Beginner's Mind

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

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Satchmo and Blue Walls

Hold me close and hold me fast
The magic spell you cast
This is la vie en rose

The pink rose walls of the guest room are turning into the blue walls of the nursery. My father-in-law came over today and did a great job putting on the first coat of paint. Soon there will be a border around the room at some height as yet determined, a border that has blue edges and sports sailboats, tops, hobby horses, teddy bears, blocks, toy planes and trucks and balls.

I told Karen that if we end up having a girl after all, I will sue the five (so far) doctors who have assured us we are having a boy for the funds for new paint and border.

When you kiss me heaven sighs
And tho I close my eyes
I see la vie en rose

I wish I could have helped, but the last few times I've been around paint fumes I've been hurled into headache hell. As it was, I spent a few hours with an ice pack around my head, asleep in front of the Yankees game.

So instead I'm washing baby clothes and sheets and whatever else is in the basket Karen ordered me to wash. I guess I might as well get in practice.

When you press me to your heart
I’m in a world apart
A world where roses bloom

My sister in California (who I'm trying to convince to come out here in September, making it the first time our whole family has been together in over 18 years) sent us a gift card to a Big Box Industrial Toy Complex (BBITC), so before going to the birthday party of mum-in-law, Karen and Kane and I went shopping for baby stuff. This, I think, is going to be a problem in the end, because it was lots of fun.

One of our baby shower presents was this diaper disposal thingy. While at BBITC, we looked at the refill sausage skins that go with the thingy, and saw that they had a special, buy three get a fourth free. That sounded pretty good to me, but Karen drew my attention to the cost of the refills. Hmm, didn't sound like too much, until she explained that infants go through about fourteen diapers a day. Doing the math, that meant one refill would last around ten days. So far, still so good. Then, she told me how long a child lives in diapers, and it turns out that they will need them for years. Slowly, it dawned on me. We would need to get a second mortgage for sausage skin diaper thingy refills. For the cost of just two month's refills, we could get a different type that used any kind of plastic bag, and it was made in America to boot (well, Ontario, California, which is close to America).

And, somehow, I guess, babies can get colic by using the wrong kind of bottle nipple. You need to use a nipple that is shaped like, well, a nipple. Until this discovery, mankind had become almost extinct due to colic in babies (you probably don't remember that, as you were too young when it happened). But, you can buy a box of three nipple-shaped nipple bottles for $12, or five for $30. While on the subject of bottle nipples, it turns out that a baby needs a different sized and shaped nipple as they grow, which of course makes a nursing mother's nipples useless after the first few months (see previous reference to colic). I suppose that is why they have silicone breast implants (for some reason, they look much bigger on TV - the implants, although now that I think about it...).

And when you speak...angels sing from above
Everyday words turn into love songs

As I sat down at the computer, I heard that sound you hear when several semi-filled plastic bottles are rolled like bowling balls on a linoleum floor. I got up to investigate, and saw that the bathroom door was partly closed.

"You OK?" I asked?

"Yes," came the reply from directly behind the door.

I stuck my head through the gap in the doorway to find Karen kneeling on the floor. She was removing everything stored vertically in the bathroom closet and spreading it all around the bathroom floor. "I felt the need to clean this closet," she told me, beaming.

"You mean, 'sort through this closet,' don't you?"

"Well, yeah."

It's a running discussion we've been having. To make better use of the space in our house I've been building shelves and storing things on them vertically, freeing up floor space. Karen then uses that space to pull things back down and spread them out horizontally, "sorting" them. I've finally stopped building shelves and clearing floor space, as we don't have enough floor space for the horizontal sorting. I will just wait until she is finished sorting things, at which point I will simply turn the entire house on its side, thus returning things back to their original, vertical state.

Give your heart and soul to me
And life will always be
La vie en rose

(La Vie En Rose by Edith Piaf, among others)

Friday, July 29, 2005

Happy Birthday

My mother-in-law turned (in Roman numerals you'd insert a lot of letters here - just kidding! actually, it would be only three letters) today. Happy Birthday, Bea.

