Friday, October 28, 2011

Invade At Your Own Risk

Privacy is an interesting security. It is, at once, both personal and public... privacy lies very close to you and what matters, yet it requires participation from others, making it decidedly impersonal.

This dichotomous relationship we have with our own privacy means that it isn't always in our hands. We guard it with the appropriate caution, but it belongs to a collective which we don't control. What is it worth? Have you ever read your neighbor's mail? Or listened in on a conversation, eavesdropped a meeting, facebook-stalked someone?

If our privacy means that we have an unspoken contract with someone, then why should we be surprised when the contract is breached? I've never talked about my privacy boundaries with anyone... and I'm a very private person, so I imagine that a lot of people don't give it the adequate attention. My rules are simple:

  • I don't lie about what is truth. If I did something and you find out about it after the fact, I'll feel bad, but I'm going to tell you the truth, however painful (for both of us).
  • I don't keep things from people to hurt or spite them. If there is something I know, and you don't... know that I've done it for what seems like a good enough reason to me. I value honesty and disclosure, but I'm also a realist. Honesty isn't always the best policy.
  • In spite of my ridiculously stoic value system, I'm not perfect. I succumb to moments of weakness and insecurity like everyone else. I may do or say (or omit) something because the cost of being honest is more than the price of keeping an untruth. I'm sorry, but this is the case. Against all speculation, I am a human, with human shortcomings.

Yet, in spite of the excuses or reasons I mention, I take accusations of deception very seriously. I do not intend to deceive anyone, and actually relish the thought of being brutally and purely honest... it's just that deception sometimes occurs unexpectedly.

I think what I've learned about deception is that if you believe someone is lying to you, whether they are or not, you can find the evidence you need to prove your case in most people's lives. We live on a weakly constructed foundation of loose truths. Believe, and you can prove all your friends are honest; lose faith in someone, and you can probably prove they're lying to you... the only thing that changes is you.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Locus Pocus

Someone has been snoring in the hotel room next to me for 2 days. I would like to knock on his door, hit him in the face with an ironing board, then relish in his [hopefully silent] unconsciousness.

In personality psychology, the 'locus of control' is the extent to which people can control what happens to them. An internal locus refers to a source of control over one's life that is within control of the individual, intrinsic, guided and limited to behavior that is considered useful. External is attributed; to fate, to chance, to another uncontrollable and understood source. Instead of either of these things, the following verse I wrote could describe them both - and the human condition of control:

Living is sometimes like walking the plank at the mercy of pirates.
Pirates who steal our health, our sanity, and our time.
We must turn heel and say; in spite of their tyranny,
"I will dance on this plank until you throw me into the water."

These pirates know nothing of clemency, one can only do to pardon himself.
Perhaps this locus of control really isn't a choice over future decisions, but a choice over how to deal with things that are forced upon you. It's easy to choose, but much harder to deal with something that is dictated to you.

I'm tired of being poked. I'm poking back.

Friday, October 21, 2011


One of the things I love more than cheese (there are very few) are astronomic events. Anything unusual happening in the sky will guarantee I'm outside, looking up. I've seen eclipses, supernovae, aurorae and planetary alignments... tonight I'll be observing the Orionid meteor shower, and you should too.

The Orionids are more plentiful in recent years, producing about 10-15 meteors an hour. If you can get to a dark area, before the moon rises sometime this weekend (peak on the nights of 10/21-10/22) you can expect to see fast-moving meteors and fireballs coming from the area of the sky near the constellation Orion. The best viewing window will be after midnight, right before the moon rises. Moon rise is 2:51am tomorrow, and 3:57 Sunday morning.

To learn more about the Orionids, check out's article. For a dark-sky viewing location, there is a map of the US with the light pollution levels, measured on the Bortle scale located here. The closest dark spot to Dallas is the Caddo National Grasslands northeast of here.

