New Zealand 2014: the most glorious moment of the trip

I've been meaning to write about this since, well...since it happened.  Here goes.

 

Our first temporary home during our trip to New Zealand was the Papamoa Beach Top Ten Resort.  I wrote a bit about it earlier, so I won't go too deep into that now.  What I will say is that one of my favorite activities (besides the bouncy pillow!) was the opportunity to walk/run on the beach in the morning before everyone else woke up. 

Well, I say everyone else, but honestly I'm not sure if Rob ever slept on our trip...I just know that my biological clock kept waking me up just before the sun came up, and no one else was ever moving around...so let's just assume I was the only one awake.

Most days, I'd go down and just walk.  Pick a direction and walk until I got tired of walking, then turn around and walk back.  Look at shells.  Admire the seagulls (Mariel, remember Onesie?)  Hold out hope that I'll find a shark's tooth on the beach.  (Not yet.)

Anyway, on a trip where most of our travel was four people, luggage, and camping equipment stuffed into Hotel Mercedes, I didn't have a lot of privacy.  My morning walks on the beach at Papamoa were my opportunity to get out by myself, clear my head, and just GO.  Maybe my opportunity to control what was happening in my life...

I'd ended a 6-year relationship right before the trip, so I was still dealing with that pretty solemnly...in fact, I'm not sure I'm ready to even write much about that right now here, so maybe I'm still suffering from the fallout of it...so maybe someday I'll share my thoughts on it.  Maybe not.  

In any case, it was freeing to get out and walk with purpose away from everyone else.  Don't get me wrong...I love Rob, Fen, and Mariel, and I had lots of fun on our trip...but I did have my moments of claustrophobia.  Once I'd had my fill of walking, I decided to run.

I don't know if anyone knows this about me, but I hate running.  I love playing sports...but running for running's sake?  Nope.  Did I run track in high school?  Yep.  Do you want to know why?  Because I had a HUGE crush on Lindsay Speer.  (She was all-state track/cross country, gorgeous, and immensely intelligent.)  But I was a sprinter; nothing long-distance.

When I got in the Navy, our PT (exercise) was to run.  You'd think the Navy would prefer you learn to swim long distances...but nope.  Mile and a half.  Again, hated running...so I'd just trudge along at the slowest possible pace.  My knees hurt, my shins hurt (we were running on the concrete sidewalks at Navy Nuclear Power Training School in Orlando, FL) and I just detested this daily torture...until I figured out something interesting:

I can run.  Fast.

If I ran way faster than anyone else, I could literally lap everyone and get back in bed earlier.  It was over quicker.  So my mile and a half time went from 15 minutes to 7 minutes.  (Don't worry, I still hated running, but I don't mind running fast...)

Anyway, let's take a pause and go back to high school.  When I decided to try out for Track, I was a senior.  I had also decided to audition for the school play (made it into Harvey as Dr. Sanderson), the school musical (made it into Oklahoma as Dancing Curley), Journalism Club/the school newspaper (wrote several awful articles), French Club, FCA (that's gotta be a surprise for some of you, but Lindsay was in it...so there you are), Fine Arts Club, etc...but I wanted to letter in a varsity sport.  I wasn't about to try out for football, no matter how much the coaches wanted me to (same with wrestling) and the soccer coach wanted me to play fullback due to my height (no thanks.)  I found out that the track team had graduated most of their sprinters the year before and desperately needed people to fill out the team.  

I remember running the 100m at tryouts in floppy worn-out tennis shoes.  I remember finishing at the head of my group, then looking over at the coaches and seeing the look of surprise on their faces.  Wait, this goofy looking white kid won his heat?  Okay, let's put him in a faster group.  Guess what?  Still won.

So I made the track team.  Even though I had the fastest 100m times, I don't think I ever ran it in an actual competition.  I mainly got put in the 200m, 4x200m and 4x400m relays.  Side note:  I remember them REALLY needing hurdlers, and them asking me to try it out.  Of course, no one took the time to explain how to properly run over the hurdles, so after a couple times of me jumping over the hurdles with both feet out to the side, that quickly came to an end.  Funny note: I was still keeping up with the others doing it this way.  Imagine if someone had taught me how to do it properly!

Anyway, blah blah blah, track in high school.  You might be wondering: "Did you ever ask Lindsay Speer out?  That was the only reason you tried out!"  The answer is....almost.  

I didn't have a date for Senior Prom, and I desperately wanted to go with Lindsay.  Of course, I was absolutely terrified to ask her (I've always been like this, really, and still am), so I waited and waited...finally, a few days before prom, I heard that she didn't have a date.  I was a bit stunned that someone like her wouldn't have a date...but that was the moment I decided to go ask her.  So I'm walking out to the track field...and on the way down I pass one of my friends headed in the opposite direction.  I say, "Hey, what's up?" because he had a shit-eating grin on his face.  He says, "Oh, nothing, just asked Lindsay Speer to go to prom with me and she said yes."

Fuck.

So I didn't go to Senior Prom, meaning that I will never, ever understand 50% of high school coming of age movies.

Anyway, back to the original story.  I still hate running, and I hated it even more after putting up with a year of running track (I did get that Varsity "O" though.)  But for some reason at Papamoa Beach, running seemed like the right thing to do.  I started a playlist of Kanye and started a jog, of which I quickly became bored...so I started sprinting.  Now, I haven't run since...Navy times?  So I didn't run all that far.  But it felt good to run.  For the first time ever.

