Saturday, December 8, 2007

I've got tasty balls...

...fruitcake balls!

I've created a scrumptious way to use leftover homemade mincemeat. I had thought of using it in my yogurt in the morning, but then, rum raisin yogurt seemed a little over the top for breakfast. So, I made Fruitcake Balls.

2 - 3 c. meat-free mincemeat
8 dates
1 c. coconut
1.5 c. almond meal
1 c. mixed walnuts and almonds (soaked and dehydrated, as in NT)
1 tsp. almond extract

Blend the mincemeat in a food processor until pretty smooth- not like a paste, but between a paste and a fine minced texture. Add the dates and blend again. Add the dried, unsweetened coconut. Add the nuts (leave a 1/4 cup out). Add enough almond meal so that the mixture starts to make a thick "dough". Kind of like the texture of meatball mix. Add the extract. A couple tablespoons of good rum would be excellent in this (I didn't add it, since the mincemeat was already a touch rummy). Then blend the 1/4 c. nuts until they are chopped (not minced) for a little texture.

Roll the mixture into balls, then roll each ball in cocoa powder. Store in a plastic container in the refrigerator.

These are great once the earthy flavor of the cocoa integrates with the fruitiness of the mincemeat and the buttery nuts.

This could be a cookie that even non-health-food types would like!

Perfect Pitch

Musicians and songsters dream about the miracle of having perfect pitch: being able to start on the right note every time without a musical instrument. My latest musical discussions and activities have made me think about my life, the perfect pitch of it, right now.

My authentic voice is coming out now, very frequently. The voice may not be lovely all the time, skilled, or even passable-- but it is authentic. I'm shining forth with myselfness-- and it makes me more able to be full of loving-kindness, genuine curiosity about the world, and a spirited way of living in the now.

So what am I doing?

1) I am not doing Christmas presents this year. I decided that my family and friends would be better off with a genuine expression of my love. So, I will send a carefully-written Christmas letter, full of our family's adventures. Who needs another $15 gift card to Applebee's, anyhow? This is the best Christmas ever. I'm planning for the joviality of Christmas: the songs! The laughter! Catching up with people. Socializing. Quiet moments with my family and friends. The beauty of nature and all its works. Christmas carols! Pretty lights!

2) I've joined the OutLoud chorus. Yes, I am partnered with a man, but we are both bi, but I'm in the LGBT chorus. Although this concept is a little alien to my fellow choristers, we have a fantastic time learning songs and joking around. Everyone is remarkably cheerful and friendly. Once again I'm stretching my voice, practicing my performance skills, and paying attention to the length of notes and the flow of the lyrics. The concert is in February. What's more, the concert focuses on my favorite tunes--torch songs and toe tappers! What a great way to add joy to the world, and meet people.

3) I'm holding fast to my nutritional goals. I'm not sneaking white flour brownies, aspartamey soda pop, or naughty carb-only meals. I remain headache-free, tummyache-free, and lighter than usual. This doesn't mean that I don't have sweets. I did create a fantastic dessert, which is in the next blog article: fruitcake balls!

4) I'm developing career-wise. I requested some development of my marketing skills at my workplace, and it seems my bosses are glad to oblige me. Even with a lot of churn in the department, they respect me enough to help me grow into a position I'm proud and excited to fill every day. They've praised my flexibility, intelligence, and knowledge. So, being bold enough to ask for more has worked. No, I didn't ask for more money, I asked for more change-- and I got it!

5) I'm building community. I helped plan a party for my psychic/meditation group. Violeta, an instructor, was gracious enough to offer her home for the gathering of the Ann Arbor/Detroit area folks. I even met a lot of the new people, talking about spiritual healing of pets, and enjoyed making naughty jokes that cracked the group up. Ah, the joys of malt beverage. Someone brought in raspberry "beer" that turned out to be like a Zima! Just half of one and I was on fire. People kept saying they should give me more alcohol all the time. I love my peeps.

So, those are just a few examples of how I'm living in harmony with my deeper goals. So: "Hit me with a hot note and watch me bounce!"

Saturday, December 1, 2007

The First Thanksgiving




On the first thanksgiving, the woman of the house's twin sister came to visit and prepare the fine repast. A mighty pot of bubbling mincemeat was prepared using the finest dried fruits in the land, as well as the oldest Scotch in existence from the man of the house's elderly aunt's house (Goddess rest her soul).

The frozen Butterball was defrosted for many moons. It rested in the downstairs, elderly Frigidaire, decoupaged with shelf-liner daisies and laced with rust.
The house was prepared for an influx of family from across the state. As the tired homeowners tried to whip their box-filled home into shape, things started to happen that were as miraculous as Rion being able to avoid putting five packets of sugar in her coffee! The small display cases on the mantle were filled with small objects collected by PJ. The artwork and tribal masks were hung. Alas, there were still no mug-racks mounted, but the location started to shape up.

As the evening wore on, dishes were washed and rewashed, five pounds each of carrots, potatoes, celery, and onions were all chopped. Potatoes were cooked, peeled, and mashed (yes, in that order, my Grandma's method). Two versions of stuffing and potatoes were prepared (one avoiding lactose, the other vegetarian). And ah, the twins and the PJ were tired.

The next day they awoke in time to wrassle the 28 pound turkey out of it's latex sexwear, rinse it, remove the plastic bags of internal organs and the neck, salt and pepper it, stuff the cavities with chopped onions and celery, and cover it with an equally sensuous double crossed layer of non-organic bacon (sorry folks, couldn't go OG with the turkey, too expensive).

After a coffee break, the house began to get a little cleaner, and the last minute details like kittie hairballs were taken care of. The television kindly provided America's Parade from downtown Detroit.

Then guests began to arrive and it was all a blur. There was bagged stuffing to prepare, jelled cranberry to locate (not my preference), dishes to reheat, and crescent rolls to roll and cook. There were drinks to be delivered and pets underfoot.

Ah, what a marvelous family (although we lacked many individuals from the Chesbro clan),
a marvelous house, a marvelous first Oakwood thanksgiving, amongst all the chaos, pots, and the pans.

Weird Cuisine

I've entered the strange and mysterious realm of the kefirphiliac, cultured-food nut. My fridge and cupboard contain colonies of beneficial bacteria and yeasts that will colonize my internal ecology with happy enzymes and bad-bacteria fighting power.

I am making water kefir, milk kefir, and yogurt-- doing things one is usually not used to doing like leaving things out to grow bacteria! I'm eating food that makes my coworkers cringe like radish kim chee (spelling is really variable) from the local Korean restaurant.

I'm also healthier in body than I have been in about a decade. Weight Watchers didn't do it. I lost weight, but used my points to "buy" McDonald's Chicken McNuggets(R) and low fat Twinkies. When I went off it, the weight came back with friends. I'm managing not to drink soda pop. My frequent headaches and digestive distress are a thing of the past.

Thank you Nourishing Traditions (a "counterculture" nutrition guide/cookbook) and Dr. Debra Alspector who encouraged me to read up on the NT folks. It's bizarre (you soak your grains, eat fermented foods), high in fat (yum, full fat yogurt and butter and milk), and contains meat (gasp! but they are happy animals that get to pasture). What's more, a little less-processed sweetening is okay, like evaporated cane juice (succanat), raw honey, and maple syrup.

Thank you, also, to DOM, who is just about the most famous kefir guru out there, and who publishes his (very scientific and detailed) knowledge about kefir and other ferments to the web.

So ya think I'm a little crazy. Crazy but feeling like a million bucks, and not starving doing it.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007



Okay, cool, I'll be Mama Theresa. I was sad to hear on NPR of her existential crisis during midlife (she felt out of communion with Christ, which for her was quite excruciating). Thanks to FranIAm for the idea!

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Best Raw Chocolate "Chip" Cookie EVER

This recipe, although it doesn't look like a chocolate chip cookie, replicates a lot of the flavors. It is packed with nutrients and protein, and will keep a long time in the fridge.

It is prepared with Nourishing Traditions/ Eat Fat, Lose Fat style. Soaking of the nuts and grains helps reduce phytate content. Having a little moisture in the oats also helps keep the cookie together.

