30 November 2005

Me tired, sleep soon.

But first:




Oh, and there was a nice symphony concert tonight. Danse Macabre was the highlight, though it
was placed first. Also had an excellent cellist. I didn't really like the first piece he played on (he
did a nice job; just not my style), but the final piece was excellent. Except for the fuzzy pink
middle part, but the rest was a nice chestnut brown with hints of blue and gold and purple.
Tschakovsky. Gesundheit. Anyway, of the five songs played, I liked three of them. The other
two put me to sleep, not that that's difficult at this moment in time.

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27 November 2005

Odds and Ends

Went well. My mom seems to like featherlight rice rolls better than ones I've made in the past. How do I know? She actually had more than the obligatory one at Thanksgiving Dinner! :-) So I'm pleased, and will likely make this kind for future holidays. Grandma said she liked the sweet potatoes better than anything else. My suspicion is that there's a nutrient in them that she's lacking in, but I could easily be wrong. Dad showed up for a while. Long enough to carve the turkey and eat a meal. Mom used her overly bright voice the whole time he was there, while he more or less glowered and tried to pretend he wasn't there. It was rather a relief when he left (too much tension in the air).

Notes (mostly for myself for later): Scooping the bread dough up by quarter-cupfuls and putting a quarter cup in each muffin cup makes nearly uniform size rolls that do not need much smoothing. The dough comes out easier if the cup is sprayed routinely with olive oil. Also, for the cinnamon-pull aparts, it works well to scoop it up by the teaspoonful (dipping the spoon in olive oil when too much dough gets stuck to it). Oh, and for the pumpkin cookies, use about 1 1/3 cups of whatever flour, two cups pumpkin, plus whatever else the Bette Hagman recipe calls for, and 1 1/2 c GF chocolate chips.

While decorating the Chrismas tree, Robin (the Church choir director) muttered, "Where am I?" So I helpfully told her, "Pocatello."
My mom chimed in with, "In Idaho."
I added, "In the U.S."
Mom: "North America."
Me: "Earth."
:-D Robin glared at us. "I think I'd have a permanent headache if I had to spend very much time around the two of you." Then she threatened us with swear words learned from her military father. This did not have the desired effect. I was mostly curious. My mom said that her father (my grandad) had been in the Merchant Marines, so there was little she hadn't already heard.

I got my driveway nearly completely shoveled (as complete as its going to get; I've got room to turn my car around), and got a path made on the sidewalk. I was nearly done when the neighbor's...cousin (possibly brother or nephew) came over and offered to help. To be fair, I think he'd been going around the neighborhood helping other people. He also might have just gotten home from church. Anyway, he did about an eight foot section of sidewalk. It was the deepest part of the sidewalk, so I appreciated it. I am very glad I got as much done yesterday as I did. The six or so inches on the driveway wasn't too bad. The fourteen or so inches on the sidewalk was...difficult. My legs got tired enough that I had to use my back a bit more than I should have, but I'm still not nearly as sore as I have been in years past...and in years past, I never did this much. I always gave up and talked my dad into bringing his snowblower over to finish. I am planning to avoid that this year. Dad's been going wacky whenever anyone asks for any sort of favor, especially if it involves borrowing any of his "toys."

Anyway, I don't quite smell like a yak at the moment, but my presence will be more appreciated after a shower. Au Revoir.

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26 November 2005

Let it Snow!

Well, Pocatello got its first big snow. The weather forecast said something like: "Snow showers likely. Chance of precip, 90%. Up to an inch of snow expected." I think there was a typo. That should have been "Up to a foot of snow expected." Actually, I think we've gotten more than a foot. There was at least 8 inches when I shoveled my driveway (might have been 10). And at least six more inches have fallen since. So between 14 and 16 inches. Ah, it's beautiful.

So, going on the "up to an inch" report, I went to taiji class in Idaho Falls today. Roads weren't too bad until I got past Fort Hall. Then it was clear that (a)lots of snow had fallen and (b)the plows weren't out yet. But I made it. A bit late, but Don understood. Going back, the roads were much better...up until Blackfoot. The plows had made everything nice and safe except for a few places where the wind had piled things up a bit. After Blackfoot, it looked like a plow had been through there, but a long, long time ago. Not fun. And the closer I got to Pocatello, the worse it got.

So after I got home, I rested a while and decided I might as well shovel the driveway. Snow was still coming down, but I'm glad I made a start today. 8 inches and 6 inches aren't too bad to deal with. 14 all at once would have been a right pain. At any rate, I'm actually in better snow-shoveling shape this year than last year. Why? My quadriceps. They've gotten a lot stronger this year, from taiji practice. Which means my legs did nearly all of the work. My back is not sore (in past years, it has been after shoveling snow). My arms are slightly sore. My legs are not sore. *grins* I am quite pleased.

