Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Friends or Frenemies

Over the last week or so, I have heard or read about a number of  skirmishes  that happened on Facebook.  It just seemed that this was the week for "social unrest" on social media.

Now before, I start telling you about those stories, perhaps I need to clarify my LOVE/HATE relationship with Facebook.  I, like the rest of the world,  acknowledge that it is rather nice to connect with old friends and reestablish friendships, pseudo- friendships, or at the very least, "acknowledge that you are alive."  (although to be fair, there are plenty of Facebook pages that are active despite the fact that the Facebooker is dead....just for the fun of it, I think we should all make a point to FRIEND them.)

With that in mind,  I want to reiterate to all you avid FB users,  I am not a Facebook hater.  No, I am more of an interested FB voyeur....stalker, if you will.   I like to just look through the "window" of Facebook without anyone noticing me.  As far as I know there are no laws concerning being a Facebook Peeping Tom.

In the past we have discussed here at TAOBC, the people that use social media to post their rude or vile comments while hiding behind the cloak of anonymity. BUT what about the ones that are within the circle of
"friends".  Of course, in this context, the word "friend" could mean anything from "someone that knows someone you know" to "who the hell is this person?"

What about when a person, that is part of your group, posts something embarrassing, hateful or just out of the realm of you being comfortable with, onto their Facebook page. Perhaps you would prefer that your dirty laundry isn't  being put out there on the electronic clothesline that is the Internet.

Since Facebook's inception, I have had plenty of friends and relatives that were upset after reading something on Facebook that angered them, hurt their feelings, or embarrassed them.   So how does one handle having a group member posting something that they would rather keep private? In a few cases, relating to the people I know personally, they closed their FB accounts only to reopen them because they couldn't stand the thought of not knowing what was being said. Often this was an ongoing activity... opening and closing the account numerous times.

Perhaps a new option should be added to the site:

*Note..while the word "frenemy or (sometimes spelled frienemy) wasn't added to the Oxford Dictionary until 2008 thanks to it's use on the HBO series, Sex and the City.... it has been around since 1953 when Walter Winchell said "Howz about calling Russians our Frienemies?"  Haven't we come a long, long way???)

Thought Number One:  It's Not Nice to be a Bully

Last week there was a picture taken in the UK of a young mother, Emily Slough, while she sat on a stoop breastfeeding her daughter, Matilda.   The photographer  posted it to Facebook along with a vile comment that included calling her a tramp.  A friend of Emily alerted her to the fact she saw the picture on her Facebook account.   (I am not exactly clear, why the photographer wouldn't be easily identified by tracing it back through FB...it had to be a friend of a friend to make it's way back to her.)

In this case, Emily probably was more angry at the slur than she was the picture but it goes to the fact, that her privacy and image were used in a way she didn't authorize or appreciate.   Ultimately,  in this case it started a huge support group of the rights of nursing mothers.  

For those of you that aren't regular readers, I walk every morning here in Kansas City with a friend in Dallas, TX via cellular phone and Bluetooth and we talk for an hour or so about all manner of stuff. Last week one of the topics was the Emily Slough story. Often one story morphs into another.

As I mentioned,  WP (walking partner)  lives in the Dallas, Texas area which is currently experiencing a rash of everyone using the phrase "I don't have time for this."  (I guess they should be thankful that "Whuss up? has run it's course.)

She said that the phrase is just popping up in nearly every conversation and with that people are posting "sightings" of others using it onto their Facebook accounts.  (Isn't it ironic that while using the phrase "I don't have time for this." they are making time to post people saying "they don't have time for this.")

Anyway..there is an Indian doctor at the hospital where she works  that has a very pronounced accent. He unfortunately was filmed using the much overworked phrase and it was posted to a fellow employee's  FB account.  Supposedly, people found the clip hysterical and passed it along until nearly everyone in the hospital system is mimicking and laughing at the doctor's expense.  The doctor is not finding it all that funny. Dare I say, he doesn't have time for this.

Thought Number Two:  Stirring It Up

Another story came to mind, although in this case it started innocently enough but segued  into a mommy brawl. 

