Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Human Rights Watch

As part of my job, I see a lot of books come across my desk. I can't possibly read them all, but a quick glance of the titles is enough to make me depressed sometimes. We all know that there are sad things happening all over the world, but Human Rights Watch actually specializes in documenting those sad things and then they send those books out to libraries and other people who buy them. Think life in the U.S.A. sucks? Look at some of these titles, and maybe you will get a different perspective on things--

"All The Men Have Gone"
War Crimes in Kenya’s Mt. Elgon Conflict

"As If They Fell From the Sky"
Counterinsurgency, Rights Violations, and Rampant Impunity in Ingushetia

"Bullets for Each of You"
State-Sponsored Violence since Zimbabwe’s March 29 Elections

"So Much to Fear"
War Crimes and the Devastation of Somalia

"They Shot at Us as We Fled"
Government Attacks on Civilians in West Darfur in February 2008

"You Can Detain Anyone for Anything"
Iran’s Broadening Clampdown on Independent Activism

A Question of Life or Death
Treatment Access for Children Living With HIV in Kenya

Denied Status, Denied Education
Children of North Korean Women in China

And there are many, many more. There were 82 reports published in 2008 alone, a few about the US, but mostly about other countries. If you go to the Human Rights Watch website you can find long lists of these and they aren't expensive. Depressing to read or skim through though. Even the covers of some of them are enough to evoke emotions. There are stories of "unaccompanied migrant children" in Turkey and Greece. Okay, we can't call them orphans because we don't know if their parents are really dead or if they just didn't make it across the border with these kids. There are stories of little girls being exploited all over the world, and stories of refugees being beaten and abused by the countries they are fleeing from and then again by the countries that they are fleeing to escape. Horrible, sad, stories of injustice all over the globe. If you thought you life was bad, these are real eye-openers and tear-jerkers.

Happy Holidays!

Suppose every blog is supposed to say something about the holidays, isn't it?

We had a nice white Christmas, with plenty of snow still on the ground from the previous snowfall that we got over the weekend. Abby was scared of Santa, but got everything she wanted (she had a short list, but we had a longer one for her). It was a simple day. We stayed home and my dad came over in the afternoon in between lunch and supper. Nothing fancy etc.

Christmas Eve day we worked in the morning and brought Abby with us. We spent the afternoon together, and after Abby finally lay down for a nap, I scrambled to get some of the wrapping done. When she finally went to sleep for the night (after 10pm!) we finished wrapping and helping Santa with his projects.

On Friday, December 26th we made the rounds to the nursing homes to visit my grandmothers. Looked for some after Christmas sales but didn't find much. We had the day off from work since daycare was closed.

Saturday was another day when Abby didn't want to nap so we drove to Connecticut thinking she would nap in the car. It didn't work, so we ended up in East Hartford at Cabela's. Our first visit there and it was fun.

Sunday was a recovery day of sorts. No plans, and we did try to get Abby to nap at a near normal time. She had fun playing with her trains and other new toys too.

We still need to exchange gifts with a couple of friends, but otherwise we are hoping for more snow and some snow days so Abby can play outside. She really loves the winter!

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year to all!!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Whitebelt: a 21st century rules engine

Attention Game Masters and Role Playing Game Players-

Whitebelt Productions, LLC has finally published their long awaited role playing game system. Aaron Addison and his friend and business partner Timothy Gilkes have been working on this project for over 10 years, and this week their book was finally released. Congratulations guys!

If you have a dice and paper role player on your holiday shopping list, or if you are a RPG player yourself, then head on over to their website and find out how you can buy a copy through Lulu.com.

Am I biased? Maybe a little. My name is in the credits somewhere. :-) It's a great game though. These guys have been play testing it for years and making sure that everything is as perfect as it can be for the ultimate game system.

Here's the link folks--


Friday, December 5, 2008

another quick poem, just because I'm feeling old today

Just a few thoughts this morning

My husband parks the car down below
My arthritic knees protest as I climb three flights of stairs
to the daylight up above
My asthmatic lungs cough and voice the knees protesting words
and I begin my walk to the tower,
and then climb back down below the ground
I spend my day processing papers, reading books, viewing the world
through my computer screen, only briefly glancing at
the daylight, sunshine, rain, and snow
by five o'clock it is dark again, and I climb back up
and then back down to the car again.
My daughter's classroom is brightly lit
her smile when she sees me is brighter still
a picture with markers and stickers,
and a hug and a kiss
that's why I do all this (I know).

