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March 09, 2009

I need this.

So, I'm having a "reading and watching movies" day. And, I've just discovered this amazing thing.


This truly is the best of all possible worlds. You hop online, order pizza from Dominos, Twitter that amazing little gadget and pick a movie on Netflix instant. You don't even have to get out of bed.

(Okay, maybe this isn't the best thing ever. Maybe I'm just stoked about not having spent the whole day in the library.)

February 15, 2009

Love?

I took yesterday as a day of quiet contemplation. Love is something you should think about, and "love" in the form of Cupid and candy hearts and roses is pushed this time of year.


I contemplated by starting at the beginning. Who is Valentine? So, the story goes that in the Third Century in Rome, the Emperor Claudius was having trouble getting men to volunteer to join his army. Shockingly enough, no one wanted to leave their family to go and fight in the Emperor's stupid, stupid war. Claudius hatched a lightning bolt of a plan, if men weren't married, they wouldn't have families to leave. That would make people want to join up, right?

Some people that the plan was stupid. Some people, like the priest Valentine (or Valentinus, if you want to go for the Authentic, Roman feel), thought that the notion was so ridiculous that it needed to be flouted. Who was Claudius to tell the young lovers of Rome that, no matter how they felt about each other, it wasn't legal for them to get married. So, he married them secretly. And, of course he got caught. If I remember my Saint's lives correctly, he was clubbed, stoned and then beheaded for defying Emperor Claudius.

This got me thinking about the nature of Valentine's Day, with its conversation hearts and sappy cards and big boxes of chocolates (an aside on this: Godiva often runs spectacularly contests with their big heart-shaped boxes. A few years ago it was a ring from Harry Winston. They'd be on sale today, so if you eat chocolate and are out and about, you should have a look.) and I think the way we celebrate it misses the point. Valentine went against the law in order to marry people who would not otherwise have been allowed to be joined, making the statement that love trumps government.

After my day of quiet contemplation, I've come to the conclusion that Valentine's Day should be a day of protest any place a state makes unfair laws about who is allowed to marry. Love is sacred and it should be beyond the power of any governing body to regulate it.

In addition to this, I feel it is a little myopic to simply celebrate romantic love. Love, in all its forms, should be celebrated by everyone who sees it, by everyone who finds it, everyday.

(And, yes, I am aware that "love" and "marriage" are not the same thing.)

February 01, 2009

Huh.

I have a sudden and inexplicable want to learn Russian. Maybe that could be this summer's project? Because, I won't already be doing enough this summer as it is.

September 13, 2008

Friends and Family

I'm in a competitive Knit Along on Ravelry and a new pattern came out on Thursday. This was perfect timing for me because, even though this means that I'm a whole sock behind the rest of the knit along I had just finished a project and so was in perfect position to cast on.


So, I frogged a scarf that I found when I unpacked my boxes of books (it had some unintentional increases and decreases in places it shouldn't have them) and I sat down to try to make some progress on this new pair while watching the glorious Michael Weston pretend to be a weakling with asthma. The pattern was inspired by The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe and I was very excited about it.


Sadly, I could not get the cast on ( for which I found a online tutorial) using my double pointed needles. I finally gave up, frogged that, too, and decided I would take this opportunity to investigate a Michaels that is near an awesome mall not far from my house (but further than the Michaels at the Mall just practically down the street from my house.)

When I reached my reading threshold for Friday afternoon, I put myself in the car and headed out that way. I wandered around the Michaels (which had a better yarn selection than the one near my house) and filled my basket with some lovely Bernat yarn in some pretty, pretty colors that was on sale! Excellent. I also picked myself up a pair of circular needles that were the same size so that I could make the Turkish cast on work.

I wandered around for a while, looking at their Halloween decor and just enjoying being alive in the Autumn in Buffalo as a first year PhD student ( one has to enjoy such moments as this is only time I will ever be a first year PhD student...or, at least I hope this is the only time I will ever be a first year PhD student.) and then I made my up to the counter. There was one register opened and then the customer service desk. I was in line behind an adorable gay couple buying a floating ghost. The woman at customer service finished up what she was doing and said she could help whoever was next, I deferred to the couple, but they told me to go ahead.

