If you've read my previous blogs you may be aware of my current fascination with avatars that look kind of like me. Well, I've found a very nifty new program that lets you create a 3D avatar of yourself and chat with the 3D avatars of other people in 3D rooms (most of which you can rearrange furniture in, etc.). Of course, I had to run out and create an account and my own avatar. (Seen below is my current look.)

The program is IMVU. It's free and gives you some free "credits" you use to make your avatar (and/or room and/or homepage) just the way you want it/them. The way they make money is from sales of additional credits to people who want more than you can get free.

Anyway, if you're interested in trying the program out, simply follow this link and check it out. (Full disclosure: you DO get additional free credits when your friends sign up). Then come visit my IMVU home page by clicking on my avatar image above. (Or just send me a friend request and tell me you came from my blog if you already have an IMVU account.)

One thing to beware, though. If you try to use their "add buddies" feature to invite friends (as opposed to sending to each friend individually), make sure you deselect your entire email address book before sending out the invite to people who may already have IMVU! I didn't do this and ended up spamming tons of people, including many Yahoo groups. Also, you probably want to deselect the "automatic reminder" option if you're going through the "add buddies" button (yeah, I didn't do that either).


Craptastic Day

So, it should have been a fairly average day. I got up, had some breakfast, got Tre dressed and went to run some errands. I had a check at the post office (yay!) which should have given us a bit of breathing room.

So, I go to the bank to deposit it and get back a little bit of money for our "special drinks" (Tre likes the orange blended creme drink at Starbucks), and find that we're overdrafted by almost $200, enough that my check won't even bring us even. This is where my bad day really starts.

So, I talk to Rich and he says that the problem is that he forgot to mentally adjust for the car insurance auto-deduct (he won't use a register, no matter how often I encourage him to or how many overdraft charges he gets). But he gives me some money for Starbucks, so I head on, but now I'm feeling a bit down.

At Starbucks, they've got a new employee that I haven't seen before. He's friendly and outgoing and really helps to cheer things up a bit. I also listen to some of my favorite songs while drinking my coffee on the way home, but I'm still in the dumps. I raid Tre's halloween candy, making it the second day this week I've completely disregarded my Weight Watcher's points, fiddle around a bit, and try to get some work done.

Then it's 4 o'clock and time for me to help out at Mom's farm. Now, my mother is paying me to take care of her farm while she's traveling to Michigan and Ohio to see her mom and Dad's dad (my two remaining grandparents). She's got four cows, about 10 bunnies, one duck, and five dogs (she's taken a couple of dogs with her) that I'm taking care of for her. I get over there determined to make the best of it.

The weather is decent (after being too cold the last few days), the sun is about to set, and I'm out "communing" with the animals. But the cows are running low on hay. There's a round bale just outside their fence, and I figure I'll give it a shot to see if I can push it through the gate. I get it rolled over twice (once to the fence, once through) and it stops. No matter what I do it won't budge. But the fence won't close, so I'm really screwed. I push and I shove but it won't move. I move the cows to the dog yard (leading them with their grain), and then I get my car and bump it into the hay... no luck. So, now I've got to go back over there with the truck when Rich gets home from work to try to push it with that. My wrists are both very sore. I'm covered with hay... it's just been a very craptastic day.


Ron Paul for President

Okay, while I often state my political beliefs, it's rare that I make any attempt to influence those of somebody else. Instead, I generally would prefer to hear why people believe as they do (as long as the discussion doesn't devolve into an argument). However, this is a rather unique situation. (Forgive me if I'm a bit off in the following data, I'm working from memory rather than looking it all up again.)

Senator Ron Paul is a republican senator from Texas. He's been in the senate for 20 years, a career he started after spending some (not insignificant) time as an ob-gyn. So, you ask, why should I care, especially as chances are very good I don't even live in Texas? I can answer that question.

First, Ron Paul is running for president. So are about a dozen other people. So, that really doesn't make him special. However, he's also a politician who has stayed true to his campaign promises during his ENTIRE senate career. He's also the only candidate I'm aware of who NEVER supported the war in Iraq and who wants to bring the troops home immediately. He is a true conservative who always follows the Constitution, and the Constitution says that if we want a war, CONGRESS is the one responsible for declaring it. The fact that Congress hasn't officially declared war with Iraq makes our presence there a violation of the Constitution. Even if you think we SHOULD be over there, you got to respect a man who has actually upheld his oath to protect and defend the Constitution.

