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My Life’s Dream

dreams

(This is true.)

Not to sound too much like Donald Trump, but I have the best dreams. They’re fantastic, really. No one has dreams like me. Absolutely no one. Sad, really.

The problem is, I can rarely remember them when I wake up. I wake up knowing that I just had a fantastic dream, no idea what it was about.

However, there is one dream that I have had over and over again. For decades. It is one of the defining features of my life, although almost no one knows about it. Until now, of course. You are really privileged, dear reader. I just hope you realize that.

It’s more of a location than a specific dream, but I keep coming back to it and referencing it in dreams so often that it’s as real to me as, say, New York City. Actually, I’ve been to this place more often than I’ve been to New York City.

It’s a large warehouse or industrial complex, up on a hill with trees around it and reached by a long winding road. Sometimes it’s abandoned, sometimes not, but there are almost never any people there.

I first dreamed of this place when I was a teenager, I think. It was abandoned then, and I sneaked in and started digging in the floor. What I found was a large open space and then more space under that. There were man-made tunnels going out in all directions and further down and further down, it went, maybe forever.

Every dream is slightly different, but it’s always the same kind of place with empty tunnels and dark spaces going down and down out of knowledge. Just a few weeks ago, I dreamed that I was camping with my family and we drove past that place. I saw it up on the hill and knew it was the same place I’d been dreaming about for half my life. I wanted to bring them all up to show them the place, but we didn’t because dreams frustrate you just as much as they enthrall you.

Anyone who has read my (still unpublished) novels will be able to see this love of vast, dark spaces pretty easily. It is a theme that excites and fascinates me and make me feel that heartache longing, redolent of nostalgia and homesickness for a home I’ve never seen. I’m not sure why, but that’s me.

It’s why I love the work of H.P. Lovecraft or House of Leaves or Empire of the Ants. It’s why one of my favorite parts of Lord of the Rings is when they are in the mines of Moria. I am at home in huge, dark spaces. It’s what I dream about when my conscious mind takes a break and I let my subconscious out of its box, to play and plot. To dream.

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The House, from House of Leaves (Source)

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Summer Writing Project – 170 prompts

Hello, are you still out there? You might be wondering the same thing about me. I’m still alive, although I’ve had less time for blogging recently. I’m still writing, just in other areas.

Businessman Buried in Paperwork --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

This is why I love computers (Source)

However, I thought I’d try something different for the summer to get back into blogging and try some different kinds of writing. I’m a writing teacher, teaching students for whom English is a second language. Part of what I get them to do is create blogs and write about various things every week. At the moment, I have two students, and here are their blogs:

https://japaneseninjablog.wordpress.com/

https://writingclass2016.wordpress.com/

Sometimes I give them a specific prompt to write about, but sometimes I let them write about whatever they want. One thing I use is a list of 170 Journal Writing prompts I got from Daily Teaching Tools. So I decided to try it myself. For my class, I picked out 170, so I’m going to go through the list and see how far I can get.

Of course, I have to be me, so I’m going to do them my way. Most I will write as fiction, but some I will write from my point of view. If it is non-fiction, I will make that very clear.

Coming soon:

Prompt #1 “Write about going back to school after summer vacation.”


Holi at Upper Iowa

Some pictures from the Holi festival at our university a while ago.

Upper Iowa University

Exactly a month ago, Holi came to Upper Iowa. Holi is a Hindu spring festival, usually held in March and since we have a lot of Nepali students, this is our second year holding it. Our version is different in that it is much smaller, doesn’t have the original religious significance, and is held a month or so later. This is because Iowa in March is usually still too cold to be outside for a long time.

The main draw of Holi is the colors, specifically throwing colored powder at friends and strangers alike. It’s about having fun, and boy did the students (and staff) have fun.

IMG_7647 multi-colored Venezuelans

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My Chipmunk Saga

This is a true story. My office is in the basement of a converted house and it is surrounded by death traps. To be fair, they’re called window wells and nothing has actually died in them, that I know of, but it’s been close. Baby animals especially fall in there and can’t get out.

