Thursday, December 31, 2009

Bye-Bye Gasometers

I was exceptionally dismayed to learn that my beloved gasometers (as that is what they are called--yeah, I didn't know either) had been torn down.  It occurred to me, as I was driving down Interstate 44 on my way to my aunt's home on Christmas Eve, that something dark and looming to my right was missing, but I figured it must have just been my imagination.  Turns out, they truly are gone...

As a child, I remember lying in the back seat of my parent's car and marking our location by seeing those towers upside down, as we sped past. An adult used to tease me by saying that the changing of the height of the storage tanks was evidence that the towers were breathing. I was so young, I think I believed that respect, it really does feel like a death.

R.I.P. - A great, STL, urban decay landmark.  You will be missed.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

In the black!

[edited for brevity]

1) Received my bonus check;
2) Paid off the balance due on the $1,500 personal loan; and
3) Committed to saving over and above what my company contributes to my retirement account. 

Om shanti.

Our President Delightfully Surprises

Executive Order - Classified National Security Information

Presidential Memorandum - Implementation of the Executive Order, "Classified National Security Information"

Executive Order Drastically Reduces Total Of Classified Papers

Finally, an executive order that increases government transparency!  Such a refreshing change compared to that last US administration in office (you know, They-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named).

I'm anxious to learn about all of the piquant little secrets (400 million pages worth!!) our government has assiduously concealed over the decades. 

Excellent work, Mr. President! <3 <3 <3

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Monday, December 28, 2009

Tragic and Treacherous

One of the things that is most painful about being a single adult is learning that there are people in this world who you could partner up with romantically and be very happy with indefinitely, if only you both lived in a vacuum. Ani DiFranco addresses this situation (or at least I interpret her lyrics this way) in her song Shameless--

We're in a room without a door
And I am sure without a doubt
They're gonna wanna know
How we got in here
And they're gonna wanna know
How we plan to get out

I keep “backsliding” (as one of my friends so sensitively puts it) with my ex. I spend entirely too much time with him, I don’t have enough emotional distance, and I go back and forth in my head about our relationship--

I could be with him today.
Probably not tomorrow, though...
[In the grand sense of the word “tomorrow,” that is.]
How would that work? Just being with him today?
I’m sure I don’t really care; I just want him to hold me at this very moment.
Then maybe we could fall into bed together...
Yeah, but that makes me feel grotesque afterward.
So perhaps we should get back together then.
That might be nice...
But then how would we break up? What would that be like?
And what would happen if one of us found someone who suits the other better?

What a mess.

Not only that, but I keep mulling over my relationship with another guy from my past. He is utterly not right for me in important respects--not esthetically, not philosophically, not with relation to chosen life paths--and yet, I can’t push the array of thoughts relating to him out of my brain. I only fixate on how intellectually stimulating it is to be around him, how we laugh together, how we intrigue each other, what it was like when we were young and held hands in his car, and what it would be like to be with him in that room without a door for awhile.

Bleh. Sometimes, I really detest adulthood. Really, I do.

Om shanti.

Sunday, December 27, 2009


"I daresay," said Sam. "But where have you been to – sneaking off and sneaking back, you old villain?"

Gollum withdrew himself, and a green glint flickered under his heavy lids.  Almost spider-like he looked now, crouched back on his bent limbs, with his protruding eyes. The fleeting moment had passed, beyond recall. "'Sneaking, sneaking!'" he hissed. "Hobbits always so polite, yes. O nice hobbits! Sméagol brings them up secret ways that nobody else could find. Tired he is, thirsty he is, yes thirsty; and he guides them and he searches for paths, and they say, 'sneak, sneak.' Very nice friends, O yes my precious, very nice."

Sam felt a bit remorseful, though not more trustful. "Sorry." he said. "I'm sorry, but you startled me out of my sleep. And I shouldn't have been sleeping, and that made me a bit sharp....Sorry. But where have you been to?"

," said Gollum, and the green glint did not leave his eyes. 


When my little sister, Julia Rose, first encountered my cat, she looked into her flashing, light green eyes and declared, "Gollum!"  I dismissed her characterization and convinced her of what a nice kitty Little Miss Calico was.  As I've written before, my cat and Julia became fast friends, shortly thereafter, but I didn't forget what Julia initially said of her.

Over the course of our weeks together, my cat has become more comfortable and no longer remains on her best behavior.  Consequently, it is difficult for me to enjoy a decent night's rest because my feline friend often awakens me in the early hours of the morning--gleefully stalking through the ivy tendrils of my plants, busily sharpening her claws on my furniture, and generally creating a ruckus.  This behavior has grown so egregious over the past couple of weeks that one morning I meanly swept her up in a huff, tossed her into my bathroom, and pulled the door closed behind me.  She quietly awaited her release and I fell off into a light, abashed sleep while my guilty conscious considered her plight.

I subsequently dreamt that I had, in a rage, thrown my pet to the floor with such force that I broke every bone in her body.  She must have bled profusely because when I moved to pry the gelatinous blob of her from my hardwood floor, she stuck to it, having congealed to the wood.  Undeterred, I ripped her body from the floor boards, tearing off a good deal of her fur, and was left with the mass of her body draped over one arm.  Horrified, I quickly drew a hot bath and stepped into it fully clothed with my terribly mutated cat in my arms.  I hoped that the warm water would sooth her injured form and wash away the pain.  She only mewed pitifully.  I remember reflecting in the dream that she looked like a brontosaurus with only her elongated, sinewy, and boneless neck above water.   I awoke to her continued meowing--calling for her freedom from behind my bathroom door.

Since that time, when she looks up at me with her mischievously lit green eyes, I've taken to calling her Golluimna.  I believe the name suits her and it also helps to diffuse my frustration with her crazed, late-night, kitty shenanigans.

