Monday, January 31, 2011

I'm Not Wired That Way...

I'm not wired in a way that lets me be aware of what other people think of me.

Seriously. It's a huge issue at times. Well, it's a huge issue in my head, which is where I live most of the time. Also, it's a mess in here. Just sayin'.

Someone e-mailed me tonight, and part of the e-mail was them telling me how someone thought so highly of me, and how they aspired to be like me, and other things that made me feel a little sorry for this person who has set his goals so low. The whole time I was thinking, "Really?"

Then I looked at it logically, which I a capable of doing in lots of non-directly-related-to-me situations, and thought, "Well, yeah, I guess I can see that." I mean, it didn't make it any less sad, but I could see it, right?

And now I have to stop because I'm laughing at how I'm presenting myself as this total Eeyore or Marvin or something. I don't mean to, but that's also related to how I'm wired!

So I am now sitting here thinking how I'm just really not wired to know what people think of me. At least part of it is due to the fact most of my brain believes anything is possible, and I can be wrong about every single thing at any given moment--even about stuff that's been proven.

Don't get me wrong, despite my sister's concerns after hearing my "talking to myself and talking to my other self" story the other night, I don't mean this in an "Oh, and by the way, I'm very mentally unstable" sort of way. I just mean it's possible (not probable, mind you) that this is all some hallucination piped into my head by my co-workers on our home world where we're all a light blue-green color and have eight legs and sixteen arms. "Hey, let's try to be sort of pinkish and have two legs and two arms..."

Of course, that leads me to wonder what the hell 2005 would have been all about. What kind of jacked up virtual reality was that?

Not that I actually believe that's the deal. I'm just saying it's possible. The possible is a niggling little jiggly bit that worms in my head no matter what. It slips right past Occam's razor and wraps itself around my mind and won't let go.

So it's possible any theory I come up with about how someone thinks of me would be totally wrong. Even with the evidence, "Every time she sees me, she spits in my face and calls me gutter trash," it's possible she just has problems expressing her affection... right?

Sunday, January 30, 2011


So I finally failed at getting at least one picture of me from a stranger every week. Now I'm going to shoot for the average to be one stranger per week.

Really, I could have had a stranger take my picture on Wednesday night, but didn't think of it--and I'm not sure if it would have counted if it was someone I was just introduced to (or am about to be introduced to, if I wanted to be all crafty and say, "Before Jason introduces us, would you take my picture first?" so I'd be telling the truth when I said a stranger took the picture.

Whatever. I can still make the average. Averages are easy.

It's just awkward when I'm by myself to ask some stranger to take my picture. When I was with Binx and Carrie, it was easy and natural. When it's just me, it's... awkward.

Plus, I have a nice camera. What if they turn out to be a thief and run away with it? I've lost weight, but I don't know that I can catch anybody if it came down to a race on foot!

What would be cool to have, however, is pictures of me that I didn't know existed until they were sent. Say posted some old pictures on Facebook a while back, and there were pictures of me there I either hadn't seen in so long I thought I'd never seen them before, or I hadn't actually seen them ever before. It'd be fun to get pictures like that e-mailed to me. I could post them here with a caption or an explanation or an apology or an excuse, or whatever applies.

So, if you have a picture of me, and think I may have never seen it before, send it to me! (If you've never met me, but saw the show out at the Clemens Amphitheatre near Hannibal MO in 1982, 1983, or 1985, and you brought a camera and took pictures, you may have one of me, by the way!)

If you need my e-mail address... we'll work something out.

Yes, Sartre, Hell is Other People... But I'm Pretty Sure Heaven is, Too...

I like being around people. I avoid it at all costs, but I like it.

There are a lot of things in my life like that. I don't get it, but whatever. If I was ever going to understand myself, surely I would have done so by now.

I had a great birthday. I have great friends and family who helped make it a great day. I'd like to delve deeper into why I think Heaven is Other People, but it's 2:00 in the morning, and my eyes are tired. My fingers are tired. My ears are tired, but they aren't really needed for typing this post. They just wanted me to chime in for them. Not that they could hear the chime. They're too tired. And it was metaphorical.

I had a good birthday because I have good friends and family. May this always be the case.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

I'm About to Turn Forty-Four

According to my computer, I have less than five minutes left before I'm forty-four. I'm sure by the time I publish this post, I'll be forty-four.

Remember when certain years meant something? I mean certain ages, really.

Five was big. I remember asking Mom how old you had to be to go to school, and she told me I had to be five. I was very big on school. I don't know that I ever wasn't--except maybe once I figured out the whole grading scam thing, where your grade really isn't a reflection of what you know, but a reflection of what a good hoop-jumper you were. That peaked my junior year, when I skipped a lot.

Anyway, I remember when I turned five, I went to Mom all excited to find out when she was taking me to school. I remember being very disappointed to learn I had to wait over six months--although I'm sure she didn't tell me it would be that long, and if she did I'm sure I didn't understand it. But I was disappointed it wasn't going to happen the day I turned 5.

Ten was also big. You got to be double-digits! So much of childhood is about wishing your life away without realizing it. How often do you wish you could be single-digit aged again? How sweet was life at 8, right? Youth is still wasted on the young. You'd think someone would have fixed that by now.

I don't remember that birthday specifically. I mean, I may remember it, but I don't associate it with turning 10, so I'm not sure of anything that happened then. I do remember thinking that things would somehow feel different once I was 10. I also remember they didn't.

The next big one, in my opinion, is 13. I mean, you're finally a teenager! Now you're a member of that secret club of people aged 13 to 19! Now you get to... continue living your life just like before, only saying "-teen" at the end of your age.

Okay, not that big a thrill, really. But still, it seemed like it was going to be.

Now 16, that was a big deal. Now you could get behind a wheel. Now you could drive, pending getting your license and whatnot. I passed the test with flying colors, even though I hit the cone or whatever during the parallel parking (he didn't notice I hit it, but I sure did). However, I was in two big wrecks before I got out of high school, so maybe passing with flying colors isn't a good indicator of how good of a driver you are going to be.

But 16 was a big deal, to be sure. As my friend Andra pointed out in college, "Now, not only do you still have to go places you don't want to go, but you have to drive yourself there!"

And then there's 18. You're an adult. You get to register for the draft. What could be better than that, right?

Oh yeah, 21. That's better than 18. So long, fake I.D.! I've got a real one now! (For the record, I never really had a fake I.D., and never really needed one.)

Oddly, I remember my 18th birthday a bit better than my 21st, and not because of alcohol consumption on my 21st. I just remember a gift from my 18th birthday (my first computer mouse). I remember I went to some club or another in Kansas City for my 21st. I want to say Epitaph, but I'm not sure. One that Jhoneric always talked about I never got to go to. I think that was the Foolkiller. Yeah, I went to Epitaph for my 21st birthday, and had one drink. I also bought a bottle of vodka, which I owned for years and never opened. I don't know what happened to it, though. I'm pretty sure I had it at the last place I lived, but maybe not.

Then, what's left? What's the big deal after 21?

I think insurance rates were supposed to go down at 25 or something, but I don't really know. I think after some age or another I need to start getting a prostate exam regularly. I guess when I turn 56 I can celebrate that I'm old enough to retire (assuming Missouri keeps the whole 80-and-out thing until then) from teaching. I suppose I can celebrate getting a senior discount at... whatever age that is.

Really, at this point I only keep track of my age to show off my counting skills.

But a birthday is a good excuse to have people come over. Since I like having people around, that's a good thing. I look forward to seeing friends and family tomorrow (strike that--today). That I'm another year older is just a nice excuse to get them here.

P.S.: It's now 12:13a.m. on the 29th. Technically, I'm still 43 for another seven hours or so, but legally, I'm 44. Happy Birthday to me!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

It's Time for One of These Again...

Before I start anything else, let me just say the lesson today wasn't a total bomb or anything, but it didn't go as well as the one the day before. Better than expected, though, and I can live with that!

Now, here are my responses to one of those "Tell Me the Answers to These Random Questions So We Can Bond" things that go around and around the interwebs...

1. Were you named after anyone?

Yes, I was named after a lot of people. There were a lot of people born before I was, and I was named after them. There have been a lot of people named since I was named, too. So a lot of people have been named after me.

Also, the story of my name (as I recall it) is that Say suggested "Aaron Travis", but Mom didn't like "Aaron", but kept the "Travis". I have no idea where the "Mark" came from. Maybe it was the first one-syllable name that popped in her head.

2. When was the last time you cried?

Actual tears, or pretend ones so I could pass for human?

Actually, I don't remember. I mean, I'm sure it's been within the last... you know... while or so. Are we talking actual cry, with noise and ugly face? Do just tears count as crying? Horrible to admit, but it might have been that Stargate Universe episode a while back. Seriously, way too emotional for me.

3. Do you like your handwriting?
I don't even acknowledge that it exists. It's dead to me.
4. What is your favorite lunch meat?
No, really, that's the actual question. I am not making that up. I love doing these, just because it makes me wonder about the mind of the person who wrote it. One day I'll start one of these, and see if it comes back to me with all my crazy questions intact. One day. I swear it.