Basketballs and True Love

From a discussion with Zenchick today:

I saw an interesting experiment a few days ago. A group of people, both men and women, are put together in a room and told to watch a video. In the video, there are two groups of men dressed in basketball shirts and shorts and doing a drill that involves tossing a basketball to each other as the two teams, one with white uniforms and the other in black uniforms, weave in and out of each other. The people in the room are told to count how many times the white team throws the ball to each other. The video is started, and you can see the viewers are concentrating and counting. About halfway through the drill, a man in a gorilla suit walks into the middle of the drill, faces the camera, and beats his chest a few times, gorilla style, then walks out of the picture. At the end of the video, the viewers are asked how many times the ball was thrown, and a small variety of answers are given. They are then asked if they noticed anything unusual in the video, and they all say no. So, they are shown the video a second time, and told to look for anything odd. This time, when the gorilla suited man appears, the people watching all burst out laughing.

That's how I think true love works. We count balls and never notice gorillas.

Home grown tomatoes

Early harvest
Posted by Picasa

Inspired by a post from the Cassandra Pages, which inspired me to look up these lyrics by Guy Clark, a great songwriter.

And yes, they are from my patio.

Music in my head: You Don't Have to be a Star, Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis Jr.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Other Side of the Hill

Watch out when they start to twist
Hold tight with a leather fist
That's what Daddy told me
How to ride the bull
There's a jingle in my jeans
Sore places in between
I'm leavin' Tennessee
With a push and a pull

Our house is on the west-north-west side of a hill, facing roughly the same direction. As such, it takes awhile before the sun hits the back deck. The effect is even more pronounced in summer, when the trees on the hill have their leaves.

This makes for cooler mornings. It rained nearly all day yesterday, so the night started off cooler than usual, making this morning a wonderful chill 54 degrees.

10-4 buddy, come on back
Horse trailer on a Cadillac
You're talkin' to the cowboy
In the Coup de Ville
Chug-a-lug up one side
Glide down the other
I'm a lover of the other
Side of the hill

Perhaps oddly, especially for a Texan who was raised in desert temperatures, I love these cool mornings, especially when the sky is clear. I like to sit out back in a chair, maybe have some breakfast, and listen to the sounds of birds and critters, who have been up for hours already and are searching for their breakfast. So I was, if this is possible, calmly giddy to sit in a temporarily relocated kitchen chair on the deck in my Woolrich shorts and Texas Longhorn t-shirt to enjoy the morning.

Turn up that radio
Don't think about rodeo
Don't think about round-up
Up in old Cheyenne
It's a crazy circuit
Yet you still work it
Turn your sound up
Let's check the scan

With the feeders out and filled, the table was set for the birds. I had a package of Pop-Tarts balanced on one knee, and a glass of cranberry juice next to me, so my table was set, too. Everything, the deck, the trees, the grass, the blueberry bushes, the plants were heavy with last night's rainfall. I sat almost out of range of the dripping red maple which towers over our back deck. There was no wind at all, but one drip from the top of the tree would hit a branch below it, knocking off a few more drops, and the whole process would become (literally) a cascade that was a brief shower. As the birds would come in, perching on limbs from a safe distance to inspect the feeders, as well as investigate my motives for sitting in the middle of their dining room, there'd be more rain showers, some of which sprinkled my tart-less knee.

10-4 buddy, come on back
Horse trailer on a Cadillac
You're talkin' to the cowboy
In the Coup de Ville
Chug-a-lug up one side
Glide down the other
I'm a lover of the other
Side of the hill

Since I sat fairly still, not making any sudden moves, and at least appearing to be minding my own business, the flock would, in ones and twos, land on the feeders and dig in. The chickadees were first, as usual; not because they are more greedy, but because they are less person-shy than other breeds. With a little practice, you can actually teach them to eat out of your hand.

Next were the evening grosbeaks. The young of the year will fly to the feeders and the shrubs around it, still expecting to be fed. It's been a good year for them, we've got lots of young-uns. Though the seed is right at their feet on the platform feeder, still they sit next to Momma and Daddy, wiggling their wings as they did in the next, and demand nourishment. The obliging parents would deftly shell a sunflower seed and poke it down Jr's waiting beak. The young don't have adult plumage yet; they mostly have the more drab colors of their mothers. The feathers around their head look more like fuzz, which reminds me of a child's hair who has just got out of bed and come down to the kitchen table.

