Queen of the Sun

Bees are such interesting creatures.  Without them forty percent of our food would not get pollinated.  They work as a team to protect the queen and make honey.  Honey is an amazing super food.  Did you know that archaeologists have found honey in Egyptian tombs that are over 2,000 years old and the honey is still edible and delicious?  There are just so many fascinating facts and things to learn about bees.

queen-of-the-sun

Something that I have been hearing about is Colony Collapse Syndrome.  This syndrome which is hurting our honey bees worries me.  I was looking through documentary films when I saw this one that seemed to address this serious problem.

The documentary film “Queen of the Sun: What are the Bees Telling us?” was released in 2010 and directed by Taggert Siegel.  It is an informative and visually beautiful film.  The following is a description of the film from the website Food Matters TV.

“Taking us on a journey through the catastrophic disappearance of bees and the mysterious world of the beehive, this engaging and ultimately uplifting film weaves an unusual and dramatic story of the heartfelt struggles of beekeepers, scientists and philosophers from around the world including Michael Pollan, Gunther Hauk and Vandana Shiva. Together, they reveal both the problems and the solutions in renewing a culture in balance with nature.” -Food Matters TV website

Some of the theories for Colony Collapse Syndrome were discussed in this documentary:  systemic pesticides, the almond mono culture of California, genetically enhanced crops that cause genetic mutations in bees, new forms of pesticides that affect the nervous system of the bee, and the selective breeding practices for queen bees which causes bees to be weaker overall.

The film also looked at how people all over the world are trying to help bees through bee sanctuaries and integrating colonies in urban settings like New York City and London, England.

I recommend this film to people who are not familiar with honey bees and to those who are bee keepers.  It is such an interesting film and beautiful to watch.  Watching it, I felt very encouraged that I can make a positive impact to help save our honey bees.

Permanent Record

There are moments in ones life that cause an individual to change.  Some of those moments have a catalyst in the way of an experience, event, etc.  It’s kinda like when someone asks you where were you when you heard about the twin towers in New York City?  Really big events not only change one person but have the power to change everything.  There was before September 11 and there is after September 11.  This particular event also affected Edward Snowden the author of Permanent Record,

I remember when I watched the documentary “Citizenfour,” directed by Laura Poitras, having a serious shock and awe moment when I realized how much, how serious and how scary the amount of surveillance that my government was perpetrating on its own citizens, as well as every human being on this planet.  This isn’t a clever science fiction plot.  It is real life and it is terrifying.

documentary Citizenfour

 

So of course, when I heard that Edward Snowden had written a book, I had to read it.  I was not disappointed.  The following is the description from the jacket cover:

As I proceeded down the Tunnel, it struck me: this, in front of me, was my future.  I’m not saying that I made any decisions at that instant.  The most important decisions in life are never made that way.  They’re made subconsciously and only express themselves once fully formed – once you’re finally strong enough to admit to yourself that this is the course your beliefs have decreed.  That was my twenty-ninth birthday present to myself: the awareness that I had entered a tunnel that would narrow my life down toward a single, still indistinct act.”  – (Page 214) from Permanent Record

“In 2013, twenty-nine-year-old Edward Snowden shocked the world when he broke with the American Intelligence establishment and revealed that the United States government was secretly pursuing the means to collect every single phone call, text message and email.  The result would be an unprecedented system of mass surveillance with the ability to pry into the private lives of every person on earth.  Six years later, Snowden reveals for the first time how he helped to build this system and why he was moved to expose it.

Spanning the bucolic Beltway suburbs of his childhood and the clandestine CIA and NSA postings of his adulthood, Permanent Record is the extraordinary account of a bright young man who grew up online – a man who became a spy, a whistle blower, and in exile, the Internet’s conscience.  Written with wit, grace, passion, and unflinching candor, Permanet Record is a crucial memoir of our digital age and destined to be a classic.”  – Book cover of Permanent Record by Edward Snowden

Written in a way that even the less than technical savoy can understand, I felt that I was given a view into the government’s development of its spying programs.  I also felt like Edward shared his struggle and motivation.  The words flow logically and Edward leads you through the story.  I appreciated his candor, humility and humor.

