Category Archives: reading

But will there be robots?

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Fantasy & Science Fiction, July / August 2012

But will there be robots?

Funny that this showed up on my Kindle today—I looked for it last night and it wasn’t there yet. Stories by:

~ Kate Wilhelm
~ Matthew Hughes
~ Matthew Johnson
~ Rachel Pollack
~ Albert E. Cowdrey
~ Eleanor Arnason
~ Jeffrey Ford
~ Michaele Jordan
~ Ken Liu

My favorite gift

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I wanted to photograph and describe the two incredibly creative Kindle Fire related gifts I got today from my family.  But, it’s getting late, and that will have to wait until tomorrow.

Today, we did a little vegan home cooking (coffee cake, scramble, Field Roast fig roast, green beans, and potatoes and veggies in the dutch oven), but nothing like the copious hours we spent on Thanksgiving. We also worked on projects, puzzles, and books, keeping our Words with Friends games going as well. I got a good chunk of Blackout started, and hope to get through it this week and on to the sequel (which is currently lost somewhere in this house—I trust that I’ll find it in time). Tonight we watched Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I would have preferred to watch Rise of the Planet of the Apes, but we ran out of time and I hopefully we’ll be watching that one tomorrow.

We had a pretty modest gift giving Christmas (our Kindle Fires were a rare splurge, and the Kindle Fires for the kids were the big presents from relatives on their mom’s side—yes, there’s a whole lot of Fire going on in this house at the moment, and one kid hasn’t even gotten his yet!) I’m sure glad we switched away from a carrier with a bandwidth cap last spring). My favorite gift that I was able to give is a copy of Vegan Diner that the author, Julie Hasson, graciously signed for me at Portland VegFest in September. She didn’t just sign it, but wrote a very thoughtful note to my step-daughter, who likes to cook out of the book and loves to cook and bake in general. I’ve had it for months and it was so fun to give it to my step-daughter today.

A loaf or a swirl

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It’s been a long weekend full of family step-drama, and subsequent planning for this winter and spring. These next few weeks will be bumpy, but I’m confident that it will turn out for the best. I’ll share more when final decisions have been made. So, I’m exhausted and going to bed early. I want to get some good work in early in the week.

#reverb11 (via dontbeapicklebump.com)

“Do you have any rituals that you use to calm and center yourself when you are tired, frustrated or angry? What are they? If you don’t have any rituals for yourself, take a few minutes and think about what kind of rituals could you allow yourself to enjoy and describe them.

After all these years, still the best way for me to totally disconnect is to take a long hot bath with a good book. No electronics. No distractions. Usually Nevermore or Isis comes to hang out (Nevermore as a loaf, Isis as a swirl).

That’s right, I walked the butte in my turquoise clogs today

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Dirty turquoise clogs from walking Pilot Butte

So, I accidentally walked the butte in my turquoise clogs today. It was another beautiful fall day that I spent stuck inside in front of the laptop for work. So I decided around 6p to do my Pilot Butte hike. I invited everyone, but only my step-son was up for it. We were half-way there before I realized that I’d forgotten to change into my tennis or hiking shoes. {It was also one of those days where I forgot my phone, and I spent a stupid amount of time locating a bill I needed to pay and the checkbook to pay the bill with.)

I have a thing for turquoise-ish or sky blue shoes, it seems. Which is weird, because I don’t really like most blues all that much. I once had a pair of turquoise suede hiking boots (pre-vegan days) and at least one other pair of turquoise casual shoes that I wore to death. The turquoise shoes always get good comments, for some reason. {In high school, by the way, I also had a pair of those neon orange converse super high-tops with neon yellow insides.}

Fortunately, my linen Sanita clogs that I got at a Seattle area discount store are well-worn and fairly comfy—they may never be the same after the dusty trail today—but frankly, they weren’t that clean to begin with. And they actually have great tread. They slowed me down a little and my legs will be sore in weird places, but it was another beautiful evening up there.

