Showing posts with label news. Show all posts
Showing posts with label news. Show all posts

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Joaquin's Creepy Mustache, and Her

Well, that was certainly unexpected. And expected.

Stefan and I spent a couple days watching the Oscar-winning drama Her, and both came away with the feelings of being impressed, creeped out, informed, and well, entertained.

The plot is a modern take on a 1984-esque story. The main character, Theo, played by Joaquin and his creepy mustache (and yes, the mustache was a perfect fit for the character!), falls in love with his computer, Samantha, a female companion 'matched' for him from a series of questions. Scarlett Johannson plays the perfect body-less, sexy voice of the artificial intelligence, who 'learns' as she is used. Think charging your car battery while you run the car, but in a much more complex way.

As Theo is finalizing a divorce, he starts to spend most of his free time with Samantha, who quickly becomes his girlfriend. The other characters try to accept this new 'different' lifestyle, as a lot of people in the culture have started dating their computers, and most take to Samantha very well. Theo's soon to be ex-wife,  Catherine, is the only one who calls him out on it, telling him he has to take an artificial being because he can't deal with real feelings and real people.

The thing, though, about this movie, is that it was presented as futuristic, but our culture is much closer to this than Huxley's Brave New World was to him. The plot of a person becoming enamored with the internet, artificial reality, and a personality found through software is either happening currently or we're teetering near the edge, as a culture, so closely it's hard to say this is distant future science fiction.

Samantha can never put a finger (see what I did there?) on her feelings, but because she is learning new things all the time, she experiences, learns, and grows almost exponentially. She writes music for Theo (amazing soundtrack, by the way, music by Arcade Fire), helps him achieve a goal through his work, and becomes friends with his friends, all as a voice and a personality turned on by beeping an earplug. It's completely wild. And completely realistic. And really intriguing. The setting was a large metropolitan area, similar to Tokyo or Shanghai with architecture similarly found in those cities, adding to the virtual reality consumption believability.

In one scene, Theo has a near panic attack because he can't find Samantha. The computer program reads something to the effect of "offline". He's in the subway system and every single person there is talking out loud, also to their own artificial companion, and the audience realizes how lonely these people all are, and if they'd just communicate with the people they come into contact with, they'd be living much more balanced lives. Instead, they dissolve into these bizarre mind-prisons where they have chosen to believe that their computer 'gets them' better than anyone else; friends, family, neighbors. They've all but given up on each other, and have forgotten that with a few randomly asked questions and a chosen preference for a male or female voice, they have created their own fake god, and it's modeled after themselves.

I don't want to give any spoilers, but I do think this movie is worth the watch, there is so much going on under the surface. Spike Jonze has created a world so closely resembling ours, where virtual reality and the internet has completely taken over human engagement, and the struggle it is to reach the surface of true emotion, real world commitment, and trust. 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

It's Pouring

I just got back from the car repair shop, this time in Bellingham, for the second day in a row. It's way past the kids' quiet time for the day (also known as MY time limit of noise, questions, interruptions, and broken brain synapses), also for the second day in a row. We were out of bread this morning, so I had to make do and pack a too-small lunch for us to eat in the tiny lobby of the repair shop. Boy, have we had a time of it. 

The reason we were in the shop was because our back alignment was out of whack, causing our tires to be bald on the inside corner of them. The tread was so bad that on our trip to Peachland, Stefan had to spend some time rotating the back to the front, just so they wouldn't be a road hazard. We still had to get down the mountains! We made it safely home (me, not without a stomachache) and yesterday they diagnosed and then today repaired the back alignment. After a $2,350 repair in February (yes, you really did read that number right), this was just another notch in the stick of how our life has been these past few months. Today's bill would have been less than $400, except some of the pieces were completely rusted and it took them an extra hour (of labor, using the torch, etc.) to even get TO the things they needed to replace. It turned out to be very near $600. 

This is how our year has been. One after another. We have had some very generous family members and friends give us money when we didn't expect it, nor ask for it, and that has helped a lot. It doesn't even come close to the tip of the iceberg on of the rotten financial pile that has stacked up around us, without our consent, and with months of living on a shoestring. That shoestring is now threads. We're living on the threads of a worn shoestring! 

