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Living with HIV

Pretty Red Ribbon Gear

My sister is living with HIV.

I don’t remember when I got the call, perhaps six months or a year after my mother died, so in 2000, maybe even late 1999. I know that all the open wounds from Mom’s death hadn’t healed yet and none of us siblings were very close at that time.

She was crying. Actually, she was totally, utterly freaked out. Or maybe that was a later conversation, after the reality hit. She’d tested positive. There’d been a workplace accident, and she’d gotten blood in an open cut on her hand.  And now she had a deadly disease. And I was stunned, and devastated, and utterly helpless.

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Building an Earthship

The Preston’s home on fire

Hunter and Samantha Preston lost their home and a dear friend in a fire at their home in June of 2012, in Fort Myers, Florida. They are newlyweds with a small child and couldn’t afford insurance, so they lost everything. Their goal is to rebuild their home as an ‘Earthship‘, a sustainable home. They formed a campaign on Indigogo, which you can read about here.

Unfortunately, their campaign has stalled out and they are still far from their goal with only a few weeks left. If they succeed, not only will they again have a family home, one that is sustainable and a wonderful model for the rest of us, but they also intend to use it as the headquarters for their non-profit business, SLIE (Sustainable Living and Interconnected Education) which will teach urban dwellers in their area about gaining better control of their food chain.

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Playing the Lottery

To say I have mixed feelings about playing the lottery is to put it very mildly. I once watched a woman spend fifty dollars on lottery tickets in the middle of a very cold winter while she and her daughter were wearing clearly inadequate clothes for the weather. I’ve heard the snarky geek saying a thousand times ‘Lotteries are a tax on the mathematically challenged’.

And yet, every time there is a really big payout, I go buy a ticket. Just one. I always buy it at least a day before the drawing. And then I begin to daydream…

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anger and forgiveness

Tbird is the guest author of this post about anger and forgiveness. She recently completed her conversion to Judaism after years of study. Originally from New York, she now lives outside Denver Colorado and has a Bachelor’s of Science in Psychology from Colorado State University in Fort Collins. She has also been my friend for many years and is a constant inspiration to me. I hope you find her as inspiring as I do. 

Many belief systems call on us to seek out one another’s humanity, even in the darkness of people. We are asked to find a spark in the people who would hurt us or others.

The Quaker belief is that every life has value.

Universal Unitarianism holds the principle of “affirming and upholding the inherent worth and dignity of every person” at the top of their list.

As humans in the West, we are constantly told to be good, be polite, be kind to strangers, know compassion, let go of anger, and forgive. This is hard to reconcile when we know there is evil in the world; there are people who hurt children, murder neighbors, or think it’s a good idea to barbecue live kittens. How are we supposed to be nice, to affirm the inherent worth of such people?

In Judaism, the good and the bad both have a place. There is room for both anger and forgiveness.

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Help to use RSS-feed

I got a shock the other day when I discovered that despite being one of the older and easier ways of finding things on the web, more than half of regular internet users polled didn’t know what RSS was, let alone how to use RSS, and less than 20% use it regularly (and darn it, I can’t find the source that shocked me. Help please?)

How to Use RSS

RSS is really simple to use. In fact, two thirds of ‘RSS’ are ‘really simple’, and the whole thing is ‘really simple syndication’. You can even use it inside Facebook, though honestly I can’t recommend that any more, now that Facebook has decided that it knows better than you do which of your friends and pages you really want to see. (More on that later).

It’s a huge time saver, and available in mobile as well as large formats.

Imagine for a second that you can put together your own magazine of your favorite sites on the web, automatically updated for you every time there is a new post, and attractively arranged for you to read on your choice of dozens of different formats. There is no need to imagine – that’s what RSS is.

This is how to use RSS:

  1. Choose a feed reader (that’s what you call the magazine). The most popular one is probably Google Reader, but there are lots of others out there, most of them free. Pick one that suits you and set up an account. I like Google Reader because I’m already signed in to Google most of the time anyway, can be adjusted by a ton of various browser extensions, and has built in a feature called ‘Reader Play‘ that makes it feel even more like a magazine.
  2. How to use RSSStart adding feeds. Feeds are updates to your favorite blogs and websites that will now be automatically be delivered to your reader. Do you see that nifty orange and white icon up in the top right hand corner of my website? (The one that looks just like the one to the left, there.) That’s an RSS icon. Click on it, and it will invite you to add my feed to your reader, and give you choices as to which reader you use. A second click confirms your choice (it’ll navigate you away from here, so be sure to come back).Look for more feeds. Most websites have a feed, but not all of them are nice enough to make sure that their orange and white RSS icon is easy to find. So you can download extensions for Internet Explorer, Firefox, or Chrome to make it easier.
  3. Read RSS on your phone or tablet. I use an Android app called NewsRob on mine to read my Google Reader account, which is synced between my phone, my tablet, and my computer. It has a free version, but I like the benefits of the paid version enough to have upgraded. There are lots of others for Android and Iphone around as well.
  4. A word of warning: If you use an RSS feed reader on your work computer, your IT department will see it as you browsing hundreds of websites, not one. You really don’t want to be in the position of explaining to your boss that you’re just skimming headlines looking for articles to read on your break (even if its true). I bet you can guess how I learned that one.