After shoveling, I came inside and decided I smelled like a yak, so I went to take a shower. Naturally my mom called just as I was getting ready to get in. She wanted me to help decorate the choir Christmas tree at church. I told her I would call her back after the shower. The snow kept most of the choir away (or at least gave them a convenient excuse for not coming), so I did go and help. Stopped at Fred Meyer on the way back and bought a bunch of provisions.

After playing on the computer a while, I realized I was hungry. Starving, in fact. Also, my eyes were doing strange things (I think this was due to fatigue; if it doesn't repeat, I'll assume that was the case). So I headed out to the car, put it in gear, drove forward...and got stuck right where the sidewalk meets the street. I called my mom to tell her I was stuck and that I would need a ride. Oh, yeah, forgot to mention that the leftover turkey is in Grandma's fridge. That's why I was heading over there. Anyway, Mom said she'd come over. Meanwhile, I got out the shovel, did the ol' bump and grind (alternating between drive and reverse, flooring it; turning the wheels occasionally), and got out and dug several times. Much to my surprise, I actually managed to extricate Jean Luc (my car). Called Mom and told her the good news...only she wasn't happy because she was already halfway there. Anyway, I then proceeded to my grandma's house. She lives on a hill. There's one really hasty hill on the way there. I barely made it up. *grins* It was fun. See, I had to floor it, and the snow shifted and took my tires with it, so I was constantly turning the steering wheel to get it going somewhat straight (or to point it another way if it got stuck). But I arrived, ate turkey, and managed not to get stuck in Grandma's driveway, so here I am.

Now, it may sound like I'm complaining about the snow. I'm not. I loved every minute of it, being stuck and all. I enjoyed the drive to IF through the snow. I enjoyed digging out the driveway. I enjoyed extricating my own car from being stuck (in previous years, someone has always had to help extricate it). So I had quite an enjoyable, if far too interesting and fatiguing, day. Oh, and if parts of this are completely incoherent, bear in mind that before I left for Grandma's, I was so tired that it took effort for me to figure out that I was tired. Anyway, I think I might actually go brush my teeth and go to bed now. I'm exhausted. But pleased. (Note: my mom was rather annoyed with my exuberance at Grandma's house, but I get that way when I'm tired; she really didn't like it when I saw that the corn was boiling and loudly cheered, "It's boiling!") Ummm... I think I'm getting less coherent (if that's possible), so I suppose I'll stop now.

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24 November 2005


Happy Thanksgiving!

(from someone who defies the studies claiming we tend to underestimate the amount of time tasks will take)

Okay, rolls are done. Cinnamon pull-aparts are done. Pumpkin seeds are toasting. Pie crust cookies are baking (half of them are; they didn't all fit on the pan). When I get the rest of the pie crust cookies in, I'll wash dishes and have everything clean except for the bowls/pans/plates holding the finished goods. Based on previous years, I expect Mom will get the turkey in late and we won't be eating until 13:00. I'm going to be close to three hours early... Hmmm... I need to get over there in time to get some rice cooking, so maybe this is about right after all.

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23 November 2005


Well, the pumpkin pies are done. My mom had a fit when I insisted on using whole pumpkins (not canned), even though she knew full well that I'd be doing all the work. It's no fun using canned pumpkin. You don't get to rip open the bright orange heads and rip their guts out. Though it's always a chore finding pumpkins the week of Thanksgiving. I suppose most of the people who make it from scratch buy their pumpkins around Halloween... At any rate, I had enough cooked and pureed pumpkin for the pies, plus two cups leftover. So I made pumpkin cookies. I looked at a few recipes (both GF and non) and vaguely followed the GF recipe, except I doubled the pumpkin and added chocolate chips. It's another Bette Hagman GF recipe, and I know from experience that she always lists more flour than is necessary. Sometimes she lists more flour than the amount of liquids can even dissolve. Yes, cookie batter is supposed to be thick, but not THAT thick.

So...what's left... Well, I've got four eggs sitting out so they'll be room temperature by morning. I need to either put out some yeast as well or get all the dry ingredients mixed up with the yeast. I'll make rolls tomorrow, one batch of plain and one batch of cinnamon pull-aparts. My mom actually asked me "Are you going to make rolls this year?" Duh. Yes. I'd like to be able to eat them. Now, it's true I could just make enough for me, but I really, REALLY, REALLY, REALLY don't like to be at the same table as wheat-based food. I've been told I take this too far. I disagree. See, gluten is poison to me. A tiny amount won't do very much. Neither will a small amount of arsenic. So imagine you sit down at a table with a family, and the family is unconcernedly spooning arsenic onto their food, passing it around less than carefully, and seeming puzzled that you won't join them. That's an accurate analogy to my usual situation, and a perfect description of how I feel about having wheat around me.

