Thursday, November 29, 2007

A random visit to my iTunes library

I've been really busy at work this week, so I haven't had much time to think up stuff to write. So I'm borrowing a meme I found on one of my favorite blogs, Tales from the Liberry: Put your music player on shuffle and discuss the first 10 songs that come up. I won't tag anyone, but if you feel moved to give this a try, go for it. It's always fun to see what people have in their music libraries.

1. "Goodbye" -- Night Ranger (from their greatest hits)
Night Ranger were one of my favorite bands when I was a teenager (the other being Def Leppard, of course). While I'm not usually a ballad person, I really like this song, probably because I can relate to the lyrics. It's about memories, saying goodbye, and moving on, leaving the past behind. I've always found that very difficult, or as the chorus goes, "I was never much good at goodbye."

2. "Come Monday" -- Jimmy Buffet (from Songs You Know By Heart)
It's hard for me to write about this song, because I'm singing along while I'm listening to it. I love Jimmy Buffet, and this is one of my favorites of his. I think of it as grown-up romance--not sappy, not cliched, not excessively dramatic ("I'll die if I can't have you right.this.second" Blech.) Instead, he gives words to the longing you feel when you're separated from someone you've loved a long time, someone who is practically a part of you.

3. "The Air that I Breathe" -- The Hollies
OK, what is it with the ballads? Most of my library consists of crunchy guitars, but the sweet love songs are coming up for some reason. I'm not entirely sure why I like this song, but I've liked it since I was kid. Go figure.

4. "Just Got Lucky" -- Dokken (from The Very Best of)
Whew! Now I have my crunchy guitars! I was getting worried there for a minute. I'm not a huge Dokken fan, but I like this one--it's catchy, and it reminds me of the glorious hair metal 80s.

5. "Karma Chameleon" -- Culture Club (from Like, Omigod! The 80s Pop Culture Box)
OK, you rockers quit your laughing! Boy George may be a mess, but he's a talented mess, with a smooth, silky, satiny voice. This one isn't my favorite Culture Club song (that's probably "Victims"), but it's fun.

6. "Little Bit of Love" -- Def Leppard (from Yeah!)
If you stopped listening to Def Leppard after Hysteria, you're missing out! On Yeah!, they cover some of their favorite 70s glam rock tracks, and the result is wonderful. I'm embarrassed to admit I don't remember who did this song originally, but I really like Leppard's version. Melody, big hooks, and those layered harmonies... crank it up!

7. "Nothing is Real" -- Ricky Warwick (from Tattoos and Alibis)
I first heard Ricky Warwick (formerly of the Almighty and now with Circus Diablo) when he opened for Def Leppard in 2002, and I was hooked immediately. It was just him and his guitar up there, but his voice and his lyrics really impressed me. Tattoos and Alibis was his first solo CD, and most of it is excellent. Give him a listen--you won't be sorry.

8. "Cruisin'" -- Smokey Robinson (from My World: The Definitive Collection)
My rocker cred is taking a beating tonight, but I'll never apologize for having Smokey Robinson in my collection. Smooth, romantic, sexy... great mood music if you can ignore my off-key singalong.

9. "Poison Ivy" -- Faster Pussycat (from Greatest Hits)
From Smokey to Faster Pussycat... yep, must be my music. "Poison Ivy" is the only Faster Pussycat song I really like, probably because it's totally catchy. Warning: If you crank it up in the car on the way to work, you can expect to have it stuck in your head all day. Just try not to start singing during that big meeting with your boss.

10. "Lipstick and Leather" -- Y & T (from In Rock We Trust)
Ah, memories... It was 1984. I drove around all summer in my 1975 Ford Maverick (stop laughing!) with this song blasting out the speakers. I got to see Y & T live for the first time that year too. They played with Twisted Sister and Lita Ford at Oakwood Lake in Manteca, CA (I said, Stop laughing!) that fall, and I must've seen about 10 people there from my high school. Those were the days...

Well, there ya go -- a small cross-section of my iTunes library. It even turned out to be a somewhat representative sample.

Monday, November 26, 2007

RIP: Kevin DuBrow (1955-2007)

Kevin DuBrow, lead singer of Quiet Riot, was found dead yesterday. He was 52. No word yet on cause of death.

