The Longest Week

This week has been long.  People say that time is the same, and that there are the same number of days in a week every week, but those people are awful liers.  I think even my dog knows I’ve had a tough week, because she’s letting me lay on her right now while I’m typing on the laptop, and listening to Gillian Welch.  Girl’s best friend, indeed.

Yesterday was the WORST of the days this week.  I haven’t felt myself the past month or so anyway, but yesterday was bad.  The wind was terrible, but somehow, someone’s Christmas tree ended up in our front yard, propped neatly up against one of our trees.

Now, I’m not unreasonable.  Maybe the tree blew into the street, or someone’s driveway, and someone else thought it might be ours, so they put it in our yard.  One time, one of our tree branches fell into the street, and a neighbor dragged it into the driveway of another neighbor.  But when I saw it, I knew immediately it was from our tree, so I dragged it back to our house, chopped it up, and disposed of it.  Because it’s rude to leave a huge tree branch that’s yours in someone else’s yard.

But no one came to get their tree.

They just left it there, thinking we’d just dispose of it.  We knew whose tree it was too.  Because, you know, it’s almost February, so we noticed a Christmas tree out in front of someone’s house pretty quickly…

The rest of the day continued along these same lines.  People just being generally rude to each other, and being inconsiderate.  It overwhelmed me.  For some weird reason, despite the fact that the news reflects strongly the inhumanity of humans, I couldn’t believe people could be so mean.  The suburbs are weird and there is a psychological warfare in which I’m just not familiar.

Today feels better though.  Or, at least not as bad.  It’s hard to be in a bad mood when you’ve got a little dog running and barking in her sleep under your head.

On a totally related note, I decided to give up my smartphone.  I argued with Zach about it almost the entire day yesterday, but I ultimately won.  I would like to be less connected, or at the very least, I would like to be less connected constantly.  The “constant” aspect is draining me.  Not to mention, smartphones are so expensive and sexy and addictive.  I don’t know if this will be a permanent move, but it’ll be my move for at least a couple years.  Zach will still have the smartphone, so it’s not like I’ll be suffering.  The first thing he asked when I said I wanted to go back to feature phones was, “But how will you get directions to places?”

It’s true, I heavily rely on my phone for it’s GPS qualities.  But, before I had a smartphone (around 4 years ago), I just looked it up beforehand, and if I got lost along the way, I got lost, and sometimes had to pull over in industrial complexes to pull out a [gasp!] real map.  I learned how to read maps VERY quickly that way.

But then again, I’m also the person who got on the wrong bus, A LOT, throughout my college days, never learned my lesson, and once had to hitchhike to a theatre because of a bad bus mistake.  So, it’s not like it’s the end of the world for me if I get lost…

And for the record, don’t hitchhike, kids.  It’s not safe.  I was lucky it was just a really awkward experience.

So aside from being more lost than usual, I can do without the extra tech.  I will still have a laptop.  I’m still studying computers.  I’ll longingly gaze into the shop windows at Apple, etc.  But it’s time to cut the chord.

Until next time.

Advertisements

Dark Clouds and Facebook

So for the the past couple of weeks, I’ve been lower on energy than I normally am.  Last week was just… terrible.  It was just a bunch of little things that added up that resulted in being totally stressed by Friday.  We went away to the family cabin in the mountains, but it ended up being ruined by my husband’s work calling him and keeping him on the phone for several hours while he talked them down from a disaster, and I ate dinner alone and read a book.  Needless to say, he was totally stressed too.

This morning, I just felt like I had a dark, stormy cloud over my head.  I could literally count on one hand the times I’ve woke in such a bad mood.  I was almost fuming.  I’m slightly calmer right now, but I have a headache and I feel drained.  It’s a bad Monday, I guess you could say.

I also decided today was a good day to deactivate my Facebook account too.  Yes, my bad mood may have had a hand in doing so, but I have been thinking about doing it for a while.

One of the biggest reasons I felt the need to get rid of it: it made me feel bad.  All the time.  Whether it was people posting hateful things, internet fighting, or just general condescending tone, nothing seemed to make me happy about it.  Sure, there were the cute pictures and videos, some even enlightening and inspirational, but it was nothing that I haven’t come across on my own on other parts of the internet.  There was almost little to no interaction from “friends” aside from “liking” things.  It felt weird.  It didn’t feel real.  And when I thought about it, I couldn’t come up with ONE reason I should stay on Facebook.  At first, I thought it was to keep in contact with people.  But honestly, if any of my over 200 friends didn’t send a message, ask for email or a phone number in the YEARS I’ve had an account, then they’re not really a friend, right?  Then, it’s just about numbers.  It’s about spying, keeping tabs on others, and constantly judging.  There is little room to be genuine on Facebook.

