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Just a note, while I post fairly regularly, nearly all of them are for Friends Only.  If you're interested just drop me a note and I'll add you so you have access.
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Week 1: Gruf - Firewood
Week 2: Uncle Kracker - Smile

-Peter Cook - Sitting on the Bench..... it was a stand-up act so I'm skipping for the next song.

Week 3: mcenroe & Birdapres - Nothing is Cool
Week 4: Kenny Chesney - She Gets That Way
Week 5: Rosanne Cash - Seven Year Ache

Reactions

Jul. 21st, 2012 01:33 pm
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It bothers me that so many people respond to disasters with outrage that is misdirected.  It often comes in the form of something easily blamed.  Naturally this posting is my reaction to the reactions of people in regards to the Aurora shooting.  Almost every article I've read about it, social networking feeds, has had people very angrily complaining about lack of gun control.  On the surface this bothers me because I don't believe in gun control.  I won't go into all the arguments against gun control, and I won't argue statistics either way here.  Another thing I've seen blamed is lack of mental health facilities.  I actually do believe that there is a lack of good mental health facilities and access to them.  So I guess I'm 50-50 on the reasons people want to cite/ blame for the shooting.  That doesn't help me be less annoyed.  At a time like this the worst thing people can do is look for a knee-jerk patsy.  It's not good, not in any way.

I suppose it's natural for people trying to deal with a tragedy to make sense of it.  For most of us that involves blaming someone or something.  It's there every day, even for the minute things.  It's in those minute things that we can see how it doesn't work.  "I got an F on that exam because my teacher's a prick."  Well, the fact that you didn't study at all and stayed up the night before doing jell-o shots probably didn't help you any either.  I'm guilty of trying to blame things too, even if they're not to blame.  In a lot of ways I see it as a way to not take personal responsibility.  It's easy to apply that reasoning to personal experiences; but surely no one who is making anonymous comments online is personally responsible for the Aurora shooting. 

There's a ridiculously low probability that there was someone helping out the fella who went on the rampage.  In that sense, commentators, online or otherwise, aren't personally to blame for any part of this incident.  Sociologically speaking, though, we're all a little to blame.  It seems esoteric and unsatisfactory (we can pass more gun control laws, but we can't change society over night).  I think that has a lot to do with these knee-jerk reactions though.  Ask most people how they feel about the state of the world today (or even the state of our country) and they won't be satisfied.  Some people cope by ignoring it.  Others cope by blogging about it or complaining to friends and co-workers.  Some people are far more deviant in their coping methods.  They pick up an AR-15, a couple Glocks and a shotgun and find a crowded movie theatre. 

Humans are social animals and there is no denying that the state of the world around us directly affects our personal psychology.  When we choose lack of awareness over meaningful personal exchanges we invite into our minds an apathetic world, an environment where no one really cares what goes on.  Deeply emotional and traumatic events are minimized into soundbites and slightly higher ratings for news programs.  Where once a community suffered a tragedy and people came together to mourn, we now hear about it through our Twitter feed and promptly politicize it.  We've opted to forgo the healthy grieving process in favor of sensationalism and playing the blame game on a massive scale.  That's upsetting to me.

My prayers go out to the victims of the tragedy in Aurora.
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Week 1: Regina Spektor - Hotel Song
Week 2: Soul Asylum - Runaway Train
Week 3: Break Bread - No Other MC
Week 4: Stereo - Somewhere in the Night (wow, that was my "first listen" to these guys on Last.fm)
Week 5: Crossfade - So Far Away
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Saw this movie last night with Sam.  It sounded vaguely interesting so we thought we'd give it a shot.  For the first couple of minutes or so (okay, maybe few minutes) I was scared it was going to suck.  It looked a bit Blair Witch-y in that it's shot as a documentary (it's not an actual documentary of course).  As the movie went on though it picked up momentum and actually became VERY entertaining and interesting.  It's slow goings for the first few minutes as they establish the sort of back story as to why these kids filming are filming, but it picks up steam and doesn't let up until the movie's over.

Anyway, as you might expect from the title, the movie is about a troll hunter.  The overall idea of the movie is that the Norwegian government is covering up the existence of trolls.  They've hired one guy to keep them within their territories and not harm people or livestock.  The way the movie is set up is that the kids (from a local college) are filming a documentary about animal poaching and come across this hunter who lets them film his work because he's not happy with his pay and benefits. 

The creature effects are AMAZING!  The trolls don't look ridiculous, in fact they look very accurate to historical accounts in art and folktales.  They're not over-the-top and in fact blend in very well with the environment (gorgeous Norwegian scenery). 

What I found most interesting were all the little tidbits of information they dropped throughout the film.  I'm very interested in mythology and I loved all the detail they put into making the movie.  More than that they purposefully omitted certain details from folklore, explaining that "fairytales are for kids" in an effort to make it more believable.  There are really trolls out there, they're just not exactly like the stories say.  I'm really glad that this movie came out of Norway because I feel like no other nationality could have done a movie about their mythology better (though I understand there are rumbles of a US remake *shudder*).  Besides that it lends more credence to the film.  Folklore passed on to us by the people who grew up with it.  That's one of the things that made this such a great movie for me personally. 

Besides that it's also pretty funny.  Though I've never heard of them, many actors in the film are comedians in Norway.  They don't come off as goofy or over-the-top in the film, but you can feel the humor.  All the jokes are delivered dead-pan and generally play into the overall storyline which is believably absurd.  I guess what I mean by that is that it's just realistic enough to be believable ("this COULD happen, but probably doesn't...") and that that adds to the humor.  I would highly recommend this movie to anyone.  There are subtitles, but it's well worth it.  Not that subtitles usually turn me off anyway, but if it's not something most folks care to expose themselves to (reading, with a movie!?) make an exception for this one.  Don't wait until they make an English version, it won't be able to compare.
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On Monday the family made a trip down to Pie Town to adopt a dog from Fur and Feather.  We picked up Dusty and brought her home; though we also left the door open to go back and adopt another dog, Swizzle, after Zia and Dusty got used to each other. 

Dusty got brought to the vet to get her rabies shot when we got home.  She got the shot, but the vet also discovered a cancerous mass.  It was sort of ironic.  Sam and CD had been looking at collars earlier in the day, before the appointment.  We all looked at a collar that looked cute, it was a breast cancer awareness collar, pink ribbons.  At the vet we found out that she had mammary cancer.  Particularly after Pepper (who also had cancer), what are the odds?  It was sort of hard to take.  It had been an emotional week for me already and it seemed sort of piled on.  It was also kind of hard to believe because Dusty seemed to be so perfectly fine, a little overweight maybe, but energetic and excited.  We called Fur and Feather to give them the news and ask what kind of arrangements they would like for Dusty's care, mostly because we knew they were attached to their dogs.  Predictably they suggested we take Dusty to the Ark of Socorro, the vet they used.  Surprisingly though, they offered to pick up the bill as well, which was amazing. 