Bandana's on the rear view mirror
Still wet from ear to ear
Once again it's proven
What the wise men say
When you ride that last one
Better make it a fast one
Jump while he's movin', son
And just walk away

And then there's the ongoing saga of the hummingbirds. I'm told that a hummer will migrate back from year to year to the same feeder if it can, and I believe this. This morning there were four different birds, two males, two females, that came to sip nectar, and they each look different. But the "owner" of the feeder is this very distinctive chubby little fellow, that I would swear was here last year. He'll come in and take a sip, but mostly he's just checking to make sure no one is dipping into his supply, which of course the other three are doing when they can. If he catches them, he runs them off in a high-speed hummer dogfight.

While munching my breakfast, one of the females came and hovered just out of arm's reach beyond my right knee, looking at me, as if to say, "If I go over there to eat, will you leave me alone?" I don't speak hummer-ese, so I just looked at her and smiled. I guess that was good enough; she buzzed up to the feeder, took the perch closest to me, and took several long draws of sugar water. She stopped every so often to look at me, not in concern, but more as if to say, "Mister, you've got some mighty fine grub in this outfit."

I couldn't agree more.

10-4 buddy, come on back
Horse trailer on a Cadillac
You're talkin' to the cowboy
In the Coup de Ville
Chug-a-lug up one side
Glide down the other
I'm a lover of the other
Side of the hill

(Lyrics to
Other Side of the Hill by Chuck Pyle.)

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Doulas, satellites, and insomnia

Last week we hired a doula. Until I read some of the pregnancy-for-dads books, I didn't know what/who they were or what they did. After doing a little reading, I decided, "We need one of those." But, we waited too long, so many of the doulas in our area were already booked. I think that worked in our favor, though, as it narrowed our choices down to a pair, both of which live in Richmond.

Rebecca, our doula, had strep throat or some such thing when we called, so we left a message. She called back two days later, then actually came by the house and spent over two hours talking with us, answering all kinds of questions. She is very outgoing and energetic, and super helpful.

For some odd reason we didn't hire her on the spot. But a few hours later, we both agreed she was who we wanted (and would want regardless of who else might have been available).

There are a few doula organizations, like DONA, which is where we started our search. The first few doulas with which we spoke, while already booked, gave us lists of names we could try. In our area, at least, this is a helpful bunch of women, and they don't seem to be competing with each other (maybe this is a Vermont thing; bed & breakfast housing and country inns support each other, too).

In any event, there are three doulas in Richmond who are loosely organized; they meet once a week, and provide backup services for each other.

After last night's birthing class, I am doubly glad we hired her. We saw the videos of children being born, and, believe it or not, it was the first time I'd seen a human being born (there are significant differences in human births from farm animal births). I found it...revealing. This little person's head finally comes out, after hanging around the door, so to speak, then the shoulders, and then WHOOSH! the rest of the baby squirts out and various people start sticking little suction devices into various orifices (of the baby).

But the show doesn't end there. There's this placenta delivery, which for reasons that were not quite clear to me someone has to fondle and pick through. Apparently they know how to determine if the whole thing was delivered, though how you can tell a piece of an amorphous blob is missing is beyond me.

For those of us who had not run screaming from the room (I wasn't one of those...I screamed, but Karen and the instructor held me down so I couldn't escape, thus I took one for the male team in the class, not that any of them acknowledged it, the bastards) there was a video on water births. For this kind of delivery, the mother-to-be is put in a big washtub of warm water. Supposedly, this method is easier on the mother as well as on the baby. The baby is born completely submerged, but knows enough not to try to breath until its face is out of the water. Apparently the cooler air triggers a breathing response. There's no hanging upside down and getting a spanking like they did in the dark ages of birthing; apparently that's not necessary.

For a few weeks now Karen has been waking up around 3 AM. She gets up to watch TV for awhile, as she is wide awake when this happens, and usually manages to get back to sleep around 6 AM. To show my solidarity, I'm wide awake and have been all night so far. But when I turned on the TV, there was no signal from the dish. I checked the other TV, but nothing there, either. So, I don't know if there's something wrong with the dish (not great but fixable, and therefore not terrible) or if one or more of the trees have grown to block the signal (not terrible, but almost so, as this means hiring someone to top some trees).

