Tired of the downtime.

This seems to be about the 3rd time in the last 60 days that Bluehost has had downtime.

Granted, the downtime works out to be for less than a few hours at a time, and during the wee hours of the morning for the Americas (when most of my readers would be reading) anyway, but it still bugs me that my site is down so often. I am seriously considering giving up having hosted space because of this.

For a while there, I was “hosting” at WordPress.com and just pointing my domain to them instead. The problem with that is that the Jamaican bloggers aggregator didn’t have access to my feed because it apparently reads only self-hosted WP sites and not the WP.com feeds. I’ll have to research why that is and consider whether I really need that aggregator to pick me up. Maybe the benefit outweighs the need to have my site up. We’ll see. I have to think about this less emotionally.

Honestly, the biggest plus of going to hosted at WP.com is money – of which there is little while I am not working… the biggest downside is the inability to interact with my site from a command line. (I am a techie, after all).

And maybe … there is another solution like Bluehost that will be cost effective but less unstable. If my readers (assuming there are any of you left) have suggestions, please do drop them in the comments below. I promise to stay tuned and keep up with your comments better than I have in the past. 😉

First semester done; on to second semester

It’s been a wild ride for the last 3 months or so. At times I thought I might not make it. The only thing that kept me going was the money already disbursed for my loan. This degree is so damned expensive, I MUST hold on and do my best or else I’ll be paying for loans with nothing to show for it.

I had two classes this semester last. A theories class and a policy class. I absolutely have no interest in social work policy. Not really. Even though this class made it clear that if I wanted to effect any real change on a large scale, policy is the way to go. But even with that knowledge, even with the frustration with the way things are now, I’m still not interested. I wish they would give the option to skip stuff you aren’t interested in. But then it wouldn’t be as rounded a degree then, now would it?

The theories class was fun and challenging. The first thing I need to do for next semester is review all I learned I first semester theories. That is tough too because a lot of the theories we touched on made no real sense to me. Of course, one hopes that all that will come around this semester.

But I’m rambling.

The good news is I made A and B+ this semester. Which means I get to keep going. The bad news is, as challenging as this semester was, it was an easy one. It gets much harder from here.

/sigh

Here’s hoping I can hang in there.

Business cards from the school

So, I ordered business cards from the university because I thought it’d be cool to have business cards to hand out when I am out and about either for school or not. I mean, the nature of the degree will have me out and about interviewing folks about their work, their lives, and their opinions/views. I think it’d be a nice touch to be able to hand them a card that says, “Oh hey! I say I am a student of USC, but here’s a card that confirms that.” Good idea, right?

Yeah … right … I think …

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I don’t know what I am going to do with so many of them …

Gaming – and me

It’s been about a week. I’m just as exhausted but there is one thing new.

I had always been a bit of a gamer. When I was really young (maybe 12?), I often pleaded with my mother to be allowed to go to the corner arcade where I tried (and usually failed) to play Galaga. I never really hit the top-five scoreboard, but I sure had fun trying. I guess it was a sign of things to come.

Fast forward to when I first discovered the Internet, I also happened to discover Internet gaming. It started with text based and 8-bit local games like Digger and online games like MUDs (or Multiple User Dungeons). I moved on to Diablo and Starcraft later on and ended up with things like Unreal Tournament, Baldur’s Gate, and Sacred before my friend Jenny turned me on to World of Warcraft (beyond which, there was no looking back).

I am still a gamer. I wouldn’t call me a hardcore gamer because I do have other interests. I mean, I am blogging again which is not something I think I’d be able to do were a hardcore gamer. I think a hardcore gamer spends as many of their (free?) waking moments as they can playing games. I like to think I am not like that. It’s worse now that I am in school. I don’t have as much free time as I might have otherwise.

The thing is, though, that I’ve rediscovered the first MUD I ever played: Discworld MUD. It’s a text-based role-playing game that is based on the novels of Terry Pratchett. I have to admit I’ve never gotten around to reading all in the series. That’s bad. And I should stop calling myself a reader since I can’t even work up the motivation to read the books one of my favourite games is based off. But while I enjoy playing the game and envisioning my own little world within which I exist, I really am not all that enamoured with the story. Is that bad? I feel like that’s bad.

Anyway … here I am again and it’s August 2016, and I am sorely addicted to two games. Not a happy place to be in if I am heading into an intense graduate degree program. Although, my student advisor thought it was a good thing to help me do self-care. The gaming will be stress-relief for those days when I just so burned out on reading and learning about things like gender disparities and neurobiological developmental delays.

