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A Lot Of Nothing In The Name Of Procrastination And The News…

By Kiki Keane

Rachel is still MIA. She has moved into her new place, but is without internet until tomorrow. I have been busy shopping for the trip and trying not to die in this terrible heat. I am sitting in my Papasan trying to protect my cup of coffee from my caffeine loving cat, Alia Atreides (Alia or Ollie for short) and studiously avoiding reading my book club book, Istanbul Passage. I want to read it. I do. I just … I’m a champion procrastinator. And lazy. (I think we have more than established that fact on this blog.) In fact, I am writing this post not because I have anything to say, but because I am avoiding the 133 pages I have to read today. If the procrastination goes as planned, I will have 266 pages to read tomorrow or the entirety of the book to read on Saturday.

I finished my orientation, or onboarding as the folks at Toonari call it, on Tuesday, which means that I can/should start turning out stories. I might try to get that War Tax piece we mentioned a few months back published on Toonari before I go. No one else seems particularly interested in it.

Besides shopping and studiously avoiding the things I should be doing, I have also seriously considered and decided to get rid of my Facebook account. I really love social media. I love being able to connect with all kinds of people all over the world. However, Facebook has been making me claustrophobic lately. Also, it’s a time suck. I sometimes feel that way about Twitter, but Twitter has been more useful than Facebook. Twitter has allowed me to connect with journalists, activists and others around the world, most of whom seem willing to help each other with their various pursuits. That does not mean that I won’t be purging some accounts that I follow. I will be sticking to a few friends, the news, activists and journos. That may only get rid of 100 or so accounts, but probably a 1000 or more tweets a day. I love Scott Baio, but I don’t care about his, or any of his fans, junk drawers.

And the news:

1) Herehere and here are Richard Engel’s latest on Syria. And here is a piece by CNN’s Ben Wedeman. Also, Assad has picked a new PM. This article is from NBC News (formerly MSNBC) and includes a few other pieces on Syria. And Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi is expected to replace Kofi Annan as the UN-Arab League envoy for Syria.

2) Libya has picked Magarief to be president.

3) The murder trial of Gu Kailai started and ended today.

4) Here you will find the hottest places on Earth.

5) In Mali militias train to oust Islamists.

6) This isn’t news, but it’s an interesting article written by Douglas Preston about the time he spent in Italy trying to solve a string of 14 murders committed by a serial killer dubbed “The Monster of Florence.” He wrote a book about it called The Monster of Florence.

 

 

Categories: Adventure, Books, Life, Media, Nerd, Procrastination, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It Is A Truth Universally Acknowledged That When One Is In Need Of A New Pair Of Pants No Store Within A 300 Mile Radius Will Have A Single, Solitary Pair In Your Size…

By Kiki Keane

Ugh! I’ve dropped several dress sizes this year, which means that I have to do the thing I dread the most: Shop. I hate shopping. I really, really do. I thought I would love it. I thought things would be easier. Sad truth is, it still takes going to every store within a 300 miles radius to find a single pair of jeans in my size! Where did they all go? Everything below an 8 that does not show one’s ass-crack or cut off one’s circulation have disappeared from the shelves of New Mexican stores. Also, size 6 shoes. They have all vanished. I suspect everyone has been replaced by body snatching pod-people with large feet. Or maybe (Gulp!) I’m the pod-person…

Okay. Enough grumbling.

I really wish that I had something interesting to write about, but my life is currently uneventful. (I know. I know. Enjoy it while I can!) One would think with all this downtime, I would find something productive to do. I have not. I have not studied Arabic. I have not read more than 30 pages in a book. I have not read my book club selection. I have not exercised. Mostly, I just move from my bed to my Papasan and back with a few trips to the kitchen. Okay. That’s a bit of an exaggeration. I’ve made some trips to the library for books I most likely won’t read. I have also gone on a wild book hunt for used mass market copies of my favorite noir novels. (I can handle anything except an extended period without my hardboiled private dicks and femmes fatales.)  I came up mostly empty. I can find them in trade and ebook form online, but trade are big and sometimes heavy and I just can’t carry all that with me on my travels. And there is just something repulsive about reading classic noir on a kindle. However, I did find my favorite Science Fiction novel, Invasion Of the Body Snatchers, in a first edition Dell mass market. It’s a little musty and little worse for wear, but at least I’ll be able to take it with me! I’ll also be able to have my favorite spy (007) with me.