Doing The Math

one - number of months since I have done any significant cardiovascular exercise
two - number of days (minimal) I need to work out per week in order to elevate my mood to a bearable level
three - number of times a week I need to practice yoga in order to center my mind
six - number of pizzas I have ordered over the previous ten days (keep in mind that two of those days I couldn't order pizza even if I wanted to--darned Christians and their pervasive holiday...)
nineteen - number of days since I last practiced yoga
thirty-five - number of dollars per month to maintain a YMCA membership
unknown - number of pounds I have gained since I fell out of my fitness routine 

For the past week, Kenny and I have dutifully been making plans to go to the gym and summarily breaking them.   I was listening to a psychologist on the radio this evening and she had said that, with the onset of freezing weather and lack of sunlight, it is our instinct to not do the things we would regularly do in order to keep ourselves fit.  Instead, we tend to sleep.  Which makes sense, considering the whole winter hibernation thing. 

Recently, I read a story Malcolm Gladwell relayed in Outliers about certain European farmers who would, once the frigid weather arrived, literally all crowd into bed together for warmth and simply sleep the winter away.  As that isn't realistic in today's modern society, the previously mentioned psychologist advised that we need to force ourselves to do what our biology attempts to circumvent--that is, go to the freaking gym anyway.  Just buckle down and move, which is what I plan on doing...tomorrow. 
Om shanti.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

"your yogini is in consonance," he tells me

The circle ground held the great yogi
Grace astride sat the grand contra yogini
She was holy blue he was bathed
In sun the earth was a perfect
Place to be as mutual to him
Was showing forth whole to her was
Same ark peace oath Purusha Shadow Butoh

Just the Stats Ma'am

I've learned something somewhat unsettling over the past three weeks:  people actually read my blog.  A lot.  According to Google Analytics, I've received the following traffic in the aforementioned time period--

386 Site Visits
156 Unique Visitors
926 Page Views
00:07:24 Average Time on Site
38.86% New Visits

In addition, I've had folks from ten different countries visit this here blogity blog including:  Japan, the UK, Singapore, Pakistan, Egypt, South Korea, Qatar (I don't even know where that is!) and Australia. 

What the hell, you guys?  Why are you reading this thing?  It's freaking me out and turning me into an egomaniac.  I've stayed up till midnight on more occasions than I'd like to admit just to see what the traffic was looking like for the previous 24-hours.  In the past week, I've gotten so self-conscious that I don't even know what to write anymore.

It seems to be high time for me to disengage with Google Analytics.  But if I can't manage to drag myself away from this data source, rest assured that I do not have access to your IP addresses, so I don't know who exactly is following me.  Your secrets are (relatively) safe with Google...

Om shanti.

A Hankering

I can't really explain why, maybe it is all of the latent, post-Christmas consumerism in the air, but I all-of-a-sudden want a homemade broom and I particularly want one constructed by this guy--

After having perused the various products available, it is my feeling that Big Jack makes great brooms.  The following old-fashioned round broom, similar to those crafted by Ben Franklin, according to the Hockaday Handmade Brooms website, is pretty cool--

I'm likin' the witchy look to it, with the crooked, irregular shapes and such, but I doubt it will be of much practical use over a large area (I understand these are best for getting into tight corners).

Rather, this broom will probably be a more appropriate choice for my needs and it was exactly what I envisioned--right down to the red threading--when I first began searching for homemade brooms on the web--

I'm pretty sure my mother and my grandmother both had ones just like it when I was a kiddiepoo.  Isn't it wonderful?  Don't cha just want one for your own hardwood floors?  Well, it is merely $30, which is cheap for a handmade broom!  (I found folks selling brooms similar to these for around $70 on other sites, the scoundrels.)

Finally, I have no conceivable use for this (not being a baker myself), but I wanted to share it with you guys b/c it is just so CUTE--

It is a teensy cake tester broom to hang on your kitchen wall.  Only $5!  I want to buy a bunch and give them to all of my domesticated friends and family.  <3 <3 <3

Om shanti.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Unreal City

Unreal City,
Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,
A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,
I had not thought death had undone so many.
Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled,
And each man fixed his eyes before his feet.
Flowed up the hill and down King William Street,
To where Saint Mary Woolnoth kept the hours
With a dead sound on the final stroke of nine.
"You! hypocrite lecteur!—mon semblable,—mon frère!"
-T.S. Eliot

Who reads The Waste Land on Christmas Eve?
Me, I do, not fretfully.

My apologies for my recent multitude of business-related posts. 

Om shanti.


I'm so very glad I chose to call into work today.  Yes, it is Christmas Eve.  Yes, I had the day off paid.  But I will be able to take a paid New Years Eve off instead.  Plus, I finished all of the preparatory discovery work that I needed to accomplish in order to have myself lined out for an upcoming January 4th deadline in US district court (I don't fuck around with the Feds--they scare me!).

Now, I can enjoy my long weekend without fretting over any work related nonsense and I have the added benefit of pride in a job well done.  (My boss told me I'd done an excellent job at least four times this morning.)  *contented sigh of relief*

Happy Winter's Solstice everyone!  :)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

You know you are totally mad when even your nemesis exclaims that you are putting too much pressure on yourself...

...but then, who can trust their nemesis anyway?

...or can you?

See?!  Totally mad.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Valuing Myself Monetarily

This morning my boss returned from sick leave and thanked me for covering for him while he had been out of the office.  I responded that he was certainly welcome, then walked away thinking, "Is that all I get?  Sincere thanks?"  Shortly thereafter, I returned to my boss' office and stated, "So then, I assume that your gratitude will be reflected on my bonus check this year?"  I then chuckled a bit to soften the harshness of those words, but before the laughter had finished escaping from my lips he replied, "Absolutely."

