Thursday, May 12, 2011

Not-so-easy A

I’ve completed my first semester of school and am that much closer to having a degree in Latent Evidence Technology—hooray! And I managed to get all A’s in my classes. It was a huge adjustment and a lot of work to be a student again. I like to think I’m a little older and wiser than the eighteen-year-old who first entered Allman Hall on the campus of Forsyth Tech in the fall of 1995. Granted, I still have breakouts on my skin and my fashion is always a few years behind the current style, but I now realize that I am responsible for my education and my future as I embark on this career course correction. Here are some of the things I learned in Spring Semester 2011:

I need at least 7 hours of sleep or I’m useless. No more all-nighters.

Speaking of, 8 am classes are still a thing to be avoided like the plague.

Whether I’m 13 or 34, Mom is there to wake me when I sleep through my alarm.

I can’t get by on just Mountain Dew and peanut butter crackers anymore.

It’s tough to form a study group like in “Community” because everyone has their own schedules and lives outside the classroom. Hats off to my fellow students who have kids and full-time jobs in addition to classes.

I now know what a flash drive is and how to use it.

I now know what goes into making crystal meth and wonder why in the world people would expose themselves to that. Shudder.

Drug dogs are trained to smell a vinegar-like substance when searching for heroin.

Never pick up a gun by putting a pen or pencil in the barrel (I’m lookin’ at you, all TV shows).

You can’t just walk into a scene and start taking pictures; they need to be in sequence, starting from the outside and working in.

Blood stains do not glow when illuminated by a flashlight, unless treated with BlueStar or Fluorescein.

And though I try to be patient and understanding of fellow students, their compulsion to text during class makes me want to give them blunt force trauma to the head. Seriously, I’m amazed at how inconsiderate some people are.

I take some solace in being neither the youngest nor the oldest student in my classes; I feel like I appreciate it more now than I would have right after high school. Maybe there is some sense to the idea of a gap year. Take the time to find out who you really are and what you really want. Because let’s face it, a four-year degree is no longer the golden ticket to a career that you can retire from. So if you’re going to spend all that money and time, you should spend it on learning something you love. While also hoping and praying that the economy will improve by the time I graduate and they’ll stop cutting all these federal jobs. Don’t you want me, Uncle Sam?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Change Facebook Status to Unemployed?

On today's edition of "CBS Sunday Morning," they had the story of Ashley Payne, a former teacher in Barrow County, Ga., who is suing the school system for firing her without due process. She was called in to the principal's office one day, asked to confirm that she had a Facebook page, and was then threatened with suspension and ultimately forced to resign. Turns out someone had complained in an anonymous e-mail that Ms. Payne had inappropriate photos and profanity on her Facebook page, and was thus corrupting our nation's youth. Was Ashley going all-in with online poker? No. Was she scantily clad and making kissy faces at the camera? No. She had simply posted photos from her European vacation in which she could be seen holding wine glasses and at one point a pint of Guinness.

This case hits home for me. I never thought a boss would troll my personal Twitter feed gathering ammunition against me, but that was me being naive and trusting people that I shouldn't. Yes, our accounts can be locked. But we all know by now that the privacy controls on Facebook change every few hours and if you don't keep up with it, your information is open to the Internet. Ms. Payne asserts that her photos were private and locked, and she was not friends with students or parents of students. Since Ms. Payne was never formally presented with the evidence against her, she could never address the person who filed the complaint. And anyone could have sent that accusatory e-mail. Perhaps an old boyfriend with a grudge or a jealous colleague. If someone is that offended by online content, they should stop being a self-righteous coward and put their name on their proclamation. Especially if they're ready to take away someone's livelihood. But in our litigation-happy society, it's much easier to sue someone for making you look at something that offends you instead of owning up to your own responsibilities for the media you choose to consume. People need to get a life or get a thicker skin because technology is connecting us all, whether we like it or not.