It was at that same time that we decided it would be a good idea to adopt Swizzle as well.  We'd have three girls at home.  Laurie, the lady in charge of Fur and Feather, said that they would give us Swizzle with no adoption fees.  It was quite nice of her.  All we'd need to do in exchange was give some updates on how everyone was adjusting and how Dusty was recovering; something we planned to do anyway.  As far as the money thing goes though we're thinking about putting aside twenty dollars or so every month to donate to Fur and Feather, not just because of their allowances to us, but also because it's plain to see when you go there that they treat their animals very well.  The critters are happy.  The facilities are great.  It's a wonderful place, and of course no-kill.

On Friday Sam, CD, and myself made another trip down to Socorro for Dusty's vet appointment.  While we were there we enjoyed a great little local restaurant, El Matador, and did some shopping at an ACE Hardware and local gift shop, Sundance, while waiting for Dusty's operation to go through.  We didn't bring Zia with us, figuring it'd be too hot.  Laurie said she was running some errands in town and so was able to drop Swizzle off at the vet where they held her for us along with the paperwork.  We picked her up along with Dusty when she was ready for pick-up, which was actually about an hour or so sooner than was expected.  Other than the heat, particularly on the way back, the trip went fairly smoothly.  Of course I didn't have a Swizzle in my lap the whole way home like Sam did.

Right now there's a bit of adjusting going on at home.  Zia is getting used to having two more members of the family.  Dusty is so comfortable here already, she just has her physical recovery to worry about, though it seems to be going smoothly so far into the second day back.  Swizzle is a bit on the anxious side, and I think it'll take her a little while to adjust.  She is gets skittish sometimes around sudden movements by us tall people and is very curious about all the city noises.  From what we understand she grew up in the country, so she cocks her ears at every passing vehicle and enjoys just sitting on the back porch watching the road.  Right now we're keeping her on a run (20 foot chord) while she's in the back yard until she gets used to things.  She's a bit too curious about her surroundings still and we don't want to risk her jumping the wall; but at the same time we don't want to restrict her to being walked around the yard on the leash.  At the rate she's adjusting though (she's way better today, and yesterday, compared to when we first came home) I don't think we'll require the lead for very long.

All in all the last week has been particularly draining.  I feel like I get close to critters pretty quickly.  It was hard on me to learn about Dusty's cancer scare, though now I'm pretty optimistic about her recovery since there only seemed to be one mass and the vets are optimistic as well.  It certainly doesn't help that it's still fairly soon after Pepper's passing, I'm pretty sure that her cancer run-in (which was much worse than Dusty's) didn't help her later conditions.  I know that this household is so much more accepting, but I also think that some of my anxiety (not the extreme kind) with Swizzle too is based on when I was a kid.  My family had adopted a dog called Molly.  We kids got attached quickly, but after a while our step-dad, Tony, brought her back to the shelter because she was too energetic and destructive (she gnawed the trimming on the house).  Nowadays I know more how bad that can be for a dog, since the more they get returned to a shelter the more likely they are to be labeled "un-adoptable."  Even without knowing that then though I felt awful to return the pup to "dog jail" after giving her a taste of home.  With Swizzle being fairly antsy I think my feelings might be going back to that time.  Of course this household is a lot more patient and adjustable to the needs of our critters than the household I grew up in.  Besides that, even in the unlikely case that Swizzle has to go back, Fur and Feather is a wonderful place for critters and no-kill, so it wouldn't be the same as bringing Molly back to the local animal shelter or pound.

Generally I'm optimistic and happy with the last week.  The long trips south were certainly worth it, and I have little doubt that things will work out fine with our new family make-up.
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Week 1: Museum - Eden
Week 2: Edgewater - Inhale
Week 3: Nick & Simon - Sterren van de Hemel
Week 4: Ice Cube - It Was a Good Day
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So lately we've been watching another BBC program on Netflix.  It's called Rosemary and Thyme and is about two women, Rosemary and Ms. Thyme, who solve murder mysteries.  Rosemary is a botanist and Thyme is a retired constable.  After Thyme separates from her philandering husband she partners with Rosemary who is soon sacked from a university position to do contract gardening and consulting work.  While designing and working on the gardens of usually wealthy clients there is inevitably a grisly murder committed which the two of them proceed to summarily solve.

Sam and I saw the description of this show a while back and thought it might be interesting to watch, so we filed it away in our memories.  Not too long ago CD asked to see it because she had watched some episodes while house-sitting for a friend and wanted to see more.  It was clear enough that we were all interested in checking it out, so we did.  I have to admit I wasn't that open to it at first because that day I was getting a bit sleepy and a murder mystery seemed a little dense and hard to stay awake too (I probably should have gone to sleep).  Despite a sort of rocky personal start though I've gotten really attached and involved with the subsequent episodes we've watched.  I think we're about three episodes in out of the six available.

I get involved trying to figure out who's done it.  It's hard for other shows to get me mentally involved beyond acknowledging what's on the screen; but this show does a great job of giving my brain some things to mull over instead of just glazing over.  The characters make it really easy to get involved as well.  Rosemary is straight-forward interesting.  She has a lot of information to put out there as well as being the one who usually puts the logical spin on things.  There's also this wonderful spin on her character though; she is knowledgeable and confident, but when confronted with "accidentally" overhearing something she is deliciously awkward.  Her reactions near slapstick quality.  Thyme on the other hand is more intuitive.  She doesn't mind gossiping and taking in anything and everything people say as possible truth.  She has a son who works for Scotland Yard and occasionally asks him to "check out" possible suspects as well.  Where Rosemary is matter-of-fact, Thyme is a bit more scattered but usually a little closer to the truth.  The two characters play off of each other very well.

I've grown a bit attached to the classic Murder, She Wrote television show and enjoy it a lot.  It's one of the few murder mystery shows I actually enjoy.  Having said that, I can say honestly that Rosemary and Thyme has a similar charm and wit.  It's a shame Netflix only has six episodes to offer.
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Shapes In The Clouds:

Loss of Enchantment, Return To Wonder

by Jesse Wolf Hardin
www.AnimaCenter.org

“I cannot believe it, I was seeing shapes in the clouds just now!,” my dear friend Daniel breathlessly exclaimed.  He had a rare tear in his eye, admitting to me “It has been so very long, since I have seen shapes in the clouds…”


...

To a young child, the world and everything in it almost invariably appears as alive, meaningful and story filled, a matrix of shifting patterns that are constantly revealing new compositions and juxtapositions, songs and designs, whisperings in tree boughs and soft white dragons floating across bright blue skies.  It is only through the programming of disenchanting, conformist public schools and appearance and money focused television that a youngster slowly ripped away from this essential view of reality as wonderfully mysterious, magical and miraculous, conscious and communicative.  A toddler can often be seen staring intently at a flower-licking butterfly, awestruck at a flash of lightning, or tripping-out on something as commonplace as the intersecting circles created by raindrops falling on a puddle in the yard, or fascinated by the intricate weave of their clothes as seen really, really close up.  What a terrible tragedy, when a child gets to a stage of acting like a common acculturated adult, no longer trusting that there is real magic outside of a movie’s special effects, unable to believe in their own capacities to be heroes and heras, wizards or healers participating in a most-purposeful destiny.  How sad to see someone who is running to get out of the rain, oblivious to the puddle’s patterns, unmindful of the shapes and faces formed by the dense clouds overhead.   How do we know when a society, a culture, is impoverished, un-moored, lost to its highest purpose?  When under any conditions, we can go through the years of our life without being captivated by the creations that wind and cloud do make.

