Beginner's Mind

"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few." - Shunryu Suzuki-Roshi

Monday, January 31, 2005

These dreams

It was my intention to address the requested subjects in order, but I've decided to write about Katherine's idea due to my experiences this morning.

The suggested subject was to recall my latest dreams and discuss their meanings.

This morning, right before I awoke, I had a dream I was with a bunch of my high school peers. We were standing around some tables, examining these little blue and white boxes which contained various nutritional supplements, vitamins, essential oils, and more esoteric stuff. I picked up one tiny box which contained a small vial. The box stated that the contents were "Real Estate Agent Pheromone." A testimonial on the box said, "My husband likes it applied to my wrists or the trunk of his Lexus." I read the contents out loud to the group, and they marveled at how odd a substance it was. I then said out loud, "I wonder if they have Engineer's Pheromone? It probably smells like 3-in-1 oil." Everyone got a big laugh out of that. Then someone mentioned they had found a memory recovery balm. "You know, some people were sent to Louisiana at an early age for experiments." I replied, "Well, I do have this memory gap from my childhood. That would explain why my barber had to use a wire cutter on one of my hairs. It was the antenna of my tracking implant." More laughs from the crowd. Then the alarm went off I woke up laughing.

What does it mean? I don't know. For a few months now I have been having dreams in which fellow students from high school play a role. A few close friends appear most often, but there are also kids who I haven't thought about since graduation. The little boxes of stuff come from my recent searches for supplements that are supposed to prevent migraines (riboflavin, co-enzyme Q10, and peppermint oil for aromatherapy for when I have a headache). Also, lately my subconscious mind has been far more witty than my waking mind.

A recurring theme in my dreams since around the middle of November is taking tests. I generally walk into a classroom to discover I have a major exam for which I have not studied. Often the tests cover some scientific or mathematical subject. Now, my procedure when I was in college was to first read all of the questions, to get an idea of how hard the exam was going to be. It also enabled me to know which questions to answer first and which order to take them all. Then, I would answer as many of the questions for which I knew the solution as quickly as possible (thereby gain the most points in the shortest amount of time). For the harder questions, I would come back and do the best I could on the rest with the time I had left.

Recently I read where the way to know you are dreaming is that you read something, look away, and then read it again. The text will change if you are having a dream. This happens in my dream exams; when I go back to answer the easy questions, they have changed into harder questions! And, what is more, a four question test may turn into a seven page exam! What generally happens is I wake up scared out of my wits.

The teachers who give the exams are always teachers from my past or currently in my life. One time I was given an exam by my pain doctor. It was a most unusual exam. On the walls of the room hung different auto parts, clustered in columns. The exam required me to diagnose a problem with a car, and then determine what I needed next. Based on my diagnostic, I had to choose the right part or tool from the first column. What I chose in the first column would determine what I needed to pick from the next column, and so on down the line. If my initial diagnostic was wrong, I would pick all the wrong parts and tools and get no points at all on the exam.

A few nights ago I was given back an exam I had taken on an earlier night. A continuation! The teacher in this case was my sophomore English teacher, a very attractive woman whose name I can't recall (still). One of the test questions required me to modify an electric circuit given in a drawing to increase a certain resistor's value from 1 ohm to 11.1 ohms. I was able to do this by adding a 10 ohm resistor and a coil in series with the 1 ohm resistor. The teacher had taken off most of the points because the question was too easy and I had not provided a way to bypass the original resistor. I argued with her that there is no such thing as a standard 11.1 ohm resister, and my solution technically met the requirement and had the added benefit of using off-the-shelf components. In my dream, I pointed out to this English teacher that I had a degree in electrical engineering and that, goddammit! that's how you make the modification. Then I woke up.

I have these exam dreams three or four times a week, and it has been going on for several months. During my college years I hated taking tests (still do) and I wasn't as good a student grade-wise in college as I was in my high school years. I think the dream is about facing crucial moments without a feeling of being prepared for the moment. More specifically, I think the dreams are about dealing with chronic pain without the benefit of pain medications. When I took pain meds, I knew I would get relief and how long it would take to get it. I had a huge fear of losing the "safety net" of pain meds. Now I have to use pain management techniques, and have to do something active to cope with the pain (and there is no guarantee the techniques will work). Before I could be passive and just wait for a pill to work. I think this is the meaning because the dreams became a common theme around the same time I stopped using pain meds.

OK, one more quick dream. This, too, happened last night. In my dream, I felt like my pulse was racing and that something was terribly wrong. I tried to take my pulse on one of the arteries on my neck. I couldn't find a pulse. I thought, "Wouldn't I feel something if my heart had just stopped?" I was finally able to find a pulse on my wrists. Next, I looked at my watch in order to count the number of pulses I felt in a ten second period (multiply the number of pulses you feel by six to get the beats per minute). But, my watch would tick off one second, two seconds, then would jump to seven and then thirteen and then twenty-three! (I just realized these are all prime numbers, though some are skipped...hmmm...) Then I woke up and my pulse really was racing; my watch was acting strange! It took me a few seconds to realize I had been dreaming, and I quickly calmed down.

