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Dear Friends:

I’ve always been fascinated by astrology. You probably could have guessed this, but I’m a Sagittarius. A textbook Sagittarius.

A boss I had in college ran my chart, and shared with me that I have Virgo rising. That explained so much: my touch of OCD, Type A personality, mad copyediting skilz, obsession with my calendar.

I recently started following Astro Poets on Twitter* – an account that makes me laugh regularly. Consider that the inspiration for the following list.

Signs of the Zodiac and my feelings about people born under them:

Aries (March 21-April 19)
This is probably the best match for me. Nothing I do scares/worries an Aries. Eddie, Brian, Hannah – all Aries.

Taurus (April 20-May 20)
Ruh roh, Raggy. Danger, Will Robinson. Males and females of this sign mystify me. I am routinely bothered by their stubbornness and tendency to be passive aggressive (except Petra who is the most straightforward person I know — must have a Sag rising). My dad was a Taurus. (Hey there, daddy issues!)

Gemini (May 21-June 20)
I don’t think I know any female Geminis (out yourself in the comments if I’m wrong), but I dig the dudes. I dated one in college, and we are still friends. (He is the one who reminded me about my Tommy Stinson experience.) Johnny Depp is a Gemini. I’m sure we would be “friends.” Gideon is a Gemini. We get along swimmingly.

Cancer (June 21-July 22)
Two of my closest friends – one from high school (Julia) and one from college (36-hour Tina) – are Cancers. Frequent partner in crime René is a Cancer. My mom was a Cancer. (Can you imagine? A Taurus and a Cancer trying to parent a Sagittarius? I was like a zoo exhibit to them.) One thing though: Don’t ever get on a Cancer’s bad side.

Leo (July 23-Aug. 22)
They can be arrogant (for good reason), but I always get along well with Leos.

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sept. 22)
The workaholic sign (right, Sophia and Patty-poo?). They love them some calendar invites. Thanks to my Virgo rising, I get it.

Libra (Sept. 23-Oct. 22)
We get along like gangbusters then … crickets. I’ve gotten sudden radio silence from both men and women. Then weeks, months, sometimes years later, we’re back on, and I’m still bewildered. Libra women are masters of the silent treatment.

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 21)
Scorpio is to me as catnip is to cats. Longest-term boyfriend? Scorpio. Adam Ant? Scorpio. Emma Stone (on whom I have a girl crush)? Scorpio. Like Libras, they can do silent treatment. Flurry of communication, then dead air.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 21)
Interestingly enough, the men of this sign can be troublesome for me because we may be too much alike. Dominic is a fellow Sag, and every day brings a new friction point. The women, though? Different story. Fast friendships that last forever. (Hey Khaki and Kim!)

Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 19)
I love male Capricorns. I dated a Capricorn, and we are still friends. They always have a fantastic sense of humor and like to push the envelope just as much as I do. No surprise that The Royce, my Savannah BFF, is a goat. Female Capricorns tend to hate me. I think I’m too much for them.

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 18)
Two close female friends are Aquarians. I bond with one over volleyball and the other over Duran Duran. An ex is an Aquarian, and he’s a great human. Very funny. All good.

Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20)
Another catnip sign. Pisces men are completely irresistible to me. My longest-running crush in grade/high school was a Pisces. Every one I’ve known has been an artist of some sort. They tend to be awful about consistent (read: normal) written communication (text, email, social media), which drives me crazy. My friend Edgar — a painter (the fine artist kind, not the house kind) — is a Pisces. This is what his phone looks like usually.

The women in my life who are this sign are fantastic, and I love them all. They are good electronic communicators.

As a Sag, I’m blunt by nature. I certainly don’t want to upset anyone. These obviously are generalities. And, of course, I don’t know the zodiac sign of many people I interact with every day.

So tell me your sign in the comments. We’ll either laugh knowingly or be surprised.

And if you are a male Pisces or a Scorpio, send photos privately so I can admire you from a distance.

Just kidding.

Maybe.

(Eh, I know your communication style, so I don’t have to worry.)

Yours in pseudoscience,
The Archer

*All images in this post attributed to that account.

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EPISODE 2*: All’s quiet on the aquatic front
Rated G for pooly goodness

EXT. APARTMENT COMPLEX POOL – LATE AFTERNOON

For a Sunday afternoon, the pool area is virtually uninhabited. There are about four adults scattered around.

ENTER FATHER and TWO KIDS. MOTHER shows up 10 minutes later after getting yet more school supplies.

MOTHER
Did you put sunscreen on the kids?

FATHER
Um … Dominic, yes. Gideon just jumped in.

MOTHER
Harumph. No Father-of-the-Year award for you.
(To her wet youngest) Gideon, come here!

GIDEON
Why?

MOTHER
Because I said so.
(Note that MOTHER never thought she would ever let that sentence pass her lips. She is smarter now. She knows it can’t be helped.)

After MOTHER lathers GIDEON in 50 SPF (waterproof), MOTHER and FATHER hang out poolside, drink adult beverages, and make sure their kids don’t harass others. THE KIDS simply harass each other.