What is it, that can stand in the way of our view, of the enchanted view of life unfolding?  What preoccupations and distractions, what prejudices and fears, what habits?  A hurried lifestyle, maybe, no time to look anywhere but directly ahead.  Being self conscious about our engagement and amazement, worried about being seen gazing for long minutes at the sunlit veins in a fallen leaf.  Feeling unworthy of leisure and undeserving of beauty.  Being a “hardened man” or a “career woman”.  Abuse that may have shut us down in this and other ways. Residing mainly in our heads, and thus simply missing, missing, and missing things again.  Or perhaps a soul stifling job or disingenuous or unhealthy marriage, that drapes a heavy wet blanket over every light and spark.

Sometimes it is several of the above, and so it was for the 30-plus year old Daniel, ally of and number-one aide to the Anima Sanctuary.  First, an emotional shutting down as a child, that he is only now overcoming.  Then, the distractions of partying as a teen, the necessity of a job, the responsibilities of becoming a father, and the oppressiveness of a relationship with the mother of that child that for whatever reasons seemed to suck the very air and spirit out of him, draining his creative batteries, sending him ever further into the refuge of silence and withdrawal and his own solitary thoughts.  Only now, hurting from negotiations over child custody but relieved of his relationship, is he finding the world wholly fascinating again.  It is this possibility of lifelong excitement and awe, this insistent joy, that he hopes to ensure in his daughter.

“Will you look at that,” he says, pointing at the clouds over our canyon, a huge smile back on his face… and I gladly turn to see.

……………..

(Forward and RePost Freely)

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Recently I've heard about a couple new developments in the fast food world.  Pizza Hut has come out with a pizza that has hot dogs in the crust.  Burger King is now offering a Bacon Sundae.  I heard of them separately and mostly by word of mouth, but here's an article that talks about it a bit.  Quite a while ago now Wendy's came out with the Baconator.  I was working when this thing came out, at Wendy's, and no one, not even people who had been there for years, could believe that a fast food place would put out something THAT unhealthy.  It has beef, bacon, cheese, ketchup and mayonnaise.  That's it.  We were floored.  It would seem that was only a sign of worse things to come.

It makes me wonder about who is eating these types of food.  The Baconator was actually quite popular when it came out, and probably still is.  Then, of course, these places wouldn't put out this type of food if there wasn't a demand for it.  Most young people I talk to (admittedly in the University area) talk about how they are eating healthier, exercising more, and I'm inclined to believe them most of the time.  From what I can tell, at least college youths are making a point of living healthy lifestyles physically.  Knee-jerk reaction is to think that it must be older people indulging in these things, but I go to greasy spoon restaurants too, and I think that even if folks just have one place they indulge at that can still be enough to encourage those types of places and foods to pop up.  I've been making a point to eat healthier, even when eating out; but I still like going to Griff's here in Albuquerque, and they have really delicious (greasy and unhealthy) burgers.  I figure it's not so bad because most every other place I eat healthier.  But if everyone has their one unhealthy place it's still giving business and encouragement to the hot dog crust and bacon sundae people.

I think in another way it's unhealthy for us as a people to encourage food like that because it's so comically unhealthy.  We all have our vices, and I'm not saying get rid of unhealthy food (people should be responsible enough on their own).  What I'm thinking about here is how we (this country) are viewed by the world.  There are those who would say that we shouldn't worry about what the world thinks, but it's important in an international affairs sort of way.  I don't know about others, but I personally don't like the idea of the Ugly American.  I think most of that is because a lot of it seems to be true.  We are already seen as fat slobs, do we really have to up the ante by advertising to the world that we've just created a BACON SUNDAE available on a mass scale to the public?  It's similar to the Dick Cheney shooting his friend in the face thing; it was so comically over the top it turned Cheney into joke (or at least cemented that position) for how "evil" he is.  Few average Joes could listen to a speech given by Cheney today without imagining him blasting some poor bastard in the face with some bird shot.  Do we need that to happen to the image of the American people?

Maybe I'm going a bit over the top myself here, it is just fast food after all, it ain't supposed to be healthy.  I guess I just don't like the idea of being seen as a backward, fat, ignorant country, person even.  I enjoy reading articles from international news outlets for the sake of balance.  When I come across commentary, opinion pages, on-the-street interviews, even entertainment, I find more and more that the rest of the world sees us as a joke.  50% of Americans don't believe in evolution so we're a stupid people.  So many of us are Bible thumping bigots (though that admittedly is purely a stereotype, I think those types of folks are actually in the minority over here).  We eat Big Macs for breakfast, Whoppers for lunch, and a Double Down for dinner.  For those of you who don't know what that is, look it up if you think your arteries can take it. 

Besides that we seem to be uncommonly ignorant of the rest of the world.  From talking to people (even college students) it seems folks are limited to knowing only who the President of the United States is, and maybe the governor of their state.  Few know who the congressmen or senators are.  Few know who the Supreme Court Judges are.  Fewer still know who the leaders of other countries are.  I think a part of this is the fault of mainstream media not being willing to cover international stories as much.  Most international publications I visit have quite extensive coverage of American goings on.  Der Spiegel even covered the Republican Primaries!  Other countries are lucky if we cover their main elections, even if they are close allies or active enemies.  Of course in the end it comes down to people choosing to be ignorant.  If CNN doesn't mention it it's not important.  Few think to check other sources from other countries to compare reporting of facts.  I feel pretty disorganized with my ramblings but it helps me get my thoughts straight.
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As the elections creep up on us more and more I find myself seeing and hearing a lot more political impressions.  I find that one idea still has not changed even given the events of the last ten to twelve years.  People are still willing to vote for the lesser of two evils.  One person put it as the "lesser of two fascists."  These people are stupid.  I'm not one to get too wound up about things that aren't personal, but this pisses me off. 

A bit of context... I'm not an American citizen, and I can't vote.  I was born in Germany to two German parents (Holger and Gudrun) and moved to the United States after my mom divorced and then re-married to an American Soldier (Antonio).  I was between second and third grade when this happened.  Since then I've lived in America, in Kansas, Arizona, Tennessee, and now New Mexico.  I've been here long enough people tell me I have a Midwestern accent, I get funny looks when I explain I have a green card.  I have thought about where to live, country-wise.  I have a lot of family in Germany, and folks have expressed that they'd be willing to give me a place to stay until I adjust.  Of course as I've gotten older I've thought about other countries to move to with systems I believe in more.  In the end though I've chosen to stay in America.  I don't like how things are going here, politically, economically, militarily, etc. but I strongly believe in what this country stands for, or at least used to.  This was a country built on live and let live law.  The Bill of Rights enumerates and guarantees these rights.  Today, theoretically, the people still have a voice to change what they don't like.  That is why I choose to stay.  Eventually I plan to become a US citizen, because I feel like I can make a difference with a vote, be it cast at the ballot box or at the grocery store in the form of my hard-earned cash.  The downside to this plan is that it costs a hell of a lot of money to become a citizen and I just don't have that cash lying around yet.

