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So, while suffering through a horrid cold, I thought to myself today that it surely has been several months since I last even read LJ. Maybe I peeked at it once or twice in April. Maybe.

Should I, just out of politeness, be letting people know that I'm not reading much?

This is sad, really. I think LJ is so much better than Facebook (there's so much more in-depth thought to be found here), yet I've never gone more than a few weeks without checking Facebook, while I've frequently left LJ alone for many months at a time. I wonder why that is?

Given my limited free time, perhaps it would prove worthwhile if I made a personal vow to quit reading my Facebook unless prodded by somebody, continued to steer clear of the Google+ bandwagon, and came back here.

Even just getting back to keeping a purely private diary might be well worth it.

It's telling, though, that I have little desire to engage in any social networking sites at all these days. This probably has more to do with the present state of affairs in my life than it does with my naturally introverted personality, but it's definitely some combination of both. Ah, well. #shrug# So be it.

Current Location: at home
Current Mood: sick sick
Current Music: laptop fan echoing inside my stuffed up head

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I have an unpleasantly drippy head cold today, which is keeping me resting in front of a computer screen instead of completing some much needed chores about the house. (I hope that the other three humans with whom I share a roof won't mind this too greatly. So far, they all have been most kind.)

So... I figure I might as well break my long LJ silence (regarding public posts, anyway) with a bit of a ramble about some things that have been rolling around in my brain lately.

Let's start with a really good info-graphic presentation about the state of the world's health and wealth that I came across some time ago. It shows the past 200 years of health and wealth in 200 of the world's countries. If you haven't seen this yet, you really ought to run it at least a couple of times: (This will take about five minutes of your time each run.)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jbkSRLYSojo

Hans Rosling is a very informative and much needed voice of optimism in what seem to be unusually pessimistic times.

Of course, the many pessimists of our age still might not be wrong. Devastating global warfare remains a serious risk, as does social destabilization due to widespread environmental catastrophes.

But, by and large, we sure seem to have a wonderfully encouraging trend going. Forecasts of gloom and doom also have been staples of the human spirit for a very long time, yet we have a unbroken record of crawling out of our relative apocalypses and making the word an even better place in their aftermath. Perhaps the 21st Century is in for some extremely horrific bumps in the road, yet nevertheless will end in better shape than it began.

While contemplating this hopeful view of humanity's future, I somehow ended up stuck with the following ear worm haunting my brain (for at least ten day's running, aaugh!, although I can thank the fate that somehow managed to replace it with Beethoven's 7th Symphony a day or two after viewing The King's Speech).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=63IE_Wwl9Sk


It's from The Threepenny Opera, but it's auf Deutsch, so you might not want to bother playing its 3+ minutes if you don't understand German, or if you aren't otherwise familiar with the play. But, I really think that this theatre company did an particularly excellent job producing this video from their staged production. Their tone, and appropriately Brechtian style of delivery, is almost perfect. The song is all about how virtuous human behaviour will remain impossible as long as poverty exists. It speaks to human wretchedness, rails against self-righteous preaching by those who already have secured their share of the great pie (and have eaten their proverbial pieces like animals), and claims that humans everywhere only survive because of rampant cruelty in keeping other humans downtrodden. So it is, and so it always has been.

I am torn. Rosling's optimism speaks to me, but so does the gritty underbelly vision of Brecht and Weil.

But could it be possible-- could it really be true-- that the 21st Century will see the final eradication of commonplace and institutionalist extreme poverty and exploitation? #crosses figures#

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Current Mood: hopeful hopeful

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So... It's been a very long time since I made any non-private entries here. I've been very extremely overwhelmed.

It's been a roughest semester I can remember. I've suffered through five full classes (which would be more than overwhelming enough just on its own) plus extra administrative duties, several major and minor health issues, and the death of my father (almost exactly a month ago now, but I'm still struggling to internalize it).

Then, suddenly just a week ago, I turned in all my grades, and it was like coming up for air after nearly drowning-- and I'm still too stunned to know quite how to breathe. It feels almost alien just to lounge around the house and relax, read some books purely for pleasure and interest, give more time to my daughter, husband, and girlfriend, etc.

I haven't done anything particularly special. I haven't done much at all, really. It's been a relatively "unproductive" week, but it's sure been nice!-- a good and simple week-long "stay-cation" that I'm appreciating better in hindsight than when I was living it.

However... I now very much need to get my proverbial butt in gear and find something useful to do. There certainly are plenty of constructive things I've been putting off for far too long that are now calling/screaming for my attention. Alas, I also need to get cracking before my usual seasonal summer depression hits, or I'll never be able to find my motivation. (#sigh# This weekend's hot weather didn't help with that. Ah, well.)

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Current Location: home
Current Mood: awake

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I've made it to Hong Kong.

China's firewall doesn't cover this city. Because of the Urumqi riots, they had been blocking more stuff than usual. At least I had reliable e-mail.

The eclipse in Shanghai was rained out, but that's the way the cookie crumbles sometimes. So it goes.

China has been very interesting. I may write about it at length at some future date, but I only have a few moments before I have to leave this hotel, and then right to airport in just a few hours. pure_agnostic, our daughter, and I are headed to Nepal via a one night stopover in Thailand. I'm getting a little tired of travelling, but I'm not really travel weary yet.

I have no idea where my next internet is coming from. Probably an internet cafe in Kathmandu, but we'll see.

Anyway... just checking in, for people who were wondering. I've really gotta' go.

