31 August 2005

And now, the moment you've all been waiting for...

Here is a reasonably decent picture of Fibonacci, for those who have been so desperately awaiting it. :-D Unfortunately, he seems to have blinked in the glaring light from the flash, despite the even more glaring light from the sun. And I didn't notice in the miniscule viewing screen of my camera. So here he is, folks... Uniform, mustache, and all! (Just remember not to shoot until you see the whites of his eyes ;-)

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30 August 2005


I had several cups of yerba matè (maté?) tea this morning. It has very little caffeine (1% that of coffee). It contains other stimulants, though, and I'm noticing the effects. It's not quite the same as caffeine. I'd probably be bouncing off the walls if it were caffeine. Instead, I'm just...restless, and don't feel like concentrating on anything. Yet I still managed to get class notes written up and homework assignments printed out. Weird. Anyway, I'm hoping it has worn off some by 13:00, since I already have tendency to talk too fast in lecture.

Speaking of lecture...I finally decided to figure out how the overhead TI-83 calculator works (which meant I had to figure out how the ELMO works, since there's no ordinary projector in that room). It wasn't too bad, actually, but whoever designed the cart did not have people's safety in mind. There is a power strip. It is lodged in between two shelves, with maybe two inches of clearance for plugging stuff in. It is also upside down. "Let's make this hard to get to," they said. "What is the most inconvenient placement for a power strip? Where could we put it to make everyone's lives as difficult as possible?" The first time I tried to plug the overhead calculator into it, I got a very nasty shock. Take a standard static jolt. Multiply it by ten. Add an aching arm after the fact, with a bit of shakiness thrown in on the side. After that, I discovered that it didn't seem to matter whether I plugged in the overhead calculator or not, so I haven't been. It probably puts a bigger drain on the connected calculator's batteries, but I don't particularly care.

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28 August 2005


Yes... Jicama is much better than eggplant in curry. Though it was actually a bit too crisp... Ah well. The other vegetables (besides peppers) were tomatillos and celery. Apparently I'm craving green food this week. *shrugs* I'd never made curry with pork before (not sure I'd even tried at at Sri Thai), but it was quite good. Next time I will try to slice it a tiny bit thinner. At any rate, I've got enough curry to last most of the week, if not longer. I forget how filling things cooked in coconut milk are.

Which reminds me... The low-carb fad has definitely gone beyond the bounds of reason. On the coconut milk can was a bright yellow sticker: "A low-carb food!" Anyone who actually reads their food labels knows that coconut milk is mostly fat, so, yeah. Duh. Not quite as ridiculous as putting a low-carb label on a can of cooking oil, but pretty close.

In other news, I finally found the screws to my vacuum cleaner. It tried to eat a wadded up paper towel (drifted while I was using the attachments), which set the belt smoking. It hadn't quite broken through when I looked at it, but a slight tug did the trick. I couldn't put it back together until I remembered to buy a new belt, and by the time that happened, I had misplaced the screws that hold the bottom plate in. So this morning I cleaned out some nearby junk piles and, lo and behold, four screws. So it's no longer in pieces in the hallway. :-D

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Peppers and Jicama

While my parents were finishing up eating at Sizzler (our weekly family dinner), I wandered over to WinCo to see if they still had Jicama. Yup. They do. Huge ones, in fact. It took me a while to find a small one. Since I was there, I checked out their selection of peppers. They have Thai chili peppers!!!! :-D Since I'm planning to make a Thai curry stew this afternoon, this was quite fortuitous. Also, WinCo's bell peppers are a third the price of Fred Meyer's. Smaller, but it's still cheaper to buy two to make up the difference than to get a big one at FM. I still need to get the meat, some Thai curry sauce (not sure if I'll use red or green; the Thai peppers are red, though), and any other vegetables that look interesting. It's classically made with eggplant, but I've tried it and I don't care for eggplant. It reminds me of a line from Crocodile Dundee: "You can live on it, but it tastes like sh**."

From previous experience, I think the key to Thai curry is the coconut milk. You need to simmer the meat in it for a good long while to get it to the appropriate texture. Hmmm... I need to remember to get some fresh basil as well. The difference in taste between fresh and dried basil is quite vast, and Thai food definitely needs the fresh.

One more item... At Sizzler, I had gone to use the restroom. When I got back, my dad had taken my seat, apparently thinking I'd gone out to the car or something. This wouldn't have been a problem...except he'd been having soup and crackers. Crackers are made from wheat; there were crumbs all over (As a point of reference for the non-gluten-intolerant: This would be the equivalent of returning to the table to find that someone had sprinkled arsenic all over where you planned to eat.). Thankfully, I was done eating, but I had planned to sit down for a little while longer. Even though Dad had moved over, I wasn't sitting there until someone gave the place a thorough washing. So that's when I wandered over to WinCo.

Anyway, 'tis time to hunt down the rest of the ingredients.

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27 August 2005

Signs of the times...

On my way out of Idaho Falls today, I spotted an interesting combo of signs. First, a bright yellow one with an arrow "Employee Parking." However, ten feet past that was a "Construction; No Trespassing" sign. So...were employees supposed to park in the span between the signs, or what?

Random quote from last week: "Curse you, Don Schurman, for showing her these tricks!" said Mark. Don was demonstrating to me that "push-hands" is not really about the hands (which I mentally knew already). I put that advice to good use this week. :-D Mark was getting quite frustrated with me. Of course, he pushed me out the same way several times as well, but not...consistently enough for me to be frustrated by it.

