Saturday, November 26, 2011

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving for me, like most people in the US, is an extended family affair. Since most of my mother's family passed away before I was born or when I was quite young, Thanksgiving revolves around my step-dad's family. Despite the fact that my step-dad's family is devout Southern Baptist, our Thanksgiving is not very religious, something I consider fortunate, since my religious beliefs are so different. Unfortunately, that is where the good fortune ends. My step-dad's family is dramatic, argumentative, and manipulative. Without fail, every Thanksgiving eventually disintegrates into a family argument. My mother and I, the only two "outsiders", always attempt to stay out of it, but we do not always succeed. I find the inevitability of a fight extremely frustrating, since I just want to enjoy the holiday.

Don't get me wrong, I know that every family fights. I think the idea of a "normal" family is, at best, a myth and, at worst, a joke. When people live in close proximity, conflict is inevitable. But I think the level of manipulation, pettiness, and vindictiveness in my step-dad's family is way beyond the average family. Every year before hand, my step-dad gives my sister and me a long list of things we are not allowed to mention to his relatives. Much of it is completely mundane, like the fact that we replaced the floor tiles in the bathroom of the master bedroom, or that my cat Precious has been sick, or anything about my current medical condition other than "I'm getting better", because it will start an argument, usually about money. Having seen how his family reacts to events other families would consider unremarkable, I agree with the necessity of staying silent, but, at the same time, I find it absolutely absurd.

By far the worst is my grandmother. She enjoys playing people off each other and criticizing everything and everyone. Although my family is ignorant of my religious beliefs, I do not make my liberal political beliefs a secret, something my grandmother has a field day with. She also hates where I go to school (they are brainwashing me with their liberal ideals), my boyfriend (he is one-quarter Hispanic and my grandmother is quite racist), my choice of clothing (I prefer comfortable clothes in dark, cool colors and refuse to wear skirts or dresses) and my hair (I never wear it up and occasionally dye the bottom couple inches blue). She has also accused me in the past of being a pagan and a Satanist, which, in her mind, are pretty much the same thing.

Thankfully, the main target this year was my little sister, not me. That might sound heartless, but my little sister takes after my step-dad and his family and so is able to hold her own with them much better than I can. The main argument this year was her plans to move out to California with her boyfriend when she finishes school in the spring. While I disagree with her plans for several reasons, I also recognize the fact that my sister is an adult with the right to make her own choices.

Despite the family drama, I always try and remember the actual point of Thanksgiving, which is giving thanks. I think it is important for everyone, regardless of their religious or political beliefs, to realize how lucky we are compared to many people in the world. I am thankful that, although the recession has been hard on my family, we can afford to put food on the table, including a nice Thanksgiving dinner. I am thankful that I have a decent house to live in, even though it needs quite a few repairs. Most of all, despite being ill and struggling to pay medical bills, I am thankful that I have medical insurance which gives me access to good medical care. I am thankful for these things because there are almost 2 billion people in the world who do not have even these basic necessities of life. And I think that is something everyone should remember on Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Incredible Time-Lapse Video from ISS!

The Expedition 28 and 29 crews shot this amazing time-lapse video of the Earth from the International Space Station from August to October of this year. It shows different parts of the Earth at night, with city lights, random flashes of lightning, and absolutely stunning auroras. I know it's 5 minutes long, but it is well worth it. I couldn't resist posting it here. I loved trying to figure out which cities they were flying over.


Earth | Time Lapse View from Space, Fly Over | NASA, ISS from Michael K├Ânig on Vimeo.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Earthquake!

I just felt my first earthquake! Very exciting!

USGS: 4.7 Earthquake in Oklahoma

I was sitting on my bed, reading an article about cold fusion when my bed began shaking and I heard the objects on my dresser start rattling. I also heard a dull roaring noise from outside. Shaking lasted about 10 or so seconds. Gave me and my cats quite a scare.

Update: It's been about 3 hours since I first posted. The original earthquake was large enough to cause about half a dozen aftershocks so far, several of which I have felt. There are all much smaller and shorter in duration than the first quake, but it's still unnerving to randomly feel everything start shaking. I feel sorry for people on the West Coast and up in Alaska, if this is what they have to go through all the time.

Update: So, it's now 11:30 at night. About half an hour ago, we got hit by a 5.6 earthquake, which is almost 10 times stronger than the one this morning. It's the biggest recorded earthquake in Oklahoma history. The shaking was much more intense this time. I was sitting down when it started, but as the shaking got more violent I stood up and could feel my whole house swaying slightly. Several objects fell off one of my shelves. All of our animal are quite upset.

USGS: 5.6 Earthquake in Oklahoma

Spain's Stolen Children

 From BBC News: Spain's Stolen Babies and the Families Who Lived a Lie

I am actually surprised this story hasn't received more of a response. The sex abuse scandal, which the Catholic Church is still dealing with, was bad enough, but this takes it to a whole other level. The Catholic Church, according to the leaders within it, is supposed to be a force for good in the world, the organization which represents God on Earth. Well, I highly doubt God wanted them to steal babies away from their mothers as soon as they were born, tell those mothers their babies had died, and then sell the infants to "better" families. It's beyond disgusting.

I have stated here multiple times that I am not a fan of organized religion, is this is just one more reason why. An organized religion might begin with the best of intentions, but once they gain power and money, those good intentions, more often than not, go out the window. As the saying goes, power corrupts. Organizations like the Catholic Church have a duty to protect the innocent, the persecuted, and the oppressed, but instead they exploit those very groups in order to gain more power and money. And as soon as their terrible acts become public, they jump straight into denial and cover-up.

Even if the Spanish government does do the right thing and begin an official investigation into this atrocious practice, nothing can fix the terrible injustice done to the mothers of the up to 300,000 stolen children or the children themselves.