On the way down, a couple pointed an owl out to me that was perched near the top of a juniper. It was too dim by then to tell what type of owl (and I don’t know my owls that well), but she was quite large—looked like a fat cat from the back. I watched the owl for a few minutes,  until she decided to flap away. I probably made her nervous. (Or him).

Finally getting in to Among Others. Sometimes I have to start a book and then come back to it weeks later, which is what I did with this one. Until one day I pick it up and it just clicks. I hope to read a big chunk of it this weekend.

Finally: Kindle library books, and I’m underwhelmed

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Finally, I can get some library books on my Kindle. But, annoyingly, even though I have Kindle wireless, when I go to actually download the book, it routes me to my Amazon.com account, and then tells me that my Kindle doesn’t support wireless and that I have to transfer the book via cable. Which is not that big of a deal. But still, it would be much easier and more efficient to just transfer the damn thing over wireless, rather than have to go dig up my cable. What’s up with that?

And I’m not seeing much incentive in downloading this way over the old work-around method. Just a little bit more effort, and I can have a permanent e-pub that’s also searchable on my computer, rather than a temporary time-expired book which doesn’t even identify itself as such on my Kindle. It’s just there, and some day it won’t be there any more, and I doubt I’ll get any warning.

But, hey, these are the early days and things are bound to get smoother. Someday I’ll be able to download a book with one click of my Kindle, much like I can click on a QR Code now with my phone.

Stretching is good… until you snap

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A Year of Mindfulness: 52 Weeks of Focus  – Week 8 9

This week’s topic in our Year of Mindfulness is stretching. “Yogis say what? . . . Duh!” Yogis know there are numerous benefits of asana practice and stretching is certainly a huge one. Here are some well-known facts about stretching:

  • Posture is enhanced with stretching as it improves muscles balance around a joint
  • Stretching reduces the chance of injury when playing a sport, and in everyday activities
  • Stretching increases blood and nutrient supply to muscles and cartilage which reduces muscles soreness after training

But stretching is just one aspect of yoga, and is only that when not coordinated with breath and mindfulness. …

But let’s take stretching one step further. When is the last time you stretched outside of yourself? When did you last take a risk? What are you holding back? How can you give more, be more, put yourself out there more? This is stretching too. Life is to be lived. Could you stretch further to see where that stretch takes you? I’m guessing you’ll not regret the things you do as much as the things you don’t.

I haven’t been very mindful of my #mindful52 prompts in the last few weeks (the stretching prompt was posted February 26). I haven’t responded to it previously because I was unsure of what to write. I wrote a lot about the new things I had done to stretch myself  over the last few years and what I’d like to work on this year, when I was blogging during November and December 2010, and even into January 2011 – writing, the radio show, public speakingmountain biking, etc. I’m frankly a little tired of rehashing the same things. And maybe you’re tired of hearing about them?

Last month I took a risk and got quite unexpectedly burned, and my confidence took a nose dive for a few weeks. I’m a little scared to put anything out there again, but nonetheless I’m still trying scary things. I pick up the phone weekly to call strangers for interviews on my radio show, or interview them in the studio (I can’t imagine doing that without major anxiety a few years ago), but my heart still skips a beat when a new challenge comes along, like the prospect of doing a live radio show during a pledge drive (so far we’ve been doing it all prerecorded). What else? I’m always on the lookout for new authors to stretch my reading brain.

But there’s only so much of me to go around, and it seems like the more that I stretch in one area, the more that other areas of my life seem to be stretched too thin. That is something I’m still trying to figure out. I suspect that I’m not alone.

“Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat: Why It’s So Hard to Think Straight About Animals” a review

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Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat; Why It’s So Hard To Think Straight About Animals, by Hal Herzog

The troubled middle: An exploration of our ethical obligations to animals in Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat: Why It’s So Hard to Think Straight About Animals, by Hal Herzog.