What do I think it means? It's time for a new watch.

Music in my head: Brahms' Hungarian Dance No. 5

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Artistically speaking

Susan wants to know about my favorite artists, and their influence.

I think I will answer this by giving two answers, one for living artists, and one for masters of the past.

One of my favorite artists lives here in Vermont and is Sabra Field. Sadly, I do not own any of her prints. You see her works scattered about the state and in a few galleries. There is nothing complicated about her pictures, yet they convey a sense of this place like no other artist I know. Whether it is a picture of farmland, with Camel's Hump in the background (the valley from which I think this picture was made is just south of where we live), to a nighttime view of April sugaring, to her depiction of birches (sob! can't find a link!), it's the kind of art that, when you live here, you look at and say, "Yes! That's it!"

Another local favorite is Susan Winter. She creates wildlife works in wood and in paintings. I was lucky enough to meet her a few years ago at an outdoor show, where I was able to get a signed and numbered framed print of her Brookie in the Brush, from which this notecard is taken. My local fishing buddies and I have explored brook trout water in all kinds of places, and this picture made a big impression on us.

Other living artists I like include Russell Chatham in Montana, Larry Prellop of Texas (I have an original oil of his), and R.W. Hedge (I won one of his eagle prints in an auction many years ago).

When it comes to art, I really don't know much. I've read about it (and forgotten most of it), and have a few favorite pictures. Some of these pictures include Munch's The Scream (I have one of the inflatable dolls this guy sat on my desk at work and attracted a lot of attention), Dali's Persistence of Memory (because Vermont can be a kind of surreal place, you wouldn't be surprised if, while walking through the woods, you were to find a fully functional clock draped over a tree limb), and Henry Fuseli's The Nightmare (which I first saw on the cover of a Ray Bradbury collection).

My favorite artist is Vincent van Gogh, with Pablo Picasso running second.

What makes me like van Gogh so much is that his technique seems (to me) to convey so much emotion. When I see a picture such as The Starry Night I get this feeling of, "Yes! That is the movement of many millennia of nighttimes captured in a still image!" Another night picture, Starry Night over the Rhone, also depicts the real essence of motion of light on the water. There's a three dimensional aspect to his paintings that you can't see in pictures of his pictures. It was a real treat for me to see some of his works in the Boston Museum of Fine Art.

It was seeing Picasso's Rape of the Sabine Women that really caught me attention. Here was a subject of classical art (versions were done by Peter Paul Rubens and Nicolas Poussin and a statute was made by Giovanni Bologna) that had been done multiple times. Upon seeing Picasso's painting, I had visions of sputtering art critics and historians as his version stuck in their craw. Picasso dabbled in several forms, but it is his Cubist stuff I like the best.

I'd have to say that, when it comes to influence, probably van Gogh and Picasso carry the most weight for me. It was through seeing their works that I felt a kind of "busting out" of my view of art. Prior to seeing their works, I was most impressed by paintings that came the closest to looking like photographs. While it is true that there are aspects of photos that can convey something beyond the image, painting provides a broader canvas (pardon the pun) for expression.

Music in my head: Franz Liszt Piano Concerto No. 1

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Where no one has gone before

Taking the requested subjects in something of the order in which they were asked, I now turn to the question of the next NASA mission. I warn you, it will be expensive, however the spin-off technology might make up the difference.

Some of you who follow NASA may recall the Voyager probes launched in the 1970's. These spacecraft are now out beyond the the solar system, on their way into interstellar space.

What I would propose is a probe to be sent to Alpha Centauri.

Alpha Centauri, the nearest star to our own Sun, is around four light-years away. The fastest any space vehicle could travel with the current theoretical technology is around one tenth of the speed of light. You have to account for acceleration up to that speed, and deceleration once it reaches the system, so it would most likely take longer than forty years to reach the next star.

I don't think we have the technology to do this today, so we'd have to get started developing it. We'd need ion drives (and maybe ramjets or magnetic sails); we'd need to develop sophisticated power systems (that would have to be nuclear, sorry); the artificial intelligence would have to be pretty advanced, as the probe would have to be autonomous; radio telemetry would most likely need some work, and, at such a distance, we'd need orbiting reception stations to bypass the signal loss due to the Earth's atmosphere.

The people who designed and built the probe would not live to see the results of their work. It would be a legacy for their grandchildren.

Aside from the monetary risk involved, there's a technical risk as well. The risk is that, while the probe is in transit, a new and faster propulsion system might be developed that would allow a new probe to pass the old one. So, in a sense, the first probe might be a waste of money.