The woman started scanning my yarn and said, "Wow, those are down to a dollar now?" And, we had a nice little chat about yarn and needlecraft. She gave me the total and as I was about to swipe my card, she said, "Wait a minute, I don't work tomorrow." She reached into her apron and pulled out a friends and family coupon. Apparently, it was friends and family weekend and she had them to give discounts to her people. But, she gave it to me! I was shocked. That was so kind.

So, I'm thinking that I may, when I'm done with these socks, pop back over to Michaels (pick up some more yarn) and give her the socks. Unless I chicken out because that's a little weird.

July 19, 2008

You should go watch this...

May 08, 2008

Today's Six Word Memoir: Why get out of bed?

Work at Two, Why get up?

June 06, 2007

Penguins. Pragmatics. A Joke from Preston.

My friend Preston once told me this joke:


There are two penguins up at the North Pole. They are sitting down to dinner and one of the penguins says to the other penguin, "Can you please pass me the salt?" to which the second penguin replied, "I AM NOT A TYPEWRITER!"


I was lying in bed this morning and this joke popped into my head. When I first heard it my response was, "But, there are no penguins at the North Pole. There is only one penguin in the Northern Hemisphere, and its equatorial." I think Preston at the time told me not be such a jerk, which was immediately followed by, "THAT is the one thing about the whole joke that bothered you? That there are no penguins in the Northern Hemisphere? It didn't bother you that the penguins were sitting down to a meal or that they speaking English or that they even knew what a typewriter was?" Of course, if I thought about it, these things would bother me. But, the first thing that bothered me, the thing that made everything else that was to follow bizarre yet irrelevant, is that the penguins wouldn't have been at the North Pole in the first place.

This joke didn't pop into my head because of the original discussion, it popped into my head because that's how I've been feeling the past few days...like a penguin at the North Pole making a simple request for some salt and being told in a raised voice that my interlocutor was not a typewriter. I've made a lot of references to the pragmatics of things lately, whether at the pub or just in general and I am left wondering, am I, by going about things the way I've always done them (which would mean in an American style) that I am doing wrong? Or, have I recently come into contact with a number of people who either have no social skills or who are being intentionally obtuse?

I like pragmatics. Not just because people don't say what they mean, but because when we use language in generally has some intent or purpose...something that we want to get done beyond the simple passing on of information. Pragmatics textbooks are full of examples of ways that we can use language to do things. There are classic examples of how, just by speaking the words we make something happen (For example: a wedding. " I now pronounce the husband and wife." when said after an exchange of vows signifies a marriage.) But, more often than not we get things done not by using the literal meanings of words, but through some sort of metaphorical or extended meanings of words. "Can I sit down?" isn't a request for you to verify whether an individual has the capacity to sit. Its something you say in order to get invited into a longer conversation. Its also something you say when you want someone to move their coat off of a seat so that you can sit down.

I'm not quite sure of the pragmatic intent behind, "Please pass the salt." aside from wanting the salt, but I have to figure it out, because I'm tired of hearing, "I AM NOT A TYPEWRITER!"

June 05, 2007

Moving....Again.

I've spent a good part of the day packing because I am once again moving. Packing and watching the French Open (Thumbs up to Tommy Robredo for taking a set off of Federer!) Which has been a bit of a shame because the weather has been incredibly beautiful. However, I do plan on going for a late evening walk later to take advantage of one of my favorite parts of the summer: Late evening sunshine. One of the benefits of living at the latitude that I live at is that it is sunny in midsummer until around 10 o'clock in the evening. Being a bit of a night person, but also enjoying sunlight ( I am, after all, not a vampire) I find this to be fantastic.

Last night I went for a bit of a walk on my lonesome. I will probably do the same again tonight. The problem is motivating people out of the pub to go for a stroll. As it turns out, once people start having beer, what they want is more beer and not to stretch their legs or do anything that might threaten their buzz. And, while I can understand that, the light waits for no (wo)man and it won't be long before it is setting earlier and earlier every day.