Oh, and I watched Robots over at the SUB, since it was free. Overall verdict: enjoyable fluff. Rather predictable, I'm afraid, but enjoyable nonetheless. The most interesting thing about it was the way robot society was portrayed. Also, the graphics were superb. Several times I distracted myself from the plot, wondering how they'd managed to make it look like actual filming rather than computer graphics. And although the plot is a common one (corrupt corporation; newcomer shows up to put everything right), the way the battle was portrayed was interesting. The corporation wanted to force everyone into its own "perfect" mold. Anyone who couldn't afford to be "perfect" was obviously worthless and in need of destruction. I can think of all too many actual groups who think like that, though usually it's not money that's the limiting factor.

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26 August 2005

"His Noodly Appendage"

I just had to post this link: Flying Spaghetti Monster.

It's, er, a religion, of sorts. :-D

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Waving Electricity

This is an alternative energy source I haven't heard about before: Ocean Power

Now, we certainly need alternate energy sources. Even if most oil weren't under the Middle East, burning it is not doing our atmosphere any good. But I find it interesting that discussions of alternate energy sources never point out possible environmental impacts from them. It's always: "Look, ma, no burning!" Wind power is a beautiful idea, but I have to wonder how much of it we can use without seriously changing weather patterns. Perhaps since we only harness wind near the surface of the earth, it won't have any far-reaching effects. The same holds true for ocean waves. Now, if they're harnessing tidal power, I would be less concerned. So long as the moon sticks with the earth, that's not a problem. It would probably affect tidal wildlife in the area, but so do oil spills. However, ocean waves and currents also drive the climate. The question is, how much can we muck with them before messing up the climate? And even if we stopped, would the climate then go back to normal? It seems strange to me that these so-called environmentalists researching energy have never considered these possibilities. Then again, I don't know much about the climate. Maybe the effect is too small to matter. But a hundred years ago, someone might have said the same thing about automobile exhaust.

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25 August 2005

I love my schedule!

It is soooo nice not to work in the mornings. And not, unlike most peole I know, because I like to sleep in. I'm most productive in the morning, as far as cleaning, grocery shopping, etc., goes. Plus it gives me time to do stuff just for me, that just wouldn't happen in the afternoon or evening. I get up at 6, meditate from about 6:30 to 7:00, practice yoga for an hour (finally I'm getting back into yoga), then practice taiji for a half an hour or so. Some taiji gets mixed into the yoga and meditation, so the last part is mainly spent on form work. My body is complaining in a happy way (sore muscles, but overall feeling good), and it is much easier to focus.

Though I am noticing that after teaching a class, I feel drained. I have an idea what's causing that...but I want to play around with that idea before posting more.

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23 August 2005


Well, I've now taught each of my classes at least once. Intermediate taiji didn't make, so I'm inviting intermediate students to come to the beginner's class (registered or not). If there's enough of them, we may split into two groups occasionally. They really do need form work, and Richard won't do that when he teaches in the spring.

Micah's been stopping by while I'm in my office. No problem yesterday. Today I hadn't quite finished my lecture outline for 253. So I'll need to start getting those turned out earlier, since it looks like he'll be stopping by rather regularly. This is not a complaint; just an observation. Micah's a lot of fun. We're planning to exchange music, since some of our tastes coincide.

Classes... There's a deaf girl in my second Stats class, with a notetaker and an interpreter. And my evening 143 class is (so far) quite lively and interested. I got lots of questions! I like getting questions. (1) It lets me know the students are listening and paying attention; (2) It means I'm not going so fast they can't process the material; (3) It can fill out a lecture that's just a tiny bit too short or catch something I've forgotten to mention. This is a welcome change from my 143 class of last semester *crickets chirping*

Okay, tired now. Need more food.

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22 August 2005

Swatting Penguins

Another weird game... The idea is to see how far the yeti can get the penguin to go by hitting it with a club.

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Evil, wicked, nasty polyester!

*sighs* A year ago, if someone had told me I'd be getting rid of clothing because it interferes with qi flow, I would have told that person that he was insane. Flash forward a few months... I find that wearing polyester makes me physically ill. So I ask Don about it. Turns out that polyester blocks qi flow. So do most other artificial fibers. Okay, fine. I didn't have that much polyester, so parting with it wasn't that big a deal. I donated my polyester clothing to D.I. A few months later, I discover that plastic decals on cotton shirts are a problem. That hurt. I had (still have) a lot of souvenir shirts that I really like. I'm holding onto most of them in the hopes of making pillows or something out of them. So...what do I mean by problem? I was wearing a cotton shirt with a plastic decal that wound all the way around it, covering most of my torso, front and back. I put it on around 8:00 am. At noon, I was sweating, nauseous, and felt like I might throw up. Something made me think of taking off the shirt. Less than five minutes later, I was fine.

So why bring it up today? I have two sleeveless cotton shirts, with a one inch strip of decoration around the midriff. The decoration is not cotton, and is almost certainly polyester. I wore one of these today. It wasn't enough to make me nauseous, but I had no appetite whatsoever and felt shaky the whole day (until I made it home and took the thing off). So...two more shirts down the drain. I'm less attached to these, at least.