I'm holding him to that absolutely.  Oh yes, I am...

Thursday, December 17, 2009


per⋅e⋅gri⋅na⋅tion [per-i-gruh-ney-shuhn]

1. travel from one place to another, esp. on foot.
2. a course of travel; journey.

1425–75; late ME peregrinacioun (< MF peregrinacion) < L peregrīnātiōn- (s. of peregrīnātiō) a traveling abroad. See peregrinate, -ion

1, 2. trip, excursion, expedition.

One of the peculiarities I appreciate and find particularly appealing in poets of prominence is their propensity toward propagation of praiseworthy words and p-phrases.  [Alliteration does not come easily to me, so I switched over to consonance.]

Thanks for the word, sir <3

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Runs in the Family

A snippet of a perfectly ordinary conversation around the dinner table at my folks' home--

Cayleen [my youngest sister]: then Emily [our eight year old niece] and I were jamming out to Michael Jackson so hard that Dad yelled at us to turn it down.

Me:  I just don't get why you are still so obsessed with Michael Jackson, Cayleen. [She didn't even know M.J. existed prior to his death and has since developed a single-minded interest in him to which only a tween could so thoroughly devote herself.]  Most kids your age would crack under the strain of the people around them's disapproval. But not you!  You still think he is the greatest.

Cayleen:  Not just me.  I've convinced Emily and Esme [our nine year old cousin], too!  We are going to bring Michael Jackson back! [Back from the dead, she means.]  And then HE is going to bring JESUS back!! 

*My other sister, Julia [age 14], and my youngest brother, Timmy [age 23], and I exchange brief scoffing glances*

Timmy:  How is Michael Jackson going to bring Jesus back from the dead?

*Julia and I burst out laughing at Tim; Cayleen laughs at her own absurdity, but remains defiant*

*Julia moves from the sink to behind the chair where Cayleen is sitting and rests her hands on the chair back*

Julia [speedily chanting in an unsettling, low voice]Jesus "ascended-into-Heaven-sits-at-the-right-hand-of-God-the-Father-almighty. From-there-He-shall-come-to-judge-the-living-and-the-dead."

*Julia collapses into giggles at seeing Tim's and my quasi-perplexed faces*

Me:  Tim, you were raised Catholic!  Why do you find Michael Jackson arising from the dead perfectly plausible, but not Jesus?  Julia, how did the Lutherans brainwash you so completely? And Cayleen, when did your fixation on MJ become less scary than Julia's Christian upbringing??

*Everyone laughs and begins talking at once*

Shortly after the above scene, Julia casually attempts to bake Cayleen's purportedly evil doll in the oven, as Cayleen pantomimes the doll singing, "Jesus loves me, this I know, for the bible tells me so."



Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Threat of Mental Collapse - Part II of II

To continue, I discovered, over ten days ago, that I had somehow either lost or had stolen from me both my debit card and my driver’s license.  On the following days I had to haul ass on my lunch hours to get those necessary items replaced and, as of today's date, I still haven’t gotten my new debit card up and running, yet (I received the thing in the mail last night, but I’m having a problem activating it). Since the economy is so insanely shitty and I've never had to write checks before (except to pay my monthly bills), no one wants to accept them from me.  My checks are more often than not declined b/c I've never previously written a check at these businesses.  So I currently have next to zero cash flow (even though I have a sizable sum of money in my checking account right now—which will all be going to bills soon enough, but I digress).

As an aside (this seems somehow related in my mind), I borrowed $1,500 from one of my better off friends this spring in order to fund my moving into my own place and my new-to-me car.  Luckily, I've been able to buckle down and pay her back $1,300 of that loan since June, but my goal was to have repaid the entire sum by the end of this year.  If I don't receive the aformentioned bonus, I will have to carry the balance into next year, which I do not want to do.  It makes me sick to my stomach just thinking about it.  To be clear, not because she has been pressuring me--Goddess love her, she was willing to wait as long as it took for me to comfortably repay her--but because I don't want to worry about owing my friend money (neither a borrower nor a lender be).  I value our friendship much too much to ever let something like an unpaid debt come between us.

Yesterday, a check of mine was declined (the third time in 24 hours) at a local filling station (SUPREMELY frustrating, given that I had so much money in my account and I'd been working so diligently lately--you'd think I'd be able to freaking buy gas). This occurred at a business where I have used my debit card (the same checking account as my checks, mind you) numerous times over the course of many years.  In addition to the crippling embarrassment of such an event, it was also the absolute worst time for my check to be declined since my gas light was on and I was still several highway exits away from my home.  I had no cash and no other way to purchase the necessary fuel.  Rather than fruitlessly arguing with the cashier, I decided to chance it and try driving on fumes the rest of the way back to my apartment.

Luckily, I did make it to my place without further incident and promptly had a mini-breakdown upon arrival.  In tears, I called my ex (who lives about ten or so blocks away from me) and recounted my situation.  He calmed me down, reminded me that I was just going through some temporary trouble, and offered to come over and help.  He then drove with me to the nearest gas station (we made it without hitting empty, no small miracle) where he bought me a full tank of gas and three packs of cigarettes.  (If that isn't love, I don't know what is!)

On our way over to the gas station, my ex's old college buddy called him.  The same friend who hosted us in the Virgin Islands last year at his little cabin on the hillside.  So, when my ex got out of my car to pay for and pump the gas, he handed the phone over to me (as, apparently, he is unable to converse on the phone and pump gas at the same time).  Nearly the very first thing that his friend asked me was:  "Is it true that you guys broke up?"  (Apparently, my ex hasn't told any of his friends that we aren't together anymore--the only reason that this particular friend knew was because our mutual friend, whom I had told, had told him.)  I confirmed the news.