Website for the book: http://halherzog.com

Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat is a thoughtful and approachable summary of research into anthrozoology, the science of human-animal relations. With a self-deprecating humor and a humble approach, Hal not only shares his research with us, but thinks out loud about the implications for his own life and for our understanding of human nature as it relates to our ideas about and actions towards animals. I recommend this book to anyone interested in challenging their own assumptions about how and why we relate to the animals in our world.

I must say that I don’t agree with everything mentioned in the book. There are some facts and figures given about ex-vegetarians, and vegetarianism and eating disorders, that seem a little correlative rather than causative. And I can’t find any reference at all for the ex-vegetarian studies in the Notes (see my comment below on the Notes section). I can’t speak to the actual research, but I wish he had spoken with some knowledgeable vegan dietitians for an alternate perspective and case studies. Also, as several other reviewers have pointed out, he uses the case of a woman who considered herself a vegetarian while eating fish, and then after deciding to eat all meat again, as a case of a person who is now an ex-vegetarian. Obviously, she never was a vegetarian to begin with, so cannot now be an ex-vegetarian.

After many years of developing a successful research program around animal behavior studies, Hal Herzog made a shift from studying animal behavior to studying animal people:

I found myself thinking more about the paradoxes associated with our relationships with animals and less about my animal behavior studies. … there were only a handful of researchers trying to understand the often wacky ways that people relate to other species. … Since shifting from studying animal behavior to studying animal people, my research has largely focused on individuals who love animals but who confront moral quandaries in their relationships with them.

I have attended animal rights protests, serpent-handling church services, and clandestine rooster fights. I have interviewed laboratory animal technicians, big-time professional dog-show handlers, and small-time circus animal trainers. I’ve watched high school kids dissect their first fetal pigs and helped a farm crew slaughter cattle. I analyzed several thousand Internet messages between biomedical researchers and animal rights activists as they tried—and ultimately failed—to find common ground. My students have studied women hunters, dog rescuers, ex-vegetarians, and people who love pet rats. We have surveyed thousands of people about their attitudes toward rodeos, factory farming, and animal research. We have even pored over hundreds of back issues of sleazy supermarket tabloids for insight into our modern cultural myths about animals.

Hal is not vegan (or even vegetarian), but I like his considered and logical approach to examining these important issues. It is admittedly hard for me to understand how anyone could do this sort of research and have their eyes opened to so many animal abuses, and not become vegan, but I also understand that everyone is on their own journey and that not everyone is going to come to the same conclusions that I have. In the introduction, Hal states:

Like most people, I am conflicted about our ethical obligations to animals. The philosopher Strachan Donnelley calls this murky ethical territory “the troubled middle.” Those of us in the troubled middle live in a complex moral universe. I eat meat—but not as much as I used to, and not veal. I oppose testing the toxicity of oven cleaner and eye shadow on animals, but I would sacrifice a lot of mice to find a cure for cancer. And while I find some of the logic of animal liberation philosophers convincing, I also believe that our vastly greater capacity for symbolic language, culture, and ethical judgment puts humans on a different moral plane from that of other animals. We middlers see the world in shades of gray rather than in the clear blacks and whites of committed animal activists and their equally vociferous opponents. Some argue that we are fence-sitters, moral wimps. I believe, however, that the troubled middle makes perfect sense because moral quagmires are inevitable in a species with a huge brain and a big heart. They come with the territory.

Even though I clearly make different choices than Hal, I also see everything in my life in many shades of gray rather than in absolutes. In spite of not agreeing with all of the conclusion in this book, I believe that this is the kind of conversation that we should be having across disciplines and communities.

I will do several posts about this book in the coming days, so stay tuned.

(Be sure to check out the Notes section in the back for extra commentary. One thing that does bother me about the book is that the Notes are numbered but not broken down by chapter, nor are there footnotes within the chapters, which makes looking for a particular reference a bit maddening. Why make it hard to find a reference? For instance, in one section he references a CBS News survey, and yet for the life of me I can’t find a reference for it in the Notes. At first I thought it was the result of some weird Kindle formatting, but no, it’s like that in the hard copy of the book as well.)