Sunday, December 28, 2008

As promised, my backyard makeover, still a work in progress

sure it looks nice, but do you want to pay $300 a month for watering and mowing it in 90F plus degrees??

Finally, slowly but surely, our big backyard is taking shape. Literally. After killing off the highly useless St. Augustine grass (in Central Texas, we're in a constant state of varying degrees of 'drought'), we ended up with caleechy exposed soil and a LOT of weeds. Finally, we made some progress.

half-way done..

We got rocks from a local cemetary where they literally have a pile on a side lane free for the taking, and we also found roughly chopped cedar mulch (which ended up having quite a lot of palm by the looks of it) from the Lake Travis Brush Recycling$3 a yard which, with the tax and delivery included, ended up costing us only $205.68 to be exact! (we got 25yards).

For Mother's day I had gotten several native, drought resistant trees; one Texas persimmon, one desert willow (they are happy trees here, bloom beautifully), one Mexican plum and two Possum Haw hollies. They all happen to have white flowers but are all still fairly short, about 3 to 4 feet. Digging the holes for them was not possible to do manually but that saga happened too long ago. Just trust me when I say; here in Central Texas, you build upon, you don't dig. Not if you ever can help it 'cause it'll mean having to hire machinery.

Anyway, without further ado..the before ...and the after.

LANDSCAPE FABRIC?? I know I know..some of you will have a cow but trust me..there's no saving this soil (caleechy works it's way up) and it's too expensive with a yard this size to keep putting top soil on it. If you go native, you do not need to worry about the soil. The fabric is to minimize the weeds as we are facing a greenbelt. When it's planting time, you just push the mulch aside, cut a whole, do a little diggin' well, scraping in our case, and voila..done!

A path running through it..

Taking shape...I have two vegetable beds that actually had to be covered from a freeze..

The truck with the 25 yards of mulch..

THAT'S what 25 yards of mulch looks like..whoa nelly!

Shaping continued..for now we have a few mulch 'humps' but I'll post some more updates, finished outlined path pictures later this week..


8 plus hours later, 3 wheelbarrels assembly line style, several helpful neighbour kids for a few hours here and there and the day before was finally done!

Like I said, we still have more pictures to show... It feels good though. It's a great start..perhaps I can even figure out a little video so I can give the panoramic scanning view of the ...we'll see how that goes.

cross-posted at Austin Permie

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Friday, December 26, 2008

No Good Comes from Dick Cheney!!

"Oh Christmas tree Oh Christmas tree..." most of the presents were for the kids from 'multiple' sources of course

To Ingrid from..Dick Cheney?? What gives!? (it's a Smith and Wesson airsoft pistol)

To Dirk and Rebecca from..what?? Dick Cheney? (Nerf dart guns..start 'm early eh..DICK??)

I guess someone.. wanted to give us a Texas-style Christmas! Hm.
Can you see me like this? "I love you honey bunny..KIDS..go get 'm!"


what'll be?? (know of any other ehem..more legally respectable scenes??)

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas, Canada style - 12 days of Christmas "hey hoser!"

Bob and Doug Mckenzie.. the one and only version worth while listening to in my not so humble opinion..

"Hey Hoser!"

Merry Christmas Y'all from a very sunny, not at all white Central Texas, eh!! From still a canuck-probably-soon-to-be dual citizen...imagine..Canada having 12 provinces THAT is what I call a 'silent revolution' (Canucks will know what I mean)


Saturday, December 20, 2008

Of colds and earaches and shopping thwarted..

Just a pic, not my daughter dearest though..

Quick update;

This past week I've been practically home all week (except on Thursday for a few hours) with the youngest one having a bad case of head and chest congestion so aside from pumping her full of meds every 4hrs, naturally, 'one' is up as well during the night at times.
And naturally, this had to happen during the last week of school when I had my errands planned and thought no problem, I have plenty of time!

Did manage to post something here and there quickly but alas, my visiting was minimal and replies to comments non existent. Now you know why.
The 'head and chest' case turned into an ear infection which I figured out early this morning (of course it being Saturday), after two nights of fevers and a definite "ow my ear hurts' this morning. sigh

Luckily, Murphy's law cannot always fully rule even though I suspect it was put in place 'just' for parents, so luckily, our pediatrician did have office hours this morning and is on call for the whole weekend. He's a great elderly gentleman who's not retired as he still has one or two kids to put through college. Or so I here. I wish he was my doctor but that's another story. we're on antibiotics (the non penicillin type as my youngest could be allergic to it and there has not been a penicillin test on the market for the last 2yrs..Enigma, wassup with that??) and a migrating earache that went from one ear to the other.. sigh again.