Beyond his war position in which he is unique, he also believes in much smaller federal government (Constitutionally small, I should say) and an economy based on money backed by real wealth. So, he consistently states that disbanding the IRS and Federal Reserve are two of his plans if he's elected. (Do a web search on the Federal Reserve if the topic is unfamiliar.)

Maybe you're thinking this might sound good, but what are his chances of actually winning? That depends on who you ask. Mainstream media is acting as if they're actually afraid he might win. They minimize his constant victories in polls and debates (often claiming fraud), though his victories prove he's got a following that's willing to take the effort to share their views on his candidacy. ("Scientific" polls involve no effort on the part of the participant, so likely include those who can't be bothered to vote on election day.) If you get all your information from mainsteam media, you may never have heard that Ron Paul is even running for president. However, his campaign is growing exponentially, and he's definitely one of the "top-tier" candidates when you talk about funding (especially from the military), polls (including straw polls that people must pay to participate in), and the like.

Anyway, like his supporters' signs often say, "Google Ron Paul." Watch videos of the debates he's been in on YouTube and elsewhere. Read about his political position on whatever your "hot-button" issue may be. Compare his statements to his congressional voting record. Watch for inconsistencies in his statements over time or his actions as compared with his statements. You may actually find someone you can vote FOR in this election instead of voting AGAINST "the other guy." (He's even got a myspace page.)


Life Changing Books

I've read some good books, and I've read some great books. But very few books have actually made a difference in my life over the long haul.

Following is a short list of authors (and their books) that have made a long-term difference in my life.

  • Daniel Quinn

    • Ishmael
    • Story of B
    • My Ishmael

  • Richard Dawkins

    • The Selfish Gene
    • The God Delusion
    • River Out of Eden

  • Harry Browne

    • Why Government Doesn't Work
    • The Great Libertarian Offer
    • How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World
    • Fail-Safe Investing

  • Stephen Covey

    • First Things First

  • John Taylor Gatto

    • Underground History of Education

Those are the books that most directly changed my life. Some set the stage for other books or writings or the like, some were the "final straw" in changing my opinion about things. But none of them were insignificant to me. If you're interested in discussing any of these books or recommending others that you think I might benefit from, feel free to comment on this post.


Tre's Computer

So, we were rearranging things in our life and doing minor (video card and memory) upgrades on our computers and decided it was time that our three-year-old son, Tre, had his own computer. I'm sure this isn't a decision that most people would agree with... why on earth does a three-year-old need his own computer?

Well, for one, our family (my parents included, but not Rich's) are very technologically inclined. We've had a computer in my family as long as I can remember, and I believe I had my own computer from the time I was about eight. Also, Rich and I chose to spend a great deal of our recreation time playing on the computer (either actually playing computer games or surfing, working on personal projects, or otherwise tinkering). So, Tre was wanting to participate, which was causing some friction as we discussed who's copmuter he was going to use at any given instant. Add to that fact the fact that I work from home doing transcription (of course, on my computer) and it just seemed to make sense for him to have his own computer.

So, I dug out my collection of kid's games, installed them all on his computer, and let him go. He's had his computer for about a week now, and he's already increasing in so many skills! His ability to double click has improved dramatically. But beyond that his games have him recognizing letters and numbers, working with matching shapes (as in a "color by picture" portion of his current favorite game). He's learning basic categories of food, transportation, and animals. And all while he's having an absolute blast and doing just what he wants to do. Of course, I have to help him some, especially as his favorite game is directed toward first graders, who (from the content) apparently are expected to be doing some reading, but it constantly surprises me just how much he can do on his own without my help.

And, also a surprise to me, he's asked for a way to "type with me," so his current second favorite activity (after the first grade game) is to open up Notepad and type while I'm typing. Anyway, it's been a lot of fun watching him explore this new (to him) world of computing and being able to "let go" because I'm not worried about him messing up my computer or Rich's. After all, if he completely hoses his install, I can just install everything again, no real loss. :)


Petty Things of Vast Importance

Until recently, my life has felt just a bit off kilter. Things were out of balance. And what, you may ask, was the cause of this imbalance? Nothing significant, at least, not to anyone other than me. But first, a little background.

I recently made the mental move from leaning toward paganism (but not practicing anything) to out-and-out athiesm. This has been a change that has been in process for quite some time since my original disillusionment with the church I was raised in. Initially, I continued to believe that Christianity was correct, but the manner my church practiced was problematic. Then I did some thinking/studying and came up with many questions that I couldn't find satisfactory answers to. At that point my opinion shifted to a belief in a creator, a desire for something after death, and an affection for the trappings of peganism, but no real spiritual practice. Then, recently, I learned a little bit about evolution (which I had been previously told functions on pure chance), and my need for a creator was abolished, and with it my lingering belief in God. (I am now starting a slightly more in-depth study of evolution for my own benefit.)