So I walked until I felt like running again, then sprinted as fast as I could until I had to stop.  It felt awkward...like my body didn't have the coordination of sprinting any more.  So I decided to keep going.  Each time, it felt better and better.  Finally, on the eleventh sprint, it happened.

I felt like I was flying on top of the ground.

I literally had the sensation that my feet were barely touching the sand.  Every movement was completely smooth.  Every breath flowed in and out without any effort.  My joints felt loose; my head just floated along and seemed disconnected from the rest of my body, which had melted completely away.

It.  Was.  Exhilarating.

It was honestly the best my body has felt since my car accident during my senior year at Illinois (where I broke my neck and didn't know until a year ago.  Way to go, Carle Hospital Emergency Room.  Way to be thorough.)  

I glided to a stop and turned around.  My footsteps were in a straight line behind me, tiny dots where only the balls of my feet had touched the sand (I have always sprinted like Michael Johnson.)  

I sprinted once more, trying to catch the lighting again...but by this point I had done the equivalent of about a mile of sprints...so my legs started tightening up.  I enjoyed the rest of the walk back to camp, but I made it a point to remember that moment where I flew in New Zealand...because you can't forget those types of moments:  first kisses, when someone tells you that they love you for the first time, that look in your niece's eyes when she screams, "Uncle Ben!!!" and then tackles you...

These are the moments you can't forget.  The ones you hang on to for the rest of your life.

Because there are plenty of failures, plenty of missed proms, plenty of trudging through unnecessary ordeals...all to get to these brief moments that remind us of how wonderful it can be to transcend the normal, to step outside of the limitations we set for ourselves, and to be alive.  

So I guess what I'm saying, after all this, is that I remembered how to be alive in New Zealand.

 

Thoughts: Resolutions, Aging, Lupus, and male "performance"

Yes, I realize it's been quite some time since I've thrown some thoughts out here.  I've been busy?  Plus, I'm not sure who even reads this anyway...but I've had a few ideas running through my head that I thought to include here.  Enjoy.  Or not.

**How common is Lupus?  

I went from never having met an actual person who was diagnosed with it to having met two within the space of a week.  In St. Louis.  It reminds me of the Chicago-area ad campaign Syphilis is BACK, the followup to their highly successful Herpes Gonna Getcha media blast.  Is Lupus common?  Before this particular week, the only thing I knew about Lupus was the Seinfeld episode where Elaine's character has a roommate with it.

Let me be absolutely clear:  I am not poking fun at anyone with Lupus.  From what I've been told, it sounds awful and I wouldn't wish it on anyone except perhaps my direst enemies.  Especially as a dancer...

I'm simply commenting on the randomness of never having met a single person with it (maybe I had, they just didn't say anything) until last week, then going on a date with one and maybe a date with another is in the future.  It seems strange...

**Note to all the Low T, Viagra, and other "male enhancement" product commercials...

At what point in US Cultural advancement can we just say "this product is designed to give you a boner"?  I laugh every time I hear the "user testimonials" and there is a kind of nerdy-sounding guy (not in a Big Bang Theory-kind of way, but think Squeak from the movie BASEketball.  In fact, that's exactly who I always imagine is speaking.)  Anyway, this poor fellow is giving his testimonial, and then he comes to the part where he says, "...and I was able to...(pause for dramatic effect)...perform better."  

Perform?  Is that the word we're using now?

So of course, this led me on a strange journey of thought events.  If performing is equal to having an erect penis, then what have I been doing on stage all these years as a dancer?  And do the Academy Awards have a secret secondary meaning?  "And the Academy Award for Best Male Performance in a Documentary goes to...OHHHHHHH...HOLD on...."  

This led to the thought, "What if we gave awards for male performance."  Of course, we already do: they're called the AVN (Adult Video News) Awards.  But (this was just my train of thought) what if male performance was a sport...then "what if certain sports required male performance as part of the event?"  An event like, say, the Male Performance Marathon.  26 miles, and ya gotta...(pause for dramatic effect) "perform better" the entire time.  A very Monty Python-esque event (see: Marathon for Incontinence)

If you saw me laughing hysterically while I was driving on 64/40 in St. Louis, this is what was running through my head.

**Thoughts on being a 37-year old.

Do I really see myself as a 37-year old?  I'm not so sure I do.  I've seen other people I went to high school with walking around the St. Louis area...and they look rough.  I've seen other women my age on a few dating apps...and again, Rocky Mountains in Winter.  Red Wedding kind of rough.  But my perception of myself is still that I look mid-to-late-20's.  Am I completely off base with this?  Plus, with a lot of my friends in their mid-to-late-20's, I feel like my social circles are a generation apart from my chronological age.  So there's that.

**Thoughts on New Year's Resolutions for 2015

I am doing something a bit different this year: I'm starting my NYR on Oct 1, with the goal being to achieve my resolutions BY New Year's Eve.  That's right: I'm giving myself three months to accomplish four goals, and NYE will be a celebration for that achievement (instead of a moment to say, "I gotta fix stuff!" and start out the year on a low note.)

2015 is going to be a great year for me, and here's what I plan to do to get it off on the right foot:

Resolution #1: I will be back under 200 pounds by NYE.