Needless to say, all this moving from bed to chair to bed has left little time for news gathering. I am not proud. However, I have been paying some attention. Here and here are the latest from Richard Engel who is still in Syria.

Categories: Books, Life, Nerd, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

We Are Back! No, Really! We Are! Promise!

By Kiki Keane and Rachel Womek

Okay. We have been really, really, really bad at this whole blog thing as of late. Rachel is still in the process of moving into her new place and I have been busy reducing my life into a backpack and medium sized duffle bag and watching a truly terrible show called Femme Fatale. It’s like driving by a car wreak; you know it’s wrong to look, but you do it anyway.

Also, I would like to share some happy news. I will be working for Toonari Post. It is unpaid and I still have to go through orientation, but I least I will have a place to publish and an extra set of news credentials. Yay!

For our first collective blog in weeks we are going to share our new goals. I don’t remember what mine were, but it’s a safe bet that I didn’t do them. I swear I’m going to get better at this whole followthrough thing.

New Goals:

Kiki:

1) Read a fiction book 2) Finish one of the trip related books 3) Make a Visa decision (they still aren’t answering the phone or responding to email)

Rachel

I do not remember my previous goals either but it is a fairly safe assumption that I have completed few to none of them.  Here are my new goals:

1) Complete a book either fiction or non-fiction 2) Work on my credit card issue (the issue is I don’t have one!) 3) Complete the moving process 4)Relax a little bit

Moving is really no fun, I can only console myself with the fact that soon I will be in a new home. There are 5 or 6, no joke, FOR RENT signs up in front of my house so at least once a day somebody comes by poking their head into the windows and asking me 5o questions about the place. Couple that with the fact that the tiny widow air conditioner is so completely ineffective that I cannot sleep  more than a few hours a night due to the stifling heat and you have a very cranky Rachel indeed. Yesterday I rode the bus for an hour simply because it was air conditioned.

In Other News:

I (Kiki) thought I would have to avoid the news for the duration of the Olympics, but thankfully news organizations have been good about putting other news on their websites. So, I have been able to avoid that jock-fueled, Nationalist weirdness as I read/watch the news. Although, I haven’t been able to filter out the Olympics completely. As it turns out this is the first time that all nations taking part in the games have women on their teams and there are two Saudi Arabia women able to participate.

Here are some stories I’ve been following:

1) Syrian rebels finally got a couple of missiles and Assad is rallying the troops. Also, Foreign policy experts urge US to get involved in Syria.

2) Is Mali a haven for Al Queda?

3) Clinton will be making her first visit to South Sudan.

4) The situation is deteriorating in eastern Congo.

5) Violence nearly at two-year peak in Iraq.

6) Netanyahu told Panetta that time for a peaceful solution to the Iran nuclear dispute is running out.

This isn’t news, but I love this article (the book is about to come out). It’s a wonderfully articulate article (with lots of examples) about why some of the most touted “literary” writers are actually bad writers. He makes a very valid point: just because you don’t understand what the heck they’re saying, doesn’t mean they’re literary or that your stupid. Actually, it most likely means they are actually bad writers.

 

Categories: Adventure, Books, Goals, Journalism, Life, Media, Nerd, Uncategorized, Work | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Apologies But Life Avoidance Was Necessary, Or Why Are Women’s Sneakers So Annoyingly Colorful?

By Kiki Keane

I apologize for the long absence. Rachel has been busy getting ready to move into her new apartment and I have been very distracted by Blossom and Two Guys, A Girl and A Pizza Place. I had no idea they had been put on DVD. I became obsessed. It was real ugly there for awhile.