To get you up to speed about how this story came to my attention.
Here in Kansas City we have a number of bloggers that write articles for the local paper as freelancers. I guess that there is so little actual  news here that area bloggers fill in the gaps on slow news days over at the Kansas City Star.   One such writer, Sherry Kuehl, wrote an article about a Facebook battle she was part of.   Actually, in this case it was Sherry that threw out a first verbal grenade that caused a storming of troops...errr..moms, actually.

Sherry was following a group conversation among "friends" on her Facebook page.  In full disclosure, she does admit that some of these "friends" she befriended because it seemed rude not to, so we can assume not all these women are BFFs.  The conversation was started by a mom that posted a status update "that she ached - painfully ached - for the days when her children were babies" which was followed by a large number of ooey-gooey status updates about the joys of babies.   (**Note, these women must of forgotten about the sleepless nights and dirty diapers**)  The status updated kept coming about baby smiles and smells and such wonderfully nostalgic mommy thoughts when Sherry took it upon herself to remind the group that she personally didn't desire to go back to the land of exhaustion and sore nipples.

Sherry made the bold move of posting just two words...two tiny four letter words that landed her in the cross-hairs of   some vehement mommy bashing.
She posted "Ache Free"

The mom that had started the conversation came back  with a comment that included the words "baby hater" and said she  went on to say she felt sorry for Sherry's children. (Oh, yeah...she went there!)

As anyone that knows anything about mothers... the minute you bring someone's kids into the conversation it is equal to a shot having been fired and Sherry shot back with things like "Maybe I'm not aching because I am proud of my children and parenting skills and don't feel the need to go back in time to correct any mistakes." (innuendo and and veiled accusations are a nasty weapons in a mommy war.)

Which brings me to the point..how much can or should  a "friend" say or post on a social media site before it takes a definitive "unfriendly" turn.  AND if someone has posted a tidbit about you that finds it's way through the spider-like web of friends of friends of friends..into infinity, how do you handle it?

Now for a little endorsement for some very funny bloggers that have a book out..AND it's on sale for just 99 cents for this week only.   Bryan and Brandon over at A Beer for the Shower have their ebook on sale ...so be sure to get a copy of it.

I realize the cute little graphic implies that you can click on it but as I am not able to link it properly...be sure to click HERE

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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

You Call it Multitasking, I Call It Lack of Focus

A few days ago, an acquaintance of mine told me that the March issue of Oprah supposedly has an article to give us "a no fail" plan to cure us from being chronically distracted.  HHMMM...let's assume for the sake of argument, that she was just making small talk and wasn't making subtle accusations.   Unfortunately, she couldn't just give me the 411 on the miracle cure, as she never finished the article.   She became distracted before getting it read. 

Why do I need a cure for being perpetually "unfocused," you might ask?  Well.....as it happened, over the the last decade (give or take a decade or two) my ability to stay on task from  "starting something" until I reach  "finished something."  seems to be more and more difficult.  In most instances there has to actually be a deadline involved or I tend to wander off course.  It actually boils down to "the things that have to be done, GET DONE. The things that are optional, may or may not get done in a timely manner.  Those tasks probably require multiple breaks.

It would appear that I am not the only one on the planet that has lost the ability to stay focused.  Even before
I tracked down the article that the acquaintance mentioned,  I happened upon a different article in the Kansas City Star written by a free-lance columnist on this very subject. 

The columnist, Denise Snodell, said she has noticed  her attention span getting noticeably shorter now that one child is away at college and the other is preparing to leave for school.  According to her article, the calendar on her fridge that once was jam packed with household hieroglyphics, now more closely resembles a snow field in Nebraska. Her point being that she felt akin to Sandra Bullock in the movie Gravity. She is so untethered now that she isn't participating in  constant activities and obligations with her kids, she doesn't know what to do with her extra time.

While often I have heard people blame this lack of focus on  the aging process...perhaps it has less to do with our  chronological years and has more to do with our unstructured time. Yes, by all means let's blame something other than age.

Thought Number One:  Technology Has Changed How We Use Our Time and How We View Our Time

Anything over 5 minutes is just too long.
Assuming that Sandra is right that the meandering of our brains is due to a preponderance of unstructured time, it occurs to me that our perception of time is at play as well.

Let's start with speed.  No... not the movie Speed  (that was a waste of time)...or the drug "speed"  (that would  alter our perception of time) ...oops sorry...lost focus.....I am talking about the ACTUAL rate of movement.