Pretty straightforward stuff.  This means I have about 25 pounds to lose in 3 months.  With my new apt building having a dance studio and gym, and the YMCA across the street, it's time to get back to my pre-stress body.  That's my body before the Last Year of Grad School Thesis Stress Eating, Awful Long Term Relationship Conclusion, and Post Graduation Unemployment stressors.  

I'd love to have some more photos of myself.  I'd love to have more confidence in my looks (so I can perform better hahaha...)  I'd love to just feeeeel better.  

Resolution #2: I will have started/continued 3 recurring traditions by NYE.

One will be Sci-Fi Saturdays (watching a MST3K/Rifftrax movie every Saturday night and having friends over, if they are so inclined.)

I think another is Monday Pizza with my family, although I'll probably be eating salads instead of pizza to achieve Resolution #1.

The third will be a weekly trip to the Missouri Botanic Gardens.  I mean, I renewed my membership.  I love going there.  It helps clear my mind.  So why not?

Resolution #3: I will pay off one credit card by NYE.

This is actually pretty doable.  I won't get into specifics, but I'm just tired of making payments on CC.  So I'm going to eliminate one of them.  I'll do this by putting money from coin sales directly to extra payments until it gets cleared off the books.  Then, after NYE, I can clear another.

Resolution #4: I will finish editing my RWDNY photos by NYE.

This one is actually harder than it sounds.  I have thousands of images...and this was before Nikon replaced my shutter mechanism (which was faulty, so it flung oil all over my sensor, which means EVERY image has about 1,000 little spots on it that need to be removed in Photoshop.)  I will probably start THIS project first...

 

This...

 

This is enough for now.

 

 

 

First look into New Zealand!

I've lucked out - the Internet has worked out just enough to post my first set of photos from New Zealand!  Included are a couple of shots from the drive from Auckland International Airport to our campsite at Papamoa Beach.  Enjoy them HERE!

 

Our campsite is lovely.  We have not one, but TWO bouncy pillows!  (Photos are currently being edited...)  Our site sits high on the dunes overlooking the beach, just next to a parking lot where surfers park their cars and prep for the beach.  Amenities are high quality for a campsite - our spot has clean running tap water and an electrical hookup, and the campsite has a couple shower sites with hot water.  The hot water only runs for 5 minutes, though...so no lounging in the water!  Of course, this morning I tried the second site, and it was just like being on the ship...30 seconds of hot water, 30 seconds of freezing cold water...I think that's why I'm a bit grumpy today.  When we get back, my first task will be to get my full 5 minutes!

There is a kitchen area where we can store food in a refrigerator/freezer, as well as sinks to wash dishes and stoves to prepare food.  There is a large flat screen television, although to be honest why would you go to the beach to watch television?

We've seen plenty of birds, but the highlight of the past couple days has been the late night sighting of two HEDGEHOGS!  If it hadn't been so dark, I'd have photos for you.  (I'll work on catching them!)

 

A fun moment from our first dinner:  Rob is a slow eater.  Mariel and I were already done with our salads and steak, and he still had a full plate of food left.  Then he asks, "Does anyone have an extra fork?"  We looked around, and found one for him to use.  However, a couple minutes later, he pauses, staring intently at his plate:  his fork was under his salad!  So, from this point forward, I fully intend to get photos of my fork under different NZ meals...

 

 

On fate, kindness, and having a sense of purpose in life...

The combination of the unseasonably cool night air and the sizzling hot tub really helped calm my nerves.  You see, I have just over two days until I fly to New Zealand for the first time.  It's not my first trans-oceanic journey (I have crossed the Atlantic at least 8 times, and the Pacific twice), so the flight alone doesn't scare me.   As someone who has never really feared dying (I think my greatest fear has always been loneliness) a 22 hour flight holds the same significance as a 15 minute car ride.  When you calculate the odds, the road trip is probably infinitely more dangerous...and I'm just guessing at that, so don't judge me if I'm wrong.  But I am thinking that the flight to another part of the world, one that takes me about as far away from my family, friends, and familiar places...that's something that's secretly terrifying.

And so I deal with it, as I normally deal with things, by remaining silent, organizing things, and getting tense.  My muscles contract, my movement patterns shorten, and my mind begins racing.  I make lists, I check things over and over again, and I have vivid yet fleeting dreams.  Usually, the best way to calm myself is through dancing, or exercise, or (to be honest) a couple beers.  I have such a low tolerance for alcohol, it only takes a couple...  Before you decide that I drink myself to sleep, know that I maybe consume ten drinks a month.  

I was all out of beers, and I didn't feel like going to the gym, so I got in the hot tub around midnight.  I put on the latest episode of Orphan Black, and tried to let my body relax.  

It's still early in the spring here, and it's been cold and rainy, so the insects/mosquitos weren't out tonight, although a brief appearance was made by the local long-haired female cat that makes the rounds from country house to country house.  I always bring her a handful of food when I see her...  She's quite friendly, and just a beautiful lady of a cat...so I'm sure she eats ten handfuls of cat food a day around here.  Anyway, in the absence of biting insects I was allowed to relax.  I cleaned up my stuff and carried it into the bathroom to take a quick rinse afterward, and as I was standing there, I noticed an ant on my eyelashes.

Of course, I didn't really know it was an ant at first.  I saw/felt something on my eye, and I put my finger up there quickly to brush it away.  When I brought my hand down, there it was.  Just a single little red ant, sitting on my finger.

