Thursday, July 29, 2010

What's in a Name?

Before I went to school, my family called me by my middle name which was J--- , chosen by my Mom. When I entered school, teachers called me by my first name R--- which my Dad had chosen. Therein lies the roots of an identity crisis. I didn't care for either of my names. When I grew up in the South, it was common to give children two names and call them by both, so my aunt I.B. and uncle P.J. (Initials were their given names and had no further words that the initials replaced) always called me by both of my names. My students liked to call me Miz A and that was fine with me.

I have chosen to use my initials R.J. which I prefer above the names they replace. Some people dislike their given names so much they legally change them. Who wants to be called Merry Christmas? She attended my college. I don't hate my name quite that much--I just don't care to use my given names. I choose to use initials instead and I really like the letter R., but the connotations that I, and especially others, connect to the name it represents are not part of my self image. By the way, reetjann is not my real name--just another creation.

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." 

 --William Shakespeare

Assuming that Shakespeare meant that a rose would still be a beautiful, fragrant flower regardless of the name, I think if we called it a  "stinkweed", we wouldn't pay $100 a dozen for them and use them in the language of love.


People make judgments of others based on names, and physical appearance, before looking at their deeds. I like to be known by the content of my character, how I treat others, my opinions, my values, the books I read, the people I see, the places I go, not my name, or how I look.  

"Words can evoke human reaction, or emotions, referred to as connotations, as well as literal definitions, which are the meanings of the words, also called denotations."

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Ladies of Summer

I love a very select list of action/drama television shows (yes, gasp, groan, cable television shows) and especially when they feature some very strong, confident women in lead roles. This summer, I'm having fun in the air conditioning and watching these ladies tear up the crime scenes with outstanding joie de vivre and super entertainment. 

The Closer (TNT)

Brenda and Fritzi are back for season 5 with Brenda Lee Johnson-Howard in charge of a Major Murder Crimes unit in Los Angeles with a team of 8 men to answer to her directions. Assistant Chief Will Pope likes to think he's in charge, but Brenda is the real Closer which is why he hired her and created the unit just for her. Brenda solves murders faster than he can make margaritas. Fritzi Howard, her new husband and FBI agent, provides backup information, sniper coverage as needed, and convenient backrubs. 

The Closer


Rizzoli and Isles (TNT)

This new show features Jane Rizzoli as a Boston murder detective and her associate, Maura Isles--a medical examiner. This series sprang from Tess Gerritson's novels about crime and medicine. I've become a recent fan of Tess Gerritson and I'm plowing through her books as quickly as possible. Rizzoli is polishing her tomboy image and trying to fit in with the guys on the detective squad, while Isles is the total antithesis--a brainiac in high heels with red soles. They have a lot of fun trying to solve murders and I have fun watching. 

Rizzoli & Isles


Covert Affairs (USA)
Another new show, this series features a new CIA agent, Annie Walker, an over-achiever, who has to overcome her trainee status fairly quickly because she gets thrown in the deep end of the pool of domestic terrorism and she often finds herself in hot water with the brass.

She's gorgeous, funny, vulnerable, and frighteningly competent. When I often think, "Why couldn't I think of a quick quip?" she suffers no such deficit. The girl knows how to think on her feet and always lands on her feet, which is necessary to stay alive considering the scum bags that she encounters. She's learning to handle a double life and keeps us guessing about the mystery man in her background.

Covert Affairs

Monday, July 26, 2010


As I grew up in the post World War II era, women didn't shake hands with each other; furthermore, the etiquette books of the time stated that men should not offer to shake the hand of a woman unless she volunteered and women need not shake hands with each other at all as a socially-accepted practice. Up front, I will declare that I dislike the custom of handshaking.

According to my research, evidence exists that handshaking is a very old practice for the purpose of peacemaking and proving that a person carried no weapons. How did it morph into a daily necessity in this country in the work and social environment? Handshaking customs in countries and cultures around the world vary greatly. When traveling into exotic cultures, tourists have to be informed and alert to local customs.

