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Josette Plank - writing, humor, kids, Appalachian coal miner's granddaughter

Last Build Date: Mon, 06 Nov 2017 07:48:17 +0000


NaBloPoMo: 30 Days Of Stuff My Mother Found In Her House And Gave To Me

Sun, 02 Nov 2014 01:58:00 +0000

My mother is de-cluttering. She is un-hoarding. She is liquidating the contents of her house. 

And like a museum of my childhood I hadn't intended on visiting anytime soon--let alone, knew existed--each time she visits, my mother, curator, delivers bags and boxes of my past.

Like this...thing.

What is it? It's a nurse mouse, as much as I can figure. It is also a bank.

No one in our immediate family was a nurse or had ever been a nurse when this bank was given to me...when? Who knows.

I didn't want to be a nurse when I grew up. Or a veterinarian.

The nurse mouse doesn't represent a beloved cartoon character from my 1970's Saturday morning lineup--which was, no doubt, odd. Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, remember them? The kids who hung out in a junk yard? How about the Sid & Marty Krofft classic, "Lidsville," the live-action kids show about a town full of hat people?

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There were no coins in the nurse mouse bank.

And no Charles Nelson Reilly in my kids' childhood.

I was playing Old Maid and accidentally wrote a John Irving novel...

Fri, 22 Nov 2013 02:16:00 +0000

or maybe I accidentally cast a John Waters film?

This artwork on this card deck is very difficult to defend unless you're using it as a Rolodex for fringe characters.

Read more Josette at

Laughing At Kmart's Jingle Bells Commercial Makes Me A Bad Santa

Thu, 21 Nov 2013 06:04:00 +0000

Well, ring-a-ding-dingaling and fa-la-la-la-liscious! Kmart's new video ad for Joe Boxer underwear has tongues a-wagging over a bunch of comely young men jingling their jangly bits to holiday music.If you're watching this with your Aunt Millie, you'd best bring out the fainting couch and smelling salts.Ready? For your viewing pleasure. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="//" width="560">Okay, quick poll:What is ringing on these guys? Their hips? Their franks? Or is it the beans?I know what you mean. Wink wink "bells up their bums" nudge nudge.Although, I'm going with Jingle Balls. Isn't the selling point of boxer underwear the loose-fitting freedom and range of motion they provide ? This ad illustrates that point, spectacularlyOf course, we can't have anything nice without some busybody with finer sensibilities ruining it the rest of us.Was Kmart a "once-great company?" I guess. I always liked the blue light specials.But explain to me how is this commercial "anti-family?" I thought that wearing boxer shorts could improve a man's sperm count. I'd say that increasing sperm count ranks at least number five on the You, Too, Can Make A Family how-to list.BUT WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN? How are we supposed to explain these men in shorts and the bells and the funny thrusting? WHAT DO WE SAY TO THE CHILDREN?Here's what you say to your kids:"Honey darling sweetie, you know how we talk about 'real' and 'make believe'? Well, that ringing sound isn't real. Like Santa Claus and flying reindeer and elves aren't real. It's all make believe. Happy holidays!"Or, you can tell your kids that every time a man in boxer shorts rings his bell, a Victoria's Secret Angel gets her wings.No, actually, don't tell you kids that.I don't know what to tell anyone's kids. We don't have cable television because I'm pretty sure there's a lot on television that's raunchy and crude besides this commercial, and generally, I'm too lazy to screen every single thing my kids could possibly happen upon. Not having cable allows me to feign happy, lazy ignorance.Yeah, I can be a sour-faced scold when it comes to the objectification of women and advertising using girl bodies to sell everything from soup to nuts (ironically.)But if this ad featured women in underwear, jumping up and down and making their bodacious bras jingle out Carol of the Bells?I can tell you from recent experience that searching "musical boobs" and "jingle bra" on YouTube brings forth a cornucopia of titillating and HILARIOUS videos.That's what this woman has to say about it. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="375" src="//" width="500">So it's not Shakespeare. Or Wes Anderson. Or even the Three Stooges.I still thought Kmart's jingle guys were a giggle. I apologize for adding to our great nation's overall moral decline.Photo Credit: YouTube© Copyright 2005-2012, Halushki | Josette Plank. All Rights Reserved[...]

1970s Kids Television. Prepare to have your mind blown.

Thu, 04 Jul 2013 14:37:00 +0000

Romper Room

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New Zoo Revue

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The Magic Garden

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Hatchy Milatchy Theme Song

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The Electric Company

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A Poem About Laundry

Tue, 25 Jun 2013 12:27:00 +0000

Wrote this one a ways back....Canticle for 2:35 P.M.The laundry pile is no more:every sport bra stuffedinto a drawer, every pink pantylined up crotch-to-crotchin cottony majesty and I will fling the plastic basket,fling it down! fling it downthe basement stairs!and sing now by theiron’s hot glow -"This wash is done,this wash is done,and Hallelujah,this wash is done!”I have struck a broken pose,my hands repeating timeless gestures, wrestling fitted sheets,snapping T-shirts into unwrinkledexcellence, turning one last pairof blue jeans outside-in, butwasting not one second moretrying to match the unmatched sock,save the unmatched sock foundskulking in a cuff; I will sacrificethis leg garment and for onceI follow through, god dammit,for once I ball it up and trash it,trash the lone stocking that standsempty-footed between meand my warm cup of Darjeeling.Now here is the moment.The empty hamper moment,the before-the-next-work-shirt,peed-my-pants, the-cat-puked-on-the-bed moment; I am your faithful servant in this moment, this sock-searching wife released fromdowny hell, Oh God -this moment of pure pleasure,this perfect Eden moment,this hour before the first fig leaf was plucked and pressed, and placed just so.Photo© Copyright 2005-2012, Halushki | Josette Plank. All Rights Reserved[...]

