Archive for July, 2009

Anatomy of a Blogroll

Posted on July 27, 2009. Filed under: Culture, Games, HowTo, Musings |

It’s my second blogiversary today, and while it seems a very short year since my first one; it also seems as if I’ve been at this for more than two years! As I wrote in my last post, summer, and July in particular, seems a good time to start a new project and a new “year”. My new academic calendar doesn’t list any particular holiday for July 27, so I’ll just declare it “Muse Year’s Day”.

I’m having a lower-key celebration this year than last. I do want to thank everyone who stops by and reads. I appreciate those I’ve come to know, who think of me occasionally, and give me reason to think of them: “You allow me someone to write to, but more than that, you lead me all over the world to view your cultures, your personalities, and the uniqueness that is YOU!”

On my blogiversary this year, I’ve been reviewing my Blogroll and what it means to me; what it’s FOR. When I first started blogging, I created a blogroll because I saw them on other blogs. “All the cool kids had ‘em”. ;) But, what were these things? Why did I want one? What criteria was I supposed to use? It turns out that Blogroll-rules are as unique as bloggers. (Of course! There’s a bit of “the rebel without a blog cause” in bloggers, isn’t there?) :?: Some use the ‘rolls as lists of all the blogs they want to read every day, or at least, frequently. Others use them as recommended sites, often grouping them into categories. (If I write about “music”; here are some other “music” sites I recommend…) Still others list all the blogs that have the owner’s blogs in their blogrolls! Wikipedia defines a blogroll this way: “A list of blogs on a blog…that reads as a list of recommendations by the blogger of other blogs.”, while About.com says this: “A blogroll is a list of links to blogs that the blogger likes.”

friendship

I agree with both, and with neither (not surprisingly). Although my blog only officially launched two years ago, I’d spent the prior year reading blogs, deciding which platform to use, thinking about things like tags and categories, and writing a few posts before I actually signed up. I tend to be slow and methodical with things. The most hilarious question I ever saw on a WordPress forum was from someone who had quite the opposite tendencies:   “I just started a blog today on WordPress! What should I write in there?” Um…WHY did you just start a blog on WordPress? That might just offer a clue to answer your own question!

Anyway, in all the time I spent thinking about it; looking at it; choosing a theme; even choosing an email address to match; I didn’t really think about blogroll(s). So now, from my lofty vantage point of two years in, here’s what I think about mine:

I don’t “recommend” blogs on my roll to you. My ‘roll is partially a list of blogs I want to read nearly everyday, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I think you should too. There’s a theory out there that “if a reader likes a blog, they’ll probably like blogs the blogger likes”. That may or may not be true. I “like” different blogs for different reasons, and as I’m not one to make lists of recommended sites in particular categories which relate to my topics (whatever they are! They tend to be rather eclectic), I don’t know that you, as a reader would necessarily find new satisfying blogs to read by looking at my list. Still, I do value them myself, and I try to give a brief description in the “hover text” so you can see if there are any which attract you.

My blogroll also contains links to bloggers I value for one reason or another beyond the content of their blogs. Of course, this is a matter of discernment; after all, if I “like” a person, it stands to reason I’d like their writing, their presentation, or their topics. And, of course, the only way I’ve gotten to know any of them is through their writing. But I’ve found, over time, that there are a few bloggers who don’t write about things I do, but they’ve become friends. So, I like getting to “see” them in my sidebar.

Finally, there are those few who may not comment or correspond very often, but they remain, as I have a soft spot in my heart for them. I usually remove people who haven’t commented, or who haven’t written a blog post themselves for a very long time. But there are a few who befriended me when I was a newbie that I will always have on my ‘roll unless they stop blogging altogether and there’s nothing to link to. (That has actually happened a couple of times, and there are one or two bloggers with whom I had a good rapport, but are now, alas, gone from the ‘sphere.)

I don’t link to someone just because they link to me; (although I certainly consider that kindness!) I don’t remove them—necessarily—even if they have not visited in a long while, if they are people I value; have been kind and helpful to me in the past, or have a connection that goes beyond everyday reality.

So, for the most part, the links you see on my sidebar are for some of the bloggers I want to read every day. There are some—very few—I’ve been hangin’ with for almost the whole two years I’ve been here. You know who you are, and I hope you know how much you mean to me!

Happy MuseYear!

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All and Sunday

Posted on July 26, 2009. Filed under: Culture, HowTo, Musings, Philosophy, Science |

It’s odd, I’ve often thought, that the days of the week in the English language are named after Norse gods and planetary bodies, yet month names are a mixture of Latin numbers, Roman Emperors, and Rituals, with a Greek goddess thrown in (Maia, or May). We English speakers are all mixed up, don’t you think?

Time and notions about it manifest in how calendars are viewed and used. Most cultures only use one or two; most of the world primarily adheres to one of them, the one that tells me that today is the twenty-sixth day of the month of July in the year two thousand and nine, in the Common Era. These designations, though, have no inherent reality. They are socially-acceptable, agreed upon designations simply for us to be able to make appointments with each other. Oh, yes, and in farming communities to know when to plant and when to harvest. I guess that’s fairly important as it helps us eat! We know that a “year” is approximately one trip around the sun for our earth. It amazes me that cultures have known this for millennia! And again, it makes some sense to break up a large amount of “time” into smaller, more manageable parcels, like the moon’s journey from new, to full, and back again.

And then there is the week. What is a week, anyway? Unlike the month and the year, a week has no particular astronomical association. It does have an historical astrological basis, but, otherwise, it just divides up the month into four equal parts (approximately, depending upon the calendar). We all could have easily decided to divide the month into three weeks, of ten days each! Hah! I know what you’re thinking—that would give us one less weekend!

I work as much, perhaps more, on the weekend than I do during weekdays. It’s challenging to find a pocket calendar which acknowledges this. It’s always a puzzlement, to me (to quote my favorite word from The King and I) that planner/calendar creators, especially of the weekly format (my favorite) think people don’t do much on the weekends. Even people in very traditional business-type jobs have a life, don’t they? And, for many that life continues to include business engagements on the weekend.

I like the Daytimer weekly layout, but look at the weekend! Saturday and Sunday are half the size of Monday-Friday. This reflects business, religious, and cultural prejudices traditions of the western world. My first challenge has been to find an appointment book which gives equal weight and space to the weekends. My favorite layout for this is the Planner Pad. I like the columns and categories, and all the days are exactly equal. But, their smallest size does not fit into a jacket pocket, or a fanny pack (for hikes), and for me, that’s essential. I have written to them about it, and they keep saying the functionality would be gone if they made it too small. Balderdash! The planner I’m currently using has most of the features of the Planner Pad, and is a reasonable size. It still makes “Sunday” either “special” or “diminished”—I’m not quite sure which—and along the bottom, when I’m a linear-type person, but I have a full Saturday, and this one is the best balance so far. Oh, did I mention I also need it to have appointments well beyond 5:00 pm? I’m just getting started, at that point!

notebook

I also believe it’s psychologically significant to consider what constitutes a year, as well. Until recently I had purchased appointment calendars, or diaries, which started on or about the first of January each year, and ended on western New Year’s Eve. (Some calendars would throw in a few days on each end to facilitate the transfer from old to new.) For years, I became somewhat anxious when the days started to run out of the year on my calendar—who knows why? Something about the intensity of the winter holidays in my culture, and the waning year, and the notions of endings and beginnings imposed upon an already busy time made me feel—not quite right. For me, winter has its appealing aspects, but autumn is my favorite season. It makes sense to have a new year start then, as it does in many cultures. There are those calendars which start in the spring, as well, and I can see the rationale there—new growth, and all.

