Friday, April 17

Common Sense In Utah (But Not So Much D.C.)

I read recently that Utah is trying to pass a law to once again make it legal to execute prisoners on death row by firing squad. Lawmakers in both the state's House and Senate passed the measure, and the only question is whether the Governor will sign it. 

Apparently the move was prompted by recent shortages of lethal injection drugs; lawmakers wanted to have a backup option in case they become completely unavailable. The more informed among them pointed out that it also has the potential to be much more humane, considering how nasty things can get when a lethal injection is botched.

Personally, I think the idea is an excellent one. Far from making them look "backwards and backwoods" as one opponent put it, it makes them look like a dying breed... people who understand both math and guns!

Even relatively expensive ammunition is pretty darn cheap.  Between the military and the police, there should be no shortage of individuals with the training to lethally shoot someone. (Given the nature of the people to be executed, I'd lay money you could get any number of those qualified individuals to volunteer for the job!)  If the person doesn't die instantly, you can instantly put another round into their brain and it's over. No drawn out suffering, no mess.

Lethal injection drugs are anything but cheap. They have to be ordered/shipped from Europe, handled and stored under strict guidelines, and administered by specialized staff. There is plenty of room for messy failure, complications, and suffering.

According to the original reporter (article linked above) "The Washington, D.C.-based Death Penalty Information Center, which opposes capital punishment, says a firing squad is not a foolproof execution method because the inmate could move or shooters could miss the heart, causing a slower, more painful death." (Personally, I'd like to ask if they actually understand how firing squads work, or if they've ever heard of "execution style".... the way firing squads will end up with anything other than fast death is if stupid and excessive regulations prevent second shots/head shot when they're called for.)

As a voter, I can tell you which one I'm behind - the one that's more efficient, more cost effective, and faster/cleaner for the person being executed. Whether or not there should be a death penalty is its own question. But for as long as it is legal in some states, let's demonstrate some common sense in carrying it out, shall we? 

Kudos to you Utah. I hope your Governor gets on board!

Wednesday, April 15

Juxtaposition of Trends

I ran across an article in early March marveling at how at-home fitness/workout series like those sold by Beachbody are not only surviving, but thriving. The author was somewhat baffled by how that continues to happen, despite national low-cost gym chains, movements like Crossfit, and our society's seeming ubiquitous need to be outgoing and social in everything we do.

Shortly thereafter, it hit the news that gym chain Planet Fitness revoked a woman's membership after she complained about a transgender man in the women's locker room. Apparently, the company's policy is for members to decide which gender they most identify with, and then use the corresponding locker room. Not surprisingly, not only was the woman involved in the incident horrified, but many other women using that gym that she talked to were equally upset. This irritated the gym, who chose to kick her out in hopes of making the issue go away.

According to an opinion piece written elsewhere online, the whole incident is a perfect example of why, as a society:

We need to be focusing on the institutional segregation of genders as a whole to start dealing with this issue.

It’s not just going to go away, and the only way I can see to begin tackling this problem is doing away with the time-honored divide between men and women.
The author goes on to say that we should just "desegregate bathrooms and locker rooms", and then no one has to be offended. Now, to his credit the author seems to think that completely individualized (i.e. single person use/sized) locker rooms are the perfect answer. I don't know where this person gets his concept of reality, because its should take about two seconds to do the math on that and figure out how completely unrealistic that is in terms of space and money, but at least he wasn't suggesting (as many are) that locker rooms should retain their current format and be desegregated, and that all of us prudes who don't want the opposite sex to see us naked (it's just a body as the logic goes) should get over our old fashioned selves.

Still, I couldn't help but think that with policies like this one becoming the norm, it really shouldn't be any surprise that people are choosing to work out in the safety of their own homes!

Monday, April 13

Being Efficient

I knew pretty early in March that April was going to be a busy month. After a quiet panic attack, my type A personality kicked in, and I did what I always do: attempted to organize everything that threatened to pile up and overwhelm me to within an inch of its life.  :)

I dug out my planner and my colored pens (Christmas gifts that I am loving!) and started making lists and blocking out days on my calendar. I pulled my sticky notes and covered my planner pages in reminders. Popped open excel and made a six page spreadsheet of all my tasks by subject area (home, work, class, and general reminders). 

