Happy New Year!

 Hold on to your equanimity
- and your humor
with best of wishes to all,
and no exceptions.

Traveling Light

 Did the Apocalypse sneak up on Isabella 
- belatedly?
Nah, just sitting,
not on a bay, but near tracks,
watching life, light and time pass by.

Happy Solstice!

In response to the December 14th massacre of 20 young school children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut we created a public  facebook page inspired by Ann Curry:

20 Acts Of Random Kindness To Honor 20 Kids

Allison, Ana, Avielle, Benjamin, Caroline, Cathrine, Chase, Charlotte, Daniel, Dylan, Emilie, Grace, Jack, James, Jesse, Jessica, Josephine, Madeline, Noah, Olivia



I hid a chocolate bar from myself and last night when I really craved something sweet, having contemplated yesterday's tragedy most of the day and then night, I could not find my treat - my strategy worked!
After a mostly overcast day that brought first rain, then snow, then sleet, the sun broke through before it settled for the night. Sparkly pinkish/orange wet tree trunks left me in utter awe and exaltation. How to reconcile such rapture with the devastating anguish that seemed to permeate the air? 


16 US Mass Shootings in 2012
Japan has the second lowest murder rate in the world! Thile the US had over 12,000 firearm-related homicides in 2008, Japan experienced only 11 and in 2006 an astounding 2. By comparison 587 Americans were killed in 2008 just by guns that had discharged accidentally.

"To get a gun in Japan, first, you have to attend an all-day class and pass a written test, which are held only once per month. You also must take and pass a shooting range class. Then, head over to a hospital for a mental test and drug test (Japan is unusual in that potential gun owners must affirmatively prove their mental fitness), which you'll file with the police. Finally, pass a rigorous background check for any criminal record or association with criminal or extremist groups, and you will be the proud new owner of your shotgun or air rifle. Just don't forget to provide police with documentation on the specific location of the gun in your home, as well as the ammo, both of which must be locked and stored separately. And remember to have the police inspect the gun once per year and to re-take the class and exam every three years."

"Japanese police receive more hours of training than their American counterparts, are forbidden from carrying off-duty, and invest hours in studying martial arts in part because they "are expected to use [firearms] in only the rarest of circumstances"

"American law is designed to enshrine access to guns, while Japan starts with the premise of forbidding it"

"Though it's worth considering another police state here: Tunisia, which had the lowest firearm ownership rate in the world (1 gun per 1000 citizens, compared to America's 890) when its people toppled a brutal, 24-year dictatorship and sparked the Arab Spring."

Above parts were taken out and highlighted by me from The Atlantic.

"In 2010, there were more than 30,000 deaths caused by firearms when the number of homicides, suicides and accidental deaths are tallied." - CNN

Juan Cole in Truthdig asks some pertinent powerful questions like:

- Why doesn’t anyone blame George W. Bush for these mass shootings? He’s the one who led the charge to let the assault weapons ban expire.

- Why aren’t the politicians in Congress who take campaign money from assault weapons manufacturers ever held accountable by the public?

-  A relatively small number of corporations produce and market semiautomatic weapons for the civilian market. Why aren’t they named and shamed?

- Juan Cole states that firearms are used in 300,000 crimes a year in the U.S.

We can not afford to sit on the sidelines any longer. Demand change, act, contact:

National Rifle Association: 1-800-672-3888
Speaker of the House, John Boehner: 1 (202) 225-0600
Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid: 

1-866-SEN-REID (736-7343)
The White House Comment Line: 1-202-456-1111

Join a Gun Control Group :
*Brady Campaign bradycampaign.org
*Coalition to Stop Gun Violence csgv.org/index.php
*Violence Policy Center vpc.org/index.htm

Sign petitions on SignOn.org and another and tell the NRA Enough!

Finally there is a lovely suggestion of committing to acts of kindness for every child that perished in this recent senseless act of violence, which of course can be extended to include the adults, the heroic teachers and please, let's not forget all the children and all the victims  of US drone attacks! 

Freedom, Power & Responsibility

Some (most?) Americans take their right to bear arms very seriously. Dwuno, my Dutch/Indonesian mentor had taught me in my late teens that trust ought to be earned, not to be given freely! It startled me then, but since I have slowly come around to this idea that freedom like trust are powers that ought to be earned. My renter from Nigeria explained to me how in his culture friendship is tested with incremental bits of information. As I see it, American culture on the whole is very immature and has not currently earned the right to the freedom and demonstrated a level of resonsibility to carry arms for individual use. While some rights ought to be free (fresh air, clean water, food? shelter? health care?) other rights such as to bear arms ought to be earned, meaning controlled. Extensive background checks, classes and tests seem not too much to demand for the priviledge to carry any kind of gun, but especially an automatic weapon. Sign on to the petition to Ban Assault Weapons powered by MoveOn.org.

Recently I passed by a neighbor's house with an open door that invited a view on a man that loaded a rifle, shortly after an announcement of a contest to a viscious hunt down of coyotes, organized of course by a gun shop. The one to kill the most would be rewarded with a semi-automatic weapon! This scene near my home of a man with rifle in hand in a cluster of homes known to deal in drugs (last remains of my gentrified 'hood) was not exactly reassuring.