I looked at it for a second, and for some reason began to feel really bad for this little guy.  Here he was, in a strange place, all by himself.  Nothing familiar, nothing kind.  Well, that's not entirely true.  He had me.

I actually decided to speak to this ant.  I said, "Hey, you...if you stay right there, I'll take you back home."  And I walked out of the bathroom, through the kitchen, the dining room, and out the back door.  At each stage, I expected to see him gone - either to see him crawling up my arm, or missing entirely.  But he stayed in the same exact spot...waiting patiently.

I walked over to the hot tub (the lid was closed at this point) and gently puffed a light breath of air toward my finger.  When I checked back, he was gone.

As I walked back to the shower, I started wondering about the decisions we make on a daily basis and if they are part of a greater purpose.  No, I don't mean "God's plan," so all my religious friends can just simmer down a second and stop thinking, "it's time to witness to him!"  It's not and never will be.  I'm speaking about the continuation of life, of energy, and of the connection between living beings.  In a millisecond, I could have smashed that tiny ant on my finger, brushed his lifeless body onto the floor, and forgotten about him forever.  In that ant's point of view, I was immeasurably powerful.  But I felt a connection, a sense of protective urgency, to return that ant unharmed to his home.  It was as if a great responsibility had suddenly been laid upon my shoulders, and I had no choice but to follow it.

So I started wondering - what if my entire reason for living was to save that one tiny ant's life?  Now, one could debate that, if I were not in the hot tub in the first place, the ant would not have somehow climbed onto my head...but what if my purpose was to be there to choose to preserve a valuable life, even if it holds little intrinsic value to a larger organism like myself?  Little value...at least as long as we don't stop to take a moment to appreciate another living creature for what it is outside of its value to ourselves.

Another thought - what if it WAS my purpose to save this one ant, and now that task is completed?  Is the rest of my life pointless?  Or is my purpose to be continued...  What if I am merely connecting with my continued responsibility as a living being to respect, nurture, and coexist with other living beings, no matter what size and shape?  What if I was the ant...what would I see as my sense of purpose?  How would I have viewed this interaction tonight?

And I remember quietly the first time I looked out over the middle of the Atlantic Ocean from my ship (the USS Arleigh Burke.)  In every direction...water.  Above me...air.  Below me...water.  Far above and around the air and water...the universe.  And it reminds me...

The greatest concept I have learned in my lifetime is a sense of perspective.

Tonight, I was the powerful being with the responsibility for preserving the life of a smaller creature.  In two days, something much larger than myself will hold that responsibility.  And perhaps, somewhere out in the universe, on a scale much, much greater than that of the Earth, is some other living being deciding whether to smash us against its finger, or carry us safely back to the hot tub.

 

 

 

 

 

Today's iPhone saga - hopefully, a conclusion.

So, today I picked up my new phone.  

"What?  I thought you just got a new phone?"  You'd be correct in that assumption: I bought a new iPhone 5S in September (I didn't pay for it, because the battery on my iPhone 5 died two weeks before the warranty expired, so I exchanged it for a new one, which, in turn, I exchanged at Best Buy for a gift card that ended up paying for a new iPhone 5S plus $6 leftover on the card, which I gave to a homeless person.)  That phone was replaced in December because it wasn't working properly.  Of course, the Apple store replaced it with a "Reconditioned" model, which, depending on who you talk to, is either a 99% brand new phone that has been 100% tested by Apple, or a conglomeration of parts from returned iPhones that has been 100% tested by apple.  Either way, it's a Frankenstein phone.  

Problem is, the Genius who set up my phone totally botched it.  Which I'm not blaming him for - everyone has bad days, or is new, or sometimes mixes steps up.  But he put in the wrong serial # for my phone, almost forgot to change the SIM card, and forgot to complete the activation properly before I left.  As a result, my phone has not been working properly for the last 3 months.  I haven't complained, because, at some point, a person has so many problems with his phone that he begins to think it's HIM and not the phone...well, turns out, yes, it WAS the phone.  

So I called Apple support.  Of course, their first suggestion was to wipe the OS and re-install it.  This is their normal troubleshooting suggestion.  Having done this many times, and realizing that this is basically their version of the IT Crowd's "Have you tried turning it off and back on again?", I said I wasn't going to do that.  I said that my current phone, which was a replacement for a new phone, was in fact either reconditioned or refurbished, and hadn't worked properly from day one.  I doubted that an OS reinstall would do much, and I didn't want to waste 3 hours of my life doing that for this phone, then doing it again for whatever phone would eventually replace this one.  I said I'd really just rather do it ONCE.  With a new phone.  So the Apple tech called the Apple store managers at my local Apple Store.

Eventually, they suggested replacing the phone I have with a brand new phone, which they would have to special order.  They asked me if that would make me happy.  I said, well, I hope it would fix the problems I've been having for 5 months, but I doubt it would make me happy with Apple products because of all the problems I've been having.  (My iPad is the only Apple product I have that hasn't been totally replaced due to part failures.)  So they asked me what could they do to make me happy...

I replied that I didn't expect that question, but off the top of my head, how would they feel about upgrading the replacement phone to the 64GB version (I have the 32GB.)  The manager immediately was very enthusiastic about that as a fair idea, but said Apple would have to approve it.  (You see, I'm fine if a product fails from time to time, as long as it gets replaced quickly and with minimal hassle, and occasional perks like upgrades.)  So the manager put it in the system and told me he'd call me back.  That was Saturday.

