Friday, July 3, 2015

Addiction Thoughts...just a quickie


Another way to succeed in life is to manage your time wisely and cut out any addictions from your life. Addictions are bad for many reasons but we often forget why addictions (of any kind) are bad in the first place. 

Addictions are bad because they eat away at the time available to live. There are many far more productive things that could be accomplished with the little available time that you do have (like getting a college degree or starting a business). Also, many addictions cause havoc in the brain. If they don’t actually cause deterioration of gray matter they most certainly hijack centers in the brain as you become used to the dopamine rush. The brain/reward system responds by producing less dopamine. Since dopamine is the pleasure or thrill chemical and now you have less of it due to your addiction, you end up getting less pleasure in activities you previously enjoyed.

In many cases what starts out as a feel-good drug/high turns out to be a recipe for long-term depression, anxiety and lack of motivation. Now you have even less motivation to do things that you previously enjoyed simply because initially, these activities will probably produce less dopamine in your brain than the addiction that you are currently subdued by.

At this point you will have to entirely reprogram your brain and start a new cycle. This process is indeed very hard.

The end

Friday, June 26, 2015

MY AFRICAN SAFARI PICS, WRITE-UP, ETOSHA NATIONAL PARK (NAMIBIA)



We just returned from a 2 week Namibian safari that was truly a chance of a life time. My husband and I got to witness some of the most arousing and poignant scenes of Africa. This was my husband's first time on the African continent and something that he was looking forward to. Although it was my 4th time, It was my first time to go on a real safari!

Might I just add before I go any further--that one of the MOST AMAZING things about going to Namibia and spending time in the desert was the night sky. Sans light and air pollution as well as very little moisture, you can see stars like you never imagined! As if the tapestry of shining southern constellations isn't enough, you also get to see the Milky Way galaxy itself. You can readily discern the swirls of our galaxy and see distinct features like the Orion Arm as well as the central Bulge.

Being away from western civilization and a speedy internet connection (if any, at all) gave me the time to indulge in meaningful reflection and to be present in the moment…fully captivated by all of my senses….fully immersed in nature.

We flew to Windhoek, the capital city of Namibia. This city is surprisingly progressive, has well-paved roads, modern buildings and a clean, downtown with lots of curio shops, a mall and even a few European-style restaurants. We stayed at the gorgeous Hilton for a couple of nights!

Windhoek, Namibia




Loving the poolside skyline view from the top of the Hilton.

Famous "Gibeon Meterorites". These were found in Gibeon, Namibia. They are showcased in downtown Windhoek.

We arrived in Windhoek early in the morning with the freezing chill still hitting hard as we got off the plane (28 degrees F). Namibia can be so cold in the morning…brrr; yet once mid-morning hits, you feel the intense desert heat. The sun rays, like daggers, pierce through your flesh with an intensity I had never felt before. The arid desert landscape reminded me of Phoenix, Arizona.

Our two days in Windhoek went by quickly. We visited the lovely Botanical gardens just walking distance from the center of town. The botanical garden is a must-see for plant-lovers or anyone interested in gaining more knowledge about desert plants—and it is FREE, so totally worth it! This garden features several green houses and a trail through a parched desert that abounds with cactus, acacia trees, bottle trees and other-worldly looking succulents. We saw many lizards scurrying over rocks.

 
Botanical Gardens in Windhoek





Day 2

In the afternoon of our second day, we started our “Sense of Africa” tour. A shuttle picked us up and drove us into the orange sherbet sunset, westward.  In the late evening, we arrived on the Atlantic coast and stayed the night in the town of Swakopmund.






Day 3

My husband and I decided to take a small boat excursion out in the ocean near Walvis Bay. As the ship left the dock we were greeted by giant pelicans, flying overhead and then landing on the side-rails of our boat. It wasn’t long before a couple seals began swimming nearby and then, spontaneously flopped onto the boat deck.  The seal even hopped right onto a seat and became affectionate with one of the men on our boat tour.

Walvis bay is a fantastic place for viewing sea life. We saw countless dolphins and seals frolicking in the harbor. The boat even took us to the edge of a sandbar where we saw seals galore! There is nothing quite like viewing animals in their natural habitat. They are such happy creatures with pure puppy-like sweetness exuding from them!

This affectionate seal just loved this guy on our boat tour!

Pelicans in Walvis Bay, Namibia. Southern Atlantic Ocean.

My husband smiling as Nicholas the seal kept on endearing this gentleman.

LOL!  it took me forever to get a decent photo of a dolphin jumping spontaneously. I have a new-found respect for professional photographers!(very difficult!)


This Pelican just loved this guy!