The daily 90s sitcom marathons were no doubt an exercise in avoidance. Between dancing along with Blossom and Six and swooning over Nathan Fillion and Ryan Reynolds (together!) I had little time to freakout over the Visa situation (no one answers phones or emails), the lack of decently colored women’s sneakers (Why is everything white or neon and pastel? Whatever happened to just plain black?), the lack of “modest” but attractive dresses (Why are the only options skintight and Daisy Duke short or grandma?), the lack of real jeans options (again, skintight or mom or grandma), the fact that my Amazon purchases for the trip have been delivered but have not actually been delivered (they supposedly arrived a week ago) and I am six weeks away from the biggest life change I have ever had (and I have had a few) and I have no idea what I am doing. I’m not someone who “wings it.” I am planner and worrier and a freaker-outer (silently) and there is just no way to plan this kind of thing. Not really. Not in any kind of detail.

Okay. Enough of the drama. How about some actual important drama? Forgive me if these stories are out of date.

Here is the latest on Syria: Richard Engel is in Syria and here are his reports for Nightly News on Tuesday and Thursday and on Today. Richard Engel’s analysis of the situation and on the Shabiha and the rebel’s justice. Al Jeezera’s latest on Aleppo. CNN’s latest on Damascus and Aleppo. Here is the latest from NBCNews. This one is a bit old, but just in case you haven’t seen it: Richard Engel’s Rock Center report on his last trip to Syria a few weeks ago.

Here is a bit about Iraq: There were a 103 people killed in Tuesday’s blasts and according to CNN, suspected Al Qaeda militants clashed with security forces on Thursday.

Here is some news out of Egypt: Morsy appointed a new Prime Minister on Tuesday.

Here is a domestic story:  A short NBCNews story on the massive synthetic drug bust that happened recently. I put it here only because one of the stores that was raided is a local one. I always find it amusing and annoying that the only time New Mexico makes the national news is for something bad.

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Vaccinations, Passports And Goals

By: Rachel Womek

Mwahaha…Kiki is taking a break while I fill your heads with whatever nonsense I desire.

I have some personal good news! I received my passport today and officially asked for time off work for Egypt! I am feeling very excited and nervous.

it’s goal time!

Here are my old goals and how I did. I said I would finish a book and not star any new books, I did not finish anything but I also did not start anything. I’m giving myself a .50 for accomplishing the second half of my goal. I said I would watch a movie and i did. I saw Cabin in The Woods which I would entirely recommend. Joss Whedon can do no wrong. I said I would feel good about myself, some days I did, some not as much. Lastly I promised to write haiku which I did and posted one in an earlier blog.

New Goals:

1)Finish a book already! 2) Apply for credit cards 3) Don’t panic!

Here are Kiki’s goals:

Kiki accomplished non of her goals from last week but we can understand because she has a lot on her plate. She did get vaccinated for tetanus, meningitis and yellow fever so she has completed some trip related actions. Here are her new goals in her own words.

1) Finish a book. Any book. 2) Read some trip related literature 3) Cut down on TV watching (except the news) 4) Figure out that Visa thing 5) Smile once a day. A real smile.

I worked some on the Visa thing, but no answers the phone or email…

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

A Trip to the ABQ, Haiku, Tarantulas, Age Related Vision Problems AND The News

By Kiki Keane and Rachel Womek

Pardon our absence, but we have been busy social bees the last few days. Yesterday was filled with adventure (a trip to Albuquerque) and pain (Kiki had to get her Yellow Fever, Tetanus and Meningitis shots). We also ate more than any human being should be allowed consume. We went to an amazing restaurant called The Elephant Bar and had quantities of ultra delicious food that it surely had crack mixed into it. (Kiki wishes to state that the food was good, but would not go so far drug-laced.)  We also visited the mall, a great bookstore called Page One and Trader Joe’s, which we don’t have in our corner of New Mexico. We drove and drove. We passed the Very Large Array, which I (Rachel) very much wanted to see but alas it was too late in the day and we did not have the time.

Light filtering through

Blue-white cirrus clouds above.

Rio Grande gleaming.