When I was a mother of younger children, it was B.C.  Seriously, do I need to explain that means BEFORE COMPUTERS!  Nearly anything you can think of that required action, took longer than it does today.  No smart phones, no Internet, and no DVRs. I seems shocking now but we actually had to get up and move if we needed to interact with someone or something.

For me, the first thing that comes to mind that had a huge impact on shifting time, was the microwave oven.  Up until about 1976 or so, I cooked our food in a regular oven.  Let's say for example, the time committment it would of taken in the mid-1970s to bake a potato. It would have taken an hour for that potato to be done which also allowed me to prepare other things like an entree and dessert. (ah the good ole days, huh hubby?)  BUT THEN ...along came my shiny new  Amana Radarange.  WOW..baked potatoes in 12 minutes...how could they possibly be done already?

That change in speed, changed my perspective on how long I needed to allow to prepare a meal.  In theory, instead of needing an hour to make dinner, I didn't need to start preparing anything until 15 minutes before meal time.  As you might imagine, the  quality of the rest of the meal might of suffered a tad with the new speedy meal prep but hey, progress is progress.

Same goes for that early dial-up Internet connection. In the early 1990's we bought our second computer, a Apple IIe.  I thought it was magical. So what if it took awhile to connect?  The sheer joy that went with that sound of connecting to the Internet was music to one's ears. 


From the awesome beeps and whirrs of signing on you could go to
this in less than 20 minutes.

downloads took a time commitment

Comparatively speaking, today if our computers don't come on in the blink of an eye and downloads don't appear in a micro-second we are losing our minds.

A minute is still a minute, an hour is still an hour but why is our perception of time so skewed?

Our perception of time might have to do with our enjoyment of what we are doing.

Could it be that as our technology sped up, our PERCEPTION of  time also changed?

Thought Number Two: The Price of Preoccupation

 As our technology freed up some of our time, it also provided a huge opportunity to take all that free time back.

 If you are anything like me, you now find yourself saying...fairly often..phrases like

"Where was I?"
"What did I come in here for?"
"Sorry, what did you say?"
"I feel like I am forgetting something."

Or As I was saying... let's go back to the O magazine article. [link]  I looked it up online to see what the 5 "no-fail" ways to keep me focused.  

It turns out that it is a rather lengthy article so you do have to focus to get through it.  The author, Martha Beck, refers to all of us distracted multitaskers as flaky and has 5 suggestions on how to make us less flaky.

Time (ironic, heh?) and space keeps me from giving you her whole thought process but the 5 points of  the O Magazines  "no fail" plan to resolve our lack of focus:

1. Acknowledge flakiness. Like addiction or illness, flakiness can be managed only when we admit it's there. Once you accept that a flake is flaky, you can roll up your sleeves and deal with the situation.

2. Allow wiggle room for flakiness. Everyone is flaky sometimes, so pick your battles. Direct strong focus toward your most important tasks and allow for a little flakiness in other areas. (Is it the end of the world if the dishes don't get done until tomorrow? Was this morning the only chance I had to get my car serviced between now and the end of time? In both cases, probably not.) When you or someone else flakes, take a cleansing breath and move on. Anger will waste your energy and make the condition worse.

3. Set up redundant systems to cope with flake-outs. At least my two alarm clocks got me out of bed today. If my appointment had been more pressing, I would have asked friends, family, and my virtual assistant to call and keep me on track. These multiple reminders are the only way I ever accomplish tasks I don't inherently enjoy. Set some up during a focused moment. You'll be awfully glad you did when the flakies set in.

4. Make use of short bursts of attention. You can't force focus for extended periods, so don't even try. If you've got an unpleasant, time-consuming task to tackle, take very small steps toward completing it interspersed with "flake breaks" that involve playing games, laughing, or moving around. This is what everyone's already doing, by the way. We might as well make it official.

5. Choose fun whenever possible. Spend time figuring out what feels fun to you and then do it. Help your boss, employees, spouse, children, dog, and tropical fish have fun, too. Consciously add fun to your daily activities—dance while you clean the house, listen to a comedy routine while you commute. The more fun you have, the more likely you are to figure out how, in today's wild new economy, you can make money doing what you love. Remember, fun is the new work.

