Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Mouse

Penn and Teller was funny, if too short, and not really magic-laden enough. Why should I have expected them to pack several seasons worth of "Bullshit" into one evening? But I did... Still, it was superb.

Also, we went to The Mouse, and it was pretty much great! Much smaller than I remember as a kid, but we did only go to The Magic Kingdom, so there's all sorts of other parks to visit next year, when we hopefully get to return.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Make work?

Spouse One and I have discovered during this backyard renovation that we are a couple of picky bastards. Truly. We have assembled and disassembled the pool and are in the process of re-doing the excavation, because it's not what we wanted. We want it to be perfect, so c'est la vie.

In other news, work continues, although a highlight is that we'll be going to Vegas (and possibly Orlando for some work-related adventures. Not like we actually get it paid for, such are the joys of a small business, but we will get to stay in Vegas, drive our little rental SUV around a bit, and see Penn & Teller. All of which are happy things. If finances allow we'll get to Orlando briefly as well, and perhaps I will get to visit The Mouse.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Sentenced to Hard Physical Labour

We're doing a big backyard reno this fall. Part of it to be completed now, and part of it in the spring, and the last bits next fall. So, it's big. Pretty much nothing in the back or front yard will be the same, except for one flowery shrub in the front that I want to try to save.

Here's the fun part. We're putting in a new pool, and we don't have enough access for an excavator. Not even a little one. So we're going to be digging it out by hand. We had almost finished lifting the sod today, with much shouting of "sod off" and sniggering, of course, when Spouse One suddenly hired some kid off the road. Seems OK, works reasonably hard at least so far, and while they're at the dump with the first truckload, I've actually managed to get some of the dishes done, and a little bit of cleaning.

What with working 13 hours on the days we're at work, and then working more for work when we get home, there's not really enough time to get anything done. And then we've managed to steal a few three day weekends so we can spend 13 hours on the yard. It's not a complaint, except to mention that we desperately need a house elf.

I'm super excited about it. I've just spent a whole summer listening to tanned bastards in bermuda shorts tell me how much work their enormous inground pools are. next year I'll be joining them.

despite the bad example that that cats are setting for me, curled up in patches of sun all over the place, I'd better get back to my shovel.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Craft Corner (again)

So, I've spent the summer knitting and basically made nothing. I'm obsessed with finally being able to knit ribbing, and I'm in the middle of making a little capelet, which is of course, entirely inappropriate for the fall. f we keep this summery weather it should be wearable through September at least.

I have some ideas for the ACGP, so I should probably get on with starting those, or else it will be like last year, where I finished Spouse One's woolen hat in April.

No More Still Life

This week we cut off the cable. No more TV in our house once again. It's going to take a bit of getting used to. It's enjoyable, sure, but it's also too much of a soporific. It's too easy to ignore real life in favour of the ongoing eye candy produced by the networks. So we're back to once a week movie nights, game nights, and we've already dragged out the old N64. Oh, Tetrisphere, how I adore you.

It is part of the general overhaul that we've been working on all along. We're already both internet fanatics, and that's enough. Soon enough it will all be internet based anyhow, so we're really just getting prepared.

It's kind of odd to me, because we never had TV at home as a child, because it was considered to worldly, and too evil. Spouse One and I have gone without TV before, and the last three years are really the only time we've ever had cable consistently. It's kind of sad, to spend one's time caring about these stupid, badly written characters and predictable plots.

I'm excited about spending more time listening to the radio, playing music, and just generally interacting with each other, and other people.

We're also starting a new backyard project. Should make for a much more entertaining winter, and for much more entertaining next summer. I'm looking forward to it.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Hey Awesome! Not only was my childhood difficult and painful, but I can look forward to it adversely impacting my health over the course of my life. Out of 10 possible adverse experiences that people can have as kids, I score 9. I love scoring high on tests!

Info courtesy of the ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) Study:

The questionnaires are particularly interesting. Now I just want to know about the adverse effects of religious upbringing...