Ingredients (measurements estimated, I just dumped "the right amount" into a bowl)
1/2 c. raw honey
1 1/4 c. rolled old-fashioned oats soaked in water with 2 tbsp. plain whole yogurt for 1 hour, then drained in a towel and slightly dehydrated in a preheated (but not "on") 400F oven for about an hour-- they won't be crispy (you could use whole or steel cut oats with a longer soak and a blend)
1/2 c. cocoa nibs (just plain cocoa nibs, no chocolate coating or any weird flavors)
1 c. "crispy nuts" from EFLF book (I used 1/4 walnuts, 3/4 almonds) or just plain raw nuts
2/3 c. creamy natural peanut butter
2/3 c. dehydrated coconut chips or shreds (no sweetened coconut, please)
1/4 c. coconut oil
pinch of grey sea salt (don't use refined stuff, please)

Then mix everything (it might take your hands, clean and greased with butter or coconut oil). Taste it to make sure you like the proportion of ingredients. Adjust if needed, and form into sticky balls. Place balls on a cookie sheet and let them dry out a little. Then put everything in an old (clean) yogurt tub or Tupperware(c) in the fridge. If you really wanted to get fancy you could blend/process a portion of the mixture so that they stick together better. I didn't take the time. I might try that sometime and dehydrate them.

These are seriously dense cookies. Don't eat more than one at a meal, or any health effects will be negated by overage of calories! Somehow this combo of flavors makes for one darn good chocolate chip cookie, and a fun way to use cocoa nibs. You can make this vegan by subbing the honey for another light sweetener like agave syrup, malt syrup, or thickened maple syrup. You could amp up the health qualities by putting in wheat germ or ground flaxseed-- but it would take away some of the chocolate chippiness.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Shameless Cross Posting

Raj has ideas like others have heartbeats, each one racing and raving in his subconscious like a loon. Not that the observer can notice, but Raj is on fire. Each silent moment intensifies the forging heat where he focuses his attention. When he jokingly kissed your hand in Organic Chemistry, why did you flinch away from his sandalwood skin? For in this one moment all of his ideas and passions were distilled into one simple devotional act towards you. You could have become a patroness to his peculiar genius, were you not blinded by the faint scent of curry, the cheap shoes.

http://sixsentences.blogspot.com/2007/11/cheap-shoes.html

Check out Six Sentences. An addictive daily read.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Raw Milk Angst

I need your help.
If you know about the pros and cons of raw milk, please chime in. I just read about 10 articles from the Dairy Journal that warn that raw milk is a public health risk, and not any better in nutrition. Meanwhile, my alternative doctor is saying that drinking raw milk is far better in nutrition, with better accessible nutrients, and that it is not worth drinking pasteurized milk at all. To make matters worse, the raw milk is illegal and expensive. One has to purchase a cow share in order to drink it.

I'm looking for you folks in California to chime in!

I am all psyched about trying the guidelines set forth in Eat Fat, Lose Fat by Fallon and Enig...then I read these articles and it took the wind from my sails.

Any ideas?

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Brittany Spears, Spaniels, Columbian Coffee, Yarn, Playthings, Best HDTV, Christian Rock, Linux, History of Sprain

Real Title: Blogging Around
Today my goal is to discover ten cool blogs.

  1. Fistacuffs. This site is a contest site for artists who are challenged to draw wonderful superheros, or other such characters. The creativity of these artists is paramount. It is wonderful to see so many different types of artistry-- from the sacred to the profane and everything in between. Check out Maple Ann Eggs by Rosemary VanDeuren.
  2. Gay Uganda. "The sun rises, and goes down. The rain falls, and clouds sweep across the skies. And the day is still beautiful, when there is rain and when there is sunshine. I never knew that I would ever get this mastery of the language that I use in writing. I mean, a secret. I stammer. Considerably!" Can this quote say it all for me? What a discovery!
  3. Vegan Lunch Box. Check out May 7. What a wonderful excuse to be creative: Lunch! Those vegans are creative of necessity, and even omnivores can benefit.
  4. Origami Tessellations. The nature of folded paper at its most intricate. Meditative.
  5. ilovetypography. The curves and lines of a good typeface bring us back to the beauty of the beginnings of language and letters. Such subtlety. The microcosm of how we print what we are trying to express is important and poetic.
  6. Risley Ranch. Creative types on the other side of the spectrum. I was snagged by this wondeful piece about the tao of milking a cow. A lot of content about social networking. Check out Micro Persuasion, as well.
  7. Philly Roller Girls. Click on a team name, then an individual skater's name. The outfits are out of this world!
  8. 7 Color Lagoon. Despite some weird formatting, this blog has diverse and fascinating topics, nice photos.
  9. Visual Mumbling. A photoblog that looks on middle America with incredible sensitivity and reverence.
  10. Big Fat Deal. A size acceptance blog (in other words, it is okay to be a big beautiful woman!). Charming: it doesn't hit you over the head with political talk, just about being fat and gorgeous. Loving it! I am currently working on getting healthy, but my goal weight is still considered "moderately obese". Pshaw!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Sitting in the Back of Your Own Classroom, Meditating

How to learn your life's path for today

---
Last night's episode of NUMB3RS mentioned the concept of sitting in the back of your own classroom. While I am aware that such a source is none too literary, I felt it deserved credit for this response.
---

How many times have you given good advice about interpersonal issues? We all do it. We urge lovers to leave unfaithful spouses; unfaithful spouses to fess up; grumpy coworkers to cheer up and do the best with their tasks, even when passed over for raises.

Likewise, how many times have you talked about ways to lower the fat in traditional dishes; get more exercise; train dogs properly; stay calm.

So, we're all great teachers. But can we be good students? Can we listen to our own advice?

This is where reflection comes in. A meditation practice can assist us in being truthful with ourselves, and in following our own best advice. Regardless of whether the meditation is active or silent, chanting or praying, religious or secular, it can help us focus and remember our own worth, our intuition, and our intrinsic value as spirits in this world.

Hint: I'm teaching you so I can get the reminder. Blessed be.

At last! A mint-free, licorice-free, fruit-free toothpaste

Picture (©Tom's of Maine)

My partner has a strange, yet passionate aversion to mint. This makes toothpaste an issue. No minty freshness is welcomed in our household. However much I like mint (and peppermint patties, and Junior Mints, and candy canes, and mint chocolate kisses, and creme de minthe) I eschew it at home for my sweetie. He is also displeased with anise/licorice. Life has been difficult in the toothpaste aisle.

Now he likes Close Up, since it is a gel that is cinnamony. However, it never really wowed me. Gels, perhaps, are not my favorite. So for years I've been hunting for a toothpaste that would make my mouth feel fresh, while not grossing out my partner. The fruit pastes just don't do it for me.

Now I have discovered Tom's of Maine Cinnamon-Clove Whole Care toothpaste. It tastes yummy (sweetened by xylitol) and is pleasantly, but not overwhelmingly, spicy. What's more, it is whitening, and adds almost a polished feel to the tooth. Unfortunately, it does have floride, which is much discussed as not healthful, but the amount is about half that in a standard toothpaste. It does have clove oil, which might actually have a mild numbing effect on the gums prior to flossing, although it is not billed as such by Tom's of Maine.

So, on behalf of those trying to avoid mint everywhere, Thank You Tom's of Maine!

Factoid: Recently I learned that nursing mothers try to avoid mint as it could have a lessening effect on milk production. Fascinating!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

No shit, Sherlock! (AKA: Scat got your tongue?)


Once in a great while we discover something so unusual, so undeniably logical, that we must spread the word. Say hello to the squat toilet, brand-named Nature's Platform.

Apparently, the way we poo is bad for our bodies. A western-style toilet is not ergonomic. It bends the colon in a way that increases the risk of many diseases and conditions, including cancer, sexual issues, and incontinence. Good grief! Check out the site for evidence of actual scientific studies on the subject, many, many shitty studies.

These folks in North Carolina have designed a platform from which one might, shall we say, do our duty for Gods, Goddesses, and Country, in a squatting position (only feet touch the floor). What's more, it folds up for people who'd rather risk a kinky colon than squat.

Many other counries have similar notions. Like Japan.

In any case, it could improve muscle tone. Check it out!

Monday, September 24, 2007

How to Write a Novel in 30 Days

Writing a novel is a gruelling task. Creating characters that are multidimensional, a plot that is interesting, and conflicts that are meaningful is difficult. However, there is an easy way to write a novel in 30 days.

Just do it.

That's right. Quit complaining, procrastinating, outlining, and staring at the computer screen and write like your life depends on it for 30 days. Crap will emerge. However, from that crap you can craft your skillful epic, florid romance, experimental science fiction, or murder-mystery.