He then wanted to know why.  Why did we break up when we obviously still like each other??  The only thing I could tell him was that we simply do not have a future together.  He wants to be married.  I don't.  He wants six kids.  I don't.  He wants to ultimately live on his family's farm.  I don't.  Thankfully, his friend completely understood.  He told me, "Well, you know, he just has so much love in his heart.  Enough love for fourteen children."  It was the saddest thing anyone has ever said to me because it is bloody true.  My ex would be the most devoted of fathers.  Not only that, but he was there for me, at my house, within fifteen minutes of my random, panicky phone call.  He still loves me.  He still wants to be with me.  I think on some level that he believes that he will be with me one day in the future--if only he plays his cards right.  This isn't for my lack of communication, either.  I've been super straight with him and he seems to understand intellectually that we don't make sense together in the long term

It is just...our hearts haven't come to terms with this change.  I keep asking myself, "Exactly what happens when soul mates are simply not on the same life path?"  No discernible answer is yet forthcoming.

Threat of Mental Collapse - Part I of II

Well, I think I'm losing my mind this time, this time I'm losing my mind, that's right, said I think I'm losing my mind this time, this time I'm losing my mind...

Working at a plaintiff’s law firm has caused me to grow to hate the winter holidays.  Annually, starting in mid-November, I receive countless phone calls from clients wanting to know the status of their cases. (I’m talking several stacks of phone messages over the course of a single day!)  The subtext of their update requests is this:  “Will my case settle before Christmas?  Because I really need to pay my utilities, make a house payment, buy my kids some toys, purchase groceries, replace my furnace, repair my roof, …[ad nauseum].  Also, I’ve confused my case with a money tree and so I didn’t properly save over the course of the year, because I was counting on this settlement to getting me through to 2010.”

Ironically, I can not really fault our clients for their poor money management and resulting over-eagerness since I want their damn cases to settle as badly, if not more so, than they want it. "And why is that?," you may ask. Well, we historically receive bonuses at our Christmas/holiday party. Really generous, often equal to a two-week paycheck, bonuses. And the way we can most easily ensure our receipt of said bonuses is by bringing in a lot of fucking money in December.  Therefore, I put the fire on at the start of the fall season. I start working my cases the way an amateur stand-up comedian works a bad joke [or an amateur writer works a bad metaphor, as the case may be].

This year (and honestly MOST past years, too), I’ve been counting on that sizable (hopefully!) bonus to come through and it isn’t even guaranteed that we will get it.  Sometimes it is only half the size of a good year’s bonus, and I’ve heard talk of them not even giving bonus checks out before (not in the near decade that I’ve worked at the firm, but it has happened). So, what I am saying is that I am no better than our begging clients. I didn’t prepare any better than they did for the hard times. I know some of them make a heck of a lot more money than I do (because I know all of their salaries), but for those of them that do not earn as much income as me, I can’t blame ‘em. Times are tough. However, to the ones who are incessantly calling me and bringing home two, three, four times what I make in a year:  FUCK YOU PEOPLE AND YOUR FUCKING PRIVILEGED CHILDREN, TOO. STOP FUCKING CALLING ME EVERY FIVE GODDAMN MINUTES.  I COULDN'T GIVE A SHIT IF YOU ARE ABLE TO REMODEL YOUR CONDO’S KITCHEN, YOU SELF-INVOLVED ASSHOLES.

Wow, that felt good. I heart capital letters. But seriously, why do my clients pressure me like this?  I’m going as fast as I humanly can.  Their repeatedly calling my office and subsequent wasting of my obnoxiously limited time does not expedite the processing of their cases.  In fact, it simply slows everything down and puts me off my game.  I’ve had to ask our receptionist to hold ALL of my calls for two of the past three business days b/c the assholes just don’t stop.  I can’t even think straight with their constant pestering.  Over and above that, my boss is out on sick leave this month so I am taking DOUBLE calls this year; plus, he is having me cover most of his work (which is nice that he trusts me to handle the majority of his workload, but also nerve wrecking in and of itself).

I just want to answer the phone like this for every single phone call--

So what'cha what'cha what'cha want? (What'cha want?!)

and then hang up before I have to listen to yet another person inevitably ask me for status.  

Monday, December 14, 2009

Octopus Snatches Coconut and Runs

An octopus and its coconut-carrying antics have surprised scientists:

Yet another example of humans redefining exactly what "intelligent life" means.... Stories like this one are why I don't eat octopus meat!

I predict, once we have enough research data to effectively demonstrate how bright our fellow earthly dwellers truly are, we'll probably all be vegetarians...

...or eating each other ;)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Foster Kitty

My foster kitty a/k/a Little Miss Calico (LMC) is all kinda wonderful.  Some of her finer points include:

1)  her sack-o-potatoes stance - she allows me to pick her up in any ol' way, put her in any ol' place, and then she stays there.  I think she is so starved for human attention that she will tolerate just about anything to have this including undignified manipulation of her self and space;

2)  her consideration - ie:  she will not hop onto anything taller than her without first going up onto her hind legs to investigate her intended destination and ensure that she won't knock anything over;

3)  her grace - she is utterly languid in her movement and rarely makes a noise (that is, unless it is time for her to eat--then she will make calculated noises to remind me of the time and announce the necessity of her meal);

4)  her alarm cat modality- she has an uncanny ability to awake me in a timely manner (usually as a consequence of the aforementioned anticipated meal time).  Half of the time I resent her for being so effective in her vocation, but the other half of the time I grudgingly admire her effectiveness;

5)  her smarts - I suspect that her having been an outdoor cat and the consequential intelligence it takes to survive in a dangerous city has increased the plasticity of her kitty brain.  She really does seem to intuitively know what is going on around her and to navigate her environment in the most advantageous manner possible;

6)  her charm - she can make friends with anyone, even people who are afraid of or do not appreciate cats.  My little sister has always avoided felines but within thirty minutes of meeting LMC she was talking to her with obvious affection and by the end of the night LMC had a secure position in Julia's lap;

7)  her appreciation of food - we will probably grow obese together--I don't think I've witnessed another being who eats with more relish than her;

8)  her obedience - she comes when I call her, she listens when I tell her not to do something, and she rarely repeats undesirable behavior;

9)  her calming presence - just having her around seems to decrease my stress level and probably my blood pressure, too; and

10) her sweet companionship - this goes without saying :)

She is scheduled for her surgery on Thursday morning.  Hopefully, all will go well and maybe she will be able to continue to stay with me thereafter.