I'm usually surprised when rockers from my generation die prematurely. Yeah, I know, the rock and roll lifestyle and all that. But as a member of the first MTV generation, I think of these guys the way they looked back in the 80's, young and full of life. And so many of the 80s rockers survived their party years, if not unscathed, at least alive and mostly functional. It's hard, then, for me to think of the guy with the goofy yellow and black striped pants singing Cum on Feel the Noize... as dead. Of course, it's hard for me to think of him over the age of 30, because I'm stuck in a nostalgia-saturated time warp where most music from that era is concerned. I graduated from high school in 1984, and Cum on Feel the Noize was a staple at pretty much every dance my entire senior year. Despite my self-appointed status as a Diehard Rocker(tm), I was sick to death of the song and did my best to tune it out after awhile (though of course it was better than sappy junk like "True" by Spandau Ballet, which also infested every dance of my entire senior year. But I digress...). Now, though, hearing it brings back a flood of memories, taking my middle-aged brain back to a time when spending 45 minutes curling my hair seemed a perfectly logical thing to do, when 501s and a concert shirt made up about 80% of my wardrobe, and when nothing (NOTHING!) was more important than .

Now covering grey is more important than using a curling iron, most of my clothes are business casual, I've been married for 16 years, and if I tried to bang my head, I'd need to head straight for the chiropractor. And a man who sung one of the great rock anthems of the early 80s is dead.

So crank up some Quiet Riot and raise your glasses in memory of Kevin DuBrow. He may be gone from this earth, but he lives on in the hearts, minds, and iTunes libraries of 80's children like me.

Cum on Feel the Noize:

Metal Health (official video -- not great quality):

Metal Health from the US Festival, 1983:

Friday, November 23, 2007

A retail-free Black Friday

While other moms were duking it out over the latest PlaystationXBoxWIIGadgetoftheYear, I avoided anything resembling a retail establishment, since I'm really bad at hand-to-hand combat. Instead, I donated platelets at the Red Cross this morning, then took the family to a couple county parks in Washington for the afternoon. It was f-f-f-freezing (literally--there was frost on the ground and ice in the puddles). But it was still nice to climb around outside after spending all day yesterday in the kitchen.

Besides clambering around on rocks, I used the time to experiment with taking long-exposure pictures of flowing water. I wanted to try out the great instructions I found on Flickr. The lighting really wasn't right, my camera doesn't have quite the right settings, and I don't have a tripod, so my results were less than perfect. But it was fun to mess around, and some of the pictures turned out OK. These were all taken at Moulton Falls County Park just outside Yacolt, WA.






And one of the boys:

While on the subject of Black Friday, I've been thinking I'd like to start a new tradition. We're supposed to spend Thanksgiving thinking about everything we have to be thankful for. So, instead of full-contact shopping on Friday, how about dedicating that day to giving something back? The natural response to gratitude should be generosity, right? Wouldn't it be great if, instead of news stories about fistfights and tramplings at the local Wal-Mart, we had stories about people helping their neighbors, making a meal for a sick friend, or donating time to a worthy cause? Yeah, I know--dream on. But if you think it's a good idea, let me know. Maybe we can think up some great stuff to do on Black Friday 2008.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Putting the "thanks" back in Thanksgiving

Twice I've started a Thanksgiving post this week. The first one was a list of Stuff I'm Thankful For--not big things but the thousand little things that we sometimes forget to appreciate properly, like indoor plumbing. The second one, begun with pen and paper while I was curled up in front of a window on a rainy afternoon, was a cozy little piece about how much I love Thanksgiving, how it's beginning to overtake Christmas as my favorite holiday. I was feeling very warm and fuzzy earlier this week, savoring the thought of four days off, cocooning with family, friends, and food. Ahhhh...

Then yesterday afternoon, some very bad news arrived. I don't want to post details for the world to see, but it created a very difficult, painful situation for my family. Since then I've been by turns numb, angry, worried, and scared. I'm not a Pollyanna, so I don't try to find a bright side in everything (some situations simply don't have a bright side, no matter what all those positive thinking gurus say). But the few times in my life I've experienced real pain and tragedy, I've also been reminded of how very blessed I am. This time has been no different. So, while I'm still grateful for indoor plumbing, I'm going to share with you my new, more serious, list of the things I'm especially thankful for on this Thanksgiving Eve:

Family -- No matter what happens, I know I'll always have love and support from my husband, my son, and my mother.