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Craft Corner

So I made a quilt for some friends who are having a baby. Their baby shower was today. It was nice. They went through a really rough patch recently and I'm glad to see that they're doing well, and are happy.

I'd never made a quilt all by myself before so it was a bit of a challenge, but it turned out really nice, and they seemed happy about it. I did some of the applique by hand, and I can see the appeal of hand quilting things. I did this one by machine, because it was just straight lines, and I didn't have a lot of time, but I can see how hand quilting would give a perfect result, and that would please my perfectionistic self. I even managed to put a new binding on it, after I accidentally cut off the self-backing fabric with the rotary cutter. Note to me: get a bigger olfa mat.

It's nice to have enough sewing skills that I could just decide to make a quilt, and research some techniques, and then just make one. I've been enjoying learning all different crafts this year - crochet, and knitting, and quilting. In some ways it's an odd part of female only culture that I'm not always part of. Today I went to a baby shower, took a quilt I made, and talked to other people there about sewing, knitting, and crochet. It's like everything else, in that most things simply require attempting them. Even if I don't get it right the first (few) times, then at least I can get better at it, and learn some new stuff, and the next time I will be more competent.

I realize that what I like doing is learning. As long as I keep learning new things, I'm happy

Monday, February 12, 2007

Recovering from Fundamentalism

I've been thinking lately, about how incredibly relieved I am to finally be done with what I called my "existential panics". They started when I was around 8, and continued until last year (I was 32). They could be triggered by anything, darkness, being awake alone late at night, thoughts about existence and life, thinking about eternity, thinking about not being a christian, thinking about trying to be a christian again, and so on.

When they first started they scared the heck out of me, I would break down crying, sometimes in the middle of supper, or at school, or just anywhere. I would start thinking about eternity, and how long it was, and about whether there was a god or not, and what would happen after i died if there wasn't a god, and what if there was a god, and i was bad, and there was eternity to be punished with no hope of relief if I got sent to hell. It was absolutely terrifying. I remember being comforted by my mother, who would encourage me to just have faith, and to believe.

I couldn't articulate why I was questioning god. I guess even then some of the inconsistencies must have at some level been clear, but it was nothing I could articulate beyond "what if there isn't a god?"

Even as I stopped being a christian, and moved firmly into agnosticism these anxiety attacks persisted. The feeling that I couldn't survive them was overwhelming, the hopelessness took days to get over. I became afraid of being alone ever. The first time I tried to read the selfish gene I had to stop, because it made the panics worse than ever.

It was a conscious choice to decide to overcome that fear. I had to learn to let myself think about what it means to be a finite being. To be able to think about the history of the universe, and the future of the universe, and to see myself as a cosmic spark somewhere in there. Richard Dawkins' spotlight analogy was very helpful. I deliberately spent time reading books about the origin of consciousness, and about evolution. Essentially, what I've spent a year doing is deprogramming myself from the fear and superstition. On some level it was an act of faith, trusting to reason instead of superstition. I had to give myself permission to go against the indoctrination; to decide that whether or not there is a god, I was unhappy living a christian life, and I was unhappy being afraid of eternity, and I was unhappy with the guilt, and the self-hatred, and with the false face of christianity.

I can't say it was easy, and how I wish that The God Delusion had been written earlier, so that I could have had such a manual for deconversion right from the beginning, but it was worth it. Embracing the natural worldview lets everything be just as it is, instead of having to read a "deeper meaning" into everything. It is such a huge relief.

I see christians I know struggling so hard with appearing to be a good person, and I just feel pity for them. They don't even see that they could just be a good person, to them it's all about seeming so to the other christians. I remember that, and I never want to go back.

Happy Darwin Day!

It's good to walk upright, isn't it?

Sbarfs and ISPs

Apparently my ISP is something out of a Douglas Adams novel. Apparently calling them, or adding another service and paying more only draws attention to myself, at which point they cut off my service, now for 3 days, and counting. How aggravating! Their customer service is also divided into billing and tech support, and each one can only do certain things, and they can't even transfer you between departments, just put you at the beginning of the que for the other department.