National Novel Writing Month gives you a good excuse to make it happen. When you sign up, you have extra impetus to write madly like a fiend for the entire month of November. You can get support and research assistance from other writers. At the end of the month, you emerge a novelist, having written 50,000+ words. Not only do you have a great manuscript to start editing, you also have removed any writer's block you may have experienced.


How is this possible?

  • Only writing is included in the month time frame (editing and fine tuning comes later)
  • Preparations can be made (you can come up with a plot and characters prior to writing)
  • Other writers locally and nationwide can help goad you into compliance

There are other ways to prepare yourself.

  • Learn about standard character development
  • Determine the genre of your work
  • Decide upon the main "take-aways" of your novel
  • Write a personal journal to warm up
  • Research any historical or geographical details
  • Think about the conflicts that guide the action in the novel

NaNoWriMo, as National Novel Writing Month is colloquially called, is becoming a phenomenon. Of the 79,000 participants in 2006, 13,000 completed their novels. Those are pretty good odds considering the number of times most of us have "decided to complete a novel" and then reneged.

Many thanks to the folks at NaNoWriMo for inspiring us to create, and fast!

Does the deodorant crystal work?

Please forgive the risque topic, but I must sing the praises of a product that I was dubious about: the armpit crystal. It works!

Not to give too much information, but as a demonstration:

I showered on Saturday night, applied the crystal. I didn't even have to wet it since my armpits were already moist from showering.
I proceded to geocache for four hours on Sunday, in the sun, clambering up hills and down trails.
In the evening I did 45 minutes on the treadmill, and did sweat.
And this morning, without a second application, I am still fresh as a daisy.

It is almost nicer than having antiperspirant, since that makes me feel kind of "air tight". I know that it isn't good for skin to be clogged up with chemicals.

Score one for Mother Earth, zero for stinky antiperspirants! Hurrah Nature! Yay me!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Reading the Dictionary

Sometimes I think I write creatively just to have an opportunity to use big words. Their texture and history, their mouth-feel-- all in a package with high density and gravitational pull. Each word is embedded with meaning, an abracadabra.

Often I have been chid for using the wrong words, by those of many stripes. Some feel it is not democratic enough--or that I am waving my Ivory Tower education around like a pirate flag. Others think it is precocious; I am unseasoned, too wet behind the ears to grasp such concepts at a visceral level.

As a child, I used words like dearth and mercurial, not because I wanted abject alienation, but because they were the best words I knew for the circumstance. Eventually, I learned that talking like a thesaurus was not the best way to win friends and influence people, so I allowed the ubiquitous "like" and "man" to enter my spoken vocabulary.

Now, as a technical writer, I have started using computing terms in daily life. These are the terms that just come to the surface quickly, always at hand. So instead of saying "think before you act" I say "consider the number of variables".

Words are like little treats to me, tapas, dim sum, petits four. The inexaustible supply is an invitation. I either horde them away, using "defenestration" only when absolutely necessary, or consume them like teenage boys at a Roman orgy.

Guess my strategy for the next millenium?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Yps-Witch


I am a nature-centric, tree-lovin, spirit-belivin, chant intonin, bona fide, Wiccan. I live in Ypsilanti, Michigan. I would like to find a mentor in this path who lives nearby and is not too into hierarchical relationships (as in, I do not want to "do your bidding"--I'm looking for someone who wants to celebrate with me and teach me).

If you are an experienced (white or neutral magic) witch who practices the craft on a regular basis in the Ypsilanti area and would like to share, please contact me by commenting on this blog entry.

Blessed be,

Rion


By the way, bonus points for understanding the pun in the title.

Why is Yogurt Good for You?

Yogurt, especially organic, probiotic yogurt is EXCELLENT for your health. From what I have read, it seems there is nothing important it can't do.

  • It is nourishing.
  • It is high in calcium.
  • It protects your immunity.
  • It improves your digestion.
  • It is tasty.
  • It mixes with savory and sweet items.
  • It helps dieters lose tummy fat. (yes, keep the bosoms, lose the tire!)
  • It improves the percentage of fat you burn in relation to other calories.
  • It improves the absorbtion of vitamins and minerals.
  • It improves your LDL/HDL ratio.
  • It helps prevent or reduce ulcers and osteoporosis.

You don't need to buy Danactive or Activia-- stick with Stonyfield, plain, whole-fat. It has calories, sure, but the taste is divine. Replace a couple handfuls of chips with a cup of yogurt. Your body will sing your praises like Handel's Messiah!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Big is Beautiful

This isn't like me, but I'm posting another uTube video. Thank you Mika.

Love,

Rion
(Big Girl)

Grace Kelly (I can be anything I like) Mika

I adore this song. I thought it was an archeological find of a missing Queen song. What a lovely boy.

The song makes me feel fantastic. Tripping the geek fantastic.

The Village: An alternative movie review

*Spoiler alert: Herein lies information that will surely spoil the suspense.*

The Village was panned by some critics, praised by others. Starting as a quaint tale of an isolated 19th century town in wholesome America, we quickly learn of an ineffable force, alien and powerful, that lives in the forest surrounding the townspeople. A council of male and female elders (none very old) leads the group through some tragedies, including some sickness, and an emerging conflict with the others in the woods.

Still, the villagers continue their idyll, singing songs, eating together, asking for the parental hand in sweet loving marriages, and working side by side in gardens and craft pursuits-- very gentile and almost Amish. When freakish skinned carcasses of wild and farm animals begin appearring, a coyote is blamed, and all are asked to be careful. When a local is mauled, a young man of the village decides to venture forth to the evil world to fetch medicine and assistance.

Now here's the big suprise: this perfect little village is a creation of world-weary city dwellers who banded together to artifically create a little community free of crime, trans fat, and electronic equipment--namely, The Elders. These creative people were all wounded individuals going to group grief therapy. They bought a large plot of land, educated themselves about the past, and even decided to speak in a decidedly poetic version of English. And the magical creatures in the woods? Just a construct to keep people from wanting to roam away from the village.

So the children of the village are imprisoned by their fear and their programming, of an evil outside world, and violent creatures in the woods. By creating these boundaries, The Elders seek to control the community and protect it from modernity--the age they had to suffer. They believed they could do it better, protecting all the citizens. However, when a psychopath is raised among them, they cannot blame it on modernity or child abuse...it just happened.

An analogy can be made between any sheltered populace and this village. Not knowing the truth of the world "outside" can create irrational fear of the other. How many times do our own decisions shelter us from the truth of other people and other things? I have a few examples.

A person who lives outside of organized religion can be afraid of it. Afraid of the power that religious organizations can have on all our lives, afraid of spiritual/magical thinking, afraid of blind faith and its implications. Some fears are founded. However, the most fearful aspect is that outsiders can make assuptions about groups that run their whole lives and cause them to disregard the members of the religion as their own people. Why be afraid and isolated?

I see people spending hours discussing "how not to be". What religious beliefs NOT to have. What politicians NOT to trust. What stories NOT to believe. What topics NOT to broach. Why can't we discuss who we are, and what we believe, instead of defining outselves as Opposition?

When we shelter ourselves, we are not able to even comprehend other people's lives.

When I first moved to Ypsilanti, MI, I admit I was a little spooked. I saw young guys drive around in cars blasting their 'urban' music. Young ladies walked around the sidewalks, pregnant with another baby on the way. Teens walked along the highway, or tossed a ball across the street. Paint jobs were neglected, here and there. The grocery store had narrow aisles and weird merchandise, and people seemed to holler at their kids more. Some guy drove his motorized wheelchair around downtown in the streets. It looked POOR. It looked UNEDUCATED. It looked INTIMIDATING.

My reaction was a carryover from my sheltered, white, middle class, small-town, Alaskan youth. I'm embarassed for being afraid, but it was (and still is to some extent) the truth. I don't understand what it is to be without a college education, and to fight tooth and nail for an Associate's degree over a ten-year time period. I don't understand buying all generic and giving up a pound of beef for a pack of cigarettes. I don't understand young mothers. And I certainly don't understand what it is to be African American in this country.

But being sheltered didn't help me, and it didn't help the villagers. We all have the same problems eventually, no wall can keep them out. Its corny, but the best way to mediate problems of life is to love one another, and seek to understand even the things we are tempted to hide from and judge.