There's an analogy from computer science that comes up in computation of algorithms. Let's say you have a computation that you calculate will take the fastest computer available today twenty years to complete. However, you know (from a corollary of Moore's Law) that in two years you will have a computer that is twice as fast, and therefore you should wait for the new system in order to have an answer in twelve years (ten years for calculation, and two years waiting for the new system). Similarly, in four years you will have a system that is four times faster, making the calculation itself take five years, and thus you would get an answer in nine years (five years of calculation and four years of waiting).

I don't know if we have a space propulsion equivalent to Moore's Law, so it might be hard to make that calculation.

While this might be pie-in-the-sky stuff, just developing the technology to do it would have great benefits. There would be the advances in power generation, which could be used in modern geosynchronous satellites, making them last longer (and thus, cheaper in the long run) and with more capability (imagine being able to listen to satellite radio in your house, with no external antenna). Advances in artificial intelligence would create better autonomous software agents (imagine a program that can track down a cracker; or having a car that needs no driver and is safer than current automobiles; or, better yet, software driven personal aircraft). Advances in telemetry and space propulsion would make our interplanetary probes more effective, and potentially cheaper.

We might find that in our investigation into the technology that we should wait before building such a probe, and that would be OK. At least the groundwork would have been done, and we might still benefit from the spin-off technology. Imagine if we could get the world powers behind such a project; it's been shown that people can be united by a common cause (the original paper can be found here). Maybe this kind of project would do the trick.

Music in my head: DatingGod's dream has had me humming Neil Young's Heart of Gold all day.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

You read it here first!

While toodling around this afternoon I went by one of the fitness places that specializes in yolates. For those of you not in the know on this recent phenomena, yolates is a mixture of yoga and pilates.

In a fit(!) of inspiration, on the spot I invented what will no doubt be the next big fitness craze: medirobics. This is the combination of meditation practice and aerobic exercise. Because you, dear reader, have the insight and good taste to read this blog, I will tell you how to practise medirobics. However, I think we should keep this to ourselves. In fact, I'll even let you in on the ground floor, and certify each of you as a trained medirobics teacher (first class). Then we'll all make big bucks on fitness centers, books, DVDs and videos, and TV specials.

Here's how you do it:

Find yourself a comfortable chair, sit down in it, and get comfortable. Take a few deep breaths to get yourself centered. Close your eyes(*). Now imagine, in your mind, a group of people jumping up and down to loud, obnoxious music. If you are a man, you might imagine that the jumpers are women wearing spandex and they have nice breasts. If you are a woman, you might imagine bare-chested men with tight abs and wearing speedos. If you are a child, imagine a room full of Barneys.

Do this for twenty minutes three times a week. Or for three minutes twenty times a week.

(*)Some people might prefer to keep their eyes open (you are doing this on a subway, for example, or in your car driving down the interstate at high rates of speed, maybe for other reasons). This difference will represent the first key "split" in the medirobics school. The eyes-closed people will be the Orthadox medirobicers, while the open-eyed people will be the Reformed medirobicers.

Update: Karen pointed out to me that medirobics discriminates against homosexuals in that differently-sexually-oriented people might not want to imagine the opposite sex during practice. I want to point out that this is NOT my intention. In fact, medirobics priests will be required to perform same-sex marriages if requested. But, being heterosexual, I can only imagine what a homosexual finds attractive, and I do not want to presume.

Please don't condemn medirobics for the ignorance of its founder.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Name game

Siona asks about my name. What follows is an example why you should not give a name that rhymes with a type of pasta to your child.

My first name, Robert, is the formal name of my uncle, my mother's brother, who I've always known as "Uncle Bob." My middle name is my father's first name, Edward.

Growing up I was called Eddie. I remember that when I joined a pewee league for baseball, I was standing in a group of kids waiting for my name to be called. I guess the name Robert was called, but at that age I did not know my name was anything other than Eddie. So, when called, I just stood there, wondering why this Robert kid hadn't reported in. My parents were waving like crazy, and I guess I waved back. "That's you!" they shouted. I thought maybe I had missed my name, so I sauntered over to where I was supposed to go.

I came to not like being called Eddie when I started grade school. There were just too many things you could do to the name. The most popular torment was the chant:

Eddie, spaghetti!
Your meatballs are ready!

I really, really, hated that.

Then there were the inevitable references to TV characters, Eddie Haskell of Leave It to Beaver fame, and Eddie Munster of The Munsters. My last name got picked on, too. When I was in Little League, Clapton's version of I Shot the Sheriff was sung by the infield whenever I came up to bat. The jump from Shearer to sheriff was apparently kind of short.

There are still some people who call me Eddie, I guess because that's how they knew me when we were all growing up. I have a few relatives who can't get used to calling me Robert, so I'm Eddie to them, too. I used to be a little sensitive about being called Eddie (that's a kid's name!), but I got over it.

When I went to college, the professors called me Robert because that was the name on the class rolls. I just let them do that; at the time, I didn't like being called Eddie, so I didn't object. By the time I entered the work force, the name just stuck.