I learned only earlier this year that non-concealed weapons can be worn legally, as Bobbie did when he played his guitar on the plaza on his birthday. Bobbie wore a real, kinda cute, tiny gun he had worked in to his belt buckle himself. The wild west mentality surely is alive and well here in the Land of Enchantment and the USA as a whole.

Only the other day an 18 year old, supposedly good kid, got arrested after an observed exchange of illegal drugs (dope and 'shrooms) again in my 'hood. They found a stolen gun on him. For this supposedly good kid to carry a gun with plenty of ammunition just proves my point of a wild west mentality that seems to dominate US culture. We have got to change a mentality where violence seems an acceptable means of solving problems, interpersonal, intrapersonal  or international ones.

Personally I have no use for guns, but I am all for learning about self defense and non-violent tactics for de-escalating conflict. I would welcome more stringent arms control along with easier access to mental health care and the monitoring of those that insist on their right to carry weapons. Drivers need their cars registered and have to pass tests so should gun owners. Some argue that anything can be made in to a weapon, but I believe there is proof that in domestic violence there is more damage in households that keep guns. Some argue that guns, like drugs, will always be available illegally. Yes, probably, the point is to make it harder to get them in to the wrong hands. 

Meanwhile my heart goes out to those affected by the Connecticut shooting this morning that killed as we know so far 20 school children and 7 adults. Condolences can be expressed here.

Some shocking figures have emerged: 

April 16, 2007. Virginia Tech became the site of the deadliest school shooting in US history when a student, Seung-Hui Choi, gunned down 56 people. Thirty-two people died in the massacre.

February 12, 2007. In Salt Lake City’s Trolley Square Mall, 5 pe
ople were shot to death and 4 others were wounded by 18-year-old gunman Sulejman Talović. One of the victims was a 16-year-old boy.

October 2, 2006. An Amish schoolhouse in Lancaster, PA was gunned down by 32-year-old Charles Carl Roberts, Roberts separated the boys from the girls, binding and shooting the girls. 5 young girls died, while 6 were injured. Roberts committed suicide afterward.

March 25, 2006. Seven died and 2 were injured by 28-year-old Kyle Aaron Huff in a shooting spree through Capitol Hill in Seattle, WA. The massacre was the worst killing in Seattle since 1983.

March 21, 2005. Teenager Jeffrey Weise killed his grandfather and his grandfather’s girlfriend before opening fire on Red Lake Senior High School, killing 9 people on campus and injuring 5. Weise killed himself.

March 12, 2005. A Living Church of God meeting was gunned down by 44-year-old church member Terry Michael Ratzmann at a Sheraton hotel in Brookfield, WI. Ratzmann was thought to have had religious motivations, and killed himself after executing the pastor, the pastor’s 16-year-old son, and 7 others. Four were wounded.

July 8, 2003. Doug Williams, a Lockheed Martin employee, shot up his plant in Meridian, MI in a racially-motivated rampage. He shot 14 people, most of them African American, and killed 7.

September 15, 1999. Larry Gene Ashbrook opened fire on a Christian rock concert and teen prayer rally at Wedgewood Baptist Church in Fort Worth, TX. He killed 7 people and wounded 7 others, almost all teenagers. Ashbrook committed suicide.

July 29, 1999. Mark Orrin Barton, 44, murdered his wife and two children with a hammer before shooting up two Atlanta day trading firms. Barton, a day trader, was believed to be motivated by huge monetary losses. He killed 12 including his family and injured 13 before killing himself.

April 20, 1999. In the deadliest high school shooting in US history, teenagers Eric Harris and Dylan Kiebold shot up Columbine High School in Littleton, CO. They killed 13 people and wounded 21 others. They killed themselves after the massacre.

"...(1999) the Secret Service’s National Threat Assessment Center examined 37 school attacks involving 41 student assailants from 1974 and 2000. They found a disturbing mix of mental illness and inaction:

— 93 percent of assailants exhibited behavior that caused a school official, parent, or law enforcement officer to be concerned before the attack.

— 81 percent of assailants let at least one person know that they were thinking of or planning an attack.

— 78 percent of the assailants “exhibited a history of suicide attempts or suicidal thoughts.”

— 66 percent of attackers were known to be real threats by at least one person; in nearly every case, the person who knew this was a peer, friend, or sibling.

— 34 percent of the assailants had a mental health evaluation prior to the attack.

— 17 percent of the assailants 'had been diagnosed with mental health or behavior disorder prior to the attack.'"

 "I'm sick of this. I refuse to live in a country like this, and I'm not leaving." Michael Moore

In Dire Need of Equanimity

My world got blanketed in pure white first snow and looked just like this. 
Alas, I need all the equanimity I can muster to walk my pups on lead across icy grounds.