The "Kids These Day" Debate Paradox

Fri, 14 Jun 2013 14:07:00 +0000

I may or may not have said both at one time or another....

More Josette! Here's hoping my kids will enjoy an old-fashioned, Huck Finn-style summer!

My dad. And his daughters.

Fri, 07 Jun 2013 16:05:00 +0000

Rabid Bat on Today's To Do List

Mon, 20 May 2013 15:34:00 +0000

To Do List for May 20, 2013 1. Find 1st grader's bathing suit for swim week at school. Done. 2. Deliver possibly rabid bat in Tupperware container to Dept. of Agriculture lab. Done.3. Coffee. Done.4. Do laundry as procrastination before writing. 5. Write.6. Carpool and skating.7. Edit and write some more.8. Sleep the sleep of the batless.Remember seven years ago when we had a bat in our house?If you don't, here's the story.It's highly entertaining, but a little long. Grab some coffee. Think about all those times you had bats in your house and you never even thought to get a rabies shot. Ah, those Halcyon days before Google!On Friday night, another bat got into our house. I'm not sure how. Since our last bat-in-the-house episode, we keep the estate locked down. However, the winged stinkers can slip in through a 1/4" crack. We have a lot of those kind of cracks. Cracks which will be plugged up as much as possible thanks to $112 spent at Lowes on caulking and screening for the heat and cooling registers throughout our house.Also, it looks like squirrels have chewed through our attic vents, so we have a call in for repairs.If we do have bats in our attic belfry, we can't - and shouldn't - just kill them (bats are protected species) and we can't just block them out (because there may be bat babies in the attic, and peeeee-you dead bat babies.)We're pretty sure this most recent bat stowed away in a sleeping bag that was hanging draped over the outside clothesline. When we gathered up the sleeping bag to bring it indoors, we gathered up the bat, as well. When nocturnal time happened, the bat awoke, wriggled out of the sleeping bag, and Voila! Freaked out bat flapping around our downstairs.For crying out loud, do NOT pick up a bat with your bare hands.Of course, my husband was sleeping on the sofa downstairs. And, of course, bats have been known to bite people who are asleep without waking the person. And of course, if a bat that bites has rabies, then the bitee is pretty much a goner if they don't get rabies shots before symptoms begin.Here's the information on rabies deaths in the United States since 1995. Most of the deaths are from the bat rabies variant. And most victims have no known history of being bitten by a bat. Rabies in humans is still rare, pretty much because we now vaccinate the hell out of anyone who does report having contact with a bat or skunk or feral cat, or who is attacked by a rabid beaver.Go ahead. Google "attack by rabid beaver." There are number of recent stories, all of them equally lively and horrifying. And these attacks aren't all in the hinterlands of backwoods Montana. No, try two attacks in one month in Fairfax County, VA outside of Washington, DC. How about another beaver that attacked on three different occasions in a park near Philadelphia, PA?The most recent rabies death was a man who received a kidney transplant.The kidney he received was evidently from a donor who had unknowingly been exposed to rabies. CDC is tracking down others who received organs from the donor to start the organ recipients on rabies vaccinations.Yeah, I know. Just what you wanted to read on a Monday morning.I guess this bat is okay to handle.Anyway, since I received booster shots for rabies in 2011 (don't ask), I was in charge of all bat handling once we did capture the bat - a Vaudeville act in three parts, let me tell you. First, you box the bat. Then the bat gets out of the box and starts flying around your family room, swooping at you and giggling while you scream like an actor in any number of Friday the 13th sequels. Then your husband tries to trap the bat with a net. Then your husband runs from the room, essentially locking you in the room with the bat. Then he returns with a broom, and with much swearing and crashing around, finally knocks the bat to the ground, stunning it.This is where trapping the bat in Tupp[...]

Spring In the Middle Class Suburbs

Mon, 06 May 2013 14:16:00 +0000

in Just-
spring          when the world is mud-
luscious the little
lame balloonman

whistles          far          and wee

and eddieandjill come
running from soccer practice and boy scout meetings and orchestra concerts
and band practice and musicdanceskating recitals and baseball tryouts and
hockey games and girl scout meetings and it's

when the world is puddle-wonderful
and mommy is working three part-time jobs

    but volunteers for


and the yard is threatening to
turn to wetlands and forest and desert
                      and there is a dead

fledgling sparrow on the front porch

          and a discarded half-eaten bunny carcass in the back yard,

like the goat-footed balloon man

       works for            vito corleone

whistling "sleep is for fishes

                   and the un-caffeinated"



(with apologies to e.e. cummings)


Josette at Michelle Duggar Wears A Modest Swimsuit, Why Don’t You?
Josette at My Life is a Gym fitness plan for parents who don't have time to workout

Don't Despair. It's Always Been The Worst Of Times.