I (Rachel) was very excited to find on my porch today a package of much anticipated tarantulas. Two Poecilotheria subfusca spiderlings which are, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful off all tarantula species. These guys are not for beginners though, they have precise temperature requirements and they possess a medically significant bite. I also got a freebie Phormictopus cancerides. For the sake of Kiki we will imagine I received a box of three precious kitties.

My (Kiki) day was not nearly as exciting. I got a new pair of glasses and then had to buy some reading glasses to use  when I wear my contacts. This is what happens when you age. Not only does your distance vision worsen, but have to correct the part of your vision that was perfect before.

On a less happy note: The News

1) Today is the anniversary of the genocide in Srebrenica

2) Women protested the public shooting of a woman in Afghanistan

3) Photographer and Richard Engel remember Marie Colvin

4) More on Syria

Categories: Adventure, Books, Journalism, Life, Media, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Chaotic Thoughts, Enduring Friendships, Change, Unlocking The Shackles Of Home, Spies And The News, Or Happiness Found…

By Kiki Keane

My thoughts have been chaotic lately. I fly from one lame thought to another, never staying long enough to get comfortable, which is kind of how I live my life and is a core part of who I am. You could probably call me a quitter. I mean how many novels and stories have I left unfinished, movies half watched, books unread? How many colleges and universities did I attend and how many majors did I have? How many friends have I happily let drift away because to keep them was to much work? How many places have I left because to stay was to be shackled? Why shouldn’t my brain work the same way? That is a long-winded way of letting you know that the following post will be about whatever things my brain chooses to vomit. You have been warned.

I was talking to my oldest friend about a week ago. We have known each other for ten years, which is no small feat considering my commitment phobia and that my longest previous friendship lasted maybe two years. One reason our friendship has endured is because I feel no real pressure to keep it going. For example, I know that I could (though I wouldn’t want to) go for a year or more without speaking to her and it would be no big deal. And if we should see each other again we would treat each other the same. Time and distance is nothing, really. Anyway, we were talking about how much we’ve changed over the years. She has seen me turn from a shy, rainbow scarf wearing, romantic, heart-on-my-sleave idealist complete with rose-colored glasses and a penchant for falling into one unrequited “relationship” after another and into the somewhat jaded, snarky, emotionally unavailable, relatively assertive, decidedly unromantic, eye-rolling, soon to be adventurer that is before you. And she’s changed just as dramatically. So, I guess it’s change that I’ve been thinking about. Not just how we change or that we change, but how we don’t. I’m still an idealist, I just understand moral ambiguity and grayness and impossible choices now. I still want a grand romance, I just don’t need it. I’m still nice, but I’ll be damned if I let you dismiss me.

We also talked about our nomadic lives. Neither of us can stay in one place long without experiencing depression, anxiety and, at least for me, physical pain. We even experience a kind of claustrophobia on behalf of others who have never experienced the freedom and happiness that comes from leaving behind “the fetters of habit, the leaden weight of Routine, the cloak of many cares and the Slavery of Home” (Richard F. Burton). Don’t get me wrong. I envy those who are content in their lives, those who don’t feel shackled and enslaved by obligations, family, friends and their local physical boundaries. I envy those who have never wondered what it would be like to ride a camel through the Sahara, or never needed to touch the Pyramids for themselves, or experience first hand the wars we see on TV and all that comes with it, or require nothing more than a picture or a travelers words to experience the greater world, or those who do not need to know for themselves why the wonders of the world are so…wonderful. I like to pretend that a nomadic life style is one of true freedom, but the truth is that every nomad is slave to the wind. Whenever it blows we are compelled to follow it to wherever it may lead us.

On a different note, I have also been thinking great deal about spies. Why? Because they are fascinating people and because I could never be one. I prefer fictional spies though, especially the outlandish ones, like 007. Of course, 007 may have been based on a real person. Geoffrey Gorden-Creed claimed to be the inspiration for Ian Flemings, James Bond. If he is to believed, I would say that my previous statement was wrong, or at least not entirely informed, as Gorden-Creed was perhaps more fascinating than his fictional counterpart, certainly a less discriminating seducer (if what he said is true than he would make Casanova look chaste). Here is The Daily Mail‘s article on him. Here is Alan Furst’s @Google talk. Lastly, here is Jennet Conant’s C-Span talk/reading about Julia and Paul Childs time in the OSS.

