Archive for July, 2011

PepperPorn: Still at it!

Posted on July 27, 2011. Filed under: Culture, HowTo, Musings, Philosophy |

  This month, (on July 27) I celebrate my fourth Bloggiversary. Four years is not a lot of time in the scheme of things, but it’s a fair amount for online life. I’ve read quite a few comments from long-time bloggers recently, and I thought I’d consider them and how they may apply to continued blogging adventures.

When I first started blogging in 2007, most of the bloggers I encountered were very active; posting nearly every day. Perhaps I met them because I was very active too; it makes sense that if one is engaged with others, even through a personal, individual activity like blogging, that those participating would become familiar with each other.

It becomes a community like any other. Wary of, but friendly to newcomers, we have a history with each other. There are bloggers “older” than I that have tolerated my company, 🙂 while I have welcomed newcomers, with, I hope, grace. Some of the “oldies” have remained while others have faded away, never to be heard from again. I realize I don’t want to be one of the “faders”! (although I have been giving a fair impression of one lately).

There is a peculiar thing with online families. They each develop their unique language and nuance, even though bloggers, for the most part, are writing to a general public, and closed references would be considered rude. Many of the bloggers I’ve known for several years don’t post as much as they used to. I am one of those as well, but I’ve found myself suffering from blogginess (loneliness for blogging). So, instead of retiring on my fourth bloggiversary, I’m looking into ways to “spice up the blog”, thus changing it enough that it becomes exciting again. I want to capture that ‘new-blog-smell’ sense of excitement I used to have, when the blog was young and carefree. Well, young, anyway. I do put things I care about here. In connecting again with my reactions to my caring, I hope to produce *PepperPorn for years to come.

* Title Explanation one: 😉 For those of you with a sensitive nature, the title of my blog post today contains a typographical error. I meant to write “Peppercorn”, which, as you know, is the “fruit” or “berry” of the pepper plant, the part which, when dried, is then ground into a potent spice. Somehow, my finger slipped and the “c” became a “P” in the aforementioned title. Why would I call a post celebrating my blog anniversary “peppercorn”? Who knows? If you’ve read this far, I’ll just say that perhaps, to start fresh in my new blog year, I wanted to attract those who appreciate fine cuisine, and placing a spice in the title would help me accomplish that. This is not true, however. If you are sensitive about the “real” title, stop reading now, and thank you for reading my blog for 0-4 years! 🙂
“We are thus assisted by natural objects in the expression of particular meanings. But how great a language to convey such pepper-corn informations!” –Ralph Waldo Emerson
(Emerson muses that language may be more than a mere tool to signify objects. It might indeed transcend utility and embody in itself unheard-of regions of significance.) – The Columbia World of Quotations
OK, so, if you are STILL reading, this means you can take it! You HAD been warned! Read the next Explanation at your own risk!
* Title Explanation two: 😀 Actually (and don’t tell the people that aren’t reading this!) it wasn’t a typo at all! My finger didn’t slip; the use of the word PepperPorn was fully intentional! The truth is, after four years, I really felt the need to spice up my blog. It had been feeling a bit hum-drum; so much so, that I’d been staying away from it myself. I came close to letting my four year bloggiversary pass without any acknowledgement whatsoever. But then, I remembered how helpful has been for me to have this place where I express my thoughts, to commune with like others, and to take pleasure and share the pain of real people’s lives, expressed in pixels.
So here is the definition of “pepper”-the-verb I want to use for this explanation:  a. to season with or as if with pepper b. to sprinkle or cover c. to pelt with or as if with shot or missiles. (I’m hoping that, by injecting a bit of pepper into my posts, I will in fact recapture their flavour.)
“Such epithets, like pepper,
Give zest to what you write;
And, if you strew them sparely,
They whet the appetite:
But if you lay them on too thick,
You spoil the matter quite!” – Lewis Carroll
So much for the word “PEPPER”. We still have the problem of “PORN”.
Porn” an abbreviation of “Pornography” from Greek pornographos  writing of harlots, from pornē  a harlot + graphein  to write]
(So, I must just have referred to myself as a “harlot” here! And lest you think harlots are “only” women, or really, defined by their common usage, so to speak, read on…perhaps I am merely a buffoon!)
Harlot: early 13c., “vagabond,” from O.Fr. herlot, arlot “vagabond, tramp” (usually male in M.E. and O.Fr.), with forms in O.Prov. (arlot), O.Sp. arlote), and It. (arlotto), of unknown origin. Used in both positive and pejorative senses by Chaucer; applied to jesters, buffoons, jugglers, later to actors. Sense of “prostitute” probably had developed by 14c. but reinforced by use as euphemism for “strumpet, whore” in 16c. translations of the Bible. The word may be Gmc., with an original sense of “camp follower,” if the first element is hari “army,” as some suspect.   (from the Online Etymology Dictionary)

P.S. I must admit I owe some inspiration for my title to a commenter on a blog friend’s floral pictures. The commenter referred to his “flower porn”, and I’ve never been the same since. Dave posts a lot of gardening pictures; he has lovely vegetables as well.

