I began about a year ago taking pictures of mushrooms at the Calvert Road Disc Golf Park in College Park, MD. It reignited my love for photography (even though I am just a pleb who is using a phone haha). I started to take pictures of anything that just struck me as odd, interesting, or beautiful. I was then struck one night by the beauty of "regular, everyday" moments that I experience in my house, as, I think, we all do. I have found my first two years here in Maryland to be very difficult, especially since I have started school last semester. As I have struggled to find new friends (though not anymore!) and new haunts, I have taken particular solace in these little moments at home. An everyday practice for me is being aware and intentional, and I am finding more of these moments as I continue my practice of awareness and intention. These are some of the pictures I have taken and they are not edited in anyway (I need to work on the exposure when I am outside, have a hard time seeing the screen...). I am hoping that over the next 3.5 years the changes in my comfort here, and perhaps some change of view, are chronicled in this photo documentary.
“One should use common words
to say uncommon things.”
- Arthur Schopenhauer, Philosopher
“One day I will find the right words,
and they will be simple.”
- Jack Kerouac, Novelist
(from The Dharma Bums)
“Any intelligent fool can make things
bigger, more complex, and more
violent. It takes a touch of genius--
and a lot of courage to move in the
- Ernst F. Schumacher, Economist
"Creativity is often associated with artists, poets and authors, but not necessarily with scientists and certainly not with practitioners. Yet, creativity is at the heart of good science and resource management. Scientists must think creatively about problems, use creative inventions to study them, and explore creative ways to interpret and communicate their findings. Practitioners must think creatively to solve environmental problems, use creative means to engage stakeholders and develop creative means of communicating to the public. Finally, virtue is an attribute that is perhaps the most essential element of both studying and solving problems. Although virtuosity is usually associated with moral values and societal interactions, it is actually an attribute that combines the wisdom of knowing what needs to be done with the courage to tackle the most difficult and seemingly intractable problems. In the words of the naturalist and scientist David Starr Jordan, ‘‘Wisdom is knowing what to do next, virtue is doing it’’ (Jordan, 1902)."
-Dennison WC 2008.
I felt I needed to post this because I think some of the problem with all of the climate, vaccines, and other controversies, and the growing anti-intellectual attitude in this country stems from this notion that scientists are not regular people. That we are antisocial, awkward, and unfeeling. That we only care about our work and have no "real" lives. I was astonished as a young undergraduate when a professor, from another lab, joined our meeting brought beer and said 'fuck' numerous times. Even I, who has always loved science and looks like a Trader Joe's employee, had entrenched this vision of stuffy, old people in my head when I thought about scientists. Some scientist are like that sure, but so are lots of non-scientists. Perhaps if we somehow humanized ourselves in the eyes of the public, they would trust us more. May be scientists should redefine ourselves as more of a civil servant, rather than a cold, data creating machine....
There are two types of microplastics: primary microplastics are manufactured to be of microscopic size, like microbeads from face wash; and secondary microplastics are pieces of plastics that have broke off from larger pieces of plastic, like a discarded soda bottle. Secondary microplastics are a big problem because plastics do not mineralize. This means that plastics do not break down like food would, they just break off into smaller and smaller pieces. So, any bottle, bag, or polyester shirt that is not removed from the environment eventually becomes microplastics. See the previous post and download the beat the microbead app and recycle!
Picture from http://www.beatthemicrobead.org/
Beat the Microbead App
More and more cosmetics contain microbeads, tiny plastic beads. These microplastics are a hazard to our environment.
It can be hard to determine if a product contains these microbeads. The North Sea Foundation (Stichting de Noordzee) and the Plastic Soup Foundation have developed an App to easily check if a product contains microbeads.
With this App you can check if a product contains microbeads by just scanning the barcode with your smartphone camera.
This new version of the App recognizes many more products and has localised product listings. New countries are continuously added, so chances are that your country is included or will be included soon. Beat the Microbead is now a truly worldwide campaign!
For more information go to the website:
Heh, another shooting. It's almost expected news now I feel like. It's not every other news story, it's not plastered on my front page. It just sits neatly in my trending section along Hulk Hogan. It enrages me not just because of the people that died and were injured, but because it reminds me of our failure. Our failure as a community. It reminds me that we keep failing to take care of each other. In each community this happens in there are many people, because this shooter was just the one who got the courage to do it, who are so desperately angry and sad that they feel the need to not only end their life, but that of others as well. I say the communities are failing because it is evident that there are people out there who are that anguished and yet everyone has ignored them, no one reached out. That they were made to feel by their community that they couldn't be helped, that no one would listen, that reaching out and telling others that they felt abandoned by this world and didn't know what to do was not an option. How many shootings will have to happen before we realize this? I am not condoning the shooting in anyway, it is horrible what happened, but the communities, the families, and friends of this individual are partly at fault. Until we wake the hell up and realize that our fates are connected, that our individual happiness is dependent on the happiness of others; till we finally have compassion for each other and reach out not just to our loved ones, but to anyone who is in need, we will continue to see these tragedies occur. This is not a gun problem. Make them illegal, they'll be bought illegally. This is a mental health problem disguised as a gun problem. This is an empathy, an apathy problem, it is a problem caused by our false disassociation from each other. Please, please wake up.