Om shanti <3

Friday, December 11, 2009

Malcolm X's Speech at Oxford University (1964)

I've spent the last couple of hours listening to Malcolm X's speeches and interviews posted on YouTube. There is something exquisitely poignant about getting the opportunity to see this man and hear him speak at length, as I am accustomed to simply reading his words.  Since my teenage years I've read his autobiography countless times; it is surely the book I've re-read the most over the course of my life (except for, perhaps, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle).   When I first visited New York City in my early twenties, the thing I wanted to do above all others was to walk down Malcolm X Blvd. in Harlem (and I did and it was wonderful!). The influence of his work and of his words and of what he stood for is probably why I have a tendency to move toward the radical in my own thinking (and rightly so, as he states at the end of the video posted here).

Besides my outright idolization of Malcolm X, I also relate to him on a personal level. We have somewhat similar histories. We both flirted with foolish and self-destructive behavior as young people, but then came to realize the importance of education. We both spent an inordinate amount of time self-educating ourselves. We both came from nothing, but still summoned the wherewithal to fight for something better.  We both are more concerned with systemic issues than individual ones.

Obviously, my experiences as a white woman in the early 21st century are ones of far more privilege than were his experiences as a black man in the mid 20th. Still, I believe the mutual experience of oppression (albeit, not to the same degree) renders us particularly accordant.  His thought truly inspires me. I particularly like to apply his thinking about racism to contemporary issues regarding sexism.* I would have liked nothing more than to have seen him live to a ripe old age and have witnessed his philosophy and approach come to full fruition. Who knows what our world would be like today had that happened?  Fortunately, some of his words have been preserved for posterity, words which remain utterly relevant in our time.

Some points I appreciate most in his above Oxford speech are, as follows:
1)  the problems inherent with a committee approach to governance;
2)  issues regarding the seniority system with regard to moving the historically oppressed into positions of power;
3)  the divorce of practice and enforcement from rhetoric and laws;
4)  how it is incumbent upon citizens to bring about justice when the system fails to; and
5)  how a moderate approach does not apply to the fight for freedom and equality.

Om shanti.

* Which isn't to imply that I think racism isn't a contemporary issue b/c minorities are still being discriminated against today and they hardly have equal opportunities available to them (take a walk in North St. Louis or East St. Louis and read Gladwell's Outliers, if you don't believe this is true).

Eradicating The Fear Response

Preventing the return of fear in humans using reconsolidation update mechanisms

I happily anticipate that this will be huge for PTSD treatment--assuming that the results hold over the course of time and can be replicated, of course.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

About the Peace Prize

When Obama was announced as the winner of this year's Nobel Peace Prize in October, I was completely exasperated with the criticisms that Obama had done nothing to "earn" the prize.  Not the way the other recipients had earned it (yeah, take a look at that list and tell me if there aren't a few other people on it who didn't deserve the award either--uh, "Mother" Teresa, anyone??), or so their argument went.

If any of these critics had actually bothered to read the Committee's brief press release, it would have been clear that the prize was not awarded on the basis of any action taken by Obama; rather, it was awarded on the basis of ideas and philosophies propagated by Obama.  The Committee was trying to encourage a movement away from war mongering in US foreign policy and a movement toward US environmental stewardship. The Committee was actively playing politics and attempting to cement Obama's lofty campaign promises into actual presidential policies.   

The other common criticism of Obama at the time was that he had only received this reward because the world views him as a rock star.  I just have to ask:  since when is that a bad thing?  When did soft power and diplomatic influence become something that the US did NOT want?  I can tell you this, it is a heck of a lot cheaper to get the citizens of the world on board and acting in "our interest" with talk than it is with weapons.  So again, kudos to the Committee for taking advantage of the situation and trying to appeal to our well-loved president's ego, mind and ethics.  For attempting to get him to live up to his own promises of peace and responsibility.

Must have felt like a real slap in the face when the Committee heard Obama's war mongering acceptance speech.  Obama used the bestowal of the Nobel Peace Prize as a platform to couch the "war on terrorism" as a just war. Wow, and I thought George Bush II had moxy.

In his acceptance speech, Obama said, "Negotiations cannot convince al-Qaidas leaders to lay down their arms." Of course not, Mr. President.  However, our county acting in a manner befitting a civilized nation CAN convince the future potential foot soldiers of al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations that they have no need to fight us, that we do not represent a threat to their way of life, and that we are indeed an agent of good, not evil.  Conducting multiple wars for decades leaving decimated countries in our wake, invading countries on false pretenses, advocating for preemptive attacks on sovereign nations--these are the things that encourage people to fight.  By any means necessary.

You'd think Obama would have been smart enough to figure this out.  At least I thought he was.  That was why I voted for him.  Color me embarrassed, too, Committee.  We were both had, huh?