Just one more thing to worry about, but I'm not climbing up there in the dark to work on the dish.

Music in my head (all day, in fact): Ho-Hum, a song sung by Bing Crosby in one of the "Road" films (Morocco, I think).

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Has it ever occurred to you...

...that if an octopus had four tentacles instead of eight it would be called a quadrapus?

These are the kinds of thoughts that go through my mind under the influence of Imitrex. I wish it would give me insights into something a bit more useful, like the unified field theory, but, alas, it hasn't so far. It's quite possible that it has, but I've been too addled to recognize it. No doubt Douglas Adams could have tied field theory to a quadrapus (after all, he tied a sperm whale and a pot of flowers [curiously, the flower pot had only one thought, which was, "Not again," but why is no mystery to readers of his books] to infinite improbability), but sadly for all the world, he was taken from us too early.

Music in my head: Boy From New York City, The Manhatten Transfer

Monday, July 18, 2005

A pair of incidents

A nun was out making visits to shut-ins when she ran out of gas. She spotted a station a block away and walked there, only to discover that the only gas can they had was in use. Undaunted, she walked back to her car and rooted around in the trunk until she found a bed pan, which she carried back to the station. She filled it with gas and returned to her car.

As she was pouring gas into the tank, two men were watching her from across the street. One turned to the other and said, "I know that Jesus turned water into wine, but if that car starts, I'll become a Catholic for the rest of my life."

Recently I was sitting in a tavern, enjoying an ale with my friend, the philosopher Rene Descartes. We were discussing his new ideas on dualism when he drained his glass. Almost at one our waitress sidled up to our table and asked Descartes, "Sir, can I get you another ale?"

He replied, "I think not." And then he disappeared!

Music in my head: I don't know the title of the song, but it mentions the comic book hero Green Lantern.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Couvade syndrome and migraine

It's been a rough week headache-wise. It's just been building and building, each day worse than the day before. I had a couple of good weeks prior to this one; like a friend of mine says, it will always average out.

We've begun to prep for the baby, and got into a higher gear recently. For Karen it's the pregnancy; for me, it's Couvade syndrome. We've picked out new carpet and flooring, built shelves and cabinets, and are making room for baby and his stuff. We have folks coming in to quote a new heating system. We have volunteers for painting. We've picked out new paneling for the living room and dining room (the stuff we have now is very dark and it's fake wood, besides). Busy, busy, busy!

Karen's been having a rough week, too, so as a belated anniversary present I treated her to a professional massage at the OB clinic. She had a very happy face after that!

And yesterday she had the first of two baby showers. She came home with all kinds of stuff. I'm not sure what most of it does, but I'm guessing that I'll learn soon enough.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

A book meme

I don't know how I missed it, but I did: Vermont Diary passed a book meme to me in June and I didn't respond. Sorry! I don't remember much about the second week of June this year (was that when I was gone? the days seem to jumble together). Anyway, better late than never, here are the questions and answers.

1. Total number of books I’ve owned
I've given only a few hundred away in my lifetime, so if I was to count them I'd be pretty close to the number. I really don't know, but it must be in the thousands. I know I should use the library more (my collection is a library).

2. Last book I bought
Migraine: The Complete Guide by The American Council for Headache Education (ACHE).

3. Last book I read
The Penguin History of the World by J.M. Roberts. It took me forever to finish this book. It's a pretty big book, which, given the title, should not be surprising. I really liked it.

4. Five books that mean a lot to me
Illusions by Richard Bach. I first read it in college. For those not in the know, he is the guy who wrote Jonathan Livingston Seagull. One of the ideas it explores is the nature and experiences of messiahs.

Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind by Shunryu Suzuki Roshi. That's one some of you could have guessed.

You're Not What I Expected and (most recently) The Resilient Spirit by Polly Young-Eisendrath. The first book helped me to discover why my relationships seemed to run out of steam; the first woman I dated after reading the book was Karen, and we've been together for 11 years, nine of them married. The second book (I've given away two copies, and need to order another) has helped me make the most of my chronic pain.

