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9th-Dec-2016 09:32 am - Naughty Christmas
calm, metal
Lacuna Coil recorded a Christmas song. Hah.

teehee, haha
I've been slowly working my way through an audiobook of The Kalevala as my accompaniment to chores and errands. This morning, I was thinking about the phrase, "the dismal Sariola," which occurs quite frequently. Honestly, it doesn't seem that dismal unless you go wooing there, which is, of course, what everyone does in The Kalevala. Anyway, while I was picking out produce, I found myself idly wondering if Sariola were an identifiable place, and if one could visit it while in Finland, and what it would look like these days. I pictured a run-down gas station staffed by a single surly attendant in a little shop that carries beer of dubious vintage, a much dog-eared guide to pike fishing in the river of Tuoni, and T-shirts that read, "I made the Sampo for Louhi and all I got was a lousy betrothal."

It was something of a relief to discover that Sariola has no identifiable location and so there is no reality to contradict that mental image.
A mosque in San Jose that's about a 20 minute drive from my house received hate mail yesterday.

There's something kind of surreal about a letter that begins, "To the children of Satan," with the "i" dotted with a cute little circle. There's nothing else funny about the letter, though. The writer promises that Trump "is going to do to you Muslims what Hitler did to the jews."

It just so happens that the Evergreen Islamic Center, which received the letter, is fundraising to complete the construction of a new masjid (mosque) right now. I've sent them a small donation and a message of support, and I think it would be wonderful if other San Jose residents did the same to show that Muslims are welcome in our community.
21st-Nov-2016 06:51 pm - The Hard Life of a Lighthouse Keeper
teehee, haha
On a recent visit to Point Reyes, I snapped a photo of some excerpts from the Keeper's Log:

1874, July 19, During the night the English ship Warrior Queen went ashore in a thick fog on the beach, north of Point Reyes (no lives lost).

1874, July 20, Mr. Lincoln, first assistant, left the station for the purpose of visiting the wrecked ship and did not return at night - he is supposed to be drowned.

1875, August 13, 1st Assistant Mr. Rane refused to work over 1/2 day. Said he would not work over 1/2 day for any man in the Lighthouse service.

1875, November 4, 3rd Assistant Parker left station at 9:00 a.m. without asking permission and remained absent until 6:00 p.m. on November 5. ... Took government horse with him and returned to station drunk and unable to perform his duty that night.

1876, Novermber 1, 3rd Asst J.C. Baker resigns and leaves the station complaining the duties are too heavy for him, an old man to perform.

1879 April 6, The first good day for outside painting for a month.

1889, January 30, 2nd Assistant left station at 1:00 p.m. crazy and was taken by 1st Assistant and his brother to Olema and turned over to a constable.

1891, September 16, Cleaned lens and clockwork.

1891, October 8, Fog watched stopped at 10:30 a.m. - 61 hour run.

15th-Nov-2016 11:25 am - Some favorite guided meditations
bannakaffalatta, short
Yesterday was a somewhat stressful day. On top of ongoing current events, it was just hectic, full of meetings and small fires to put out. About half an hour before bed, I picked out a guided meditation from Spotify's playlist of guided meditations. I picked a "body scan" meditation, which is typically done lying down, so I lay down in bed. I woke up about 30 minutes later, having slept through most of the meditation, but feeling more relaxed than I've felt in days.

I figure I'm not the only one who can use a little relaxation, so I thought I'd share a few of my favorite guided meditations.

Guided Body Scan Meditation by Mark Williams. This was the one I listened to last night. Strictly speaking, I'm not sure how it works as a meditation, but it's excellent for relaxation and falling asleep. You can find it on Spotify, on Youtube, or buy the book from Amazon/Audible.

Banishing Depression by The Honest Guys. The Honest Guys are a little more woo-woo than I usually go for, but their guided meditations are fun because they really take you on a journey - you're usually asked to visualize yourself in some place, and very vividly imagine the sensations of being there. (They have a whole set of guided meditations centered around locations in The Lord of the Rings for example.) In this guided meditations, you visualize handing over bundles of negative thoughts to a spiritual guardian, who crumbles them into dust. I now sometimes use this as a visualization technique even outside of meditation for dealing with an anxious thought that I'm having trouble letting go of - I imagine wrapping it in butcher paper, labeling it with a Sharpie, and handing it over to my guardian, who looks at it, says, "Nope, you don't need that," and tosses it over his shoulder. (My spiritual guardian looks like a Finnish heavy metal singer. I find this mildly embarrassing and yet entirely predictable.) You can find this meditation on Spotify and on Youtube.

Guided Meditation I - Breathing Calming Body & Mind by Erica Rayner-Horn. This is a really good basic guided mindfulness meditation. It's great if you're a beginner or just want a simple meditation experience. You can find it on Spotify, on Youtube, or buy the CD/MP3 from Amazon.
11th-Nov-2016 09:26 am - Triage
In the wake of Donald Trump's election, I've have been hearing the usual calls for unity and "putting our differences aside", and lots of pleas to understand the grievances of the people who voted Trump, who are not all horrible racists.

I am, by nature, a consensus builder. One of my favorite phrases is, "Can we embrace the power of 'and'?". I don't believe that everyone who voted for Trump is an irredeemable racist. There may come a time when I decide that the most productive use of my energy and talents is to reach across that political divide, to try to understand that point of view.

