Murder Most Foul-er

This post originally appeared on October 1, 2019

A day or two after I blogged about my television binge watching habits, and in particular, how I was leisurely watching Midsommer Murders because there were 19 seasons on Netflix, Netflix announced that the program would be removed from their network October 1. At that point I was on about Season 9.

Yikes.

So I commenced to sitting down and watching episode after episode of the program. For the entire month of September, every afternoon and into the evening, I was parked in front of the television, watching Inspector Tom Barnaby, and then when he retired, his cousin Inspector John Barnaby. I watched the parade of sergeants that helped the Chief Inspector(s) solve the murders, all the while wondering how a small community like Midsommer could withstand the loss of four or five people each episode. I dreamed about Midsommer. I began talking with a British accent. I couldn’t stop craving bangers and mash. I would get into the passenger seat of my car, looking for the steering wheel.

Finally, Sunday I felt I simply couldn’t watch another episode. I was at the end of Season 17, and realized that I couldn’t eat another fish or chip. But I’m not a quitter, and I wanted to find out who would replace DSI Nelson. I wondered if the Barnabys would get another dog to replace Sykes. Would little Baby Betty Barnaby finally sleep through the night? So, I compromised. I began watching the first and last episodes of the remaining seasons. The first episodes would let me know if there was a new Detective Sergeant whose name and personality I would have to learn. The last episode would provide any surprises for the next season.

In my blog post about binging, I mentioned that the murders that took place in Midsommer were quite cozy. Maybe a thump on the head or a poison slipped into a cup of tea. But as the television years progressed, I realized that the murders were becoming more and more violent. Brutal, really. It went from a bump on a head with a cricket bat to being run over with an army tank or killed by bites from dozens of poisonous snakes. Really yucky stuff. Nevertheless, I powered on.

But watching the increase in sheer horror as the episodes progressed got me to thinking about our appetite for gore. In 1997, when the first Midsommer murder took place, we could handle a cup of tea laced with strychnine as a murder weapon. By 2019, we were lapping up murders committed by shoving a sharpened stick through into one ear and out the other.

Perhaps it’s because the outside world is getting more and more horrific, but it apparently takes darker plots and more violent murders to get us to pay attention. The same is true of sex scenes, even on television and sometimes even in programs that are in the 7 o’clock time slot. Often when Bill and I are watching one of the programs we like, a scene will make me uncomfortable. That’s when I will turn to Bill and say, “My, we’ve come a long way since Rob and Laura Petrie slept in separate beds.”

I know I sound like my grandmother, but it still seems to me that we are sacrificing clever plot lines and characters and dialogue and replacing it with sex and violence.

By the way, even though Chief Inspector Barnaby and Detective Sergeant Whoever-It-Might-Be face grislier murders, they still do it without a gun in sight. Just sayin’…..

POTUS?

This post appeared originally on January 27, 2015.

Alfre Woodard as TV's State of Affairs' President Constance Payton

Alfre Woodard as TV’s State of Affairs’ President Constance Payton

For most of my grown-up working life I was a professional communicator of some sort. I was a reporter, I wrote and produced newsletters, I was a media spokesperson, and so forth. But there was never any doubt that the aspect of my job that I liked the best was that of legislative liaison.

For one thing, I was so proud that I could spell the word liaison, with that extra “i” and all.

Anyhoo, in that position, I worked with legislators and their staffs on the local, state, and federal level. As a result of this job description, I traveled to Washington D.C. on numerous occasions and met Colorado’s U.S. Representatives and Senators. I’m not lying when I say I met with the members, as I think I actually met each one who served while I was legislative liaison. However, I must admit to you that I mostly worked with staff members, who (you will not be surprised to learn) actually do all of the research and analysis – the work, really — and are approximately 20 years old. And smart as hell.

I was thrilled to have such an exciting job, and the job came with lots of perks. Great restaurants for entertaining staff, opportunities to hear well-known political analysts speak (yes, it’s true; I’m a nerd), passes to watch the Supreme Court in action (you don’t have to pay, but you do need a pass to get in). Once I was able to sit in on a Senate Committee where I watched Colorado Senator Wayne Allard listen to testimony about, oh, I don’t know, something. The point is I was able to see and do LOTS OF COOL THINGS that most people will never have a chance to see and do.

I recognize how lucky I was.

Having said all of this, I will finally get to the point.

Without a doubt, the coolest thing I did in all of my years as a professional communicator was visit the West Wing of the White House one night after 10 o’clock.

Now, don’t start panicking. I wasn’t one of those people you have been hearing about  who have been leaping over the White House walls and getting so close to the president’s residence that they are tromping on Michelle’s organic vegetables and drinking Gator Ade out of the Obama’s refrigerator.