In better news, the sbarfs are coming along well. I have finished two sets (a hat and scarf for the cousin-baby, and a scarf and ear-warmer for my aunt). Only two more sets to go. Now I just have to figure out how to make a masculine set out of lion suede.

Recently, our local cable added channels, so we've spent all weekend watching old war movies. They're showing a month worth of Oscar nominees and winners. Spouse One and I are suckers for movies of all kinds, so it's been very entertaining. Although we are overtired, and should go to bed. We both had horrible migraines today, and so movies and crafts were the order of the day.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Handmade gifts

I have nothing against handmade gifts. In fact, being a crafty sort of person myself, I really enjoy crochet, and painting little wooden nik-naks, and so on. Generally, however I refrain from making them for others, and from giving them to others, unless I am absolutely certain that it is the sort of thing that person would enjoy.

This past Non-Denominational-Wintertime-Gift-Giving-Season my cousin made the same things for each branch of the family. One, a line-drawing wood burned plaque, (ours was some cartoonish cat outlines and the phrase "home is where the cats are"), and a dollar-store silver wicker sleigh with some handmade-from-a-Michael's-kit soaps in it. Rose and Lemon scented. As it turned out over the course of the evening these were things that she had gotten to make as presents for co-workers, and had made the family ones the night before the get-together.

I suppose I should be grateful to get anything at all from them. Her mother, my aunt has stopped giving gifts entirely, and just signs her name to whatever my cousin comes up with. It's not even that I mind handmade gifts, but even one concession to individuality would have been nice. Different shaped soaps for each family group, or something. I should probably add that my family is pretty small, so there really are only 9 people in my whole extended family, so gift-giving is not in fact too strenuous.

So, I have decided, in the spirit of not throwing good money after bad, that their presents this year will be matching handmade acrylic scarf and hat sets. I will, of course, buy a toy for the baby, because it's not her fault her parents are clueless.

Monday, January 29, 2007

A rich fantasy life

This process of coming out as an atheist has been pretty interesting, and it is only with stuff like this that I realize both how inane the intelligent design idea is, and how impossible it would be to argue with someone (say, a fundamentalist) who has no intention of ever letting rational thought interfere with their beliefs. My mother asked me the other day how I can discount her personal experience of god, and I replied "I think you are someone with a rich fantasy life which includes some kind of higher being."

We got into a brief discussion of Richard Dawkins, as she was with me when I was buying "The God delusion" to surprise Spouse One on our recent vacation. (The surprise went well, Spouse One was delighted, btw.) My mother was trying to explain to me how, as an anglican, she was part of a christianity that was more skeptical and down-to-earth than most.

While I can see her point, compared to some of the cults/churches which she (and I) have attended, it seems incompatible to proclaim a sort-of open-minded skepticism, and yet to still claim that god spoke to her personally about her illness, and healed her. I think that will have to be the subject of another post, though.

So, for now, congratulations to all of you who have understood your imaginary friends for being just that, and gone on to more sophisticated understandings of the universe.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Panama: reading and adventure

So Spouse One and I just got back from a vacation in Panama. Most of it was spent at the beach, which was simply glorious. The water was cool, the breeze was refreshing, the grass-roofed huts were shady, and the weather was HOT (35-40ÂșC). So nice after the chill here.

We had brought a lot of books with us, and I confess to reading most of them, and enjoying the time spent just relaxing. In fact we relaxed so much that we were a day late for our car rental, and had to settle for having a Yaris for a few days - what a ridiculous vehicle! The 4x4 we had on the last day was much better, and was certainly needed on some of the roads. 'Paved' in Panamanian terms seems to mean that the so indicated road was ONCE paved. Potholes the size of the car, and filled with piles of rocks and bricks were the norm. In some spots all that was left was a few 2 foot sections of paved road, and the rest was just dirt and gravel. Also, on all of these roads there are the local minibuses which just plough along, beeping their horns, regardless of the terrain.