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Current Location: YMCA of Hong Kong
Current Mood: rushed rushed

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It's sure been a while since I've written anything here. Life's distractions have been... well... distracting. Without going into the multitude of reasons why, let's just say that I've generally been very stressed out lately-- especially so in the past month, even though I did just one full day of summer teaching. (A lot of it is worry about the people closest to me.)

With pure_agnostic and our daughter M., I'm about to leave home on a round-the-world trip: China, Thailand, Nepal, India, Germany, U.K., Canada. (Okay, I guess that's really just around the Northern Hemisphere of the world.)

I have "business" observing a total solar eclipse in Shanghai, but that's just one day out of two weeks in China. All the rest of the stops on this trip are for pleasure, for general interest and discovery, or for visiting with specific people-- with one very special stop involving taking my daughter back to the house where she spent most of the first six months of her life.

With travel to China and India already committed, it turned out to be much cheaper to continue going west around the world on a special fare. pure_agnostic will be coming back to California directly from Germany, but M. and I will visit friends of mine in London for a few days, followed by visiting my parents in Edmonton for a few more days. Those extra stopovers, and others before them, cost us nothing extra beyond the airport departure taxes, so they're very worth it.

So, in something like 40 hours from now, I expect be walking in Tiananmen Square in a jet lagged daze. I'm anticipating a surreal and complex mix of emotions as I gaze at Mao's portrait over the Forbidden City. I'll be in a place where many very significant things have happened in the last 100 years, and some of those things are in my living memory, still haunting me.

The "Great Firewall of China" doesn't allow LiveJournal past its gates, so I won't be posting anything here.

I became active on Facebook earlier this year, and I occasionally post short snippets there. Perhaps, for those of you who know how to find me there, I'll get a chance to make a remark or two. Then, after leaving China, I should have at least a few chances to post here as I make my way back home.

(Facebook is good for finding and staying in touch with old friends and family; but, not being able to write longer, more thoughtful, entries is a huge minus in my opinion. After trying it out for a while, I'm not sure how much I'll use Facebook. Probably not a lot, just as I don't use LJ a lot, but only time will tell.)

Bon voyage, everyone! I'll be back in California by mid-August.

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Current Location: home
Current Mood: anxious anxious

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I've been stressed from many different sides lately. Some of it is bad, some okay, some quite good even, but mostly just getting rather overwhelming.

I'm coping more than well enough by just refusing to let myself get worked up, and by getting a solid night's sleep no matter what I have to do by the next day. But maybe the practice described below would help too? It might be worth a try.

(This is transcripted from a T.V. interview. I never saw the original source; but, given one of the names, I can guess which show.)

Pink: ...One aspect of play is the importance of laughter, which has physiological and psychological benefits. Did you know that there are thousands of laughter clubs around the world? People get together and laugh for no reason at all!

Winfrey: Isn't it kind of pitiful? You don't have anything really to laugh about so you go to a club, you have a meeting to laugh?

Pink: That's what I used to think, too. And so I went to a laughter club in Mumbai. It was 6:30 in the morning, on a muddy soccer field. About 40 people gathered around a woman, who said, "Ho-ho-ha-ha-ha, ho-ho-ha-ha-ha, ho-ho-ha-ha-ha." Everyone repeated after her. And I sat there thinking, 'This is the freakiest thing I've ever seen.'

Winfrey: "Ho-ho-ha-ha-ha"?

Pink: I realized that it's not about laughing at a joke; it's about the physicality of laughing. It's laughter yoga, or a kind of meditation. Even as the left brain is thinking, 'What the heck are you doing?' the right brain says, 'Be quiet -- this is cool.' So I started doing it.

Current Mood: stressed stressed

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This was funny enough to me that I want to share:

I was lecturing to a class about the physical conditions in the core of the Sun, when a light earthquake struck. The students sitting in their desks all felt it, and some started looking up at the hanging fluorescent lights to watch them swing slightly. If they hadn't done that, I'd never have known about the quake at all, because I was walking around and talking and fully "into" my lecture subject.

Right before the quake struck, I threw a question out to the class.

Me: The reason it's so extremely hot in there, then, is really because the pressure is so high-- *not* because of the nuclear fusion. And why is the pressure so high?

Student: (startled as the room suddenly shook) Wait!

Me: (not missing a beat) Weight. Exactly! The weight of the Sun's outer layers crushes the core...

(I didn't stop until I noticed everyone looking up at the swinging lights.)

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Current Location: San Francisco, CA
Current Mood: amused amused

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#sigh#

I guess I'm enjoying having some free time for a change.


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My one big surprise here was their awkwardness scale. Quite often, I feel pretty darned socially awkward. I don't get how they evaluate that, and I think they must be missing something.

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Current Mood: awake
Current Music: sounds of children playing

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The Catholic Pope, who exerts considerable influence over more than a billion people worldwide (with half of those billion living here in the Americas, my home) has declared homosexuality and transgender acceptance to be very grave threats, equal in concern to environmental destruction such as deforestation, global warming, and so on.

I heard it first on the radio earlier today. Here's the BBC article:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7796663.stm

#painfully sad sigh#

I expect the consequences of his declaration (which I find absolutely stunningly irrational!) to hurt millions of people, and sadly to misdirect the efforts of many millions more.

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Current Mood: distressed distressed

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I hadn't known about this until reading a very short news story saying that the Chilean authorities have pretty much given up searching for the canine hero shown in action in this clip. (I imagine they want to reward this dog for showing such fearlessly attentive compassion for another!) I searched for and found this clip on YouTube, and I felt moved to share:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ofpYRITtLSg

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Current Location: home, getting ready to take my daughter to school
Current Mood: hopeful hopeful

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