Some notes on gluten-free baking: most recipes adapt easily. Switch the flour, add a bit of xanthan gum and maybe an extra egg, no problem. Yeast bread does not, and I have yet to find a decent GF white cake recipe; also pie crusts are...problematic (I'm starting to get the hang of them. If you've ever made wheat pie crusts, imagine working with flours that crumble ten times as easily; the trick is to use oil and eggs). Cookies, brownies, muffins, have always turned out for me. As far as tomorrow goes, the bean flour bread worked, but the flavor isn't as good as some of the rice-based stuff I've made in the past, so I think I'll stick with featherlight rice flour this year. It has a nice, sweet flavor. Oh, and I also ought to get the pumpkin seeds cooked. Hmmmm... That may not get done by tomorrow at noon. Oh well. I'm about the only one who likes them anyway.

Update on Dad: he might show up tomorrow (at Grandma's house). Honestly, I'm surprised Mom bothered to invite him again. On the one hand, I don't want to exclude him. On the other, I really don't want him there. Not while Mom is around. *sighs*

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Just in time for the holidays...

Well, "unpleasant holiday season" just turned into the stuff of nightmares. Apparently on Monday, my dad announced to my mom that he no longer wanted a joint checking account, that he would decide how much of stuff he wanted to pay for (including monthly bills). So my mom is planning to move into Grandma's basement, since it is likely that he wouldn't pay anything at all. I found out about this this morning when my mom came over... she said she e-mailed me about it, but I never got such an e-mail. Mostly I feel numb. That's the combined effect of several conflicting emotions. The strongest of those is relief. This has been a long time in coming, and I was not looking forward to walking on eggshells every time I came over to my parents' (now my dad's) house this Christmas.

Sadly, I can see Dad refusing to pay any of the monthly bills and losing gas, water, and power to the house. I can imagine a lot worse things, too, but I won't post those. See, my mom has always taking care of the financial stuff. The bills. Balancing the checking account. Property taxes. Et cetera. To be honest, I think my dad will choke on them, and probably lose everything. But if this is how he wants to play it... Looks like he's going to be spending Christmas alone (or nearly so; if he's behaving himself, I might visit him occasionally. IF). I think someone needs to let his blood family (besides me) know... His sister Sandra is in town, and has been helping out when neither I nor Mom can get Grandma to and from appointments. Dad thinks she and my mom and just about every other female on the planet have been conspiring to destroy his personality. Got news for him: he destroyed it all on his own. But at least Sandra might get him to join her part of the family's holiday activities. Insane or not, I'd rather not see him completely alone. *sighs*

So now I've got to get enough people together to help move Mom's stuff out, and probably find a pickup or trailer to use. Yes, I have my own key to Dad's pickup, but so far I don't seem to be part of his paranoia and I'd rather not give him reason to include me. Possibly just helping Mom move out will do this anyway, but so be it.

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22 November 2005

Dreams and Meditation

It's interesting... when I go deep into meditation, it's essentially like being in a lucid dream. The only difference is that I know I'm really awake and sitting in my meditation room, and if I want to come out, I can do so nearly instantaneously. Today I found myself on the same seashore, and waded in. The imagery is familiar, and I'm sure I've seen it in a painting somewhere. I went hunting on the internet for it and found some that came close (and idiotically forgot to note the artists after saving the images, so if anyone knows the artists, let me know and I'll give credit. These images are NOT mine.).
The one on the left comes closest in terms of material: large planets hanging over the sea.
The one on the right comes closer to the colors I experienced.

Neither of these shows the shoreline where I first came in. At any rate, after wading out into the waters (likely symbolic of my subconscious), I swam around. I think I saw a few fish this time. Then I came across a rift in the ocean floor (not very deep, btw. At most, 200 feet), and swam through it...into open space and surrounded by stars. This part got a bit odd. It was like I was flickering back and forth between the starry expanse and my body, and meanwhile my body was flickering between being a mirror, being its usual form, and being filled with light. There were words floating through my head: "Clear like a mirror; clear like space" and a sense that this body was merely a temporary shell... After a while, the flickering started making me nauseous, so I found my way back through the rift into the ocean, and swam up into normal consciousness.

I see these sorts of "dreams" as my mind's way of interpreting the sensations of meditation. This is one that I'll need to spend some time thinking (or not-thinking) about.

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21 November 2005

Weekend Update

Well, I forgot to mention that Micah stopped by my office on Friday. First time since the beginning of the semester... and he wonders why his family started requiring him to send them a weekly letter to let them know he's alive... Nice kid, kinda clueless in some ways. He's looking much healthier than the last time I saw him. This summer he thought he had some hormonal problems...however, it seems likely now that he was just in a late growth spurt. Also, having less contact with his family has probably been good for him.

