Refugees and Humanity

Today I found this image on my Face Book time line.

so wrong

This is in response to the current hot political topic of the day regarding the ever growing Syrian refugee crisis.  It is also collides with the fast approaching American Thanksgiving holiday.

Every American knows the Thanksgiving story.

A small ragtag group fleeing religious persecution in Europe embark on a long and dangerous journey in hopes of  creating a better life for themselves and their families.  They are leaving their homes, their people, everything they, understand, and find familiar.

After months of traveling the ocean in and old barely seaworthy craft they landed upon an alien shore.

mayflower (1)

The refugees did not land in empty territory.  People already lived there.  They had their own families, their own language, culture and tradition.  The new arrivals were ignorant of the current occupants of their new land.

The Wampanoag people were quite familiar with the new arrivals for they were not the first people from Europe.  At the time the Wampanoag were recovering from a dreadful plague that had wiped out fully 90% of their population the year before.  Even with the knowledge of the temperament of the new arrivals and the origins of the sickness that had caused so much death there was room and the Wampanoag gave the refugees land to build a new life.

The new arrivals were far from the first.  Merchant and fishing vessels traveled the coast quite frequently and from time to time captured slaves.  Once such slave was named Tisquantum.  He was captured and sold into slavery in Spain.  It took him 5 years to return home only to find most of his people dead by disease.  Most people know him as Squanto.


Even though he had been captured, transported half way across the world, sold into slavery only to escape and spend years getting home.  He and the rest of his nation looked upon the refugees with feeling and compassion. Squanto stayed in the new settlement, he gave instructions on how to grow local crops and served as translator between the new settlement of Plymouth and the Wampanoag nation.

The Wampanoag had every reason and every right to tell the Pilgrims to move on.  They had every right to tell them, no you can’t come here or stay here.  They had no reason to trust the new arrivals and in hindsight they should not have granted the pilgrims anything.

But the Wampanoag did give them land, and food, and assistance even knowing it was not in their best interest.  They provided because helping those in need is the right thing, the human thing to do.  It did not matter to the Wampanoag that the new arrivals did not speak their language, did not pray to their gods, wore strange clothing, and had different behaviors.  It mattered that the new people were lost, tired, sick, and searching for safety and comfort.  The Wampanoag did the right thing.  They did the human thing.

America can be kind.  America can be more like the Wampanoag and hundreds of other Native Nations that had compassion for their fellow humans.  Or we can be more like Trump and turn our backs to those in the most need of comfort and safety.  We can make the world a better place.  We can care for other humans even if they are not us.  It is the right thing to do.  The human thing to do.

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Are you Aware of Breast Cancer?


If you are a football fan you may have noticed that your favorite players were sporting flashes of pink. Pink shoes, pink gloves, pink arm bands and pink towels. Every October is breast cancer awareness month. It is also a time where people post short comments on Facebook and if you respond they demand that you also post some short innocuous comments to get your friends to comment and it spreads like a virus. Sure it is fun and harmless breast cancer is something that needs awareness. I have been quite aware of breast cancer on a daily basis since my wife was diagnosed 3 years ago. She is a survivor and I think breast cancer awareness should be more than pink items on a football players and Facebook games for 31 days out of the year.

Life is not fair, and if you or your loved one is handed a backstage pass to the “Life is Not Fair” world tour that is performing in your home and life by your doctor there is a range of emotions. First, scream, cry, throw a fit, throw some plates, break things if you need to, also have that triple chocolate explosion for dinner. Jonette was mortified when diagnosed, at the end of the fear, crying, and breaking things phase her second reaction was “Nobody must know.” It is a justifiable thought, on the surface. If you have been diagnosed soon you will learn that there is a vast team of people standing by ready to help wage the upcoming battle. If your loved one was diagnosed, let them cry, let them rage, be there for them. It will be uncomfortable but you were also handed a back stage pass and you will take that journey alongside the one you love.

The backstage pass is not transferable, you can’t hand it to someone else. So what do you do with it? Well you share it.

This is the cliff notes version of one couple’s experiences at the Life is Not Fair world tour sponsored by breast cancer.