In other news, please keep up the good thoughts for me getting the scholarship. Thank you very much.

November 17, 2006

Determined? Reduced? Does it matter?

I've been reading Teach Yourself Ethics by Mel Thompson. This is not because it was recommended by the Sarah or Preston but rather because it was less expensive than the books that they suggested and seemed to give a good overview of the topic. I like overviews, they provide you with the opportunity to read a little about everything and then zoom in on what you find most interesting.

So far the book has talked about determinism and reductionism. From what I have gathered from the book, determinism is based on a theory that things, like say our actions, may be determined by causes our in the world, such as our genetics or the surrounding environment. So, its a bit like karma in that determinism argues that there is may be a verifiable link between cause and effect.


Thompson says about Reductionism that it is, "a philosophical rather than an ethical problem, but it is relevant because it claims to render moral language, and the whole idea of personal freedom, meaningless." (2006:21) Reductionism suggests that we are nothing more than the electrical impulses in the brain that cause us to do the things that we do.

Why are either of these things important, you may ask? They are important because in order to be able to have ethical dilemmas, we have to be able to make choices. If what we do is predetermined by our biochemistry or by the environment or if we are nothing more than the biochemical/electrical impulses in our brains then we are not responsible for our actions. As Thompson puts it, "For moral choice (and therefore ethics) to make any sense, I have to believe that a person is more than determined electrical impulses." (2006: 22)

Now, there are things we obviously don't have control over. Like the weather. I can not help that it is raining outside because I did not cause the low pressure centre that is currently over Cardiff (Although chaos theory would suggest that I may have done things that have contributed to the low pressure centre. This, however, is definitely outside the scope of this discussion.) So, in order to discuss ethics, it seems we have to come to a decision about the extent to which people are free to make the choices that they make.

October 28, 2006

Some more thoughts on karma

I'm one of those people that thinks we are here to learn something, that we are meant to get something about of this experience. Someone once explained to me the philosophy of a medieval Shaivaite philosopher named Abhinavagupta as the philosophy of being completely human and completely divine. This is, for sure, a simplification. I have read twenty pages of a translation of one of the prolific Abhinavagupta's texts, so I am by no means an authority. It is doubtful that whomever informed me of this was an authority either. (Although, I believe Yoga Journal may have discussed him in a piece a few years back on Tantra.) Anyway, I've come to understand is that we are finite manifestations of the infinite, or the divine if you prefer. So, we're all in this collective graduate program with the infinite is our mysterious, elusive and somewhat unreliable (at least from our perspective) dissertation supervisor. That might be a metaphor that only works for me, but I think you get the point. Its not like we can make an appointment with the infinite, go the the infinite's office, have a seat and say, "So, I've been looking at my data set and I seem to be finding a lot of interesting things going on with aspect in relation to the context of "going to the pub". Would you have a look and comment on what I've done? It seems I'm going to be taking this in a slightly different direction from the plan." Which, as far as life goes, is pretty common, deviating from the plan.

Anyway, This has surely been the week for karmic discussions, because its been a popular subject. Waiterrant has posted a piece about not stealing tips hopefully garnering customer loyalty and the BarmaidBlog posted something about good deeds being their own reward. These things got me thinking.

We're an instant gratification society. The notion that things should happen immediately (we get to see the baddie get their comeupance at the end of the movie) is something that is very important to us. But, karma, if it is the cosmic law of cause and consequence, would have to apply at the cosmic level and not necessarily the micro level of each individual situation.

One of the things that Meditation Neal said on Tuesday was that we make the world around us. So, if you put in the time and the effort and you work really hard hoping to get a first (if you're British) or getting a 4.0, there is a good chance that this will happen. At least that is what I was told when I was little. But, to say that formula is the tried and true method that always works is wrong and there are thousand counterexamples to it. What we put into something is only one factor in determining what we get out of it. It is probably more accurate to say that there is a high correlation factor between things like hard work and getting what you want. But, if you have ever taken a stats class, you know that correlation does not prove causation.

