Wednesday, October 29, 2008


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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Mt. Haleakala'a

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Pippin Seales

Saturday, October 04, 2008



I know you're just dying to hear about our day at the Renaissance Faire -- er, Renaissance Institute. It was on Friday, when the Faire is not in session, but it was on the grounds of the Faire, so we had some time to stroll past all the booths and stages with no crowds at all.


Even though the Faire wasn't going on, we did get to meet some participants. Our first event was a stop at the jousting list. Two knights, one gold, one black, explained some of the history and culture of jousting, and handed around some equipment for people to handle and examine. Ziad even got to hold a lance! It was taller than he was, and extremely heavy, but he managed to keep it parallel to the ground. Doughty lad!

Next our group split up for activities more or less based on age. Ziad and Maya did some leatherworking -- mostly stamping out designs on to leather strips to make bookmarks. The leatherworker also gave out free wristbands -- very cool. Ziad chose a blue one stamped with the sun and moon, while Maya took a purple one with flowers and insects.

Next we were off to "climb the castle wall" -- that is, listen to a talk about siege offenses and defenses, have a chance to build little castles out of sugar-cube-sized blocks of cement, and climb up a rock climbing wall. This was a first for Ziad and Maya.


Maya spent a lot of time climbing, a little higher every time, and getting used to rapelling down.


Ziad spent most of the time building, but took a break to climb straight up to the top in at record speed, climb back down again, then return to his castle. He also fashioned a small catapult out of the clay provided to use as mortar in the castle construction.

Then lunch. Then a visit to the soldier's encampment, which is the part that I did not think I was going to be able to endure. It's not that it wasn't fantastic. It's just that it was the heat of a very hot day, we were in the sun, I was thirsty and tired and it was still Ramadan. Whining aside, the two soldiers gave a very good talk on the mercenary armies of the Renaissance period, their weaponry and the various class distinctions among the soldiers, and again, had lots of cool things to hand around for children. Including an extremely interesting handbook on military drills for the musketeer that appeared to be a reproduction of a period manual.

Next we did wheat weaving, making braids of wheat that we fashioned into a small heart. Although this was fun and relaxing, in the end there's not much more to tell than that.


Last we saw a performance by the actor portraying Sir Frances Drake. He was very good. He got lots of kids up on stage to try on various costumes, illustrating whatever social custom he was talking about at the time, all the while projecting an extremely swashbuckling attitude.

And, best of all, Ziad and Maya got passes to go back to the Faire. We're heading back tomorrow for an all-morning book-binding workshop, after which we intend to check out the jousting and then ramble around the Faire to our heart's content. Maya wants to see Queen Elizabeth. She also wants to go in costume, but given the iffy weather I am discouraging this.

Here is a link to some pictures taken by another parent. Ziad and Maya are in some of them, but bonus points to those of you who can identify the person's children.

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Information on Pesticides

Perhaps you are someone who leans toward buying organic. It could also be that you are also trying to spend less money. I know that I certainly would fall into both those categories. So I am glad to have this pocket guide to help me figure out the most efficient use of my food dollars. This is a .pdf file which takes a while to download, so I'm going to summarize. Each list tells you the fruits or vegetables with the highest risk of residual pesticide.

Domestic fruit:

Imported fruit:
Same as above, except switch cranberries to grapes

Domestic vegetables:
green beans
bell peppers

Imported vegetables:
add broccoli and carrots

This is extremely inconvenient for me personally, because my family eats a lot of tomatoes and cucumbers. Rats.

At this website, you can see a ranking of vegetables in terms of their likelihood of containing pesticide residue.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Islam in America

Be honest. Does that phrase just sound wrong to you? Does it make you feel that something is eating away at the heart of your country? I'm pretty sure there are some people out there who feel that way.

There is a very worthwhile post by M. LeBlanc at Bitch, Ph.D., who "was raised Mormon by my Catholic father in Cairo, Egypt." She is writing about perceptions of Islam in the United States. I can see where not everyone would agree with everything she has to say. I, however, agree strongly with the excerpts that follow:
On Friday, September 26, someone sprayed a chemical irritant through the window of the nursery at a mosque in Dayton, the Islamic Society of Greater Dayton.

... when people are attacked at their place of worship, for no apparent reason other than to instill fear, that's terrorism. Yes, terrorism can be perpetrated against Muslims, in the United States.

... A Google News Search-culled sample of some of the news outlets that have covered the story: BeliefNet, Huffington Post, Israeli News, Wisconsin,, DemocracyNow, and a handful of local Ohio outlets. Notice anything? Not a single major outlet. Not the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, or even the Trib.

... I'd wager a week's pay with you that if someone sprayed an irritant gas into a church or a synagogue or a goddamn Girl Scouts meeting, where children were hurt, it would be a "story" for at least one day.

She includes a second-hand account that I cannot verify beyond its original appearance in The Daily Kos. Here is the story as it was reported in the Dayton Daily News.

If you google this story now, you'll find a lot of different views. Some people say the story has been overblown, some that it is being played down. Some even say the whole story is a fraud. There's argument over the video "Obsession" which had been distributed free in newspapers throughout Ohio a few days prior to the attack. This video, originally released in 2006, purports to be a wake-up call against Islamic extrmism, but in the extreme fear it generates, that subtlety tends to be lost. It ends up feeling pretty anti Islam to me. Also anti Arab, because you don't see any of the Indonesian Muslims preaching anti-American propaganda, although I know they're out there. Let alone the Pakistani and Afghani Muslims.

Now, who is behind the video? Zionists who claim that just because they're Jewish it doesn't mean their film is biased. The Committee for American Islamic relations is suing the DVD's producers, but CAIR itself has been accused of being a front for terrorists. By (no surprise really) well-known pro-Israeli hawks. How is one person supposed to figure out what is true? As is so often the case with the internet, I am beginning to feel lost in a maze of mirrors, time is slipping away and I see no end in sight.

I once had a friend, a perfectly nice woman, express her fear of "them" (meaning Arabs, or maybe Muslims, but probably nothing as specific as Arab Muslims) as if the attacks of 9/11 made that perfectly understandable, completely OK. Yes, she reasoned, she was scared, so it made sense to pull Arabs out of lines at airports and subject them to extra searches. Maybe we shouldn't let them on airplanes at all. Her ideas didn't actually make me angry, because it was more ignorance than anything else. (Although, if you think about it, it was odd that she said those things to my face, because she had actually met my husband.) She didn't know that "they" are actually part of "us." Who knows, if I didn't have an Arab Muslim husband, maybe I wouldn't understand it, either. Now I wonder -- as time goes on, do more people understand that or less?