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Humanity in the Balance

Posted on July 25, 2011. Filed under: Culture, Games, Health, HowTo, Musings, Philosophy |

 Picture this: You are walking along a ridge, say, 30 feet above the valley floor. The path is narrow, and, suddenly, as you make a turn you’ve taken many times before, a few stones become dislodged, and you lose your footing. You tumble down the side of the ridge, rolling down the gentle slope.

You would have picked yourself up, dusted yourself off, and rejoiced in the fact you weren’t seriously hurt. Except:

There was a large campfire, sheltered from the wind, near the place you landed, and you rolled right into it. The tenders of the fire were away for a short time, and didn’t see your fall at first. You roll right out of the fire pit again, but not before being rather badly burned.

At this point, the fire-builders come back, and the universe splits into several possibilities.

#1: They address you rather rudely, saying “Hey, watch where you’re rolling, you jerk! Can you move? Can you crawl? OK, then, move along; we’re trying to have a meeting here!”

#2: “OMG are you hurt? What happened? Did someone push you? No? Are you sure? We’ve been after the committee to make that path safer up there! Heads are going to roll for this! Let’s start an action group right now! …Oh, did you just moan? Sorry about that, maybe someone will take you to the infirmary”.

#3: “Hello, fellow human. While we take no joy in your pain, we do recognize that you are completely responsible for your circumstances in life. If we can render you immediate assistance we will; on the other hand, we don’t want to ‘enable’ you. Obviously, though, if we leave you here to just, sort of, die or something, that would mess with our own ‘karma’ so tell us what you need, but no whining or playing victim, OK?”

#4: “Oh, no, you are hurt! Let me check for injuries…can someone get the first aid kit? Can you walk? We’ll get you to the infirmary right away. Later, when you’ve had some rest and a chance to recover a bit, we’ll be by to visit to find out what happened, what we can do to help you recover, and, if you’re up to it, assess what to do to prevent future injuries in this area. Really sorry for your pain, but glad you weren’t more seriously hurt. They’ll take care of you now, please just relax and don’t worry.

Now, these are all rather overblown responses, but I think we can see that all of them “could” occur. This sort of situation came to mind recently as I participated in philosophical discussions on the topics of “offence” and “blame”. I don’t know about you, but I would prefer response #4 to any of the others. The first response would not be desired by anyone, but the middle two, #s 2 & 3, are common responses these days, and form philosophical extremes when we talk about social interaction and responsibility.

There is a large school of thought that goes something like this: “You create your own reality (or you are subject to the ‘Law of Attraction’). Therefore, anything you see and experience is because of how you are ‘vibrating’, and nothing I do can change your vibration, only you can. I am somewhat in this camp myself, by the way, even though I’ve just stated the position rather bluntly. Critics of this say it ‘blames the victim’, to which proponents reply that this is, in fact, the case, but they don’t like to use the word “victim”, as we are all really empowered to make changes. If one is feeling like a victim, that’s the time to look deeply within and focus on what is wanted instead.

Another group of thinkers takes the position that society’s ills govern unpleasant circumstances. I suppose they also think that progress in civilisation also contributes to our comfort. “Yes,” they’ll tell us, “we have a large field to play in, and many of our choices will better or our circumstances. But, what about the person that just can’t get ahead because the government has cut their program? Or people who suffer because of prejudice and hatred? If we care at all, we must do what we can for social reform!” I’m a little bit in this camp, too…with the caveat that it does NOT help us to talk and complain endlessly about societal ills. If we feel called to work for a cause, then by all means, let’s do so. A more worthy pursuit is not easily imagined. But keeping our thoughts mired in how awful things are, without either taking some action, or doing our best to focus thoughts elsewhere, is like slowly drowning in a sea of despair.

This is why I liked Universe #4, from the options above. It is a balanced approach. It doesn’t get angry at victims, outraged at injustice, or overwhelmed in trying to fix everything at once. It renders aid where it can, but also uses an incident to examine circumstances and see what can be done, should one choose action.