Having said all that, I can't understand why people are still willing to put others into office that they don't believe in, and in some cases know will mess the country up even worse.  I don't like the idea of a basic theocracy forming due to the clowns on the Right.  I don't like the idea of a nanny/surveillance state being set up by the Left.  Because I don't like these ideas, it logically follows that I wouldn't vote for them.  These two premises ring true to most people that I've encountered (online and offline) and yet they don't draw the same conclusion.  This isn't the conclusion to all vote for the same third party candidate mind you, just a conclusion to NOT vote for the people we don't support. 

In my mind it's a matter of winning.  I hear over and over and over about how voting for a third party candidate is a waste of a vote.  I am currently resisting the urge to write a long string of expletives here.  "A third party candidate could never win so why bother voting for them, you might as well at least vote for someone who could actually win."  ....resisting the urge....  Who gives a rat's ass if the candidate you voted for wins if they still fuck up the country?  Congratulations, your "winning" vote helped constrict civil liberties.  Congratulations, your "winning" vote has helped America fall further into debt.  Congratulations, your "winning" vote has contributed to the deaths of hundreds of American soldiers in a war no one wanted.  Aren't you PROUD of yourself?  The man (or woman) you voted for won the election, and you were a part of it.  This is why I get so pissed off when people complain about what's going on in the government, not just at the presidential level.  Most of the time THEY are the ones who voted them in.  There is no sympathy for the person who aided this situation.  I'll stand for the moaning and groaning if it comes from someone who actually had the cojones to vote for someone they believed in instead of helping to aid this mess. 

Then the argument of how no third party candidate could ever win.  There are a number of reasons for this.  One, most third parties, inexplicably, refuse to put up candidates for offices lower than presidency.  Sometimes it takes a low level grass roots effort to get people used to your stances.  It wouldn't hurt the Libertarians/ Green Party/ Constitutionalists/ etc. to try and get some folks in as town councilmen/ women, mayors, state government representatives, etc.  This is a much better way to spread your message, through action.  Then there's the numbers game, probably the biggest reason.  People are dumb.  You know why third party candidates don't win?  Because even though you like what they have to say you still vote for the idiot you keep complaining about.  It's logical to assert that if everyone who supported the ideas of a third party candidate actually voted for them, that candidate could very realistically win!  The other day I heard a classmate say they would vote for a third party candidate if they polled high enough.  This person has researched a particular candidate and is in love with his stances.  He still won't vote for him if he's not popular enough though.  People wonder why these amazing third party candidates can't gain traction; well, it's because of morons like these folks who find them, support them, and then don't vote for them.  So many Americans are slaves to the bandwagon effect, except they're not even the types of slaves in chains or at gunpoint, they're the type stuck in front of the TV who don't WANT to go out and explore the world.

If I could vote it would be for Gary Johnson.  I feel like his views reflect those of the majority of modern Americans.  They certainly reflect mine.  He is socially liberal.  The government has no place in our bedroom.  To this affect, he is in favor of legalizing marijuana, he is in favor of gay marriage, he is in favor of women's rights (including abortion and contraception), he is in favor of making the naturalization process easier for immigrants.  He is fiscally conservative.  He has a plan for a 2013 balanced budget.  43% budget cuts across the board.  This would close down unnecessary military bases across the globe, this would end our involvement in many foreign matters (he is in favor of an alliance with Israel).  This would close the IRS, the Department of Education (Education would become state-run instead of federally), and he would do away with so many of the "security" agencies created by the Patriot Act.  Federal funding would slim down (which is not sexy to a lot of people) which means less government hand-outs, but our government would no longer be owned by China.  We wouldn't turn into the New World Greece.  I understand that these things cannot (and should not) be done by one man and that this "Utopia" would not occur because these things have to be voted on by Congress; but I would feel a Hell of a lot better knowing that the fella I voted for is at least genuinely trying to move forward ideals I actually believe in.  But I guess that's just stupid, after all, he probably won't win anyway.
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As the elections creep up on us more and more I find myself seeing and hearing a lot more political impressions.  I find that one idea still has not changed even given the events of the last ten to twelve years.  People are still willing to vote for the lesser of two evils.  One person put it as the "lesser of two fascists."  These people are stupid.  I'm not one to get too wound up about things that aren't personal, but this pisses me off. 

A bit of context... I'm not an American citizen, and I can't vote.  I was born in Germany to two German parents (Holger and Gudrun) and moved to the United States after my mom divorced and then re-married to an American Soldier (Antonio).  I was between second and third grade when this happened.  Since then I've lived in America, in Kansas, Arizona, Tennessee, and now New Mexico.  I've been here long enough people tell me I have a Midwestern accent, I get funny looks when I explain I have a green card.  I have thought about where to live, country-wise.  I have a lot of family in Germany, and folks have expressed that they'd be willing to give me a place to stay until I adjust.  Of course as I've gotten older I've thought about other countries to move to with systems I believe in more.  In the end though I've chosen to stay in America.  I don't like how things are going here, politically, economically, militarily, etc. but I strongly believe in what this country stands for, or at least used to.  This was a country built on live and let live law.  The Bill of Rights enumerates and guarantees these rights.  Today, theoretically, the people still have a voice to change what they don't like.  That is why I choose to stay.  Eventually I plan to become a US citizen, because I feel like I can make a difference with a vote, be it cast at the ballot box or at the grocery store in the form of my hard-earned cash.  The downside to this plan is that it costs a hell of a lot of money to become a citizen and I just don't have that cash lying around yet.

Having said all that, I can't understand why people are still willing to put others into office that they don't believe in, and in some cases know will mess the country up even worse.  I don't like the idea of a basic theocracy forming due to the clowns on the Right.  I don't like the idea of a nanny/surveillance state being set up by the Left.  Because I don't like these ideas, it logically follows that I wouldn't vote for them.  These two premises ring true to most people that I've encountered (online and offline) and yet they don't draw the same conclusion.  This isn't the conclusion to all vote for the same third party candidate mind you, just a conclusion to NOT vote for the people we don't support. 

In my mind it's a matter of winning.  I hear over and over and over about how voting for a third party candidate is a waste of a vote.  I am currently resisting the urge to write a long string of expletives here.  "A third party candidate could never win so why bother voting for them, you might as well at least vote for someone who could actually win."  ....resisting the urge....  Who gives a rat's ass if the candidate you voted for wins if they still fuck up the country?  Congratulations, your "winning" vote helped constrict civil liberties.  Congratulations, your "winning" vote has helped America fall further into debt.  Congratulations, your "winning" vote has contributed to the deaths of hundreds of American soldiers in a war no one wanted.  Aren't you PROUD of yourself?  The man (or woman) you voted for won the election, and you were a part of it.  This is why I get so pissed off when people complain about what's going on in the government, not just at the presidential level.  Most of the time THEY are the ones who voted them in.  There is no sympathy for the person who aided this situation.  I'll stand for the moaning and groaning if it comes from someone who actually had the cojones to vote for someone they believed in instead of helping to aid this mess. 

