Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving, Part I

We'll see if I can pull this off.... It will require some cooperative guests who are willing to play along...

Friday, November 21, 2014

The News

I was talking with a friend yesterday who is understandably down about the state of the world.  I realized that I have slowly crept away from the news, and I'm a little happier that way.  I used to listen to NPR, read the paper, and listen to a few political podcasts, and I don't do that so much anymore.  But when I dip my toe back into that water, I find that the news is pretty much the same.  The details change a little tiny bit, but not much.  Here's the latest news, as I understand it.  Let me know if anything changes.

  1.  Every few days there's a school shooting.  A disturbed, lonely, angry, disenfranchised and/or mentally ill man shoots innocent people.  This sparks a mini discussion about gun control, but the gun people always win, not budging on their stance that every whack job should have access to a gun or we aren't truly free.  Freedom has come to mean having the chance to be shot dead in math class.
  2. Funding continues to be cut for mental health and family support services that could, in theory, prevent some humans from becoming distrubed, lonely, angry, disenfranchised and mentally ill.  
  3. Israel and Palestine are engaged in a horrific, violent war.  Every so often there's a pause (that's where the news is), but the ceasefires don't last.  There is deep mistrust on both sides.
  4. Every few days, a man with power is accused of raping young women with less power.  These athletes, comedians, cultural icons, priests, and politicians tend to be protected by the system at large, and rarely go to jail.  Women aren't surprised by this news.  Men wonder why women don't do more to stop these crimes in the moment, or report them later.  Women know why.  
  5. Congress is fighting like immature children and can't get anything done, mostly because a few small-minded extremists won't compromise on anything for the good of the whole, which is what government should be about.  The reasonable electeds who are willing to negotiate aren't met with the same courtesy, and thus, are labeled as weak. 
  6. Gender equality has stalled, in part because the 40-hour work week makes it difficult for families with children to have two parents working full time.  In most families, it makes more sense for the man to work because duh, on average, he makes 25% more than she does, perpetuating stale gender roles.  Corporations have done little to respond to the needs of families with children by offering flexibility; it still is framed as an issue affecting women, who are told to LEAN IN.   Caring for our young, the most important function of a species, is the some of the most underpaid and undervalued work around.
  7. Growing food, another essential life-sustaining function, is also among the lowest paid jobs in this country, and is frequently conducted by people who don't have basic rights of citizenship.
  8. Climate change is happening due to man-made carbon emissions.  Gases are accumulating, causing heat to become trapped, and the average temperature of the earth is increasing. This is leading to all manor of chaos, including melting glaciers, extreme storms, and drought.  White guys who would lose money if we slowed down our carbon emissions argue about whether this is actually happening, ignoring the data.  Individuals can do little to stop this.  We change our lightbulbs, buy fuel efficient cars, and recycle what we can, but without major government regulation, our efforts are insignificant.
  9. Young unarmed black men get shot by police routinely for minor infractions.
  10. It's become acceptable that profit is the only metric by which business success is judged.  Worker health, safety, satisfaction, and security, environmental concerns, and community health aren't part of the equation.
  11. Several thousand people have died in Africa from Ebola.  One person has died in the US from Ebola.  
  12. There are violent conflicts over land, resources, religion, and power throughout the world.
  13. Millions of people get up every day, are good to their families and friends, love their children almost more than they can bear, and strive to be decent and kind in their dealings with one another.
  14. Oh, and this.  A giant rock was unearthed at a construction site the other day.  
  15. People continue to search for the words, "Canned Ham", and land on my blog by way of that search term every day.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Bucket list

The to do list creates slavery
I've been thinking about bucket lists -- wondering if I should have one, and considering the wavery line that exists between to do and bucket lists.  I met someone last spring who, when the topic came up, said, "Oh, I don't have a bucket list.  If I want to do something, I just do it."  I won't go into how annoying that was, because I'm trying to be positive.  Yes I am! [But really, who says that?  It's like saying, "Yeah, I never have problems -- when something arises, I just address it!"]

