Elections

I Am A Lazy Procrastinator With A TV Addiction…

By Kiki Keane

So… I have been absent for awhile. Again. I think we have established that I am a lazy procrastinator with a TV addiction, so I won’t bore you with excuses. Nothing much has changed since the last couple of posts except that I have traded in forensics for a holiday movie binge. Also, I have a new kitten. Her name is Haniya. She enjoys sleeping on my lap and attacking feet.

Other than the above mentioned, it has been life as usual. “How can that be?” you ask. “You live in a country that has been in the news non-stop for weeks!” you might exclaim. “The man that rules your adopted country is being likened to a Pharaoh by, well, everyone! He made weird, ambiguous comments about Planet of the Apes!” you might argue. To which I can only reply with the following: I am a lazy procrastinator with a TV addiction. I will also add, though I hate admitting it, that awful parasite called Writer’s Block, which took hold of the fiction part of me ten years ago, has spread to the non-fiction part. Maybe I’m trying to hard or not hard enough. I don’t know. I take comfort in the fact that Fran Lebowitz has suffered from it for 30 years.

I decided to try and set weekly goals for myself again. I know what you’re thinking. Why bother? I didn’t finish a single one before, why would this time be different? It might not be, but I have to try something. And yes, I do know what Einstein said about insanity.

Goals for the week of 30 Nov – 7 Dec

1) Finish Fall of Giants

2) Work related writing 1 hour a day

3) Certification work 1-2 hours a day

4) Blog related writing at least 2x a week

5) Fiction related writing 1 hour a day

6) Clean something (you have no idea how hard that is for me)

Categories: Adventure, Books, Elections, Goals, Journalism, Life, Nerd, Procrastination, Work | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

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

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

Delicious Science, Honest Abe Kills Non-Sparkly Vamps, Books Are Heart-Cockle Warmers And How ‘Bout Those Elections?

By: Kiki Keane and Rachel Womek

Science, delicious, delicious science. I (Rachel) watched a great Ted Talk by Brian Greene earlier about string theory and the multiverse. My favorite thing he said was that the multiverse is “a great cosmic bubble-bath of Universes”, grab your rubber duckies people! I also watched some stuff with Richard Dawkins whom I like a lot, even though he is a bit extreme. He’s not a big fan of agnostics like me, but I can forgive that for his snarky attitude, and I love snark. That is why I am friends with a certain journalist.

I’ve been watching these because I am petsitting and largely deprived of going out for long periods of time, playing Skyrim, and I already finished my book. Sadness.

Last night I did go out and see two movies though, not something I normally do, and I am happy to report that I did so without getting a migraine. I saw Prometheus and, with Kiki, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. They were both good, in completely different ways, and I would recommend either.

Sadly, my (Kiki) life is not very exciting. This week was spent mostly in isolation watching Psych and the news. Last night I decided to go back to the land of the living.  As Rachel mentioned, we went to see Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (from here on out, ABVH). If you know me at all, you that I am 1) Snarky 2) A Purist and 3) A Party-pooper, especially when it comes to messing with history, my favorite things and/or my childhood. I admit, ABVH was entertaining. I enjoy fictional gore, vampires (not the sparkly kind), general badassery and Rufus Sewell’s big Brown (Hazel?) eyes and husky voice. But I LOVE Abraham Lincoln and history with a passion that I cannot fully express in words and to mess with my beloved president and history, creates in me a kind of eye-twitching irritation. The historical party-pooper in me wants to shake people and say, “Is nothing sacred?” On the other hand, as someone pointed out to me, this might be the only way that people will learn about Honest Abe, which is a sad commentary on our educational system.

In my isolation, I also did a lot of online shopping, mostly in the free Kindle book department. I love free books. Just wish they were “real” books. Nothing warms the cockles of the heart like the smell and feel of a beloved book, or any book, really.

So, how about those Egyptian elections? Here’s the latest from NBC Nightly News.

Categories: Books, Bull, Elections, Free Speech, Life, Media, Nerd, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Lots Of Troubling News And A Brief Ode To The Power Of A Good Traveler’s Tale On The Young

By Kiki Keane

More news from Egypt today. According to MSNBC, Mubarak was sentenced to life for the deaths of protesters just over a year ago. He could have been sentenced to death. Also on trial were his cronies and sons. His interior minister, Habib el-Adli, was also given a life sentence. Mubarak’s sons, Gamal and Alaa were acquitted on corruption charges. The rulings sparked protest in Tahrir Square, Alexandria and Suez.

Here is another piece on the story from NBC Nightly News.

Sadly, this week I have not been watching/reading the news as much as I usually do. However, I have managed to watch NBC Nightly news most evenings and I was glad to find that there was an interview done with Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak about Israel’s intentions toward Iran should they insist on going forward with their nuclear program. Here is the story for Nightly News and here is the extended interview (web only). The report is by Richard Engel.

There’s lots of other interesting and important international news stories. The growth and appeal of al-Shabaab in Africa, Taylor’s 50 year jail sentence for ‘brutal crimes,’ Syria’s trouble is spilling over into Lebanon, al-Qaeda in Yemen and the latest in Syria, of course.

Here is a Frontline piece on al-Qaeda in Yemen. Ghaith Abdul-Ahad and producer Jamie Doran are very brave souls.