Friends -- "Is there anything I can do?" "No, really, I mean it, please tell me if I can help." "I'll be thinking of you." "Call me if you need anything." "We love you." We've heard these words from everyone with whom we've shared our pain, usually accompanied by big hugs. I can't begin to describe how much it means to know we aren't alone, that some amazing people stand with us. If there's a bright spot to any tragedy, it's that we find out how much our friends really care. I'm both humbled and sustained by their love and support.

Faith -- I don't often write about my faith, because it's deeply personal. But God is with me, through good times and bad, and I can lean on His strength when mine fails. And with my faith comes another family--my church family. Our pastor who prayed with us, counseled us, reassured us, and even made us laugh. Our youth pastor, who hugged us, offered her help, asked us how we were holding up. My husband's boss, who was completely understanding and supportive.

My co-workers -- many of whom are also friends. "Are you OK?" "Can we help?" My boss, who has been incredibly understanding and supportive, even though I had to leave work with little warning and miss a couple important meetings.

Sometimes people hurt us. Sometimes bad things happen. But I know that, no matter what life hits me with, I don't have to face it alone. Some of the most amazing people in the world have my back. And for that I'm deeply thankful.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Your word of the day is: zarf

The latest craze in the Crum household is Scrabble. It all started when one of my friends challenged me to a game of Scrabulous on Facebook. That reminded me of how much I liked Scrabble, so I downloaded a Scrabble game for my Mac and also found my old board game and taught my son to play. Being the hyper-competitive person that I am, I started looking for Scrabble word lists online, including this one. I was combing through the "z" words just now and found one I'd never heard of, which brings me to our word of the day:

zarf (n): " A chalicelike holder for a hot coffee cup, typically made of ornamented metal, used in the Middle East." -- from

I want y'all to practice using that in a sentence. There will be a test on Monday.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Hospitals at night

A few nights ago I took a shortcut through one of the hospitals on campus to get to my car, parked as usual in Outer Mongolia, a/k/a South Campus. As I trudged along, I felt my mood deteriorate. That's odd, I thought. I've been in a good mood all day. Then I realized the problem: I was in a hospital after dark. You see, one is rarely in a hospital at night for anything good. During the day you might be there for something fairly routine, like a mammogram or some other test. But if you're there at night, you're probably visiting a loved one, which probably isn't a happy occasion unless said loved one has just given birth. Or you're a patient. I have lots of unpleasant memories associated with being in a hospital at night: having my tonsils out (I don't care if you get to eat lots of ice cream. It hurts.), going to the ER with my dad, visiting various relatives before they died, visiting my mother while she lay seriously ill with pneumonia, sitting with my son in the NICU, wondering if he'd survive.

Then there's the almost eerie atmosphere. During the day, hospitals are busy places. Doctors rush up and down corridors on rounds, nurses hurry from room to room, patients are wheeled around, florists deliver flowers, and the cafeteria (my usual haunt) bustles with hungry and harried personnel, wolfing down their greaseburgers before their pagers go off. At night it's calmer, quieter, emptier. Exhausted-looking residents dine alone, and families of patients move through the place like zombies. They don't know their way around, they don't know what they want, and they probably don't care. They're eating because they need to, not because they want to. Every now and then there's an overhead page. Often a doctor is being called somewhere ("paging Dr. Valentine to the Coronary Care Unit..."), but sometimes it's more ominous. "Would the family of Mr. Gravely-Ill-Patient please report to the nurse's station immediately?" I say a prayer for Mr. Patient and his family, my sympathy mixed with gratitude that the page is for someone else, not me.

As I emerged from the building into the cool night air, my melancholy mood left me as quickly as it had come. I was just another employee, heading home after a long day. My family waited at home for me, healthy and whole. I would eat my dinner with them, chatting about the day's events, not picking at a plate of hospital food while wondering what the latest batch of test results meant for my loved one. Life was (and is) good. If I ever forget that, I need only walk through the hospital in the evening to be reminded.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Friday, November 09, 2007

More Halloween fun

I finally got around to uploading some pics from Halloween. I had to come up with a slightly-less-revealing costume to wear to work (I don't wear anything strapless to work... sorry), but I kept the vampire bride theme. My husband made my son's costume, a Borg from Star Trek. And Tony, amazingly enough, didn't really bother dressing up but just threw on his Lord Voldemort cloak and some black contact lenses. For him that's really low-key.