And not to disappoint, here are some news stories I’ve been keeping an eye on.

1) Richard Engel just got back from a trip to Syria and shared what it’s like there at the moment and also some analysis of what Clinton’s criticism of Russia means if anything.

2) Some DRC news

3) Libyans vote

4) New commitment to Afghanistan 

5) I may have shared this and this before, but the destruction of historical sites really angers me. I especially have a fondness for Timbuktu and grieve for the destruction that it has suffered the last few weeks.

Categories: Adventure, Books, Elections, Journalism, Life, Media, Nerd, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Musings on Life, Liberty and The Pursuit Of The Higgs Boson Plus World News

By: Kiki Keane and Rachel Womek

We hope that you Constant Reader’s had a happy Higg’s Boson Day. I know I (Rachel) did! Kiki was apathetic. If you haven’t seen the story and video of the researchers announcing that they have discovered a particle consistent with a Higg’s Boson it can be seen here. What an amazing breakthrough in the advancement of our understanding of the Universe! Congratulations to Peter Higgs and all the researchers at the LHC! This is truly a momentous historical occasion and a great prize to anyone with the wonder and curiosity to explore our reality.

It was also the Fourth of July, once my (Kiki’s) favorite holiday. Fireworks were awesome when I was a kid. But, like Christmas and Halloween, Independence Day has lost its sparkle with the onset of adulthood. Actually, I had forgotten that it was the Fourth of July until my friend called to see if I wanted to go to the city show. I realized at that moment that I was drinking English Breakfast Tea and watching British mysteries. Apparently, somewhere in my twenties, I turned loyalist.

I, Rachel, haven’t been patriotic in years and I intend to keep it that way. In my opinion slavish dedication to demarcated portions of land creates great boundary to equal human rights, and while I’m proud that our Forefathers stood up against an oppressive government today our so called Independence Day has become in fact a celebration of oppressive government. Can’t we instead celebrate something like the discovery of the Higg’s Boson, a testament to the beautiful aspects of human nature that can resonate throughout the world? Here, Kiki roles her eyes, not out of disagreement, exactly, but because Rachel is literature made real–she is Fanny Price made flesh, but without the whole marrying her cousin thing. No mindlessness for this gal! Unless of course, it’s in Skyrim…

Here’s some news:

Iran says it can attack Israel and US military bases minutes after an attack.

Pakistan supply rout reopened.

Here are some cool words people don’t really use anymore and they are nicely illustrated.

Here is a Smithsonian post about a really weird, decades old, unsolved death (they don’t even know how the guy died).

We had plenty more to blog about, but there is a man here who is insanely distracting and not in a good way, so we are ending this here and blog more tomorrow.

Categories: Celebration, Free Speech, Life, Nerd, Social Equity, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Goals, Jonesing For A Hitchcock Marathon, Exploding Things And The Lack Of Good Manners, Tomb Raiders, Or Why Is It So Friggin’ Hard To Answer The Gorram Phone?

By Kiki Keane

Rachel had a dinner engagement tonight that did not end until late, so I have been tasked with writing our weekly goal blog. And without further preamble…

Kiki:

I can’t believe how terrible Rachel and I have been about keeping up with this blog. I guess having time and access to the internet has not, for me, been conducive to productivity. Unless you consider watching all the available seasons of Rizzoli and Isles productive.

For those of you who have been reading this blog for the last few months the following will not be much of a surprise to you: I did not accomplish a single goal. Hey! Why break my streak? Wouldn’t want to disappoint! However, I did actually attempt to figure out the Visa thing, but apparently those who work at the consulates and Embassy only work for four hours a day and don’t like to answer their phones when they are suppose to be at work. I got a pretty speedy response to email, but it didn’t actually answer my question. Finally, today I was able to get through to the people at the Chicago consulate, but it has only added a possible problem. So annoying. If I ran the world things would run smoothly and there would be no Visas and anyone who was unhelpful would deal with the Red Queen!