I had what is, in the world of professional communicators, technically called an in. I had a friend who had a friend who had a friend who was the correspondence secretary for President George W. Bush. As a result of her position, she had permission to give tours of the West Wing of the White House after important work was finished for the night.

And since, if you will recall, George and Laura hit the hay by 9 o’clock each night, that meant it was a go by 10 o’clock unless Russia was invading the Ukraine or some such distraction leading to a late bedtime. No entertaining famous Hollywood stars at wild parties during the Bush years.

I had to pass a background check, of course. And then it was a go.

I stood inside the Situation Room where decisions about wars and other military actions have been made for years. I sat in a chair in the conference room where you see the president meeting with his/her staff in all sorts of television programs. The TV show West Wing comes immediately to mind. I wasn’t able to walk into the Oval Office, but I was able to stand in the doorway and look in. I can’t tell you how thrilling that was for me. I walked down the oh-so-familiar portico by the Rose Garden, and the president and Laura’s bedroom window was pointed out to me. The light was still on, my friends, and it was probably 10:30. A wild night for the Bushes.

Probably most fun for me, however, was visiting the press room where I had witnessed an unknown number of press conferences from an unknown number of presidents and their press secretaries over an unknown number of years. There I stood, clutching the podium, with the familiar White House logo in the background. My friend snapped my photo.

That photo sits in a frame on my desk, and I look at it often and always feel the same sense of awe that I actually stood where so many famous people have stood. I told you, I’m a nerd.

Recently 6-year-old Kaiya was in my office and caught sight for the first time of that photo. With absolute dead seriousness, she cried out, “Nana, WERE YOU THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES?”

Only slightly tempted to say yes, I instead admitted I wasn’t, but that I was standing right where the president stands when she sees him on television.

I guess that is about the height of my status with my grands. It’s downhill from here. I may not have been the president, but I always have Oreos in my cookie jar.

No Oreos

President Barack Obama. No Oreos.

 

Oreos

Nana Kris. Oreos.

 

Was Norman Bates Second Born?

This post originally appeared on November 8, 2017

I came across a study recently that caught my attention. Not one to be overly concerned about birth order, I normally wouldn’t even bother to read the article that cited the study. But here was the headline:

SECOND BORN KIDS MORE LIKELY TO BECOME CRIMINALS, STUDY FINDS.

So, for obvious reasons, I felt this story about birth order warranted a gander from this second born kid.

It wasn’t even like the story was out of National Enquirer. It came from National Public Radio, and the study was conducted by some economists from MIT (all undoubtedly either bossy first-borns or youngest kids looking for attention). The study looked at second borns in Florida and Denmark. Florida and Denmark? I wonder why they didn’t look at second borns in South Dakota and Romania, or maybe Kentucky and the Netherlands. Why did they pick Florida and Denmark? But I am getting distracted.

Apparently these second-born Floridians and Danes are somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 to 40 percent more likely to commit serious crimes or cause other kinds of unlawful mayhem. While first-borns have higher IQs, perform better in school, and earn higher salaries, second borns are earning crappy grades and barely making a living.

The reason for this apparent contrast according to these first-born economists? Parents are focusing all of their attention on their first-born child and sending the second born kid out to search for scraps. Just be home before dark so that you don’t disturb your brother or sister. Well, I might be exaggerating their findings a bit. But the gist of what I just said is true. They say the parents are less vigilant with their second-born child because they want to make sure their first born prince or princess is excelling in school, taking music lessons from a maestro, and being tutored by an MIT economist. Again, I might be exaggerating a bit.

But this part is true: The study author said that “the role models of the eldest child are his or her doting parents while the role model for the second-born is a spoiled older sibling.”

While I can’t vouch for every second born in the world, I can tell you unequivocally that I AM NOT A CRIMINAL. Despite my blog post on Monday about how I am a pretty good liar, I am unceasingly honest unless there is a surprise party involved or someone asks me if these pants make them look fat. When I applied for a job at Circle K in Denver when I was 20 years old, I had to take a lie detector test. (Now that I think about it, I wonder if that test was only given to second borns….). Anyway, I passed with flying colors. They even directly asked “Have you ever stolen anything while at work?”. I could quite honestly answer no to that question. It’s true that up until that point, I had worked only for my dad at the bakery and he would have kicked my butt if I had stolen money (how are we going to pay for your older sister’s ballet lessons from Anna Pavlova if you steal money from us?)

And I certainly have never killed anyone. The closest I have ever come was when I chased my sister Jen around the house with a butcher knife when I was 10 and she was 6. Perhaps I’m lucky that she ran so fast or I might be supporting the MIT first-borns’ clinical study results. But since the study didn’t say anything about third-borns, I can only assume that they are more likely to be killed by their second born sibling, and perhaps deserve it.

