“One Breath Around the World” (Guillaume Néry)

Another breathtaking, haunting underwater video taken by the freediving champion’s wife, who is also a freediver and filmmaker.   I think this is his best video yet.

It’s like a trip to another world — or a dream.

 

 

Advertisements

Making changes.

changes

It’s time to change a couple of things about myself.   Laziness has been a factor in both, though there are other things involved too, and this post is where I will explain it all.

The first thing I’m changing is I’m going back to church.

Due to Trump’s far right evangelical base’s racism, greed, and general lack of empathy, and the twisted perversion of Christianity known as dominionism infiltrating many evangelical and fundamentalist churches, and also the highest echelons of our government (and corrupting every one of our vital protective institutions while violating the Founding Fathers’ idea of the separation of church and state), I’ve been finding the term and even the idea of  “Christianity” offputting.

I believe this is deliberate psychological manipulation enacted by people and organizations who (much like radical extremist Islamists) use religion as a weapon to control human beings and to justify cruelty, callousness, and even torture.  (Christianity was also used to justify slavery during the Civil War and many of the worst atrocities in western history).

What these individuals and churches are practicing is not Christianity at all.  These are Pharisees and false prophets, wolves in sheeps’ clothing.  Some followers may be hapless victims of their cult and not realize they are actually part of a fascist political movement overtaking the country, but their wealthy and famous leaders and televangelists most certainly know.  Some people have dubbed these false Christians “Christianists,” to delineate them from Christians with a more traditional, Christlike belief system.

The dominionists’ goal is not just destruction of America as we know it, but also destruction of true Christianity.   What better way to turn good people away from Jesus (and turn them toward atheism or to Eastern religions or paganism) than to make the Christian God as cruel, narcissistic, mean, greedy, and punishing as possible?  To twist Jesus’ message of caring for the “least of these” into a barely concealed contempt for the most vulnerable among us, a Savior who reserves special treatment for the “anointed” wealthy (dominionists believe wealth and worldly power is a sign of God’s favor) and condemns the poor and sick (who are not “chosen”) to hell.    Dominionists believe that dissent or resistance to a political leader (no matter how immoral or unjust) is a sin that will send you straight to hell (They base this on one line in Romans 13).  Many dominionist preachers, from Franklin Graham to Lance Wallnau to Robert Jeffress, all insist Trump was anointed by God, and to defy or disapprove of Trump will ensure that you suffer in hell for eternity.    Of course, this only applies to the far right Republican leaders they approve of.   If you resisted Obama or Clinton, none of this applies.

Dominionism and far right evangelicalism bears no resemblance to any Christianity I ever heard of until it began to infiltrate our government and started getting more media coverage.   It bears no resemblance to the traditional idea of Jesus as a kind teacher who inspired the Golden Rule and healed the sick.  It also bears no resemblance to the Jesus who was so enraged by the greedy money changers in the temple that he overturned their tables and sent them running.   Dominionism is all about tithing and preachers reaping huge profits.  It’s all about power and dominating others.  The pervasiveness of this dangerous christofascist movement is, unfortunately, turning me off to Christianity.

If Satan is real, I imagine this is exactly how he’d go about turning people away from God.   He wouldn’t use pentagrams and blood sacrifice because that would be too transparent and obvious.   No, he’d disguise himself within an established religion such as Islam or Christianity, pretending that evil is good, and good is evil.    The Father of Lies wouldn’t be transparent enough to reveal himself.   He may well pretend to be God.

And so, my church attendance has gone way down.   The last time I attended mass was on Christmas.   I was happy to be there, but I still can’t shake the bad feeling I get these days from the mere idea of Christianity, whether Catholic, Protestant or nondenominational.  It isn’t my church itself, which I love.  My church is Catholic, but is also quite liberal, and the priest never brings up politically controversial subjects like abortion (I myself am pro-choice — up to a point).  Although my priest is careful not to talk about politics during the homily, he has made it pretty clear how he feels about the migrant situation, the rollback of environmental regulations, and the current president’s cruel policies without actually mentioning his name–and his opinion is not positive.    Although some conservative Catholics are Trump supporters (and there are Catholics working for Trump), the Catholic Church is actually vehemently opposed to Trumpism because of its disdain for immigrants, the sick, the poor, the disabled, children, the elderly, anyone who’s different or vulnerable, and all the “least of these” people that Jesus loved the most and demanded his followers treat with compassion.

