Sunday, October 19, 2014

Leaves turning in western Virginia

Leaves turning in western Virginia

Leaves turning in western Virginia

Posted: 19 Oct 2014 09:33 AM PDT

Leaves starting to change colors, seen from the Buzzard Rock hiking trail near Front Royal, VA - northern Shenandoah Park.

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Walker Stalker Convention

Posted: 18 Oct 2014 11:17 PM PDT

The zombies are back in full force this weekend in downtown Atlanta. The Walking Dead convention - Walker Stalker Con - is going on right now through Sunday at AmericasMart.

Many of the current and former cast members are in attendance, including fan favorite, Melissa McBride.
McBride portrays the tough character of Carol who has really proven her mettle in the zombie apocalypse.

Also on hand are other big draws including Norman Reedus (Daryl Dixon) and Andrew Lincoln (Rick Grimes) whose "Bromance" panel was very well attended today, with Reedus, Lincoln and special effects genius, Greg Nicotero, emerging onto the stage from a train car straight out of Terminus.

It's not just about the panels and autographs - there are plenty of vendors and artists at the convention. There are also parties and concerts from a variety of acts.

There are also plenty of chance to get in the spirit with fantastic makeup artists on hand who can transform you into a zombie or other horror creature.

This is only the second year for Walker Stalker in Atlanta and the crowds are continuing to grow. There are plans for conventions across the country this year and next so be sure to check out this unique convention if it comes to a town near you!

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My Reflection of September 11th As a 17-Year-Old Muslim-American

Posted: 18 Oct 2014 07:53 PM PDT

Last month, as we all know, was the anniversary of a disastrous day thirteen years ago—September 11th, 2001. I was just four years old at the time; I hadn't even begun schooling. Little did I know that for years to come, seemingly my entire identity would be revolved around such a day. Now, at 17 years old, I am finally able to reflect and articulate what this day means to me. This is my story.

I was sitting in my statistics class last month, finishing up our very first unit test. My seat was in the very front of the class and the clock was behind me, which always made me extremely nervous because I couldn't keep track of time. I could feel my teacher watching me then; my fingers were trembling over my TI-83 calculator, uncertain of which sequence of numbers to type in. I couldn't remember how to describe relative cumulative frequency—I knew exactly how to find it, but shit, what was relative cumulative frequency? It felt like I had racked my entire brain; flitting past the seemingly endless amount of formulas for calculus and science, dispersed images of people I love and have loved, significant memories, my favorite sounds and songs and colors—and when I delved in a bit deeper, secrets—even long lost ones that I thought I'd forgotten.

Still, I couldn't remember what relative cumulative frequency was.

So I scribbled an incorrect answer on my paper, hoping that it would miraculously win my teacher over, checked for my name, and hesitantly slid my test into my teacher's impatient hands. I was still thinking about this as the announcements came on—I continued to dwell on this question as I blocked out my school's choice of boppy pop music, consisting of Taylor Swift's silky voice yearning for a boy she had broken up with. And then, the music suddenly stopped, the student anchors came into view, and I realized that there was something very odd about the way that they looked. Their plastered grins and boisterous laughs were missing; their faces seemed very solemn and the voices monotonous as they announced that today was September 11th, 2014.

See, you can never say September 11th the way you'd say April 21st, or November 17th. Even if you're just stating the date, this particular month and day will always have this eerie, haunting connotation. It's interesting, because as soon as the anchors mentioned the date, I immediately forgot about that annoying question on the stat test. I guess I realized how trivial my source of frustration was in comparison to that of the thousands of families who had lost their loved ones so many years ago.

"I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

I stood up and repeated these words that had been wired into my brain from the time I began schooling. My entire life, I questioned the meaning of this particular string of words—I used to wonder what they really meant, and where my loyalties lay. As a Muslim American, I felt both distanced from my Islamic identity and 'foreign' to American society. The media's bias and the government's alleged spying on Muslim Americans caused me to question my identity; I wondered if being a Muslim and an American were mutually exclusive. I remember wanting so desperately to let people know that I had a perfect American accent and a navy blue United States passport—that I was indeed a true and valid American.

Then, the student anchor announced that we would be having a ten-second moment of silence for the 2,976 Americans lives that were so ruthlessly killed on that day. And so, the silence began.

During those ten seconds, I actually felt, and brace yourselves—guilty. I felt like the entire school was having this moment of silence to humiliate me. From around the room, I just imagined that people were staring at me, or thinking about me, or both. I felt this heavy burden, this twisted sense of responsibility for the nearly 3,000 innocent lives that were lost that day. In that moment, I wanted to apologize to everyone in my statistics class—I wanted to tell them how sorry I was for all of the innocent people that were killed, for all of the affected families, for every person who was traumatized by the unbelievable images on their television screens.

I wanted to apologize on behalf of all of the cruel people of my religion who have tarnished my reputation and identity from the time I entered preschool.

People might think that 9/11 doesn't mean anything to us Muslim Americans, but the truth is, this is an incredibly flawed ideology. This is the day that we not only lost our fellow Americans, but this is the day that we became ashamed of our Islamic identities. This is the day that gave us this eternal burden that we will carry as long as we live in the United States: this lingering feeling that what happened on that horrific day was somehow partially a result of our wrong-doings. I feel that because of this day, I will forever get the sense that I am not welcome here.


Children around me started chattering about economics homework or college or class rank, signifying that those 10 seconds of silence were finally over. Life inevitably goes on, and thirteen years following a disaster, we as a society, we as a nation, have mended. I wanted to say that 9/11 means so much more to me, now that I have developed the capacity to reflect on the past thirteen years of my life. As with all conflicts, there are innocents on both sides, always. September 11th didn't just bring deaths to Americans, and I think that it's important to remember the others that were killed because of this tragic day. For people from around the world, September 11th is a traumatizing anniversary. This is not a day that only Americans must come together to remember and cry—this is a day that the world must come together and weep as one, for this day is a universal symbol of loss. I wanted to take a moment to commemorate the lives, all of them, that were killed on 9/11, or as a result of 9/11. So my love goes out to the countless American, Afghan, Iraqi, and Pakistani lives lost.  They paid the ultimate price for a crime they did not commit. September 11th, 2001 has taught me to never underestimate the value of a life: an innocent life lost, regardless of religion or nationality, is a loss to the whole of humanity; every life lost must be acknowledged, cherished, and forever remembered. September 11th, 2001 has taught me to never underestimate the value of a life: an innocent life lost, regardless of religion or nationality, is a loss to the whole of humanity; every life lost must be acknowledged, cherished, and forever remembered. I will never forget.

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