Not just one, but two seals hop up onto our boat!

An entire sandbar full of seals! We loved going to this remote place :)





In the afternoon, we had a chance to walk along the beautiful coast and also visit the Swakopmund Aquarium—costs about $5 for two people. The aquarium is small but very cool with lots of weirdly shaped fish as well as sharks, and sting rays.

Day 4

Our safari guide was an older white Namibian woman—born and raised in Namibia. Our tour group was small. It consisted of a Swiss couple, a chain-smoking German couple, a stereotypical Italian man, a 20-something French woman, a 20-something German woman and a 72 year old German man sans wife. We were the only Americans; and for that matter, the only Americans we encountered on our trip! The Germans on our tour spoke very little English so it was fitting that my husband happens to speak near-fluent German. Our tours were given in German and English :). Everyone on our tour was a traveler at heart and eager to go on the safari at Etosha National Park.


Pool selfie at one of the lodges we stayed at




We spent a long portion of our day driving from Swakopmund to the Damaraland region. For a while we even drove along the Skeleton Coast and got to see shipwrecks that are characteristic features of this coastline. Next we drove east-bound, through the dessert. The desert landscape unfurled before us in red-sandy terra cotta with splashes of purple and sage mixing in the distant hills. The sky was pure blue and stood out in stark contrast to the orangey rock formations and red dirt.


                                     
                                                Shipwreck on the Skeleton Coast

                                                 
  Desert Landscapes

The desert terrain in Namibia is covered in red sandy earth and further sprinkled with milky quartz as far as the eye can see. This arid terrain offers an astonishing treasure house of precious rocks and gems. Among these are citrine, rose quartz, topaz, amethyst, aquamarine and carnelian.  There are also generous deposits of precious metals like copper, uranium, iron and mining areas are found in several regions. Oil is also found in Namibia. If I was a rich investor, I would no doubt invest here!

While in Damaraland we got to walk through a petrified forest, see ancient sandstone engravings and also visit a traditional Damara village.  We came across many Welwitschia plants; some of which are the oldest living plants on earth (they can live up to 2000 years).

Scenes from the Damara village we visited

Women in their hut and a child looks in. Damaraland, Namibia.

Learning about Damara culture from one of the tribeswomen.
This tribe speaks a "Click language" which sounds pretty awesome!

"Organ Pipes" natural rock formation

A Herero woman and baby

WE SAW DESERT ELEPHANTS on our journey! These are a RARE subspecies of elephant. 
We were lucky to encounter them on the side of the road :)



Perhaps the most intensely magical and surreal experiences I found were in Etosha National Park! Etosha is a world-famous wildlife reserve situated in the northern, central section of Namibia and covers 22 thousand square kilometers (roughly half the size of Switzerland). Imagine endless savanna and shrubby plains that stretch far out into the distance. There are dusty parched forests densely packed with every variety of acacia. Despite the dry, almost unexpected texture of the landscape, there is wildlife variety like no other place!


                                           
              A wild cat we came across. Common house cats have descended from this species.

Our safari guide brought us to several water holes. Like children on Christmas, we patiently waited for the animals to arrive. Sometimes we would wait for 30-40 minutes before any animals made their appearance. Like clockwork, the animals slowly but surely made their way to the watering hole. The animals strode in from all directions. In the distance we would first see subtle movement. We watched as the zebras made their way in. It wasn’t long before giraffes could be seen—their tall necks surpassing the trees and shrubby savanna. One or two warthog babies would scuddle in and dip their thirsty tongue in the small pool. We saw many different bird species skimming over the water hole. Secretary birds, Pied crows, Guinea fowl, Gray- Go-away birds, and Lilac Breasted Roller’s were just a few to behold. A herd of elephants made their way to the hole. There is nothing cuter than a baby elephant coming to the water hole with its mama and dad.

A baby elephant nuzzling its mama.

Elephant selfie



                                       Good times in the safari jeep with my wonderful husband!

An old sweetie


What makes the water hole so very special---a quintessential feature of the African Savannah—is that you can see an astounding array of wildlife in their natural habitat. This is especially noticeable during the dry season!

Adorable warthog looking into watering hole.


Elephants taking a bath and then proceeding to roll in the dirt. The muddy covering protects their skin from insects and the scalding sun.



Giraffe and Wildebeest 


There is something so pure and innocent about seeing animals come out from no-where to satisfy their most basic survival needs. I am reminded of how vulnerable they are to the whims of nature, to climate change and to poachers.I was appalled to learn that the Black Rhino is a critically endangered species. Our safari guide informed us that JUST IN THE LAST 6 MONTHS OVER 80 BLACK RHINOCEROS HAVE BEEN POACHED in ETOSHA ALONE. THERE ARE ONLY 300-400 in ETOSHA park. Apparently there is a HUGE demand in Asian countries (especially China) for Rhinoceros horn.

