Tuesday, October 30, 2007

How to make a Million Dollars

So I got this letter in the mail today and for Only $6, I can make $250,000.00 in just a few weeks.
It's Not a chain letter--or so it says in bold letters on the second page. But it works just like a chain letter. Send $1 to the six perfect strangers on the list, and then copy and mail the letter to 200 innocent, unsuspecting people and Presto! The money will start flowing in from around the globe.
It's Not a pyramid scam. That claim is made on the front page right under the ambiguous proofs by "various, highly-respected U.S. TV and Radio programs...". Oprah being one of them named (really, what hasn't that woman had on her show?). But when you purchase a $45 mailing list on the second page and use it to solicit money and other purchased mailing lists from the same company, well, that smacks of a pyramid to me. And don't forget the postage for all of this. (Hmmm. Maybe it's a conspiracy! Maybe email has hurt the PO more than we know.)
"A Fifteen year old boy could do it!" Of course he can. Fifteen year olds know how to do everything.
So let's actually do some math on this, shall we?
$6.00 sent to strangers
$45.00 to purchase mailing list
$82.00 for the 200 stamps to mail the letters
$6.00 to print 3 pages 200 times (both sides)
I'm being generous with that last one. It would cost me a lot more than that for the ink cartridges for my printer. I suppose you could scam 6oo copies from your boss, if you had one, but the guilt is worth the six bucks, I think. I'm also being generous in assuming that you already have 200 business size envelopes at home.
So far, that looks more like $139, not a six dollar investment.
Realistically, you could drop that by $45 if you went through your own address book and mailed the letter to everyone you know even remotely. But do you really want to risk sending this kind of letter to all of your friends and relatives this close to Christmas?
I think what bothers me the most about this is the declaration at the bottom of every page. "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 5:3
I've studied the Sermon on the Mount and I'm fairly certain that whoever started this scam is unclear on the concept of being "poor in spirit" as well as what it means to obtain the Kingdom of Heaven.
The company that sells the mailing lists is supposed to be listed with the BBB. Hmph. I wonder...

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Is Multi-tasking really possible?

Women are great multitaskers. Or at least, that is a quality many of us claim. We can wash dishes, feed the kids and drive to swimming lessons all at the same time. And all while we are doing laundry, making a costume for the 5 year old and reading "Men are from Mars".
But when I burnt the almonds that I was trying to toast the other day--twice, I started thinking. Is it really possible to multitask at all? Can our brains really work that way?
Some multitasking is foolhardy at best. Putting on mascara while driving, for instance. Other examples of multitasking confound me to no end. I am convinced that I never will figure out how to read in the bathtub and enjoy it. There are also tasks that undeniably require a singular focus, like Monday night football. But what about those times when I really think that I am doing more than one thing at a time? If I try to load the dishwasher while J is working on math, it never fails that I will have to stop at least 4 times to go and clarify something for her. Then I'm not doing two things at once, but switching back and forth between them. Or when I can tomatoes while supervising a story writing session, it is inevitable that someone will want to know how to spell "Uzbekistan" or need a pencil sharpened. Then I'm not multitasking, but holding off fulfilling the girl's requests with another "I'll be there in a minute" until I can break away from the tomatoes. While typing this post, I have had to answer the door twice and the phone twice. I'm beginning to understand why it takes so long for me to accomplish anything, and why even when I am doing several things at once, I feel like I'm not doing any of them well.
Now it's your turn. Is multitasking possible? I want examples! And they must be things that can be done simultaneously without any one task suffering because your attention is divided.
I'm going to go try the almonds again.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Yep, that's a museum.

Living close to Chicago gives us the privilege of being near many different museums and other attractions. We take advantage of this quite often. One of my "philosophies" (ha-ha, like a slacker actually expends the effort to develop philosophies!) of homeschooling is that if the girls can touch it, they will learn more than if they just listen to me talk about it.
And so, having just finished 4 weeks of reading and talking about Ancient Egypt, we hopped in the van and headed for Lake Shore Drive on Tuesday. Tuesday being Discount Day on the Museum Campus, not accounting for parking fees.
And the Field Museum is exactly as I remember it. It has been fifteen years since I last visited and it will be another fifteen before I visit again. It is still full of static exhibits with very little there to interact with. Taxidermy and fake plants behind glass, all carefully labeled, but in no way engaging. No background sound other than echoing footsteps and unnaturally hushed voices. It was like being in a library of the dead. We were done in under three hours.
But what about Sue, you ask? Isn't Sue, the most complete T-rex ever found, at the Field Museum? Why, Yes, she is. And completely unapproachable and uninteresting as almost everything else. The Sue gift store was more dynamic. I can say this because we went to see the traveling exhibit of Sue when it was at SciTech in Aurora. There, it was incredible with lots of hands on activities to draw the kids in. What a disappointment that Sue's permanent home has reduced her to the stereotype of boring archaeology that scientists try so hard to avoid.
The beautiful hallway of butterflies is gone and the Underground Adventure scared the daylights out of my 5 yo. An 8 foot earwig that moves and a giant spider that growls? Those were more terrifying than the real maneating Lion of Tsavo-carefully labeled and behind glass.
Lest you think that this entire post will be negative, let me tell you that we did have a good time in spite of the museum. But the girls and I can create our own fun no matter where we're at. And they did not know how disappointed I was. Where the information was lacking, we filled in the gaps from what we have learned on our own. We took pictures of all of the cat mummies in the building, stuck our tongues out at the funeral masks from Melanesia, and decided to go to the Zoo next to see the animals while they are still breathing. At one point, while we were listening to a tour guide drone on to a poor, captive group of High School students, J asked me, "Why doesn't he just tell them that they are Canopic Jars?" Out of the mouth of babes...."Get on with it already!"
I have not seen Night at the Museum. But if I understand the premise, the displays of the museum come alive and a night guard learns from them. Is that about right?
Not at this museum.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007


My dear husband is alive and well. But that title made you look, didn't it!
The combining has begun and that means that for all impractical purposes, the girls and I are a single Mom and her children for the next several months. We will see Chad 1) when he gets hungry and we take food out to the field, which is not as often as one would think. 2) when the men need help hauling equipment from one field to another-which consists of following along behind at 10 mph with the blinkers on and then driving them back to where they left their pickup trucks. and 3) when he falls in bed long after I have given up the fight with the Sandman. This year the girls may get to see him a bit more if they decide that riding in the combine is fun. M already discovered last year that when you ride in the grain truck to the elevator, you get peanuts.
But it's not all bad. During this time, all the farming widows work to support each other by rallying to watch the soaps and eat bon bons together instead of each one alone.
Let me take this opportunity to bring you up to speed on some of the ins and outs of Farming.
  • "Knee-high by the fourth of July" was for your Grandpa's corn. Modern day hybrid corn is usually pushing 5 feet or better by Independence Day.
  • You can safely ignore all the fuss about genetically altered crops. They are all genetically altered nowadays. People use the hype as a political platform. Which makes the farmers frown and chew their wheat louder than usual.
  • A word about Tinkering. Tinkering is a term that farmers use when referring to the need for fixing something on a tractor. A farmer's wife quickly learns that Tinkering is about 5% driving to get parts, 10% actual fixing and 85% staring at it.
  • Time estimation. Farmer's are not very good at estimating time. A farmer's wife quickly learns to muliply a project's ETC (estimated time to completion) by a factor of 4 to get the RTC (realistic time to completion). The crockpot was invented by a farmer's wife.
  • Farmers working in the field make slightly less dirty laundry than farmers Tinkering on greasy equipment. But only slightly. A farmer's wife quickly learns to double check a farmer's pockets for peanuts.
  • When a farmer's child talks about The Elevator, they are not referring to the hydraulic lift at Macy's.
  • The corn that comes out of the field goes through about 217, 691 steps before Kellogg gets a hold of it. You don't want to know what it looks like before that.
  • There are about a bazillion moving parts on a Combine. Something always needs Tinkering.
  • A Farmer's wife get dirty looks from her husband when she plants Morning Glories.
  • Communicating with a farmer can be tricky business. "I reckon" generally means Yes, while "Whatever" has a range of meanings from agreement to a strong disinclination. If you want to get more than three words put together you have to ask about soybeans, "the ol' 33", or weather prospects. Don't try to combine more than one of these topic, however, or you will be seen for the novice that you are.
  • Farmers have team loyalties too. Do not say, "That's a nice looking John Deere.", to a man who uses Massey tractors, or vice versa. He might actually spit out his wheat.

I hope this little educational talk has helped. If you know a farmer's wife, do her a favor and take her out to dinner. A crockpot carries on a really sorry conversation and you can only eat so many peanuts.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Avoidance Issues

As a Slacker Extraordinaire, there are certain things that must be avoided at all costs. The following is a list, in no particular order, of items that fall under this Laissez-faire policy. Feel free to make your own additions.

  • The Fly Lady Oof! My head gets woozy just looking at the home page. Carrying a kitchen timer attached to my person is just so wrong. I don't even set a timer when I bake cookies.
  • Uber nutritionist Gillian McKeith, I shudder to think of this woman shuddering in my kitchen.
  • Stephen R. Covey, Franklin Covey, and anything else related to being Highly Effective. I find it rather suspect that they never say effective at What.
  • Motivators--the name says it all. I personally prefer Despair, Inc. I can waste an entire afternoon laughing at their website alone.
  • Side-Tracked Home Executives- There is a good reason why I'm sidetracked. Side tracks are infinately more interesting than the beaten trail. Robert Frost thought so too.

Well, that's a start at least. I'm sure I should probably add Martha Stewart to my list too. She is definately not slacker material (well, except for that whole slacking on the taxes bit), but I can't quite bring myself to find her website. The sight of all of those triple folded towels and milk glass compotes would probably be too much for me.