Sooo, instead of 'carpeting' my backyard with my husband (story and pictures to come), I was on kid duty..again! (did you not always want your mom and not your dad when you were sick?)

This afternoon after another wailing session with big tears and a passing out for 30min..I talked to the nurse on call and was informed that yes, I can give her alternating pain meds every 3 hrs. When that finally went into effect, boy what a difference. Sigh times three.

Now, the two kids are watching the Spiderwick Chronicles, perhaps a little scary for the younger one but hey, she's been 'baptized' into gollum land a few years ago (thank you older sibling without asking OR thinking) so hey, sigh sigh sigh sigh..

I am taking a short break. I'd rather be in my yard..I'm behind in my shopping, not to mention doing all my christmas (read, oversees) cards...well, that'll be happy new years then..

I'll be back with backyard updates, political stuff etc. My husband has these two weeks off so phew, we can take turns..
Judi Dench and Geoffrey Palmer

Hope you're having a good weekend..I'm gonna chill with my 'As time goes by' tonight and dream of 'that what could've been'.. I love some of those brit comedies..(and geoffrey palmer and judi dench are a great pair)

Oh and did I mention I was/am pretty bored?? c'est la vie..
nighty night..
(thx Gary! [s])


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Gimme Shelter, short docuvid by Ben Affleck about Congo

This is the write up;

Actor-director Ben Affleckand Sir Mick Jagger have launched a short film for UNHCRs new Gimme Shelter campaign to help raise funds and awareness about the crisis in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the work of the UN refugee agency.

In November, Affleck visited Africa to shoot footage in DRCs strife-torn North Kivu province, where tens of thousands have fled their homes since fighting resumed in August. He also visited Uganda, where some 30,000 people have sought refuge and are receiving help from UNHCR. The result is a short film entitled Gimme Shelter, set to the classic Rolling Stones song of the same name, which Jagger and the group donated to the campaign.

UNHCR hopes the Gimme Shelter campaign will help raise US$23 million in 2009 to pay for clean water supplies and emergency humanitarian assistance kits in the region.

The film - Gimme Shelter - was directed by Affleck and filmed by John Toll, both Academy Award winners. The footage was shot in the strife-torn North Kivu regionof the DRC in November, where thousands have fled their homes since fighting resumed in August.

- For more information about the Gimme Shelter campaign go to

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

U.S. War Veterans and PTSD Awareness

This is still close to my heart. I don't know any veterans, I don't know of anyone going through this. I still want to help out with some kind of reintegration non profit or 'process'. There is one organization in Denver that does something about military reintegration; One Freedom.
Below is video from a class project (not related to this organization). For most of us, it's nothing new.'s an acknowledgement for those who need it. With more troops being sent to Afghanistan, I see this reintegration business being needed for quite a while. And it shouldn't. I despise the politics behind these wars. Wouldn't it be great if there was some great awakening and people would seize to join the military? Nobody's life is worth the political crap-games that is being played. And that's all I have to say about that.
I'll dedicate this to Jim. Hope your boys come home safe and sound.


Monday, December 15, 2008

Playing For Change - Stand By Me

Thank You ZEEster for sending me this vid (albeit through Facebook)..I had seen a short blurb on PBS a few weeks ago (before their endless fundraising schedule..can I have my Brit comedies back please??) and an interview of Bill Moyers with one of the co-directors, Mark Johnson behind the documentary "Playing For Change: Peace Through Music". (Jonathan Walls being the other director)

[Mark Johnson]

Playing For Change - Join the Movement

It's easy, just sign up for updates and info. I just did.

Playing For Change - School Building

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Oxfam America's report; the worst place on earth to be a woman

The Greatest Silence; Rape in the Congo

Enormous HAT TIP to Border Explorer who mentioned it in a comment on the post Rape and the Spoils of War (see Wednesday's post);

"This came in yesterday from Oxfam America & I thought it fit here:

The worst place on earth to be a woman?

The Democratic Republic of Congo.

Help change the situation: contact President-Elect Obama TODAY.

The Democratic Republic of Congo is host to the world’s deadliest conflict since World War II.

And women and girls have borne the brunt of this horrific crisis, with rape as a weapon of war on a scale seen nowhere else in the world.

But you can do something about it.

Tell President-Elect Obama to announce his plan to end sexual violence in Congo.

photo from Humanitarian Relief - Michael Bear Kleinman, aid worker, lawyer, and consultant with experience working in Afghanistan, across east and central Africa, and Iraq.

Eastern Congo is the worst place in the world to be a woman in 2008. Rape and sexual violence are routinely used as a weapon to destroy women, families, and communities. It is time to get serious about ending the conflict and protecting and empowering Congo’s women.

The US government is in a unique position to take action immediately. They can promote peace through aggressive diplomatic efforts, increase UN patrols and support organizations that help keep women safe, and work to ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice.

Oxfam America has joined with the RAISE Hope for Congo campaign to raise awareness about the crisis. And by adding your voice, you are helping to raise awareness about the horrors of this nine-year conflict.

Tell the president-elect to announce his plan to end the vicious cycle of sexual violence."

I just did.

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

"Human Kindness Overflowing.."

Don't know why but I went down memory lane. We had this 'lp' (for those from this cd era; definition; Long Play An analog audio recording pressed in vinyl that rotates at 33.3 RPM. Sound is literally "carved" into the platter in a spiral groove, starting at the outer edge of the platter. The undulations in the groove are an analog of the original acoustic waves. A needle (stylus) is placed in the groove which oscillates as the platter rotates. The oscillations are converted to electricity, amplified and sent to the speakers)

anyhow, we had this 'Unicef' lp for which the proceeds of course went to Unicef, and one of the songs I listened to a lot as a young un' was Dusty Springfields's "I think it's gonna rain today". Before I even knew or understood any english, I loved this song.

I dedicate this to the current recipients of the Right Livelihood awards, see post below.

I Think Its Gonna Rain Today
by Randy Newman

Broken window, empty hallway
Pale dead moon in a sky streaked with grey
Human kindness overflowing
And I think it's gonna rain today

Scarecrows dressed in the latest style
With frozen smiles to keep love away
Human kindness overflowing
And I think its gonna rain today

Lonely, lonely
Tin can at my feet
Think I'll kick it down the street
That's no way to treat a friend

Right before me, signs implore me
Help the needy and show them the way
Human kindness overflowing
I think its gonna rain today

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Rape and the spoils of war

I remember in the mid90s, sitting in a political science class, when the professor was discussing, no, excusing the rape that had just occurred in Bosnia and Kosovo by way of explaining it as 'spoils of war'. It was something that men did in the face of death and destruction. Some primal urge. I was in my early 30s then and the majority of my classmates were much younger than myself, except for the odd student. Sitting in the back, I could see their reaction of disbelief. It was not just politically incorrect, it was truly ignorant. The professor actually believed it!

I could not say nothing and inspite of always having felt extremely shy to speak up in class, I raised my hands and said "no professor, rape is not an act of desire, it's an act of aggression".

Monika Hauser

One of Amy Goodman's fellow recipients of the Right Livelihood award (see post below), the alternative Nobel award, is Monika Hauser. She is a gynocologist and founded a non profit organization based in Germany called "medica mondiale". Her organization works to "prevent and punish sexual violence against women and girls in wartime."
Over 70.000 women and girls from "Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia and Afghanistan" have been exposed to their aid.

Anti-rape sign in Liberia

Here is an excerpt of Amy Goodman's interview with Monika Hauser:

"...Hauser received the Right Livelihood Awardfor “her tireless commitment to working with women who have experienced the most horrific sexual violence in some of the most dangerous countries in the world, and campaigning for them to receive social recognition and compensation.”She joins me here in the studio in Stockholm, Sweden.
Welcome to Democracy Now!"

MONIKA HAUSER: Thank you, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: "So, congratulations, and tell us about your organization. What is medica mondiale? What prompted you to start this?"