I was supposed to bring Knife of Dreams over to Kim and Spencer on Friday...and forgot about it until it was too late to do anything about. So they got it on Saturday. Unfortunately, they have both come down with a bad cold, and Kim's been so dehydrated that she's been to the hospital several times. David was staying with Spencer's mom until at least one of them got feeling better. Spencer says he's trying to get into a habit of writing; I suggested he start keeping a blog.

Not much happened at taiji on Saturday. Melissa made it (for the first time this month), as did Joe and Mark. No James. We spent most of the time working on form (Joe's our newest member, so that's how most sessions go when he comes). I had a realization in push-hands, but not one that I can duplicate predictably. The thing about push-hands, that I know in my head, is that it has nothing to do with the hands. Not really. The power all comes from the body, from the waist. And for a little bit on Saturday, I got that feeling, of just rotating around my center. I didn't maintain it for long, but it's a start.

Then there was Sunday... As usual, I went out to lunch with my parents. While we were eating, Mom suggested that we could have Thanksgiving dinner at Grandma's house, since she has trouble moving very far. Dad said that was fine, but if we did that he wouldn't come. I wish I could say that I was surprised...but I've suspected since summer that this was not going to be a pleasant holiday season. Later my mom asked me what I thought we should do for Thanksgiving. I suggested beating Dad over the head. "No, I mean, besides that." Here's the deal: Dad is perfectly capable of driving the two blocks to Grandma's house, climbing the steps and going inside. Grandma is not capably of getting to our house under her own power, plus she wouldn't have all of the stuff she needs right at hand. It is much more efficient to have Thanksgiving at her house. So I told Mom that we should have it at Grandma's house, and if Dad wouldn't come, we could bring him some leftovers. My mom commented that she thought Dad was being very selfish...but she ought to know better. He's not selfish. He's paranoid. He's convinced that everyone (except possibly me and Ji'e'toh, and I'm not even sure of that) is out to get him. He needs medication, but suggesting this to him would bring, at best, an angry tirade. So we're stuck.

Sunday evening was better. I experimented (successfully) with a different GF flour mix. It's Bette Hagman's Four-Flour-Bean-Mix, but with white bean flour instead of garfava flour. I can't stand garfava flour. I use it about once a year, and that's enough to remind me of why I don't use it the rest of the time. It is nasty stuff. Bette Hagman seems to like it, but, yech. For a while I was substituting soy flour for it, but soy doesn't agree with me in large quantities any more. The white bean flour worked out great. The taste isn't quite as good as soy flour, but it's much, much better than garfava. Oh, for those who don't know, garfava flour is made from a mixture of garbanzo and fava beans. At any rate, I just used Bette Hagman's most basic GF bread recipe. I used lemon juice instead of vinegar (the yeast works better in an acidic environment), and added some honey to the mix, but otherwise I stuck with the recipe. I accidentally added too much water to it...and thus had to add extra flour to balance it out...but the plus side of that was that it gave me enough extra dough to make a mini-pizza-crust. So I had pizza for dinner last night.

As for today, I had a very, very nice meditation session. In my head, I felt these waves lapping towards me, and finally I "waded" out towards them and submerged myself entirely. It was very peaceful there. It's a visualization that I will have to try again sometime.

Then my mom called and said I should go with her to take Grandma for dialysis (since I will likely be the one driving her on Wednesday). She told me they'd leave at 11:00. Fine. A little after 11, she called me again, wanting to know where I was. "At my house...why?" Somehow she'd gotten the idea that I was going to meet them at Grandma's house, which made no sense to me since my house is on the way to the dialysis place. Eventually we all made it there, and dropped Grandma off. Then mom and I went hunting for zip-up shirts for Grandma. She needs something that can zip down, so the dialysis people can get to her veins, and that she doesn't have to work hard to refasten. Buttons don't work well for her anymore. Unfortunately, zippers don't seem to be "in" right now. Maybe I'll do a web-search...

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18 November 2005

37 Aluminum Sparks

Well, I gave my final lecture until after Thanksgiving Break today. Maybe I'll get caught up on grading homework over break. Maybe. I spent the morning doing Real Analysis homework (due at 13:00). Caitlin told me that (1) was the hardest, and I found it the easiest, mainly because it involved thought rather than looking for an applicable theorem. In other news, while I was waiting for two students to show up and take a test they had missed, a reporter wandered by looking for someone to interview. So it looks like I'll be in the Idaho State Journal on Monday. *shrugs*

I visited my grandma tonight. She seems to be doing better, though the dialysis machine was in continual need of reset while she was on it (she said someone had to come push the button every two minutes). My mom is still staying with her. To be honest, I wonder if she will just stay there. I hope that doesn't happen, but the way things have been going it wouldn't surprise me. I also went to see my dad tonight. He was burning a fire in the basement...listening to sad love songs on the radio. This did nothing to soothe my frame of mind. On the one hand, he only likes the classic radio stations, and there aren't too many of those in Pocatello. On the other... *shrugs again*

And a random assortment of links that I found interesting:
First, more on meditation. The study I linked to a day or so ago compared the brains of meditators to nonmeditators. This one looks at the effects of meditation on a person's response time. Pretty cool results, and I can verify that I feel much more alert on the days when I spend some time in meditation.

