Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Bunny Lane by Adam Kalkin

I've mentioned it before, but if I had been smarter during my brief college stint, I would have majored in architecture instead of starting down the whole psychology path. I had forgotten my first childhood passion, although I guess you could call psychology a passion from my teen years. The truth is, dwellings fascinate me. I'm not interested in building office buildings or skyscrapers, but pushing the boundaries on how homes can be constructed and lived in is something for which I'd be willing to pay thousands of dollars in order to get a thorough education. I don't just want to look at pretty pictures, either. I want to know how to build these dwellings myself.

Years ago, I saw a magazine article about this fantastic house. I fell in love with it immediately, but eventually, I forgot the name of the architect and what the house was called. But I've found it again! It's called Bunny Lane, and it was created by artist/architect Adam Kalkin.

What Kalkin did was to surround an original white clapboard farmhouse on Bunny Lane with an airport hangar. At the other end of the hangar, Kalkin built square, stacked cinder block cubes to create more rooms. In the middle of the hangar, he placed a large, comfortable seating arrangement. Quirky rolling doors on the sides of the hangar allow it to be opened to the breezes in good weather.

I adore the fact that the traditional farmhouse is encased in this modern behemoth. It looks so cozy and warm inside the large space. And yet, you step out the door and enjoy hundreds of square feet more of modern/industrial living space. The whole thing makes me giddy.

View the Architectural Digest video tour of Bunny Lane here.

Read an article and look at pictures of Bunny Lane here.

Alternative building materials excite me. Shipping containers are one of those building materials that, I think, have finally come into their own. A DIY enthusiast could conceivably build a home for thousands less than the cost of timber-frame construction for the same square footage. Plus, storage containers are so incredibly sturdy that they would last generations (provided they are protected against rust, of course).

Anyway, I was so excited about finding Bunny Lane that I had to share.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Lingering in the Depths of Chopin

I hit the music jackpot at the thrift store yesterday. Elannah needed some jeans, so we started the shopping trip at the thrift store because if I can spend less than retail and still keep the girl happy, I am good with that.

I headed to the book section while she sorted through the racks. There's always the chance that some life-changing book is sitting on the shelf waiting for me to take it home, and I wasn't disappointed this time. An entire bottom shelf had been devoted to music books (the pickings are usually slim to none), so I plopped myself right down on the carpet and started sorting. Pretty soon, I had a tall stack picked out: two thick jazz piano books, an album of easy classics that I thought Sophia would enjoy, several thinner piano books, and the rest of the series of cello+piano books that I didn't have--all in extremely good condition.

When Elannah came looking for me, having found a great pair of jeans and a t-shirt, I showed her my treasures. I must have been waxing rhapsodic because she laughed and said, "Mom, are you going to cry?" I very nearly was. The entire stack cost me $16, which was less than the retail price of just one of the jazz books alone, but the best part was having new music.

I enjoy playing jazz, and I spent far too much time yesterday going through the three or four jazz books I'd picked up. But the life-changer was the book of Chopin. I didn't already have any of the pieces included in the book I bought yesterday, so when I pulled out that book towards evening, I was enchanted. I played through the entire thing in between ferrying children to varying destinations from 3 in the afternoon until 8:30 at night. We ate a little late because I was being completely irresponsible with my piano playing.

This morning, after I'd taken Sian to the bus stop, I glanced at the piano and was so tempted that I sat down to play Chopin before 7 a.m. rather than going back to bed. I played with the headphones on (this is the reason an electric piano is sometimes very desirable) until both Gabrielle and Husband had left for school and work respectively, and then I took the headphones off and played quietly into the room.

Little Gary was sitting on the couch.

"Mom, that music makes me want to cry," he said.

Welcome to the world of Chopin, Son. It's a beautiful, heart-wrenching world.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Libertarians Are the Only People Who Want to Take over the World in Order to Leave You Alone

I have found that my political views are far more radical than that of those around me, so that's one more reason that I keep my mouth shut, literally and figuratively speaking, when it comes to general discussions, my blog (for the most part) and on Facebook (on which I have not posted one political comment in months because I don't post anything anymore).

I think you could pretty much call me a small "l" libertarian. You could also call me a classical liberal, which is vastly different than the current sort of liberal--in fact, there is a 180 degree difference. I am conservative in the sense that I believe in the values and traditions that support and sustain strong nuclear families in a civil society, but I don't completely identify with Conservatives, who seem to worship the military and love the idea of being the country that spreads democracy. There are so many things wrong with worshiping the military and wanting to spread a demonically tyrannical system of government to those who never asked for it that I can't even begin to list them in this post. We were formed as a Constitutional Republic, not as a democracy, though most of us seem to have forgotten that critical tidbit of history. Democracy is evil. You have probably heard before that a democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what's for dinner, and that's exactly what pure democracy is. (And before anyone accuses me of hating military people, I have friends who are or have been military, and many of them are not at all pleased with the way the military is used. There's a difference between despising the people, which I do not, and despising the system, which I heartily do.)