But I still couldn’t shake the “Christian” stigma.   To many people today, the term “Christian” elicits the same negative mental image as “Muslim”:  oppressive, misogynistic, and often violent religious zealotry.    Of course in both cases, only the extremists are that way, and what they practice isn’t either true Islam or true Christianity.    And even as a Christian myself, the term “Christianity” was starting to make me recoil and turn my back on it.    I was “losing my religion.”

As a sort of compromise with myself (and God), one day in the early fall, I decided to attend a Unitarian Universalist service.   It was beautiful, uplifting, inspiring, and the people were friendly and welcoming.   I loved the sermon and its message of social justice, equality, kindness, and acceptance of diversity over exclusivity.     In fact, it was a perfect church for someone like me, except for one thing:  its failure to acknowledge the existence of God, or any higher power or higher intelligence.    That bothered me because I don’t think (and have never thought) we just got here by accident.  Yes, I believe in evolution, but I also think it wasn’t random, and there was some kind of higher intelligence — a God — overseeing the entire process.

Even more confused, I just decided not to go to church at all.  I made an exception for Christmas mass, but I do feel like something important is missing from my life.  I find myself slipping back into my old ways of thinking and feeling when I was agnostic, and that just doesn’t work for me, and never did.   I feel strongly that God has been calling me back, but I haven’t heeded that call.  Yet.

Lent is almost here, and last year for Lent I successfully gave up smoking.   I believe it was God’s presence that made it much easier for me to quit than it would have been otherwise.   I haven’t smoked a cigarette in a year!   So I have decided to return to my adopted church, and in doing so, give up something for Lent that will honor God and at the same time help me.

What better thing to give up for Lent than my Sunday morning laziness?  (I do love sleeping in on weekends).    Maybe by immersing myself in a Christianity where acceptance, respect for the planet, compassion, and all the other good qualities of Jesus are valued instead of denigrated,  I might be able to let go of some of the negative political associations I’ve developed toward Christianity because of what American Evangelicalism and the Trumpist GOP have done to it.

I’m making another change too.    I’m going to write in this blog every day.   There’s no reason I can’t make a New Year’s resolution in February.  It’s  still early in the year.

This blog may never regain the level of activity it used to get (due to the Google changes I talked about in another post), but writing something every day surely can’t hurt and will probably help.   It will also keep me centered and focused.    Even if all I do is post a photograph, or a few sentences about some small event or observation (Tony Burgess does this all the time, and his blog is very popular) it’s better than posting nothing at all.

Exploring Asheville’s Grove Park Inn, my son’s unexpected visit, and more.

 

Looking up at the front of the Grove Park Inn, Asheville, NC

I had a pretty exciting (and hectic) weekend.   My son came up from Tampa with a friend of his (Rudy) in tow.   I really wasn’t prepared for the visit, since he announced it just three days before their arrival.    He had to take Rudy to the airport in Atlanta and decided to come up to NC to visit his mom and newly married sister (and new brother in law), since we are not that far away from Atlanta.

Friday night after I got home from work they were already at the house.  We ate at the new Galactic Pizza near my home (their Italian food and especially their pizza is amazing).  The space theme decor is super cool as well.

Inside of Galactic Pizza, Asheville

Closeup of the laminated outer space theme bar counter

The next day was pretty quiet, since my daughter and her husband both had to work, so my son and his friend went out to visit some of my son’s old friends from school, and I had a chance to clean up the house and do a little shopping.   Saturday night was Game Night.  They had brought two friends back with them to the house.  All seven of us crammed into the small living room, ate a huge bucket of Bojangles’ chicken, and played some online games (you have to download an app to play) and they were pretty fun, but after awhile I developed an intense headache and felt tired so I went to bed early while they continued to play more games deep into the night.    I was really feeling my age that night!

Sunday we had the best time.  We got up pretty early, and after a quick breakfast and some coffee, decided to head to the mall.  My son bought his partner some gifts, and I splurged and bought myself this adorable Betsey Johnson pink flamingo suitcase that was on sale (it was the last one left so I *had* to have it!).   I needed some new luggage anyway, and since I’m taking my yearly trip to Florida in two months (I can’t wait), the pink flamingo motif was perfect.  I’ll probably get the smaller matching case later, which would be perfect for smaller items and cosmetics, but I’ll probably order that online and get a cheaper price than I could at a store (and it was out of stock).

 

I also stopped in Hallmark while my daughter and her husband were busy and bought them this as a late wedding present (they got married several weeks back, but I never got around to writing a post about it). I think it looks like them a lot.  Both of them were touched.