Right now, though, they are only serving to help me procrastinate finishing my final two assignments of the semester. I must do better. /nod

It’s a new year

Lots of good things happening for me this year. I’ll expound on that as the year moves on; some of it I can’t talk about just yet, but you’ll all know when the time comes. I promise.

It’s already almost the end of January. It is just me, or do the years just seem to go by faster now? I came to the blog to just make sure that things were as I left them and realised that I hadn’t posted in a month. There was a time when I posted multiple times per day. I don’t have much of an explanation other than social media is taking over our lives. 😕 I spend a lot of time on Facebook. I am trying to do better at that because Facebook is truly a time sink of the worst kind. I want to spend more time on Medium, or in Pocket, or even reading or writing offline. It hasn’t happened yet. But it is a new year – maybe I’ll manage to discipline myself better this year.

So, Happy 2016 to those of you who still read this blog. I’ve had tons of ideas of how to revamp it but none have really taken … yet. We’ll see what 2016 holds.

Of course, that’s going to be harder than ever what with me getting into USC for a Masters in Social Work. It’s the full time, 4 semester program too. I may not have time to scratch my ass much less blog. We’ll see though. One never knows.

That’s my good news of the month, by the way. 😊 I struggle with the notion that I am too old for a masters degree now and I’ll be paying off student loans when I’m on my death bed. Meh. I’m gonna do it anyway. It’s a calling. One I missed in my youth and one I refuse to give up on again. It might be too late to be a forensic psychologist, but I sure as hell can still be some kind of mental health practitioner. 😊 More on that as the year unfolds.

In the meantime, I’m heading back to my television where I am currently running Criminal Minds marathons.

From the overactive mind chronicles

Pine_Needles_(5902273583)This morning as I walked Rusty, I turned my nose up into the air and sniffed in much the same way I’ve seen Rusty do on several occasions. In fact, it is one of his signature looks especially when there is food on the air waves. I like to imagine he’s savouring all the smells and just enjoying life and the ability to experience life. I imagine that’s what is in his head because that is what is in mine when I lift my face up to the sky and take deep breaths too. And this morning was no different.

The air is fresh and clean this morning, like it was washed in fresh pine. The odour of the pine needles is so strong even the least sensitive nose is likely to be able to detect it. The scent overrides just every other smell (except dog poop). I literally walked with a smile on my face for the whole half hour, taking deep breaths, enjoying the scent of pine. (It should probably be noted that pine is one of my favourite scents alongside sage, vanilla, and clove.)

The one jarring note in this idyllic morning walk is that my mind couldn’t help but make connections with the extra strong smell of pine and the storm that just passed through here this weekend. We got 20mph winds on Saturday and the yard is littered with broken branches and the pine needle contingents in the yard, on the driveway, and on the streets have quadrupled.

The bottom line? This lovely walk laced with my favourite scent, heavy on the air, is courtesy of the destruction of nature. Basically, things had to break for me to enjoy my favourite scent “naturally”.

Yeah; my husband is most definitely right – I think way too damned much. /sigh

Trevor Noah is slated to be the new Daily Show host, yeah.

I have this feeling that it’s all a big April Fool’s Joke and that Jon is going to tell us in a week or two that it was all a big joke and Trevor is just simply joining their staff as a regular “correspondent”. I don’t know why that is. All I know that after watching his routine on Netflix, that surreality is a bit stronger. Why? Let me tell you …

Two things struck me as I watched him: (1) that he seemed very uncomfortable in front of the audience; almost amateurish and inexperienced; and (2) that his routine seems overly obsessed with race in America. That he is inexperienced is probably true. His Wikipedia page states that he’s met with considerable success in other countries but that he is still quite new on the US circuit. That feeling of inexperience is likely to smooth out over the course of time as he gets a feel of what US audiences like and don’t like.

There has been much controversy surrounding his being named Jon successor. At first it was all about the fat jokes and the Jew jokes; and now there are those atheist jokes. And they all seem to have fallen so hard they fell through several floors before falling flat … assuming they were jokes at all. I notice that the first horror at his Twitter timeline was over the fat jokes and Jew jokes and the fact that he could make such ambiguous statements (because we still aren’t sure they are not jokes) about a marginalised group. It took a whole 2 days before I saw that the atheists also have bones to pick with him over statements made in the wake of Christopher Hitchens passing that were also ambiguously offensive (because those are also supposed to be jokes too although one wonders … but I digress). Atheists are also a marginalised group, but that they were left out of the initial outrage speaks volumes about our individual perspectives. I wonder how many other groups have been targeted by his so-called jokes but went unnoticed because those groups are so invisible that no one notices when they are being targeted?