So why not Facebook? Don’t get me wrong. I like Facebook. I think, on balance, it’s more helpful than not despite some jerkishness on the part of Zuckerman et al. But Facebook started, in spring of 2012, to decide for you which of your friends and pages are valuable to you, on an algorithm that isn’t close to perfect. It had two purposes in this.

First, it was trying to ensure that you saw first the articles you wanted most to read – your closest friends, your favorite pages – but second, it was increasing revenue for itself.

It is now significantly more expensive for advertisers to use Facebok. It used to be an ‘organic’ way to discover new pages, where you just kind of ‘naturally’ picked them up. Now Facebook deliberately makes it harder for you to find new pages, and the owners of the pages need to pay Facebook for the privilege of making it easier to find them.

I don’t blame Facebook for wanting to make a buck. They’re not in it for charity, after all. But speaking as someone trying to get people to read my website, they are now a very expensive option, rather than an inexpensive one, to let people know about my site.

RSS doesn’t exactly advertise my website or anyone elses’, but it does make it really simple for people who already want to read it to find the new articles I post nearly every day. Really simple syndication – and yet most people who are on the web haven’t figured out how to use it on a regular basis.

Oh, and if you’re curious, my own RSS feed of other peoples’ stuff is fed to the left hand column on my site pages (‘below the fold’ a bit), listed as ‘blogroll’, and the most recent couple of articles are linked on my curated life page (which, unfortunately, is glitchy because of the app used to set it up. Looking for better. Help?). Feel free to add any or all of them to your feed. Happy reading!

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Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Facebook is awash right now with calls to boycott Walmart, and Papa John’s Pizza, and Black Friday and Cyber Monday in general, in solidarity with underpaid retail personnel, and in general objection to the commercialization of whichever winter holiday(s) you celebrate.

Boycotts are a great tool of the people. Really they are. That’s not sarcasm. Even if there’s no direct financial impact, significant negative publicity can change the positions of people in power who are otherwise nearly untouchable.

And.

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The Essential Thanksgiving

 

Turkey, despite all rumors to the contrary, is not essential to Thanksgiving, even in the US. Blasphemy, right? Thanksgiving is a harvest festival, and of course the fruits of harvest are important to the festival, but it is more than that. The essential Thanksgiving doesn’t require particular foods or table settings, but these ideals. 

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This little video has a catchy tune and an important message: Don’t do dumb stuff that will kill you.

For many years, an unofficial competition has raged, the Darwin Awards. At the link you will find over 400 documented cases of ‘What the f*ck was he/she thinking” for which we will never know the answer because the person died.

There’s a tendency to a great deal of schadenfreude in these cases, and to some extent, rightly so. When a person has spent his life fighting helmet laws and dies from a head injury after a car wreck it’s funny, right?

Except that it’s not. And deep down we know it, and that’s why we laugh. To err is human. “Man is the animal that laughs at himself” as Valentine Michael Smith said (via Robert Heinlein). And we laugh at ourselves because it hurts so bad. So yeah. Sometimes we abandon compassion, for a moment, because the ultimate human moment is to laugh at death, and the many, many ways we bring it on.

And then, we get back to shared joy and shared pain. We continue to try to improve our lives and the lives of others around us. We abandon judgment and embrace compassion. We seek knowledge. And still, we get it wrong. To err is human, remember?

As Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) said:

Easier To Fool

Mark Twain (from Facebook meme, originally from an image in public domain)

People believe a lot of untrue things, sometimes as many (to misquote the White Queen) as three before breakfast.

I’m sometimes guilty of that myself. But my challenge for myself, over the next several years, is to use my compassion and my ability to write to help people distinguish between useful knowledge and ‘knowledge’ that causes problems for people by preventing them from investigating further, which is perhaps one of the best definitions of truth.

The Darwin Awards (film)

The Darwin Awards (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Back to the Darwin awards. There are lots of dumb ways to die. We invent more every day. It’s entirely possible that you or I might succumb to one of those. More importantly, however, there are a lot of dumb ways to live, ways that hurt us and the people around us, and we don’t have a nifty internet meme to identify them  and point and laugh.