Speaking of experiments, someone decided to test aluminum hats to see if they could really block brain-controlling EM waves. Troubling findings: they actually amplify government bands. (I forget where I first ran across this, but it's been featured in several places recently)

Oh, and the meaning of life, the universe, and everything may have to be revised, to 37.

And Positive Liberty has some thoughts on torture. As pointed out in the comments, torture may produce useful results if the person being tortured actually knows something. However, based on what I've read recently, there are more effective methods for getting information that do not shred our country's reputation and encourage people to hate us. Hypothetically, if we know for sure that someone has the vital piece of information, and no other methods have worked, I would not object to torturing said person for the information. But the recent atrocities had nothing to do with information. If you want more details, click on the "Operation Truth" link in the sidebar. There have been plenty of posts on it there.

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17 November 2005

Musing on a Song

Well, Fibonacci's been trying to figure out what some Paul Simon lyrics mean (starting in this post and continued by kate). So I tracked down the lyrics to "Feelin' Groovy":

Slow down, you move too fast
You've got to make the morning last
Just kicking down the cobblestones
Looking for fun and feeling groovy
Ba da da da da da da, feeling groovy

Hello lampost, what'cha knowing
I've come to watch your flowers growin'
Ain'tcha got no rhymes for me
Doo-it in doo doo, feeling groovy
Ba da da da da da da, feeling groovy

I got no deeds to do
No promises to keep
I'm dappled and drowsy and ready to sleep
Let the morningtime drop all its petals on me
Life I love you, all is groovy

Okay, "Slow down, you move too fast / You've got to make the morning last" is pretty obvious. People are so busy doing stuff that they don't pay any attention to what's going on around them, or they're so worried about the future that they completely miss the present.

"Just kicking down the cobblestones" could refer to just taking a leisurely walk on a cobblestoned path, or could refer to doing something simple that has no obvious merit on its own. The cobblestones are already down, so why kick them further down? Actually, those go together rather nicely, especially considering the next line: "Looking for fun and feeling groovy." Nothing particular in mind...just going with the flow and seeing where it leads.

"Hello lampost, what'cha knowing / I've come to watch your flowers growin' / Ain'tcha got no rhymes for me" This is my favorite verse, but it's nearly impossible to explain to someone who hasn't experienced this frame of mind. I get there by meditating, but supposedly some drugs accomplish the same thing (with bad side effects). I'll try to explain it... When you look at the world, you see that everything is alive, and (in some sense) aware. Got a question? The lamppost might know (and as a source of light it's a symbol of knowledge anyway). Its "flowers" probably represent the fruits of its labor. It's a light guiding people on a path. Flowers growing are people following that path. "Rhymes" likely represent lessons going beyond simple guidance, like the lessons learned in everyday life.

"I got no deeds to do / No promises to keep" This part is pretty clear, and goes along with the idea of simply seeing where the flow leads. No obligations or attachments. Just kickin' down the cobblestones, following the path.

"I'm dappled and drowsy and ready to sleep" Hmmmm... One definition of "dapple" is "to mark with spots." I think it's the "mark" that's important. He's on the path. The path has marked him. Also, dappled means "mixed or mottled", so his path is not the path of extremes. It is a middle road. His only obligation is to himself, to keep on the path, so when he's drowsy he might as well sleep.

"Let the morningtime drop all its petals on me / Life I love you, all is groovy" First, the "let" is important. He is allowing things to happen rather than forcing them, and whatever happens, life is still groovy. Also, if all the petals fall on him, they will probably cover him, hiding him. So even if he is not noticed, if he is hidden, life is groovy. His well-being does not depend on other people recognizing or approving of him.

Overall, this song is about figuring out what's really important in life, about finding your path and accepting guidance where you find it. And the point is not for others to know that you are on the path, the point is for you to really BE on the path. Then everything will be "groovy."