Going by Robert has bothered a few folk, who think that the name is too formal. I can understand that. I used to hate it when it got truncated to "Rob" or "Bob," but it doesn't bother me any more. (Folks should know, though, that if they call to me with either of those names there's a good chance I will think they are talking to someone else.)

The character of Robert on the TV show Everybody Loves Raymond is a bit pathetic, making those of us who prefer the name Robert look bad. Oh well.

Just a few days ago I learned that a famous Robert, the 19th century composer Robert Schumann, also heard music in his head. He eventually went insane, and died in an asylum. (Incidentally, tomorrow, the 26th, is the anniversary of Schumann's completion of his first symphony.) He was also a music critic, and he was a big fan of Johannes Brahms. But I think the similarity ends there; at least, I hope so.

Speaking of the music in my head: the first movement of Beethoven's sixth symphony.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

How I became a flat-lander

OK, y'all have given me some good stuff to work on and I've decided to write on all of them. Thank you for the ideas, and keep 'em coming! But because there were two votes for how I ended up in Vermont, I will start with that one.

When I was in the fifth grade my family moved from a neighborhood in a South Texas town (Alice, to be exact) to a small, five acre plot out in the country about 30 miles south of where we had been living. This loose grouping of ranches, farms, and dairies was called La Gloria (not to be confused with the town of the same name in the Rio Grande Valley). It had a small school with eight classrooms, one for each grade.

(I know this is an almost Michener-ish beginning, bear with me.)

Moving out into the country was great. We had brush areas all around which would be the equivalent of forest elsewhere, and it was fun exploring and hunting in those areas.

What was missing from South Texas were trees. We had mesquite, a shrub that thinks it is a tree and the wood of which makes the best barbecue in the world. We had live oaks, not a tree you could climb due to the denseness of the branches. There were trees in towns, and we had planted a few around our house, but they were not native.

In summer we would visit my aunt and uncle in Tennessee (where my parents live now). They, too, lived in the country and were surrounded by forest. My aunt and uncle treated me very well (much better than I deserved), and I think the combination of kindness surrounded by greenery warped my soul in a good way.

Flash forward to 1991. By this time I had lived in the Dallas suburb of Plano for over six years. While during the first few years I reveled in the city life (night life, jazz radio, access to the arts), after six years I'd had enough. I think the tipping point was going to my first Nanci Griffith concert. Here I was listening to songs that came from the heart of Texas, and somewhere in the music I awoke as if from a dream. I'm not a city person, I realized. What have I been doing?

What you have to understand is that Dallas is not really a Texas city. It does not have the charms of the rest of Texas, it takes itself way too seriously, and exists with the knowing that it doesn't really fit where it is. It is a city for the accumulation of wealth, and other concerns are secondary.

Thus came my desire to leave Dallas and return to Texas. I cast about within the company for which I worked (Teradyne, based in Boston) and found there were openings in Austin. I contacted the manager who had posted the job and talked to him about a transfer.

Somewhere in the conversation this manager must have picked up on something, I'm not sure what. But he asked me, "What would you think about going to Vermont?" This was August or September of 1991. Because I had made multiple trips to Boston, I had taken the opportunity to explore New England, but Vermont was the only state I had not visited. I knew virtually nothing about Vermont, except that it had a Socialist congressman.

I figured, What the Heck? At worst I would get a trip to Vermont during the gorgeous foliage season. Arrangements were made, and I flew to Burlington the last weekend of September.

When I arrived, it was dark, so I couldn't really see much, and it was late, and I was tired. I'd had my first of what were to become many flights on a turboprop airplane, which is loud and can rattle the fillings from your teeth. I took a cab to my hotel and dropped off to sleep.

The next morning, I awoke, turned on the radio, and found Vermont Public Radio. I opened the blinds and looked out to the east.

There was Mt. Mansfield, Vermont's highest peak, and a few other mountains I did not know. They were ablaze with color, even at this distance. A local Teradyne employee took me to get a car, drove me around a bit to show me the sights I would want to explore, and invited me to dinner at his house that evening. I was entranced, to say the least.

But what I wanted more than anything was to get out in the woods, and out among the mountains. I drove to the top of Smuggler's Notch, on the eastern shoulder of Mt. Mansfield, found the Long Trail trailhead to the top of the mountain, and started up.

I wasn't really dressed for hiking. I was wearing boat shoes, and a trenchcoat, jeans, and a shirt. My head was bare. The weather was cold, but I didn't care. The trees above me were the colors of fireworks, and I was furthe enchanted. I climbed up the side of the mountain.

I don't know how far up the mountain I was before the first few flakes of snow began to fall. I was no stranger to snow, having spent a few Christmases in Montana, so I wasn't phased at all. I kept on climbing. But the snow started coming down harder and harder, and soon I wasn't able to see more than a few feet in front of me. I wasn't worried; the trail was not only well marked, but also well used, and a person had to want to get lost by straying off the trail. Still, I thought it prudent to go no further, and I started down.