Also: turkey.

5. Do you have kids?

I'm not sure why any teacher does, really. That's a "no" from me, thank you. I prefer to experience parenthood vicariously through friends.

6. If you were another person, would you be friends with you?

I'm not drunk enough for this question to make sense. (I'm not drunk at all, actually, but I mean to imply I think you'd have to be drunk for this question to make sense.

I mean, if I were another person, would I be friends with myself--that is to say, "the other person I've become"? What? I mean, if I were someone else, I'd be... someone else. I have no idea what sort of person that person would like.

So the answer is "probably not, because I'd be so confused."

7. Do you use sarcasm?

No. Never. (Rolls eyes.)

8. Do you still have your tonsils?

Yes, on a chain around my neck.

No. I remember being in the hospital to get them out. I remember three things from that visit, actually. There's the storm memory, the cup-o-soup memory, and the inflated rubber glove chicken memory.

9. Would you bungee jump?

Maybe when I'm closer to my goal weight. Maybe.

10. What is your favorite cereal?

Honey Bunches of Oats with Almonds. This answer will never change, no matter how often you ask it.

11. Do you untie your shoes when you take them off?

On the rare occasion I wear shoes with laces, I do not.

12. Why was there no question #12 on this survey when you got it?

I don't know, but there wasn't. Shush up about it, and maybe nobody will notice.

13. What is your favorite ice cream?

Mint chocolate chip. This will also never change.

14. What is the first thing you notice about people?

The first thing I notice is whether or not they seem to be interested in talking to me... although I tend to avoid it at all costs, either way.

15. Red or pink?

That's sort of surreal. Um... if those are the choices, and we're not talking about anything in particular (like room color, threat level, and so on), I guess red.

16. What is your least favorite thing about yourself?

This blog ain't long enough for me to answer that question, really. But I'll try:

I'd say my least favorite thing is how much I let fear run my life and make my decisions.

But I'd be wrong, because my least favorite thing is really that I continue to do so even though I've long ago realized it.

17. Who do you miss the most?

Mom. It still hurts something awful to wake up from a dream where I'm talking to her.

18. Do you want everyone to complete this list?

Not if they're going to expect me to read it. I mean "everyone" is a lot of people. It's a big planet!

19. What color pants and shoes are you wearing?

That really assumes a lot. It just so happens, I enjoy sitting at my computer without any shoes, and without any pants. In fact, I have nothing on below the waste.

Go ahead, judge me. I don't care. You can judge me, your friends can judge me, the other customers here in this Internet Cafe can judge me! I don't care.

I'm kidding. Black, white, and grey pajama pants, and brown slippers.

20. Do you think anyone will notice there isn't a question number 20, either?

They will if you don't shut up about it.

21. What are you listening to right now?

I can hear the clock in the bathroom ticking. I can hear me typing. I can hear something on the desk rattling as I type. Occasionally I hear noises from outside.

22. If you were a crayon, what color would you be?

Whatever color I was, I'd judge other crayons by the content of  their character, not the color listed on the paper wrapped around them!

Also: cornflower.

23. Favorite smells?

Cinnamon rolls baking. Snow. Lots of things Tricia cooks.

24. Who was the last person you talked to on the phone?

Bowman called me after school to find out where I kept extra copies of this week's homework in my room. I was really hoping it was going to be the prank call I made to Sheri this afternoon, though.

25. Do you like the person who sent this to you?

Stupidest question ever. Like I'd answer it honestly if I didn't, right?

Also, it wasn't sent to me. I took it from Bryan's wall on Facebook. I do like Bryan, though. He's funny and has a great accent. Also, he likes grits.

26. Favorite sports to watch?

Baseball. Live only.

27. Hair color?

Brown, with more and more grey every day.

28. Eye color?

Hazel. The kind of hazel that really brings out the bloodshot.

29. Do you wear contacts?

I don't even wear the glasses I'm supposed to wear... so: NO.

30. Favorite food?

I'd have to say it's Tricia's goulash. Hands-down. This answer hasn't changed the last several times I've done one of these.

31. What do you think question number 31 was before it got deleted?

"What is your favorite color of armpit hair?"

32. Last movie you watched?

Start-to-finish? Probably Season of the Witch. At all? I'd have to go see what movie channel I just stopped on. I watched a bit of Superman IV... and some other ones. I have no idea.

33. What color shirt are you wearing?

A blue long-sleeved shirt. If you've seen me in winter months, you know the kind i mean.

34. Summer or winter?

Well, when I had my colors done, they said I was an autumn.

Actually, I don't know what this question means. Which do I prefer? Well, when it's winter, I try my best to enjoy what's great about winter. And when it's summer, I try my best to enjoy what's great about summer. So this means during the winter I enjoy summer, and during the summer I enjoy winter.

Don't make me choose between the two. I'll lose it.

35. Hugs or kisses?

Who is giving them out? I'm okay with both, usually.

36. Do you think it's possible these didn't actually get deleted, but the person who created the original e-mail just couldn't count?


37. Most likely to respond?

While living and awake, I suppose.

Oh, nobody. I'm not sending this as an e-mail. But if someone goes to the trouble of answering all of these in a comment on here, odds are it will be someone I've never met.

38. Least likely to respond?

While dead or asleep, of course!

I kid. But the question doesn't apply here. Moving on...

39. What book are you reading now?

I'm not reading now. I'm on the computer. Duh.

I just finished the latest Sara Paretsky novel. I'm between books. I've been reading Games Magazine. I have some comics on loan, and eventually I'll go through them.

40. What is on your mouse pad?

Is that a euphemism? If so, what for?

Also: I don't have one.

41. What did you watch on t.v. last night?

I don't know that I watched t.v. last night. I'm pretty sure I didn't, actually.

42. Favorite sound(s)?

Binxy's laugh. The laughter of kids in general, especially ones I know and love.

43. Rolling Stones or Beatles?

If those are the only choices, either one will do just as well.

44. What is the farthest you have been from home?

I'm going to guess Sydney, Australia. But it's possible other places were more distant.

45. Do you have a special talent?

I know way too much about stuff nobody cares about.

46 Where were you born?

Levering Hospital in Hannibal, Missouri.
47. Whose answers are you looking forward to getting back?

We've covered this already. I don't expect to be getting any back, so the question does not apply.

Okay, the melatonin has kicked in. Good night!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Good Day

Today's lesson was great!

I don't mean my plans were great--I mean it was great the way it went. So "went" would have been a better verb, both because it's not as passive as "was" is... but it's easier to just keep typing and explain that, rather than go back and fix it.

As I was saying, it went great. I am totally set up now for tomorrow's lesson to be a complete and utter failure. I've been sensing that for a couple of hours now.

We're working with integers (those would be the whole numbers (0, 1, 2, 3, ...) and their opposites (0, -1, -2, -3, ...). (Yeah, I put 0 in their twice. It only shows up once on the actual list. Don't judge me.) We're coming up with algorithms for adding and subtracting them. We spent today nailing down algorithms for adding. We'll spend tomorrow and the next day nailing down algorithms for subtracting them, so I can then point out the very easy shortcut that means they won't need those algorithms most of the time.

Why find algorithms for subtraction when just about everyone on the planet will subsequently tell them, "Just add the opposite" for the rest of their lives? Two reasons.

First, I remember learning to perform the four basic operations with integers. I remember feeling there were algorithms that would work for subtraction, but I was forbidden to try to discover them--and I wasn't going to spend my own time doing it! However, I was a strange kid, and that's not the main reason I teach them.

The big reason is most kids (or at least the ones I teach most years) have no idea how to figure something out. I'm talking generally, not just with math. It's sometimes frightening how "Show me the answer" they are about most anything that isn't a video game (although cheat sites are popular with them, I'm sure, so maybe they're that way about video games, too).

I'm not saying this to rag on them. I'm saying there's a need. I seriously saw kids working and figuring things out today that I never would have thought would even be willing to try.

Maybe it's the manipulatives, maybe it's my love for the subject matter, or maybe it's just that I was in a wacky mood yesterday and today and cracked a lot of jokes. Maybe it's what I feel has been a good introduction to the concrete-representational-abstract process in this unit (a rocky start switching to representational yesterday, but I got my act together and today was so smooth it... deserves a metaphor here. Whatever, it went well.

Tomorrow, we work with manipulatives to figure out why subtracting a negative seven means the number we get is seven greater than where we started. It could go really well. It really could.

But I'm not getting my hopes up. Or I am hoping--hoping for the best.

But I'm going to have plenty of back-up plan... for the worst.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Another Random Moment from My Past

It was 1997, I believe. It was the start of a long string of community theatre and Martin City Melodrama & Vaudeville Company work for me. It was the first rehearsal for the Bell Road Barn production of Godspell.

