September 2007


I was at the animal sanctuary today helping out set up for a big event they’re having tomorrow. One of the people who runs the sanctuary happened to mention that a video someone made about their place was on youtube. I looked it up, and found it. It is one of the cutest things I’ve seen in a long time. It was so fun to see a place and friends I love on a little youtube video, but it was also narrated by a five year old boy, which just loaded on the cute factor. It is just under 7 minutes long, and well worth sitting down to watch!

This makes me want to learn how to video, just a bit. It is such a different way of looking at the world! As chance has it, my parents had an oldish video camera that they hadn’t used in the 2 years they had it (they got it when they turned in some air miles, so I’m guessing it was an old model even then), and they gave it to me to sort of try out. They might ask for it back some day, but in the meantime I can play around with video and see whether it is something I’d want to do more of. Fun!

Oh, and just because it is hilarious, here is a 1.5 minute video that shows a little animal activism of an unusual kind!

I’d never heard of mirror neurons until today. So very interesting!

You’re walking through a park when out of nowhere, the man in front of you gets smacked by an errant Frisbee. Automatically, you recoil in sympathy. Or you’re watching a race, and you feel your own heart racing with excitement as the runners vie to cross the finish line first. Or you see a woman sniff some unfamiliar food and wrinkle her nose in disgust. Suddenly, your own stomach turns at the thought of the meal.

For years, such experiences have puzzled psychologists, neuroscientists and philosophers, who’ve wondered why we react at such a gut level to other people’s actions. How do we understand, so immediately and instinctively, their thoughts, feelings and intentions?

Now, some researchers believe that a recent discovery called mirror neurons might provide a neuroscience-based answer to those questions. Mirror neurons are a type of brain cell that respond equally when we perform an action and when we witness someone else perform the same action.

sunglasses in arizona

roadrunner

This is a harder post to write than I anticipated. I do a lot of work fighting various forms of abuse (mostly through animal rights and environmental activism), I read a lot, and I face up to a lot of difficult realities. To choose a focus when talking about abuse is difficult. They all bleed together for me.

So that is what I’m going to talk about. It is easy to look at the obvious abuses and point our fingers, and work to stop individual events from happening. Well, easy is relative. What I mean is it is easy to recognize these, and the path is relatively clear in stopping it. The neighbor’s child is being abused? There are authority figures to contact, there are things you can do to try to protect that child.

But what about the overall issue of child abuse? Why does it happen? Not just child abuse, but animal abuse as well. And while we’re at it, why is this world so violent? And why do we consciously turn a blind eye to it (yes, it is difficult and it is unpleasant to think about, but is that really a good excuse?), and why do we resist making changes in our own lives that would begin to limit, for example, the environmental abuse we are complicit in and perpetuate?

I believe there is a connection, a thread that runs through all of these forms of abuse. (And yes, I do think exploitation is a form of abuse.)

There is a garbage patch in our oceans, and there are manure lagoons on our land. The most toxic industries and waste sites are located in the poorest areas of the country, and of the world. The U.S.A. is a giant consumer of the earth’s resources, and that means that we are also a giant producer of refuse. We ship much of it down to the global south, which allows us to ignore the consequences of the problem. Out of sight, out of mind.

This prevents the world’s largest consumer of resources and producer of refuse from looking seriously at solutions to the problem. Imagine, for those of you who live in the land of consumerism, if you had to deal with your own trash in your own way, and it had to be dealt with on your property. I think we’d all take a hard look at our behavior, our consumption. And maybe, just to start, we’d grow food not lawns.

In Bolivia, the nation’s poor had to fight what is now known as a resource war for access to their own water after their government (due to pressure by the IMF) sold the water rights out from under them to an international company. The actions of this company, and those who supported it, caused the deaths of many people. Many poor people. Why don’t we call it murder? It is not ethical, it is not moral, so why aren’t we protesting? This, naturally, is one snapshot of the fight for basic survival that people are in all over the earth. Please don’t buy bottled water. It is killing people in Bolivia and India and may other places, and it is also killing the albatross, whose starve to death with stomachs full to bursting from plastic bottle caps.

The earth itself is taking a beating. The human population continues to grow, and the earth’s resources are used with little to no thought for sustainability. The earth can not sustain the current rate of resource usage. It is obvious and simple math to figure this out. So why aren’t we protesting? Why aren’t we changing?

One of the reasons I think all of these abuses and exploitations are tied together, and need to be fought as if they are one, is that if you follow the issues back far enough, you’ll see something interesting. We abuse and exploit those who we have determined are different, and in saying they are different, we usually mean they are lesser than we are. We also only exploit and abuse those who have less actual power than we do.

This may seem simplistic, and it doesn’t fully get at the psychosis in the people in our society, as individuals. However, it gets at the root cause.

When we are born, we are not sexist, we are not racist, and we are not even likely to abuse or exploit other species. We have all witnessed the child’s wonder and awe at nature’s everyday miracles. A child committing animal abuse is seen as a future psychopath and/or sociopath. So what happens? How do we go from the innocent child to being sexist and racist and turning a blind eye to a variety of abuses in society and in our community?

It starts when we’re taught that some are okay to hurt, and others aren’t. The distinctions are arbitrary. Explain to a small child exactly why dogs are pets and pigs are food. They are both affectionate, and pigs have been judged to be smarter than dogs. Explain to a small child why it is okay that some people are not allowed to sit on a public bench in a public park, while others are. Explain to a small child why it is okay for a wealthy corporation to tell people that they deserve to die for lack of potable water for the heinous crime of having been born into an economically repressed family.