At one point in the chapter on encryption Edward makes the following comment.

“Breaking a 128-bit key would take 2 [to the 64th] times longer than a day, or fifty million billion years.  By that time, I might even be pardoned.”  – page 217 Permanent Record

I my humble opinion, Edward Snowden should be pardoned.  He is a hero.  He pointed out something that should be a concern to every human being on this planet.

I highly recommend the book Permanent Record.  It puts the record straight.  If you have read it, please post a comment.  Or if you would like to discuss the book with me, please contact me through my contact page.

It’s Not a Choice….

In the movie “Patriot Games,” based on the book of the same name by Tom Clancy, there is a scene where the Ryan family is busy getting ready for the day.  They are making and eating breakfast in the kitchen.  The little girl, Sally played by Thora Birch, wants pancakes.  Her dad, Jack Ryan, played by Harrison Ford, gives her a choice of “toast or toast.”  I thought it was funny in the parameters of the movie…… but when put into real life….. It’s not a choice if there is only one option.

Have you ever had a situation where an employer or individual acts like they are giving you a choice but there is really only one option?  From the perspective of the person providing the non-option, they feel like they are being very generous.  From the perspective of the person who has no option, the situation feels like a trap.

At one time I worked for a large company that had a pretty good healthcare package.  One that you wouldn’t want to loose.  At the beginning of flu season they sent out a memo to all staff members that whomever did not get a flu shot would loose there healthcare plan if they took time off for having the flu.  (I don’t think what they did would be considered legal today.)  I had expressed concerns to my direct supervisor.  I have had allergic reactions to medicines and vaccines.  And several of my direct family members had had a reaction to this particular flu vaccine.  I was told to that I had to get it.  So I did.  I had a reaction to flu vaccine.  Not only did I have an allergic reaction (hospital visit which had to be paid for by the insurance)  but I then got sick with the flu.  The flu virus and allergic reaction had weakened my immune system to the point that I then got pneumonia.  I ended up missing three weeks of work.  Medicine, hospital visits, doctor visits, paid sick leave, and loss of an employee for almost a month all had to be absorbed between the insurance and the company.

Now I know that I am probably the exception to the rule in this case.  But the lost time, money, and energy because I was not given a choice was very disheartening.

So where was I going with all of this….. It is nice to have choices.  When working in a situation where one is part of a team, if the team members have choices, they feel like they are participating.  When negotiating or just being part of a relationship, options, choices and not feeling trapped build better relationships.

So what would you prefer? Whole wheat toast or white toast?

Just Start Somewhere

Life has an interesting way of teaching us lessons.  I think that for the most part it is good that we don’t know that we are learning a lesson at the time we are learning it.  When we look back, we can say to ourselves “Wow!  That was one hell of a lesson I just learned.”

I would love to say that the preparation for my move was easy breezy and everything happened so smoothly.  But I can’t.  It didn’t.  And for a couple months leading up to the move, I felt frozen.  Unable to focus on any one thing or really accomplish things the way I normally do.  I was completely and totally overwhelmed.

overwhelmed

My being overwhelmed was two-fold.  The enormous task of moving.  I have lived in the same place for thirteen years and for the last six years my studio has been my bedroom.  Art supplies EVERYWHERE!!!  Just organizing and going through them seemed to be an un-accomplish-able task.  Then there is the psychological leap of quitting a perfectly okay job that provided income….. without having a new job in place to go to.  A major car repair.  My savings starting to dwindle.  It felt like things were starting to spiral out of control.

