Monday, May 18, 2020

Banana Bella: Keep It Together Contest WINNER!!!!!!

I know I promised we'd announce a winner for our Banana Bella: Keep It Together contest on the 16th, but I forgot. To my credit, I did remember in the middle of the night, and had brief anxiety, before I fell back asleep. I finally counseled with the Master of Ceremonies this afternoon, and we are pleased to share with you that we have found a winner. 

Before I announce the winner, I'd like to take a minute to drag it out like they do on reality shows. Thank you for all of your entries. It was fun to see what you did, and it helped make the last few months more enjoyable. This has been a really weird time for all of us, and I hope you're making it out all right.

As for the logistics of our final draw, for every entry you submitted, I wrote an abbreviated version of your name on a piece of paper. I folded each paper in half, smeared them all with peanut butter, set them on the floor, and gave Banana Bella the thrill of her lifetime by allowing her to pick the winner. 

This is the first paper she nabbed, and she almost swallowed it. I had to dig it out of her mouth. She did not want to let it go. Poor Banana Bella. I compensated her after with a bigger, better treat. No animals were harmed in the making of this win.

And the winner is...

..."K" stands for...

KAYLA C!!!!!!!!!!!

Congratulations, Kayla, for finally defeating Larry in a contest. He put up a very strong showing, but unfortunately not strong enough for Banana Bella. You earned this win. 

Thanks again to all of you. I hope we won't bring this particular Banana Bella contest back in the future. The next one will be under pleasant circumstances. Until then, keep it together. 

Friday, May 1, 2020

Banana Bella: Keep It Together END DATE

Hello, All! Happy Labor Day to the world, except America. Once a year, I read about why America celebrates Labor Day in September instead of May, and then I forget what I read. It's kind of like a fun annual tradition.

The past two weeks have been busy for us, and I frankly needed a blog break. I used the time to gauge your interest in continuing the Banana Bella contest, and the masses have spoken, by not speaking. Y'all are over it. Let's end this sucker.

I promised I'd give you good, long notice before we pulled a winner, so you can continue to send entries until May 15th at 11:59pm PST. After that, you'll just be doing them for the fun of it, which is not terrible, but not as exciting.

There won't be any new contessignments. You are welcome to complete any you may have missed, and as an extra incentive for you to be a socially-conscious human being, I'll let you repeat NUMBER 5, NUMBER 11, and NUMBER 16, as many times as you want between now and May 15th, for an extra entry each time.

If I feel ambitious between now and then, I may come back here and write a few regular posts. Yeah, right. At any rate, you'll find me here on May 16th, announcing our Banana Bella Keep It Together Contest Winner. Beat of luck, Babies. Keep it together until then.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Banana Bella: Keep It Together #20

**Sorry, doll, this contest is over. Feel free to do the work, but you won't get a prize.**

Hello. Friday, again. I've had a lot of home work the past two days, because Phil had a lot of work work. This afternoon is the first sustained break I've had, and I'm using it to sit in the balcony sun again.

Prior to the world going viral, we'd planned a trip to Greece this week to celebrate Greek Easter and two birthdays. That didn't happen, though I really appreciate Mother Nature bringing Athenian weather to us.

In light of the Greek holiday, and the trip that was, your Banana Bella contessignment is to choose a way to celebrate Greek Easter this weekend. You might dye red eggs (which, traditionally, you should have done yesterday). You might make the braided tsoureki bread (which you also should have done yesterday, if you wanted to be culturally accurate). Or you might want to spend a little time reading about our experience with Greek Easter. Two years ago, I made a nice reference guide to those blog posts HERE.

However you decide to celebrate, celebrate. We've all had a long haul of it, and we deserve to have a little fun and lightness. Let me know what you do, and have an excellent weekend. I'm going back to my sunshine.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Banana Bella: Keep It Together #19

**Sorry, doll, this contest is over. Feel free to do the work, but you won't get a prize.**

Happy Songkran!