Knowing how CS works, I knew he wouldn't call me back.  So I called yesterday (I figured 4 days was enough time to get an answer.)  Of course, my phone had already come in, so they said I could come pick it up.  Went out there with my Dad....only they couldn't activate it.  Whether it was a problem with the new phone or with Sprint (I think it was the phone), they said I'd have to come back.  My luck continues.  I called the Apple store today to see if there was any progress - they said nope.  Still hadn't heard back from Sprint.

So I called Sprint to see if there was any kind of fire I could light to get them to get the process moving.  Of course it took 10 minutes for the CS rep to figure out what was going on (hint: read the notes, if they exist!) but in the end, there was nothing he could do.  

So I tried to call Evermore in Edwardsville.  Only this time, I couldn't make the call.  

Rather than continue with my boring timeline, here's what happened:  

After I called the Apple store, they probably tried activating the phone again, without positive results.  They then tried a completely different phone - which worked perfectly.  Yes, that's right - I was about to get another lemon product.  But I was saved at the last minute...  Of course, when they successfully activated my NEW phone, guess what?  (If you guessed that my OLD phone no longer worked...BINGO!  You win the white carnation!)  They found that out when they tried to call me to come pick up my new ph...oh, WE have his working phone.  Luckily, I had thought ahead yesterday and had them put my email address in the notes with instructions to contact me there if somehow this chain of events took place.  I know that they tried a new phone because that's exactly what the manager told me as much when I asked if we needed to replace the SIM card.

So, possibly because I was so pleasant the entire time, possibly because this is the umpteenth time I've had a product repaired or replaced by Apple, here is the end result of this saga:

In exchange for 5 months of a phone that didn't work properly (again, I sincerely apologize if you've tried to call/text me and haven't heard back!) and for getting a refurbished/reconditioned/Frankenstein phone in place of my new phone, I got:

  1. An upgrade from 32GB to a brand-new out of the box 64GB phone, meaning I can now put my entire music library on my phone (time to add all that Arvo Part and Phillip Glass back in!) and still have extra space left over.  This fixes the mistake I made originally when I purchased my iPhone 5 with 32GB thinking it would hold all my music.
  2. All the accessories from the brand-new phone, which is a good thing because the cables wear out really quickly.  Headphones, charger cable, wall/USB plug.  Forgot to get the stickers!
  3. A reset of my "purchase date" for warranty purposes to today, meaning my 1-year warranty starts today.  Meaning if something goes wrong with my phone in the next year...you get the picture.  HOWEVER - I also got a surprise bonus:
  4. FREE Apple Care PLUS for 2 years.  I did NOT ask for this - this was something they did on their own, probably after discovering I almost walked out of the store with yet another defective iPhone.  Hey, I'll take it.
  5. Peace of mind that I am not, in fact, crazy when I feel like my phone has significant issues connecting to the Internet, sending/receiving texts, getting voicemails, etc.

So, as my phone charges and gets loaded with all the apps, books, and music I have in store for it (how amazing is it that we can fit all that in a handheld device, really?) I have to say, I hope this is the end of this saga for a while.  I hate complaining about my tech not working, I really do.  I don't enjoy doing all this.  But, eventually, it seems to work itself out - as long as you're persistent and you are your own advocate, it does seem like Apple as a company actually cares that you are a happy customer.  

Of course, I don't know how attractive my options would be if Apple finally got me to the point I reached with Samsung (I will NEVER buy another Samsung product.  EVER.)  I think my Motorola SLVR was a pretty good phone...lol  And I would probably only use a Surface tablet if it was free...

 

On Lady Liberty...

Recently, I saw a poll in a coin forum on the question of "Who should be the model for a new Lady Liberty coin?"  

The poll choices were taken from online lists of richest/most famous models and consisted of mostly white women from the 1980's - present.  (Kathy Ireland, Gisele Bundchen, Cindy Crawford, Tyra Banks, Heidi Klum, Kate Upton, Paulina Porizkova, Cheryl Tiegs, Christie Brinkley, and Elle MacPherson.)  The most popular choice in this poll is currently Kate Upton...

Here are my thoughts on this poll (for the most part, as typed in the forum post.)

I just don't get all the hype around Kate Upton.  I mean, I understand why (it's plain to see what the focus of her pictures is.)  Maybe I'm desensitized from being around beautiful dancers all day, every day...

 

Poor, poor me.  (Cue the violins.)

 

Or maybe...

Let's talk seriously about the actual question...

I would think a model for Lady Liberty should be "face-oriented."  I'm not saying Ms. Upton does not have an attractive face; I am saying that the majority of her publicity is focused a bit further down her frame, and while nudity on coins is not unheard of, I sincerely doubt that the US Mint (and American public, at least in words) are ready for her body type on a coin.  Maybe the Franklin Mint would do it.  Maybe Victoria's Secret or Sports Illustrated should do a series of bullion rounds or bars...I'm sure they would sell.

Knowing the American fascination with Roman symbolism, I'm guessing the new Lady Liberty should be a non-celebrity of Italian, Greek or generally Mediterranean descent.  Maybe an updated Lady Liberty should reflect more of a multi-ethnic combination than perhaps a rather plain blonde American woman can represent...  