Perspective is a hell of an equaliser. Take his race-centric routine. He doesn’t miss an opportunity to make a reference to how the US has traditionally handled race issues and what impact those ways have on his experiences here. He is from South Africa where race has always been a high stakes issue. He was born into a racial divide that personifies racism. In spite of his experiences at home in South Africa, the issue of race in the US is very confusing to him and he works it out in his comedy routine. The thing is, US Americans claim that this is a post-racial society. But those of us coming from outside think that is the most oblivious statement ever. The US is more embroiled in racial issues than they ever have been because now the racism is no longer obvious and on the individual “you stay over there” level. It’s in the system and the tiny little biases no one is even aware they have until they call an 18 year old man a demon (and sometimes even then they don’t realise it).

If nothing else, Noah will be good for this so-called “post-racial” society because he can shine some light into places most US Americans don’t even know exist. It’s the same place I find myself in. They say you never see yourself more clearly than when someone tells you how you look. (I don’t know who said that. I just pulled that out of my ass. It sounded good at the time. Sue me.) Noah and others like him bring a perspective that the US ought to welcome. Even if you don’t see his perspective as being unquestionably neutral, you can at least see it as bringing contrasts to a situation that has too long been seen in insular ways.

And to those who wonder whether he can be trusted with our national media spotlight, I say he will be good for some issues. His thoughts and opinions on fat people, or Jews, or religious/irreligious may be controversial, but we can’t expect him to be perfect. And he will be very good for the discussion on race – which is a discussion that still needs to happen. Maybe even more so than the fat, Jew, religious ones because those are already happening. The one on race isn’t. At least not in ways that it needs to.

 

A little musing on “Crucial Conversations”

I’m reading a book that I was introduced to during my 40-hour mediation training in late-January. The book addresses some very important aspects of conversation that have been haunting me for near 6 years. It has always fascinated me that human beings are gifted with the ability to speak, yet we almost are never able to have a conversation that yields useful results. That may sound ridiculous to you being that you have conversations everyday … but think about the last time you had a serious conversation with anyone and tell me whether you came away from it feeling completely satisfied or whether there was this slight to urgent feeling of not quite having addressed everything in one sitting. If you can tell me “Sure I came away satisfied!”, then let’s talk. There is clearly something you’re doing right and I want to know what it is.

It shouldn’t be surprising to me that I ended up in the fields of communication and conflict resolution (if even on a volunteer basis). There are aspects of communication that have always been of concern for me. Even if I had a peripheral interest before, after moving here to the US that interest has grown into the forefront of my thoughts. And most specifically on how conversation happens around “race” which is a topic I never had occasion or need to discuss before moving to this country. “Race” is a gargantuan issue in the US – in spite of what people might tell you, the issue of how people who look different is a central and underlying aspect of every single interaction. Many of you will disagree and many more will nod and say to themselves “Amen sister!”. To those who disagree, here’s a thought: if even one person in a room think it’s too cold in that room, then there is a conversation to be had around temperature; if even just to acknowledge that Yes, they are less tolerable of cooler temperatures than anyone else in the room.

So anyway – back to that book I started talking about … it’s called “Crucial Conversations” and in short, it takes us on a journey through conversations that have a tendency to turn bad quickly and without notice just based on the fact that each participant has high stakes on the outcome of that conversation. And when we say “high stakes” we just mean that each participant wants to be heard and understood, each participant feels their point or points are integral to the progression of said conversation on race, or that without their perspective there is no conversation to be had. Right or wrong, everyone has the right to be heard and this book helps us understand how we can keep those high stakes conversations moving forward without rage and recriminations that inevitably derail the whole effort.

I can’t wait to finish it. I wish I was less distracted by other pursuits (cough World of Warcraft cough) such as the job search and whatnot … but I’ll get there – I know I will; I have to because it will certainly help me become a better mediator.