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. A big book, but it made me look at prisons in a different light, and taught me the value of redemption, including why we should honor it in others.

The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh. I read this book back in the late 1980's, while teaching myself meditation in order to combat migraines. This book (and many others by him) led me to explore Buddhism, and completely changed my worldview.

(I know that is already five - six, actually - but I've got to add one more)

The Tao of Physics by Fritjof Capra. Wow, this book showed me that spirituality and science can go hand in hand. It seemed to say things qualitatively what science said quantitatively.

5. Which five bloggers am I passing this to?
I don't think I'll specify anyone, but would love to read what others have to say, if they haven't already said it.

Yesterday was our ninth anniversary

Sweetheart of the Year, lyrics by Ray Price

As usual I'll be working when she reads the morning paper
And oh how I wish I could be home so I could see
My darling's face light up when she sees her picture in the paper
And this message underneath to her from me
Happy anniversary sweetheart to you from me
Thanks for loving me another year
I wanted our whole town to see the woman who consistedly
Has been the sweetest sweetheart of the year
Happy anniversary...

That song ran through my mind all day yesterday. Sadly, neither of us was in much shape to celebrate; Karen was feeling sick (pregnancy side-effects) and I had a nasty migraine. We watched De-Lovely in the evening; how sad someone with Cole Porter's talents was such a s**t to his wife (though I don't suppose there is a correlation between talent and fidelity).

We're doing a bit better today, straightening up the basement (it's cool down there), though we were going different directions; I was trying to store things vertically, she was going through things horizontally. We made some progress, though.

Anyway, thanks, Karen, for another great year.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

He's getting bigger

Had an ultrasound today. It turns out that our son is about two weeks advanced size-wise in his legs and torso (i.e., he is big and tall) at this stage of development. But even bigger news is his head; he is FOUR weeks advanced in his head size (I told Karen she is having a Talosian). He is now estimated to weigh five and a quarter pounds (over 2.3 kilos).

The due date for the baby is September 6th, but the OB told Karen she should hope for a two week early birth.

I told Karen I didn't mind if we had a son who was smarter than me (don't all parents want that?), but I don't want a kid who can kick my ass by age twelve.

We also discovered that he enjoys western swing. On the way to lunch in the car a CD of Asleep at the Wheel was playing, and he began to two-step in the womb (in time with the music).

Friday, July 08, 2005

In an alternative universe

In an alternate universe, George Bush and Dick Cheney are programmers, not oil men, and the United States is at war with India. Meanwhile, the cost of programming soars, and programmers receive $60 for $10 of work.

Also in (the alternate universe) India, the historic sites and ancient temples have all been destroyed or despoiled, but the servers were secured during the ground war to protect the economic future of the Indian people. As is the case with the Iraqi people in our universe, the alternate Indians are now free; specifically, they are free from electricity, running water, gasoline, adequate care in hospitals. They have now gained elections in which entire subgroups do not participate, plus terrorist "insurgents" who kidnap people and plant car bombs, two things they were lacking prior to their liberation.

(What has gotten me to have these political thoughts? It might have something to do with the G-8 meeting, where our glorious, clueless leader refused to commit to cleaning up greenhouse gasses because to do so would "wreck the American economy", while, for some reason, the price of fuel for American businesses has doubled and this does not wreak the economy. At least now I understand that when Bush refers to "the American economy" he is actually referring to his buddies in the petroleum business. As was said about Clinton's support by the Chinese government, we can also say of Bush and Cheney, "Once he's bought, he stays bought.")

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Self Under Siege (Part 1)

Today I finished the Teaching Company course The Self Under Siege: Philosophy in the Twentieth Century, taught by the late Dr. Rick Roderick. (Sadly, the course is not on sale, but even at $40 it is worth the money).

The premise of the course is that (in the Western World) due to the work of twentieth century thinkers and changes to culture and society it is harder than ever to clearly define "the self."

First, let me say that Roderick was from Texas, where he earned his degrees, and he had that modern Texas accent that makes hearing stories so enjoyable. Also, while I don't agree with everything he said (there are aspects of Eastern culture that contradict some of his assertions), almost everything he stated makes me think. I'd like to share some of those thoughts.