Why am I such a cornball? Sorry.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Psychic Synchronicity

I've developed a recent psychic talent for synchronicity. This morning, a song started running through my head, I want to hear it, so I press the preset button for one of two radio stations I listen to for music (NPR is the standard). Immediately I hear the first few chords of that exact song: "Shut Your Eyes" by Snow Patrol.

Gratified, I listen to the song and am smiling because the song is so hypnotic and soothing. Very meditative. At the end of the song, I switch to NPR for a while. When a story comes on that I am not too interested in, I switch the station...this time to my other preset. There is a song on that I'm not very fond of, kind of an oldie, but I listen to it since it seems to be almost over. The next song is, you guessed it: "Shut Your Eyes" by Snow Patrol.

Experiencing synchronicity is one of the signs that you are lifting the veil, touching the collective unconscious, jiving with universal harmony. So, though song synchronicity may not be a marketable talent, it sure is hopeful, magical, and handy.

Friday, September 7, 2007

"The Christians and the Pagans" by Dar Williams

Amber called her uncle, said, "We're up here for the holiday,
Jane and I were having Solstice, now we need a place to stay."
And her Christ-loving uncle watched his wife hang Mary on a tree,
He watched his son hang candy canes all made with red dye number three.
He told his niece, "It's Christmas eve, I know our life is not your style,"
She said, "Christmas is like Solstice, and we miss you and it's been a while."

So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table,
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able,
And just before the meal was served, hands were held and prayers were said,
Sending hope for peace on earth to all their gods and goddesses.

The food was great, the tree plugged in, the meal had gone without a hitch,
Till Timmy turned to Amber and said, "Is it true that you're a witch?"
His mom jumped up and said, "The pies are burning," and she hit the kitchen,
And it was Jane who spoke, she said, "It's true, you're cousin's not a Christian,
But we love trees, we love the snow, the friends we have, the world we share,
And you find magic from your God, and we find magic everywhere."

So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table,
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able,
And where does magic come from , I think magic's in the learning,
'Cause now when Christians sit with Pagans only pumpkin pies are burning.

When Amber tried to do the dishes, her aunt said, "Really, no, don't bother."
Amber's uncle saw how Amber looked like Tim and like her father.
He thought about his brother, how they hadn't spoken in a year,
He thought he'd call him up and say, "It's Christmas and your daughter's here."
He thought of fathers, sons and brothers, saw his own son tug his sleeve,
Saying, "Can I be a Pagan?" Dad said, "We'll discuss it when they leave."

So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table,
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able,
Lighting trees in darkness, learning new ways from the old,
And making sense of history and drawing warmth out of the cold.

-- by Dar Williams

I was impressed at the lighthearted way in which this song discusses conflicts of religion at the holidays, and every day. As a pagan, I'm really moved. I'm not sure what Christians think--let me know! There is an audio file hosted on the web. Of course, if you really like the song please buy it from somewhere so that the singer/songwriter can get royalties (it's only fair).

L'histoire



Frozen on walls and ceilings, subjects pose still. There's the outlandish symmetry of the historical painter's eye. The different angle on physics. In this place, the modern teen enters as a sacrilege wearing an iPod garland around his neck.

Caught, but not restful, the subjects tumble forth in spirit: Napoleons and Marie Curies, legionnaires and milkmaids, knights and peasants and virgins holler at the noisy tour group familiarly, like their mothers would do were they present.

"Tuck that shirt in!"
"Pay attention!"
"Speak clearly, don't slouch."
"Live, explore, collide!"

Without noticing, the teens stumble around listening to audio tours: this tapestry, that jewel, this scupture, that javelin. Yeah.

Would they had a medium to channel the outrage of history ignored. She could give voice to the terrible message of captive time.

Would they had different ears than their fathers and mothers, and their parents fathers and mothers. But still they do not improve upon anything, each learning the same lessons again and again and again while history sighs.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Recent Email Corn-versation

PJ: What ya want for din din?????
Rion: If you want to just stop by McD's or BK, I'd take a salad with low fat dressing.
PJ: Kind of salad???? one with chicken on it?
Rion: Yep. Just avoid grilled and you should be fine:-) Thank you!
PJ: You mean, avoid fried, right?
Rion: Oops, yes, I mean I want grilled. Must have been a fried-ian slip.
PJ: I agrease.
Rion: I'm tempura-arily avoiding too much fat.
PJ: It's bad for you, that's a fat!
Rion: Yes, my chow-lesterol has been too high.
PJ: Ok....I give up!

Ah, how he humors me!

Scatological Sunrise


Since the last blog was urine-related, let me wax poetic for a moment about shit.


Driving home on Monday, I encountered behavior that was truly shitty. During my one potty stop, I pulled off on the Holly, Michigan exit (or thereabouts), seeing that there were gas stations. Surely there were bathrooms available!

Michigan does not have rest stops like they have on the Thruway. Nope, you look for gas stations. Because of the lack of rest stops (there are a few) most gas stations offer facilities. So, in desparate need of powdering my nose I stopped at a BP. The green places. They always have bathrooms.
However, I had forgotten that it is Renaissance Fest season. There was a sign up: "No Public Restrooms" scrawled in pen and taped on the glass door. Hmm, suspiciously looks like some gas station owners or employees don't want to clean up after extra visitors. But, my saving grace was a big overhead billboard that advertised Liquor Beer and Wine at the Citgo gas station one mile down the road. Already in great need, I dashed to my car and drove off to the other gas station.

And what to my wondering eyes did appear, but another crappy sign. It did point out a Porta Potty, around the side. Again, this is a major chain that should have had restrooms. However, I bit the bullet and went into the plastic box, only to be dismayed by the gigantic and horrid pile of human waste in the pit. These things are supposed to be cleaned out, people!

Arrgh!

To make matters worse, there was no toilet paper.

Now this is the darnedest thing: The gas stations make more money due to extra travellers, but don't want to pay the expense of providing facilities for the extra travellers.

Now that is truly shitty.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Pissed Off (AKA: "We're pissed as hell and we're not going to take it anymore.")




Hail, Bloggers, and remember this day. Today is the day I discovered the origin of the verb phrase "pissed off".

Let's start at the beginning. Yesterday I overslept, so had to stay late at work. Then, after already staying late at work, I punched out and had to grade papers for my part-time job teaching software to business school students. Then, after already being at work until later than usual, I got caught in a traffic jam due to an accident. [not pissed off, yet]

At home very late, and ravenous, my usual mode would have been to grab an ice cream sandwich or three. And I had nothing ready to eat. [not pissed off, yet] However, the better angels of my nature kicked in, and I actually made a rudimentary dinner: rice and beans. (I'll tell you later about this miracle rice cooker I bought that makes perfect rice in the microwave from Pampered Chef.) Things are looking up. I washed a load of laundry and waited up to put it in the dryer. Then I dutifully folded and packed the items I need for my Labor Day weekend Up North. This is not like me, usually I would be doing everything tonight right before leaving, throwing everything in PJ's car while he urged me along and reminded me to bring what I needed. But PJ is not here to be the vacation coordinator, so I had to make do.[not pissed off, yet...wait for it]

This morning, I awoke, an hour late [getting irritated], to my alarm, and tucked my freshly washed clothing into my soft-sided roll-y suitcase before getting dressed, grabbing my leftovers from the fridge. I secured the windows (good homeowner!), checked the locks (good homeowner!), and fed and watered the kitties for a long weekend. All of this is accomplished stumbling around in my early-morning, zombified fugue state.

As I was just about out the door, I noticed an acrid smell. I smelled my hands, and ewwww! Cat pee. "Okay, be calm," I thought. "There has got to be a good explanation for this. I did pet Zizi. Maybe she's falling down on her hygiene." So I sniffed around with my super powerful nose and realized that it was not just my hands, but my suitcase! "Ack!" I thought, "Maybe it is just on the side!" Worried, I rushed to rescue my freshly laundered vacation-wear!

Ah, but it was too late. The few minutes my clothes had been in the bag, they'd marinated in the delightful miasma of cat piss. Every article needed washing. Okay now I'm pissed off.

Let's not even discuss the reluctance with which I placed all the nicely folded, yet horribly smelly, clothing right into the washer, again. Then I waited, standing there, for the clothes to wash, and put them in the dryer.

As I drove away, I got worried about the dryer being run without supervision. Somehow it gets More Dangerous when you are leaving on vacation. However, I managed to calm that fear knowing the next door neighbors are home today. They will call the fire department if anything happens.

Ah, the joys of a turn of a phrase.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

I'm a half and half cookie- Ironic, eh?