Because oh yeah – that is still a thing. I am working on my exam (well, sort of – haven’t touched it in a week or two because distractions and illness) and I am hoping to start on my practicum real soon. More on that later … in the meantime I heartily recommend that if you find yourself in discussions that turn ugly real fast over key issue, “Crucial Conversations” is an important book to have read. Trust me; go get it and read it.

 

Damn Daylight Savings Time Anyway

I’ve discovered one aspect of living in Washington State that I do not like.

Took me almost 4 years, but I found a flaw – at least a flaw that isn’t being 3000+ miles from home and family and familiar. You see, at this time of year, most of the US “fall back” and are on “standard time” again after having spent 8 months of the year in “Daylight Savings Time”. I have never quite gotten the explanation behind why we “save daylight” for the half of the year that we have more daylight – especially the farthest northern locations. It makes zero sense to me and even when someone tries to explain it to me, the whole deal just gets lost in translation. Ridiculous.

According to Wikipedia: “Putting clocks forward benefits retailing, sports, and other activities that exploit sunlight after working hours, but can cause problems for evening entertainment and for other activities tied to the sun (such as farming) or to darkness (such as fireworks shows). Although some early proponents of DST aimed to reduce evening use of incandescent lighting (formerly a primary use of electricity), modern heating and cooling usage patterns differ greatly, and research about how DST currently affects energy use is limited or contradictory.” My understanding? We did it way back when and since it benefits the profit-making enterprise most, we’ve never changed it. Who cares whether it actually harms people – right?

And it does harm people. Take me for example. This year, the “fall back” hit harder than usual. On Sunday, it was suddenly dark an hour earlier than it had been the day before. And between the dark, and the cold, and the rain … I just wanted to crawl into bed and never leave.

“Just SAD” you say? Meh. Honestly … I think if I were given the chance to ease into the shorter days, I’d deal with this cold, dark, rainy stuff far better than I have been. “Turn on a daylight lamp” you say? Meh. Honestly, just another way retailers make bank and I suffer. (Wait … don’t I make candles? Heh. Idea bulb!)

Anyway – this was the one thing about the PNW (Pacific Northwest) that I think I will never like. This sudden dark, damp, and cold that converge on one day a year when we “fall back”.

Can we stop this Daylight Savings Time nonsense now? Please? Come on – are we really “saving” anything?

Late on Saturday night with The Walking Dead

Saturday night, after our outing at the Murder Mystery Dinner, I lay in bed beside my sleeping husband and decided I wanted to put on something on tv that would have me snoring in no time. I browsed through the Netflix catalog and came across The Walking Dead. Knowing that Sarah Wayne Callies (from Prison Break) was in it, I decided to queue up an episode.

Please note, I am not a zombie fan. My first introduction to zombie storylines was Night of the Living Dead and I had not been even remotely entertained. I watched that movie with a mixture of boredom, consternation, disgust, and horror because it was quite gross. But I think part of my problem was that I was amazed at how lazy the writing was. To me the whole deal was: conjure up the most horrific monster s human being can become, corner some normal humans in a building together (total strangers to boot) and let them struggle to stay alive through a night, throw in sim difficult personalities, and let one survivor walk free in the morning. Too easy. I wasn’t impressed.

Similar stories followed the same formula and I lost interest in the zombie story early. So it is that I am only now giving The Walking Dead any attention – after 4 seasons have passed. And it’s not that I didn’t know about it. I’ve known of the show’s existence from the pilot. If anything, I am intrigued that the show has lasted this long. Well, partly intrigued. We still have tons of reality shows, so that a crappy idea had lived for 4 seasons isn’t all that odd.

But back to Saturday night. I queued up the pilot and the first few scenes were boring and predictable. Some lone survivor of the zombie apocalypse encounters a zombie and shoots it in the head. It’s not until the credits start rolling that it hits me just how significant this introduction is. This particular survivor is dressed in a law enforcement uniform and seems to have the demeanor of lawman… but the zombie he has to shoot in the head is a little girl.

That was my first clue. This is no ordinary zombie story at all.

Before long, it’s almost 2 in the morning, I’m exhausted but now highly intrigued and on episode 3. It wasn’t so much that it was scary (and it was more thrilling than scary), but it engages you on a completely different level. There are real, rounded personalities to get drawn in by. Several story threads interwoven with the zombie head shots and swarms would interest the audience all on their own. The Walking Dead, it would seem, is a particularly engaging story after all.

I’m still trying to decide if I want to continue with it … I mean, it is zombies, after all. My least favorite paranormal creature.