Then the argument of how no third party candidate could ever win.  There are a number of reasons for this.  One, most third parties, inexplicably, refuse to put up candidates for offices lower than presidency.  Sometimes it takes a low level grass roots effort to get people used to your stances.  It wouldn't hurt the Libertarians/ Green Party/ Constitutionalists/ etc. to try and get some folks in as town councilmen/ women, mayors, state government representatives, etc.  This is a much better way to spread your message, through action.  Then there's the numbers game, probably the biggest reason.  People are dumb.  You know why third party candidates don't win?  Because even though you like what they have to say you still vote for the idiot you keep complaining about.  It's logical to assert that if everyone who supported the ideas of a third party candidate actually voted for them, that candidate could very realistically win!  The other day I heard a classmate say they would vote for a third party candidate if they polled high enough.  This person has researched a particular candidate and is in love with his stances.  He still won't vote for him if he's not popular enough though.  People wonder why these amazing third party candidates can't gain traction; well, it's because of morons like these folks who find them, support them, and then don't vote for them.  So many Americans are slaves to the bandwagon effect, except they're not even the types of slaves in chains or at gunpoint, they're the type stuck in front of the TV who don't WANT to go out and explore the world.

If I could vote it would be for Gary Johnson.  I feel like his views reflect those of the majority of modern Americans.  They certainly reflect mine.  He is socially liberal.  The government has no place in our bedroom.  To this affect, he is in favor of legalizing marijuana, he is in favor of gay marriage, he is in favor of women's rights (including abortion and contraception), he is in favor of making the naturalization process easier for immigrants.  He is fiscally conservative.  He has a plan for a 2013 balanced budget.  43% budget cuts across the board.  This would close down unnecessary military bases across the globe, this would end our involvement in many foreign matters (he is in favor of an alliance with Israel).  This would close the IRS, the Department of Education (Education would become state-run instead of federally), and he would do away with so many of the "security" agencies created by the Patriot Act.  Federal funding would slim down (which is not sexy to a lot of people) which means less government hand-outs, but our government would no longer be owned by China.  We wouldn't turn into the New World Greece.  I understand that these things cannot (and should not) be done by one man and that this "Utopia" would not occur because these things have to be voted on by Congress; but I would feel a Hell of a lot better knowing that the fella I voted for is at least genuinely trying to move forward ideals I actually believe in.  But I guess that's just stupid, after all, he probably won't win anyway.
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I just finished up reading a political blog (http://hackwithablog.blogspot.com/) that I enjoy and it got me thinking a bit about my own beliefs with politics here in the States.  One of the first things that comes to mind is part of a lyric from a political song Sam likes.  It goes something like "elephants and asses controlling the masses."  The reason that comes to mind is because I think the two-party system is one of the most crippling things about politics in the US.  People think they have no other choice and so they vote for the "lesser of two evils."  I've heard people use those specific words more than once for several different elections over the years.  Some people don't even vote at all because of this system.  Worse than that, there's a trench that's been dug that third party candidates can't get out of, and that trench is the idea that you're throwing away your vote if you give it to them.  Despite most folks I know being tired of the way things are being run now, they're still going to vote for a Republican or a Democrat because otherwise they feel like their vote doesn't count.  I can't vote (I'm not a citizen), so I'll relay something that happened to Sam (hope she doesn't mind).  While at a very Liberal church politics came up.  This was during the 2008 Presidential Election.  When asked if she was voting for Obama, Sam said no.  Immediately the person she was talking to made an outraged face and complained: "how could you vote for McCain!?" Sam wasn't voting for McCain.  She said she was actually voting for a third party candidate (whom this other person had never heard of) and was promptly asked, "why would you throw away your vote like that?" 

That is why the two-party system is so dangerous.  It's perpetuated itself.  As this upcoming election takes shape I'm finding that none of the Republican candidates really have anything to offer.  Having said that, I wouldn't vote for Obama either.  I would put the vote toward a Libertarian candidate, Gary Johnson (http://www.garyjohnson2012.com/)  He was originally running as a Republican but was edged out of the debates and not supported by his party when he asked for their help.  Seems to me that had he had support from the Republican party he probably would have stood a better chance of winning than he does now having moved over.  That's not because his beliefs have changed, they haven't, but people would have recognized the main party line. 

Of course there are those who might say that it shouldn't matter to me, I can't vote anyway.  I do plan on becoming an American citizen (which is expensive as hell by the way), and when I do I'll sure as heck be informed about who I give my vote to.

School

Jan. 2nd, 2012 01:00 pm
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This Spring term I have my last mandated split term between CNM and UNM if everything works out alright.  I'm turning 23 on the 23rd of January and that's the age cut-off at UNM for being out on my own.  Before now I haven't been able to get Resident tuition because they base it off of age (23) and whether or not my parents live in-state.  My parents live in Tennessee.  Of course to afford the schooling I had to get Financial Aid as a full-time student.  The problem there was that even with that Financial Aid I wouldn't have been able to afford all of those credits at UNM.  I get Resident tuition as long as I only take part-time classes, beyond that they charge me the Out-of-State rate.  So, in order to get both full Financial Aid and the amount of classes needed for that, while not paying Out-of-State rates at UNM I have been filling out the paper work every term for a Consortium Agreement. 

Basically what that does is allow me to split my Full-Time status between two schools, in this case UNM and CNM.  I can take classes at CNM which count toward my credits at UNM so that I can get my Financial Aid through UNM.  The only catch was that the classes at CNM had to directly transfer to UNM under the degree I was studying.  For that reason I ended up adding a Science endorsement to my UNM program.  Basically for the Math endorsement I just needed math classes anymore.  Since they stack, prerequisite-wise, there was no way I could fill out the credits I would have needed at CNM.  Just to note, though, I could have taken whatever classes I felt like at UNM, even if they weren't toward my degree.  That's what I'm doing partially this term.  I filled up with all the classes I needed but still needed some credits at UNM, so this term I'm also taking an Intro to Special Ed. course.  It's not needed for my degree, but I figure it's supplemental instead of just fully an elective.

It goes without saying that that whole process has been a real pain in the behind.  With the Consortium I have to go and tell my Advisor at the College of Education what classes I'm taking so she can check if they transfer from CNM and to get her signature.  Then I have to go to CNM to get them to fill out the Financial Aid information.  Then I have to go back to UNM to turn it in at their Financial Aid office.  It's not so hard after the first couple of terms, but it's still a run-around.  Besides that I really thing that it's a messed up system where they don't consider you and adult until you've theoretically graduated.  According to their model, if a student enrolls at UNM right out of high school they should have attained their degree by the time they're 23.  Then it doesn't matter anymore if they are finally considered Residents if their parents live out of state.  It strikes me in particular because I've been considered a Resident at CNM for the last four years.  All it took was for me to show them bank statements or a lease contract which served as proof of me actually living here in New Mexico (Albuquerque) for at least one year.  Here I am, just passed the five year anniversary of living here and I'm just now finally being recognized as a Resident by UNM (or at least as of January 23, 2012).  I think that shows a pretty big chink in the education system when it gets harder and more expensive to attend a state school for ridiculous reasons.  After all, it is Resident and Out-of-State tuition, not "are you still reliant on your parents" tuition, or "Adult/ Not Adult" tuition.  If I've lived in a place long enough, I should qualify.  But anyway…..