The second part of my being overwhelmed was emotional.  I couldn’t face all the things going wrong for what I was hoping to be a very positive change in my life.  You can plan all you want and think that you are in control.  Control is an illusion.  Planning is fine if you can account for every possible outcome.  Impossible.  I was as frozen as a deer in the headlights and accomplishing nothing.

I was having my breakdown in order to have a break through!

“The best way to get things done is to simply begin.” – Daphne’s Diary Number 1 2017

Never underestimate the power of kind words from a friend, multiple friends, complete strangers or positive signs from the Universe.  A smile really has the power to change someone’s day.  A kind hello can help someone who feels invisible to realize they are seen.  And just telling a friend or family member that you are thinking of them, let’s them know that they are not alone.

My friend Eric and I had talked about being overwhelmed and some of his tricks for helping himself get started.  He makes lists and does what I call Eric’s Principle of Picking up 10 Things.  So here is the deal with Eric’s Principle of Picking up 10 Things….. it is exactly how it sounds.  You pick up and put away 10 things.  Once that is done, you pick up and put away another 10 things.  And you can keep doing this until everything is picked up and put away or you need a nap.  What is great about this is for each 10 things you put away you have accomplished something.

As to making lists, they can be great because you get to cross things off of them.  Getting one thing done… cross it off the list.

Things started to happen.  I got things done.  Life got better.  And then the move, this thing that was supposed to be a positive change in my life really did become a positive change.

Being overwhelmed sucks.  Don’t give up.  Just start somewhere.  Things will get done and life will get better.

Exit Strategy

The fourth and final installment of the Murderbot diaries, Exit Strategy, is a wonderful conclusion to this delightful series.  Martha Wells, the author of this series, keeps the readers attention from the first sentence of the first paragraph till the final word of the last sentence.

The description of the story from the book cover is as follows:

“Murderbot wasn’t programmed to care.  So its decision to help the only human who ever showed it respect must be a system glitch, right?

Having traveled the width of the galaxy to unearth details of its own murderous transgressions, as well as those of the GrayCris Corporation, Murdbot is heading home to help Dr. Mensah – its former owner (protector? friend?) – submit evidence that could prevent GrayCris from destroying more colonists in its never-ending quest for profit.

But who’s going to believe a SecUnit gone rogue?

And what will become of it when it’s caught?”  – Bookcover of Exit Strategy

Favorite characters from the first book, All Systems Red, return in book four.  A majority of the action takes place on the space station that is home to the corporate headquarters for the GrayCris Corporation.  Unfortunately to say anything about the story of this book would give away valuable information necessary to the story.  I just hope that you will take the time to read it for yourself.

Described by science fiction writer Annalee Newitz as “One of the most humane portraits of a nonhuman I’ve ever read.”  This book is a fantastic ending to the series.  I cannot recommend this book or the entire series enough.

The Human Experience

“Life is sacred, that is to say it is the supreme value, to which all other values are subordinate.” – Albert Einstein

If you are looking for an up-lifting film experience that will reaffirm your faith in others and in living life itself, look no further than “The Human Experience.”  Directed by Charles Kinnane, produced by Grassroots media and released in 2008, the message portrayed in this film is just as important and inspiring today as it was 11 years ago.

The Human Experienc. truck.

The film is based on three experiences.  Following two brothers, Clifford Azize and Jeffrey Azize and two of their friends, Michael Campo and Matthew Sanchez, as they search for meaning in their lives.  The film also interviews artists, human rights activists, philosophers, and others who are experts in their fields of study.

The quest to find meaning in one’s life is not new.  Who am I?  What is my purpose?  How do I fit into my family, society, my village, my world?  And many more questions have been asked since the dawn of humanity.  What is unique about this documentary film is the way in which participants go about their search.

