Beginner's Mind

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

Monday, August 29, 2005

MIT OpenCourseWare

Want to take a course at MIT, but can't afford it, don't like tests, and/or really curious? Well, you can.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Go With the Flow

I like this saying.

Grasping the Flow would be a good name for a blog, as does Wondering on the Way.

No Surprise Here

Because of my migraines I've tried all kinds of remedies, so this comes as no surprise. (Found via Creek Running North.)

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Intelligent Design Explained...

...with Darwin playing nary a role, here. Found via Reflections in D Minor.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Star Stuff

For Kat and Bruce

I heard it first from Carl Sagan: We are all "star stuff."

The process starts when hydrogen gas begins to collect into clouds, forming a kind of sphere. Thin stuff, this gas, but after awhile it starts to compress under its own weight, and a funny thing happens: hydrogen becomes helium, and in the process energy (a lot of it) is given off. The gas is a star, and it begins to shine.

That's not really the important part, though. I'm more interested here in how the process ends.

When there's too little hydrogen and not too much helium, the star can't maintain the process anymore, and a nova occurs. So, one of three things happen.

If it's a REALLY BIG STAR, and it doesn't expell enough of itself, it collapses under its own weight, becoming denser and denser until finally it has so much mass in so little space as to become a black hole. In a black hole, the escape velocity is greater than the speed of light, so almost nothing escapes from its surface (just little hard-to-detect particles like neutrinos).

If it has expelled enough of itself, it becomes a red giant, burning helium. It has swollen to immense size, swallowing up planets in orbit around it. Red giants don't shine very bright for their size, but they are big enough that they can be seen from great distances, a remnant of what used to be.

For the ordinary star, without enough mass to completely collapse, a white dwarf results. These are small but incredibly bright stars. I believe Vega is a white dwarf, and our own sun is destined to be one.

But what about that stuff expelled in the nova? Well, it's now carbon and oxygen and gold and silver and it wanders about until a new star starts to form, pulling this star stuff with a gravitational pull. It then spins around and forms planets and oceans and puppies and human hearts, and the process begins all over again.

(Apologies to astrophysicists if I got the process wrong, I'm going from memory here. And, besides, it's an allegory anyway.)

Status Report

We've almost finished the home improvements, there's just about a day's worth of work to do, as well as the task of Restoring Order.

Our little son has been listening to the sound of saws and hammers, and last evening he gave notice that we'd better hurry up and finish, because he's getting a bit tired of hanging upside down in a cramped place.

In other words, early contractions have started. As a neighbor described it, the orchestra is tuning up.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

In the Window: Waiting for the Curtain to Rise

Karen is now in that +/- 2 week window around her due date. As I stated earlier, Those In The Know think she will go early, even possibly this week.

Let me state for the record that Karen is going to yoga class right up to the time of giving birth. Now that's what I call dedication.

The home improvements are almost finished. I have to say, in all humility, that it looks great, and I'm glad we did it (actually, my father-in-law did most of the work, and friends helped out quite a bit, too). Our stuff has been moved back into the living room, where yesterday Karen spent a happy day sorting through stuff. She even managed to put a few things on shelves.

I've been wracked with head pain for over two weeks now, and, as slow as I am, have been wondering if this is due to the impending birth of our son. If so, it's buried deep in my mind. When I think about it, I just get excited at the prospect of being a father, and meeting this little one we have been getting to know.

If I try to question myself as to what I'm worried about, the thought comes that something will go wrong, and I'll lose son or wife or both. Neither prospect seems very real, but that is my rational mind talking. Even the irrational right side of my brain doesn't expect calamity, but I think it doesn't have anything else to do, so it worries.

For some time now I've been in a holding pattern, just waiting for the baby to be born. The lazy part of me loves this; it has a built-in excuse for not doing anything. "Oh, don't start that, the baby's coming and you won't get it finished." And maybe therein lies the uncomfortable feelings: those things I need to do will need to be done. Of course there are always choices, but now some choices have impact beyond myself. They will influence this little person in ways I can't control.

I know that, if there are characteristics that I want my son to have, the best way to impart such traits are to display them in myself. So, I'd best start cultivating those traits.

Perhaps there lies the nature of my recent bout of pain. For the most part, I haven't had to do much. "Oh, I've got too much pain today, I'd better rest." Though the option to rest won't go away entirely, the fact is it won't be a reliable option.

The stage is set, and though I don't know all my lines, my role is mostly an ad lib part. Though the audience isn't large, they are paying a lot for my performance. It's time to put theory and allegory to work.

At the risk of creating a cliche, I've been forgetting my Beginner's Mind, that part of me that sees everything as new and fresh. Though I'm no expert, I have been concentrating (as much as the back of my mind concentrates) on just a few possibilities, and dreary ones at that. I've been stuck in Not Doing, which is just as bad as being mindlessly driven to Do.

Hey, thanks for listening. I feel better now!

