Weekly Photo Challenge: State of Mind

February 29, 2016 — This week’s photo challenge is “State of Mind“.

When I’m stressed, there are a few places nearby I can visit that bring peace. Walking through Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia usually does the trick. It’s incredibly beautiful (and quiet) all year, but especially during the spring and fall.
Or strolling through Carousel Lavender Farm in Bucks County .
Or strolling through Carousel Lavender Farm in Bucks County in April, May or June, right before the harvest.
After a visit to Eastern State Penn last year, I felt incredibly grateful that I am free!
After a visit to Eastern State Penn, I am grateful that I live on the “outside.”
I feel a sense of historic pride whenever I visit the Old City section of Philadelphia. Here is  shot of the oldest inhabited street in Philadelphia, Elfreth's Alley.
I enjoy historic pride every time I visit the Old City section of Philadelphia. Here is shot of the oldest inhabited street in the U.S., Elfreth’s Alley.

Independence Day

eb7034fefc1fa28f584382abbb6ed68cFebruary 26, 2016 – It’s time to abandon my political affiliation and join the growing number of America’s “independent” voters.

The idea has been swimming around my head for some time, and it’s usually how I respond if someone I don’t know well asks which party I support.

The decision also backs my belief that the major parties—both democrat and republican—have far too much power. I would like to see the political party system disappear and candidates run on the issues alone—even though that is not likely to happen. Politics, these days, is more about the party and being loyal to the party than the candidate who is running for office.

Party support also changes the way a candidate campaigns. You often hear that candidates are going to skip certain states or counties because they feel confident about getting the vote. They know that the majority of people vote according to party. If independents grow to the majority, the practice of candidates skipping campaign stops would likely stop. Candidates won’t want to miss an opportunity to campaign to the “swing voter”, as many independents are known because they often decide an election.

The theory behind the super delegates, unique to the democrat party — and the majority of which are loyal to Hillary Clinton — is the perfect example of a party having too much power. Clinton has won a few states in the primary by a tiny margin and suffered a huge loss in New Hampshire, but the electoral votes needed to win, place her far ahead of Bernie Sanders. Sure, super delegates could change their minds before selecting a candidate, especially if Sanders keeps gaining momentum. Clinton had the same super delegate support in 2008 but then they switched their votes after President Obama began winning the majority of the states.

The government is supposed to be by the people and for the people, meaning we all have an equal voice should we exercise it. So, why does the vote of Bill Clinton, Harry Reid or any other person the DNC deems a “distinguished voter” have more power than yours or mine? The super delegate rule was created in 1968 for the sole purpose of controlling who receives the nomination should the DNC need to step in at the last minute. They’ve never used it to overturn an election, but could this be the year they do if Sanders begins taking more states?

I’ll bet the republicans wish they had a similar rule right about now. The RNC has publicly stated they will support whoever wins the nomination, even if it’s Donald Trump, and they are likely worried that he’ll win. Both Trump and Sanders continue to poll surprisingly well, and neither candidate’s party is happy about it. Many people agree that their success is proof that voters are tired of Washington politics and demand change. Could it be the beginning of the downfall of the party?

As for my choice to go independent, I only wish I could change immediately. However, in Pennsylvania, independents can only vote in general elections. This practice isn’t widespread across the U.S., and only 10 other states share the same policy. Not being able to participate in a primary election unless you are affiliated with either the democrat or republican party is another example of having far too much power.

Crazed and Confused

modern fairytaleFebruary 19, 2016 —Once upon a time in an urban kingdom nearby lived a girl who enjoyed the art of politics. She was always up for a good debate during family dinners and soon she became addicted to the variety of political news programs on television. Soon she realized that politics was actually a scary bedtime story—with nothing real or pure about it—and she grew sad. The current presidential primary, for example, was one of the most ridiculous and bizarre races she could remember, and it seemed never ending. There was still nine more months of campaigning before the kingdom elected anyone from the mediocre list of candidates! Not only had campaigning become too negative for the girl, it was excessively long and expensive.

One day, she leaped out of bed and began her morning ritual. She was almost ready to leave for work when she accidentally applied moisturizer too close to her eyes. Oh, how they burned! She prayed that if they stopped stinging, she’d be more careful next time. The burning sensation threw her day into a tizzy, and although she wanted to stay home and with a cool towel on her eyes, it was not possible.

The girl’s watering eyes made the drive to work difficult, especially with the blinding sun glare. Even though her vision was compromised, she noticed the troll driving in front of her throwing trash from his car window. She laid on her horn to show her displeasure. Why would anyone think it was acceptable to follow such a hideous practice? Maybe TV executives should rerun those commercials from the 1970s that showed the Native American running through the woods with a tear rolling down his cheek when he happened upon the littered woods. That would make any litterer think twice. However, this troll, she realized, had no soul.

Things didn’t get much better when she walked into her office and turned on her computer to read the daily news. Yikes! The state of Philadelphia sports, her home kingdom, was getting worse by the minute. Between the Eagles falling apart because of the actions of their former coach to the Phillies’ expectations to finish the season in dead last according to the latest MLB Power Rankings, things looked bleak. She closed her eyes and wished for a bright side, and then remembered that pitchers and catchers reported to training camp a few days before. She hoped that the new crop of young players would at least make the season interesting.

She plowed through her morning frustrated and plagued with negative thoughts about politics, burning eyes, littering and baseball. It was all too much for one morning. Then she realized that the day could only improve from there, so she smiled and lived happily ever after.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Life imitates art

February 15, 2106 — This week’s photo challenge is Life imitates art.

Grounds for Sculpture, an outdoor museum near Trenton, N.J, has a mixture of nature, modern sculpture and characters from classic paintings. The photos below are sort of life imitating art in 3D.

A 3D image of Manet's painting Ageneuil.
Characters from Manet’s painting Ageneuil.

Manet's Argenteuil 1874

3d version of Renoir's Two Sisters on a Terrace
Characters from Renoir’s Two Sisters on a Terrace

Renoir Two Sisters on the Terrace

3D version of Renoir's Dance at Bougival
Characters from Renoir’s Dance at Bougival

Renoir Dance at Bougival





My Funny Valentine

loveFebruary 12, 2016—Is it wrong to say that I’m in love with my Netflix subscription? It’s all I need for Valentine’s Day because it makes me laugh and it is very good to me.

Not only is Netflix a great investment emotionally, it also performs well. As one of the FANG stocks as it is known in investor circles (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google), Netflix paid some of the highest returns in 2015.

Netflix is also generous and showers me with gifts. I receive plenty of commercial free, quality entertainment for a small price on my part. If it wasn’t for a few series I follow on premium channels—yes, I’m cheating—I’d be tempted to pull the plug on cable altogether. But a girl has to keep her options open.

Here is a sampling of returning series that I look forward to in the coming months:

House of Cards (Season 4) – March 11
I am anxious to see what’s ahead for Frank Underwood and the rest of the gang in this tense and sometimes comical look at the Washington D.C. political scene. With the events of this year’s actual presidential election, however, truth is stranger than fiction.

Orange is the New Black (Season 4) – June 17
I have a love hate relationship with this comedy drama that takes place in a women’s federal prison. I like it and then I don’t, but after three seasons, I’m committed and faithful until the end. And Netflix doesn’t accuse me of being fickle or say that I can’t be pleased!

Bloodline (Season 2) – Mid 2016
Family dramas about the prodigal son returning home may seem cliché’, but the stellar cast and top-notch writing keeps this one original. The final episode of season one surprised and shocked me, so I can’t wait to see what happens. Netflix is mysterious enough to keep me guessing.

I’ve barely scratched the surface of the variety of programs available in the Netflix library. Still, Netflix gives me the space when I need it. The programs are there when I need them, complete and ready to go and my terms. I simply need to make the commitment.

And Netflix is continuously adding new original series and movies, so our connection stays fresh. There is always something to look forward to. As a Gilmore Girls fan, for example, I’m am happy that Netflix has brought the series back for four 90 minute episodes. I’m also curious to see how Fuller House plays out because it makes me nostalgic, and I’m looking forward to Pee Wee’s Big Holiday. How can Paul Reubens still look the same after nearly 30 years?

Perhaps now you see why Netflix is the perfect relationship.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Time

February 8, 2016 — This week’s photo challenge theme is time.

One leaf changes and the rest follow in time.


“There is a time when the ripeness of autumn fills the air.” – Rudolfo Anaya

My neighbor’s back patio; it usually drives me crazy, but today I thought I’d try to see the beauty in it.


“Nature gives to every time and season some beauties of its own.” – Charles Dickens


In the Eye of the Beholder

beauty-is-in-the-eye-of-the-beholder-cayla-gaoFebruary 5, 2016 – While in an auto repair shop waiting room a few weeks ago, I happened upon the nightly news from a European broadcasting company on an obscure cable channel. The program fascinated me for several reasons; the main being that its anchors—a mix of men and women from England, Germany, Sweden and Turkey—looked like the typical people you’d meet on a train or walking the streets.

I may not have noticed the averageness of the news staff if I hadn’t become accustomed to American news anchors, their perfect straight white teeth, sculpted features, flawless skin and model thin frames. The European anchors didn’t mask their crooked teeth or their less than perfect skin. They weren’t dressed in high fashion designer clothing; they had average builds, wore subtle makeup and weren’t perfectly polished like their American counterparts. Yet, they weren’t unattractive, and had mastered the skills to perform the job.

At first I wondered why they didn’t take the extra (and artificial) steps to improve their appearance. The concept seemed rather shocking, actually. After a few more minutes of watching, I began to find it refreshing.

Do Europeans—especially those in high-profile media jobs—feel more secure about themselves than their American colleagues? It would seem so, although I only observed a small sampling of the population. They were who they were and they seemed perfectly comfortable with it.

I then recalled watching a concert on PBS last year. It was a clip show of performances from the 1960s and 1970s, and the artists of yesterday observed the same “natural standards”. Again, they weren’t unattractive, but their less than perfect appearances did stand out against a lot of America’s musical talent today.

No doubt, the concept of beauty in America has changed dramatically through the years. You might even say it became exaggerated. What was once reserved for the Hollywood elite has become standard in many American communities. It’s not unusual for the average woman to sport “fake” hair extensions, nails, tans, eyelashes, lips, multiple other body parts and more.

While there’s nothing wrong with making an effort to look your best, it seems we’ve taken it to a new extreme, spending thousands of dollars a year on procedures and products just to feel beautiful. What that says about us is a topic for another blog post.

Here is an excerpt from an American writer who blogs for Hush after a trip to Europe:

“The women of Europe looked natural. (And no, I’m not talking about au natural like the unshaven stereotypes we are often presented with.) Their confidence radiated from their sparse make-up and real hair. It was also in Europe that my eyes were opened to how other countries view our standards of beauty. When asked, the European men and women I talked to declared how exaggerated, over-the-top, and even trashy North American beauty standards are. This was astonishing to hear, and slightly embarrassing to be associated with, but I started to agree with them. We are over the top in our beauty choices.”

Here’s a video that made me smile after writing this post. The filmmaker conducted a social experiment at a performing arts high school in Chicago. It’s theme: “beauty”.