MONIKA HAUSER: "I founded medica mondiale in the end of ’92, because I realized what happened in Bosnia, because in the war there, many, many women got raped. And as a young gynecologist who has worked already with raped women before in Germany and other places in Europe, I was aware about that these women need a holistic approach of support. They need medical support, they need psychosocial support."

photo by HIDAJET DELIC [Bosnian Muslim women holding posters with the names of the missing during a protest in front of the UN office in Sarajevo, on Friday, July 18 , 2008. Hundreds of war-time rape victims protested against the decision of the U.N. war crimes tribunal to reject the prosecution's request for rape to be added to the charges against two Bosnian Serbs currently on trial for other war crimes. The women claim Milan and Sredoje Lukic organized rape camps for Serb soldiers in which they held Muslim women as sex slaves. Milan and Sredoje Lukic are on trial at the tribunal in Netherlands for murder and other war crimes described by the prosecution as one of the most brutal in the 1992-95 Bosnian war.]

"When I read the media reports, I got very angry, angry about that what happened to the women and angry about that how the medias reported about the women. They scandalized that what happened to them. And instead of looking to them as survivors of grave human rights violations, they abused, misused them again by their media reports. So I said to myself I have to support these women, as a gynecologist, as a feminist and as a European.

I went there to central Bosnia, and I found very fast twenty professional Bosnian women, gynecologists, nurses, psychologists, who were very eager to start with me this women’s therapy center there."

AMY GOODMAN:" And how did you go from that to working in countries around the world?"

MONIKA HAUSER: "So, this was the first step, and now Medica Zenica is fifteen years old, the project there, still working and still helping traumatized women. And the staff there is very experienced.

And then we started new programs in Kosovo, because we saw after the end of the war there in ’99 that to Kosovo women, the same happened again. Rape as a tool of war was happening, and they were exposed to so much violence. So we decided to set up there our second project. And Bosnian therapists, Bosnian professionals supported us to build up this new project. They trained their new colleagues."

"The 12-year-old girl, gang-raped in Afghanistan, weeps as her family demands justice", please see >"Muslims Against Sharia - Islamic Reform Movement"

"And the same with Afghanistan. This is our main project since 2002. We have there now, in the meantime, over seventy local female staff members, and we had again the Bosnian therapists with their huge experience coming over to Kabul to train doctors, midwives, nurses, psychologists, lawyers, in order to help traumatized Afghan women."

Read the rest of the interview.

Here is a definition of rape; The crime of forcing another person to submit to sex acts, especially sexual intercourse.

[emph,bold,underlining added by yours truly]

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Monday, December 08, 2008

Congratulations Amy Goodman! The Alternative Nobel Prize winner of the Right Livelihood award!

Asha Hagi Elmi, Amy Goodman, Krishnammal Jagannathan, Monika Hauser

Amy Goodman and three other women [Asha Hagi Elmi, co-founder of Save Somali Women and Children; Krishnammal Jagannathan, an 82-year-old activist from southern India; and Monika Hauser, a gynecologist and founder of “medica mondiale] are in Stockholm Sweden right now in honour of receiving the Right Livelihood award.

I had never heard of this award, which has apparently been around since 1980 and was established as an alternative Nobel prize award. Since 1980, there have been 133 "Alternative Nobel Laureates" chosen from 57 different countries. The purpose of this award was, quote; "to honour and support those “offering practical and exemplary answers to the most urgent challenges facing us today.”

Amy Goodman's Democracy Now was chosen for “developing an innovative model of truly independent political journalism that brings to millions of people the alternative voices that are often excluded by mainstream media.”

Jakob von Uexkull

Read more about the founder of Right Livelihood Jakob von Uexkull and the 2008 recipients and/or listen to Amy's broadcast at The Right Livelihood Award: A Look at Sweden’s “Alternative Nobel”

Good for you Amy, the world is watching AND listening! Of course, the other women are heroins in their own right. Thank god there are more where they came from.

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Friday, December 05, 2008

No Fear even though the Recession is here!

James Zogby

It's unreal to fathom that we've entered into one of the worst recession times ever. Did we not just joke about our parents (ok, some of 'us'/you who are of a certain age) or even our grandparents being veritable scrooges because of having gone through 'THE Depression'?? Is that depression going to be replaced by THIS one?

I have been thinking about the seeming unreality of it. Or better put, of it still. Having had on my mind the possibility of re-entering the workforce in whichever capacity (too long a story) this is not exactly the best time. Or is it?