You Are a Black and White Cookie

You're often conflicted in life, and you feel pulled in two opposite directions.
When you're good, you're sweet as sugar. And when you're bad, you're wicked!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

It's a FULL MOON

Take a minute and think: "What would my ancestors be doing this day, this evening?" They'd be dancing, my friends. They'd be praising. They'd be imagining mystical stuff by the light of the MOON. They'd be calling up spirits and whirling without self-consciousness. They'd be eating only until full, or until they met someone hungry. They'd be thanking the Earth for their shelter, family, and all the overflowing beauty in the world. They'd be asking to be filled with magic, or at least wonder.

When you say Thank You, do you mean it? What about when you say I'm Fine?

At the risk of sounding cheesy, let's be better than fine. Let's be honored, gracious, and thankful. Let's be inventive, generous, and pleasant. Maybe be wild and a touch overwhelming. Let's be heroic.

It's the MOON, I tell you. The MOON.

FTMs Rock My World

Who is an FTM? Well, an FTM is a female-to-male transexual (that's right, folks, in this case a woman becomes a man). The transition from female to male involves many factors, both emotional, psychological, chemical, and sometimes physical. Let's approach the wonderful FTM guys from a social and not a medical perspective, shall we?


What prompted me to write this? Well, my partner is FTM and I am more sensitive to remarks made at work, in social situations, and the media. Sometimes transpeople get trashed publicly, in jokes that would never be acceptable about gays (well, unless you are Ann Coulter talking to asshole Republicans). To make matters worse, if transmen are not being joked about they are made invisible by the public misunderstanding of the trans experience. Most people couldn't explain gender any more cogently than Bush can explain photosynthesis. They think that male cross-dressers are the only type of transgender. Boy, are they wrong. There is quite a panoply of ways to be trans, but let's not get into that now. Let's talk about transmen in particular.

What's so amazing about my guys? Speaking from experience:
  1. They are usually very attractive, in a yummy "come to mama, do you like cookies?" kind of way--long into their 40's! Unless they are serious chain smokers, or have a lot of acne, I've seen a lot of super-handsome baby-faced dudes. I mean we're talking cross Johnny Depp with Leo DiCaprio cute.

  2. They often throw gender roles in the toilet, and force their partners to do the same. For example, does your husband always mow the lawn because of his Y chromosome? Why? Does your wife always do the cooking? Why? Does your butch girlfriend always fix the truck? Why? Is your father allowed to cry? Why not?

  3. They don't freak out upon mention of cramps, tampons, or pads. This is biology, guys, no more ugly or icky than peeing in the snow. You get kicked in the balls, it hurts, you don't mind telling people it hurts and they should feel sorry for you. But if women went around proclaiming bad cramps, most guys would call a national Orange alert level.

  4. They are brave enough to make drastic changes for something they believe in, themselves and their truths.

  5. They can trade stories with you about Girl Scouts.

Of course, I'm generalizing from my experience, so if you are FTM please don't flame me to say you NEVER would talk about the horrid Girl Scouts. Yes, I know you wanted to be in Boy Scouts, but them's the facts! FYI, some FTMs are what they call stealth, which means they never tell anybody they are trans, and try as hard as they can to fit in with the current masculine ideal. Basically, they divorce themselves from their experiences in a female body entirely. That is just another way to be. Not bad, but I love the men who are open about their female experiences. I mean, how cool is that?

My particular guy is especially cool because he's bi, just like me. It gives me a little thrill that we understand each other in such a way. Although we are somewhat "invisible" to some gay and lesbian people (since we look like a straight couple) we identify strongly with the gay, lesbian, bi, and transgendered community. Not just a portion of the LGBT, the whole gamut. You have to be open minded. It keeps people guessing, and it makes life very interesting!

So, the next time you are tempted to tell a joke about "trannies" (that is, if you are not trans yourself) please think again. The dude you are talking to could be trans himself.

Just to end on a light note, the other day I asked my partner if he wanted to invite some transguys who are aquaintances all over for a BBQ, no women invited. Ah poor me, surrounded with handsome men. No "ladies" to chat with. I think he saw through the charade :-) Who needs ladies anyway, even if you likey the fairer sex.

Now aren't I educational? PS--So far as I know, Elvis isn't trans. He just makes a nice photo.

Sleep Apnea and Obesity

Sleep apnea is a condition where you stop breathing at night while you sleep, just for a few seconds at a time. Then, because your body wants to keep you alive, you wake up (even just a little). Once you fall back asleep, the cycle begins again. A disruption in sleep is harmful for anyone. Over time, sleep apnea causes more than "just" drowsiness during the day (while driving, in a meeting, in public). No, it doesn't stop there--people with sleep apnea run a greater risk of developing heart problems and diabetes.

This is supposed to be a funny blog, so what's funny about sleep apnea?

Well, there's this mask that blows air into your throat (or nose) from a machine called a CPAP or BiPap. The upshot is that the airway is kept open by the force of the machine. However, wearing this mask makes anyone look like the elephant man. Tres Sportif! Sometimes having a humidifier along with the machine (to humidify the air) is more "pleasant". However, when using the humidifier, the moisture can build up in the tube that brings the air to the mask, and that condensation can suddenly whoosh! down into your nose or mouth unexpectedly. Talk about a rude awakening, water up your nose. Not suprisingly, most people don't like air forced up their noses all night, every night, for the rest of time.

So, many people seek an alternative to this CPAP craziness. The doctors have to be able to do something, right? Well, yes. They can remove your tonsils and uvula, prescribe a mouthpiece that moves your lower jaw forward, and even extend your jaw with a fairly gruesome sounding procedure. All of these methods serve the same purpose: to keep the airway open during sleep. However, what it all comes down to is extra tissue in the throat. In layman's terms, that means fat in the neck!

So, now, I went to this clinic called the Alternatives to CPAP clinic. For four hours I was poked and x-rayed. I even had a foot-long strawlike camera threaded down my nose. Yowie! But when each doctor explained what he or she could do, the upshot was that my being overweight made any of these alternative treatments fairly ineffective and that I needed to lose weight before any of them would work. Did I mention that losing weight can sometimes cure apnea altogether?

So, they can't do anything for me, after four hours of this examination and expensive tests. If this is the case, why didn't they tell me this before? They could have asked my height and weight, gotten out their little calculators, and figured out I was half butterfat before the whole rigamarole. Damn, people, I'm looking for something to help me get enough sleep so that I can get more exercise, so that I can lose weight, so that I can get better sleep in order to exercise and lose weight?! This is a chicken and egg thing.

What people who are not very overweight never seem to understand is that it is easier said than done (losing weight). Especially after many diets and exercise programs that you just can't stick with, or that become too hard to maintain. If it was easy, or even moderately difficult to lose weight, that would have been my first alternative! Having sleep apnea makes you tired during the day. This is a hindrance to extensive aerobicizing. Bah!

So anyway, it is this vicious circle, sleep apnea and obesity. One often comes with the other. So why did I need expensive tests to diagnose this darn thing?

I wish there was a way for America to take obesity more seriously than just demeaning and reporting on "the problem". Understand that an addiction to food is just as difficult as an addiction to any drug. So, why aren't there fully-paid treatment programs for me to rehab like poor Amy Whinehouse? She's a brilliant singer, but geez!

I won't bore you with the details of my dietary and exercise quest, like some blogs (yech, who would ever want to read about my lunch of broccoli and hummus!?). But I may write about being fat in America again. I know, cry me a river, when there's people out there without homes, food, or reliable childcare. But this affects me.

Hmmm, sorry that wasn't so funny. I live for cupcakes goshdarnit!!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Boadicea Bedlam

***This short story was written in response to the Weekly Challenge posted at Indie Bloggers. Indie Bloggers is a great idea. The authors have taken it upon themselves to post only the best of the blogosphere. What a great way to get to know other bloggers! Tra-la to the wonderful women of Indie Bloggers! Hopefully they will accept this entry.***

As Jack Bauer’s personal tailor, you’re used to special requests, like sewing a Glock P36 into the sleeve, or exploding cufflinks that have to be added after 5:30 on a Friday (what a jerk!) but today, he takes the cake and asks for:

A fully-loaded silicone bustier. Jack is about to go undercover as a plus-size actress in the stage production of Starlight Express. To that end, Jack needs a bodacious figure that will evade detection from the other women in the dressing room, without attracting much attention. The bustier is to create the jiggle of a D-cup, the booty of an athletic roller skater, and the waist of a young Betty Page.