-----------------------end it there or add more later? I know it's not very good and needs to be revised, but it's a start at least.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

another writing excerise- objects/things

Again about shoes. I don't know why... here goes...

Writing about Places and object, or things... another writing exercise

There are many suggestions in this exercise about places or objects to write about. I'm going to attempt to write about 3 different pairs of shoes. Not sure how far I'll get, or how well I will do. I must admit this is fiction as the stories about the shoes are not completely true.

They are a black pair of sandals in a man's size, purchased in Maine maybe to replace the pair I had worn out before them. The older pair had been many places, and this pair has begun to journey as well. The older ones were easy to pack, did well in airports, and survived in hot weather or in the rain. The older ones were black and blue. They went with me to Brussels in the rain, and got wet while I wore an ugly poncho in the cathedrals there. They went with me to Venice and supported me as I walked along the cobblestone canals. And they went with me to Spain where we saw 5 cities in 10 days, absolutely insane!

The newer sandals have not left the country, but they have traveled well. We have been to Nevada, to the Black Rock desert together twice. They have been to Florida and New York City, and to the beach more times than I can count. They got a lot of use when I was pregnant and my feet began to swell, and more use still when I came home. I like these newer sandals and they have become more worn. They can tell of a cross-country road trip in a rented pick-up truck, and of arriving in Las Vegas at 6am. They know of love, and home, and all these goods. They get carried around the house on days when I do not need them by a little girl who thinks I have small feet. They have many more years of traveling and memories in them I am sure.

The shoes I wear today are sneakers, purchased at the local mall. They are permanently laced and stretched out to be comfortable. I can slip them on and off even when I don't have a free hand. They smell like sneakers do of course. White with a little bit of pink, but mostly they are the color of sand, and maybe there is a hole or two emerging underneath the threads. They do not make my feet sweat. I do not touch the outsides much since they slide on so easily. Inside my feet feel soft and cushy. They let me walk quietly except when it rains and then I am doomed to squeak down the hallway of the quiet library. I bought them when I knew I'd be in an airport, burdened with a stroller, 4 carry-ons, and a 2 year old. I needed shoes that would go through security and back on again while my hands were tied up with other things. They served the purpose well. They walked through Epcot and Magic Kingdom and came home to walk the dusty roads near home. They replaced the sandals for the weekend to Martha's Vineyard, in November, in the rain. The memories they carry are all recent ones, and all seem layered with the word "mom". My husband is always surprised when I get anything pink, but the pink is faded and somewhat hidden, and perhaps that is another clue as to who I am too.

the end.

Writing about people- fiction- writing exercise

Writing about people- Writing Exercise-- not posted on writing class yet, having trouble with website

this piece is fiction.
What is the essence of the person you want to portray?
Followed by some questions
and an example of the "Portrait of Jack"
so here we go.. away from the poem and into the prose
as coworkers dialogues mingle in the distance and I wonder if I will need headphones and music to complete this

He is an old man, only a little bit of hair left on top and it was gray, and cut short. He is tall and thin, and wore patches at the elbows on his shirts. His pants hung loose, although his belt is pulled tight, he still seems to be losing weight. He smells of Old Spice aftershave, mixed maybe with roses and Miracle-Gro. He has a slow way of walking, deliberate, unhurried, and if you look real close you might see a slight limp. His words are not hurried either, and you know when he says something, anything at all, it is important.