So, as I approached this decision, the necklace that I wore constantly (a heart with a cross on it) no longer seemed appropriate and I removed it. I knew exactly what I wanted to replace it with (a pegasus pendant, I've been in love with the idea of winged horses as long as I can remember), but didn't have the funds to do so. This lead to me not wearing a necklace for a month or two, and that made me feel slightly off balance.

Then there's the technology. I own a palm pilot. I use it to track everything from appointments and contacts to gas milage and my menstrual cycle. I also read extensively on it, both news (from Lew Rockwell.com) and books (purchased or manually digitized). But in May of this year, my backup palm pilot (actually Rich's that he loaned me) broke, leaving me without one. Once again, this lead to an off kilter feeling as I struggled for new ways (albiet temporary ways) to keep things in some semblance of order.

However, Rich recently came into a small amount of money (a bonus at work) just after we got all our bills caught up and we were able to take care of some things that had been pending for a long time. We got both palm pilots repaired for under $100 (I'd highly recommend the individual who repaired them, Chris Short, though he does specialize in only a few models -- email him at ips AT chartermi DOT net for an estimate) and I got a new silver pegasus necklace for $25. And as I went to bed last night I finally felt like everything was right with the world.

They may seem like very petty things to most people, but somehow having my necklace and a working palm pilot make a huge difference in my life. And it all makes me wonder, is it only me or are there petty things that make a big difference in most everyone's lives? Things that may only matter to you, but without them everything just seems slightly wrong. Anyway, that's my thought of the day.


Frustrating Dog

We have two show-quality Samoyed dogs. Our older dog, Tristan, is well behaved. He was our only dog for several years before we adopted Angel. She also was well behaved. Everything was running smoothly in our family. Then we let my mother breed Angel (we got Angel from Mom for free with Mom retaining breeding rights). During her late pregnancy (once she was due to deliver) through weaning of the puppies, Angel stayed with my mother. When she returned to our home, she did NOT settle back in to life as usual. Instead, she's become a terror.

Where once she was fully housebroken, now she pees in the house all the time (my mother has a dog door, so dogs don't need to ask to go potty). Where once she was trustworthy in the house without constant supervision, now she gets into everything. She's destroyed our bath "scrunchies" on several occassions, she eats any of Tre's dirty diapers she can find (even ones that were in my trash can), and just yesterday she decided to start eating CLEAN diapers, making an attrocious mess with the liquid absorbing powder spread all over our bed.

For about a month now, she's spending almost all of her time in her crate. But when she is let out, if she's not walked and put immediately back in, she finds some way to get into trouble. Rich, my husband, is almost ready to get rid of her and I'm looking for a way to re-train her... which will have to fit in my already rather full schedule.

Hopefully with some time I can once again have my cuddly well-behaved Angel back. We'll see.


Zwinky and Such

I really enjoy making idealized pictures of myself. I've gotten pretty decent as well, I think. Most recently, the picture I've made is at Zwinky. I've taken a screenshot and uploaded what I have.

I've also made myself into a (less idealized) Simpson character:

And here's a PixelArmy version of my EverQuest character, Dorwinyn, who was an idealized version of myself:

Anyway, that's it for now.


Life and Times with a Three Year Old

I have the amazing joy to share my life with a three-year-old boy, my son, Tre. Though at times it is a bit stressful, the stressful times are far outnumbered by my "I'm so glad he's a part of my life" moments.

We take him to restraunts and everyone remarks at his food choices, manners, and how well behaved he is.  It's been fun to explain that the reason he usually prefers the salad bar over pizza at Pizza Hut is because he's never been told that one is better than the other.  He is able to listen to his body and choose what's best for him without any false priority being given. Because we've never tried to make salad more important, or to limit his exposure to sweets, he doesn't think of salad as something that must be endured to get to the "good food" nor does he obsess about sweets. That's not to say he doesn't choose to eat a lot of something when we haven't had it available (or he hasn't been aware of it) for a while, but that something could be peanuts, bread and butter, or tomatoes as easily as cookies.