Fri, 19 Apr 2013 17:06:00 +0000

I know it's a world gone mad. But, really, it's always been a world gone mad. Take the Wall Street bombing: Killed 38, injured 143 - 300 That was September 16, 1920. The bomb was in a horse-drawn wagon.Or the Bath school disaster:The Bath School disaster is the historical name of the violent attacks perpetrated by Andrew Kehoe on May 18, 1927 in Bath Township, Michigan that killed 38 elementary school children and 6 adults, and injured at least 58 other people.Kehoe first killed his wife, fire-bombed his farm and set off a major explosion in the Bath Consolidated School, before committing suicide by detonating a final explosion in his truck. It is the deadliest mass murder in a school in United States history.1927. The Good Ole Days.This is a list of all the terrorism/bombings in the US from 1865. That's not including wars.In the moment and for days, weeks - even years - it's always shocking.But in a twisted way, it's encouraging to know that in spite of all our violent entertainment and media images, we are still shockable.Of course, shockable things happen around the world, daily. I don't know if we can or should maintain or hold on to all the fear and pain of every tragedy if it doesn't directly affect us. Even while we do need to hold on to our outrage.Despair and living in worry are impractical at best. Debilitating at worst.I wonder if people in the past were able to move on and forward because even though there were horrors - and so many additional horrors of disease and accidents that we now more confidently prevent - they weren't vicariously saturated in - marinating in -every Tweet and blog post of seemingly every person on the planet..London Blitz, WWIIIt's good that we are empathetic.But I think it's also important to step away at times so that we can stay mentally and spiritually intact enough to play the role of caretakers and game changers when needed.I think we need to hold on to our perspective.In some ways, it's always been the worst of times.We'll get through. Again. Don't despair.YAY! MORE JOSETTE!How To Talk To Kids About Terrorism: Josette Plank on PennLive.comDove's Real Beauty Sketches FAIL: Josette Plank at© Copyright 2005-2012, Halushki | Josette Plank. All Rights Reserved[...]

A Short History Of Parenting Advice, Mommy Olympics, Fretting, and All Those Mothers Doing Everything Wrong

Thu, 04 Apr 2013 04:25:00 +0000

Let's play a game. This game is called Parents These Days.As in, "Frank Bruni, journalist with The New York Times, thinks that Parents These Days have cornered the market on being anxiety-addled know-nothings, and that parenting experts are something that Al Gore invented along with the Internet, and let's see whether or not Frank Bruni is right."Read the quotes below. As you're reading, see if you can spot which quote is about or directed to a Helicopter Parent, Permissive Parent, Anxious Parent, Authoritarian Parent, Authoritative Parent, Natural Parent, Tiger Parent, and every other kind of Parents These Days that any parenting author, expert, or guru has ever slapped with a moniker. Fun part? All of these quotes are from before the year 1930.Everything old is new again. And everybody under the sun since time immemorial has had advice for parents. Aren't you glad you didn't live next door to Aristotle? What a busybody. (Below are direct quotes from other blog posts, books, and articles as linked in the subheadings.) Parenting advice from Ancient Greece Well, then if we employ all our ingenuity to keep our growing child all through these three years from the experience of distress, alarms and, so far as possible, pain itself, the growing soul is all this time being rendered more cheerful and gracious. ~ Plato After the children have been born, the manner of rearing them may be supposed to have a great effect on their bodily strength. It would appear from the example of animals...that food which has most milk in it is best suited to human beings; but the less wine the better. ~ Aristotle Those who are wrong who in their Laws attempt to check the loud crying and screaming of children, for these contribute toward their growth, and, in a manner, exercise their bodies. .  ~AristotleAnd more Ancient Greece Raising children is an uncertain thing; success is reached only after a life of battle and worry. ~DemocritusParenting advice from China, 1st century B.C.Keep babies quiet, and do not stimulate them. Only after behavior emerges from inside can proper guidance begin.Parenting in Medieval EuropeMummy-style swaddling bands were...intended to ensure that the limbs grew straight, a purpose based on medieval ideas of physiology, which held that a baby's body was so pliant that pulling or pushing on a body part determined how it grew. While it was learning to walk, the child wore a padded bonnet to help protect its head against injury.An English law of 1181 required militia service from boys beginning at age 15.Dirty Hands, 1877Parenting advice from the 1700s and 1800sFrom the 1700s until the mid-20th century...mothers were repeatedly criticized for being "anxious, well-meaning, but ignorant," as one 1916 book put it.  A 1916 book warned parents not to bounce babies on their knees, as it would spoil babies and lead to "wrecked nerves."   Scottish physician William Buchan's 1804 book Advice to Mothers informed them that "in all cases of dwarfishness or deformity, ninety-nine out of a hundred are owing to the folly, misconduct or neglect of mothers." In his 1877 book, Advice to a Wife, Chavasse informed mothers not to nurse for too long. Once the baby was past 9 months of age, nursing could cause "brain disease" in babies and blindness in mothers.The Spoiled Child, by Jean-Baptiste Greuze, 1765Pro-breastfeeding debate from The Maternal Physician, 1811That there are many instances when the mother's health will not permit her to suckle her child I will allow; but I must believe those cases would less frequently occur if the attempt were persevered in.My first child had the thrush when about a fortnight old. I had previously suffered great pain from an exuberant flow of milk, a[...]