 (FWIW - I think my favorite Lady Liberty has always been the Peace design)

Of course, how is this question to turn the tables on this thread:  Why is Liberty female?  What would a male version of Liberty look like?  I can already sense how uncomfortable some might get for my even posing the question in the first place.  I doubt anyone would vote on a poll were it posted.  

Allegorical Lady Liberty should embody the ideals our country was founded on.  I'll refrain from posting my political/personal views on whether or not we embrace those ideals any more, but the symbol of Lady Liberty should represent the virtues of equality, democracy, freedom, strength, compassion, respect, patience, intelligence, etc.    She shouldn't be someone you just want to see naked.  It's sad that commercialism has reduced the value of women (and, maybe, our country's ideals) to sex appeal.  While some may enjoy being reduced to one valued aspect of themselves, I might think a great majority of women are uncomfortable with this treatment.  I am reminded of the story of Allison Stokke (a pole vaulter at Cal who was the reluctant recipient of the full weight of online "stalkerism" just because someone posted a photo of her saying she was hot) or Alyssa Milano, who thankfully had the means, status, and courage to actually change the laws of how images of her were displayed on the Internet.

Of course, I realized as I typed this response that I am avoiding the true intention of the poll...which should really be stated, "Who from this list do you think is the hottest"...but I dunno.  Something just kind of irks me about this stuff.

 

On a side note, I'd like to see a series of Civil Rights leaders honored on coins...maybe after the Kennedy half runs its course...we should celebrate and remember Americans who have actually contributed to the welfare of our citizens.

On another side note, I've been considering the idea of putting together a set of Susan B Anthony dollars for quite some time.  I think typing this has officially made up my mind on the subject.

On a final side note, I am not saying anything derogatory about Ms. Upton or women of a similar body type.  Beauty is an aesthetic preference, and as such I will have my opinions and others will have theirs.   I just find it discouraging to only celebrate women for their physical attractiveness.  

 

So, who do I think will be the next Lady Liberty?  Honestly?  It will be an unknown friend of a gifted sculptor/engraver/designer.

Check yourself before you wreck yourself...

Okay.

 

So, I've seen thousands of videos (yes, that many) of people absolutely wrecking themselves trying to do some sort of physical stunt.  Backflip off a roof?  Nope.  Jump over a pool?  Almost.  Jump over a campfire, just as my friend jumps over it from a different direction?  Maybe we should work on the timing for next time.  Chop something in half with a kitana while my friend holds it?  Close, but the chopped object wasn't supposed to be my friend's hand...

As I watch these videos, I've been wondering the same thing you've been wondering:

"Why on earth would you film yourself doing something like that...and failing so miserably at it?"

 

I think I've finally stumbled on the answer:  It's because they already did it once.  

 

You see, I've been able to do some pretty amazing things with my body.  Things that I really should have no business doing.  At church camp, we lined up folding chairs (front to back) and tried to jump over them (lengthwise.)  I won the contest with TEN.  Yes, that's right...I cleared ten folding chairs.

I also did the full splits without warming up.  Once.

My point here is that the human body is capable of doing amazing things.  It is also capable of surviving almost catastrophic acts of stupidity...once.  You've seen the video of the skydiver whose parachute didn't open...they bounced.  They broke bones.  But they survived.

Now, to my point.  You can survive many things once.  The problem starts when someone (either you, or a poor friend) notices the thing your poor body just survived and says, "WHOA!!! THAT WAS SO COOL!!!  DO THAT AGAIN!"

It's the DO THAT AGAIN part that we always see on video.

That guy doing the backflip off his roof?  Probably nailed it the first time.  It was spectacular.  Then they got the camera out, and he spent a lot of time trying to recreate exactly what he'd done.  Problem with that methodology is that you can't remember exactly what you've done unless you've trained yourself to do so...any dancer will attest to this.  Just finished the most amazing improvisational solo?  Okay, now do it again...  If you've ever tried this, you know it'll never, ever be the same.  But this is probably what this daredevil is attempting...and that's the attempt we get to see.

What do you think?  Am I on to something here?  Anyone have an instance of this happening to them in the past?

 

New Zealand is a GO!!!

I have some exciting news:

Robert Wood Dance, New York has invited me to New Zealand this summer for 5 weeks of dance research, teaching, and exploration!  From May 18 to June 29, we will be traveling the countryside, finding great places to dance, teaching classes and hosting workshops, and facilitating discussions with local dance professionals (and of course, non-dancers) as part of our ongoing commitment to cultural exchange through dance.  This trip is a continuation of our previous work in Florence, Italy (2005) Hong Kong, China (2007) and Santa Fe, New Mexico (2012-2013.)  

I'm sure it will be a wonderful experience, and I CANNOT wait to keep everyone posted!

Here is a link to RWDNY online.  

Hmm. That's...interesting.

I woke up this morning to an interesting email:  

Dear Benjamin Allen Mielke,

I came to know about your academic paper entitled "Dance training as mechanism for overcoming the technologization of the body", while I was performing research at the University of Utah's repository.

We are currently planning publications in this subject field and therefore we would be glad to know whether you would be interested in publishing the above mentioned work with us.

LAP LAMBERT Academic Publishing is a member of an international group having nearly 10 years of experience in the publication of high-quality research works from well-known institutions worldwide.

In addition to producing printed scientific books, we also market them worldwide through more than 80,000 booksellers.