I spent the day being laughed at by my co-workers, then headed home to take my son trick-or-treating and to a party at Papa's Pizza. Not exactly living on the edge, but it was a good day.

Jerry and his friend Chris, ready to raid the neighborhood:
Jerry and Chris

If they don't bring the pizza soon, I'm gonna start biting necks!
Funny thing about this pic: About 5 minutes after I uploaded it to Flickr, it had been viewed 15 times! A few minutes later, it was up to 20 views. None of the other pics I uploaded at the same time had more than a couple views. I think it must've landed on Flickr's front page under Everyone's Photos. Figures. I make a goofy face for a picture, and it ends up getting seen by a boatload of people. *Sigh*

Oddly enough, it was the dark eyes that freaked me out...
Gene Reaper

Well, that's it for this year. Too bad we don't get to wear costumes for Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

"Just" don't do it

I read something awhile ago that took us women to task for minimizing what we have to say by introducing it with "just," as in: "I just want to tell you...," "I just need...," etc. Somehow that nugget embedded itself in the back of my brain, and I started noticing how often I soften (or weaken) whatever I'm saying with "just." Then I started dropping the "just", just to see what difference that would make. I was surprised at the result. Sentences that sounded tentative suddenly sounded confident. I started to sound like I had a right to ask for whatever it was I was asking for, including the reader's/listener's attention.

[Funny aside. My husband asked me a moment ago how long I'd be on the computer. I said, "A couple minutes. I'm just writing something." *Sigh*. By saying that, I minimized the importance of my writing. Granted, this blog post isn't going to change the world, but still... it matters to me.]

Apparently old habits die hard, and in this case, a habit of language is also a habit of mind. Too often we women are taught to minimize our own needs, put others before ourselves always. It's good to be humble, and it's good to care for others. But we must also value ourselves. We can't be worth much to others if we don't value ourselves, right? Of course, that's just my opinion.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Stuff I like that everyone else likes

I posted awhile ago on stuff everyone else likes except me and stuff I like that most people don't know about. This time I'll try a different angle--stuff I like that everyone else likes too. Ho hum... What's so special about that, you say? Well, I'm usually such a weirdo that I miss out on popular stuff, so this list won't be as long as you might think.

Popular things I like . . . on TV:
This will probably be the shortest list of the bunch. I don't watch much TV--and no, I'm not one of those pretentious people who sniffs derisively at any TV program not on PBS. I just don't have a lot of free time, and I prefer to spend most of that free time on other activities (like eating and sleeping). But I can come up with a couple things:

  • The Daily Show: Honestly, if it weren't for Jon Stewart, I don't think I'd ever know what was going on in the world. And of course I love the snark.
  • The Colbert Report: Stephen Colbert is a crackup, and I'm a sucker for well-executed irony.
  • The Simpsons: especially the Halloween specials.

Popular things I like . . . on the radio:

  • Satellite radio: A huge variety of music, no commercials, and I can get my favorite stations almost anywhere in the US. What's not to love? Hair Nation on Sirius rocks!
  • Goo Goo Dolls: OK, they're kinda 90s, but for me that's positively recent, and they're as close to alternative as I get. And John Rzeznik... yum.
  • "Paralyzer" by Finger Eleven: Finally a recent song I like! Satan must be strapping on his ice skates...
  • Classic rock from the 70s through early 90s. My music is popular again! Turn it up to 11!

Popular things I like . . . actors/movies:
This'll be my longest list. To keep it manageable, I'll stick to the major ones.

  • Oldies: Original Star Wars trilogy, Star Trek movies (well, most of 'em), Indiana Jones movies, 80s slasher flicks, James Bond movies (again, most of 'em), The Princess Bride
  • New stuff: newest James Bond movie, Bourne movies (Matt Damon... *sigh*. And the car chases and explosions are cool too.), Harry Potter movies
  • Actors: Tom Hanks, John Cusack, Harrison Ford, Matt Damon, Nicholas Cage

Popular things I like... books:
I just realized my last post didn't have a category for books. How could I miss that? This list is shorter than I thought it would be, but that's probably because I read a lot of older stuff, especially nonfiction.

