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First off, apologies for not updating recently. I said earlier that I was sick, and this week has been staggering in the amount of work I’ve had to do. Yessiree, it’s that time of the year: research projects are getting completed, book reviews are being finished, and finals are just around the corner. Well, to start off this post, I’ll relate the story of my Saturday. I attended a symposium entitled “The Native American Experience.” It was held at my school, WNMU. Basically, it was a day of events aimed at introducing various aspects of Native American culture to the public.

Why was I there, you ask? Well, I was writing an article for The Mustang, the student newspaper here on campus. Yes, I have a new gig, “semi-regular writer.” It seems as though their online issues aren’t current-current, so unless you can get a hard copy you might not be able to read a story of mine for quite some time. Oh well.

Regardless, the symposium was wonderful. I could write an entire post on the discussion of Native American spirituality, but I’ll only remark that the speaker had an incredibly sound outlook on life. To quote him, “You cannot acquire what you want to obtain through ego.”

There was also a group of singers and dancers that performed, and I can only say that the entire performance was beautiful. The dancers were all young girls, the youngest being at most 9 or 10 years old. They showed remarkable skill and coordination, and I thought that was commendable. I’ll try and dig up some links if I can.

After the symposium, I decided to head out to Little Walnut and hike my favorite hike, Gomez Peak. Seven minutes into the trail, I saw a young woman approaching with a dog walking un-tethered at her side. She paused to place the leash back around its neck, and continued on towards me. I remarked on the day’s beauty, she smiled and agreed, and suddenly the dog reached across her body and bit me on the leg!

Now, it didn’t hurt too bad, I simply walked it off and then finished the hike (incidentally, I cut 13 minutes off my previous best time getting to the summit). However, she didn’t stop to see if I was OK, nor did she apologize. She scolded her dog, turned away, and continued on down the trail.

This truly surprised me, since I was accustomed to the friendliness of hikers I had encountered elsewhere in the Silver City area. Perhaps she was embarrassed, or perhaps she noticed that I didn’t react to the bite and felt I was OK. Either way, I still am shocked that she didn’t offer an apology. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by all the other wonderful people hiking the trails I love.

Well, I’m not sure if it was the dog bite or not, but I’ve felt sick ever since. I’m feeling better today, and think that by tomorrow I should be back up to snuff. Time to run; have to be up early tomorrow for class. Posts might not come daily for a few weeks, until school is out. Please understand. Or course, I still welcome comments and feedback. A link to e-mail me is at the top of the page. Take care.

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I’m sitting here working on a review of my iRiver iMP350, and listening to Scarlet’s Walk again. I’m truly amazed by this album. I listened to it during another hike today, and when I got back in my truck to drive home I felt cheated, since I wasn’t still listening to Scarlet’s Walk. Suddenly No Doubt didn’t seem good enough. Some of you might think No Doubt is ever good enough, but that’s another topic.

I’m looking forward to tonight’s showing of Bill Maher’s Real Time. One of his guests will be Arriana Huffington, one of my favorite political speakers. She has a new book out that I want to pick up, and her weekly newsletter is always an interesting read. She managed to put Dennis Miller in his place the last time she appeared on the show, which IMHO is no small feat.

After Real Time is Da Ali G show, which is some of the funniest TV I’ve seen in quite some time. Combined, these two shows provide an hour and a half of quality viewing. Though Bill Maher usually puts a leftist view on things, he also has a good spectrum of guests which balances the discussion. Da Ali G show never takes itself seriously, and this is never more apparent than during the host’s interviews with people like James Baker, Newt Gingrich, or former U.N. Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali.

I’m currently reading the fourth book from my History of Early Modern Europe class. They are as follows:
The House of the Medici: Its Rise and Fall
The Trial of Mary, Queen of Scots
Richelieu: Profiles in Power
The Burgermeister’s Daughter

The selection is wonderful. My professor did an excellent job of choosing titles that are relevant to the course, are interesting, and easy to read. If you’re interested in seeing the roles of the Renaissance in Northern Italy check out the Medici. If you want to read about the beginnings of Absolutism in France, then Richelieu is your man. For an interesting look on legal issues at court in the 16th century, check out Anna Buschler, the Burgermeister’s daughter.

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I went for a hike today. Nothing that would normally be seen as out of the ordinary, except this time I went alone. Usually, I try and head out to the trail with my grandma or with Archon. But, I was tired of reading and studying, and decided I wanted to get outside and think about a few things. I also decided not to ride my mountain bike. When I ride, my mind is too engaged in staying unhurt and on the trail that it isn’t exactly relaxing. So, I filled up my Camelback, grabbed my walking stick and headed for Little Walnut. I also decided to take some music along, in the form of my iRiver SlimX.

I started out on the trail, and got going at a pretty good pace. I was hiking up to Gomez Peak, a fairly strenuous climb that basically entails a series of switchbacks up the side of the mountain. My pace may have been influenced by The Chemical Bros., and after I started huffing and puffing I switched over to Tori Amos’ Scarlet’s Walk, a CD I had not listened to twice since picking it up 6 months ago. The music was more suitable to the occasion, and I continued my stroll at a more doable pace.

Halfway up the trail, I found my way blocked by several piles of brush and stones. I knew that there had been some recent trail work going on, but it seemed that what was being done was more extensive than I had imagined. I decided to make my way up the brush and found a new trail moving perpendicular to the old trail. For the rest of the hike I used this new trail, and it turned out to be a very nice stretch.

The amount of trail maintenance that had occurred got me to thinking about a situation prominent in a lot of wilderness areas in America. There’s something of a struggle over land usage going on. Nowhere is this more evident than in Marin County, CA. The area where mountain biking was born has some of the strictest regulation for cycling in the nation.

I remembered an article in the March 03 issue of Bike Magazine. It seems that there is a proposal to create more trails open to mountain biking in the county next year. The trails would basically be a conversion of two fire roads into trails on Mt. Tamalpais. To sum up the cyclists perspective the magazine states, “If the plan weathers the cries of outrage from equestrians and hikers (who are already up in arms, in spite of the fact that the proposal is one of the most environmentally conscientious and proactive acts to go into effect on the mountain thus far), construction of the new trails would begin next fall.”

It seems amazing how the different groups in America will fight or bicker about anything. People simply trying to spend time outdoors, and get some exercise, arguing about who has the right to use the trails. Instead of uniting in an attempt to protect the forests from logging and other development, they focus their energies on meaningless power struggles. And every group is as liable as the next.

So, I’m working with a few people in town about getting a mountain biking club going on in town, and I’ll see what I can do to promote a little understanding with others trying to use the trails. Fortunately, in most of the wilderness areas around Silver City, the trails are open to most everything.

Incidentally, “Scarlet’s Walk” is really good. This was my first real exposure to Tori Amos, and I must say I’m impressed. She’s no Fiona Apple, mind you, but that’s comparing Apples to oranges, so to speak. Yes, I know, I’m so funny with my puns. I’ll try and get a review of the CD up ASAP, just for shits and giggles. Next time I go to Gomez Peak, by the way, I’ll take Archon’s camera (unless he won’t lend it to me, in which case I’ll just take him). Maybe we can get a shot or two of Silver City up for your viewing pleasure.

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Well, as Archon pointed out over on the main page, it’s a new month. He said something about the year going by very quickly, and I must agree with him. It does seem like the year is progressing at a steady, fast pace. I tried to put my finger on it, and it took me a while before I could really determine why. My first thought was the situation in Iraq. But upon further reflection, I figured that the news was too monotonous in the first 2 months of the year. Now that I think about it, the news only made the time drag.

My next thought was of school. In my situation, I think that’s a cause, for two reasons. The first being my sister’s upcoming graduation from Northwestern University. Now, she started a couple of years after me, and although I took a few years off, I’m still feeling a little, ahem, jealous, of her…

Heh heh. At the same time, I feel immensely proud of her accomplishments. It does seem, however, that the time of her graduation is approaching rapidly. She only has one quarter left. I almost think I feel the stress of her graduation as well. Stress of the job market, stress about what she’s going to do, stress about her final term with a bunch of friends she probably won’t see ever again.

Coupled with that is the second reason I feel school is affecting the pace of the year: my own studies. It’s been awhile since I played this gig, with the classes and the learning and the reading and writing. While I feel I’m doing well in my academic endeavors, I had forgotten how precious a commodity time is when you’re a college student, or a student at any level, for that matter. I feel at times overwhelmed by the coursework, my desire to get outside and ride in the mountains, and my desire to spend time with my family and friends.

Regardless of the causes, one thing is readily apparent: 1/4 of 2003 is already over. Finished. Done for. April is upon us. For me, that means finishing 3 research projects and studying for finals. For my mother, it means Cherry Blossoms in D.C. For my father, it means testing and the promise of a day off for Easter. For my sister, well, the beginning of the end of her college career as a bachelor student.

For everybody out there reading this (all two of you) I hope that the portion of this year that’s already passed into history was fulfilling in some small way at least. I also hope that the rest of your year holds the promise of further fulfillment.

As a final note, I promise to stop stealing Archon’s ideas for rants. I’ll start doing my own stuff soon. I’ll try and post regularly, when time allows, so if you’re interested in what’s going on with me, check back often. Also, some of these won’t be rants, they’ll be raves. What a rave is, exactly, well, you’ll just have to come back and see.

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In response to my colleague’s recent writing on the meaning of life, I felt I should add my take on certain aspects as well. It is widely known within my small circle of friends, family, and acquaintances that the previous 2.5 years of my life could be characterized as tumultuous, and blessed. While this partially speaks to my friend’s idea that we’re always clawing our way through life, I also find that sometimes good things happen to us that we did not strive for, plan for, etc. Hence, my friend brought up the age-old (well, not really) question: is life like a box of chocolates? Do you ever know what you’re going to get?

So I sit here in front of my computer monitor, that glorious portal to this thing called the Internet, and I read my friend’s words questioning the essence of human existence. And many different things come to my mind, sometimes in waves, then singularly. Questions of faith and religion. Thoughts on politics and government. Ideas about humanity, mortality, adventure. Hope. Joy.

Joy. Is that what Archon was referring to when he mentioned ‘the first kiss?’ Incidentally, I have few memories of first kisses. Several stand out, but really, some did not warrant permanent fixture in my thoughts. I know they happened, but beyond that, I simply have no recollection of those actual moments. Certainly it is a degree of meaning that he was referring to. But Joy? Truly, those meaningful kisses fill one with Joy, do they not? And need it be the first kiss that provides that sense or wonder and helplessness? If that first kiss is later surpassed, does it no longer form the basis of judgment for future kisses? Or does the more excellent kiss take on that role? Does the Joy we feel at that moment in time really have a lasting effect on life?

Six months ago my thoughts were focused on the strangest things: intangible, abstract ideas. Like Joy and Hope. How does one define an emotion, a state of mind? Fortunately, I was not attempting to define them. Instead, I had reflected on the roles they had played during my life. A dear friend had hurt me, and another had asked me what it was I valued most. I’ve always struggled with that question, because I am always torn between Hope and Joy.

So, my mind twisting and turning in deliberation, I dwelled on the impact of Joy on my life, and the way Hope always seemed present in my thoughts. Which leads me to Archon’s question of Destiny: what good would Hope be in a world were your choices were already made for you? Could you really still feel Joy from that first kiss, knowing that it wasn’t a result of your actions and emotions? Questions that I doubt anyone could answer.

Destiny is always tied into religion in this type of discussion. And why not? If things are pre-ordained, they must have been preordained by somebody, right? Or are they actually, truly, laid out in the stars? While this is most definitely a topic for another discussion, I feel it’s important to point out how the most simplistic, yet profound moments and events can lead to that discussion. How a kiss can ultimately make one question their life, and whether or not there is such a thing as Destiny.

The meaning of life? Easy… in my own interpretation, we’re merely hoping to experience moments of joy. Everything else is a means to that end. And of course, what people Hope for, and what things cause them Joy, are as varied as humanity itself. The meaning of one’s life, my friend, is defined by each individual living that life.