The Rhino horn is crushed up into a powder and then used in Traditional Chinese Medicine as an aphrodisiac, to HELP ACHIEVE SEXUAL STAMINA IN MALES and it is also used for fevers, typhoid, rheumatism, gout, headaches, hallucinations, poisoning and demonic possession. The facts tell a different story though. Rhinoceros horn is made of keratin (like your fingernails) and has not been shown to have any unique properties that address any of these ailments. THIS MEANS THAT THESE ENDANGERED ANIMALS ARE BEING KILLED SO THAT SOMEONE CAN GET OFF ON THE PLACEBO EFFECT! It is sickly irrational when you think about it!

A Black Rhino. These precious sweethearts are rapidly going extinct!

Another Black Rhino we came across. They are too cute!


We stayed at several lodges around the Etosha park and thoroughly enjoyed our time. The meals were delicious (with South African Braai (BBQ) being the one exception—too undercooked for our tastes and neither of us enjoy the wild game meats that were offered at the BBQ's). There were plenty of beautiful pools and lovely gardens to explore but our time was consumed by going on safari trips into the park.

If I could, I would move to Etosha and become a wildlife advocate. I was totally unaware of how fast these animals are going extinct. We were told that going on Safari and bringing money into the country of Namibia helps preserve the park and the animals as the park provides many sustainable jobs for Namibians. There are Namibians who are employed just to keep an eye on the park and watch for suspicious activity (since poaching is all to common here).

Our trip was AMAZING! I can't wait to go back someday!

Some of my Namibian bird photos

Gray- Go-Away Bird

"A Flying Banana" or "Yellow Billed Hornbill"

Pied Crow

Lilac Breasted Roller


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

KARMA ISN'T A BITCH



FOR THOES PEOPLE WHO SAY... "Karma is a Bitch"

Ever have a conversation with someone and the two of you are discussing a bad situation? The situation could have happened to your friend or maybe to someone else. Suddenly, out of nowhere, your friend resorts to the hackneyed cliche “Karma is a bitch”. Every time I hear that platitude I usually let it pass without a response, but inside, I’m seething with infuriation because it occurs to me that they lack a basic understanding of reality.  Yeah, yeah, I know it’s simply an expression and no one really cares about what it (actually) means.

But sometimes I’d like to say:
Do you honestly think the universe arranges itself around your behavior (and actions) and the behavior of others? Are you so deluded and grandiose in your thoughts about yourself that you think the physical laws of the universe react to your emotions and behaviors?

Do you think the space-time curvature of the universe repositions itself in such a way to retaliate against the individual who steals pastries from the local bakery?

If Karma exists—if people are in their current state of (natural) existence due to behaviors and actions from their past or from their previous lives-- we should rightly fault the children who are suffering from starvation. After all, wouldn't their current fate be determined by a past life, one in which their behaviors were evil or malicious?

People might use the word “Karma” in a practical sense. For instance, the phrase “You reap what you sow” comes to mind.

Yes, if you treat another person kindly, the chances are greater that they will treat you kindly in return. If you judge someone immediately and you haven’t even had a single conversation with them—you don’t even know them---expect them to judge you in the same rash response and don’t count on being their friend (you’ve already proven your judgmental attitude). There isn’t anything magical or mystical going on here. These are just the practical consequences of behavior.

As much as we would like to think the universe revolves around our ego and personalities-- as past scientists have thought that the sun and every other celestial body revolved around the earth—it doesn’t, and I am glad for this.

Karma isn’t a bitch because it doesn’t exist. It is just an eastern idea that has now become an annoying nonsensical phrase uttered by almost every thoughtless drone I encounter.

Perhaps it is time to deflate our egos and realize we have very little control of the world around us—that our behaviors good or bad—may not affect the trajectory of the universe or even our own petty lives. Perhaps we should remind ourselves that we just so happened to be lucky to be born in a developed nation and not have suffered from a water borne illness as a child. Perhaps, if you are one of those people who is often reminded that “you’re super smart” or “super talented/competent” you should just realize that you’re lucky and your life would be an entirely different experience if you didn’t have these preferential traits.

Instead of  saying"Karma is a bitch", how about “Being human is a bitch”. We make poor decisions regularly and we often act in ways that are self-serving—whether they are statements to hurt or diminish the importance of someone else (to feel better about ourselves) or whether they are physical acts of harm towards others.  Being human means you are, at times, going to piss others off. Sometimes your behaviors will be an intentional acts to harm others, other times, your acts will be purposeless and will hurt others.