"Go Army!" He watches all the college football games on a black and white tv because color might hurt his eyes. When the game is over, he goes out to the gardens and tends the roses and the berries, and finally the vegetables. He rarely climbs aboard the tractor anymore. Cows and corn and hay are his son's business now. These are the years for staying closer to home, on what is left of the homestead. He sleeps in a small room, with a twin bed, a dresser nearby, and a small desk. He doesn't need much. Inside the dresser he stashes the new shirts and clothes that he got on Christmas and on his birthday. He saves envelopes and cracker boxes and old cards. Reading seed catalogs and drinking a Schaffer beer are how he might spend a rainy day. A bowl of soggy corn flakes and a banana for breakfast, and meat and potatoes for supper. The salad is rabbit food. The car he drives is 20 or 30 years old. The passenger seat still reserved for the old beagle who has passed away and never been replaced. It is red, 2 door, looks sporty, but probably never needs to go above 40. He doesn't have far to go these days. The day the old farmhouse burned down, he was sitting in the driveway reading the mail, and he never even looked up until the fire trucks came, by then it was too late. His tenants bought the remains for a cheap price, and he went on living in the double-wide next door. Today he is standing on the front steps looking out over the fields, listening to the church bells, listening and waiting.

the end

letter to my grandmother- more fiction

Grandma, I miss you. I know you are still alive, but since you live in a nursing home now, it's hard to reach you. And since you can't hear well anymore it is hard to talk to you when I see you. You told your son/my uncle not to bother getting you a phone because you can't hear people when they call you anyway. Sigh. I remember when I used to call you so often I had your number memorized. I still have it memorized from so long ago. But you haven't had that house in many years. I think you sold it when I was 22 or 23 years old. Another lifetime, or two ago. You and my father had phone numbers that were very similar, only the last 2 digits were different, and sometimes I would call you by mistake, but I usually found something to say anyway. I miss you, and you aren't even dead. I try to write, but it's hard to find the time, and sometimes I don't have much to say. I just want to reach out to you and say something quick. I love you I'm thinking of you. My allergies are bothering me, but I am otherwise well. I wish I could call you to say I was coming for a visit. What day would be good? Instead I'll have to surprise you, and hope that my timing is okay. I hate "dropping in" like that, but I never know when I call the nursing home whether or not you are really getting the messages I leave anyway. I have some pictures for you. Will you have room for them? Should I put them in a photo album for you? Or frame them so you can hang them on the wall? I used to see you every week, but now there is so little to say, and so many other things to do that I don't visit as much. But I think of you every day. You are 90 years old now, soon to be 91. Amazing, and I miss you. How old were you when we slid down the hill in the toboggan? How old were you when you washed my hair in the kitchen sink? Or read stories to me? I miss you Grandma. You used to be so great, and I know in my heart that you still are. Love, your granddaughter

Some fiction-- The box- written for a writing class

There was a box in my living room. I wasn't supposed to open it. Christmas was coming. It's all wrapped up. The UPS guy left it on the front porch yesterday. I looked for a return address, but couldn't find one. My husband carefully opened it last night and then sealed it back up after I had gone to bed. He told me this morning "Don't touch it. Wait." So I'm waiting and wondering. It's just an average sized box. Nothing rattles when I shake it. It's not too heavy, or too light. What could be inside? My mother likes to send odd gifts. She has sent some nice stuff, and some really bad stuff over the years. One year I got her back. I sent her 2 big boxes for Christmas. The first box had many presents all carefully wrapped, and lovingly selected. The second box had 2 pennies and a can of tuna fish. It said "Don't open until Christmas". So I am looking at this box. Is it a can of tuna fish and 2 pennies? Or maybe deep inside is the new wedding ring my husband promised me. The box is so big though. It couldn't possibly be either of those, could it? Perhaps a new bathrobe and a pair of slippers. That would be nice. Our house is always cold in winter, and I am up so often at night with the child who can't sleep, and the husband who snores. Maybe my in-laws sent us toys for the kid, or maybe a grandmother sent cookies. Could it be cookies? I take a sniff. I hope not. If there are cookies inside, then they are stale by now! I wonder... did my husband go on a big shopping trip for himself, and he doesn't want me to know what he bought? Or did the publisher send 100 copies of our friend's book to us by mistake? What is inside that box? Who sent it? Where did it come from? The wrapping is simple, pretty, but untraceable. The ribbon is store-bought. What has my friend Jo been up to lately? Could she have crafted something? I sit and wait. My daughter ignores the box. She doesn't seem interested in it one bit. My husband allowed himself to look, but won't let me. The box sits there for a week, until it is finally Christmas eve. On Christmas eve we all open one gift. I surprise my husband though, and I resist. I open another gift instead. Whatever is inside the box can wait.