Sunday, May 30, 2010

Weekly Winners

Blurry cuteness

Aspen eye

New growth

Her Royal Highness the Fuzz Poppy

Pink ruffles

Capturing the last drops

Be sure to check out the amazing-ness of the other participants!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Weekly Winners

All of these shots were taken with our old Canon, because our new one that has totally spoiled me is currently on safari in Namibia. sigh. Be sure to check out Lotus's shots as well as all the other participants.

Flowers trapped inside

Looking up

The wandering path

If I was I scientist, I know what these were called

Contemplative from beneath my straw hat

Showing off its new red dress

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

On Behalf of Students Everywhere

By the end of reading this article, I didn't know what to do. I could cry at the injustice, scream at the people trying to stop students from learning the truth, or just curl up in a tiny ball because I can't do anything. It is unfathomable to me that anyone wants to block the students of our amazing country from learning the truth.

I have grown up in a very tolerant household and school system. I am certainly aware of unfairness existing, but I am always shocked when it hits so close to home.

Texas's Board of Education is going to vote this week on social studies curriculum standards. Social conservatives on the board claim they are trying to "promote patriotism". Where is the line between patriotism and the truth? I love my country and know that it gives me so many wonderful opportunities, but I don't support or agree with everything that has been done in the name of the United States. Does this make me unpatriotic? The fact that I think Thomas Jefferson was a great president because of (and for many other reasons besides) his belief in the separation of church and state makes me unpatriotic. At least according to the Texas Board of Education.

If these amendments pass, they will significantly alter the content of textbooks not only in Texas, but across the country. It will put politics into the history books where it doesn't belong. History books serve to teach the facts about what happened, and leave it up to the reader to make their own judgments and form their own opinions. The judgments and opinions formed by students reading these books will be swayed in one direction, because it won't really be left up to the student to make up their mind. A few Social conservatives on the Texas Board of Education will have made up their minds for them.

My parents have always encouraged me to look at topics from both sides, to question the source before coming to a conclusion. They are both liberals, and have raised me in a liberal household, however; this is a parent's job. It is their job to teach their children their view on the world, where right and wrong fall into those views, and then hopefully leave it up to the child to decide.

It is a parent's job to help form a child and show them what they believe and why. This is not the role of a school or a textbook. A simple history class is meant to inform the student. It is not their job to show the child an opinion, because this detracts from the learning. You cannot learn all the facts and be able to assess them from a neutral point of view if the facts are interspersed with judgments and one group's point of view. And you certainly cannot leave out facts and try to limit what goes into people's heads. Once again, they will not be forming opinions based on the whole truth, merely a distorted part of it.

I consider myself lucky in this respect. I know enough to question people and textbooks, and not merely take everyone at their word. My history textbooks have been pretty good, as far as I can tell (and I know pretty well, having studied American history for eight years out of the past nine, from a different textbook each year), at reporting all the information. Some seem to have slightly favored one side in a war, but never in a blatant way. At least all the pertinent facts were present.

The first time I experienced a lying textbook was this past year in my Health course. Naturally, as part of a health course, there was section on sex ed. I was shocked when the only option presented for teenagers and sex was complete abstinence. This is incorrect and completely misleading. Now, don't get me wrong, I have nothing against abstinence. It is what some people chose to do and it is absolutely the right choice for them. However, teenagers are always going to have sex. That is not going to change. Knowing this fact, other options need to be presented. Like contraceptives, and condoms, and birth control.

Here, again, I feel lucky, because I knew enough to realize that my textbook was not giving me all the information. What really scares me is what happens to the people who don't know any more than what their textbook is telling them. They would never learn about Thomas Jefferson, or the debates over the second amendment and the right to bear arms. A more immediate threat would be having unprotected sex because they weren't taught about any other options.

I believe in this country and I love this country. I love it because I read an article that I disagreed with and was able to write this post. I have stated my opinions loudly and clearly, and you are all welcome to chime in.