However, in my country there are primarily two types of appointment calendars to be had: “Calendar Year” and “Academic Year”. I find this interesting for a couple of reasons. There are many, many students, and many professionals working in academia who prefer a calendar which starts in August or September and covers the academic year. The period from late August, or thereabouts, through June, or so, represents a complete unit of “worktime” or “studenttime” to them. Why is this so? Why does the “Academic Year” not start on the first of January? After all, most institutions of learning take a winter break, during the last few weeks of December; why not start fresh at the “New Year” with the business world? Wikipedia gives as a reason “The academic year was originally designed for the pre-industrial era when all able-bodied young people were needed to help with harvesting over the summer.“, but I’m not buying it. Perhaps workers were needed for a harvest, but that still doesn’t explain why the “school year” starts AFTER the harvest, when the calendar is a good nine months into the year already. Why not just take off the time needed to bring in the grain, and then get on with things?

It seems to me that, in the west (and I know there are other school terms in the world, and none of these schedules apply to the southern hemisphere), that there are vestiges of pagan elements still superimposed upon the calendar. For many prior cultures, harvest was the most important time; and harvest festival the most celebratory. A year which began with the year’s supply safely gathered and stored away was a marvelous and potent thing.

I have now, for the first time, purchased an appointment book which follows the “academic year”. It officially starts in August, but they gave me a couple of weeks in July as a bonus. I had *no* calendar-transfer anxiety; on the contrary, I felt calm. This felt right, and good, and as it should be. I’m not a student (well, not officially, but I always am, really) nor an instructor, nor a staff member at an educational facility. Before now, therefore, I hadn’t given myself “permission” to use one of “their” calendars. How funny our mindsets can be! I feel this choice has changed my life; perhaps in a small way, perhaps more profoundly. I am just happy to ease into my new year (even before one of the “other” ones I celebrate, namely Rosh Hashanah), in summertime, when “the livin’ is easy“. Shalom.

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Mooning on Moonday

Posted on July 21, 2009. Filed under: Musings, Philosophy, Science |

I had planned for some months now to write about the 40th anniversary of the moon landing. Space exploration is of profound interest to me. As a child, as I’ve written elsewhere, one of my favorite books was You Will Go to the Moon! When I read it; people HAD gone. I just knew I would, too.

I wanted to write of a family member who’d told a long tale of how her summer vacation was interrupted by watching the moon landing on television. She’d been staying with her family in a cabin in the woods, without television or radio. Some kind neighbors along the way invited the family to their larger, more elegant summer home to view the historic event. Only nine years old at the time, she gradually came to realize it was important to stop building the “Flintstone Village” in the sand—which she’d been doing with a friend before being called in to watch the amazing event, and focus on the meaning and significance of space travel.

I wanted to say all this, in much greater detail…but something in me resisted, and procrastinated, until I found myself unable to write anything else, either. Well, this historic anniversary has come and gone (on Monday—”Moonday”, as it happens!), and I realize now that I felt I was supposed to write about it. I nearly joined a “Bloggers Unite” group to pledge to blog about this topic—I’m glad now I did not. As much as I honor the achievements of the crew that first stepped on the moon, in 1969, I find that dwelling upon and aggrandizing history, at least in this area, has lost much of its appeal for me. It is simply not who I am. And I feel a modicum of guilt, and a dash of reluctance to share that admission.

photo credit: NASA

apollo11-moon-landing-1

I cannot, even now, imagine the courage it took to agree to be shot into space, during those early days of travel, knowing that no one had done these things before. Nevertheless, they did, and space travel will continue, one way or another, as well it should. I believe ways will be found to colonize Mars or the Moon or some other place. Perhaps, we humans will delve further into the mysteries of quantum mechanics and discover we don’t even need vessels for such travel. But that is for another time. I just feel a need, these days, to focus upon the present.

Having let go of the burden to write about the Moon; I wrote about it anyway, without the burden. Life so often works better that way—at least I think it does—without the burden of necessity. Letting it go, letting it flow, can accomplish a peaceful resolution, regardless.