The taxonomy is obvious in some cases.  "Tidy the kitchen counter"  -- definitely to do list.  But what about, "clean out the freezer that has weird layer of frozen crumbs and goo of unknown origin that's been stuck there for a long time and I never want to clean it because it's so very very cold cold, not to mention out of sight?"   Should that be a bucket list item?  Because it's for sure way out of reach and may or may not happen in this lifetime.  But should the BL be fun?  The to do list makes us slaves, while the bucket list lets us dream?  Anyway, here goes.

1.  Spend a few months on an island in Greece eating olives and riding a one-speed bike to the market every day for seafood and retsina.  (The olives I'll just pick from a tree in the yard.)

The bucket list creates fantasy
2.  Press shin to occiput and hold.  (That was an actual instruction at a celebrity yoga class I took last week. And yes, that's a thing, celebrity yoga.) My tibia and occiput will never meet in the body that I wear around now, but maybe in some other lifetime.  (But I'm getting closer to being able to answer the phone that is my foot! Luckily my foot has no reason to call just yet, but one day, foot will call, and ear will be all, "Hello?  May I help you?")  But I put the S to O thing on this list to remember to imagine that things could be different, and there's not too much downside in trying.

3.  Finish writing my book, and try to make it good.  As Charles Frazier, who wrote Cold Mountain,  said, "even if it's just a book that sits in a drawer, I want it to be a good book in a drawer."  His, of course, turned out to be a smashing success, not a dust-gatherer in a drawer.  But still. I want a good book for my box in the basement.  If I had a basement.

4.  Learn to be a better communicator.  Not that my communication is particularly bad, but there are ways to listen and to speak, I believe, that bring out the best in everyone, and I'd like to get better at that.

 5.  Age gracefully. By that, I mean that when I become a little more crazy than I already am, it will be in a quiet, unobtrusive, victimless way, and I won't be mean-spirited or needy.

6.  Land on a comet.  Oh wait.  I don't want to climb in a tiny metal unit and go shooting out into space.  I like the earth, it is my home.  I have no interest in going anywhere at all.  Oh, except greece.  (That's on earth, no?)

7.  Write an entry for Atlas Obscura.  I don't do it, though, because I want to create a local entry, but what's to see?  Do I want to be responsible for encouraging disappinted tourists to drive through traffic to look at our big rock?  Does that really on my bucket list?

8.  Love and be loved.

9.  Heat my home with flower pots and rabbits.  (CHECK.)

10.  Create a little podcast where I interview interesting people.  And let's face it, we're all interesting.

11.  Work on a better bucket list.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Hope in a box

I had an unexpected burst of energy today, and decided I actually could clean my house beyond the stuff I usually do, which is, um, the dishes.  I do the dishes! Go me!  But I had a moment the other day when the sun was shining and life was good, and the windows looked grimy.  So I cleaned the two I look out most often, inside and out.  Go me!

Anyway, I went to the big box store today to get some things I need, and then, drafting on the success of cleaning the two windows, I decided to buy some plastic bins.  And we know what that means.  Hope.  A pathetic, materialistic western world sort of hope, but hope is hope.  I had a glimmer where I imagined I'll harness all my free range shit into little plastic boxes, labeled and fed and snuggled into their little clean plastic stalls.  I've fallen for this before, and I know better, but I'm a naive believer that if hope is on sale ($6.99 for FIVE PLASTIC BOXES!), it's kind of like spitting in the face of life if you just walk on by.  It's like giving hope the finger.  I believe with all my tiny little might that life only hands us so many chances, and if we keep saying no, life eventually gives up on us.  And we never know exactly when our last chance is.  There's no warning  It's like that friend you thought you'd see again, and maybe work things out with, but they die suddenly.  It's exactly like that when you walk by the plastic boxes, but in a vague, unremarkable sort of way.

So I have a million things I must do - deadlines, reports that people are waiting for, plastic flagging that longs to be hung on a branch in a hard-to-reach spot in the woods, and a bunch of muscles to memorize.  Name, origin, insertion, how to make it fire, what does it do, and most of all, what can I do for it?  (The answer with the muscles is the same with the humans in their entirety:  Listen.  Be gentle, but firm.  Take it slowly.  Understand first, then act.  Communicate and lubricate, as C. says.)  But I also must get organized or I'll die and leave my poor undeserving (but not unsuspecting) children with this.  And it's not cool stuff, like the headwaters of the river e-bay, as someone said in a book.  It's just run-of-the-mill stuff that I haven't dealt with.