In a nutshell, a good start to getting back to being free is forcing the federal government to get out of everything except what the American Constitution assigns to it, even if the Constitution is not a perfect document. However, I'm leaning more heavily these days toward anarcho-libertarianism simply because all governments of men will eventually end up bloated and tyrannical. No one should be able to violently encroach on anyone else's property or person, including any government (we can discuss the nuances of "violently" in this context at another time). Government produces nothing and can only be a parasite on the people. Even a "good" government must be a parasite on the people because that is the nature of government. Government attracts the sociopaths. Eventually, the sociopaths control the government, and they create a system whereby the power-hungry sociopaths cannot be ousted even as they fool the teeming masses into thinking they have a say in who is and is not leading. Once the sociopaths control everything, they take everything they can and lead the people into decadent decay and ruin unless the non-sociopathic people foment a rebellion and succeed in a revolution, after which the process starts all over again. Give me one good example of any civilization or society wherein this has not eventually happened--aside from the City of Enoch-- and I'll change my viewpoint.

Just call me Ron Swanson. I'm almost that adorably ridiculous.

And having said that, I also acknowledge that my views are not perfect and I'm always refining them as I gain new information and insight. But by now, I'm thoroughly convinced that, all things being equal, the natural tendency of human beings in a society is consistently toward passiveness, decadence, and eventual destruction. Government by imperfect human beings over imperfect human beings always hastens that ruin.

I have no fool-proof solutions, either, so don't be thinking that I think I know what should be done. No earthly type or style of government will ever remain just and true over the long run. I don't even think we could maintain a sort of anarchic system where everyone agrees not to harm anyone else's person or property for more than a few years or decades. Well, we couldn't maintain such a system until the glorious Millenium, of course, which will be a very interesting contrast to what's going on now.

Since I find all news is now biased, I completely ignore mainstream news outlets (I NEVER watch televised newscasts these days) and focus on some of my favorite alternative news sites where at least I can get a bias that feels less government propaganda and more independent. I love lewrockwell.com for their thoughtful collection of insightful essays. I also really enjoy Joel Skousen's World Affairs Brief. Each week, Skousen (who is a nephew of W. Cleon Skousen (one of my favorite authors) and a seasoned political analyst) puts out a newsletter covering some of the top national and global stories and discussing their impact on our freedoms. I so much look forward to reading that newsletter that it's like getting a new Asimov's Science Fiction magazine. The anticipation is heady.

Also good are the Mises.org/blog for good, solid Austrian economics and zerohedge.com.

There are other sites: drudgereport.com and breitbart.com are both good. I read others, as well, but this is a good start.

Now you know. Let's just leave it at that. If you have a question about where I stand, you can generally assume I'm going to take the position that government intervention slows down progress, always costs more than it's worth, and will inevitably erode our freedoms and liberties. If you disagree with me, let's celebrate the fact that at least we can disagree with each other because we are free-thinking adults and have the right to our opinions. Just don't try to force me to think your way. I guarantee that I'll leave you alone if you leave me alone.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

"...to look, to listen, to lose myself inside this soft world..."

We bought a car recently. The process was far less horrible than I thought it would be, fortunately, and we ended up with a very nice car at a very good price. We had to go from auto-loan-approved at our credit union to car owners within two days in order to make sure Husband could still make the 40-mile trip to work on Monday, so it was a stressful weekend. Husband's little Kia, which served for years as a reliable commuter car with great gas mileage, finally suffered a failed transmission. It was pretty spectacular, too--smoke billowing out from under the hood and exploded anti-freeze covering everything! Husband was stranded on the side of the rode on his way to work until the tow truck came and hauled the car back home. We've since sold it for scrap.

Buying another car must have put me into a mood for change. I had been feeling for a while that it was time to give up my job as an independent contractor writing for a company that puts together websites and sets up SEO and social media campaigns for clients. I'm burnt out, you see, and being burnt out is different than just having writer's block. Even though I still score high in my evaluations, I know my work quality is only a little above my bare minimum. I can only imagine that my work quality will start to slip because I no longer care, and it will slip badly and quickly. Time to get out.

On the face of it, it seems foolish to let go of a job that allows me to stay at home and work as much or (almost) as little as I want. But I'm not getting much done, and I know that if I'm not wasting my time avoiding the work, I will be able to throw off that guilt and work at something where I will be more productive.