I’m not knocking social media.  I love Twitter, for the most part.  And I enjoy Instagram for sharing pictures.  I wish I could get the hang of Tumblr, but that might come with more time.  And I don’t mind having different platforms for different things.  It’s actually less stressful.  I don’t feel a pressure to uphold any image on any of these platforms.  Mainly, because I don’t use them to connect with friends.  I use text messaging for that.  I text, “Hey!  Wanna grab some coffee?”  That’s how I connect with friends.

I don’t know if I’ll go back to Facebook.  Maybe I’ll change my mind.  Maybe I’ll see a light within it that I couldn’t see before.  I doubt it though.  I will not go back just because I’m “addicted” or used to using it.  Then I might as well just tell people I’m a zombie and have no use of my brain.  If I decide not to go back in a year, I’ll most likely have it removed completely.

OK.  Now, I don’t want to end this post on such a whiny/dark note, so I’ll post the recipe for the banana bread breakfast bars I found on Pinterest.  THEY WERE AMAZING.  Seriously.  When they came out of the oven and I saw them, I was in complete doubt.  I was wrong.

Here is the link:
Healthy Banana Bread Chocolate Chip Oat Breakfast Bars

I did not blend everything in the blender, just the oats, because I have a Vitamix and didn’t want to deal with that cleanup.  I found that mashing the bananas and then using a mixer did just fine.  It wasn’t too chunky, but I like a little chunkiness in the banana.  I also may have used more of that drizzle than called for…  I don’t know if this recipe qualifies as “healthy” because it still has quite a bit of sugar in it, BUT it’s still much better than most of the alternatives.  And it’s not processed and easy to do.

Until next time.

Julian Assange: We Open Governments

I just want to start off this blog by stating that this is in no way a journalistic piece.  I will do my best to lay down facts as I know them best, but really, this is an opinion rant piece on Julian Assange.  A really abstract opinion piece.  Actually, more of a personal piece.  A personal story on what Assange means to me in my life.  I promise it’s not as creepy as I just made it sound right now.  It’s a little odd to write about someone you don’t personally know, especially when their name is so well known it becomes an entity in itself.  But let’s remember:  Julian Assange is still a person.

I have been planning to write this post for a while now, and originally planned on posting it tomorrow, which is the 2-year anniversary of when Assange took asylum in the Ecuadorean embassy in London.  However, I woke up to seeing this on Twitter:

 

photo 1photo 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, I decided today was a good day to write about Assange.  So settle in, get a comfy chair because I have a lot to say and a pot of tea.

But first, background!

I first heard about WikiLeaks shortly after they started publishing documents online.  I was just starting college, and I think it was when I started getting interested in computers.  I would really like to say that when I learned about WikiLeaks, it drove me to be a passionate champion toward activism, but I would be telling the biggest lie ever.  I was, to put it mildly, terrified.  They shook the ground.  Growing up in my household, I was taught to not trust the government.  I heard stories of people disappearing in the 60s.  Men in black showing up in the middle of the night to take you somewhere and no one would ever hear from you again.  You vanished.

And all of sudden, the stories became current.  I was hearing of people getting harassed for merely looking at WikiLeaks.  I became paranoid of online spying, long before it became known to the world, thanks to Edward Snowden.  I manically guarded my online activity, for fear of becoming known.  I became obsessed with internet security (and spying).  Not to mention, around this same time, an ex-boyfriend of mine hacked all my accounts, killed my computer, and sent really awful emails to all my friends through my account, and some others that were made up.  Needless to say, I was having a sort of rocky start to adulthood.

OK, enough background.

Let’s cut to the chase.  Most people who hear Assange’s name already have their minds made up about him.  He’s either a hero, or a villain.  Personally, to me, he’s kind of both, yet neither at the same time.  I don’t really like hero worship, and I’m also not quick to label someone a villain.  I’ve found that the world is so much more complex than that.  So much more interesting.

Yes, Assange shook the world.  But the world needed to be shaken.  There were parts that needed to be broken.  He made a huge sacrifice to his own life to advance the progress of others.  His work may be controversial, but he started a conversation that needed to happen.  Oh god, did it need to happen.

I wasn’t afraid because WikiLeaks was created.  I was afraid for WikiLeaks, and the people running it.  That says a lot.  Generationally, fear has been passed down so subtly, that I barely realized I lived in a constant state of fear.  Assange was the first person to open my eyes to that.  In a world where ideology is so polarized, he showed me the awful details in between.