Our Generation X is caught smack-dab in the middle of the warring overshare/how-dare-you-share philosophies of social networking. My mother routinely opines that the world would be a better place had Facebook, Twitter and their ilk never been invented. Meanwhile, a fellow student at my college is more than happy to share the details and the text messages of her strained relationship with her boyfriend, with everyone sitting in the hallway waiting for the classroom to be unlocked. Our triumphs and our tribulations laid bare for all the world to see, or just our friends if our privacy controls are set correctly.

The point is that a woman who loved her job and loved being in the classroom is no longer allowed to do that, because she dared to share her life with her Facebook friends. We're all human, we all make mistakes, and maybe some of us shouldn't spend so much of our limited time on this planet pointing out the mistakes of others. Maybe we should have a Guinness and chillax. Just make sure there aren't any cameras around.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Great wine a stone's throw away

In our state with its grape-friendly soil and enterprising oenologists, we're lucky to have so many wineries to choose from when planning a daytrip. And there are certain things that make a winery stand out in the ever-increasing crowd. Sometimes it's the scenic location, the cozy decor, the quality of its Riesling, or the tray full of dark chocolate chips free for the taking. But for me, it's usually the presence of an animal on the premises. A muddied Great Pyrenees dog at Linganore Winery in Maryland, the legendary black labs of Chateau Morrisette in Virginia, and Noah the Bengal cat at Stonefield Cellars Winery.

California native Robert Wurz and his wife, Natalie, founded Stonefield Cellars over three years ago in Stokesdale. It's a small but picturesque winery located along Highway 68 that offers a large selection, from the standard Chardonnay to the unique Dread Pirate Robert's Bloody Red Wine. Visitors can taste 7 wines for $7 but on this particular day, my mother and I stuck to samples of their Traminette and Riesling (so popular, the staff says, that customers buy it by the case). Both were sweet, light and perfect for sipping after supper. We were also lucky enough to stop in while some mulled wine was simmering behind the counter. Its spicy warmth was the perfect beverage for a chilly Carolina afternoon. Three bottles came home with us, and we made sure to say goodbye to Noah as he lounged in a chair on the patio.

For more information, visit or call (336) 644-9908. The friendly and knowledgeable staff will be happy to help you find a new favorite from their award-winning wines, and Noah will be waiting for you with a welcoming purr.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Do You Hear What I Hear?

It's a mixer running in the kitchen. I have no idea what my mother is making; it could be anything. Cake, cookies, marinated carrots (I find them completely unappetizing, but my cousin Cindy has to have them every year). We're heading into the homestretch before the Christmas festivities and that means baking!

The tree is decorated, the outdoor lights are shining, and most of our shopping is done. The downside is that I can't quite remember what's inside some of those wrapped packages. The upside is that I have more free time to watch Christmas specials and eat holiday goodies. Granted, I won't be doing much of the latter since I've gained more weight in the past year than I care to discuss. Shame there isn't a low-fat version of the snowflake cookie. And even if there were, it wouldn't be half as delicious.

We headed out to Stonefield Cellars this afternoon and were able to sample their mulled wine. Noah, the sweetest cat ever, was there to greet us, and we walked away with three new bottles of their Traminette, Riesling and Niagara. To our credit, we're branching out from the muscadine wines but we still won't drink dry wines. Ugh, no thanks. I'm hoping to write up our outing as a blog post for Savor NC Magazine, a new pub about food, wine, travel, etc. It's an unpaid gig but at least it would be a good creative outlet.

Friday, November 26, 2010

"Human Target" Hits The Spot

"Human Target"
Wednesdays at 8 pm EST, Fox
Starring: Mark Valley, Chi McBride, Jackie Earle Haley and Indira Varma

Hooray! One of my favorite new series is back for a second season. This doesn't happen often, folks; my expressing a preference for a show is usually a precursor to its premature cancellation. So I'm relieved and excited that Chance & Co. have returned to kick ass and take names in Fox's primetime lineup.

Based on a DC Comics character, Christopher Chance (Mark Valley of "Keen Eddie" and "Fringe") is a well-trained and highly adaptable assassin who switched sides years ago and now works as a bodyguard to protect those in danger from people like him. With his headquarters in a San Francisco loft, he teams up with former cop Winston (the lovably snarky Chi McBride of "Pushing Daisies") and torturer/hacker Guerrero. As played by the marvelous Jackie Earle Haley ("Watchmen," "Nightmare on Elm Street"), Guerrero is a character that defies description, his deliberate and devious demeanor expertly hidden behind a laid-back "Hey, dude" attitude. I adore Guerrero.

The major change for this season is an infusion of estrogen in the form of Indira Varma and Janet Montgomery. Varma's Ilsa Pucci is an elegant widow who offers to bankroll Chance's operation in return for his saving her life (and fortune). Varma has a habit of dying in British series like "Torchwood" and "Luther," so I'm hoping she has better luck this side of the Pond. Montgomery's character, Ames, is a bit more problematic. A career thief who tries to insinuate herself into Chance's gang after inadvertently endangering Ilsa. Ames makes the mistake of not listening to Guerrero's instructions, and that's not going to win her any points. As impulsive female criminals go, she can't compare to the vastly superior Parker on TNT's "Leverage." I think several viewers would rather have seen Autumn Reeser return as the wide-eyed but wise computer genius, if the writers insist on adding a female to the roster.

The dialogue is snappy and clever, and the action races along like a small-screen blockbuster. "Human Target" continues to establish its geek cred with guest spots from actors like Tahmoh Penikett ("Battlestar Galactica," "Dollhouse") and M.C. Gainey ("Lost"). However, we haven't had a fight scene in a tight space yet, which became a trademark of the show in its first season. Air ducts, elevators, car interiors--Chance has fought baddies in all of them. The stunt coordinators might not know what to do with all that open air and space. Okay, I'm kidding; they know exactly what they're doing and it shows in every single episode.

"Human Target" is a refreshing midweek break from all those reality shows, cliched sitcoms, catfighting housewives and depressing dramas. Couldn't we all use a smile and a 9-millimeter?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The "Secret" is out..Downsizing is in!

If you haven't read Rhonda Byrne's book The Secret, you've probably heard about it on one or two daytime talk shows. How it promotes following the natural laws of attractions, i.e. "like attracts like," to get what you want. Making a vision board of your dream house/man/job and asking The Universe to bring it into your life. The book is filled with testimonials of people for whom this theory has worked. After reading it (upon the recommendation of my therapist), I'm pretty sure that it's a load of New Age bollocks. And you know the exact page where the author lost me? Proclaiming that she maintained a weight of 116 pounds by merely "not thinking fat thoughts." Really? Seriously? 'Cause I think it might have something to do with diet and exercise, you skinny bitch! Wait, that's the low blood sugar talking; let me grab another fun size Three Musketeers...

But I'll confess I was at the point where I'm willing to try anything to change my outlook. Because these days, the outlook is pretty bleak. I'm still out of work, have no job prospects, can't even get interviews, and just paid the last mortgage payment that I can afford. I spent the better part of an afternoon at Social Services to be told that I can't qualify for Medicaid but I might qualify for food stamps. So this is me at rock bottom. Terrified to spend a single dollar on anything that isn't absolutely essential. Picking out which pieces of furniture I can take or leave from the condo that I bought three years ago, because I'll likely be moving back in with my parents next month. And Christmas? Well, I'm very tempted to just skip it this year. Hey, I've become an agnostic!

I guess I have to focus on what I do have at this point and being grateful for it and believing in my heart that life can be good again. Much like the family on WeTV's Downsized, I have to accept that this is the new reality. I can't have a pumpkin spice latte at Starbucks but I can have an apple cider at home. I can't go to a gym and work out three times a week but I can walk on the treadmill. I've just spent so much time being angry at other people or myself or Congress or the world in general, and it's exhausting. I'll still be jealous of my friends when they post about the cool things they've bought or the places they're going, I can't help it. I had this notion that if I studied hard and I made good grades in school, life would always be good. But that's not true. Bad things happen to good people. Good people make bad decisions. I suppose I'm now paying for those decisions. In spades.

For me, "The Secret" is to be content with living in the moment. I don't know what the future holds and I've spent way too many hours regretting the past. Right now, I just need to be where I'm at, as Sean of "Galactic Watercooler" podcast so eloquently said. And at least where I'm at has pumpkin pie. Enjoy your Thanksgiving holiday and let your loved ones know that they are loved.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Stayin’ Alive

It’s that time of year again, for the ghosts and ghouls to come out and play. Thanks to Halloween and the gals at the Random Fandom podcast, I was inspired to write this holiday-themed blog entry. Granted, I don’t have an extensive knowledge of horror films or books. Seeing Gremlins at the tender age of 7 traumatized me for life, and Nightmare on Elm Street made me terrified of falling asleep. I’d never even seen a zombie film until my friend Will drove me to Greensboro to see Shaun of the Dead. And to me, zombies are the scariest of the movie monsters. Because there’s just that small chance, that tiny inkling, that such a nightmare could come true.

So how would I deal with a zombie apocalypse? Apart from dying within the first 12 hours of its onset. Well, obviously I’d need a blunt object for head-hitting, a vehicle with a full tank of gas, and some sharpshooting allies. Now these zombies/undead Americans may be fast (28 Days Later) or slow (the Romero series), but they’re all bloodthirsty animals who want to rip your face off. And the media has taught us there are certain things you want in your zombie party. Mainly you want to keep it small, maneuverable, and able to fit comfortably in an SUV.

The Big Guns: Tallahassee (“Zombieland”) and Ash (“Evil Dead”)

Woody Harrelson’s Tallahassee is a whirling dervish of destruction. If it’s undead, he will kill it. Heck, he wants to kill it and will find increasingly more creative ways of doing so. But he’ll make it clear that he can take or leave you, so feed him Twinkies and he’s likely to stay loyal.

Ash, as played by Bruce Campbell, is the dependable S-Mart employee who just can’t seem to shake his demons. I mean real demons summoned through the use of the Necronomicon. So killing zombies may be a new thing for him but he’s got a chainsaw permanently attached to his arm, and that’s gotta’ count for something.

The Brains: Sarah Connor (“Terminator”) and Ana-Lucia Cortez (“Lost”)

Whether you prefer the original recipe Linda Hamilton or short-lived series Lena Headey version, you know Sarah Connor is a pro at kicking ass and taking names. Okay, sure, they’re not humanoid robots or an evil computer program, but zombies are pretty much made for the purpose of destroying humans. And you know how Sarah feels about that. Especially if one should be dumb enough to go after her son. Mama Connor has contacts and weapons caches all over, and years of experience existing off the grid. Go with her if you want to live.

Okay, Michelle Rodriguez’s Ana-Lucia may be a controversial choice; she has been known to throw innocent people into pits and to seek her own brand of justice against lowlifes who shoot her. But the woman has innate survival skills. She kept the Tailies alive long enough to reunite with the Oceanic 815 survivors on the other side of the island, and she can fashion a stick into a very effective spear. Trust me, you want Officer Cortez on your side.

The Medicine Man: Dr. Mac (“Green Wing”)

You’ll need a doctor, and Julian Rhind-Tutt is very pretty. The ginger hair may be a liability when trying to keep a low profile, but I’m willing to risk it.

The Wild Card: Sam Merlotte (“True Blood”)

Sam, the shape-shifting owner of Merlotte’s Bar, knows how to deal with the weird and the scary. His ability to change into a dog or bird will help get you into the places where humans can’t go. Plus, he has a ready supply of booze.

Now I pass the double-barrel on to you, dear reader, to pick your zombie-hunting dream team. Who will watch your back? Who will take point when you enter the seemingly abandoned grocery store? Who do you trust to pull the trigger if you turn? And please, don’t forget the Double Tap.