Sheesh...Now I am still  distracted and I am offended at being called a flake. It appears that I have failed at the "no fail" plan.  I guess I will just have to take my short attention span and play on the computer for awhile.

Sometimes our technology works against "saving" time. 

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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Eyes of March

Yesterday the remaining traces of last week's snow storm vanished with the aid of some bright sunshine and  very spring-like temperatures.  What a difference 7 days can make in suburbia. Along with the 72 degree temp,   doors began to open and people came out of their homes.  Yes, after a long winter (I am assuming it is nearly over at this point..just call me an optimist) people are starting to reappear in the neighborhood.

The coming of spring is a mixed bag in suburbia.  Sure it's nice to see our old friend the sun but with it comes a few Battles of Suburbia.  Just in all other types of battles, there are going to be winners and there are going to be losers.

I have spent most of my adult life living in suburbia.  Now I know some of you more urban oriented dwellers are TSK TSKing and saying words like "cookie cutter", "sprawl" and "I'd rather die" and/or  you country dwellers are saying phrases like "living on top of each other" and " no elbow room" and "I'd rather die".  Sure...I see your point.  We have lived in urban areas,  rural areas, big cities and small towns  but about the time our Kiddo #1 came into the world we decided that suburbia fit our family's needs.

Soooo...After having spent the last 40 plus years living within spitting distance from  my neighbors lot line, I have discovered a lot of truths about living in "planned communities".  As time and space won't allow for me to list all the ins-and-outs of suburbia living in a single post,   I will share a couple of  nuggets today and perhaps address a few more down the road. 

Thought Number One: Neighboring in the Midwest

Neighboring can be a challenge...or at least it can be for those that might be somewhat apathetic about being part of a neighborhood clique  (AKA me).  Despite the obvious "wordiness" on my part that you read in my blogs, I don't tend to visit over the fence much.  My husband is much more the liaison of our household to make small talk.  I, on the other hand, am the person that actually knows the neighbors by name.  (Husband,  the guy across the street, his name is Jeff)  BUT, in my defense, I am not unfriendly either.  I just keep interaction to a minimum.  Those of you that have been reading my blog for awhile might remember some of my "bad" neighbor stories.   I figure by keeping a modest amount of detachment, will save me from being asked to do all their mending. (yes, neighbor in Iowa sent her kid over weekly with things needing mended.)

One of the components of dealing with neighbors in this part of the country, is that people hibernate in the winter months. Sure, you see them once in awhile, while they shovel snow but then they are just grouchy and cold.  Not overly friendly ...with a few notable exceptions of a couple of houses to the right of mine.

The grouchier neighbors do upon occasion perk up when my husband comes outside pushing his snow blower. It appears that snow blowers foster camaraderie.  Yes,  and if there is ever a time to be nice to the neighbor,  it's when there is 10 inches of snow and the guy next door seems to enjoy pushing snow off walks and drives with a shiny red machine.  (He loves to mow the lawn as well. Yes, he is an interesting person...and when I say "interesting" I mean odd.)

Midwest hibernation is coming to an end...with any luck.
Anyway...as I was saying, people here stay confined to their houses from about late November to sometime mid-March when little by little they come out into the yard.  They may not look exactly like you remembered them in the fall.  The lack of sunshine and  binging on "comfort food" has left them a little pasty and with a few extra  el-bees that weren't' evident 4 months ago.

The fact, they have a serious case of  "cabin fever" makes everyone a little more crazy than they would be in August. (to clarify, I am saying slightly crazier.  It is a given that they have some level of crazy year round.)

 EXAMPLE:  Last week we had 6 inches of snow.  This winter we had 39 inches of snow.  Up until yesterday, the remnants of that snow remained.  I am not kidding you...yesterday as the day reached up into the 70's,  I saw two neighbors out watering their lawns.  (Our irrigation systems are still winterized here, so I am talking about watering lawns with a hose and sprinkler.) I am not exactly sure if they truly believe that water is needed or if they are just needing an excuse to see the pasty, pudgy neighbors that have ventured out into the sun.

Which is bringing me up to my next thought, really.  People in subdivisions by their very nature are competitive and territorial.   These two things go hand and hand.