I think our feelings and emotions are a wonderful guide, if we will just consult them dispassionately (and I realize this is a contradiction in terms!) It’s when we get self-righteous about situations, whether as victims ourselves, or in “fighting for the rights” of those we perceive as victims, that division, angst, and even wars occur. Stepping back and assessing is always a good idea; so is allowing for the possibility that someone else may see a situation differently than ourselves. The only “winning” position is one where everyone, at least, feels heard. That is the least we can do for each other. Also the most.

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Three Spikes and You’re Sprout!

Posted on July 6, 2011. Filed under: Culture, Games, HowTo, Musings, Travel |

Subtitle: “Muse’s Tips for a Peaceful Summer*

I’ll get to the title and what it means in a second, but first! Here is tip #1
1. Do not wash a duvet cover in the same load as your socks!
I own two socks (from two different pair, of course) that I fear I won’t see again until winter (or what passes for that in the desert). In the summer, I don’t use the thick fluffy duvet, or its cover, so I launder and fold away the latter to keep safely stored through the hot months that make all us desert dwellers think we’ll never be cool again, but somehow winter does eventually come and we say: “Gosh it’s cold; wish I didn’t have to wear three pair of socks!” Honestly, I searched in all the corners and pockets of the duvet and pillowcases and such…but I guess these socks are not summer socks. I’ll put their mates with the duvet, and with luck we’ll all reunite in the winter.

2. Do not have three spikes on your Desert Spoon!
…it gets unwanted attention from the neighbors, and, perhaps from international reporters. This is not so much a tip as a warning. After all, you can’t really tell your plants how to grow, can you? Perhaps it would be better put: “If your main water line breaks in the spring, expect anomalies in the summer!+
I have written about my trials and tribulations with this ubiquitous shrub before (here and amazingly enough, again here.) I swore I would not do this…but, seriously, the Spoon near my kitchen window was getting so big it was about to push through and become my roommate, so I succumbed and had it trimmed up on the bottom. Yet another landscaper told me it would be more trouble to take that plant out, than to do that. Oh well.  It, in spite of the intrusive trimming, it has one spike. This is normal. Having TWO spikes is unusual, but common. Due to (I’m guessing) the large amount of water the huge, center, non-trimmed Spoon got during my pipe-bursting incident, I was not surprised to see it put up two building-high spikes. But, just in the last week or so, I see that a third spike has emerged! Do you know how rare this is? This is the only other one I’ve EVER seen! (photo credit:    Perhaps we are easily amused here in the desert, or soft-headed from temperatures exceeding 105F (41C) each day, but I do see the neighbors stopping and pointing! Really!

3. When celebrating the American holiday “Independence Day”, decide ahead of time whether you want “natural” or “human-made” fireworks. Again, this will be only partially under your control. Quite recently, on the just-passed 4th of July, after enjoying various contributed foods and watching a spectacular sunset, it began to thunder. And rain. And loud non-nature-made booms ensued. And the sky lit up with spectacular lightning, while also hosting the colourful sparkles of created light this holiday is known for. Being out of doors, and a little damp, and a little anxious about the lightning, I nonetheless enjoyed this rare spectacle of nature and human creativity.  (This particular firework looks a bit like an exploding Desert Spoon, doesn’t it? hmmm 🙂 )

Perhaps I’ll have other tips as the summer moves hotly along. We’ll stick with just these three for now. Happy Hot Days, for those experiencing them 😀

* The actual title of this piece is a word play on a rule in American Baseball: “Three Strikes and You’re Out!” For those that DON’T know: A ball is thrown at a person holding a big stick in her/his hands. If the person fails to hit the ball with the stick (and therefore doesn’t get to run around in a square) three times in a row (or three “strikes”) they are “out”, which means they don’t get to play anymore. Until the next time.
I’m not really that much of a baseball fan, I prefer the sport of American Football (which is not “real” football, or soccer) but went to a lot of baseball games as a youth.
Why did I go? cuz my friends were going. Isn’t that why we do a lot of things? Should we give some thought to our motivations? …nah!
For more on the difference between American Football and American Baseball, see this video, which explains it kindly and sensibly (not really, but it’s funny as heck!)

+ The broken water line did in fact happen to me, and I lived in mud, but with no incoming water, for the better part of a week. Much landscaping and cash later, I have running water, new pipe and a better looking front garden, however the trauma caused the relocation of my favorite lizard, who had been living under the above-referred-to Desert Spoon for several years. 😦

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