Kindly let know if you would be interested in receiving more detailed information in this regard.

I am looking forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Laura Dean
Acquisition Editor

LAP LAMBERT Academic Publishing is a trademark of:
OmniScriptum GmbH & Co. KG

Heinrich-Böcking-Str. 6-8,
66121, Saarbrücken, Germany

l.dean (at) lap-publishing. com / www. lap-publishing. com

Handelsregister Amtsgericht Saarbrücken HRA 10356
Identification Number (Verkehrsnummer): 13955
Partner with unlimited liability: VDM Management GmbH
Handelsregister Amtsgericht Saarbrücken HRB 18918
Managing director: Thorsten Ohm (CEO)

 

Interesting.  Someone had combed through all the recent graduate thesis works, found my thesis, and had decided it would be worth publishing for mass consumption.  My first thought?  "Really?"

Now, I'm not saying at all that my thesis isn't worth reading, or that I didn't spend months researching my topic, or that my thesis committee and I didn't spend hours and hours revising and rewriting it.  I'm not saying that at all...but what I am saying is that I thought it was interesting enough to google.  You know, that thing where you can copy and paste some specific text, hit ENTER and read more than you ever needed to know about most topics?  You see, when I receive an awkwardly written email from a complete stranger, perhaps it's just my personality as a Scorpio, I get curious.  Maybe it's the fact that I've received about 500 emails from Nigerian princes, or about 50 billion unsolicited emails from people wanting me to "Hook up now with local girls in your area!" or "Make your **** bigger - FREE trial!"  I want to know what I'm actually reading.  And luckily, I can find out more information on a topic with about 5 seconds of very light physical labor.

So I did.

Well, it turns out that LAP LAMBERT Academic Publishing might indeed be a "publishing company", in the way that I am a "freelance journalist" for writing this blog entry.  But, based on other people's experiences, it seems like this is a summary of their MO:

*Use computer bots to scour recent graduates' thesis works and Wikipedia articles

*Use computer bots to solicit and secure publishing rights for these works, regardless of their content or quality

*Package unedited thesis works and Wikipedia articles as published books

*Request your banking information

*Sell your thesis or Wikipedia article in book form on Amazon as a print-on-demand book

*Send you a FREE COPY of your work!

 

Anyone seeing any red flags here yet?

Okay, so it may be unfair of me to judge a company based on reading about 20 overwhelmingly negative reviews of their practices.  So I won't.  I'll let YOU google them and read for yourself.  But since I have friends who are recent graduates, who may be receiving similar emails to the one I received this morning, I thought it might be fair to ask (because warning implies judgement) that they do a bit of reading before jumping into something like this.

I have to admit, I had about a 5 second window where I was thinking, "Oh, they want to publish MY work?  It must be a good read!"  But then, I was just waking up...and I thought, "Wait...it's not long enough for a real book..."  And logic brought me to this current place of "Mona Lisa-style slight amusement."

 

Goals : Daily

While I apply for teaching positions, I thought it best that I continue to educate myself and remain proactive (in lieu of complacency and skill degradation.)  Twyla Tharp would be satisfied with my goal of daily practice...

Here is my tentative goal:

*One hour toward Rosetta Stone (Spanish)

*One hour toward Adobe CS6 (starting with Photoshop)

*One hour toward Logic Pro / Final Cut Pro (alternate days)

*One hour toward photo editing (or one complete piece, whichever ends sooner)

*Two hours toward physical fitness (class, yoga, gym, stretching)

*Up to two hours toward dance theory, research and pedagogy / course planning (can include reading dance related literature or choreography)

*Up to two hours dealing with coins (defcat numismatics / eBay)

 

I think it's a lot, actually...but actually it's only 10 hours in total.  If I can achieve this, I'll be a lot more confident about my prospects of getting hired somewhere, and of being a useful faculty member once I get there.

Let's talk about a game I invented a while ago...

This game is called Derailment.  It has a very simple premise:

You're listening to someone talk at you.  Someone who has no idea how a normal conversation is supposed to go (everyone's supposed participating.)  They:

  1. Talk, and talk, and talk, and never leave an opening for you to speak
  2. Allow you to speak, but you can tell they aren't paying the least bit of attention to your words, because they pick up their monologue exactly where they left off
  3. Might not be picking up on the fact that what they are talking about is either inappropriate, offensive, or just plain boring
  4. Might be talking extremely loudly, like, trying to carry on a very personal conversation on a bus or train when other people are present
  5. Might be talking to you, but then they start talking on the phone (or doing something else distracting)
  6. Could possibly just be talking because they like the sound of their voice
  7. Are telling you a story you've heard more than five times
  8. Are talking about a past or present relationship
  9. Are talking about politics
  10. Are a politician (always fair game, because they literally have one goal: hit the talking points!)
  11. Are talking about religion (especially Scientology)
  12. Are well-known for being narcissistic or egotistical
  13. Might be talking about a subject that they clearly should not pretend to be an expert on
  14. Might be talking about a subject that they clearly know WAY too much about
  15. Might possibly be a lecturing instructor who is unaware that immediately following their class is an extended break period (only if they have a sense of humor, and only if you normally work really hard in class)

 

The key is that you only play this game with people who are violating what might be considered the normal rules of conversation, or are completely disrespecting you by not listening to what you're saying, allowing you to participate in the conversations, or being oblivious, etc.  The normal goal should always be to participate in a healthy conversation...