Maybe instead we shoule be looking for ways to teach, to share, and to help people, rather than laughing and judging. So yeah, go ahead and laugh. The video, especially, is adorable. And then…

Maybe its time to start identifying ways to live better, and to keep on spreading joy until there’s no room for the sort of fear and hate that keep infecting the world. Or as Lennon said, ‘Give peace a chance’.

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FOR YOU LOVE PEACE .......... MAMITA SUFFER PA...

.. (Photo credit: LUZ-2011)

Happiness Results from Full Participation in Life

How many of us have groaned or sighed when some happiness guru or another has said ‘just think positive’? How many of us have growled at the speaker or the book and thrown the remote or the book across the room in anger?

Do you know why you get so angry? That kind of deep anger covering up an even deeper injury? It’s because you’re being asked to take half (more or less) of reality and pretend its not real. It doesn’t work, because ‘think positive’ is only a bit of the answer, and the wrong bit, at that.

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Doctor Who TARDIS Mk VII

TARDIS Mk VII (Photo credit: >Rooners)

The Doctor in Doctor Who is the embodiment of quantum physics. His D&D alignment is Lawful Good, because he is the law (of time), which of course is chaos, which makes it all confusing. At least, that’s how I see it.

Is he another British metaphor for Jesus, like Aslan and Gandalf? Or is he something else entirely? If so, what? And what is the Tardis (or who)? Is it intentional that the Tardis makes me think of R2D2?

What is it that makes us love the Doctor through eleven (soon to be twelve) incarnations? Is it his compassion? His joie de vivre? His silliness? His completely mindful living in the present?

Please feel free to discuss. The best of science fiction always has a philosophical underpinning, which is what builds our suspension of disbelief. It explores our universe, our humanity, the meaning of life.

What does Doctor Who mean to you?

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Personal trainer showing a client how to exerc...

Personal trainer showing a client how to exercise the right way and educating them along the way. The semi-spherical device is a BOSU. Category:Fitness Category:Fitness_training Category:Personal_training Category:Stretching Category:Challenges to physical balance (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, you’ve decided to take that second big fitness step. Now that you’re going to the gym (semi) regularly, you’ve noticed the ordinary folk sweating themselves silly next to uber-fit men and women who kneel or stand next to them, egging them on. And you’ve decided to splurge on your own personal trainer, to take your goals to the next level. Congratulations!

A word of advice: Don’t just pick the cutest trainer of your preferred gender. Beauty will only keep you motivated for a session or so. Really. Don’t. This I know from experience.

Spend some time watching the trainers working with their clients. Ask around about the trainer’s motivational style and preferred modes of training to get an idea of good fit. Talk to prospective trainers to find out if their personalities are good fits with yours. Pick one you feel you can trust, who will listen to you and to whom you will listen.

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Twisting Love

Buy at Art.com

Twisting Love by Megan Aroon Duncanson
Giclee Print
Buy From Art.com

Beautiful, isn’t it? A friend linked to another of the artist’s prints on Facebook and I got curious. Thinking of buying this one for my office at work.

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Blood, Bones and Butter in the window

Blood, Bones and Butter in the window (Photo credit: Marisa | Food in Jars)

When I put e-books on my library hold list to read and review, I am sometimes completely unaware of what I’ve just ordered. This was very much the case with Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton. I thought I had ordered a cookbook to browse through. Instead, I had ordered a memoir by a cook (a chef, really).

Happy, happy mistake. This is a meandering memoir full of foodie-licious details of French and Italian cooking and the sort of personal details that make you either want to put the book down for a moment to absorb what you have just read, or plow forward.

I read this, coincidentally, during a weekend devoted to making peace with my family of birth. Hamilton, too, describes such an event, and like mine hers was a fraught mixture of success and failure. Mine, however, is unlikely to be set down as a memoir, certainly not one as mouthwatering as hers.

I identified with the craziness of her childhood life, the mistakes of her young adulthood, the settled certainty of later choices and then the even later questioning of that certainty. I grew to care about the character even as I sometimes judged her as harshly as I judged myself.

Throughout reading it, I badly wanted to hand it to 15 year old overthinker to enjoy, but realized even with the impulse that he needed more life experience to truly appreciate this book, even with his love of cooking and dream of being a chef someday.

This was not, for me, an easy book to read. It was, however, fascinating and heartbreaking and full of truth in both its lurid ugliness and beauty. I hope someday to whip up a concoction this complex and delicious, and suspect, sadly, that I never will.

 

Wow, did that get poetical. Deal with it, folks. That’s how the book made me feel.

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Visualizing mindfulness (366/194 July 12, 2012)

Visualizing mindfulness (366/194 July 12, 2012) (Photo credit: ConnectIrmeli)

What is ‘everyday mindfulness’ and why do it?