I am also regularly reminded that he's supposed to have gone through his "terrible" twos and be in his "terrible" threes now. And I think I understand just why they seem so terrible for most parents. At around that age, a child moves from being willing to do whatever you say just because you said it to thinking for himself and wanting explanations for parental requests. Parents who are willing to accept a child's autonomy (as those who choose radical unschooling do), do not find it surprising or a big hardship when the child starts wanting to make decisions for himself on the basis of information, rather than parental authority. But if you are expecting your child to obey everything you say, you'll run into trouble at around age two or three until one of two things happens: you back down and let the child be autonomous or you "break" your child into the understanding that he's not truly autonomous and must instead listen to you, because you're bigger (regardless of the reason you give or think he gets from the "breaking" this is what the understanding consists of).

This "breaking" lasts until the balance of power shifts in the teen years, at which point it beomes a major problem for traditional parents. But parents who have accepted their children's autonomy from the time of their first display at two or three (or earlier) do not have the same issues to battle in the teen years. Instead, they can continue to accept their children as autonomous. Separation from the family, moving into adulthood, becomes just one more step on the path that began at birth or shortly thereafter.

Radical unschooling is NOT easy. It requires much more of a parent in finding ways to meet everyone's needs instead of the child or children obeying "because I said so." But the rewards, it seems to me, greatly outweigh the early costs. And it does becomes easier with practice.

All My Ridiculously Huge Projects

I've been extremely busy doing nothing much.

The only real news I have recently is that after almost TWO YEARS, I finally have recovered my data drive. I destroyed it in late January or early February of 2005 by deleting the partition that contained all of my data. And I do mean ALL. I had been actively working to have only installed programs on the C drive, while all program settings and such were on the D (data) drive. But then, during a Windows reinstall (which ought to be done by most people at least once a year on general principle), I goofed and removed the data partition. I realized instantly what I had done, so I stopped, removed the drive, and didn't do anything with it until I found a way to recover it. (Continuing to use it makes the data move from "likely to be recovereable" gradually through stages to "impossible to recover.")

So, last week after jumping through a lot of hoops (most of which were, in hindsight, completely unnecessary), I finally got all my data back, and I've been busy combing through the files, figuring out what I had, what I have, and what I'm still missing. Reorganizing the files I've made since the loss with the earlier files so that everything's easier to find. It's a big job, but I seem to thrive on big jobs my husband considers useless.

I've also been working on my music/audio book collection, making everything into MP3s. Most audio books already have fairly short files (two to five minutes long, on average), so that if you have to stop listening and start again at the beginning of a file, you don't repeat too much (or if you choose to listen to the end of a file, that's not too long a commitment). But a few of mine have chapter long files and the ones that came from cassettes are 30 to 45 minutes in a file, which is ridiculous. So, I'm using a piece of software I found for FREE (gotta love freeware) called WavePad to break them into two minute chunks within each chapter (I put new chapters in a new chunk by default).

Of course, I've got tons of data entry I'd like to be doing (cross-stitch patterns, digitizing books, recipe input), but I've been so busy with everything else that it just hasn't been happenning lately. If I were to get inspired, be able to remove all my distractions, and work on the data entry I'd like to complete non-stop until it's done, it would probably still take many years. So, I'm not too pressed if it doesn't get done, but I do like to be making some progress.


Daniel Quinn

I recently discovered an author, Daniel Quinn, who while he apparently doesn't agree with my political beliefs did a great job of making clear to me why I have the beliefs I do. His books tie together my parenting and political philosophy in a new way that I didn't expect. Given that I'm not yet good at explaining his point of view and without that I can't really explain my discoveries, I'm just going to leave it alone for now.

Anyway, I strongly recommend that everyone read at least one (and preferably all) of his books that explain his world-view. That series (all categorized as fiction by Daniel Quinn) is: Ishmael, The Story of B, My Ishmael, Beyond Civilization, and If Life Gives You Lined Paper Write Sideways.



I have these really mixed feelings about the idea of scrapbooking.

On one hand, it seems a brilliant idea.  A wonderful way to be creative, a beautiful way to capture memories. 

On the other hand, it's such a hassle!  There's so much to buy, so much to collect, so much work to do.

I just don't know.  I love being creative, though my usual outlets are counted cross-stitch or knitting or other working with my hands following a pre-set plan.  But though I really don't feel I have the skill-set to be a brilliant scrapbooker, something in the idea draws me.  I've never met anyone who scrapbooks, I've only seen one show on TV about it, and heard about it in passing from time to time, but still... I wish it were more clear to me why I feel this draw to something that's probably really not for me.