John Milton's School Of Overly Suspicious Parenting

Thu, 28 Mar 2013 18:59:00 +0000

Kid: Do we have a copy of Paradise Lost?

Mom: Paradise Lost. The Paradise Lost by John Milton. Is it for school?

Kid: No.

Mom: So...what? You want to read it?

Kid: Yes.

Mom: You want to read it.


Mom: Why?

Kid: Just because.

Mom: Well, I'm  just wondering why. Paradise Lost by John Milton. The Paradise Lost that's written in blank verse.

Kid: Sigh

Mom: No, because I'm just...does some kid's cartoon mention it? Did Katy Perry write a song about it?

Kid: No. Never mind.

Mom: No! Wait! Here! Paradise Lost! Just read the intro.I think some of my notes from college are in the margins.

Kid: Okay. Thanks.

Mom: Yup. (Making note to self: Next time just shut up.)

Conversation With My Pre-Teen About Victoria's Secret Underwear

Tue, 26 Mar 2013 00:42:00 +0000

So, recently there's been some hubbub about Victoria's Secret possibly marketing to teens and younger girls.Let's look into this a second, shall we?Last fall, Justin Bieber was the main event at a Victoria's Secret fashion show - that is, the main event other than super-skinny women with perfectly curved and coiffed everything.Because, you know, Justin Bieber's target audience is college-aged and twenty-something women, so it makes sense that he'd be helping to promote sexy  lingerie for adults.Heh. I'm just kidding. Justin Bieber's target audience is little girls who have only recently outgrown their My Little Pony lunch boxes, most of whom don't even have the hips to hold up pantaloons other than Hello Kitty briefs.Victoria's Secret representatives say that, sure, girls in the 15 and 16-year-old range want to be "like the big girls" and gussy up their curvy bits in sexy, fun, self-esteem enhancing undergarments. That's my interpretation of what they said, more or less.Victoria's Secret knows the demographics when it comes to who is shopping in their stores. No shying away from the truth there. But hey, don't even younger girls want to be like the 15 and 16-year-olds? Tweens are a huge market.How To Look Like A Victoria's Secret Angel In Middle School"Since you are in middle school, you might not fit in their lingerie. But, you can dress in a few of their things. On a daily basis, the models wear dark wash skinny or boot-cut jeans and short shorts, blouses with 3 buttons undone, lacy camisoles, off-the-shoulder shirts, mini skirts, short dresses, maxi dresses, etc....Get Victoria's Secret underwear as soon as you can."I hear complaints from parents who have trouble finding clothes that aren't poorly made or don't have hems and cutaways rarely seen this side of a Vegas review. It's no surprise some moms and dads are on edge about the prospect of Victoria's Secret marketing to even younger consumers.There's a big "so what" there. As in "So what. Just don't buy it if you don't agree with the marketing."Well, with our dollars sometimes feels like the most meaningful vote we have.And right, parenting isn't easy.  No one said parenting would be easy. And in a world of advertising and entertainment media that present mixed messages about what kind of girl is the right kind of girl, our job as parents is to teach, question, guide, listen, and sometimes pull back the reins on just how much of that mixed message our daughters come in contact with on a daily basis...whether that's turning off the television or sitting with our kids and talking about what they are watching or monitoring Internet use.But, excuse me also if I fight back the Mad Men's big guns by being very clear as to the message behind my held-back dollars. Pardon my attempts to level the battlefield.Here's one battlefield created by non-stop marketing of specific types of teenage sexuality: I've heard tell on the Internets that some middle school gym class locker rooms could be absolute hell for the 7th grade girl who wears plain white Hanes underpants. Parents are gently reprimanded for making their Plain Jane kid a target for teasing. Parents are told that this is reason enough for buying your 11-year-old something, er, a little more grown-up. Or "fun." Or "cute." Because, you see, "all the other kids are doing it." Ehem. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="560">I'm sure you see the problem with insinuating that the kid who is comfortable in Plain Jane clothes is, essentially, the one who has to change what she's wearing to conform to the sensibilities of other 11-year-olds who want to dress like the big girls. That Plain Jane shouldn't expect her sense[...]

How To Please A Man

Tue, 19 Mar 2013 02:08:00 +0000

From my husband's series of vintage instructional videos on How To Please Your Man.

Lesson One: Parking In The Garage

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Take Your Child To Work Day

Mon, 18 Mar 2013 05:04:00 +0000

April 25, 2013 is Take Our Daughters And Sons To Work Day.

My husband sent an email to my older kids asking them if they'd like to attend at his office. I'm guessing his work place will have some activities set up for kids. Maybe a snack and some juice. And then they'd get to hang out in his cubicle for a bit, twirl around on the chairs, make some crafts with rubber bands and paper clips while he made phone calls.

Perhaps there'd be some actual lawyer-ing they could help him do. Send someone up the river or toss'em in the hoosegow.

My retail workplace doesn't participate in Take Our Daughters And Sons To Work Day. Liability reasons.

But frankly, I think kids would get a lot out of working a day in retail.