I don't remember what my original point was. Perhaps it is that doing the right thing is one step towards making a better world. Which would make doing the right thing its own reward if you then got to live in the better world. And, in the service industry anything that brings about customer loyalty is definitely its own reward. So, to borrow a metaphor I have already used, if you want to carve pumpkins, you have to plant pumpkin seeds. I read once, again most likely in Yoga Journal, that from the right perspective we could see our lives unfold and how certain actions and intents manifested ourselves. There are ways to gain some of this sort of perspective, yoga or meditation or what have you. Its just a matter of starting to put in the work, I guess. (well, doubtful that it is just a matter of putting in the effort. Its probably more a matter of putting in the effort, your intentions about the whole process, the frequency of the effort, the temperature of the room in which the effort takes place, etc.)

What I find interesting about karma is the connection I have made to "living in the now" previously. Planning for the future seems to be at odds with living in this moment. But, I'm sure that is a discussion for another time.

October 27, 2006

Thinking about Practicing Living

"The way most people should behave is to live in the now. This transcends any dogmatic or cultural teachings and is not a question of ethics or other philosophy. You are here, so why not devote yourself to it fully? Lose yourself in the act of what you are doing. Pay attention to the details of life without getting lost in dreaming." by gitm of everything2.com

Ironically, while reading this brief opinion piece on e2 (that I happen to agree with) I was thinking about what I wanted to write. Then, I had to stop writing to take off my shoes and have a sip of wine. Clearly, concentration isn't my strong point today.

I have been thinking. I have been thinking about ethics. I have been thinking about places I could look for a suitable job. I have been thinking about Six Apart's new blogging platform I have been thinking about calling my Mama. I've been thinking about a lot of things, but mostly I've been wondering what it would be like to not think for a minute.

Meditation class did not go well this week. I had a bit of a fight with my sweetie before class and so when I should have been meditating, I was thinking about all of the things that were said and that weren't said. Then, Meditation Neal talked about Karma. I like karma, its a good concept. Its the cosmic law of cause and effect. And, what's interesting about karma is that the word itself simply means "action" (Thanks, sensei).

Of course, the doctrine of karma is a bit more complicated than that and includes one's intent along with their actions. Which, in the middle of meditation class got me back to my ethical musings. The word "ethics" has a Greek/Latin derivation and, according to The American Heritage Dictionary has its roots in the Greek word "ethos" or "character". So, while "ethics" seems to be about who you are, in a black and white code of conduct sense of the word, "karma" seems to be about "what you do". While I don't think there is much difference between these two things (at least for the purposes of my current musings) I still think this is something that is interesting and may merit further exploration (although, for right now, its a little off topic).


When I was little, and I'm sure countless of people across the world have had this experience and some other little kid on the playground was nasty to me my Ma would say, "Well, what goes around comes around." And, as a kid, I just got this mental image of a gigantic circle that had some sort of nasty energy burst that would slam into people and things. Or, that actions were boomerangs and you couldn't escape them coming back at you. The point my Mother was trying to make was that if you don't want something to happen to you, then don't set the precedent that it is okay to do that thing. I kept on thinking about boomerangs, but I guess somehow it sank in because I'm talking about it now. If you want to carve pumpkins in October, you have to plant pumpkin seeds in the beginning of summer. If you want to enjoy life, you have to learn how to stop being distracted and just live it.

I'm having tremendous trouble with this last one. I'm sure this could have been a much better entry, but I keep getting distracted by things I think I should look at on the internet.

"Living" as an action is something that so often gets pushed into the background. As human beings, as long as we are alive, it is something we are always doing. We can sleep, but we are living, we can go to work, but we are living, we could rob a convenience store, but we are still living. As an act, it is one infrequently comes to our attention. But, it is an important one. What we do while we are living has its consequences and makes its statements about who we are as people. We spend so much time buying, selling, sleeping, eating, worrying, hating, dancing, drinking, loving, laughing, fucking, shouting, driving, sitting, waiting, cooking, cleaning, watching, hearing, studying, showering.... and we spend so much time thinking about how to do those things, that, as the article I quoted earlier, we don't even bother to give them our full attention and really do or enjoy them.