Then, I hopped over to this great post that I've had bookmarked forever with the Top 6 Tips on how to be efficient by Dan Ariely. 

I made this my desktop background to remind me that time
is particularly precious right now, and there's none to waste!
I've long internalized tips #1 and 3 - The World IS Working Against You and Write Everything Down. To help myself manage a crazy April, I latched on to tips # 2 and #5: Control Your Environment (Or It Will Control You) and Watch for the Horsemen of the Productivity Apolocolypse: email, multi-tasking, and "structured procrastination" - i.e. doing little stuff that makes you feel productive, but doesn't actually accomplish anything important.

I also added one more, prompted by my Nutritional Therapy training - take care of yourself. Everything gets worse in a hurry if you don't prioritize the basics: good food, enough water, good quality sleep, and consistent pauses to rest/recharge and stretch.

None of it is rocket science or new wisdom, but actually sticking to it has made all the difference. Halfway into the month, I'm on or ahead of target on all my key tasks/deadlines! 

Which of Dan's six rules do you embrace, and which ones do you need to work on?

Saturday, March 14

Random Thought of the Day: Self-Mummification

When I think of mummies (which, admittedly, isn't often), I think of Evie from The Mummy excitedly explaining how mummification involves ripping one's brains out through one's nostrils... and Rick's prompt, disgusted response that he does not want to be signed up for that if they don't make it out of their adventure alive!

So I was both fascinated and appalled to find out that people can actually mummify themselves - as publicized recently by the discovery of an actual mummified monk inside a stature of Buddha.

Apparently, it's a pretty finicky process - and unpopular for all the reasons you might expect. But it's well documented and wasn't particularly uncommon among certain sects throughout history. It was considered a fairly sure path to sainthood (especially welcome if you were having trouble with the whole "performing miracles" option).

As usual, though, my line of thinking when discovering random (slightly gruesome), fascinating factoids like this quickly came around to "why am I only just learning about this?!" I was very privileged growing up. I had parents to loved to read, read widely, and made sure I was a good reader too. I read far more (and more widely) than most kids I knew. And still, there are so many things that never even showed up on my radar!

I know that schools get a lot of grief these days for everything we think they're doing wrong. Public libraries scramble for funding, and focus on technology because that's where the money is. Museums try to line up with common core and STEM - also largely for funding reasons. But I can't help thinking that we'd do so much better at keeping children's attention and spurring them to self-educate and become better readers and thinkers if they had access to these kinds of stories. Not as pre-packaged lesson plans or History Channel episodes, but as stuff to read and write about on their own, just because it's naturally engaging. (As I've mentioned before, anything with guts/gore/death is great for keeping kids' attention!

That's all... there isn't any great point or call to action for this post. Just a public service announcement that if winter and cabin fever have you suffocating under the mundane, there are still gloriously intriguing things available to revive and reinvigorate your brain.... only a click or the flip of a page away.   :)

Thursday, March 12

Realism or Terrorism?

Several weeks ago now, it was all over the news that ISIS had burned a captured Jordanian pilot alive. Fox News was supposedly the only outlet to air the entire, unedited video online. 

They took a lot of flack for that, with professionals in Washington griping about how doing so just aided the terrorists by spreading terror. To a degree, I see their point. 

On the other hand, I was surprised by the level of vitriol spouted in their direction. It was clearly marked as graphic and violent, and you couldn't stumble on it by accident - you had to intentionally search to find the video, and it'd be darn hard not to recognize what you were about to see before you clicked on it. 

Was it a horrific event that no sane person should ever hope to witness? Absolutely. But that doesn't make it any less real.

It happened, and in the face of apologist politicians, the gags of politically correct speech, and the wave of young people from democratic western nations abandoning their lives to go join militant Islamic causes in misguided perceptions of glorious holy wars, it seems like there may very well be a legitimate place for such appalling realities in our media and news coverage. 