In the U.S. handshaking is rampant and hard to avoid. For one with a minor case of germophobia, the fact is that H1N1 influenza is firmly among us; hand washing is important, but how many people bother? According to the New York Times, in several studies, it has been shown that many people don't wash their hands after using the bathroom. More women than men are proven to be conscientious hand washers but both groups have large percentages of non-washers. When someone thrusts their hand at me, the first thought in my head is, "What did you last touch and therefore want to transfer to me?" I'm not developing OCD in my dotage, but I'm informed enough to know that handshaking is unsanitary even if folks think you're neurotic. Having spent my adult life with hundreds of school children, the joke around my house was: "Mom has her fall cold."

If spinach contamination with E.coli can bring down a nation-wide industry, why are we walking around shaking hands with each other and sharing who knows what? In the years before bacteria was discovered, people were dying in hospitals not from their illness, but from acquired bacterial infections. Some of those germs were acquired from careless medical workers. When I go to my dentist, I expect to see him wash his hands, not put out his hand to shake mine. Use your words, not your hands.

Beyond the obvious health implications of handshaking, there is a whole body language situation at work in this oft-repeated ritual. Endless books and articles advise people how to do the effective communication needed in a handshake in a job interview or in the workplace--no limp wrists, sweaty hands, or cold fish handshakes. If the guys want to trade handshakes and shoulder bumps like two dogs establishing the Alpha Male dynamic, whatever. When the men shake hands with women, it becomes the whole male dominance issue, Mars/Venus struggle. When it comes to women shaking hands with other women, it just seems creepy.

Queen Elizabeth wears gloves and I often long for that custom to return. George Washington mythology claims he considered handshaking to be a practice of the "common" man and did not shake hands at all. He preferred to bow and speak to people. My preference doesn't include bowing, but simply a verbal greeting and eye contact. I never volunteer to shake a hand. I often manage to have my hands occupied in a way that discourages others from initiating a handshake--hands in pockets, behind the back, holding a cold drink or holding a pile of papers or books. I like to eliminate the power struggle issue and the interpretation people place on the handshake. Having read "The person who initiates a handshake establishes dominance," I like to do an end run around the whole situation because I don't want to shake hands in the first place. Unfortunately, it seems to be here to stay and I will invest in Purell manufacturers, Johnson and Johnson.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Blue Rocks

From "The Star-Spangled Banner" to the closing fireworks, great entertainment was as close as our own back door. Minor League Baseball at the Wilmington Blue Rocks, offers an inexpensive ($7.00 tickets for senior box seats) small-town, fun night. It is a totally informal, family-friendly and safe environment to enjoy a summer evening. The fans arrive early and fill the stadium by the middle of the first inning. 

The Blue Rocks date back to 1940, and used to be affiliated with the Philadelphia Phillies, but in 1993, after a lull in the preceding decades, they opened in the new Frawley Stadium and are now a farm team for the Kansas City Royals.


It is only the second time we have attended a game with friends and we had to wonder why we don't do this more often. We didn't have to drive crowded traffic into South Philly, noted for recent flash mobs, or pay outrageous ticket prices, parking and food prices. As much as I support the Phillies in theory, I find Minor League Baseball more to my taste. The fans are laid back, relaxed, friendly and not aggressive toward other fans at least in Wilmington, DE. Activities are designed to encourage kids and families to attend.


Aside from the game itself, the silly activities involving fans filled the downtime and kept us laughing.Community involvement is very upfront and promoted. One concession stand benefited and was staffed by band members from a local high school. Before and during the game, community groups performed, and were recognized on the large scoreboards. The local church groups and local business groups were named on the loud speakers. 

Birthday people were named and one guy even proposed to his girlfriend while the whole stadium watched on the scoreboard camera. A local car club drove through to show off their corvettes. A car dealer drove a car around the field with the sun roof open so fans could toss balls to try to land one inside the car and win the car. They had to purchase the soft balls in advance and put their names on them for the contest. Don't know if there was a winner. Cute idea though. 

This team probably used more balls and gave away more balls per fan than I've ever seen. The players were very available for pictures and autographs. Minor League Baseball isn't all about the players, the fans are pulled into the event and they have discovered that keeping fans happy is how to have a following and support.

They had several mascots and various giveaway activities like tossing rolled t-shirts into the stands. Nothing they did was elaborate or expensive but it was fun to watch and see what they would present next.