  • Harry Potter: love 'em! I wish there were more coming. The audiobooks are great too, but then I could probably listen to Jim Dale read the phone book.
  • The Da Vinci Code: I avoided this one for awhile because of all the hype, but a friend loaned me a copy, so I thought I'd give it a try. Once I started reading it, I couldn't put it down. I could argue the theology and find holes in the plot, but why ruin a great read?
  • Sherlock Holmes stories: A century old and still wonderful.

Popular things I like . . . when it comes to people:
Well, gee, this one will be a little inane. I'll probably start sounding like a singles ad or a Playboy caption ("and I like sincere people and puppies and long walks on the beach..." Gag!)

  • Sense of humor: The single most important requirement for anyone in my life! You need to be able to laugh--at yourself, at nothing, at stupid stuff, whatever. And when we women say that a sense of humor is the most attractive quality a man can have, we aren't kidding.
  • Sincerity: Try not to set off my BS detector more than once per day, please.
  • Kindness: "Kind" is a bit like "nice" -- a word that's usually seen as wimpy and nondescript. But both "kind" and "nice" are actually really important qualities. Life is short and sometimes difficult; don't make it worse than it needs to be. If you can't treat people well, especially people from whom you have nothing to gain, please just go away. Sarcasm and snark are great, but underneath that, try to be a decent human being.
  • A spirit of adventure: No, I don't mean bungee jumping or other pastimes that attract people with more adrenaline than brains. But be willing to visit new places, try new things, and meet new people. There's a whole world out there, ya know.

Thursday, November 01, 2007


I went home last weekend. No, I don't mean I went back to my house. That wouldn't exactly be newsworthy, would it? No. I went home, back to my hometown. I haven't lived there since 1987, but Tracy will always be home. Why? The memories. I lived there from 2nd grade through my junior year of college, and since it was a small town, just about every street in the old section holds memories--good, bad, and stupid, but memories. When I go back, I always drive what we used to call the strip--11th Street, East Street, Grant Line, and Tracy Blvd.--at least once. That route takes me past my old high school and my old house, as well as the route I used to walk to school when I was little, the Taco Bell where I hit a parked car and got kissed by a really weird guy (not on the same night), my best friend's mom's business (where I got kissed by another weird--nay, scary--guy), the place that made the best vanilla Pepsi on the planet, the bank where I had my first checking account, the place where my favorite arcade used to be, the place where my favorite donut shop used to be (great cream cheese muffins, and the night manager was adorable--too bad he never kissed me), the drive-in where my cousin worked, and the park I used to play in. A short detour north on Tracy Blvd takes me to my uncle's old house, the Denny's where a bunch of us used to hang out till 4 AM, the place I met my husband, and the trailer park where my friend lived. A detour in a different direction takes me past the old movie theater where I saw Star Wars for the first time when I was 10, had my first date (a lot older than 10), and spent many happy Tuesday half-price nights. See what I mean? Memories. Everywhere. For me, going back to Tracy is the closest I'll ever come to time travel.

As you might expect, it's bittersweet. It's fun to wallow in memories, but that makes me realize how old I am and how much nearly everything has changed, including me. The theater is now a church. The old administration building at my high school was torn down last year, and the arcade and the donut shop are gone, as is the pizza place where I met hubby. My old house is still there, but it looks a lot different:

The house I grew up in

It looks pretty nice now, but when I lived there it had a flat roof and not much landscaping. And it had a garage instead of what appears to be a front room now (I wonder where all the black widow spiders live, now that there's no garage).

Whoever said you can't go home again was wrong. You can, but it isn't the same. Buildings come and go, but more than that, people grow up, move away, or move on--we're married, have kids, jobs, mortgages, responsibilities. The common ground we had in high school--the same music, movies, etc.--is gone. We've gone our different ways. Nothing wrong with that. I'm actually glad I moved away, because I've had the opportunity to grow in ways that would probably have been impossible had I stayed in town. But I do miss the days when I knew everyone and felt a sense of belonging I've never felt since I left.

Nostalgia comes from the Greek word nostos ("homecoming") + algos ("pain, grief, distress") -- thank you, Those Greeks had it right. Whenever I go home, a part of me grieves for what I've lost--old times, old memories... my youth. It takes me a week or two to get back to normal. In the meantime, I write sappy, disjointed blog posts like this one.