Thought Number Two:  Keeping Up With the Jones' While Simultaneously Keeping Them Off Your Lawn

Little Crabby Pants..Ruler of Her Sandbox
I would be disingenuous if I didn't confess that I am totally guilty of being territorial . Remember when you were a kid and forced to share with the other little kids.  I did but I expected them to treat my things very carefully.

I haven't progressed much.  I am fussy about our little patch of suburbia. There are a lot of examples of this but let's start with this.  We are "yard people".  Invariably, our lawn will look something akin to fake turf because we work hard to make it pretty. We don't keep our lawn lush because we are trying to prove something. We keep it lush because it looks nicer that way. Although having a nice  lawn isn't without some consequences.  In most cases, half the neighbors will admire it and half the neighbors will  want to murder you in your sleep.   With this in mind, I keep my doors locked at night.

For my part, I am willing to accept those that pray for fungus to attack my grass, but while praying for pestilence, I want them to keep their dog from using my yard as a toilet. Oh, and the multiple kitties that use my flower gardens as their litter box...I am not a big fan of that either.  (I am a big fan of dogs and cats...just want them to use the bathroom facilities somewhere other than my little slice of  suburbia.)

Suburban Moats...next big trend
AND if there is one thing that solidifies my need to protect my territory,  it's when someone blocks the end of my driveway or jumps the curb in front of my house with car tires. (whereby sprinkler heads die a quick and ugly death.) Yes, I recognize I am being petty.  I wouldn't be the first person to feel this way if you think about it.

Last summer, we had a very vivid example of a neighbor wanting us to respect the sovereignty of their yard.   One of our trees had been hanging over the fence.  I don't believe the tree was TRYING to be invasive or disrespectful of the airspace hovering over the fence but the "tree trimmer" that was hired to correct the problem, did so with gusto.

While this is a representation of the actual tree...It is very accurate.
It didn't go unnoticed.  The aforementioned liaison small-talker went out to have a chat with the tree trimmer guy. The talk didn't go as well as one might hope. Tree trimmer guy told hubby that if he was a GOOD neighbor he wouldn't of let the tree branches grow over to the other side of the fence.  This didn't make a favorable impression on Hubby.  The conversation deteriorated from there.

Robert Frost really knew a thing or two about neighborhoods.

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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Invisible Ties

Last week as I glanced at the Kansas City Star, I was met with the headlines:

Missouri Makes top 10 of most miserable states. 

 I was immediately inundated with questions popping into my head.I mean...really..It's a banner headline in a Missouri newspaper and they are touting it as a "top ten" achievement.  Are they under the impression that this is a GOOD thing?

 Anyway, as I was saying...I have questions.

1.  Was there a contest to enter so the states might  win the"Most Miserable" title and is there a prize?

2.  What qualifies a state to be deemed miserable? 

3. While it's true I live in Kansas, I am just 5 minutes away from the Missouri side of town...does this impact me in some way? Could the Missouri misery spill over to Kansas?

4.  Where did Kansas rate and did it lose points for sharing a town with Missouri?

Most of my regular readers know that I have moved multiple times in my life.  I think I am currently at 39 moves, give or take, .... but 21 moves for sure since my marriage 42 years ago.  So as you might conclude, I have lived in numerous states and have conflicting loyalties.  I have lived in several cities within Missouri and for the life of me,  I never remember feeling miserable.  OK..maybe a tad miserable with morning sickness when Kiddo #2 was born while living in Independence,  Missouri but I can hardly blame the state for that.  I would go so far as to say I have had very pleasant experiences in the state so...really?...how miserable can it be?

Upon further research I find that this" less than flattering" title is a result of a poll done by the Gallup Healthways organization called State of American Well Being. The word MISERABLE isn't exactly what the pollsters had in mind, when creating their study, I would guess.  However, every article I have read related to this poll does refer to M word.  If you would like to see the report in it's entirety you can click here.  There is a link on their website so you can download the full report...but here is the result of the study.

Some climbing and some sliding in a year's time.

After 178,072 people were surveyed  from every state in the Union..these are the winners and/or losers.
As it turned out Kansas came in 20th from the top for well-being....OR if you are a "half glass empty" sort of person we are 30th up from being the most miserable state of the Union.  West Virginia was the winner of that title.

Thought Number One:  Isn't Misery in the Eye of the Beholder?