Otherwise, the first day of classes went well. My lecture did not speed out of control in Math 143 (Ihaveatendencytogettalkingsofastthatyoucan'tmakeoutthewords andit'sreallyannoyingtostudents), and I felt like I did pretty well in introducing basic stances in taiji (balancing the long bones on top of each other, zhong schwong, bow stance), and some simple corrections (shoulder width, front heel beyond the back toe in bow stance, etc.). Since it was the first day, I let them out early, and suggested they practice these stances while bored in lines. One student immediately suggested lines at the bookstore (she'd just come from there) :-D On Thursday, I might take them through the opening of the form and the five wrist changes. Or I might work on the bow stance qigong. Possibly both. I'm not making detailed plans in that class for several reasons. One is that I've never taught it before, and I need to get a feel for it. Another is that every taiji class is different. Also, because there IS a form, I have an implied lesson plan already. It's mainly a matter of picking out helpful qigong before we get to the places where we use those movements in the form. Hmmm... bear sway and taiji walk are very important, and should be introduced early... Bear sway won't be used for a while, but it opens up the hip joints, making it easier to get the hips square in bow stance. Anyway, now I'm thinking to myself, so I may as well quit typing all of it.

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21 August 2005


Well, I have all my math syllabi taken care of. I have the beginning taiji syllabus done. I DON'T have the intermediate taiji syllabus done, but if necessary I can use the same one as for the beginners. What else... Well, get used to wearing pants again (Yes, I can teach in shorts. But I try to dress a bit nicer to teach than I do for everyday wear), get used to bringing lunch with me everyday... Oh, and get used to talking at people for several hours a day. Again.

I'm looking forward to teaching taiji, especially the intermediate class. They need a LOT of form work, and Richard either isn't interested enough to do it, or can't see how badly they need it. Melissa doesn't feel confident in teaching intermediates, so she mostly doesn't. Which gives me a semester to fix things up, at least somewhat. I won't get them to perfection (not even the masters have it down perfectly), but if I can get them a smidgen closer I'll be happy.

Now... I wonder if Yu Chen has finished with the copier yet...

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20 August 2005

Chicken Stew

Well, the most exciting thing I've done today is make chicken stew. Again, I don't use a recipe for this. Unlike the chili, I've NEVER used a recipe for chicken stew. Why? Because until I started making it myself, I couldn't STAND chicken stew. But I have several guiding principles that I use:
(1) Should almost be able to eat it with a fork
(2) LOTS of vegetables (the more variety in color, the better)
(3) Add quinoa, rice, or something similar as a thickener
(4) Add whatever spices smell good to me that day
(5) Don't forget the chicken or it's not chicken stew

My mom tells me that it's not chicken stew without carrots or potatoes. My response: "It's got chicken in it. It's stew. That makes it chicken stew." I did add carrots this time, but I don't always. My ingredients this time around were:
7-8 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 yellow bell pepper
1 orange bell pepper
1 sweet onion
4 cloves garlic
2 cups chopped green beans
7-8 daikon radishes, cleaned and chopped
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, baked until done and then cut into pieces
1/2 cup wild rice
1 1/2 cups mixed brown rice
enough water to cover
Assorted spices, including red pepper (LOTS!!!), basil (slightly less), cardamom, sage, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, garam masala, and I forget what else. Basically, I look at all the spices I have, smell 'em, and if it smells good to me that day, it goes in. If it smells REALLY good, I put in a lot of it. The only exception is red pepper. I always put in lots of that.

I had wanted to get a jicama to put in it as well (wonderful vegetable; you can boil it for hours and it's still crisp), but Fred Meyer didn't have any, and I never made it anywhere else to look. Just as well. What I did have nearly overflowed the pan! :-D It's got about ten more minutes to cook (I used wild rice as part of the thickener; wild rice takes a long time to get done), and then, "Voila! She is done."

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19 August 2005

"May your life be interesting..."

Well, ISU changed its schedule. Original schedule (of which my mom still has a hardcopy) was for Fall semester to start on the 29th. Somewhere between May and now that got changed, to the 22nd. So I've got the weekend to get ready. Ah well. It's always more fun when life is interesting. :-) Actually, I was starting to get a bit stir-crazy anyway, so the news is not entirely unwelcome.

The only class I haven't taught before is taiji. But in a sense I'm always teaching taiji. Every time I do the form I learn something new. Every time I make a new observation about how my body moves and reacts, I have learned something knew. So I constantly teach myself. However, that sort of teaching does not require me to put my insights into words. Teaching other people will. Some of them are easily put into words (visualizing a tight spot as a knot to be untied). Some are not. I've finally got the feeling that Kayo Roberston (one of Ben Lo's students) describes, of moving about a single axis, but how I got to that feeling is very odd. Those words sound simple, but it is very difficult to allow your body to move that way.

So... We shall see how things go. I'm...looking forward to teaching taiji, but I'm also nervous. Don described a conversation with a Master once:
Don: "I can show them the form, but I can't make the corrections that you can."
Master: "So show them the form, then send them to me for correction."
So I'll show them the form, then give them some resources to go to if they want to get better. Honestly, you don't really start to learn taiji until you've known the form for at least a year. For some people, it may take five or even ten years of knowing the form. (Beginners never believe that. I didn't, anyway.) And the more I learn, the more I realize there is to learn.

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Waking from Dreams...