FATHER and MOTHER discuss last night, which was not so peaceful.

FLASHBACK

It’s a pool party for Miles. The only people in the pool are the billion 11-13 year olds invited to the party. A handful of parents cluster around a cooler. (Any time there are that many teens and pre-teens, there needs to be a cooler.)

Suddenly, RAMBO appears. (OK, not Rambo for real, but the new complex security guard who clearly takes himself WAY TOO seriously. He was wearing camouflage. And a gear belt with a taser. And those police boots. Oh yes, he was all kitted out.)

MOTHER was smart enough to bring beverages in cans. The others drew RAMBO’s ire:

RAMBO
No glass on the deck.

ALL ANSWER
OK.

RAMBO patrols the pool/gym area. ASSEMBLED ADULTS remain quiet, watching him incredulously.

RAMBO exits. ADULTS drag him mercilessly.

END FLASHBACK

MOTHER
I’ve got to go.

FATHER
You’ve only been here 15 minutes.

MOTHER
Yeah, but I’m burning. Look (points to shoulder).

FATHER
Of course you are.

END SCENE

*The summer has flown by. I haven’t gone to the pool much. #sad

Dear Conference Presenters:

Congratulations on having a research paper or topic deemed worthy of presentation. You cleared the biggest hurdle!

The next hurdle is the actual presentation.

When you are preparing your remarks, keep in mind that the audience members are your peers. They come to your session because there is something about it that seems interesting. They may or may not know as much as you do about your subject.

You have a duty to prepare something interesting. Auntie Beth is here to help.

Here are some DOs and DON’Ts for presenting (really, any kind of public speaking):

  • DO tell a story to kick off the presentation. You can do this; humans are natural storytellers. For example, tell us how you got interested in your topic.
  • DO think of your presentation as a narrative with a clear beginning, middle and end.
  • DO have visual aids. DON’T write out all your text on the slides.
  • DO show how to use the technology if you are presenting on the benefits of an app. Every conference room has a projector. DON’T walk up and down the aisle waving your phone as a visual aid.
  • DO relax and turn on the charm. Think of it as a conversation, or at least a conversation starter.
  • DO pay attention to your audience. If they are napping, then your storytelling needs some work.
  • DON’T read your research paper, for the love of God. (I will leave your session so fast I’ll just be a blur.)
  • DON’T go over your allotted time. It’s just unprofessional and rude to your co-presenters.
  • DON’T fight with your audience. It’s OK to disagree with various points people make, but it’s not OK to get shouty.
  • DO let organizers know if it seems like the panel makeup is not as diverse as it should be. With all the focus on under-representation, you would think that all white male panels would be a thing of the past. You would be wrong. This guy gets it:

Remember to breathe and have fun. If you aren’t having fun, neither will the people who came to see you.

Go get ’em, Tiger!
Auntie Beth

Dear Fake News Media:

You don’t exist.

You are a figment of a certain someone‘s overactive imagination and marketing strategy to a willing audience.

You are an oxymoron. If something is fake (i.e., not real), it’s not news (news is real). News is not fake just because someone doesn’t like it.

You know what does exist? Actual news media made up of real people who work their butts off to inform the population and hold people in power accountable — the fourth estate that ensures a strong republic. (Oh that old thing … )

You know what is newsworthy? Here are the criteria:

Timeliness: happening now or just happened
Prominence: the person/entity involved is well known or powerful
Proximity: happening or happened nearby
Impact/consequence: affected or will affect readers/viewers
Novelty/rarity: out of the ordinary
Human interest: the lives of others are interesting

If it’s not out of the ordinary, it wouldn’t bear a mention. That’s just the way it is.

There’s a saying in news:

You don’t cover the planes that land.

You cover the wrecks.

Someone I know on Facebook (name withheld for protection) wrote:

MSM would be lost were it not for [Trump’s] tweets. They hang on every word, analyze them, and re-analyze them.

Um … yeah. He’s the president. What he says is news. Duh.

“Lost,” though? Not likely.

There’s plenty to cover without Trump tweeting.

It blows my mind how much we cover in one day.

That’s from Kristen Welker, White House correspondent for NBC News.

She said that last night in the AEJMC keynote panel, “Covering the White House: From Eisenhower to Trump,” held in Washington, D.C., and broadcast on C-SPAN.

(Yeah, I’m at a journalism education conference with other university professors/administrators — plus news organizations/foundations — and I’m still a journalist. Both of my professions are under fire. Lucky me!)

Those people who are suspicious of the mainstream media, though, should take solace in this fact shared in that same panel by Christi Parsons, former White House correspondent with the Tribune Company.

Because [Trump] is so personally antagonistic, journalists go above and beyond to double check.

The news media is not the “enemy of the people.” The news media consists of real people trying to do important work in a profession under siege by the person in the nation’s highest office.

Those who delight in calling the media “enemy” plus “fake,” think about this:

Do you really want to live in a country without independent media covering people making decisions with your tax money?