I would have respected Obama more had he courageously come out and acknowledged the situation by stating, "Look, I inherited two absurd wars.  My country fucked up, but now I need to try to make this thing right.  I can't simply abandon the civilians in the nations that my country destabilized.  Frankly, I have no clue what the right way to proceed is, since no one has ever successfully navigated these waters before, but I can't have the blood of these people on my hands.  I can't sleep at night when I consider the possibility of another Samalia or another Balkans.  So, I'm just gonna muddle though this via trial and error and do my absolute best."  

I'll take a more detailed look at Obama's speech later.  Maybe I'm jumping the gun here, but at this moment, I am not pleased.  I am not proud.  I am truly disheartened at what looks like another lost opportunity for my country to do the right thing.

Om shanti.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

YouTube Commenter Breaks It Down

Theist = Believes in a god.
Atheist = Doesn't believe in a god.

Agnostic = Doesn't know whether or not god exists.
Gnostic = Does know whether or not god exists.

Agnosticism/Gnosticism and Atheism/Theism are NOT mutually exclusive. Everyone takes one of the two positions regardless of what else they say.

I would just add to the above that the Gnostic can not REALLY know one way or the other.  They can only have "faith." (If a Gnostic can prove conclusively that there is a God(s)/Goddess(es), then that will be a historical first for humanity.)

So, I'm an Atheist AND an Agnostic.  Fun!

More of my guy--
Penn Says: Agnostic vs. Atheist

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Tales of Passion

5,000 Staples

In the past year I have gone through some 5,000 staples.* I think this is an excellent measure of my productivity at the firm.  Considering that I work about a hundred cases at any given time, just THINK of how much paperwork, correspondence, research, evidence, ect. that I process/analyze on any given day.   I. am. superwoman.  Hear me roar.

On another shamelessly boastful note, one of the partners came into my office today to tell me that he had met with my boss on some of our cases and that my boss was confiding in his partner about how much he depends on me and how important it is that we have someone of my superior intelligence level on staff. //preens her peacock feathers//

These guys (the partners) have got me completely snowed.  All they have to do is flatter me and I will work my ass off for practically a pittance.  Last night, I stayed until 6:30 p.m.--they stop paying me at five o'clock--just to make sure that I had returned all of my important calls.   I just kept telling myself, "Work harder.  Bring in more money.  Then, the bonuses will arrive on time, as they do every year."  If we don't get them, I will be seriously hurting for cash come 2010 and that ain't right.   

Om shanti <3

*At my desk alone; this does not include the staples I've used at the copier, nor the staples I've used at the front desk. In addition, I'm more of a paperclip girl, than a stapler (clearly, I can not commit). So take from that what you will...**

** About the use of asterisks--am I the only one who finds this hurt-your-stomach, can't-even-laugh funny??

Monday, December 7, 2009

Morning Report

Thus far, my new kitty companion has not been too difficult to live with. She does like to claw the couch and to wake me up by meowing insistently and sitting on my head in the night, but isn't that the charm of living with cats? Hopefully, she won't destroy my house while I'm at work today. *fingers crossed*

On my way into work this morning, I took the newly refurbished interstate and cut my drive time by approximately 40%. Oh, how I love highway driving. Randomly, according to MO law, if you are entering a highway on a two-lane ramp that converges into one lane, the drivers in which lane ultimately have to merge? In my opinion, the drivers in the left lane (the lane closest to the lanes of the highway) are in control of the ramp and those in the right lane have to yield. Am I mistaken?

One final thing, my little sister, Rose, is having eye surgery today. Apparently, she is going to be awake for the procedure. The doctor will be giving her a shot in the eye for pain and then will perform the operation. I hope all goes well, poor child. On the bright side, she will get to wear a badass, pirate-type eye patch for awhile, so that will be pretty nifty.

Om shanti.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

House Predictions

Does anyone else besides me still watch House? If so, I'd like to hear your thoughts regarding my predictions on the soapy turns that Season Six is taking:

1) Wilson bought the loft NOT to punish Cuddy for hurting House, but to punish her for hurting HIM. He has had a thing for Cuddy for quite some time, although, no one really knows (remember the episode where Wilson tried to ask her out, but she thought it was just a fake out on House's behalf?); and
2) Something is going on with Thirteen and House. I think he is interested in her and she in him--not in a relationshipy way but in a strictly animalistic, rebound sexy way (or maybe that is just wishful thinking on my part...).

Also, how great would it be if House and Wilson got together? Not that network television would really pursue such a storyline, but still....

Unraveling The Mysteries Behind The Placebo Effect

When I was first learning about designing scientific experiments, the placebo effect was of great interest to me. Apparently, drug manufacturers have also recently found this to be a phenomena worthy of study. What follows is an intriguing article regarding new developments in this field--

Sounds in The Neighborhood

I've been having trouble falling asleep again.  This past week, I've been awake at two, three, and even later in the morning.  I've noticed that once the rest of the city has grown still, and the air is quiet, I'll faintly hear trains in the distance (which is unexpected, because I live on the northeast side of Tower Grove Park and to my knowledge, there are no train tracks near my home; the closest set of tracks I can think of are miles away near the junction of IS 64 and Grand).  Sometimes I hear high train whistles, but more often I simply hear the smooth, white noise of the cars rumbling along the tracks, which is a sublime comfort to me.  This is because the sound of trains reminds me of my first place in Maplewood, away from my elephantine, Irish Catholic family.  I assume that living this close to the tracks would disturb some, but I've always found the familiar and predictable noise very subduing.  Also, the trains passing served as something of a marker of time.  When I was madly studying for classes and too busy to notice the time on the clock, the moving trains on their regular schedule would signal the exact time of day.  Perhaps, too, being the oldest of five and used to living with others, the trains were like my newly found companions.  Maybe that is why I was so glad to discover that I could hear them in the wee hours of the night at my new place, alone again for the first time since living in Maplewood.