When Stefan first accepted the job in Richmond, the Canadian and American currencies were dang near equal. The Canadian dollar had been strong for a long time. Around summer-time it really started to drop, and it has been slowly dropping ever since. So what? Well, living in the States, and working in Canada (with only the one income) means every time Stefan brings home his bi-weekly paycheck, just crossing the 49th parallel (ahem, our backyard), we loose hundreds of dollars. In the past 10 months, we've lost over $5,000 this way. Yup, you read that number right, too. We're actually living in a very expensive part of the country, with less than we lived on back in Lincoln, Nebraska, a very cheap place to live. Every month, money we desperately need to pay off things like those silly car repairs literally disappears. Did we mention Canadians have a higher tax rate than Americans? So yeah. 

We're paying higher taxes while unable to reap any of the benefits meanwhile loosing hundreds of dollars just by crossing the line. 

We've always had pretty straightforward taxes every year, and we get quite a bit back because we have children and have charitable donations. I really wondered how taxes for us would go this year, because of our strange situation. Well, we got our taste of that, too, and it's sour. Our accountant, whom we felt could quite possibly be the worst accountant in the area, charged us $315 (!!!) to have them done, while missing tax day, April 16 (!!!!!) and having them for over two months (!!!!!!!!!!). Add another $110 Canadian charge for the Canadian accountant she works with, so we file with them, and we're up to $425 to find out we OWE over a thousand dollars. Unbelievable. We got a decent (not great) amount back from the US, and we have to pay in nearly $5,000 to Canada because of a rule that because we're not residents and/or Stefan didn't make 90% of his fiscal income (84%!) in Canada, we don't get to use ANY personal deductions. Yeah.

The reasons we're still in America, as opposed to heading over there late February as soon as our 1-year lease was up are the following: 1) I have to finish my permanent residency application stateside if I want the option to return stateside before having the card. If you decide to apply within Canada, you can't leave until that little puppy is in your hand. When all is said and done, this application is in the range of $1,500. 2)Ani has her first dance recital in late May. 3) Lukka finishes up his first full co-op year at Home Connections mid-June. Also mid-June is his wrap-up to his first year in Scouts. We wanted him to have a cohesive ending for school, at least. 

So. My medical exam for the application is in Seattle on May 8. On May 9, that immigration packet is going in the mail, and we can breathe a sigh of relief that it's finished. Other than packing up, cleaning, and inventorying everything in our house (at the border they need a list of every item in your house! crazy!), the next step will be to find a place and put a deposit down, and actually do the moving in the last week of June. Finally! We'll be able to KEEP all the money we make. It'll be amazing. 

Within the time of taxes being due (we don't have our American money in the bank yet...), immigration needing to be filed, we'll have to get a loan. We can't pay for any of it out of pocket. The last of our emergency fund, actually called My Portland Money, was spent this morning, in a dirty car repair shop. I had saved that money for a trip for over 10 months, scrimping, working, birthday and christmas checks saved, and now it's gone, sitting in the back of our very old and used car. Getting a loan, although we have excellent credit, and very, very small student loans left, feels like we're going in the wrong direction. 

We've tried to work so, so hard to become debt free, and here we are, accruing debt because we feel that we have no choice. We have to pay taxes that are exorbitant. We have to have a car that gets us from A to B without fear of an accident. We have precious cargo, after all. We live meagerly, and we are not foolish with money. We know all the tricks and tips of living well on less, we do them consistently! They are built into our lifestyle.  Often, people have such judgments about poverty, and I can understand why. When you see someone with an iphone, fake nails, dyed hair, and a nice car paying with food stamps, it's easily to mentally degrade someone who you think is unwise with money. I'm writing this to tell you that poverty can also look so friend-next-door, so normal-people-y. So shocking. 

Yes, a lot of people mismanage money, but some people just get beat month after month in a discouraging season of unrelenting bills and circumstances out of their control, that topple the house of cards that can literally take years to recover from--even by doing everything right. 