The first experience is with Jeffrey and Clifford as they spend a week with the homeless community in New York City during a February cold snap.  One man helps the brothers set up a place to sleep the first night.  He tells them to sleep by a church because they are less likely to make you leave. A homeless woman who was interviewed by the brothers said that you must have family and friends to survive in this world.  She talked about how she had been homeless several different times.  One time she was standing on the street with four dogs.  People came and took the dogs and found homes for them, but left her there on the street.  A homeless man in a soup kitchen told the brothers that you can lose everything but they can’t take away your hopes and dreams.

For the second experience the brothers, Clifford and Jeffrey, join Surf for the Cause and volunteer at a hospital for abandoned children in Lima, Peru.  The founder of the hospital shared what inspired him to do this work.  There were temporary volunteers, people who just helped out for a specific amount of time and permanent volunteers who had dedicated their lives to the work.  Some of the children in this hospital would go back to their families once they were healed.  Their families did not have the skills or resources to take care of the children.  Other children were abused, abandoned and left to die.  For these children, the hospital was their home and their refuge.  No matter what type of situation the children had come from they were fed, safe and cared for at this hospital.  The thing I took away from this experience was the pure joy that children have.  Even in the face of insurmountable odds and horrible events in their past, you could see the joy in the faces of the children.

The third experience takes place in the African nation of Ghana.  The brothers join their friends, Michael and Matthew, as they travel to visit people dying from AIDS/HIV and visit a leper colony.  One of the young men’s mother had died of AIDS when he was nine years old.  At one point they are interviewing a young woman, who is dying from the disease, and they ask her what wisdom would she leave to her children.  She said she would want them to know about her faith in God and His love.  She goes on to say that she would want her children to know how much she loved them.  It was an incredibly powerful moment in the film.

Leprosy was/is considered to condemnation.  Many of the people who lived at the colony had been left there by family members.  Never seeing their familes again.  A man at the colony asked the Jeff, Cliff, Matthew and Michael if they were afraid of the people with leprosy.  They said no that you are human beings like us.  This made the man very happy.  He went on to say that his son never came to see him that he was ashamed of him because of the disease.  The hope, faith and sense of community shared by those interviewed in this section of the film is truly inspiring.

Upon returning to New York, all of these young men had been changed by their experiences.  At one point Jeff says that no matter what your difficulties and experiences are life is still good.

As an added component to the film, is the story of Jeff and his interview about his life.  Jeff and Cliff’s father was abusive and an alcohoic while they were growing up.  Jeff had not seen his father in ten years.  Keep in mind that he is only twenty at the time this was filmed.  Cliff arranges for Jeff and their father to meet.  In an emotional reunion, Jeff forgives his father for past events and makes arrangements to see him again.

I cannot recommend this Documentary film enough.  See it.  You will be glad that you did.

Embracing Fear

For the past year, I have been examining fear.  What I am afraid of, what situations seem scary to me, and how I get through these situations.  I have noticed that fear has been the subject of several of the blogs that I follow as well.  One talked about fear of not producing or launching ones creative work.  Another was dedicated to the fear of death.  Still another about the fear of losing themselves, especially in context to relationships.  Even I wrote a post about facing my fear of ticks.  (You can read this post by clicking here Facing Fear.)  The list goes on and on.  Just as there are all kinds of variations on the theme of love, there are just as many variations on fear.

The science-fiction novel Dune by Frank Herbert has many excellent lessons and interesting themes.  One of my favorite parts is when Paul of House Atreides is tested by Reverend Mother Mohiam.  You may remember the scene from the movie…. where Paul has to stick his hand in the box.  I wonder, could I pass such a test, where everything that was happening was in my mind.

“I must not fear.  Fear is the mind-killer.  Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.  I will face my fear.  I will permit it to pass over me and through me.  And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.  Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.  Only I will remain.”  ―Paul Atreides from Frank HerbertDune

What Paul says about fear is really important.  It is important because it is true.

Fear can kill your mind.  It can break your nerve.  It can stun you and hold you back.  Fear denies progress and ends relationships.  Here is the truly crazy thing.  Fear can only do this if we allow it to.  What you give power to (fear) can control you.  Do you want fear to be the one in control?