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15 November 2005

Lights going on

Well, I forgot to mention that the nurse taking care of my grandma in the ER was a former student of mine. She may have taken Statistics from me the very first time I taught it, or else very soon after. As far as how Grandma's doing, she had a transfusion this morning, since she was anemic (given all the blood tests they've run on her recently, it's no wonder). A bit of oddness there, and I don't know enough to evaluate the situation. They had tried to do the transfusion last night, and she reacted to it so they stopped. It was a plasma transfusion, and I was under the impression that plasma was neutral, that it didn't matter what blood-type the donor was, because all the markers got cleared out when they gathered plasma. Apparently not. That wasn't the weird part. My grandma is O-negative. They claimed that this meant they should give her AB-postive plasma. She reacted. They stopped. This morning they gave her O-positive plasma instead, and primed her with benadryl and something else to forestall a reaction. This transfuion took. Now...why would they have given her AB+ in the first place? Fine, if O-neg is rare, then I can see them using O+ instead, but AB? I have no clue.

Anyway, they gave her anesthetic for something, presumably while they were draining her lungs, so she mostly slept through her first dialysis session. But my mom said her breathing was better tonight, and that's good since that's what got her back in the hospital in the first place. They told her she might get to go home tomorrow...and she was skeptical. So am I. Last time she was told several times she would get to go home "tomorrow" and none of them panned out. But hopefully the dialysis will make it so her lungs don't fill up with water again (I'm not sure exactly how that works, though). Oh, my mom said Grandma was still sleepy tonight when she went over. The one time I was put under anesthetic, it took about a month before I felt like myself again, and it wasn't even a "major" operation in terms of cutting and damage. It was a scleral buckle to hold a detached retina in place. I did not like the aftereffects of the anesthetic, though it was preferable to being awake while they cut into my eye.

Oh yes. My title. First, the moon was absolutely gorgeous tonight. It had a full double halo behind the thing clouds. Awesome. And when I got home, there were two planets close by, practically framing it on either side (the clouds were moving so erratically that at first I thought one must be a plane, but then I realized it was staying fixed relative to the moon). But before I went to teach my evening class, there was a strange light in the sky. Eventually I figured out that someone was shining a spotlight up into the sky and moving it around in somewhat erratic circles. At first, I just saw something glowy moving around the clouds, and disappearing in the blank spaces between the clouds. It was temporarily a UFO (it was flying and I didn't know what it was) until I figured out it had to be a ground-based light. Bloody strange-looking, though. I have no idea why someone was moving a spotlight in circles. *shrugs*

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Tofu Roshi

A few weeks back, my taiji instructor randomly handed me a book and said I would enjoy it. It's called The Life and Letters of Tofu Roshi ( Amazon). And I did enjoy it. It's...a strange book. On the surface, it's a collection of letters sent in to a zen center along with the replies. Well, more than half of the letters are too strange to be believed; it's hard to imagine people writing them and meaning them to be taken seriously. Like a concerned mom: "I think my son is meditating, you know, when we're not watching," or one letter said only "I am weird. Can I help it?"

While the letters are entertaining (and Tofu's responses even more entertaining), the commentary between the sections of letters is the most interesting. Ichi Su (the author) describes how she came to follow a Zen path, and the struggles she went through on that path. It is a truly Zen book, profound and humorous all at once. The book could be considered an extended koan, or a collection of modern koans. I think the saga of the missing shoes was my favorite part, though I have only a vague idea what (if anything) it represents. That koan runs throughout the book, and is "resolved" only in the very last section. Just as a note of interest, it is not clear from the book whether Tofu Roshi ever existed or if he is simply a character invented by Ichi Su. I'm pretty sure this vaguery is deliberate, and it is definitely in keeping with the Zen flavor.

I'll close with one of the (shorter) letters & responses:

Dear Tofu Roshi:
I can't get my dog to stay on his meditation cushion. Could I just tie the zafu onto the dog for forty minutes a day?-------------Doggoned

Dear Doggoned:
When your dog won't sit, which should you tie, the dog or the zafu? Practicing with this question will teach you the meaning of shikan taza: Sit! Just sit!

(The last book Don suggested for me was rather a disaster. It was about the founder of a New Age Institute somewhere down in Arizona or New Mexico. Some interesting thoughts, but she took herself so seriously, and was so convinced of the aboslute truth of some extremely doubtful propositions, that I couldn't stand the book.)

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14 November 2005

Here we go again

Well, Grandma is in the hospital again. So far, it's not serious. It's the Catch-22 of her kidneys: they don't filter the water out right, so her lungs fill up; but the medicine that would keep the water out is bad for her kidneys. Anyway, she was breathing easier this morning than she had been, and they plan to start dialysis tomorrow. I'm not sure how the Rahims talked her into dialysis, since before this she had stated that she would never do dialysis, but I'm glad that they did. Otherwise, I don't think she'd last more than a few more months.