 

After the mall run, my daughter left for work and her husband left with her, and so my son, his friend and I decided to go exploring the world famous Grove Park Inn (purchased by Omni Hotels and now officially referred to as he Omni Grove Park Inn) The hotel was built on he side of Sunset Mountain (part of the Blue Ridge) and completed in 1912.  It was built in the popular and beautiful Arts and Crafts architectural style that was fashionable at the time (and has enjoyed a resurgence in recent years).  Its red shingle roof has an organic look to it, and the facade is constructed of stone found right here in the mountains.   It has been added to over the years, with an additional wing added, but it all fits together seamlessly and the hotel has become enormous!  You can easily get lost in it.

Looking down from the hotel (it is built into the side of a mountain)

Looking up from the bottom. Yes, there are actual waterfalls, and these are natural features, not manmade.

 

Many notables of both the past and present have visited the hotel, and adorning the hallways are photos of the various famous visitors.   There are several excellent (but expensive) restaurants, and beautiful architectural detailing everywhere.

One of the most impressive things about the Inn is the huge stone lobby with its vintage rocking chairs and sofas, and especially its two gigantic fireplaces on either end.  There are outside porches extending from the lobby, and the views are breathtaking,  overlooking the nearby mountain ranges.   You feel like you are in the sky.

There is a vintage 1913 (?) Ford Model T (?) in the lobby.  Someone correct me on this if they know the exact model and year.  I forgot to take down that information.

You can get an idea of the view from these pictures.   I wish the day was less cloudy/foggy (and cold!), but it was still lovely.

And here is the three of us:

The hotel also may be haunted!  There is the famous legend of the Pink Lady, who was staying at the Inn in 1920, and died from a fall to the Palm Court from the balcony in the central part of the Inn (the floors above the main lobby). Her room number was 545, and to this day, people are either drawn to that particular room because of its macabre history, or they avoid it!   None of us encountered the Pink Lady or any other ghost that day (yes, we did walk past Room 545!)

Scale model of Grove Park Inn displayed in one of the hallways

Another famous thing about the Grove Park Inn is the annual Gingerbread House Competition, which takes place every Christmas season.  It’s a fairly new event, which started as a tiny competition for local people in the late 1990s, but has now become a huge sensation that people from all over the world travel to see.   Everything in the Gingerbread Houses must be edible, although it doesn’t need to all be of Gingerbread.

Here are two views of last year’s winner.  This construction includes (edible) gears that actually move!

 

The best part came last.  We descended all the stone stairs down the mountainside (seen above in some of the photos) and at the very bottom is the Grove Park Inn’s Spa, which is actually built into the rock itself.  It’s basically contained within an underground cave system, and as you walk along the stone tunnels leading to the Spa, there are  waterfalls here and there, trickling water collected in small pools along the rough stone walls, and even a few actual geodes embedded into the rock.   (It was too dark to get a good photo of those).   As you approach the Spa itself, you can smell the scents from inside.   We didn’t go inside, as we didn’t have a pass and hadn’t paid for a day at the Spa (how I would have loved that!), but what we saw was still impressive.

I do have one good picture of one of the tunnels leading to the Spa. Beneath that is a photo from Omni Hotels’ website, showing the Grove Park Inn Spa’s underground pool (which is manmade but might as well be a natural feature).

The underground pool at the Spa. (credit:  Omnihotels.com)

One day I’m spending a day here.  It’s on my bucket list.

This morning my son left to return to Florida.  I’m off work today so I’m spending the rest of the day working on my blog, something I’ve been sadly neglecting.  This is my first post.

 

From bullshit jobs to bullshit help – a lack of basic security

I have to admit I agree with this article. Life has become too stressful for too many people, unless you’re rich.  The title may offend some, but I think it’s accurate.

Why are people being forced to adapt to a sick (and dying) system that favors only the wealthy, rather than the system itself being adapted to serve us?

Especially in America, capitalism has taken a dark turn toward fascism and even neo-feudalism (authoritarianism in either of these forms is actually a sign of end-stage capitalism — the final culmination of unregulated capitalism, with the rich not bound to the laws the rest of us are, and a dangerous lack of governmental checks and balances).  Neither form of end-stage capitalism is conducive to or compatible with human happiness or even simple contentment.

Yet we keep being told there’s something wrong with us if we can’t adapt and feel stressed out all the time.   We’re told to just smile and think positive thoughts, and everything will be hunky dory.   We spout shallow platitudes at each other and stick post-its with flowery affirmations on our bathroom mirrors.    But the stress never really goes away.