With big half-dollar sized snow flakes coming down, and fireworks in the trees, I'd gone a few yards back down when I started to laugh with joy. It occurred to me that I could live in the kind of place where I took my vacations, with trees and snow and trout streams and mountains.

That Monday morning I called my new manager and accepted the job. Within two weeks all my belongings were in a moving van headed north.

And so I've stayed. I live in one of the Northeast's vacation lands, in a house in the woods with miles of wilderness out my back door. I learned the name for a transplant to Vermont: flat-lander. It's a name I wear with pride, though it isn't really considered a compliment (I grew up a gringo, so what did I know?). (In case you are wondering, the name for natives is woodchuck, though you almost never hear it used.) I've hiked and skied all over the state, hunted its woods and fished its streams. I've met wonderful people. Though the state has a reputation for being politically liberal, it's really a state of eminently practical people. And if the solution to a problem happens to have a liberal taint to it, well, so what?

It is said that if you throw a Vermonter into a river, he will float upstream. Well, there's a lot of wisdom to be found upstream.

Music in my head: Brahms' trios played by the Eroica Trio, which has been playing as I write this.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

You tell me

Keri was wondering why I haven't posted since Wednesday. The fact is I haven't come up with a subject about which to write. Normally, as regular readers know, that doesn't stop me from writing entries anyway, but it has now.

So, I turn to you, gentle reader. What should I write about? What subject would you like me to expound upon? I would ask that you not request politics as a subject, as it isn't my strong point. Note that just because I don't know anything about a subject doesn't mean I can't have an opinion on it (it just isn't an informed opinion, which I think are the most valid).

Leave a comment or e-mail me (address on the bottom of the page, link is "Robert") some ideas. I won't promise to write about them all, but I will at least think about it.

By the way, it was de-lurking day a couple of weeks ago. In the spirit of better-late-than-never, I'd like to hear from those of you who comment rarely or not at all, as well as from regular readers.

Thanks for helping me break writer's block.

Music in my head: Mozart's Eine Kleine Nachtmusik

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Rub my belly!

I understand it, I was taught the same thing when I was young.

A lot of people see the image of the fat, bald, smiling fellow, sometimes sitting, sometimes standing with arms outstretched, with big ears, and think he is the Buddha.

Well, I guess he is a buddha, but not the Buddha. His real name is Hotei and he was a kind of Chinese Santa Claus. This site has a brief explanation (which has a link to this excellent source). Hotei is his Japanese name, which means "cloth bag." His bag was never empty, and he fed the poor.

I was told as a kid that rubbing the belly of Hotei would bring good luck. I don't know if this is true, and I haven't seen a reference to it anywhere, but I remember always rubbing the image's gut whenever I encountered it. I've had a pretty lucky life, so maybe there is something to the belief.

Where am I going with this? Right before the holidays I had a real breakthrough and was able to really lose weight in a healthy fashion. Then the holidays came along, I threw my newly hard-won habits to the wind and now I've gained it all back. It takes me weeks to drop five pounds, but I can easily put that much back on in seven days.

Now I don't want to make any claims about being a buddha (but I will argue I have Buddha nature, and will argue that you, dear reader, have it, too!). But I'm still a smilin', laughin' idiot most of the time. I don't have the courage to walk around in an open kimono (and it's too darn cold for that anyway!); I was told I had big ears when I was a kid (in actuality, my hair was too short). Like Hotei, I am a real person, whatever that may mean. I do love to feed people. Children seem to like me. I've wandered all over the country. And now I've got a full, round belly.

I might as well shave my head.

Music in my head: Still hearing the Mozart clarinet concerto; you know, the one in the movie Out Of Africa

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

A few odds and ends

A few nights ago the sky was clear enough to finally find Comet Machholz. It wasn't perfectly clear, but I was able to see this fuzzy object with a pair of 10x binoculars. I think it is pretty clear tonight, too, but at this writing it is -12 F (that's -24 C for you metric folks) so if I do go outside, it won't be for long.

I was able to finish a new entry for Theme and Variations on the quartets dedicated to Haydn by Mozart.

After a couple of days of relatively mild pain, my headache came back with a vengeance this afternoon. I'm going through headbands faster than I can refreeze the cold-pack inserts. It occurred to me that they would freeze faster outside than in the freezer.

I've been in a sort of rut (not the sexual kind that deer and such get into), so last week I ordered a copy of an audiobook, Getting Unstuck, by Pema Chodren. Though she is not a Zen teacher, I've found her teachings to be helpful when I find myself in a counterproductive frame of mind. (On a side note, I think everyone can be a teacher, usually without trying.) Will report how it goes.

Karen at Vermont Diary has been considering a vacation. It's got me thinking about places south (read: warmer). I'm considering visiting my parents in Tennessee, or maybe repeating last year's trip to Texas. But these are just thoughts at the moment.