We were in a house that was part of a campus, or part of some organization or another. It wasn't a house for people to live in, at any rate. I knew two people in the room, but didn't realize I knew one of them (Jesus... well, he wasn't Jesus, but was portraying him in the production... I knew him from Jewell, but didn't realize I knew him yet... the guy, not Jesus... where was I? Oh yeah, Jesus and Leigh... that's actually Leigh, not someone portraying Leigh from the story of Jesus in the Bible).

So we're all sitting around not talking at all, which is rare in a room full of actors, but whatever. There was this high-pitched squeal that wasn't really loud, but was easily heard by most anyone paying at least some attention. After a few minutes of everyone sitting and waiting for the director to show up, someone said, "Does anybody else hear that high-pitched squeal?"

Someone else replied, "It's the heater."

Some more silence ensued. After a pretty well-chosen amount of time I piped up and said, "Does anybody else hear that voice saying, 'Kill them... kill them all...'?"

After the appropriate amount of horrified and uncomfortable silence, Leigh finally gave out an exasperated, "Riggs!"

Monday, January 24, 2011

Real Thoughts on Imaginary Conversations

I'm gonna throw this out there, and hope it's something everyone does, and I'm not feeling all awkward after I tell you, as if I'd just said, "You know how when you're at someone else's house and you go to use the bathroom, and you look behind the shower curtain to see what their bathtub looks like," before I realized nobody else does that.

I have imaginary conversations. Often.

I should be clear: I don't believe they really happen when I have them. At least, not on the intellectual level or whatever you want to call the level that knows things like "Hitting the button several times will not make the elevator come faster" or "The fact I just picked this line will not cause it to suddenly become the one with the slow checkout person."

However, on one of those other levels that knows for a fact if you hit the button a lot the elevator gets there faster and the only sure way to make a checkout person work more slowly is for me to get in his or her line, I sometimes live as if these conversations happen.

If I've known you for over, say... a year, and especially if you've ever acted strange or have come to me with a problem I wasn't sure how to handle, or if you've ever been really ticked at me for good (or bad) reason, I can tell you now we've had an imaginary conversation in my head. Or... I've had one with an imaginary you.

It's like breathing. It just happens. I can stop it if I think about it, but then I drive to the store or walk to my car or sit down to eat and the next thing you know I've had this whole conversation and gotten really angry about how it turned accusatory or sad at how poorly it went or happy with how funny we both were. And the intellectual me has to tell that other part of me to remember it didn't just actually happen.

Seriously, so many people I know are two people to me. They're the people they actually are, full of mystery and spontaneity--but they're also the people they've been in my imaginary conversations. Well, the people they were in the most recent one. That person changes often.

Now, before I get you thinking I'm too crazy (if it's not too late for that), I'll say I for sure know who is who. Really. There's no question. I don't get the two confused at all.

But I do find myself really angry with people who have confessed things to me in imaginary conversations, or accused me wrongly. I sometimes laugh at myself for getting so worked up before I realize the important fact the conversation didn't actually take place.

So, the next time I seem to be acting outwardly hostile at you for what you're pretty confident is not good reason, you might just throw that out there. "Are you mad about that imaginary conversation we had?"

Sunday, January 23, 2011

I Don't Have Anything to Add to This...

My sister Ruth has a blog. This isn't news if you follow my lack-of-blog faithfully (which--of course--your should be).

Yesterday she posted this entry. I loved what she had to say and laughed out loud so many times (the loud, barking kind--the kind that makes you glad you no longer live in an apartment, as it would startle the people living upstairs), I'm opting to share it today.

It's my brother's birthday, and thus would have been a great day to go on and on about him and what a great brother he is for many different reasons (and I'm really not being sarcastic there). I considered actually talking about what's great about all my siblings, but I think it'd cheapen it if I knew it was really so I could do the birthday thing and get a link to Ruth's blog entry snuck in there somewhere.

So I'm doing this instead. My brother is probably dealing with enough of a shock knowing that I think he's a great brother.

Baby steps.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Wednesday Night Epic Trip to Liberty and Back

First, some important data: According to MapQuest, the distance from my home to Cody's work (not really in Liberty, but "by" it) is 7.21 miles, and the trip should take 11 minutes. Also, there was a crazy amount of snow that started falling Wednesday afternoon and it kept it up into the night. Cody originally was not going to go in, but his phone was at home charging while we were running errands, and he didn't know the number, so he was the last person to call in. And now our story begins...

Text from Cody, 4:18p.m.: Hey they said I had to go in

Text to Cody, 4:18p.m.: Ready now?

Text from Cody, 4:20p.m.: In a bit like 5

Text to Cody, 4:20p.m.: Ok. Fire a text at me.

Text to Cody, 4:28p.m.: Omw

Text from Cody, 4:34p.m.: (816) 413-3155 for the idiot that doesn't know his work number

(Note: That was a forward from Cody's phone, so I'd have his work number in case the whole, "Don't have my phone because it's charging, but need to call in" thing ever happens again.)

Text to Cody, 7:00p.m.: No school tomorrow.

Text from Cody, 7:02p.m.: Nice!

Text from Cody, 8:27p.m.: Hey could ya get me now please? :-)

Text to Cody, 8:27p.m.: On my way!

Status update, 8:28p.m.: Mark Travis Riggs is headed back out into the snow. I'll status update when I get back home!

Text from Cody, 8:31p.m.: Cool

Status comment from Becky, 8:37p.m.: Why? Are you crazy? Yes, rhetorical question!

Text to Cody, 8:42p.m.: Next exit is yours, but traffic is at a crawl here.

Text from Cody, 8:43p.m.: Ok am ready too

Text to Cody, 8:43p.m.: Well, it may be a while!

Text from Cody, 8:44p.m.: That slow?

Text to Cody, 8:44p.m.: I'm about a tenth of a mile further along thasnll

Text to Cody, 8:44p.m.: Than when i first tested

Text to Cody, 8:45p.m.: Tested

Text to Cody, 8:45p.m.: @#*% auto correct

Text to Cody, 8:45p.m.: Texted

Text from Cody, 8:46p.m.: LMAO

Text to Cody, 8:46p.m.: :-)

Text to Cody, 8:46p.m.: Am parked just past exit before yours.

Text to Manchion, 8:48p.m.: If you're bored and can research what the hell is going on on I-35, before Liberty, that would be cool.

Status comment from me, 8:51p.m.: Picking up Cody from work. However, currently parked on I-35 North before 152 exit. Have no idea what the hold-up is, but imagine it isn't pretty.

Text to Cody, 8:51p.m.: Movement!

Text from Cody, 8:52p.m.: Lol

Text to Cody, 8:52p.m.: False hope. Stopped again.

Text from Cody, 8:52p.m.: @#*%

Text to Cody, 8:53p.m.: So it goes. At least I have Facebook!

Text from Cody, 8:54p.m.: Haha true that

Text to Cody, 8:55p.m.: You okay there? Nobody gettin' pi**y that you're hanging about?

Text from Cody, 8:55p.m.: No not at all

Text to Cody, 8:56p.m.: Um... Somebody just got out to walk their dog!

Text from Cody, 8:57p.m.: No way I wish I was there to see that lol

Text to Cody, 8:57p.m.: Must have been a potty break. Back in the truck now.

Text to Cody, 8:59p.m.: What's the address there? If they end up turning us around I'll have Garmin find an alternate route.

Text from Cody, 9:00p.m.: Idk lol

Text from Manchion, 9:02p.m.: Doesn't look like an accident, just really slow... around 23 mph according to kmbc...

Text to Manchion, 9:02p.m.: Try about 23 mph slower than that! Lol

Status comment from Cathy, 9:04p.m.: Mark Travis! You are a TRUE friend! Be safe and update! Love you!

Text to Cody, 9:04p.m.: Got it. Didn't think to call the restaurant! Duh me!

Text to Cody, 9:04p.m.: Got it. Didn't think to call the restaurant! Duh me!

Text to Cody, 9:04p.m.: Ignore that...

Text from Manchion, 9:04p.m.: Hmmm... weird, let me keep looking, now I am intrigued!!

Text to Manchion, 9:05p.m.: Lol... Well, if you have something better to do in this universe filled with better things to do, I'd understand!

Text to Cody, 9:08p.m.: More movement!

Text from Manchion, 9:09p.m.: I think they may have closed an exit ramp...

Text from Cody, 9:09p.m.: Lol ok

Text to Cody, 9:10p.m.: The real kind

Text to Manchion, 9:10p.m.: $#@*

Text from Manchion, 9:12p.m.: Yup. Watching Inception. Weird movie.

Text to Manchion, 9:12p.m.: Agreed

Status comment from Becky, 9:24p.m.: Be careful! Keep us posted. Stay safe.

Status comment from me, 9:25p.m.: About a half mile further on than my last post! Lol

Text from Cody, 9:29p.m.: You almost here

Text to Cody, 9:29p.m.: I am 1.1 miles from the exit.

Text from Cody, 9:30p.m.: @#*% its really backed up huh

Text to Cody, 9:30p.m.: Yes. It is of the frustrating.

Status comment from Becky, 9:38p.m.: Oh no!

Status comment from me, 9:40p.m.: Yes. Have no idea what the deal is. Still in the same spot.