I am no expert on the political and religious tensions and goings on in the Middle East. However, I do know that the media coverage of the war is extremely skewed to one view and for a purpose, let's not be naive here. Well, while browsing reddit.com one day I came across a "ELI5," it means Explain Like I'm 5. When someone does a ELI5, it is an explanation of a complicated topic or concept in a short, easy to read way. Reddit user RajaRajaC did exactly this with the origins of the Taliban and the War. It's not very short, but when condensing a highly complex, 4 decade conflict, I think it does a pretty good job. Please take the time to read this, it might help you understand.....
"I am going to do a longish ELI 5, so bear with me. I will link Wiki pages for you to start off your search while I will refer more solid sources at the end of the post.
Firstly, there is no monolithic entity called the Taliban. You have two separate entities we all know as the Taliban.
The Taliban - These are the Afghani Taliban. To give you a quick background into the Taliban (important to understand why they do what they do), the Taliban always existed in Afghanistan. They were literally a roving band of preachers operating out of the Southern parts of Afghanistan. The Soviets invaded Afghanistan and three countries via their secret service agencies created, funded, armed and trained the resistance movement we loosely call the Mujahideen. The parties involved were the USA (CIA), Saudi Arabia (GID) who did all the funding and arming. The Pakistanis (ISI) set up training camps, recruited volunteers across Pakistan and sent them across the border. All the funding from USA and KSA was routed via the ISI who alone decided which groups would live and which groups would die.
Without going into too much detail in this conflict, and in true ELI5 style, this resistance was soon split on many different political axes.
Northern Alliance (I like to call them the good guys - their leader is somebody who is a very inspiring figure).Ahamad Shah Massoud lead something called the Northern Alliance. This was a group that was more Shia in nature and owed allegiance to Iran and was also funded and aided by India (Pakistan's mortal enemy). The ISI obviously decided the NA couldn't be trusted and did their best to kill this movement (their leader mostly was assassinated by an ISI assasin / plot, though we never will know for sure).
The dark side here was The Hezb Islami lead by Gulbuddin Hekmatiyar. This group owed its allegiances to Pakistan and KSA and got the lions share of the funding and troops.
BY the time the war ended, the NA was though being the smaller force, kicking Hekmatiyar's arse all over town, and he was also too unstable (like killing 10k civilians in Kabul level mental), and the ISI+GID decided to drop him.
Enter the Taliban.
The ISI+GID combo needed somebody who they thought was pliant (ha, they sure learnt this lesson the hard way) and followed their ideology to counter Massoud and his Northern Alliance. So they hit on this rag tag bunch of preachers, armed them to their teeth - The ISI opened up a full armory in a place called Spin Boldak . The Saudi's funded them to the hilt (tanks, fighter planes, helicopters, the works) and the Taliban proceeded to crush the Northern Alliance, chasing them into their holdfasts - think of something like Helms Deep, where thanks to terrain and brilliant guerilla warfare by Massoud (the Lion of Panjshir), the Talin couldn't touch them.
Now, we move onto the Taliban and their ideological differences and why the Afghani Talib were so violent and intolerant.
You have many schools of thought in Sunni Islam, but we will restrict ourselves to,
Salafi / Wahabi movements - Broadly speaking this was a "purification" movement which felt that mainstream Islam had become too unislamic and corrupt. This is the school of thought the Al Saud family of Saudi Arabia exports all over the world (And responsible for a lot of terrorism as well to boot).
Deobandi Movement - Here is a thought that felt even the Salafi / Wahabi thought was weak and unIslamic and wants an even greater, more pure version of Islam.
Marxism as a thought was a rejection of capitalist values / system right? Now imagine a "purer" form of Marxism which rejected Marxism as impure. That is literally what happened here.
Now throw in another variation into the mix - Pashtunwali , now this is not a religious ideology per se, but a cultural ideology, but one that has its roots amongst the Pashtun people and goes back many centuries (literally a medieval way of thinking).
The Taliban, was a mixture of all these three and hence their extreme intolerance to anything they perceived or felt was unislamic.
Needless to say, the GID and ISI very soon lost control of the Taliban (who not very politely asked them to fuck off), sheltered Osama and the rest is as they say...history.