Step one, speak up. Ask your doctor, ask your friends, for the best oncologist in your area. It will not take long for a name or if you are lucky a handful of names to rise to the top of the list. Contact the chosen oncologist. Your oncologist will be your coach, your general, your cheer leader through the fight. The oncologist job is to not only diagnose but also put together and arrange the team of specialists, surgeons, and dieticians that will fight alongside you. A good oncologist will plan and schedule everything that will need to be accomplished for the next year or so. If your loved one is fighting this fight stand by them, take them to the first meeting and every subsequent appointment. Your next best friend is a recorder of some type. Every meeting with the oncologist, doctors, surgeons will come with massive amounts of information. It is perfectly ok to tape every encounter and good healthcare professionals will encourage you to tape them. At the same time start a binder put every bill, every correspondence into that binder, when that first binder fills up, start a second. Arrange them by date and type. Help your loved one by recording and organizing the massive rainforest killing mountain of paperwork that will be flooding into your life.

Step 2, trust. Trust your oncologist, trust your doctors. This is no time to rail against the Cancer Industry. Average survivor rates of breast cancer is between 80 to 90% so if caught early the odds are actually in your favor and the reason for that is the dedicated people working to combat the disease. The attack will include some or all of the following, surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, diet and medication adjustments, also prayer and or belief. If your cancer is not aggressively treated with ALL of what is listed your chances of survival are pretty much nil. I am not going to lie to you surgery, chemo and radiation suck, but all of it together are better than the alternative. Diet, medication adjustments, and prayer will help make the pervious tools just a bit more bearable.

As a cancer patient follow the course set out by your oncologist.

If you are spouse, family member, or friend your job is to provide support. Do this by standing strong with your loved one. Provide transportation to any appointments or support groups. During chemo stay with your loved one, provide support, love, and encouragement. Between appointments and infusions, cook meals, clean house, do yardwork, watch and care for the children the patient will need all of their time and energy to actively fight the cancer. Any tasks or responsibilities that you can take off their shoulders will be greatly appreciated. Don’t ask, offer, and if you need to INSIST on providing as much help as possible. The other job is to listen with compassion and understanding.

No one survives a cancer diagnosis alone. Take advantage of the system, it is there to save you. Access and use support groups if necessary. As a side note Jonette hated the cancer support groups and refused to go, even in this I supported her decision. There are many groups and foundations that can assist with paying for medications and treatment. Google them and use them if you need. There are tens of thousands of people out there whom you and your loved one will never meet who are working hard day in and day out to beat breast cancer and do everything they can to ensure that there are as many survivors as possible.

Two more things, celebrate the wins, and if you can find the humor in your struggle embrace it. Jonette loves her “of course they are fake, my real ones tried to kill me!” shirt.


I would like to thank

Denver Broncos

Randall Patrick Munroe creator of XKCD and his heroic wife

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Spectacular Destruction

I have been watching the trailers and other footage of the soon to be released San Andreas and although the disaster scenes appear fantastic something seems off. Reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes are widely panning the film for the exact reasons I was fearing. The reviews are pretty consistent across the board that San Andreas is nothing more than disaster porn, no real plot and sadly no real characters or writing. That is fine if a viewer wishes to watch LA and San Francisco get demolished, again. Those two cities are 2 of 3 targets for disaster, the third being New York, I guess we could throw Washington DC in the mix and make it a nice round number. Back in the day disaster films were not about mass destruction, let me explain.


In 1972 Irwin Allen produced the Poseidon Adventure, a taught thriller about a small group of survivors trapped in a capsized luxury liner. The group struggles to escape an increasingly dangerous situation. This is Hollywood and there’s got to be a morning after, the audience just did not know which of the ragtag group would see that morning. The survivors struggle to overcome themselves and their violently overturned world. Steam, fire, water, and explosions were not nearly as dangerous as the group’s clashing personalities. The story is tight, the characters compelling and even 43 years later the film is just as good today. The ship was simply a set piece used to trigger deeper conflicts. If you have not seen Poseidon Adventure or it has been a few years, give it a watch for the movie is a true classic and a flawless gem of the genera and the first of the disaster trinity. The Poseidon Adventure was nominated for 8 Academy Awards and won for best original song.