Status comment from Becky, 9:44p.m.: Watching news now. 129 and Barry is ok. 635 NB ramp to 70 E stopped. Nothing else on there at the moment. Will keep you posted!

Status comment from me, 9:48p.m.: Thank you! Just moved 0.1 miles!

Status comment from me, 9:50p.m.: Make that 0.2 miles! 

Text from Cody, 9:53p.m.: How far are you now?

Text to Cody, 9:54p.m.: 0.9 miles from exit. Thought we passed the problem, but there must be more than one.

Text from Cody, 9:55p.m.: @#*%

Text to Cody, 9:56p.m.: Sorry you're having to wait so long.

Text from Cody, 9:56p.m.: Its fine

Text to Cody, 9:57p.m.: Well, at least you'll have a very boring story to tell your grandchildren.

Text from Cody, 9:58p.m.: Lmao!

Text to Cody, 9:59p.m.: So frustrated I could weep.

Text to Cody, 10:01p.m.: If you're bored, start thinking of an exercise routine for me.

Status comment from me, 10:04p.m.: 0.3 miles! Now 0.8 miles from the exit!

Text from Cody, 10:05p.m.: Lol well I could look some up

Text to Cody, 10:06p.m.: Oh, I am sure you have better things to do. I'm in a better place now. Moved a bit.

Text from Cody, 10:07p.m.: That's good is it gonna go faster now?

Text to Cody, 10:08p.m.: No. Stopped again. But one of these times has to be THE time, right? I choose to believe it will be this next time.

Status comment from Becky, 10:09p.m.: ‎35 SB and Jarboe, wreck, stand still, semis are stuck. 39th and Woodland messy. Fire at independence ave and Quincey. Nothing about where u r yet.

Status comment from me, 10:11p.m.: Dang! Get me the number for KMBC 9. If they pay me, I'll do an audio report via phone!

Status comment from Becky, 10:11p.m.: I 70 wb and 435 wreck

Status comment from Becky, 10:21p.m.: ‎221-9999 try that one

Status comment from Becky, 10:23p.m.: Get this! One of channel 9's staff is stuck where u are and has been for almost 3 hours. He called them and told them he doesn't know why either.

Status comment from Becky, 10:24p.m.: Stuck in the line of traffic like u, not in a ditch.

Status comment from Becky, 10:24p.m.: He said 35 n almost at 152. Dang!

Text to Cody, 10:27p.m.: At exit!

Status comment from me, 10:28p.m.: At exit!

Text from Cody, 10:31p.m.: K just come to the front.

Text to Cody, 10:50p.m.: Home, in case you were worried I wouldn't make it!

Status comment from me, 10:50p.m.: Home!

Status update, 10:52p.m.: Mark Travis Riggs is home, safe and sound, with no idea what the heck was going on at I-35 North and 152... But is very grateful to Kyrie Okerstrom Manchion and Becky Dunn for trying to find out for me!

Status comment from me (on 8:28p.m. post), 10:54p.m.: @Cathy: This whole thing reminded me of the time I went to New London on a bus Freshman year to paint windows for Art Club (remember that Christmas fundraiser?) and Mom had to come get me because of the blizzard everyone knew about BEFORE I got on the bus. She was one angry woman!

Status comment from me (on 10:52p.m. post), 10:57p.m.: is, me... what's that about? Whatever. I'm home and I'm glad. Was running out of CDs to listen to in the car.

Status comment from Becky (on 10:52p.m. post), 4:11a.m.: Whew! Glad you made it! :)

(My aunt Rachel "Liked" that last comment.)

Move Along, There's Nothing I Said Was Going To Be Here To See Here Yet... But If You Want To See Something...

Chris, a guy I went to high school with (actually, he was the class of '86, but we'll call that statement close enough for blog work) has a blog over at He's doing some creative work there, which makes me think I should get back to work on doing that sort of thing.

Again, my day did not turn out according to plan, so I still don't have that project I was going to post yesterday ready to post today, either. So go read Chris' blog. Seriously.

Come back tomorrow. We'll have the place all prettied up for you.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

This is NOT the Blog Post You are Looking For...

Yeah, if you came here for the story of last night as told by texts and status updates, that got put on hold during flat-tire-a-thon today.

Actually, there was no -a-thon about it. There was really only one flat tire that sucked the joy out of my life for about... let me get back to you when I feel the joy return.

The short version is: flat tire, Tires Plus, led to believe it wouldn't be long, turns out I should have been told it was going to be quite a long wait, lost my temper, walked home, had a snack, walked back with boots on so as not to nearly give myself frostbite like I did on the way home, wait some more, finally get on the road again...

Bonus: visit Patrick & Leigh and family!

And then back home to eat lunch as dinner after decided lunch had more vegetables and fruits, so it was the way to go.

Tomorrow, hopefully, I'll get that other post up.

I should really never make plans...

Except I teach, and it's kinda required.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Guess What I Just Spent 150 Minutes Doing...

We had an early release day. When we got the news, there was no sign outside that snow was on the way--other than the leftover snow from before, which reminded us it was the appropriate time of year for snow.

I was on my way to the store when Cody texted wondering if I could help him run a few errands. No big deal (and it wasn't).

During the errand-running, he mentioned that he wasn't going to try to go in to work, because of the weather, and I made a mental note not to make my relief to obvious. I have been occasionally giving him a ride to and from work since he found himself without transportation after the last big snow event here in K.C., and as much as I love to drive through lots of snow, I'd really rather not.

Actually, the pizza delivery gig a few years back makes me less nervous about it, but I still don't like doing it.

After we ran the errands and I got home and was about to eat my lunch (very late), he texted to say he had to go in to work anyway.

No big, like I said. It's kinda nice. I'm almost 100% sure I won't ever have kids, so this is my shot to get a taste of at least part of it--the part where you do stuff you wouldn't normally do, like drive places you have no reason to go to, at times you have no reason to be out and about.

Yes, there's a lot of snow on the ground at this point, but--other than some moments where I wondered if I'd make it up a hill here or there--it was pretty much to Liberty, back from Liberty, all done (okay, technically not Liberty, as it's on the other side of I-35, but may as well be).

As is my tradition, when I got the call that we had no school, I sent him a text. He texted back, which made me think maybe he got a ride home, as I'm sure at one point I told him he shouldn't text while working--but maybe I haven't shared that bit of "wisdom". I held off making dinner, however, in case he was at work and texted later.

At about 8:25 or so, I was thinking about starting dinner... and then I got the text.

No big. I texted that I was on my way, put my shoes on, grabbed my coat, and headed out the door.

What happened next should only have happened if I'd texted "I'll be right there."

The streets were crazy snow-covered. The interstate was also crazy snow-covered, but less snow there than the streets. And then, just after I passed whatever the exit is before the 152 exit (the one I needed), I see lights ahead of me (nobody was ahead of me the whole way to Liberty). Once it's for sure too late for me to even try to do the stupid "back up on the highway" thing, I realize it's vehicles, stopped.

And there I sat. Maybe I should piece together the texts and the status updates on Facebook to sort of tell the story from that point on. It went on for about two hours. There's a big positive message about the power of positive thinking and everything. It's a big boring dramedy. Dramady. How does one spell that, anyway?

Ah. Dramedy. First known use in 1978. Thanks,!

In fact, that's what I'll do. Tomorrow's post will be the story of the traffic trip as told in texts and status updates. I think it might be really cool and fun.

If you think so, too, I have to warn you I'm probably totally wrong about it being really cool and fun. But I want to do it anyway.

But I will tell you the end. I sat for about two hours between those two exits, usually moving about a fifth of a mile at a time. Once we moved, we moved, and it was like an L.A. traffic jam, in that there was no evidence of what the problem was when traffic started moving.

The trip back home took something like twenty minutes, maybe.

Now, wait with bated breath for the whole story as told by texts and status updates!

P.S.: Blogger's spell check does not recognize dramedy or texted. That seems outdated to me.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Very Important Message About Television

I'm lying. This isn't important at all.

However, I'd like to apologize in advance to everyone involved in the production of the series "Harry's Law".

I enjoyed your show last night. That's like a death-wish to a series.

I tried really hard not to like it, but I've liked Kathy Bates since she was in that one movie with the guy with the face (sorry, Manchion, I had to). So I recorded it and watched it. Then I had to go and like it.

I'm watching The Cape on Monday nights as well, mostly because I think Summer Glau is cool. I'd prefer to watch her in a rebirth of Firefly, but the odds of that happening are so very slim. I'm not as into this show, however, so it may survive.

On the "not ever going to watch" is Being Human, the I'm-too-stupid-to-use-context-clues-to-get-the-British-bits-of-the-actual-series version on the Mostly Reality Shows That Are Even More Stupid Than Actual Reality Shows But Are Loosely Connected To Science Fiction And/Or Fantasy And/Or Horror In Some Way Channel (SyFy for short). I'm sure it's all well and good, but why watch the copy version on channel 63 when you can watch the real one on 263? I don't get it. I love the one on BBC America, however--because I'm that lame.

I should also report that my liking a show does not seem to have the power to reach across the ocean. It's good that I don't have that kind of power, or I might use it for evil.

What else? Oh yes, someone please rescue Stargate Universe from M.R.S.T.A.E.M.S.T.A.R.S.B.A.L.C.T.S.F.A./O.F.A./O.H.I.S.W.C. (SyFy), okay? As I've mentioned before, it's my new "Lost" (in that I have to watch it the night it's on, not the next day).

And while we're on the topic: You kids get out of my yard!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Kill the Smurfs

Back when dinosaurs called Apple //e and Apple //c computers roamed the earth... along with Amigas and who knows what all else, I thought I'd like to be a programmer.

Then I found out all the math involved, and while I was good at math, I was not a fan of it. I mean, every year they'd start off talking about sets, but never seem to do anything with them, which was very irritating. Also, everyone else seemed to take so long to "get it" and I'd get bored and distracted and the next then you know I'd missed out on about ten important things.

Most importantly, there was all the homework that was required if you wanted a decent grade.

Anyway, I've dabbled in the world of programming. Nothing recent, mind you, and nothing more advanced that a couple of games in BASIC or some neat screen-saver-looking things in LOGO. I probably still have the disk that contained my Yahtzee program on it (I don't know that it will still be any good or still on there twenty-five-plus years later). I loved writing that program. I loved figuring out how to make it do the things I needed it to do. (I have a similar feeling whenever I make a complicated spreadsheet in Excel.)

I made a game called "Kill the Smurfs" as well. It wasn't anything fancy. A "Smurf" hopped across the bottom of the screen to a mushroom house, and a boulder was placed up at the top of the screen at some randomly-selected position. Your job was to hit the space bar at the right time so the boulder would smoosh the Smurf.

Yeah, that was it.

Give me a break. It was my first game.

I added to it over time. I tried different things with it. And I always meant to "complete" it at some point...

I'll get right on that.

Brad Graham and I worked on a couple of game ideas together. I remember one was based on Mark Twain's characters. I can't remember if the Alice in Wonderland game I got pretty close to completing started as an idea we had or what.

So it's 2011. At the in-service the other day, the coach that could be blamed for saving my life by "making" me go to the hospital back in 2005 tells me his college-aged son has authored an online game (at, to be precise) and that it's reached something like number four on the "popular" list there.

I went to check it out, not sure what to expect. I mean, I didn't expect something like my "Kill the Smurfs", but I certainly didn't expect something as cool as what I found. (Note: You may not find it as cool as I do, but if you're familiar with any of my work in BASIC, you'd have to say it's way cooler than that!)

So go check it out. I'm stuck at Level 14, mostly because I stink at throwing the darts or whatever while I'm leaping.

It makes me wonder how "Kill the Smurfs" turned out in those quantum realities where I stuck with it...

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Shallow Me

I am not a deep person. I don't know that I ever was a deep person. So I can't decide whether I should say I've become so shallow, or say I have finally realized how shallow I am.

Or maybe I'm just escapist.


The deal is, my second-cousin-in-law writes and/or runs this blog/site about movies and entertainment. Maybe it's more of an online magazine. Whatever. I suck at identifying things, obviously. My point is: I don't visit it as much as I'd like, but I always enjoy what I read there, especially her stuff.

I've visited it a few more times in recent weeks because I spoke at length with her husband last month and it put me in the mind to check it on occasion. When Matt shared this article on Facebook where Shannon shares her top movie picks of the last year, I clicked it and read it and... realized I've either always been a shallow person (or totally escapist), or I've become whichever term it is we eventually decide applies here.

At first I read the list and thought, "I always go see really goofy or sci-fi or not-very-serious stuff."

Well, no, first I had an inner grouse about "Waiting for Superman", and then I thought that other bit, which was the more important bit, as I've not seen W4S and thus have no right to grouse.

So my brain, trying to salvage what little self-esteem I have left (which is very little, considering my life to date, you know) was all like, "Yeah, but you are more of a reader."

Yeah, what do I read? Escapist stuff. I mean, I think Terry Pratchett writes some pretty intelligent stuff, mind you, but it's not like stuff everyone knows because is so serious and moving and... I don't know... sells.

I think "serious," "moving," "deep," and "popular among people who think" are like stand-up comedians to me. That is to say, something I loathe the thought of seeing, but always enjoy seeing when I do.

Then again, perhaps on my journey to crotchety old man-ness, I am slowly becoming that way about everything other than sitting alone at home waiting for kids to stray into my yard so I can yell at them to get out of it.

I don't know. Maybe I'm just jaded. Maybe I'm just bored. But I do know any time I talk about the books and movies and television shows I like, I start thinking, "Wow, this doesn't read like the list of someone who likes "serious" entertainment, let alone "serious" art!

Well, enough of this. I have to go watch my DVR of Primeval, take in some Desperate Housewives, and make sure my DVR has enough room for new episodes of Chuck, Hot in Cleveland, and Fringe this week!


Two Weeks Until My Birthday! (Don't Go Sayin' You Didn't Have Enough Notice!)

Check it out: I'm 43 years and 50 weeks old today!

Or, I would be, if there were exactly 52 weeks in a year. Go divide 365 by 7 and see if you get a remainder.

Go ahead, I'll wait.

(There's a calculator in the Accessories folder if you're using Windows.)

Okay, back?

So, yeah, I'm roughly 43 years and 50 weeks old today.

I plan my own birthday party. This is sometimes considered rude and/or pathetic. Also, maybe a bit self-centered or something. If Casey'd ever come to Kansas City for the event, I could pretend it was really a party for him.

Anyway, I want to have a party for it, so I do. I like having people around, and on my birthday I am supposed to get what I want. That's a law or something, right?

Having a birthday so close after Christmas (but not super-close like some people have, mind you) does stink a bit. It makes it hard to remember what was a Christmas gift and what was a birthday gift when I was a kid.

But here's some random birthday memories for you:

When I was in elementary school, before everyone started to sing "Happy Birthday to You," I wanted to know if I was "allowed" to sing along--but nobody would wait for me to ask before they started singing, so I got all upset and cried about it. And then I had to feel super-foolish explaining the stupid reason why I was crying, knowing how foolish it sounded as the words came out of my mouth.

My senior year of high school, Brad Graham collected money from a bunch of my friends and classmates and got me my first computer mouse for my Apple //c for my eighteenth birthday. I still have the "card" that came with it, with all the names on it... or I should, anyway. I had it before the move, anyway.

T.K. arranged a surprise birthday party for my 26th birthday--at least, I think that was the birthday. I remember the candles on the cake were off by a year. I think that might have been the last birthday party someone else arranged for me--but I could be forgetting one.

In junior high (7th grade, I think) I got one of those bowl-like sled things. I loved that thing. Too bad we didn't leave near some really great hills.

I don't remember a lot about birthdays at school (beyond the mouse story mentioned above). That seems odd, as you'd think days like that would stick out. I remember other kids' birthdays. I remember in third grade Mary Harris brought some sort of cake or brownie-like thing, and it had a toothpick with an American flag on it in the middle, and Mary said whoever got that piece got an extra piece--and she so arranged it so I got that one. I remember thinking she was very obvious about it.

But that wasn't my birthday, so pretend I didn't mention it. Or remember it as an example of how I remember things about other kids' birthdays during school, but not much about mine.

Anyway, I'm two weeks away from staring my forty-fifth year. In 54 weeks (and a day) I'll have lived the same amount of time as I'd lived on my 15th birthday three times over!

Seriously, I'm the same age as three fifteen-year-olds, but lined up instead of all together.

I'm too old to be up this late. Good night.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

On Losses and the Cutting of Them

Yeah, I'm gonna talk about math. Go watch t.v. or something until I'm done. (But I'm going to be talking sort of philosophical-like, not all math-like... at least that's the plan.)

So imagine you're 12 or 13, in 7th grade, and have no idea how to do the following:

1. Recall many basic math facts, such a 7 + 8 or 6 * 7.
2. Write an equivalent fraction (and most of the mini-steps that entails).
3. Long division--or, any working algorithm for figuring out what 3,527 divided by 42 is.
4. Hear the word "fraction" without figuratively wetting yourself in fear.
5. Add, subtract, multiply, and divide decimals or fractions.
6. Use a simple formula and given information to find the area of a shape.
7. Multiply a number by a two- or three-digit number.

Some of that is pre-4th grade. Some of that is 6th grade. But remember, in this imagining, you're in 7th grade.

Now, remembering you're in 7th grade, how concerned are you? Or, try this one: how concerned are you willing to appear in front of your peers?

All that in mind, how are you going to be taught how to add, subtract, multiply, and divide integers when you can't figure out to at least count on your fingers when confronted with a problem like "What's 8 plus 7?"

How are you going to work with ratios and proportions when they look like fractions, and fractions freakin' own you?

Now, I know many people who are way older than 12 or 13 and came across at least three things on that list they themselves cannot do. And that's fine, because if you're way older than 12 or 13, odds are you don't have Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II, and whatever math you're required to take in college coming at you any time in the foreseeable future. I'm perfectly okay with your ignorance in the area of math--as long as you're perfectly okay with my ignorance in the multitude of areas where I'm ignorant.

So now imagine you're the teacher who has to try to get these 7th grade students as close to grade-level as you can before they move on.

It's a lot like trying to scoop the water out of your canoe with a strainer while you're heading toward the waterfall.

At some point every year you have to decide it's time to cut your losses and just teach them as much as you can and hope someone comes along fills in the gaps later.

They're probably not going to. I don't want to ruin the ending for anyone, but it's true.

The good news is a lot of them won't need Algebra and Geometry in their day-to-day life, so once they're through, they can just always make sure they have a calculator at all times and be really good at converting fractions to decimals and vice-versa should they work in any area that requires measuring and calculating with those measurements.

The bad news is they could have gone a lot further and been who knows what if we just could have gotten the job done.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

For Your Reading... Um... Enjoyment?

The following is a poem I wrote for creative writing my senior year at Jewell. I assume it was in the spring of 1989. It relates a true story from my childhood.

Walking to school
in the first grade,
I noticed the world was going to end
before sundown.
I had just walked over the new
and freshly painted
grey "bridge"
that my friend's father had built
over the "creek".
Looking back, I see a walkway over
a ditch,
but the world is different for a first-grader.
I looked up
and in the bright blue
of the morning sky
I saw the moon.
This undeniably meant one thing:
The world was going to end
before sundown.
Disbelief melted down my skin
and evaporated.
I looked again.
The full moon was still there,
smiling at me
like a skull.
I decided to stop by the Post Office
and ask Mom about it.
And if she laughed and told me I was wrong,
I would march the rest of the way to school
and tell the all-knowing Miss Wolfe
the world was going to end
before sundown.
When she confirmed my story
I would tell her there was no point in my staying at school.
I would retrace my steps on the cracked and broken sidewalk
back to the Post Office
to let my surprised mother
(complete with wide eyes
and confused frown)
know she was wrong--
and probably for the last time.
The world was going to end
before sundown.

© copyright 1989, Mark Travis Riggs

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

So There Was This Guy By The Side Of The Road With A Sign...

I took Cody to work today, and there was this guy at the side of the road at the top of the exit to 152 or whatever it is there in Liberty, and he had a sign about being stranded and every little bit helps...

People were giving him money, but I wanted to ask him where he was going... or where he needed to go. Because if it wasn't, you know... California or something, I think I would honestly consider giving the guy a lift.

Yes, yes, he could be an insane person with a gun or a knife and a plan to kill me or worse, but... what a lot of work just to get to kill me (or do worse to me). I mean, I'd admire his dedication, at least.

But here's the thing: I didn't stop and ask him. I drove by because the light had changed and there were people behind me. I thought, "I'll swing back around and ask him." Actually, I said part of all that out loud, because Cody asked me if I was serious.

When you aren't used to a passenger in your car, you get used to being able to speak your thoughts aloud often, and forget to avoid doing it when you do get a passenger.

Anyway, I dropped Cody off and I drove back around to the old Bob's IGA shopping center or whatever that's called there, trying to figure out where I could park so I could walk up the hill and ask the guy. I figured I could try to drive up the exit again, but it was getting closer to 4:00, and a lot of people are heading home for work--so odds are I'd have people behind me again.

I pulled into the complex or whatever that my former doctor used to work from, realizing it wasn't the turn I wanted. Then, as I was pulling out to get to the next building's parking lot, I realized I needed to buy groceries before I did any long driving--and then realized I was supposed to have dinner at the Klumb home this evening, which would probably need to be adjusted now that I was probably picking up Cody from work later.

So I thought, "I'll go get groceries, call Jason about dinner, and--oh yeah, I need to go to Lowe's for those supplies for math class, so I'll do that..."

And that was that.

Then I started thinking maybe it would be easier just to buy the guy a bus ticket, and give him a lift to the bus terminal. Shortly after that, I started wondering how much bus tickets were these days, and wondered if I could call the church and ask for some financial aid in this endeavor, and...

Oh yeah, wait, that was that.

Yeah, I know, in this day and age you don't give people you don't know a lift. I know. I don't care. Something in me tells me I shouldn't care and I should help out, and usually it uses Patsy's voice to do so. I have no idea why, as I don't remember her picking up a lot of hitch-hikers or anything.

So I left it at, "If he's there when I go to pick Cody up, I'll ask then."

He wasn't. So I didn't.

If you're keeping score, Mark: 0, World: A kerjillion.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Laugh Or Not--I'm Good Either Way!

So the other day Jordan and her mother were in a bit of a discussion about church. Leslie wanted her to go to a certain church with her, and had come up with a sort of exchange, and Jordan didn't want to agree to it. More importantly, Jordan wanted to discuss it and negotiate, and so on, while Leslie just wanted to enjoy her birthday party.

Eventually, Jordan decided to go upstairs. She was irritated, and as she left the party she calmly said, "See you all in Hell..."

To which I replied, "No you won't. We go to church!"

Monday, January 10, 2011

With Apologies To Brenda, Mia, And Jhoneric... And All Other Math-Phobes And/Or Number Haters

I am 16,052 days old as of today. This number is divisible by 2 and 4, but not by 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, or 13 (which are all the consecutive numbers I've memorized divisibility checks for... but also not divisible by 15, 21, 35, 22, 33, 55, 66, 77, 88, 99... you get the idea).

Today I was the same age my mother was on August 4, 1974. On that day, I was 2,741 days old. The sum of the digits that make up 16,052 is 14. The same is true of the digits that make up 2,741.

My mother was 2,741 days old on February 20, 1928.

Jordan was 2,741 days old on May 4, 2002. She will be 16,052 days old on October 13, 2038.

Binx will be 2,741 days old on May 5, 2014. He will be 16,052 days old on October 14, 2050.

The prime factorization of 16,052 is 2 * 2 * 4013. I'd give the prime factorization of 2,741, but it's a prime number, so it just... is.

The closest triangle number to 16,052 is the 179th triangle number, which is 16,110. The closest triangle number to 2,741 is the 74th triangle number, which is 2,775.

When I tell Cody a story about my senior year, I stop and do the math and realize it's like someone telling me a story during my senior year about their senior year back in 1958-1959. I then stop, because I realize how boring I'm being.

Sorry that didn't happen earlier here!

Note: I did all of the calculations except for the dates--for those I used Excel, because my name isn't Dane Riggs, and Dane Riggs is probably in bed as I write this, so I can't consult him. You'll have to ask him if you want to know on what day of the week any of these dates fall, unless you have a program for that or have the time to work it out yourself.

That note is not there to try to impress you, but to alert you that I could be very wrong about most if not all of this...

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Another Laugh Riot

I have not felt like I'm living the wrong life for a while now, but boy howdy it's all coming back to me.

But this post isn't about that. That was just the overwhelming thought that just came to me as I began to write this.

I like a good laugh. I'll admit it. I'll also admit that I make myself laugh. Yes, faux pas, laughing at your own joke.

Whatever, I don't care. I often surprise myself and it makes me laugh.

More often, I often do crazy-stupid things without realizing it until about a second after I could have stopped myself... and that makes me laugh.

My family makes me laugh... Being around family can make my sides hurt.

My friends often make me laugh. I could go into great detail about each one of them and how they make my heart happy and keep me laughing, but some of it would be so... location-joke-y.

I wanted to share a funny story here. I feel I have been very unfunny lately, thus earning my nickname (Unfunny Mark... it's a long story, really... which means I'll probably share it here sometime, just to take up more space on the interwebness).

Anyway, I wanted to share a funny story. However, as often happens when you want to share a funny story, they all escape you. Actually, some come to mind, but I think, "Surely I told that one before."

I did just tell one today or yesterday that someone had never heard before. I thought the whole world knew it, too.

I wish I could remember it.

So you know what I don't like? Not being able to remember a funny story when I need one.

But back to laughter... I know some people find there to be times where laughter is inappropriate, and I guess I do, too. But those moments for me are much more seldom than they are for others, I think. I want to laugh at a funeral--not because it's awkward, but because life is funny.

Well, life is really awful, actually. But it's also really funny. It's a laugh riot, really. Because in the end, how much of it really matters? It matters a lot, it doesn't matter at all, and it's funny, and it's awful.

So if it's both funny and awful, why not enjoy the funny to help yourself cope with the awful?

Yes, I'm probably wrong-headed.

But I'm laughing about it.

Brother (Or Sister), Can You Spare Some Time?

We know that silence equals consent when atrocities are committed against innocent men, women and children. We know that indifference equals complicity when bigotry, hatred and intolerance are allowed to take root. And we know that education and hope are the most effective ways to combat ignorance and despair.

--U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords  
Speaking of education and hope (with emphasis on the hope part), if you should want to do something for a kid like be a mentor or be there for them, here are some links:
I may or may not have said it before on here, but whenever I hear about one of these shootings like the one today in Arizona or the one earlier in the week in Nebraska, it makes me think we're not doing enough to be there for people as they're growing up. Any time I try to talk or write about this, I become way too aware of how "not good" I am at words. I want to say too many things that either are contradictory or seem very contradictory.