I have also been following the news in Mali, which frankly hasn’t been getting much attention. And why would it? It doesn’t have much to interest foreign powers. But Mali has always had a certain allure for me, ever since a woman professing to be some sort of missionary in Mali came to the local church and into my Sunday School class and told us wild stories of her time there. She turned out be a fraud and cheat, but those stories sparked something in me and I promised myself that I would go there one day. Anyway, the events of the last few months would make a trip there very difficult, especially to the al-Qaeda dominated northern cities, like Timbuktu. Though I try not to shy away from danger, it may be awhile before I make it there.

So the latest news is that the al-Qaeda linked Ansar Dine and the National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad, or the MNLA (led by the Tauregs) signed an agreement Saturday, but disagree on how strictly to impose Islamic or Sharia Law. It seems that African groups that want to implement Sharia Law are on the rise: al-Shabaab in Somalia, Boko Haram in Nigeria and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (Algeria).

Okay. I think I’m done depressing everyone now.

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

Happy And Sad News, Haiku And Two Grievances, Or Why We Are Cranky…

By Kiki Keane and Rachel Womek

The results of the Egyptian election have come in and the results are disappointing for some. The choices are the Brotherhood’s Mursi and former PM Shafiq. The future might be bleak for Egypt. Here’s Richard Engel’s analysis of what could happen if either man is elected. He doesn’t really see much of a silver lining.

Sadly, there was another deadly attack in Syria today. Ninety-two people were killed, 32 of which were children. This is the deadliest attack since the peace plan took affect April 12, 2012. According to Al Jazeera, the Free Syrian Army will no longer abide by the ceasefire if the UN does not take “urgent steps for the protection of civilians.” Ban Ki-moon and Kofi Annan have officially condemned the attacks in “the strongest possible terms,” said UN spokesman Martin Nesirky. Here is the Al Jazeera report. And here is Engel’s report of NBC Nightly News.

In happier news my (Rachel’s) middle brother graduated from High School earlier this week! New Mexico has a shockingly bad school system: I believe the graduation rate is about 63%. The school my brother went to is the best charter school in the state with a 97% graduation rate. The school centers their learning around the arts. My brother graduated as a Culinary Artist and won an award for culinary excellence as well as an award for the biggest comeback: going from very poor behavior and grades to the top Culinary Artist in his school. Congratulations Arthur! 

 

Silver safety pins

Ornament the tassled cap.

May graduation.

 

In light of world events, the following is no doubt frivolous and silly. However, Rachel and I are sitting here in one of our local bookstores stewing in annoyance. We are annoyed for different reasons. I am annoyed at the couple with a baby. Normally, I’d be annoyed at the baby, but right now all I think is that poor kid doesn’t stand a chance. The kid is old enough to walk, but is unsteady. He’s still in diapers. Still requires a stroller. He is remarkably well behaved. The child wandered a bit, but was close enough and wary enough that he did not move beyond his parents reach. The mother told the little boy to “come here.” The child, a bit distracted by all the things around him stayed where he stood. Again, with in his mother’s easy reach. The father (I assume) stood up, picked up the child, hit him and lectured him. Now, I’m no expert, but in my, admittedly limited experience, a child that young does not understand much of what is being said to him. And he didn’t deserve to be hit. Now that man has right to raise his child as he sees fit and I’m not objecting to reasonable discipline for a wrong action. By the violence with which the man spoke to kid and the force he used to pick him up and hit him seemed way out of proportion for the situation.  I mean, I was a bit scared for the kid. The guy was obviously frustrated and upset about something, but that’s no reason to act that way. He could have easily hurt the little boy. And if he overreacts to something so small what’s to say he won’t really hurt the kid next time. The whole thing reminded me of those people who kick their dogs. The lady, though, upset me more. What was her reply? A very nice, “Thank you, baby!” Thank you? Really? Really? 

That bothers me (Rachel) too. I don’t condone any violence; especially not violence towards children or animals. 

Another thing that is bothering me is the name of one of the blended coffee drinks in the establishment we are currently patronizing. They are selling a blended coffee drink they are calling a “Spicy Buddha”. This bothers me because I know that no establishment in this country; at least not one as widespread as this one would ever dare to offend the major religion in this country and create a “Spicy Jesus” drink, but they have no such compunctions about a less mainstream religion. In my view if an establishment is going to make light of religious figures they should do so equally. Maybe a Spicy Buddha and a Funky Jesus? Or, probably the wisest course, they should steer clear of any such references. 

Categories: Elections, Free Speech, Journalism, Life, Media, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Egypt’s Presidential Election Matters And Other Important News, Or Why I’ve Become An Obsessive…

By Kiki Keane 

History is being made as I write. Egyptians have spent the last two days voting in their first free presidential elections. Ever. Why is this important? Well…the elections have the potential to change Egypt and the Middle East and have huge implications for the U.S. and Israel. Here is an analysis by Richard Engel of who is running and why the elections matter to us. I wish I were there to witness this historical event, but I will have to content myself with obsessive news gathering…

Here are some reports about the elections from CNN, MSNBC and Al Jazeera.

Al Jazeera — latest news and has lots of links to other stories about the elections

CNN –has some interesting videos toward the bottom

MSNBC — Most of these are by Richard Engel: Egypt at a crossroads , Voters head to the pulls, Election makes history, Richard Engel’s interview with Carter, Politics is a new family affair

In other news: 

Iran nuclear talks

Vegas grocer accused of war crimes sent to Bosnia

Syria violence spreads to Lebanon

Inside Syria

Drone strike hits Mosque, kills 10 in Pakistan 

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

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