Living Juicy

I ran out of infused Olive Oil I had made myself for the first time this year, so I infused two more bottles of Olive Oil, one with Rosemary and Garlic and the other with Basil and Garlic, both herbs picked live off my potted plants.  The bottles looked so pretty turned upside down in sunlight.  Not being an oil fanatic, I have come to really like my own infused oils, especially after they had marinated for a few months. My Isabella-girl, my dog, though is the main beneficiary due to her joint pains. Fish Oil, human food grade, is supposedly most effective with joint problems and the bringing down of inflammation, but Olive Oil supposedly is particularly helpful with pain and a bottle of Flaxseed Oil is waiting to be opened as I do believe that the spice of life lies in variety.

Activism, Apple Pie & Power Ploys

My first shot holding my Nikon above my head,
aiming over a construction fence,
toward the reflection of light of a setting sun, 
listening, not looking. - 2008

To my surprise, in my own little world, I was the one to play heavy! (Power ploys would be expected during any Pluto and Mars contact, but might likely be experienced especially heavy handed during an exact conjunction.) I had to stop workers from slapping more toxic sealant on to the fence that delineates our property, because our bi-laws clearly state that we use green products only. First the worker did not report my objections to his boss, later the boss had the audacity to blame me for having opened up another can. On my insistence they stopped only to continue the next day - with the same product. Management tries to cut corners, but I was adamant. I was told lies by our property manager. Our board had not approved the product as I was told. Then the manager complained about the cost, about double or more, as if I did not know, having used Livos, a green, citrus based product exclusively inside my home for over a quarter century. Finally she told me to just go indoors to avoid the fumes. Patronizing me like a petulant nuisance of one of too many property owners that had to be coddled. It is a matter of not only personal choice, laid down in our bi-laws, to adhere to basic standards of green living. It is certainly my personal preference to live a green life style. I am not particularly environmentally sensitive, a bit of toxic fumes will not likely kill me (the fumes outdoors were noticeable though even hours later) but the perpetuation of such small minded practices might just kill our planet, will certainly weaken our already stressed, fragile eco system.

I want to be part of the solution, not the problem. I want to be concerned with the world at large, not just with what is most convenient and what is cheapest, but what serves the overall good. That is why I have not shopped at a Walmart in years, maybe decades. Walmart has a lousy reputation as regards the making of their products. Look no further then last weekend's fire in a garment factory in Bangladesh where more then 112 workers perished. Trapped, ordered by the manager to keep on working, doors locked, no fire exits while smoke engulfed the workers in atrocious, unsafe, illegal and inconsiderate working conditions.. They underpay their workers, leave them no choice but to lean on government assistance programs, while the top tiers benefit from their big bonuses and lavish life styles, which includes drug and alcohol abuse, including vehicular homicides with no legal consequences! New Mexico is one of the last states where Walmart manages to avoid paying state taxes, further disabling healthy competition with local businesses by their ability to undercut prices. Walmart has been on activists shit lists for decades, despite their recent ventures in to organic produce. Black Friday we seen an effort to support Walmart workers in their demands for better working conditions. Personally, Black Friday seemed bad timing to me. Shoppers hell bent on cheap deals seem not likely supporters of protesters. We have those still that can not see beyond their noses and demand the cheapest prices no matter the cost. Walmart of course is not alone,  but may be the worst offender. Sam's Club may almost be as bad I hear, so an alternative may be Cosco, a company that at least treats their workers better with higher salaries and better benefits.

I like to add that things are  not simply black and white.  I can not conceive of using anything but an Apple computer, I am using my iBook to post this while I have to acknowledge that Apple could do better, certainly in regard to their manufacturing. I also shop at Whole Foods instead of the Farmers Market because yes, it is cheaper. But a recent new Whole Foods employee was just gushing on how much she liked working for this company, how she did not mind working on Thanks Giving, because they were free to go by 3 p.m., but got double pay. She considered Whole Foods one of the ten best companies to work for.
Meanwhile on the home front I am getting better at not wasting water, so important when living in the high desert. I now collect and reuse most all of my water, such as captured when washing hands or dishes, such as from  bowls set out for  my furry friends and of late visiting sparrows. Birds tend to appreciate access to water,  we have not had any precipitation despite forecasts to the contrary.  Of course I still water my plants from collected roof run off. I have used my little electric space heater only twice when temperatures fell in to the low teens, my wall heater has been unused for two decades. The sun streaming in through my south facing glass doors is by far enough to keep us comfortable, even with doors wide open most of the day. Curtains do help, even flimsy ones like mine, to keep the cold out and heat in, but best is sleeping with my warm bodied furry friends. I am getting more the hang of this too, feeling less imposed upon.

I made and ate my first baked mini apple pie since I ran out of apples I had collected myself, mostly off public trees in my 'hood this past August and September. (The storage of apples in a cool ice box worked only for a few weeks, so I had to make all the rest  in to apple sauce, now in my freezer.) Store bought apples just aren't the same, the organic Fuji tasted lousy, but was o.k. once baked with added cranberries, enough ginger and a dash of cayenne. Up early enough though, I was able to witness my bit of sky turn pastel colors, which made for a decent start of yet another brand new day.