James Zogby started out in the 1990s contemplating how Americans seemingly lost the spirit of the American Dream. Instead, through his work as a pollster, he came to find out something different;

[But instead],as I probed deeper, I found a renewed spirit, a survival instinct, a readjustment of life's expectations and a redefinition of the American dream. I have found for years now that more Americans say the American Dream has more to do with spiritual fulfillment and leading a genuine and honest life than with the attainment of material things. [John Zogby: America's Secular Spiritualists - Why they're still optimistic]

So here I am, having caught the signals coming my way to 'reinvent' myself and now, with the beginning of this recession, really having to think of what this reinvention means. Many people will get laid off and worry, at first, about the basics of providing for their family. That probably means going to a food pantry for the first time. It could mean having to dip into savings (if you have it) before being eligible for any kind of government assistance, getting food stamps etc. Take heart though, because it can also mean, that THAT what we as human beings have been programmed for, can start resurfacing after years of complacency;

Survival instinct! Adaptibility. Reinvention of yourself as a person, as a provider. Being able to do without all things materialistic. Appreciating a roof over one's head. Seeing and receiving help when needed.

For those of us who are able and who are not as effected; if you haven't already, let's start giving to our local, neighbourhood food pantry. Give clothes and necessities to Goodwill, the Salvation Army, St. Vincents, you know your area's charity of choice.


Not just now for the holidays, but as a good habit to start off the New year. We're all going to be in this together.

Just thinking...

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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

"Barack Obama's kettle of hawks" by Jeremy Scahill

Trust a British columnist to dare end the dream of all dreams; nothing seems to be going to change with the US Foreign Policy. Or as Jeremy Scahill calls it, "America First", in his Barack Obama's kettle of hawks;

"The assembly of Hillary Clinton, Robert Gates, Susan Rice and Joe Biden is a kettle of hawks with a proven track record of support for the Iraq war, militaristic interventionism, neoliberal economic policies and a worldview consistent with the foreign policy arch that stretches from George HW Bush's time in office to the present.


On Iraq, the issue that the Obama campaign described as "the most critical foreign policy judgment of our generation", Biden and Clinton not only supported the invasion, but pushed the Bush administration's propaganda and lies about Iraqi WMDs and fictitious connections to al-Qaida. Clinton and Obama's hawkish, pro-Israel chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, still refuse to renounce their votes in favour of the war. Rice, who claims she opposed the Iraq war, didn't hold elected office and was not confronted with voting for or against it. But she did publicly promote the myth of Iraq's possession of WMDs, saying in the lead up to the war that the "major threat" must "be dealt with forcefully". Rice has also been hawkish on Darfur, calling for "strik[ing] Sudanese airfields, aircraft and other military assets".

It is also deeply telling that, of his own free will, Obama selected President Bush's choice for defence secretary, a man with a very disturbing and lengthy history at the CIA during the cold war, as his own. While General James Jones, Obama's nominee for national security adviser, reportedly opposed the Iraq invasion and is said to have stood up to the neocons in Donald Rumsfeld's Pentagon, he did not do so publicly when it would have carried weight. Time magazine described him as "the man who led the Marines during the run-up to the war – and failed to publicly criticise the operation's flawed planning". Moreover, Jones, who is a friend of McCain's, has said a timetable for Iraq withdrawal, "would be against our national interest".


What ultimately ties Obama's team together is their unified support for the classic US foreign policy recipe: the hidden hand of the free market, backed up by the iron fist of US militarism to defend the America First doctrine.


... but neoconservative leader and former McCain campaign staffer Max Boot summed it up best. "I am gobsmacked by these appointments, most of which could just as easily have come from a President McCain," Boot wrote. The appointment of General Jones and the retention of Gates at defence "all but puts an end to the 16-month timetable for withdrawal from Iraq, the unconditional summits with dictators and other foolishness that once emanated from the Obama campaign."

Steve Benson

Boot added that Hillary Clinton will be a "powerful" voice "for 'neoliberalism' which is not so different in many respects from 'neoconservativism.'" Boot's buddy, Michael Goldfarb, wrote in The Weekly Standard, the official organ of the neoconservative movement, that he sees "certainly nothing that represents a drastic change in how Washington does business. The expectation is that Obama is set to continue the course set by Bush in his second term."

There is not a single, solid anti-war voice in the upper echelons of the Obama foreign policy apparatus. And this is the point: Obama is not going to fundamentally change US foreign policy. He is a status quo Democrat. And that is why the mono-partisan Washington insiders are gushing over Obama's new team. At the same time, it is also disingenuous to act as though Obama is engaging in some epic betrayal."

Yes, I'm back..