I looked over the lists and see many of the states I have resided in such as Arkansas, Missouri, Texas, Arizona, Iowa, Nebraska, and Illinois and not one of them has ever taken the top prize for being the least miserable place to live.   In fact, four of them are ranked next to each other.  HMMM...maybe I am so used

Doesn't "MOST" mean they won the
greatest number of points in some catagories?

to being moderately miserable that I have become numb to it....but then when I lived in Iowa and Nebraska wouldn't I have felt the surge of being "less miserable"?  If, so it went unnoticed. 

It could be said if you factor things like longevity, health, workplace safety, job availability, economic climate, and such that "on paper" one state might appear better than the next but is that what a person would need to have a sense of  them well-being?  If we are talking about how stable and secure, or how happy and content a person feels about the place they live in...do any of the hard statistical facts really matter?

How can a study prove statistically why  people (like my husband and I) would leave Texas where it is warm and sunny to live in Kansas*...where it looks like this today...

*Note:  It has already been established at this point that I am not good at picking the "winner" states.

At this point ....you doubt my sanity don't you?

BECAUSE...part of what makes us feel a sense of well being is being near our daughter, son-in-law and grandsons. 

Thought Number Two:  The Ties that Bind

I am on most days very happy in Kansas but this isn't the place that all my ancestors before me made their mark.  I am a relative newcomer to this state so while I am content to live here, I also don't have a firm ties that would keep me from ever moving if my children or grandchildren moved out of the area. Conversely, I wouldn't badmouth the state as it provides me with a safe, decent place to live where I don't worry for my safety. It rankles me a bit when people make negative, stereotypical, comments about the Midwest.

As with most things there are both the good and the bad to every state, province or country a person would choose. 

BUT... back to my point that some people's love of "their" homeland isn't hinging on statistics of how many hospitals or parks are in a certain geographical area... some of the people I have met have such a deep unshakable bond to this state because this is where their family history lies. It is hard to quantify why people are attached to an area. 

Take for example my friend Christi. I have talked about her before to those of you that have been reading my blog for awhile.  She is the friend that died last September while waiting for an organ donor to give her some new lungs.  Christi loved Kansas like no other person I have met.  She loved this state with every ounce of her being. She grew up near the Flint Hills and found a beauty there that most people just can't see in the flat plains of the Midwest.

There is a certain beauty if one goes looking for it but it's easily overlooked in the plainness of the prairie. 

Flint Hills Photography :: James Nedresky photographer --link to website

Christi spent a lot of time in the Flint Hills.  Once she and her husband went hiking in the hills until after dark. They laid down in the tall grass and looked  up at the stars.  She referred to that night as "her starry, starry night"  It was there that  her ashes were scattered.

Christi would have been offended at being ranked 20th...although she might of laughed at the 43rd ranking of Missouri.

Monday, March 3, 2014

And the Oscar Goes To

As most of my more astute readers might have noticed, lately I have reduced my posts to one day a week.  This is  a half-assed effort on my part to try to find some balance between doing productive things versus  doing non-productive things.  ( non-productive things AKA watching TV and surfing the Internet)

The battle rages on.

Yesterday thanks to the abysmally low temperatures and the sleet/snow mix that found it's way to hold me hostage, I spent the day doing looking at various screens.   Really, the only way I could of accomplished LESS over the weekend would be to have been in a coma.   BUT...given the fact, hubby is working in San Antonio these days, I am trying my best not to need medical attention.  I am fairly sure an ambulance would look and my ice covered driveway and say "if someones going to die, better her than us trying to drive up there to save her."

My one reprieve for the weekend was watching the Oscars. 

Yes, despite the part of me that is conflicted between the shallow narcissistic side of Hollywood and the creative, artistic side of making good films, I invariably tune into the Academy Award show every year. 
This year I started early in the day watching the pre-red carpet preparations.  You just have to know when a person is desperate enough to watch people preparing a carpet for other people to walk on...that is a sign of complete disconnect. 

Still...I figured I would as in years past... I would digitally impose myself and Crabby Pants into the festivities.
Digitally traveling is just so much easier than actual travel.

So without delay...here are this years Oscar pictures.

Did you watch the Oscars this year?  Did you have favorite movies that won or didn't win? 

I will be back with my regular post tomorrow...unless I go into the aforementioned coma.