But either way, the universe doesn’t care about your actions. There isn’t a physical force that is going to balance things out or push for (social) justice in the real world. It is us, and our tiny brains, who have to works towards that. 

Monday, May 11, 2015

VIDEO for MOM-- Remembering Old Times...



video


I grew up in a lower-middle class, Caucasian household. My mother was a full-time housewife and my father made a meager living as a salesman. Neither of my parents have college degrees.  Food stamps were never applicable to my family’s income but we lived happily and never with too much luxury. In the summer time, eastern Oregon can be very hot; we never had an air conditioner. I grew up with fans.  In the winter we used firewood chopped from the forest to heat our house. I always woke up freezing cold in the mornings and headed straight towards the wood stove on the other side of the house.

We didn’t have a lot of extra cash to pile our cupboards with expensive, highly processed goodies and snacks. The high price tag of Doritos, packaged cookies, soda and hostess cupcakes meant that such items rarely, if ever, made it into our cupboards. Instead, we had a flourishing vegetable garden with several fruit trees. We had grass-fed cows in our pasture which would be butchered once a year. We had a chicken-house full of hens that would lay eggs year round. Our animals were treated kindly and humanely.  Our property was sufficient in size to host a sizable variety of barn-yard creatures.  

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Social Rejection and Bullying WORSE than CHILD ABUSE



 A recent study (above) suggests that it is WORSE to be bullied and/or EXCLUDED by peers than to be abused by adults. Obviously, this shouldn't abate our natural outrage for children abused by adults or make it sound less severe. I just find it interesting that studies are finally showing something that I have parroted for years!

 As someone who never, ever made entrance into any single popular group in highschool (or even an upopular one)—and tried really hard to do so—as someone who never even made it into the auspices of 2-3 close friends during that time, I can definitely identify! As someone who was bullied from time to time during highschool, I can certainly agree with this--especially as I consider my own current levels of anxiety.

See my blog post below where I go into more detail about why I think bullying and social exclusion are so harmful. (Yes, I know this is nothing original, but at least I made sure to mention the factor of social rejection/exclusion here--sometimes people forget this aspect of bullying).

My "Social Exclusion/Bullying" blog post.




Monday, April 27, 2015

Gospel Message is like the Abusive Boyfriend/Girlfriend!!


One of the things that I always found to be off-putting about Christianity (the Gospel in particular) even as a child was the suggestion that I as a human being was somehow “sinful”, or  “wrong” in some manner. This is the idea that there is something fundamentally in error or “corrupt” about my person or nature.

I would listen to my Pastor every Sunday. I would listen to my Sunday school teacher about how marred, imperfect and sinful I was as a human and I would reflect upon this mantra on a daily basis.  I grew up thinking this way. Now I find myself detesting this kind of thinking—this style of thinking that presses itself upon my brain and makes me feel lowly and unworthy. This kind of thinking that teaches you to hate who you are—your personal characteristics, the way you think, your mannerisms and every minutiae of your person that you have little to no control of anyway. The Gospel message is like the girlfriend or boyfriend who psychologically abuses their partner by telling them, “You’re only good with my help/advice/support…you only can be good/worthy/important because of me! You’re only good if you could just be like me!”


I have a problem with the gospel message in the same way that I have a problem with other human beings in society who arrogantly tell others, how awful or “wrong” (i.e. sinful/imperfect) they are. These are the individuals who always resort to giving advice to others about “how they should change their mannerisms, style of dress, personal quirks/characteristics” simply to align with their own subjective preferences. It is one thing if an individual is committing crimes that are deserving of a prison sentence, it is an entirely different thing when a person is admonished by someone’s thought-policing; that is, when someone begins interjecting their own subjective standards on others to make them feel “not good enough”.

Friday, April 17, 2015

STOP SAYING "PEOPLE are so STUPID!"


I had to do a really quick blog post on this--because this is infuriating me! One thing I've noticed—time and time again—on facebook, in casual conversation, on various websites, in comments and in so many discussions is a very common phrase “Why are there so many stupid people?” or “Why are people so stupid?”. 

These kinds of expressions have become so old I want to throttle the person saying them. I wish for once that someone would post something like, “Why am I so stupid?” It would be quite shocking and interesting for change.  Everyone seems to think that everyone else is stupid (or, at least most others who don’t think exactly as they do) but not them. Kind of like how Christians think that everyone else is going to hell but not them. This is the exact same mentality. I’m getting tired of it and found another blog on this.