Enemy Combatant by Moazzam Begg
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
It makes my heart ache to read this book. How can my country – or any country – hold someone without charge for years? There can be no justification for it, and the only explanation is that the American government, at the highest levels, does not care about our values of freedom or justice.
Moazzam quotes from Malcolm X in this book, and I’ve included the quote here:
“I’m not anti-America, and I didn’t come here to condemn America – I want to make that very clear! I came here to tell the truth – and if the truth condemns American, then she stands condemned.”
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You could be anyone, but let’s assume you’re an average sized person. A spider with a leg-span about as long as your torso and a body possibly slightly smaller than your head lowered itself from the ceiling towards Emily’s face. It came down slowly, like somewhere in the arachnid’s brain it knew that sudden movements will startle prey, even if that prey is asleep like Emily was.
Emily tossed her head from side to side on her pillow, and the spider stopped, suspended two feet above her. It soundlessly clicked its fangs – impatient. She made sounds in her sleep, sounds that were meaningless to the spider – as most sounds are, save for the buzz of a fly’s wings or the high-pitched squeak of a tasty mouse. If you or I heard her though, and saw the expression on her sleeping face, we’d know that she was having a nightmare. We’d probably go to wake her up, if there wasn’t an enormous spider dangling there between us and her. Maybe we’d just close the bedroom door and hope we hadn’t actually seen what we thought we saw.
After a few moments, Emily’s movements stopped, though the nightmare in her head continued. The spider lowered itself even slower than before, a few millimeters at a time, until it was close enough that if it had wished to, it could have reached one long, spindly leg down and stroked her forehead. Continue reading
(Source: Tiffany Terry)
Humans are social creatures – we cannot survive except in groups. Anybody with excellent outdoor survival skills who thinks they can do it alone should ask if they learned those skills from another human. Since we are social creatures, it wouldn’t make any sense for our bodies to naturally produce odors that repelled other humans. Based on just that simple argument, it seems clear that the concept of offensive body odor is bullshit. Continue reading
These people want your job. (Source: James Cridland)
You’re trying to get a job. You’ve applied for a bunch of them. Maybe even got some interviews. Sadly, none of those big fish have bitten yet, and your savings are dwindling. Maybe the problem is your resume (spoiler: it’s not). So you take some resume advice, say from Google’s HR Manager, like here. Now your resume’s really swell. You’ll get some better attention from an interviewer, and perhaps you’ll get a job. Good news for you.
(Image: Wikimedia Commons)
We like to see things as black and white. Pedophiles are emotionless land-monster predators (basically the equivalent of sharks, except they can’t breathe underwater (and also they want to have sex with children, sharks probably don’t do that)); we can all agree on that, right? Women who abandon their newborn babies are hardly women at all. Politicians who misbehave should lose their jobs. Or should they? Is being a politician just a ridiculous, thankless job? Is being a new mother one of the most stressful things a woman is likely to go through? Is the life of a pedophile already a terrible one, except for the millionaire DJ ones? We’ve all avoided nuance at one time or another, and I want to examine the reasons for it. Continue reading
Recently, a woman at Claridge’s, a luxury hotel in London, was asked to cover up while breastfeeding her baby. If you’re in England and have any media exposure you’ve probably heard about it, if you haven’t here’s a link. There are some absolutely uninteresting debates going on about that (in the sense that I can’t believe we haven’t moved past it as a society), but it got me thinking about something else when someone on the radio was quoted as saying “It’s one of the most natural things there is.” I agree with that, certainly. Being naked is also one of the most natural things there is. Simply having exposed breasts, nevermind feeding a baby with them, is perfectly natural. Continue reading
Missy in better days, with her cheek pouches crammed full of food and ready for a day of adventuring.
In October of 2012, a hamster entered our lives. She got the name ‘Missy’, which I thought of as a ridiculous name for a hamster, but she became Missy, and I loved her.
She was a cautious hamster, and gentle. She explored slowly. When we played with her, she walked with the air of someone who is expecting at any moment to be eaten by a predator. Over time, she became more comfortable with our house and would zoom from room to room. Hearing her little feet pattering as she runs under my chair at the computer is all it takes to make me smile. After a few months she would sometimes escape her cage to roam around the house at night, and it was enjoyable to think of the adventures she may have had while we were all asleep. She improved her skills until eventually she escaped her cage every night, sometimes within seconds of being put back in. She would stuff her face full of food for later, then climb out. A few times she got behind the cupboards for days at a time. Finally we had to put locks on the cage doors so she wouldn’t accidentally leave our house and die outside. Continue reading
(Artist: Pawel Kuczynski)
I have some pretty non-traditional views of schooling. From the time I was 5 to the time I was 14, I went to a school where the pupils sat at desks attached to and facing the wall with large dividers between us. Quiet ruled the air, and distractions did not exist. Our work was largely self-directed – we chose what we wanted to work on each hour and each day as long as we kept a consistent pace among all subjects over time. If we finished a certain amount of work before the school day was finished, then the rest of the day was yours. We even checked and graded our own work day-to-day. That school closed down when I was 14, and I was homeschooled until 18. There was no formal curriculum in my homeschooling (some might know this as “unschooling”), and my learning was then entirely self-directed.
During the nine years I went to that formal school, I can recall having homework perhaps ten times, or just about once per year. Now my children get homework that many times in a fortnight. Some schools are giving their students as much as three hours of homework a day. Even my six year old nephew gets homework daily. Immediately as a child starts formal education, does the school intend to own that child’s evenings forever?
This room is missing something.
Minimalism, or Simple Living, can mean a lot of things. For many people, it means minimizing your possessions. If you don’t have a lot of furniture, you don’t need to dust it – simple. If you only have one slow cooker instead of three, you don’t have to decide which to use – simple.
I used to live the opposite of minimalism. I had years of magazines from multiple subscriptions piled up under my desk. I bought a new shirt every few weeks, and stuffed them into my closet. Some things I had just for the sake of having them.
We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Topics from parenthood to politics get an honest treatment from several sides in this book about an unwanted child who commits terrible acts as a teenager. If you have any opinion about what parenting should be like or why children grow up the way they do, I believe you’ll find something in here.
Kevin was creepy and almost frightening. All of the characters were hard to like, but I felt like they were real – many real people can be hard to like, if only they’d write down their thoughts on paper. The book could probably have been about 1/3 shorter if the author had left out a few thousand needless adjectives, that’s why it lost a star. Otherwise it was an interesting, engrossing read.
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