Brand new day.

Due to an extreme dehabilitating bout of food poisoning?/virus?, I was incapacitated and unable to vote yesterday. Seriously, I could not have dragged my sorry ass to the polls if I tried.

Does this make me an irresponsible citizen? Eh, maybe. But because I live in a state which is so overwhelmingly conservative, my vote wouldn't count that much anyway. Sad but true. I know it is a popular mindset to go around saying, "But everybody's vote counts; your vote is how you voice your opinion!" but it's not one I particularly agree with. Voting liberal in a conservative state is pretty pointless, thanks to that amazing vote-distorting construct known as the electoral college. (Note the heavy sarcasm.)

So yeah. Barack Obama (aka Superman Black Commie Jesus, as I have seen him referred to in certain circles) is now President-Elect of the United States. I have heard people say the craziest things about this particular candidate. I've heard him called a Marxist and a Muslim. I've heard him called a terrorist, a communist, a socialist, a radical, and an abortion-endorsing baby-killer. According to some sources I've read, he will establish a nanny state reinforced by a massive police force and take all of our money to redistribute it among the lazy poor.

Personally, I don't see it. I heard him speak in person back in Selma, Alabama, when me and a few friends went down to march in the Bloody Sunday demonstration to memorialize those lost in the Civil Rights Movement. I didn't see a radical then - I saw a guy who was intelligent, charming, and a great orator - which is, as an English major, one of the factors I look for in a presidential candidate. Of course I never thought I'd live to see him voted into the White House - it didn't even cross my mind when I saw him then.

But maybe the fact that I don't see his viewpoints as radical makes me the radical. Who knows? I did march in protests against the Iraq War. I marched for civil rights and compassionate immigration reform. I guess caring whether people are free from torture, death, and injustice is considered a radical perspective to some people. I mean, how dare I care more about the welfare of others less fortunate than myself? How very un-American of me.

Despite all of the bad press (after all, which is a worse accusation - wasting $150,000 dollars on clothes or being irrationally labeled an Arab just because your middle name is Hussein, which is about the African equivalent of "Bob"), two-thirds of the country voted him to be leader of the free world. Two-thirds. 349 to 163 electoral votes. Even though I have been keeping up with the polls for the last few months, I was astounded by the decisiveness of the people. I expected him to win, but only by the skin of his teeth.

When I listen to him speak, I don't see a black guy, and I don't see the AntiChrist, or the downfall of the United States. I just see our next president, a little inexperienced, a lot idealistic, and the inheritor of a LOT of problems - a failing economy, two boondoggle wars, and a deeply divided country.

Now it's time to kick back and see if he can deliver on his promises...

The great granola experiment - Day 2

So I didn't eat meat all day yesterday. For real. For me, it's a major accomplishment. If I can keep it up for a few weeks, I think I'll be golden. But the holidays are going to be a *serious* trial...


Breakfast: (see above post)

- veggie burger (Franklin Farms, vegan/organic section of Kroger's grocery store, and oh man, these are the bomb! Something that has only 1.5 grams of fat in it shouldn't be so filling and delicious. I ate mine with a white hamburger bun and BBQ sauce. Yum.)
- rice cake

- Wheat-Thins

- boiled new potatoes w/ butter
- tomato soup
- Coke Icee

Delicious! *thumbs up*

Doing good so far today too.


- mixed fruit salad (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, grapes)
- Wheat-Thins
- iced sweet tea

Vegetarianism: the great granola experiment - Day 1

I'm trying out vegetarianism for a couple of reasons - a) religious, b) ethical, c) environmental. Religious because as a Buddhist, I think my eating animals is kind of hypocritical. Especially since I have a few animals in my life whom I consider dear friends, and to damn other animals to slaughter just because I don't know them personally is just a weird ethical paradox. I am also doing it for ethical reasons because I'm fully aware of the torture involved in factory farming, and having been informed about it through extremely graphic videos, I just don't feel the urge to eat animals like I did before I watched them. I can't eat a piece of bacon without thinking of some pig being boiled alive in a warehouse somewhere. And lastly, raising animals en masse is terrible for the environment. Since I really want to be more environmentally friendly, this is one of the most impactful ways to do it. Animal agriculture causes more pollution than anything else in the world, particularly in the US. 