Keep quiet.

Keep secrets.

This is how governments win wars.

No, this is how corruption happens.  We need to change how we do things.  Secrets and silence don’t work anymore (I’m not sure they ever have).  We are running an endless loop because nothing is open.

Do I think Julian Assange is a criminal?

Absolutely not.  I think he represents a new version of journalism that we need.  I think his incarceration at the embassy is illegal and completely politically motivated.  Sweden is under the US’s thumb and holds no grounds for the personal investigations against him (because there are no charges – read my source HERE).  I think it’s quite strange (and offensive) that someone not even accused of rape is being trapped and threatened for it.  Seriously, only the police and certain politicians are accusing him of rape.  It’s gotten so out of hand in the media that no one even knows what’s true.

I do not think Assange has broken any laws, but I definitely know multiple governments have broken multiple international laws.  And people seem to be fine with that.  That upsets me.  If it doesn’t upset you, then you clearly have a much more comfortable, trusting relationship with your government and leaders than I could ever imagine.

For those of you that think him a villain: fine.  He’s a villain.  If someone is a hero they also have to be a villain.  But he’s not a criminal, and that’s where the big difference is.  You can’t shoot someone just for calling you out on your shit.  Own up to your shit.  You created it.

So, dear Assange – I hope this year was your last in the embassy.  Thank you for not backing down, and for shaking the world.  To think you’ve given up so much of yourself for a world that screams “traitor!” makes you, at the very least, someone special.

For those that want more info, click the picture below.

wlogo-sm

School’s NOT Out for Summer! (Or Ever)

Oh how I loved it when my dad would play that Alice Cooper song at the end of every school year.  Even in elementary, I really hated going to school.  I looked forward to summer more than Christmas gifts.

But that was because I did not learn well in a regular school environment.  Scratch that – I learned fine, I was just bored out of my mind because they went slow.  Also, I didn’t really like a lot of my teachers because I felt they didn’t know the material as well as I thought they should, or I felt they didn’t like teaching.  It also didn’t help that I was bullied ruthlessly until high school.  It was a bad combination.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m taking part in MOOC education.  It’s going very well.  I just finished my first class on malware and its underground economy.  It wasn’t my favorite class, but I think that had a lot to do with the fact I didn’t have the proper background.  Either way, I did well in the course.  I also dropped a course (that I enrolled in for a later date) because my work load is too heavy, and I’m starting my first programming course.  I’m already behind, but that’s mainly because of the insane schedule I’ve had lately paired with a lack of internet access.  It’s already fun, and I’m happy to have a more hands-on class.  I enjoy learning, I just don’t think conventional schooling is something that works with me.

Summer school hasn’t just hit me.  Both my dogs are enrolled in classes for the summer.  Initially, I dreaded taking them to class because I get stressed out seeing the Petsmart classes when I go shopping there.  But we are taking them through the humane society and it is so much fun for all of us that I wish I had done it a lot sooner.

I know I had promised fence pictures.  I’ll get to that one day. I’ll probably do a big yard update at the end of the summer when things wind down a little.

Coding and Software Programming: The Language of Tech

Woah, Meg.  That title sounds awfully dry for an artist’s blog.

I swear this blog post isn’t going to as dry as the title would suggest.  In fact, during this short blog, I’m going to try and make it sound interesting, and make the case of why everyone with a computer should make the effort to familiarize themselves with basic coding and a programming language.  Because, why not?  Why can’t this blog be about cooking and gardening and cosplay and computers and travel?  Huh?  Tell me why?? Oh, hard to categorize?  Oh well…

Don’t worry, next week I’ll be back to gardening adventures.

So let’s start from the beginning.  Let’s take a trip to childhood…

Some of you may be aware (or even remember!) that computers didn’t come with an easy-to-use operating system like the ones we use today.  I remember playing on my older sister’s computer, some gorilla/king kong type game that was completely played through keyboard commands and coming up with angle degrees in order to move him around the city buildings (bonus internet points to whoever knows the name to that game).  It was basic.  Black screen.  The graphics were pixelated green.  I had to remember the command to even start the game.  The screen kind of looked like this bad boy:

FreeDOS_Beta_9_pre-release5_(command_line_interface)_on_Bochs_sshot20040912

That was about the extent of my computer experience.  I didn’t have computer classes in my schools until high school (I went to some pretty poor elementary schools).  And the classes in high school were just how to use Excel and Word, nothing fun.  And it was all related to whatever science class I was in.  I think there were “computer science” classes, but they weren’t on the regular curriculum, and I definitely was not aware of them.