His character will be added into the plot at the Kansas City Theatre’s production. If all goes well, the show will go on the road to Topeka, Poughkeepsie, and Bar Harbor, Maine. Jack will play a Junoesque courtesan, riding on the train.

The bustier/body should be embedded with poisonous pins that can be deployed from either breast (left for a deadly poison, right for a poison that only stuns). He has yet to learn his target.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Name Fetish Rap

(drum machine)

I have a lame fetish
That ain't no lie (tap tap tap)
I got a name fetish
That just won't die

I gotta know the pro-nun-ciation (YIP)
I just ~must~ know the historical der-i-vation
And when you think I'm rabid with consternation
My obsession with names is like sex-u-al frustration

My family name is Ches-bro, I'm the maker of the cheese
My father -says- that the name is Welsh(ese)
Letters dropped through the years, like the E that is no more
and the OUGH went the way of the 'saur

yo shorty it's my birthday, gonna party like it's my birthday

I always wonder about doctors with the name of Payne
I would never submit to his surgery
I'd change my name to Cardiologist Dr. Love
Or something like Dr. Hale (and Hearty)

This madness must cease
The curse must release
I go around asking without surcease
There must be a cure
I'm kinda sick
When I have to know the meaning of Bush
Or how Richard becomes Dick

I'm biting my lower lip
So I must wind down my rhyme
I won't make it in the rapping biz
'Cause I have a hard time with slang and with keeping time

Happy 32

What is it about 32? Such symmetry. 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2

My age in human years.

I never got very far in imagining "over 30" when I was in my teens and pre-teens. I could barely imagine college. Now that I am in my 30s, I'm intrigued. All those seeds I planted in my youth are starting to have perceptible sprouts.

My potential is starting to change into actual. Then there is the new potential.

It is nice when you stop wishing you could be something else. I now am 100% certain I will never be

  • An Olympic gymnast

  • A famous rock and roll star like Janis Joplin

  • An amazingly rich person

  • Coordinated and directionally savvy

  • A poet living in the Latin Quarter of Paris

  • Thin or conventionally lovely (check out those eyebrows, folks!)

But I am just as certain of my true potentials, as I have been given some very hopeful little sparkly bits of confirmation that I will be (or already am)

  • A published writer

  • A true character

  • A psychic

  • A foodie

  • A happy person with a family, friends, house, Chihuahuas, and a loving and interesting partner

  • An inventor

  • A developing soul, in the most newagey sense of the phrase

  • A person who can afford to occasionally splurge, with absolutely no reason to complain

Such a wonderful lists of am-now-or-will-be's.

What a way to be 32! Somebody told me yesterday that I am hilarious. Today somebody told me I could be a great food writer. Gosh darn. Another thing to add to my list of potential careers for my next incarnation. Currently I am working on published author, media doyenne, consultant chic smartie pants, psychic, blogger, college instructor, and technical writer. Whew! That is a lot to fit on a business card.

So you can put "generally fantastic", that will do. Kiss my arse, I'm Thirty Two!!!!!!!!!!

Amtrakking it!

Ah, when I think of my college years in dappled Hudson Valley, I also think of travelling by train. I learned how to be an effective train traveller. Shall I pass this wisdom on to a new generation of trainees?

Could NOT resist that one.

Anyhow, here are the edicts for pleasant train travel.

1) Assume you are going to be late. The train will be late. No stress, complaining to the night janitor, bitching to fellow travellers, or pacing (bags in hand) will make the train come any sooner. Relax, read your book, and people watch.

2) Wear comfortable, layerable, clothing. Nobody cares what you look like. You'll see college kids in ragged band t-shirts, old ladies in their schmatas (sp?), businessmen in their Arrow Sears Poly Blend suits. You are not going to meet a wealthy fiance(e) or a business mogul to hire you for a fantastic job on the train. If you do, well, they know better than to judge by your clothes. You will want to sleep and perhaps even remove your sneaks.

3) If you happen to be sitting without a seat-buddy, keep your luxurious "First Class" accomodations by putting your bag up on the seat in the window seat, then lying on the bag and snoring during station stops. Keep one eye open for attractive millionaires, elderly or differently abled folks, or small children. After all, you may be trying to play the system, but you don't want to be stupid or mean.

4) Keep OUT of the aisles. The train attendants, other people, and baggage will smack you. Repeatedly. Even if there is no apparent reason to hurry.

5) Bring snacks and water. It can be hard to figure out where they keep the food, and if you do find it, it is always expensive.

6) For entertainment value, visit the smoking car. Yep. That's where all the pierced, track marked, commies hang out. Old fogies with gnarly beards, ex-truckers, 40 year old groupies that dress like teenagers, goth kidz with piles of eyeliner, and anyone with a personality disorder is in the smoking car. Conversations about sex, drugs, rock and roll, and Rolling Stone abound. Check your political correctness alarm at the door. Be prepared to smell like an ashtray and talk like a trucker when you emerge. And watch out for little mini stalkers.

7) Look out the window on long trips to remind yourself that there is a world out there besides the moving sardine can you are riding in. I recall a lovely field of sunflowers to this day from my cross-country train trip.

8) For crap sake, take care of yourself. The train employees don't kiss ass (they take names). They will not wake you up in Cheboygan, carefully avoid your foot in the aisle, or keep the old guy in the seat next to you from hitting on you. Pay attention to station stops, or you'll miss yours. If you didn't hear it, ask around. A healthy curiosity for where you are physically located in the world is always helpful, as is a watch or other electronic device with time.

I love the train. It is a microcosm of the world, an engaging reality show, and you can participate as much or as little as you like. When you emerge, zombified by constant noise, vibration, and being jolted from sleep (like a participant in a lack-of-sleep experiment) you will be wiser. That's why I love the train. It's very zen. Be the train. Be the wacky passengers. Be calm, cool, and collected. And above all, be curious.

What a fucking awesome planet we live on.

Friday, August 17, 2007

In Poor Taste

Begging your indulgence, I would like to share (and perchance, rant) about some advertising in poor taste I've seen recently. Tell me, am I wrong?

What do you think about a store called "Goin' Postal"? There is such a beast near me in Michigan. I don't know, but I think that putting the idea in consumers' heads that they could be gunned down by disgruntled employees in the store is a bad one. What's next, a party store called "Drown Your Sorrows" or "Back to Step 1"?

Likewise, what about a big ol' road sign with a larger-than-life, deep South horror story, rope NOOSE? That's about 15 feet of noose in the loop part alone. I can't recall what the signboard was for, but really...is there worse taste than that?

Another sign, from a local fine dining establishment, declares "Meat With Friends". The picture is a steak. Okay, we get it. You are meeting to have a nice beefy cow slice. But really, meat evokes so many unpleasant pictures of other things you could do with your friends on the roadside.
Photo courtesy: http://www.interestingideas.com/roadside/signs/fork.jpg

Speaking of restaurants, we recently welcomed Sushi.Come to our neighborhood. Now you'd think, even with potential language difficulties, that somebody might have mentioned that putting raw fish and come in the same dot-phrase could be disconcerting.


Is it just my dirty mind?

The Cult of the Amateur?

Last night, I indulged in watching the Colbert Report. The guest, Andrew Keen, had written a book called the Cult of the Amateur. From what I was able to gather, the author was bemoaning the ease with which everyone can publish these days. Unknown blog authors speak their minds with dubious spelling. Artists sell their beginning paintings on eBay. Advertising pays for video work on uTube. Oh, the horror!

Now, I have not read the book, but I did see the author and his reaction to Colbert's (definitely jokey, ironic, and not to be trusted) questions. The arrogance! The snobbery! Where does he think artists and writers and videographers get started? Do they just hatch fully sophisticated right out on to the pages of Art News? This is not to mention the gatekeepers. The publishing houses and other media companies, who have always had the audacity to either give us what they thought we'd like...or give us when they thought we needed, prescriptively.

What's happening is not a dilution of culture. It's just that there is now a more level playing field for exposure, and now the critics don't have a clue where they are supposed to look. The gatekeepers have control over their little plots of land, but everyone can put out their two cents...regardless if anyone is listening. This is truly the culture of the populace.

New formats are being created daily. Does poor filmmaking take away the art from a digital video? Do "texting-inspired" misspellings in that Chinese student's blog make it any less a passionate display of teenagerhood of this era, warts and all?

