

I've recently been examining the idea of magical thinking.  Magical thinking occurs when a human being sees a cause and effect relationship when there is no scientific basis for it. For example, an athlete who decides that there is a relationship between eating a particular meal prior to a game and winning that game.  Now, there is no proof of an actual connection between eating that meal and winning a game but if it has happened a couple times it is all that it takes for our minds to see a pattern.

Researchers believe that this sort of thinking might be hardwired in our brains. It makes sense that our ancestors who jumped to the conclusion that a rustle in the bushes meant there was danger had a better chance of survival than those who took the time to contemplate whether it was the wind or something else before reacting. Survivors were more likely to live long enough to reproduce, after all, so this would be an advantage.

Very young children have little understanding of how things actually work in the world.  This is why infants are so delighted with a game of Peek-a-boo.  They don't realize that a person is still there when their face is covered so, in their minds, we are appearing and disappearing right in front of them!  No wonder they are so amused!

As we age, we get a firmer grasp of reality but it isn't until we are about 8 that we have the same comprehension of the difference between fantasy and reality that adults do. This doesn't mean that we still might find ourselves jumping to conclusions or seeing a connection where one does not exist.  Remember that even the most skeptical person among us is prone to see patterns where there are none.

Some beliefs are passed on to us by our parents, family members or communities like the belief in Santa Claus, fairies or religious deities. Others are created by our own minds making connections or seeing patterns where they might not exist. For example, when something bad happens to someone who has been nasty towards me I might think, if only for a second, that a force like "karma" had something to do with it or that the universe was getting back at them.

The question I have is whether or not this sort of thinking should be encouraged.  Is it a bad thing in itself to hold irrational beliefs?

Matthew Hutson, the author of The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking: How Irrational Beliefs Keep Us Happy, Healthy and Sane, argues that magical thinking improves our lives. He says that skeptics don't enjoy life as much as those who are less skeptical.  I'm not sure that I can agree with this. While I can enjoy a piece of fiction that takes place in a world where real magic exists, such as Terry Pratchett's Discworld books or J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series, I can also recognize that those places do not actually exist in the real world. I hold no delusions about this at all, but this fact does not in any way detract from my enjoyment of the books. It does, however, keep me from trying to use a carved wooden wand to protect myself from a poisonous snake or believe that my luggage is going to sprout legs and follow me when I'm on a trip. I don't find this unhealthy at all.

It occurs to me that we certainly do seem to go to great lengths sometimes to believe in things that are unlikely, unproven and unrealistic, don't we? I've heard people bend over backwards to justify a particular belief instead of just admitting that there is no scientific proof to back it up but that they prefer to hold it anyway. While I can understand the attraction of holding certain irrational beliefs wouldn't the world be a better place if all of us made an effort to live our lives as rationally as possible and save the fantasy for entertainment purposes? After all, the real world has real problems for us to deal with that we should concentrate on solving, doesn't it?  It seems to me it is easier to come up with a solution to a problem if our methods of solving them are also based in reality.

What do you think?

Image found here

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Fresh Tomato Soup

If you have tomatoes planted in your garden, this time of the summer you probably have so many tomatoes you don't know what to do with them!!  I use them to make fresh tomato soup and I've recently been introduced to a different version of this soup.

This is a recipe for a soup that K's mother always made when he was young.  It is unusual because it contains potatoes and hard boiled eggs along with the tomatoes. She didn't ever measure anything, really, so I had to figure it out from what she told me.  It took a while, but here is what I came up with.  It's surprisingly good!

Fresh Tomato Soup

7 or 8 cups of fresh tomatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
2 cups diced, peeled potatoes - you want to make sure these are small enough so they will cook through
5 hard-boiled eggs - chopped
3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour
1 cup milk (fat-free milk works fine)
fresh ground pepper

(Note:  Use whatever seasonings you prefer.  I've recently been adding Goya's Adobo seasoning (it contains, salt, pepper, garlic and oregano) instead of the seasonings listed here. I think I like it better with that combination!)

Bring the tomatoes to a boil over medium high heat in a large pot and stir in the diced potatoes. Reduce the heat to low.  Simmer for about 30 minutes - or until the potatoes are cooked through - stirring occasionally and breaking up larger chunks of tomatoes with your spoon as you stir.

In another saucepan, melt the butter over medium low heat and whisk in the flour.  Stir until bubbly. Gradually add the milk, while stirring, and continue stirring for about a minute or until thickened.  Stir the milk mixture into the pot with the tomatoes and potatoes.  Add the seasonings to taste. Cook a while longer until the soup is the consistency you prefer. Stir in the hard-boiled eggs just before serving.