So I'll just say: if you have any time--a couple of hours a week, even--to be there for a kid who needs someone to be there, please do so. You have no idea the need there is for you... or, if you're paying attention even a little, you probably have a very good idea.

Friday, January 07, 2011

On A Lighter Note: I've Accepted A Challenge...

I had a poll over on my vanity photoblog the last few days of 2010... It's still there now, but not active--but I'll eventually getting around to taking it off.

I was just wanting to get a feel for what people thought I should do with it, once the year was up. I had a few choices that were pretty clear-cut, but one was "I'll message you my idea" or something like that. (Yes, I'll be going there in a bit to get the link that you've already seen, but I can't be bothered to go see the exact words. I may be a real piece of work.)

Anyway, nobody voted for that one (whatever it was), but a friend from church (Judy) suggested on Facebook that I make it new rules. One that no picture can be taken by me, and one that at least one picture a week must be taken by a stranger.

I can report I have made it through the first week working with those new rules! I don't know that I'll make it to two weeks, but I'll try!

Yesterday I realized after I got home from school that I wasn't likely to see anyone for the rest of the evening. My first idea was to just go to the store to get something I needed but didn't have to have that instant, and have the person who rang up my purchase take my picture. I'd already figured I'd have a stranger take a picture of me with Kathleen at her birthday party (tonight's picture), but if I got a stranger to take my picture Thursday night as well, that's okay, too.

Then I realized I had gotten the picture frame I'd ordered for Say that day, so I just drove out to Platte City to deliver it. While I was there got my picture taken. What a plan! It worked!

Here's the thing: I kinda like these rules. I for sure like the rule of me not taking any pictures of myself. I hated doing it, and I hate posing for myself. When I die, they won't find great chests full of wonderful literary works (those of you who read this blog regularly will not be shocked to learn that, I'm sure), but they will find kilobytes and kilobytes of pictures of me... and those won't be so wonderful, either. I tend to be much more willing to be content with pictures others take of me.

The other rule I like, but not as much. As extroverted as I may seem at times, I'm not thrilled with the idea of asking strangers to take my picture... and less thrilled with the idea of putting my camera in the hands of someone I don't know at all. Tonight, I had Kathleen ask a friend to do it (which was the plan), because it's still a stranger, but it's a friend of a friend, so the odds of her just up and running off with the camera were pretty slim.

I guess if I stick with check-out folks and store greeters and whatnot, maybe I'll do okay. Or maybe people who are visiting the church. I don't know, but I like that it's making me think about being more outgoing.

In so many ways, I feel like a plant that's sort of closing in on itself as it dies away. That was way more dramatic than I meant, but it's also... what I mean.

I had this blog before "the event" back in June of 2005. It was my only blog. I didn't write a lot in it, though. Some, but not a lot. Then came the photo blog, and then the vanity photoblog, and finally the food blog.

The photoblog was for a specific reason. I don't know that I've really gone into anywhere. If I have, I'm about to bore you with it again. If I haven't, I'm about to bore you with it for the first time.

As I'm sure I've written elsewhere (and as I know I've said when talking about "the event" of 6/05), there was that moment where I just resigned myself to my impending death. I totally let go. I don't know that I'll ever forget it.

I read The Idiot back in college, and I don't remember a lot about it, but I remember there being a character (maybe the idiot in the title) who was supposed to be executed and somehow the gun didn't go off or something. I have thought about that a lot since June of 2005. I probably should go back and re-read the book. It will be twenty-five years since I read it sometime betwen now and May.

Anyway, I still feel like that switch is flipped. I still feel there's a part of me that's very much just... "okay" with my impending death... even though it hopefully is much less impending than it seemed to be that afternoon. Maybe it's a switch that only gets flipped once, and there is no unflipping it. I don't know.

But I know "What do I do now that I got all ready to go and now I'm apparently not going to be going for a while?" has been the general lyric of the background music in my head since then.

I just went and looked at the first STILL: Life picture*. I remember very clearly taking the picture because I thought it was funny (and I just now realized Dora gets made fun of a couple of times on that blog), but then it all just sort of fell into place: I could take a picture every day, like that guy in the movie "Smoke", but I could take a picture to sort of say, "I'm still here. I'm still doing something, even if it isn't much. I'm not still in that ambulance in front of the school, waiting to die--at least not entirely."

And out of that general thought pattern, I thought of the name... since I still had to go through life, even though I'd gotten totally ready to have to stop going through it. I figured people would either think I didn't know how to properly punctuate "Still Life" (very believable) or that I was being very cynical about how great it is that life was continuing to go on (also very believable).

I just needed to remind myself things were still going on, and I had to remind myself there is beauty and mystery and strangeness and humor all around--so I should pay attention.

I went through a phase where it seemed like a huge chore, and you can see there was a huge gap there (after 3/28/08 there was only one picture until I started back up again on 1/1/10). I took a lot of pictures during that time, many meant for that blog. I guess there's something else people can find when I'm dead. STILL: Life (the missing days). I didn't take pictures every day. I didn't want to.

Now I'm where I like taking the pictures. I like trying to think of what to take. It does get old, trying to figure out what I can take a picture of at 9:30 at night, because nothing "jumped out" at me all day, but it does serve as a reminder that I need to be paying attention. There's always some beauty, or some humor, or some strangeness, or some mystery... it's just a matter of seeing it.

I'm so not going to change the title of this post, but I think it's total false advertising about the lightness...

*Side note: I don't know what the original title was--at some point Blogspot led me to believe I was going to have to start deleting posts in order to make new ones. I did, and didn't keep track of the titles. When I learned I could put them back up, a lot of the titles were lost forever. Tragedy!

Thursday, January 06, 2011

While I'm Not Listening...

While I'm not listening, my brain is telling me things that are very important. My brain tells me things all the time, and I've gotten too used to not listening to it.

Or, maybe I listen, but I process and process and process... and it takes so long I may as well be not listening.

The things that are important don't ever escape me, because my brain is talking to me about them all the time. But I think I'm too busy or something. I don't know.

It's been just over a year since Brad died. I know: Brad, Mom, I do go on so. But I think I will think about those two people for the rest of my life. I've been missing Mom since not long after she went to the nursing home--the day I visited her, in fact, and knew she was no longer "there"... but instead in some time in the past, probably before I was born.

And I've been missing Brad since around 1985 or so, with about 25 years of not listening to my brain berate me about it between times.

When I ask myself why I'm able to have any success in this diet thing--why I'm actually able to do it at all, when I've never had any sort of motivation in the past, I have to wonder what is so different. Yeah, the doctor was all like, "Get this number down, or I'm gonna be all diabetes prescription meds on you" and whatnot--but... I don't know. I've heard things from doctor's before. Yes, actual things. Words, even. Talk of diet and health and death-before-45, even.

So my latest working theory is that after about ten months of finally facing the horror of my stupid teenage decision back in February of 1985, and facing the fact I'd never be able to "fix" it or even "make it a little better"... I think I've forgiven myself. I think somewhere around mid- to late-September, I came to terms with the fact time still only works one way.

And I'm not sure I realized in those 25 years just how angry I was with myself. Or, to be terribly honest about it, how much I hated myself.

Now, I don't think that's the whole ball of wax. I mean, I've got more baggage than Santa at 11:59p.m. on December 24th, I'm sure. But it sure feels "true".

Which means nothing, of course. It's just how a thing feels.

Or, who knows? Maybe I just needed to blog what I'm eating every day, and that was all it took.

But I still do a great job ignoring things. I was reading a story or experiencing some story (maybe a television show or a movie) the other day about someone who nearly died (I can't even remember what the story was now, or how the person nearly died), and I thought, "Boy, if that was me, I'd make sure my life meant something after that. I'd make sure that my being here made a difference!"

And my brain, arms crossed, smirk on its face, just looked over and me and said, "June, 2005."

So I've been thinking since then (okay, did I say "the other day", because it was more like "a month or so ago") about what I should be doing that I'm not.

I have an appreciation for the people around me that I'm not sure I had 5.5 years ago--or at least now I have a deeper appreciation. But I don't know how much of a difference I'm making.

So I'm trying to figure out what I need to be doing. I'm not talking "change of life" here, like I'm going to sell everything and travel the world helping anyone who needs it--because beyond talking their ear off, what skill could I offer, right?

But I need to be doing something--and typing a blog about needing to do something isn't enough, I know. I just don't know what I should do first. I'm not thinking anything big...

I just need to figure out how to brighten the corner where I am...

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

The Twelve Traditions of My Christmases, Day 12

Before I begin, to review the traditions I've shared so far:

1. Making cookies for Santa with Madeline and Olivia
2. Taking Dane to a movie on Christmas day
3. Going to Vandalia with Mom and my siblings to see the "Life of Christ" display
4. Chilling out to the Christmas tree lights while listening to "December"
5. Stamps as a gift for teacher
6. Christmas at Grandma's
7. Deana Mae's biscuits (that are actually rolls)
8. New Year's Day at the Reynolds' home
9. Books as gifts for the kids
10. Movie by my self on New Year's Eve
11. Fake gifts under the tree

And the twelfth traditions Going to look at lights!