My computer's mouse is acting up; it stops moving part-way through a cursor movement. This is driving me absolutely bonkers.

I'll close with this month's quote from Suzuki Roshi on the Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind calender: Each of us must make his own true way, and when we do, that way will express the universal way. This is the mystery.

Music in my head: Mozart's Clarinet Concerto.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Some updates

I've added a few more links on the right, returning the favor of some of them who have linked to me, but mostly because they are just good blogs.

This may jinx me, but I want to let folks know that my headaches have been better the last couple of days. Thanks to all of you who have commented and e-mailed me.

Music in my head: The Indiana Jones theme.

(Side note - there's an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation where the psychic empath Troi hears music playing in her head incessantly, which we learn later is to block her from discovering a secret. After Katherine admitted to her co-workers that she is a psychic, it got me to wondering if the Music in my head is coming from an external source. I know this touches on the Zen question of Who Is It That Is Thinking He Is Thinking. Actually, though, at least part of the question comes from the fact that all sorts of weird things go through my head when I can't get back to sleep at night.)

Friday, January 14, 2005

Yet another inappropriate joke

Read this joke this evening at A Mindful Life. Even out of context it would be funny.

Blessings of a short memory

Exploring a local independent bookseller's store before Christmas searching for gifts I discovered a book I had never expected to see: The Runes of the Earth (The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, Book 1).

It had been years (seventeen) since the the last Covenant book was published. The author, Stephen Donaldson, had written several other books since then, so I had no idea another series was in the works. It was just an unrelated coincidence (hmm...) that I had started to re-read the books again this last summer.

But after reading The Wounded Land, I got distracted and on to other things.

When noone gave me the new book for Christmas (no surprise, I didn't ask for it) I snagged myself a copy after the holidays and it is on the table next to my bed. In the meantime, I've been reading The One Tree, which I just finished a few minutes ago, (and knowing how much my reading public is enthralled with my every move, I felt the need to blog about it) and will start White Gold Wielder very soon.

This is the third or fourth time I am reading these books. But enough time has passed that I don't remember what happens. Little bits and pieces of the story come back to me now and then as I re-read the series, but not enough to ruin the suspense.

Which brings me to my point. I'm not one of those people blessed with total recall. I think I'm glad am I not, and even wonder if it would really be a blessing anyway. If it were not for my less-than-perfect memory, I wouldn't enjoy going back to old books that I have relished in the past.

Music in my head: A Fool Such As I, Patti Casey

Thursday, January 13, 2005

From my e-mail box

People send me these things. I don't know why.

A vulture boards an airplane, carrying two dead raccoons. The stewardess looks at him and says, "I'm sorry, sir, only one carrion allowed per passenger."

These friars were behind on their belfry payments, so they opened up a small florist shop to raise funds. Since everyone liked to buy flowers from the men of God, a rival florist across town thought the competition was unfair. He asked the good fathers to close down, but they would not. He went back and begged the friars to close. They ignored him. So, the rival florist hired Hugh MacTaggart, the roughest and most vicious thug in town to "persuade" them to close. Hugh beat up the friars and trashed their store, saying he'd be back if they didn't close up shop. Terrified, they did so, thereby proving that only Hugh can prevent florist friars.

and my favorite

Did you hear about the Buddhist who refused Novocain during a root canal?
His goal: transcend dental medication.

(Thanks to my friend J.M. for those)

Music in my head: I've been enjoying this CD from the collaboration of Concerto Koln and Sarband. (There are sound clips at the CD link.)

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

The Exciting Sounds of Model Road Racing

The Museum of Bad Album Covers, link found on the usually tasteful Reflections in d minor.

(If you don't have time to see them all, at least check out the Top Ten).

WARNING: Not safe to open at work. You've been warned.

The temples of Cambodia's Angkor

This evening I watched a program on History Channel International narrated by Leonard Nimoy on the ancient city of Angkor in Cambodia. This city was the site of a great empire, and was occupied from the 9th to the 15th centuries C.E. While the city was first settled under Indian and Hindu influence, the Khmer empire later became Buddhist.

There are multiple temples built around the area, most famous of which is the Angkor Wat temple. You can see pictures of the temples at this site, which has a link to a history of Angkor.

The program included writings from a Chinese diplomat to Angkor by the name of Chou Ta-kuan, who lived in the 13th century. He commented on many aspect of Angkor life, which by this time was a Buddhist city. Among the observations he made was that for the inhabitants clothing was optional, that both men and women (!) went topless. Ta-kuan wrote, "Chinese sailors coming to the country note with pleasure that it is not necessary to wear clothes, and, since rice is easily had, women easily persuaded, houses easily run, furniture easily come by, and trade easily carried on, a great many sailors desert to take up permanent residence."

Sounds like paradise, doesn't it?

A Google search brought up several interesting sites beyond what is listed above. I found this one particularly interesting, as it has a slide show as well as other Angkor links. Yahoo has an entire category dedicated to the Angkor temples.