My feeling is that the internet is full of crap and advertising, but there are millions of paper bag luminaries out there. There's intensity, truth being spoken, less spin. There are intelligent communities being formed, of people who want to avoid bullshit elitism. Could it be that we are all getting smarter by self producing, putting content out on the internet?

Regardless of how people feel about it, the young people today have been raised with this connection to the internet. It is another channel of communication that starts to mimic our collective consciousness. They have an innate sense of how warped mass media can be, and they consume it with a grain of salt always. Just because it is on a major news channel does not mean it is unbiased. Just because it is printed does not mean it is Literature.

How long will it take the traditional media to get this? The physics of communication has changed. It's up to us to learn how to walk in a different gravity.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Fridays @ Work: Productivity


Productivity is a fascinating concept when you think about it.

The initial definition is not too out-there.

pro·duc·tiv·i·ty (prō'dŭk-tĭv'ĭ-tē, prŏd'ək-)The quality of being productive.
Economics The rate at which goods or services are produced especially output per unit of labor.
Ecology The rate at which radiant energy is used by producers to form organic substances as food for consumers.


http://www.dictionary.com/


However, what spurs productivity? How is productivity truly encouraged, measured, and rewarded? The answers to these questions may suprise The Boss.


Being interested in a topic, and invested in a project's outcome, spurs productivity. The more an outcome is directly meaningful to a worker, the less difficult it is to be productive. Additionally, productivity can be spurred in some unusual ways. For example, play and humor can spike levels of productivity. Google doesn't just give its workers crazy cool perks just to "Not Be Evil". Nope, it is a solid business decision to encourage creativity and productivity.


Refreshed, amused, happy-to-be-alive workers are powerhouses. Sometimes taking frequent breaks leads to a greater amount of work achieved in the long run. Ever catch yourself rereading a sentence in that business letter over and over again? Catch yourself working for too long on a PowerPoint graphic? Get up and stretch your legs. The goal is not to see who can be chained to his or her computer for the longest unbroken stretch of time!


However, there is a dark side to this argument. As many a current or previous temp secretary can tell you...there is an art to Looking Busy. If you don't look busy every minute of every day, people start to look askance at you. Even if you worked really hard, in a concentrated and focused manner, on the previous task, taking a break is never truly allowed. You have to Look Busy or you get the boot. Even without anything in the In box. Full timers (or people who have always been full timers) don't even see that talking about Jane's bad back, Peter's trip to Spain, or the latest customer hijinks are actually non-work activities, just like when you might, say, mail a letter or make a blog entry. So most of us have learned the scary art of Looking Busy. In truth, we should learn the more subtle art of being honest to ourselves, our companies, our coworkers, and our bosses.

Taking a break is good for you. There, I said it, I've blasphemed. No, I do not believe that you get to brag about working 14 hours straight-- especially if I could do the work in 8 hours with breaks. Just filling time with seriousness does not a productive worker make.


So, what can the well-meaning boss do? Well, judge people by their actual productivity. How much work is done. Not the manner in which that work is completed. If I can work better with my dog on my lap, with a mouthful of Krispy Kreme, why would you want to stop me? If a trip to the water cooler every hour makes the rest of the 55 minutes in the hour twice as productive, why the heck not?


Finally, how can productivity be rewarded? Well, PAY is always a good thing. However, public praise can be useful (if not overused). Also, let your workers know that productive moments need breaks in between. Understand that we're all different. And for heaven sake, have some fun. We know that junkets to customer sites aren't all bad, that the wine-ing and dining isn't 100% pure torture. Admit to the fact that your 15-hour days weren't all time "strapped to the rack". Some of those hours were time for bs-ing, talking about your children, watching tv, or eating room service. Sure you needed that time to be productive. But practice what you preach. Let's all just be honest about our jobs, our needs, our strengths, and our weaknesses. How many hours in the day do you actually want to pay me to be uptight about things like pretending to be something I'm not?


Playing the Look Busy game is so BORING. Wake up people.


Much love, as always, with my angst,

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Raincoat Flashers: Shameless Self Promotion


I've embarked on a new blog: Raincoat Flashers.

I'll post a picture, then I'll ask participants to create a sudden, or flash fiction, to accompany the picture. Within a week, the chosen piece is posted on the blog. The idea is to encourage the writing and reading of experimental, concise, and beautiful stories.

All comers, professional or amateur, student or instructor, are welcome.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Revisionist Future


In my browsing of recently updated blogs this morning, I stumbled upon this Ah-nold Buck at http://zamorysh.blogspot.com/. The blog was written in Russian, so I cannot give proper credit to the artist or blogger. However, if you happen to read Russian, have at it, and comment here with details.

I cannot help but wonder about the inspiration for such a dramatic Photoshopping of the dollar. Was it done in jest or in all seriousness?

I need to go here because I'm not a very informed politico, but c'mon California...you hired the Terminator to be your Governor. Bah!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Free Fantasy Fiction Library

Okay I'm an uber-geek. If you, too, are ubergeeky, check out these free books.

I just found this link, but I do see a few authors I would read.

Enjoy!

I'm going to be in Hufflepuff!


Which Hogwarts house will you be sorted into?

Monday, August 6, 2007

Get Rosey-ed.

Do not pass go. Do not collect $100. Do not even get a cup of joe from your favorite place. Nope. Go straight to my friend Rosey's blog.

She is an enormously talented, cute, and quirky woman. A professional artist, she has shown work at many art shows and published many pieces in On Our Backs. She also has a portfolio website.

Love her!

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Les gémeaux (Gemelles?)

I am a fraternal twin, my sister's name is Carrie and she lives in Madison, WI. She has a LiveJournal if you are interested. Most of her blog entries are epic dreams or simply strange dreams. Although we don't speak every day, its like we walk beside each other often. We were never alone in the world.

Being a twin is an amazing experience. A symbiosis develops over childhood. You think as a pair (even if in disagreement), negotiate as a pair, and can't imagine not being in a pair.

How is life different? Well, imagine being born into a partnership. You are blamed for all your partner's mishaps. For example, if your twin says something mean to someone you are actually accountable. Also, if you dress in something hideous, your twin gets the reputation for being unstylish. However, you also get credit for being smart if you twin is smart. You get special recognition (good or bad) on a regular basis.

And since this is a funny blog, what's funny about being a twin? Well, there was the time that we tried to trick our 5th grade teachers by changing clothes during recess and going to the other's class (we were never placed in the same class in K - 6). It worked too well. The teachers had no clue, and Carrie ended up taking a pretty important "placement" test for me. Good thing she's smart.

Another funny thing was the gift situation. My family was backed in a corner. They had to give the same gift, but slightly different (different color, design, etc.) If different gifts were given, somebody was always dissapointed. I remember the one Christmas my sister got a complete stereo- speakers, record player, 2-tape deck, tuner. Wow- the ability to make mix tapes! And I got...a 22 caliber rifle. Now, I was (am) a tomboy. I did like watching Dad pour metal bullet slugs, clean his muzzleloader (was into recreations), and shoot. However, I don't recall ever asking for a gun, especially considering we (Carrie and I) already shared a "sawed off" 22. Shhh! Don't tell the authorities. It is illegal, but that helped up to hold the thing, since rifles are heavy. Neither one of us shot at anything living, just pop cans and milk jugs filled with water. Anyway, that was a dramatic Christmas. My father swears, to this day, that I asked for the darn thing. I never shot it.

We have always compared ourselves, whether or not it was smart. We compare salaries, test scores, numbers of friends, pant sizes, and hair length and beauty. Carrie can't help but be envious that I have a life partner, PJ. I can't help but be jealous of her salary (especially considering we have the same job).

Speaking of having the same job, we ended up in the exact same job, coming from two entirely different directions. Get this. Carrie has a BA in Fine Art Painting. I have a BA in English Literature and Creative Writing. Carrie has a MA in Teaching with a specialization in Art Teaching. I have a MS in Information with a specialization in Human Computer Interaction. Carrie has worked as an ESL teacher in Korea, as a substitute in Alaska, as an art teacher in North Carolina, as a prep cook, as a gardener...and now she is working as a Documenter at a large organization in Madison. I, on the other hand, have worked as a writer, a college teacher, a temp secretary, a dishwasher, an interface designer, a librarian...and now I am working as a Tech Writer at a small organization. So, from two entirely different academic backgrounds and work histories, we both end up working with writing and training responsibilities for software companies. Weird!