Perhaps we’ll meet on the moon, someday…

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Who needs pets when you have wildlife?

Posted on July 9, 2009. Filed under: Culture, Games, Musings, Science |

Yesterday I was peering into my back garden, as I often do, and noticed what appeared to be a family of lizards frolicking about. There was a light rain at the time, in advance of one of our summer monsoon deluges, and the lizards seemed quite perky in the mist. I had seen what I assume were these same four lizards several days ago, and a day or two before that. There was one large one, almost as big as a baby gila monster; a smaller but still substantial one, and two smaller lizards. They ran around in circles, sometimes chasing each other; sometimes not. I had always thought that lizards were solitary creatures, and until about three years ago, also thought they were always on the move, and didn’t stay in one place for very long.

uma-not_300

This latter erroneous supposition was put to rest when I met Fred. Fred has been living under the Desert Spoon in my front yard now for four years. I’m pretty sure he’s the same lizard each year, when he emerges in the spring, because he has a spot on his hindquarters that looks familiar. I guess he hibernates in the winter. When it starts to get warm again, I’ll see Fred sunning himself on a rock as I go out the front door to take a hike or fetch the mail. He immediately scrambles under the Desert Spoon (even after all these years, he’s not quite trusting) and then pretends he’s not under there. I will speak to him, however, saying “Hiya Fred, don’t worry, it’s just me! You know me. How are you doing?, etc.” Then, he wiggles a bit, and I fancy it’s to acknowledge my presence. He and I have come to an understanding over time: I won’t trim off the bottom of the Desert Spoon (which I wouldn’t want to do anyway because it makes them look even more hideous than they already do), although I will, from time to time, trim back the individual spines. He may continue to call the Spoon home, for as long as he likes. In return, he has agreed not to bite my toes.

So, Fred and I—we’re cool. Fred certainly doesn’t seem to have a mate or a family, so I had continued to believe that other lizards are loners, too. That is until I saw the frolicking family. The first time I saw them, I thought there just happened to be four lizards in the back garden, all at once. I thought they’d go away. Then—although I don’t know for sure it’s they same four—they came back. Or were still there. And yesterday, watching them play in the rain, it occurred to me they all had taken up residence in the back, as Fred had in the front. Hmmm. They got along; they never strayed more than a few feet from each other, and they seemed to interact. I wondered if they were indeed a family, and if so, if that was usual for lizards.

After a consultation with my trusty Internet, I discovered that lizards have a variety of social behaviours. Some like to live alone, while others stay in family groups and rarely stray from the rock crevice they all call home. Some, usually those in colder climates, are born “live”, while other species lay eggs. I had no idea there was such a variety.

There are many creatures to watch in my garden (I’ll have to write about the Prairie Dogs someday), but these normally slow-moving lizards, who perked up and frolicked in a rain storm, were just so cheery, I invited them to stay. I’ve called them Homer, Marge, Bart, and Lisa—for no good reason I can think of, as I haven’t even ever seen an episode of The Simpsons, but somehow, the names seem to fit.

=   =   =   =   =

So I turn from my lizards to complete a meme. It’s only fair that I do, as I requested blog friend B0bby to complete it, which he graciously did, only to wonder why I had not done so myself.

“Why is the meme in this post?”, you ask. (“Why do I project questions onto you which you may not even have?”, I ask.) Well, the meme is about MY wild life. Get it? It relates to the title? No? Oh, well, here goes anyway:

20 nosy questions meme:

1. When you looked at yourself in the mirror today, what was the first thing you thought?   “Whew! better than I expected! ;)

2. How much cash do you have in your wallet right now?   “$17.38. Time to go to the bank.”

3. Do you label yourself?   “Constantly! I just have to remind myself to turn the yuccky ones into ones I like better.”

4. What does your watch look like?   “I have five watches! Three of them need batteries, so I don’t wear them (!) one runs two hours fast a day, so the one I wear most often is an old one I have to wind up. It’s quite traditional looking; gold-ish band, round face; second hand—always reminds me to get my other ones fixed, but I need something more than a reminder, obviously…”

5. What were you doing at midnight last night?   “Really? Truthfully? Reading the ICanHasCheezburger website. :neutral:

6. What’s a word that you say a lot?   “”Splendid’. I say it when I’m asked how I am (most of the time). I say it when describing my activities. And sunsets. And the state of the world. Oh my.”