After high school, I bought my first computer – a Dell desktop.  I didn’t know how to use it, and I had my boyfriend at the time hook it up because apparently matching the colored wires in the back was just too daunting for me… I actually don’t think I used that thing for anything other than AIM chat, writing papers, and… yeah that was it.  I still used CDs…  I’m pretty sure I contracted a virus every week because I didn’t understand ANYTHING.  Within 4 years that thing wouldn’t even turn on.

In college, I bought my second computer, a monster HP laptop that weighed 400lbs and was the love of my life.  This is when I started getting better at computers.  It was also the first time I successfully removed TWO worms I accidentally downloaded and started paying attention to the security of my computer.  I took some tech classes because I realized I didn’t really know anything about something I used on an daily hourly basis.

Now I’m 28 years old, and I’m taking courses in computer science and teaching myself how to code.

Why, oh why am I going on this rant?

Because I strongly believe that owning and using technology without really understanding it, is not a whole lot different than a pilot flying a plane without really understanding how that works.  Yeah, I suppose you can get by, but if something goes awry, how can you troubleshoot?  Sure, any time your computer is on the fritz, I suppose you can take it to the Geek Squad or the Geniuses and spend stupid amounts of cash to fix a problem you more than likely can (and should) take care of yourself (granted, there ARE some problems better left to professionals).

As for code?  Well, familiarizing yourself with basic coding language is like learning a language in a foreign country – it’s a lot easier to get by.  Language is culture.

I’m not saying everyone needs to be able to put up an interactive website at a moment’s notice or personalize their operating system.  But it’s not that hard to become familiar.  It actually can be a little fun even.  I’m not a math whiz, and like I tried to make clear, was not really exposed to computers early in life.  I like gardening and cooking and making weird art projects.

So if anyone wants to take the leap, check out CodeAcademy.  It’s free, it’s interactive, and customizable.  Learn as little or as much as you want.

Next week on travelin’ home – raised garden beds and Julian Assange: how the right plant soil protects your source seeds.

****Just FYI, I am not in any way endorsed by or affiliated with CodeAcademy.  I just love them so much.****

Why Having a Free Internet is Important

If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably already familiar with the term “net neutrality.”  If you aren’t, well, here’s the Wikipedia page on it right HERE.  Oh, Wikipedia.  How you simplify things so!

The internet is this wonderful, awful, spectacular thing that humans have created.  It brings us closer together, makes information easier to get and it provides a cozy place for trolls to live a free-range life (see: comment section of anything on the internet).  Granted, there’s a lot of bullshit on the internet.  But there’s a lot of great stuff too.  Important stuff.  Stuff I’d never even know about without it.

It’s my right to decide what bullshit, or non-bullshit stuff to explore.  I don’t want the government, or a big corporation to tell me, or force me into only knowing what they want me to know.  I don’t want to be banned, blacklisted or, Goddess unwilling, be arrested because I visited a certain site, or created content that did not fit certain parameters.  I also don’t want to be charged extra money so I can visit my favorite sites (let’s say, Netflix) because they are in direct competition with my internet provider.  I don’t want my favorite sites to be bullied into paying higher fees to my cable provider so their customers don’t lose their wonderful experience.

Doesn’t this sound awful?

Some of you might be saying, “Come on, Meg.  This doesn’t affect me!  I don’t even like all those stupid sites!”  It may not be a big deal to you to be charged more, or to have slower speeds (even though you’re paying for high speeds) if all these new laws pass, but eventually you’ll care.

Because I guarantee, it will eventually directly affect you.

Eventually, the laws will get stricter.  It will start benefiting less and less people.  Putting so much control and power and money into the hands of a select few has never been beneficial to anyone.  By that time, it will be harder to reverse the laws.

I’m not even going to mention the impact on freedom of speech that these laws and others have.  I will save that for another blog.  That one will be fun because the NSA will be invited to the party!

For now, it seems that the push for net neutrality by the general public is having a positive effect.  Unfortunately, however, the internet has become a topic in political discussion, which I personally condemn, so everything could change at a moment’s notice.  So, my wonderful, intelligent readers – I guess it’s up to you to decide what kind of internet you want.  Do you want more freedom?  Do you think we have too much?  Should the government be passing laws that regulate it?  And why are there only like, 3 internet providers in this country???

For more reading, here’s an article about the happenings of net neutrality from PCWorld.