I got to take Spouse One SCUBA diving, which went very well, and we will likely be doing some certifying, (re-certifying in my case) on our next trip. Once again I am reminded of how lucky I am to have someone so compatible, that we can enjoy pretty much everything together.

We did a fair bit of driving in Panama, well Spouse One did the driving, I did the navigating. We went shopping, visited the local (yes, sterotypically Korean-run) corner grocery stores, and bombed around on some great back roads. In the 4x4 we went to see an extinct volcanic crater, hiked through the rain forest to a waterfall, swam in a positively chilly mountain stream, and visited the local hot springs/mud baths, where we coated ourselves in mud, and felt much refreshed.

We did a lot of shell hunting on the beach, and found some great stuff that I am looking forward to sharing with my mom - the world's most avid shell collector. I also found a worn dog tag buried in the sand (our hotel was right beside Noriega's beach house where the Americans landed in 1989, and the hotel was also on land, and used buildings which had at one point been part of an American military installation) so I am looking forward to finding out more about the previous owner of the tag.

It was odd being queer there, since it's a pretty thoroughly catholic country, and there are a lot of sex-based gender/behavioural expectations. Spouse One and I caused quite a bit of head turning. Although I have to say that people were also very very nice, and generally helpful.

Clothes were cheap, and also comparatively smaller, which made it clear how much American manufacturers favour vanity sizing. I would wear probably two or more sizes larger in Panama than I do here.

The most "excitement" of the trip was at the end, when the plane that was supposed to take us back clipped another plane on the tarmac after landing, so we ended up spending hours and hours at the airport, before the airline checked us into the local Sheraton for a meal, and a few hours sleep while they sent a replacement plane. I have to say that the Sheraton was delightful, very plush, and it was probably the best sleep I had on the whole trip.

Panamanian airport officials are not very helpful, and I managed to get us onto the pre-boarding list, so that we could get decent seats for the flight home, since their plan was simply to allow a free for all. "This plane is smaller, and has different seat numbers, so everyone will enter the plane in their groups and find seats" seemed a bit too optimistic. I can't stand being squished into strangers, so we managed to get two seats to themselves, and the return flight was pretty uneventful.

My Mom stayed here while we were away, since one of the cats got quite sick immediately before we left, and needed medication twice daily, and we were both a bit worried about how she would be here, since she's pretty dedicatedly religious, however, we locked most of our "stuff that she wouldn't want to find" away, and it seems to have gone well. She even, very sweetly made us some soup, and stocked the fridge and freezer a bit so we had food to eat, which was great after having the flight delayed, and not getting any sleep.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Lately I have been developing an apreciation for casual friendships, and aquaintanceships. I'm a bit clever, and I can be funny, but I tend to look for friendships to be more than just a fun time. I want people I can really relate to, in a number of ways, or who are similar to me. I think it's been a realization that I'm really lucky to already have that person. If I meet more people like that, or people who fill that space for me sometimes, or at certain times then I'll be doing well. It's OK to just have some people that one sees socially, and just gets along with. I also want to put some effort into looking for some people who i can have some kind of intellectual respect for. Sadly, that sort of thing also means that I have to get my lazy ass in gear, and overcome my fear of failure enough to be able to put myself out there as someone who is worth talking to about interesting things. Reading Richard Dawkins latest book has made me aware of how many things I am woefully aware of. His primary school education was more comprehensive than my universtiy degree. Incidentally, that's not a statement of bitterness, more of a recognition of having found some directions for my next batch of reading.

Atheism is the first thing in a long while that has inspired me. I want something to be excited about, to work towards, and to learn about. I am greatly inspired by Dawkins. He mentions in his book having Douglas Adams as his only convert to Atheism, but so long as he shares the credit with Adams, through whom I found him, then Dawkins can count me among his converts as well.