7. Who told you he/she loved you last?   “Um. This person that I know.”

8. Last furry thing you touched?   “A dog that was a guest at the Independence Day party I went to.”

9. What was the last thing you said to someone?   “So, when we look at it from a broader perspective, we don’t see the tragedy of it all, we see it as very rich experience we can learn from. Doesn’t mean we don’t want to or can’t change it, though.”

10. The last song you listened to?   “Last song? I’ve been listening to a lot of Baroque-era instrumentals lately, but the last song would be ‘We are the World.’”

11. Where did you live five years ago?   “In a town, north of Tucson, Arizona; which is where I live now.”

12. Are you jealous of anyone?   “No. Jealous is a different word than ‘envious’, so I’ll say, no.”

13. Is anyone jealous of you?   “I don’t think so. I hope not. No reason to be.”

14. Name three things that you have on you at all times?   “There aren’t any! I guess the three most frequently used items are Contact Lenses (I don’t wear them at night, though), Underwear (but, you know, there are times…[whoa! TMI alert]), and the aforementioned watch. Whichever one is working.”

15. What’s your favourite town/city?   “So far? I haven’t been to ALL that many…Drat! Am I allowed to pick three? No? Alright, than I”d have to say ‘Paris’. (But if I were allowed three, I’d also say San Francisco and Canterbury.)

16. When was the last time you wrote a letter to someone on paper and mailed it?   “Uhhh…Ummm…1996? maybe?”

17. Can you change the oil on a car?   “Not anymore. I used to have a really old VW on which I could, but not since then.”

18. What is your current desktop picture?   Stonehenge. I occasionally swap it out for something else, but always come back to Stonehenge.”

19. When did you start your blog?   “July, 2007. I’m almost two!”

20. What country would you like to live in other than your own?   “I like my own pretty well; but the next choice would be England.”


So, there you have it. I feel reconciled with B0bby again. I will not task others with this, but if YOU feel you’d like to take it on, by all means do. It was both entertaining and introspective for me.

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Happy Can/Am day/week!

Posted on July 3, 2009. Filed under: Culture, Travel |

I was looking around the “Bloggers Unite” site, and was drawn to this image:

244I’ve noticed for years, now, that Canada Day and the US Independence Day are very close together. (My observation skills are legion!), so why not celebrate them both? They have similar themes. I won’t get into the historical ramifications of the holidays, other than that they express, for both nations, a commitment to freedom for the individual, and pride in our accomplishments. The “Bloggers Unite” assignment is to write about something both nations share. That’s a lot of things to choose from!

I choose to write about the Rocky Mountains. I first experienced the Colorado Rockies in my youth, and thought they were spectacular. I live in the region known as “the four corners” (named this because four states, [Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico] all come together in an almost perfect rectangle) and I have stood in the spot, unique in the States, where all four states meet. I consider the four corners region to be most representative of the Southwest, and there is an affinity among the four states here. While I don’t live in Colorado, I took some local pride and ownership of the Colorado Rockies.

I can make no such claim to the Canadian Rockies. I’ve spent some time in British Columbia and Alberta. I must admit that, so far, I have not been further east in Canada than Alberta, even though I have family near Niagara Falls who have encouraged me to visit. I shall, someday, really! I’d love to visit Montreal and Toronto! But for now, I will say that traveling from BC to Alberta afforded me one of the most stunningly beautiful; mouth-droppingly gorgeous journeys through any mountains I’ve ever undertaken. I mean this literally—I could not keep my mouth shut (and I wasn’t talking! or eating!), it kept dropping open at the sheer magnificence of the views.

