Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Dandelion Break!

My friend Opus the Penguin (from the late, lamented comic strip Bloom County) is a wise bird. He is smart enough to know that sometimes, you just need to take a break.

We're at the point now, I believe.

Every time I turn on the news (TV, radio, online, tea leaves, whatever), the news is bad.

  • Swine flu of possibly pandemic porportions
  • Skyrocketing unemployment
  • Pay cut with furlough
  • Unstable towers of ungraded papers
  • High pollen count
  • Foreclosures
  • Grade deadlines
  • Desperate nuts with guns
  • Et freakin' cetera

I'm in danger of taking things too seriously. So I'm declaring a dandelion break. I'm searching for a patch of sunshine and some bright yellow flowers that don't know they're supposed to be weeds.

Care to join me? I'll move over a little.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Rampscallion Alert!

It may be Earth Day, but I've decided to publicize another, less noticed holiday. That's right, sports fans - it's time to prepare for the natal day of the Bard! Verily, ol' Billy's got a birthday coming up and you need to be ready! So permit me to present some assistance to get you ship-shape for "Talk Like Shakespeare" Day! As you can see from the link, this got its start in - Chicago?? Well, why not? Shakespeare belongs to the world, right?

What? You say you're intimidated? You claim you know nothing of iambic pentameter? Fear not - the basic rules are quite simple. Click here and become fluent in minutes! (You can also be entertained by a variety of Bard-inspired clips, including the Beatles doing a not-to-be-missed version of the "Pyramus & Thisbe" bit from Midsummer Night's Dream. There's also something about a musical version of Hamlet featuring Gilligan, but my courage wasn't screwed quite tightly enough to the sticking place to check that one out!)

And don't forget the practical applications here! Cut off in traffic and want to vent? Why settle for the mundane title of "jerk" when you can go with "yeasty deformity"? But don't trust me - try the "Shakespearean Insult Generator." Hours of fun for the entire family!

Enjoy, knaves!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


Overall, I love anniversaries. I think the contemporary American (of which I am one) far too easily gets all wound up in the "here & now" that we forget the stepping stones that got us here in the first place. (Then again, I'm a geek who reads the Declaration of Independence every July 4, so consider the source.)

Seriously - commemorating important events is a lovely thing. And by "important events," I don't just mean the huge things Hallmark makes cards for - birthdays, wedding anniversaries (and those guys are serious about this sort of thing!), and so forth. So many seemingly tiny things go into making you who you are and we often don't slow down enough to notice the change in scenery, so we might not have the exact date circled on the calendar of our hearts. That doesn't mean it isn't important.

But some dates are emblazoned on our hearts, etched in acid. Yesterday was an anniversary of that sort. Two years ago, a young woman named Du'a Khalil Aswad was viciously murdered by a crowd intent on slaying her to avenge her family's warped sense of honor. Look here and here, but I refuse to post a link to the actual killing, which was unbelievably captured by cell phone cameras held by members of the slavering mob.

It took the crowd a half hour to kill her. No one even tried to intervene.

She was 17. And she'll always be 17.

Please honor Du'a. Make today a new anniversary - make a difference. Sure, there are sites you can go to and add your name to a tribute to Du'a (like this one) but that may not be your cause, which is fine by me. Just make a difference. Take the extra two seconds to actually say "hi" to the teenager bagging your groceries. Smile at someone in the hallway at work. Take ten minutes to walk the long way, get outside to see the dogwoods in bloom, and know that there is beauty in the world.

Humans do some reprehensible things to each other and right now, it seems like it's happening more and more. But remember - it's only news because it's unusual. Most of us aren't like that. And we have a responsibility to remind those around us (and us, as far as that goes) of that fact.