The true enemy of the people is the lack of critical thinking.

My advice to those worried about veracity and bias? Get your news from a variety of sources, as suggested by Herman and Chomsky way back in the ’80s.

My advice to the 43 percent in that poll? Please educate yourself about democracy and guy named Jefferson. Or don’t, but don’t answer polls. Skip the news, and just go watch Netflix and chill.

My advice to journalists? Keep on keeping on. Ask the tough questions. Submit the open records requests. Keep striving for objectivity.

We need you more than ever.

And tell me where I can donate so you can hire security.

Yours in solidarity,
Beth

Dear Fellow Thrashers**:

Y’all are the best. I joined the volleyball league to meet new people and have fun, and it’s working!

Last night was a little heartbreaking — good volleys but we couldn’t pull through in the clutch.

And right now I hear my other friends gasping in shock. Yes, believe it: I joined a volleyball league. (Waves hands in front of the faces of the passed out; shouts, “Give them some room!”)

Yeah, I know I’m not the sporty one in the family. I’m not particularly coordinated. I’m usually on the sidelines (unless flag football is involved, and then I’m a she devil [Right Chris and Linda?]).

But last night, two out of my three immediate family members came to watch me play. And I had the night of my life.

We still lost all three matches, but it was close, and I don’t care.

I turned as red as Will Ferrell as Lucifer.

I happily iced my arm.

Yes, that is an ice pack shaped like a cherry Life Saver. It fits perfectly on the painful spot on my wrist.

I wore the last bruise like a badge of honor.

Sexy, I know.

And I’m happy. So thanks. Love you all!

See you next week,
Beth

* Thank God for Thursdays

** AKA “Trashers” (We did not pick the name.)

Dear British TV Producers:

It’s like you know me — like you are developing stuff just for me. As I’ve mentioned before, there is nothing that makes me happier than an evening of British TV.

Last time I visited, I became addicted to “Naked Attraction.” That still is on the list, but I watched new shows too this time:

The Only Way is Essex
Kind of like an upmarket “Jersey Shore.” Nothing happens in any episode, though.

Love Island
Like the “Dating Game” got it on with “Big Brother.” Again, nothing seemed to happen except folks hated on Dr. Alex.

8 out of 10 Cats
Game show? Talk show? Hard to tell.

Would I Lie to You
To Tell the Truth” meets Jimmy Fallon’s “Two Truths and a Lie.” I’m a fan of David Mitchell (with his beard, of course), so that led to …

Peep Show
What an odd show. It’s a little like “The Office” with a dash of “Spaced.”

“Peep Show” Mitchell (aka Austin Powers) vs. Lying Mitchell. Am I wrong?

Mock the Week
The Daily Show” with “Real Time with Bill Maher.”

Friday Night Dinner
A sitcom where two adult sons come home each Friday for dinner with Mom and Dad. I wanted to murder the idiot sons.

Four in a Bed
Innkeepers visit and rate each others’ establishments to “win.” Insults and hard feelings ensue. Who brings a UV light to check the toilets before staying at a B&B?

Who is America?
Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest venture. As if I’m not embarrassed enough. How can I explain two sitting Republican congressmen, Dana Rohrabacher (California) and Joe Wilson (South Carolina), wanting to arm toddlers? I can’t. I’m going to tell people I’m Canadian.

And “Naked Attraction.” I just can’t get enough. Hannah* found me watching it while I was eating breakfast. What can I say? I like to start the day off right.

In fact, I’m a little jealous of host Anna Richardson’s job. In what other career path could you utter these memorable phrases?

You’ve seen everything they’ve got to give you. What’s your choice?

You have quite a pair of balls on you. That’s quite a pouch.

How do you feel? You’ve got six vaginas staring you in the face.

Not very many. That’s for sure.

Keep up the good work,
Beth

*Friend with whom I stayed on the trip. She and her husband Dave love to introduce me to new shows.

Dear British Signmakers:

I’ve enjoyed reading your work, but I have questions. Please clear up my confusion.

Zebra? That looks like a man to me. (BTW, it is supposed to be pronounced “zeeebrah,” people.)

Does that mean it is easy to get in? You’re inside like a smooth criminal? Is the opposite a lumpy or awkward entrance?

Why would you send me to use yet another toilet that is out of order? That’s what you mean by a “disabled toilet,” right? (Also, I know your establishment is called “Yo! Sushi,” but I think you needn’t be cute with the sign.)

Is it still a deal if you have to take a taxi back to your lodging? Or if you have to pay someone to hold your hair back? Oh wait … now I see the ampersand.

Who is eating fish in the bathroom? And what’s that other stuff? A can of spray paint? What happens in toilets in Oxford?

Do women in pubs really need all these face and hair potions? Wouldn’t it be good to have put some condoms in there too, as is offered in traditional vending machines? I would assume ‘girls on the go’ might want those. Equal rights and all.

You know I’m just kidding: I know what all these signs mean to convey. Just some light teasing from your odd American friend.

Love you!
Beth