The game was exciting even though the Blue Rocks let the visitors win by two hits. One more inning and we would have won. It was kept interesting by questionable calls at second base, double plays and an argument by the coach and the umpire which got the coach thrown out of the game. It may be Minor League, but they take the game seriously even though the fans didn't, because they were too busy trying to get their "wave" coordinated and singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" in tune. The best was at the end with a two run homerun out of the stadium for the hometown team. Too bad it didn't go into overtime because the crowd was just getting cooled down at 9:15 from a warm evening and everyone was really getting loose and having a good time. 

Even leaving the stadium after the really good fireworks, the traffic on the exit was effortless and well-coordinated. I have to become a baseball fan again.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Thursday, July 15, 2010


As I cleaned a closet, I discovered this wall hanging that I kept in my toddler's room in the late 1970's. It is by Dorothy Law Nolte, copyright 1963.  It occurs to me that if children learn what they live, in my family, it has to be computers. If we use the definition of geek to mean one who is obsessed with computers, technology and new media, that's my family.

When I attended college in the Sixties, it was easy to find the smart guys--they carried slide rules, the high tech of the era. For me, the most technology I could find at the time was a manual typewriter or a movie projector that I could thread for high school classes to watch a movie.

When I taught English, it was in the dark ages without a Xerox machine, a word processor, spread sheets, or a calculator. I only had an electric typewriter and purple ditto stencils with a straight edge razor blade for typos. When I calculated grades at the end of a marking period, my husband brought a huge calculator home from his company so I could compute student grades. When personal computers became available, it seemed like a gift from the gods--word processors, spread sheets, calculators, wow! What a concept! Find a need and fill it. 

We bought one of the first personal computers we could find, an Ace Franklin computer with a klunky DOS program to learn and a tiny memory. That was when a floppy drive really meant floppy. Many computers later, it has progressed from being a doorstop to being an antique. That antique still sits in my basement.

Over the years, we have accumulated the latest and greatest technology as we watched the computer age evolve on that rapidly accelerating technology train. Many summers, my husband, my son and I would clutter the dining room table with old computers to tear apart to repair and update the computers that I needed in my high school library. Being in charge of a high school library gave me a perfect opportunity to use all the latest technology for that field.  My dining room table has been used for computer repair more than for eating. It is no small wonder that my son's work is in computers to keep up on the cutting edge of technology.

The torch has been passed. My granddaughter received a toy computer for her second birthday, and she quickly progressed to the adult computers at her home. She likes to play with my computer when she visits and I marvel to see how little ones gravitate to computers, cell phones and digital cameras. They seem to be born with a technology gene. Now she is five and has her own real laptop with her own games, favorite web sites, passwords and the necessary jargon. She says to me, "Grandma, I will copy and paste this drawing that I did on Paint". Last week she couldn't get into her favorite web site and said, "The network is down."
Dorothy Law Nolte was right, Children Learn What They Live.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

I Am Fragrant

When I see a flower, the first thing I want to do is put my nose to it and sniff. Apparently, that is a common impulse and Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania has responded by showing their visitors which plants are sniff-worthy. Throughout the gardens one can find this little sign that tells you which flowers, as well as plants, have a detectable fragrance. 

 Many of the aromatic plants are commonly used by perfumeries to create the expensive fragrances that we love as much as the bugs that frequent odiferous plants.

Longwood Gardens is featuring months of a really classy exhibit of the history, chemistry, and art of creating scents. Not only do they show which plants can be used in perfumes, they have stations to sniff various scents and an opportunity to make your own fragrance. 

Included in the exhibit are some fabulous printed screens to explain the history of perfumes. It has been an art for centuries apparently back to ancient times over 4,000 years.

I love perfumes, but I have to be careful about wearing them because some people have extreme allergies to them and I also happen to be a bug magnet. If I am going to be near someone who doesn't like perfume, I avoid it or if I plan to be outside longer than five minutes, I avoid perfume and choose bug repellent instead. 

Two of my favorite perfumes would be Joy, the fourth most expensive in the world, and Chanel 5 which is the best selling perfume. Everyone has a favorite and that keeps department stores in business. Longwood's exhibit gives visitors the opportunity to try various fragrances and create a unique scent just for yourself.

I like to visit all of the gardens when I visit and I love the water lily gardens that are at their best in the hot summer weather. Photographers have to acquire a tripod permit in order to set up the professional type equipment that many experts like to use. I don't have the expensive equipment I see here, but I manage to take a few nice flower shots with my compact Nikon.