He starts out by explaining that current "professional" philosophy is "deflationary" because it gives no answers to some of the large questions that are discussed in 2500 years of Western thought. In particular, it does not answer questions of being and self. He gives, as an example, the response proposed by Richard Rorty: "I don't care." While he finds such an answer charming, he believes it to be a disappointing end to a great tradition of thinking.

He then adds that two of the social factors that increase the difficulty of answering such questions are information overload and complexity of systems with which we try to make sense of the self. Of the latter factor, he states that the complexity level of our lives is such that we doubt we can really see the big picture. I might point out that the course was created in 1993, before the Internet was as pervasive as it is now, so that the first factor plays an even greater role now.

Roderick points out that at one time a person could define the self in terms of religious belief and practice. For some people, this is still true, however such people must ignore certain characteristics of religion and belief explained by Marx, Freud, and Nietzsche (small wonder that these three thinkers are such bugaboos in Western society), or, at least deal with responses.

Though Marx is discredited now due to the fall of communism, not everything he said should be necessarily ignored. His assessment of religion is that it serves certain economic interests (big, wealthy collections of money and artifacts, poor people in the pews).

Freud noted that, as an infant, we have little control over our environment and circumstances. We learn at an early age to appeal to beings with more power than us (our parents) when we face need or hurt. Our parents feed our needs and ease our hurts and make things better. Hence, Freud posits that entreaties to higher beings as adults are simply infantile actions, and we act out behavior we learned as children.

Nietzsche raised the suspicion that religion serves a power structure, namely the individuals who lead the various institutions. For example, people out of the culture of fundamentalism can easily detect that the Falwells, Robertsons, and bin Ladens of the world are on power trips financed and manned by their followers.

Because of these three, who he calls "The Masters of Suspicion", Roderick claims that simple faith is no longer possible. Aside from the dogmatic "God said it, I believe it, end of discussion", belief requires a complicated set of responses to these suspicions. To these suspicions can be added the discoveries of Darwin and the fact of evolution, not to mention the laws of physics, genetics, and other sciences, and religious belief becomes far more complex than in earlier days.

A "quaint" suggestion

While counsel to the current President Bush, Alberto Gonzales stated that the Geneva Convention prohibition of torture was "quaint." So, it should come as no surprise that, despite his screw-up (or because of it), he was promoted to Attorney General.

Now Gonzales' name is being tossed around as a potential Surpreme Court justice.

Well, I want to go on record as supporting Alberto Gonzales, Esq., for the job of Supreme Court Justice on one condition: That he undergo, on national television (preferably Fox News Network), the same torture and degradation experienced by prisoners at Abu Ghraib. We've all seen the pictures, so we will know if he really does it or not.

Anyone with me?

Home alone

I guess it's fair; I took a little solo vacation, so Karen should be allowed to do the same, right?

She is off to visit friends in New Hampshire for a few days. That's about as far as she is allowed to go in this stage of the pregnancy. I figure she should get in the trip now, soon our new family addition will make traveling difficult.

So, Kane and I get the TV remote (baseball!), and the ambition to remove stuff from the nursery-to-be. I'm even planning to do a little one-day in-home retreat.

And, after this post, I need to rebuild my hyphen supply.

Tea for two

On the drive home from Tennessee I stopped in Albany, New York to visit Kat from DatingGod. I was still about three hours from home, and it was already evening, so I was glad to have a final stop-over.

Ms. Turner picked me up at my hotel. For those of you who read her blog (now on a hiatus), she is every bit as interesting as her writing would indicate.

Right now she is working on her degree, and doing so by cramming a rather aggressive amount of classwork in a very small time-frame. So, I feel pretty special that she spent her all-too-short semi-free time to do dinner and tea with me.

We talked about family, and school, and I spent more than my share of the conversation talking about the baby. We talked about pets (she's a cat person, but I found her to be OK in spite of that) and animals, of growing up and self-imposed exiles.

She is going to finish her undergraduate work soon, and will be moving on to pursue a master's degree. I hope we get to visit again before distance makes that difficult.

Music in my head: Cecilia, Simon and Garfunkel

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

I help nosey people

Found via DatingGod, who found it via Cyberjazzdaddy, if you are a blogger, you can help this survey.

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