Another strange dream, of which I only remember the ending scene. I was sitting on the floor in what appeared to be the common area of a dorm: lots of couches and chairs, cheap carpet, and possibly a Christmas tree tucked away in one corner. There were three people not sitting on the floor. One looked like a girl I worked with at the University of Wyoming for a summer. She was apparently a sophomore, and was complaining that everyone thought she was a freshman. So when her mom brought her the traditional sophomore bread (??), someone insisted that she was only entitled to the brown gift bag. No clue where any of THAT came from. Anyway, in two chairs opposite the non-freshman were someone whose face I never saw and Jeremiah. I was rather bored by the non-freshman's speech and thinking what a pity it was that I'd never had a chance to tie Jeremiah's shoes together (that was my trademark once upon a time; I now tend to ASK people first, and most of them just look at me like I'm insane). Anyway, a moment later Jeremiah's and the unseen person's shoes had been...covered in some sort of flexible brick. Jeremiah's shoes had been covered in green brick (like, colored cornstarch packing peanuts), while the other person's were covered in red. From the reactions of those around me, I was responsible, but I'm not sure how since a moment before the shoes had just been shoes. At this point, the sound of Buddhist chanting came from the hallway (the really deep, deep, DEEP chanting), and then some chimes (I called them Tibetan chimes in the dream) started jangling, as if in response to the chanting. We all thought it was perfect timing...and then my alarm went off.

The most interesting aspect of the dream was the timing of the chant, chimes, and alarm. Every so often, I wake up just BEFORE the alarm goes off, or just BEFORE the phone rings. Not always, but once in a while. To be fair, this one may have a very simple explanation: I've got an alarm clock with a light that gets gradually brighter and brighter, and hits the brightest point just as the alarm goes off. So my subconscious brain may have noticed the level of brightness and thought, "Ah, time to get her closer to wakefulness." Hence the chanting and chimes.

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18 August 2005

Lightning at the Park

Well, I went to practice taiji all right. It was a bit cloudy, but I liked the quality of light and the temperature was perfect. So I stood in meditation for a while (redid some of the exercises I worked on in seated meditation this morning), went through the muscle change classics, the Mantak Chia form, and the Chen man Ching form. The clouds had gotten steadily darker through this, and there was an occasional lightning flash. The first one took a count of 40 to hear the thunder (approx. 8 miles). During the CmC form, One took a count of 6. The next a count of 5. So the strikes were roughly a mile away. I debated packing it up then and there, but I hadn't practiced the sword form in a few days, and it's pretty short, so I figured I'd have time. I was maybe 2/3 of the way through when there was a flash-BOOM! For a split-second, my mind just railed, then I ran for my stuff, grabbed it, and ran for the restrooms at the park. There was no conscious decision to do so, but I had considered that option earlier in case things got really bad. Oh, did I mention the rain was sheeting down at this point?

So I sat down on the floor of the restroom, waiting for my heartrate to slow, and eventually decided to put my shoes and socks back on (I practice taiji barefoot whenever possible). Then I got my mat rolled up (it's now hanging on the shower rod to dry), and decided I might as well finish the sword form while I was stuck. There wasn't really room to swing the sword freely, and I think this was actually good practice in working with the available space. I clunked into the stalls a bit at first, but by the end I'd gotten the hang of compensating for the small space. The rain had let up a bit when I'd finished, so I dug my housekey out, stuck the sword through the top loop of my backpack, and headed out. My house is only three blocks from the park, and there were no more close lightning strikes (really, only that one had been close enough to be concerned about). I did get home and discover that the power had gone out while I was gone. Thirteen minutes before I got home, in fact (since the clocks read 12:13). I'd bet good money that was when that flash-BOOM happened. So, 9:18 am.

That actually is not the worst lightning situation I've been in. That was several years back when I went with my dad to the sporting goods store in the Westwood Mall (it's changed names so many times that I'm not sure what the name was then, or is now). As we were coming out of the glass doors, the lightning was breaking and booming directly over the parking lot. We could SEE it (you think it's bright from a distance? HA!), ropes of light crackling and booming in the rain. It wasn't striking anything but air, thankfully. We actually did something rather stupid: we ran for Dad's pickup and got in, rather than waiting for the storm to move on. But I recognized that sound this morning, and needed no further prompting to get to shelter. Unfortunately, the adrenalin rush still hasn't worn off. It's going to make me a bit jittery until it does.

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Cool Psi-games site

Okay, I found this site this morning after searching for "meditative games" on Google. If you're into meditative, contemplative games, you'll love it. If not, you'll probably hate it. I loved it. The game serves a dual purpose; as well as entertainment, you're testing your psychic abilities (such as they are). I've only been to the "Garden" games so far, but there's one where you are supposed to rearrange a picture, but the direction the tile you click on moves is randomly chosen. This is the one where I felt I did the best. I drew qi up from the earth into myself and 'listened' and figured out when to click to get it to move in the appropriate direction. The strange part was that when I clicked at the wrong time, I knew it before I even opened my eyes. I felt it. Very strange.

I was worst at remote viewing, but on my final attempt I was vaguely close. I was picturing a yellow field of wheat (food, yellow, wavy). The actual picture was a circular pile of yellow lentils (food, yellow, round). On one attempt, I was seeing a building on a busy street. Actual picture? A swan swimming on a lake. :-D

Anyway, if the games interest you, one note of warning: there's a lengthy registration questionairre. Whoever runs the site is apparently studying psi-phenomena, so they want to gather info on their players. It's asking mostly for personality info. Like, on a scale of 1 to 5, how much do you trust your intuition? That sort of thing. It takes a while to get through all the questions, but I thought the games were well worth it.

Okay. Off to practice taiji, yet another meditative/contemplative activity. :-)

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17 August 2005

The Last Samurai

I just finished watching the movie. I've had it for a while, but I haven't felt like sitting down to watch a 2.5 hour movie. Silly me. It was awesome. I am amazed that an American production could so completely capture the essence of Zen. This is without a doubt one of the best movies I have ever seen.

The last battle is perhaps the only movie battle where I was not on the edge of my seat. Why? Because there was no doubt how it would end. And yet it was beautiful, serene even. For the Samurai, it was not about winning. It was about showing their enemies the cost of making war on them. About showing them what they had lost. The Tao te Ching says that in war, people act as though at a funeral, because that is all that it is. There are no victors. Only those who die and those who live. What victory is there in that?