Irwin Allen sealed his title of master of disaster by producing 1974’s The Towering Inferno. Not only was the film a mix of two novels, The Tower by Richard Martin Stern and The Glass Inferno by Thomas N Scortia and Frank M Robinson it was produced by Fox and Warner. Two stories, two competing film companies and two competing lead actors surrounded by an all-star cast created a flaming, 4 hour, 135 floor masterpiece. Unlike the simplicity of Poseidon Adventure, The Towering Inferno was an elegant tapestry of compelling characters and storylines. The flaming spire and the topsy-turvy Poseidon were just containers framing very human drama. Watching Steve McQueen and Paul Newman chew the scenery from both ends is a joy to watch and yet they do not overshadow the other characters. The Towering Inferno is and has been an absolute favorite movie of mine and with 8 Academy nominations and taking home 3.


Earthquake is the 3rd and final installment of the disaster trilogy. The producers attempted to use the dramatic formula of Poseidon and Inferno. The human element is in place but the massive destruction has taken a larger roll. Earthquake is the tipping point from human centered disaster films to destruction spectacular. There is none of the human hubris that is at the heart of Towering Inferno or the claustrophobic and intimate danger of Poseidon. The effects used in Earthquake are primitive, negative stretching and the blood spatter in the elevator scene is somewhat laugh inducing. In my mind Earthquake is the end of the great disaster films and the beginning of disaster porn. Earthquake was the 3rd highest grossing film of 1974 but it is far from the classic that Poseidon and Inferno are considered today.


The death of the good disaster movie can be tied directly into the rise of special effects. The use of computer modeling and rendering has made the scenes of mass destruction more spectacular than ever dreamed of in 74. It has become easier for directors and producers to split the earth and level entire cities than to create engaging characters and story lines. The movie have suffered greatly. The great modern disaster epics inflicted upon movie goers, thanks mostly to Roland Emmerich’s, Independence Day, Day After Tomorrow and 2012. The modern disaster flick is truly a disaster when compared to the early 70’s iterations. Very little more than quirky characters spouting quirky one liners superimposed on massive slick Rube Goldberg machines of distant and emotionless destruction. Sure that can be cool, and too much cool can be awesome but there is a danger zone where too much awesome can get stupid. The disaster scenes may be exquisite but that is not enough to make an entertaining film.

I would rather watch a well-crafted and tense human drama than slick effects extravaganzas. I have nothing against disaster and destruction I just want more than that from a film. Sure I could be getting old, crotchety, and filled with nostalgia for my childhood favorite films. I guess I have to accept that I am getting older, but it will be hard to convince me that any recent disaster film is as good as Poseidon, Inferno, and even the deeply flawed Earthquake. I will see San Andreas, I will not spend 14 to 20 dollars to see it on the big screen. On a cold winter day I will be sitting at home flipping channels and San Andreas will be playing. I will watch it then.


For now – GET OFF MY LAWN!



Please note that I did not forget about Airport (1970), I just chose to ignore it, it is my blog and I can do what I want

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Indian Dancers Cannot Wear Sun Glasses

Last year I submitted this image to a local photography club in the hopes that it would be selected for inclusion in a state wide photography contest.


The photo was immediately rejected by my fellow photographers. I still consider myself a hobbyist and a long way from a professional so I asked “why”. I was wondering if there was a problem with focus, exposure, white balance, composition etc. I was not quite prepared for the answer I received.

“I don’t like the sun glasses”

“If the dancer was not wearing sun glasses it would be perfect”

“The sun glasses are confusing.”

“The sun glasses are out of place”

I was pretty stunned but in hindsight I should not have been all that surprised. For generations Americans have been fed a strange static view of Native culture. Media and the education system has created and propagated a horse, leather, and feathers view of Indian people. Americans prefer their Indians as traditional as possible. This is probably the root of the rule that I and this young dancer violated.