This should NOT be used in a "I just like being a jerk" manner.  This should also not be used on people of unstable mental health, or those prone to violence.

 

The goal of Derailment is to get the other person to completely lose track of what they are talking about (i.e., Derailing their train of thought.)  Some ways to accomplish this are:

  1. Ask questions, but slowly steer the conversation toward a completely different subject
  2. Act like you really understand what they are talking about, but ask questions or make comments that suggest otherwise, forcing them to get bogged down into explaining minutia (and losing sight of the conclusion)
  3. Ask completely off the wall questions that have nothing to do with the current topic of conversation
  4. Physically do something that causes Derailment (either with actions, bodily functions or focus)
  5. Speak in a foreign or made up language
  6. Pretend you are a fictional character, and approach the game from their perspective (how would Inspector Gadget deal with this conversation?)
  7. Repeat the exact same phrase more than ten times in a row
  8. Insert an odd word or phrase into your responses (meow?)

 

 

Points are awarded if:

  1. The subject completely loses track of how their story ended
  2. The subject abandons their topic and adopts yours
  3. The subject says the words, "Let me just finish my story" - admitting that they they don't care about anyone but themselves
  4. The subject fails to complete their story within an allotted time frame (end of break/class/car ride)
  5. The subject is completely unaware that you are playing Derailment

Points are subtracted if:

  1. The subject catches on to what you're doing
  2. The subject succeeds in telling their complete story
  3. The player gives up on Derailing the subjects' story
  4. The subject becomes angry or begins to dislike you

 

I will not reveal the intimate details of when I invented this game (to protect those I've played it with) but I will say that, properly played, it can make life much, much easier at times...

 

My reward for finishing a thesis draft...a 1965 DDO Kennedy Half!

Finished (hopefully) my final draft of my graduate thesis tonight, and decided to start poking through my rolls of Kennedy Halves in search of varieties. Found so far:

1971 D DDO
1976 D DDO (2)
1965 DDO

Took some photos of the 1965...wondering if anyone wanted to venture a grade and maybe help with the attribution. 

From the CONECA master listings, looks like I have the -002: 
*Spread on 965 of date
*Spread on WE TRUST
*Spread on TY of Liberty

I have photos of the obverse/reverse - would love some opinions on grade.  There are some parallel lines on the lower right of Kennedy's bust that are NOT a fingerprint - I've seen them on other 1965 halves...must be die polish lines?

Also, have a closeup of WE TRUST and the Y of LIBERTY for verification.

TRUST

Y of LIBERTY

Obverse

Reverse

Obverse

Reverse

Arrows pointing to areas of doubling on TRUST.

Arrows pointing to doubling on the date, specifically the 5.

My name on John Wexler's site...again!

Recently sent my best half dollar roll-searching find to John Wexler of doubleddie.com (a quite famous coin variety and error researcher...we're talking one of the guys who writes the books.)  It's a 1977 D DDO-001 Kennedy Half graded MS62 by NGC.  For those of you unfamiliar with "things coin," coins are graded on a scale of 1-70, with 70 being perfect.  Anything graded MS (Mint State) means it is uncirculated, and usually commands a premium from circulated, or lower-grade, coins.

In any case, I recently wrote an article on the 1977 D DDO Half (that appears here.)  I had been in contact with Mr. Wexler for another coin find of mine that he needed better pictures of (a 1960 D/D RPM-002 Lincoln Cent.)  After he informed me that he did not have an example of the 1977 D DDO-001 for his files/website, I offered to send the coin to him.  (I've found his website an invaluable reference, so anything I can do to help make it better is an honor!)  In any case, here is a link to the page where my coin is referenced.

In case anyone is wondering, I currently have found six examples of this scarce variety: an MS62, an UNC Details (Scratched), an AU58, and 3 more found after the original coins were submitted.  Since I found them hunting through bags/rolls of coins from the bank, I've paid face value for each...not bad considering I'd value the MS62 between $250 and $300.  The last 3 I've found will probably grade in the low AU range.

So I applied...

...to the University of Minnesota for a dance position (on Monday.)  Or so I thought...

It seems the job application system is a little tricky...and I'm glad I double-checked the status of it, because it definitely did not link the form I filled out with the job I'd applied for.  Followed the same steps today, and this time it allowed me to upload the required documents...So it is now fixed...and now I just need to check on my Letters of Recommendation from the Department.

Hooray for having the experience of running paperwork in the Navy.  Without that I might have just trusted that the system was working...

My first official publication!

I've been having a bit of luck with half-dollar roll-hunting lately, and after finding my fifth 1977 D DDO-001 Kennedy Half, I decided to do a little research.  I suppose I got a bit carried away...because it turned into a full article! 

It was originally published on April 18, 2013 in The Exchange, the online blog of the American Numismatic Association (ANA.)  Here is a link to the article:

http://www.money.org/blog/posts/2013/april/18/some-new-research-on-1977-d-kennedy-half-dollars.aspx

Finally. The Finale.

Been working on this website for literally 8 hours.  It still needs lots of work, lots more content, but I'm finally getting the hang of it.  Or at least that's what the Internet wants me to think...

Still wish I could have more control over where the "benjaminallen" sits on the main header.  It appears that I should be able to do it...but at this time, it's not happening.  Oh well.  I'll ask someone who knows better on Monday.