I think that spending seven hours on their feet while assisting customers with questions and complaints, organizing the magazine racks, dusting the shelves, ringing at the register, putting hundreds of books back where they belonged, filling paper towels in the rest room, helping wash dishes in the cafe, sweeping the floor and wiping tables, and needing to presume that everyone they talked to was "always right" and to presume so with a smile on their face -

I think that would actually be a great motivator to continue to work hard in school and get good grades so that if my kids did go into retail, they could at least enter as a lieutenant.

I  think everyone should work retail at some point, if just for a few hours.

I think everyone should also know a few words in sign language and be able to drive a clutch, but generally, no one is asking me what I think.


Read More Josette at Papa Bear Ben Affleck Defends Daughter Against Paparazzi Redux: 10 Important Life Lessons I Need To Teach My Kids

Wed, 20 Feb 2013 12:00:00 +0000

1. How to make Mama's coffee in the morning.2. How not to felt wool sweaters in the dryer.3. "Lights on when no one is in the room" in the long run equals "we're still not going to Disney World."4. Running on vinyl flooring in stocking feet equals three to six stitches, at least.5. Cabbage is your friend.6. Don't touch the hockey ice with your bare hands. That stuff is nasty.7. Nice threat, but ultimately, I don't care if you write a tell-all book about me since I'm already writing it myself.8. Be goofy and outrageous at times. It's fun, most people aren't watching anyway, and the ones who do and criticize are mostly just envious. Or constipated.9. Butter is worth the fat.10. There's something about a bound paper book, handwritten notes, and card games.3 Lessons I've Got Covered1. Washboard scrubbing is also an important form of social media.2. Hobo-ing3. Be adorable, mostly.Read More Josette at Advice On How Not To Get “Sweetheart Scammed”: A Handy Guide From MamaPop And© Copyright 2005-2012, Halushki | Josette Plank. All Rights Reserved[...]

It's Not Just A Box of Thin Mints

Wed, 09 Jan 2013 05:19:00 +0000

It's a hike along a wooded a mountain overlook.It's a night in a tent...and a campfire with friends.It's learning about history...and Girl Scout Day at the National Constitution Center...and Girl Scout Day at Hans Herr House in Lancaster, PA.It's daring to explore a cave...and daring to make a (science experiment) mess.It's making friends...and helping friends....and staying friends...and more and more and more.All that in a box of Girl Scout cookies.Read more Josette at PennLive.comOp-ed: Girl Scouts Build Courage, Confidence, and Characterand at! Heidi Klum: Girl Scout Cookie Boycott Buster© Copyright 2005-2012, Halushki | Josette Plank. All Rights Reserved[...]

Don't Mess With My Chicken Sammich

Tue, 11 Dec 2012 02:14:00 +0000

Kid: Your chicken sandwich has poison in it.


Kid: It probably wasn't free range. That's cruel.


Kid: It's bad for the environment.

Mother: The FDA says it's okay for that chocolate you're eating to have rat poop in it.

Kid: Ew. Really?

Mother: Your MP3 player was most likely built with components mined by slave labor.

Kid: Oh.

Mother: This car ride to your sports practice is killing three polar bears.

Kid: Alright. I got it.

Mother: One was just a little furry guy. With dewy eyes. His name was Dewey.

Kid: You can stop now. I got your point.

Mother: I'm going to finish my sandwich now, shall I?

I poop in your peanut butter, too.

This week on I find excellent gifts on Etsy for all the pop cult fans in your life. Warning: The lifelike Twilight Vampire Baby Doll will freak you the hell out. Not safe viewing for people who can't sleep with their foot dangling over the side of the bed.


Newspapers and Gene Kelly and YouTube

Wed, 05 Dec 2012 12:58:00 +0000

I just wrote an Op-Ed column for the Patriot-News about my hot and cold relationship with electronics - mostly saying how I'm luke warm about it all - and then completely overslept this morning because I cleverly set my alarm for 5:30 PM instead of 5:30 AM.Pushing buttons is hard.Touchscreen buttons are worse. I'm a person with fairly lithe fingertips, but trying to type or navigate little squares on a touchscreen makes me feel like I have hams for fists. Stylus, you say? Okay. Can you put your hands on your stylus is right this second? I mean, without fishing through the sofa cushions or digging under your car seat? Exactly.And I know, I know...I'm a blogger. I've reached at least the third circle of electronic media geekdom, and my Twitter account puts me somewhere in the deeper, darker depths of online megalomania.But that's where I draw the line.Usually. I do honestly adore my eReader. People are always talking about how they like a real book, the feel and smell of a real book. Most of my books are boxed in the basement and now smell like mold. And not the flowery castle library kind of mold. More like bleu cheese and mice dropping. So yeah...eReader. Love it.Here's the Gene Kelly video I mentioned in the column. It's from the 1950 movie Summer Stock. It's pretty darn good. allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="420">I adore YouTube. Possibly more than any other cyber tool after email, I use YouTube as a direct extension of my parenting.(I deliver a lot of unpopular news and instructions to my children via email: "Get your laundry done, or else. Your teacher spoke to me about a project you never handed it - DO IT NOW. Dishes aren't done; I've confiscated your iPod." This way, I'm out of earshot for the whinging.)But YouTube is sort of a home school picture window into the culture and history of days gone by.  Days when people were tiny and danced on gigantic type-writers because there was no television and what else were you supposed to do with your time? allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="420">As I was looking up Gene Kelly videos for the Patriot piece, my three kids and I were instantly able to watch Kelly’s legendary dances from An American In Paris, Singin’ In The Rain, and the Slaughter on Tenth Avenue ballet – prompting questions about whether the French really cavort on fountains and why there aren’t more thugs and violent shooting deaths in The Nutcracker.The other morning, one of my kids came downstairs wearing a shirt with the price tag still hanging from the armpit. I noted, "You look like Minnie Pearl." To which the child responded, "Minnie WHO? Oh...wait...Mom, no, never mind. Is this some crazy person from back when you were a kid?'s okay. You don't have to show me on YouTube!"Too late. allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" frameborder="0" height="360" src="" width="480">My kids pretend to not be interested in life before Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. And yet, a video like the one above can prompt a half-hour discussion about Dolly Parton's hair ornament alone. Is it a flower? A dead octopus? A flattened bird?And when my six year old wanted to hear some "real Rock and Roll", I did him one better.  allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" frameborder="0" height="360" src="" width="480">When one of my children was in elementary school music class and the teach[...]