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15 August 2005

The Day of Broken Glass...

This didn't make it into my post after taiji camp, but an event tonight just may be related. The day we left for Colorado, I made a run back to my house to grab the peanut butter; I was about to take it into Mom's house to put it in the cooler when it rolled out of my arms and shattered on the concrete. So I asked Mom if we could stop at WinCo on the way out of town and pick up more. There was something else that she'd forgotten to get, so that was fine. Meanwhile, we got everything else into the cooler and I was trying to carry it out to the car. No one was around to open the screen door for me, so I kicked it open. It rebounded, and the cooler went straight through the glass window. So we picked the glass up, I indicated I would pay for a new window when we got back, and ten minutes later I DID get the cooler into the car.

Well, we stopped in Rock Springs for lunch, at McDonald's I think. I had my mom order me a water while I dug out my own stuff for lunch (GF bread and the peanut butter). I set the jar of peanut butter on the trunk while I got stuff together. It rolled off and shattered on the ground. I nodded to myself, dug a ziplock bag out of the trunk, salvaged what I could, and dragged the mess into the restaurant to make my sandwich. After which I threw away what was left of the peanut butter and told my mom we would find a PLASTIC jar in Fort Collins (which we did, eventually). Thankfully, that was the last of my glass-breaking escapades for the trip, but there may be one more on the roster, NOT due to me.

Tonight, I was cooking dinner at my grandma's house and went to dig out a pan. Then I asked Grandma if there was a lid that would fit it. Well there was. Emphasis on was. It had shattered into hundreds of pieces. We have no clue how or when, but it was probably while we were in Colorado. My money is on the morning we left, as it would fit with the rest of that day. So my mom and I got all the glass cleaned up and the pans put back in the cupboard, and I found a smaller pan with a metal lid to cook the sausage in.

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Paint... Check. Light fixture... Check.

Except for a minor touch-up to the red paint, the painting phase of remodeling the back room is now complete. So today I put in the new light fixture. One small snag... I couldn't find the directions. I have changed out fixtures before, but never one with a chain and swag. Eventually I got it figured out, but was somewhat nervous about turning the power back on. What worried me most was the grounding wire. It was out in the open, running through the chain. So long as everything else was right, this would not be a problem. If I had misidentified the live wire, or if the wires somehow crossed, this would be bad. While I was still contemplating this, my mom dropped by with some mail and stuff. As she was turning to leave, I said, "Wanna stick around and see if my light blows up?" The look on her face was priceless :-D. And she did stick around. I turned the power back on, came back in and flipped the switch...and there was light. No boom or sparks, and the grounding wire was not carrying any current. So it worked.

Then I needed to put in a ceiling hook to hold the light up (without any other hooks, it hangs about a foot off the ground). So I used my hand-dandy studfinder to find a stud in the ceiling, drilled, and...missed. Fine, the hooks came with anchors as well as wood-screws. No go. The anchor wouldn't work right. Turns out I had barely missed the stud, and the anchor wouldn't open next to it. So I drilled another hole slightly to the right, hit wood, and put the hook in. Which left me with a large hole in the ceiling where I had tried to use the anchor. I'm trying woodfill on it. Not sure how well it's going to work, and it's another red touch-up spot.

Okay, black decorative rope...black decorative rope... I think it'll look cool, as well as hide my lack of finesse in getting adjacent red and white walls not to bleed on each other. :-D Outtie corners: beautiful, clean color lines. Innie corners...let's just say they could be better. Hence, decorative black rope. But I'm almost to the point of putting the floor in. Once that's done, everything else is details. I can start moving furniture in and actually USE the room.

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14 August 2005

Things that affect health...

After spending thirty minutes in seated meditation every morning at taiji camp, I came back and found that I really missed it. So I've started my own practice, somewhat separate from my taiji practice. I had never before used a gomden (a solid pillow that elevatest the hips), but I found that it made it easier for me to keep my spine straight. I don't have an actual gomden, but my yoga bolster is about the right depth and is solid enough. When I make time for the morning meditation, I find that my mind and thoughts are clearer for the rest of the day, and that I have more energy. (Similarly, when I miss my more physical taiji practice, my body feels out of sorts and misalligned).

I also found out an annoying side effect of not replacing contact lenses in time: my left eye's muscles would start twitching. Not badly enough to effect vision, or to be visible, but very VERY annoying. I wasn't sure what was causing it until today, when I switched to new contacts and, lo and behold, the twitching stopped. On the bright side, it was an easy fix that did not involve anyone putting a knife into my eye.

Another health-related note... My body reacted quite favorably to having chili for one meal a day. I would get tired of chili all the time, but I think making a stew or similar dish to last a week would probably be good, using as many fresh veggies as possible. The food at Sunrise Ranch was nearly always incredible (exceptions were when there was little GF faire), and my body misses it. However, given my time constraints during the semester, a single dish that lasts the week would be best.

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13 August 2005

The Roots of Dreams

Well, my root HAS improved. And Don decided my push-hands has improved enough to start teching me fa-jing (fa-zhing? not sure of the usual spelling). The idea is that, without force, you explosively release energy from the Dan Tian into your opponent. It is very difficult to resist...make that absorb and neutralize; we're not supposed to resist in taiji (Resistance is Futile!). Anyway, I got it to work once on Don. Mostly, I tend to try to do it too slowly. But Don said he wasn't holding anything back today in push-hands, and I actually managed to deflect quite a few of his attacks. Not all of them, but that's not really a surprise. It doesn't seem like very long ago that I had no clue what I was doing.