So my new goals are the same as my last. Lets hope I don’t discover any new TV series or movies. Although, I am jonesing for a Hitchcock marathon…

1) Finish a book. Any book. 2) Read some trip related literature 3) Cut down on TV watching (except the news) 4) Figure out that Visa thing 5) Smile once a day. A real smile.

Before I move on to Rachel’s goals, I want to pass on Richard Engel’s interesting piece on tomb raiders in Egypt post revolution.

Also, I may have been sheltered as kid (which is funny considering I lived in Hawaii, several towns in New York and spent summers in Japan all before the age of 10), but I was shocked when I moved to New Mexico and I saw that people set up tents where they sell lots and lots and lots of exploding things around the fourth of July and people buy those exploding things and then make them explode at 11 o’clock AT NIGHT waking the slumbering person minding her own business, having pleasant dreams about pie that makes you lose weight when you eat it… I’m all for celebration and exploding things, but I prefer them at reasonable hour. I mean, causing loud explosions late at night is just bad manners.

Rachel:

Rachel did not finish a book, but she started three: Anna Karenina, A Brief History of Time by Stephan Hawking, and Relativity by Albert Einstein. She did not watch a movie, but she did watch several episodes of Bones and a few debates. She says that she was cheery on some days and not so cheery on others (I can’t verify the cherry days ’cause I don’t think I was there for them…). I was there for the prank call to our friend about Hairy Balls.

Her new goals are: 1) Actually finish a book instead of starting several new books 2) Watch a movie 3) Feel good about herself 4) Write Haiku

Collective Goals:

Practice Arabic and write blog posts!

Categories: Adventure, Books, Goals, Life, Media, Nerd, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Goals, News, Movies and Science Stuff, Or Why Life Is Exciting (Or Not)…

By Kiki Keane and Rachel Womek

Well. Here we are again. It’s goal time. Maybe this week we will actually accomplish something! (Kiki is trying to be positive, here.)

Kiki:

I think it’s obvious that I accomplished nothing the last two weeks. Unless you count watching four seasons of Psych and two movies an accomplishment, in which case I would be golden!

1) Finish a book. Any book. 2) Read some trip related literature 3) Cut down on TV watching (except the news) 4) Figure out that Visa thing 5) Smile once a day. A real smile.

Rachel:

I read The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest and I watched a ton of movies this weekend, well three movies and one 10 hour mini series which I think counts as a movie since mini series are basically really long movies and are usually put out on DVD as such. Other than that I have been useless.

1) Finish a book…after finishing The Girl With The DragonTattoo trilogy I have been in a reading slump 2) Watch a movie 3) Be of general good cheer 4) Leave prank messages on the topic of hairy balls on various friend’s phones

Joint Goals

1) Don’t be depressed 2) Study Arabic

Other Stuff:

As you probably know, Egypt elected it’s very first president the other day. Morsi (and the Muslim Brotherhood) is the Big Man now. We hope it doesn’t impact our trip in a negative way. Here and here is the latest from MSNBC. Also, here and here is some analysis on what it means for Egypt and for America and the world.

In Iraq news, 43 news outlets have been forced to close due to issues with broadcast licensing.

There is a new Anna Karenina coming out soon. Kiki is super excited. They better not mess it up. In preparation for this, we and our friend, Dulce, will be reading (or rereading) the book. Wish us luck.

We also discovered that Odd Thomas will be made into a movie soon. Kiki is moderately excited about this piece of information.

Also exciting: Researchers at the Large Hadron Collider plan to make an announcement regarding the search for the Higg’s Boson at the International Conference on High Energy Physics  in Australia! Rachel is very excited about this, Kiki on the other hand doesn’t give a crap.

 

Categories: Books, Elections, Goals, Life, Media, Nerd, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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