This afternoon, one of my coworkers came into my office and said there was a small chipmunk in the window well. We both work in the basement so it’s easy to see into the window wells. I never look into them, however, although she does. “It’s alive but it’s not moving much and it’s covered with flies.” Uh oh, that didn’t sound good. She thought it was a baby one. I went over and looked. It looked small, but all chipmunks are small, so I couldn’t tell if it was a baby or not. It looked dead to me and had flies on it, but she said she’d seen it moving. We figured it could have been down there for days without food or water.

picture-of-a-baby-chipmunk

I didn’t think it had much of a chance but I didn’t want a dead chipmunk in our window well and I wanted to at least try to save it. I went outside and climbed down into the window well, while she watched from inside. The little guy was definitely alive but barely. I scooped him up with a piece of bark and put him on the grass outside. He moved feebly, but couldn’t stand up. I went and got a paper plate with some water on it, although I thought he looked too weak to drink it.

So I left, not expecting him to survive, but not knowing what else to do. A little while later, my coworker came back and said, “He fell in again.”

chipmunk

Grumbling about suicidal chipmunks, I went back and looked out the window. There was a chipmunk in there but definitely not the same one. This one had lots of energy and was trying to jump up the molded ladder to get out, but he couldn’t quite make it.

The day was shaping up to be a reverse episode of Chip and Dale, Rescue Rangers, where I was the one rescuing the chipmunks. I went out and found that it had started to rain. The first chipmunk (let’s call him Chip) had crawled about three feet and was still lying on the grass, trembling and getting soaked by the rain. I picked him up with the paper plate and put him under some bushes to stay dry. Then I got a mop and angled it down into the window well so the other chipmunk (Dale) could climb up.

Now that it was raining, Chip probably had enough water, but needed food. “If only we had some nuts,” my coworker said. “I have some,” I said. I have a container of trail mix in my office to stave off mid-afternoon munchies, so I picked out some peanuts and raisins and carried them out and put them next to Chip. He got up immediately and tried to eat but his legs were shaking so hard he could barely stand. I looked down and saw that Dale was gone, so I assumed he had climbed up and brought the mop back inside.

I was just about to go home when my coworker mentioned that there was a chipmunk in the window well, yet again. I was tempted to let stupid chipmunks lie, but I went outside and looked in. Again, I couldn’t see anything. Then, as I climbed in to get a better look, I noticed that a section of siding was trembling. I lifted it up and there was Dale, hiding underneath it. Apparently, he had never climbed out, just hidden. I had a plastic garbage can and so for the next few minutes, I terrified the little guy by chasing him around the window well, trying to get him into the garbage can. I felt like a nurse running after a fleeing patient with needle, shouting, “It’s for your own good!”

Finally, Dale made a mistake and fell into the garbage can. Before he could jump out, I lifted it out of the window well and laid it on his side. A second later, he dashed out and was off to safety. He’s probably still telling his chipmunk buddies about how he evaded death at my hands.

Chip was gone, which I took for a good sign. About half the nuts and raisins were left and at first I felt this was bad, until I realized that, considering that a single peanut would make a good meal for a chipmunk, he had probably stuffed himself. So, hopefully he is off in some hole now, recuperating.

We really need to cover those window wells with nets or something.

chipmunk 2

I just want the best for you, Chip.


Fenghuang – the chinese town that time forgot

I would love to visit this city, or at the very least, build it in Minecraft.

e MORFES

fenghuang-china-1Photo credit

Fenhuangis an old town in Hunan province, China, with a history spanning 1,300 years, and architecture dating back to the Ming and Qing dynasties. It is  well-known for its stilt houses, folk culture, ethnic groups and fantastic landscape. The town is placed in a mountain setting, incorporating the natural flow of water into city layout. Fenghuang means Phoenix in Chinese language and it represents good omen and longevity in Chinese mythology.

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5 Things I Learned at the Fayette County Democratic Convention

What do you usually do on Saturday morning? I usually sleep in slightly, then maybe go over to the coffee shop for a cup of coffee and a few hours of writing.

Not a few Saturdays ago though. Instead, I got up early and drove to the county courthouse, where I sat and listened to people talk for five hours. It was an interesting experience, however. It was the Fayette County Democratic Convention. Here are 5 things I learned there.

Fayette county

  1. The caucus system is pretty messy

The caucus system has none of the clean-cut mechanistic feel of a secret ballot, where every vote is (supposedly) methodically counted. In the caucus system, it’s all out in the open, in a way that probably worked better a long time ago when there were less people. At the county convention they did get the Bernie Sanders delegates to sit on one side and the Hillary Clinton ones to sit on the other. However, there were observers mixed in with them, along with alternate delegates and no way to tell them apart unless they volunteered the information. True, all the delegates had hand-written name stickers on, which, to be fair, are pretty hard to fake without a trip to Dollar General.

  1. Picking a presidential nominee is democratic-ish

Another thing that surprised me is that although none of the delegates changed sides, they technically could have. This means that although the results of the caucus were announced on February 1st, at any stage of the process, the delegates could decide to change their vote to anyone.

“Under the Democratic Party’s Rules, pledged delegates are not legally “bound” or required to vote according to their presidential preference on the first ballot at the Convention. Rather, these delegates are, pledged “in all good conscience [to] reflect the sentiments of those who elected them.” [Rule 12.J]” (Time.com)

This means that the higher you get as a delegate, the more power you have, and democracy transforms slowly into an oligarchy.

  1. Some people get addicted to local politics

That kind of power, even at the district or state level, can be quite appealing, and there are people there that have gotten used to having it.

The caucus on February 1st lasted about 2 hours maybe. The county convention was about 5 hours. One woman told us all about how the district one was at least 8 hours and the state convention could be even longer. She went on and on about how tiring it was, but then when it came time to elect the delegates, she was one of the first to volunteer. I’m not saying that what she said was untrue, but I wonder if she was trying to discourage people from volunteering so she could go.

I can understand it. Even at the county convention, there was a special feeling, like you were part of an elite group. That only increases as you go up the scale. It’s like being part of the in-crowd.

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Our state senator telling us about troubles in Des Moines

  1. You get to see what your neighbors think

What took the most time, just like at the caucus, was debating the party planks. At the caucus, people suggested things that they thought were important and we debated them and then voted on whether to send them on to the county convention.

At the county convention, we debated on those and decided whether to send them on to the district and state levels, which is why those conventions take so long. Some of the ideas, like increasing funding for mental health treatment and increasing the minimum wage were pretty normal. Then there the ones that clearly were important to a very specific group, like the resolution to get wild parsnip labeled as a noxious plant.

And then there were the other kind of idea…

  1. People really don’t like Washington politicians

One of the first planks that was debated was whether to strip members of Congress of their pensions. One of the main arguments for this was that they’re all corrupt anyway and can engage in legalized insider trading, so they all leave office rich. This seemed cynical to me, and I voted against this idea, but in the end it passed overwhelmingly among the group there. Of course, I don’t think Congress will ever vote to take away their own pensions, but it shows the anger and general dissatisfaction people have with federal politicians when they are quite willing to strip high-level public servants of their pensions.

Another more radical idea that got floated was to make members of Congress work for minimum wage. I’m not sure how it got to the county level and it was voted down easily but it still shows how much people want to stick it the politicians. It is easy to see that sort of thing on the news, but it’s another thing to see it in person.


Dear Aunt Hattie…

Dear Aunt Hattie Letter

I refolded the yellowed paper and after slipping it back into its crinkled envelope, I set it back against the gravestone. As I stood up, I saw a chinchilla staring at me from the top of a gravestone twenty feet away. Its eyes seemed to glow in the dying twilight. I’d never seen one in the wild before.

The sun sunk below the hills and the cemetery was plunged into darkness. I bolted for my car, every second dreading to hear tiny, skittering footsteps on the path behind me.

 

 

 

 

 

chinchilla gif


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