Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween Randomness

What do you think about trick-or-treaters with cleavage? Too old to trick-or-treat? At least for candy? In their favor, they wore real costumes.

I don't know many of the neighborhood kids, but I recognized the Dachshund dressed up like a hot dog.

Why is everyone saying "Happy Halloween" instead of "Trick or treat"?

"I like your hair," I told one sevenish-year-old girl, referring to her waist-length pink tresses.

"Thanks," she responded matter-of-factly. "It's a wig."

What Your Halloween Habits Say About You

You're a friendly person, but not the life of the party. You like making someone else's day - and you'll dress up if you think of a really fun costume.

Sneaky and devious, people should really watch out for you. You are usually underestimated and forgotten.

Your inner child is full of wonder and very sweet.

You truly fear the dark side of humanity. You are a true misanthrope.

You're logical, rational, and not easily effected. Not a lot scares you... especially when it comes to the paranormal.

You are a traditionalist with most aspects of your life. You like your Halloween costume to be basic, well made, and conventional enough to wear another year.

Just for the record, I am not sneaky or devious, I don't have an inner child, and I'm not so much traditional as lazy.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Vacation Randomness

My son and I used to watch "Hoosier Millionaire" just to see how close the host came to insulting the contestants. One contestant stood out, a woman who had moved from West Virginia to Terre Haute. When asked how she liked Terre Haute, she replied, "Shore. Is. Fast. Paced."

Last Monday we passed through Terre Haute on our way to Giant City State Park in southern Illinois. It is bigger than I expected. There was an electronic sign near the road construction in Terre Haute. All I caught of the message was "CHOOSE ANOTHER ROUTE". Were they talking about the traffic jam we hit outside Mt. Vernon?

My SO's hobby is photography, something you cannot tell from the following picture of my son and me that he took with my point-and-shoot camera. (Please ignore my codpiece.)

Can you see the family resemblance?

Since we were so close to the Mississippi River, we spent an hour or so trying to find it. We knew we were close but could not find a way to access it until we got to Grand Tower. The Mississippi is pretty unspectacular at this point, sort of like Tower Rock.

While driving around looking for the Mississippi, we passed through many towns where I am guessing the local population bitterly clings to their religion and guns. Or maybe not so bitterly.

"Hooked on quack." "If it flies, it dies." "Duck Busters."

Giant City includes a stable and offers trail rides. I briefly flirted with the idea of spending an hour in the saddle, but decided these aging hips were not up to it.

Every - and I mean every - time we walked into the dining room, Ernest fooled me.

As you can see, I can't operate my camera any better than my SO can.

Mindless Eating

Last week my SO and I spent five days at Giant City State Park. This vacation was designated as a do-nothing vacation. We hiked a little and ate a little and napped a little and ate a little and read a little and ate a little. Did I mention the eating? The park has a restaurant in the lodge, with average food. What it lacked in quality it made up for in quantity, though. In other words, I gained a few pounds.

Unlike a co-worker, who has been losing weight lately. His inspiration has come from Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think, by Brian Wansink, Ph.D. Not one to argue with success, I checked the book out of the library.

Most diet books are boring treatises of rah-rah prose disguising guaranteed failure. Any diet that is too complicated or that leaves one feeling deprived and/or bored is doomed. But Mindless Eating is less about what to eat and all about why we eat (besides hunger).

And it is entertaining. Wansink is a food psychologist who thinks up the craziest experiments in order to decipher why we overeat. My personal favorite is the bottomless soup bowl.

The book is also enlightening, as I saw myself in several chapters. "Mindless Eating Scripts" illuminated my own eating scripts, the prime one being my membership in the Clean Plate Club. "Surveying the Tablescape" helped me see that I should use smaller glasses, spoons, and plates at mealtime. "The Forgotten Food" suggests I stop eating when I am no longer hungry, not when I feel full.

I read most of the book before going on vacation, and while I gained weight, it could have been much worse. I did not clean my plate at each and every meal. During the family-style all-you-can-eat chicken dinner, I concentrated on the vegetables and salad. We ate only two meals a day, snacking in between. And I waited until my son joined us before ordering the beer batter onion rings (which were really, really good).

In the final chapter, Wansink challenges the reader to design his/her own "Mindful Eating Plan". For myself, I choose these three changes:

1. Only eat when I eat - no reading, television viewing, surfing the Net, etc. while eating.
2. Wear tight jeans at night instead of sweats or jammies.
3. Eat breakfast at home and carry my lunch, to avoid the cafeteria and vending machines at work.

I'll report on my results at a later date. Meanwhile, I recommend this book to dieters and non-dieters alike, because it's a fun read.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

In the Valley of Elah

What a heart breaking movie! On the surface, this movie is about a father, a former Army man, looking for his Army son who disappeared shortly after returning from Iraq. His remains indicate he was stabbed, dismembered, and burned, which lead us through a laundry list of possible scenarios and perpetrators. But the movie is also about the trauma of war on "warriors" and their survivors.

While the plotline is compelling, what really sucked me in was the character development and the relationships between the characters. There is Hank Deerfield (played by Tommy Lee Jones), a distrustful veteran who starts the movie proud of his country and proud of his sons. There is his wife Joan; Susan Sarandon has about a dozen lines in this movie but they are all perfectly rendered and bursting with backstory. And there is Det. Emily Sanders, a single mother who knows how to play with the big boys even though they don't want her to play.

The Valley of Elah is where David met and slew Goliath. It is also where we face our fears and learn to accept the truth, about our loved ones and ourselves, even when that truth is hard to bear.