Nothing makes me feel more connected to the universe than to watch parts of the vast beyond rain through the atmosphere. Unless I go to space, it has to come to me.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

To Be Valued

I recently read The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera and shared with you some of its profundity. After this week's tragic events at the Muskingum County Animal Farm, I immediately reached for the book again and went straight to a tabbed section. A section that, when I read it 10 days ago, seemed eerie and prophetic, and now seems - well, the same. Even if I disagree with organized religion and most of the associated doctrine, for me, Kundera applies inarguable and poignant perspective to the most known book of the bible... and to Us. From Part Seven, Chapter 2:
     "The very beginning of Genesis tells us that God created man in order to give him dominion over fish and fowl and all creatures. Of course, Genesis was written by a man, not a horse. There is no certainty that God actually did grant man dominion over other creatures. What seems more likely, in fact, is that man invented God to sanctify the dominion that he had usurped over himself over the cow and the horse. Yes, the right to kill a deer or a cow is the only thing that all of mankind can agree upon, even during the bloodiest of wars.
The reason we take that right for granted is that we stand at the top of the hierarchy. But let a third party enter the game-a visitor from another planet, for example, soemone to whom God says, "Thou shalt have dominion over creatures of all other stars" -and all at once taking Genesis for granted becomes problematical. Perhaps a man hitched to the cart of a Martian or roasted on the spit by inhabitants of the Milky Way will recall the veal cutlet he used to slice on his dinner plate and apologize (belatedly!) to the cow...
...True human goodness, in all its purity and freedom, can come to the fore only when its recipient has no power. Mankind's true moral test, its fundamental test (which lies deeply buried from view), consists of its attitude towards those who are at its mercy: animals. And in this respect mankind has suffered a fundamental debacle, a debacle so fundamental that all others stem from it."
-The Unbearable Lightness of Being, by Milan Kundera
Such a loss of value has a lot of debates stirring up...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

New Hobby

I like inventing new ways to make people uncomfortable in close quarters. I have a number of irrational pet peeves, so I feel like I'm exacting a little bit of revenge on the world for being so annoying. Since the ideas of talking on the phone in the bathroom and eating others' food make me want to shower immediately and disinfect, I usually invade personal space instead.

This week's game involves my intimate time spent on an airplane with [presumably] perfect strangers. I decided this week, instead of sketching clouds outside or reading my new book, that I'd create a new hobby for my trip.

For this game, you need a pen, a piece of paper, and a crazy look on your face. (Cat shown for display only):

Then, you simply need to take your crazy face, look at each person in the cabin in random order, and write down a word on the paper. I went around looking at my fellow passengers, neighbor in the aisle included, and free-associating words to them. It especially helps if you turn the card around every once in a while so the finished product looks like a loosely-organized, but dissasociated thought plan. Use caution, this makes people pretty uncomfortable once they notice what you're doing. Also, don't attempt if anyone can say you look even remotely like a terrorist.

My neighbor eventually got up out of his seat and stood at the back of the plane until time to land. Mission accomplished: more personal space for me & a new way to pass the time.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Sweaters = Soup Time

It was the first afternoon of many to come where my lap was full of chilly cats. Time to dig out the winter clothes, figure out where I put all my toe socks and get my recipe book out. It's been so hot in my ancient house, I have probably only turned on the oven three times since April and I'm sure Bart is getting tired of salads and sandwiches.

He did something really nice for me while I was lampooning around Las Vegas, I came home to a spruced up back yard... compliments of my lovely husband and Tiff and Jason. Thanks everyone, it looks lovely:

So the soup nazi giveth...

Bart's Favorite Dal Shorva
prep: 15 min, cook: 45 min

1-1/2 cups red lentils, rinsed
2 quarts veggie stock
1-1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon cayenne
1-1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1-1/2 teaspoon hot, madras or japanese curry powder
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
1 teaspoon olive oil

 Cover lentils in stock in a 3-quart soup pot, bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer over low heat. Add turmeric, cumin, cayenne, curry, garam masala and simmer, uncovered for 30 minutes until the lentils are soft and the stock has reduced to desired consistency. In a small skillet, heat oil and saute mustard seeds until color barely changes - they'll burn fast! Add to soup and serve or simmer 15 mins longer for thicker dal and spoon over rice. Serves 4-6, but I usually double and freeze the remainder.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


Some people listen with their ears. Sounds are relayed via waves, crashing over their eardrums. Other listen with minds, analyzing and reviewing what is heard. Still more listen with their hearts, carefully considering messages and their meanings.

I think I use all of these channels to listen, but I also hear with my soul. Sometimes a piece of music is so utterly beautiful it mists my eyes even if I’m not consciously aware of the song until then. At the appropriate volume, Florence Welch sings directly to my being. The volume at which this takes place varies, and some days I can’t turn her up high enough. This is singing along as loud as you can, top down, driving on the freeway on a Friday afternoon with perfect hair, good.

