The REAL Tragedy of Mass Killings – It’s Not the Obvious

The mass killings in Isla Vista recently have prompted some Facebook friends to blame the problem on guns – except what about the 3 people the killer stabbed to death and the 4 people he hit with his car? Another friend just posted an ill-informed article about how all the recent mass killers were taking powerful psychotropic medicines and blaming these medicines for the violence.


Both these points of view miss the mark. How do I know that? Because my brother suffers from schizophrenia. He is not violent. He is deeply disturbed, however. He has an illness. My family has been dealing with it for more than 20 years. Do you know how he finally got treated? He was arrested during a traffic stop and sent to the state hospital, where he stayed for 9 months before he was stable enough to be freed. He’s been on medication since then.

How would you like it if you broke your arm and instead of going to the hospital for treatment, you were arrested and sent to jail? How would you like if you suffered from cancer and instead of going to the doctor for treatment you were arrested and sent to jail? It’s the same thing. Mental illness is pervasive and misunderstood and EVERYWHERE.

Very few people understand the difficulties involved. I even have members of my own family telling me that my brother should just get a job instead of being on government assistance. Not only is that judgmental, it is supremely unhelpful. He could maybe work 10 hours a week or so at some fast food joint – maybe. That doesn’t pay his living expenses. It doesn’t BEGIN to pay his living expenses. If it weren’t for living at my parent’s house he could very well be homeless. And you know what? MANY, MANY people with severe mental illness ARE homeless. I’ve worked in social services and have seen firsthand the incredible suffering these people endure. Do they turn to drugs and alcohol to “help” themselves. They do, quite often. Wouldn’t you?

What happens if you have mental illness? You are misunderstood. You are ignored. You are judged. You are begrudgingly helped by the criminal justice system if you become a danger to yourself or someone else.

This does not mean I am excusing the behavior of the Isla Vista killer. Not in the least. It is completely tragic, in all senses of the word. For ALL of the families involved, including the killer’s.

In future years society will look back at the draconian lack of resources and treatment for mentally ill people that we have available in America today. Mass killings like this will continue, and the ever more present silent suffering of thousands upon thousands of people who are not violent will continue because of these misunderstood conditions.

Uncategorized, writing

Is It Only Wednesday?

WIPpet Wednesday BannerToday is the day of the week where I share a little snippet of my work in progress, thus, a WIPpet. It is posted as part of a challenge hosted by K.L. Schwengel. My WIPpet needs to have something to do with today’s date. And so, today’s snippet relies on convoluted WIPpet math – 8 sentences (5/21 … 5+2+1=8). This is from my short story “The Pomegranate Tree.” 

It approached from leagues off, a deep, dark purple mass that blotted out the sky from east to west, horizon to the heavens above. It moved relentlessly, eating up the earth before it like a swarm of locusts devours green stalks of wheat.

A cold clawed hand of fear seized her by the shoulders. She slipped out of its grasp in favor of action. Snatching up Iambe’s limp hand, she tugged, crying, “Come, sister. We have no time to waste!”

“No,” moaned Iambe. “It’s no use. Tonight I feed Cerebus at the River Styx.”

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history, literature, Uncategorized

The Shield

Source: http://pixabay.com/en/wappen-adler-golden-shield-3913/

I am the lone wood in the warp of battle,
Wounded by iron, broken by blade,
Weary of war. Often I see
Battle-rush, rage, fierce fight flaring–
I hold no hope for help to come
Before I fall finally with warriors
Or feel the flame. The hard hammer-leavings
Strike me; the bright-edged, battle-sharp
Handiwork of smiths bites in battle.
Always I must await the harder encounter
For I could never find in the world any
Of the race of healers who heal hard wounds
With roots and herbs. So I suffer
Sword-slash and death-wound day and night.


–Prior to 10th century AD (p. 63, A Feast of Creatures: Anglo-Saxon Riddle Songs, trans. by Craig Williamson)


photography, Uncategorized

The Stars of Our Fault(lines)

When a couple has been married as long as Dave and I, there apparently comes a time at which you look at each other and say: We have very little in common. Except, of course, for family. He’s of a scientific mindset and I’m on the other end of the spectrum in artsy-fartsy land. While searching for things to do together, we met in the middle at photography. He does have an artistic streak and his more technical mind has been a boon for the technical parts of photography, which, I admit, we both need more practice to master. But at least he sort of understands those technical parts, the same which cannot be said of me.

Anyhow, we went out one night a few months ago with the intention of taking some photographs of the night sky. What followed was about 90 minutes of fumbling around with the camera, trying to hold the lens of the camera straight since it was apparently too heavy for our tripod, and some general dipshittery that resulted in a few dozen blurry and generally objectionable shots of the moon and the sky above someone’s house.

So when the National Park Service in our area gave a free program titled Astrophotography, we attended in the hopes of learning a thing or two. Success! The workshop was taught by a local physics professor – Mike Shaw. He has some simply stunning night photographs up on his site. As a skilled instructor, he really knows how to teach information to the clueless, so we very much enjoyed his class. What follows is the highlights of my notes, and a few photographs of ours. The most important info is bolded.

  • Summer is when you want to photograph the Milky Way. It’s not visible in winter from our position (Southern California) due to some complicated stuff about the orbits and our place in the galaxy and whatnot. That went over my head, but what you need to know is that you must try for such photos in May, June, or July.
  • The Golden Hour occurs one our before sunset, and the Blue Hour is one hour after sunset – the light is great for all kinds of photos during these times. Immediately at sunset occurs the Alpenglow (mountain glow), an array of orange and red colors that lasts no more than five minutes. Take a look of a photograph of the sunset. Do you see a blue band at the horizon? That’s the shadow of the earth.
  • In order to accurately obtain a light meter reading of a sunset, take it just to the left or right of the sun itself.
  • The phases of the moon are critical to astrophotography. 
    • If you want shots of the Milky Way, you do not want the light of the moon to interfere, so take your shots the week before the New Moon.
    • If you want shots of the Full Moon or of Star Trails, obviously you need to do this during the appropriate time of the month.
  • Direction matters. You’ll get different pictures entirely if you’re looking up in the sky from the South or due North.
  • Leave your zoom lens at home. Astrophotography is all about wide angle lenses. We’re talking 24mm, 35mm, 14mm, even 50mm. I’ve been wanting an excuse to get a wide angle lens for some time now, and this is apparently it!
  • Look for stars about 45 minutes after the official time of sunset. You can start taking photos that are two stops above what you want (overexposed). That way you will be at the appropriate exposure once the sky is really dark.
  • Star movement will blur your pictures. Figure out how long your exposure can be by dividing the lens’s focal length by 600. This will give you the number of seconds you have before you’ll get smeared pics.
  • Some sort of feature in the foreground makes for nice star photos, like a mountain or structure or something. You can illuminate this with a flashlight or strobe light.
  • Light pollution from urban areas is to be avoided for the best photos. Cleardarksky.com is a great reference for figuring out the spots to go to for the least light pollution in your areas.
  • Apps and software to make your life easier include: Distant Suns App, Observatory software, Luan software, and Photographer’s Ephemeris (highly recommended).  This last helps you plan for a shot. For instance, let’s say you want to take a picture of the full moon behind mountain peaks. You would figure it out with Photographer’s Ephemeris.
  • Other sites with great info: Distant Suns, Astropics (Wally Pacholka), and Astronomers without Borders.
  • Gear list: sturdy tripod, red flashlight (so you can see what you’re doing without blinding yourself and other photographers), a chair, compass, air blower for condensation on your lens, t-mount adapter for DSLR/telescope, star chart, fresh batteries, and a memory card.
  • Do not use autofocus to focus on stars – use manual focus instead. In order to focus, use Live View if your camera has it, turn to Manual, find the brightest thing in the sky and focus, if necessary by magnifying your LCD view. Do not change lens zoom once focused. Set white balance to a fixed value. I can attest to focus problems in the dark when you’re old and half blind. It’s rather tough, lol.

Finally, our shots!


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challenge, photography, Uncategorized

They Grow Up So Fast … Like, in 6 Weeks!

From previous experience with my cockatiels laying clutches of eggs, I was determined not to expect this latest clutch of hatchlings would survive. Whether from disease or parental neglect or some sort of genetic defects, previous clutches have had rather high attrition rates. However, this clutch – all SIX of them – have not only survived, but thrived! And now they’ve grown up and left the nest box, except for one that’s not quite ready yet.

Anyhow, here are pictures of the oldest two babies and then some. Birds are not all that easy to photograph when I need to stick my camera into a cage (they tend to view the camera as an “enemy” and flap around) so even though I fancy myself a bit of a photographer, these aren’t the greatest shots in the world.

Gray and white cockatiel
This little guy is the oldest of the bunch. He’s a lot prettier now than when he was first hatched!
The second to the oldest baby. Isn't she beautiful?
The second to the oldest baby. Isn’t she beautiful?

Cinnamon cockatiel.

Proud Papa. The bird in focus here is a fully grown adult – the babies have shorter tufts at the top of their heads and tailfeathers.

And, since I don’t think I’ve posted a picture of her for a while, here’s my girl dog Kima. She’s quite the hunter of tennis balls – she’s waiting for my husband to throw one as I took this shot. Right now, she’s taking a nap beside my computer and snoring a little.

Kima, my German Shepherd/Basenji mix.
Kima, my German Shepherd/Basenji mix.

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general wackiness, humor, photography, travel, Uncategorized

I Wonder as I Wander … at WonderCon

What’s this? An actual travel post from me, your delinquent travel (slash writing slash animal) blogger? Glory hallelujah! I’m doing a brief look at my experience in exotic downtown … Anaheim. Yes, the Anaheim Convention Center to be more accurate. WonderCon is usually held on Easter weekend in the Bay Area. However, the last three years have seen it in Southern California due to scheduling conflicts. Conference organizers claim that they hope to return the con to San Francisco soon, so there’s no telling where the con will be held next year.

Over all, WonderCon with its 50,000 or so attendants, is rather like a mini-Comic Con (which boasts at least 125,000 attendants, and spills out of the San Diego Convention Center to bleed garishly all over the Gaslamp District). It’s even put on by the same nonprofit organization. WonderCon, however, does not take over Anaheim with the same single-minded gusto that Comic Con takes over San Diego. Not only do hundreds of cosplayers (fans in costume) range everywhere, but buildings and buses are festooned with ads for TV series and movies and so forth. San Diego transit even gets into the mix by changing the transit signs to Klingon (past years) or Dothraki (Game of Thrones). See an example of this wackiness here.

Anaheim is not quite so obsessed with WonderCon. After all, they have DISNEYLAND. Yes, that was supposed to be in all caps. Mickey and Minnie Mouse gallivant all over Anaheim, not to mention the other Disney characters. They have all become passé to the regular inhabitants. The city welcomes the thousands of geeks which WonderCon attracts, but they don’t exactly know what to do with them. A case in point:

Last year I was waiting for a bus to take me down the street to my hotel room for a little well-deserved showering when a homeless man appeared, reeking of alcohol. Mumbling to himself, he lurched down the street. A young man and his girlfriend, dressed as some anime duo or another, walked past the homeless man. Upon seeing them he gave an exaggerated double-take. Not unlike this:


However, his amazement was soon lost due to his efforts at retaining his balance on a busy streetcorner.  Not two minutes later another couple strode by, wearing something like this:

Cosplay - Catgirl and Friends 2006


The homeless man now performed a triple – nay, even a quadruple-take. Then he proclaimed in loud, plaintive tones: “What is going on here??”

Ah, the stuff of dreams. That’s WonderCon for you.

Here is a little gallery with some other photos from this recent event.

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Invariably, I am completely broke when I attend these events (let’s face it, that’s how I’m able to travel anywhere – saving money to get there and stay there, not buy stuff) but this year I managed to buy a few things from the wonderfully well-stocked Exhibit Hall. Behold:


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WonderCon is a less expensive, less crowded, less crazy way to experience a pop culture event than Comic Con (whose tickets have become increasingly difficult to obtain). It’s not just for lovers of comics, but those who enjoy anime, cartoons, manga, books, movies, games, TV shows, and collectibles. You don’t even have to dress up. Chances are you’ll have a great time either way!

challenge, general wackiness, Uncategorized

Mondo Pet Post – Dogs and Birds and Baby Dinosaurs, oh my!

Yes, I know. I’m supposed to be writing about TRAVEL here. Soon, I promise! I’m hoping to write an absolutely SCINTILLATING treatise on toilets while traveling this weekend. But in the meantime … critters!

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Want to know what they sound like in real life? Turn your volume down and watch!

And last but not least my younger dog Rudy, who is of … uncertain parentage. His coat is quite wiry – so much so that I call him Stickerhead. Can you spot why?



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