Later on this term (probably around February) I'll ask the UNM people if there's any paper work for me to fill out so that I can get Resident tuition starting next Fall.  In the mean time, I'm taking quite a bit of Science classes again.  I'm taking the lab to go with the Geology class I took at UNM last term.  I'm also taking the Chemistry and Physics labs at CNM to go with the lecture classes I took for those courses last term.  The reason I didn't couple the classes with the labs was because of credit limits.  If I had taken the labs at UNM they would have pushed me into Out-of-State tuition.  CNM doesn't offer the Geology lab, and the Chemistry and Physics labs filled up right away.  So I'm finishing up the Sciences from last term, but also adding a Science (with lab) this term at CNM.  I keep forgetting the actual name, but I think it's something along the lines of Microbiology and Cellular Biology, or something similar, a Biology in any case.  Along with those Science classes and the Special Education class I'll also be repeating Precalculus, at UNM this time.  There is no reason for me to not get an 'A' in that darn class.

I'm feeling pretty excited about some of my classes this term.  Even though they're mostly Science again, I feel like I should do really well in most of them since they are labs for lectures I've passed.  I got an 'A' in Geology so there's no reason I shouldn't get one in the lab for it.  It's even taught by my lecture instructor from last term.  I did surprisingly well in Chemistry ('B') so I think I'll do pretty good in the lab as well.  I could have done better in Physics ('C') but I figure I know the material better than I would have last term, and I'm taking the lab with a really fun and informative Physics instructor (Mary Odom).  It's my only Thursday class too, so I'll be able to have a good time with it without stressing about what's next.  The only Science that's new for me this term is the Biology class.  Since it's a bit more advanced than Bio 1 I'm a little nervous, but I'm hoping that with putting in more study that it'll make a difference.  I also have the same lab and lecture instructor, so hopefully that will help.  Precalculus should not be so difficult this time.  First time I bombed it because I was on a depressive spin-out.  Second time I missed some interfaces online for tests and quizzes, so I got a 'D' even though I got a 'B' on the Final.  Third time I took it with the most avoided instructor at CNM.  Though I went in figuring that I knew what I was talking about, her tests never seemed to match up with the homework or bookwork.  This time, however, I will get that 'A.'  Otherwise I have an online Intro to Special Education course.  So far I've done really well with Education courses, I've received an 'A' in all of them.  I'm optimistic about this one, and I think it'll be really interesting.

Aside from the regular academic aspect of the upcoming term, Sam is also going back to school.  Her classes are basically online (though some may require her to come in from time to time) but she is planning on coming in to school with me and Byron every now and again to study and be able to spend some time with me.  On those days where it's convenient we've talked about her coming in and studying while I'm in class and then us going out for lunch.  That's something I'm really looking forward to.  In a lot of ways it'll be neat to have my life with Sam more integrated with my school life.  It's been a bit of a wedge since the two have been so separated, not in small part due to me.  All in all it should be a really good, fun, and interesting term though.

Food

Oct. 3rd, 2011 11:54 am
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So it's definitely Fall, and almost Winter actually.  Of course that means it's Harvest Time.  This year was the first year that CD and I actually got around to planting a garden.  It took some drastic measures (like planting) and a decent amount of (over-)digging.  We set up a snaking trench leading from the east portion of our yard to the west.  We're on a slight slope.  Then we planted along that trench.  While this Harvest Season is certainly not the first we're seeing of our crops it is a time when it seems we've gotten some more great dishes to come out of the garden.  A lot of the vegetables we've picked so far have ended up in stews and soups, as they've been a bit hodge-podgey with when they've been ready.  We've had the occasional huge zucchini and some yellow crook-neck squash and way too much okra (who knew it'd do so well here?).  We've been kind of hit and miss with the corn as far as picking it.  A difficult aspect of having a garden is realizing it's not the same as a grocery store.  If we don't feel like corn today but want some next week, those ears we've been eyeing will likely be too dry for much cooking (I think we're going to have a lot of cornmeal this year though). 

Along those lines though we've kept a closer eye on the egg plant and the cantaloupe.  The little seeds we planted for the melons ended up taking over quite a bit of our garden.  It looks like all of those vines might be coming from just two plants too.  The entire central portion of our garden is overtaken by cantaloupe vines, which are producing quite a bit of melons too.  Byron brought up how some folks hollow out the melons slightly from a small-ish hole in the top and then fill it with vodka.  They reseal it and let it sit for a while.  Sounds kind of yummy so maybe we'll give that a go. 

Meanwhile Sam made a delicious dish with the first eggplant we harvested along with a rather large zucchini we've had sitting in the kitchen for a while.  She stuffed some chicken breast with the zucchini (which she had marinate a bit in a sauce she came up with) and then used the zucchini to make a lasagna to go along with it.  It was amazing.  There was a bit too much zucchini for the dinner so we ended up saving it in a container (I've had a few zucchini omelets since then) but otherwise it went pretty quick, even for how many portions Sam had to make so we didn't waste the eggplant.

In a lot of ways it's pretty exciting being able to cook the occasional meal with mostly fresh out of the garden ingredients.  It certainly makes me feel good about the work I've put into it.  It also makes me feel like I'm doing something worthwhile.  An issue that I've had with being academically inclined is that there isn't really anything I can touch and say "I made that" or "I did that."  It's not the same as having a more trades type job where you can readily see, feel, touch the work that you've done.  With the garden I can pick up a cantaloupe and say "I helped this grow."  I think back on the weed clearing, the digging, the planting and all of that stuff and then get to see these edibles come up out of that work.  That probably helps make the meals taste just a little bit better too.
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School has been something that's kicking my behind a bit this term.  It's basically all math and science courses.  At UNM I'm taking Geology and Pysics.  At CNM I'm taking Precalculus (again...) and Chemistry.  I'm also doing that last OSHA course I need for my certification at CNM.  That one's sort of a weird story just because I couldn't get into the first section in the Spring.  I took parts 2 and 3 last Spring and am taking part 1 this term (the class ends next week).  That'll get me my 10-hour certification and the cert. for the whole term worth of classes.  Considering the way that the instructor for that course runs her online classes it's been a breeze.  Basically she told us to Google all the answers to online worksheets that she's given us.  It amounts to looking up the codes for the regulations in a book, just somehow seems lazier. 

As far as difficulty Physics and Precalculus are at the top.  With Precalc. it's just the teacher really.  She's an awful teacher.  No doubt she knows what she's talking about, she's just inept at conveying her knowledge.  Just because you're good at something doesn't mean you know how to teach it to others.  A lot of my success in that class so far has been from retained material.  Physics is difficult because it asks for so much formula manipulation.  Each section so far has given us several equivalent expressions relating to different aspects of electricity.  We end up putting formulas into formulas into formulas and it's all a bit dizzying.  The concepts I understand decently, the problems are more difficult. 

I think so far Geology is the most interesting class of the term though.  I'm still out on how to think of the teacher (who seems childish at times and informative at others) but the material itself is what is proving to hold my attention pretty well.  A good deal of it so far has been reminder from what I learned in middle school and then elaborations on the ideas involved with them.  Anyone remember the difference between igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary rocks?  I didn't until this class.  Besides that it's kind of neat to give a bit more understanding to all of these things we see around us every day.  Living here in Albuquerque (and New Mexico in general) there are a lot of rock formations and such which draw quite a bit of attention.  Different kinds of rocks and formations are usually just appreciated in a visual asthetic (nothing wrong with that) but it's cool to know a bit of background about how and why.  Did you know that nearly every red rock is that way due to iron content?  Seems sort of obvious thinking about it after the fact but I never thought about it before the fact.