Black Friday, Mannheim Steamroller, and Elbowing Other Humans for Boyfriend Blazers

Fri, 23 Nov 2012 16:50:00 +0000

The turkey is devoured. The football games are won. And in a cross-generational coup that shushed all arguments at the dinner table, Macy's launched floats with both The Wanted and Mannheim Steamroller at the helms. (Did I ever mention how much I detest Mannheim Steamroller? Sort of a mash-up of prog rock and a bunch of Windham Hill drop-outs drenched in  chardonnay and dressed like Polyphonic Spree. I just don't go for that kind of thing.)What's left to do but drink, belch, and nap?Oh right...and shop.Why did the damn Pilgrims sail all the way over here on the Lusitania and fight the Indians to preserve the Union and free the Boston Tea Party if it wasn't to protect my God-given right to trample other Americans for 50% off a flat screen television? I ASK YOU!I braved the Black Friday crowds just one time in my life. And only because an ex-friend convinced me that I had to experience it - kind of like running a marathon or eating deep fried sheep butt or dropping acid before a Depeche Mode planetarium laser show.In much the same way, Black Friday was frightening and confusing and I wanted to puke.Finally, thanks to the Internet, I don't feel so alone in my horror.Some Wal-Mart employees are co-opting the grand holiday of consumerism to stage protests against their employer. What do they want? A living wage, better benefits, and R-E-S-P-E-C-T. When do they want it? As thousands of shoppers begin beating down the doors for dollars off a bunch of crap toys and superfluous electronics that will be broken just in time for the Presidents' Day sales. allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" frameborder="0" height="281" src="" width="500">I've got mixed feelings on this.On one hand, I'm aware of the chains of events by which hard-working people find themselves depending on low-paying, full-time retail work to get by. All the while, the Walton family is making hecka chunka cash. So, yeah, if we have to have Wal-Mart and people have to work there, then is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath, Mr. Potter? I mean, Mr. Walton?On the other hand, I know that ceaseless shopping for more and more stuff is the greased chute that lands souls in the circle of hell filled with people who mine dry the earth's bounty all over a coupon for ten dollars off a piece of pre-landfill trash.And no, I'm not much fun at cocktail parties. allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" frameborder="0" height="281" src="" width="500">"Here, too, I saw a nation of lost souls...they strained their chests against enormous weights and with mad howls rolled them at each party shouting out: 'Why do you hoard?' and the other: 'Why do you waste?' "That's what Dante had to say about storming the doors at Urban Outfitters for a bargain on cardigans and boyfriend blazers. Retail employees are on the front line of madness today.It is appropriate to offer them a hug. But be okay if theypolitely decline.Me? I stayed home again and knitted everyone iPads from last year's discarded Kindles.And finished digesting turkey.source, photo, photo© Copyright 2005-2012, Halushki | Josette Plank. All Rights Reserved[...]