Music in my head: Various works by Acoustic Alchemy

Sunday, January 09, 2005

On into the night

I've been trying to stay up later in the evening, in the hopes that I will sleep through the night. In that time I've been hoping to catch a glance of Comet Machholz as reported by PaperFrog (see entry for January 8th). Sadly, it's been cloudy every night and I haven't had a chance to see it. What makes this even sadder is that I live in a relatively dark place, so I might be able to see it with the naked eye (what, naked in the snow? pretty tough stuff).

Many of these nights I've found that some of the bloggers with which I occasionally correspond are also up late. Do all of these people get to sleep in?

It's been an extremely painful day, one of the worst in a long time. I nodded off this afternoon and awoke around 3 PM with a whomper of a headache. It has been one of those that I find makes it hard to keep things in perspective. I tried every med I could, plus some peppermint and lavendar oil for aromatherapy, and a migraineurs tea with feverfew and other herbs. Ice packs kept it at bay (and even that just took the edge off).

Karen has wonderful hands, and worked my neck and shoulder muscles off and on today. Over the years her hands have gotten stronger, probably from kneading the iron that are my muscles when I'm under attack. It was her ministrations that did the most good this evening.

As I write this I've just pulled the headband ice-pack off my head, it is warm now. I've got the yawns, a good sign I'll drop off to sleep.

Al at Breath by Breath has a good post for the day that helped me put things back into perspective. Suffering is a part of life, but there is a way past it. Now as I lay me down to sleep for the night, I have the pain but not the suffering, being reminded that there are good things that can come from pain, as counterintuitive as that may seem.

Music in my head: Bits and pieces of various symphonies, a sort of "best of" mental concert.


We have lots of snow again. It covers everything like white icing.

Because we live next to miles of what is essentially wilderness, snow enables us to see that our backyard is a busy place at night. There are tracks of deer and snowshoe hares. One time there were big tracks that looked like those of a moose, but that may have been due to the expansion of the snow making deer tracks look bigger than normal.

Apparently, you can get a good estimation of the temperature by the sound snow makes when you walk on it. I haven't learned how to make such a determination, but I do know that there are different sounds at different temperatures. If you travel by snowshoe or ski, it is very hard to do so quietly; the sound of your footsteps or sliding seems to be carried along the snow, making it nearly impossible to sneak up on anything.

But when it is falling, especially when the snowflakes are bigger than a quarter, you can be treated to one of the few times in your life of a period of nearly absolute silence. You can hear the flakes landing on the ground. You can hear your heartbeat. But these are small sounds compared to your breathing. You want to hold your breath, at least for awhile, just to soak in the silence.

And silence can be rejuvenating.

Saturday, January 08, 2005


I could say that I've been feeling like Superman wearing kryptonite boxers, but that would imply that in contrast I sometimes feel like the Man of Steel in his normal red speedo, and I've never felt that healthy.

I've been reading W.E. Wetherell's North of Now and listening to Robert Greenberg teach about Mozart's Chamber Music as well as about the history of the Symphony; all while my head has been wrapped with pain surrounded by ice packs.

Somehow there must have been late last year some kind of transformation, because my spirits haven't descended the way my body has, and that's a good thing.

And to prove it, here's a link that, for reason's I can't explain and wouldn't even if I could, reflects my state of mind. Apologies in advance to everyone who actually clicks that link, which was found via Dave Barry's blog.

Music in my head: Sorry, you gotta click the next-to-last link to learn this.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Buddhist tsunami relief

PaperFrog has requested that its blogging readers link to a list of Buddhist tsunami relief agencies, and I'm happy to oblige.

PaperFrog is an informative (as well as pretty) blog, worth a look. And I don't say that just becaue we link to each other.

Music in my head: Listening to a lot of chamber music lately, bits and pieces which play off and on in my mind.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Buddhist fundamentalists?

Mike of rhetoric and rhythm once asked if there were right-wing fundamentalist Buddhists. This article makes me think that maybe there are.

(Link found on TricycleBlog)

Three about Adele

My friend Adele e-mailed me her "three about moi" answers, and because they are unique answers, I thought I would share them. (Plus, it gets me off the hook for coming up with something of my own.)