Keeping in mind that I have not visited the Swiss or Italian Alps yet, I must say that the Canadian Rockies, specifically, are the most beautiful mountains I’ve seen—and we have many wonderful ranges on the north American continent. There are some nice pictures in the Wikipedia article about the Rockies, including one of my favorite views in Banff.

So, I wish all my Canadian friends a (belated) Happy Canada Day, and my US friends a peaceful and exciting Independence Day. To those reading from other countries, you are invited to celebrate with us! As with Canada and the US, there is more uniting us than dividing us. In these times, my wish is for freedom and peace for all who seek them.

Can/Am Celebration News

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How to decide what to believe

Posted on July 1, 2009. Filed under: HowTo, Philosophy |

Rather pretentious title, eh what?

I often refer in my writings to my “belief system” or “set of values” or some such thing. One might surmise by that, that I’ve spent much time contemplating different beliefs presented for my listening and reading pleasure; then sifting through them all logically for the best match(es). OR, perhaps I was taught my set of beliefs by an authority figure or figures, and because those figures were confident in the way life works, I was, too.

I have chosen lifeviews based on both the above assumptions at various times, and, at those times, they worked well for me. Now, though, I have a simpler rule…

One thing I DON’T do, is evaluate a belief based on the amount of “truth” it contains. There are two reasons for this. The first is obvious, in that in calling something a “belief” to start with, we are recognizing that the thought-content has not been “proven”. If it were, it would be something called a “fact”, not a belief. Beyond that, however, I also tend to believe that both “facts” and “truths” are subjective; attempts of our incarnate selves to “get a grip” on on perceived reality.

I use the oft-employed example of Newtonian Physics, which was “true” and consistent within its own limited paradigm, but not useful when studying very large or very small phenomena. Just because some scientists in the 16th century “believed” their physics applied to all, didn’t make it so. It seems to me this is more the rule than the exception. (Besides, Newton was one of the inventors of Calculus, which tormented me in high school, so I am less kindly disposed towards him.) ;)

Religion is taught and accepted much as science is. Science is more widely accepted by more people because most of its precepts are also endorsed by religious leaders. I’m aware of few teachers of religious beliefs (including our parents) who would say to a child:

“This is what I believe. I could be wrong, but it feels right, and resonant to me. You are invited to test your own theories. I’d advise you to look within, and adopt what beliefs seem to ring true to you, regardless of what I do religiously.”

That sort of teaching sounds like heaven to me—but we so often want to teach others “how life works”. A belief I tend to embrace states that there is no way, really, to know how life works. This is true for me whether regarding, let’s say, algebra (solve all the equations you want to; they still exist within a mental construct) or, for instance, a holy book giving advice (I don’t dispute one may find truth there, but it doesn’t confer authority upon those who believe differently).

So, how do I decide what to believe? Beliefs, for me (at least on the day I write this) need to have three qualities for me to embrace them; listed in order of importance:

  • The belief must be fun. (I’m serious about that!)
  • The belief must be useful (as defined by…guess who?) The belief must enhance my life, and, by extension, help my life be of benefit to others. It must be pragmatic; workable; affirming. If not, I do my best to chuck it out as soon as possible.
  • The belief must not cause me the slightest temptation to want to impose it upon another. This is crucial. I’d never want to impose…well, anything upon a person who hasn’t asked to share it.

Beliefs, for me, turn out to be very much like clubs to join. I entertain the belief that many scientific experiments are repeatable, and therefore give us knowledge about the workings of the Universe. (Ah, but what is knowledge? A topic for another day.) Therefore, I enjoy playing in the arena of science. I feel that music connects me with you and all beings; it allows me to feel emotionally in ways I don’t otherwise. So, I participate in music.

I “believe” in these things. That “belief” doesn’t make them real. All it does is give meaning to my human existence. How to decide what to believe? Any way you can. Om Peace, Blessings, Salaam, Shalom.

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