Now, who the Talban killing children and women in schools and markets?
They are the Tehrik-i-Taliban . They formed around 2002, 2003. They initially formed as a loose alliance of tribes in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas- FATA . By 2007, they became more or less a single entity under the leadership of, Baitullah Mehsud .
It is now important to understand what this FATA area is all about.
It has since the time of the Brits, along with the rest of Afghanistan been considered an ungovernable area and has nominally been under the Pakistani govt, but the Pakistani govt for the most part, never even bothered with direct governance.
This area is occupied by fiercely independant, martial, very warlike peoples who follow the code of the Pashtunwali and resist any attempt at being brought under any form of central government. The only modern empire to conquer it and subjugate this land was Maharaja Ranjit Singh an Absolutely kick ass Sikh Emperor and general.
During the Soviet War, the ISI very cunningly (and tragically for them, with extreme short sight) declared a sort of a truce with these groups, armed them, funded them and sent them to do battle with the Soviet Union. By the time the late 90's rolled around, these groups were very heavily armed, highly experienced and fought on difficult terrain which made any offensive against them very difficult to execute.
After the US invasion, the schism was ripped wide open - the Afghani resistance (or insurgents if you see them as that) used the FATA as the Vietnamese used Cambodia and Laos - a place of refuge, and to get away from US attacks as US troops couldn't enter FATA as it was Pakistani soil.
This was extremely frustrating for US planners, they would launch attack after attack, but the resistance would simply slip across the Durand Line , rest and come back and hit US troops.
The US demanded that Pakistan end this menace, and thus began a fratricidal war - The Pakistani army mobilised against these groups in the FATA in 2004 , and it was a dirty, no holds barred war.
Pakistan held and holds the advantage in conventional forces, but the Tribes, as I explained were veterans of a decade long war against the Soviet Union, they held mountainous terrain and really punished the Pakistani Army. Frustrated, the Pakistani army started taking it out on the civilians in the FATA (As in any COIN type war). Conventionally, both sides hit a wall and stalemate ensured. Multiple peace treaties have been signed, but the reality is, they are both in a state of war.
Finally we now reach your question, why do the TiTP kill civilians?
DISCLAIMER - I DO NOT SUPPORT THESE ACTS, and MERELY trying to explain why they are doing what they are doing.
In one simple word...Nyaw aw Badal  . It literally means Justice and Revenge - it is the Pashtun code of 2 eyes for an eye. In the Waziriztan war, the Pakistani army has killed innocents, children, women and this conflicts with many codes the tribes in FATA hold, chief amongst these,
Respect, Pride and Honour - When a Pakistani unit kills a child or woman in the FATA, the tribes see their personal pride and honour taking a beating.
Naamus - Protection of Women, now add in the above two elements of Pashtunwali code and you get a bloody, violent endless cycle of violence.
When the TiTP killed all those innocent kids in a military school in Peshawar, it was a message being sent to the ISI and Pakistani military (and Pakistani people) - You fuck with us, with our kids, we will fuck right back at you. If you kill our kids, we will kill your kids right back. When they bomb markets, the message is the exact same.
The TiTP is all about revenge for the war on Waziristan. The message is simple, Pakistan should withdraw their troops and let status quo remain unchallenged. If not, for every kid you kill, we will reach into your cities and kill your kids.
It is nasty, it is horrible, but in the eyes of the tribesmen, justified.
Primary sources -
Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan and Bin Laden by Steve Coll
Taliban: Islam, Oil and the New Great Game in Central Asia by Ahmed Rashid
Waging War in Waziristan: The British Struggle in the Land of Bin Laden, 1849-1947 by Andrew M. Roe. This will give you a solid idea of the nature of the warring tribes.
The Pashtun Question by Abubakr Siddiqque"
I hope that was enlightening. Here is the link to the orginal comment if you would like to read the discussion this explanation spawned:
And remember, as I hope this did remind you, that there is always two sides of every story, and that to understand the story you must keep in mind the cultural context in which they occur... and that the conquerors usually tell the tale.
“How can you have a war on terrorism when war itself is terrorism?”
― Howard Zinn
"With the differentiation of the original concept of the unity of life [in the image of the Mother Goddess] into a multitude of goddesses and gods, and finally with the image of the single transcendent god that evolved with Judaism and Christianity, this understanding of the unity of life was lost." - from The Myth of the Goddess: Evolution of an Image by Baring and Cashford.
About this Blog
This is a place for the dumping of my thoughts, an electric pensieve if you will. If there is something you would like me to discuss or post in my next blog, comment and I'll get to it as soon as I can. Hope you enjoy the drippings of my mind.