We know each other so well. Carrie calls me when she is a)Bored, b)Upset, c)Proud. I probably do the same thing. I know when it is very important that I pick up the phone, and other times when I can ignore the call (if in the middle of a movie or something) when she is just bored. We talk about all those things that most people get annoyed with us for. For example, when we go out to dinner we'll tell the other exactly what we ate, exactly the modifications we requested for the meal (she'll request no mushrooms or meat, I'll request no Swiss cheese or raw onions). Now, most people cannot stand to hear this level of detail, but to us it is interesting. She'll tell me about the most recent person she has a crush on. I'll tell her about any drama with the dogs or PJ.

There is really a lot more about being a twin, but I'm getting distracted. One thing I can say is that I cannot imagine NOT being a twin.

One last note: please don't name your twins rhyming or alliterative names. Arrrgh!

Friday, August 3, 2007

Meme, Asked and Answered

1. You are alone in a room with George Bush, Dick Cheney and Condi Rice. What happens in the first 5 minutes?

Assuming I am properly prepared, I begin briefing them on their re-education. For their first acts as normal people, Condi is forced to watch Lil' Bush on Comedy Central, and write a blog entry about whether or not she is like Lil' Condi in the show. Cheney is going to be getting a bikram yoga lesson and learning How Not to Be Evil. Finally, George, well, he gets to prepare for a high school debate where he has to argue the side of Hillary Clinton for presidential election against Guiliani. (sp?) For a level of difficulty, we can assume that points are deducted for using several different words to express the same meaning in the same sentence.

2. What two food flavors compliment each other best? Why?

Ah, bread and butter. We're not talking Wonder Bread and Promise Spread here, folks. I'm talking real, warm, Zingerman's bread with crispy crust and flavorful spongy interior. Then Irish butter fresh from the foil wrapper.

3. What country would you flee to if you had to right this minute?
Canada

4. ABBA - Yes or No?

How could I not?

5. You are alone in a room with George Bush, Dick Cheney and Condi Rice. What happened in the last 5 minutes?

George is bewildered: "W. Dub-uhl-you. It's like two V's. Two V's just stuck together in the middle. Joined-like. Attached."
Dick is sweaty, but hasn't escaped the duct tape.
Condi has a lesbian lover named Rocky, and has zillions.

Fridays @ Work: Spirituality in the Workplace

Spirituality in the workplace is not just at issue during the winter holidays. No, it is an ever present reminder of our differences or similarities. Being cognizant of our coworkers’ spiritual standing may not be relevant to the task at hand, but it does come up. When it does come up, prepare to be

a) Alienated

b) Comforted

c) Offended

d) Surprised

e) Irritated

f) Happy

g) Supported

Watch yourself, calmly now, become offended at not only what people believe, but what they do not believe. For example, my wonderful coworker was taken aback when another woman referred to her Buddha Belly (she was pregnant). She did not like the Buddhist term applied to her child. Not only did this affect my coworker, but myself. I felt a little taken aback also. What was wrong with a Buddhist belly? Although I am not Buddhist, I do ascribe to some of the qualities of Buddhism, including those of Kwan Yin. I felt like she was saying that the concept and practice of Buddhism was wrong, and somehow morally bankrupt. However, upon further thought I realized that was not the case. She just felt uncomfortable embodying Buddhist concepts as a devoted Christian.

In another circumstance, I noticed that all of the women in my department (there are no men in my department) are Christian of some variety, and they regularly go to church. They talk about church, confirmation, baptism as a matter of course. There is no analogue to this regularly scheduled spirituality in my life. I do try to go to solstice occasions at the local Unitarian Universalist location. However, it is not that regular. I don’t feel anywhere near as comfortable talking about this as they do about their churches. They can so on and on about what the preacher said in the sermon, what kids wore for baptism, and so on. But I would not feel comfortable talking about Wicca, what craft we performed, what blessings we spoke, or what ceremonial garb we wore. It is just not as normal, or as accepted. Sure, if there are Wiccans out there reading this you might think: well, come out of the broom closet for Goddess sake! However, I don’t take lightly the decision to potentially impact my professional career.

Not only am I Wiccan, but psychic. What a fantastic resume booster! Where others can write: Elks (read: Christian Charity) Club as a reference, I might not get as far being a member of a Wiccan community group. After all, some people still think Wiccans worship evil spirits, or the big baddie himself (whose name I will not deign type here). Others think that it is just a big RPG for preteens and computer programmers. (I did just find out that my URL Rowanwand is actually the name of a clan of witches in a RPG. I, personally, am close with the name Rowan since it is my mother’s maiden name, and it is also known as a magical tree.)

Other times I think about the fact that we get all the Christian holidays off, but Jewish, Muslim, and other holidays? Well, we’re out of luck. Not to bemoan the fact, but that can be alienating too. People celebrated full moons for many more years than they have celebrated the great sacrifice of Jesus, or the dominion of one all-powerful God.

I’ve veered off-topic.

What I want to get to is this. Religion and spirituality are tricky topics. Remember The Passion of the Christ (still haven’t seen it, meant to, just for reference)? What about the Blair Witch Project? Think about how mosques are being conflated with centers of warfare in some places in this world. I hope we can continue to share our faiths, and keep openminded about the results of our discussions. Spirituality adds such richness to our lives, and is such a big part of the personality I’m not sure we could ever hope (or want) to leave it at home.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

A Painting Journey

My new, yet dear, friend Marsha has begun a painting journey. She has set out to paint small, en plein air paintings and blog about the experience. The small format is engaging, and each painting seems to contain a distilled moment: intimate, serene, natural, and cosmic, all at once.

Check out her blog. She plans to paint for the month of September in the notoriously beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. It goes without saying, but please enjoy her wonderful work, and support it by purchasing a painting, if you have the desire and means.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Fridays @ Work: Philosophy of Motivation

And now we return to our regularly scheduled programming, Fridays @ Work, with your host Rion. I'm not ready to share my given name with my hordes of readers, to protect the innocent (and my job).

Today's topic is: Motivation.

First, let's talk about what doesn't motivate me.

What about posters that advertise "Persistence", "Excellence", "Character", and "Opportunity"? Not only are the accompanying images lame stock photos of airbrushed mountains and streams, but the text is rife with cliche. Not only am I baffled by those who appreciate such muck, I am embarrassed for our company. These posters just reek of a lack of individualism, and a false front of some kind of higher moral ground. Now I know that we are not perfect, but we are individuals, with our own tastes, skills, and ways of interacting. Diluting us into categories and anesthetizing us with platitudes...doesn't fly (with me, at least). "Arrogance" poster is courtesy of http://www.demotivators.com/.

Another demotivator is the constant encouragement of others to the expense of everyone else in the company. There are a few admins at my work who go above and beyond. So they are publicly praised for doing a good job at almost every all-staff meeting. But is this praise in lieu of adequate compensation? Somehow it makes the rest of us look like schmucks. But maybe we are simply expected to overachieve? Public praise is great, don't get me wrong, but when it is the same few people being praised every week? It gets old. Fast.

So what does motivate me?

Respect. I appreciate the respect of older and wiser collegues. I like it when my emails are responded to (not summarily). I like it when my ideas are carefully considered (and not trashed immediately for being too new or having been tried before...in '93!). I like it when I am given tasks that can showcase my talents and not my shortcomings. To my company's credit, I am going to be given the assignment to write another white paper. If you're not familiar with white papers, they are extremely subtle advertising. White papers communicate knowledge about a topic, just like an academic essay, with the underlying assumption that this knowledge makes the producing company's products more informed by market forces, good design, business necessity, and careful research. So, being asked to write something more complex, thoughtful, and conceptual draws on my strengths more than having to troubleshoot partially-developed hardware and software. This shows respect for my skills, and my weaknesses.

Also motivating? Money. Yes, it seems gauche, but the more money I'm paid per hour, the more sophisticated I feel. The harder I work. The more responsibility I feel. Now perhaps this is a juvenile perspective, but it is my truth. Although I worked my butt off as a temp secretary many years ago, I would not fight for the overall good of the company. That is for people who really feel invested in the company's outcomes. Slightly demotivating, personally, is the fact that I am paid less than the average technical writer in my area. Bah humbug. I am also not an engineer, so I suppose that impacts my saleability, even with a Master's.

What motivates you at work? Come on folks, throw me a bone. :-)
What demotivates you? Now that's fun to talk about, if only to let off steam.