Well, I would like to do more just living. Meditation is a practice of just living. I would like to build up that practice. I have decided to set a goal of introducing, at least in the beginning, ten minutes of meditation into my days. I'll let you know how that goes.

August 18, 2006

Moving: The TV Licence

The British have a quaint custom known as the "TV licence".  Back in the day, before Sky and digital and telly being beamed into your house, back when the BBC made large strides to appear to be something run by the government for the benefit of the people you had to licence your TV in order to generate revenue in order to continue creating BBC programming.  Now, with the BBC beaming its fare all over the world (and collecting ad revenue from it) and with cable companies providing people with crazy numbers of channels, I really wonder if the licencing is still necessary.  But necessary or not, it is still in place,  which means that we need a TV licence in our new place.

 

 

Continue reading "Moving: The TV Licence" »

July 30, 2006

Teaser Trailers

Smoking Monkey

That is the teaser trailer for the animated film John has been working on.  He has been toiling late into night, sitting at his desk which happens to be at the foot of our bed.  Sometimes he laughs while he works.  Sometimes he swears, but after he's edited he always come to bed happy.  And you can't beat that.  

I learned tonight that a teaser trailer is pretty much as advertised, it just teases.  Like the Transformers trailer, which tells you nothing about the film just teases you with the notion of its potential goodness (or entertaining-ness or badass-ness).  So, on that note, I can not tell you what else I know about the film other than to say that the ideas that have been shared with me are a riot and that I look forward to him finishing this piece.  

July 08, 2006

Out Loud

“You think I’m talking just to hear myself talk?”  –Bill Cosby.

    Maybe I do like the sound of my own voice.  I don’t know.  I do know that I love language.  All language.  My language.  I like the well-crafted sonnets of John Donne as much as I like the colorful metaphor and imagery put forth by the Manic Street Preachers.  I find both to be evocative.  
    I must be weird.  I like being alone.  I like silence.  I like space.  These are not human norms.  Preliterate, tribal societies don’t have the concept of personal space that we have.  Life is a social thing, something that is spent, by default talking with and being near the same small group of people all the time.  I dig my clique, don’t get me wrong.  And I would go to great ends to see them happy and safe.  I know, that would make me not weird.  
    Its more... I like to talk about ideas.  Language is an idea.  Language is a different idea for everyone.  This is something that we do all day, everyday and I suppose in the space of our tribes, what we say, what we reference is common.  You don’t have to bother to define it further, because you were all there when it happened and saw it happen and understand what is being described and what is meant.  Guess you had to be there.  Literacy changes that.  Literacy creates language that spans time, place, class, and gender.  It gives language the appearance of being stark, immutable and the status quo.  Maybe its that I do a lot of identity theorizing.  But written/oral, person/persona, image/content, these are distinctions I can make and do make.  When I talk, I like talking about ideas.  Feelings are for feeling and living is for living they don’t need to be discussed.  I like to separate ideas out from emotions so that, like play-doh I can observe them, roll them over and manipulate them.  I like to engage with them.  Maybe that’s not weird.
    I like saying, “ I learned this thing...” And I like getting excited about it and I like telling people about it.  I like when this happens for other people.  The classical world doesn’t interest me, except when I get to hear it filtered through the excitement and presentation of my friend Elizabeth.  So, maybe this isn’t separating things from emotion... maybe its just separating them from things that aren’t love.  My point is, she’s not telling me about what’s going on in her life or what people were wearing, she’s connecting with the past and something beyond the immediate, getting excited about it and sharing it.  I like that.  I like that a lot.  
    


 

--August 2005 

May 04, 2006

Announcement...

In an interesting role reversal (John has asked me to marry him on three separate occasions), on Sunday evening I asked John to marry me.  In other news, I am moving into his house soon.  The contract begins at the end of June, which may very well coincide with when my lease is up... I'm a little confused about that. 

 

Daffodils are the national flower of Wales.  This is a picture of one my mother bought me while she was here.  (You are all welcome to come and visit, you know.)

daff.jpg

 

Okay, back to the salt mines I go.