The headline for the next clinical study conducted by MIT will be:

THIRD BORN KIDS MORE LIKELY TO TORTURE THEIR FOURTH-BORN BROTHER OR SISTER, BECAUSE BY THIS TIME PARENTS HAVE COMPLETELY CLOCKED OUT.

Just sayin’…..

And, for the record, here are faces of some of my favorite second-borns, none of whom are criminals…..

Alastair, Mylee, Micah — all second borns. Well, technically Mylee is a third-born, but her oldest sibling is 15 years older. I think she counts as a second born.

Bec’s second-born Kate (Jojo), Dave’s second-born Kacy, and Jen’s second born Benjamin Joseph. No criminals.

Oh, and two really good second borns. Neither Bill nor Lilly have a criminal record.

I could go on and on…but I won’t. I have to run to the store and steal some Italian sausage.

Saturday Smile: A Beer Between Friends

We arrived at Sky Harbor International Airport early on Thursday, uncertain what to expect in these days of virus fear. We got through security easily and had lots of time to kill. And so, we had late breakfast/early lunch. I had a bloody Mary with my burger. Bill had coffee, holding off on beer until he finished his French toast. Eventually, however, he had a beer.

When we got our check, I noticed the server hadn’t added the beer to our bill. Being chronically honest, I called the server over and pointed out the error. She looked puzzled, and said, “I’ll be right back.”

She returned a few minutes later, and said sheepishly , “I accidentally put the beer on the bill of those two guys who sat behind you. They have already paid the bill and left!”

The moral of the story is always check your bill and don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Thanks to the two gentlemen who bought Bill’s beer!

Have a great weekend.

Guest Post: Pizza Day

This guest post was originally run on March 27, 2015. though she is no longer a student, and, in fact, is a real-life engineer,  I believe her opinion about pizza remains the same.

I think I have indicated in the past that my brother David wholeheartedly believes that I am making a grave error by having Friday be a day that I review a book. Instead, he insists Friday is Pizza Day and I should therefore be reviewing pizza restaurants instead of books on Fridays. In fact, I have made it perfectly clear that I — a pizza lover married to a pizza lover — have nothing against pizza or Pizza Day. I often eat pizza on Fridays. I just enjoy my book reviews.

Not to be dissuaded, he called in reserves — his middle daughter — my niece and namesake — Jessika Kristine. You would think being named after me would make her a bit more understanding, but apparently love for pizza knows no bounds. 

Therefore, I acquiesced and am giving her her day in court, so to speak. Food Court, at any rate.

Jessie is an environmental engineering student at the University of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff.

I must admit, she makes a compelling argument…..

Pizza Day

By Jessie Gloor

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The weekend started off not unlike any other: me working on some project with some grand plans of maybe drinking too much. And then I got a call from my dad that would change the course of my life forever. Okay, maybe not my life, but certainly my weekend. And maybe not forever. Maybe just for the weekend.

“Do you think that Friday is Pizza Day?” he asked me. “Definitely,” I said. “It’s a fact. The Aquabats wrote an entire song about it.”

jessies band

…and they are totally trustworthy people.

Before I get any more in to this, you should know that this question was inspired by the fact that my aunt typically reserves her Friday blog posts for book reviews. Crazy, right? Who wants to read books when there’s so much pizza to be had in the world? My father suggested that she should, at the absolute minimum, also review a pizza place and stick that at the very end of her blog post. Is that too much to ask? A shout out to pizza? After everything pizza has done for her?

But how could I get her to throw out whatever book she was reading and replace it with a hot, glorious slice of pizza? My aunt is, after all, a well-educated pizza skeptic who would need some serious convincing.

I set out to navigate the dangerous waters that are the Bashas’ grocery store (which is where I work) to collect some hard data.

jessies scientific documentation

This was super-serious stuff, guys.

This highly organized and completely scientific tally sheet that was definitely not written on a piece of receipt paper represents the amount of frozen pizzas bought on Friday compared to Saturday.

Personally, I visualize things best when they are presented to me graphically, so here you go.

bar graph

Figure 1: Friday is definitely Pizza Day.

Then, as if that wasn’t enough, I wanted to mathematically prove my thesis that Friday is indeed Pizza Day. Please view my findings below.

jessies calculations

And this isn’t COMPLETELY made up, either.