Putting things into an academic perspective I do need to make more of a point to study the classes I'm having difficulty in.  Today I'm going to spend a decent amount of time doing Chemistry.  Though it's an online course the exams are in-person at the CNM Testing Center.  I have an exam I need to do for that class tomorrow so I thought I'd make sure I'm up to snuff.  I've done really well with the in class tests and the discussions so far, but still.  With Physics and Geology it's a bit harder to motivate myself to study because all of the homework for those is online, and done at home.  I'll spend an hour or so doing homework for each class (a total of two hours, though not usually back to back) and after that I don't much feel like studying anymore.  To at least a small degree doing homework is a form of studying but it's not quite the same as doing practice problems or just reviewing concept information.  It's particularly easy to want to put off with Precalculus because the teacher doesn't mention what's on the exams coming up.  A good portion of the term grade is calculated from every day quizzes which reflect what we went over in the previous class.  Doesn't mean that doing the homework (not for a grade) wouldn't help a hell of a lot.

I look at these things from such a "grade" point of view instead of the experience as a whole.  In high school and earlier that was the goal anyway.  I've never been very social, even in an environment I feel comfortable in.  Unfortunately that still carries a bit today.  For me the big personal aspects of going to school are the trips between classes.  Walking across Central (66) to and from CNM and UNM, crossing campuses and just taking in the environment.  It also gives me time to think when I bother to apply myself.  In a kind of way I feel more confident going from class to class.  Like this college thing is what I'm supposed to be doing.  Of course considering the life I've chosen for myself and the people who rely on me it's important not to make that a priority over family.  I'm lucky enough that I'm generally good at studies and so don't have to give it my absolute attention just to pass.  It's a luxury and I'm thankful I have it.  It serves as a great reminder that I have even less reason not to spread it around. 

Window

Aug. 10th, 2011 08:26 am
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It was a cool desert night.  The day had been scorching hot and the temperature shift was more than welcome.  As he was sitting there on his porch a light Breeze swept across him like a thin sheet.  Closing his eyes he took in the moment, weighing the polarity in place between the daytime and nighttime.  When he opened his eyes again he gazed at the Moon above, veiled thinly by a saran wrap layer of clouds.  It was enough to muffle the sheen but not the Moon herself.  She seemed like a Window, opening and closing slowly as the month rolled by.  This night he was going to peer into that Window.

The man went around to the other side of his house to find his ladder.  After clearing some overgrown weeds he was able to set it up.  It didn't seem like it would be high enough until he had climbed to its limit.  As he came to the final step another materialized before him.  With each step a new one came before him.  The Wind greeted him warmly with a cool blanket sweeping gently yet persistently across his body as he climbed.  It was difficult to tell whether the determination was his own or whether it had come in the form of his new path.  Step by step he got closer to his goal, the bright Window at the top of his stairs.  She beckoned him with a bright glow in the wake of paper thin clouds. 

Finally he met his goal and found a spot to sit at the sill.  Peering through the Moon he could see that which he could not before.  A series of roads converged and came apart again while the Wind which had buffeted him earlier came to a halt.  Suddenly a figure appeared in the middle of the crossroads, his loose clothing blew though there was no wind.  The Window grew brighter than she had been before and then dimmed suddenly.  Another figure appeared in the crossroads, this one with bright white hair.  The two mysterious figures embraced, then turned to the man who climbed the ladder.  They beckoned him to join them on their path.  He just watched, not understanding what the figures wished of him.  The man leaned against the side of the Window closing his eyes to think.  Suddenly he felt the Wind kick up again and he lost his balance.  When he opened his eyes he was back on his porch, and his ladder was overgrown with weeds.

Garden 2011

Aug. 3rd, 2011 01:21 pm
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I haven't really talked a lot here about the garden that me and CD have been working on.  It's actually been coming along very nicely.  Of all the things we planted the Okra, Squash, Corn, Radishes, and Lettuce have certainly come out the best.  We also had a few volunteer Sunflowers which are doing great.  By volunteer I mean that we didn't plant them there, they just sort of grew.  It's been a great mix because it seems like the Sunflowers are distracting the birds from the other stuff we have growing.  With the exception of some Squash Bugs we haven't even had an issue with pests which is really really nice.  It has certainly been a long time coming to get this garden moving.  We talked about having one pretty much right after I moved to Albuquerque four and a half years ago.  We started to slowly get one set up at the older house (we moved a year and three months ago) but barely got the area prepared before we had to move.  Not a seed was planted after three years.  Here at the current residence we rushed things a bit, or rather, I rushed things a bit.  Planning always took up more time than anything else.  As soon as we would have an idea of what we were going to do CD would want to change it, thusly we never planted anything at the old house.  Once we had a plan here I rushed into getting our ditch dug and the area cleared so we could plant right away.  Initially CD wanted to wait until late June to plant so the final frost would be gone and so forth.  I wanted originally to plant in March, but compromised on May before she wanted to extend the planting period.  Finally in May we put seed in the ground and it has sprung up.  I'll add some pictures near the end of the post.

Over the last few days, while things have been wanting to swirl a bit with my own self, I have managed to find some peace and calm with the garden.  It started with a couple of nights of being on the back porch and watching it, occasionally walking through.  During the day I would go out and just look at the plants.  So many of the crops hide underneath overgrowth.  We had one Zucchini which managed to grow bigger than the store bought kind without us even knowing it was there.   The last couple of days or so Sam has been willing to sit out there with me and tour our little garden.  She's also helped a lot with taking some pictures of it.  I guess that she sees a lot of the calming sort of effect that it has, she seems to be more than happy to encourage me spending time out there.

Starting yesterday I've made more of an effort to pull weeds.  In the beginning I was more than hesitant because I didn't know what any of the plants looked like.  Since they hadn't sprung up yet I didn't want to accidentally pull up something we planted mistaking it for a weed.  Now that most everything that's going to grow has come up quite noticeably it's easier.  Since it's monsoon season as well it's easier to pick the more annoying weeds: Goat Heads.  We've always had a problem with Goat Heads at our house.  They seemed to come up out of the ground the second we got the deal to lease because when we came to look at it no one came away with a single Goat Head stuck to their shoe.  We've cleared out a lot of what was here, but there are still enough to be annoying.  Well yesterday and today I was outside pulling up the ones which have taken root with the rains.  There are still a lot out there, but I've put in at least twenty minutes each day so far.  Since I'm waking up earlier in preparation for school I figure it won't be hard to go outside while it's still cool first thing in the morning and devote daily time to ridding us of the Goat Head scourge.  Or at least making it a little more enjoyable to walk around the yard.  

All in all I'm really happy with the garden.  It has helped me with grounding and coming to appreciate some of the smaller things.  I know that I put work into this to make it happen and that I've had to learn a lot for it to work.  More than that I've also had to work together with CD for it to be cohesive.  Of course it's also wonderful to have a past time as simple as watching Corn and Sunflowers sway in the wind to help actually relax me.