I've been thinking about people, and how there are three kinds:  solid, liquid, and vapor.  I tend to be watery, which I like to think is good in some ways -- I move around gently, don't make a big fuss, and slip around the obstacles in an unobtrusive way.  Water eventually leaves its mark, though. But the solids, those people can really get inanimate objects under control.  They know where things go, and they close all the drawers after themselves because they notice that kind of stuff, and they don't leave things all over in little piles because they might get back to it this century.  I love the solids.  I truly do, but I'm not one.  And the vapor.  Well, I love the vapor people too, of course.  They bring the magic.  But it doesn't always bring me joy, loving those who. ever-so-predictably, evaporate when the heat gets turned up a tiny bit, even if the turning up of heat only happens in their own heads.  And those people don't know shit about plastic boxes.  (I had to throw in the plastic boxes so you'd keep reading.  BECAUSE THAT'S WHY YOU'RE HERE.)   (That's my outside voice, btw.  I'm getting LOUD in case you were losing interest.)

Yes, that's the purported polar
bear skull next to the light
It's supposed to get windy again tonight.  Or if not tonight, one night soon.  And if not actual wind, imaginary wind in my head, or metaphoric wind, which isn't always at your back like it should be if you're half Irish.

In this neighborhood, the wind blows for about three minutes and then the power goes out,.  A dozen hours later it comes on again, but while I sit in the dark, my neighbors have their big generators that make it sound like a truck stop, with semi trucks idling all night.  I know, that's not about the boxes.  You're holding your breath, wanting to get back to this story about hope.  Even the tiniest bit of hope involving plastic bins.  That's what the humans do.  We imagine better things ahead, against all odds.

Did you know the humans can get to
Mars in about 3 days?
I took all my hope-y changey little purchases and went into the laundry room, and decided I'll start right out on emergency preparedness.  That's what a solid would do, right?  They'd have a little kit.  And when the power goes out, they'd grab their kit and all would be well.  Me, when the power goes out I go to bed.

I surveyed what I have in the event of an emergency:

I don't think this will carry
me through...
1.  A few little lights that I made shaped like people and planets and so forth.  They don't match my vision AT ALL, but still, they keep the darkness away.  But honestly, not in a practical way.  You couldn't find a can opener or read a book by the light of my weird little light globs.

2.  A small, rapidly diminishing pile of dry wood, and three trees worth of wood that I have split in the past month.  By hand -- have I said GO ME lately?  But it won't be ready to burn til long past the windstorm.

3.  A basket full of emergency supplies, including three candles, a bunch of batteries of unknown usefulness, and a handful of flashlights that don't work.

Now it seems like the first order of business is to acquire a battery tester.  I think I need that more than I need the five plastic boxes.  But I have the Internet!  So I look up, "how to make a battery tester," and read a few recipes.  Copper wire, razor, etc.  I don't have these ingredients on hand.  But I remember this doorbell I made in Science Club in fifth grade, kind of the pinacle of my science life, that club.  It involved a bell from a bicycle, a battery, and a little piece of metal that would vibrate and hit the bell somehow.  So I start trying to build that, because I don't have the supplies for the battery tester, and coincidentally, I also need a doorbell.  For the Jehovah's Witnesses, who come once a year.

Meanwhile, I wanted to fuss with the pictures of the light things before I posted them, above.  So I downloaded a free photo editor program after looking for iPhoto for about 10 minutes.  Where'd that g
o?  So the new program reset my default search engine to bing, and shut chrome down.  And I decided to quit eating eggs, so I should take the leftover eggs and empty their contents so I can make them into pretty, fragile, useless lighting.  In the event of a windstorm.  It's all about emergency preparedness with me.  Some time later, I'm back in business.  (If, by business we mean sitting around amidst 5 empty plastic boxes, staring at a bowl full of egg shells, drinking a beer.)

So that's what I accomplished today.  Tomorrow, for sure, I'm going to get a handle on everything.

Thanks, as always, for sticking it out and reading to the end.  I'm sorry there wasn't more actual signs (or would it be symptoms?) of hope reported here.

Explaining the afterlife to my dog...

 The other day, my dog asked me what happens when we die.  Gulp. I look at Jasmine and think dammit.  I didn't think dogs knew about mo...