Mindfulness is the state of simply being, in the present, with all of your attention in the present.  It is compatible with any spiritual or religious belief, or lack thereof. It’s both simple and difficult, and it has been found by numerous studies to be useful in a variety of situations, including easing chronic pain, depression and anxiety. It doesn’t (necessarily) involve any special equipment, can be done (nearly) anywhere. 

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http://shankargallery.livejournal.com/

http://shankargallery.livejournal.com/ (Photo credit: shankargallery)

Mr Migraine is visiting today, so in lieu of the post I intended to work on today, I’m going to introduce you to some writers of fine articles and poems I have found on the web. Curated links and editing old posts seem to be the extent of my intellectual capacity today. Enjoy!

Elizabethann, who also goes by Elsie (in my tree) has been writing beautiful and challenging poetry for many years on Livejournal. Sometimes it borders on doggerel in style, but in a really good way (much like Robert Service). It is the subject matter that can be challenging.

Elsie, as she tells it in her journal, has had a very difficult life, and her ambivalence about how it has affected her is a frequent topic of her poetry. It can be shocking and hard to read even as its beauty and lyricism is compelling. Here, go have a look at her latest, and then look back over others she has posted.

Cathain has written a scathing indictment of What is Wrong with Kansas? Cait is from Kansas, and I live a scant dozen miles (or less) from Kansas, with family and friends on the Jayhawks side of the border. I think Cait accurately lays the problems in the state at the feet of ideology. I would be interested in solutions that the readers of this post can come up with, because I suspect they will be more widely applicable after the next midterms.

From Daily Kos comes an article about veiled threats being bantered around about ‘making Joe Biden President’. My observation: Our contry (the US) is a representative democracy. Voting is a bloodless revolution every four years. If you don’t like the outcome of the revolution, rather than bring blood in it, seek to have the next bloodless revolution turn your way.

Lest you think I have nothing good to say about business owners and people in power, there’s this: The owner of Bob’s Red Mill is giving his company to his employees.

Finally, I have seen this video mentioned in Huffington Post several times from friends on Facebook. It gives me the giggles, partially, in fact, because my husband can compete with those handsome fellas in the video in every particular except in the whole being gay thing: Gay Men will Marry Your Girlfriends

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Disarm Anger

Angry Sphynx (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Why disarm anger and not just walk away or react angrily yourself? Because most of the time, not only does it help the angry person, it helps you and the people you care about as well. You develop a skill that is useful at home, at work, and even in random public places.

You know the scene: The boss screams, the co-worker curses, the customer threatens, the sister, the uncle, the brother in law, the spouse, and the parent blame. You want to grit your teeth and find something better to do or get ready to do battle. And yet, if you take the time to disarm the anger, you’ll have a better outcome, and you know it.

I’m going to let you in on a a little secret. All of those angry people are in pain. Most of them are in the pain of fear or anxiety (which is like fear but on steroids and constant), and quite a few are in actual physical pain. And pain nearly always (though not always immediately) responds to kindness.

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Imperial Daleks

Imperial Daleks (Photo credit: Kaptain Kobold)

But first, a quick introduction. I am a sophomore in high school, with decent grades in most classes, lots friends of varying styles, personalities, and morals, and a joy to experience many things and this has led to an interest of philosophy and so I think about EVERYTHING too much. I will lead you into conversations about zombies, Daleks, cooking, music, books, tv shows, video games, and philosophy. If any of you wish to rage about “teens today” then come to me, and I will often rage rage with you.

Now to the challenge:

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Dalek voting

Vote! Keep your priorities straight: Participate and then Exterminate. Or maybe simply participate and realize your entire reason for existing is bogus and decide to go against the crowd and become a proud citizen of the Universe. Maybe that will get that crazy Doctor off your back.

On a more serious note, yes, I know that Daleks would necessarily be aliens and not citizens, and even if they were citizens of an Earth country it would almost certainly be Great Britain and not the United States. Besides, they ain’t never gonna change, so the whole idea of them voting is laughable. So if you see one at your polling place, take cover and call the Doctor.

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silk

silk (Photo credit: SJ photography)

Note to self: I don’t care how warm and light it is, don’t wear your silk jacket in the rain. Now you smell like wet caterpillar spit, and you have no one to blame but yourself.

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Overthinker Masked for Guy Fawkes Day (Bonfire Day)

Overthinker Masked for Guy Fawkes Day (Bonfire Day)

Remember Dances with Dragons, that adorably assertive and clueless little boy? Or perhaps The Perpetually Grounded Son, who spent over a year being the source of many stories about the woes of being a parent? Or Teenager, who got tired of me calling him the Perpetually Grounded Son?

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