From Suzuki Roshi, When you listen to the teaching with pure, clear mind, you can accept it as if you were hearing something you already knew.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Still Nesting

Lack of blogging is due to Home Improvement Week. Today the paneling was finished, mostly by my father-in-law, as several days of activity caused me to crash headache wise.

Tomorrow the new carpet will be installed.

We finished birthing class Monday night.

Everyone seems to think Karen will give birth early, including Karen. I have that feeling, too, but I don't trust it. I had a similar feeling it was going to be a girl, and that proved wrong (at least, with the current evidence). I just hope it doesn't happen until we get our house back in order.

Music in my head: Workin' at the Car Wash Blues, Jim Croce.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Buried Treasure

Buried Treasure
Posted by Picasa

I'm pulling down the paneling in the living room, to be replaced by new birch paneling. Behind one of the sheets was the picture above, drawn on the sheetrock.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Einstein's Big Year

The Teaching Company is offering two free lectures on Albert Einstein's big year of 1905, in which he had three revolutionary papers published. You can stream or download the lectures here.

Music in my head: Safari, Keiko Matsui

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Culinary Conundrum

Recently, a man was arrested and appeared in court for killing and eating a Spotted Owl, a protected species.

"Sir," said the judge, "these are serious charges. Is it true that you killed and ate a Spotted Owl?"

"Yes, your honor, I admit that I did such a thing, but there were extenuating circumstances," replied the man.

"Oh? What could possibly justify such an unspeakable act?" asked the judge.

"Well, sir, I was in the woods, hunting, when I got terribly lost in a snow storm. I wandered for days, trying to find civilization. Near to death from the cold, and hungry, I saw something in a tree and shot it, only to discover it was a Spotted Owl, a magnificent bird. I felt terrible about what I had done, but, your honor, it was already dead and I was half crazed with starvation, so I ate it too. The next day I was discovered by a game warden, which is how I ended up in your court."

"I see," said the judge. "Well, you are right, those were extreme circumstances. So, I dismiss the charges, with a warning that you pay more attention to what you shoot at."

"Yes, sir, your honor, thank you," replied the man. As he turned to go, the judge stopped him.

"There's something I've always wondered though," mused the judge. "What does owl taste like?"

The man smiled, and said, "Well, your honor, it tastes just like California Condor!"

From the Serves You Right Department of Karma, Incorporated

If you come to my house now you might conclude that I don't mow the yard. A few weeks ago while mowing, it hit a tree root, which caused the drive belt to the mowing deck to break. For reasons I can't fathom, our local Sears parts depot keeps every such drive belt in stock, except for mine. So, it is a special order item, and last week it showed up on our doorstep in a padded envelope.

We don't have municipal trash pick-up where we live. There are several companies that you can hire to pick up your trash and mandatory recycling. However, it is cheaper to haul refuse to the local transfer station (yes, you have to pay to throw out your own trash here). Besides, those of you familiar with our triple black diamond driveway know that getting the trash to the end of the drive is the hardest part of the battle; might as well take it myself.

But for various reasons we hadn't been in weeks, so last Saturday we had two car-loads of trash and recycling. Rather than make two individual trips, we filled both cars and caravanned over.

"The Dump" is a socializing place of sorts. The same people run the place every weekend. It gets busy on Saturday mornings (why we don't go during the week when it is less crowded is beyond me), and sometimes cars get lined up waiting for a spot to park to unload their trash.

With baby things showing up in the mail lately, we've accumulated some boxes (more than just "some" actually). While loading the recycling in the cars, entire stacks of boxes were picked up and crammed into whatever available space could be found in both our cars. Loaded to the roof, we toodled off to The Dump.

Luckily there were two spots side by side, so we were able to back up both our cars to the compactors. I hoped out and started chucking trash. I was about a third of the way done unloading my car when I noticed Karen was standing at the back of her car.

She was sorting through the trash in back. Those of you familiar with a previous post will recognize what she was doing: vertically stacked trash was being spread out horizontally.

People by now are lined up, waiting to get in to dump their trash. I confess I got a little impatient. I may have mumbled to myself (I know I had mumbling thoughts) as I lifted a stack of boxes to toss. In the middle of the stack was a padded envelope, and I thought to myself, "I wonder if the lining of the envelope is recyclable? Ah, to hell with it, people are waiting!" I finished my car, unloaded Karen's car, and we were off.

On the way home, I thought about what sort of pithy blog entry I could write about Karen's odd behavior. I thought about her parents coming over to paint. It was a cool day, and I decided I would install that new belt on the mower and brush-hog the yard. As I parked in front of our house, I had a sudden, horrific realization.

I had dumped the envelope with the belt in it.

As we were leaving The Dump, the operator was in the process of compacting the all-in-one recycling. There was no way to get it back. It was gone.

That's when I started laughing.

You see, if I had sorted through the trash the way Karen had, I would have discovered the belt and not thrown it away.

Music in my head: Lost Highway, Chuck Pyle

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

A Great Library

The Internet Archive is an online library of all sorts of digital media: book, audio programs, movies, even software. And, what is really neat, is it is free.