What else has this ability? I recently read The Unbearable Lightness of Being, in which Milan Kundera describes Tereza, a character who felt so disconnected from her soul that she imagined it buried deep within her bowels. As she grows older, she is able to command her soul “to the deck of her body” on rare occasion. It is only when she calls her soul forth that she recognizes the face reflected in the mirror; otherwise she could look for hours at herself and not see anything familiar. I have always felt like this myself, as if the outside of my body looked foreign and distorted.

If the soul lies deep within some people – and I certainly hope it doesn’t live in my bowels – why are there times when we can readily access it and others when we search for life inside our own being? Perhaps the soul lives in waves too.

In physics, resonance is when the frequency of a sound, electromagnetic, or mechanical wave nears the natural frequency of the object in its path, this wave’s amplitude increases. This sounds like Tereza’s calling forth of her soul, she found a rhythm in life that resounded and soul escaped. Sometimes this is fantastic, when you are in tune with your life and able to enjoy it (and yourself) honestly.
Sometimes resonance can be disastrous. The Tacoma Narrows Bridge taught us that amplification is destructive. So maybe it’s good that I can only turn up the radio so loud on certain songs? And surely other things resonate for me too; one that comes to mind is the spicy-sweet Paloma margarita at Urban Taco which tastes better than any combo of grapefruit and tequila I could ever try to make.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Oh yeah... I'm Not Dying, I Just Ate Beets Yesterday.

The human body is a marvelous machine when well-maintained. When stressed, it's an exhibit of autonomic physical comedy.

When I'm really sleep-deprived, I stutter uncontrollably.
After a recent earthquake, I had motion sickness and vertigo for the rest of the day.
If I'm really angry, sometimes I spontaneously burst into tears, which makes me even angrier.

And yeah, beets are really sneaky and scary, and also scary tasty, and tasty things normally wind up in my belly. And beeturia ensues, which makes me think I'm seriously ill... until I remember I'm a vegetarian and eat weird food.


The building shakes like a nervous animal as the subway passes below. The air that pushes toward the sky avoids the common boundaries of noise and space.

I'm in a highrise bell jar. Life, muffled and small, persistently chirps at the window. How do I  measure life when it comes in clicks and buzzes?


Does nature really know what I think? Does she hear me supposing from up here in the canopy? Or do I just seek to hear her? Seek her breath on the back of my neck, reassuring me that the world is close by, constantly celebrating my existence?

It would be different if everything beautiful that pressed up against the atmosphere, trying to breathe... felt the Universe's approval in return, pushing them back - allowing them to be. There's a point on the downswing of a rollercoaster where you feel a drastic change, gravity moves through you completely, from top to bottom. There, in that movement, you are moving away from something that is bigger than you - the force of the entire planet. And we have to go to an amusement park to feel it, when a skyscraper speaks every day, every minute... a little tiny version of this movement away from gravity. Up, sharply, away.

Friday, October 7, 2011

I Love Stuff.

I love the event horizon of a bad week. The point where, once you slip past, the week can't get any worse and can't be too far from over.

I love sriracha. Its one of the perfect condiments. Salty, spicy, and loaded with MSG. When I eat it, I feel all-american and worldly at the same time.

I love seeing things that others don't. Last night, I watched in horror as a young woman sat next to an agitated schizophrenic for hours as he got drunker and more handsy. How can you not see that the guy next to you is carrying on 4 conversations and none of them are with people you can see? And when he reaches toward you to touch your leg, you don't notice someone invading your space? Those I might forgive, but when the guy coughs up a phlegm-rocket and it lands on your foot?! I worry for that girl, she may not have seen mental illness, but she should at least be aware of the contagion...

I love rice noodles. They're beautifully simple, just rice flour and water. Extremely delicate and fine-textured, and pretty to look at. They have an uncanny way of absorbing things... I made some for lunch and by the time I sat down to eat, they had soaked up all the liquid in my soup. I want to be like a rice noodle, simple & delicate and able to absorb anything. This week, that would have come in handy with the extra stress-juice around.

I love little reminders that the universe has a sense of humor, like the duck-billed platypus. If he were asked, I bet the platypus would look at me the same way... "what kind of creature is this, naked and narrow and unable to detect electricity under water? Its useless!".