These lines we draw, they don’t make sense. But children learn them, and they use them. They make fun of their classmates who are “different.” We are taught that different is wrong, even though there is no such thing as normal. Abused children are more likely to abuse animals, and more likely to grow up to abuse both animals and children. And anyone else they have power over.

Governments and corporations abuse and exploit those who have less power. Highways cut through poor rather than powerful neighborhoods, increasing poverty. Health care is distinctly lesser in quality in poor neighborhoods, and the school systems suffer as well. Grocery stores are scarce in poor communities, which impacts the health and the scholastic achievements in these same neighborhoods that are already at a disadvantage.

I could go on. I could look at the specifics, or I could look at the bigger picture, and I could continue to find more and more connections. The problems are many, as are the solutions. We only have so much time to act before some things will pass us by and become more devastating than we seem willing to imagine.

Despite everything, I manage to retain some hope, in part because of grassroots community oriented action, such as BlogCatalog’s action that spurred this post for me. Thanks to Ruby for alerting me to this. It is important. We can make changes, in our own lives, and in the lives of those around us. Start small. Think big.

chico cerra bariloche

I’m not only sick of work, I’m sick of being sick of work. I’ll change this, hopefully soon. Last night, however, I was just my typically anxious self the night before work, and truth be told, I never quite lost that anxiety the entire time I was “on vacation”.

moonrise and sunset

Bummer. I was annoyed.

Not as annoyed as when I got to work and the login screen didn’t come up. Muttering about inconsiderate people who mess around with my computer when I’m not there, I leaned down and pressed the power button on the computer. Nothing. No whirring of the hard drive, no fan, no nothing. I pressed it a couple more times before realizing that no, it wasn’t me, I really was pressing the power button, and the computer just wasn’t responding. (It was 6:30am, so of course I first assumed it was an ID-10-T error!)

My computer lived under my desk. Apparently it died there as well. I got on the floor, pulled out the computer to where I could reach the cords, and was vaguely confused at the drops of water that ended up on my hand. Since it was before my tea, I wasn’t really attempting to think yet. I made sure all appropriate things were plugged in and jabbed at the power button again. Nada. I unplugged the power, because hey, it is a Dell computer running windows, and you never quite know what will work when you’re trying a magic reboot to solve all problems. Plugged it back in, jabbed the button, and NOTHING.

I finally realized that the water dripping from the computer was not ideal. I noticed the water spots on top of the computer. I noticed that the carpet where my computer had lived (and died) was drenched. Whaaa?

I found one of the other village idiots who gets in at an absurd Oh-dark-thirty hour, and asked in my stupid early-morning way, “was there a flood in here?” No, there hadn’t been. Not anywhere except in the corner under my desk where my computer lived. (and died.)

There was no water stain on the ceiling. There was no evidence of water on my desk. I hadn’t been there for 6 days, myself, and though I have exactly one plant, I had not overwatered it before I left, and the soil was approaching dry – the water could not have come from my plant container. Especially not when it looked like two Big Gulp’s worth of water must have been dumped there.

I learned that the water had been noticed the day before, on Monday. Early. So it probably happened over the weekend?

No one knows. No one is saying. No one else was affected.

The water that fried my computer is a complete mystery. Six of my coworkers stood around my desk with me and we went over, in our engineering ways of logic, the possible answers to the mystery.

One of the six was the first to say “sabotage?” though I was definitely thinking it already. Did someone really water my computer? And why?

My power supply, at the very least, is fried. I hope that is all it is, because it would be a week of my time to get that damn computer’s environment back to where I need it to be, in order to work. When they finally give me a task that is a wee bit more specific than “learn the code,” that is.

I called in a help desk ticket at 6:40am. I heard nothing by the time I left for the day. I wrote letters all day. This was not a bad thing, though I felt strangely disconnected.

Does this have anything to do with my recurring dreams of being bit by a rattlesnake?

Possibly. I have only one enemy at work, and she neither hurt me nor gained anything by this stunt, if she pulled this stunt. In fact, she’s made herself clear, not only to me, but to TPTB. In the sense of having an issue with me, not in the sense of what that issue is. Or, if she’s explained it to TPTB, she hasn’t explained it to me, and neither have they. They, on the other hand, have explained to me that they have her number, and I’m not to worry.

But maybe, just maybe, my computer should have worried.

On a more serious note, Ruby posted about a blog event, Blogging To Stop Abuse. It is on September 27, 2007, which is this Thursday, and it is pretty simple – blog about abuse, whatever abuse gets you on your soapbox. I’m going to join in, and I hope you do too!

the change you want to see

golfing

She sounds a little like Fiona Apple to me.

Leanne, not sure if you know Rachel Yamagata, but if not, I’m betting you’ll like her – a voice and a piano, kind of like chocolate and peanut butter, right?

Nothing feels right lately, and I’m not sure if it is me or something else. Of course my heel still doesn’t feel right, but that’s different.

It is like deja vu, but the opposite, more like jamais vu, but not really the way wiki describes it. Not from amnesia or migraines, more like a disconnectedness from my own life. Is this really me? What am I doing? How did I get here? And why?

Maybe it is the stupid quarterlife crisis all over again. Not time for mid-life crisis yet (I hope), so maybe there is thirdlife crisis? Somehow that makes me sound like I’m partially feline.

So this picture, and this hill, I don’t think it really gives the perspective of how painful this hill was to bike up after having hiked in some serious mountains for 8 hours the previous day. Very painful. Take my word for it. And should you ever be in Bariloche and think about doing the Cerro Chica bike ride, don’t believe them when they tell you it is a flat loop.

hill

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