Another surprise today: James dropped in. James came regularly for two or three months, then sort of disappeared. Don speculated that his wife had put pressure on him to quit, but if that was ever the case, it certainly isn't now. Apparently she's been asking James to teach HER taiji. I suspect that his absence may have had a lot to do with his work schedule, actually. I know he used to work at K-Mart, and they kept wanting him to work on Saturday mornings. But he's been practicing on his own, and (much to Don's surprise) has made improvements working on his own. Hopefully he'll be able to come at least semi-regularly now.

Anyway, I've remembered two dream segments that don't seem to connect to anything else. I have no clue when I dreamed them, except that they were on different nights. In the first one, I'm driving down a windy hill, nearly careening out of control around the turns. Finally I remember that the car has a brake, and push on it. Nothing happens. I push harder, and harder, and finally the car begins to slow down. And that's it. The obvious meaning (assuming it has a meaning) is that there is some portion of my life that feels like it's out of control. However, I can't think of any such portion, so I think the dream was just random.

The other dream segment was shorter, but more interesting. I was meditating, and suddenly my mind opened up to encompass the whole universe; there was no difference between me and the universe. Then I lost that feeling and was just me again. I don't know how to describe how that felt...it was like a whole world opening inside my head, but it wasn't just inside my head. I wonder if that's how enlightenment feels... I really don't know.

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12 August 2005

Floor, Lunch, Paint

Well, this morning I finally found a floor for the room I started remodeling last summer (exhaustion interrupted me then the school year started and I never got back into it; what is it about August, anyway???). I'd been hoping to get bamboo flooring, but no one around here carries it. However, I found some cheap laminate flooring that looks good and should be easy to install (no tools except a saw required, and I do need to break in my tablesaw :-D). After I picked the boxes up, my mom invited me to lunch. We (including my dad) ate at Chang's Garden. Good food. It was enjoyable until my mom happened to mention a complementary medicine book she'd just ordered; that set my dad off on a rant about how all the doctors around here are engaged in a social war against the Mormons (gotta wonder: what about Mormon doctors? Are they at war with themselves?). Mom and I managed to ignore him and did our best to steer the conversation towards something safer, like nitroglycerin or missing uranium cores. I'm just grateful that he didn't single either me or Mom out for a worse kind of rant.

Anyway, my mom insisted that I come to the church with her to listen to the organ and some of the settings she'd picked out. The organ has started vibrating something awful lately. At one point, she pushed a key and I didn't connect the noise that ensued to the organ: it sounded like there was a construction crew outside. She managed to find a few sounds that didn't vibrate all to the Dickens, then she started in on the electronic piano. She said she'd been trying for 'haunting' with one setting. I winced when I heard it, and it didn't get any better. It sounded like a '70's bubble machine, and I told her so. Then she switched to another one. I still didn't like it much (too brown), but it was better than the bubble machine.

Then I got home and decided I ought to finish painting the room. Tomorrow I'll look at it and see what needs touching up. The white parts do; I wasn't careful enough with the red paint. Basically, three of the walls are red (real, crimson red), and one is white. The trim on the door (on a red wall) is white, and the trim on the two windows is opposite the wallcolor (white trim on the red wall, red trim on the white wall). It looks good, but it's a bloody pain not having the colors infect one another. Then I have to solve the problem of the missing baseboard. I had planned to simply take the baseboard off the walls, and started to do so. Unfortunately, the nonbrilliant person who finished that room had not put sheetrock all the way to the floor. The baseboard had been put in to cover this. I don't want to put the baseboard back where I've removed it, so I think I'll get some thin wood, paint it black, and just 'line' that area of the room. Not sure how tall to make it. 8-16 inches, most likely. I might luck into something ready-made that would work...guess I'll start haunting Home Depot and maybe wander up to Lowe's in IF.

I also need to decide what to do with the door... I definitely want to paint it, but not red or white. I've got a sort of tan/khaki left from the living room, but it wouldn't look good in there. Maybe I'll paint it white and put some Chinese characters on it (BIG Chinese characters) in black with red accents. That would look good. (Yes, I'm rambling; I just spent three hours breathing paint fumes and I'm starving. I'd be more concerned if I WASN'T rambling).

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11 August 2005

At the Dentist

Had a dental check-up this morning. They have a new toy: a laser pen that checks the density of teeth to determine whether or not there are cavities. However, it does not work on teeth that already have fillings. Also, as soon as they brought it out, I had a funny feeling that it wasn't going to work very well on me (not sure why), and it didn't. Neither the doc nor the hygeinist could get it to calibrate. It wouldn't surprise me if it worked perfectly on the next patient, though. I also didn't think they'd find any cavities, and they didn't. So no return until the next check-up.

Just one note of warning for any female hygeinists who happen to read this... You ought to watch out for where your, uh, chest gets to while you're cleaning teeth. As a straight female, I just found it odd, but there are some who would be offended (and possibly sue for harassment), and others who would probably enjoy it a bit too much. It was obvious that she was only trying to position herself to reach whichever teeth she was working on, so I wasn't bothered. But I did notice, and some would do much more than notice.

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Microchips and Spooky Cats

First part of my dream last night: a microchip factory that allows tours. They also have a unique way of manufacturing that relies on the human voice to set the patterns in the chips. Thus the tours become concerts. And the audience is invited to sing along. From my seat in the concert hall, I figured that the audience's voices probably couldn't carrry strongly enough to mess up the microchips, or that there was a sound damper or something, since not everyone in the audience could sing very well... There was also a close-up of someone singing in the machinery. It sort of looked like those flower costumes, where the face sticks out of the greenery, but her face was sticking out of a microchip console instead.