When calculated out that after all is said and done, we're living in a very expensive area, on 1/3 less than what we lived on in the Midwest. That alone bewilders us. We've gone through a year of this before, when Lukka was a baby and I had stopped working. You'd think we'd have enough trust in God to know, from hindsight, that He always takes care of us. Always. I'm reminded that we have clean water to drink (and wash our clothes in), we have enough food, we have warm beds, and we have the luxury of a library down the street, a church practically next door, and my husband has the ability and drive to work. I have the privilege to homeschool, and do it within a community that supports families to do so. The blessings are innumerable, the problems countable on one hand (they just happen to be rather large, ahem). God knows our needs. He has always surprised us. We can't help but completely abandon worry and hand it over, because, frankly, it's all we have left. When you're in that moment of stress, fatigue, and what-now-ness, fear is deep and wide. 

I love this quote, from Emily P. Freeman, about fear. "The trouble with fear is it tells you things will always be the way they are now." It won't always be that way, though. It never is. The fog lifts. The storm clouds disappear. The sun breaks through. We stay steady. We stay faithful. We repeat this over and over until we're blue in the face and faint of heart and then we do it again. The other option is despair, anger, resentment, pride, and blame, but those aren't really options, they're giving up. We continue to hang on by a threadbare shoestring, and not loose hope that a new pair are right around the corner. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

--Ing, Over the Next Two Months

The Good:

--camp joining
--end-of-school-year partying
--friend seeing
--book reading
--recital dancing

The Bad:

--day slowing
--laundry piling
--decluttering (again)

The Ugly:

-- Car fixing (again)
-- Health care renewing
--tax paying, money ordering, hand-delivering, loan acquiring, [crying]
--document gathering, paperwork filling, medical testing, photograph taking (immigration)
--every-item-in-our-house inventorying, cleaning, moving, renting, depositing

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Linky Love


I've been checking out a lot of fun things on the web in the last month, here are a few I've loved.
  • I tested my quick reading skills against Rory Gilmore and came up with about a 40%. Not bad, for a Stars Hallow wannabe. 
  • I loved this honest look at "5 Things I Hate about Homeschooling". I also loved the second part, the token, "5 Things I Love about Homeschooling". I particularly resonate with #s 1, 2, and 4 in the "strongly dislike" category, and #s 1, 4, and 5 in the Love category.
  • Who doesn't love a good cheese spread? Breakin' it down for what's what, where to put it, and what to serve alongside. Excellent entertaining option!
  • Jean at regularly has amazing art projects to do with kid. The contact paper stickers are a fav!
  • I thought this NYTimes piece called, "The Busy Trap", was pretty interesting. I don't agree with it completely, but I was struck by how articulate this sentence was: " They’re busy because of their own ambition or drive or anxiety, because they’re addicted to busyness and dread what they might have to face in its absence." Word
  • Eek! The new Fiona Apple has been out for a few weeks and I have yet to hold it in my hands. Soon, that second to too-long-title-album will be playing on my stereo. (Does anyone even have those anymore?)
  • Stefan has started researching the next pair of runners I'll own--some Vibram 5 fingers. They're pretty cute in their own, really weird way.
  • I've been following Chatting At the Sky's online book club since it started back in early June. I've gotten a lot out of reading Emily's book, Grace for the Good Girl. Talk about reflecting on your skeletons. Things are never as pretty as they seem. 
  • I haven't crafted a single thing, knitting or sewing-wise, since last Christmas because I've been reading like a fiend. This little dress from Pickles, got me thinking about the Christmas knits, and how I always try to start in July. Eep! Time to get going...
  • The cookbook currently on my counter is The Homemade Pantry. I like it so much that although I have to give it back to the library, I've got another copy waiting for me to pick up. Next up: their version of granola.
  • Lastly, this little tribute to director Nora Ephron was so sweet, and written by Tom Hanks. She made some of my favorite movies that I go back to all the time. I honestly watch "You've Got Mail" at least 5 times a year! 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Book Review: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain

This is one of the first books I can remember where the subtitle spoke to me more than the cover  and title. This topic is near and dear to me because, as an introvert, I've had to readjust and think about so many things in my life this relates to, not to mention conversations within my marriage to my wonderful extroverted husband, and trying to understand and parent my children for their success