I didn't do this one this year. I got to go with the Reyes family last year, or I probably wouldn't have done it last year, either.

I used to love to drive around looking at holiday light displays, and even took Jordan out with me a time or two when she was much younger. I was hoping to get to show Binx the lights a block over from my house at least, but didn't even get that done this year.

I saw a lot of light displays when I was delivering pizza. I also got to listen to every one of my Christmas CDs several times over when I had the job. The reason I probably wouldn't have done it if David and Julie hadn't asked me along last year is that driving myself around would remind me too much of the glory days of the pizza delivery "job to support my teaching hobby".

I do love seeing light displays, and if someone drives me around, it doesn't remind me of being in my car, taking yet another pizza order to another home for hopefully a decent enough tip. Also, in my old age I'm finding I want to be a passenger more and more often.

I like to see what people come up with, how they go about decorating, and so on. I love that the house a block over has what appears to be "put lights on everything, and put stuff in the yard so we have more things to put lights on" sort of approach.

I also love streets that have a whole "Christmas Town" sort of approach, where all the houses are done up all super-mega and just looking down the street makes you think of dreams you had when you were young and reindeer could fly and if you could just stay up long enough and sneak past the adults (and if you could keep hidden behind the television) you would totally catch Santa bringing your presents.

Colored lights will forever be associated with joy in my mind. I'll always remember the little girl who used to live next door when I lived in Kansas City (Olivia was her name, but she's not the Olivia I see weekly) seeing my Christmas lights on my house for the first time and just shouting out--voice full of unabashed joy and admiration--"They're so beautiful!"

That's how I feel inside as I go around looking at lights.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

The Twelve Traditions of My Christmases, Day 11

It's not as pathetic as it sounds: the fake gift.

After I got out of college, I got my own Christmas tree. I think it I actually got my own tree. I remember feeling so adult about it. Of course, it was artificial, as that's what I grew up with, and while a real tree is nice and all, it's too high-maintenance for me.

Anyway, I got the tree, and I got decorations for it (and put some decorations I already had on it), and I think that may have even been the year where my major ornaments were Pepsi cans with the holiday themes (there were like eight different ones, and were very easy to make into trashy-looking ornaments: you just put the small end of the hook through the tab.

I had a dream of making a tree out of Dr. Pepper cans and Mountain Dew cans (brown for the trunk, etc., and green for the branches), and then hanging the Pepsi (and Diet Pepsi) cans on it.

I didn't say it was a beautiful dream.

Anyway, the next year I got the tree out (which was probably '92... and I think the first year with the tree was probably '90... I'm pretty sure I was living in Center for Christmas of '91... or staying with Danny just off the Plaza (maybe that was right after Christmas of '91). I don't know, that whole depressing "post college working jobs I didn't need the college degree for" time is just a huge awful blur.

Where was I? Oh yes, huge awful blur.

No, wait, Christmas of '92, I got the tree out, and friends were helping me put up the tree. Heather saw the can ornaments and said, "Oh, Mark. No."

Now, I don't know if it was '90 or '92 (I think I noticed the problem in '90 and came up with the solution in '92) when this tradition was actually born. I just very strongly remember wrapping up some empty boxes to put under the tree because I thought a tree without presents under it looked really depressing.

I'm sure the tree at my home growing up didn't have many presents under it before Christmas morning. Maybe it was the knowledge that come Christmas morning as an adult, it would be just as bare under the tree as it was leading up to it.

Add the fact I had little budget for gifts to others, and the odds of there ever being gifts under the tree of '92 were slim to negative.

So I wrapped the boxes. I actually kept them for a while. I don't know that I used them again under any tree ('93 I was living in L.A. with no tree to call my own, and '94 I was living in the holey trailer in that dinky village near Jefferson City... and in '95 I don't know if I still had the apartment in Jefferson City or not, but I'm fairly sure I didn't put up a tree if I did. In '96 I was living on Grant with Ruth. I don't remember if that was the year I was in "The Eight" or not, but if it was, that would be the next time I had a tree. I have no idea if I had the fake gifts or not, but I have pictures of the tree going up. That could have been '97 as well. Again, we're still in the "jobs I could have got without a college degree" years, so: blur.

Probably the first year I had my own tree was the year after Kevin moved to NYC--and I have no idea what year that was (if Kevin or someone who remembers what year that was would like to fill me in, I'd appreciate it)--the fake gift concept returned to my tree. However, I figured out it would make more sense to use the fake gifts to store things you need to have near the tree: hooks, bulbs, fuses, tape, scissors, and so on.

Now I'm so fancy with my fake gifts, I have bags that match the color of the bulbs they store. And it looks like I have presents under the tree until Epiphany, when it all comes down!

So, yes, kinda pathetic. I admit it. But it's a functional pathetic. So that makes it better.


Monday, January 03, 2011

The Twelve Traditions of My Christmases, Day 10

I almost posted this one the other night, but went with something else instead. I'd have to go back and see what... but here's another Christmas tradition: New Year's Eve movie.

I don't know if the first time I took in a movie on New Year's Eve was my senior year in high school or not, but I'm pretty sure I went to see Dune that night with some friends. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe that was just really late at night one summer.

But I know for sure I went to see Clue (version C, I think) on New Year's Eve, 1985. So maybe that was the first one.

I have since seen several movies on New Year's Eve (at the theatre, I mean). I can't recall any particular ones, but it's something I usually think about doing. There have been years where I've been invited to parties and whatnot, but--as you can read some many posts back--the bit at midnight where everyone gets all kissy-on-my-sweetie-y, that's like... blah.

This year I almost went to a movie, but decided not to at the last minute. Maybe that should be my official New Year's Eve thing. I'm not sure what it would take to make it official. What sort of documentation would I need for that?

Anyway, it may seem lame and anti-social for a tradition, but it's mine!

Sunday, January 02, 2011

The Twelve Traditions of My Christmases, Day 9

Today's tradition: The book as a gift.

This is actually a gift tradition with me, not just a holiday tradition. However, my sister posted a picture of me reading Binx's book to him at the family gathering, and mentioned it was a tradition, and that made me realized the book-giving thing is a tradition, as well.

It started with Jordan, I think (and I know she wishes it would end with her sometimes). I wasn't teaching when Jordan was born, but I knew the love of reading wasn't something I was just born with. I had to see people reading, and had to be encouraged to read at some point. For me it was Dr. Seuss.

Dr. Seuss gave me a love of reading, a love of writing, and a love of rhyming.

We are a bunch of readers, for sure. And I figured the best way to help Jordan in that direction was to always give her books.

Now, there have been times where she got something else besides a book, but usually a book was always part of the gift.

Now, every kid I buy for knows it's almost always going to be a book. And now that I've done it two years in a row, it's a tradition that I read to Binx from the book I got him for Christmas at the family gathering!

Saturday, January 01, 2011

The Twelve Traditions of My Christmases, Day 8

This is really a New Year's Day tradition, but I figure since my holiday season starts right after Thanksgiving and then goes for all 12 days of Christmas, I'm good to go...

For the past 18 New Year's Days (counting the one that just ended about 15 minutes ago, as I type this), Patrick & Leigh have hosted a gathering at their home on New Year's Day. I haven't made all of them, but I've made more than enough to qualify as a tradition.

It's the day I give Tessa and Jake (and now Wil) their Christmas presents. Usually it's a guaranteed day to see Greg and Trevor, and in previous years, David and Julie (and in recent years, Tyson as well). Sometimes it has been a day to see people I don't see any other time of year. Back 16 years or so ago, people would show up having not gone to sleep yet from the night before.

Before Jake came along (and for a while after he came along), people would show up pretty early, and some people would stay pretty late. Leigh always makes ham sandwiches on rolls and a delicious potato soup. I always bring Nutter Butters, but I always bring Nutter Butters to events... and it's tradition that I call from the store to see if they need me to bring ice.

I don't remember the first year I attended. In 1994, I was living in Los Angeles, but I may have been in town for that New Year's Day--I really don't remember. I couldn't tell you if I made it in 1995, either (I was living in Jefferson City at the time, I know that much... or just about to... I may have still been living in that trailer with no heat and openings in the floor).

The crowd has changed over the years, but the event is still a sort of "cap" on the season. (As a side note, I keep thinking I'd like to have a Feast of the Epiphany every year--as sort of carry-in ongoing supper where people can eat, then help me take down my decorations to officially end the season... but I don't think I'll ever actually do it.)

This year we got to add some singing around the player piano. This year David and Julie and family were in New Mexico, where they now live. We did give them a call, however.

Time passes; things change!

I'd love to be able to share Leigh's recipe for potato soup, but I don't know it... and I don't know that I want the world at large to know it. If you want some, you have to stop by the party next year!