Three names you go by. Adele, Adela, Adelita

Three screen-names you have. adele_deaton, crazycritter188, twinsnake2001

Three things you like about yourself. sense of humor, optimism, courage

Three things you dislike about yourself. insecure, stubborn, mean spirited

Three parts of my heritage. Mexican

Three things that scare you. large dogs, crowds, tornadoes

Three of your everyday essentials coffee, indoor plumbing, hugs and kisses

Three things you are wearing right now. sweatpants, t-shirt, tennis shoes

Three of your favorite bands/artists(at the moment). Bonnie Raitt, Melissa Etheridge, Diana Krall

Three of your favorite songs at present. Real Man(Bonnie Raitt), Giant(Melissa Etheridge), Cry Me a River(Diana Krall)

Three things you want to do in the next 12 months. lose weight, remodel bathroom, learn to play guitar

Three things you want in a relationship(love is a given) honesty, respect, intimacy

Three physical things about the opposite sex(or same)that appeal to you. eyes, mouth, hands

Three things you just can't do. write my name in urine( while standing), rebuild a transmission, surfing

Three of your favorite hobbies. sewing, listening to music, gardening

Three things you want to do really badly right now. teach my boys how to close doors and drawers, to play classical guitar, clean out closets

Three careers you are considering. architectural or civil drafting, if all fails- Food Service Manager III

Three places you want to go on vacation. Corpus Christi, Galveston, New Zealand

Three things you want to do before you die. speak fluent Spanish, fly in a helicopter over New Zealand, play the guitar

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Love is...

Love is rinsing the weird curly hairs from the bar of soap before you get out of the shower.

Music in my head: Mozart's "The Hunt" quartet

(just didn't have much to say today...nothing useful, anyway)

Monday, January 03, 2005

Thinking about disasters

There's been a lot of talk in blogland concerning the deaths in Asia due to the tsunami. I'm not sure I can add anything to what has already been said.

Mahala at Luminous Heart is gauging interest in a group healing prayer service via telephone. She says no healing experience is necessary. Leave a comment at her site if interested in participating.

The UN says the death toll has reached 150,000 people, and expects the number to go higher.

Numbers. Why do we gauge the level of destruction in terms of numbers? Some despots have claimed that their genocide has not reached the level of the Nazi killings, suggesting that they shouldn't be chastised. I once heard a radio evangelist claim that Christians had not killed as many as Hitler. Is there some sort of threshold above which we are appalled?

But numbers are universal. I must confess when I first heard of the earthquake disaster the first number I read was 7,000 dead. When the number went above 44,000, it went beyond my comprehension. As the toll climbs, I find I can't grasp the impact any further. I'm no stranger to big numbers. But when it comes to numbers of people, I get a brain lock. Beyond a certain point, I just can't feel any worse.

Former presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton are leading the effort to raise funds for disaster relief. These are two leaders who I believe can get the effort done. Clinton sidestepped the issue of the current president's weak response when the disaster came to light. He stated, "I think right now we are where we need to be, and we shouldn't be looking back, we should be looking forward."

I have friends living in Japan who vacationed around Thanksgiving on the Thai coast. When I asked for comment, I was told, "We had spent Thanksgiving at Railay Bay/Krabi Thailand which is just a few beaches down from Phuket (the head-on hit). It makes me shudder because we can see in our minds exactly where people were living and playing along the water. I think I have a version of survivor's guilt."

Sorry, but no statements from me about fickle nature and its beauty and danger. Right now it's human nature that concerns me. How do we respond?

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Einstein a Buddhist?

In the book Dear Professor Einstein edited by Alice Calaprice, Albert Einstein wrote a letter to a distraught father who had lost his daughter:

Dear Mr. M,
A human being is part of the whole world, called by us "Universe," a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest - a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. The striving to free oneself from this delusion is the one issue of true religion. Not to nourish the delusion but to try to overcome it is the way to reach the attainable measure of peace of mind.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Threes About Moi

Because Keri will curse me with a slow death...

Three names you go by:

Three screennames you have:
(that's it)

Three things you like about yourself:
analytical ability
ability to cast a fly line
married to Karen

Three things you dislike about yourself:
Too much thinking, not enough doing
Too self-centered

Three parts of your heritage:

Three things that scare you:

Three of your everyday essentials:
fresh air
clean water
being with Karen

Three things you are wearing right now:
flannel pants
UVM sweatshirt
brook trout t-shirt

Three of your favorite bands/artists (at the moment):
Diana Krall
Keiko Matsui
Bob James

Three of your favorite songs at present:
Akasha Wind (Chuck Pyle performance, but LJ Booth wrote it)
I Go To Pieces (Ann Armstrong)
I've Got You Under My Skin (Diana Krall version)

Three things you want to do in the next 12 months:
Lose ## pounds
Meditate every day
Get back to work

Three things you want in a relationship (love is a given):

Three physical things about the opposite sex (or same) that appeal to you:
eyes (in that order)

Three things you just can't do:
Get pregnant
Finish a marathon
Play the French horn

Three of your favorite hobbies:
Listening to music or courses on music

Three things you want to do really badly right now:
Climb Camel's Hump
Get rid of stuff I don't need or want
Clean up from the holiday mess

Three careers you're considering:
Test engineer
College professor
AI researcher

Three places you want to go on vacation:
New Zealand

Three things you want to do before you die:
Learn to play piano
Write a symphony
Have a book of my poems published

Three *cough* people who have to take this quiz now or vote Republican (sorry Keri, but this seems worse than slow death):
Adele (e-mail me!)
Anyone else who has considered doing one of these quizzes but hasn't done so yet