Why?  Because the truth is, the stress we feel is a normal reaction to the abnormal. Nothing about our system is normal or healthy for real human beings, and it needs to change.  All the sunny advice we are given and all the positive affirmations are nothing more than emotional Bandaids for our existential malaise.  They can’t and never will fix the underlying problem which none of us can fix as individuals, but must be addressed by the entire society working together for the common good.

A View From Askew

David Graeber has put forward the notion of bullshit jobs in recent years, and I highly recommend that you watch his interviews and lectures on the subject. However there is another bullshit trend happening…

View original post 573 more words

Something worth saving.

Image

alberteinsteinquote

Five types of gaslighting narcissists.

Lucky Otters Haven

Gaslight-2

I haven’t written an original narcissism article in awhile, and I was thinking about gaslighting today, so I thought I’d write a post about it.

Gaslighting is a defense mechanism commonly used by narcissists in order to diminish their victims and make them doubt and question their own reality.  The term comes from the 1942 movie “Gaslight,” in which a young wife is abused in this manner by her husband, who almost succeeds in driving her insane by telling her she is imagining the gaslights in their house going on and off, even though he has been secretly playing with the gaslights himself to make her think she’s going insane.  Gaslighting is one of the most sinister and crazymaking things a narcissist can do, and over time your self esteem and even your grip on what is real and what isn’t begins to erode.   Dealing with a gaslighting narcissist…

View original post 978 more words

Weird and disturbing changes at Google.

IMG_20190209_145718180

I just got this notification from Google that my account with Google Plus (and most likely yours, too) is being shut down in April.  (I do not think this affects Gmail accounts.).

This will affect Blogger (Google’s blogging platform) at least as far as ability to comment there (comments default to your Google+ account name), and WordPress, insofar as our posts may no longer be shared on Google+ and the G+ button will no longer work.

This development, coupled with Google’s new algorithms (that I am pretty sure now are the primary factor responsible for the drastic drop in blog hits I’ve experienced of late) makes me think that Google is turning its sights more onto web developers and large corporate accounts and away from consumers, leaving writers, hobby bloggers, and owners of small business and art sites scrambling for now.

Google and WordPress appear to have formed some sort of partnership that excludes and/or alienates most of its consumer base and hobby bloggers and writers.   The sudden big push for bloggers to switch to Gutenberg (an extremely writer-unfriendly editing platform that’s better suited to web developers and page designers) seems to fit right in with Google/WP’s goal of squeezing us small time bloggers out.

Maybe I’m just being paranoid, but there are just too many coincidences here to think it’s some benign change that won’t significantly affect our blogging life.  We have been marginalized.   Why?  Follow the money.   We aren’t raking in the big bucks.

Here is the notification I got:

In December 2018, we announced our decision to shut down Google+ for consumers in April 2019 due to low usage and challenges involved in maintaining a successful product that meets consumers’ expectations. We want to thank you for being part of Google+ and provide next steps, including how to download your photos and other content.

On April 2nd, your Google+ account and any Google+ pages you created will be shut down and we will begin deleting content from consumer Google+ accounts. Photos and videos from Google+ in your Album Archive and your Google+ pages will also be deleted. You can download and save your content, just make sure to do so before April. Note that photos and videos backed up in Google Photos will not be deleted.

The process of deleting content from consumer Google+ accounts, Google+ Pages, and Album Archive will take a few months, and content may remain through this time. For example, users may still see parts of their Google+ account via activity log and some consumer Google+ content may remain visible to G Suite users until consumer Google+ is deleted.

As early as February 4th, you will no longer be able to create new Google+ profiles, pages, communities or events. See the full FAQ for more details and updates leading up to the shutdown.

If you’re a Google+ Community owner or moderator, you may download and save your data for your Google+ Community. Starting early March 2019, additional data will be available for download, including author, body, and photos for every community post in a public community. Learn more

If you sign in to sites and apps using the Google+ Sign-in button, these buttons will stop working in the coming weeks but in some cases may be replaced by a Google Sign-in button. You’ll still be able to sign in with your Google Account wherever you see Google Sign-in buttons. Learn more

If you’ve used Google+ for comments on your own or other sites, this feature will be removed from Blogger by February 4th and other sites by March 7th. All your Google+ comments on all sites will be deleted starting April 2, 2019. Learn more

If you’re a G Suite customer, Google+ for your G Suite account should remain active. Contact your G Suite administrator for more details. You can also expect a new look and new features soon. Learn more

If you’re a developer using Google+ APIs or Google+ Sign-in, click here to see how this will impact you.