Songkran is a festival celebrating Thai New Year. Traditionally, this is when Thailand, and many other Southeast Asia countries, would reset the calendar. Now, they've adopted 1st of January as the official start, but kept the traditional celebrations in place. April 13th is fixed in most parts of Thailand as the annual start date of Songkran. Other places still go by the solar calendar to determine the date. Thailand fixed their start date in part because Songkran has become a huge source of tourist revenue for the country. The traditional custom of sprinkling water on others as a blessing for the new year has turned into a massive water fight, with buckets, SuperSoakers, and hoses. It's...awesome.

Your Banana Bella contessignment today is to celebrate Songkran, in one or more of the following ways:

1) Wear a gaudy, brightly-colored button-up, short-sleeved shirt. I'm talking about a Hawaiian shirt. Pineapples or hibiscus prints will get you a bonus entry. Lots and lots of people wear shirts like these during the festival, and not just tourists. Though, if you are a tourist in Thailand in one of these shirts on Songkran, you're going to get soaked.

2) "Sprinkle" some water on someone. The rules are that they can't be very old, very young, or obviously carrying a cell phone. If they are wearing a floral shirt, they are fair game. If they are wearing a fancy suit, they may also be fair game.

3) Order take out from your local Thai place, and give them a big tip. Splurge on the mango sticky rice.

4) Give a small donation to the Prattanadee Foundation, HERE. Making merit is traditional during Songkran, and this particular organization helps provide vocational and life skills training to women and girls in Thailand.

Let me know what you've done to celebrate! Sawadee pee mai thai! Happy Thai New Year!

Friday, April 10, 2020

Banana Bella: Keep It Together #18

**Sorry, doll, this contest is over. Feel free to do the work, but you won't get a prize.**

Today is Good Friday. Does it feel like a good Friday? Good Friday, in the Christian tradition, is marked as the day on which Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem. You remember from our live blogging of Easter in Greece a few years ago that the Orthodox Christian faith is on a different liturgical calendar. For Orthodox Christians, Good Friday will take place next week.

It's understandable to view Good Friday, and the events occuring on it, as a real bummer. Crucifiction is an awful way to kill someone, and it was a particularly unearned punishment in Jesus' case. Yet, Christians view Jesus' crucifixion as a gift that ultimately allows mankind to be reconciled to God. It is that gift, called Atonement, and Jesus' subsequent resurrection from the dead, that Christians celebrate during the Easter season. 

So, why should you care? I'm glad you asked. First of all, you should care because religion shapes the way people make decisions, both on an individual basis, and in global politics. Learning about different religions gives insight into historic and current events. For example, did you know that the Jewish festival, Passover, began this week? Do you know what that's all about? Do you know how Passover fit into history, and how it's observed today? Did you know that Ramadan will be observed worldwide by Muslims beginning in two weeks? Are you impressed by me? Are you planning to give me a standing ovation the next time you see me? Are you even still reading at this point?

A brief, floral interlude, because I have taken a lot of spring photos. 

Second, you should care because the name of today's religious observance relates to your final Banana Bella contessignment for this week. Good Friday is a good Friday when you view it as a celebration of a gift that attempted to (and Christians would say succeeded in) putting goodness and hope into a world where it's sometimes hard to see goodness and hope. All three of the Banana Bellas from this week are supposed to give you an opportunity to do something nice for others. Today's assignment is particularly explicit. I want you to give something that will help make this a good Friday. Your gift can take many forms. If you want to donate money to a person or organization, that's great. If you want to send another note to someone who needs it, that's also great. If you're not in a position to spend money, I did a real quick Google search, and found some non-monetary ways to give:

7Cups Volunteer Listener: HERE
Crisis Text Line Volunteer: HERE
Bookshare Volunteer: HERE
Learn To Be Volunteer Tutor: HERE
Red Cross Digital Ambassador: HERE

I can't vouch for any of these organizations. I haven't researched them thoroughly. The point is that there are many ways you can make this a good Friday. Don't feel limited by my suggestions. Go do something good, and let me know you've done it by sending me a message that says "It was a good Friday."