In other news, I actually got my class's tests graded before class today, but didn't have time to record them. A few students came by after class to see what they got. I showed my taiji class an exercise that I just learned this weekend, called "The Phoenix". Take a horse stance (feet parallel, at least shoulder width). Shift all the weight to the right leg. Turn the left foot to ninety degrees, lift the toes. Bend down as far as you can (touching the toes if possible). Shift the weight to the left foot as you stand up. Shift back to the right foot and repeat. There's also stuff for the hands to do, but I don't feel like figuring out how to describe it at the moment.

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13 November 2005

Lazy Sunday

I finally picked up my book on auras and chakras again. Whether you think they're real or not, there is power in visualization, and the one I played with today was quite enjoyable. The idea is to shake loose your preconceptions, especially about people you're close to. So you visualize a picture of them (or some other representation) and place a "gift" on that visualization (the author has a thing for flowers; I don't). Then move the picture+gift away from you and blow it to smithereens. First, it's not the person you're blowing up: it's your expectations and baggage connected to that person. Second, I felt...free after playing with that visualization for a while. I went so far as to blow up the earth before quitting.

Oh, and check out the Astronomy Pic of the Day if you haven't already. You get to watch the moon go through a complete cycle. Awesome.

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12 November 2005

Hey, I'm Giles!

Hmmm... Yeah, of all the characters in the Buffyverse, Giles probably is the one most like me.

Rupert Giles

63% amorality, 45% passion, 90% spirituality, 72% selflessness

Utterly calm and resolute in the face of danger, utterly devoted to his
loved ones and comrades in arms, and utterly willing to do what is
necessary to ensure that good overcomes evil. Giles knows the score, he
knows that sometimes virtue relies on good men getting a little messy,
and he's willing to take that on himself, largely so that others don't
have to.

You might share some of that.

You most closely resemble one of the most popular heroes in the Buffy universe.


My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
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You scored higher than 53% on morality
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You scored higher than 13% on repose
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You scored higher than 97% on spirituality
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You scored higher than 84% on selflessness

Link: The 4-Variable Buffy Personality Test written by donathos on Ok Cupid, home of the 32-Type Dating Test

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Science on the Web

I just came across an awesome science site, and spent the better part of a half hour skimming through articles. Everything from Star Trek doors and weapons to ancient crocodilians.

There's even an article on Synesthesia. I have a suspicion that Synesthesia is the real explanation behind seeing auras and such. I am synesthetic; I associate sounds and colors and letters (among other things) with colors. This association is consistent for me, but is likely to be different with another synesthetic. The article at LiveScience is the first I've found that describes my experience, of "seeing" the colors in the mind's eye, rather than with the eyes themselves. No one really knows what causes Synesthesia. I find it both amusing and annoying that it is often characterized as a "disease of the brain" when Synesthetics tend to have better recall abilities than nonSynesthetics.

At any rate, my suspicion is that us Synesthetics are actually taking in more information than nonSynesthetics, and that our brains don't have a specific way to process that information. So it gets lumped in with colors. Which colors depend on the person involved. I have yet to see any research even consider that the colors might actually be meaningful (at least to that person) and represent extra information about the object at hand. Part of the reason for my suspicion is that I tend to associate colors with the people I know, and those colors change from time to time, often seemingly in connection with his or her mood. This sounds a lot like the idea of an aura. Is it meaningful or all in my imagination? *shrugs* At least it's testable.

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11 November 2005

Odds and Ends

I did get the beans soaking last night, and thus was able to make chili today. Pinto beans, red beans, black beans, several red bell peppers, an orange bell pepper, four chili peppers, four jalapeño peppers, an onion and two pounds of beef went into it, along with the obligatory chili powder and cumin. Turned out pretty well, but a bit thinner than I like it. Too much water. Oh well. I made biscuits to go along with it, from a GF mix that I hadn't tried before. They turned out surprisingly well, considering that I was very sloppy about making them.

I am very glad that the week after next is Thanksgiving Break. I'm starting to wonder if it's time to move on from my job at ISU, but I don't know what else I might do right now. I would love to be able to make a living teaching taiji, but that seems more than unlikely at the moment. Just for the record, I get these feelings about moving on fairly regularly, usually when things get backed up for me during the semester.

A strange thing happened today. I was giving my Math 143 class a test, and some of them were hanging on past class-time (we officially get out at 12:50). Usually the next class bursts in on us around 12:55. Today, it didn't. The next Prof was being very careful to keep his students out. I called for all the tests to come in around 12:58. Perhaps coincidence, earlier that hour I had mentally shouted out that the building was MINE! (Still annoyed at the secretary from yesterday; less so than before) But it's nice to think that maybe the building heard me and told the next prof to back off.

Anyway, on the interesting news front, Buddhist Meditation thickens the brain, and John Cleese gets a lemur named after him.