Now I'm faced with possibilities. As Emily Dickinson admonished, "Dwell in possibilities." I often think that my problem isn't so much not dwelling in possibilities as it is not dwelling in practical reality. But where's the fun in living only in the dreary world of maintaining the status quo and practicing only risk-averse common sense?

I recently read an article (here) that left me both utterly depressed and inspired at the same time. The subject of the article is the wife of one of my good friends from my college days. She's kind of scary in her accomplishments, which is why I felt depressed as I considered how I've measured up to my own potential--or not. I don't know her personally, but those who do say she is a fantastic person, and I believe them.

Why would I ever think I can only be one thing at a time? I certainly didn't think that way when I was a teenager or young adult. It's time to regain that sense of infinite possibility, the sense that there are more than one or two things to be done with one's life at any given moment. I can't believe that life was not meant for joy, and that once you grow up and have to be a responsible adult, that there isn't still room for passion in what you do. So I'm going to start finding what it is that brings me some joy and start doing that. It will also have to bring in some money. I'm not so blind that I don't see the issues with finding such a job in today's economy, but why start the search already depressed and beaten? If necessary, I'll get all depressed and beaten eventually (insert smiley-face emoticon here to denote I am joking a little, but it's the sad clown sort of joking).

What I would love is to get myself an apprenticeship with someone who either builds homes or renovates them. In this fantasy, I would learn the basics of home construction along with electrical and plumbing systems under the tutelage of someone who loves what they do and demands top quality work.

Or I would work in a library, but as I don't have a degree in Library Science, that's not happening here in my little town.

Or I would become adept at energy healing of some sort (there are so many options!) and be able to help people overcome health issues.

Or my brother and I would finally get that niche blog up and running.

But even if I end up working at a mundane sort of job in some store or restaurant or office cubicle for a while, at least I'll be able to leave it behind when my shift is over and I go home. There's something to look forward to right there. I'm still working as a freelance editor, so I haven't taken complete leave of my senses. The burden has lifted from my shoulders a little bit. I feel a little more like I can breathe. I feel a little more like I can be the happy, patient mother I aspire to be. I'm already the perfect wife (insert smiley-face emoticon here to denote that I am joking a little as I am told I occasionally snore).

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Five Nights at Freddy's: a Noble Fail

We've been having an argument with our son, Joseph, who is 10. He and one of his friends, who is a similarly-aged girl growing up in this neighborhood full of boys and who, as a result, is a bit of a tomboy, want to buy a computer game. They want to buy the game on Husband's account with Joseph's friend's money. The idea is either that the friend a) will be given access to Husband's Steam account so she can play the game at her house, or b) will come to our house to play it. Why this girl can't use her money to buy the game at her house on her computer has not been satisfactorily explained.

The name of the game is "Five Nights at Freddy's," which tells the tale of the gamer being assigned as a night security guard in a children's restaurant for five nights. Inside the restaurant, the gamer must avoid the animatronics, which come alive and view the gamer as a damaged animatronic and will attempt to fix him by putting him back into an animatronic costume. Unfortunately, the fix is deadly for a human. The game is incredibly stressful. Though there is no blood and gore, there is a lot of the thriller factor, which is sufficient to induce nightmares in, say, a certain seven-year-old boy who also lives in this house.

I know about this game thanks to Gabrielle, who is currently taking (and excelling in) a college-level game design class. I cannot thank her enough for introducing it to my boys. Thanks, Gabrielle. Thanks so much.

Anyway, Husband KO'd the plan right off for obvious reasons. I heard the conversation even though I was in another room, so I knew the score (ha ha! See what I did there?). Later, Joseph came to me with the same arguments while Husband was at work.

I told him he was talking to the wrong parent, because not only am I completely immune to the desire to play video games, I have absolutely zero desire for Joseph to have any more access to games than he already does. Besides, I told him, I had overheard his original argument to his dad, and I opposed the game for all the same reasons. Then I called him out for coming to me when he already had an answer from his other parent.

Today, frustrated by our close-mindedness, Joseph wrote up a little persuasive essay, printed it out, and slid it under the door while I was briefly using the bathroom (because why should the bathroom be the one place I can be alone for a moment or two?). I'm not persuaded, but I was pretty impressed with his writing skills and his desire to lay out what, to him, is a logical, rational argument in his favor.