I first heard of the term introvert, I think, when I was in high school. I had a pleasant enough experience with private elementary and then private high school in our town, and I did well. One of the things I didn't like through high school, was the group work. I dreaded this, for a few reasons. For one, I want whatever project I work on, to be well done. I do not like to leave my 'name on it' without my own expectations fulfilled; a job satisfied. I also found the group setting to be a significant waste of my time. I could be getting right down to work with my great idea, but instead I have to waste two to three class periods just listening to others bicker about what idea to even start with. 
The distaste for group work is a classic introvert tale tell sign for children. In my own experience, I would generally gather the group by the reigns and become the leader because nothing was getting done in a timely manner, and it would frustrate the day- lights out of me. When under pressure, and no system in place, I become a manager willing to delegate tasks to others who I find directionless for the sake of efficiency. I am an introvert, who, over the years, has learned to be a really good fake extrovert. 

Wow. That sounds horrible when fleshed out. But it's true.

When I was given a large project to work on in school, I never procrastinated, because I do not work well under pressure (unlike my classmates in college who would have 3 weeks to write a 10 page paper, and wouldn't begin until 48 hours before it was due...I would have had it done for a week) and I like to take my time. 

As an adult, I took a test where the outcome is very telling as far as personality traits: the Meyers Briggs. Unfortunately I don't remember much of the outcome other than the fact that I was an over-the-top "I" for introvert. I've always preferred my pajamas, a good book or movie, and being home the majority of the time, than going out. Even now,  I am always reeling conversations through my mind and trying to re access what I should have said; how my comment (that went unsaid) could have perhaps benefited the group or added to the conversation. In the heat of the moment, though, my mind goes blank and I have a really hard time articulating myself fast enough (or, what I think should be fast enough) and it gets garbled. It got worse, somehow, after I had children. 

In Quiet, Susan Cain puts all her compiled research and presentations she's given about introverts and tapped into a very informative non-fiction book that I read in about a week. Mrs. Cain's book first started out as a TEDTalk, which I haven't seen yet. I love the format and the TEDTalks I've seen, so I assumed the book would be good. 

The book is really a lot of research compiled into about 260ish pages, that fleshes out every general area introverts look differently from the American Culture Norm. Our society is an extroverted driven place, where gregariousness is often relished, and the quiet thinkers are unpopular. Cain's book is a look at how many, Many, Many introverts are the ones who change the course of the world based on their thoughts and the way they direct their fields. 

The way the book is written is very interesting. Often, a story about a real couple or a real person is given, and it's left with the 'what happens next?' hanger. Then, Mrs. Cain brings in her research (and there is TONS of research about personality differences, introverts, and extroverts out there), and ties it all together. She gives many ways to support the introvert, the extrovert, and why, specifically, introverts act the way they do in common situations (see above). The research indicates that one-third to one-half the population are introverts, but often no one would guess because introverts are very good at become fake-extroverts, but extroverts don't need to play this role-reversal

I give this book 4 out of 5 stars because it was well written and an interesting topic. I can't imagine recommending it to everyone, as it's a fairly academic book and it might be hard for some people to read in a timely manner without loosing interest. Who do I think should read this? Spouses, parents, and managers of companies who find themselves in near proximity to introverts. They would all benefit from the research indicating how introverted spouses often respond (in conflict and other life situations), how introverted children are best parented for success, and managers specifically-to tap into all the good the introverts -who may never speak up in a group meeting- can bring and benefit the common goal of the business in really unique ways

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Reach for the Stars! Summer Reading Program

This year I'm doing something really fun in the summer--I'm sponsoring a Reach for the Stars! Summer Reading Program with the help of Usborne Books & More! It's a reading program that rewards kids for reading with free Usborne books, and books for children in need within our community through the avenue of the Lincoln Crisis Pregnancy Center. 

The goal is to motivate children to read, keep them reading, and then reward them with books they will love, along with helping others at the same time.

