Beginner's Mind

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

Saturday, May 28, 2005

A timely message

Found on the Cat and Girl website, the following bumper sticker:

Technically you would only need one time traveler convention.

Friday, May 27, 2005

My fifteen minutes of fame...

...flushed down the loo.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Bushmen Buddhas

I've been listening to the lectures of The Teaching Company's anthopology course Peoples and Cultures of the World by Professor Edward Fischer of Vanderbilt University.

In that course he outlines a typology of societies proposed by Elvin Service which is composed of bands, tribes, chiefdoms, and states.

Fischer gives as an example of a band society the Dobe Ju/'hoansi, who live on the edges of the Kalahari desert in Africa. The Dobe (also known as "bushmen" or !Kung San, made famous in the cult movie classic The Gods Must Be Crazy) are a nomadic hunter/gatherer people numbering around 50,000 (Fischer states that there are around 250,000 people who can be considered as living in a band society, a small fraction of the over 6 billion inhabitants of our planet).

Among the many interesting characteristics of the Dobe: about 70 percent of their caloric intake consists of plants taken by foraging, with the Mongongo nut being a prime staple; their leaders are situational, in that, when hunting (for example) the best hunter leads the hunt, but afterwards said best hunter becomes just one of the band; Dobe men practice polygamy, however there is a high "divorce" rate; there is no specialization of skill among the Dobe, though there are task assignments according to gender; there are very few private possessions and things are "borrowed" without asking.

Because the Dobe live in such a subsistence manner, to some they represent the most impoverished society. However, there are some surprising aspects of Dobe life. For example: except in the most extreme circumstances, the Dobe do not experience hunger; taken all together, the average Dobe works about 20 hours a week, and, in fact, about two hours of nut gathering can feed a Dobe family for a week; if affluence is measured in leisure time, the Dobe are the most affluent people in the world.

According to anthropologist Marshall Sahlins, affluence can be achieved in two ways. You can want a lot a produce and lot, or you can want little, and be satisfied with little. This latter method he calls the "Zen road to affluence."

The Dobe are of this latter mind. While we struggle in our market economies to earn more, in a desperate attempt to gain happiness, these "simple" people, who live as our ancient ancestors did, have achieved a level of satisfaction for which we reach but never quite attain.

Music in my head: Soak Up the Sun, Sheryl Crow

Monday, May 23, 2005

I'm a what?

Found the following survey via Broadsheet.

You scored as Existentialist. Existentialism emphasizes human capability. There is no greater power interfering with life and thus it is up to us to make things happen. Sometimes considered a negative and depressing world view, your optimism towards human accomplishment is immense. Mankind is condemned to be free and must accept the responsibility.







Cultural Creative










What is Your World View? (corrected...again)
created with

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Pictures of Yogi

You can kind of get an idea of his size (he seemed much bigger up close, though...probably the claws)
Posted by Hello

Weak flash, black bear, dark of night. These are the best of the pictures I took.

Out in the yard, menacing the new feeder
Posted by Hello

Up in the tree, after the woodpecker block
Posted by Hello

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Grizzly Robert

So here I was, reading e-mail and minding my own business when I heard a crash.

Karen was already in bed. "Karen, did you just make something go boom?"


"Did you hear something go boom?"


I went into the kitchen and turned on the outside lights.

Right outside our glass kitchen door was a black bear, munching on sunflower seeds. He'd already destroyed one feeder, and knocked (actually bent) over a post outside that held two feeders, and had cleaned them out (but I don't think he damaged them).

I rushed back to the bedroom. "Karen! Get up! You gotta see this!"

We both went back to the kitchen, and there he was, sticking his tongue in the feeder, sucking out black oil seeds (those Droll Yankee feeders are tough!).

Of course I had my priorities straight. I opened the door and yelled at him, "Stop that! Get out of here!" because I'd heard that bears are afraid of people.

Not this bear.

He sauntered over to the stairs leading to the yard, turned around, and just looked at me.

As I said, I had my priorities straight. "Karen! Grab the camera!" At this point I'm standing on the deck. With the bear. If I had to guess, I'd say he had 50 to 75 pounds on me, plus big claws and much bigger teeth.

I got some pictures (will post tomorrow). He walked off the porch, went over to the big maple tree from which hangs our suet/woodpecker feeder. He stood up on his hind legs, but couldn't reach it. As if he'd done this sort of thing before, he climbed the tree (remember that all the while I'm explaining loudly to this bear that I'd prefer he leave, but I'm laughing all the while, too, so maybe I wasn't too convincing). Anyway, he climbs up to the limb from which the feeder is hanging, and commences to pull the rope up to get to the feeder.

Remember all those things you're taught in camping about hanging your food from a tree to keep the bears out of it? Wouldn't work on this guy.

The rope drapes over a limb, and is tied off on the deck. I grab the other end of the rope, tugging on it, telling him, "Put that down! Get out of here!"

He drops the rope, which by now is in his mouth, huffs and snorts, but climbs back down the tree.

At this point I'm thinking, What do I do? I don't want to shoot it. But, he clearly didn't want to give up his dinner.

Then, from inside the house, from behind the door (where Karen is, wondering what kind of nut she'd married) I hear a rare, but welcome sound. It's Kane, and he begins to bark.

That spooked him. He rumbles over to another tree and climbs partly up the trunk. I pound my feet on the deck, he hops down, and runs into the forest. Kane is still barking, and Karen is doing all she can to keep him from crashing through the door after the bear. I send Karen for the halogen beam spotlight, which she brings. Not leaving the deck, I start scanning the trees for our unwelcome (sort of) visitor. No eyes shine back, all is quiet. I walk out into the yard.