Open Letter To Shoppers From A Retail Employee

Thu, 22 Nov 2012 22:00:00 +0000

This is a repost from last year. But it's become my own holiday tradition.I am a low-level retail employee.I am paid somewhere between $7.00 - $9.00 per hour to offer helpful customer service.I am paid to be knowledgeable regarding our store's products. If I do not have the answer to your particular question or problem with a product, it is my job to find another employee who can answer your question, or to research your question myself and get back to you in a timely manner.I am paid to be friendly, courteous, efficient, and nonjudgmental in my service to you. I am paid to help keep the store neat and organized so that you have an enjoyable shopping experience.Sometimes, I may engage in brief, cordial conversations of a personal nature as initiated by you, the customer. Retail employees are generally “people persons,” and my manager does encourage some on-the-clock, non-business conversations so that employees can build good relationships with customers and offer better personalized service.If I fail in any of these duties, you have every right to speak to my manager about my poor job performance. I should shape up. However, please remember there are many services that are not part of my job description. At one time or another, I have been asked to do all of the following:- watch your child while you shop- hold your child while you shop- solve problems with products you bought from other vendors who subsequently offered poor or no customer service - solve consumer problems that result from your own procrastination and poor organization. I can try to help with your Hail Mary shopping. But if you don’t have the book by tomorrow of the gift for tonight and this is the first I’ve heard about it, you can start the litany of blame by addressing the person in the mirror.- act as a substitute punching bag for your overall frustrations with your boss/spouse/kids/in-laws- act as a substitute punching bag for your overall frustration with the corporate decisions of our company which you personally disagree with. I am willing to sympathetically listen to your agitation over a specific product or even regarding the Overall Way We Do Business. I will try to offer a satisfactory fix and hopefully some catharsis for your currently unpleasant state of mind. However, if you begin frothing, yelling, or jabbing a finger at me, please understand that at this point I’m going to my Happy Place and thinking about chocolate fudge sundaes and winning the lottery. You’d be better off venting at someone higher up the pay scale. Like a manager. Or majority stockholder.- engage in argumentative conversations about anything, but especially religion, politics, and sex- listen to sales pitches for your philosophy of life, the universe, or anything contained within- confirm rumors and conspiracy theories about our company, store, or products- allow you to follow me around for the afternoon while I work because you’re lonely.- be your therapist- be your confessor- be your girlfriend- be your mom- be your captive audience for some new jokes you’re working on- offer medical advice regarding your condition- listen to opinions which are hateful or offensive according to a reasonable standard. If in the course of our customer-employee interaction, you say something like, “Presbyterians are all a bunch of jerk-off, low-lifes and should all go to hell” our interaction is over. The cue that you’ve crossed a line is my vanishing smile and me abruptly saying, “Is there anything else I can[...]

RIP Jersey Mike

Sun, 18 Nov 2012 20:40:00 +0000

I woke up today wanting to write something for people who may be visiting my blog for the first time.But today is a day I don't have many words.Jersey Mike had words.And work."Live music can make a city. The thing that keeps me going every day is when you get a group of people together watching a band, and they are so enraptured by what that performer is doing that they drop everything - they're not looking at anything else, they're not on their cell phones or talking to the person next to them. It's a different buzz, a different high than watching a football game or reading a book or going to church. One thing I think we can all agree upon as human beings is that everyone has a favorite band, a favorite song, and everyone has seen a live musical performance that has shaken them to their core. It seems that cities that embrace that, concerts, clubs and coffeehouses have a leg up on other communities. Even from an economical standpoint, it brings in young people and hip way of thinking. Live music in any city is a determining factor for many people in choosing where they want to live or spend their money... "Harrisburg is home to me, yes. I mean, my heart is always in New Jersey, but yes, I've been here for 10 years, I've let the grass grow under my feet, I own a house, this is home."  ~ Mike Van JuraOne of his last posts on the social media site Twitter was a request for Toys For Tots donations.He will be deeply missed.Rock and roll promoter. Social commentator. Rabble rouser. Connector. Instigator. Peace keeper. Left handed. Putting square pegs into round holes since 1976.Harrisburg, PA, USAThank you, New Jersey, for sharing him with us.Today proceeds from a 4:00 show at Abbey Bar in Harrisburg will go to his family.© Copyright 2005-2012, Halushki | Josette Plank. All Rights Reserved[...]

Figure Skating, The Olympics, and Not Knowing Anything Anymore

Wed, 14 Nov 2012 06:50:00 +0000

This is long, but it's going to ultimately explain everything you need to know about getting your kid to the Olympics. Or not - which is what I actually have the authority to write about - and why not is also a very happy place to be.So, I'm one of those insufferable sports parents who shows off her kids doing sporty things. For instance, here is my Skater Grrrl competing this summer near Washington, DC. allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" frameborder="0" height="360" src="" width="480">She practices most mornings before school. She practices every afternoon after school. She gets up Saturday morning before even the coffee is awake and skates some more. On Sunday, she goes to the gym or works out with a trainer named "Sarge" who possesses some magical power to motivate middle school kids to run and jump and lunge up and down a soccer field for an hour straight, helping them to learn how to turn, pivot, and sprint in safe ways so they don't tear up their bodies during soccer, football, or basketball games.Sometimes - under duress - my skater takes a ballet class.Not your average Ice PrincessEven with all this work and discipline and time and sacrifice, she's still not one of the top skaters in her level in our region (which stretches along the East Coast from Pennsylvania to Florida.)   And even her United States Figure Skating Association level - Intermediate - isn't the highest competitive bracket. Above her are hundreds of Novice skaters. And Junior skaters. And Senior. Only Senior level skaters really get a chance to go to the World Championship. Or the Olympics.My daughter gets asked a lot if she's planning to go to the Olympics.She usually smiles politely and says, "Well...we'll see."I understand why people ask. Before I started getting involved in the sport as a Skate Mom, the only time I really paid attention to figure skating was once every four years during the Olympics, and maybe during the media coverage of the Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerigan Cage Match. If someone would have asked me to describe how a skater was chosen to participate, I'd have guessed, well...something like Lana Turner at the soda fountain counter, just waiting around until someone made her a star. Except a star on super-sharp 9-inch blades.The reality of how skaters get to the Olympics is less romantic and a bit more time consuming.  First of all, when it comes to female skaters, you have to keep in mind that the peak training years strongly correspond to the years girls are most potentially stark raving mad. Okay, maybe not mad.But seriously. Think of yourself at 13 years old. 16 years old. Even your early twenties. Was schoolwork getting more difficult and were adults  beginning to ask you OMG! what you wanted TO DO with THE REST OF YOUR LIFE? Were you starting to think of the opposite sex without also thinking smelly or weird? Remember wanting to stay up late and then sleep all weekend? How about rebelling from grown-ups who wanted to tell you what to do, where to go, getting in your business, asking you Are you okay? What's gotten in to you? Did you hear a word I said?Was your body starting to change? Getting taller? Suddenly stumbling over your feet and bumping into walls? Were you getting rounder or curvy or lanky or knob-kneed?Okay. Now put all that together, dress it in a body-hugging, shape-revealing practice outfit, trundle it out onto the ice at 6:0[...]