As the crow flies, I live about a block away from a Catholic church (a function of living on STL's south side).  This fact barely registered in my mind until of late when the local church purchased some electronic bells (I imagine they couldn't afford to maintain physical bells in their tower or find anyone with the expertise to ring them). For the first month or so, they simply played a stripped-down ringing on the hour and a more melodic call to mass.  I've noted that they've recently begun playing Amazing Grace before services (perhaps a seasonal thing to mark the coming of the Christmas?), which sounds oddly robotic and divorced of emotion.  Although I've lived in at least five different residences in the past decade, almost every one has been located within a block radius of a church.  I've grown accustomed to the church bells.  It is nice to be reminded that I still live near some, strange electronic resonance and all.

A sound that will be absent from our neighborhood for the near future is that of Little Miss Calico, as she is currently residing in my home.  I've offered to keep her until we can get an appointment to have her spayed.  I thought it would be best if she was acclimated to my home prior to her surgery since I didn't want her to be recovering in a completely unfamiliar place; she joined me earlier this evening and seems to have made herself right at home.  Currently, she is sitting next to me on my couch and just attempted to contribute to this blog by walking across my keyboard.  Thus far, she has been graceful and hasn't caused much more damage than knocking my violet off the windowsill.  Unlike my cats who live with Kenny, she looked dismayed when she realized what she had done.  She stood just behind me and cautiously watched me pick up the lost soil and broken leaves with considerable interest.  When I moved to throw the leaves away, she raised her head and caught my eye, as if to ask, "Are you angry with me?  I didn't mean to cause you any trouble."  I gave her a little pat on her back and assured her there were no hard feelings.  My kitties would have just lazily walked away, like, "Well, you've ruined all our fun--we'll find something else to destroy while you're involving yourself with that mess!"  Hopefully, all will go smoothly with our new living arrangements.  If so, I might just keep her.  My next door neighbor thinks that my downstairs neighbors probably wouldn't have any objections to that proposal.  I'll keep you all posted.

Om shanti.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Mis Libros

In an effort to organize and commit myself to my reading, I've created a new blog feature (near the bottom of the column to your left) entitled "My Books."  Feel free to check 'er out and to harass me, if it seems as though nothing is moving into the "Recently Read" section.  I'm excited about this!  (But, organization unduly excites me, which is why I will make an excellent reference librarian one day....)

Happy reading!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

State of Flux

As previously indicated, I have, of late, been disabused of the notion of God as in an omnipotent, omnipresent being.  The classic arguments against God, most especially the argument regarding evil, has reasserted itself in my mind.  This, in short, suggests that, given the malignancy, the depravity, and the calamities in this world, God is either omnipotent and not kind/loving (because if God were all powerful, why would she/it/he allow this degree of suffering to continue?) or God is not omnipotent and is loving/kind; thus, "evil" is allowed to continue because God is powerless to stop it. 

The thing that gives me pause regarding the plausibility of strict atheism is my belief that metaphysical things do appear to happen or at least I have had some exposure to these occurrences.  I've encountered many things that can not be explained by modern science, such things as presentience, telepathy, spirit sightings, and transcendence.  Granted, personal experience is not evidence, but nevertheless I will give you examples of each from my own life.

With regard to presentience, I have experienced this since I was a young child.  The very first instance I remember of it happening was while putting something into a trash can under the sink at my parents home.  As this was taking place, I knew what was going to follow in exact detail.  I knew what my father was going to say, how he was going to say it, where he would be standing, etc.  I knew, right down to the minutia, what my senses would process as these things were occurring around me.  It was similar to the feeling of déjà vu, but instead of thinking, "Oh wow, I think this has happened before," I thought, "Oh wow, I know what will happen next."

Rather than suspecting that I had been given a gift, I felt that this extra sensory perception was a curse onto me.  I knew, even as a child, that others would scoff at such protestations.  That most rational people would think I was nutty, and honestly, I felt a little crazed myself.  There is something incredibly disconcerting about being able to tap into the future in remarkably vivid detail and have no control over when or where it will happen.  I thought nothing could account for this except presentience because of the richness of the detail involved.  Further, it seemed that I had an ability to open myself up to these happenings or to shut them down as I saw fit.  When I grew older, it proved easier for me to simply close myself off.  I didn't care to deal with the responsibility or the ramifications. 

With relation to spirit sightings, I've consistently felt that I could discern the presence of spirits--usually, the spirits of those who are still alive.  When people have highly emotional experiences or they are just exceptionally emotive beings, they seem to leave a trace of themselves behind.  I could often perceive the essence of people who had been in buildings before me. 

I can only recall one instance where I later learned that the soul I was in the presence of was no longer living and that was the spirit of my grandmother; I didn't know it at the time, but she had been admitted into the hospital and was dying.  I was on the phone with my best friend Jessica and I said to her in a playful manner, "My grandma is in the room.  She must be spying on me."  I acutely felt her presence near the window in my living room.  She might not have even been in the room; maybe she was outside of the room or somewhere else entirely--who knows with the metaphysical?  Regardless, the next morning, around six a.m., my mother called me in hysterics and told me that my grandmother had passed the night before at the very time, eleven p.m., that I was talking with my friend on the phone and mentioning my sensing my grandmother's energy in the room.

Regarding telepathy, I've also always had a penchant for knowing what others were thinking.  It isn't that I can pull whole sentences out of people's heads.  Nor was it like a conversation in my mind, but I essentially knew, I sensed, what they were thinking and feeling.  I've called numerous people out on this happening and many have confirmed that I was correct.  When I was in my late teens, I even tried to test this by reading the minds of strangers.  I remember one instance when a woman came into my place of business.  She was worrying about one of her students.  When she came into my checkout line I asked her, "Are you a professor?"  She looked at my quizzically and verified that she was indeed a teacher.  Then she asked why I had asked her such an unexpected question.  Without a plausible explanation to give, I merely shrugged and smiled.