Here is the text of his essay, unedited (though my editing fingers did itch just a little):

Five Nights at Freddy's
 I have many reasons that have many things to back them up, so just hear me out. You may say "It will give you nightmares!" Which leads to my first reason, many therapists say that the best way to get rid of fears is to confront them, so you want me so every time I think of it I get really scared? No.
You may think that "you will get even more scared if you play it too much." Don't worry I have more reasons to back this one up. It's a human urge to do what we are told not to, if you say "Don't do this!" than [editor's note: argh!] we want to do just that. It's actually proven that no smoking signs make you want to smoke more. If you constantly guard us and protect us from doing that then we will get overwhelmed with want that we will be grumpy. If we learn that it IS scary.
If WE get it with out OWN money then we have the right to play it, scary or not. I may be going on and on and on but we can both agree that I have good reasons. I hope you can agree, if not I will write another. (ha ha just kidding) only not really. Please agree THE END 
Well, kudos for trying, son. The answer's still no. Hopefully, telling you "no" will not overwhelm you with the grumpiness of want and force you to take up smoking near no-smoking signs, but that's a chance I'm willing to take. Plus, you're frequently grumpy enough that I think I've already got the practice I need to deal with it.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Say Hello to My Inner Mad Scientist

My mother sent over a box of apples from her tree. These apples are perfect for eating out of hand or baking into a pie.

Mmmmm, pie. I still love pie with a fervent depth of passion.

So perhaps there will be a pie for dessert tonight--that is, there might be if by this evening I haven't decided that I'm too tired to be bothered whipping up a pie crust, the making of which remains my biggest cooking pet peeve of all time. Ugh, I hate making pie crusts. I have literally thrown a temper tantrum making pie crusts. It's sad but true. Husband doesn't throw temper tantrums whilst whipping up pie crusts, so maybe I'll hand that duty over to him and I'll be happy to peel, core, and slice the apples and mix the filling.

What I'm also hoping to whip up is some high-dose liposomal Vitamin C in the next little while. I have the ultrasonic cleaner, thanks to the in-laws, who got a good tip from Husband about what I wanted for my birthday, and they bought it even though it seemed like an incredibly odd gift. I ordered the sunflower lecithin yesterday (thanks to a gift card from one of my awesome brothers), and it will arrive tomorrow. The freeze-dried, powdered acerola cherries (a birthday gift from Sian) will take a little longer to ship, and this is where my patience will be put to the test.

At this point, I usually launch into some long lecture about the benefits of whatever experiment I'm trying now. This time, however, I'll leave it up to you to do the research. Suffice to say, I feel my family needs this desperately, and I'm very interested to see what happens.

(Well, "interested" is a bit of an understatement. Picture a mad scientist rubbing her hands together and cackling in nerdy glee. That's more like it.)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

I'm No Good at Teasers

Why are the forbidden books the sweetest?


I'm back.


I haven't decided yet, really, but I'm feeling more extroverted these days. These things go in waves and cycles. I remember at college or on my mission, when I was constantly surrounded by other human beings with little or no time alone, that I'd occasionally go off into a sort of mental fog. I'd feel disconnected from those around me, unable to really be part of the moment for a couple days at a time, even if I was in their company. It wasn't like I was thinking about something else in specific, it was more like my unconscious needed some meditation time without me present, like dreaming while awake (without any frightening hallucinations, thankfully). After a couple days, I'd snap back all of a sudden, ready to be social and present again. Weird.

So, what's new? you ask, sitting on the edge of your chair, breath caught in your throat as the sense of anticipation builds to a trembling crescendo.

Gosh, I hate to leave you hanging like that, but I'm just not going to tell you. Let's just move on, and you'll pick it up as we go.

Here's a teaser, though: I've read lots of books lately. Gobs. Stacks. Entire shelves. Husband had to buy yet another book case so I could deal with the increasingly dangerous pile of books next to my side of the bed as they spilled out of my nightstand and onto the floor.

When Husband got Jonathan Stroud's newest addition to the Lockwood & Company series, The Whispering Skull, he said very firmly, "I want to finally read a book before you do. Leave this one alone until I finish, please." But it wasn't my fault that he was gone to work all day and the book just sat there appealingly alone on his nightstand. I was very good for a few days, but finally I broke down and read it while he was gone. It was excellent. It was delicious, as all of Jonathan Stroud's books tend to be. And I didn't admit to anything until Husband came home and noticed his bookmark was in the wrong place because it had accidentally fallen out during my forbidden reading and I couldn't remember exactly which page it was supposed to mark. Then he forced me to admit I'd read the book before him, after which he tut-tutted at me for several evenings.

I'm afraid that I felt little guilt. I mean, I didn't tell him anything about the ending, did I? And I promise that I never steal his Jack Reacher novels, mainly because I feel like if I've read one, I've kind of read them all.

So it should be fairly obvious to you that some things haven't changed much. And that wasn't much of a teaser, either, was it? Again, not much has changed.

Here's a real teaser, though: why did my in-laws buy me an ultrasonic cleaner for my birthday this year? Oooh! Can't wait to tell you!