Indian dancers cannot wear sun glasses.

If I had been more brave and less stunned I should have asked “why can’t Indian dancers wear sun glasses?”

Can cowboys wear baseball caps? Sure cowboys can wear whatever they want. No one expects or more to the point demands that cowboys wear only clothing or carry equipment from the 1800’s. The very idea is absurd on all levels. Unlike cowboys Indians are not allowed to violate the anachronistic popular conception that so many people hold. A cowboy is a cowboy even when wearing a baseball cap, yet a Native person that does not appear to have stepped out of an Edward S. Curtis image is deemed inauthentic to many observers.

I had enough wits about me to explain that wearing reflective sun glasses is normal, many dancers wear them but my words and even photographic evidence was not enough to sway deeply held views. Native culture is not canned or pickled for long shelf life. Healthy cultures continue to grow, change, and adapt to time, technology and other cultures. Only dead cultures never change.

In a real way I failed that evening.

Photography can be beautiful sunsets, majestic vistas, powerful or cute and cuddly animals, glamor shots, cute kids, and vacation memories. Photography can also shake the world, change perception, move people to action, and fundamentally change people, I am not saying the image I captured will cause a paradigm shift but I did want to challenge the viewers. I wanted them to think differently about Native people. I was shocked by how challenging the simple image above was for a good number of the people in the room.

This is my second shot at making the change.


Bonus content, just in case my readers still think the young dancer above is an anomaly. I bring you

Dancers in Sun Glasses!




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Marital Strife out of No where!

Last night I had a real life,” Well it’s Jake from State Farm” moment…


Let me explain, At the end of the month I have planned a photography trip to Yellowstone and the Grand Teton National Parks. I have been to Yellowstone twice before. Once when I was 8 and again about, wow was that 20 years ago? Yea I guess it was with Jonette. We both had a great time and I am really looking forward to the trip. In preparation I am looking for geotagged photography guides and I found 2 books and decided to go to the library and see if they could order them for me.

Ok now that is out of my system

They are ordering one of the photoguides, now I have to pray to make sure I get them before I leave for my trip. I pick up another interesting Yellowstone guidebook and a grilling cookbook go to the self-check out scan the books and grab my receipt. We get into the car and head home.


Jonette picks up the guidebook and starts flipping through it. As I am leaving the parking lot she says “Did you check out 3 books? I only saw you check out two?” I tell her I only have 2 books. By this time alarm bells are going off, how did the scanner pick up 3 books, boy I do hope that whoever checked out book #3 returns it because it is on my account. Jonette then reads the checkout receipt.

The scan is bad but the circled book is titled “Divorce after 50: your guide to uni” The rest is cut off. By this time the alarms have reached “Klingons off the starboard bow captain!” levels of urgency. “Did you check this book out? I only saw you check out 2 books not 3.” She hands it to me and I take a quick look, Well I checked out the Yellowstone one but not the divorce and the 3rd book is also different. Jonette takes it back from me and begins checking it out again. “Well at least I have 8 years to get all your money before you take off.” She quips. “I didn’t check that book out! And now I have to call the library to figure out what is going on.” thinking that this is just one more stupid thing on my plate.


Jonette then lets me off the hook. “The date on this receipt is Oct, 4, 2013 must be someone else’s.” She then grabbed the grilling book and my receipt falls out of it.


I am not the only one to use the library receipt as a bookmark.


Yikes… just Yikes. Jonette will mess with me for years over this.

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Peep cake, Peep Cake!, PEEP CAKE!

Making a better Peep!

On the first Saturday of every month my friends and coworkers gather for a party. The party is called 1st Saturday. We all bring food, and we all throw down some serious Noms, and play a game or two. Cards Against Humanity is in really heavy rotation right now. Jonette is always in a tizzy about what are we bringing to 1st Saturday. We can’t bring something we have brought sometime in the distant past. Well about 2 weeks ago she was flipping through a Food Network magazine and found a recipe for a “Peep Cake”


No it is not a cake made of Peeps; thank whatever gods you believe in for that. It is a cake with nuclear yellow icing and sugar. Jonette selected lemon supreme as her cake flavor and would make her own frosting. The yellow sugar was another matter that required several days to overcome.