Wishing you a joyful weekend, whether you're celebrating Easter, or decidedly not. We'll see you next week.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Banana Bella: Keep It Together #17

**Sorry, doll, this contest is over. Feel free to do the work, but you won't get a prize.**

How much illegal social research do you think "smart assistants" conduct? I'd be running all kinds of studies, out of pure interest. Today, my assistant is studying the effects of mishearing every single command, and responding calmly when the command is eventually yelled with needle-like enunciation because nothing else is working. Mark it on the calendar. Today is the day my device became sentient.

To celebrate that achievement, as well as to continue our Banana Bella contest, I'd like you to please take a pretty spring picture, and share it; preferably outdoors, without violating stay at home orders, or societal expectations for decent behavior. If you can't take an outside photo, take an inside photo. If you can't take a photo at all, draw a picture. I don't care. Just find or make something spring timey, and share it with someone(s). Let me know what you've done (and show me, too)!

Here's mine:

From our walk this morning.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Banana Bella: Keep It Together #16

**Sorry, doll, this contest is over. Feel free to do the work, but you won't get a prize.**

Welcome back to our live  coverage of...just kidding, it's only me with another Banana Bella contessignment. How was your weekend? Are you making it all right? I haven't yelled once today, so we're doing pretty well. The Kid had his first conference call with his entire class. He called it his "meeting," because he's been paying attention to Phil's telework. The school was reluctant to try it, because the mere thought of a dozen preschoolers on a video call is like having a migraine. It turned out to be really great. The kids were pleased to see each other, and it was cute.

Each kid had a chance to show off the crafts they've been working on during the "meeting." There were a lot of parents standing by providing interpretations of the works. "Yes, this is So-and-So's paper tulip. They enjoyed making it."

Can I take a minute to wax poetic about the many options for long-distance communication? I can't hear your response, so I'm doing it anyway. I've thought a lot about the subject since we joined the diplomatic corps seven years ago. It really sucks to be away from family and friends. It would be hard to describe how awful it is if not for the fact that we're all in the same boat now. I can't imagine doing this without email, instant messaging, internet calling, and video chats. And I'm so glad we don't have to do it without them.

In a webinar last week, the psychiatrist assigned to the embassies in this region talked about how to cope with chronic stress. The thing he kept hammering over and over was that we need to reach out to other people. So, your contessignment today is to send an ecard to someone.

There are many ecard sites you can use. I'll give you two options below, but I don't care what you use. Send a card, then tell me who the recipient is. You don't have to go into details, you can just say, "A family member," or "A friend," or "None of your f*cking business" (only don't censor your profanity, I think it's funny).

Reach out to somebody, because you can, and because the psych said we'll all lose it if we don't (paraphrased).

Blue Mountain ecards: HERE
Someecards: HERE

Banana Bella's taking every other day off, so you have more time to get this done (but just do it really quick right now, you procrastinator). We'll talk to you on Wednesday.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Banana Bella: Keep It Together #15

**Sorry, doll, this contest is over. Feel free to do the work, but you won't get a prize.**

It's Friday! Have a word search, and a lovely weekend.

We'll be back next week, every other day. Banana Bella doesn't want to burn out. If you're just catching up, feel free to send contessignments as you complete them. I'll give you ample warning before we pull a winner.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Banana Bella: Keep It Together #14

**Sorry, doll, this contest is over. Feel free to do the work, but you won't get a prize.**

Now it's time for Bella's secret message for you members of the secret circle. Remember, only members of Bella's secret circle can decode Bella's secret message. Bella is depending on you. Here is the message:

Word 1: HERE at 0:18
Word 2: HERE at 2:34
Word 3: HERE at 2:15
Word 4: HERE at 3:07
Word 5: HERE at kind of between 1:02 and1:03
Word 6: HERE at 2:34

Remember, don't tell anyone. Except me. Tell me, so I can give you credit.

p.s. The links mostly won't take you to the correct time, because the jams deserve to be heard in their entirety. If you want to skip to the secret word, that's on you.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Banana Bella: Keep It Together #13

**Sorry, doll, this contest is over. Feel free to do the work, but you won't get a prize.**