All my altruistic reasoning aside, I also have to be in a wedding in two weeks and a few pounds of weight loss would in no way hurt me, so even if I go hungry on a radical diet of fruits, veggies, and *gasp* granola, it will actually be doing me a favor. I was actually going to wait and try this experiment at the beginning of the New Year, but my waistline really can't wait that long, since I usually "fluff up" during the winter months and I'm plenty fluffy enough for the year. It's time to trim down now.

So I'll be documenting my efforts here to keep myself accountable. The first step I took was to get rid of all the meat in my freezer, which was not a major chore as most of it has been frozen for months and was probably close to expiration anyway. I also went to the grocery store and bought a variety of vegetables, fruits, nuts, and legumes. Here it goes. Wish me luck!

- 1 small cup cappucino soy milk
- 1 cup muesli (granola, dried fruit, walnuts, skim milk)
- 1 rice cake
- 1 large bowl strawberries, blueberries, grapes, and raspberries
- 1 large sweet iced tea

What I learned so far: I am not a granola fan. Or maybe it is an acquired taste. But it is definitely not as delicious as it looks. Soy milk, on the other hand, wasn't too bad and actually had a pleasantly smooth texture. I didn't even mind the Splenda used to sweeten it, which I typically despise. The soy milk did have a rather unpleasant "beany" smell to it (sort of like the unpleasant smell of faux meat to me) but the taste was pretty good. And for 8 grams of protein a cup, you can't really shake a stick at that.

My favorite part of the meal was the fresh fruit and the rice cake, mostly because the rice cake had a mildly salty flavor to it. The granola cereal mix was way too sickly sweet tasting for a salt lover like me. I'll have to go the fresh fruit route from now on and just try eating the granola dry instead of doused in milk and dried fruit. Rice cakes are a keeper though.

Shoot 'em in the head.

LiveJournal Question: With Halloween on the horizon, burning questions about the undead need to be answered: Can being a zombie be considered suffering?

A: I don't have any scientific evidence to back up whether or not the undead "suffer," but I do know that if I ever become a zombie, I except my friends/relatives/random strangers to blow me away post-haste. I do NOT want to be a zombie for any reason. In fact, if I was ever bitten by a zombie, I would probably just off myself before I even had a chance to turn.

But this question did remind me of a Facebook group I started in college called the Cambodian Zombie Hunters Inc., in response to a hacked April Fool's hoax on the BBC about an outbreak of zombies in Cambodia due to a mutated malaria virus. (Our motto? Shoot 'em in the head!) Me and my friends were very excited for a few days that zombies existed. After all, if you can't trust the British Broadcasting Corporation for the news, who can you trust? And then when we found out that it was all a hoax by a clever hacker, we were very sad. Because we were ready to fly overseas and shoot some zombies.

Anyway, here is the list of Ten Quick Rules for being a zombie hunter that we established during our brief stint as Cambodian zombie hunters. Enjoy.

Ten Quick Rules for being a Zombie Hunter

1. Shoot 'em in the head!!

2. When you're searching a dark, dangerous indoor area for zombies, turn the lights on stupid!

3. If you find a village/town/city that looks deserted, there's probably a good reason. Stay away. Besides, if it's deserted of all (living) human life, who's gonna pay us?

4. Set up your fortifications in a Walmart, preferably one that hasn't been built over an ancient Mexican burial ground. That could be sketchy.

5. If your friend or fellow zombie hunter gets bitten by a zombie, but is still acting completely normal, blow their head off because they are not freakin' normal!!!!