If you’d like, you can take a moment to imagine a montage of me spending hours after hours on the math, frustrated, falling asleep at my desk, and a concerned friend trying to get me to eat something, probably pizza. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

As my final thought, I would like to offer a one-paragraph review of my favorite pizza place as a template for my aunt (who is surely persuaded by now). Ahem. Deep breath, here it goes:

My favorite day to ride my bike to school is Friday. It’s my favorite day because I allow myself the detour that takes me in front of Fratelli’s Pizza. The smell is in the air. Oh yes, they are firing up the stone-deck oven. I’ll see you later, Fratelli’s pizza, I say with a thumbs up. Thankfully, the only class I have on Fridays is fluid mechanics, and we always, ALWAYS have a quiz. I spend hours studying extra hard for these quizzes so I can finish and get out of Dodge with enough time to make it back to the pizza place right when it opens for lunch. Fratelli Fridays, that’s what my climbing partner and I call our weekly gatherings here. Fratelli’s has a “slice of the week” each week. Past weeks include “The Dude” which is ranch, chicken, bacon, and kettle chips, or “The Elmo”, tomato, zucchini, garlic, and feta cheese. My personal favorite is The Flagstaff, under which the description reads: “the hippies keep ordering this, so we put it on the menu!” Basil pesto, sun dried tomato, mozzarella, artichoke heart, ricotta, and garlic.” I’m going to go ahead and leave it at that. I could go on about the atmosphere of the place, the friendliness and good-humor of the staff, and maybe throw in a slightly irritated comment about how the food never seems to come out fast enough. But then I would follow it with the observation that good food rarely does. I’d rather leave the audience with the thought of a hot slice of The Flagstaff. Leave em’ with their stomachs rumbling and their mouths watering, that’s what I always say.

Thursday Thoughts

Weather Event
The so-called weather event that the weather forecasters have been predicting began Tuesday night. It rained all night and into the morning. Yesterday it rained on and off most of the day, negating our eagerness to attend the spring training baseball game at Salt River Field, Rockies V. White Sox. I simply don’t like baseball well enough to sit in the rain. The rain was predicted to continue through Wednesday night into today. Here is a photo of the side of our house yesterday afternoon…..

Come and Go
As you know, Jen and Winston returned to Fort Collins this past Saturday. They have settled in quite well it appears. Winston didn’t even smile at me when they Facetimed the other day. Apparently I’m dead to him. I, on the other hand, was sad to see this toy that he left behind…..

I felt sort of like when my brother or sister come to visit, and I find something of theirs. Although I didn’t hold the toy fox up to my nose to smell it.

Out With the Cold, In With the New
Despite the rain and cooler temperatures, Bill and I are deciding that cold weather clothing is unnecessary in AZ from here on until we return to Denver in May. So I’m taking home all of the winter sweaters I brought in December…..

I’m happy to say I barely wore them this year.

Nana’s Whimsies
Between tomorrow and Wednesday, I will be publishing past blog posts, which will allow me to spend as much time as I can with family. Oh, and with doctors. Sigh. Nana’s Whimsies will begin again on Thursday, March 19.

Weather or Not

First I will give you some good news. Today’s blog post has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH TOILET PAPER. I’m sure you were all ready to push the DELETE button if I was able to dig one more story out of the panic buying of toilet paper.

Instead, I’m going to talk about my next favorite topic: the weather.

Weather is very important to the citizens of the Phoenix metro area. I speculate that this obsession with weather stems from the fact that most of the days of the year include blue skies and sunshine. It’s true that for much of the year, people see the blue skies and sunshine from their windows because it’s too dang hot to go outside. This time of year, however, the weather is perfect. Blue skies and sunshine and temperatures in the high 70s or low 80s.

Except when it rains. The television meteorologists (even if they’re just pretty young women barely out of college wearing high heels and cocktail dresses and tossing their hair a lot) get very excited when they can report that rain is in the forecast. The weather is changing, they will say, barely able to hide the glee in their voices.

And Arizonans are excited as well. Jen’s son-in-law likes to stand at the bottom of his driveway and watch the palm tree fronds blow in the wind as the weather front moves in. I’m pretty sure I’ve overheard him saying, “A-yep, thars something blowin’ in fer shure.” Weather phenomenon excitement makes everyone sound like they’re from the heart of Appalachia.

As for me, weather changes are disheartening. I like my weather to be predictable: 75 degrees and clear skies. That’s why I bought a house in AZ. I take any unpleasant weather as a personal affront.

The news has been reporting that rain is coming to the Valley of the Sun. I awoke yesterday morning to mostly gray skies and few sprinkles. By last night, it was raining pretty steadily. This weather pattern is supposed to continue — in fact worsen — over the next few days. I’m not too distressed by that because Bill and I are leaving on Thursday for our Denver home, where he has a few doctor appointments and we will see as much of our family as possible in a few short days.

Of course, my sister Jen has already rained on my parade by telling me the weather people are predicting a rain/snow mix on the weekend. I’m pretty sure there would have been glee in her voice as well, but she texted the information to me. She managed to refrain from including the snowman emoji.