Next scene that I remember, I'm asleep in bed in my room, but the bed is oriented east-west rather than north-south. Friskey is there. Friskey was my first cat. She was almost entirely black, but with white feet and a sort of white eagle on her chest. She died from feline leukemia my sophomore year of college. She's the reason I named my next cat Ji'e'toh—"Honor and Obligation"—as a reminder to make sure she got her vaccinations. Back to Friskey, even in the dream I'm aware that she shouldn't be alive. From a distance, she looks fine, but as I get closer, I can see that her body has grown old and wasted. There's very little flesh left, especially on her back feet. She...tugs at me, but not physically. It's like she wants to take my spirit with her on some sort of journey, but it's too firmly attached to my body. She gives up. My hand rests for a moment on her back as she jumps off the bed. The spookiest thing about that was that I could feel the warmth of her body and the softness of her fur against my hand. I rarely get tactile sensations from dreams.

Next thing, my alarm wakes me up.

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09 August 2005

Strange end to an odd day...

I guess the early part of the day wasn't particularly odd. However, I was lazy and didn't make it to the park to practice taiji, then never really had any breakfast. I had a yerba mate tea (which apparently contains matein, not caffeine) and a small piece of chocolate. Then for lunch I had apple slices and peanut butter. That was about all I ate until evening. However, I started preparing the chili for dinner around 15:00. It turned out quite tasty, though I think I may add some more tomato sauce before I heat it up next time (there's enough for me to have a bowl a day for at least a week; I may freeze some for meals during the semester).

Incidentally, I'd never made chili con carne before. Chili, but not con carne. However, the veggie chili really disagreed with me the last time I made it, so I put in some dead cow. Organic dead cow, but dead cow nonetheless. I didn't really follow a recipe, except to check how much cumin and chili powder were customary. Basically, I went to the store, bought a bunch of every kind of pepper that looked good, grabbed a few carrots and some tomatillos, and an onion (a very sweet onion, I might add), and some garlic. I put in a small can of tomato sauce and one of tomato paste, some salt, a bit of red pepper and oregano, and that was it. (Addendum: I forgot to mention the chili beans [very important] and the mushrooms) Hmmm... I'd been planning to put some corn in. Oh well. Chili is even better with fresh bread, so maybe I'll bake some bread tomorrow.

Okay, so that wasn't the odd part. The first odd part was this morning. I had two knocks at my door (quite unusual for me). The first one was a Qwest guy, coming guy to check out my phoneline since I ranted at them yesterday. Either the problem was at their end (the guy I talked to mentioned a card that the DSL modem connects to) or it was due to some sort of utility work further down my street, because everything worked perfectly last night. But I'm just as happy they sent someone out to doublecheck my line. Another knock was my next-door neighbor, Kevin. He's a nice guy when he's not stalking my roommate and chopping up my raspberry plants, and he lost a leg in a car accident last summer. From the sounds of things, he was lucky not to lose both legs. Anyway, his wife had just left and he realized he was out of cigarettes. I don't smoke, but there didn't seem to be any real reason not to help him out. Though I felt very odd going into a store and asking for cigarettes. Thus ends the morning oddities.

I spent most of the afternoon on the chili, then while it was simmering I popped over to Kim and Spence's house. They weren't there. This has been the case more and more often of late, and tonight I found out why: their roommates. I had heard some of this before, but from the sounds of things, it's gotten even worse. They met last spring, became friends, and a few months ago April and Ryan moved into Kim and Spence's house. I don't know the full details there; something about a fixer-upper house that was REALLY a fixer-upper. Anyway, these two do not clean up after themselves, their infant, or their cat and kittens. The house can be perfectly clean, and an hour after they get there, it's a violent mess. There were other, more specific complaints, but I think the filthy house was the last straw. Neither of them even wants to be at home any more.

So we brainstormed ideas for a bit. I still think the most practical idea is to get a cleaning crew together to clean out their room, whether they like it or not. So we'd need a relatively large group. Also, take anything specifically theirs out of the main house and put it into their room (unless it serves a specific function by being in its current location). Throw away anything too dirty to be recognizable, anything remotely resembling trash, etc. Apparently, they have full litter box that stinks to high heaven, so throw that out and make their cat stay outside. Spencer is hoping it doesn't come to that; I think Kim would like to take a shotgun to them all. But I guess Kim's dad really gave them hell a few days ago, and Spencer gets the impression that it might at least have made them realize how bad things really are. Hopefully that's the case and it will be resolved soon.

To complicate matters, Kim is pregnant again. I would be very surprised if this was planned. In addition to the nausea and constant "morning sickness", she also has dizziness this time (pregnancy does not agree with her). Anyway, I got a strong sense of...something...from Kim. I don't have words for it. It would help if I actually saw 'auras' (whatever they really are) rather than just sensing them. But I had a strong sense that she needed her aura cleansed, and I know the basics of doing so. So I offered, and she accepted. Basically, I used my hands to 'brush' the negative energy away from her. There was a knot of energy at her heart that I opened up, and a bright blue bubble around her stomach that I greeted and left alone. I think just opening up the heart center really helped. I grounded out the energy then grounded myself, and (to my surprise) Kim said she felt much better. *shrugs* I'm not sure what the aura really is (if it were really "light", scientific instruments would detect it), but it contains chi, and I know how to work with chi. I don't think it's really seen with the eyes, but some people perceive it as visual and so assume it's the eyes seeing it. At any rate, I'd never tried to cleanse an aura before, but Don cleansed mine for me once. I'm...happy, relieved, surprised, puzzled that it did some good.

