Friday, January 10, 2020

7 Quick Takes about Iambic Pentameter, How Video Games are Like Parenting, and Books You've Probably Never Checked Out Of Your Own Free Will and Choice

It's 7 Quick Takes Friday! How was your week?


I had a dream this week, probably inspired by my daughter trying out for her school's spring musical, that I was auditioning for a play.

I was going to audition with a memorized recital of the "to be or not to be" soliloquy from Hamlet, and the only problem was that I couldn't remember it past the fifth line. Somehow, Dream Me wasn't too concerned, and as I waited for my turn to audition I just told myself, "I'll wing it. It'll be fine."


The dream ended then so I guess I'll never know if that would've worked, but here's the really exciting part (to me, at least:) the first five lines of the "to be or not to be" speech were still reverberating through my head when I woke up, and they were totally correct.

Sometimes I feel bad that I don't use most of my college education (for sale: one bachelor's degree in English Literature - like new!) but other times I find myself accurately reciting Shakespeare in my sleep and that feels strangely vindicating.


So my son made me cry.

We're reading this book together called Caleb and Kit. We stopped at a scene where the main character Caleb, who has cystic fibrosis, was hurt to learn that a close relative did genetic testing before getting pregnant to make sure she wouldn't have a baby with CF.

When I asked my 11-year-old why our main character found this upsetting, at first he wasn't sure. But after we talked about it, he summed it up in a way that was so succinct it brought tears to my eyes: "Ohhh... so it's like they're saying that CF is worse than Caleb is good."

Which is exactly why I find it so devastatingly sad to read articles with headlines saying that we're close to "a world without _________ disease," not because we're learning to cure it but because more people are ending their pregnancies when they find out their baby has it.

I guess what I'm saying here is that no illness or handicap will ever be worse than your child is good, and it breaks my heart to think that not everyone out there knows it.

I realize I'm not a special needs parent, so I defer here to someone who is, and I recommend this excellent article on the subject by Kelly Mantoan of This Ain't the Lyceum.


I've had a game called Spaceteam installed on our devices for almost a year, but this week I finally got around to playing it with my older kids.

It was so much fun.

It's billed in the app store as "a co-operative shouting game" which sounds like something I'd absolutely hate, but hear me out.

The premise is that you're all on a spaceship, and the only way to keep it from self-destructing is yelling out on-screen instructions to each other. You're all getting different instructions at the same time, and they're in complete gibberish (with everyone intensely yelling "Set Eigenfunnel to 5!" and "Disable Fusion Deltaclaw!" over each other, I imagine Spaceteam is equally entertaining to watch as it is to play.)

While you're simultaneously trying to read and shout commands and follow other people's instructions, you're also trying to repair the control panel on your screen, which starts falling apart every time a mistake is made.

I think you get the picture. Not a relaxing game you want to play with a cup of warm milk before bed, but still silly and hilarious fun.

Anyway, I'm playing this game and noticing that every once in a while, the game developers slip in a funny command.

"Schedule activities!" my daughter yelled at me as I frantically tried to fix my smoking control panel. "Fold towels!" And that's when it hit me: this game is about parenting.


My 7-year-old started horseback riding lessons in September, which she loves but the barn is terrible about invoicing me.

At the beginning I had to make several emails and talk to the lady in charge, as well as my daughter's teacher, a couple of times before I finally got on the email list.

I got regular invoices for a few months, but now they have just stopped coming.

I've made several emails and talked to all the same people again, and do you know what? Still no invoices.

I've never had to work so hard to pay someone in my life.


In a fit of nostalgia, Phillip and I sat the kids down and watched Cool Runnings over the weekend. You know Cool Runnings. (If you can't chant "Jamaica, we have a bobsled team" in the appropriate rhythm then I don't think we can be friends.)

You know you know the words.

The movie came out when I was a kid and the Internet wasn't really a thing, so watching it again with a smartphone in hand was a different experience.

I always liked that Cool Runnings was a true story, but according to this article the only true thing about it was that there indeed was a bobsled team from Jamaica, but that's about it. The real team wasn't assembled from hopeful Olympic sprinters and their lovable underdog friend, and John Candy wasn't even their real coach. So disappointing.


On the hunt for a non-fiction book to keep beside my bed in case I can't sleep, I checked out a book called Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers. I heard it mentioned on an NPR interview a while ago and thought it sounded interesting, which it is.

Maybe a little too interesting. It's actually so fascinating it makes you stay up even later to finish the chapter; not exactly good put-you-to-sleep reading.

Given the subject matter, this could potentially be a depressing, disgusting and/or gruesome read, but the author inserts just the right amount of humor in all the right places. I have laughed out loud several times while reading this book, and given that it's about corpses that's saying something.

Here's how she introduces a facility that researches the process of human decay:

I'm sorry, but I love this book.


Did I mention I have a nasty cold?

I felt it coming on and took some nighttime cold medicine before bed on Wednesday, and on Thursday morning I felt like I was dragging myself through molasses. I thought it was just a medicine hangover until I realized halfway through the day I was just really sick.

When I'm too sick to do anything productive, I read (as much as one can while trying to convince a bored 3-year-old to stay out of her pile of wadded-up tissues and stop climbing on her head,) so I'm already halfway done with my book.

So if you need me, I'll just be on my deathbed reading about cadavers. Nothing weird or anything.

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me said...

that book is by Mary Roach, right? She's a wonderful author! My favorite book is "Packing for Mars" but her books are all interesting and engrossing. I think you should find something less humorous for a sleep aid. How about "An Elephant in My Kitchen" about a woman living on a game reserve in Africa?

Rosie said...

#3 sounds way too much like my everyday life!!

jen said...

#2 reminds me of the erroneous belief that vaccines cause autism.

1.) They don't.
2.) I'd rather have an autistic kiddo who is alive than a kiddo who is dead from measles.

Ann-Marie Ulczynski said...

I majored in English, and still have some passages from Shakespeare memorized. I enjoy when it’s appropriate to recite those.

The book sounds super interesting. If you ever come to Houston, we have a National Funeral Museum. It is really interesting. There is also one in Chicago.