We could find all kinds of sugar, big sugar crystals, and small granulated sugar crystals; the problem was that we could not find the classic radioactive yellow classic Peep color. All the white sugar we found was granulated or powdered. Natural sugar in the larger crystals we were looking for were darker in color. Jonette would use corn starch and food coloring and the result was always a dark gold color, which was not acceptable. I kept telling her to call a cake place and ask for yellow sanding sugar. Nope purchasing yellow sugar was not an option yet.

By Thursday night I grew tired of the endless failed experiments and the resulting crystalline detritus that had the kitchen looking a bit like a forgotten Lawrence of Arabia set. Even the cats were getting coated with sugar. If this had been summer time the ants would have been swarming. So I found a local cake supply place and told her “Try here!” I get home from work on Friday and surprise we had yellow sanding sugar.

Cake assembly was relatively quick and painless. The frosting however was not stiff enough and it was hard to sculpt into that classic Peep shape. I was lassoed into help with the final production stages; I grabbed a spatula and after some work did create a peepish shape. After cleaning the table, a few place mats, ceiling, walls, carving utensils, and cats the Peep cake was complete.


The Peep Cake was a huge hit at the party and after eating some of it, a party goer suggested that we cut a big gash in the head so it looked like Pac Man! Once the Pac Man modifications were complete another party goer used tooth picks to create a Hannibal Lector theme. Jonette claims that she was not responsible for the last transformation but I know she did it or encouraged another to do so.

The final remains of the cake were brought into the CQG kitchen. I sent out a message saying that the sad but delicious remains of a peep cake were available. It is an odd thing when you bring sweets into work. The cake or item will slowly be consumed until there is one serving left. That last serving will slowly get smaller and smaller as people pick at it but do not want to be the one to take the last of it. I understand their thinking. I want the cake but I cannot handle being “that guy” or “that girl” that takes the last piece of cake or donut or whatever.

I bit the bullet and took final responsibility for the peep cake and ate the last mouthful just a few minutes ago.


If you want to make your own Peep Cake go here.


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You Ate What?

Earlier this year Jonette and I would carpool to go to work. She would drop me off at the light rail station in the morning and pick me up in the afternoon. She had taken the day off but still wanted to carpool. I got to work just fine but my return trip was very different. I disembarked from the train, located the car and sat down in the driver’s seat as normal. Jonette looked horrible, really sick, like ebola sick, as if she was going to turn into Monty Python’s parrot at any moment sick.

Me “What’s wrong?”

Jonette “I ate something bad and now I do not feel good.”

Me “What did you eat?”

Jonette “I’m not going to tell you.”

I put the car in gear and reverse out of the parking spot and head for the exit of the parking lot. Jonette suddenly starts scrambling around for something. She strikes gold in finding an empty Cheezit box on the back seat, the remains of a recent road trip. Clutching the box tightly in her hands she bends over and ralphs violently into the box. A sticky sweet smell of raw cake batter fills the car.

Me “You ate raw cake batter again didn’t you?”

Jonette between hurls, “Yes”.

Me “How much did you eat?”

Jonette “Not all of it” *spew*

Me “That is not what I asked, How much did you eat?”

Jonette “half” she whimpers as she blows yet more chunks into the Cheezit box.

I am now rolling down the windows to try and alleviate the yeasty cake batter smell but it is no use, Jonette continues to evacuate her stomach with alarming frequency and violence. By this time I am not sure who wanted out more, me or the cake batter. I pull over twice on the 12 mile trip home to let poor Jonette toss her cookies alongside the road.

Once home I carefully extracted the now somewhat soggy Cheezit box from her clutches and toss it into the trashcan. It appears that her upchucks have concluded and I put her down on the couch with a blanket, pillows and a big bowl. Over the next 4 hours I needed to dump the bowl twice as she slowly recovered.

I have never seen her more miserable as that evening and even though it has been many months since the incident she has yet to eat raw cake batter. I do hope this trend continues, for both our sakes.

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