From all of us on the Google+ team, thank you for making Google+ such a special place. We are grateful for the talented group of artists, community builders, and thought leaders who made Google+ their home. It would not have been the same without your passion and dedication.

Narcissists are rude to servicepeople.

An older post about a common narcissistic red flag that is rarely mentioned.

Lucky Otters Haven

rude_people

I want to talk about a little-mentioned red flag, but one of the easiest ones to spot early in a relationship. Most narcissists are rude to servicepeople and others they see as beneath them. My ex was notoriously rude to servicepeople, always screaming at customer service people, even if the problem wasn’t their fault. He was also rude to wait staff in restaurants, to the point it was embarrassing going out to dinner with him. He was unreasonably demanding, condescending, and treated wait staff as if they were mentally deficient. With attractive female wait staff, his rudeness was of a sexual character–he openly flirted with young waitresses, even though I was watching. I think he did this because he knew it would bother me.  He also did it because he knew his target was a sitting duck and might be fired or reprimanded if she objected to the flirtatious behavior…

View original post 855 more words

Augustana: Hey Now (and thoughts about 2008)

“Hey Now” is incredibly nostalgic to me.    Although it came out in 2008, it has a distinctive ’90s sound.   Without going into too much detail, even 2008 seems like “simpler times” to me now.    Obama’s election made it seem as if racism was finally a thing of the past.  How wrong we were.   (But that’s another topic for another time).

2008 (eleven years ago!) was also one of the last years actual rock music was still being played on commercial radio, but Augustana (grouped in a catchall category called “modern rock” which included more well known indie-pop bands like The Fray, Snow Patrol, or O.A.R) never caught on big.  I believe their biggest hit was “Sweet and Low,” from the same album.

I purchased Augustana’s 2008 album “Can’t Love Can’t Hurt” and almost all the songs are great, but this one, which was never released to radio, became my favorite song on the album and possibly of that year.

This comment on Youtube sums it up best:

This is one of those songs that confirms that some of the best most epic songs exist in the “unknowns/seldom exposed” category. If this song was released in the late 90s, it would be played in the cycle of those nostalgic 90s sound most of us loved. I don’t think that sound every ended. It just fell asleep, while bands like Augustana and Blue October kept that timeless mood alive for another day.

Dropping traffic, Gutenberg, and Google: what on earth is going on?

Woman confused with computer. PNG - JPG and vector EPS file form

My ads are back (WordAds/WordPress must have been having issues earlier today), but I do wonder how much longer I’ll qualify for the WordAds program (members get a small income based on number of impressions per ad).   My earnings have been dropping along with my traffic, which has been dropping steadily for several months, but has really taken a nosedive since the beginning of this year.

I can’t think of anything I’ve suddenly done differently that I hadn’t already been doing.  I did change my theme fairly recently (I think it was around Thanksgiving), but I don’t think that has much, if anything, to do with the drop.  In fact, my readers have said my new theme is easier to read and the layout less cluttered (I removed a lot of widgets from my sidebar).   So I think, if anything, the simpler, cleaner theme would be a draw.   Removing the unwanted and outdated sidebar items also has increased the speed of loading.

My WordPress stats show that my search engine activity is lower than it used to be.  This blog also no longer comes up on page one or two if I type in keywords that are used frequently on this blog, such as narcissism, or narcissistic abuse.    I can see that my Google hits are low, but there’s no way I can find out why.   Unfortunately, WordPress.com doesn’t allow its users to use Google Analytics, which does go into a lot more detail about the reasons why your blog isn’t getting Google traffic.

Not writing as much as I used to is obviously a factor, but I think there’s more going on, since each month is worse than the last and I’ve actually been writing more recently, or at least sharing old blog posts to social media when I’m not posting.   I don’t write every day, but I do spend a lot of time promoting this blog and its posts.  I seem to get half of my hits these days through Pinterest, of all things.

I have two theories as to why my hits have dropped so drastically lately.

  1.  Google has penalized this blog (but again, since I can’t get Google Analytics as a WordPress.com blogger, I can’t find out why.)
  2.  Gutenberg.   I don’t understand Google algorithms or even what they are, but I’ve been told its algorithm has been changed recently and it prefers Gutenberg to the classic editor, which I am still using (and want to continue to use).   So articles written in Gutenberg, apparently, are given priority.

Now I’m wondering if I should make the switch to Gutenberg, as much as I hate it (I’ve played around with it on a dummy blog I created just for that purpose, and I still hate it).   But I know if I did that, blogging would be a chore instead of a pleasure, so maybe it wouldn’t be worth it.