I sincerely hope this amendment does not pass. Students need to know what has happened in the past, so they can understand what is happening in the present. Students need to be allowed to form their own opinions based on facts.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Day in the Life

I feel so much better (not that I felt horrible) after art class. My teacher was traveling and busy the last three weeks, so this was the first time we met in three weeks. I didn't do anything special or out-of-the-ordinary--just painting. I didn't realize how much better I felt until I was home, dancing around the kitchen, singing.

The white of the canvas has been transformed from something big and scary, to something alluring, that speaks to me. It tells me where to put the splash of red, how the purple stripe should connect everything together, and when it is done.

I am reading a biography of Barack Obama, which is fascinating.Current events have really grabbed my interest and I love knowing and being aware of events around the world. The book is great, although very detailed. Sometimes I wonder if a whole paragraph is really necessary to explain the type of shoes he wore at different points in his life.

After art, I sat down, like the good little student I am, to do chemistry homework. I saw my tutor yesterday for the last time and it feels great to be done. (Although I am technically only almostdone, it still feels really good.) Just the final in chem left, and then I'm truly free.

My mom and I visited my grandparents this afternoon. It is always good to see them, although a little heartbreaking. Watching them slowly slip away. Pictures from our vacations to see them from when I was younger are now that much more special. I hope to remember them splashing in the waves with me, and digging in their garden.

I am a happy camper watching the NBA semi-finals, especially because the Lakers and Celtics are both doing well. I say I don't have favorite teams, but really, I do. 

Tonight we watched Dancing with the Stars, which we haven't been following, but I am so glad I watched this show. Just watch this and you'll see what I mean:

Now it's off to bed for me, to continue reading about Barack Obama's shoes.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Weekly Winners: Let's Try This

I have been reading Sarah at This Mom's Wired for a while, which led to my discovery of Lotus and Weekly Winners. I have been drooling over their photos and contemplating posting some of my own. I have finally decided to take the plunge.

I think I have everything worked out so I won't be copywriting anything (I thought I was pretty good with computers until I met real tech wizards). Here goes. (And I am deeply apologetic to Lotus if I did manage to mess up and have somehow copywrited anything of hers.) (I think that's all the disclamers I can fit into one paragraph.)
That's a lot of snow.
This bird stayed very nice and still while I tried to take its picture.
Close-ups make Smokey look angry and a little evil.
An "artistic" shot.
Black and white of the most colorful place in our yard.

Getting Close....

Early Tuesday morning, my dad flies to Namibia to teach a month-long course. We have been spending lots of time together. Yesterday I helped him pack (by which I mean I watched and made the occasional comment while he ran around the house gathering everything up and making all the important decisions). We played a game, walked outside, and he made the smart decision to skip the horrible awful movie that my mom and I suffered through (Sixteen Candles).

My last day with my tutor is Monday. I am very excited for school to be over, and am looking forward to a summer with no homework. I will still have to do several chemistry labs, but I am choosing to forget about that at the moment. Unfortunately, I will still have to take two chemistry (noticing a trend here?) tests after Monday, so I won't be done. Almostdone is not the same thing as done.

We finally made a decision and bought a camera last week, and so I have been spending lots of time outside playing with the settings and learning my way around the features. It is very fancy (at least for me), but in this case fancy equals good pictures. I feel like I have learned the basics, so I now need to read the manual and learn more details.

My dad is going to take the camera with him, so I will be stuck with the old one for the next month.

Which is sort of too bad because I am going to take a photography class beginning in June. From what I understand, it is a pretty basic class for point and shoot cameras. I hope I will learn about lighting and composition and some more advanced concepts as well. I think I have pretty much mastered "turn your camera on".

I will also be taking a class focused on tress. Painting and drawing and writing. I have never been particularly excited about still-life drawings, but the class description caught my attention. I hope it will be fun and different. You may be seeing a lot of drawings of trees.