6. If you shoot a zombie and it appears to be dead, do not go over and check to see if it is really, really dead. Just shoot it again until you're sure. Duh. (We lose so many newbie zombie hunters this way, and our insurance can't handle it anymore.)

7. Don't worry about running out of ammo. The only way to make sure that a zombie is really, really dead is to shoot it until you could really, really slurp it through a straw.

8. Wear armor. Tinfoil hats don't count. The only acceptable helmet is a motorcycle helmet, because it looks cool as hell. Anything else doesn't work. You'd rather be a zombie than an idiot with a bucket on his head, wouldn't you?

9. Always check the backseat of the car. Zombies love the floorboard.

10. Chainsaws and attitude only work in the movies. Real hunters use guns. Ever see anyone survive an encounter with zombies using a switchblade? I didn't think so, scooter.

Things that make me a bad Buddhist.

Now lots of regular people hear "Buddhist" and think of the Dalai Lama serenely twirling a lotus flower somewhere on a mountainside and bald guys in saffron robes walking gingerly to avoid killing bugs in the grass. But that's definitely a generalization which does not readily apply to the average American Buddhist. Like any other religious laymen, we are as fallible as anyone else. So here's a list of the ways of how a "good" Buddhist should act, and how I'm doing on all that.

To start off with, Buddhists have a list of precepts which are similar to the Christian 10 Commandments except they're a little more open to interpretation. Also, they've been passed down for hundreds of years by monks, instead of decreed by any one person. Here they are in a nutshell.

-First Precept-

Aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life, I am committed to cultivating compassion and learning ways to protect the lives of people, animals, plants, and minerals. I am determined not to kill, not to let others kill, and not to condone any act of killing in the world, in my thinking, and in my way of life.

I'm a meat eater and I have been my whole life. My branch of Buddhism (Soto) doesn't call for vegetarianism, but I feel like it would be a more religious/ethical choice based on this precept. So why haven't I made the switch? Because it's hard. I come from a family that has been known to serve several kinds of animal at one meal. Our idea of vegetables consists of potatoes and sometimes rice if we're feeling particularly faux-Asian. But mostly meat-and-potatoes all the way. So it's a little difficult for me to get used to the idea of substituting delicious chunks of cow with seitan and potatoes with a variety of healthy beans and green leafy vegetables. However, working in a place where I have to pass adorable calves and bonded families of cattle every single day definitely makes me feel guilty. So I'll be trying to work on this one, at least for meals I prepare myself. Interesting note: Buddhists who are given meat as an offering MUST accept it. It's considered self-righteous not to.

-Second Precept-

Aware of the suffering caused by exploitation, social injustice, stealing, and oppression, I am committed to cultivate loving kindness and learn ways to work for the well-being of people, animals, plants, and minerals. I am committed to practice generosity by sharing my time, energy, and material resources with those who are in real need. I am determined not to steal and not to possess anything that should belong to others. I will respect the property of others, but I will prevent others from profiting from human suffering or the suffering of other species on Earth.

I think I do pretty well on this one. I'm active against social injustice and in learning how to live sustainably.

-Third Precept-

Aware of the suffering caused by sexual misconduct, I am committed to cultivate responsibility and learn ways to protect the safety and integrity of individuals, couples, families, and society. I am determined not to engage in sexual relations without love and a long-term commitment. To preserve the happiness of myself and others, I am determined to respect my commitments and the commitments of others. I will do everything in my power to protect children from sexual abuse and to prevent couples and families from being broken by sexual misconduct.

Done pretty good on this one too.

-Fourth Precept-

Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I am committed to cultivate loving speech and deep listening in order to bring joy and happiness to others and relieve others of their suffering. Knowing that words can create happiness or suffering, I am committed to learn to speak truthfully, with words that inspire self-confidence, joy, and hope. I am determined not to spread news that I do not know to be certain and not to criticise or condemn things of which I am not sure. I will refrain from uttering words that can cause division or discord, or that can cause the family or the community to break. I will make all efforts to reconcile and resolve all conflicts, however small.

I'm terrible at this one. Seriously. I think I'm a pretty good listener, but I am susceptible to gossip, and I can be very critical of people due to a deep streak of cynicism I've cultivated since college. I'm also not very good at reconciling grudges. I make friends easily, but once you piss me off in some unforgivable way, you've made an enemy for life. Obviously, forgiveness is a huge part of Buddhist philosophy, but it's one of the areas I'm least good at. I'm trying though.

-Fifth Precept-

Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I am committed to cultivate good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family, and my society by practising mindful eating, drinking, and consuming. I am committed to ingest only items that preserve peace, well-being, and joy in my body, in my consciousness, and in the collective body and consciousness of my family and society. I am determined not to use alcohol or any other intoxicant or to ingest foods or other items that contain toxins, such as certain TV programs, magazines, books, films, and conversations. I am aware that to damage my body or my consciousness with these poisons is to betray my ancestors, my parents, my society, and future generations. I will work to transform violence, fear, anger, and confusion in myself and in society by practising a diet for myself and for society. I understand that a proper diet is crucial for self-transformation and for the transformation of society.

I drink regularly (though rarely to excess). I enjoy it. I'm not a "bad drunk" and never have been. But drinking and other miscellaneous intoxicants are a BIG no-no in Buddhism. Will I ever become a teetotaler? Probably not. But I try to be conscious of how much I drink, and of my actions while I'm drinking. I also need to get onto that good diet/exercise thing.

Maybe a vegetarian experiment will help with that...

Short stories are fun, 'cause they're shorter than novels.

I'm working on two new short stories right now while I dwell in the purgatory that is "submissions pending." Also because I am completely unenthralled with my novel right now and I'm totally blocked on it. Ditto for the screenplay. I continually think of excuses NOT to write. While that is somewhat normal for me, the writer's block isn't. So I'm switching over to short stories for awhile to grease up the old gears and maybe develop some new stuff to submit to literary magazines. I love short stories, because unlike novels and screenplays, you don't have to commit. A short story is like a one-night stand. It's a wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am sort of creative release. A novel-in-progress is like a marriage, complete with spells of wedded bliss, plate-breaking fights, boredom, and sometimes affairs. Like right now.

The first story I'm working on is about two friends who find themselves hanging out together on the last day of their existence before humanity is abolished by a meteor of earth-destroying know, the same meteor they've been predicting will destroy mankind in the next few hundred years or so. So it's Armaggedon without the motley crew of heroes led by Bruce Willis to save humanity, basically. And from the perspective of Joe Six Pack and his buddy Jill Six Pack. (Sorry, couldn't resist. And no, that's not their real names.) The story (at least right now) is called "Come Goliath." 'Cause that's the name the astronomers came up with for the meteor. Too bad this story has no David. It's actually a really Zen-oriented story about living completely in the moment even when you're about to die.

The second story is about a rural father who finds out his pre-kindergarten son is a messenger of God. Literally. But his local church thinks the kid is possessed by the Devil and wants to perform an exorcism. So far I'm pretty excited about it, but I'm having difficulties coming up with a title. Usually I come up with a title at the same time as I come up with a story. Hopefully the story will give me an idea. Right now (just because I hate working on something called "Untitled") it's "The Chicken Saint." Don't know if that title will stick either.

In any case, it's nice to be working on something new.

I think this is injury is self inflicted. By a moron.

Because the "B" is backwards people. Like it was done in a mirror. Do I believe she was mugged and given a black eye? Sure. Do I believe she was robbed by a mugger who cares who she's voting for? Er, not really. Do I think she dimwittedly scratched a backwards B in her face for national news coverage in a last-ditch, desperate effort to make people think an Obama presidency would lead to the uprising of politically active muggers everywhere?


And funny that the picture originates from, a blog which represents Obama as a communist and "evil personified" can't make this shit up.

Some people are so freakin' stupid. (Like Biden. And this chickadee.) In the words of Pundit Kitchen: