A River of Stones, January 2019

Years ago, I followed a blog challenge, A River of Stones, where I tried to contemplate and write one small piece each day in January. Although the stream was interrupted and the original blogger discontinued the tradition, over the years, I have seen many of my poetry friends do the same every January. After the very first time, 2012, I have had many fresh new beginnings, with each New Year dawning, but I, too, discontinue very easily.

This year, I will write small stones for as many days as I find them. No promises, no tears lost. Here is the first stone in this 2019 January River:
~~
Без сняг пред портата –
поле от сивота
и сухи съчки.

~~
No snow –
the field is brown and grey.
Just windy.

Mindful Monday, or How I Scored on My New Year Resolutions

I am posting this only to share how well I did on my last New Year’s Resolutions and to formulate the new ones. To refresh your memory in detail, I can refer you to my blog post from last year.

In short, I’ll report on each of my resolutions:
1. I wanted to make the “Devastation of the Soul” chapbook. Checked. That is ready, but not submitted anywhere. I didn’t finish it by the end of February as I’d planned, but at the end of September or mid-October. – KEPT!
2. I intended to translate 13 horror stories from English to Bulgarian – one each month plus an additional one. I completely forgot about this, and never even started it. – FAILED!
3. I wanted to write a poem every day in April and November but didn’t keep my April part of the promise. Honestly, I don’t even remember this resolution. Anyway, I’m nearly ready with the November Poem-a-Day challenge. That is, all the poems are written in their first draft and need to be edited and the ones for the final chapbook selected. OK, that’s a new plan. – HALF-KEPT!

4. Regarding this project, I won an artist on my side. She thought about it, started drawing, and then, in September, forgot about it. I’ll give it a try next year, perhaps. – HALF-KEPT!
5. Yoga once a week – sometimes, I managed, other times I couldn’t. We’ll consider this as FAILED!
6. Dieting with a journal – definitely not with a journal, and not the whole year through. So, we’ll say it’s FAILED!
7. Five new theatrical pieces and 3 new operas – I saw 3 plays and 2 more for children, so this part of the resolution can be considered kept. As for operas – I saw one new musical, and that’s all. I planned to see 3 operas, I almost bought the tickets, but for one reason or another, I wasn’t able to attend. So – HALF-KEPT!
8. Blogging once a week – actually, I didn’t until August. Then, I made an editorial calendar and started preparing my blog posts earlier, so that I have time to think and polish the content. Well, since August, blogging has been quite fine. Let’s say this resolution is KEPT!

Above, I can count 2 KEPT, 3 FAILED and 3 HALF-KEPT resolutions. I’ll consider this a successful year.
Happy New Year, everyone!

Frivolous Fridays: Happy Newtonmas!

Happy Newtonmas and Reason’s Greetings!

For my last post of 2018, I was looking for a fun topic to share with you within the #FrivolousFridays tag. I’m really happy with my finding – although it’s not so new, I’ve discovered Newtonmas, the alternative Christmas. Accidentally, Newton was also born on 25 Dec, so the community of science geeks and atheists in the world introduced the celebration of scientific achievements as an alternative to the Christian holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.

Very curious that Sir Isaak Newton was born on that particular date! That is his old-style birthday, while the new-style date is on 4th Jan. This difference puts him in a different year, of course, but I am sure this is not that important from the perspective of the time elapsed.
To make the long story short, the Skeptics Society needed a name for its X-mas party, and in 2011, they came up with the bright idea of “Newtonmas”. Other names for the same celebration are Gravmas along with its spelling variants “Gravmass” and “Grav-mass” that derive from “gravitational mass”.

So, what do we do for this day? Or, we can make it a week-long period of festivity. It can also take all the days between the two birth dates of Sir Isaak Newton – starting on 25th Dec, we can go on celebrating by a different science-related activity each day to 4th Jan.

– Cards – Send out cards saying “Reason’s Greetings” instead of “Season’s Greetings”.
– Gifts – When choosing the special presents for the people we love, need to make sure they are science-related. Encourage children to pursue an interest in the sciences. There are plenty of children-friendly microscopes, telescopes, experiment kits and observatories. Bookshops are full of encyclopediae for the young readers with awesome visuals and catching way of presenting science.
– Games – Board games that are intellectual, such as math or word puzzles, are especially encouraged. Why not also design and build something useful or science-related? You may use scale models, too.
– Food and drinks – Oh, that is up to you. Atheists observe no dogmas regarding food, apart from their personal dietary preferences and peculiarities.

Here’s a thought – when you decorate your X-mas tree think planets and stars instead of ordinary balls and snowflakes! Think galaxies and nebulae instead of garlands and colourful bands – and you’ll have the greatest and warmest of the reason’s holidays!

Share your thoughts, I’m curious to hear them. Did you know about this special celebration?

Mindful Monday: Tao Te King 24

For today’s #MindfulMonday topic I chose to write about Chapter 24 of Tao Te King. I don’t apply any system when choosing the verse. Let’s say I picked this chapter because it’s the 24th day of the month.

Here is the text:

He who stands on tiptoe
doesn’t stand firm.
He who rushes ahead
doesn’t go far.
He who tries to shine
dims his own light.
He who defines himself
can’t know who he really is.
He who has power over others
can’t empower himself.
He who clings to his work
will create nothing that endures.

If you want to accord with the Tao,
just do your job, then let go.

This must be one of my favourite chapters, focusing on a quality I value highly – humbleness, which is not soliciting recognition. The verse states it all – you need to focus on doing what you are supposed to do without burdening your work with any secret hopes for recognition or praise. In my view, this is one of the hardest things for a person to do. We all want to be recognised for our contribution, even if we speak differently. Frequently, we expect to receive the praise we deserve, especially when and because we keep silent about it, in an attempt to be humble.

Let’s Talk Introversion, Part 2

If you need to refresh your memory about this series, Savage Saturdays where I will write about psychology, motivation, inclusion and similar things, you can check this post about some widely-spread introvert myths. And here we go with one of the most interesting things about introverts, the “introverted hangover”.

This is a great term. Even though it’s not new, I met it this March for the first time. I recognised what it stands for immediately. How could I have not? When you have too much to drink, you can get a hangover and feel down, so down that you think you aren’t getting up soon. My very first hangover was a terrible experience, and I have no doubt yours were the same as mine. You just lie there, head spinning, at times pounding and the moment you try to lift it, that sickness in your chest and your stomach starts crawling up. Sometimes, the sickness finds its way up, of course. One of my favourite “drunk” jokes is this:

“The salad was sitting peacefully in one man’s stomach when something cold poured over it.

– What are you? – asked the salad.

– Vodka – answered the liquid.

– Who sends you? – asked the salad.

– John. And the salad quieted for a while.

Then the same thing happened again and again, when, after the third “John” answer, the salad said:

– Why don’t I just climb up there to see who this John person is?”

Fortunately, “introvert hangover” doesn’t have this particular effect on your body. Still, the physical sickness apart, you have this feeling of being wiped out. You are done for, you can’t stand on your feet, very often even literally. Another thing you can’t do is talk to people. Just like when you’re hungover, you can’t drink alcohol and you get sick by only looking at it, in the state of introvert hangover, you can’t take any more talk. After all, you’ve had too much of it already.

You get into this state as a result of too intensive socialising. The best cure is prevention, so you’ll do great to not bring this on yourself, but we don’t always have control over each minute of our daily lives. Imagine you are a teacher at a school camp, or an office coordinator, or an event manager, well, you name it. You can do this, mind you, even as an introvert. Not all people who work such jobs are extroverted. Another thing to keep in mind is, you can get introvert hangover even if you’re an ambivert.

So, let’s get back to our school camp or business event. You are in the middle of this week-long thing and a great number of people turn to you for a great number of things – from advice to simple questions of direction and agenda. You may be enjoying all these interactions – you are needed, you are useful, you see how people’s faces glow when you help. You may also have fun with all the games or entertainment. Yet, inevitably, you’ll be drained at the end and when it’s over, you will find yourself experiencing the introvert hangover.

The cure? Stay in the dark, keep away from the noise. You may read, write, draw or make music – whatever artistic preference you have. Go for a lonely walk in nature. Sit on the beach, look at the sea and breathe. Go to the forest, sit with your back against a tree, look at the greenery around you and breathe. Breathe in peace, breathe out calamity. Take in relaxation, take out soiled emotions.

Yuletide – Wednesday Wishes

Yule, Saturnalia, or just the Winter Solstice
It’s this time of the year again. The winter solstice marks the longest night and shortest day. It is the official start of the winter season and though the sun begins to come back to our days, the temperatures will get lower yet, because the real harsh cold weather is still to come. Both Yule and Saturnalia are similar to Christmas, and as you’ll see, they have influenced it a lot in different parts of the world.
Why is the winter solstice important to people? I think it’s because of nature and because of what it says about nature. Darkness is at its deepest. It seems the world will not come back to the sun, but just then, things turn and days start to get longer. It is a time for relaxation, enjoying the fruits of your work during the active seasons, giving gratitude to nature for her richness and celebrating the turn of seasons. The turn of seasons is what breathing and pulse are to the human life. All life consists of cycles. After darkness comes sunshine, after cold comes warmth. Nature, like life, will not stay in the same position forever. Evergreen trees are a natural choice for most of the rituals during Yule. They reflect the permanent character of life – even though most greenery is lost, it never goes away entirely. Besides that, the evergreen pines and firs make for a particularly cheerful view amidst the otherwise barren landscape.

If we turn to Saturnalia, we’ll see a slightly different picture. After all, ancient Rome didn’t know winter at its harshest. We can’t really speak of desolate darkness or cold, or even barrenness of the land. During these festivities, dedicated to Saturn – the god of agriculture, the highlight is on celebrating the fruits of the land, enjoying the results of the people’s work in the fields and the gratitude of the population for a good year without hunger and poverty. During the Saturnalia, which lasted for a week, the lower in status became the most honoured. Sometimes slaves would sit at the head of the table, while their masters served them. That time was by far the noisiest festival of the whole year.
Much like during the modern X-mas holidays, schools and businesses in ancient Rome would close inviting all the population to participate in the celebrations.
In all three winter-solstice-related traditions, a focus is put on giving: people would give small presents to their friends and family as well as complete strangers. The suffering of weaker members of the community is usually sought to be relieved by donations, charity or giving them a break as is the case of slaves in Rome.

When I hear strong opinions about the nature and origin of Christmas, I wonder if it is really wise to try and separate holidays and festive traditions between the various beliefs, when we know that people have been living together over all these centuries.
No matter which holiday you honour, do it according to your beliefs, eat and drink enjoying the work of your hands and hearts!

Cauliflower and Cream – Friday Fitness?

Today was intended for #FridayFitness but, instead, I thought it’s time to relax a bit and I’m posting a recipe which is anything but fitness-friendly, anything but healthy. I’ll share with you one of my most craved meals – Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cream and Processed Cheese. So, it’s a real calorie bomb! But, hey, friends – you can’t be health-obsessed all the time. It’s not natural, therefore it’s bad. Enough for the apology section. Let’s move on to the recipe itself.

You need:
– broccoli – 400 g
– cauliflower – 400 g
– sour cream – 200 g
– processed cheese – 100 g
– cheese (which we call “yellow cheese”) – 100 g, grated
– garlic – 1-2 cloves
– thyme – 1 pinch
– oregano – 1 pinch

How to Cook It:
Rinse the broccoli and cauliflower, cut into “rosebuds” and simmer for 5-7 min in hot water. Strain and place in a baking tray.

In a bowl, mix the processed cheese cut in cubes, the sour cream, cheese, mashed garlic cloves, thyme and oregano.
Put all in the baking tray and pour 1 teacup of the water in which the vegetables were boiled. Stir carefully.
Bake in a preheated oven, medium temperature, until ready. The ingredients yield 3 portions.

Enjoy!

Daylight Saving Time – Time to End It

Today is time for a #ThoughtfulTuesday post. As we changed time again quite recently, I decided to write about this peculiar tradition and the idea that it will soon be discontinued.

The discussion has been on since the last time we changed to DST, a.k.a. summer time, in end-March. I strongly support the idea that we should stop switching back and fro, as the cost-efficiency of this process is not valid any longer. I doubt there’s any saving going on, and that was the main argument in favour of the switching between times. Yet, I understand that the majority of EU citizens would have the summer time stay constantly. How their vote was registered, I don’t know. I suppose there was some sort of survey which I missed. Let’s assume they represent a good enough sample to make the result valid. What does their choice show about them?

First of all, let me remind you what the DST is. It means darker mornings, lighter evenings. Or, in other words – it gets light later in the morning and it gets dark later in the evening. I have several acquaintances who support the same notion – that we should stick to summer time. Their reasoning: you have more light after work and school. You can go for walks and, generally, you will not feel so oppressed by the winter mood if that’s the case. Surely, 1 hour won’t make much of a difference. Yet, people speak of it with a lot of ardour.

Why don’t they argue for lighter mornings, when we have to get up and start our days? I feel particularly despondent if it’s still dark outside when I get up. I start my day with the feeling that getting off bed is a torture, a punishment – in general, something to loathe. And, as most of us would agree, getting up doesn’t need any more negative associations to go with. It’s pretty unpleasant as it is.

So, to go back to my original point of wondering: what their choice speaks about these people. Obviously, they care more about the time after work than about the start of the day. Perhaps they don’t get up very early, so it doesn’t matter to them if the sky is dark. They can get up a little before noon, work in the afternoon, go for a walk in the early evening, and then party until the small hours. This and repeat. What are they? Not farm workers, for sure. Not medical workers either. Neither do they work at school. I have just mentioned three of the important professional fields on whose experts we depend to a large extent during our entire lives. Excluding school, perhaps.

And before this turns into a criticising post, I’ll share my true reason to side with the standard time, a.k.a. “normal” or “winter” time. I want to stick to this time because it’s the correct one from a scientific point of view. It’s the normal time, and I deeply believe we must embrace our normalcy.

Does your country change between normal and summer time? Which time do you support?

Day 30 – One More… Poem

One More Year in you calendar
On the cake and in your passport
One more round of resolutions
We don’t usually observe

One more and yet another
Until we start to wonder
What we did in all these years
That walked by.
~~~

Throwback Thursday: Queen’s Album, 1974

For today’s post in the #ThrowbackThursday topic I look at Queen’s third LP album – Sheer Heart Attack, which was released on 8 November 1974. The sound in this album shifted from the sound of the previous two albums and away from progressive rock towards the classic Queen style we are familiar with.
One of my favourite songs, Killer Queen, was released as its first single and reached No 2 in the British charts. It was the band’s first international hit. Freddie wrote the song starting with the lyrics. It is about an elite prostitute offering service to top figures.
###
She keeps Moet et Chandon
In her pretty cabinet
‘Let them eat cake’ she says
Just like Marie Antoinette
A built-in remedy
For Kruschev and Kennedy
At anytime an invitation
You can’t decline

Caviar and cigarettes
Well versed in etiquette
Extraordinarily nice

She’s a Killer Queen
Gunpowder, gelatin
Dynamite with a laser beam
Guaranteed to blow your mind
Anytime

Recommended at the price
Insatiable an appetite
Wanna try?

To avoid complications
She never kept the same address
In conversation
She spoke just like a baroness
Met a man from China
Went down to Geisha Minah
Then again incidentally
If you’re that way inclined

Perfume came naturally from Paris
For cars she couldn’t care less
Fastidious and precise

She’s a Killer Queen
Gunpowder, gelatin
Dynamite with a laser beam
Guaranteed to blow your mind
Anytime

Drop of a hat she’s as willing as
Playful as a pussy cat
Then momentarily out of action
Temporarily out of gas
To absolutely drive you wild, wild.
She’s all out to get you

She’s a Killer Queen
Gunpowder, gelatin
Dynamite with a laser beam
Guaranteed to blow your mind
Anytime

Recommended at the price
Insatiable an appetite
Wanna try?
You wanna try.

I read here, on the band’s official website, about the specifics around making, recording and releasing the album.
And now, it’s time to listen to some music. I picked the recording of Queen’s performance at Top of the Pops in 1974. Enjoy!

After this magical song, post a comment to tell me which is your favourite song/album by Queen.