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10 November 2005

Don't mind me: I think I'm going mad

It's been a weeeeeeeeeeiiiiiiiiiiiird day. Partially it's my own fault for forgetting to grab the primary component of my lunch. My mind does strange things when it's short on food. So when the undersecretary in the math department decided to lay into me (You know that "calm" voice that people use when they're really unhappy and would like to shout? I got that for making a simple request for information), I reacted badly. Not to her, but afterwards. I was happily picturing her head exploding into little red bits, and I try not to do that. You never know when a stray thought might actually do some damage.

Of course, the weirdness started before food became an issue: during my meditation session. I "saw" dragons again (in my mind; not with my vision), and there was a new element: The Imperial March. You know, Darth Vader's theme? Not what you expect from a quiet meditation session.

As for the rest, I edited an Algebra test while my body screamed for food and tried to shut my mind down, then tried to work on Real Analysis homework while my students took said test and my body continued to scream for food. It's better now. I grabbed some ham at Fred Meyer before coming home, and I'm working my way through a bowl of popcorn. If I get the beans soaking tonight, I'll make chili tomorrow and have meals for a week. That will be nice.

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09 November 2005

Math Center Haiku

Well, it was slow in the math center yesterday. So I sat and wrote haiku instead:

Fluorescent lights glare
from a noisy ceiling and
turn it all yellow

Equations slumber
peacefully until students
try to wake them up

No calculations
they are meaningless, merely

spinning fan above
blows cold air, even though it's
too cold as it is

boredom in frozen
panicking packets of sound
empty of meaning

truth versus lie
neither is real, neither is
unreal. they just are

belief. unbelief.
one coin. two sides. no diff'rence
only the coin's spin

Rather a mixed bag, really.

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05 November 2005


I stayed home from taiji today. My body told me it needed the rest, and since I woke up with a fever, it seemed likely that I might be contagious. The upshot is that my kitchen is now almost clean and I am having my first taste of fresh bread in several months. It's Bette Hagmans "Featherlight Rice Bread" with minor modifications. Good stuff. I made a double batch, so that I could make a loaf of bread and some cinnamon rolls. Not rolls in the usual sense; more like pull-aparts. Gluten free dough does not lend itself to rolling out and making neat spirals. I haven't baked in a while, in large part because my table has been overflowing with junk. Today I attacked said junk and the table is usable again. Not completely cleared off, but several orders of magnitude improved.

I also played musical cars with my mom today. She needed to get her snowtires on, and needed a ride back from Les Schwab (why couldn't my dad do it? Good question. He out and out refused to do it for Mom during the week, even though she is working full time and he's bloody well retired. Oh, wait, he might miss recording one of his shows! Oh, the horror!) Then Mom decided we should get Grandma's car taken care of as well (no mention made of mine, but since I don't have to be to work until 10:30 or 11:00 during the week, I can likely take care of my own). We also got groceries for Grandma; she hasn't been driving since her stint in the hospital. Then Grandma gave my mom some money and insisted she take me out to lunch. Not sure why, exactly, but I got a good meal at Chang's Garden, so I'm not complaining.

Anyway, I'm SICK of having a messy house (being sick always makes me notice these things more, especially when I start to feel better), so my plan is to work my way out from the kitchen and get as far as I can tomorrow. Unfortunately, I also have a lot of grading to catch up on. *sighs* Well, I'll clean in the morning and hopefully grade in the afternoon. Oh, and despite the fever this morning, my cold seems to be a lot better today. I THINK my voice is a bit better than it has been. Maybe by Monday I'll be able to lecture with a clear voice again.

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04 November 2005


My pirate name is:

Mad Anne Read

Every pirate is a little bit crazy. You, though, are more than just a little bit. Even through many pirates have a reputation for not being the brightest souls on earth, you defy the sterotypes. You've got taste and education. Arr!

Get your own pirate name from fidius.org.

Mad Anne Read... I like it. (The quiz is quite entertaining, btw)

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02 November 2005

Unspeakably Silly

First, the silly:
You are the Minister of Silly Walks...Dare to be different!
You are the Minister of Silly Walks

What Monty Python Sketch Character are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Since "Ministry of Silly Walks" is one of my favorite sketches, I can't complain.

As for the unspeakable... I've got a rather nasty cold at the moment. Not so much nasty, actually, as annoying. It seems to have settled directly over my vocal cords and the major symptom at the moment is making my voice break up. This is rather awkward since I lecture to students for a living... I muddled through, writing out a lot of my notes to put on the ELMO, and tried not to talk too much. It's actually better now. Chicken stew containing jalepeños will do that. Only, I generally don't want to have chicken stew for breakfast. At any rate, I'm giving tests in two classes tomorrow, so those will be okay if my voice is still...scratchy. I have one lecture to give, but assuming it was the chicken stew that improved my speech, I ought to be all right. Speaking of giving a test tomorrow, I really ought to get it written...

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