Throughout the 6 week time period (June 1-July 20th), they can participate by reading (or being read to) 400+ minutes of any books of their choosing (more prizes for those who go above & beyond!), collecting pledges from friends, neighbors, and relatives to support their reading activity, turning in pledges & choosing their own books, and books for the Lincoln Crisis Pregnancy Center, who will use the donation of books to put in their layettes, and for sibling gifts. Locals, there will also be 3 'fun in the park' days I will host throughout this time period. Attendance is not mandatory for the park days, but they'll be free and fun!

This is a fantastic 'win-win' program that rewards your child for keeping up their summer reading with Usborne books of their choosing, the chance to win extra prizes, and a chance to help children in need in our own community. (Yes, you can do this if you live out of town, too!)

Please contact me with any questions about this program. To sign up, simply submit your email address in the comments with a YES! and I will contact you individually with a reading log that your child can get in the mail, the pledge tracker, and more information about our Fun in the Park days!

Happy Reading!!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Movie Review: Forks Over Knives

Recently I watched a movie called "Forks Over Knives", just another documentary about healthy food choices, our national food & obesity epidemic, and the S.A.D diet (yes, those are the acronyms for Standard American Diet, and they are not far off). This movie was more or less news and information I already knew, since I read The China Study years ago. This was the book in documentary form, from explaining the theories of Dr. Campbell and Dr. Esselstyn, who lament the american diet and encourage to eat a animal-product free diet (vegan) or what they call in the movie, "Plant based whole foods", which is also becoming a popular buzz phrase in itself.
I would recommend this information to everyone because if their claims are true--that diet and nutrition (plant based whole foods) can decrease and diminish cancers and disease--it could literally save this nation billions of money in health care (going from solution based to preventative), keep us all more healthy, and of course, fit, which is also a huge problem in the US.
I know these are very general statements, but The China Study in itself is such a researched and academic read that it's hard to go into without writing 10 huge posts on it to convey all the information. For this reason alone, I'd recommend this documentary, as it puts the book into a visual form, allowing easy access to very important information.
So...we've all been told to eat more leafy greens...what are you waiting for?! At least research it! It could save your life.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Linky Love


Linky love is back and after it's rather long hiatus I've got tons of inspiration-filled DIY's, fresh color palettes, a few diet and nutrition goodies, and we couldn't be politically incorrect without a few news clips. Enjoy!
  • My favorite SAHM blogger has another beautiful and interesting e-course up called Style Your Space all about pulling together a beautiful home with vintage, thrifted, or made ideas. Promises of snooping through other blogger houses included!
  • Um, this was hilarious. And true. Don't ever say those things to me.
  • At Simple Organic a really exhaustive post was put together titled Identifying and Avoiding Toxins in Beauty Care products. For those of you who revel in your "no 'poo" method, this post is for you.
  • I'll be watching Last Train Home very soon. It's in my living room as I type.
  • I checked out the book, Handmade Weddings from the library simply for the pictures, but I loved what I found inside. Color palettes, themes, and amazingly cute party DIYs for (just about) any occasion. The party-thrower in me just geeked out.
  • Really now? REALLY? We had to waste tax-paying dollars on this? I think we can all agree that mess needs to end.
  • Although I don't ascribe to AP (Attachment Parenting) for many reasons, I really appreciated this sincere and thoughtful post on what it means to comply (or not) to a parenting philosophy.
  • I can't wait to meet those little chickies! And, more importantly...their eggs.
  • Dude, sign the petition. It's a little ridiculous how close this is to passing into law!
  • So e-courses are the new black, and here are a few I've seen around blog-land that look neat: Creativity Boot Camp, Dream Job, and Playful Learning Spaces. I've been drooling over that last one but it comes with a hefty price tag of $125...GASP.
  • I need to rotate a wintry picture in our living room. This one looks about right.
  • I so loved this (adult-friendly) kid's idea for making poetry interesting.
  • Loved this WSJ post about "The Montessori Mafia". Very interesting.
  • Free art downloads from Free your Soul. Thanks Mia!
  • Maria Shriver Interviews Poet Mary Oliver was one of the best interviews I'd read in awhile. It helps that I love poetry...and nature...
  • Oh No They Didn't. (Oy. They did.) Oh help me!