Pictures... )
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Watched this film on Netflix with Sam the other night.  It is a French film (which means subtitles) called “Prete-moi ta main.”  On Netflix it’s listed as “I Do: How to get Married and Stay Single” though when the movie starts they translate the title as “Faux Wedding.”  I don’t actually know what the French is translated literally, but I’m going with “Faux Wedding.”  The basic story is about a man (Luis) who is 43 and single.  He likes it this way.  However, his family of nearly all women wants to get him married off.  The reason given seems to be that they are sick of doing all of his chores for him.  After several horrible dates he schemes to have a faux wedding.  He wants to hire a woman to act like his fiancée and then leave him at the altar.  The idea is that he will then be so horribly depressed that his family won’t mention marriage to him again.  He finds a woman named Emmanuelle who is the kid sister of a co-worker (Luis makes perfume).  As is often the case in romantic comedies there inevitably develops at least a surface-level interest.

I think this movie worked really well to kind of show how family sometimes is counter-productive when it comes to personal fulfillment.  On the other side of the coin though it can serve to give us that push we need to further ourselves, even if it’s in spite of their specific ideas.  It also goes on to examine how people aren’t always what they seem.  Age, occupation, even lifestyle don’t always give you a full picture of what’s going on.  Through this movie I think we get to see quite a change in Luis as well as a few different spotlights cast on Emma showing her as more than just a young love interest.  There’s also a comfortable little side story about Luis’ career which occasionally works itself into the main plot.  In so many ways I really don’t feel like I’m doing a good job describing the various themes of the movie but it certainly stuck out as something more than “just another romantic comedy.”

I could appreciate Luis having the pressure to try and please his family.  I more than cringed at a particular part when he was “made” to choose between his family and his love interest.  It’s not easy to get passed something like that.  Finding ways to show and appreciate your own personal ticks and habits and your own life while also finding room for this other person is something this movie is great about showing off.  So many mistakes are made which make this one a little more realistic too.  It’s not one of those films where by the last fifteen minutes every character has magically healed his or her flaws.  I liked that aspect of it. 

Another thing which is a bit more of a run-of-the-mill idea actually is this idea that there are loves we can’t get over yet don’t want to confess or get beyond.  So many forms of entertainment have touched on this idea but this one stuck out to me.  I won’t lie that since it was a bit of an out of the ordinary film for me it probably had some effect; but the themes were still the same.  Getting over an old girlfriend, admitting to yourself that you like someone who is nothing like her, fighting not only yourself but others as well (including the girl) is something that adds a lot of layers if people are willing to think about it a little instead of just watching it and hoping it’s handed to you. 

As hodge podge as this “review” is I would recommend it to anyone to at least give a glance.  I gave it 5/5 stars myself.

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I recently read a book by Hans Baumann called Lion Gate and Labyrinth: The World of Troy, Crete, and Mycenae.  I read the English translation which was published in 1967, the original was published in German in 1966.  The book largely covers the archaeological expeditions which uncovered the cities in the title of the book.  While a lot of facts (and some nice pictures) are given to outline the events which led up to these discoveries the narrative is actually pretty romantic.  While talking about Heinrich Schliemann and Arthur Evans there are often asides going into colorful detail about what they experienced and even felt while on the dig and in their homes at night thinking about their treks.  These facts and narratives are occasionally broken up by Greek myths which pertain to the areas being excavated.  A bit of the Iliad is given, as well as the story of Theseus and the Minotaur and Daedalus and Icarus.  Overall it's an interesting look at some of the modern stories being built around ancient myths.

One of the biggest things that stuck out to me while I was reading the book was some of the history which was given.  Of course around any history is a bit of speculation.  My favorite example of this is when Baumann talks about a different version of the Fall of Troy.  A group of people's called the Achaeans came from the north, the Danube region.  These people would eventually coexist with a group of native peoples in modern day Greece to become the ancient Greeks so many people are fascinated by today.  Well these Achaeans came with domesticated horses, and with these horses came their god of horses and earthquakes Poseidon.  When these peoples came to the Mediterranean Sea it was their first encounter with an ocean.  From the locals they learned about salt water fishing and boat making.  Soon the Achaeans became better boat makers than the locals and took to the sea in hopes of conquering new and unknown places.  These boats were their horses on the sea.  It was in this way that Poseidon came to hold dominion over the oceans.  As the story goes, it was Poseidon who built the walls of Troy expecting payment from King Laomedon.    The King didn't pay Poseidon who could do nothing to collect because he had been building the walls as punishment in the first place, brought down upon him by Zeus.  Well generations later the Greeks would come to Troy to reclaim their beauty Helen.  While this transpired Poseidon saw his opportunity to indirectly get revenge on these people.  He arrived in the form of a giant horse, just as the Greeks were about to give up.  He then broke a hole in the walls he himself had built.  The Greeks flooded in and in the end sacked the mighty city.  This is of course in opposition to the traditional story told about Odysseus and the wooden horse which infiltrated the stronghold in the guise of a gift.  Baumann speculates that Homer elaborated on the story which I just told in order to appease those modern audiences who wanted to hear about Greek heroes and not gods getting revenge. 

In this forty year old book I found wonderful stories and speculations like the one above.  It was those aspects that made this such an interesting read.  It was fascinating to learn about the lives of two (and more) of the foremost classical archaeologists but the major draw was what they found and what it meant.  It was these finds which theoretically prove that if the events of Greek mythology didn't transpire as written, many (if not most) of the places and people involved in those stories really did exist.  Burial sites containing treasures and written records along with geographic evidence show that there was indeed a city called Troy, and that at various points in time actually, it was razed to the ground.  There were palaces on the island of Crete and even a palace at Knossos with a floor plan which echoes the designs of a labyrinth.  Double-headed axes and bulls (in the form of statues, paintings, pottery, etc.) are scattered through all of Crete.  With things like this to take as evidence, the truth behind the myths has been at least partially uncovered. 

There have been more discoveries made since 1966 of course.  Some ideas have changed, some have stayed the same.  Something that I have found though is that if nothing else the ideas presented in this book can be fresh and new to those who have only heard about, been taught, and read the commonly accepted theories surrounding these classical races.  I would suggest anyone interested in Ancient Greece give this book a read.  My wife found this one in a surplus store, but libraries might have them, and there's always looking them up online.

Having had more of a technical look at it above, I'd like to say some more personal things about it.  People venerate "great" civilizations like this one.  Looking at what this book helps present it's easy to see how history repeats.  The Greeks venerated the Achaeans as their ancestors the way we do with the Greeks today.  Going back far enough we see a lot of the same patterns emerging.  I think it's important to keep an open mind and not have such a concrete view of things, especially things which can never be verified (short of time travel).  I was a part of the Junior Classical League for three years (and competed nationally) and some ideas this book brought forth were new to me.  Admittedly there's only so much that can be covered in a high school Latin class, but even in mainstream (and adult geared) media and thought it is hard to come across anything other than the same ideas that have been espoused since the Golden Age.  More often than not things are not set in stone and they change constantly, even if they happened hundreds or thousands of years ago.  Don't take what a textbook or professor says as gospel.

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December 2012

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