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08 August 2005

Sneaky Dog

Well, I walked over to Alameda Park this morning to practice taiji and staked out the northwest corner, where it looked like the mower had already been. I was reflecting that it might be fun to drive the mower, but when the one actually driving it came close enough, it was clear that he was not enjoying himself. He had a rather...interesting way of moving the picnic table out of the way. He got off the mower and made a half-hearted effort to slide the table. Then he flipped it up-side down, and flipped it back up again (meanwhile moving it laterally about eight feet). It might explain the shape that some of those tables are in...

Anyway, there was a lost dog at the park. He wasn't a stray, as he had tags and a collar, but it quickly became apparent that his owners were NOT at the park. He was a friendly energetic thing, making the rounds of the walkway path just like most of the people were (thought the people were not going nearly so quickly and didn't have their tongue lolling out of one side of their mouth :-) He came over to see me once or twice and I petted him briefly and told him to go find his family. Then an older couple arrived, with a very small, white dog. Presumably they meant to walk the dog around the track. Anyway, they caught sight of this wandering dog and worked themselves into a lather. Little Whitey got shoved back into the car while they called animal control. First I think they accosted several of the walkers, telling them to put THAT THING on a leash...and it didn't belong to any of the walkers.

Now, the wandering dog was quite a bit bigger than little Whitey (maybe three times as big) but it was friendly and not bothering any of the other dogs people were walking. But these two interrupted their walk to get all upset, stood around for a while, and eventually did start walking on the track. By the time animal control got there, the wandering dog was no where to be seen. So the van left, empty-caged...and a little while later, guess who I saw come out from behind a tree... :D The wandering dog had hidden! I was quite entertained. Shortly after that, it did leave the park. I was just as happy it didn't have to do time.

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05 August 2005


Well, I'm back from taiji camp. I didn't really want to leave, and now I feel somewhat disoriented. It was an awesome experience. Great people, beautiful location, perfect atmosphere... *sighs* Guess I'll just have to wait until next summer, or else join the Emissaries of Light. They're the ones who run the Sunrise Ranch, where the camp was held. Very nice people. When I find a link to a decent page specifically about them, I'll post it. They've got a New Age flavor to them, but that's about all I know for sure.

The camp... Morning meditation at 6:30, breakfast, taiji practice from 9:00 to noon, lunch, break, taiji from 15:30 to 18:00, dinner, evening activities... The practice was wonderful. I don't usually get to work with such a large group of people. In my advanced class, there are only five of us. In the local intermediate group, we rarely have more than ten (often closer to five). So it was quite a change to work with thirty or so people. Some had less experience than I did, some had more. I learned a lot just from watching everyone. I did not get very many specific corrections (except in places where Don teaches the form differently than Bataan :D), but I made some very useful discoveries.

"Bend hip joint!" is not a new correction. Ben Lo said it repeatedly at his workshop last September. My revelation was that this really means "RELAX hip joint SO THAT it bends." This should have been obvious, as taiji is all about relaxing, but I only realized it last week. This makes my stances much more stable, and makes it possible to keep my sacrum straight while still maintaining relaxation. Another realization is that the body will suspend itself from the headtop if you ALLOW it to. If I just focus on the Dan Tian, my spine "wants" to pull itself up and straighten, with no effort on my part. I have a mental visualization of the seven chakras as lights along my spine that light up as the straightening reaches them :D. I suspect/hope that all this has improved my root. I may find out on Saturday.

Everyone I met at the camp was great, but the two I spent the most time with were Dina and Aaron. Dina is a Russian Jew living in Salt Lake with a degree in physical anthropology. She's got a great sense of humor, and can do the stereotypical "Jewish accent" perfectly, even though she doesn't normally talk that way. Her mom, Tanya, was also at the camp. She's a lot of fun as well, though I couldn't always understand her through her thick Russian accent. Aaron is a financial advisor who moved to Colorado when he got sick of the East coast. I think the three of us (Me, Dina, and Aaron) got along so well because we have similar senses of humor. We had a discussion about sarcasm one night...and how too many people get offended by it.

As far as extra activities... There are lots of hiking trails around the ranch. I only hiked one of them (twice). The first time, I couldn't find the trail down, so I made my own way down. I was on a hill and could see the ranch, and was walking very carefully because I didn't want to step on a rattlesnake (didn't see any, but they are known to be in the area). The second time, Aaron and Dina went with me, and we did find the trail down. Much easier that way. On Monday, we had a talent show. I played my Native American flute (got lots of compliments; makes me wish I'd played well enough to deserve them). Lots of people had to improvise something because they hadn't heard about the talent show before coming. People read poems, or did skits. Maxim (a Russian guy who gives very good backrubs) played his guitar. It was lots of fun, and was primarily about having fun. Next night was a birthday party for someone's spouse. I had maybe 3/8 of a cup of champagne...and didn't care for it. I had trouble even finishing it, in fact. Which was fine, other people liked it a lot more than I did so that left more for them.

Wednesday morning, we were all feeling sort of shell-shocked that we were actually going to have to leave... I can't wait to go back next summer. I do have a few pictures to post, but that will probably wait until next week as I got back to discover my DSL modem had died in the interrum and its replacement is supposed to arrive Monday. I really hope it does, as until then I will likely be going to my office on campus to do most of my internet stuff.

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