My mom's back went out on her for no apparent reason on Friday, so she has been lying on the couch and making funny groaning noises for most of the weekend. I don't know what else to do besides offering chocolate and waiting.

Thursday afternoon we found a bird on our back steps that had clearly flown into our big windows. This is a pretty common occurrence, despite the "hawk" stickers meant to dissuade any birds from flying into the windows. The birds are usually okay after a while, but sometimes their necks are broken and they don't make it. (I have created a sad little bird graveyard. We have a serious problem of grave robbers. No suspects. At least it's not Smokey.)

This bird was shaking and shivering and just looking very sad and small. I put on some gloves and held it for a while, and then left it to recover on its own. A few hours later it was looking even smaller and shakier, and so I convinced my mom to let me bring it inside overnight.

I put it in a cardboard box with a towel and a small saucer of sugar water. Smokey was very intrigued by the bird smell and the closed door. Friday morning, before my mom and I left to run some errands, we were able to release the bird into our backyard. It still looked very small, but wasn't shaking and seemed pretty much recovered. Yay for happy endings!

We figured out it was a female pine ciskin.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Fragmented Thoughts and Mother's Day

Lately my life has been feeling fragmented. Like I am hopping from stage to stage, playing the different roles in my life, the different parts of me, but I have lost the thread that connects them all. They are turning into separate stories.

Today I spent time trying to uncover that thread from beneath all the little things that can cover it. I have lists everywhere, stacks of sticky notes, with things I need to do, or look up, or remember. It was as simple as Googling a person, and as complicated as some long overdue emails to friends.

I read. For hours. I have so many books that I pick up and read a few paragraphs of and then put down. It is very hard to keep track of plotlines and characters, let alone actually learn anything from the authors. I am reading about the Iraq and Vietnam Wars, Obama and his history, and a few just for pleasure. Just re-remembering the plots makes me feel more grounded and secure.

My brain has been filled with ideas for stories. I tend to have great ideas that get abandoned. The ideas come few and far between, and I usually have trouble picking the story back up after I have left it for a while. I am trying to get some of the ideas down. I don't know what I'm going to do with them; they are probably going to go nowhere. It feels good to just get it out and on the paper screen. 

iTunes is still a mess after the last time our computer hard drive was re-imaged. A lot of my music has been lost to the abyss of technology and so I took some time to determine what is truly lost, and what is just buried and hidden away.

I did homework. There wasn't a lot to do, but it was enough that I felt better and less pressured after I sat down and just did it.

I went through over a week's worth of pictures. I am still really enjoying taking pictures and exploring the view from behind the lens. I do feel as though I am running out of things to photograph. I don't know how this is possible; even though I am mostly confined to the house, there is so much to see and capture. I need to get more creative and find different angles and ways to look at the same things.

My dad and I (mostly him) have been working on researching cameras and buying a new one. Hopefully we'll get it sometime this week. I am excited to see what kind of improvement in terms of picture quality and zoom capabilities it will have and all the new features I am sure it will be packed with.

Mother's Day was Sunday. I am sure most of you are aware of that. Less known is that it was also my parents' anniversary (23!). There are beautiful flowers in every room.
Plus my new orchid. I think this obsession is growing more quickly than I originally thought.

My mom's one request was a picnic. Our stomachs were full of fresh-squeezed lemonade, chicken curry sandwiches, and strawberries. We went to a local park and relaxed in the sun for a few hours.

I painted a big flower pot and donated in her/their name to the World Wildlife Fund. I adopted a blue-footed booby. It's awesome. And blue.
And some random photos from the week:

How can such an evil weed be so beautiful?
There is wisdom in those timeless, terra cotta eyes.
From me,
to you, Happy Mother's Day.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

My Day in Pictures

Today is an overcast day that hasn't quite fully committed to being gray. The sun makes an appearance occasionally, as do large raindrops that splat on my head.

It is a quiet day. My sluggish thoughts are interrupted by the birds singing happily.

My day in pictures: