Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Right to Not Bear Arms

There will be a chance to sign a Registry of Conscientious Objectors at Clark University this Friday. I believe this is a national registry, but I am having some trouble establishing that definitively, so for the time being let's just call it a registry and carry on from there. I think the event will be interesting and encourage people to attend even if they don't sign the registry. Peace is a tricky subject and whether or not you feel a worldwide peace is attainable, the topic demands discussion in order for us to shape our personal and national approach to foreign policy.

Conscientious objection is an equally difficult matter. According to the Department of Defense, conscientious objection is "a firm, fixed, and sincere objection to participation in war in any form or the bearing of arms, by reason of religious training and/or belief," and is further broken into two classes - Class 1-O objectors, whose beliefs prohibit them from participating in war of any kind, and Class 1-A-O objectors, whose beliefs limit them to non-combatant roles in war. There is a question, however, of whether or not conscientious objection is morally and ethically coherent within its motivation and end result.

Of course, if Christian Just War Theory guided US military actions, conscientious objection would become a moot point; presumably the citizens supporting a military and government guided by these principles would be Christian themselves and thus willing to engage in combat under Just War principles. This is not the case in the United States, and we must adjust our thinking accordingly. We are uncomfortable with the use of religion as a justification for war. It seems that in abandoning this justification we are declaring religion an inadequate basis for combat and perhaps for political life all together. This seems clear enough, but we then allow conscientious objection on the idea that religious conviction supersedes the agreement one makes with his nation to serve in the military.

Is it fair to let religion inform our decisions concerning the state when we are meant to function as a secular society? This question concerns both the motivation for joining and the reasons for leaving the service. The refusal to rely purely on religious motivation for war and the reticence to even discuss publicly the idea of letting Christian Just War Tradition inform our discourse on military action would seem to cast off religious determination all together. If this is so, it seems a radical exception to allow religious objection to military service. Given the secular nature of today's military, I can't help but feel that a recruiter would not be wholly comfortable when confronted with someone who showed up to register for military service saying he or she was directed by God to join the US military. Should there not be similar discomfort when one relies on religion for an exemption?

There is also a question of veracity. The simplest way to handle objections to service developed after contracting with the military is in fact the current policy. We can all relate to certain moments which changed the direction of our lives, and the extremities of combat could certainly supply such moments. However, the conscientious objection policy specifically concerns itself with religious belief. Religion is often understood as an all encompassing subscription to a faith; of course people may come to or change their religion later in life, but that an immediate and complete transformation should occur in the midst of combat after having felt strongly enough about the cause to put one's life knowingly in harm's way seems like it would be an unusual reversal. Why religion above all? Why specify that it must be a religious revelation that can release one from a service contract? It seems that we are less ambivalent towards religion than our larger military policy and disregard for Christian Just War Theory may at first indicate.

Even more complicated are the Class 1-A-O objectors. Is it possible to join a military body and refuse to participate in the stated actions of the military? This class further fractures the religious/political distinctions and allows the objector to exempt himself from the principle reality of military service. Even if one serves as a medic, one would be healing soldiers so that they could go again into battle. In an administrative role, one still facilitates the business of war. If one's objection is to killing or war, then the efforts he exerts in his non-combat job still violate his principles. To simply serve his country, there are numerous options for civil service one could choose, but the Class 1-A-O objector remains in the military. Does this detract from the strength of the religious basis for objection? I think it must; rare is the religion that says direct killing is unforgivable but indirect killing is okay.

The matter of conscientious objection points to large scale confusion between we have different levels of commitment just as we have different kinds of love. There is a certain fear in our public discussion of religion, perhaps because religion relies on unprovable faith. We demand clear definitions of our actions, and sometimes it is not that simple. One feels loyalty to many things in his life and how we vet these loyalties cannot be rigidly defined. The US conscientious objector rules certainly make a game stab at establishing lines dividing religion and politics, but we see that these rules are rife with problems nonetheless.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

News Flash: Neighbors Continue to Bring the Crazy

Last Christmas, I took some pictures of our neighbors' yard display, which happened to be lighted cross and trees lighted so as to be visible from space. The same neighbors have preserved the level of wackiness this Halloween with this display:
This would be the "DeadMan's Poker" display, where two skeletons play poker with a gravestone that has bloody...hands? It's a little random, but pretty inspired Halloweenieness, so right on.
However, they decided to include a ghoul wedding. I guess they didn't want to limit themselves to just one theme. It's a little hard to see, but there are two gravestones in the foreground, and those things on poles are skulls and skeletal hands. The bride and groom are ghoulie ghostie things, and they are being married by a Dementor, I think. I mostly like the proximity to the Dead Man's Poker room, kind of like Mr. and Mrs. Ghoul are getting married in the middle of a casino.

I love my neighbors.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Makeup Is Easy: Don't Be Shy, Little Peacock

"Even the great naturalist Donald Culross Peattie, a man whose prose is so dry you could use it to mop spills, totally lost his head when he tried to convey the wonder of a New England autumn. In his classic Natural History of Trees of Eastern and Central North America, Peattie drones on for 434 pages in language that can most generously be called workmanlike (typical passage: 'Oaks are usually ponderous and heavy-wooded trees, with scaly or furrowed bark, and more or less five-angled twigs and, consequently, five-ranked leaves...'), but when at last he turns his attention to the New England sugar maple and its vivid autumnal regalia, it is as if someone has spiked his cocoa. In a tumble of breathless metaphors he describes the maple's colors as 'like the shout of a great army...like tongues of flame...like the mighty, marching melody that rides upon the crest of some symphonic weltering sea and, with its crying song, gives meaning to all the calculated dissonance of the orchestra.'

'Yes, Donald,' you can just about hear his wife saying, 'now take your tablets, dear.'"
Bill Bryson in Notes from a Big Country/I'm a Stranger Here Myself (Do yourself a favor and just go buy Bryson's whole catalog.)

It is fall in New England, glory hallelujah! I have been feeling particularly earth-tone-y of late. I always feel connected to the earth and all the creatures on it in when the foliage goes nuts like this - I have said several times this fall that I feel sorry for people lacking either the good fortune to be born in New England or the good sense to move here. How lucky New Englanders are to bear witness to and take part in nature's glory in this way!

Serendipity also brought me a trio of very autumnal colors in my Beautyfix box. I received the Tuscany trio from RAWminerals, which included a darker brown, a nice orangey tan, and a soft kind of chardonnay-ish beige. Blended together, they make a great smokey eye that goes with damn near everything.
I finished the eyes with that magical Guerlain eyeliner that I love so much. I did put on some very light rose colored lipstick after these pictures, but I was mid-coffee when I had time to take a few shots.
Besides, I wanted to leave my face pretty simple so the focus could be on this little piece of fabulousity
In case you are wondering, it's really hard to take a picture of the upper-back side of your head with a cell phone while in your car.
This is another piece from Liason, where Katherine produces wearable pieces of heaven. I just love the colors and textures in this, and it stayed put solidly all day. If you've talked to me in person, you know I am what one might call an "active talker" so this is really quite the achievement, hair-accessory-wise. Totally fantastic, and befitting the season!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Wanna Learn About Seamless Glass?

The DCU Center did a lot of renovation geared towards making the building fantastic for hockey this summer, including the installation of seamless glass over the dashers. Here are some shots of why this is a HUGE improvement.
Clear clear clear...no visual obstruction at the top of the glass.
The biggest vision upgrade is in the corners; without metal stanchions you can see everything perfectly.
Here's a closer shot of the boards over the penalty box. This is the only place there's any metal.
Here is one of the top caps at the penalty box. Because these boards are not being directly impacted, there is not as much give allowed in the bolts; the two parts of the cap and the bolt itself are flush on either side of the board.
This is a shock absorber, located just under the rim of the dasher on the seat side. Apparently when they first designed this type of board, the construction provided VERY little give, so people were actually concussing themselves on them. These shock absorbers were integrated and the top caps were redesigned...
...like this. It's a little hard to see, but if you look closely, the bolts extend significantly beyond the glass, and there is a giant spring between the head of the bolt and the glass. This allows the glass to move when people hit it.

These boards are a huge improvement. My only complaint is that they are quite noisy...Rich described them as "pingy" and I think that's a good descriptor. The hits are very loud, but even puck deflections are kind of startlingly noisy. It's all a matter of adjustment, I'm sure.

Speaking of noisy things that I like...
...I am feeling the HELL out of Alex Stalock. He's an All-American goaltender out of Minnesota-Duluth University and was drafted in 2005 by San Jose; he just gave up his last year of eligibility to come to the bigs. I like my goalies with a little smartass on them, and I like 'em noisy. I could hear Stalock yapping all night and he's a blast to watch. He's super fast post-to-post, and he's got some kind of weird hybrid style where he's big as hell on his feet and super fast to the butterfly. The most interesting thing about his play is how athletic he is. You see a lot of goaltenders who are just phenomenal at the skills that comprise goaltending, but I look at Stalock move and just think "damn, what a sick athlete." He wings his limbs around like they're someone else's, but he's clearly in control at all times. I cannot WAIT to see how this kid develops.

Ole Henrikson Try-It Kit

If a product works, yet smells bad, I should still use said product. I understand this. But the fact of the matter is that I am not going to use said product consistently if it stinks, and therefore the benefits of said item aren't going to be forthcoming. I tried this new Ole Henrikson kit from Sephora and though there were some items I liked, many of the others were so odiferous I couldn't get used to using them. I was kind of bummed out, but that's the whole point of these little sample kits - if I'm going to hate something, I'd much rather have spent $45 for an assortment of products and not one bottle of one product.

There were two main products I liked. The first one is the Walnut Complexion Scrub. I am a big fan of the St. Ives Apricot Scrub that pretty much everyone on the planet has in their bathroom at this very moment; I like it because it is cheap but effective and nice-smelling. The Ole Henrikson Walnut Scrub is along the same lines, but a little more hardcore. You just have to spend a minute or two scrubbing a little blob over your face in circular motions, and it does a truly amazing job of exfoliating and smoothing your skin. The full size is only $24 and I think that given the small amount required per use and the lasting effects of the product that it comes out to about the same value as the St. Ives scrub.

I also liked the Blue/Black Berry Enzyme Mask. This is a clear goop that you put on your face and let sit while it gets very slightly tingly and kind of detoxifies your face. It's an easy mask to work with and you can really see the results in the form of fresh looking, pinkish skin. I also felt like I got better absorption of the various moisturizers that I use after I had used the mask. This one's $32, but it's a great value for a mask that actually does something other than peel off in a kind of fun way.

There was also one product that I was lukewarm on. This was the On The Go Cleanser, which smelled kind of weird but worked well. It foams up well and rinses clean, but the smell really did get to me. It's not even necessarily bad, it's just...weird. The rest of the items were generally not effective enough to compensate for the weird smells, so I scrapped them. I like that Henrikson makes an effort to keep his products as chemical free as possible, and I love the scrub and mask, but the rest were not as exciting for me. This is why I love Sephora's kits, though...I can try new things without spending a ton of money. Well worth the try!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Some Treats from the (Future) Garden

I've already spoken about the glorious dahlias I will be putting into the garden this spring, but I've just started my spring planting. I will now enter a permanent state of Christmas Eve-itis. I always - always - get completely overexcited as I order bulbs, only to realize that I have to wait until SPRING for them to materialize. It's like someone promised me an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle and then hung the wrapped package from the ceiling just out of my reach. In any case, I would like to share a bit of this disorder for you with a preview of the items I put in, all of which are from John Scheepers' Dutch Flower Bulbs.
I thought about ordering the more common tightly clustered hyacinths you see, but Mom recommended these airier festival hyacinths. I'm really excited to see how they come out. As long as they have that wonderful hyacinth scent, I'll be happy.
Mom planted some of these Perestroyka tulips a couple years ago, and we were all blown away by their supreme grace and spectacular color show. They are quite tall (up to 30"), and their color changes throughout their blooming period. The coloring in the picture above is the high point, and they get paler as they go by until they have gone all the way to a pink that's just barely a step from white. They're so dramatic! I got two bags of these.
I ordered some of these Orange Emperor tulips last fall because Rich LOVES orange, but they're so beautiful that I ordered them again this year for me (he responds to most floral developments with a shrug and an "okay"). These too have some shift in their color, and pale as they go by.
I'm trying these Cum Laude tulips this year...hopefully they'll be blooming as I graduate at least cum laude and hopefully above! The deep purple will be fantastic with the Orange Emperors and the orange hints in the Perestroyka.
I'm not usually one for variegation nor for fluffy tulips, but the rich red and clean white of these Carnavale de Nice double tulips was too much to resist. I hope they come out like this picture!
Finally, some Allium Ambassador. These are very tall and have GIANT globe flowers. I cannot wait to see how they do!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Makeup Is Easy: Mrs. L's Christmas Tree

As we all know, the makeup world believes that you should just cover yourself in gold and glitter when the holidays come around. Normally this irritates me (because it is boring), but when it manifested itself as a little kit from Sephora that included a sample of Guerlain Meteorites amongst other nifty things, I totally encouraged this annoying behavior and picked it up. I started playing with the eyeshadows and wound up thinking about Mrs. L's Christmas tree.

Mrs. L is our neighbor from up the street in my parents' neighborhood. She is a total hot ticket, and her home decor is very Just So. It's like a Martha Stewart layout in there, people. Every year she gets a gigantic Christmas tree and decks the whole thing out in gold ornaments and red bows. Every year, same thing. Once I got going with the gold shadow, I figured I would combine it with a strong red lip. (I did refrain from sticking pine branches in my hair or something.)
I've got Prescriptives Redness Relief Gel on, covered with Prescriptive foundation and She Space Cashmere Stockings as a finishing powder. For highlighting I added Guerlain Meteorites all over, and Laura Geller baked blush in Sunswept. I LOVE the Laura Geller stuff...not only does it look great on, but it's just so damn gorgeous in the compact!
I used Raw Minerals eyeshadow in Chardonnay (from my latest BeautyFix kit!) all over the lid, then used Smashbox's 24K eyeshadow on the lower lid and just over the crease. I can't really decide how to feel about the Smashbox; I go back and forth between thinking it's awesome and thinking it's too brassy. It might just be the weird in-between summer and winter color of my skin right now, so I'm not giving up on it yet. My wonderful Givenchy Phenomen'Eyes mascara is getting close to death, and in the name of Trying New Things, I texted my girl Joanne who has, like, ridiculously lucious, long, fabulous eyelashes at all times what she uses. She recommended Makeup Forever Smoky Lash, so I picked it up in the waterproof formula. It is freaking fantastic. It goes on perfectly and does a great job separating the lashes, and it stays put, which is crucial.
I finished it all with Saint lipstick from Lipstick Queen in Rouge. These lipsticks are just the absolute shit. The color is excellent and they FEEL so damn comfortable. None of the usual lipstick drying and what have you, just pure, kickass color. You really need to get yourself some.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Magical Chocolate

As we know, I write random reviews of stuff that appeals to me, and it's generally just whatever occurs to me to buy or read. A while back, Annie called me and was like "hey, I have a thing you should try," so I agreed to meet with her and check it out. She called it "healthy chocolate," which needless to say I kind of shrugged off because...dare to dream, etc., etc. We met up to discuss and set up a trial run.

Here's my deal...I don't usually like these kinds of Eat This Product and Lose Weight! type deals. Weight loss is more or less just sweaty math. If you burn more than you're taking in (over a given maintenance threshold), you'll lose weight. I'm not overweight for lack of knowledge, I'm overweight because I like beer and pizza. I have tried WeightWatchers which I liked certain things about (hint: not the meetings) and I have tried (and currently use) something called CalorieKing with which I can track that exact math I was talking about previously. I really recommend that site, which we're talking about weight loss. It's a great resource. In any case, I was kind of skeptical but also know that Annie's no dope, so I checked the product out.

It's called Tru Chocolate and what you do is take one to three of the little wafers before your meals with a glass of water. The really cool thing is that the chocolate is made with Xylitol instead of sugar, so when you drink the water, it also tastes like chocolate. As we know, I love toys, so this is like...chocolate in the form of a toy as far as I am concerned. It's REALLY cool, and I feel a little weird about being all "WHEE TASTES LIKE CHOCOLATE" but I just find it fascinating and weirdly happy-making. So okay, you get to eat chocolate, this is lovely. What it does is block some of your sugar from getting into your system, and the chocolate and water obviously take up some real estate in your stomach to make you less hungry. It also is full of good stuff...the most impressive to my mind is the nutty amount of ORAC units in each piece. ORAC units are the free radical fighters that everyone's always overstimulated over with blueberries and what have you. These little suckers have 3,040 units a piece, which is yooge; there's a nice little comparison chart over on their website. The chocolate is also all organic and generally full of nutrients and awesome on top of any weight loss benefits.

I lost about seven pounds in a month, which includes a slight warm up time where my body was getting adjusted to the whole thing. Annie actually lost 16 pounds in a month which is totally awesome. Like I said, I was skeptical, but damn if it doesn't actually work. I'm super impressed with it, and I'd encourage you to check it out! I have a site thingie through which you can order, and if you have any questions you can always email me (...and allow time for me to check with Annie, who is the reigning chocolate guru). Honestly, it's worth a whirl, even if you're just trying to lose a little bit of weight...you get to eat chocolate, it's an easy program that doesn't involve keeping track of anything, and it gets all your nutrition into your day. It's really, really hard to keep your actual nutrition up when you're dieting, so having a boost like this is an easy assist for your diet program.

Oh oh oh AND if you are a mint chocolate person, do not bother with the regular chocolate-chocolate flavor because the mint flavor is AWESOME and you will totally love it.