Today's Book: Meth 101

Tue, 06 Nov 2012 03:11:00 +0000

Okay, today's Book Found Lying Around My House is not really a meth cookbook.

It's about science. And conversations.

But I'm completely immersed in Breaking Bad right now, and damn if it isn't one of the best things I've watched on television in forever.

Well...not television. We don't have real cable, so The Mister and I just watched all four seasons on Netflix. Like this:


Breaking Bad, if you don't know, is about a high school chemistry teacher who gets lung cancer and begins cooking meth with a former student in order to make enough cash to set up his family after his death. At one point while meeting with a drug lord named Tuco, the chemistry teacher calls himself "Heisenberg." And then he blows up the drug lord's office with explosive fulminated mercury.

Jesse and Walter cosplay kids
There is no chapter in Physics and Beyond on fulminated mercury.

Or cooking crystal meth.

Or on how to set contracts with underworld crime bosses in order to distribute your "product" and in the process make beaucoup scratch.

I bought this book for a class at Boston University. I have no idea which class. I never read the book.

This is not a good advertisement for pricey liberal arts degrees.

I went to college, and all I got was this stupid blog post.

But I suppose I'll read the book now while I wait for season five of Breaking Bad to come out on Netflix. I hope there's no spoiler about what happened to Mike after he was shot in the cartel dude's driveway. Or  whether Jesse finds out about Brock. And what ever happened to Skinny Pete?

Chapter 14 is entitled "Individual Behavior in the Face of Political Disaster." I'm sure all will be revealed there.

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Why Parenting Websites Won't Hire Me, Bullies, And Breaking Berenstain

Mon, 05 Nov 2012 03:56:00 +0000

Why I'm Not A Good Fit For Most Parenting Websites1. I routinely tell any one of my three children that they are my favorite child. Mostly, I say this when I want the child to do something for me. Like get me a hot chocolate. "You were always my favorite child. Could you get Mama a cocoa?" I also say this to them when I feel guilty for forgetting to pick them up at school or when taking them for a vaccination.2. I have no opinion on babysitters or day care other than the more I need to get away from my kids for a while, the lower my standards fall. I think this is generally true for most people. But I would never say that out loud in a room full of parents who are taller than I am.3. I think parents need about 3% of the stuff that is marketed as "necessary to be a good parent." In that 3% that is genuinely useful, I'd include a pair of sturdy shoes with a non-slip tread, a wicking base layer, earplugs, and a multi-vitamin.4. I think most kids from infant on up need about 2% of the stuff that is marketed to help kids have safe, happy, productive childhoods. In that 2% that is genuinely useful, I'd include a pair of sturdy shoes with a non-slip tread, a wicking base layer, a helmet, a multi-vitamin, and a library card.  If you want to get fancy, maybe a harmonica.5. I think most typical kids can be parented well via these golden rules of dog training.Have Fun- If you’re like many of us, the moment you see your new puppy or dog is the moment you start seeing all the pheasants he’s going to bring in, the championships she’s going win and generally the finely trained specimen you expect him/her to be. Slow down. You have a new dog, a new hunting partner and a new member of the family. This should be fun for both of you. Keep training sessions short and sweet, and have fun. A dog that’s happy to be learning will be happy in the field. Remember Training Goes Both Ways- The term trainer implies that all your only job in this situation is to teach. This is not true. When training your dog, there are also a number of things you need to practice and require of yourself. Train yourself to stay calm, no matter how frustrating a training situation might be. Your dog will have good days and bad days, but never take your frustration out on your dog. This will greatly hinder your training. If you need to cut a training session short, or just walk away, do so. Also, train yourself to make a point to get out with your dog.  If You Can’t Reinforce It, Don’t Teach It- Remember that your dog learns more than what you intend to teach him. If you give a command when you have no way to reinforce it and he ignores you, he’s learned that when he needs to listen is conditional. Obviously, this is a revelation is difficult to unlearn, so make sure if you want your dog’s attention and adherence, you have a way to get it. Be Consistent- Consistency is key. Remember that training is teaching you and your dog how to communicate. The expectations should be clear and concrete. If your dog has to guess what outcome you want, you are both set up for failure. Try to make sure your dog knows when it’s time to train by training at around the same time everyday, using the same equipment and follow the same basic structure. Don’t Give Up- You are going to make mistakes. Your dog is going to make mistakes. This is the nature of training and human[...]