The first decision I have to make is to face my fears.  We all have ways of coping and avoiding things we don’t want to face.  Once I have decided to do that, I have to recognize these scary moments and face or embrace them.  Once these situations have passed the fear is gone and I remain.  Fear has no power if I face it and take away its power.

I know that this is not easy.  Things scare us for a reason.  However there is a difference between being taken aback for a moment and allowing fear to control you.  I don’t want fear to be controlling me.

What scares you?  How do you face or embrace your fears?  Is there a benefit to letting fear be in control?  What is the benefit of conquering your fears?  What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

Too Much Stuff

“Happiness is not found in things you posses, but in what you have the courage to release.”  -Nathaniel Hawthorne

I like paper.  I have always liked paper.  It started with paper dolls as a child and has never gone away.  I like the way that it feels.  Super smooth and refined running the gambit all the way to rough and full of texture.  I like variety in colors and patterns.  I like hand-made papers, papers with kimono patterns, fancy marbleized techniques, papers that feel like cloth and others that have been smoothed mechanically.   I can tell by touching a sheet of paper what it has been made with and the weight of it.  I like the possibilities that paper provides.  As a collage artist, I use a lot of paper in my work.

I was showing a friend some paper that I was using for an installation piece.  He said, “This is a lot of paper.  How much paper do you need?”  We have only known each other for a couple months at that time and he was new to my art and creative process.  I looked at him and smiled, “You can never have too much paper.”  He laughed and said, “For your artwork that is true!”

This got me thinking about stuff in general.  How much stuff does one person need?  I have seen the terrifying preview for a television show about hoarders and someone being buried alive.  I have also seen the program about tiny homes and listened to the interviews from people who want to be free from stuff.

Our consumer driven society pushes people to purchase things.  Advertisements sell us images of perfection and products that will “make” us, our homes, and lives more “beautiful” or “youthful” if one purchases this or that product.  This compulsion to have more drives one to purchase things that they do not want nor need.  And after the purchase has been completed does the luster wear off and buyer’s remorse set in?  Or does one rush to the next purchase?

I began to wonder, am I owned by objects? Do they control me?  Not a pleasant thought.  Then I wondered, how does one go through and decide what they really want and need?

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” -William Morris

I am inspired by the life and work of William Morris who lived from 1834-1896.  He was an English thinker, designer (carpets, patterns, and typefaces among other things), author and publisher.  He was saddened by the poor-quality, cheap and soulless decorative art that was mass-produced in 19th- century industrialized England.  I sometimes wonder would he be horrified if he were to see our modern society of mass-produced cheap and disposable items?  He instigated a revival of traditional arts and crafts, establishing his own working community.  The goal of his Arts & Crafts Movement was simplicity, beauty and craftsmanship.

Tidying.Up

Since I did not have the arts and crafts community of William Morris, I turned to a modern organizing guru, Marie Kondo.  She is the author of the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.  Known as the KonMari method, it is the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing.  One starts by discarding and then organizing the space, thoroughly, completely and in one go.  I found this book challenging and amazing all in one.  There is so much helpful advice and encouragement in it.  One thing that I found particularly helpful and empowering from Marie Kondo’s book was what I call the joy principle.  Does this bring me joy?  Yes.  Keep it.  No.  Get rid of it.

In preparation for my move, I had been cleaning up and going through my possessions.  I used the joy principle when deciding what to get rid of and what to keep.  I had a couple yard sales and given boxes of stuff to charitable organizations.  Some things that are special I have given to family and friends.

I do think that there is a healthy amount of possessions.  And what that amount is, depends on the person.  For me, there has to be a variety of paper to work with for my art.  For a friend who is a mountain biker, owning three or more bikes is necessary.  The bikes have different purposes.  For another friend who quilts, fabric is a constant staple.

What are some of your favorite things?  What is necessary for you?  What brings you joy?