Finally, I've experienced the feeling of expansion and transcendence that occurs during meditation.  I've written about this before, so I won't go into much detail except to state that when your mind reaches a certain level of emptiness or stillness, you begin to feel a dissolution of ego boundaries.  It somewhat reminds me of that scene in Akira where Tetsuo's body begins to expand uncontrollably, bigger and bigger, until it seems that he will engulf the city and ultimately subsume the world--except when meditating you aren't out of control in the slightest.  You exercise a profound level of control over your own roaming brain.  You hog tie it into submission and your non-physical mind, as I presume it, takes the helm.

In Barbara Bradley Hagerty's Fingerprints of God she reports on various studies of this phenomenon.  Apparently, fMRI researchers have found that the parietal lobe actually begins to shut down during serious meditation.  This is the part of your brain that controls orientation to space and time; the area that relates "where your body ends and the rest of the world begins" (p. 174).  It is theorized that this is why meditators often insist that there is no true separation between self and the world at large and why mystics suppose that "we are all one."

Hagerty also introduced to me Larry Dossey's concept of nonlocal mind (mystics and thinkers such as Jung, Hawking, and Huxley were the forerunners of this line of inquiry), as follows: "what if consciousness is nonlocal—that is, unconfined to specific points in space, such as the brain and body, and unrestricted to specific points in time, such as the present moment? What if consciousness is fundamental in the universe—derived from nothing more elemental, irreducible to nothing more basic?"  If nonlocal mind were at play, it would explain all of the metaphysical components of life that concern me without there being a need for a "God" per se.  Or at least, not as she/it/he is popularly conceived in the western world.  Dean Radin has even suggested that the quantum theory of entanglement might support this notion. 

BUT, what if all of this is simply wishful thinking?  What if everything can be elucidated scientifically in the macroscopic world precisely the way parietal lobe function (or a lack thereof) can make clear the experience of transcendence?  What if we just don't have the methods yet to demonstrate these brain processes?

Or, it may be that other more parsimonious interpretations could apply.  It is conceivable that I had some sort of undiagnosed temporal lobe epilepsy as a child that explained the feelings of presentience.  Perhaps the elegance of social cues has given me the impression that I can know others thoughts when in all actuality I am basically picking up on non-verbal signals and subconsciously filtering them through my own intimate knowledge of human thought and behavior (I did graduate suma cum-laude with a bachelors in psychology, after all).  It is possible that, because I myself am super emotive and sensitive, I'm only projecting my own emotions onto my environment--thus accounting for my belief in spirit energies.

To take an even more extreme view, what if this belief in the metaphysical is simply a form of magical self-soothing?  Being a full blown atheist is wonderfully liberating, but it is also deeply isolating.  Not believing in a higher power heightens that innate sense of existential loneliness, which is why some philosophers think that religion exists--not to deal with the fear of death, but to cope with the devastation that accompanies being completely solitary in this world.  No one will ever truly know you--not from the inside.  People only know others from their own indirect encounters.  Some would argue that ideas like nonlocal mind, entanglement, ESP, and God all plainly provide much-needed relief from the tyranny of existential loneliness.

This investigation leads me around and around in circles.  What IS believable?  Certainly the confounding size of the universe.  That is believable.  What about energy?  The mainstay of yoga.  Moving energy.  Moving prana.  Lifeforce.  But what is that in scientific terms?  What is this "energy" specifically?  Can it be measured? Is it like gravity?  Is it like electromagnetic fields?  Or maybe it isn't in that realm at all.  Maybe it is simply LIFE.  Breath.  Vitality.  Something about this thought surrounding the mysteries of being causes me to feel intensely self-actuated.  As though the search for absolute truth takes precedence over all else.  This struggle is what we are all here for, right?  To learn.

I recently spoke with a friend about these large questions that titillate me and he thinks that I should stop beating my brain to bits.  He subscribes to the practice of spiritual relativism and believes that the prospect of unmitigated truth is defunct.  It is his contention that we are living in a world of dynamism, of multiplicity, of shades of gray.  Therefore, whatever explanation works for a person, in this moment, in the here and now, is good enough.  Presently, I am feeling like a tooth fairy agnostic.  Tomorrow, I might be into Hinduism and channeling Durga in all of her destructive glory and the following day I might be back to hardcore atheism with a no holds barred approach to living.

Who the hell cares, right?  Who is keeping track?  I sincerely doubt that the modern monotheists are correct in thinking that God will punish you for not having "faith."  What kind of jealous, small-minded God would want such a thing?  What sort of cruel God would offer up the promise of free will and then punish those who actually exercise it?  To me, these assertions are laughable.  So what is the harm in spiritual relativism?  For me, it frankly seems like intellectual laziness.  Just as nonlocal mind is intellectual masturbation.  But then again, agnosticism is a cop out and atheism is no more provable than God (one can hardly disprove a negative) and so it goes...

I'm not sure if this is appropriate or not, but I keep returning to Margaret Atwood's words:

You want the truth, of course.  You want me to put two and two together.  But two and two doesn't necessarily get you the truth.  Two and two equals a voice outside the window.  Two and two equals the wind.  The living bird is not its labled bones.

Om shanti, my fellow travelers.

Once In A Blue Moon

In case you are not already aware, there will be a Blue Moon on New Years Eve this year.

Also, another bit of trivia:  blue moons are not actually blue in color; rather, they are the color of every other moon.  A blue moon is, in fact, the second full moon in a calendar month (in this case, tonight's sky will feature the first full moon of the month). 

This double mooning only happens every 2.5 years or so, hence the expression "once in a blue moon."

Om shanti, my dearies.