Just yesterday I'd mounted a platform feeder on a pole, and he wasn't By-Dog! gonna knock that one down. I brought it, and the rest of the feeders, into the house. (I'd already at dark brought in the ones the racoons had raided earlier this year).

I've known we have bears in the woods behind out house. There are trees that have been scratched, and they've left scat under the apple trees in the fall (guess what bears don't always do in just the woods). But, until tonight, I'd not seen any (in fact, in the 13+ years I've lived in Vermont, I hadn't seen one anywhere in the state).

So, I'm happy to say, this encounter went OK. The bear didn't get shot (except by the camera), I didn't get clawed or chewed, and Kane earned his keep.

Pictures to follow...stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

An eye on the eagles

One of Vermont's electric companies (CVPS), along with several other organizations, is trying to re-establish bald eagles in our state. You can read about the initiative here, and access the eagle-cam here.

Music in my head: La donna e mobile from Verdi's Rigoletto

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Hospital Daze - Part 2

While meditation is one of the pain management techniques taught at Spaulding, it wasn't done on a daily basis. This confused me; in order to get all the healthy benefits of meditation, you really need to do it every day. Meditation serves as an antidote for stress by eliciting the relaxation response. If you have stress every day (and who of us with chronic pain doesn't?), you need to meditate every day.

So, some of us in the program decided we would just do it on our own. A few of us sat in the morning, some in the evening. We would try different techniques, such as guided imagery, body scans, and breath following. Sometimes I would lead the meditation, sometimes we would just sit in silence.

I should point out that I was NOT attempting to teach zazen. I'm not qualified to do that; however, there are several ways to elicit the relaxation response, and we tried a few of them.

One of the techniques I got to try was biofeedback. There were two methods tried. One method involved taping a temperature probe (a thermistor) to a digit, and watching how the temperature changes while I meditate. We didn't have much success with this. Apparently, a person with migraines will tend to get cold extremities, so by causing my fingers to warm up, I can counteract a migraine. For some folks, your fingers have a temperature of around 70 degrees F, and you do well to warm your fingers up to around 90 degrees F or so. The problem was my hands were already warm (for awhile it seemed too warm in the hospital), above 90. But, I was able to increase my finger temperature a couple of degrees.

Next, we tried a toe. This didn't work too well, either. My feet would not stabilize temperature wise. I wasn't able to affect it at all.

Another biofeedback method involved using the HeartMath product Freeze-Framer. This package has a sensor you place your finger into that measures your heartbeat and makes various calculations. It can tell you when you get into the "Meditator's Zone," the proper relaxation state. I had much better luck with this method, and was able to get into the "zone" after a few minutes, and was able to sustain it for a bit. I've since purchased the package for home use, and have been using it during my morning meditation sessions. It's almost like having a companion sit with you, telling you how well you are doing.

I don't know how well Freeze-Framer improves (or has any effect) on my practice, except I do know I sit more often and longer than I used to. According to the program, anyway, my practice has improved.

Music in my head: You'll Never Know, Maura O'Connell

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Death and the age of the world

The following observation was made by Professor Robert Oden in his Teaching Company course God and Mankind: Comparative Religions:

Religions such as Christianity and Islam date the world as being relatively young. If you follow a strict reading of the Christian Bible you can calculate the world as being around 6000 years old (in fact, the exact creation of the world has been calculated down to a time and date, sometime in October, if I remember right). Consistent with a "young" cosmology, such religions have, as their ultimate goal for the individual, the acquisition of eternal life or immortality.

Other religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism have "old" cosmologies; in other words, the world has been around for an immeasurably long time (there's a Hindu tradition about a mountain of metal the size of Mt. Meru which is worn down slowly by the brushing of a bird's wings that passes by every so often; this process is used to measure the age of the world). In these religions, the ultimate goal of the individual is to "get off" the cycle of birth-death-rebirth.

What Oden doesn't mention in this context (and which makes me wonder if this is not relevant) is that in the "young" cosmologies, at least in the religions mentioned, there is also an end of the world which is to come soon. The "old" cosmologies do not have such an end.

(It's kind of funny - to me - that a guy with the name "Oden" should be an expert in religion. While on the subject of Oden, I might point out that the mythological leader of the ancient Norse pantheon, Odin (sometimes spelled Wotan), lived in Valhalla, the home of warriors who had fallen in battle. In this religion, too, there was a gaining of an afterlife for the person who performed according to a set of rules. I might add that there is an end of the world [of sorts] in Norse belief, called Ragnarok.)

Oden doesn't give any other examples, so I don't know how consistent the trend is. But it's interesting, isn't it?

Music in my head: Second movement of Dvorak's Ninth Symphony

Monday, May 09, 2005

Gassho, Andi

Andi of Ditch The Raft is ripping out her tattoos and taking vows. We bow to her, and wish her well.

What's with the blog?

Why little blog chunklets rather than my usual deep, insightful posts?

I have a virus.

Actually, I think it is really a bacteria; at least, the antibiotic seems to be starting to work. I've been feeling poorly since coming home from Texas; no doubt something picked up from all the carpetbaggers running things down there. Or, it could be a tracking bug from the Department of Homeland Security, who you'll be happy to know will let US citizens come back if they can say the pledge of allegiance (Note: it's easier to just bring a passport).

(And because I saw another chunklet today at Nacho's WoodMoor Village Zendo, I'll leave you with this: "Don't believe everything you think.")

I've missed my calling

I shoulda been a CEO.

(Yes, this is a sneaky way for me to get you to look at MoveOn's Flash Ad on Social Security. So?)

Thursday, May 05, 2005

You've Got Mail (and a lower IQ)

It's even got a name - info-mania.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

For my wife, on her return

Karen was away teaching people how to teach reading. I had this song in my head all evening after she returned. I even tried to sing some of it, which I hope she doesn't hold against me.