Would those young people still perceive ISIS and its ilk in a positive light if they were confronted with this kind of carnage in all its too-real horror instead of the sanitized, "professional" summaries and carefully selected stills that populate most news reports? Would our politicians still talk about peace and compromise if they had to watch the video and imagine their sons and brothers in that pilot's place?

This war may not be happening on our own turf right now, but that doesn't mean it doesn't affect us. We have men and women in harm's way too, and they could be subject to this kind of horror just as easily. Burying our heads in the sand by suppressing these kinds of videos puts us at a disadvantage. It allows us to pretend or ignore or mitigate cold, harsh realities, and leaves us unprepared when they come crashing into our world. (9/11 anyone?)

The world can be a rough place, and I've no desire to make it any tougher on people by subjecting them to daily onslaughts of all that is dark and evil in the world. But trying to hide it and pretend that such things don't exist by simply refusing en masse to publish the evidence is a foolish and self-handicapping approach to dealing with the challenges we face. We can do better, and we should. 

What do you think? Where is the line between facing reality and unnecessarily spreading terror?

Tuesday, March 10

Blue & White Quilt - Finally Finished!

At the beginning of the year, I determined that I was going to finally tackle the pile of neglected quilting sprawled across our library. I hadn't been intentionally avoiding it. But between being very busy, multi-tasking my sewing space, and not having a clear plan for what needed to happen next, I just wasn't making any progress on it. 

I spent whatever free time I could find in February sorting, ironing, and organizing. As I got things put in some kind of order, I selected a blue and white quilt top as my first project to be finished. I picked a light blue cotton sheeting for the back, and re-purposed an old blanket as thick, warm batting. I found a very pretty dark blue fabric with a flowered print to use as a binding, and blanket-stitched it on for variety and durability.

It took longer than planned (everything always does), and I wasn't sure it was all going to come together, but I'm very happy with the finished product!  The darker binding really made it all work. 

It's an over-sized lap quilt, perfect for snuggling on the couch when it's stupid cold and gross outside or for dragging outside to lounge in the sun this summer. (Not that we actually ever have time to lounge in the summer, but it's a nice idea!)

Happily, all the sorting and ironing that went into prepping for this one set me up for success for the second finished quilt top from my stack! I found backing fabric for it, and it's all pinned up with batting and backing, and waiting to be stitched together. Hopefully I'll make time to stitch and bind that this week, and have another happy quilting post for you soon!  :)

Sunday, March 8

Winter: 2; Ash Bucket(s): 0

It's pretty universally agreed that the majority of the country is tired of winter right now. To say there has been a TON of snow, and that it has been crazy cold, is an understatement.

But nothing really brought the point home like killing two ash buckets in less than a month. We heat the house almost solely with wood, which is generally awesome, but when it's stupid cold and we're burning hard the ashes can pile up quickly, no matter how efficient we try to be.

When I went to pick up the first bucket from where I'd left it outside the front door, and bottom completely detached from the top, I wasn't really upset. It was inconvenient, but it had come with house. If everything else we've seen was any indication, it was probably cheap to begin with and God only knows how long the previous owners had had it. I figured it didn't owe us anything. 

Then I found out how expensive those things are! After I got over being appalled that someone would expect me to pay $70 for a bucket that I would use six months a year to dump fireplace ashes, I told myself it would probably last us forever. That would make the cost per use really low, and make it qualify as an investment...  Until it broke, two weeks later. 

Seriously?! Two ash buckets in less than a month?! *sigh*

Thankfully, I had filed the receipt so I can return it. I also discovered that such buckets can be bought cheaper... at Tractor Supply, of all places! So ultimately, it will work out to be a good thing, but I still take the demise of such utilitarian tools as a mark of nasty this winter has been.

We're on track to put the final nail in the coffin of our "indestructible" maul this year as well. No one said heating with firewood was easy on the tools! Still, I'm tremendously grateful that as our neighbors deal with high (electric/propane) heating bills and dump money into yet another pallet of pellets, we still have firewood from our own land laid up to see us through. We will definitely adjust our estimates of much to lay in every year based on this experience, though! And hopefully, the next ash bucket we buy will be the last...