But honestly, I am not worried about Trump voters right now. Here is a partial and incomplete list of the people I am worried about: My gay, lesbian, and bisexual friends who are worried about whether their marriages and families will be recognized as valid under a Trump presidency. My friends with disabilities and chronic illnesses who don't know whether they'll be able to keep their health insurance or get the medical care they need. My transgender friends who don't know if they'll be able to access health care or get identification that reflects their actual gender or even visit a public bathroom without being beaten up. Anyone who might experience an unintended pregnancy. My friends serving in the military who will have to serve under a dangerously volatile commander in chief. The Muslim business owners in my community who have to fear being deported or being the targets of hate. Every person of color in my community who gets up and leaves the house every day knowing that a routine traffic stop could be fatal.

I could keep going, but I'm not sure if I'd ever stop.

These are the people we need our attention and our energy right now. The Trump voters might not all be racists, and they might have many legitimate grievances. But right now, as Laurie Penny said, they are people who were "willing to fire at the elite directly through the stomachs of their neighbors." First, we need to stop the bleeding. And we need them to see that there is bleeding, not allow them to kid themselves that it's okay because they weren't actually aiming at us.

Then maybe we can talk about finding some common ground.
9th-Nov-2016 08:58 pm - Walking the talk
day, argh
The atmosphere around work today was positively funereal. Every meeting I attended began with uncharacteristically glum faces and awkward silences. Everywhere I went, there were little clusters of people standing in hallways discussing the election. People who didn't know me sometimes dropped their voices to hushed whispers as I passed.

I almost didn't go to the Toastmasters meeting today. Of the current batch of regular attendees in my club, I'm the only white person and the only native-born American. I wasn't sure if I could face doing our usual round of cheerful speeches about hobbies and self-improvement and things like that while we ignored the elephant in the room, the fact that a bunch of people who look like me had just voted for a man who campaigned on hatred of people who looked like them.

But I did go, and somewhat to my surprise, we tackled that elephant head-on. When it came time for our impromptu speeches, the table topics master invited people to either speak about "Who I voted for for president, and why," or "What I think of the American electoral system."

And it was an interesting dose of perspective. I'm sure there was a certain degree of self-editing going on, because we were all speaking to a room of people whose political opinions we really don't know. But my colleagues put a much braver face on things than I felt like doing. "We don't have elections like this in China," one of them said, "so watching this one was very interesting." Hey, at least we get to vote for our authoritarian warmongering leaders. A charismatic politician has risen to power by fomenting religious and ethnic tensions? My Indian colleagues have Narendra Modi back home.

I started my speech my saying, "I want to talk about something that isn't exactly the American electoral system, but is one of my least favorite things about American politics right now." And I talked about anti-immigrant sentiment. I talked about various members of my family and my husband's family who immigrated to the United States, how it was a country that offered each of them (admittedly sometimes grudgingly) a chance to make a new life. And I promised that I would work to keep this country a place that offers people that chance.

It was preaching to the choir, in a way, but it also felt important to say that.

Now I just have to figure out ways to keep that promise. Figure out how to walk the talk.
8th-Nov-2016 10:24 am - Five things make a post
calm, metal
Here's a grab bag of stuff I've been finding interesting today:

Nicholas Whyte put together a very nice guide to election night: http://www.slideshare.net/apcoworldwide/apcos-guide-to-election-night-2016.

Regarding "making presentations more visual", my sister-in-law tipped me off to this excellent resource of diagrams for presentations: http://www.duarte.com/diagrammer. Very useful for those moments when you need a blob with four other blobs radiating out from it, and you don't want it to look like it was created by a five-year-old.

Don't watch this if you are afraid of snakes, but this snippet from Planet Earth II is the most tense action-drama I've seen all year: http://digg.com/video/baby-iguana-snakes-planet-earth-bbc. That un-named little baby iguana is my hero.

Fascinating interview with the lawyer who handles U.S. visas for many heavy metal bands on tour: http://www.theblacksiren.com/so-you-want-to-play-in-the-states-read-this/. Hardly a month goes by without an overseas heavy metal band canceling or delaying a U.S. tour because a visa issues. After reading this interview, I'm more amazed that anyone ever manages to tour the U.S. at all.

Music that is scientifically proven to reduce stress: http://www.inc.com/melanie-curtin/neuroscience-says-listening-to-this-one-song-reduces-anxiety-by-up-to-65-percent.html
mccoy, goth
I've been working on a PowerPoint slide deck for a project at work. The idea is to have a short presentation that we can take around to different groups to introduce the project.

I did a first draft and sent it to a colleague for feedback. "Can you improve the visuals?" she asked, and sent me some examples. I improved the visuals. We sent it out for wider review.

All the feedback got was of the form, "Change X, Y, and Z. Oh, and can you make it more visual?"

I did a complete rework of the presentation. I scrawled pictures and diagrams longhand for days before I created a single new slide. I spent hours experimenting with different types of charts and diagrams. I searched for stock photos. I took screenshots.

I sent the revised draft to my colleague yesterday. Her response, "The content is great but I'm not sure about the visuals."


This is what they call a growth opportunity, isn't it?
21st-Oct-2016 06:03 pm - New PR!
weights, deadlift
I finally hit 210lbs on the deadlift today. I've tried to lift 210 a couple of times before, and was only able to get the bar a couple of inches off the floor, so to be able to actually lift it was quite satisfying.

Making a bit of progress on the push ups, but it's still very slow.
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